1 John Bible Study:

The Joy of Fellowship

When you study the Bible book of 1 John, you will find a book that is filled with hope.  It is a book that reminds Christians that their sins can be forgiven, through the blood of Jesus.  It is a book that gives Christians assurance of their home in heaven.  It is one of the most encouraging books in the New Testament.

It is a book about people just like you.  It is about people who make mistakes, and when they do, Jesus is at the right hand of God pleading on our behalf, and that helps us to live with confidence and secure in our relationship with God.  What an uplifting book!

To study the book of 1 John or any Bible book, there are three essential questions that need to be answered.  Knowing the answers to these question will help you become familiar with the contextual setting.  And knowing the contextual setting will give you a better sense of what the verses and chapters mean.


1 John Bible Study:  Who Wrote the Book?

The first thing you need to do when you study the book of 1 John is to figure out who wrote the book.  

Usually answering this question is fairly simple.  It only requires that you look at the first verse.  In most of the New Testament books, the author identifies himself in the very first verse.  That’s not the case in 1 John.  In fact, the author does not identify himself anywhere in this book.  The title of the book is uninspired and added by man, but the inspired writer never mentioned himself by name.  To know who wrote this book, you will need to do a little bit of digging.


There is a hint in the writing style

The Bible was written using the writing style of the individual authors.  Study the book carefully and notice how 1 John begins.

1 John 1.1-3:  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life —  the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us —  that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”


When  you compare the above passage with the beginning of the gospel of John, you will find some very striking similarities. 

John 1.1-4:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Notice the similarities in the terminology, the doctrines, and the language between these two passages.

  • Jesus is from the beginning.  (1 John 1.1; John 1.1)
  • Jesus is the Word.  (1 John 1.1; John 1.1)
  • Jesus is life.  (1 John 1.1; John 1.1)
  • Jesus dwelt among men.  (1 John 1.1; John 1.14)

Based on these and many other similarities we can conclusively say that the book of 1 John was written by the same author of the gospel of John.  It was the apostle John who wrote both books.


Who is the apostle John?

There were some good friends in the life of Jesus.  He had His twelve apostles.  Of these twelve apostles, there were three who resided in the Lord’s inner circle.  They saw things, heard things, and experienced things that the rest of the apostles never experienced  (Matt. 17.1; 26.36,37).

Of the three disciples who were in the Lord’s inner circle, one of those three was the Lord’s best friend.  He was the apostle John.  This makes the gospel of John and the three epistles of John very unique.  They were written by a man who was closest to Jesus.  John was closer to Jesus than any other disciple, so his letters were written from a unique perspective.  

If you study 1 John and other places in the Bible where he is mentioned, you will learn that the apostle John was a very humble man.  It is of great interest that he never mentioned himself by name in any of the books he wrote.  In the gospel of John which we know to have been written by him, he only refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved.  For example…

  • John 13.23:  "Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved."
  • John 20.2:  "Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved." 
  • John 21.7:  "Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, 'It is the Lord!'"
  • John 21.20:  "Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper."

It’s no surprise that John never identifies himself in 1 John.  He was such a humble individual, he never mentioned himself even in the gospel of John.  It is this apostle John who also wrote the gospel of John, a man who was the Lord’s best friend, and a man who was so humble that he would not mention his own name that wrote this epistle.  


1 John Bible Study:  To Whom was the Book Written?

Not only do you need to understand who wrote the book of 1 John, but you also need to know the target audience.  If you study the book of 1 John or any other book of the Bible, knowing the audience will help flavor the text and give context to the thoughts behind what the author writes.  From your study, you will learn two things about the audience.


John is writing to Christians

Keep studying the book of 1 John and read 1 John 2.12-14:

1 John 2.12-14:  I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake.  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 wicked one.  I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father.  I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.  I have written to you, young men,  because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.

In these verses you will find a phrase repeated 6 times:  “I write to you.”  After each time that this phrase is used, you can learn to whom John wrote. 

  • John wrote to those whose sins are forgiven.  (v. 12)
  • John wrote to those who have known Jesus.  (v. 13)
  • John wrote to those who have overcome the wicked one.  (v. 13)
  • John wrote to those who knew God.  (v. 13)
  • John wrote to those who were strong and the word of God abides in them.  (v. 14)

This was a book that was written to a group of people whose sins were forgiven, who had a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and were living their lives guided by the word of God.  This was a book written to Christians.

There is something else that you can learn about the people that John is addressing by studying the book of 1 John.  You will discover that John is writing to people who were struggling with sin.


John is writing to people struggling with sin

Studying this book will also tell you that these were Christians who were struggling with sin.  If you back up to 1 John 1, and study verses five through the end of the chapter, John writes that God light.  Those who are walking in darkness (living in sin) cannot have fellowship with God.  

1 John 1.6-8:  "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

John is addressing Christians.  Some of these Christians were struggling with sin.  In fact, some of them were in denial.  They claimed to be in fellowship with God who is light  (1 John 1.5).  But they themselves were walking in darkness.  They had invited sin into their lives and then acted as if they had done nothing wrong.  

Here are Christians who thought they had fellowship with God, but they had unresolved sin in their lives.  John tells those Christians who ignored their sins and denied their guilt that they were deceiving themselves and the truth was not in them.

So far in this Bible study of 1 John, we have learned that the book of 1 John was written by the apostle John with a unique perspective as someone who was close to Jesus.  He wrote this book to Christians, those who had received the forgiveness of God.  Some of them were struggling with sin and pretending that they were still right with God.

There is also a third question that needs to be asked.



1 John Bible Study:  Why Did John Write this Book?

Not only do you need to know who wrote this book and the audience that the writer was addressing, but you also need to know the purpose of the book.  What was John’s intention when he wrote this book?  When the apostle John addresses these Christians who were struggling with sin, what was he trying to accomplish?

Often in the Bible, the writer will express his purpose.  To understand what the book of 1 John is all about, you can search through the book and study those verses where John states his intention.  When you do such a study of the Bible, look for words like "write" and "writing."  These verses indicate purpose.  When you study 1 John, you will find that there are three such verses.  These three verses will alert you to why John write this book.   


John wrote this book to fill us with joy

The first verse that tells us why John wrote this book is in 1 John 1:4.

1 John 1.4:  “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”

John was writing this book because he wanted these Christians to be full of joy.  He wanted them to be happy.

The word that is translated as “joy” comes from a Greek word that describes being full to the running over.   Imagine having a glass.  You take the glass and fill it with your favorite beverage.  As you pour your drink into a glass, it fills up to the very top.  The liquid ends up so full that if you were to add just one more drop to the glass, it would overflow and run down the sides.  That’s the concept of “full” in our verse.  

John is writing this book because he wants Christians to know that we should be happy.  We should be so happy that we are overflowing with joy.  We find similar thoughts in the book of Philippians.  Philippians is a book that contains the word, “joy,” “rejoicing,” or some form of those words nineteen times in just four chapters.  It is a book telling us that the Christian life should be a life of joy.  

This is why John is writing this book.  He wants you to know that the Christian life is to be a life full of joy.  Christians can look forward to going to heaven and being with God.  Christians have a wonderful relationship with God.  Christians have a wonderful relationship with other Christians.  There is so much reason to be happy, and John wrote this to remind us of that.


John wrote this book to keep us from sin

If you keep reading through the book and diligently study the Bible book of 1 John, you will also find another verse that tells us why John wrote this book.  The second time that John explains the purpose of the book is in 1 John 2:12.

1 John 2.12:  “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

John was writing this book because he wanted these Christians to not sin.  This makes sense considering what we discovered about the recipients of this letter.  Remember that these were Christians who were struggling with sin.  If we back up to the first chapter, we learn that there were Christians who had sinned and were denying it.  They were saying they have not sinned and they were not sinning  (1 John 1.8-10). 

Keep reading and you will come to chapter 2 where John says that he is writing to them so that they will not keep on sinning.  He then adds that even if they do sin, there is a solution.  There is an Advocate, a defense attorney who will plead their case for them.  John wanted them to know that.

Keep reading through 1 John and study what you find in chapter 3.  It is there that you will discover the Bible definition of sin.  According to John, the Bible definition of sin is “lawlessness”  (1 John 3.4).  Literally, the idea is of breaking God’s law.  John tells us that when you break the laws of God, you are committing sin.  This is a book that was written to help us turn away from sin and avoid breaking God’s laws.

We all have weaknesses.  There are desires that the devil will throw in our path to tempt us.  Sometimes we give into those weaknesses.  John says that he is writing this book to help you not give into those temptations.  But if you do give into temptation and sin, as a Christian, you have Someone who sits right next to God and will plead your case for you.  The one who sitting next to God and acting as our Advocate is “Jesus Christ the righteous.”  


John wrote the book to give us confidence of heaven

Keep reading though the book of 1 John and study chapter 5.  When you come to this last chapter of the book, you will be alerted to the third reason why John wrote this book.  

1 John 5.13:  “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

Remember earlier as we studied the book of 1 John, we discovered that it was written to Christians.  How are Christians defined?  This verse tells us that he has written to those "who believe in the name of the Son of God."  That tells you that a Christian is one who believes in the name of the Son of God.  But why did he write to Christians?

He continues in this verse that he wrote these things “that you may know that you have eternal life.”  Having eternal life is something that you can know.  You never have to go through life wondering if you will or will not make it to heaven.  The Bible tells you exactly what you need to know so that you can know where you stand with God.  The Bible tells you exactly what you need to know so that you can become a Christian and have the confidence of knowing that heaven is waiting for you.  John is writing this letter to remind Christians that they can have confidence in their eternal future.


Let’s put it all together.

Here is a book written by the apostle John, the one whom Jesus loved.  It was written to a group of Christians because he wanted them to know that if they have committed any sins, they can have them removed by the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus.

Having a life that is now free from sin, they can have the assurance of knowing that they are going to heaven.  With the peace of being without sin and being assured of heaven, these Christians would be filled with joy and happiness.  That is the book of 1 John.




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