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Summary: The author is John, son of Zebedee—the apostle and the author of the Gospel of John and Revelation. He was a fisherman, one of Jesus’ inner circle (together with James and Peter), and “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (Jn 13:23).

Tom Lowe

AUTHOR

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Text-1 John, Chapter 1 (KJV)

The Word of Life

(Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-23)

1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

Walking in the Light

(John 8:12-30)

5This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

INTRODUCTION TO 1 JOHN

Author

The author is John, son of Zebedee—the apostle and the author of the Gospel of John and Revelation. He was a fisherman, one of Jesus’ inner circle (together with James and Peter), and “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (Jn 13:23). He may have been a first cousin of Jesus (his mother may have been Salome, possibly a sister of Mary.

Unlike most NT letters, 1 John does not tell us who its author is. The earliest identification of him comes from the church fathers: Irenaeus (a.d. 140–203), Clement of Alexandria (a.d. 150–215), Tertullian (a.d. 155–222), and Origen (a.d. 185–253), and all designated the writer as the apostle John. As far as we know, no one else was suggested by the early Church.

Date

The letter is difficult to date with precision, but indications of the advanced age of John suggest the end of the first century. Since the author of 1 John seems to build on concepts and themes found in the Fourth Gospel (see 1 Jn 2:7–11), it is reasonable to date the letter somewhere between a.d. 85 and 95, after the writing of the Gospel, which may have been written in a.d. 85.

Recipients

1Jn 2:12–14,19; 3:1; 5:13 make it clear that this letter was addressed to believers. However, the letter itself does not indicate who they were or where they lived. It mentions that no one by name suggests a circular letter sent to Christians in several places.

Gnosticism

One of the most dangerous heresies of the first two centuries of the Church was Gnosticism. Its central teaching was that spirit is entirely good, and matter is entirely evil. From this unbiblical polarity flowed five critical errors:

1. The human body, which is matter, is therefore evil. It is to be contrasted with God, who is wholly spirit and therefore good.

2. Salvation is the escape from the body, achieved not by faith in Christ but by special knowledge.

3. Christ’s true humanity was denied in two ways: (1) Some said that Christ only seemed to have a body, and (2) others said that the divine Christ joined the man Jesus at baptism and left him before he died.

4. Since the body was considered evil, it was to be treated harshly. This grim form of Gnosticism is the background of part of the letter to the Colossians (see Col 2:21,23).

5. Illogically, this dualism also led to decadence. The reasoning was that since matter—and not the breaking of God’s law (1Jn 3:4)—was considered evil, breaking his law was of no moral consequence.

Occasion and Purpose

John’s readers were confronted with an early form of Gnostic teaching of the Cerinthian variety (A Christian heretic whose errors led the apostle John to write his New Testament Gospel.). This heresy was also degrading, throwing off all moral restraints.

Consequently, John wrote this letter with two primary purposes in mind: (1) to expose false teachers (see 2:26 and (2) to give believers assurance of salvation (see 5:13).

COMMENTARY

1. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life1;

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