Lessons on 1 John



The purpose of these notes is to help and aid busy pastors, teachers, and Bible students as they study the Word of God.   I will not deal with technical aspects, nor with questions such as authorship, provenance, etc., since there are ample scholarly resources available for the student to examine those aspects of Biblical study.  What I will seek to do, by God’s Grace, is to delve deeply into the text, and bring out, in context, the full message and meaning of the Apostle John’s general letter.


By way of introduction, therefore, I will only state that I believe with certainty that the author of this epistle was the apostle John, and that it was written (as we shall see in the text) to comfort and encourage Christians in general and to provide them with tests for determining genuine faith from false faith, and to provide them with ammunition with which to fight against the early heresies that were arising in the first century church.



Lesson 1

The Eternal, Witnessed, Manifested, Proclaimed Word

1 John 1:1-4


Introductory Thoughts


·        1 John is a book about passing tests.  The tests in 1 John include the following tests


2:3è obedience

2:15è allegiance





·        1 John is a book about settled knowledge è 5:13-20 gives us a list of things we know, and the construction of the Greek in that passage shows that John is speaking of an absolute and settled knowledge, as we shall see when we get there.


·        1 John, written by the aged apostle to confront and challenge believers and protect against anti-Christian cults.  The warnings are found throughout the book, some subtle, some very direct.


·        The preface =è 1:1-4


Ø     The central thought of the preface is found in the main verb è we declare, 1:3  present tense, which has the sense of continuity—we are declaring and continue to declare.


Ø     What is the apostle declaring?


1.     The Apostle is declaring that Jesus Christ is The Eternal Word – 1:1a, 1:2b—“…"That which was from the beginning,… concerning the Word of life;…2… that eternal life which was with the Father…”


a.      Language


(1)             HÏ ƒí PðE Pñ÷yòthe verb is in the imperfect tense—refers to continuous existence in a time before the time indicated

(2)             But the time indicated is “from the beginning,”

(3)             This, of course, means that the subject of this sentence is an eternal person or thing, with continuous existence before the beginning.


b.     The Beginning: “That which was from the beginning…”  


ü     “…in the beginning, was the Word…”  John 1:1

ü     Micah 5:2  "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."

ü     John 8:58  "Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am."

ü     Rev 22:13  "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last."


(1)   Christ has always been

(2)   He had no beginning, there was never a time or any space before time when Christ was not.

(3)   He was not made, created, or generated—He always was and always shall be.


c.     There are two very significant words here: “beginning” and “was.”  In the beginning WAS the Word…He already was!   Was—h#n –in the original, the verb indicates continual existence in the past, NOT AN ORIGIN, BUT A CONTINUAL PAST!


(1)  What was before the beginning?  Eternal glory, and nothing else!  John 17:5, 24

(2)  Contrast—


(a)  John came into being (eg<eneto)—John 1:6

(b) The Word became flesh (eg<eneto)—Jesus always was, but He took on our flesh

(c) John 8:58—Abraham came into being (genesqai) but I AM—eimi, shows continuous existence


d.     Jesus Christ is an Eternal Being—no beginning, no end.

He is Eternal—“…in the beginning, the Word already was….”  Micah 5:2, Rev 22:13


e.      In the beginning, the Word already was—He did not come to be in the beginning, He did not begin at the beginning, He was already.


f.       Exo 3:14-15  "And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. 15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations."


g.     Thus it makes more sense when we read later that Jesus calls Himself the I AM, for He is self-existent, He had no beginning, He has no end. 


h.     He is a Separate Person From the Father, Yet One With Him. John 1:1  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God..” 2 The same was in the beginning with God.


(1)     There are in our day heretics who try to make Christ and the Father to be the same person with a different mask—but Christ and His Father are separate persons.

(2)     He was “face to face with” God

(3)     He was “with God,” that was His natural state.


i.        Jesus Christ Is God—John 1:1  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."


(1) He is not “a” God, He is The God— John 20:28  "And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God."

(2) He is not “god in the sense that all men are divine”—He is God.

(3) He is not “a man in whom God came to dwell”—He is God.

(4) He is not “the son of God only”—He is God

(5) He is not a man who became God—He IS God

(6) Christ is the eternal God, very God of very God, one with the Father and Spirit, yet distinct in His personality.

(7) If you examine the pages of scripture, you will find:


(a)   He is called God.

(b)  He is called God by men—( John 20:28)

(c)  He is called God by the Father—Heb 1:8  "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom."

(d)   He accepts worship from men and angels

(e)    He does the works of God

(i)     Creation—John 1:3

(ii)   Preservation of the universe—Col 1:17

(iii)             The forgiveness of sins –Mat 9:2

(iv)             The giving of eternal life –John 5:24

(v)  He demonstrated His power over nature, over disease, demon powers, even over death—Matt. chapter 8

(vi)            He possesses divine attributes.

(i)                Self existence –John 8:58

(ii)               Eternity (see above)

(iii)             Omniscience –John 1:45-47

(iv)             Omnipresence –Mat 18:18-20

(v)               Immutability –Heb 13:8

(vi)            Omnipotence –Mat 28:18


(vii)          He claims to be Jehovah God—John 8:58  "Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am."


2.     The Eternal Word Comes Into History—“… which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled…2  the life was manifested, …”


a.      The Words


(1)  Heard—Perfect tense—this is settled in John’s mind. He heard Christ over a period of time, and the effect continues to the present.

(2)  Seen with our own eyes—perfect tense—same effect as (1)

(3)  Looked upon—different word from “seen”—the exact form as Jn 1:14, in aorist tense—the important thing here is that it happened. 


(a)  When John heard Him, that was one thing…

(b) When John saw Him with his own eyes, that was one thing…

(c) But when John really beheld Him in His glory—that was another thing altogether

(d) When did John behold Him thus?

(i)                On the Mount of transfiguration (Mat 17)

(ii)              On Calvary’s mountain

(iii)            On the Mount of Olives

(iv)            John did not just SEE Him, John BEHELD Him


(4)  Handled with our own hands—Lk 24:39—also aorist—John did not just handle Him during His ministry, but John handled Him after His resurrection.  The resurrection’s reality is no problem for John, He handled Him—John, with his own hands, handled Him.


b.     The theological meaning—


(1)   This is settled as far as John is concerned

(2)   This is not talking about anything mystical.  The absolute reality of the witnessed events and the witnessed Word is being stressed.

(3)   The main point—God has entered history—the Son came.

(a)He lived for us

(b)  He died for us

(c)   He rose for us

(d)  He ascended for us

(e)He intercedes for us

(f) He will return for us


3.     The Eternal Word Declared—“…and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us; 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you…”


a.      Declared what and Who He is

b.     Declared what was witnessed

c.     Declared the real message about the real God Man who was really seen, really heard, really handled

d.     This is the apostolic Gospel, and so should we be declaring the Gospel—1 Cor 15:1-11


4.     The Eternal Fellowship—“… that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ…”


a.      Definition of Fellowship—Koinonia—Not just getting together to share fun and a meal, though that is certainly part of it--


Rom 15:26  For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution (Koinonia)  for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.


1 Cor 1:9  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship (Koinonia) of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


2 Cor 6:14  Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion (Koinonia) has light with darkness?


Gal 2:9  and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship (Koinonia) , that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.


Eph 3:9  ........the fellowship (Koinonia)  of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;


Phil 3:10  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship (Koinonia) of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,


b.     Fellowship with us—


(1)  The deeper koinonia, the fullness of koinonia, is when believers in Christ work together to fulfill the mission of a New Testament church by proclaiming Biblical Truth without compromise and loving people without reservation


(2)  Koinonia occurs when believers follow Christ individually, and when the local church follows Christ corporately


(3)  Koinonia occurs when the Glory of God is the supreme goal of the church individually and corporately


c.     That—“..i[va..” in order that—purpose clause


d.     Verb “have”  present tense, subjunctive—“…may keep on having fellowship…”  (AT Robertson)


e.      Fellowship—1 Pet 4:13—with meta, emphasizing mutual relationship (Acts 2:42) (AT Robertson)


f.       Fellowship with the Father and the Son—John 17!


(1)   Here we see the essence of salvation!

(2)   The common view of salvation

(a)Salvation from the penalty of sin

(b)  Salvation from Hell

(c)   Salvation to Heaven

(3)   The more mature view of salvation—all the above, plus

(a)Salvation from the power of sin

(b)  Salvation to serve God

(c)   Salvation to serve people

(4)   The full view of salvation—all the above are just the side benefits!  Salvation is about present, continuous, and everlasting fellowship with the Triune God!


(a)John 17:3—“should keep on knowing…”  (AT Robertson)

(i)                ginw<skwsin—experiential knowledge

(ii)              The essence of eternal life is continual knowledge and fellowship with the One True God.


(b)  John 10:27


g.     The Trinitarian emphasis—see 2:22-23 and 4:1-3!  If you do not believe who Jesus is, you will not be enjoying the fellowship.


5.     The Eternal Joy Comes into Our Lives —“… 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full."


a.      The message which leads to joy—

(1)  These things—everything in the letter

(2)  These things—everything John has witnessed and declared


b.     The objects of the Joy—your joy (or our joy)—which one makes no difference!


c.     The Fullness of Joy


(1)   The verb stresses the state of completion—Robertson

(2)   “Remain full..”

(3)   John 16:24