I John: A study for groups or for you

WELCOME TO I JOHN (by pastor Eric)

This little book was written by John the apostle. He was the same John who had been one of Jesus’ 12 Disciples. He wrote this many years after Jesus had gone back to Heaven. John was an old man by the time of this writing. He was probably 80 to 85 years of age.

John also wrote other books, including the Gospel of John, the little letters called II John and III John, and the Book of Revelation. This man was used by God, to give us quite a bit of the New Testament.

John and his brother James grew up knowing Jesus as merely their cousin; the son of their mother’s sister, Mary. While growing up, they had no idea what lay ahead. They did not yet understand that Jesus is the Messiah of the Jews and the Savior of the World.

However, once Jesus began his public ministry at about age 30, they very quickly understood that he is Messiah, and John and James became two of the 12 disciples. They didn’t yet grasp the part of Jesus’ ministry about being the suffering servant who dies for the sins of others. In due time, they would know it and also proclaim it.

By the time John wrote this letter called I John, he had changed a lot from his earlier days when Jesus had called him a “son of thunder” for wanting to call down God’s wrath on a town that had treated Jesus poorly. At the time of this writing, he was known as the Apostle of Love.

Probably I John was written from Ephesus, where this elderly disciple was doing apostolic work, as the sole survivor by then, of the original 12. He probably wrote this around the year 90, at a time when the evil teaching called Gnosticism was first starting to invade and harm churches and the precious people in those churches.

May God bless each of you over these coming weeks!
Pastor Eric J. Hanson

Chapter 1 of First John

This first chapter of I John contains one of the most often memorized verses in the whole Bible. Shortly after I became a believer in Jesus Christ, at age 18, my Sunday School teacher (Young Adults Class) assigned the famous I John 1:9 for me to memorize. It was a great verse to learn early in my life journey with the Lord. Let’s look into chapter 1 now.

Read verses 1 & 2.
John made it very clear at the beginning of this little book, that he was there with Jesus during His days on Earth! He saw Jesus who is the Word of Life. He walked with Him, talked with Him, ate with Him, and saw Him do miracles of many kinds.

He also saw Jesus die on the Cross. John was the only one of the 12 who was there and not in hiding as Jesus suffered and died for our sins that day. John saw Jesus alive again after His crucifixion. He spent time with the Lord for 40 days after His resurrection. John saw the Lord ascend into the cloud and heard the promise that Jesus will return the same way (via the sky) one day.

Read verses 3 & 4.
John’s aim in writing this, was to share the Lord Jesus with as many people as possible…to see as many people as possible really know the Lord, and obtain eternal life because of knowing Him!

Read verses 5 & 6.
If anyone really follows Jesus, they will walk in “light”. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If anyone is drawing near to God through Jesus Christ, he or she will become more and more like Him. Followers of Jesus do not continue in a lifestyle of darkness.

Read verse 7.
This very famous “memory” verse continues to make it clear that we become more and more like Jesus as we press in to walk close to Him. His blood continually cleanses us of sin as we walk this way.

Read verse 8.
All of us “sin”, even as we do so less and less while following Jesus. The Greek word in this verse for “sin” is Hamartia, which means “missing the mark” or “falling short”. There is a different Greek word for sin which refers to an ongoing lifestyle of sin. That kind of sin would be “walking in darkness” and not following the Lord. These are 2 totally different matters. Missing the mark reminds us that we are not yet made perfect, but Jesus is!

Read verse 9.
To confess here, means to agree with God that we continue to fall short of His sinlessness, that we turn away from our sins, and that we seek the forgiveness of our sin day by day. Notice that God does two actions in this wonderful verse. First, he forgives us, but then he also “cleanses us from all unrighteousness”. This second action means that He causes us to sin (miss the mark) less and less as we continue to seek Him. We become more and more like Him!

Read verse 10.
The chapter closes with yet another reminder that we (believers) have sinned, so let’s be humble, get over ourselves, and rejoice in the Lord’s love!

Chapter 2 of First John

Jesus is Still on the Job (1-2)

Read verses 1 & 2.
John clearly stated here in verse 1, that he was, in this letter, unfolding a victory principle in the struggle against sin in the life of any believer. Indeed, he had just shared the key to that in verse 1:9. Here, in these 2 verses he elaborated some.

A major part of the present-day ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ is to represent us before the Father in Heaven. He acts as our advocate there. This is just what a defense attorney does in a Court of Law. Furthermore, and beyond what an attorney can do in an earthly court, He is also the “propitiation” for our sin. This means that He is the one who brings reconciliation; the one who “expiates” (pays the penalty for) the sin.

John also added that Jesus had “paid the price” for the sin of “the whole World”. This means that every person on Earth could be saved, if they just would.

Love, Light & Darkness (3-11)

Read verses 3 & 4.
This is partly an echo of verses 5 & 6 of the previous chapter. People who claim the name of Jesus, but who do not in any way seek to please Him with their way of life, are not telling the truth. If a person comes to genuine saving faith in the Lord, it will show up in them.

Read verses 5 & 6.
This is the other side of the same “coin” we just looked at in verses 3 & 4. If someone is living in the Love of the Lord, it shows up as obedience to the Lord’s commands, and he or she becomes more like the Lord as time goes by.

Read verse 7.
John was “setting the table” here; getting ready to talk about the Lord’s great commandments to believers.

Read verses 8 & 9.
We believers are in a new age. Jesus is the true light, and he is already shining in us and through us. If we continue in hatred toward “our brother”, the light of the Lord is not there in us. We are in darkness.

Read verses 10 & 11.
Here John approached this matter yet another time. He was driving this home with repetition, using slight variations of wording. I believe that this repetition is because this whole truth set makes people squirm. People try to explain away the plain nature of what John said here, and what Jesus said in giving the great commandment and other places in the Gospels where He said these same things. (Matthew 22:36-38, John 14:21, John 15:10)

Stages of Maturity

Read verses 12-14.
The three major levels of maturity in the Christian life are briefly highlighted here.

1. Little Children in the Lord have been forgiven of their sins, and they know the Heavenly Father because of Jesus in their lives.

2. Young men in the Lord have been battle tested against Satan’s minions, and have achieved victory. They have become strong in the Lord, and have internalized key parts of God’s word.

3. Fathers in the Lord have walked with the Lord for a long time. They have remained true to the Faith and the Lord through many of life’s battles. They set a good example for newer believers to follow.

Beware of this “World”

Read verses 15-17.
This passage is dealing with not loving the evil “World System” which traps people’s minds, affections, time, and energy, diverting them from the things of God.

The Greek word used here for love is (surprisingly) Agapeo, which is the same word used for God’s love. It is an all-encompassing word. We are not to give our lives to (or for) the World System. We are not to bow down to (and worship) its values of prestige, comfort, indulging of lusts, chasing wealth, and power over others.

All of these things boil down to 3 categories:
1. the lust of the flesh,
2. the lust of the eyes,
3. the pride(fulness) of life.

John ends this little section with a contrast, pointing out that this whole worldly deal is temporary, but the person who serves God is eternal!

Spotting and understanding about “Anti-Christs” (false Christs)

Read verses 18-19.
The entire New Testament Age is “the last hour”. Anyone who claims to have started something “newer and better” than the simple faith in Jesus Christ, which the New Testament teaches us, is an antichrist. Mohammad was one, claiming that Islam supersedes and is superior to the Christian Faith. More recently, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were antichrists, claiming “Another Testament” of Jesus Christ. In our lifetimes there have been many who affected fewer people than those already noted. Sun Myung Moon, was one. He claimed that Jesus had failed in His mission to bring God’s Kingdom, by being murdered, and that God had sent him (Moon) to finish the job and be the true Messiah. Jim Jones infamously duped a few hundred followers to their deaths, as they followed his claim to be God in a Human Body, and to be the Christ. -As John mentioned here, many who have become antichrists, began in legitimate church circles and then left for one reason of another.

Read verses 20-21.
John was assuring his readers that they know the difference between the real Lord Jesus Christ and the counterfeits who were already cropping up at that time.

Read verses 22-23.
Here is great clarity on this issue of who is proclaiming a false faith. Whoever denies that Jesus (God the Son) is the one and only Christ (Greek) or Messiah (Hebrew) or Anointed One (English) does not know God the Father. Whoever embraces Jesus as God the Son, also has the Father in his or her life.

Read verses 24-25.
It all comes right back to the simplicity of devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. (John 3:16) If we continue in the Good News about Jesus Christ, which John and the other Apostles taught at the beginning, we have eternal life.

Read verses 26-27.
Here we clearly see that false teachers, even then, had “slipped into” good churches, in order to deceive. The living Holy Spirit in believers, (an anointing) can and does warn us about these people. If we are tuned in to God, our spiritual hackles stand on end when such people try to lead us astray.

Read verses 28-29.
It is simple. Do what the Amplified Bible says in John 3:16 concerning Jesus. We are to “cling to, trust in, and rely on” Him. Then we will not be ashamed when we face Him. John closes the chapter by again mentioning that if Jesus is real in us, we will live right.

Chapter 3 of first John
We are God’s Children!

Read verse 1.
John used interesting wording here, first proclaiming that God’s great love causes us to be called the “Children of God”, then emphasizing that we are indeed the Children of God. The World cannot grasp this.

Read verse 2.
Why did John repeat himself so soon? I think that it because this concept of being god’s own children is HUGE. It is beyond normal thinking. John understood this and quickly brought up the complete change which we shall experience when we see the Lord at His second coming. We will have the ultimate makeover! We shall be like Him, and we will understand Him too, for our minds will be also made over at that time.

Draw close to the Lord. Turn away from sin.

Read verse 3.
As John did in chapter 2, he once again emphasized that true believers who are looking for the Lord’s appearing, turn away from sin and work on avoiding it and on living right.

Read verse 4.
Those who practice sin (continue in sin…have a lifestyle of sin) do not have the Law of the Lord inside of them, guiding them.

Read verse 5.
This restates the dynamics of I John 1:9. The same Jesus who forgives our sins, also empowers us to escape the snare of living in sin. Jesus’ own life in us (by the Holy Spirit) leads us away from sin, for there is no sin in Him.

Read verse 6.
Think about this verse carefully. John had also written (to believers) that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. (1:8) In light of that, what does he mean here? -As often happens, understanding the Greek language (which this was originally written in) helps. The continuous present tense was used here; both for “abiding in Him” and for “sins”. -Those who continue with the Lord, don’t continue to “abide in sin”.

Read verses 7-9.
These verses amplify the statements of verse 6, unpacking them and making them clear.

Read verse 10.
This conclusions verse simply sums up the previous statements with another continuous present tense term: “does not practice righteousness”. In other words, a tree is known be its fruit. A good fruit tree produces good fruit, and a bad one doesn’t. -Then he mentions love.

Living in Supernatural Love…not Hatred

Read verses 11-12.
We are to love (agapeo) one another and not be like Cain. Unfortunately, many churches, families, and individual lives have been torn apart by supposed believers refusing to live this way, becoming offended with each other, and seeking to undermine or even slander others. God is not impressed by this, and he does not get convinced by our excuses.

Read verses 13-14.
The World is filled with hatefulness. This is no surprise. We are to be completely different than this. We are to be empowered by the Lord’s own love flowing in us. This is so important that it is the “mark” by which anyone can see that we have passed out of death and into life.

Read verse 15.
John pulled no punches here. Hatred is inward murder. No murderer has eternal life living in him.

Proactive Love
Read verse 16.
God’s love is active, not merely passive. It moves us to action. We are not here to seek mere comfort. We are here to actively care.

Read verses 17 & 18.
If it is real, it will produce results. Real love causes real sharing with our brothers and sisters in need. There are definite guidelines in other parts of the New testament about how to apply this principle of generous care, but it is vitally important that we do apply it.

Read verses 19 & 20.
Are you living this way? (close to the Lord, fleeing sin, caring about the brothers and sisters in the Lord) If so, don’t let inner voices condemn you. Beware of the Devil’s attempts to bring discouragement in these things.

Living and Praying with a clean conscience

Read verses 21 & 22.
If you are sincere in these matters, you can approach God with confidence. He will guide your prayers. You will pray for the right things, and God will answer right praying coming from right motives.

Read verse 23.
Jesus had said “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. On various occasions, he had also emphasized the essential nature of believing on or in Him. Here John affirmed these truths.

Read verse 24.
This section closed with yet another return to the idea that really knowing the Lord produces results in a person’s life. Also, the Holy Spirit assures us that Jesus is in our life! -Don’t let anything talk you out of that assurance.

I John Chapter 4

Who is of God, and who is not?
Read Verse 1.
The word spirit in this verse is used in the same way that it is used in I Corinthians 14: 29-33, where we learn that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. This means that all “spiritual” talk comes through the filter of the person who is speaking. If any person’s own spirit is not rightly related to God’s Holy Spirit, their teaching and preaching will be off the mark, so investigate before you listen to anyone’s teachings.

Read verses 2 & 3.
These are very important verses for sorting out who is trustworthy behind a pulpit, in a book about the things of God, or on TV, Radio, or the Internet. Only those who proclaim Jesus to be the (one and only) Christ (or Messiah, or unique anointed one from God) are of God. All who have any other view concerning who Jesus is, are in error concerning the very person of Jesus Christ. (Check out this book by Lee Strobel: The Case for the Real Jesus)

Read verse 4.
Believers in the real Jesus have the GREATER ONE in us. The Holy Spirit himself lives in our human spirits, and we can stand against any and every false prophet because of this.

Read verses 5 & 6.
The spirit of error takes many forms. All of them lead to death. Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. (John 14:6) He is the ONLY WAY to God the Father.

God Empowered Love

Read verses 7 & 8.
Here is yet another indicator that if our Faith in Jesus is the real thing, the Love of God will flow through us, and we will genuinely love our brothers and sisters in the Lord. (There is a cool little song to memorize these verses!)

Read verses 9 & 10.
Major thought here: This supernatural love started flowing from God to us. It does not originate with us. God loved us first. When we flow in God’s love, it is a response to Him.

An Explanation: The word propitiation means “a person or place of expiation” such as (Old Testament) the Mercy Seat on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant, where sin’s guilt is wiped out / sent away by means of blood sacrifice.

The Ark of the Covenant

Read verses 11 & 12.
The whole deal is quite clear. God loves us, and calls upon us to love each other with His love.

Read verse 13.
By what do we know that we are in Christ and have His Spirit? By this supernatural God kind of love in our lives.

Read verses 14 & 15.
John gave his confession here, and extended the same thing to all who will name that saving name: Jesus.

Read verses 16 & 17.
The importance of being in God’s love extends all the way to Judgment Day. For two whole chapters John has been nailing this down.

Read verses 18 & 19.
For the person who truly walks in God’s love, there is only confidence and not fear. God loved us first, and we continue in His love.

Read verses 20 & 21.
One more time John pointed out that God’s love in us PRODUCES love for one another. This does not depend on the other person being loveable. It does not depend on the other person being someone you just love to see coming your way because he or she is always nice. This love just depends on God being in us by the Holy Spirit, and us being totally yielded to Him.

God is never fooled by “I love God but I don’t love that guy or those people.”

I John Chapter 5
Nailing Things Down and Wrapping This Up
With 3 Powerful Witnesses

Read verse 1.
True believers, who are born of God (or born again) believe that Jesus is the (unique) Christ (or Messiah). By way of review, please remember that the (Greek derived) word Christ and the (Hebrew derived) word Messiah mean “the Anointed One”. This means that Jesus is the one who was filled to overflowing with the Spirit of God, and (by extension), the one who showed us God the Father perfectly by his life and his words. -Also, John points out that anyone who (genuinely) loves God the Father, also loves Jesus the Son.

Read verses 2 & 3.
Loving God’s people can only flow out of loving God. If we love God genuinely, then His love flows through us and touches other people too. Loving God is not a matter of emotions, but of walking in obedience to Him. His commandments are not a burden.

Read verses 4 & 5.
True believers; those who are loving God and walking in obedience to Him, overcome the World system, which sets itself up against the knowledge of God. The World as used in this passage refers to ways of living, which are based on Human reason, rather than on God’s word. Many believers were being persecuted by the time John wrote this book. Even if people hate our faith and hate us because of our faith, we are overcomers, if we walk with the Lord.

Read verse 6.
Bear in mind that the Gnostic heresy had invaded the church John was writing to. He used wording here designed to “nail down” the truth that Jesus was both true God and true man. Jesus’ messiahship
was shown forth by water (at His baptism) and by blood (as He died for the sin of the World).

The Gnostics had no problem with the idea of Jesus as a divine being, but they claimed that He was not also truly human. Therefore, they accepted the events which occurred at Jesus water baptism. -You will recall that Jesus came up out of the water and the voice of the Father spoke out of a cloud, affirming Jesus’ divine Sonship, and the Holy Spirit took on the form of a dove, and came down and rested on Jesus visibly at that time. (John 1:29-34) However, the Gnostics did not accept the importance of what Jesus did at the Cross, as his blood was poured out to pay for the forgiveness of the sins of all who would believe. The Gnostic heresy rejects the truth that the sinless Jesus, who is both God and man, died in the place of guilty mankind, and that He did it as a real man/human/person, subject to death.

The Gnostic did not want to hear that we are called to identify completely with Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection. The gnostic did not want to admit that true believers overcome sin by being genuinely “in Christ”. This would mean that having drunken orgies, (as the Gnostics did), is wrong. The flesh does matter! Jesus died to redeem not just our spirit, but our entire being, including our bodies.

Read verse 7.
The Holy Spirit came in power on the Day of Pentecost, and on several other occasions recorded in the Book of Acts. These bear witness that Jesus Christ is God, is Human, and is the Risen Lord Forever.

Read verses 8 & 9.
Here John ties the Spirit (Pentecost) together with the Water of Jesus’ baptism and the Blood which Jesus poured out during his suffering and death. The 3 together make a mighty witness! They are also greater than the testimony of men is. They are the testimony of God the Father concerning Jesus the Son.

Read verse 10.
Here is the bottom line concerning this stuff. If you believe these 3 witnesses, you are believing God the Father. If you don’t, you make God out to be a liar… not wise.

Read verses 11 & 12.
If you believe these 3 witnesses, and thus, believe the Father’s testimony concerning Jesus, you have eternal life in Jesus the Son. If not, you do not have eternal life.

Read verse 13.
Believers, be encouraged! Your hope is based on something real!

Read verses 14 & 15.
These verses are often misunderstood. They get interpreted in various ways by various Bible teachers and preachers. Remember that the context throughout this letter has been a solid understanding of who Jesus really is. Remember too, that Jesus Himself, looking ahead to the time when He would be back in Heaven, had said “In that day you shall ask Me nothing, but whatever you ask the Father in My name, He shall give it (to) you.” (John 16:23)

These verses are basically a re-stating of John 16:23. Bear in mind that asking the Father for things “in Jesus’ Name” is not simply a matter of tagging those words onto our prayers. They are a matter of walking close to the Lord, knowing and understanding His will in any given matter, and then boldly asking the Father to, meet the need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Read verses 16 & 17.
John, across the scope of his writings, was clear that there are two basic categories of sin. There is sin which is setting one’s will against the purposes of God and blatantly setting out to oppose God. This is sin which leads to death. It has to do with people who “harden their heart” against God over an extended period of some time. Then there is sin which is “missing the mark” or “falling short” of God’s perfect standard. This is sin which does not lead to death. It is a condition we all struggle with in following the Lord. We are to pray for each other for God’s help in overcoming this type of sin.

Read verse 18.
In chapter 1, writing to believers, John had stated “If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves.” -How can this verse say that no one who is born of God sins? It is simply this. People who are genuinely born again (of God) do not set our heart on sin. We do not make sin our goal. In the Greek language, these verses are clearer, because there are different Greek words for the two types of sin John wrote about.

Read verse 19.
Until Jesus comes back to Earth in great power and glory, and sets up his literal throne as King of Kings, we have a major problem. “The Whole Earth lies in the power of the Evil One.” The World system is under the control of Satan. It will always oppose God’s ways.

Read verse 20.
John’s closing shot regarding the Lord, once again emphasizes that we know God through Jesus Christ, who is the (unique) Son of God. Through Jesus we know the true God and have eternal life!

Read verse 21.
The addendum: This appears to be an afterthought. In reality, we are all constantly are tempted to set up idols in our lives. Idols are anything that take the proper place of God in our affections. They divert our energy and strength from God’s purposes to other things. What are some idols that could capture our affections and our time and energy?