Lesson One – Overview of John’s First Letter

Overview of John’s First Letter

The aim of this overview is to further prepare ourselves to engage our minds with John’s spiritual mind as he helped the church regain their confidence before God.  First we will need to see the situation to which John is writing according to his paradigm; that is, the way he viewed the situation.  Then we can place ourselves with the recipients and let John build up our boldness in our fellowship with God and Jesus’ appearing (II Thess. 1:5-10).  After the antichrist “went out” from the “dear children” John wrote this letter.   The church had become unsure of what they had been taught (I John 2:18-25).  The antichrists were still trying to lead the church astray from the true doctrines they had been taught by Christians like John (I John 2:26, 27; 3:7; 4:1-6).  He had been supplied with truth by Jesus via the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-15; Acts 1:7, 8).

James, Peter and John assumed the recipients of their letters knew the doctrines, ethics and practices they merely mentioned to attain their purposes for writing.  If we do not know what the recipients knew we will need to engage in other studies to catch up to their level of understanding.  They had been taught; “Grace and truth came by Jesus.”  John 1:17.  “Not because of anything we have done but because of His (God’s) own purpose and grace.”  II Tim. 1:9.  The truth about God’s purpose in the creation of the world and mankind and His present grace for supporting His purpose can be understood from reading Hebrews 2:10, 11:  “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.  Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.”

Adding children like Jesus to God’s eternal family is what Creation is about; it is not about the philosophy and wisdom of men being presented as the “Christian religion.”  See Rom. 8:28-30; I Cor. 3:16-23.  We need to have this “eternal family” paradigm about God’s purpose before we can properly read the Bible.  The secret wisdom of God about His purpose for each individual person began in God’s mind before time and Creation (I Cor. 2:6-10).  Our Bible study starts with the truth about the purpose of God before Creation (Eph. 1:3-6; Tit. 1:1-3; I Pet. 1:17-21).   We need the wisdom of God about His grace and the new covenant working in us before we will properly read the New Testament (I Cor. 1:30, 31; Heb. 8:10-12).

The “beginning” John spoke of in I John 1:1 refers to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (John 1:29-34).  He may have had Acts, Chapter Two, in mind in I John 2:7, 13, 14, 18.  See Acts 2:17; 11:15; I Cor. 7:31; 10:11.  John’s use of “beginning” in 2:24 referred to the time of their new births.  It will be helpful to read the Gospel of John to enjoy Jesus’ comments on the doctrines and ethics John employed in his first letter.  Please note the inserts in the following chart from his gospel.

Truth about the words of life:

We proclaim eternal life. 1:1, 2; 3:15; 5:11-13, 20.  John 1:1-4, 9, 16, 17

Truth has no place in a person who claims to be sinless or who practices willful sin.  1:8, 10; 2:4; 3:4, 8-10; 5:16, 18.  John 1:17; 3:3-6; John 5:19, 36-40; 8:31, 32; 10:36-38

Truth is seen in Him and you because true light is already shining.  2:8.   John 6:63; 7:37-39; 8:36

But you have a real anointing from the Holy One, and you know all truth.  2:20, 21, 27.  John 7:17; 16:12-15; 17:17

Sin is lawlessness. 3:4.  Medical doctors generally understand the laws of nature for developing and maintaining healthy human bodies.  Christians study the Bible to learn the laws of life for the spiritual growth of living souls.  Sin describes a condition where the law of life in the new covenant is not understood, or perhaps, not accepted as truth.

This is the message from the beginning:  We should love one another.  3:11.

How Christians know we belong to truth, because we love the brethren. 3:17-19.

Spirit of truth and spirit of falsehood. 4:1-6.

The testimony of God about His Son. 5:6-12.


Christian Fellowship

So you may have fellowship with us.  Our fellowship is with the Father and Son. 1:3, 7.  John 1:12, 13; 3:14-18; 4:13; 5:24; 6:33; 15:1-8

When one obeys God’s word, love is made complete in him.  2:5; 3:16, 18.  John 17:26 

Song for the Church:  Sins have been forgiven.  Know the Father.  God lives in you.  You have overcome the evil one.  Strong young men.  2:12-14.  John 8:36

Promise of eternal life.  2:17, 25; 5:11-13, 20.  John 4:36; 6:27, 40, 51; 11:25; 14:1-3; 17:3

Everyone who does (practices, NASB) what is right has been born of Him.  He who does (practices) what is right is righteous. 2:29; 3:7, 10.

When He appears, we shall be like Him. 3:2.

Everyone who loves has been born of God.  4:7 – 5:4.

This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5:4.  John 16:33

Confidence we have in approaching God.  5:13-15


God is light and Love

This is the message.  1:5.  John 1:5, 18; 3:21; 12:44-46

Walk in light. Confess our sins.  The blood of Jesus purifies all our unrighteousness. 1:7, 9.  John 14:23

If Christians do sin we have Jesus as our advocate and His blood as an atoning sacrifice. 2:1, 2.

Whoever loves his brother lives “in light.”  They have no cause to stumble.  2:10.  John 13:34, 35

Remain in the Son and in the Father.  2:24.   John 8:12; 10:9, 11, 14, 27-29; 14:6

The love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God.  3:1.  John 14:9-11

Everyone who has this hope purifies himself.  3:3.

In Him is no sin.  3:5.

We know we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.  3:14, 23.  John 5:24

How we know the love that describes God.  3:16; 4:7 –  5:4.  John 3:16

If our hearts do not condemn us.  3:21.

We know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given His Spirit. 4:13.  John 7:37-39

There is a sin that does not lead to death. 5:17.



We know Him by obeying His commands.  2:3.  John 4:23, 24; 8:47, 51

Must walk as Jesus walked. 2:6.  John 12:26

Command is the same as it was in the beginning.  2:7.  John 15:9-12

New command:  Its truth is seen in Him and you.  2:8 

Do not love the world or anything in it.  2:15.

We obey His commands and do what pleases Him.  3:21-24.

Keep yourselves from idols.  5:21.


Darkness of Sin

Do not live by truth.  1:6.  John 8:23, 24, 34

Claim to be without sin, deceive ourselves.  1:8. 

Make God a liar if we say we have no sin. 1:10.

Liars.  Those who deny Christ.  1:6; 2:4; 2:22; 4:20; 5:10.  John 8:44

Whoever hates his brother is still in darkness.  Hate has blinded him.  He does not know where he is going.  2:9-11

The evil one. 2:14; 5:19.  

Love of world:  Cravings of sinful man.  Lust of his eyes.  Boasting about what one has done.  2:15-17.

John 3:18-20; 5:29

Many antichrists, they went out.  Did not belong.  Trying to lead you astray. 2:18, 19, 26.

What is sinful is of the devil. 3:6, 9, 10.

The world will hate faithful Christians.  3:13.  John 7:7; 15:18-26

He who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  5:12.

There is a sin that leads to death.  5:16.  John 9:31

 The following scriptures cannot be fully comprehended in the context they have been written unless we know the laws of life God offers in the new covenant.  I John 1:1-4;   2:5, 6, 8, 24-27;    3:4, 9, 10, 14, 18, 19, 23, 24;    4:6, 12-18;    5:3-5, 11-13, 18-20.  Please consider the following scriptures.  They will be discussed in the next lesson for an understanding of what the recipients understood about the law of life.  See John 1:1-5; Rom. 8:1, 2; Gal. 6:2; Heb. 10:15-17.

The following scriptures cannot be fully comprehended unless we understand the grace doctrines of “born again” and “justification by faith.”  I John 1:5-7;   2:1, 3, 2:10, 12-14, 19, 23, 29;    3:1, 4, 7-10, 14, 19, 20;   5:1, 4, 16.  The scriptures in John 1:12, 13; 3:3-8; 12 and Romans 3:21-26; 4:25 will be discussed in Part III, Lesson Three in order to understand what the recipients understood.

Questions for Discussion

1.  How do people normally read letters they receive by post?  Do they read them in parts or from the beginning through to the end at one time?  What is the advantage of having a written document for instructions versus an oral presentation?  What is the value of an overview of a letter?

2.  In relation to John’s purpose for writing his first letter, what might have been his reason for beginning with a definition of life – as in eternal life?  How would his personal witness added to the value of his letter?  How does truth relate to the subject of life?

3.  Why would Christians’ fellowship with God be impossible without the sacrifice of atonement provided by Jesus of Nazareth?  Why is it important in this letter to identify Jesus Christ as the same Jesus who lived three decades in Nazareth of Galilee?

4.  Why is it useful to have a fair understanding of the Gospel of John in our minds for reading John’s letters?

5.  How does light and darkness form a dichotomy?  (Dichotomy is defined as the division of two mutually exclusive contradictory groups).  How might John’s use of this dichotomy functioned to accomplish the purpose of his first letter?  What was John’s purpose for writing his first letter?

6.  John made repeated use of love and commandments.  Love is an attribute of God.  Please give some thought to God’s command for Christians to love one another.  We should not think John’s use of command as a law in the category of the Law of Moses.

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