By Joseph Ametepe
The epistle or letter of First John is the longest canonical letter written by Apostle John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. First John is the fourth of seven general epistles in the New Testament, all of which are titled according to their author (James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude). Of all the New Testament letters, First John and the letter to the Hebrews alone begin without the customary features of an epistle. That is, it contains no greetings or salutations. It identifies no specific church location or individuals to whom it was sent. It has no references to persons, places, or events, or messages to individuals such as found in Hebrews and in nearly all the other Epistles. Interestingly, Cain is the only person mentioned by name in the letter and is used as a model of the child of the devil. While First John does not have the customary features of an epistle, it contains the substance of an Epistle. One reason for that is the repeated use of the expression "I write to you," and the frequent use of the second person terms such as "little children," "fathers," "young men," and "beloved," by which the recipients are addressed. First contains 105 verses which are packed with profound and practical truths spoken in a simple and straightforward language. Bible Teacher, Pastor, and Author Chuck Swindoll shares this practical and poignant insight about First John: "John provides a practical application of the gospel. He applies the truth and implies a morality in this letter that is for all generations. He writes to tell people how to have eternal life and what that eternal life includes. Look carefully at 1 John, and you will find the life of God displayed in all its glory and splendor." Another author writes: "John wrote this epistle to warn Christians of false teachers, "antichrists" (2:18), from within the church who denied that the Son of God had come in the flesh (2:22; 4:1-3). John insisted that the divine Christ is not some supernatural apparition disguised as a human but is a historical person, Jesus of Nazareth. The test of Biblical Christianity is belief in the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus Christ."
The point of these quotes is simple and straightforward. First John teaches us that Jesus is the Word of life who has come to earth and has been seen, heard, and touched. He reveals to us who God is and what God has done for our salvation. Certainly, the message in First John is relevant for our times. Just as belief in the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus Christ was the test for true Biblical Christianity in the first century, so it is in the twenty first century. That test remains unchanged. Just as the first century believers were warned about false teachers and prophets, even so believers today must beware of false prophets and teachers who will arise from their midst. First John not only told people in the first century how to have eternal and what that life includes, it is also telling all who have ears to hear and hearts to respond to its message today, the way to have eternal life. Above all, First John assures believers today, just as it did in the first century that God desires fellowship with us. Fellowship with God, a privilege, is made possible through Christ sacrificial death on the cross for our sins and God's commitment to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness when we confess our sins to Him (1:7-9).
The prominent doctrines vividly illustrated in First John include: the person of God, people of God, promise of God, pardon of God, purity of God, purpose of God, pleasure of God, propitiation of Christ, personal return of Christ, participation in the life of God, practice of the truth, prayer to God and personal knowledge of God., the prosperity. First John is so relevant to the times in which we live. It presents profound truths in black and white rather than shades of gray. It recognizes only two categories of people of human beings: those who believe in Jesus Christ and those who do not believe in Him. It is therefore our prayer that the Holy Spirit will enable us to pay close attention to the truths revealed in it. And that, in doing so, He will draw us closer to God's heart and deepen our worship of Him, our walk with Him and our witness of Him in such a time as this. May God richly bless you as you listen to the verse by verse exposition of First John.
First John was probably composed by the apostle John at Ephesus in the latter part of his life and was probably sent to a place near Ephesus in the map below.