Introduction To The Epistle Of First John

This is the first in a series on the study: Evidences of True Christianity In I John. John’s first epistle tells us clearly what a Christian is and how a Christian is to continue living the daily life of the new birth. May this study be a blessing and help to put away any doubts concerning our relationship with the Lord.  

An Epistle For The Church In The Last Days

An Introduction To The Epistle Of I John

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.   

– I John 5:13

To begin this introduction to I John, we want to recognize that there is a distinction to be made between a Christian and a Spiritual Christian

A Christian is one who has a right relationship with Jesus Christ through the New Birth. 

A Spiritual Christian is one who has a right relationship with Jesus Christ through the New Birth and a right relationship with the Holy Spirit. 

John will unfold eight declarations of what a true Christian is, and how a spiritual Christian is identified in Scripture. Throughout this series we will highlight these declarations and make application for them in the Christians daily life. 

We’ve chosen I John 5:13 as the object of John’s first epistle, but it is a message John emphasized throughout all of his writings. We can look to the Gospel of John 20:31 and see the same heartbeat expressed, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” 

The passage in I John becomes a companion to the Gospel of John to confirm and enforce the Gospel message, and to assure those who say they believe, that they believe in the Jesus Christ of the Bible and have eternal life. 

Who Was John The Beloved?

John was one of the sons of Zebedee. With his brother James, they were known as the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). Converted under John the Baptist, he was introduced to Jesus Christ by his teacher John and was one of the earliest of disciples to follow Christ. 

This son of thunder will be known by Christ as the “beloved disciple” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:1-2; 21:7&20). We can see this affection for John displayed throughout the gospels. There was something unique about John’s love for Christ. 

John authored the Gospel According to John, three Epistles and the book of Revelation. Together they are known as the Johannine books of the Bible. 

He lived during the reigns of two important Roman Emperors. He faced persecution from Rome under emperor Domitian (81-96AD). Domitian persecuted Christians in Rome because they would not pay money to the god Jupiter. Domitian also required to be worshiped, believing himself to be a god. Of course, the Roman Christians refused to worship anyone other than the God of the Bible. John lived through a period when many had their property confiscated, were banished from the city, or were put to death. He also faced further persecution from emperor Trajan (98-117 AD). Under Trajan, Christianity was again outlawed. He knew that a true Christian would not lie and would admit to worshiping Jesus Christ. If an individual was accused, they were brought before the court and asked, “Are you a christian?” If “yes”, then they were arrested and tried. Many Christian leaders would be tortured and martyred. 

John will face exile to the isle of Patmos but will die a natural death. He is the only disciple to die of natural causes. 

Characteristics Of John's First Epistle

Who Is Johns First Epistle Written Too? 

John’s first epistle was written in 81 AD from Ephesus. Ephesus had become the center for the Christian church at this time. 

There is no address at the introduction of the epistle. John does not specifically mention a church or individual the epistle is intended for, as other NT writers. 

  • Romans 1:7, …to all that be in Rome, beloved of God…
  • I Corinthians 1:2, …unto the church of God which is at Corinth…
  • Galatians 1:2, …and all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia. 
  • I Peter 1:1, …to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Glatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia

To whom then did John write this first epistle?

Throughout the book believers are referred to as “little children”, emphasizing John’s focus on the family of God:

  • I John 2:1 – my little children
  • I John 2:18 – little children
  • I John 2:28 – and now, little children
  • I John 3:7 – little children, let no man deceive you
  • I John 3:18 – my little children, let us not love in word
  • I John 4:4 – ye are of God, little children
  • I John 5:21 – little children, keep yourselves from idols

John’s message to the believer, the “little children” in the family of God is that the life of the believer is in Christ. The life of the believer and the manifestation of that life is Christian character, which reflects the transforming work of Christ in the heart. 

John will emphasis that God is light and God is love, therefore, those born of God must manifest that light and love. 

Seven Contrasts In I John

  1. I John 1:5 – 2:11 – Light vs Darkness
  2. I John 2:12 – 17 – the Father vs the World
  3. I John 2:18 – 28 – Christ vs Antichrist
  4. I John 2:29 – 3:24 – Good Works vs Evils Works
  5. I John 4:1 – 6 – Holy Spirit vs Error
  6. I John 4:7 – 21 – Love vs Pious Pretense
  7. I John 5:1 – 21 – God-born vs Others

Seven Traits of a Born Again Believer

John wants us to know Christ, as he knows Christ. The word “born again” or “born of God” is in the perfect tense. This means that a crises experience is then kept up to the present moment in the believers life. 

  1. I John 1:3 – that we may have fellowship together
  2. I John 1:4 – that our joy may be full
  3. I John 2:1 – that we sin not
  4. John 2:13-17 – that we overcome and love not the world
  5. I John 2:21-24 – because ye know the truth
  6. I John 2:26 – because there are those that seduce you
  7. I John 5:13 – that ye may know ye have eternal life

Seven Tests Of Christian Genuineness

  1. I John 1:6 – We must not walk in darkness
  2. I John 1:8 – We must not say that we have no sin to be cleansed from
  3. I John 1:10 – We must not say we have not sinned
  4. I John 2:4 – We must keep his commandments
  5. I John 2:6 – If we say we abide in Him then we must walk as He walked
  6. I John 2:9 – We cannot be in the light and hate our brother. 
  7. I John 4:20 – We cannot hate our brother and love God

Seven Times Of Testing Honesty & Reality

  1. I John 1:6 – False Fellowship (Not being honest with others.)
  2. I John 1:8 – False Sanctity (Not being honest with himself.)
  3. I John 1:10 – False Righteousness (Not being honest with God.)
  4. I John 2:4 – False Allegiance (Not being honest with Christ.)
  5. I John 2:6 – False Behavior (Not being honest with the world.)
  6. I John 2:9 – False Spirituality (Not being honest with his Christian brother.)
  7. I John 4:20 – False Love to God (Not being honest with all.) 

Evidences Of True Christianity Series

You may follow this series of Bible studies on the Epistle of I John by clicking the titles below. As each new study is published, the link will be added for quick access. 

Part 1: John’s Message To The Church: “My Little Children”

Part 2: Confessing That Jesus Is The Son Of God

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