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                      "THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN"

                              Introduction

When Jesus to earth, He came not only to live a life, but to give life:

"I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more
abundantly." - Jn 10:10

The Gospel of John was designed to produce faith so that we might have
life (Jn 20:30-31). However, it is The First Epistle of John which
describes the nature of that life in greater detail (e.g., 1Jn 3:14).
That we might be sure to live the sort of life God offers through His
Son Jesus Christ, a careful study of The First Epistle Of John is in
order.

AUTHOR

It is assumed in this study that the author is John, the beloved
disciple of Jesus (Jn 13:23; 19:26-27; 20:2; 21:7,20).  Similarities in
style, vocabulary, and themes in both this epistle and the Gospel of
John certainly offer internal evidence for this conclusion.

There is also external evidence that John is the author.  Polycarp, a
close associate of John, appears to make reference to this epistle in a
letter to the Philippians at the beginning of the second century.
Irenaeus, a student of Polycarp, quoted from the epistle and attributed
it to John.

RECIPIENTS

No one is specifically mentioned by name.  John may have been in Ephesus
at the time, and some think this was a general epistle to Christians
throughout Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).  Comments in 1Jn 2:20,27
could imply that John was addressing a specific  group of Christians
that possessed certain spiritual (miraculous) gifts.

DATE

Estimates range from 60 A.D. to 100 A.D.  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. (Re-dating The
New Testament, John A. T. Robinson).

PURPOSE AND THEME

In his epistle John frequently states why he was writing:

   *  "these things we write to you that your joy may be full" - 1Jn 1:4

   *  "these things I write to you, that you may not sin" - 1Jn 2:1

   *  "these things I have written to you...that you may know that you
      have eternal life" - 1Jn 5:13

   *  "these things I have written to you...that you may continue to
      believe in the name of the Son of God" - 1Jn 5:13

While these reasons may state the positive purpose for John's letter, it
appears he was also responding to errors prevalent at the time ("these
things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you" -
1Jn 2:26).  If not fully developed in Johnís day, there was at least a
precursor to Gnosticism.

Those who later came to be called Gnostics claimed to have a superior
knowledge (the Greek word for knowledge is gnosis).  A fundamental
presupposition was that all matter was evil. Therefore they believed
that God did not create or have anything to do with the material
universe (rather, it was created by a demi-god).  Also, that Christ
could not have come in the flesh (cf. 1Jn 4:1-3).

One branch of Gnosticism, Docetism (dokein, "to seem"), taught that
Jesus only seemed to be physical (contrast that with Johnís statement in
1Jn 1:1).  Cerinthus, a contemporary of John, taught that "Jesus" was
physical, but that the "Christ" came upon Him at his baptism, and then
left before His death, so that the "Christ-spirit" never suffered (cf.
1Jn 5:6).

The Gnosticsí application to everyday living took two different
directions.  Since all matter was considered evil, some taught one
should abstain altogether from anything that would satisfy the flesh.
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.

Johnís purpose therefore appears to be two-fold:

   *  Assure Christians that they have eternal life (1Jn 5:13)

   *  Counter those who denied that Jesus had come in the flesh (1Jn
      4:1-6)

As the theme of this epistle, may I suggest:

       Eternal life is in Jesus Christ, who has come in the flesh

OUTLINE

Here is an outline of the book, from the Holman Illustrated Bible
Dictionary...

Prologue: The Word of Life (1:1-4)

1. God Is Light (1:5-3:10)
   a. Walk in the Light (1:5-2:2)
      1) God is Light (1:5-7)
      2) Resist sin (1:8-2:2)
   b. Obey the command to love (2:3-11)
      1) Know God and keep His commands (2:3-6)
      2) Learn the new command and love others (2:7-11)
   c. Know your spiritual status (2:12-14)
   d. Be warned of enemies of the faith (2:15-27)
      1) Beware of the world (2:15-17)
      2) Beware of the antichrists (2:18-27)
   e. Live like children of God (2:28-3:10)
      1) Be confident and ready for His coming (2:28-3:3)
      2) Be righteous and do not sin (3:4-10)

2. God Is Love (3:11-5:12)
   a. Love one another: part one (3:11-24)
      1) Love in action (3:11-18)
      2) Live in confidence (3:19-24)
   b. Test the spirits (4:1-6)
   c. Love one another: part two (4:7-21)
      1) Love others because God loves you (4:7-10)
      2) Love others because God lives in you (4:11-21)
   d. Obey God and experience the victory of faith (5:1-5)
   e. Believe in the Son and enjoy eternal life (5:6-12)

Conclusion: Confidence and Characteristics of the Child of God (5:13-21)
   a. Know you have eternal life (5:13)
   b. Be confident in prayer (5:14-17)
   c. Do not continue in sin (5:18-20)
   d. Keep yourself from idols (5:21)

REVIEW QUESTIONS

1) Who is author of The First Epistle Of John?
   - John the apostle, the beloved disciple who also wrote The Gospel Of
     John

2) Who were the original recipients of this epistle?
   - Christians in general, likely in Ephesus or scattered throughout
     Asia Minor (Turkey)

3) When was it written?
   - Most date it in 90s A.D.

4) List four reasons John stated for writing this epistle. (1:4; 2:1;
   5:13)
   - "that your joy may be full"
   - "that you may not sin"
   - "that you may know that you have eternal life"
   - "that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God"

5) List another reason John wrote this epistle. (2:26)
   - "Concerning those who try to deceive you"

6) What doctrine later found in Gnosticism is addressed in this epistle?
   - Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh

7) What has been suggested as its two-fold purpose?
   - Assure Christians that they have eternal life
   - Counter those who denied that Jesus had come in the flesh

8) What has been suggested as its theme?
   - Eternal life is in Jesus Christ, who has come in the flesh

9) What are the main divisions of this epistle as outlined above?
   - Prologue: The Word of Life (1:1-4)
   - God Is Light (1:5-3:10)
   - God Is Love (3:11-5:12)
   - Conclusion: Confidence and Characteristics of the Child of God
     (5:13-21)
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