1 John 1
In the first verse of chapter 1, John the Beloved takes us back to that “time before time” in speaking of Jesus, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, who was there in the beginning (He’s always existed) (sounds also like Genesis 1:1 doesn’t it?). John lets us know that this is who He’s writing about. They heard Him (and they still do), they’d seen Him, observed Him, touched Him, the Word (the logos), Jesus, this is who John and the other Apostles “declare” to us that we also might have fellowship with them – and this fellowship is not only with them and other believers, this fellowship is with God Himself!
John wrote this letter so that we might have fellowship with God; and he writes so that in this fellowship, this relationship, this Christian companionship, our joy may be “full.”
I need to check my heart. Do I have that fellowship? Do I have that joy?
One of the things you’ll notice about John in this little letter, is that he doesn’t pull any punches, he doesn’t hold back, he doesn’t give us any gray matter, it’s just black and white. It doesn’t matter what you say or even think about yourself, if you say you’re a Christian, but living a life of consistent, insistent, persistent sin, then you’re not really a Christian. Imagine the absolute shock of many who will stand before Jesus on that day and say, “But Lord, I did this and that, I served in the church, I taught Bible studies, I cast out demons, I had that Christian title or position…” but Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”(Matthew 7:22-23)
We MUST examine our lives! Is there any sin that dominates my life? John will go on to talk a LOT about love – this is the earmark of a Christian, do I have it? Would love be the description of my life?
In order to truly have that fellowship with God I need to be walking in the light. That doesn’t mean we won’t sin, we all do, but when we do, we repent, confess it and God promises to cleanse us from it; 1 John 1:9 has often been referred to as the Christian’s “bar of soap.”
It’s interesting how John teaches us that if we practice sin, or don’t acknowledge our sin, we don’t know the Lord. These are objective truths by which we can examine our lives.
1 John 2
We come now to another reason John wrote his letter – that we would not sin (2:1). That’s a great goal wouldn’t you say? To hit that mark of holiness, to please God, to sin less. But, even with that kinda heart for God, we’re still destined to sin as long as we’re on this side of time, and it’s for that reason John immediately adds those words, “…and if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Thayer’s lexicon defines the Greek word translated “Advocate” as “one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant.”In other words, Jesus is our attorney who accepts all cases of those who plead guilty and then makes them innocent by being our propitiation, paying the price of justice – a price we could never pay. A good picture of this is found in Zech. 3:1-5.
I love the way John makes it so simple – that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world – for everyone! (2:2). Some say Jesus died only for the elect, it makes you wonder if they’ve read their Bibles.
John goes on to reveal the fact that the way we know that we’re Christians is a life of obedience to the Word, and a life of love for the people. It doesn’t matter what a person says, claims, or professes, if our lives don’t match our lips, John just says we’re liars. If we claim to be Christians, shouldn’t our lives resemble the life of Christ? (2:6)
To love our neighbor is not a new commandment, but to love our neighbor the way Jesus did IS new. John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
Is there anyone you hate? I’d encourage you to do your best to settle that question in your heart – so that you might have the full assurance of salvation. Haters do not go to heaven, lovers do.
In verses 12-14 John points to the spiritual journey we make from childhood, to adolescence, and eventually adulthood. Warren Wiersbe said, “Because of Jesus Christ, you have a family (vv. 12–14). The members are at different stages of spiritual development, but all can receive the Word and grow. How wonderful it is when the ‘little children’ become young men and then fathers!”Sandy Adams said, “A father is a man who lives for his family. A spiritual father lives to give to others in the family of God.” (of course, all this is perfectly and equally applicable to children, young ladies, and “moms” in the church)
1 John 5:19 tells us that the world lies under the sway of the wicked one – so we are not to love the world. How we need to guard our hearts from the things the world esteems (pleasure, possessions, and prestige).
John warns the Christians about false teachers who deny the deity of Christ. In doing so they deny Jesus, they’re “anti-Christs” who don’t have the Father either (see John 5:23). We are protected and directed by the Word of God and the Spirit of God who lives within us (that’s the anointing). God help us to abide in Him, to stick to this truth so that we’re not swept away and embarrassed when we stand before the Lord.
1 John 3
What kind of love is this? That we should be called children of GOD! Wow, mind boggling, but true – not for everyone (1 John 3:10) but for those who have truly believed on the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:12).
The fact that we Christians are children of God explains a lot of the turmoil we go through on this side of time. The unsaved people of the world march to a different drummer – they don’t know God, and therefore they don’t know us. Get ready to rumble.
Because we’re children of God, we have His nature within us, and one day when we’re home in glory, we will experience the fulness of this wonderful reality. We don’t know the details of heaven and all that we’ll see and be, but we do know we’ll be like Him, for we’ll see Him as He is. When we have this prophetic hope, it does a work of purification within us – now.
John spends a lot of time communicating the fact that if a person continues in sin, with eyes wide open, consistent, insistent, persistent sin, then the blunt reality is such people are NOT Christians. The Greek grammar is in the present-tense and speaks of a continuous action. Jesus was manifested to set us free from sin, to take away the penalty AND power of sin…so let’s make sure we understand that a faith that doesn’t change our behavior, will never change our destiny.
John also spends a lot of time relaying the truth that one of the most important and revealing characteristics is love. If we don’t love others, we’re like Cain who killed Abel. And why did he kill him? Because Abel’s works were righteous. How tragic that those who have that seed of Satan also have that seed of hate and murder because they see something good in someone else. I wonder if Cain was jealous of Abel?
How we need to guard our hearts from hatred. John and Jesus both connected hatred with murder (see Matthew 5:21-22).
It’s fascinating to see the flipside of all this, the logical flow of what happens depending on who we follow. If a person follows Satan it inevitably leads to hate and murder. But if a person follows Jesus, it inevitably leads to love, and rather than taking life, we’re willing to lay down our lives for others. We learned this, and saw this, in Jesus our Lord…by this we know love (1 John 3:16).
John also teaches us that love is not just a word, it’s an action. When we love others we’re benevolent and we’ll help them in practical ways. Such a love, motivated by the love of Jesus assures our hearts that we really do know the Lord (1 John 3:19). Our feelings (heart) might condemn us, but the facts speak for themselves; we don’t live by feelings but by faith. And then the day comes when we’re no longer weak and our heart can’t condemn us (because we know better) we then have confidence before God and this totally transforms our prayer life, we will see more and more answered prayer (1 John 3:22; see also Hebrews 4:16).
All made possible in obedience to that first command, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!
1 John 4
We are to test all things and hold tight to the truth (1 Thessalonians 5:21; Acts 17:11). John reminds us of that and adds that we are to test the “spirits” because any so-called Christian teacher who is not of Christ, is of the enemy.
One of the false teachings that had infiltrated the church at this time, was Gnosticism. Gnostics believed that all matter was evil, therefore, they taught that Jesus didn’t come in the flesh, that He was only a phantom. They said wherever He walked, He left no footprints, for He had no flesh. But John deals with this head-on and lets us know that “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.”(2-3).John calls these teachers the spirit of Antichrist. And one day the actual Antichrist described in Revelation 13 will be seen on the scene, until then he’s in the background opposing Christ and His truth in every way he can.
We don’t have to be afraid of the enemy, because God lives in us – and He’s infinitely greater than any form of opposition – even if all the hosts of hell, and all the wicked ones in this world came against you, you have nothing to fear, for God is for you and loves you perfectly (Romans 8:31; 1 John 4:4).
Another litmus test as to whether a person is truly saved is simply that question of whether or not they believe the Apostles of Christ – whose teachings eventually were given to us in the Word of God. John put it this way in 1 John4:6, “We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us…”
History tells us that when John was old (in his 90’s) they would carry him around on a stretcher, and John would be spreading the message, “love one another, love one another.” Eventually he came to be known as “John the Beloved.” We see it over and over in this letter – the fact that if we’re truly born-again, we will love one another; if a person has no love, that person does NOT know God!
The reason I should love others is because God lives in me, I’m His child so I should be like Him – and not only that, but if you think about it, love really is the heart-beat of Christianity. If God loved me (the wicked sinner that I am) shouldn’t I love everyone that God brings into my path like that? We’ve never seen God physically, but when people represent Christ and let Him shine through them, in one sense we see God because we see Him in them (12).
What a beautiful Gospel we’ve been given! All we have to do is believe in the Son of God and we’re saved, we’re forgiven, we’re free, we’re headed for heaven – all because of His love. When that kind of love is allowed to sink down into my soul, all fear is cast out. I don’t have to fear torment, or hell, or anything other than those things God allows into my life for good.
Thank You Father for giving Your Son. Thank You Jesus for coming. Thank You Spirit for opening my eyes and my heart…to God’s love.
1 John 5
In this final chapter of 1 John, he uses the word “faith” once, and “believes” three times. This is how we’re saved! Whoever “believes” that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God (v. 1). And this is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith, as we believe that Jesus is the Son of God (vs. 4-5). The moment we believe in Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit comes and lives inside of us as a witness that we’re saved (v. 10; Romans 8:16). All by faith…I’m so grateful that we’re saved by faith and not works, by believing and not by behaving, because although true Christians will always have works and our lives will change, we will not be perfect on this side of time – by any means.
If you’ve read through the book of 1 John you definitely walk away with the message that true salvation means we show our love for God by keeping His commandments, which by the way, are not burdensome (v. 3). The two most important “commandments” are to love God and to love others; we cannot say we love God if we don’t love others – and even that commandment is not burdensome.
The water and blood in v. 6 are most likely a reference to the humanity of Jesus and contextually speaking, are emphasized because of the false teaching of Gnosticism, which denied that Jesus actually came in the flesh. Others believe it points to Jesus’ baptism (water) and death (blood). The latter view seems to fit well with v. 8 as a witness with the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is gathering a bride for Jesus, He’s drawing men, women, and children to the Lord. He’s telling us about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, given by the Father, and born to die in our place. The Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts that all we have to do is believe in Jesus as the Lord and Savior of our lives and there we will find freedom and forgiveness – it’s true, so amazing, so wonderful. The moment we believe, we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we’re saved, and we have a future home in heaven. Some people don’t have that assurance, they wonder and wait, because they’re basing it upon their own good works or religion. Such people will never enter the Kingdom of God. John wrote this letter for this very purpose (v. 13). That if we believe in Jesus, and simply keep believing, we can KNOW we have eternal life. I know I’m going to heaven, but it’s not because I’m a good person (because I’m not when I compare myself to God). I KNOW I’m going to heaven because I have placed my faith in Jesus Christ.
1 John 5:14 is such an important passage, because it teaches us that God is gracious to hear us and answer our prayers, when they are offered up according to His will. So the balance is, we won’t receive if we don’t ask, or if we’re asking with improper motives (James 4:2) and we won’t receive if the request is contrary to God’s will (thank You Lord), but God Himself will answer every prayer in His timing – when – it’s in accordance to His will. So part of the prayer “process” is learning to discover the will of God.
Verses 16-17 of 1 John are tough to interpret. If you see a brother or sister doing something that may lead to their physical death, don’t just pray, act immediately, intervene. Other situations may find us praying for a while, praying from a distance but not necessarily intervening with the same urgency.
As we close this chapter and letter we’re encouraged to live holy lives, for God’s children, who have God’s seed (3:9), shouldn’t continue in persistent and insistent sin. When we keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21) we do our part in abiding and staying close to Christ. It’s a battle because we’re not only going against the grain of who we are, we’re going against the flow of the world system (which lies under the sway of the wicked one).
“Little children” – John the Beloved now in his 90’s is able to say that. You can sense his love, care, and concern for us children, in his closing words, “…keep yourselves from idols.” Don’t let anything or anyone come before or between you and the Lord.
I’d like to share in a little more detail, a bit about “The Comma Johanneum,” also known as the Johannine Comma, which is a textual variant in respect to 1 John 5:7.
There are different opinions on this, but it is highly unlikely that the Comma Johanneum was originally a part of 1 John. None of the oldest Greek manuscripts of 1 John contain it, and none of the very early church fathers include it when quoting or referencing 1 John 5:7-8. The presence of the Comma Johanneum in Greek manuscripts is actually quite rare until the 15th century A.D. It is primarily found in Latin manuscripts. While some of the Latin manuscripts containing the Comma Johanneum are ancient, the Comma Johanneum did not appear in the original Latin Vulgate written by Jerome.
In the 16th century, when Desiderius Erasmus was compiling what became known as the Textus Receptus, he did not include the Comma Johanneum in the 1st or 2nd editions. Due to intense pressure from the Catholic Church and others who wanted it included because of its support for trinitarianism, Erasmus included the Comma Johanneum in later editions of the Textus Receptus. His decision resulted in the Comma Johanneum being included in the King James Version of the Bible and later in the New King James Version. None of the modern Greek texts (UBS 4, Nestle-Aland 27, Majority Text) contain the Comma Johanneum. Of all the modern English translations, only the New King James Version includes the Comma Johanneum.
While it would be convenient for there to be an explicit statement confirming the Trinity in the Bible, it is highly unlikely that the Comma Johanneum was originally a part of 1 John. While what the Comma Johanneum says is true, and I am a firm believer in the doctrine of the Trinity, we must rely on the many other passages of the Bible where this truth is clearly and emphatically taught, as the basis for our proof texts.