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Introduction to 1 John


Summary of the Book of 1 John

This summary of the book of 1 John provides information about the title, author(s), date of writing, chronology, theme, theology, outline, a brief overview, and the chapters of the Book of 1 John.


The author is John son of Zebedee (see Mk 1:19-20) -- the apostle and the author of the Gospel of John and Revelation (see Introductions to both books: Author). He was a fisherman, one of Jesus' inner circle (together with James and Peter), and "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (Jn 13:23; see note there). He may have been a first cousin of Jesus (his mother may have been Salome, possibly a sister of Mary; cf. Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40 and note; 16:1; Jn 19:25 -- this view assumes that "his mother's sister" in Jn 19:25 refers to Salome; some further assume that "Mary the wife of Clopas" there stands in apposition to "his mother's sister," which would mean that this Mary and Salome were one and the same person).

Unlike most NT letters, 1 John does not tell us who its author is. The earliest identification of him comes from the church fathers: Irenaeus (c. a.d. 140-203), Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215), Tertullian (c. 155-222) and Origen (c. 185-253) all designated the writer as the apostle John. As far as we know, no one else was suggested by the early church.

This traditional identification is confirmed by evidence in the letter itself:

    1. The style of the Gospel of John is markedly similar to that of this letter. Both are written in simple Greek and use contrasting figures, such as light and darkness, life and death, truth and lies, love and hate.
    2. Similar phrases and expressions, such as those found in the following passages, are striking:

1 John

Gospel of John
















1:14,18; 3:16






    1. The mention of eyewitness testimony (1:1-4) harmonizes with the fact that John was a follower of Christ from the earliest days of his ministry.
    2. The authoritative manner that pervades the letter, seen in its commands (2:15,24,28; 4:1; 5:21), its firm assertions (2:6; 3:14; 4:12) and its pointed identification of error (1:6,8; 2:4,22) is what would be expected from an apostle.
    3. The suggestions of advanced age (addressing his readers as "children," 2:1,28; 3:7) agree with early church tradition concerning John's age when he wrote the books known to be his.
    4. The description of the heretics as antichrists (2:18), liars (2:22) and children of the devil (3:10) is consistent with Jesus' characterization of John as a son of thunder (Mk 3:17).
    5. The indications of a close relationship with the Lord (1:1; 2:5-6,24,27-28) fit the descriptions of "the disciple whom Jesus loved" and the one who reclined "next to him" (Jn 13:23).


The letter is difficult to date with precision, but factors such as (1) evidence from early Christian writers (Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria), (2) the early form of Gnosticism reflected in the denunciations of the letter and (3) indications of the advanced age of John suggest the end of the first century. Since the author of 1 John seems to build on concepts and themes found in the fourth Gospel (1Jn 2:7-11), it is reasonable to date the letter somewhere between a.d. 85 and 95, after the writing of the Gospel, which may have been written c. 85 (see Introduction to John: Date).


1Jn 2:12-14,19; 3:1; 5:13 make it clear that this letter was addressed to believers. But the letter itself does not indicate who they were or where they lived. The fact that it mentions no one by name suggests it was a circular letter sent to Christians in a number of places. Evidence from early Christian writers places the apostle John in Ephesus during most of his later years (c. a.d. 70-100). The earliest confirmed use of 1 John was in the Roman province of Asia (in modern Turkey), where Ephesus was located. Clement of Alexandria indicates that John ministered in the various churches scattered throughout that province. It may be assumed, therefore, that 1 John was sent to the churches of the province of Asia (see map No. 13 at the end of this study Bible).


One of the most dangerous heresies of the first two centuries of the church was Gnosticism. Its central teaching was that spirit is entirely good and matter is entirely evil. From this unbiblical dualism flowed five important errors:

    1. The human body, which is matter, is therefore evil. It is to be contrasted with God, who is wholly spirit and therefore good.
    2. Salvation is the escape from the body, achieved not by faith in Christ but by special knowledge (the Greek word for "knowledge" is gnosis, hence Gnosticism).
    3. Christ's true humanity was denied in two ways: (1) Some said that Christ only seemed to have a body, a view called Docetism, from the Greek dokeo ("to seem"), and (2) others said that the divine Christ joined the man Jesus at baptism and left him before he died, a view called Cerinthianism, after its most prominent spokesman, Cerinthus. This view is the background of much of 1 John (1:1; 2:22; 4:2-3 and notes.
    4. Since the body was considered evil, it was to be treated harshly. This ascetic form of Gnosticism is the background of part of the letter to the Colossians (Col 2:21,23 and notes.
    5. Paradoxically, this dualism also led to licentiousness. The reasoning was that, since matter -- and not the breaking of God's law (1Jn 3:4) -- was considered evil, breaking his law was of no moral consequence.

The Gnosticism addressed in the NT was an early form of the heresy, not the intricately developed system of the second and third centuries. In addition to that seen in Colossians and in John's letters, acquaintance with early Gnosticism is reflected in 1,2 Timothy, Titus, and 2 Peter and perhaps 1 Corinthians.

Occasion and Purpose

John's readers were confronted with an early form of Gnostic teaching of the Cerinthian variety (see Gnosticism above). This heresy was also libertine, throwing off all moral restraints.

Consequently, John wrote this letter with two basic purposes in mind: (1) to expose false teachers (2:26 and note) and (2) to give believers assurance of salvation (5:13 and note). In keeping with his intention to combat Gnostic teachers, John specifically struck at their total lack of morality (3:8-10); and by giving eyewitness testimony to the incarnation, he sought to confirm his readers' belief in the incarnate Christ (1:3). Success in this would give the writer joy (1:4).


I.           Introduction: The Reality of the Incarnation (1:1-4)

  1. The Christian Life as Fellowship with the Father and the Son (1:5;2:28)

A.   Ethical Tests of Fellowship (1:5;2:11)

      1. Moral likeness (1:5-7)
      2. Confession of sin (1:8;2:2)
      3. Obedience (2:3-6)
      4. Love for fellow believers (2:7-11)
    • Two Digressions (2:12-17)
    • Christological Test of Fellowship (2:18-28)
      1. Contrast: apostates versus believers (2:18-21)
      2. Person of Christ: the crux of the test (2:22-23)
      3. Persistent belief: key to continuing fellowship (2:24-28)

                                   III.   The Christian Life as Divine Sonship (2:29;4:6)

IV.           The Christian Life as an Integration of the Ethical and the Christological (4:7;5:12)

    • The Ethical Test: Love (4:7;5:5)
      1. The source of love (4:7-16)
      2. The fruit of love (4:17-19)
      3. The relationship of love for God and love for one's fellow Christian (4:20;5:1)
      4. Obedience: the evidence of love for God's children (5:2-5)
    • The Christological Test (5:6-12)

V.        Conclusion: Great Christian Certainties (5:13-21)

──New International Version


Introduction to 1 John

This epistle is a discourse upon the principles of Christianity, in doctrine and practice. The design appears to be, to refute and guard against erroneous and unholy tenets, principles, and practices, especially such as would lower the Godhead of Christ, and the reality and power of his sufferings and death, as an atoning sacrifice; and against the assertion that believers being saved by grace, are not required to obey the commandments. This epistle also stirs up all who profess to know God, to have communion with him, and to believe in him, and that they walk in holiness, not in sin, showing that a mere outward profession is nothing, without the evidence of a holy life and conduct. It also helps forward and excites real Christians to communion with God and the Lord Jesus Christ, to constancy in the true faith, and to purity of life.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on 1 John

1 John General Review
1. When Jesus to earth, He came not only to LIVE a life, but to GIVE
      "I have come that they may have life, and that they may
      have it more abundantly." - Jn 10:10
2. The GOSPEL of John was designed to produce faith so that we might 
   have life - cf. Jn 20:30-31
3. However, it is the FIRST EPISTLE of John which discusses the nature 
   of that life in greater detail - e.g., 1 Jn 3:14
4. That we might be sure to live the sort of life God offers through 
   His Son Jesus Christ, a careful study of First John is in order
[In this lesson, the first of several on First John, let's begin with 
      1. It will be assumed in the course of this study that the author
         is John, the beloved disciple of Jesus
      2. Similarities between this epistle and the Gospel of John 
         certainly suggests INTERNAL evidence for this conclusion
      3. There is also EXTERNAL evidence that this John is the author:
         a. Polycarp, a close associate of John, appears to make 
            reference to this epistle at the beginning of the second 
            century, in a letter to the Philippians
         b. Irenaeus, a student of Polycarp, quoted from it and 
            attributed it to John
      1. No one is specifically mentioned
      2. John may have been in Ephesus at the time, and that this was a
         general epistle to the Christians throughout Asia Minor
      3. However, John's comments in 1 Jn 2:20,27 suggests that John 
         may have been addressing a particular group of Christians 
         possessing certain spiritual gifts
   C. DATE...
      1. Estimations range from 60 A.D. to 100 A.D.
      2. Most modern scholarship places it around 95 A.D., but there 
         are also good reasons for believing it was written prior to 
         the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
   D. PURPOSE...
      1. As declared by John throughout his epistle, he wrote it...
         a. "that your joy may be full" - 1 Jn 1:4
         b. "that you may not sin" - 1 Jn 2:1
         c. "that you may know that you have eternal life" - 1 Jn 5:13a
         d. "that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of
            God" - 1 Jn 5:13b
      2. While these reasons may state the "positive" side of John's 
         purpose, it appears he was also responding to errors that were
         prevalent at the time - cf. 1 Jn 2:26
         a. If not fully developed in John's day, there was at least a 
            precursor to "Gnosticism"
         b. Those who came to be called "Gnostics"...
            1) Claimed to have a superior knowledge (Grk. word for 
               knowledge is "gnosis")
            2) Believed all matter was evil
               a) Therefore God did not create or have anything to do 
                  with the material universe
               b) Therefore Christ could not have come in the flesh - 
                  cf. 1 Jn 4:1-3
                  1/ One branch of gnosticism, DOCETISM (dokein, "to 
                     seem"), said that Jesus only "seemed" to be 
                     physical - cf. 1 Jn 1:1
                  2/ CERINTHUS taught that "Jesus" was physical, but 
                     that the "Christ" came upon him at his baptism,
                     and left before his death, so that the "Christ-
                     spirit" never suffered - cf. 1 Jn 5:6
         c. Their application to everyday living took two different 
            directions; since all matter was thought to be evil...
            1) Some thought one should abstain altogether from anything
               that would satisfy the flesh
            2) Others claimed it did not matter what one did in the 
               flesh (it was evil anyway), and to have full knowledge 
               it was proper to explore everything
[Many of John's comments in this epistle appear to address these false 
With this brief background to the epistle, let's get right into the 
text by considering the first four verses.  They appear to serve as a 
PROLOGUE, and reveal...]


--《Executable Outlines