1 John 1:1-4

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

January 7, 1998



This is one of the "General Epistles" because it was sent to the church in general, not to a specific church or person.

Date and Place of Writing: Strong tradition says that John spent his old age in Ephesus. Lack of personal references in this letter indicates that it was written in sermonic style to Christians all over Asia Minor (much like Ephesians). It was probably written after the gospel, and before the persecution under Domitian in A.D. 95, which places its writing in the late 80s or early 90s, a good 25 years after the end of Acts. Revelation would have been written later than the epistles.

Gnosticism: The heresy of Gnosticism had begun to infiltrate the church in Johnís day. It taught things like:

Because of this, John gives several "tests" of true knowledge Ė

1Jo 2:3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

1Jo 2:5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.

1Jo 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love [of God], because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down [our] lives for the brethren.

1Jo 3:19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.

1Jo 3:24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

1Jo 4:2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:

1Jo 4:6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

1Jo 4:13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

Contents: The letter shows John's obvious affection for his "little children" and concern for their spiritual welfare. The book is filled with contrasts--light and darkness (1:6-7; 2:8-11); love of world and love of God (2:15-17); children of God and children of the devil (3:4-10); the Spirit of God and the spirit of Antichrist (4:1-3); love and hate (4:7-12, 16-21).

1John 1:1-4 The Preface

:1 That which was from the beginning

This kind of reminds us of how John started his Gospel Ė

(John 1:1-2 KJV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. {2} The same was in the beginning with God.

The Gnostics taught that God created a series of beings, each succeeding one more imperfect than the next, until you get down to Jesus.

Yet Jesus was not a created being, Heís the Creator, Heís God.

He has existed since the very beginning, along with God.

Micah wrote Ė

Mic 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, [though] thou be little among the thousands of Judah, [yet] out of thee shall he come forth unto me [that is] to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth [have been] from of old, from everlasting.

The Hebrew word for "everlasting" means "beyond the vanishing point"

:1 which we have heard

To hear with the ears.

:1 which we have seen with our eyes

To see with the eyes.

:1 which we have looked upon

looked upon Ė theaomai Ė to behold, look upon, view attentively, contemplate (often used of public shows)

Not just to see with the eyes, but to stop and think about.

:1 and our hands have handled,

The sense of touch.

Jesus was not some kind of a phantom like some of the Gnostic teachers believed.

John says that Jesus was a real person, John had heard Him, seen Him, and touched Him.

Donít swallow the idea that Jesus was some kind of "cosmic spirit".

He was a real live, walking, talking person.

:1 of the Word of life

This is Johnís way of referring to Jesus.

(John 1:1-3 KJV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. {2} The same was in the beginning with God. {3} All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

:2 For the life was manifested

manifested Ė phaneroo Ė to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown, to manifest, whether by words, or deeds, or in any other way

The "Word" became visible when He took on human flesh.

(John 1:14 KJV) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.


Humbly serve like Jesus.

(Phil 2:3-8 NNAS) Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; {4} do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. {5} Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, {6} who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, {7} but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. {8} Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Godís desire is that we learn from Jesusí example of humility to learn to serve others like Jesus.


A farmer was out plowing his field one spring morning. The spring thaw had just occurred and there were many muddy valleys in the field. Through one particularly wet place his tractor became stuck in the mud. The harder he tried, the deeper he became stuck. Finally, he walked over to his neighbor's to ask for help. The neighbor came over and looked at the situation. He shook his head, and then said, "It doesn't look good, but I tell you what. I'll give it a try pulling you out. But if we don't get it out, I'll come sit in the mud with ya!"

Jesus was humble enough to "sit in the mud" with us, and we ought to learn to do the same for others.

:2 and we have seen it, and bear witness

Johnís telling us simply what heís seen.

:2 and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us

Referring to Jesus Christ as "that eternal life".

Jesus was always with the Father before taking on human flesh.

John writes at the end:

1Jo 5:20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, [even] in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.


If you want eternal life, all you need is Jesus.

Because He IS eternal life.

You have no further to look than Jesus,

(John 14:6 KJV) Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us

fellowship Ė koinonia Ė "sharingness", fellowship, association, community, communion

Here we see one of Johnís purposes in writing this letter, so that the readers would have something in common with John, so they would have "fellowship" with him.

Itís very similar to his reason for writing the gospel of John:

(John 20:30-31 KJV) And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: {31} But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.


Truth is important to worship.

Itís important to have a true understanding of who God is, otherwise you arenít going to relate to Him the way He wants to:

(John 4:24 KJV) God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

You canít worship God properly if you donít understand the truth of who He is.

John is writing this letter to clarify the truth of who Jesus is and who God is.

:3 and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

The one thing we ought to have in common is our relationship with God.

Lesson #1:

True fellowship is sharing having Jesus in common.

Too often we find other reasons to "fellowship" with other people.

We get together with people who are single like us, or married like us.

We get together with people who have kids the same age as we do.

We get together with people who like to do the same kinds of things as we do.

But the reason we should be together is because we all share Jesus.

Lesson #2:

Keep Jesus the center of our relationships.

Itís actually a very easy thing to let everything but Jesus be the reason weíre together.

Talk about Jesus.

Pray together.

Read the Word together.

Itís my desire that every meeting associated with our church have these things present.

Itís very easy for a church to become a "social club" where we do lots of things together in the name of "fellowship", yet the very thing that weíre supposed to have fellowship over isnít there.

Lesson #3:

Closer relationships come from a closeness with Jesus.

Itís kind of like a triangle, the more each side goes up, the closer it gets to the other side.

In your relationships with people, Godís desire is that you become closer to them by becoming closer to Him.

:4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

John is writing so that the readers will have true joy, and have it overflowing.

Jesus taught John about how to have joy Ė

John 15:1-11 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. {2} Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. {3} Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. {4} Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. {5} I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. {6} If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. {7} If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. {8} Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. {9} As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. {10} If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. {11} These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.


Joy in Jesus.

It seems to me that too much of what I call "joy", is simply a kind of "conditional-happiness".

As long as the conditions are right, Iím happy. If conditions are bad, itís bummer city!

It seems to me that God is trying to tell us that our "joy" ought to come from our relationship with Jesus, by being connected to Him (as a branch is in a vine).

John too is saying the same thing, that in our "fellowship" with God, we find true joy.

David wrote,

(Psa 16:11 KJV) Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Paul wrote,

(Phil 4:4 KJV) Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

Paul didnít say to rejoice in your circumstances, but to rejoice in the Lord!

Perhaps if weíve been having problems with depression and a general lack of "joy", itís because weíve been making our "joy" to be conditional with our lifeís circumstances, and not based on our relationship with the Lord.

Get back to the simplicity of your relationship with the Lord. Get back to spending time with Him. Get back to spending time worshipping and receiving from Him.