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1 John Lesson 1: 1.1--2.2

1 John 1:1--2:2

Prayers & Announcements:  Handouts on 1 John Overview?

Introduction to the Book of 1 John:  Although the author doesn't identify himself, based its content, style, and vocabulary, it's almost universally recognized as having been written by the John the Apostle, who also wrote the Gospel of John and Revelation.  John most likely wrote it from Ephesus between 85-95 A.D.  The letter wasn't addressed to a specific church or group but was intended to reach Christian believers wherever they lived-and is just as relevant to us today.  John wrote the letter to warn Christians of the increasing threat of false teaching and to reassure them of the certainty of their faith in Jesus Christ.  One of the most serious false teachings was Gnosticism, which denied Christ's humanity and claimed He was a ghost.  Because there was not a complete New Testament to guide believers in their faith in those days, many churches had been misled by false teachers who promoted their own ideas and advanced themselves as church leaders.  Therefore, John's main purpose in writing this letter was to set the record straight on some important doctrinal issues, in particular the identity of Jesus Christ.  In today's lesson, John will tell us about the person of Jesus Christ, how to have a relationship with Him, and what that relationship means to us. 

Read 1 John 1:1-4 - That Which We Have Seen and Heard

1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life- 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us- 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.

v. 1a:  "What was from the beginning" - The phrase, "from the beginning," brings to mind Gen. 1:1, "In the beginning God created..." and Jn. 1:1, "in the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God." In his Gospel, John referred to Christ as "the Word." Importantly, John is making the point that Jesus is eternal, having no beginning and no end; He was "in the beginning" with the Father, and is now with the Father at this moment in time and for all eternity.

v. 1b: "what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands" - Here, John authenticates the fact that he and the other disciples heard the risen Christ, saw Him with their own eyes, and touched Him with their own hands.  Their experience with the risen Christ was firsthand; their status as witnesses is unimpeachable. 

v.1c:  "concerning the Word of Life" - This phrase could refer to the message of life or the One whose work opens the door to eternal life, in which case it means both, because the Gospel message merges with the One who made the Good News possible-Jesus Christ. 

v. 2:  "and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us-" -  As an eye-witness, John emphasizes that Jesus was in fact a real living person who was at the same time eternal,  and therefore is God.  The phrase, "with the Father," refers to the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son, and the word "with" means that Jesus the Son is distinct from the Father, a co-existent personality of the Trinity.  Using the word "manifested" twice, John makes it clear that all these things were made known to him and the other apostles.  This is not about a philosophical belief (like Gnosticism) but facts made known to them (and us, too) by God.  Christians need to know their faith is reliable.

v. 3:  "what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" - The purpose of John's declaration about the eternal existent, physically present Word of Life-Jesus Christ, who is God, yet a person distinct from the Father-is to bring his readers into fellowship with both God's people and God Himself.  This is one of the greatest statements in the NT.  The Greek word for "fellowship," koinonia, means a coming together and a sharing in a common bond.  That's the way its works:  (1) fellowship one with another and (2) fellowship with God.  You can know God and believe in Him as He has revealed Himself, even though you don't completely understand everything about His person or nature.  What's important is what all believers have in common-Jesus Christ.    

v. 4:  "These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete" - The result of fellowship is the fullness of joy.  This joy is a steadfast sense of optimism and cheerfulness based on God, as opposed to worldly happiness, which is optimism and cheerfulness based on present circumstances that can change in a flash.  Fullness of joy is unquestionably possible for a Christian but is by no means certain.  External circumstances, emotions, and sin can all take away our joy.  Yet, a Christian's joy is not found in the things of this world, as good as they might seem.  Christians often allow themselves to get in a spiritual rut over their loss of joy (ever happen to you?).   The solution is taking positive action to reclaim your joy by drawing closer to God through prayer and meditation, and seeking comfort from God's word and Christian fellowship. 

Read 1 John 1:5-10 - If We Walk in the Light

5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

v. 5:  "This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all" - This isn't John's personal philosophy or opinion, it's God's message about Himself, which John's first-person witness reveals to us.  We can never be certain of our ideas or opinions about God unless they are accurately based on what God has said about Himself.  Light and darkness are used on both the OT and NT as metaphors for good and evil, true and untrue, order and chaos, life and death.  The phrase, "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all," is a another way of saying that God is perfect:  We must understand that God Himself is light, and by simple definition, light has no darkness in it; thus, for there to be darkness, there must be an absence of light.  Jesus said of Himself, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." Jn. 8:12.

v. 6:  "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth" - Light cannot coexist with darkness.  Even the light of a small candle can dispel the darkness of an entire room.  By saying this, John contradicts the false teachers' claims to have fellowship with God.  They aren't telling the truth-they lie-and are walking in darkness.  When someone walks in darkness, it's reflected by their lifestyle-the way they live their lives.  It's not an occasional lapse but a pattern of living.  Indeed, a person may be saved and have repented at some time in their life, but do not live in true fellowship with God.      

v. 7:  "but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin" - Walking in the light is a metaphor that meaning living a generally obedient and faithful life, without resisting conviction of the Holy Spirit.  Walking also implies action, continuity, and progress.  It's natural that those who walk in the light should fellowship (Gr. koinonia) with one another.  We see that in our churches:  Like-minded people of faith come together to worship and fellowship with one another.  They care for each other, they learn from each other, and their faith becomes mutually reinforcing.  Since we continually sin and fall short, the "blood of Jesus," which paid the penalty of our sin-past, present, and future--assures us that we can receive a continual cleaning of sin by walking in the light and seeking forgiveness.   

v. 8:  "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us" - We can infer from this verse that the false teachers claimed they "have no sin."  When John said we can be cleansed from sin by walking in the light, he certainly did not say a Christian could become sinlessly perfect.  Any person who claims not to have sinned has two major shortcomings:  (1) They are deceiving themselves, living a lie, and living a lie will lead to a life doomed by mistakes and failures.  (2) They shut the door to the forgiveness that they claim they don't need.  I call it a god complex.  

v. 9:  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" -   The Greek word for "confess," homologe╚», means to say the same thing as or be in agreement with, and can be either a confession of faith or sin.  Also, it is a present tense verb that indicates that we must keep on confessing.  When, as a Christian, we confess our sin, we are willing to say (and believe) the same thing about our sin that God says about it-we agree with God about it.  So John is telling us that confession of sin is vital to our day-to-day relationship with God.   As God convicts us of sin which is holding back with our fellowship with Him, we must confess it and receive forgiveness and cleansing that will fully restore fellowship with Him.  And we need to remember that our sins are not forgiven because we confess; they are forgiven because our punishment was put upon Jesus-we are cleansed by His blood (v. 7).

v. 10  "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us" - As noted in v. 8, the false teachers presumably claimed they hadn't sinned.  First off, "All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).  So, a person who denies the presence of sin in his life is deceiving himself and denying the truth of God's word, i.e., calling Him a liar.  The statement that "His word is not in us," relates to the idea that Jesus is the "Word of Life" (v. 1c); if a person refuses to see sin in himself, it shows that Jesus is not in him.  As one commentator said, "No one was ever kept out of heaven for his confessed badness, but many fail to get there because of their imaginary goodness."

Read 1 John 2:1-2 - We Have A Parakletos-Jesus Christ   

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

v. 1a:  "My little children" - Given John's advanced age (80-85?), along with his status as an apostle and pastor, this would have been an proper form of address.  He's not 'talking-down' to them but using it as an expression of the deep affection he has for these believers.  It also signals a transition in his message:  instead of talking about false teachers, he's giving them pastoral instruction directly.     

v. 1b:  "I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin" - In v. 1:8, John made it clear that sin (sometimes at least) is a fact in the life of a Christian.  God desires that we not sin, but when we do, it's not because God makes us do it-we do not have to sin.  While John rejects the idea that a Christian can become sinlessly perfect, he's pressing us to try very hard not  to sin because Jesus Christ has given us all the resources we need to achieve spiritual victory over sin. 

v. 1c:  "And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" -  The Greek word for "advocate," parakletos (Lit., someone called to help), is used only five times in the NT.  It refers to someone who gives counsel or strength in time of need and is commonly compared to a lawyer who pleads your case or a witness who testifies in your behalf.  Though it's God desire that we not sin, He has made a provision for us, with Jesus Christ Himself as our advocate.  As our advocate, Jesus admits our guilt and enters a plea on our behalf, as the one who made the atoning sacrifice for our sinful guilt.  The title, "Jesus Christ the righteous" verifies that He's fully qualified to serve as our advocate because He's sinlessly perfect. 

v. 2:  "and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world" - There is some scholarly debate over whether "atoning sacrifice" or "expiation" (removal of sin) it a better translation than propitiation for the Greek word hilasmos.  Propitiation may be defined as a sacrifice that is sufficient to turn away God's wrath against sin.  But whatever translation you prefer, it still means that Jesus took all of our sins on Himself as an acceptable substitute, not only for me and you, but for the entire world, a sacrifice He made one time for all.            

APPLICATION: 

1.  Like John, we can attest to what we have seen and heard.  We have seen the changes in the lives of others who have believed this message throughout the ages since Christ came.  We have seen and heard the changes in those around us who are walking with God, and we have seen and heard the changes in our own lives as we have walked with God (v. 2). 

2.  While we cannot say that we have physically touched Jesus (as john did), we can surely say that we have experienced His "touch" in our lives.  We are certain of this because we know Jesus' presence has come into us and changed us from the inside out.   We can bear witness that the "Word of Life" (v. 1c) is real and give us fellowship both with one another and with Him so that we may know the "fullness of joy" (v. 4).      

3.  Walking in the light is the opposite of walking in the darkness.   It means seeing reality for what it is (God's eternal kingdom vs. the physical world we live in) and being controlled by desires that are in harmony with God's light (v.7).  Walking also implies action, continuity, and progress.  It's natural that those who walk in the light should fellowship (Gr. koinonia) with one another.  We see that in our churches:  Like-minded people of faith come together to worship and fellowship with one another.  They care for each other, they learn from each other, and their faith becomes mutually reinforcing. 

4.  God's desire is that we not sin; however, because we are incapable of being sinlessly perfect, He has made a provision for us, with Jesus Christ Himself as our advocate (Gr. parakletos).  As our advocate, Jesus admits our guilt and enters a plea on our behalf, as the one who made the atoning sacrifice for our sinful guilt (v. 2:1).  The title, "Jesus Christ the righteous" verifies that He's fully qualified to serve as our advocate because, unlike us, He is sinlessly perfect