AN OVERVIEW OF 1 JOHN

Authorship

· Credible Church tradition (Iraneus & Polycarp) holds that the author of this book is the Apostle John, he is also the same person credited with writing the Gospel of John, 2nd John, 3rd John and Revelation. However, he never explicitly identifies himself as the writer in any of these books. Other scholars believe that Lazarus could be the author.

· Also known as “John the Beloved”, “John the Evangelist”

· Church tradition also holds that it was written around AD90, at a time when most of the firsthand eyewitnesses of the earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ had passed on to glory.

Purpose of the Book

· Two verses in the book point out clearly why the writer wrote the book:

“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you so that you also may have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1:3).

“These things I have written to you who believe on the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13).

Main Theme

· The overarching theme that calls out to the reader is LOVE. While the word appears 27 times in the Songs of Solomon, 26 times in the Gospel of John and 25 times in the Psalms, it shows up 36 times just in this single book.

· Thus the book is written to express the Love of the father which can be experienced by the believers who are being moulded into the image of Jesus Christ. The book further strongly shows the correlation between the vertical love the believer receives from God through the Person of Jesus Christ and the horizontal love that this believer expresses to other believers.



Sub Themes

· Another theme seen recurring in this book is the Victory of the Believer through Christ. Once the person and the works of Jesus Christ are attacked, the believer lacks power to conquer SIN, power to defeat the enemy and cannot have victory in any area of life.

· Another theme in the book is the use of the conditional word “IF”. It is used 23 times in the whole book. He uses this style of writing to drum home his points to his readers. He makes a series of two phrases, where the 2nd part is dependent on the 1st.


Historical Context

· Most of the known apostles and church leaders were no more on the scene, the churches were surviving on the itinerant prophets and teachers who went about teaching them.

· These false teachers and prophets were responsible for several doctrinal aberrations

· They taught them to reject the birth and the Messiahship of Jesus (1:3-4; 2:22-24).

· Some contended that Jesus never came in the flesh

· They taught them to reject fellowship with the brethren, which was the basis of their mutual love and care for each other


Chapters Overview

· Chapter 1: Victory Over Sin A believer who truly has fellowship with the God through Jesus Christ does not continue to fellowship with darkness. Whenever such a believer sins, he is quick to count on the faithfulness of God for forgiveness. No true believer in Jesus Christ enjoys his continual stay in SIN.

· Chapter 2: Victory Over the Enemy A believer who truly loves God hates the things of this world as the love for these temporal things are contrary to the love of God.

· Chapter 3: Victory Through Godly Living (Righteousness) A believer who truly has fellowship with the God through Jesus Christ will shun darkness and pursue right living with God and with fellow men.

· Chapter 4: Victory Through Love A believer who truly has fellowship with the God through Jesus Christ does not continue to fellowship with darkness. Whenever such a believer sins, he is quick to count on the faithfulness of God for forgiveness. No true believer in Jesus Christ enjoys his continual stay in SIN.

· Chapter 5: Victory Through Faith A believer who truly has fellowship with the God through Jesus Christ is able to overcome the world because of his faith.

Personality Profile of the Author

· John (Hebrew – Johanan, Greek - Ionnes) means Jehovah is Gracious

· The theme of love permeates the Gospel and epistles of John to the churches. Had he always been such a loving and tender person? Let us examine his life as recorded in the gospels and see what accounts for his transformation into this loving character.


His Past

· Born to Salome and Zebedee, had no formal training. He practised as a fisherman and was a disciple of John the Baptist

· His Selfishness: Together with his brother James, they had selfishly petitioned Jesus to let them sit by his side (Mark 10:35-45). Jesus used this opportunity to teach them about the selfless service expected of those who lead in the kingdom.

· His Fiery Temper: When the Samaritan town refused to let Jesus enter their city, John requested that Jesus call down fire from above to burn them (Mk 3:17/Luke 9:52-56).

· His Overzealous Nature: When he saw that someone else other than Jesus was casting out demons, he asked permission from Jesus to stop him (Matthew 9:38/Luke 9:49).


What Changed Him

· He was a member of the Twelve and also of the Inner Three (James, Peter & John). He projected himself as the closest to Jesus. His close association with Jesus changed him from the ‘son of thunder’ to the calm and beloved apostle. He witnessed the Transfiguration of Jesus, was present at key moments during his miracles, he was present at Gethsemane.

· Several times, Jesus mentioned how much He loved the disciples, especially the Twelve. Yet John’s constant reference to himself as the “Disciple Whom Jesus Loved” suggests strongly that he is appreciative of the Saviour’s Love. He who is forgiven much loves much. John appreciates Jesus’ love so much because he had experienced greater love and forgiveness for his weaknesses (Luke 7:47).


How Was This Change Manifested

· Commitment: On the cross as Jesus died, all his disciples ran away (Mark 14:50, Matthew 26:56), yet later we read that John was present at the foot of the cross.

· Loving Care: Unto him, Jesus handed over the care of His mother (John 19:25-27).

· Faith: On the morning of the Resurrection, he went to witness the resurrection first hand together with Peter.

· Courage: His faith in the resurrection and baptism of the Holy Spirit gave him boldness to proclaim the Gospel after the Ascension. People who saw him could perceive that he had indeed been with Jesus Christ (Acts 4:11)

· Revelation: When Jesus had to reveal Himself and future things (Book of Revelation) to mankind, He chose someone who was close to His heart for this purpose. He chose John, after he had been outcast to the Isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:9).


Conclusion

John is an example of how the love of God can transform a person who has had an encounter with God through the person of Jesus Christ. We love Him because He first loved us. It is the reason why all his books are saturated with the theme of Love. A careful study of the Book of 1 John will help believers to express the love of God that they have experienced to other believers.

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