The writer of this epistle is the apostle John. The opinion of Bible students in general is in agreement with this, and in comparison it bears a positive likeness to the Gospel of John. The epistle was probably written about 90 A.D.
With the exception of the Song of Solomon, Johns first epistle is the most intimate of the inspired writings. It deals with the family relationship of the believer to God. The term used to the word children means “born-ones” Paul is led to teach about our public position as sons, but John emphasizes our nearness as born-ones of the Father.
The epistle may be divided into two parts:
1. Chs. 1 to 3. The family and the Father.
2. Chs. 4 to 5. The family and the world.
THE FAMILY AND THE FATHER.
In order that we might become children of the eternal One, the only begotten Son was sent into the world to manifest a new union between God and man. He was the Word of life Who was from the beginning, and Himself sustained such a union, Ch.1:1-2. By dying for our sins and rising for our justification He has made possible that we too may participate in the same union, and is calling us to walk in the light of His Word that we might confess our sins, and be cleansed from sin in His atoning blood. God Who knows all things, asks us to believe His statement about sin, that we might admit of its existence and then take steps to have sin dealt with by Him, vs.3,7-9.
Having been cleansed we are given the assurance that if we are over-taken and fall again He will pardon us if we trust in the advocacy of Jesus Christ, Ch.2:1-2. His sacrifice is good for all time, and He intercedes for us that we might be strengthened and firmly established in the way. Fellowship with God demands that we walk as Christ walked, and keep His commandments. This is not difficult, for through the new birth we have the light of His presence within, and can stand in His strength, vs.6-8. One thing needful and of great importance is that we turn definitely from the world and give all of our live to the Father, vs.15-17. Many follow the spirit of antichrist, but we must look to God to anoint us with His Spirit and by walking in His counsel we shall be protected against the seducer, vs.18-20, 22, 25-28.
The love of the Father has been lavished upon us. At the moment we believe we become sons, and with our new calling there is a guarantee that we shall be changed into the likeness of the first begotten Son, but we must purify ourselves even as He is pure, Ch.3:1-3. We must shun the works of the devil, and the power of the seed of God within us will enable us to live above sin, vs.7-10. As children of God we must learn to live together in love, not as Cain who slew his brother. Let the world do the hating, but those who call themselves by the name of the Lord must manifest the same love that He showed, vs.11-13, 16, 18.
THE FAMILY AND THE WORLD.
Not only are we to preserve a family life, but we are to beware of the spirit which controls the world, and is against Christ. We must beware of the spirits who deny the incarnation of Christ, and must seek the life which comes through the Son of God, Ch.4:1-4,9. We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God and love as He loved, vs.15, 20-21.
To overcome the world one must be born of God, Ch.5:4-5. There are many who escape its allurements in one or more ways, but are entangled in others. Only God can reveal its full subtlety, and to His children alone is such light given. God has been careful to give a threefold witness that we may believe. In the Old Testament tabernacle there was the Spirit in the most holy place, the water in the laver, and the blood on the brazen altar. They all typify Christ Who wrought by the Spirit in His ministry, and cleansed His disciples by the water of the Word, and gave His blood as the atonement for our sins. By this threefold witness we can depend on the fact that Christ is the Son of God, and that we have life as we believe on His name, vs.7-12.
We may also count upon the certainty of God answering prayer if we believe. All we have to do is ask according to His will, and He will hear us. Knowing that He hears, we can then count it done and that our petition is granted, vs.14-15. Life may be asked of God for everyone who is open to do His will. Should anyone positively refuse God’s mercy it will be difficult to do much for them, for they are sinning unto death, vs.16-17. The apostle closes with the certain note that “whosoever is born of God sinneth not, but he...keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not”. Let us heed the last verse and keep ourselves from idols.