Having read John’s words in his Fourth Gospel, we now get to hear his appeal to a few of his church plants. We’ll take this one piece at a time, but let me encourage you to imagine John wrote these letters to you. There are only five chapters in 1 John, so that shouldn’t be a great challenge.
Researchers suggest these letters were written just after the Fourth Gospel, sometime after the significant event in Jewish history–the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. While the author of the letters isn’t explicitly noted, that is, John did not add his signature, scholars agree he is the author.
The target of these letters is entirely different from the Fourth Gospel. Toward the end of his gospel account, John made his purpose clear:
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:31
The letters, however, are written to churches John started to address specific issues. Those who first read these letters were already believers, or at least that was the assumption. Keep this in mind as we read along.
The theology supported in these letters help us appreciate the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but I think the emphasis of these letters is to teach us that struggles in the church are genuine. Our current efforts may not directly correspond to those who met around A.D. 70 but knowing they had issues is somewhat comforting.
Many commentators pay particular attention to the influence of Gnostics on the early church. John may not use the term precisely; instead, he focuses his words on the importance of love for one another as Christ commanded. He reminds the church that they should demonstrate their faith by their actions. And he provides some tests for them to consider when they have doubts.
Perhaps the most critical purpose of John’s letters is the way he demonstrates how to address concerns. As long as imperfect humans are involved in running churches, we will have problems. The moment we think we have found the perfect church is the precise time when it will disappoint us in some way or another.
Read 1 John 1:1-4
Similar to the Fourth Gospel, John begins this letter by stepping back and reminding us that the Word of life is eternal.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 1 John 1:1-2
If I could bold some words in my Bible, I’d point out the words shown above. Jesus wasn’t something they heard about; He was real. Jesus came in human form. John touched Him. They embraced, laughed, cried, shared meals, and much more for something like three years. John watched Him die, then had breakfast with Him the following week. Remember that!
John can’t help but proclaim what was seen and heard. The whole point of this fellowship is the relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Our human relationships should reflect the same–completely unity and harmony. This is a beautiful thing!
Three times in John’s gospel he wrote about the concept of joy becoming complete. I think this must be an important idea.
- John 3:29 – That joy is mine, and it is now complete.
- John 15:11 – I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
- John 16:24 – Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
We write this to make our joy complete. 1 John 1:4
John is not alone. He and his fellow ministers remind us of the joy found in knowing that Jesus came and fulfilled His mission. We all celebrate together.
Lord, may our lives reflect the joy that is found complete in You. Remind us of what we’ve seen, heard, and touched so we may be Your witnesses here and to the ends of the world.