INTRODUCTION

The First Epistle of John, often referred to as First John and written 1 John, is the first of the Johannine epistles of the New Testament, and the fourth of the catholic epistles.

It is attributed to John the Evangelist, traditionally thought to be the author of the Gospel of John and the other two Johannine epistles.

This epistle was probably written in Ephesus in AD 95–110.

The work was written to counter docetism, which is the belief that Jesus did not come "in the flesh", but only as a spirit. It also defined how Christians are to discern true teachers: by their ethics, their proclamation of Jesus in the flesh, and by their love.

The main themes of the epistle are love and fellowship with God.

The author describes various tests by which readers may ascertain whether or not their communion with God is genuine, and teaches that the proof of spiritual regeneration is a life of active righteousness.

It also distinguishes between the world (which is full of evil and under the dominion of Satan) and the children of God (who are set apart from the world).

The main themes of the epistle are discernible in the writer's sectional organisation of his contents.

There are four sections (arranged in the chiasm ABB'A'): 1:1–2:14; 2:15–3:10; 3:11–4:13; 4:14–5:20.

The first, A, speaks of "the witness", given and received, to God who is "light" and the exhortation is "to live in his light".

The second, B, is an exhortation "to love not the world", with earthly motives, in earthly ways.

The third, B', a balance to B, emphasizes (rather) "love one another".

The fourth, A', again begins with "the witness", but this time it is to God who is "love"; "life eternal" is theirs who live a life of loving God.

The key requirements of Ancient Rhetoric, Purpose and Structure are clearly evidenced in this letter.

So too are the other requirements of Style and Memory.

 

COMMA JOHANNEUM

Philip the Apostle.

The visible text (in Old Church Slavonic) in the book is: "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love..."

Among the most controversial verses of the Bible is what some consider an explicit reference that supports the doctrine of the trinity, the Comma Johanneum: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these agree in one." (1 John 5:7–8, King James Version).

Verse 7 does not appear in any version of the Greek text prior to the ninth century, and first appears in most of the Latin manuscripts, especially in the Vetus Itala (Old Latin predating Jerome) before being translated into Greek and added to later Greek manuscripts.

It was included in the King James Bible, something Isaac Newton commented on in An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture.

This is sometimes used as evidence to counter the King-James-Only Movement.

Bart Ehrman suggests in his book Misquoting Jesus that the King James Version would not have included the passage if Desiderius Erasmus had not given in to pressure to include it in the Textus Receptus even though he doubted its authenticity.

The majority of modern translations (for example English Standard Version and New American Standard Bible) do not include this text, or (for example the New Revised Standard Version) include it as a footnote.

 

Albert Barnes (1798–1870) said regarding its authenticity:

"On the whole, therefore, the evidence seems to me to be clear that this passage is not a genuine portion of the inspired writings, and should not be appealed to in proof of the doctrine of the Trinity."

 

STYLE

The epistle is not written in the same form as the other biblical epistles, lacking an epistolary opening or conclusion.

The epistle is written in a simple style, without syntactical flourishes, and makes frequent use of asyndeton, where related thoughts are placed next to one another without conjunctions.

In contrast to the linear style used in the Pauline epistles, John's thought moves in loops or circles forming a slowly advancing sequence of thought.

This is similar to the parallel structure of Hebrew poetry, in which the second verse of a couplet often carries the same meaning as the first, though in the epistle the frequent recapitulations of already expressed ideas serve also to add to what has previously been said.

In summary, the epistle may be said to exhibit a paraenetic style which is "marked by personal appeal, contrasts of right and wrong, true and false, and an occasional rhetorical question".

Some scholars have proposed the idea that the epistle is really John's commentary on a selection of traditional parallel couplets.

While this theory, first propounded by Ernst von Dobschütz and Rudolf Bultmann, is not universally accepted, Amos Wilder writes that, "It is at least clear that there are considerable and sometimes continuous elements in the epistle whose style distinguishes them from that of the author both with respect to poetic structure and syntactic usage."

 

AUTHORSHIP

The epistle is traditionally held to have been composed by John the Evangelist, at Ephesus, when the writer was in advanced age.

The epistle's content, language and conceptual style are very similar to the Gospel of John, 2 John, and 3 John, indicating that they were written by the same author.

Indeed, at the end of the 19th century scholar Ernest DeWitt Burton wrote that there could be "no reasonable doubt" that 1 John and the gospel were written by the same author, and Amos Wilder has said that, "Early Christian tradition and the great majority of modern scholars have agreed on the common authorship of these writings, even where the author has not been identified with the apostle John."

However, other modern scholars have challenged this position.

Though the common authorship of the three epistles is still almost universally accepted, scholars such as Heinrich Julius Holtzmann and C. H. Dodd have maintained that the epistle and the gospel were written by different authors.

There are at least two principal arguments for this view.

The first is that the epistle often uses a demonstrative pronoun at the beginning of a sentence, then a particle or conjunction, followed by an explanation or definition of the demonstrative at the end of the sentence, a stylistic technique which is not used in the gospel.

The second is that the author of the epistle "uses the conditional sentence in a variety of rhetorical figures which are unknown to the gospel".

 

PURPOSE

"The Fourth Gospel addresses itself to the challenges posed by Judaism and others outside Johannine circles who have rejected the community's vision of Jesus as preexistent Son, sent by the Father.

The epistles (First, Second, and Third John) "describe the fracturing of the Johannine community itself".

The author wrote the epistle so that the joy of his audience would "be full" (1:4) and that they would "not practice sin" (2:1) and that "you who believe in the name of the Son of God... may know that you have eternal life" (5:13).

We can therefore distinguish in the epistle both a general purpose (to increase mutual joy) and a specific purpose (to provide readers with tests by which they might assure themselves of their salvation).

It appears as though the author was concerned about heretical teachers that had been influencing churches under his care.

Such teachers were considered Antichrists (2:18–19) who had once been church leaders but whose teaching became heterodox.

It appears that these teachers taught a form of docetism in which Jesus came to earth as a spirit without a real body of flesh (4:2) that his death on the cross was not as a true atonement for sins (1:7).

It appears that John might have also been rebuking a proto-Gnostic named Cerinthus, who also denied the true humanity of Christ.

The purpose of the author (1:1–4) is to declare the Word of Life to those to whom he writes, in order that they might be united in fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.

He shows that the means of union with God are, (1) on the part of Christ, his atoning work (1:7; 2:2; 3:5; 4:10, 14; 5:11, 12) and his advocacy (2:1); and (2), on the part of man, holiness (1:6), obedience (2:3), purity (3:3), faith (3:23; 4:3; 5:5), and love (2:7, 8; 3:14; 4:7; 5:1).

Whereas the Gospel of John was written to unbelievers, this epistle was written to those who were already believers (5:13).

It seems likely that its audience was largely gentile rather than Jewish, since it contains few Old Testament quotations or distinctly Jewish forms of expression.

The epistle was probably carried by itinerant missionaries to different churches throughout the region and read aloud to the congregations.

CHAPTER 1

IN THE BEGINNING

1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

1:2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen [it,] and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)

 

THE FATHER AND THE SON

1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship [is] with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

1:4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

 

GOD IS LIGHT WITHOUT DARKNESS IN HIM

1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

 

ALL HAVE SINNED

1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

CHAPTER 2

CHRIST OUR ADVOCATE TO THE FATHER

2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.

 

THE SAVED KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD

2:3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

2:4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

2:5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.

2:6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

2:7 Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.

 

THE NEW COMMANDMENT: LOVE NOT HATE

2:8 Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.

2:9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.

2:10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.

2:11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

 

FORGIVENESS FOR THE SAKE OF THE HOLY NAME OF GOD

2:12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.

2:13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.

2:14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.

 

DO NOT LOVE THIS TEMPORAL WORLD

2:15 Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

2:16 For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

2:17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

 

THE LAST DAYS HAVE BEGUN

2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would [no doubt] have continued with us: but [they went out,] that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

2:20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.

2:21 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

 

AN ANTICHRIST DENIES THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE FATHER AND SON

2:22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

2:23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: [(but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.]

2:24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.

2:25 And this is the promise that he hath promised us, [even] eternal life.

2:26 These [things] have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.

2:27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

 

THE COMING OF CHRIST

2:28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.

2:29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.

CHAPTER 3

AT THE COMING OF CHRIST

3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

3:3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

 

SIN IS LAWLESSNESS

3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

 

THOSE IN CHRIST DO NOT SERVE SIN

3:5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.

3:6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

3:7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

3:10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

3:11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

3:12 Not as Cain, [who] was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.

3:13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.

 

THE LOVE OF GOD MADE MANIFEST

3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not [his] brother abideth in death.

3:15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

3:16 Hereby perceive we the love [of God,] because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down [our] lives for the brethren.

3:17 But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels [of compassion] from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

3:18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

3:19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.

3:20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

3:21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, [then] have we confidence toward God.

 

KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS

3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

3:24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

CHAPTER 4

TEST THE SPIRITS

4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

 

THE MEANS TO TEST THE SPIRITS

4:2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:

4:3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that [spirit] of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

 

THE CHILDREN OF GOD

4:4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

4:5 They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.

4:6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

 

THE LOVE OF GOD

4:9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.

4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

4:12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

 

THE SELF-TEST FOR THE CHILD OF GOD

4:13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

4:14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son [to be] the Saviour of the world.

4:15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

4:16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

 

THE PERFECTING OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD

4:17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.

4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

4:21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

CHAPTER 5

NOT ONE AND THE SAME GOD BUT THE SON OF THE FATHER

5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

 

MONOTHEISM AND THE COMMANDMENTS

5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.

5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, [even] our faith.

5:5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

5:6 This is he that came by water and blood, [even] Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.

 

THREE WITNESS IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH AGREE

5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

5:8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

 

GOD TESTIFIES TO HIS OWN SON

5:9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.

5:10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.

5:11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

5:12 He that hath the Son hath life; [and] he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

 

BELIEVE ON THE NAME OF THE SON OF GOD

5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

5:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

5:15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

 

FORGIVABLE AND UNFORGIVABLE SINS

5:16 If any man see his brother sin a sin [which is] not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

5:17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

 

BEYOND THE TOUCH OF THE ANTICHRIST

5:18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

5:19 And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

 

FOLLOW ONLY THE REAL CHRIST

5:20 [And] we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, [even] in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

 

DO NOT WORSHIP FALSE, MAN MADE GODS

5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.