"THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN"
Introduction To First John 1 Jn 1:1-4
1. When Jesus came to earth, He came not only to LIVE his own life,
but to GIVE life to others, to show us how to improve the quality
of our lives:
"I have come that they may have life, and that they may
have it more abundantly." - Jn 10:10
2. The GOSPEL of John was designed to produce faith so that we might
have life - cf. Jn 20:30-31
3. However, it is the FIRST EPISTLE of John which discusses the nature
of that life in greater detail - e.g., 1 Jn 3:14
4. That we might be sure to live the sort of life God offers through
His Son Jesus Christ, a careful study of First John is in order
[let's begin with...]
I. BACKGROUND INFORMATION
A. THE AUTHOR...
1. It will be assumed in the course of this study that the author
is John, the beloved disciple of Jesus
2. Similarities between this epistle and the Gospel of John
certainly suggest INTERNAL evidence for this conclusion
3. There is also EXTERNAL evidence that this John is the author:
a. Polycarp, a close associate of John, appears to make
reference to this epistle at the beginning of the second
century, in a letter to the Philippians
b. Irenaeus, a student of Polycarp, quoted from it and
attributed it to John
B. THE RECIPIENTS...
1. No one is specifically mentioned
2. John may have been in Ephesus at the time, and it could be that
this was a general epistle to the Christians throughout Asia
3. However, John's comments in 1 Jn 2:20 ; 1 Jn 2:27
suggest that John may have been addressing a particular group
of Christians possessing certain spiritual gifts
1. Estimations range from 60 A.D. to 100 A.D.
2. Most modern scholarship places it around 95 A.D., but there
are also good reasons for believing it was written prior to
the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
1. As declared by John throughout his epistle, he wrote it...
a. "that your joy may be full" - 1 Jn 1:4
b. "that you may not sin" - 1 Jn 2:1
c. "that you may know that you have eternal life" - 1 Jn 5:13a
d. "that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of
God" - 1 Jn 5:13b
2. While these reasons may state the "positive" side of John's
purpose, it appears he was also responding to errors that were
prevalent at the time - cf. 1 Jn 2:26
a. If not fully developed in John's day, there was at least a
precursor to "Gnosticism"
b. Those who came to be called "Gnostics"...
1) Claimed to have a superior knowledge (Grk. word for
knowledge is "gnosis")
2) Believed all matter was evil
a) Therefore God did not create or have anything to do
with the material universe
b) Therefore Christ could not have come in the flesh -
cf. 1 Jn 4:1-3
1/ One branch of gnosticism, DOCETISM (dokein, "to
seem"), said that Jesus only "seemed" to be
physical - cf. 1 Jn 1:1
2/ CERINTHUS taught that "Jesus" was physical, but
that the "Christ" came upon him at his baptism,
and left before his death, so that the "Christ-
spirit" never suffered - cf. 1 Jn 5:6
c. Their application to everyday living took two different
directions; since all matter was thought to be evil...
1) Some thought one should abstain altogether from anything
that would satisfy the flesh
2) Others claimed it did not matter what one did in the flesh
(it was evil anyway). Therefore, in a "Search for Knowledge"
one could engage in any manner of moral or immoral conduct.
[Many of John's comments in this epistle appear to address these false teachings.
With this brief background to the epistle, let's get right into the
text by considering the first four verses. They appear to serve as a
PROLOGUE, and reveal...]
II. JOHN'S AIM IN WRITING THIS EPISTLE 1 Jn 1:1-4
A. CONCERNS THE "WORD OF LIFE" 1 Jn 1:1
1. Which was "from the beginning"
a. John may be referencing the creation of the world -
cf. Jn 1:1
b. Or he may be referencing the beginning of the gospel -
cf. 1 Jn 2:7, 1 Jn 2:13, 1 Jn 2:24, 1 Jn 3:11
2. This "Word of life" was...
b. "seen with our eyes"
c. "looked upon"
-- all emphasizing that this "Word" was "real, in the flesh";
an obvious reference to Jesus - cf. Jn 1:1 ; Jn 1:14
B. TO DECLARE THE "ETERNAL LIFE" (1 Jn 1:2)
1. Which was...
a. With the Father
b. And then manifested to the apostles, who had seen and were
2. Again, this is an obvious reference to Jesus Christ
3. But notice the use of the NEUTER gender throughout this
a. The emphasis appears to be on the "life" which Jesus had,
especially that which is "eternal" ("that eternal life")
b. It is this same "life" which we can possess if we truly
believe in the name of the Son of God - cf. 1 Jn 5:11-13
4. Thus John is focusing on the "eternal life" which Jesus offers
and made possible by His coming in the flesh
C. THAT YOU MAY HAVE "FELLOWSHIP" WITH US (1 Jn 1:3)
1. Here is the reason for declaring the "Word of life," the
2. By declaring this "life" (revealed by Jesus and through
Jesus), "fellowship" is possible
a. Fellowship involves the idea of "sharing, communion"
b. The "sharing, communion" that the apostles have is with the
Father and His Son
3. John wanted his readers to participate in this same sharing...
a. "that you also may have fellowship with us"
b. I.e., that you can experience what we are experiencing!
4. Why does John desire this? Read on...
D. THAT YOUR "JOY" MAY BE FULL (1 Jn 1:4)
1. It is "fellowship" with the Father and Son that makes the
"life" of a Christian so full of joy!
2. And just as Jesus came to give us "abundant life" (Jn 10:10),
so John now writes...
a. That we may be sure to have fellowship with the Father and
His Son, in Whom is "eternal life" - cf. Jn 17:3
b. So that our joy may be full!
1. From 1 Jn 1:1-4, then, we learn that fullness of joy comes only
when we are in fellowship with the Father and the Son
2. Only then do we have that "eternal life," which was first manifested
in the flesh by Jesus Himself, and now given only through Jesus -
cf. 1 Jn 5:11-13
3. In our next lesson, we shall see what John says is essential
if we are to truly have fellowship with God (1 Jn 1:5), (1 Jn 2)
But if you are not a Christian, Paul explains how fellowship with
God can begin... - cf. Ga 3:26-27
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