1John 1 - Outline of 1John (Book Notes menu page)
The epistle of First John was written by the Apostle John, who also wrote the Gospel of John, the Revelation, and the two very short epistles of Second and Third John. Although the author does not identify himself in the book, early Christian writers universally identified John as the writer. Furthermore, remarkable similarities in themes, emphases and phraseology, clearly tie this letter to the author of John's Gospel. John recorded his Gospel account much later than the other three Gospels (around 90 AD). Most scholars believe that his epistles were written shortly thereafter, and were followed by the Revelation, around 96 AD.

Although 1John is considered an epistle, it is unlike other NT letters, in which the author identifies himself as the sender, and addresses his words to a specific person or church. Instead, the book takes the form of a gentle sermon, in which God, the Father, speaks intimately to His "little children" {GK=teknion, cherished born ones}.

The book is very difficult to outline, as various subjects are visited multiple times. The outline suggested (link above), is one of several beneficial outlines which the editor considered.

John stated complementary purposes for writing his Gospel and this letter.
1. That which was from the beginning,
which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes,
which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen [it], and bear witness,
and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father,
and was manifested unto us;)
That which was from the beginning...
There are three 'beginnings' in the Bible... Which does John have in mind?
  1. "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth..." (Gen 1:1)
    The Bible opens with the account of creation. However, it is self-evident that the Creator pre-existed His creation. The Bible is God's revelation, of Himself and His purposes, to His creatures.
  2. "In the beginning was the Word... all things were made by Him..." (Joh 1:1-3)
    As John's Gospel makes clear, "the Word" is God who became man, to further communicate with mankind (Joh 1:14,18). Christ, as the Creator of all things, predates creation.
       But note the tense in Joh 1:1, "in the beginning was the Word..." Go back into eternity past as far as you wish, to every 'beginning' that you can find, and He was already there (eg., Joh 8:58).
       The life of the Lord Jesus Christ did not begin with His birth in Bethlehem, rather, He came to that place out of eternity, for His "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Mic 5:2).
  3. "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ..." (Mark 1:1)
    The Gospel of Christ began, when "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." (Joh 1:14).
    As creatures of time, we have trouble comprehending a timeless Being, who has no beginning or end. But we can comprehend the beginning of Christ's earthly ministry, because He came into the realm of our experience.
John is speaking of Jesus Christ, who is from before all beginnings, and who made Himself known to the apostles from the beginning of His earthly ministry.
...which we have heard... seen with our eyes... looked upon... our hands have handled...
The apostles were eye witnesses of this amazing Person (Joh 1:14; 2Pet 1:16). They had heard Him speak as no man ever spoke before. They had seen Him act with uncommon compassion and power. They had gazed in astonishment at what they saw. They witnessed His crucifixion and His burial. They examined His resurrected body with their own hands (Luk 24:39; Joh 20:27).
...of the Word of Life...-
The Word of Life is Jesus Christ Himself. He is the Word by whom God has spoken to man (Joh 1:14,18; Heb 1:1-3). Through Him, God offers eternal Life to mortal men. The apostles proclaimed the Gospel (Good News) concerning the Person and work of Jesus Christ (Rom 1:1-4). The Gospel, which points sinners to Jesus for salvation, is also called the Word of Life (Php 2:16).
the Life was manifested {GK=phaino, appeared, shined forth}... we have seen...
...and show {ie., declare} unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father,
and was manifested {GK=phaino, appeared, shined forth} unto us...
The apostles bore witness, to the One who had made Himself known, so that others might also come to know the One who has Life in Himself.
...the Life... that eternal Life...- Notice that 'eternal life' is not simply life that lasts forever.
Eternal Life is found only in the One who pre-exists all beginnings. Through creation, He gave us the gift of temporal life. Through His death and resurrection, He made it possible for us to receive eternal Life. Jesus gave us the definition of eternal Life, in Joh 17:1-3. Eternal Life belongs to those who know Him (Joh 1:4,5; 1Joh 5:11,12).
     Through the Gospel (as recorded by John), many have believed in Christ and been born again, having received a new nature from God (Joh 1:11-13). But a new born baby has a lot of growing to do, before he understands what life is all about. At the point where a sinner comes under conviction of sin and of his condemnation under God's judgment, and turns in faith to Christ, he is born into this eternal Life. Yet, he may understand only that he has been saved from perishing in hell (eg., Joh 3:16).
     In First John, the apostle teaches God's 'born again' children what it means to know the Father and the Son, and to live according to the eternal Life which they received through knowing Him.
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you,
that ye also may have fellowship with us:
and truly our fellowship [is] with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you...
The apostles were declaring {ie., making known} the Person of Jesus, the Christ (v.1,2).
...that ye... may have fellowship with us... with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.-
ie., Through knowing the Person of Christ, it is possible to have fellowship with God and with other believers.
What is 'Fellowship'?
Fellowship {GK=koinonia} means "holding in common." It is often translated as "communion."
  • Christian fellowship is much more than sharing small talk over a meal (as in the typical church potluck).
  • Believers have Christ in common with each other.
    Although we may have very different backgrounds, skills, jobs, family circumstances, bank accounts, or social status, we are all one in Christ (1Cor 10:16,17; 12:12,13).
       Therefore, He should be at the center of our conversations, when we gather with other believers.
  • Believers also have Christ in common with God the Father,
    for He is the one mediator between God and man.
    He alone could bridge the gulf between us, to bring us together. 1Tim 2:5,6
...that your joy may be full {ie., complete}.
What could possibly give joy, like having fellowship with God? (Psa 16:10,11; Heb 12:2).
  • Jesus told us that fullness of joy belongs to those who abide in Him (Joh 15:10,11; 16:24).
  • Paul's great joy, for which he forsook everything else, was in knowing Christ. Php 3:8-10
  • The joy of knowing Him, causes the heart to rejoice,
    even in the midst of sufferings. Php 1:20,21; Rom 5:2,3
5. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you,
that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness,
we lie, and do not the truth:
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light,
we have fellowship one with another,
and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
This then is the message which we have heard of him {ie., of the One who is from before the beginning} and declare unto you...
...that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all {lit., "no darkness, none"}.-
  • God's light, reveals His own glory, radiance, holiness and beauty
    (as the golden lampstand, in the tabernacle, shined in its own beauty as it illuminated the Holy Place).
    Light and darkness, like good and evil, are incompatible and in stark contrast. cp. Isa 5:20
    There is no trace of evil in God. Every aspect of His character is pure good.
  • God's light, reveals man's darkness.
    Even a coal miner's dirty hands may go unnoticed until they are exposed to light.
    Even our secret sins are exposed, as open scandal, in the light of His Presence (Psa 90:8).
    Unable to stand before Him, the natural man rejects the Light and vainly attempts to hide from Him (Joh 1:4,5; 3:19-21).
    Yet, before Him, even God's born again children are painfully aware of the darkness within our hearts (eg., Rom 3:10; 7:18; 8:7).
  • God's light, dispels darkness.
    All wickedness, whether of man or demons, will be banished from His Kingdom of Light. Psa 68:2; 2The 2:8
    His Light will prevail within His children, whom He has delivered out of darkness, into His Light. Mat 4:16; Joh 8:12; 12:46
...if we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth...-
Light and darkness are incompatible. They have nothing in common.
So, the truth is: If I am living in sin, I have no communion with God.
In such a case, my pious words and the hymns on my lips are nothing but lies. cp. 2Cor 6:14-18
...But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light,
we have fellowship one with another... (ie., we with Him and He with us. See Eph 5:8; 1Pet 2:9)
JVMcGee illustrated this aspect, of walking in the light, by recounting an occasion when he took refuge from a rain storm inside a cave. At first, he was quite comfortable there. But it was cool, so he lit a fire to keep warm. The light revealed that he was keeping company with lizards, spiders and snakes. Being in the light, he was no longer comfortable, and got out of there in a hurry.
     Likewise, the child of God, who allows the light of God's Word to penetrate his heart, will seek to be rid of the sin which it reveals there. To be in right relationship with their Father, God's children must be pure in heart. Yet, His Light reveals that I am corrupt within.
...and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth {GK=katharizo, purges, purifies} us from all sin.-
Because Christ paid my penalty, and died for my sins, I am forgiven. Col 1:12-14
But His blood was shed, not merely to cover the believer's guilt, but to purge the believer of sin itself (that he might be pure in heart and mind). Heb 9:14
8. If we say that we have no sin,
we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we say that we have not sinned,
we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
What do you say about yourself?
John suggests several possible answers.
   (Only one can be true, when examined in the Light of God.)
  1. if we say that we have fellowship with God and walk in darkness, we lie... (v.6; cp. 1Joh 2:4)
    To claim to live for God, while living in sin (and thus, incompatible with His character), is to live a lie.
  2. if we say that we have no sin... the truth is not in us (v.8).
    Here, 'sin' is a noun. I am self-deceived, if I consider myself to be free of a sinful nature.
    In this case, my self assessment contradicts God's Word. Isa 64:6; Rom 3:10
  3. if we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar (v.10).
    Here, 'sin' is a verb. I am self-deceived, if I think I am no longer committing sins.
    God says I am a sinner. Ecc 7:20; Rom 3:23
    To contradict God's Word, is to claim that He is not telling the truth.
    None of these stances (ie., points #1-3 above) can endure the scrutiny of God's Light.
  4. if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us... and to cleanse us... (v.9)
    The word 'confess' {GK=homologeo} means 'to say the same thing.'
    Before I can be forgiven and cleansed, I must agree with God, accepting His assessment of my sinful condition, as revealed in the light of His Word.
       King David's prayer of confession shows us what it means to confess our sins (read Psa 51:1-10). David confessed that his external actions and his innermost being were full of sin and offensive to God. He acknowledged that God was right to judge him. He expressed a deep desire: for forgiveness, for complete inward cleansing, and for a new clean nature. He pled for these good things on the basis of the blood of the lamb (in Psa 51:7, 'hyssop' refers to a type of bush, from which a branch was taken to sprinkle the blood, at the altar of sacrifice). cp. Ex 12:21-23; Joh 1:29
       Note also Psa 51:6: God desires 'truth' in the inward parts. Thus, if I deny the truth that I am a sinner who sins, I exclude myself from His mercy (v.6,8,10). God can show mercy, to sinners, only because His righteousness and truth have been satisfied in Jesus, who bore our sin and its penalty. Psa 85:10,11
       When I agree with God's Word, by confessing my sinfulness, and entrusting myself to His Way of salvation, then, "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth [me] from all sin."
    But that truth must always be central to the believer's life of fellowship with the Lord, who is the Truth (Joh 14:6), and who dwells within me by His Spirit of Truth (Joh 14:15-18).
    For those who walk in the Light of God's Truth (which disdains darkness, v.5), God is...
    • ...faithful...- ie., He will keep His Word.
      What He has promised, He will do. 1Tim 1:15; Heb 10:23
    • ...and just... - ie., It is right for Him to do what He said He would do
      (even though I, as a corrupt sinner, was rightly condemned to death),
      because Christ, the sinless Son of God, took my sin and death upon Himself,
      to do away with sin, and give me life in His righteousness. Rom 3:19-26
    • ...to forgive us our sins... Eph 1:6,7; Col 1:13,14; 1Joh 2:12
    • ...and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1Cor 6:9-11; Titus 2:14
In summary of this chapter:
The Word of God, who pre-existed all beginnings, has manifested Himself as the God/man, and invited us to enter into fellowship with God. Through His own blood, He has made the way for sinners to enter into communion with God, as His born again children, whom He enables to live with Him and for Him, as we confess our sinful condition and receive His forgiveness and cleansing.
     Yet, (as we will see in ch. 2) while we are in this earthly life, God's children have, at best, a faltering walk. We cannot walk in communion with Him, apart from His continual intervention in our behalf.

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