The First Epistle (or Letter) of John is an intense and practical letter. It warns about the dangers of false teaching, encourages believers to live lives of obedience to God and to love their brothers and sisters. The books theme also focuses strongly on the fellowship God the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
The Background; for this letter doesn’t give much of hint or identity or location to us other than the fact that they were Christians. Since early church tradition John associates with the Roman province of Asia or Turkey, so it is possible the recipients lived there. What we can gather is whomever the letter was intended to reach it was meant to be an urgent warning against some common misunderstanding of the Gospel of Jesus and other false teaching and doctrines.
The Date; for this letter, because it was written by the apostle John, it would be late in the first century A.D. so from 65-70 A.D.
The Author; is usually indicated as the apostle John because of the first chapter stating that the author had been physically with Jesus during His time on earth. It is very important to understand who John is as we read the rest of the letter, understanding this man’s life and heart will bring more context and sincerity to what he writes.
Do you ever have a nickname growing up? John had a nickname it was “John the Beloved” or “The One Whom Jesus Loved”. It is peppered throughout the gospel where we see John’s nickname appear. We only usually give nicknames to those we love or hate so John was in this inner circle that Jesus only reserved for three; Peter, James and of course John.
John would have been a young man in his 20s possibly 5- 10 years younger than Jesus, when Jesus invited him to “come and follow Me”. He was working a family business with him and his brother and it was an business that would have been passed down from son to son. John forsake it all, his family business, his financial security, his income to be with Jesus and later become one of the founding fathers of our faith. Would we have been as quick to jump on to something like that?
John was with Jesus for three years and he saw with his own eyes, Jesus miracles, teaching, healing of the sick and blind, raising of the dead, casting out of demons, Jesus calming the storm and even Peter walking on water. He would have physically witnessed these things.
Because John was the youngest disciple the relationship between him and Jesus would have been the loving kind of relationship you have between a big brother and a little brother. John was considered his best friend, close alley, his family. John was with Jesus when he died on the cross and told him to take care of Mary his mother as if it was his own mother. John was there to see Jesus’ risen body and his ascension into heaven. John you could say was super AWARE of Jesus life and mission. He saw and felt Christ’s love in a way that we will only be able to understand when we are with Jesus in heaven. Because of this love, John’s life was transformed he would never be the same fisherman again. This was his new identity “The One Whom Jesus Loved”, “The Beloved”.
When we met Jesus did it change us? Did it rock and shape our very identity of who we used to be?
As we read the 1 chapter of 1 John we begin to see some themes take shape. The first is that of true fellowship! True fellowship with Christ and others brings the fruit of joy. John describes joy as a gift from God and it is something you experience when you have experienced the transforming life that God gives us. Many Biblical writers like Moses, Solomon, David looked unto the day when they would know of joy (the messiah’s promised coming) and could rejoice. John though writes that we can experience this JOY now. It is based on the expected joy that we have continual fellowship with God the Father and his son Jesus and we no longer have to wait for that blessing. The messianic age is here.
True biblical joy is not just an emotion. Joy is an attitude. Joy is ours. It is available for the taking when we know Jesus. Joy is not dependent on earthly circumstances and life. It is also not substitute for pain and escape from sorrow. Joy doesn’t have to happen until there is the elimination of things that weigh us down or trouble us. Joy comes from a deep trust, a deep hope that no matter what happens in our lives or in this world God has given us eternal life even if we are surrounded by death and destruction around us. There is joy being in the presence of God and sharing together in that experience; God’s love, His gift of life (salvation) and His presence that completes our joy.
More thought provoking questions and teaching in the slides below