I John

Author: St. John, son of Zebedee

Date Written: 70-100 AD


John was one of Jesus' closest disciples.  He wrote the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John and Revelation.  Evidently, he was pastor of the Christian community at Ephesus.  While scholars debate whether John himself wrote this letter, most agree that the same person wrote 1-3 John.  1 John is not addressed to a specific group of believers, so John likely wrote it as a circular letter that many congregations could read.


The letters of John are written in a very different style than other NT epistles.  For example, his Greek is much simpler than Paul's and he uses a lot of poetic imagery to convey his theological understanding.  John has a tendency to emphasize dramatic contrasts to make a spiritual point.  In 1 John he underscores the division of light and darkness, love and hate, life and death, God and the devil, sin and righteousness.


"Abiding in God" is the central theme and heart of 1 John.  John states that "God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (4:16).  This "abiding" is a deep sense of remaining in or being present with God.  It implies unity, connectedness and duration.  Abiding in God is not a temporary activity, rather it lasts for eternity.  If we abide in God, then we walk in the light (1:7), not blinded by the darkness of sin (2:11) and we become God's begotten children (3:1).


John conveys a rich notion of what it means to be a child of God.  As God's children, we receive an inheritance of eternal life.  God's promises to his children, which we have encountered in the life of Jesus through John's testimony, are always good (2:24-25).  Since we are invited into God's family as his children, we find ourselves with new Christian brothers and sisters who deserve our love.


John repeatedly highlights the importance of loving these "brothers" (2:10; 3:10-16; 4:20-21).  This theme recalls the "new commandment" Jesus gave at the Last Supper in John's Gospel to "love one another just as I have loved you" (John 13:34).  Just as Jesus laid down his life for us, we should lay down our lives for each other (1 John 3:16).  For John, the primary evidence that a person is "walking in the light" is his love of the brothers (2:10).


John teaches that sin and the Christian life do not go together.  If someone has become a son of God through faith, he must stop sinning (3:6).  Continuing or abiding in sin is contrary to the nature of God's sons.  Conversely, abiding in God is contrary to sin (3:9).  If we still sin and hate our brothers then our conversion is not complete (4:20).  John compares someone who hates his Christian brother to Cain who was the first murderer, thus equating hatred and murder (3:12).  John teaches that God's children conquer the world through their faith in Jesus (5:4-5).  His victory is available to all who are begotten of God.


God has freed us from sin and death by the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.  If we believe then we have received this great grace through faith, so now we are begotten children of God.  We abide with him and we are no longer blinded by the darkness of sin.  We walk in the light because we have heard the promises he gave to us.  We are now ready to conquer the world and inherit eternal life.


By Mark Giszczak


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