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We are so excited to embark on a verse-by-verse journey through 1 John, one of the 3 letters that were written by the apostle John. In order to help you dive in more deeply and get a feel for what all is going on underneath the surface of the book, we wanted to give you some background and introductory information on 1 John.
While the author of 1 John never explicitly labels himself as the apostle John, there are
several reasons we have great certainty that the apostle John did, indeed, write this letter. First, early Greek manuscript evidence and the testimony of the early church fathers (such as Polycarp and Papias) as early as A.D. 100 are virtually unanimous in its affirmation of the apostle John as author.
Another reason to believe that John, the apostle who wrote the Gospel of John, also wrote 1 John is the similarity they have in style and vocabulary. Both books begin with a very similar prologue in which Jesus Christ is hailed as the eternally existing Son of God, made manifest in the flesh. Also, both books feature a very distinctive mark of John’ writings, namely, his use of stark dichotomy to convey meaning; John often juxtaposes extremes such as light and dark, life and death, truth and lies in order to communicate both the gospel and what it means to follow Jesus.
Within this understanding, the Apostle John is the understood author of the Gospel of John, the 3 Epistles of John as well as The Revelation to John.
As was mentioned before, by the year 100 A.D., a significant amount of early church fathers attributed this book to John the apostle. Given the amount of time it would have taken for such a testimony to develop, the book of 1 John was most likely written before 90 A.D. The church fathers report that John, in company with other believers, fled Jerusalem in 67 A.D. to escape Roman destruction. Most likely, John wrote this letter late in life after settling in Ephesus.
While 1 John lacks some of the style indicators that we see in many of the letters of the New Testament, there are also significant reasons to read this book as a letter. While John neither names himself nor his recipients, he repetitively states that he is writing to his recipients for specific reasons. It is clear that this letter was written by John to a group of believers that he had deep affection due to the fact that he calls them, “little children” in 1 John 2:28. He also calls them his “beloved” in 1 John 4:1. For these reasons, it would be helpful for us to read 1 John as a letter, not just to the original recipients but to ourselves as well.
1 John, in many ways, is a call of believers back to the basics of the faith. 1 John calls believers into a faith characterized by sound doctrine and a zeal for holiness and obedience.
To put the purpose of 1 John succinctly would be to say that John writes the letter so that his recipients and all believers would have full joy in fellowship with Christ and his body, the church (1:3-4) as well as rest in full assurance of eternal life in Christ in light of repentance and faith (5:13).
In light of this purpose, the book of 1 John can also be understood within 3 guiding tests:
1. Doctrinal Test: Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?
2. Moral Test: Do you obey the commands of God?
3. Love Test: Do you love the people of God?
As your pastors, it is our prayer that as we study the person of Jesus your hearts would be set on fire by the great love shown to us in Him. We pray that, as you experience God’s love illuminated afresh, your hearts will also be fanned to flame in regards to obedience. Ultimately, the hope of 1 John is the hope of Christ, the God-man, who came in the flesh to live the life we couldn’t live and die the death we deserved to die in order to bring us into fellowship with himself for now and forever.