God the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16)
Unknown, but, according to tradition, John, the Apostle of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:1),
whom Jesus loved (John 21:20-24).
Early Date prior to AD 70
Late Date c. AD 90
Keep the commandments of God, and love one another
23rd Book of the New Testament, 5 chapters, 105 verses
Initially, the gospel was sent to the House of Israel, resulting in many Jewish house churches being established. To guide these assembled believers, epistles would be written to them from an apostle, an Elder, an Overseer. Tradition ascribes the authorship of this Epistle to be John, the apostle whom Jesus loved (John 13:23). Someone with authority had to write to the Church to deal with immortality, and doctrinal impurity because a group of people began to preach what can only be termed, heresy.
The word heresy comes from haeresis, a Latin transliteration of the Greek word meaning, choosing, choice, course of action. From a divine perspective, heresy is a lie. It departs from the truth, and manifests itself in schism, and division. The apostle John was informed there were people in the local assembly who no longer embraced Jesus as the Messiah. They denied God had come in the flesh.
Such teaching disrupted the fellowship of the Church and was to be condemned. John wrote to remind Christians to stand firm in some basic beliefs which had been given to them by Jesus: love, life, and truth. Study John 13 – 17
A Clear Introduction: 1 John 1:1-4
In the opening words of the Epistle of 1 John, attention is focused on the One which “we have seen and heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life” (1:1). The doctrine of the incarnation is set forth, as well as the doctrine of the trinity, because for John, the Word of Life is both the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ.
The First Message: 1 John 1:1 – 2:11
The majestic introduction is followed by a distinct section which begins with the phrase, “This is the Message.”
The doctrine of spiritual light is discussed in order to declare that the person and work of Jesus Christ is not the figment of human imagination, or a mystical legend passed from one generation to the next. “We have seen Him” says John. “We have heard Him.” John was an eye witness to all that Christ said and did. His personal testimony is not to be dismissed. Rather, it is given to “you” (v. 2), says John, meaning the next generation of Christ followers, and, by way of application, the gospel is given to “us” who believe in the 21st century.
Here is a concentric circle of life. When the apostles shared Jesus Christ with new followers, they in turn shared the gospel with others. The concentric circle of life then expanded to every tongue, tribe, and nation on the earth. This koinonia, or fellowship, forms a common bond in all who believe in Jesus, which brings life and joy to those who embrace the Son of God.
Those who believe in Jesus are then expected to walk in the light, which means every Christian is to keep the commandments of the Lord. When the commandments of Jesus are honored, there is love. If a commandment of Christ is not honored, if there is a moral failure, the believer is to confess the sin, and then arise to walk in the light in order to have fellowship with God, and with one another. A renewed walk in the light is possible because the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses from all sin (1John 1:7).
“If that isn’t love the ocean is dry
There’s no stars in the sky
And the sparrow cannot fly!
If that isn’t love
Then heaven is a myth
There’s no feeling like this
If that isn’t love.”
The Second Message: 1 John 3:11-24
The next main section of the Epistle of 1 John also begins with the phrase, “This is the message”. In this part of Scripture, the idea of love is amplified, because love was an important theme in the ministry of Jesus. On the night of His crucifixion, after Judas went out into the night to betray Him, Jesus spoke to the eleven disciples saying, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love [agapao] one another” (John 13:34).
This commandment was not new in time, but it was new in kind. Matthew, the tax collector was to love Simon, the Zealot. Thomas Didymus, often referred to as ‘Doubting Thomas”, was to love the sincere and undoubting Simon Peter.
John never forgot what Jesus taught, and encouraged the brethren to walk in the light in order to love one another.
But what does it mean to love one another?
Negatively, the commandment to love one another means we are not like Cain, who was a child of Satan, and murdered his brother, Abel (Gen. 4:1-16). Cain killed Abel because “his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous (1 John 3:12). Jesus does not want His disciples to kill anyone physically, or mentally, by having hatred in their hearts. Study Matthew 5:22
Positively, the commandment to love one another means “we have passed from spiritual death unto life” (1 John 3:14). The evidence of a new life in Christ, and love for the brethren, is a willingness to die on their behalf, and to meet their needs when possible.
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).
In summary, to love the brethren means to do the right thing at the right time. This can only be done when there is a commitment to walk in the light, meaning there is a commitment to obey every command of Christ. The specific command of Christ to be obeyed is to love one another. The agape Love commanded is actualized when the best interests of others become foremost in the heart, in imitation of Jesus.
Light, Love, and Eternal Life: 1 John 4:1-5:17
When a person walks in the light, when a believer loves like Christ, and imitates Him, they can have assurance of eternal life, and an effective life of prayer.
Assurance of Salvation. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11).
An Effective Prayer Life. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. 14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: 15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:13-15).
Important Lessons to Learn from the Epistle of 1 John
Because God’s light is shining through Jesus, then the darkness of the world is passing away. Ultimately, darkness will not triumph light, evil shall not have the victory over righteousness. The darkness has passed, and the true light now shines (1 John 2:8).
God’s children are to be victorious in time over sin and death which reigns in the world. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).
God’s children are commanded not to love the world, or the things that are in the world, because the world is passing away (1 John 2:15-16). Let the Christian sing a song of Zion.
“This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through,
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue;
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
Because the world is passing away, because the world is not the final home promised by Jesus, care must be taken not to follow false teachers. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). There are anti-Christs, and deceivers who deny the humanity of Christ (1 John 2:18; 22; 4:3).
The true children of God are loved by the Father because they do what is right by loving one another. In contrast, deceivers create anger and unrest in the Church, because they are covetous. False teachers desire to have a large following, money, power, and sexual freedom.
True love is agape love, which is self-sacrificing and unconditional. Agape love is extended to those who do not deserve any kindness or grace. It is freely given to those who disappoint us, hurt us, abuse us, and even despise us. Agape love is only when it is produced by God in our hearts by His Spirit and through His Word.
Pray and ask God to reveal His great love to you in a personal way for His glory and so that you can have victory over the world, and live without fear, because you have faith in the crucified Jesus.
A Clear Conclusion: 1 John 5:18-21
“We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. 19 And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. 20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen” (1 John 5:17-21). To know Jesus is to know the God of light, love, and life.