1 John 1


John’s first letter deals with many subjects, but the main one is the identity of Jesus. Throughout the first century, the church had many problems with false teachers and deceivers all of whom were teaching their own ideas, encouraged people to follow them and as a result, they caused division within the church, but more dangerously, they drew people away from the truth.


Most scholars and commentators attribute the author to John himself, the beloved disciple of Jesus. There are also many similarities between this letter and the Gospel of John, which certainly suggest that John is the author, John 14:15 / John 14:21 / John 15:10 / John 15:14.

There is also external evidence John is the author, Polycarp, a close associate of John, appears to refer to this letter at the beginning of the second century, in a letter to the Philippians. Irenaeus, a student of Polycarp, quoted from it and attributed it to John.

The Recipients

John doesn’t appear to be writing to anyone specifically, but it has been suggested that he may have been in Ephesus at the time and that his letter might be a general letter to the Christians throughout Asia Minor.

Others suggest that John may have been addressing a particular group of Christians possessing certain spiritual gifts, 1 John 2:20 / 1 John 2:27.

The Purpose Of The Letter

John himself tells us why he wrote the letter.
1. He wrote it ‘to make their joy complete.’ 1 John 1:4.
2. He wrote it ‘so that they will not sin’, 1 John 2:1.
3. He wrote it ‘that they continue to believe in the name of the Son of God’. 1 John 5:13.
4. He wrote it ‘so that they may know they have eternal life.’ 1 John 5:13.
5. He wrote it because certain people were ‘trying to lead them astray’. 1 John 2:26.

The main problem John was dealing with was Gnosticism, and those who follow this teaching are called Gnostics. They claimed to have superior knowledge, hence the Greek word for knowledge is ‘gnosis’.

They believed that all matter was evil, therefore God didn’t create or have anything to do with the material universe. They also believed that Christ couldn’t have come in the flesh, 1 John 4:1-3.

A splinter group from the Gnostics were called Docetism, and they believed that Jesus only ‘seemed’ to be physical, in other words, they believed that Jesus was a ghost, 1 John 1:1.

Cerinthus taught that ‘Jesus’ was physical, but that the ‘Christ’ came upon him at his baptism, and left before His death, so that the ‘Christ-spirit’ never suffered, 1 John 5:6.

Their application to everyday living took two different directions because they believed that all matter was thought to be evil. Some thought everyone should abstain altogether from anything that would satisfy the flesh and others claimed it didn’t matter what anyone did in the flesh, because it was evil anyway, and to have full knowledge, it was proper to explore everything.


Some commentaries suggest that John’s first letter was written anywhere between 60 A.D. to 100 A.D. Most commentators place the date of writing to around 95 A.D., but there are also good reasons for believing it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.


John appears to be dealing with one theme in particular and that is, the eternal nature of Jesus the Christ. He asserts the incarnate Son of God so that his readers be reassured that Jesus is who He claimed to be, 1 John 1:3, and so, John encourages them to continue in fellowship with God in their belief that Jesus was the Christ, 1 John 5:13.


Our fellowship with God. 1 John 1:1-10
A new commandment. 1 John 2:1-17
A warning against Antichrist and evil. 1 John 2:18-29
Christian conduct. 1 John 3:1-24
False teachers. 1 John 4:7-21
The love of God. 1 John 4:7-21
Faith is the victory. 1 John 5:1-21

The Text

‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.’ 1 John 1:1-4

The Incarnation Of The Word Of Life

John begins by proving evidence that Jesus is who He claimed to be. Notice he says that the ‘Word of life’ existed at the beginning, that is, the beginning of the world, John 1:1-2.

John is emphasising the fact that Jesus was in eternity with the Father when the world was created. He was the beginning of the created world in the sense that through Him all things were created, 1 John 2:13-14 / John 17:5 / Colossians 1:16.

Notice John uses the word ‘we’, which tells us that not only him but all the Christ sent apostles who met and spent time with Jesus, along with John were eyewitnesses, John 1:14.

John and the apostles heard Jesus, saw Jesus, looked at Jesus, and touched Jesus, John 1:14 / 2 Peter 1:16. In other words, Jesus was flesh and blood, He wasn’t some ghost as the Gnostics believed, John 20:11-29 / Luke 24:39.

John and the apostles proclaimed the ‘Word of life’, the word he uses here is the word, ‘Logos’, which again relates to the Christ who was in the beginning with God and was God and became flesh, John 1:1-2 / John 1:14. Jesus was the final revelation of God to man, Acts 1:1-2 / Hebrews 1:1-3.

John tells us that the life appeared, that is, the Word was made visible when He became flesh and blood, John 1:14 / Philippians 2:6-8 / 1 Timothy 3:16 / 1 Peter 1:20 / 1 John 3:5 / 1 John 3:8.

John once again testifies that he and the apostles personally saw the life, that is Christ, who appeared to all mankind, Luke 24:48 / John 8:12 / John 21:24. They had experienced the Light, but also the life that He brought into the world, 1 John 3:14-15 / John 5:24.

Earlier John said that they proclaimed the Word of life, and he now says that they proclaimed eternal life. Jesus is the life, John 11:25 / John 14:6, Jesus is the light of life, John 8:12, and He is the bread of life, John 6:35 / John 6:48.

Jesus is God’s revelation of eternality that is available to all men through Him, John 14:6 / Romans 16:25-27 / 1 Timothy 3:16.

Notice the relationship between the Father and the Word, Jesus was in heaven as one with God, John 1:1 / John 6:41 / John 6:62 / John 17:21. The Son was the incarnate manifestation of the one God.

What is incredible here is the fellowship we all have with each other and the Father and the Son. The word fellowship in Greek is the word, ‘koinonia’, which basically means a joint partnership and sharing in the common bond which comes from obeying the Gospel, John 17:1 / 1 Corinthians 1:9 / 2 Thessalonians 2:14 / 2 John 9.

John now tells us the first reason for writing this letter, he wants to make our joy complete. This joy comes as we remind ourselves of the Word of life and the relationship we have with each other and the Father and Son, John 16:24 / 2 John 4 / 3 John 3-4.

Light And Darkness, Sin And Forgiveness

‘This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.’ 1 John 1:5-7

John now tells us the message that he and the apostles heard from the Word of life, God is light, Psalm 27:1. In other words, He is the source of all light, James 1:17 / 1 Timothy 6:16. Because God is light, this means that He is holy, pure, good, loving, desirable and righteous.

Because God is light, Jesus came to bring light into the world, John 1:5-9 / John 3:19-21 / John 5:35 / John 8:12 / John 9:5 / John 11:9-10 / John 12:35-36 / Colossians 1:12.

Because God is light, there is no darkness in Him, the darkness refers to wickedness, fear, sin, or evil, James 1:13-14 / James 1:17, God has none of these things in Him.

We must remember that John is writing to people who are already Christians, people who have already been united with Christ in baptism, and had their sins forgiven, Matthew 28:19-20 / Acts 2:38 / Romans 6:3-4.

Notice how John uses the word, ‘if’ eight times throughout this chapter, which implies these are the terms and conditions.

Here he uses the word if to speak about the terms and conditions for having fellowship with God and His Son. If we claim to have fellowship with Him, we can’t at the same time walk in the darkness, we can’t lie and we must live out the truth.

John uses the progressive tense of continuous action, that is, continually walking, continually lying, continually not living out the truth, in other words, he’s not speaking about a one-off sin in our lives, but a continually, deliberately continuing to sin, John 8:12 / Romans 6:4 / Galatians 6:7-8 / Ephesians 2:1-3 / Ephesians 5:8 / Hebrews 10:26 / 1 John 2:9-11.

Continually walking in the light means living according to God’s ways, Acts 17:11 / 1 John 5:3 / John 14:15 / John 15:14. It means living our lives in a way that pleases God, as we’re being guided by the light of God, and the truth, John 17:17 / 1 John 2:9-11 / 1 John 2:21 / 1 John 3:19 / 2 John 2-4.

If we don’t live as God has directed us, then we are simply not walking by the truth, 1 John 2:29 / Matthew 7:21-23. If we walk in the light, we have fellowship with each other, John 8:12 / Ephesians 5:8, and the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.

The atoning blood of Jesus which was shed on the cross is the only means by which we can receive forgiveness of sin, Acts 4:12 / 1 Corinthians 6:11 / Ephesians 1:7 / Hebrews 9:14 / 1 Peter 1:19 / Revelation 1:5. The idea here is also a continuous action, the blood continually keeps on cleansing us.

‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.’ 1 John 1:8-10

John uses the word ‘if’ again, to describe the terms and conditions for the forgiveness of sins. We must acknowledge our sinfulness, Matthew 5:3-12, otherwise, we deceive ourselves, Romans 3:9-10 / Romans 3:23 / Ephesians 2:1-3, and the truth isn’t in us, 1 John 2:24 / Luke 18:10-14.

The terms and conditions for forgiveness continue with the words, ‘if we confess our sins’, Psalm 32:5. As Christians, we should never be ashamed to confess our sins to God, Psalm 32:5 / Psalm 51:2 / Proverbs 26:13.

The idea of confessing our sins to a priest isn’t being taught here, we confess our sins to God, 1 John 2:1 / Hebrews 7:25 / Hebrews 10:19-20 / 1 Timothy 2:5.

Remember confessing our sins to God isn’t for His benefit but ours, He wants us to acknowledge that we sin and He wants us to trust in Him because He is just, Psalm 143:1 / Romans 3:21-26.

Notice that John uses the word ‘will’ forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness, this is the promise if the terms and conditions are met.

This has been described as the second law of forgiveness, the first law for having our sins forgiven is when we were baptised, Acts 2:38 / Acts 22:16. In other words, we can’t be forgiven unless we’ve already come into contact with the blood of Jesus at our baptism.

When God forgives, Hebrews 10:17, and cleanses us, we’re then able to approach Him, 1 John 2:12 / Psalm 51:2 / 1 Corinthians 6:11. When we’re right before God, He continues to bless us with every spiritual blessing we need, Ephesians 1:3.

In contrast, if we claim we have never sinned, and we don’t confess our sins, then we make God out to be a liar, Romans 3:9-10 / Romans 3:23. If we claim we have never sinned, and we don’t confess our sins, then God’s Word, isn’t in us, John 8:37 / 1 John 2:14 / 2 John 4 / 2 John 6 / 3 John 4.

John is telling us as it is, that those who don’t confess their sins are lying, they are deceiving themselves and they make God a liar. In other words, they are still walking in the darkness, no matter how much they want to claim otherwise, Mark 7:1-9 / 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.

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