An Introduction to 1 John

You can listen to the podcast for this here.

We begin a new series this morning into John’s first letter. This letter is written to the church at large and so it has bearing on us. It was written for a specific purpose and I pray you will be able to see why it was written as we move through it. In fact this letter lays the foundation for Christian conduct.

Take a look at 1 John 1:1-4.

John begins his letter with a description of the object of the letter. The object of this introduction is the Word of Life. The Word of Life was from the beginning. They heard about the Word of Life. They looked at and touched the Word of Life. This description is strikingly similar to John 1:1-5, 14. The first phrase in v. 1, “What was from the beginning” indicates what the Word is inherently. The word “was” is in the imperfect tense indicating ongoing action. He is from eternity. When the beginning happened, He was already there. The tense of the verbs indicate a stark contrast to what John says about “What was from the beginning” and touching and seeing Him. He was talking about something that had occurred in John’s past. John was an eyewitness to Jesus; the Creator of the heavens and the earth; the One that was in the beginning with God.

Just in case you didn’t get what John was saying in v. 1, he goes on in v. 2 to say, “And the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” Jesus is real, John saw Him, touched Him, experienced Him. “The eternal life was with the Father.”Eternal life refers to Jesus Christ. He was with God in the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw His glory.” There’s a reason John emphasizes that he actually saw and heard and fellowshipped with Jesus. In the early church there was a growing false teaching regarding Gnosticism. Gnosticism has two main points. First, the Gnostics maintained that spiritual enlightenment came from special knowledge that the ordinary Christian was unable to have, but once you did get it, salvation resulted. Second, the Gnostics believed that matter was evil and the source of evil. They denied the physical birth of Jesus and thus had to make their own way to God – knowledge.

Look at v. 3. John is writing to tell us what he has seen and heard. His reasoning is so that we could have fellowship with him. The word fellowship here is the Greek word koinonia. It gives us the idea of a oneness of community; a common participation or sharing of something. Who does John want to have fellowship with? The people he’s writing to – the church. Does that mean you can’t hang out with lost people? No, but you’ll never have the level of fellowship Christ desires us to have with Him and one another. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3) We should do what John did. Whatever we see and hear about Jesus, we need to tell other people. If fellowship is common participation in something, then that something in this context is the noun eternal life. “The eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” (v. 2b) Manifested to us – revealed or shown. Eternal life was made known to John and he wants to make eternal life known to us. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) That’s how John can say, “Our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” If your fellowship or your community is with God and with Jesus, then your fellowship is also with believers. Jesus said the same thing, “That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:21)

John’s purpose is revealed in v. 4. Don’t think John is being selfish. He’s not writing just so he can experience some joy in his otherwise troubled life. “These things” refers to what he has seen and heard and his proclamation of these things. The emphasis is on the message, not the messenger. True joy is not something we make happen. Joy is a by-product of our fellowship with God and other believers. “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Ps. 16:11) That’s the joy John is talking about. His joy is complete when people respond to the truth of the Gospel.

So what is joy? The web defines it as the emotion of great happiness. Is that biblical joy? There are some amazing parallels in the Gospel of John that will help us understand biblical joy. Read John 15:9-11. Christ found joy by keeping God’s commandments. We are to keep Christ’s commandments and abide in His love. That’s what gives us the ability to keep the commandments. Biblical joy comes from abiding in Christ.

It all comes down again to the way we live. We’re going to see in this letter how vitally important our behavior is. How important our conduct is. How we act in life, the things we do, the things we participate in all reflect the reality of Christ in our life. John 16:22, “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”

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