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Introduction to 1st John


Introduction to 1st John

Text 1 John 1:1-4.   

We begin our work on 1st John by looking at the first four verses, …  Like John’s Gospel it begins with a prologue, a natural introduction.  So that’s where we start…

1. Author

John the apostle, – he was the son of Zebedee and the brother of James and the were fishermen.

* His conversion and mentoring with Jesus.

John’s conversion is told in the Gospels.  Matthew 4:21 

Boanerges. Later they wanted to call down fire on a city, which earned James and John the nickname, the Sons of Thunder!  Mark 3:17  

At the last supper, John was the disciple who was closest to Jesus.  John 13:25 The ESV translates the phrase, ‘that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?

At the cross. John was standing at the foot of the cross with the women, and Jesus entrusted him with the care of Mary his mother.   John 19:25-27  Many think that Mary lived in John’s home for quite a few years after that.

* His Later Christian ministry.

Church leader. Following the death and resurrection of Jesus, John is thought, after some years to have travelled to Ephesus, where he was the church leader.

Author.  Part of John’s ministry was to write, to communicate with the believers under his pastoral care.  No one knows which of John’s books he wrote first, but the NT canon contains five of them, The Gospel of John, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Letters of John, and Revelation.  Revelation is really the fifth gospel!  It is the REVELATION of Jesus Christ. 1st John, the book we are looking at was probably written sometime around AD85-95.

* His church members.    In this book, John is writing a general epistle to the Christians, probably in Ephesus or in wider Asia Minor (Turkey) and he is addressing the problem of proto-Gnosticism in the church.  These early Gnostics were people who thought that they had some special knowledge that others, ordinary Christians didn’t have.

* His contrasting manner. John’s book shows his very distinctive application of his ministry, for he holds forth the truth in love.   John is sometimes thought of as the apostle of love and love is one of the key words in this book, (and, five times in his gospel, he referred to himself in the third person as ‘the disciple who, Jesus loved’ John 21:20-22 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?) You can see throughout the letter that he is very tender and protective toward the church.  he refers to the believers as ‘my little children.’  He wants them to have fellowship with him, and with the church, and with Christ, and they must ‘walk in the Light’ for such fellowship to happen.

But being loving towards people does not make you a pushover and John has no time for the type of ministry that is unclear about doctrine or unclear regarding Christian behaviour.  The choices are always stark. Love/hate. Light/Dark.  Life/Death.  Truth/Lies. The World/Eternal Life.

2. Purpose. (1:1-4)

What does John see as the desired outcome of this epistle in the lives of the people?  In his opening paragraphs, John lays out his purpose in writing to the Christians about…

Word of Life.(v1) which was “from the beginning” John may be speaking about the creation of the world   Or the beginning of the gospel – Or the beginning of their Christian life, their conversion.  We shall see this phrase again throughout the book.

Eternal Life” (v2) It is this same “life” which we are given at the Cross by Christ, our Saviour and Lord- cf. 1Jn 5:11-13.   So John is focusing on the “eternal life” which Jesus offers and made possible by His coming in the flesh.   

Fellowship (v3)  Through Christ, fellowship is possible. Fellowship involves the idea of “sharing, communion”. The “sharing, communion” that the apostles have is with the Father and His Son.  

Joy (v4)   Having fellowship with our heavenly Father brings us great joy.  Such joy is like peace and righteousness, is not something we work up within ourselves, but something that is positional, given to us by Christ, – a contentment that whatever my sorrow my be, it is well with my soul.

3. Focus. (1:1-4)

Now, how will we get these blessings that John wants us to have? In these initial verses, John sets the tone for the focus of the rest of the book.  It is firmly about Jesus.

He has HEARD Christ.  This is what people need to hear.  they need to hear Christ, speaking to them through His Word.

He has SEEN Christ.  John had dwelt in the presence of the Lord, both while he was here on earth and later in a spiritual sense.  How blest we are from time to time to meet together, and to enjoy the presence of the Lord in our midst.

He has GAZED ON Christ.  To gaze simply means to look upon someone or something until we have grasped its significance.  So John 1:14, “We have seen His glory”  Not a passing glance, but a steady gaze, truly fixing our eyes upon the Lord.

He has TOUCHED Christ.  Luke 24:39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.  The Jesus whom John knew was a man – fully human.  We have heard him, and seen him, and touched him. He was a real human being, yet he was God.

The whole focus of John’s theology is centred on Jesus. The only message a pastor is entitled to preach is a Christocentric one.  He must not preach about himself, or about his theories or his latest project or his budgetary needs, – he must preach CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED FOR SINNERS.

So, we have seen who is writing, the purpose of his labours and his Christ-centred focus.  In our next study will begin to examine what he has written to the church in this letter.

Take time to reflect on what we have learned this morning, and try to think through in your own mind, some of the issues that we’ve raised. Perhaps taking time to consider some of these questions might help you. Read the passage in the bible several times throughout the week, and ask God to help you to understand His Word.

Passage: 1st John 1-4

What does the Bible mean when it says that the fishermen ‘followed Jesus’? Matthew 4:21

2. In John 13:25 John leaned on Jesus’ breast. What does this mean?

3. How many New Testament books are written by the Apostle John?

5. John is the ‘Apostle of Love’. How can we best show love for our unconverted friends and neighbours?

6. Biblically define the following words:

7. Why, do you think John was emphasising in these verses that he and the other apostles had HEARD, SEEN, GAZED ON AND TOUCHED Christ?

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