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1 John: Life at its best!

Do you desire a radically transformed life? Then this book is the place for you! John’s letters are packed with love and practical power, written to help you to love life at its’ best.

The author does not identify himself by name, but it is clear, both from unbroken tradition of the early church fathers and from internal evidence of the book itself, that it was written by the Apostle John. It portrays an author who was well known to the readers, one who spoke from direct personal knowledge with an inner sense of authority that felt no need to justify his position of authority among believers.

This is that disciple whom Jesus called, “The son of thunder.” This is the same John that identifies himself as, “The disciple whom Jesus loved. He is the author of five New Testament books.

This book was probably written around 90 A.D., very late in the apostle’s life. Probably written in Ephesus, after the Gospel of John, and was most likely circulated among the churches of Asia, since John wrote to the seven churches in the Roman Province of Asia. (Revelation 2,3).

I love the book of First John! I have come back again and again to this book for counsel, encouragement, strength and power for my daily walk with Christ. Whether you are a brand new believer, or you have walked with the Lord for many years, you will be strengthened by a study of this book.

I recommend that you read 1 John through five times, each time asking God to reveal some truth to you. You will be amazed at the insight given you by just a cursory reading. Read with a purpose. You are not in a race to see how quickly you can complete your daily reading. In 1 John you are invited to a relationship with the Creator of the Universe Who wants to communicate with you through this love letter, His letter of redemptive love. Remember that we only get to know someone by spending time with them. So take time to know your Father in heaven.

As you read First John be alert for the apostle's frequent use of contrasts - light vs. darkness, truth vs. falsehood, love vs. hatred, love of the world vs. love of the Father, Christ vs. antichrists, children of God vs. children of the devil, righteousness vs. sin, the Spirit of God vs. the spirit of the Antichrist, and life vs. death.

“First John "is a wonderful epistle. The words are very simple, but the thoughts are rich and deep. The style is direct and plain, yet there is a subtle, mystic depth in the way that truths are stated and in the way they are developed from one sentence to another....the tone of the epistle is paternal both in the fatherly affection and in the fatherly authority which characterize it." –Sidlow Baxter

Four keys unlock the book:

The First Key: He is writing that you may know. In this book the words, “we know” appear thirty times. 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 …” In his Gospel, John writes, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God…” (John 20:31).

But here he is writing to those who already believe, that they may know! In John’s day Gnosticism claimed to have superior knowledge. So John is writing to combat this false teaching. There were two branches of the Gnostics, One denied the deity of Christ, the other branch denied His humanity. John is not proposing some abstract theory set forth in theological or philosophical ideas, it is tangible and real, he is absolutely certain of His deity. Both the Gospel and this Epistle were written to combat this heresy. The Gospel, while recognizing His humanity, emphasizes His deity. The Epistle, while recognizing His deity, emphasizes His true humanity.

The Second key: He is writing to prevent sin. 1 John 2:1, “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.” The Bible does not say that believers can live above sin. No one is sinless, but John teaches us how to sin less!

The Third Key: He is writing to give a defense against deceivers. 1 John 2:26, “These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.” He is writing to protect the saints from those who would them astray. There are many cults in our world today, in fact God has given us a mission field on our doorsteps.

The Fourth Key: He is writing to promote joy in the children of God. 1 John 1:4, “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” This is a defense against the joy stealers: Circumstances; worry; people and things. Psalm 16:11, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Nehemiah 8:10, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

1 John sets forth three great and related facts of the Christian experience. God is Light; God is Love; and God is Life.

God is Light: John 8:12, “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” 1 John 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 Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

God is Love: 1 John 4:7,8 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God…God is love” 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:16, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”

God is Life: 1 John 1:1, “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.” Life is the beginning of our Christian experience, Jesus said I John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” That life is presented in a person, Christ! 1 John 5:12, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” John 14:6, “Jesus said…’I am the way, the truth, and the life…’”

Verse 1: “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.”

1 John 1:1,2: Eternal Life Has Appeared in Christ “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.”

Verse 1a: “That which was from the beginning…”

There are three “beginnings” in Scripture: 1) Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” 2) Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” 3) John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Jesus Christ existed from the beginning of all things. Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands” (Hebrews 1:10). “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).

Verse 1b: “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled…”

John here answers every Gnostic, atheist or agnostic: Jesus is real,

We have: heard Him. John may have heard Jesus more than any other disciple. He was with Him from the beginning. He was one of Christ’s inner circle. And he was there to the end. When Jesus was dying, Judas had betrayed Him, Peter had denied Him with a curse. Where were the other nine? I suspect there was a cloud of dust on the road leading out of the city that day as they were trying to escape.

We have seen Him. John is assuring those who were being influenced by the Gnostics. “I have actually seen Jesus Christ with my own eyes!” That’s what authenticates the New Testament. 1 Corinthians 15:5,6, “He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present…” John says “we have looked upon,” we get our English word, theater, from this word, “look.” It is more than just a casual glance, it means, “intense gaze. The idea is to examine, looking and understanding and perceiving what you are seeing.

We touched Him. Jesus had a real physical body. He occupied time and space. Historians have Him at about 5’8’ tall and about 150-175 pounds. Is that in the Bible? No! But he did weigh something and He was so tall. He was real flesh, blood and bone just like us. Jesus Himself said, after His resurrection, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39).

This Christ of reality is real experientially! Christianity is a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We have never seen Him or touched Him personally, but we know Him by faith. We have heard Him, only through His Word. Faith is the eyes and ears and hands of the soul. Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” John 10:17, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

Verse 1c: “Concerning the Word of life.”

This is John's designation for Jesus Christ, Whom He identifies specifically by Name in 1 John 1:3. John has a similar introduction in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Paul uses the phrase "Word of life" as a description for the Scriptures in Philippians 2:16, “Holding fast the word of life.” This word, logos is the main theme of John’s Gospel. John 1:4, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” 1 John 5:12, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Colossians 3:4, “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

Verse 2: “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…”

The Infinite became Finite! Jesus Christ Who has always been God, became manifest in Human History as a flesh and blood Man, Who was seen by John.

Verse 2a: “The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you”

The eternal Christ became visible. He appeared. And the sense in which he appeared is made clear in verse 1: "That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands . . . "

“This life was manifested,” meaning that it was made actually and physically real. John solemnly testified as an eyewitness (we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you) that this was the case. This was no fairy tale, no "Once upon a time" story. This was real, and John tells us about it as an eyewitness. This means more than simply seeing, but includes the idea of seeing with discernment. We scrutinized Him! “Bear witness” (testify) and “declare’ (proclaim) are both in the present tense, signifying this was John's lifestyle, his habitual practice and my friend it should also be our reason for living as they say! Let your light shine!

“A "witness" is a two-sided being - the one side of him sees, the other side of him shows (Show and tell); and it is just that dual function that is incumbent upon every true believer - "Ye shall be witnesses..." (Acts 1:8). –Guy King

Verse 2b: “That eternal life…”

“Only God possesses eternal life. Since John speaks of Christ as “the eternal life, which was with the Father,” this verse therefore assigns full and absolute deity to Christ. This is the One said to be heard, seen, and touched. He was and is the God-man.” – Robert Lightner

“John's justly called the epistle of eternal life. It shows how and in Whom that life was uniquely and perfectly manifested; it shows how the presence of that life in men and women may be recognized. John's own experience of that life entitles him to speak of it with assurance and communicate his assurance to others: this, he says, “we have seen; to this we bear witness; this we make known to you.”

–F.F. Bruce

Dear friend, are you experiencing this eternal life? Do you know that your sins have been forgiven? Does Jesus Christ live in you? Are you absolutely certain you are going to heaven? There’s life in Jesus Christ!

John 1:4, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

John 10:10.”I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

John 5:39,40, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

1 John 5:11, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

You can now Jesus Christ personally, you only have to ask, He’s listening for you to call on Him. Today could be the day eternal life in Christ begins for you!

Let’s just look at Romans 10, Paul here gives the formula for salvation: It is “To everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

“Confess” in Greek is homologeó meaning, “profess or acknowledge.” So it is acknowledging the Lord Jesus Christ as the only Savior.

Romans 10:10, “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

“Heart” in Greek is kardia, meaning, “the organ in the body which is the center of the circulation of the blood.” The word came to stand for man's entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and the emotional elements. In other words, the heart is used figuratively for the innermost part of the human. Heart is mentioned over eight-hundred times in Scripture, but never referring to the literal physical pump that drives the blood.

Acts 8:37, Phillip is talking with an Ethiopian about Jesus, The Ethiopian said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

The one condition of salvation is believe! To the Philippian jailor, when he asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:30,31).

The sum total of the Gospel is found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. That is what you have to believe!

What do I have to do to obtain salvation! Just believe!

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).

Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us…”

What does it mean to “believe?”

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

The words “faith,” “trust,” “entrust” “commit” and “believe” all come from the same Greek root pisteuo. The concept is taking people at their word, trusting that what they say is true.

So believing in Jesus is an active thing. I can believe that a light switch will turn on the lights, but until I click the switch, I will never know. Remember the story of the daredevil who asked a man if he believed he could carry him in a wheelbarrow while crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope. The man said, “yes!” Then the daredevil said. “Get in the wheelbarrow.” That’s the difference between believing and believing. One is speculative, the other is active.

Faith in Jesus Christ is an active faith that trusts everything God says, then acting on that faith saying, “Yes, Lord, I believe that Jesus died for my sins, was buried, and rose again for me!”

Romans 10:13: For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Tell God, in Jesus name, you want to know Him personally!

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV) and The Living Bible (TLB).

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