The 1John Series

The Theme of 1John

The book of 1John is all about how to identify those born of God. Though there are those who propose IJohn is about the relative degrees of fellowship which Christians have with God, the letter generally doesn't speak in relative terms but in absolute terms. For example he says,

"This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:10

"We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him."1John 3:14,15

These kind of verses show the basic message of 1John, namely:
1. Its about identifying children of God and distinguishing them from the children of the devil.

2. As evidence of such, it's about the correlation between a person's behavior and their salvation status.

1John Outine

How to identify those born of God

Evidence from Walking in the Light 1:1-2:2 Evidence from Walking in Obedience 2:3-17 Evidence from Walking in the Spirit Praying for Nominal Christians 5:14-17 Knowing the True Christ 5:18-21

Interpreting the Present Tense

1John was originally written in ancient Greek, and as anyone who speaks more than one language knows, it's often difficult to translate the nuances of one language into another. One of the nuances of Koine Greek has to do with one of the possible usages of the present tense.

The present tense in Greek can have a strong sense of continuity of which I believe John makes use of in his letter. For there there is another tense which we don't have in English, known as the aorist which tends to be used when continuity is not stressed or when one wishes to express punctilinear events (events that occur at discrete points in time).

When John uses the present tense here, he is using it in the sense of the "lifestyle" of the person. For example, "walking" is referring to the overall lifestyle of the person, not what the person is doing at any particular point in time.

Thus much of what we will be reading of in 1John will be speaking of a person's overall lifestyle in contrast to that of particular events which may be uncharacteristic of the person's lifestyle. This will aid us in interpreting and applying 1John.

The Word made Flesh

1Jn 1:1-2 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.

John's main purpose in writing is to provide ways to identify real Christians and distinguishing them from cults. One of the cults he addresses in this letter is "Docetism". The following is taken from Zondervan's Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible:

Thus throughout the letter, John emphasizes the physical nature of Christ's incarnation.S Also compare how he starts this letter with what he says in the first chapter of his gospel:

John 1:1,14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

Making Joy Complete

1Jn 1:2-4  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

Elsewhere John says, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3John 1:4 In other words he's writing to them so that they would walk in the truth, and consequently that would complete his joy. What is implied is that he sees some deficiency among them on this point.

What about you? What would make your joy complete? And do you share this in common with John?

God is light

1Jn 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

What does it mean that God is light?
1. The Revelation of Truth
2. Holiness

This metaphor "light" is very commonly used throughout the New Testamenta and most commonly associated with these two concepts. For example it says,

"the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth" Eph 5:9
"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" 2Cor 6:14

And Jesus said, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." John 3:19,20

Walking in Self-Deception

1Jn 1:6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

Why do people chose to walk in darkness?  Jesus said, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." John 3:19

A person's "walk" is their lifestyle. If a person claims to be in fellowship with the LORD, but has a lifestyle inconsistent with that which is revealed in the Bible, such a person is not in fellowship with the LORD. And such is not atypical of what you'll find in the Christian community, which is why John is pointing this out. For many claim to have fellowship with the LORD, but their claims are in vain if their claims are inconsistent with their lifestyle.

Consider yourself. How do you know whether your own claim of being in fellowship with God is true?

Walking in the Light

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

Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."John 8:12

One of the effects of walking in the light is the experience of fellowship with other genuine believers. But what is also implied here is that only those walking in the light will have their sins purified by the blood of Jesus. Not that salvation is contingent upon living a certain lifestyle. But rather that living a lifestyle consistent with the Christian faith reveals genuine faith; a faith upon which purification from sin is contingent. If you are not walking in the light, you will not be purified from all sin. This is one of the ideas in 1John.

Claiming to be Without Sin

1Jn 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

There are those in the Christian community who claim to be without sin. Such people are also self-deceived, turning a blind eye to their own sins.

There are those who interpret verse 8 as applying only to those who deny the sinful nature. But that is not case when considered in light of verse 9. For in clarifying what is meant by the claim to be "without sin", John contrasts it with the idea of confessing our sins. Thus to claim to be without sin is the claim that a person no longer commits sins.

True that perhaps every Christian has certain blind spots in their lives, areas in which they are not aware of committing sin. For God tends to progressively reveal sin so that the person may mature gradually and not be overwhelmed and discouraged in the light of the depth of their sinfulness. But for a person to be completely bind to their own sin, such is indicative of one who is unsaved, walking in complete darkness.

Confessing our Sins

1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

A issue arises here in that if forgiveness is contingent upon our confession of particular sins then that would mean that each time a person sins they lose their salvation until they confess their sins, which seems a bit of a works-based salvation among other things.

But with John's usage of the Greek Present (lifestyle) Tense for "confess" as opposed to an Aorist punctilinear confession, what I believe he's referring to is the idea that if we are the kind of people who characteristically acknowledge our sins, then we are those whom, in accordance with his promise, God forgives, and forgives not only with respect to sins of which we are aware of but also all other unrighteousness which infects our lives, of which He is in the process of purifying us.

The Word finds no Place

1Jn 1:10  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

The Bible says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Rom 3:23 For a person to claim they are not among those who have sinned means they are calling God a liar. "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." Ecc 7:20

This is one reason why people exhibit hatred for the message of the gospel and for its messengers, because it deals with their sinning. Jesus said, "(the world) hates me because I testify that what it does is evil." John 7:7 Not only do such people not find any place for the Word, nor find any time for the Word, but they run away from it. (What I call "The Vampire Syndrome") "Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." John 3:20 The World hates and fears the Word of God.

Thankfully the Word has found a place in your life.

We have an Advocate

1Jn 2:1  My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense— Jesus Christ, the Righteous One

Jesus is our defense attorney such that we need not be concerned of speaking in our own defense on the judgement day as others must. Jesus speaks on our behalf. So in answer to the question as to how you should respond if God were to ask you on the judgement day, "Why should I let you into my kingdom?", you only need answer, "You'll have to talk to my attorney. He's sitting at your right hand side."

Another thing from this verse is the fact that though are sins are forgiven, this does not imply we have a license to sin. Much to the contrary, for Jesus "gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." Titus 2;14 But at the same time, realize that those born of God might sin from time to time. The verse "does sin" is in the Aorist tense. It is not referring to one's lifestyle, but to events which occur from time to time uncharacteristic of one's lifestyle.

Appeasing God's wrath

1Jn 2:2  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Nothing else appeases God's wrath on sin but Jesus' death on the cross. For "it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,  he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand." Is 53:10 And Jesus said, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. John 12:32,33

God our Savior "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." 1Tim 2:4 Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. In preaching to non-Christians we should not say, "May be Jesus died for your sins and maybe he didn't. I don't know." We should not say, "Maybe God loves you or maybe he doesn't. Maybe he hates you so much he predestined you for eternal damnation and there's nothing you can do about it!" Rather we should say, "God loves you and wants you to be saved. Jesus died for your sins and he declares that if you come to faith in him, your sins will be forgiven."  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 Of course we'd want to elaborate upon what constitutes "faith in him.", but the point is that Jesus died for the sins of everyone around us - regardless of whether they ultimately end up in heaven or hell.

Evidence from Obedience

1Jn 2:3,4 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

This is one of the external evidences that one has come to know Christ. Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Mt 7:21 In fact referring to Jesus as Lord is not supposed to be simply an acknowledgement of his Diety, but rather it's supposed to  imply one's intention of doing what he says. Thus Jesus asks the rhetorical question, "Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?" Luke 6:46

A person has not come to know Christ, let alone believe in him, if they have simply prayed a prayer to be saved without any actual intention of obeying him. That is not the kind of faith the qualifies one for salvation, as James writes in Jas 2:14, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?" Apparently not!

Walking as Jesus did

1Jn 2:5,6  But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

It is not that obedience indicates that our love is made complete, but rather that God's love for us drives us to obedience, so that the person who realizes God's love for the world will naturally obey God's commands. What kind of a lifestyle would be characteristic of such a person? A lifestyle which emulates Christ as he lived in the gospels. Not that we are called to wear robes and sandals, but rather there are allegorical links between Jesus's ministry and that which is the appropriate lifestyle for believers today.

For example in John 17 Jesus said of his followers, "they are not of the world any more than I am of the world." John 17:14 As Jesus was set apart for a mission in this world, we are also called to be on a mission, "to go and make disciples of all nations." Mt 28:19 We are called to serve. We are called to be holy. We can expect to be hated by the world as Jesus was.  For he said, "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." There are many aspects of Jesus' attitude, mission, the events in his life, etc., find application in the Christian life.

The Old New Commandment

1Jn 2:7-8  Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

The commandment he is alluding to is of course John 13:34 where Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." Those who love fellow believers show themselves to be enlightened.

As for the "true light", John speaks of that elsewhere in John 1:9 saying, "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." He's referring to Jesus. And Paul writes, "God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." 2Cor 4:6

Loving/Hating your brother

1Jn 2:9-11  Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

One of the most fundamental evidences distinguishing children of God from children of the devil which John speaks of throughout his letter is the evidence as to how one treats fellow Christians. There are false brethren in the Christian community who distinguish themselves by their unjustified hatred for legitimate Christians. Though they claim to be enlightened, and though they even claim to love fellow Christians, such people are lying if their lifestyle is inconsistent with their claims.

The reasons why they hate legitimate Christians is much the same as to why the world hated Christ. For example Jesus said to his unblieving brothers, "The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil." John 7:7 The most fundamental reason why false brethren hate legitimate Christians is because of sin. "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." John 3:19,20

Therefore, "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. ...  But everything exposed by the light becomes visible" Eph 5:11,13 And by doing so you might just be able to distinguish genuine brethren from false brethen in your midst.

To Whom I'm  Writing

1Jn 2:12-14 I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

John is about to speak to them about their relationship with the world. But before doing so he clarifies here to whom he will be addressing his instructions. These are those of whom God is their Father, and who have known the true God, and whose sins have been forgiven and thus are in a right relationship with God, and who live by the Word of God and overcome the influences of the devil. May such be characteristic of all of us!

Do Not Love the World

1John 2:15,16  Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world— the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does— comes not from the Father but from the world.

We are not to love worldiness. We are not to conform our desires and goals to the sinful society in which we live, though the society rewards those who do so. The passions of the flesh and the praise of men, these are not what are to control the children of God. Rather we are to find our greatest satisfaction in doing the will of God. We are to seek the things which are eternal, as Moses did:

"By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward."Heb 11:24-26

Passing Away

1John 2:17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

"The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness." 2Pet 3:10-13

In view of these facts, how then shall we live? What should be our priorities in life?

"The time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away." 1Cor 7:29-31

Everything else is secondary to seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness.

Grow in Grace and Knowledge

1John 2:18  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Sanctification is a two-fold process. By his grace God progressively empowers us to live the Christian life. And secondly he progressively matures us in the knowledge of him.

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." Eph 4:11-13

Grace is obtained by knowledge, and in particular through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For example how does a person obtain the grace of God for salvation? It is through knowledge of the gospel in which our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is revealed, and through faith in whom salvation is contingent. And where does faith come from? "Faith comes from hearing the message" Rom 10:17 So also with respect to the grace of sanctification. Such is contingent upon the knowledge of God available in the Word of God, activated by the Spirit of God. For the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.

Children of God

1John 3:1  How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

It was gracious enough that Christ died for our sins so as to reconcile us to God, but to go beyond that and give us the status of children of God is really over the top! Of course sonship is limited to those who have faith in Christ. "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" Gal 3:26 And "to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" John 1:12

"Now if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ" Rom 8:17

Yet just as the world did not recognize the Son of God so also the world does not recognize the sons of God. But the theme of 1John is that, having known the Father, we can recognize those who have been born of God.

A Motive for Purity

1John 3:2,3  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Likewise Peter writes, "Since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him." 2Pet 3:14 And Paul, after speaking of scripture which promises, "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty", says, "Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." 2Cor 7:1

1.So if you want to be motivated to seek holiness, keep in mind your final destiny.
2. If a person isn't purfying themselves, that may be indicative that they don't believe.(In other words another indicator of whether one has been born of God is by whether they are purifying themselves)

Continuing to Sin?

1John 3:4-6  Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

John is clear here that sin is associated with a certain behavior - namely lawlessness. And as Jesus appeared to take away our sins, those who live in him purifying themselves from sin. If a person does continue to sin, that indicates they had never come to know Christ. This is an indicator of  whether one has been born of God.

But realize also that the sense in which John is speaking is that of overall lifestyle or the general characateristic of the person. He's using the Greek Present Tense here, which as I mentioned at the beginning of this study he uses in this sense. He's not speaking of what a person might do uncharacteristically from time to time. He's not speaking of sinless perfection here. Nonetheless, as we will see throughout this chapter, this characteristic is measurable. It is something which can be seen and determined to a relative degree.

Don't be Deceived

1John 3:7-8  Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

There are many warnings in the New Testament concerning being led astray in this matter. Both in the early church and today many Christians are led astray to believe that there is not necessarily any correlation between one's behavior and one's salvation status. The Bible warns:

1Cor 6:9,10 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 6:7  Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

Ephesians 5:5,6 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person— such a man is an idolater— has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.

To the unbelievers Jesus said, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." John 8:44

Those who are children of God reflect the character of their Father, and likewise the children of the devil theirs as will further be elaborated upon in the next verses.

1John 3:9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.

While there have been many different interpretations of this verse, only one is correct. From my analysis at I conclude