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Introduction to the first Epistle of John
1 John 1:1-4

The first Epistle of John is a very practical book and is considered by some as the most intimate of
the inspired writings. It is a family letter because it was written by the Father to His “little children”
who are Christians that is in the world. The mistakes and sins committed by the Christians are taken
as a child’s offense against God the Father. What a glorious truth and wonderful truth. Our God is a
loving and forgiving God. This short letter is one of the so called “General Epistles” for it is written to
all Christians not to specific persons or church.

I. Background Information
A. Author:
1. John was one of the two sons of Zebedee. He became one of the disciples of
Jesus, that at His call he forsook all and followed Him. He was with Jesus when
He was crucified and died to take away the sins of the world.
2. He was one of the first of our Lord’s disciples and it appears he live the longest.
As far as we know he outlived all the other eleven. Many changes had taken
place in the church by the time he wrote his letters which we have in our NT.
3. He was one of the “inner circle” of the apostles of Christ. (Mk. 5:37; Lk. 8:51).
4. The Lord surnamed John and his brother James “Boanerges” meaning, ‘sons of
thunder. Such a fiery emotion in wanting to call God’s judgment on some
Samaritans. However, he became a changed man as the Lord worked on his
heart and removed his feeling of anger, revenge, and hatred. (2 Cor. 5:17).
5. John in his gospel calls himself ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved; at the last
Passover he leaned upon the bosom of Jesus, and the Lord asked him to take
care of His mother before He died.

B. Setting
1. According to received tradition, John made Jerusalem his headquarters caring
for Jesus’ mother till her death, and after the destruction of Jerusalem, he
moved to Ephesus, which during the Roman Empire have the title “the first and
greatest metropolis of Asia.” Here John lived and wrote his Gospel, his three
Epistles, and Book of Revelation. (Around 90 A.D.)
2. When John wrote this letter, apostasy was widespread. So many false teachers
who spreads their apostasies and false beliefs. There were two main errors
being taught during that time. They were:
a. That Christ was entirely Divine and not man. They accepted Him as God but
denies his humanity.
b. That Christ was entirely human and he is not God. They reject His deity.
c. Much of this false teaching had its beginning with Cerinthus, a former Jew
who combined Jewish teaching with Gnosticism. He taught that Jesus was
the physical son of Joseph and that the ageless Christ was united with Jesus
at his baptism and left Jesus before His crucifixion. He rejected all the
gospels and all of Paul’s letters. Much of John’s epistle addresses these false
doctrines. John deals compassionately but strongly with false teachers, as
we must today. If one is wrong concerning the Person of Christ, it makes no
difference what else he is right on.

C. Purpose:
1. To provide fellowship (1 Jn. 1:1-3)
2. He wrote this letter to add to their joy (1 Jn. 1:4)
3. To guard them against sin (1 Jn. 2:1)
4. To promote love among the brethren (1 Jn. 2:5-10)
5. To proclaim forgiveness of sins (1 Jn. 2:12-14)
6. To warn them against false teachers (1 Jn. 2:26)
7. To strengthen their faith and to assure them of their eternal life (1 Jn. 5:13)
D. Key Words
1. Fellowship (mentioned 3x)
2. Know (mentioned 22 x)
3. Love (mentioned 23 x)

II. Life eternal revealed in Christ (1 Jn. 1:1-4)

A. “That which was from the beginning…” (I John 1:1) There are three persons in the
Godhead: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ has existed from all
eternity. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the
Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God… And the Word was made
flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-2, 14, compare Genesis 1:1). In Jesus, the
Word, “was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).

B. “From the beginning” points to that period of time before creation, and therefore
the eternity that precedes it.

C. “That which we have seen and heard (1 Jn. 1:3). The apostle John (and the others)
had heard him speak (Jn. 5:24), seen Him with their own eyes (Jn. 1:18), looked
upon, and handled him with their own hands (Lk. 24:39).

D. Three senses are shown to in combination to show the reality of Christ’s humanity.
Soon after the day of Pentecost, A.D. 30, fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus
Christ from the dead, and ten days after His ascension to heaven (Acts 1:3; 2:1f),
error crept into the Christian Church.

E. Converts from Judaism and paganism sought to bring into the Christian faith their
former theories. This led to error and apostasy. These false leaders admitted the
deity of Jesus, but denied His humanity. They called themselves “Gnostics,” or
“knowing ones,” and looked down on all others with pit and contempt if they stuck
to the apostolic faith.

F. However, the apostle John emphasized it was the actual, literal, fleshly body of
Christ which he had “heard… seen… looked upon, and our hands have handled.” He
affirmed the same thing in the Gospel of John (John 1:14).

G. “The Word of life.” John was careful to guard his readers against the conclusion that
the Word of life was merely sonic speech or saying delivered by Christ. “The Word”
actually “became flesh and dwelt (tabernacle, tented) among us” (John 1:14).

H. “For the life was manifested, and shew unto you that the eternal life, which was
with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (verse 2). Because we have been
shown life in God as it really is, when we have seen Christ, we know that he is able
to convey that same eternal life to us.

I. “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (I John 1:3).
Fellowship as used in Scripture, does not refer to mere social companionship as the
common term is used today. The same word is translated “communion” (1 Cor.
10:16, 2 Cor. 6:14). The basic meaning is “joint participation in things held in
common”. The fellowship we can have with the Father through the Son (Jn.
17:22,26) is the same fellowship we as believers, can have with one another. This
highest “fellowship” with “The Father” and “His Son Jesus Christ” means fellowship
with light, love, and life.

J. “And your joy may be full.” (I John 1:4) John wrote “these things that your joy may
be full.” One of the main goals of this Epistle is to create joy in the readers. The
proclamation of the reality of the gospel (1 Jn. 1:1-2) produces fellowship in eternal
life (1 Jn. 1:3), and in turn fellowship in eternal life produces joy.
Joy is an inner contentment produced by God that is not dependent upon external
circumstances. It doesn’t matter what we are facing and dealing with. We can
endure with joy as long as we walk in fellowship with Christ. That is where our joy is
found. (Psalm 16:11) A Christian can have no real joy unless it comes from a proper
relationship with God. Fellowship with God produces joy.

Illustration: Joy in Christ
A certain king instructed his gardener to plant six trees and place statues beneath them representing
prosperity, beauty, victory, strength, duty, and joy. These trees were to show to the world that the
king had tried to make his reign fruitful. They were also to typify the statues beneath them. The
gardener planted six palm trees. When the king came out to inspect the work and looked at the
statue of joy, he said, “I surely thought you would typify joy with some flowering tree like the tulip or
magnolia. How can the stately palm symbolize joy?” “Those flowering trees,” said the gardener, “get
their nourishment from open sources. They live in pleasant forests or orchards with hosts of other
like trees. But I found this palm tree in a sandy waste. Its roots had found some hidden spring
creeping along far beneath the burning surface. Then, thought I, highest joy has a foundation unseen
of men and a source they cannot comprehend.” Do you realize that if the light of Jesus Christ is
within your heart it can be the only place in which joy is found, and yet it will be sufficient? You do
not need the company of others in order to experience the joy that the light of Christ brings. A palm
tree does not need the company of other trees to flourish and bring forth fruit.
Illustrations of Bible Truths.

III. Conclusion:
A lot of things can be learned from this short letter of John. False teachers are
everywhere and they continue to pervert the truth. Join us as we continue learning
God’s Word.

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