1 John Overview
John’s theme is the believer’s close relationship with God through Jesus Christ and what that relationship can produce in the lives of believers.
Summary of Book
Fellowship with God and believers is based on the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is true deity and true humanity and was judged in our place for the sins of the entire world. John uses the words love, know, abide, and sin often. Loving God, keeping God’s commands, loving believers, rejecting antichrist teaching, and believing God highlight this letter. He uses three terms to develop our relationship with God through Jesus Christ: fellowship with God, knowing God, and abiding in God. They identify three aspects of a believer’s right relationship with God. The believer in this right relationship with God may—and should—experience love for God, obedience to his commands, love for believers, victory over sin, victory over the world, assurance of eternal life, and confidence in prayer.
Please note: John uses three terms—fellowship, abiding, and knowing God. They are within the same circle of meaning. Each has a little different emphasis. Fellowship refers to a close friendship; abiding refers to staying close in space to someone and depending on that person; knowing God refers to experiential and intimate knowledge of a person. Abiding and loving God flow out of fellowship. In this letter they all take place in the Christian life—the sanctification phase, not justification.
- Fellowship κοινωνια (4x) 1 John 1.3,3,6,7
- Abide μενω (22x) 1 John 2.6,10,14,17*,24,24,24,27,27,28; 1 John 3.6,9,14,15,17,24,24; 1 John 4.12,13,15,16.16.16
- Know γινωσκω (24x), οιδα (10x) 1 John 2.3,3,4,5,11,13,14,14,18,20,21,21,29; 1 John 3.1,1,2,5,6,14,15,16,19,20*,24; 1 John 4.2,6,6,7,8,13,16; 1 John 5.2,13,15,15,18,19,20,20
Brief Summary: 1 John
Chapter 1. Jesus Christ, God’s nature, fellowship. The apostles knew Jesus intimately. They saw him, heard him, touched him, and had fellowship with him. He was a real person and also God. They spread the message about Jesus who was the word of Life and the eternal life so others may have fellowship with him and with each other. God is light and without sin. To have fellowship with God, a believer must not sin, or if he does sin, he needs to confess that sin to God, and God restores him to fellowship. It is wrong to claim you do not sin.
Chapter 2. Knowing God, worldliness, antichrists. Jesus is the believer’s advocate (he defends us from accusers) and propitiation (God the Father accepted his sacrifice) for the sins of the whole world. The believers who intimately know God and abide in him will love God, keep his commandments, and love believers. This is walking in God’s light. Hating a brother is a sign of walking in darkness or sin. If they hate, they do not love the Father. Little children, fathers, and young men are apparently different groups or stages of spirituality maturity. John gives two more warnings: do not love the world, and beware of antichrists. Love for the world contradicts love for God our Father. Antichrists, directed by false spirits, deny Jesus’ true humanity and deity. The indwelling Holy Spirit, through the apostles has taught them about Jesus Christ. John concludes this section by affirming that abiding in Christ—to be closely associated with him—is vital, both for the present time and to give us confidence for Jesus’ return.
Chapter 3. Children of God, God’s seed, God’s commandment. God the Father loves his children so much. When Jesus returns to earth we will see him and be changed to be like him. Awaiting this event should motivate believers to live righteously. Sin is contrary to Jesus’ character, and when we sin we are imitating the devil. One who abides in Jesus will not sin. God’s seed, the new Christ nature is in us, and that seed cannot sin. We sin when we chose to live from our sinful or Adam nature. We are to love the Christian brethren, not hate like Cain hated his brother. Love and righteousness go together. Love for the brethren includes what we say, what we do, and is the application of God’s truth in life. If you love rightly God knows, so do not condemn yourself for not doing enough. God’s summary command is to believe Jesus Christ and love one another. If we do, we abide in God and he in us.
Chapter 4. Test the spirits, God is love, abide. We are to test the spirits that speak through the prophet teachers to confirm that they agree that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Those who deny that Jesus is God in the flesh reject this. They are antichrists. Children of God have overcome these false teachers through the apostles’ teaching combined with the Holy Spirit inside them. We are to love other believers since we are spiritually born from God and God is love. When we do not love believers, we are also not abiding in God. What is godly love like? God demonstrated his love by sending Jesus Christ to be the savior of the world. Since God loved us, we should love one another. People cannot see God, but they see his love in us. Godly love indicates mutual abiding between God and the believer. Furthermore, godly love removes any fear and replaces that with confidence as we anticipate the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Chapter 5. Victory, assurance, prayer, sin. Faith begins this section: Believers in Jesus Christ are born of God people. We have positional victory over the world because of relationship with God by faith. We also can have day to day victory by faith over sin, fear, and the world with its values and temptations. Three witnesses testified that God sent Jesus to be the savior of the world: water—the baptism of Jesus, blood—his crucifixion, and the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus. God’s testimony about his Son is much greater than any other testimony. Whoever believes in God’s Son has believed God’s testimony for himself; it is part of him. God testified: God gave his Son; life is in his Son; he who has the Son has life. God wants everyone who believes in his Son to know that he possesses eternal life (assurance of salvation). Confidence in our salvation gives us confidence in our prayer life. John finishes his letter with three reminders and two warnings. He reminds us to pray for sinning believers, that our born again nature keeps us from sinning, and that Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life. He warns against the sin unto death and idols. Ephesus was a center for idol production. John ends his letter as he began: Jesus Christ is God and eternal life—bookends.
So What? Application
- Do you believe the biblical Christology? Christology is the doctrine of Jesus Christ. John writes about Jesus Christ and what he did? He is a true human being, a man. He is eternal God. He is the savior, the advocate, the propitiation. He is coming back to earth. Faith in him gives eternal life. We can have fellowship with him.
- Do I have to sin? John says no. Our new nature cannot sin. When we sin—and we will—we have chosen to do so.
- Is fellowship with God important to you? Sin breaks our fellowship or friendship with God. John wrote that if we confess our sins to God he will forgive us, cleanse us, and restore our fellowship.
- Every believer ought to love God and obey God’s word. Without this, one does not intimately know God or abide in God (live close to and depend on). To love God is to have a single-minded loyalty, reverential respect, and to obey his word.
- Every believer ought also to love other believers. This love begins as an attitude that reflects God’s love, and expresses itself in good manners, thoughtfulness, good behavior, good thoughts, responsibility, sacrifice, and protection.
- What is required from you to gain eternal life? John wrote that God sent his son to be savior of the world. He who has the son has eternal life. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ (the God and Man who died as the substitute sacrifice for one’s sins and rose from the dead) will be born of God and have eternal life. Are you convinced of this truth?
- Are you confident that you have eternal life? If you believe in Jesus Christ God wants you to know you have eternal life.
- Do you pray with confidence? John wrote that understanding the doctrine of salvation and assurance of salvation can give us confidence when we pray.
- Summary of central lessons that John challenges his audience to apply? Fellowship, abide, know God; love God; love believers; obey God’s word, believe what Jesus Christ said; have assurance of salvation; pray with confidence; guard yourself against idolatry; live in your Christ nature, born again nature; do not love the world above God; walk in God’s light; Fellowship refers to a close friendship; abiding refers to staying close in space to someone and depending on that person; knowing God refers to experiential and intimate knowledge of a person.
I John Chapter Titles
- Jesus Christ, God’s nature, fellowship
- Knowing God, worldliness, antichrists
- Children of God, God’s seed, God’s commandment.
- Test spirits, God is love, abide
- Victory, assurance, prayer, sin
Some repeated key words in 1 John
- Abide is use 22 times.
- Born is used 9 times.
- Faith or believe is used 10 times.
- Fellowship is mentioned 4 times, but it sets the tone for this epistle.
- Jesus is referred to 12 times and Christ 8 times.
- Keep God’s word or commandments is used 6 times.
- Know is used 40 times.
- Love is used 46 times.
- Sin is used 26 times.