A Study of 1 Jn.5:4-21

John is continuing his teaching on Fellowship with God and fellow believers, and here he deals with victory over worldly influences and confirms the Guarantee of our salvation.

Victory over the World is a possibility for all believers in Christ who obey His commands <1 Jn.5:4-5>. Having already cautioned us of the subtle attraction of worldliness; the realm controlled by Satan and organized against God and therefore at war with all Christ’s followers <see 1 Jn.2:15-17>; John now reveals to us how this worldliness can be conquered. First, he reveals who are the overcomers: “…for everyone born of God overcomes the world.” <1 Jn.5:4a (NIV); cf Jn.1:12-13>; all those who have heard the gospel message and have turned to God in true repentance have been brought into the family of God as His children <see Eph.1:13; 2 Cor.1:21-22>; we have been adopted into God’s family in the person of His Son our Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly, John states that the overcoming factor is our faith in God: “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” <1 Jn.5:4b (NIV)>; and confirms this with his next statement: “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” <1 Jn.5:5 (NIV)>; and he gives the reason why this is possible in the previous passage by stating that true love for God is “to obey his commands” <1 Jn.5:3 (NIV)>; so, we see that victory over the world is possible to all believers who constantly obey God’s commands. In this world with all its attractions that challenge us each day as we are confronted with important decisions; how do we know God’s commands? We can only find and obey God’s will for us by being familiar with what the scriptures teach, and work toward the application of these teachings in every aspect of our daily lives. By doing this we can begin and continue to resist the devil and all the deceits he brings to us <see Jas.1:22; 4:7>.

Every believer in Christ is given a “Guarantee of Salvation” <1Jn.5:6-13>. There has been much debate as to the meaning of the first sentence: “This is the one who came by water and blood — Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood.” <1 Jn.5:6a (NIV)>; but it is evident that John is trying to correct the false teaching of the Gnostic heresy. Gnostics believed and taught that Christ came upon “the man Jesus” at His baptism and left Him before His passion in the Garden of Gethsemane, stating that The Christ did not die on the cross, it was only the man Jesus who died (Believers Bible Commentary and NIV Study Bible). Here John uses “water” as an emblem of Jesus’ baptism and “blood” as the symbol of Jesus’ atoning death. John is teaching that Jesus was the Christ when He died on the cross just as much as when He was baptized; and concludes the statement with: “And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” <1 Jn.5:6b (NIV); cf Jn.14:16-17a; 15:26>. He then proceeds to give us five affirmations that Jesus is the Christ – The Son of God.

He begins by giving the first three assertions: “…the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”  <1 Jn.5:8 (NIV)>. What does this mean? The Holy Spirit affirms the fact that Jesus is the Christ (God) because the Spirit is truth <1 Jn. 5:6b>, and this affirmation is seen throughout the N.T., and we see two examples of this. First, the Spirit descended upon Jesus at His baptism <see Jn.1:32-34; Matt.3:16>; and the Spirit continues to confirm this in the hearts of believers that Jesus’ baptism and death verify that He is the Christ, God’s Son <see 1 Cor.12:3; 1 Jn.2:27>. Secondly, confirmation that Jesus is God is seen at His baptism (“water”) where God affirms it <see Matt.3:16-17>. Third, the “blood” which speaks to Christ’s death on the cross, or His atoning sacrifice <1 Jn.2:2> also affirms His deity; in this we observe that His life was not taken from Him on the cross, He gave up His life <see Matt.27:50; Lk.23:46; Jn.10:17-18; 19:28-30>. This is further confirmed to us in the resurrection of Christ, for if the work of redemption was not completed in Christ there would be no salvation for us <see Rom.5:18-19>. In this we observe that all the conditions for our salvation is complete in Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

John continues to give two more assertions. Fourth, it is the confirmation of each and every believer in Christ: Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.” <1 Jn.5:10 (NIV)>. Our belief and acceptance of Christ testifies to the fact that Jesus is God’s Son <see Jn.1:9-14>, and the life of the believer should be a witness to this fact; as John concludes that those who reject Christ are accusing God of dishonesty. The fifth and final assertion is that of God Himself; “God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.” <1 Jn.5:9 (NIV)>.

He concludes this section by giving the greatest assertion: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” <1 Jn.5:11-12 (NIV)>; this is the summation of all of the gospel message, we have eternal life in and through Jesus Christ only. Eternal life cannot be achieved by creeds, religious beliefs, church membership, good religious works and activities or by any other means <Acts 4:12>, it is only through belief and acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ as God’s eternal Son! That is the whole purpose of the Scriptures and the message of the gospel: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” <1 Jn.5:13 (NIV)>; this is our assurance of salvation! Can you honestly say that you have this assurance?


A Study of 1 Jn.4:1 – 5:3

True fellowship with God and other believers should be evident in our character. Here, John warns us that we should not accept all that we hear or are taught from Scripture, we need to be fully informed by Testing the Spirits <1 Jn.4:1-6>, as he continues to teach the characteristics of our fellowship with God. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” <1 Jn.4:1 (NIV)>. John instructs us to “test the spirits”; what does he mean by the spirits? An individual is moved by a spirit, either by The Holy Spirit or by an evil spirit; here he is reminding us of the fact that there are many that wish to identify as members of our churches who are not truly believers in Christ. They are being controlled by the spirit of Satan, because they have abandoned their faith in Christ <see 1 Jn.2:19; cf 2 Pet.1:21; 2:1; Matt.7:15; 24:11; 1 Tim.4:1>. The teachings of Gnosticism were a problem that faced the early church, and is still a bigger problem in the Church today.

John gives us two tests that will expose the false spirit. First, he states: “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” <1 Jn. 4:2 (NIV)>; those that do not acknowledge Jesus Christ, is not of God; for as he has previously stated, those that are from God will testify that Christ, who is God, has come in the flesh, (human form) <see 1 Jn.1:1-4; cf Jn.1:1-2, 14; Phil.2:5-7>, and that while in His humanity He fulfilled all that was prophesied in respect to Him <see Deut.18:17-22; Jn.1:45; 5:46>. Those then, who do not acknowledge that Jesus Christ has appeared in human form, and teach that He is not God, are exhibiting the spirit of the anti-Christ, and John again warns us that such spirits (persons) are already in our churches <1 Jn.4:3>, and that “They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.” <1 Jn.4:5 (NIV)>. John gives a second test: We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.” <1 Jn.4:6 (NIV)>; and this test will prove the false spirit (person) because they will refuse to acknowledge the Deity of Christ since they acknowledge the viewpoint of humankind. John then concludes the test stating: “This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” <1 Jn.4:6 (NIV)>, and it is appropriate for each of us as followers of Christ to be sure to test the teachings that we hear in our Churches today.

As he completes this section, John directs us to Love as Christ Loved <1 Jn.4:7—5:3>. Love is a word that is so misused in our society today. For most people it has no real meaning and is only used to express affection or some kind of appreciation. In this section John shows us that love is not only an expression but an action, for real love comes only from the One who is Love. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” <1 Jn.4:7-8 (NIV)>. Here we see that love originates in God, and is passed on to the individual that is born of God <see Jn.3:6-7>; this is the source of our love for each other, the basis of Christ’s command <see Jn.13:34-35>, and the characteristic of true discipleship. This love was made possible for us as individuals because of God’s eternal love for us, for we could not possess or experience real love apart from God’s gift to us, and we are reminded of this in what John says here: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” <1 Jn.4:9-10 (NIV); cf Jn.3:16; Rom.5:8>. The example of love is seen in God’s love for us as sinners by the sacrifice of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and we should love each other as Christ loved us even though we did nothing to deserve it. We live in a society where true love is absent, and as Christ’s followers, we are commanded to express His love for others even when it may be difficult, and sometimes almost impossible! <see 2 Tim.3:2-5>.

John continues to describe the relationship of the believer to God, and that no greater or closer relationship can be conceived. First, he states that God lives in us and His love is made complete in us; …but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” <1 Jn.4:12 (NIV)>; and out of the depths of our relationship to God, because He has given us His Holy Spirit, when we express true love to others, we testify of God’s love to all people <1 Jn.4:14; cf Jn.15:26-27>. Secondly, he states that in our acknowledgement that Jesus Christ is God’s Son (Christ’s Deity), God lives in us: “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” <1 Jn.4:15-16 (NIV); cf 1 Jn.4:2>; confirming the close relationship that we have with God and Christ. This is the reason that we must express true love to others in obedience to Christ’s command! God’s love is made complete in us when we express His love (the love that He passes on to us) to others. His love removes the fear that the non-believer has for God; and we express love for others because God first loved us, even though there are times in our life when love is difficult to be expressed. We cannot say that we love God and not express that love to others, especially to other believers: “…. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” <1 Jn.4:16-21 (NIV)>.

John commenced this section by stating: Dear friends, let us love one another…” <1 Jn.4:7 (NIV)>; and in view of Christ’s teaching <see Matt.22:36-37>, why does he say “love one another”, instead of “love God”? As he has stated here in the conclusion of the section, only the true believer in Christ has the characteristic of the love of God; so, when we express love for other believers (and non-believers) we are expressing the love of God, and is the evidence of our real love for God. Further evidence of this is seen in his statement: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” <1 Jn.5:1-3 (NIV)>. When we are obedient to Christ’s command to love each other, this is proof that we love God!

The questions that need to be asked is: Where do I stand, or what is my position, pertaining to John’s teaching? Do I simply accept all interpretations of the Scriptures, or do I verify the  Scriptures for myself? Do I express the love of Christ in all my relations with other believers and non-believers? 


Study of 1 Jn.2:28—3:12

The quality of a believer’s fellowship with Christ is manifested in the INTEGRITY OF LIFESTYLE <1 Jn.2:28—3:3>: “…continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.” <1 Jn.2:28 (NIV)>: in our daily lifestyle we must persist in following Christ’s commands, for we are awaiting His return which can occur at any moment in time, and we should not be in a situation where we will be ashamed at His coming <cf. Phil.4:8; 1 Tim.5:22b; 1 Jn.1:9>. In so doing, we will maintain our righteousness, through the help of The Holy Spirit, demonstrating the fact that we have experienced the new birth <Jn.3:3>.                                                    

The characteristic of our fellowship is also confirmed in us because we are true children of God, because of our acceptance of Christ and His sacrifice for our sin, and although the sceptics of this world do not acknowledge this fact, that does not alter God’s love for us: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” <1 Jn.3:1 (NIV); see Jn.1:10, 12-13>. We see here then that we are children of God because of our belief in and acceptance of Christ, and that our future with Christ is unimaginable so we need to guard what has been given to us <see Col.3:4-5>.

Not only has God showered His love on us, the full extent of our future is not evident at the present time; but we are assured of one thing, we will be like Him in respect to our physical actuality and appearance: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” <1 Jn.3:2 (NIV)>. John has given us a description of Jesus’ resurrection body, in that He was seen and touched by His disciples <see Jn.20:10-29>, and that He ascended to heaven in a body that could be seen <Acts 1:9-11>; John now assures us that we will be like Him at His second coming.

So then, we are encouraged by John to ensure that our character demonstrates our fellowship with Christ by getting rid of the impurities of sin through the cleansing of the scriptures with the help of the Holy Spirit: “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” <1 Jn.3:3 (NIV)>.

In our PRACTICE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS <1 Jn.3:4-12>, John continues to expand on the instruction: “If you know that he [Christ] is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. [Christ] <1 Jn.2:29 (NIV)>, and gives five reasons why sinning is utterly incompatible with being a Child of God, (i) Everyone who sins breaks the law” <1 Jn.3:4 (NIV)>; yes, we know that Paul has taught that a believer in Christ is no longer under the condemnation of the Law <see Rom.6:14>, but the effect of the Law still stands and for the believer there is an accountability to Christ <see Rom.14:12>. (ii) Sin is lawlessness” <1 Jn.3:4b (NIV)>; and as such, God’s child must be law-abiding just as Christ was. (iii) No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.” <1 Jn.3:6 (NIV)>; for in continuing to sin we have neither “seen” Christ nor “known” Christ; but in our practice of righteousness we exhibit the life of Christ. (iv) “do not let anyone lead you astray” <1 Jn.3:6 (NIV)>; those that are led astray are not being led by The Holy Spirit, but by some other spirit, possibly an anti-Christ, as he has already warned us. (v) “He who does what is sinful is of the devil” <1 Jn.3:8 (NIV)>; and the reason why Christ appeared was to destroy the devil’s work <1 Jn.3:8b>. So, John sums it up by stating: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” <1 Jn.3:9-10 (NIV); cf Rom.6:1-2>. The believer in Christ, God’s child, cannot, or must not continue to be led astray by sin, for this is the characteristic distinction between a believer in Christ and a non-believer. Therefore, we see that righteousness is exhibited by our practice of obedience to Christ’s commands, and by love shown to each other as believers.

John now describes how mutual Christian love is demonstrated in ACTION AND GENUINENESS <1 Jn.3:13-24>, being the essential characteristic of God’s children, and that hatred is inadmissible. First, he reminds us of Christ’s teaching: “Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.” <1 Jn.3:13 (NIV); cf Jn.15:18-19; 17:14>, for this is one indication that we have been born again <1 Jn.3:14> as we have been taught, reminding us that we have “passed from death to life” and this is the reason why we must express love to each other as believers in Christ <see Jn.5:24; 1 Jn.2:9; Matt.5:21-22; Gal.5:19-21>. He continues to show us how real love is expressed by reminding us of Christ’s love for us <1 Jn.3:16>, and that we should pattern Christ’s example in our love for our fellow believers. Just as Christ saw our spiritual destitution, we must liken that to the material requirement of our fellow believers: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” <1 Jn.3:17-18 (NIV); cf Jn.15:12; Eph.5:1-2>; and if our spirit convicts us in a positive way when we respond by expressing our love in actions and in truth, this is proof that we belong to Christ, and The Holy Spirit confirms our true belief in Christ <1 Jn.3:19-21; cf Heb.6:9-10; 1 Jn.4:17>. But we should understand that we can be condemned by our spirit by actions that are contrary to the love of Christ!

If a believer has a clear conscience by expressions of love, The Holy Spirit confirms that there is obedience to Christ’s commands <1 Jn.3:21-23>, for there is true love demonstrated to others in our actions and; “Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” <1 Jn.3:24 (NIV)>.

Therefore; by the integrity of our lifestyle, our practice of righteousness, and the genuineness of our actions; the character of our fellowship with God and our fellow believers is clearly manifested.




A Study of 1 Jn.2:15-27

LOVE OF THE WORLD    <2:15-17>

What does it mean to “love the world”? It is not a reference to the creation, nor does it mean the habitation of mankind; the reference here is the short-lived character of life’s riches and pleasures and the folly of making them of essential importance in life <see Matt.16:26>. Each disciple of Christ should also remember His teaching; “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” <Jn.15:18-19 (NIV); cf Jas.4:4>. The people of this world – unbelievers – are not the “friends” of our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore should not be of principal importance to the child of God, or be allowed to influence us. Yes, Christ has taught us that we should show His love toward all people for the purpose of their salvation, but not for our fellowship in general, for if we bond with the enemy we will be influenced by the enemy. This then becomes a serious problem for the child of God – the believer in Christ. To whom do we show our loyalty? Paul, in his letter to the Roman believers says: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” <Rom.12:2 (NIV)>; our thoughts and our actions must be changed by the help of The Holy Spirit and the scriptures so that our relationship with Christ becomes stronger and stronger reflecting His life through our life causing us to love Him more than we love the things that this life has to offer.


John emphasises the stipulation for the believer: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” <1 Jn.2:15 (NIV)>; and this statement could not be any clearer; the love of the world and worldliness does not reflect the love of God, and clearly teaches that there is nothing that this life has to offer the believer; “For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world.” <1 Jn.2:16 (NIV)>; which means that the desires and pleasures offered by humankind does not originate, nor is approved by God, for such desires will only cause us to drift away from Him; especially where these luxuries are the basis for keeping up, or being one step ahead of our neighbours. “The world”, then denotes our human society which is governed by selfishness, covetousness and boasting, and as believers in Christ we should not allow our affections to become attached <see Jas.4:4>.

Each of us as believers in Christ must understand that “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” <1 Jn.2:17 (NIV)>; we cannot take our worldly possessions with us when Christ returns to take us home to be with Him <Jn.14:1-3>, for earthly possession will be no use to us in our eternal home.

Who is the Antichrist? This question has been asked by many people in New Testament times. The biblical definition of the Antichrist is: “A false prophet and evil being who will set himself up against Christ and the people of God in the last days before the second coming [of Christ]. The term is used only in the writings of John in the New Testament. It refers to one who stands in opposition to all that Jesus Christ represents (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7). John wrote that several antichrists existed already in his day – false teachers who denied the deity and the incarnation of Christ – but that the supreme Antichrist of history would appear at some future time”. (From Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers). So, here we see that the spirit of the Antichrist is one of opposition to everything that represents Christ, also denying the deity and incarnation of Christ.

Our Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples on this very subject and is recorded in three of the Gospels <see Matt.24:23-26; Mk.13:21; Lk.21:8; cf 2 Thess.2:3-12>; where we see the spirit of the Antichrist described. But we should note what John says here in this passage: “this is the last hour” <1 Jn.2:18 (NIV)>; a reference to the time that began at Christ’s first coming that will continue until His second coming, and we see from the previous scripture references that many antichrists will appear, and we have seen the evidence of this in the lives of a few prominent individuals in recent times; “even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” <1 Jn.2:18b (NIV)>.

John also identifies the antichrists: “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” <1 Jn.2:19 (NIV)>; indicating that they had left the Church because their teaching was not acceptable and they had nothing in common with the believers in Christ, suggesting that they were the early Gnostics of John’s period in time.

The spirit and philosophy of any antichrist can have a severe impact on the life of a believer in Christ, and John expresses that here: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.  I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.” <1 Jn.2:20-21 (NIV)>; he says that as a believer you know the truth, and as such we should not be influenced by the lies of antichrists. The Holy Spirit (the Holy One) reveals to us the truth of the WORD (the scriptures) <see Jn.16:13-14>, and in this statement we see the importance of individual Bible study, not just listening to the sermon on Sunday mornings. He also declares that “no lie comes from the truth”, signifying that the lie comes only from the antichrist: “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist — he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” <1 Jn.2:22-23 (NIV)>: the liar (antichrist) is the person that rejects God and His Son, Jesus Christ. John then gives us the solution for the spirit of the antichrist: “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us — even eternal life.” <1 Jn.2:24-25 (NIV)>; meaning that we must continue to live by the principles taught by the Scriptures, not by the false doctrines of the antichrists. Paul, in writing to the Church in Galatia referred to the false teachings as “another gospel” <see Gal.1:6-9>, and we should note his description of the end to the false teachers – “eternally condemned” as opposed to how John shows the result of believing the truth – “eternal life”.

He concludes this section by repeating “… But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit — just as it has taught you, remain in him.” <1 Jn.2:27 (NIV)>; this is our only defence against the spirit of antichrist – “remain in him.”

John writes to us here of what is obvious today, the spirit of antichrist has been evident since Christ came into this world on His first advent, for there have been many who have openly denied the Deity of Christ and have taught this false doctrine throughout our history. The Scriptures however teach that in the “end times” there will be “a man” who will set himself up as god and demand that all people worship him as god <see Rev.13:11-17>. This will be possible because of what Paul has taught in this regard <see 2 Thess.2:1-12>, noting what is said “And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed” <2 Thess.2:6-8 (NIV); cf Jn.16:5-15>. The “one who now holds back” is a reference to The Holy Spirit who is active in restricting the work of evil in our world today. One day, as we have been promised by Christ, all believers will be taken from this world to spend eternity with Him in heaven <see 1 Thess.4:16-17>; and at that time the work of The Holy Spirit in this world will no longer be necessary, “then the lawless one will be revealed”. The end result will be total chaos, a terrible time for all people left on this earth <see Matt.24:21-25; Dan.12:8-10>.


A Study of 1 Jn.1:5—2:14

The first requirement for fellowship is to walk in the Light <1 Jn.1:5-7>. The message that John received and was directed to pass on is that: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” <1 Jn.1:5 (NIV)>; and the issue is our response to “the light”. In the darkness of our sinful ways, we have degraded God to a representation to which we bow down and worship, and this can encompass many different forms as we consider all that we acclaim as more important than our worship to God: our job, our pursuits and anything else that replaces God in our life <cf Rom.1:21-23; 1 Cor.10:7, 20>; these may not be an actual sculpture but becomes the symbol, and God is shut out of our life. “Light” as used here signifies God’s truth, goodness, and joy, as opposed to what “darkness” is – falsehood, evil, jeopardy, death. Therefore, the first condition for fellowship with God is to walk in “the light”. “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” <1 Jn.1:6 (NIV)>

 The second requirement for fellowship is confession of sin <1 Jn.1:8—2:2>. The character of God determines the condition of our fellowship with Him, and since the Scriptures declare that He is “light”, the next condition that we face is our attitude towards sin. We must understand that our salvation is in three “stages”. First, we are saved from the penalty of sin <see Rom.6:23>; secondly, we are saved from the power of sin <Rom.6:14; 8:2>; third, we will be saved from the presence of sin <Jn.14:2-3; Phil.3:20; 1 Thess.4:17; Rev.21:27>. So, as believers we should understand that in this present life our fellowship with God depends upon our attitude towards sin and what God requires of us: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” <1 Jn.1:7 (NIV)>. We must also understand that in this life we are still under the influence of sin, and that it is possible for us to sin by our thoughts, our words and our deeds: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us……If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” <1 Jn.1:8, 10 (NIV)>; therefore, this perception must always guide our life.

The Old Testament taught the meaning and reasons for the sacrifices offered, and one was for the sin offering; it was mandatory for specific unintentional sin, confession of sin, forgiveness of sin and cleansing from defilement <see Lev.4:13, 22, 27>. This offering was necessary to restore fellowship between the Lord and the worshiper, and taught that sin must be dealt with before any other form of worship was acceptable to God. In the New Testament we see this explained by Christ <Jn.13:10>. Christ explained that the feet needed to be washed since they had become dirty by the person walking from one place to another. We see this in our daily living as we too can become contaminated by sin as we interact with other people, influencing our thoughts our words and our actions; and although this may be unintentional, in God’s view we are guilty and are required to seek God’s forgiveness; not from our original sinful state for our salvation is eternal, but from the contamination of our daily living. So, John instructs us as to how we deal with this: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” <1Jn.1:9 (NIV)>. He concludes by reminding us how our forgiveness and cleansing is possible; “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” <1Jn.2:1-2 (NIV)>. So, we must be sensitive to The Holy Spirit’s guidance and seek to be obedient, acknowledging what The Spirit desires in our life <see Rom.8:5b>. Confession of sin is therefore necessary for our fellowship with God.

The third requirement for fellowship is obedience to His commandments <1 Jn.2:3-6>. The life of a true believer is characterized by obedience to The Word (The Lord Jesus Christ); “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.” <1 Jn.2:3 (NIV)>, and this is confirmed to each individual believer by The Holy Spirit <cf Jn.16:13-14>. In contrast to the individual who may say “I know him (Christ) but does not do what he (Christ) commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” <1 Jn.2:4 (NIV)>. Obedience to Christ’s commands then, is the distinctive mark of discipleship and “God’s love is truly made complete in him” <1 Jn.2:5 (NIV)>; that is, God’s love moves the individual to full obedience <cf 1 Jn.3:18-19>. This is the confirmation that we belong to Him; “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” <1 Jn.2:6 (NIV)>, meaning that the life of Christ must be reflected in the character of the individual believer <cf Eph.4:1>.

The fourth requirement for fellowship is love for each other <1 Jn.2:7-14>. Just prior to His trial and crucifixion, our Lord Jesus demonstrated what humility really meant, He performed the act of a servant (slave) and washed the feet of His disciples; even though He knew that one would betray Him and the others would disown Him. It was at this time that He expressed what He expected of all His disciples: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” <Jn.13:34-35 (NIV); see also 14:15>. It is very likely that John was referring to this occasion in his letter stating that he was not writing a new command but an old one <1 Jn.2:7>, one that his readers had from the beginning. This new command was demonstrated by Christ in His love to us that He expressed in His death for us on the cross, and that he expects His disciples to grow in this love as they express their love to each other, for that was what He taught the disciples <see Matt.5:43-48>.

So, here John expands on this teaching to show why it is important for us to demonstrate love for each other: “Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.” <1 Jn.2:8-10 (NIV); cf Jn.8:12; 12:46>. Our love for each other demonstrates that we are living in the Light (Christ), and where that love is not expressed, shows that such a person is not living in the Light. So often we have seen this in our society where people are despised because of the colour of their skin, their ethnicity, their place in social circles; and unfortunately, this happens in our churches; and John is expressing here that this should not happen; it is NOT LIKE CHRIST! Where this occurs “believers” (if they really are) are not living according to our Lord’s command, they are still in the “darkness of sin” and need to confess as he has already taught <1 Jn.1:8-9>. But it should be noted that John is not condemning his readers, for he addresses them as “fathers”, “children” and “young men”, who have known “him who is from the beginning… and have overcome the evil one” <1Jn.2:12-14>.

Therefore, as we walk in God’s Light, meaning that we are controlled by The Spirit of God; as we are quick to confess our sins that have contaminated us during our daily living; by our obedience to God’s Word; and by our love expressed to each other; our fellowship with God is evident and that overflows to others as we live our daily life.


In writing this epistle, John had two purposes on mind: first, to expose and address false teaching (Gnosticism) that was creeping into the Church <see 1 Jn.2:26>; secondly, to assure believers of their salvation; “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” <1 Jn.5:13 (NIV)>.

The Subject matter of the book counters false and erroneous doctrine, and encourages the reader to live in the knowledge of truth. The important theme is fellowship with God <1 Jn.2:28>; showing the Basis of fellowship <1 Jn.1:1 – 2:27>, and the Behaviour of fellowship <1 Jn.2:28 – 5:21>. The Basis of fellowship is further divided into Conditions, Cautions, and Meaning of fellowship. The Behaviour of fellowship is also divided into Characteristics, Consequences, and Manifestations of fellowship. It also speaks to Abiding in God’s light and love.


“One of the most dangerous heresies of the first two centuries of the church was Gnosticism. Its central teaching was that spirit is entirely good and matter is entirely evil. From this unbiblical dualism flowed five important errors:

  1. Man’s body, which is matter, is therefore evil. It is to be contrasted with God, who is wholly spirit and therefore good.
  2. Salvation is the escape from the body, achieved not by faith in Christ but by special knowledge (the Greek word for “knowledge” is gnosis, hence Gnosticism).
  3. Christ’s true humanity was denied in two ways: (1) Some said that Christ only seemed to have a body, a view called Docetism, from the Greek dokeo (“to seem”), and (2) others said that the divine Christ joined the man Jesus at baptism and left him before he died, a view called Cerinthianism, after its most prominent spokesman, Cerinthus. This view is the background of much of 1 John (see 1Jn.1:1; 2:22; 4:2-3).
  4. Since the body was considered evil, it was to be treated harshly. This ascetic form of Gnosticism is the background of part of the letter to the Colossians (2:21-23).
  5. Paradoxically, this dualism also led to licentiousness. The reasoning was that, since matter-and not the breaking of God’s law (1 Jn. 3:4) -was considered evil, breaking his law was of no moral consequence.

The Gnosticism addressed in the NT was an early form of the heresy, not the intricately developed system of the second and third centuries. In addition to that seen in Colossians and in John’s letters, acquaintance with early Gnosticism is reflected in 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, and 2 Peter and perhaps I Corinthians.”  [Source: The NIV Study Bible]

A study of 1 John 1:1-4

Beginning his letter, John speaks to the unique experience which he and the other disciples (apostles) shared; they had a personal contact with The Word of life, God’s eternal Son, they saw Him in person, they observed, they watched every action, they listened to His teaching; they missed nothing: “…we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched” <1 Jn.1:1 (NIV)>. He references this to what has been recorded in the Gospel of John chapter 1 where he speaks to the coming into the world of Christ the eternal Son of God, The Word of God: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” <Jn.1:14 (NIV)>.

The Word – God’s Son, became a human being – “….Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man…” <Phil.2:5-8 (NIV)>. This was in God’s plan of salvation, someone had to die for sin, and that sacrifice had to be perfect and sinless, and was portrayed in the O.T. Burnt and Sin offerings <see Lev.1:6-8; 4:1-5>. But we are told that animal sacrifice is not capable of removing our sin, it only covered them from God’s sight for a period of time, and that is the reason why these sacrifices had to be repeated continuously; so, there had to be a better sacrifice <see Heb.10:3-7; 11-12>. Since there was no perfect (sinless) human being, God had to send The Perfect sacrifice in the person of His Son. Faith in God’s sacrificial provision gives us the salvation from our sin that we need <1 Jn.2:1b-2; Jn.1:12>.

The twelve disciples (apostles) had the privilege of His presence, His teaching and His miracles for three years of His ministry on the earth, so John is able to give an actual report of all that Jesus said and did. Because of his close encounter with Jesus Christ – The Word of God – he is able to declare; “…we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.”” <1 Jn.1:2-3 (NIV); cf Jn.1:1-2, 14>, so that we all can have fellowship with Christ and each other, as believers in Christ.

Thus, the basis of our Christian fellowship is our faith in Christ for which we have received eternal life, and this gives us communion with God and a friendship that can be shared and experienced wherever we meet other believers in Christ.