“A good man … yes … perhaps one of the best who ever lived … but just a man,” say many. Others disagree, claiming that he suffered from delusions of grandeur—a “messiah complex.” And the argument rages over the true identity of this man called Jesus. Suggestions have ranged from “simple teacher” to “egomaniac” and “misguided fool.” Whoever he was, all would agree that Jesus left his mark on history.
Hearing these discussions, even Christians can begin to wonder and doubt. Is Jesus really God? Did he come to save sinners like us? Does God care about me?
First John was written to dispel doubts and to build assurance by presenting a clear picture of Christ. Entering history, Jesus was and is God in the flesh and God in focus—seen, heard, and touched by the author of this letter, John the apostle. John walked and talked with Jesus, saw him heal, heard him teach, watched him die, met him arisen, and saw him ascend. John knew God—he had lived with him and had seen him work. And John enjoyed fellowship with the Father and the Son all the days of his life.
The elder statesman in the church, John wrote this letter to his “dear children.” In it he presented God as light, as love, and as life. He explained in simple and practical terms what it means to have fellowship with God.
At the same time, false teachers had entered the church, denying the incarnation of Christ. John wrote to correct their serious errors. So John’s letter is a model for us to follow as we combat modern heresies.
John opens this letter by presenting his credentials as an eyewitness of the Incarnation and by stating his reason for writing (1:1–4). He then presents God as “light,” symbolizing absolute purity and holiness (1:5–7), and he explains how believers can walk in the light and have fellowship with God (1:8–10). If they do sin, Christ is their advocate (2:1, 2). John urges them to obey Christ fully and to love all the members of God’s family (2:3–17). He warns his readers of “antichrists” and the Antichrist who will try to lead them away from the truth (2:18–29).
In the next section, John presents God as “love”—giving, dying, forgiving, and blessing (3:1–4:21). God is love, and because God loves us, he calls us his children and makes us like Christ (3:1, 2). This truth should motivate us to live close to him (3:3–6). We can be sure of our family relationship with God when our lives are filled with good deeds and love for others (3:7–24). Again, John warns of false teachers who twist the truth. We should reject these false teachers (4:1–6) as we continue to live in God’s love (4:7–21).
In the last section, John presents God as “life” (5:1–21). God’s life is in his Son. To have his Son is to have eternal life.
Do you know God? Do you know Christ? Do you know that you have eternal life? First John was written to help you know the reality of God in your life through faith in Christ, to assure you that you have eternal life, and to encourage you to remain in fellowship with the God who is light and love. Read this letter written by one overwhelmed by God’s love, and with renewed confidence, pass on his love to others.
Life Application Bible Notes (Tyndale, 2007), 2143.