Summary: Discover the foundation to Christian unity and joy.
We begin a new study in this first letter written by John, a disciple of Jesus. It’s a short letter in the New Testament. The author of this letter is the same John who authored the gospel of John and the 2nd and 3rd letter of John in the New Testament.
By the way, our passage this morning, 1 John 1:1-4, in the original Greek manuscript was written as one sentence by John. The subject is "we," the verb is "proclaim," the object is the rest of the stuff. We will look at two of the many reasons for why John wrote this letter and relate these two reasons to how we can have unity (be at a right and healthy relationship) and joy in life.
The FIRST reason why John wrote this letter was to counter two false teachings that crept into the churches after 65 AD. John wrote this letter around 70-85AD. The Christians to whom John wrote were being taught that they could have a right and healthy relationship with God and with one another if they possessed a secret knowledge. This false teaching was called Gnosticism.
I still remember in elementary school, how kids let another into their group if she can speak Pig Latin, or if he knows a certain handshake or if the newcomer dares do a certain activity. As adults, we have more acceptable, but nevertheless wrong beliefs about how we can have a close relationship, whether with God or with one another.
Some believe that we can have a right and healthy relationship with God if we would only be good enough long enough, if we know the secret code to interpreting the Bible, or if we participate in certain religious rituals faithfully. And in terms of belonging to groups of people, some people let language, socio-economic status (the clothes you wear or the cars you drive), political views and such to determine our unity. The Apostle John would tell us we don’t have to live as an elitist, because we have another foundation for unity with God and with one another.
John also wrote to counter the false teaching that joy comes from the spiritual world and that the physical world is evil. This false teaching, called Docetism, could not accept that God would come physically in Jesus Christ to die on the cross to restore sinful humanity to His Holiness. That’s why John took the time to give witness to Jesus’ material existence in the first three verses of this letter.
We still see this dichotomy of the physical world being evil and the spiritual world being good. Buddhists are quite familiar with escaping the suffering and evil of the physical world and finding joy in the spiritual. The positive thinkers who refuse to face reality find joy in their "self-created mental reality." The popular New Age teaching that we are evolving into gods is another escape away from the physical. The Apostle John would tell us we don’t have to live in denial, because we have another foundation for joy.
The FIRST reason for John’s writing this letter was to counter the two lies, and the SECOND reason for John’s writing this letter was to tell us the true foundation for unity and for joy. So we are not to build our relationship with God and with others upon some secret or elitist knowledge. We’re called to tell everyone the good news of Jesus Christ. We are also not to build joy in life by running away from the physical world, which God called us to subdue and manage.