Introduction to 1 John

John’s first letter is like a family photograph album. It describes those who are member of the family of God. Just as children resemble their parents. God’s children have His likeness too.

When a person becomes a child of God, he receives the life of God – eternal life. All who have this life show it in definite ways, John points out.

1. They acknowledge Christ as their Lord and Savior.

2. They love God.

3. They love the children of God.

4. They obey His commandments.

5. They do not go on sinning.

There are some of the tests of eternal life. John wrote this letter so that all who manifest these traits may know that they have eternal life. Chapter 5-13. At this time of writing the false sect of the Gnostics had arisen. This belief was Jesus was a man, and Christ was not a person but an influence that came out from God. Jesus was not Christ, rather the Christ came upon Jesus at this baptism and left Him before He died on the cross. With teachers around who believed this it is no wonder that John urged his readers to try the spirits. These false teachers did not have the marks of the true children of God. John comes on strong that a person is either a child of God or he is not. There is no in-between. That is why the epistle is filed with such extreme opposites as “light and darkness”, “love and hatred”, “truth and lie”, “death and life”, “God and the devil”.

Theme of the letter is “Fellowship” mentioned 4 times in Chapter 1. Love is mentioned 32 times. It was near the end of the apostolic age and love for Christ was waning. The world was stealing the affections of the believers. Hence the emphasis on “Love”. Love of God – Christ – the brethren.

v. 1 “That which was from the beginning”. “He who was from the beginning”. The eternity of the Lord Jesus. The re-existence of Christ. John 1:1 “In the beginning was the word” and “Before Abraham was I am”. Consider some of the Theophanous. Next we are introduced to the incarnate Christ. John describes His humanity. (read the rest of the verse) This is the greatest mystery or miracle of all time. “God manifest in flesh”. I Timothy 3:16. The Christ of God became a real man. John 1:16. Give Me a drink – asleep on the boat – wearied – poor – wept. The disciples saw this. John was chosen to record it. Perfect man – the storm – Perfect God – the grave or Lazarus. “I came forth from the Father (Deity) and can come into the world (Humanity) I leave the world and go to the Father (Glory). Finally in the verse John refers to the one he has described as the “Word of Life.” This is a word John alone uses to describe the Lord.

v. 2: Most commentators believe that the “L” in life should be capitalized. Making Life to mean the Lord. He was manifested or revealed. “Eternal Life” is also a title given to Christ. John says, “He was with the Father, but was “manifested to us”.

v. 3: The thought fellowship and the family is introduced here. Verses 1 and 2 is the expression of the doctrinal foundation of all true fellowship. True fellowship is in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. John says here we have described to you what we as eye-witnesses, have seen and heard that you also may have fellowship with us. (The human side of fellowship). True fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ. (The divine side of fellowship). Fellowship is partnership and communion with fellowship – believers and with the triune God.

v. 4: When we are in fellowship with God and our brethren then our joy is full, complete. When our fellowship is unbroken, Peter says, “we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory”. “Heavenly joy”. God’s Joy – like His peace passes all understanding. When we are fellowshipping with God. Worry – anxiety and care disappears. The peace that cannot be described keeps our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

v. 5: After having stated the foundation of all true fellowship John goes on to tell us that there are certain conditions to be met before we can enjoy this fellowship. First of all John reveals the characters of God. “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” This means that God is absolutely Holy – righteous – pure. Being the essence and embodiment of light there is no darkness in Him. This means three things:

1. God Himself is absolutely pure – no sin in Him

2. God being pure cannot look with favor on any form of sin.

3. Being light, nothing is hidden from Him.

“All thins are naked and bare in the sight of Him with whom we have to do.” Exodus 15:11

v. 6: This verse can apply in two ways.

1. To the believers. On tiny iota of darkness or sin in our life breaks our fellowship with God. His eyes are as a flame of fire Revelations 1.

2. It probably was aimed at the professors. They said, “we have fellowship with Him” – but they continued to walk in darkness. John says that they were liars and did not practice the truth.

In Verses 5 and 6 we have a contrast between light and darkness. Metaphorically, the word darkness is used of moral and spiritual darkness – the darkness of sin. It is impossible to fellowship with God and walk in darkness – sin. Conversely, it is impossible to walk in sin and fellowship with God. Anyone who pretends to be doing so is a liar, and is not practicing the truth. A professor or a believer out of fellowship. Judas would be an example of this.

Our Lord said to His disciples: Matthew 5:14-16; Ephesians 5:8; John 8:12; Philippians 2:5. Light is an emblem of holiness. It is what God is. Satan’s kingdom is a kingdom of darkness, of moral and spiritual evil. Ephesians 6:2. At our conversion we were transferred from Satan’s dark kingdom into marvelous light. Light and darkness cannot mix. One of God’s first creative acts was to divide light from darkness – it must ever be so. The two cannot exist at one and the same place. 2 Corinthians 6:14. John makes a distinction between our “words” and our “Walk”. Our walk is more important than our words. “If we say that we have fellowship with God and walk in darkness we are liars”. Notice also verse 8 and 10. “If we say”.

Note what the scripture says about our walk: Romans 6:4; Romans 13:12-13; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:2 and 5:15. The Christian’s walk determines if he is in fellowship with God or not. The walk also differentiates between the children of God and the children of the devil.

v. 7: Fellowship with God and our brethren is guaranteed when we walk with the Lord. “And the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin”. The word “cleanseth” is in the present continuous tense. This means that the blood shed at Calvary, by which we are justified (Romans 3:26) maintains our standing before God. It does not mean that we are constantly being cleansed by the blood. It rather means that the one cleansing received at conversion has continuing value. Christian’s are cleansed once by the blood of Christ. They are washed constantly by the word of God from defilement along the way.

v. 8: There are those who believe that at conversion the old nature is eradicated. Sinless perfectionists – eradicationists. To hold such doctrine, John says, is to deceive oneself, and it is untruthful.

v. 9: In order to maintain Christian fellowship – with God and believers – there must be “confession of Sin”. The promise of God’s word is that if a believer confesses his sins, God is faithful and just to forgive. He is faithful to forgive confessed sins, because He has promised. He is just to forgive them because this forgiveness was purchased by Christ on the cross. Then finally God promises to cleanse the repentant saint. The point here to remember is that sin breaks fellowship with God. Repentance and confession restores fellowship.

Note the difference between judicial cleansing verse 7 and parental forgiveness verse 9. The happy family spirit is restored.

v. 10: Finally, in order to be in fellowship with God we must not deny that we have committed acts of sin. God has stated in His Word that “all have sinned”. To deny this is to make God a liar. From these verses we see that fellowship with God does not require lives of sinlessness, but rather requires that our sins should be brought out into His presence, confessed and forsaken.