1 John 1 – The Introduction

This Tuesday, we are beginning our summer study of John’s letters. For this week, please read 1 John 1. Paul’s letters generally preach the good news of God’s unmerited Grace, but it is John’s epistles that tell of the good news of God’s unmerited Love. Of all the books of the New Testament, only John’s Gospel uses the word “love” more frequently than does 1 John. The letter is written to a congregation beset by a secessionist group, and the writer is calling the remnant congregation back to the basics.

The introduction to 1 John (1 John 1:1-4) should sound somewhat familiar. Before beginning the reading for this week, please read the Prologue to the Gospel of John (John 1:1-18) and the Old Testament’s personification of Wisdom found in Proverbs 8-9 (and particularly Prov. 8:22-36) and Wisdom 7:22-8:1. You should find certain common phrases such as “from the beginning” and common themes of life and Divine fellowship/participation. 

Unlike John’s Gospel which begins with the Logos or Proverbs which speaks of wisdom, the epistle begins with a gender-neutral relative pronoun “that which.” The first issue that confronts us when we begin the letter, is what is the referent of the pronoun? Is it Wisdom/Word, or the Word incarnate in Jesus, or the resurrected Jesus, or simply the gospel message? In using a pronoun and not a definite noun, John leads into seeing all of the definite concepts as not something separate but as all being related.  We do not know whether the letter was written first and the prologue to the Gospel makes the letter’s introduction more definite, or if the letter was written after the prologue to the Gospel and seeks to broaden the understanding of the prologue.

Also, as you read through the introduction, notice how the writer establishes his authority: “We have heard . . . we have seen . . . we have looked upon and touched . . . we saw it.” (vv.1-2). The writer is an eyewitness about which he writes.  In this letter, he is passing along his message, God’s wisdom, and Christ himself to his audience: “we proclaim it to you so that you may have fellowship.” (v.3). This introduction should remind us of Jesus’ words to Thomas (as recorded in John’s gospel) that “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.” (John 20:29). John’s audience are those who believe, yet have not seen.

Finally, John ends his introduction with its overall purpose – that through the proclamation he and his audience will have a horizontal community fellowship with each other and have a vertical community fellowship with the Father and the Son. Having this fellowship with each other is a prerequisite of having this fellowship with God. Elsewhere, the New Testament speaks of this fellowship among believers (Acts 2:42, 1 Cor. 1:9, Phil 1:5) or with God (2 Cor. 13:14, Phil. 2:1), but it is only here that these two fellowships, with each other and with God, and brought together. This will be the great theme of this letter – our fellowship with Christ allows us to be in fellowship with each other and in fellowship with God and these unions are inseparable from one another.  John’s gospel records Jesus praying: “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.” John 17:21. This is John’s prayer for his audience.

Dinner is at 6:30. The menu is Indian in celebration of Stella’s 80th birthday. Study at 7:30. Compline at 8:30. Hope you can join us.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John 20:30-31

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