Overview of 1 John
and Study of 1 John 1-5
December 23rd

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Overview of the 1st Letter from John

The first letter from John was written by the Disciple John who also wrote one of the four Gospels. The purpose of the letter was to re-assure the people at many of the early churches regarding the truth of fundamental aspects of their faith and to counter the false opinions that were circulating among some of the communities. The editors of the New American Bible note the following about the principles of faith discussed in this letter (1):

John wrote this letter from the city of Ephesus, home of the Ephesians, sometime around 100 A.D. It doesn't begin with the traditional greetings of a letter, and is structured more like a thesis paper, but yet the content has a personal tone.

Like Peter, John wrote from the perspective of an authoritative eyewitness who had walked with Jesus and could provide firsthand accounts of many miracles. John was also recognized as a leader in the early church. He is mentioned frequently in Acts, for example, going with Peter to pray in the Temple (Acts 3:1-4, 11) and refusing the request from the Sanhedrin to stop talking about Jesus (Acts 4:20). Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Paul referred to John as a “pillar” of the church in Galatians 2:9(2). John not only refused to stop talking about Jesus, but he committed himself to writing about it as well, producing the Gospel, the book of Revelation, and three brief letters, of which this is the first and longest.

John’s style in this and other letters is similar to his style in his Gospel. He used a lot of symbolism and contrasts and had a recurring theme of love.

This brief book could be divided into several sections (2):

References used for the analysis of this book include the following:

1 John 1-5 (Components of God's Love)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon
and touched with our hands
concerns the Word of life—
- 1 John 1:1 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

In the first chapter, John establishes himself as an authority who saw and touched Jesus, who existed from the beginning of time. John establishes Jesus as the source of light and truth. He explains that the light reveals and forgives sin, but if we don’t acknowledge these truths than we are deceiving ourselves and implying that God is not the Truth:

The denial of sin also can lead to a repetition of mistakes, but forgiveness is available if we confess and repent. Thus, in the second chapter, John encourages his readers to confess their sins and love one another, but warns them not to become enamored with the things of this world. He warns them not to deny Jesus, and directly addresses their detractors when he says, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:22 - KJV).”

The end of chapter 2 begins a section that focus on God as love. John then begins chapter 3 by saying the following:

John expands on this theme by describing some of the ways God has expressed his love for us, including the sacrifice of his own son, who laid down his life for us. This theme continues through the end of chapter 4, in which he defines God as love, and emphasizes that when we live in love we live with God and we can allow love to drive out all fear.

In chapter 5, John concludes by re-affirming a number of fundamental beliefs, including the knowledge that Jesus gives us eternal life, that he will hear whatever we ask, and that we should keep ourselves from worshiping idols.

Reflection and Application

It’s interesting that John closes this letter with a reiteration of the first commandment, because this is the foundation of the relationship with God. If we keep ourselves focused on God then we will be more able to keep ourselves from idols and consequently can experience the light and love of God.

In his book on Jesus, the Apostles, and the Early Church, Pope Benedict XVI notes that John talks about three components of love in this letter. The first component is that God is the source of love. John says quite plainly that God = Love (1 John 4:8). As a consequence, everything that God does is driven by love. He created us to love us and sent his only son to earth because he loved the whole world full of us. The second component is that God committed his only son, because he loved the world (John 3:16). When we recognize the price that Jesus paid we are compelled to respond – this is the third component of love, according to Benedict. We are called to love one another as Jesus loved us – wholeheartedly, with mercy and forgiveness for all. Benedict acknowledges that the objective of loving completely as Jesus did is “unattainable, but at the same time (is)… an incentive that …spurs us to keep advancing towards this goal (4)."

For another perspective on the life of John, you might be interested in John’s Story by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins The authors provide an historical fiction account of the Disciple as he writes his Gospel, three letters, and finally the book of Revelation.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What are the topics on which you are an authority?
    2. What fabrications about God are propagated in today’s society?
    3. What is the best way for us to communicate our belief in the love from God and the benefits that he offers?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, help us to love like you love and follow the example of your son Jesus.

    Prayer Concern


    (1) The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, online edition, December 23rd, 2015, Introduction to 1 John
    (2) Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus, The Apostles, and the Early Church, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2007, p 68-69
    (3) Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993, p. 2274
    (4) Benedict, p 72-74

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: 2 John, 3 John, and Jude (Three Pithy Letters)

    Comments and Questions
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