THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN, CALLED
O U T L I N E
Gnosticism. The word Gnostic comes from the Greek word ‘gnosis’, which means knowledge. Gnosticism arose from a group of evil workers who claimed to have higher light, or “secret wisdom”. This movement began in the days of the apostles, and continued into the 5th century. Before John died the seeds of Gnosticism had been sown… perhaps even before Paul’s death. John’s epistles are written to defend against it. He refers to the Gnostics as “the deceivers” (2 John 1:7), and those that “go forward and abide not in the doctrine of Christ” (2 John 1:9). Paul speaks of the Gnostic system as “oppositions of false-named knowledge” (1 Tim. 6:20). Peter warns of their false teaching, and Jude warns of its moral effect on the Christian testimony. In this evil system, the Greek tendency to spiritualize and allegorize took over. To them, the spiritual was good, and matter was evil. Thus, they rejected the incarnation, because it was connecting the human with the divine. The Gnostics would try to separate “Jesus” from “Christ”, by making Christ an emanation (a shining out from a source) from God that was united to a mere man named Jesus at his baptism, but returned to God before Jesus’s death on the cross. In doing so, this evil system annulled the incarnation and the atonement. Gnosticism made Jesus a mere man, and even made their false-Christ less than God, because an emanation is less than its source. They taught that Christ was sent to make known the good God of heaven, and to expose the mischievous Demiurge (or, Jehovah of the Old Testament), who made the “evil world of matter”. The doctrine of the New Testament anticipates this irreverent and wicked system of doctrine by stating the simple truth of Christ’s Person and work. Many of the false cults today are, in a sense, a modern form of Gnosticism.
1 That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes; that which we contemplated, and our hands handled, concerning the word of life; v.1 The “Word of life” is the Person of the Son of God. The Son is the revealer of the Father, so He is called the Word (John 1:1). The Son is the revealer of God in the aspect of judgment, so He is called the Word of God (Rev. 19:13). Here we find that the Son is also the revealer of Eternal Life, because He is the Eternal Life, so He is called the Word of Life (see notes on the Word and Words of God). If you want to see eternal life manifested or declared perfectly, it must be seen in the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 (and the life has been manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and report to you the eternal life, which was with the Father, and has been manifested to us:) 3 that which we have seen and heard we report to you, that “ye” also may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is indeed with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we to you that your joy may be full.
5 And this is the message which we have heard from him, and declare to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. v.5 The Gnostics believed that Jehovah (the Demiurge, who created the material universe) was evil. No, John says, God is light, and in Him there is no darkness whatsoever.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not practise the truth. 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. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive 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 cleanse us from all unrighteousness. v.9 To “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” is to go deeper than the actions… He wants to get at the root of the sin.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
1 My children, these things I write to you in order that ye may not sin; and if any one sin, we have a patron with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; v.1 An advocate with “the Father” showing that when I fail in no way is the family relationship broken.
“The righteous” and “propitiation” (1 John 2:1, 2) intimate to us the double character of perfectness-actual state, and work-of Christ, as the basis on which advocacy is carried on to restore the soul. If any man sin, there is an unchangeable and accepted righteousness in Christ, and a perfect work which has been presented to God for our sins, and indeed in view of the whole world. So that neither the ground of our acceptance nor the putting away of our sins are in question for our access to God. – J.N. Darby
2 and “he” is the propitiation for our sins; but not for ours alone, but also for the whole world. 3 And hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that says, I know him, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him verily the love of God is perfected. Hereby we know that we are in him. 6 He that says he abides in him ought, even as “he” walked, himself also so to walk. 7 Beloved, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment, which ye have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye heard. 8 Again, I write a new commandment to you, which thing is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light already shines. vv.7-8 The old commandment is eternal life manifested in the person of the Lord Jesus when here on earth. The new commandment is that same life manifested in us now.
9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in the darkness until now. 10 He that loves his brother abides in light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him. 11 But he that hates his brother is in the darkness, and walks in the darkness, and knows not where he goes, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 12 I write to you, children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. 13 I write to you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because ye have known the Father.
14 I have written to you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word [‘logos’] of God abides in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. v.14 The young men have God’s Word [‘logos’] abiding in them in the broadest sense; to be well-acquainted with the whole revelation of God. In Col. 3:16 we are told to have “the word of Christ” abiding in us, which is that part of the written Word that flows to us from an ascended, glorified man; specifically the New Testament epistles (see notes on the Word and Words of God).
15 Love not the world, nor the things in the world. If any one love the world, the love of the Father is not in him; 16 because all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing, and its lust, but he that does the will of God abides for eternity. 18 Little children, it is the last hour, and, according as ye have heard that antichrist comes, even now there have come many antichrists, whence we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from among us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have surely remained with us, but that they might be made manifest that none are of us. 20 And “ye” have the unction from the holy one, and ye know all things. v.20 This word “unction” is the same word as annointing, used in v.27.
21 I have not written to you because ye do not know the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? “He” is the antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son has not the Father either; he who confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 As for “you” let that which ye have heard from the beginning abide in you: if what ye have heard from the beginning abides in you, “ye” also shall abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise which “he” has promised us, life eternal. 26 These things have I written to you concerning those who lead you astray: 27 and “yourselves”, the unction which ye have received from him abides in you, and ye have not need that any one should teach you; but as the same unction teaches you as to all things, and is true and is not a lie, and even as it has taught you, ye shall abide in him. 28 And now, children, abide in him, that if he be manifested we may have boldness, and not be put to shame from before him at his coming. 29 If ye know that he is righteous, know that every one who practises righteousness is begotten of him.
1 See what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God. For this reason the world knows us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we children of God, and what we shall be has not yet been manifested; we know that if it is manifested we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every one that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as “he” is pure. 4 Every one that practises sin practises also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 And ye know that “he” has been manifested that he might take away our sins; and in him sin is not. 6 Whoever abides in him, does not sin: whoever sins, has not seen him or known him. 7 Children, let no man lead you astray; he that practises righteousness is righteous, even as “he” is righteous. 8 He that practises sin is of the devil; for from the beginning the devil sins. To this end the Son of God has been manifested, that he might undo the works of the devil. v.8 “From the beginning” – from the very first time we are introduced to the serpent.
9 Whoever has been begotten of God does not practise sin, because his seed abides in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been begotten of God. v.9 same seed → same fruit. See Gen. 1:11.
10 In this are manifest the children of God and the children of the devil. Whoever does not practise righteousness is not of God, and he who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message which ye have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another: 12 not as Cain was of the wicked one, and slew his brother; and on account of what slew he him? because his works were wicked, and those of his brother righteous. 13 Do not wonder, brethren, if the world hate you. 14 “We” know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Every one that hates his brother is a murderer, and ye know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. v.15 Some have tried to take this verse and teach that no one who commits suicide can go to heaven, because suicide is murder, and no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. However, we must understand that John is speaking characteristically. David was a murderer and we will see him in heaven. Also, you can’t take only the last part of the verse alone. If the latter part of v.15 refers to a single act (it doesn’t) then the first half must mean that one single thought of hatred toward other constitutes murder. Then no one would be saved!
16 Hereby we have known love, because “he” has laid down his life for us; and “we” ought for the brethren to lay down our lives. 17 But whoso may have the world’s substance, and see his brother having need, and shut up his bowels from him, how abides the love of God in him? 18 Children, let us not love with word, nor with tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And hereby we shall know that we are of the truth, and shall persuade our hearts before him — 20 that if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things. v.20 God is greater in knowledge of what interferes with communion in our hearts.
21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, we have boldness towards God, 22 and whatsoever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments, and practise the things which are pleasing in his sight. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and that we love one another, even as he has given us commandment. 24 And he that keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given to us.
1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, if they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby ye know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses Jesus Christ come in flesh is of God; 3 and every spirit which does not confess Jesus Christ come in flesh is not of God: and this is that power of the antichrist, of which ye have heard that it comes, and now it is already in the world. 4 “Ye” are of God, children, and have overcome them, because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. 5 “They” are of the world; for this reason they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. 6 “We” are of God; he that knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 7 Beloved, let us love one another; because love is of God, and every one that loves has been begotten of God, and knows God. 8 He that loves not has not known God; for God is love. 9 Herein as to us has been manifested the love of God, that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son a propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God has so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time: if we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us. v.12 love manifested in the lives of believers toward one another shows the world what god is like whom they can’t see. John 1:18 – christ displayed god perfectly on earth.
13 Hereby we know that we abide in him and he in us, that he has given to us of his Spirit. 14 And “we” have seen, and testify, that the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world. 15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And “we” have known and have believed the love which God has to us. God is love, and he that abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 17 Herein has love been perfected with us that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, that even as “he” is, “we” also are in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has torment, and he that fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 “We” love because “he” has first loved us. 20 If any one say, I love God, and hate his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? vv.19-20 If we want to measure our love for god (not the point) it is our love for our brethren.
21 And this commandment have we from him, That he that loves God love also his brother.
1 Every one that believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God; and every one that loves him that has begotten loves also him that is begotten of him. v.1 love for our brethren has to be universal or it isn’t true love.
2 Hereby know we that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. v.2 To express love to a fellow child of God in a way that is disobedient to the commandments of God is not really divine love. We learn in 2 Pet. 1:7 that brotherly love is always governed by divine love. Divine love always has God as its object.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous. v.3 The exercise of love in practical obedience to god’s will shows us it is real. The commandments are not grievous, because they are in keeping with the desires and capacities of the new nature. The Lord delighted to do the Father’s will (1 John 2:6).
4 For all that has been begotten of God gets the victory over the world; and this is the victory which has gotten the victory over the world, our faith. v.4 Overcoming the World. everyone with eternal life overcomes the world-system. How? by faith which has an object higher than this world.
5 Who is he that gets the victory over the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God? v.5 A New Object for Faith The world is really the great obstacle in the Christian’s path which prevents him from obeying the commandments of God (1 John 2:16). But faith, like a grain of mustard seed, can remove such a great mountain and cast it into the sea. How does this work? Our faith has an object which has overcome the world. The Christian believes that Jesus – whom the world has crucified – is the Son of God. In this way our faith has a practical victory over this world.
6 This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus the Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that bears witness, for the Spirit is the truth. v.6 Blood, Water & the Spirit’s Witness. We had the new object for faith in v.5 (Jesus, the Son of God), and now we have the work that our object accomplished. When the spear pierced the side of a dead Christ, both blood and water flowed out. Blood speaks of the judicial cleansing from the guilt of sin. Water speaks of the moral cleansing from the defilement of sin. Not only has the work of Christ justified me (blood) but it has also cleansed me (water) in God’s sight, in the sight of others, and in my own sight. e.g. this is how Peter could say in his Pentecostal sermon, “whom ye (Israel) have denied”… he was clean in his own sight as well as others. It says that Christ came “by water and by blood”, that is for the purpose of effecting moral and judicial cleansing (new birth and salvation). The Spirit of God bears witness to that. John emphasizes “not by water only”. It was not the Lord’s purpose in coming only to cleanse His people from moral defilement, but also to give God a righteous basis to declare us judicially “just” in His sight (Rom. 3:26). One who is only morally cleansed is not a finished product. There are many religions in the world that profess to be able to wash with water; that is, to produce a holy life. These religions are unable to wash with water, but one thing they cannot even attempt to do is wash with blood. They cannot even grasp how the guilt of sin can be put away, and how a sinner can be justified in God’s sight. Christ came, not by water only, but by water and blood. It is a distinctive characteristic of Christianity. In 1 John the water was mentioned before the blood because that is the order in which they are applied to a believer. We must be born again first, then we believe on the only-begotten Son for eternal life. Even in Old Testament typology, the sons of Aaron were washed with water first, then sprinkled with blood (Lev. 8). But in John 19:34 the blood is mentioned before water because that was the order they came out in historically, and the order which has God’s interests first, before man’s need.
7 For they that bear witness are three: 8 the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and the three agree in one. vv.7-8 The order of the three witnesses is changed because this is the order in which we apprehend it. God’s three witnesses to his gift of eternal life: (1) the Spirit – enables us to appreciate both, (2) water – moral purification and new birth, and (3) blood – expiation for sin. John takes up these three great witnesses in his ministry.
9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater. For this is the witness of God which he has witnessed concerning his Son. 10 He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself; he that does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness which God has witnessed concerning his Son. 11 And this is the witness, that God has given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son. 12 He that has the Son has life: he that has not the Son of God has not life. 13 These things have I written to you that ye may know that ye have eternal life who believe on the name of the Son of God. v.13 is the end of the doctrinal part of the epistle.
14 And this is the boldness which we have towards him, that if we ask him anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him. 16 If any one see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life, for those that do not sin unto death. There is a sin to death: I do not say of that that he should make a request. v.16 “give him life” – an extension of his natural life, not divine life.
17 Every unrighteousness is sin; and there is a sin not to death. 18 We know that every one begotten of God does not sin, but he that has been begotten of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the wicked one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding that we should know him that is true; and we are in him that is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Children, keep yourselves from idols.