All the Bible, Every Book: 1 John
Fellowship with God
And these things we write to you that your joy may be full (1 John 1:4).
The nine General Epistles point to the person and work of the resurrected Christ. They encourage Christians to cling to Him and exhort them to serve Him faithfully because He is the only source of life. Written primarily to persecuted Jewish Christians, the truths apply to every believer from every culture and in every age of church history.
John was with the apostles who were in Jerusalem (Acts 8:14), and Paul calls him one of the pillars of the church (Galatians 2:9). And then, for decades he’s not mentioned. Early Christian tradition tells us he left Jerusalem just before its destruction in A.D. 70 and headquartered in and around Ephesus. In his later years he wrote the Gospel of John and three epistles, probably as he was serving in Ephesus.
False teachers were confusing the churches John oversaw by saying that Christ only seemed to have a human body. Not only were they denying the Incarnation, but they were claiming to have secret knowledge about God that made them a kind of spiritual elite. Some of the most talented brethren left these fledgling churches to form new communities that denied the reality of Christ’s humanity (4:2) and taught an “advanced” spirituality that promised to take its initiates beyond sin (1:8).
John responds as a father protecting his “little children.” What they must know is that these new teachings are not only wrong, but they will steal the greatest joy any believer will ever know—the joy of life in the family of God.
The theme of First John is fellowship—that experience of intimacy with Christ and His people only available to those who belong to Him and only experienced by those who walk in His light and love. The passion of John is, “don’t lose it by listening to these lying teachers.”
1 John: Don’t lose the joy of fellowship!
Both the Gospel of John and 1 John address the subject of eternal life. John wrote his Gospel so that people “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have eternal life” (John 20:31) He wrote his First Epistle so that Christians “may have fellowship” with the apostles, with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
I. John refutes the errors of those who deny the humanity of Christ and warns his readers against losing something far more valuable than any “insider knowledge” the false teachers were offering—the joy of fellowship with Jesus Christ.
A. Prologue—call to fellowship (1:4): John declares his purpose that he wants them to experience the joy of fellowship with Jesus.
B. Preamble—live in fellowship with God (1:5-2:11): Fellowship with God is made possible by the blood of Christ, but believers must walk honestly and openly in His light and love.
1. Walk in God’s light by staying on the path of holiness by being honest about your sin (1:5-22).
2. Know the God of light by following Christ and loving His people (2:3-11).
C. Body—live with the confidence of fellowship with God (2:12-4:19): Fellowship with God gives believers confidence.
1. Fellowship with God reassures us that we have the spiritual assets to resist the world and the antichrists (2:12-27).
2. Fellowship with God empowers us to display Christ’s character so that we will be confident at His Coming (2:28-4:19). Confident, or abiding Christians display Christ’s righteousness and love for one another, and display the Spirit’s truth and love.
D. Application—don’t lie about being in fellowship with God (4:20-5:17): Only those believers who love one another from the new nature (even the prodigal!) are living in fellowship with God.
E. Epilogue—the certainties of fellowship (5:18-21): Those believers who live in fellowship with God experience victory over sin and joy in this wicked world.
II. 1 JOHN AND YOU: This epistle was written to encourage every Christian to pursue deeper intimacy with God. The greater our intimacy with God, the more we will experience the full potential of eternal life. Every Christian possesses eternal life (John 20:31; 1 John 5:11-13, but not every believer is living the abundant experience of eternal life God meant for us to enjoy (John 10:10; 1 John 1:3).
Don’t miss the joy of fellowship!
Fellowship with God is the essence of eternal life, and eternal life it not just for heaven. Friendship with the Son of God can be yours on earth if you know His truth as the Spirit teaches it, live a pure life as His Spirit cleanses it, and love His people as He has loved you!
If you are a Christian, First John says you can live the best life on earth, a life that is absolutely unique and satisfying in this world—a life lived in intimate friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you are still thinking about what you will miss if you live in fellowship with Christ—a life guided by His truth, demonstrating His righteousness, and loving His people—you need to know that you will not miss any of it because the joy of fellowship eclipses every “happiness” this world has to offer.
The choice is yours. It’s your way or His way. And His way is an experience of eternal life you will be talking about in heaven forever…what a way to live!
A. If you want intimacy with God, then you must live in His light. Every believer receives the “light” of eternal life. We view the world differently (2:20) and we can know how we ought to live (2:27). But we have a responsibility to walk in that light by knowing God’s will and obeying His will (1:7) and to honestly admit when we’re not in the light (1:9).
B. If you want intimacy with God, then you must love with His love. Every believer receives the “love” of God. God is love, and we receive His life. We have the capacity and even the inner yearning to love with His love. But we have a responsibility to walk in that love (3:11ff) by loving one another, loving Him more than this world, and obeying Him (5:1-4).