1 John is a unique book. It does not seem to be a letter because it omits all the natural characteristics of a letter. 1 John does not have an author stated, recipients, salutation, thanksgiving section, closing section, nor greeting section. No characteristics of a letter are found in 1 John. But John repeatedly calls the readers of this treatise, "my little children." This treatise was to be read by other people, but John avoids writing in the form of the letter.
Gnosticism was a large problem for Christians toward the end of the first century. Gnostic means knowledge. The Gnostics taught that they held special divine knowledge and only through them could a person come to truly know God and be complete. John writes this letter to fight this false teaching. Thirty-two times John says the word "know." The Gnostics claim to have knowledge, but John is going to give the readers true knowledge of God.
What We Know (1:1-10)
- Because we have heard, seen, observed, and touched the Word of Life (1-4). John begins by teaching what he had the apostles knew. They knew Jesus because they had heard him, seen him with their own eyes, observed his actions, and touched him with their hands. Jesus came in the flesh and John gives his testimony to this fact. The way to have fellowship with God was to have fellowship with the apostles and their teachings, not the teachings of the Gnostics.
Written: that your joy may be complete (1:4). Throughout this treatise, John is going to explain the reason for the points he makes. John tells them that Jesus did come in the flesh so that their joy would be complete by believing the truth.
- God is light and there is absolutely no darkness in Him (5-10). What the apostles knew what that God is light. There is no evil with God and neither can be with the followers of God. (1)> If we say we have fellowship with God but walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth (1:6). (2) >If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1:8). (3) >If we say we have not sinned, we make God a liar and the word of God is not in us (1:10). We cannot say that we are in a right relationship with God and violate God’s laws (walk in darkness). We cannot say that our sins do not affect us.
Written: that you may not sin (2:1). The purpose for telling the readers that God is light and that there is no darkness in him at all is so that we will not sin. We are not in fellowship with God if we practice sin. These things were written so that we would not sin. If we do sin, Jesus is the sacrifice of atonement for our sins.
We Have Come To Know Him (2:3-11)
The Christians in the first century did not need the Gnostics to get to know God. They had already come to know God and the efforts of the Gnostics were futile. In chapter 2, John explains how the Christians have already come to know God.
- By keeping His commands (2:3). The Christians could have confidence that they know God by keeping God’s commands. The people who said they knew God but were not keeping God’s commands are called liars by John. Only those who keep God’s word know God and the love of God is complete within them.
- By walking as Jesus walked (2:6). The Christians could also know that they know God by walking in the footsteps that Jesus walked while he was on the earth. Obey the commands of God and follow the example that Jesus left.
- By loving our brother (2:9-10). We also know that we know God by loving one another. Any person who claimed to know God but did not love his brother is walking in darkness and does not belong to God.
Written: Because your sins are forgiven, because you know God, and because God’s word remains in you. The Christians did not need the Gnostics for anything. They already had their sins forgiven. They already knew God because God’s word was abiding in them.
Exhortation: Do Not Love the World (2:15-17)
John stops in his treatise and exhorts the readers to separate themselves from the world. They cannot keep the lusts of the world and be in fellowship with God. If we love the world or the things in the world, then we do not love the Father. We need to think hard about this exhortation because we many times show that we love the world and the things of the world above loving God. We cave into our desires and lusts of the flesh rather than keep ourselves from sin. We frequently decide to do what we want to do and what we think is best rather than keep the commands of God.
We Know The Truth (2:18-29)
- The Antichrist. People who deny that Jesus is the Christ are the antichrist. Often the denominational world has made a big deal about the end times and the antichrist. But the antichrist is simply a person who claims to be a follower of God but rejects that Jesus is the Christ.
- Christians have all they need. The Christians needed nothing from the Gnostics. They already had the Holy Spirit given from God. They did not need the teachings of the Gnostics (2:27).
- Christ is righteous. They also knew the truth that Christ is righteous and that followers of Christ must also be righteous.
Written: Because there are those who are trying to deceive you (2:26). Since people were lying about Christ and their relationship with Christ, John writes to point out these deceivers and declare the truth of their relationship.
We Know We Are God’s Children (3:1-15)
- By being pure (3:3). First, Christians knew that they were children of God by living a pure life, not by having the "knowledge" of the Gnostics.
- By not practicing sin (3:6,9). John continues to emphasize the need for avoiding the practice of sin. Children of God do not continue in sin.
- By loving your brother (3:14-15). We have seen John teaching this repeatedly as well. Children of God love one another and do not show hate toward one another.
We Know God’s Love (3:16-24)
- Because He laid down His life for us (3:16). God showed his love through his son and not through other means. No greater act of love could have been made to show us how much God loves us.
- By believing on His name (3:23). We will know the love of God by believing in who he is and what he has done for us.
- By loving one another (3:23). We also know the love of God by showing love for one another. Since Jesus laid down his life for us, we are to lay down our lives for one another (3:16).
- By keeping His commands (3:23-24). We also know the love of God by keeping his commands. The blessings of God remain with us when we are obedient to his commands.
We Know The Spirit of God (4:1-21)
- Confessing that Jesus has come in the flesh. The Spirit of God declares that Jesus came in the flesh to the earth to save us from our sins. Anyone that does not declare this message is not from God and is to be rejected.
- Listening to the apostles’ teachings. We also know that we have the Spirit of God through obedience. When we do what the Lord commands, then we know that God is with us.
- Loving one another. I hope we see the importance of how we treat one another. We know that we are in fellowship with God and have the love of God by the way we act around other people.
We Know We Are Born of God (5:1-21)
- Believes that Jesus is the Christ (5:1). These are the ways that we can know that we are born of God. First, we must believe that Jesus is the Christ. Remember that the person who does not believe this is the antichrist.
- Obeys His commands (5:3). We know we are born of God when we do the things that He says. Keeping God’s commands is important to proving that we are born of God.
- Because we have been given life (5:11). We also know that we are born of God because the promise of eternal life has been given to all who believe in the name of the Son of God.
- Because God listens to us (5:14-15). We further know that we are born of God because God listens to the things we ask for and that God responds to us. The power of answered prayer reminds us that we are born of God.
- Does not practice sin (5:16-21). Those who are born of God do not plunge themselves into sinful activities. We must keep ourselves away from sinful living to be born of God.
Written: So that you know that you have eternal life (5:13). John wrote these things so that the readers would know that they have eternal life through Christ, separate from the teachings of the Gnostics.
- All-Sufficiency of God and His Word. We do not need the teachings of anyone else. No person can tell us what the Bible does not already teach. Anyone who claims to teach more than what is revealed in the Bible is not from God.
- We know God through obedience.
- We know God through love.
- We know God by avoiding sin.