1st John, Lesson 1


Author: The earliest Church traditions we have about the authorship of 1st John is that the Apostle John, the son of Zebedee, is the author.  Even more, 1st John is so similar to the Gospel of John in language, style, and theology that few have ever disputed that both books have the same author.

Date: Most believe that John wrote his first epistle after had had written the Gospel of John, although there is no proof to support such a claim.  If so, then 1st John dates to around 90-95 AD.

Original Readers: The author never identifies his readers or their location.  That is why we call 1st John one of the “catholic epistles,” an epistle written for the Church at large.  John, however, may have written this letter to congregations aroundEphesus, where Church tradition placed John serving as a bishop.

Purpose: This letter aims to strengthen believers threatened by a heretical group that broke away from their community (2:19).  These individuals–whom John calls antichrists, liars, deceivers, and false prophets–denied that Jesus is “the Messiah” (2:22, 5:1) and the “Son of God” (2:23, 5:5) who had “come in the flesh” (4:2).

Themes: John used many dualistic contrasts, such as light and darkness, love and hate, Christ and antichrists.  These contrasts support John’s underlying view of the world, which recognized a spiritual battle underway between God and the devil.  The battle is raging, but at the same time we know that Christ has already conquered.

John wrote in a “spiral” style, which we also see in Revelation with the four repetitions of seven symbols.  He introduced a series of themes, and then he returned to the same themes over and again.  Each time he returned to a theme, he intensified it by adding information or varying how he made his point.  Because of this intensification, his style is spiral instead of circular.  Every revolution around the circle brings an advance.


1. Introduction: The Word of Life (1:1-4)

2. Spiral 1 (1:5-2:27)

a. Light vs. Darkness (1:5-10)

b. Love vs. Hate (2:1-17)

c. Christ vs. Antichrists (2:18-27)

3. Spiral 2 (2:28-4:6)

a. Children of God vs. Children of the Devil (2:28-3:10)

b. Love vs. Murder (3:11-24)

c. Spirit of God vs. spirit of the Antichrist (4:1-6)

4. Spiral 3 (4:7-5:12)

b. Love vs. Fear (4:7-21)

c. Faith in Jesus the Christ (5:1-12)

5. Conclusion (5:13-21)

a. Prayer and Sin (5:13-18)

b. Understanding (5:19-21)


John’s Introduction

Read 1 John 1:1-4

–          Of whom is John primarily speaking in these verses?


–          When John refers to Jesus as “that which was from the beginning” and “the word of life,” what is He saying?


–          When John refers to Jesus as someone whom we (the Apostles) have heard, seen, looked upon, and touched, what is he saying?


–          John says that which they have heard and seen (Jesus) they proclaim.  Why?  What does that say about the content of evangelism?


–          What is fellowship, koinoinia, communion?


Light vs. Darkness

Read 1 John 1:5-7

–          What do we learn about the holiness and righteousness of God?


2 Corinthians 6:14: Do not be bound together with unbelievers.  For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?  Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?

John 3:19-21: This is the verdict: The light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But the one who lives by the truth comes to the light, so it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been done in the sight of God.

–          Why is every act of walking in darkness a lie for the Christian?


Read 1 John 1:8-10

–          Although John affirms that when we walk in the darkness we are living a lie, he equally affirms what about our sinfulness?


–          What does this say about the duality of our life as Christians?


–          What solution to this conundrum does John offer?


Read 1 John 2:28-3:3

–          Why does John tell his readers to abide in Christ?


–          What is John pointing his readers back to in verse 29? (reference John 3:3, 5 if needed)


–          What is the point of hoping in Christ?  How is this reality lived out in our daily lives?


Read 1 John 3:3-10

–          John further clarifies what he earlier meant by darkness.  To whom is darkness linked?


–          John earlier stated, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.”  What then is he saying in these verses about sin in our lives?


–          What is practicing righteousness?


–          If practicing righteousness are the fruits of faith, then if the fruits of faith are lacking, what is John saying?


–          How similar are John’s words about sin to what James said in his epistle? (reference James 2:24 if needed)



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