“First John was written to a group of churches in crisis—churches being attacked by false teaching. Some individuals once associated with the Christian community had adopted heretical doctrine, particularly as it related to beliefs about Christ, and had left the church. In response, John wrote his first letter with two primary objectives. First, he wrote to combat the propaganda of the false teachers. Second, he wrote to reassure believers.
Doctrinally, the false teachers compromised the person and work of Jesus Christ, refusing to confess Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ and denying that the Son had come in the flesh. Most likely these false teachers were influenced by early Gnostic ideas. Although Gnosticism took many forms, it usually emphasized the essential goodness of spirit and the inherent evil or inferiority of matter. Influenced by this type of understanding, these false teachers may have viewed Christ as some type of spirit or phantom. Combined with this faulty view of the person of Christ was a deficient view of His death. First John contains specific statements that emphasize the atoning results of Christ’s death. Morally, the false teachers minimized the seriousness of sin. They claimed that it was possible to have fellowship with God regardless of one’s behavior. In contrast, John insists that one’s relationship to God has serious ethical implications. Socially, these heretics failed because their spiritual pride resulted in a lack of love. John argues that love for other believers is a manifestation of genuine Christianity.
Turning to his objective of reassuring believers, John reminds his churches of the truthfulness of Christianity that they had received in the beginning. He wants them to know that they have eternal life. He provides his readers with tests by which they can reassure themselves that they are in the truth. John addresses assurance with both an objective and a subjective apologetic. Objectively, believers know the historicity and reality of Jesus Christ’s life and work. The events of His life were observed by eyewitnesses and passed on. Similarly, those who have trusted God’s Son possess eternal life. Subjectively, Christians know that their lives have been transformed through faith in Christ.” (HCSB)

1 John 1:3-4, “what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” We find that full and complete joy comes from two sources, first is from fellowship with God, and second is from fellowship with others. We have been created to be with one another, no one is meant to be alone. In 1 John 1:5-7, we read: “Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. If we say, ‘We have fellowship with Him,’ and walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Another way at looking at these verses is to say that God is perfect, there is no sin in Him. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and continue to sin, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in righteousness, as He is righteous, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. This is by no means implying that we should have a “holier-than-thou” attitude. These verses point out the exact opposite. We are being instructed not to be hypocrites of our faith. We know that ALL have sinned and have walked in the darkness. When an individual puts their complete hope and trust in Jesus Christ, that person has been made clean, there is no more condemnation, and the light of Christ has the opportunity to shine through. I wrote “opportunity” because just as accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is a choice to be made, the same goes for walking in faith. Even Christians stumble and get lost in the darkness of sin. This is why it is important to remember that God is light and He has called us to be the light of the world to shine in the darkness. Everyone who has a personal relationship with Jesus should continue to ACT like they do by living as an example and guiding others to do likewise.

In regards to 1 John 1:5-2:17, Daniel Akin notes, “John claimed his teaching came from Jesus Himself. The message affirms that the God who is morally pure and holy has revealed Himself to humanity. It is possible to know the true God. John addressed what could be called a lifestyle apologetic. He recognized that the credibility of the message cannot be separated from the lives of those who proclaim that message. This lifestyle includes walking in the light, confessing sin, growing in holiness, keeping God’s commandments, loving one another, and hating the things of the world and the flesh, or sinful nature. This world or age of darkness is already passing away, having been dealt a deathblow by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Those who live in the realm of light (1) love others, (2) know forgiveness, and (3) have overcome Satan.”

In 1 John 2:12-14 John provides encouragement and assurance with phrases that include: “Your sins have been forgiven on account of His name. Because you have come to know the One who is from the beginning. Because you have come to know the Father. Because you are strong, God’s word remains in you, and you have had victory over the evil one.” We continue to read in 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever.” The world provides us with many temptations, but we must remember that when we put our trust in Christ, we have the ability to remain strong and overcome those temptations. 1 John 2:24-25 tells us, “What you have heard from the beginning must remain in you. If what you have heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He Himself made to us: eternal life.”

1 John 3:4-6, 9: “Everyone who commits sin also breaks the law; sin is the breaking of law. You know that He was revealed so that He might take away sins, and there is no sin in Him. Everyone who remains in Him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen Him or known Him. Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because His seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God.” It has been said that every struggle we encounter makes us stronger. Likewise, every sin we become aware of that we have done or are doing, makes us wiser and if we have chosen to stop that sin, closer in our relationship with Jesus. If we continue to sin, then we have not fully grasped God’s grace and we truly do not know Him or understand the love He has for us. Horace Bushnell once said, “Forgiveness is man’s deepest need and highest achievement.” It is important for us to realize that we have been forgiven of our sins so that we may forgive others and live as children of God.

1 John 3:16, 18-19, 24: “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. Little children, we must not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth; that is how we will know we are of the truth, and will convince our hearts in His presence. The one who keeps His commands remains in Him, and He in him. And the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He has given us.” Furthermore in 1 John 4:12, 18-19, “No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us. There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because He first loved us.” Akin has commented that “Real Christianity is evidenced by (1) right belief, (2) obedience to God, and (3) love.” It was John Newton who had an excellent view on these verses when he wrote Amazing Grace, especially the lyrics, “T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved. How precious did that Grace appear. The hour I first believed.” It is sin that leads to the condemnation of death. It is the love of God expressed through His Son who took our punishment in exchange for us to live eternally with Him. We, who put our hope in Jesus Christ, have nothing to fear in this world, only to live in love looking forward to the day when we will meet our Creator and Savior face to face.

1 John 5:3-4, 12-13, “For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden, because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Akin commented on these verses that, “John began this final section by restating his purpose statement. He wrote 1 Jn to Christians. He wanted them to have assurance that they possessed eternal life.” In 1 John 5:19-21, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world is under the sway of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know the true One…Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” Akin noted, “With this warning against idolatry, the author could have been warning his audience against deception by the false teachers. Since these heretics had adopted an inadequate view of Jesus Christ, they had in essence replaced orthodox Christianity with a form of idolatry. Thus John concluded this letter with encouragement for believers and a warning against heresy.”

In Second John, the Holman Christian Standard Bible explains that, “John tells his children to (1) walk in the truth, (2) obey the commandments, (3) love one another, and (4) guard the teachings of Christ and they will not be deceived by the antichrist. The spiritual safety of the believing community is confidently affirmed, as John begins and ends his letter with a reference to their chosen position.” In regards to 2 John 1, Akin noted, “The author stated that he loved ‘in truth.’ The author’s love was consistent with the truth of the Christian message that he and his readers had received. This emphasis on truth shows that authentic Christian love involves more than sentimentality.” We read in 2 John 2-3: “because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever. Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” Akin commented that in regards to 2 John 4: “To walk in truth includes accepting the truth of the Christian message and obeying it. Here it refers specifically to loving one another and confessing Jesus Christ as come in the flesh.” 2 John 6 states, “And this is love: that we walk according to His commands. This is the command as you have heard it from the beginning: you must walk in love.” Akin has pointed out that, “John confronted the danger of false teachers. Believers must not simply love, they must also maintain the truth. John described these ‘antichrists’ as people with an inadequate understanding of Jesus Christ.”

According to the HCSB, “Third John is a personal letter that revolves around three individuals: Gaius (the recipient), Diotrephes (the troubler), and Demetrius (probably the bearer of the letter). It contains a word of exhortation to Gaius encouraging him not to imitate the bad example of Diotrephes but to continue the good work he is doing of receiving and supporting the traveling teachers/missionaries.” We find in 3 John 4, “I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in truth.” In regards to this passage Akin understood that, “To walk in truth implies a course of conduct in life, that is, ‘living in the truth.’ The importance of both doctrinal integrity and spiritual vitality is evident in John’s affirmation that nothing brought greater joy to him than to know that his children were ‘walking in the truth.’” In the very next verse, 3 John 5, “Dear friend, you are showing your faith by whatever you do for the brothers, and this you are doing for strangers.” Our character is shown by the way we live and how we treat others. With that being said, some questions to consider: Does our character reflect that of Jesus? What are we living for? Who are we living for? Why are we living? I pray that we live for God because of His love to show the lost that they are cared for and there is a way to be found.

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