1st John Bible Study


A study of John's first letter to the churches of Asia Minor

I. General information

A. Simple language yet profound

B. Limited language yet profound

C. Simple grammar

II. Occasion - Iraneaus (120-202 AD) tells us that at the time when this letter was written the Gnostics had caused factions in the churches of Asia Minor.

A. Gnosticism taught that salvation came through KNOWLEDGE rather than through FAITH.

B. Cerinthus was the leader of the faction. He also taught that Jesus was only a human being. At Jesus' Baptism the "Christ Spirit" descended on him in the form of a dove. When Jesus suffered on Calvary, according to Cerinthus, the "Christ Spirit" left him and was given to another.

C. Gnosticism was a snobbish philosophical system, and were known for their excesses. "Eat, drink, and be merry, etc."

III. Authorship-Since Apostolic times the letter has been ascribed to John, our Lord's apostle.

IV. The date - probably around 80-98 AD, which would make this epistle one of the last messages from an eyewitness...one who knew Jesus personally.

V. Purpose of the letter - "That you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ." (verse 4) that our joy may be complete"; in 2:1 "That you may know that you have eternal life."


1 John 1:1-3

1. Who is the subject of these verses? What is significance to the emphasis on life? What are the goals of our life?

2. Compare 1 John 1:1, John 1:1 & Genesis 1:1 What does this comparison tell us about the subject of 1:1-3?

3. What expressions in verse l does John use to describe how, "that which ...was observed"? Why "with our eyes?"

4. Is this emphasis important today? Why?



1:5 God is light--in Him is NO darkness cf. John 8:12. Walking in the light means facing the reality of your inability to live a life free from temptation to sin. Our conscience convicts us. We know the difference between right and wrong--good and evil.

1:6 When we walk in darkness we have no fellowship with the Father and the Son- what is "living according to the truth?"

1:7 BUT, if we walk in light--as He is in the light--we have fellowship with one another AND the blood of Jesus His Son, cleanses us from all sin. THIS IS GOOD NEWS! Cf. John 1:29

1:8 If we deny we are sinful we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Owning up to the fact that our best and most pious effort is imperfect.

1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Cf. 2nd Corinthians 1:19-20 & Romans 3:24-26

1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and His word is not in us.

harmatia -- missing the mark.
weighed on scales and found wanting


1. What does unresolved guilt often lead to?

2. Why can we be certain that if we confess our sins they are truly and permanently forgiven?

3. Situation ethics- why do you think so many people are walking in the darkness of sin?

4. What are some ways we can avoid walking in darkness?

In our thoughts--
In our words--
In our deeds--

5. Is John viewing the Christian life from a different perspective than Paul? If so, how?


2:1a "I am writing this to you so that you may not sin" GK. Aorist form-absence not only of habit but of acts

2:1b ."..we have an advocate." This is a blessing for God's people; also justification and sanctification, continual intercession, and peace. GK: "Paraclete" - same term applied to the Holy Spirit which shows the unity of the Second & Third persons of the Trinity.

Jesus pleads our case. He can say that there is nothing "good" about us, but he can say much for us.

Luther: "The righteousness of Christ stands on our side, for God's righteousness is, in Jesus Christ, ours!"

2:2 He is the "expiation" for our sins and for the sins of the whole world.

The ONE who brought about reconciliation between us and God. This applies to the whole world since he bought our peace with God through His suffering, death and resurrection.

Luther" "Don't think, 'The Lord died for Peter and Paul, but not me."'

2:3 Because of this--we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

The Gnostics boasted of knowledge, but didn't obey the laws of Moses. They set aside the law and declared, "We are saved by what we know, not by what Christ has done."

John here is referring to the Mosaic law, not the rule of Christian obedience.

2:4 He who says "I know him" bud disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Remember in 1:6-"When in darkness we are walking, we have no fellowship with the Father and the Son."

2:5 BUT---whoever keeps His word, in him true love for God is perfected.(cf. Living Bible) By this we may be sure that we are in him.

2:6 "He who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked."

Luther: It is not Christ's walking on the sea we are called to imitate, but His ordinary walk."


1. Why do we need an advocate?

2. Expiation and propitiation are terms not used in our daily vocabulary. How do you understand the Biblical concept of reconciliation?

3. What is the threefold purpose of the Mosaic Law for us? The third use of the law has been misunderstood and resulted in "cold legalism." Can you give examples?

4. An educational philosophy gaining popularity is the taxonomy of learning principle. It basically says that you can't advance in learning until you master the basics. How can this be applied to establishing goals for the Christian Education programs of our congregation?

5. The contrast between the obedience of a football team to the quarterback and the obedience of God's people to His Word is a good analogy. Discuss.

6. What do verses 1 and 2 say to you about the interest that God has in the universe He has created, and in mankind specifically?


2:7-8 The "old" but ever "new" commandment- see John 13:34.

Examples of how Jesus showed love--John 10:14-18; 15:12-17.

The fulfillment of the "new" commandment is seen in Jesus and His followers. As His disciples fulfill the "new" commandment, the darkness begins to disappear. John is here contrasting the "true light" to the "other light" of the Gnostics.

2:9 The consequence of fulfilling the "new" commandment. Of whom is John speaking? What about our casual acquaintances? How about the postman-garbageman-do we even know their name?

2:10 Abiding in the light prevents stumbling. "Abiding" means "doing" not saying we are going to love our neighbor. What is the result of falling away from the light? See also John 12:40.


1. We know we are saved by grace through faith alone, yet John emphasizes the "fulfilling of the new commandment." How can we harmonize the two Biblical teachings?

2. Some people have more "feeling" about their religion than others. According to John 11:33-36 Jesus had feelings. What is the danger of being too emotional about your faith?

3. We live in a changing world-every day new advances in technology-every day higher prices--and the radio and television urge us to change with the times. Someone has said the seven most used words of the church are "We've never done it that way before." Is change of itself always good? Always bad? Examples.


A new thought is now introduced.........

2:12-14 Here we have parallel clauses. There is no clear connection with the preceding verses. It stands alone. Commentators tend to agree John was using a rhetorical device to indicate the qualities of the three stages of life which ought to be true of all believers.............. The innocence of childhood The strength of youth The mature knowledge of age

2:15 An important and urgent warning directed to the loyal members of the church. Similar to what Paul said to the Corinthians, "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed, lest he fall!"

When John refers to the "world" here, he considers it the source of opposition to God and a temptation to sin. He's not referring to the material universe. No hint that we should shun or hate the material world.

The "love" in this verse is not the same as in 2:10. To love in this sense is to have an appetite and desire for selfish pleasure. To desire pleasure is not in itself wrong. There are, however, occasions when the gratification and satisfaction of our desires may be sinful.

The point is love for the world and love for the Father are incompatible.

2:16 "A staggering statement" according one commentator. sinful cravings - human depravity lust of the eyes -coveteousness pride of possessions- greed

2:17 The "punch" of John's appeal. The world is passing away and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever!"

What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world? but in the process loses his soul.......

The kind of foundation needed to endure is that which Jesus describes in Matthew 7:24-27.

2:18 A new section begins here. It has a link to what preceded. John told us that the world is passing away. He now tells us the end is fast approaching.

His concern is that opponents to the Gospel need to be identified and exposed.

He addresses us as "Dear Children:. A fatherly concern "This is the last hour." What does he mean? Is he thinking of the final stage of the world's history? Or is he stressing the urgency of the time in which he was living as he saw around him signs of what Jesus spoke would relate to the "last days." Note he makes no attempt to predict when the last day would come.

Next he tells us "The antichrist is coming, and even now many antichrists have come." He concludes, that from their coming ."..we know it is the last hour."

Only John uses the term "antichrist." He uses the term with the definite article and as describing a group of likeminded opponents. Who this antichrist is not revealed by name either by John in his letters or in his report of the revelation which Jesus gave him later in his life. For our purposes we will here deal with the concept and not discuss the controversy that has surrounded this term since Apostolic times.

2:19 John identifies the "antichrists who have already come" as false teachers--Gnostics and their leaders Cerinthus are implied. It isn't clear how these people got into the church, but it is clear they never really "belonged" the true "invisible" church.

2:20 True believers should have spiritual insight to recognize the errors and false teachings of those who had "gone out" from among them. The annointing of which he speaks is not a physical annointing with oil, but rather the coming of the Holy Spirit into our lives...2nd Corinthians 1:21ff is a good explanation!!

2:21 John is not addressing us as people who do not know the truth, but as people who know the difference between truth and error. No false statements come from the truth.

2:22 The error and false teaching was that Jesus did not suffer and die , nor did he shed His blood. A denial of Christ's vicarious atonement. This led to denying that Jesus was the promised Savior--Messiah of whom the prophets wrote and spoke.

2:23 A comment "Those who reject Jesus as the source of knowledge of God, deprive themselves of access to the true God, and are left with "a bare abstraction." What is meant here is that since God is a spirit He cannot be seen. By denying that Jesus was God the Son, we are not able to "see" the true God. We believe, teach, and confess that he who sees the Son, sees the Father.

2:24 Fellowship with-the Father and the Son is said to be dependent on remaining--being kept in the true faith. (cf. the third article of the Catechism)

2:25 Here we have the only instance in which John uses the word "promise." He is referring to the promise of

John 10:28; also John 3:16 - shall never perish, but have everlasting life! It is for now and for eternity. We have already begun to taste it.

2:26 A summary of what he has told us in verse 18-25. A new element is introduced, however, by describing the antichrists as trying to lead people astray.

2:27 We are to beware of false teachers. The safeguard he gives us is to remember we have had the Word of God conveyed to us by the Holy Spirit.

Three reasons are given as to why we should remain faithful to the teachings of the Spirit.

(1) The annointing of the Spirit gives us all the knowledge we need to discern truth from error.
(2) The teaching is reliable and trustworthy.
(3) We are instructed to abide in Christ.

The way to avoid being deceived by the false teachers is to hold fast to the truth given us by the teachings of the apostles and prophets. This was given to us through God's inspiration. God has worked faith in our heart and our faith can keep us from being deceived.

2:28 The hope of God's children - John urges his readers to remain steadfast in the faith. As he has warned them about antichrists, now he warns them about the dangers of living a life in the darkness that prevents people form having fellowship with the Father and the Son.

"Confident and unashamed" when Jesus appears. Although the time of His coming is uncertain, the fact that He will come again is certain.

Confident because we can be sure that we will not suffer any punishment if we trust in the merits of Jesus--that He bore our punishment on Calvary and that "with His stripes, we are healed."

Unashamed because we know in whom we have believed and can be sure that He is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to us. (2nd Timothy 1:12)

2:29 A new thought- spiritual birth which be brings up again in 3:9, 4:7, 5:1; 5:4; and 5:18. Believers stand in a new relationship to God analogous to that of children to a father.

What John is trying to stress is that doing what is right is the consequence of spiritual birth. You have to consider this in context of what John has said. Lest we draw the conclusion that a morally upright person is a child of God even though he has no church affiliation. Similarly when he says in 4:8 "Everyone who lives has been born of God he doesn't include atheists who are "loving" in their attitudes as Christians.

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

An interesting parallel in John 3 where in the conversation with Nicodemus about the new birth from above through which we can enter the kingdom of God is followed by the magnificent declaration of God's love.

The "love package" contains our title to be called children of God. Again John exudes confidence that can be a reality- "And that is what we are-even if the world hates us and persecutes us.

3:2 ."..what we shall be has not yet been made known. But we shall know when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."

The contrast between the known and the unknown reemphasizes the confidence we can have.

John does not give details of how we will be like Him. cf. John 17:1, 5, 24 -share His glory.

Romans 8:17-19
Philippians 3:21
Colossians 3:4
2nd Corinthians 3:18

3:3 Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

Living in a hostile world, and having their confidence shaken by disappointments and hurts due to the large number of their friends who left the church, John offers further encouragement.

"Pure" is found only here in this epistle. It is used to describe the outward manifestation of an inner attitude. He is no doubt referring to moral purity. This is clarified in later verses.

The importance of this section (2:28-2:3) is that it draws attention to the reality and the incompleteness of Christian experience. Christians who are in doubt about their relationship to God need to be reassured that those who do what is right have been born of God and belong to Him. As God's children, they enjoy many privileges. At the same time, however, they need to be warned against feeling that they have achieved all that is possible in Christian experience.

3:4 "Everyone who commits sin is guilty" in contrast to 3:3 - "everyone who has this hope in him." Sin is defined as "missing the mark."

3:5 "In him is no sin"- the incompatibility of sin and sonship--Christ came to take away our sins and make us His own, so that we might live under Him in His Kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness."

3:6 The IDEAL vs The REAL. A life of sin and a life in God are mutually exclusive. "Whoever sins has not seen Him" is another jab at the Gnostics. To "see spiritually" is a step beyond intellectually knowing.

3:7-8 Another contrast--"He who does right" VS "He who commits sin" points out again the Biblical teaching of justification Opposed to our being made right (justified) in God's sight is the Evil One- the devil. And so, John reminds us, "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil."

Romans 10:3-10 Discussion of Jews role-doing what is right
Luke 7:47ff-Woman who poured oil on Jesus' feet.
John 8:47ff-Why we listen to listen to God's word.

3:9 "Everyone who is begotten of God does not commit sin." This doesn't mean that once you are truly converted you never sin again, but rather that one who is truly born of God strives to rid his life of sin.

1 John 3:6
John 5:38
Genesis 39:9

LUTHER QUOTE: "The child of God in the conflict receives indeed wounds daily, but never throws away his weapons or makes peace with his deadly foe."

3:10 "By this it may be seen who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil." Jesus told his Disciples, "You shall know them by their fruits." What we do and how we treat others is always a sign of our spiritual state.

Whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother.

3:11 "What you have heard from the beginning" is the message "Love one another" in other words.

3:12-13 The enmity that entered the world when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden surrounds us. "Marvel not that the world hates you!."

3:14 Hated though we be, we know the truth and the truth has changed us. Think about how your life has changed since you came to know the Lord Jesus as your Savior. cf. Colossians 1:13

3:15 Anyone who hates---hating leads to murder. It therefore stands that if we harbor hate in our heart we are not in Fellowship with the Father and the Son.

3:16 "By this we know love, that He first loved us..." We ought to "lay our lives down" for the brethren. Not in a literal sense, but through acts of love towards those in need.

3:17 "If anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, and closes his heart against him...." An appeal to be compassionate and generous in aid.

3:18 "Little children, let us not love in word and speech but in deed and truth..."

Long on promise and short on performance Love makes things happen.

See how you can make love make something happen during the days of this next week until we gather here again!

3:19-20 By our loving in deed and in truth (verse 18) we know we are of the truth and our consciences will be untroubled when we stand before the Lord.

AND NOW A GREAT PROMISE---"Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, for He knows EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!

Heart trouble--nagging unresolved guilt can work us into a frenzy. We need to remember this verse, "GOD IS GREATER THAN OUR HEART FOR HE KNOWS EVERYTHING!" It means God understands and has compassion on us and forgives us.

We need to confess with Peter, "Lord you know all things, you know that I love you."

3:21-22 If our hearts are freed from the burden of guilt we can then have confidence before God; and as a result we receive from Him whatever we ask--that's right, He is just to give us of what we need. We keep His commandments and do what pleases Him, not because we so it to earn a reward or to receive what we ask for, but as a response to His love for us.

Psalm 66:18
Psalm 34:15
Psalm 145:18-19

3:23 And THIS is His commandment----------that we should believe in His name and love one another. Through Fellowship with the Father and faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, we seek to live a life that pleases Him, for He has given us an example.

3:34 All who keep his commandments are united with Him in this faith and love. The proof of the relationship is the presence of His Spirit which enables us to abide in Him--the enjoyment of Fellowship with the Father and the Son.


These verses are a separate section, clearly separate from that which follows. It is linked with what John has just written in the previous verse 3:24: "We know it (that God is greater than our conscience) by the Spirit He gave us."

4:1 ...test the Spirits" to see whether they are of God... We have parallels in 1 Corinthians 12:1-3 and 14:29; 1st Thessalonians 5:20ff in which Paul reminds his readers to make sure they are not led astray by those who claim to be led by the Spirit of God, but who are in truth led by the Spirit of Darkness.

Some examples: Herbert W. Armstrong--The Plain Truth. He claims he is the first one to preach the "true gospel of the kingdom" and that it was first preached in 1953 when he began his radio program "The World Tomorrow."

The Mormons-now active in our own city-teams of well groomed college age young men going door to door telling people that the Mormon Church is the "True Church."

The Jehovah's Witnesses going door to door deceiving people into buying their literature which denies the Trinity, the Vicarious Atonement of Jesus Christ, and many of the foundation doctrines of the Christian religion!


4:2 How can you know for sure? John spells it out in this verse "This is how you recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God."

Cerinthus and the Gnostics, the Humanists of our day the Deists, and all those who deny that Jesus Christ is the true Son of Man and the True Son of God are led by an alien spirit, not THE TRUE SPIRIT OF GOD.

4:3 The "spirit of the antichrist, which you heard is coming AND IS EVEN NOW IN THE WORLD."

John is saying that when we see this happening we will know that we are in the last days.


A statement of faith that we need to remember when we see the power of Satan unleashed and the damage it does to the lives of weak people. Remember by trusting in the power of Jesus as your Savior, you are guaranteed that the devil, the world, or your flesh will not have any victory over you'

4:5 The worldly words of those who are led by the Prince of Darkness are dead giveaways. A good way to choose your friends is to listen to them talk. If their conversation is peppered with profanity you should try to witness to them and show them the senselessness of using foul talk.

Yet, they will always have an audience. That's why we are being bombarded by the kind of movies advertised on TV and often shown on TV as well as in theaters.

4:6 Spiritual conversation is a rare commodity in places of business as well as in social gatherings. Those who are spiritual have an audience among those who are like minded.

We might as well face the reality that we must approach some people in a way other than throwing Bible passages at them.

"This is then how we recognize the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of falsehood."


"This is the Life" on TV every week shows us how to witness to our faith in Jesus Christ in a way that is not offensive. If you haven't watched the program lately, try to catch it this week.

NEXT WEEK: "God's Love and Our Love" 1 John 4:7-21-Read it through several times during the next week!

4:7 Now John resumes the main theme announced in 2:29--the way we show love in our lives is the test of our being born of God.

4:8 The use of the aorist form "those who do not know now and have never known" the true God need to be told that GOD IS LOVE---LOVE IS GOD. This love is described by St. Paul in 1st Corinthians 13

4:9 A simple statement of the Good News of the Gospel--"In this the love of God was made known among us that God sent His only Son into the world so that we might live through him."

4:10 The act of loving one another was initiated by God. Again the use of the Greek aorist form conveys the meaning that at no time did any act of love begin with us, but rather with God.

4:11 The motivation of loving one another is always God showing His love for us in His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

4:12 No one has ever seen God because He is a spirit. We can't see him with our physical eyes, but when we respond with the love He initiates, we perceive that He abides with us and dwells in us and that through His presence Love is perfected, it becomes mature in the life that we live.

4:13-14 By His indwelling presence, we are led by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit enlightens us with His gifts, and enables us to understand how and why the Father sent the Son as the Savior of the world.

See: Romans 5:5 and Romans 8:9

4:15 The result of God's being within us is a boldness to witness and confess our faith-that faith that believes that Jesus is the Son of God, and that God abides in Him7 and He in God.

4:16 The State of blessedness is described.

4:17 Love is expressed through confidence on the day of judgment. We will not be terrified when He comes.

4.18 There is no fear in love for love that is perfected by God's indwelling Spirit dispels fear.

Fear of death.
Fear of punishment.
Fear of the Devil--superstitions

4:19 Cause and effect- We love because He loves us.

4:20 And in that person in whom love abides, there can be no room for hate. If we hate our brother we deny the truth and become liars. The logic is simple and has been presented on other occasions.

1 Peter 1:8

4:21 The Greatest Commandment of Matthew 22:39 can be put in a different more simple statement. "He who loves God should love his brother also.

QUESTION: What does the Christian meaning of love have to say about our relationship to people? People in general? People with handicaps? People who are old? People who are young?

What John is trying to tell us is that when we love our neighbor we are loving God and when we love God we have fellowship with the Father and the Son. This is made possible by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

5:1 Everyone who confesses that Jesus is the anointed one born of God is in fellowship with the Father and the Son.

5 2 We know this when we experience God's love and reflect it in the way that we live our lives.

5:3 By keeping God's commandments we show the love of God in our lives. Not to save us since we are saved by grace through faith, not by works.

5:4 A statement of confidence. Everyone born of God overcomes the world. We achieve victory through faith.

5:5 A question that expects an answer. "Who is it that overcomes the world?" He who believes Jesus is the true Son of God.

5:6 He is the one who came by water and blood. The water and the blood are a connection of means. They refer to Jesus' baptism and sacrificial death. The emphasis is on what Jesus did, not on what our response is.

5:7-8 It is the Spirit that bears witness - the Spirit of Truth! The Spirit, the Water, and the Blood--these three agree in their ONE testimony--that Jesus was true God. The fact that water and blood are inanimate does not disqualify them.

5:9 The witness of God is greater than that of men. What is the witness according to this verse?

5:10 A contrast between acceptance or rejection of Jesus as the true God.

5:11 The testimony is that God has given us eterna1 life-life that is linked to the life of Jesus.

5:12 Apart from this life in Christ there is nothing meaningful. It follows that if a person accepts the Son, he receives eternal life, but if he refuses to accept the Son he doesn't have life.

5:13 Christian certainties are now presented. The first is that those who know the truth have a clear understanding of the Gospel message.

5:14-15 Next is the confidence that we can have anything we want as lone as it is according to the will of God. There is no such thing as unanswered prayer.


5:16-17 Having described one of the most important fruits of our Christian faith--assurance that God will supply us with all that we need to support our body and life, he turns to another matter.

What does he mean? Are there two kinds of sins? In the Old Testament--sins of omission were paid for at the yearly sacrifice. Sins of commission had to wait until death. Reason for slavish keeping of laws of Moses by the Pharisees.

The point is that we should be concerned about our neighbor's spiritual life and pray for him. We should also pray for those who are considered "hopeless cases" spiritually. Remember Mark 10:27 "For men it is impossible but not for God, anything is possible for God."

5:18-20 Three statements of a confident faith:

1. We know - verse 18
2. We know - verse 19
3. We know - verse 20

5:21 The closing verse seems strange in the light of what has just been said, however, John was not referring to the graven images of the pagans, but rather the fictional concepts of God created by the Gnostics and Cerinthus.

His warning is to walk in the light and thus enjoy the Fellowship with the Father and the Son which leads to eternal life. This then concludes our study of 1 John. It is my prayer that you will remember the theme and continue to enjoy God's rich blessings!



This Bible Study “Fellowship with the Father and the Son” was the first study I worked on while a vicar at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Rock Island, IL. It was written and compiled primarily by Pr. H.C. Lubben in the fall of 1981 at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Rock Island, IL.