First John – So You Know You Have Eternal Life

first john

First John was written to dispel doubts and to build assurance by presenting a clear picture of Jesus Christ. Entering history, Jesus was and is God in the flesh and God in focus – seen, heard, and touched by the author of this letter, John the apostle. John walked and talked with Jesus, saw him heal, heard him teach, watched him die, met him arisen, and saw him ascend. John knew God – he had lived with him and had seen him work. And John enjoyed fellowship with the Father and the Son all the days of his life.

John wrote about the most vital aspects of faith so that readers would know Christian truth from error.  He emphasizes the basics of faith so that we can be confident in our faith.  In our dark world, God is light. In our cold world, God brings the warmth of love.  In our dying world, God brings life.  When we lack confidence, these truths bring us uncertainty.

Do you know God? Do you know Christ? Do you know that you have eternal life? First John was written to help you know the reality of God in your life through faith in Christ, to assure you that you have eternal life, and to encourage you to remain in fellowship with the God who is light and love.

Read First John knowing that it is written by one overwhelmed by God’s love, and with renewed confidence, pass on his love to others.

Writer of First John

Written by the apostle John, brother of the apostle James who was martyred in A. D. 42 by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2). Possibly written from Jerusalem, since the apostles were headquartered there during the Great Scattering.

Date Written

During the Great Scattering described in Acts 8-12 (A. D. 40s).

The idea that First John was written from Ephesus in the A. D. 90’s comes from the notion that the so-called “John of Ephesus” was the author. The gospel was first presented in Ephesus by Paul in Acts 18-19.

To Whom Written

To those Jews who had formerly been his student in the Great Unity in Jerusalem who now had been scattered abroad. This letter is untitled and was written to the church at large, as it has no greetings or farewells. It was sent as a pastoral letter to several Gentile congregations.

Purpose of First John

The purpose of First John was to address the Jews who had been dispersed abroad in the Great Scattering, all of whom had been part of the Great Unity in Jerusalem – as opposed to James, which was written to those whom were the ekklesia (leaders among the newly formed groups of Jews) during the Great Scattering. John was writing to those who had once been his pupils, but who had now become teachers themselves. He wrote to remind them of the lessons he had formerly taught them, as well as to offer them advice in dealing with the issues that they were now facing. One of the primary issues was the presence of false teachers and liars, men whom Satan had caused to come in craftily among them.

John mentions four reasons for writing this epistle to believers. (1) to add to their joy; (2) to guard them against sin; (3) to warn them against false teachers; and (4) to strengthen their faith in Christ and assure them of eternal life.

 



 

Historical Setting

First John has none of the usual features of an epistle: no salutation or identification of author; no greetings; and no references to persons, places, or events. Ironically, although its format is impersonal, like a sermon or a treatise, its tone is warm and personal. This suggests that it was written to a broad audience (probably in and around Ephesus) that was very dear to the author.

Theological Contribution

Like the Gospel of John, the epistles of John are built on the foundation blocks of love, truth, sin, world, life, light, and the Holy Spirit. The epistles of John emphasize the great themes of knowing, believing, walking and abiding. The keystone in the arch of the gospel is that God has appeared in human form. The incarnation is life; and this life is available ion the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Fellowship with God is realized by knowing God and abiding in Him: joined to Him in righteousness, truth, and especially love.

Special Consideration of First John

Many Christians wonder about John’s declaration, “Whoever abides in Him [Jesus Christ] does not sin” (3:6). This does not mean that if someone sins he is not a Christian. Indeed, in these epistles we are told that Christ came to forgive sins; and we are admonished to confess our sins to Him. The statement means that Christ has transferred us from death to life and has caused us to share in the nature of God. Consequently, we are no longer confined to darkness, because Jesus Christ has broken the power of sin in our lives.


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