Why was '1 JOHN' written?


Good question! The apostle John is not shy in letting us know why – as you read this, please note the pastoral heart John has for his fellow believers. It’s really beautiful!

1 JOHN is one of those short letters near the back of your Bibles. The key word – wait for it – is ‘writing’ … John seems to like writing the word ‘writing’!

1:4 "And we are writing this that our joy may be complete." John is writing so that there may be great joy – both for him and his readers. And why not? His preface in the first 3 verses are of such great substance, that if grasped, must cause joy. There is real joy in fellowship with the Father, Son and fellow believers.

2:1 "…I am writing this to you so that you may not sin..." John was anxious that followers of Jesus Christ would have constant fellowship with God. He writes this in response to what he already has written: i.e. that sin is evident in a Christian’s life, there is a remedy in forgiveness but we do have the power over it. To sin is to grieve God; therefore, John writes so that we won’t sin.

2:7 "...I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning...." Although he does not reveal exactly what this is, it seems (in context) that it is to love each other. It was not new because they knew it already. He writes to remind them.

2:8 "Yet I am writing you a new commandment...." The same commandment! but it was the new commandment Jesus gave in John 13:34. In fact, it is always new because it abides forever because of its relationship with the true Light (v8).

2:12 "I am writing to you...because your sins are forgiven for His sake." He reminds them of their forgiveness of sins because of what Jesus has done for them; they – as children of light – not darkness.

2:13 "I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning."
He writes to the spiritually mature – those who have a deep fellowship with Him – this letter is to them. They know the REAL Christ. "I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one." This letter is for the young men too, because they have overcome the enemy – they have had a great victory and are faithful – true believers. "I write to you, children, because you know the Father." This letter is for children too, i.e. babes in Christ because they have been reconciled unto God and have fellowship with Him. Maybe these three nouns (fathers, young men, children) refer to the spiritual growth of the believers; no matter, this letter is for them because they are special, and they know and love the Lord.

2:14 "I write to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning. I write to you young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the evil one." John not only writes to reminds them of their status in Christ, but to encourage them in their walk. The young men are ‘strong’- their faith is of worth and they rely on His word, i.e. ‘the revelation of His will and the means of receiving the fullness of Christ’ (Vine).

2:21 "I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and know that no lie is in the truth." They are, therefore, able to differentiate truth from error and their practice will result from truth. They are never to lie.

2:26 "I write this to you about those who would deceive you..." The context of this verse is really from verse 15. These Christians had been troubled by false teachers (i.e. the Ebionites, the Docetists and the Cerinthians) - early Gnostics. ‘This’ is what has preceded. Combating these people in this letter was why it was written.

5:13 "These things have I written unto you that ye may know that ye have eternal life even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God." John refers to the whole letter he has just written, that they may be absolutely sure in their faith of their eternal salvation – ‘they’ meaning true believers. They have a ‘permanent relationship with Him who is the very source of life’ (Vine).

Written by Stephen Cracknell: typed by Nell Vanderbos



 FROM MIKE: “Was reading your blog on "Why was '1 JOHN' written"...just had a question if you had a sec to answer:

Was is the point of...

I write to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
13I write to you, fathers,
because you have known him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children,
because you have known the Father.
14I write to you, fathers,
because you have known him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.

It changes literary style and seems particularly random.

I know you have alluded to 'fathers' being mature christians etc, but why address each group twice, repeating some parts and not others.”

MY REPLY: John, as a Pastor, loves his flock and he writes to them in ways that they would understand. Don't forget, this was a letter written 2000 years ago to a people with distinct cultural norms (just as we have our Western cultural norms). They know, therefore, that John is addressing the whole family of God (by writing the way he does). It was to be read publicly (not many could read).

Secondly, you are reading poetry - not prose. Spiritual maturity is the focus. The literary style you mention was familiar to his readers. This letter would have been read publicly & would have "sounded really good" as well.

Next, his choice of words are vital; e.g. the word for 'WRITE' is in the 'perfect tense' which is John's way of stressing ongoing and lasting results.

Fourthly, each group is addressed twice - John is methodical and careful how he is developing this theme of maturity. It is far from random. Repetition is important for emphasis; his reasons for some repetition & not others may be due to his pastoral knowledge of the local congregation(s).

In summary, "Pastor" John wants to commend these people whom he loves with a passion, as well assure them too. In short, he wants them to grow!

For great resources on '1 JOHN' check out:  http://preceptaustin.org/1_john_commentaries.htm