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.


(A study in 1 Timothy)

1 TIMOTHY 1:1-20

Paul addresses his personal letter to Timothy “my true son in the faith” <1 Tim.1:2 (NIV)> his spiritual son. Each believer in Christ can look back to a time in life where an individual, male or female, guided you to the acceptance of salvation. You now have a Christian mother or father in the faith. Paul then proceeds to instruct Timothy as to his previous assignments in the Church at Ephesus: “I urged you …stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.” <1 Tim.1:3-4 (NIV)>, since such teaching only promotes controversies and impedes the work of God which is achieved by faith only, and continues to explain why. First, he states that “The goal of this command is love” <1 Tim.1:5 (NIV); cf 1 Cor.13:4-7> and must be the underscoring objective of any Church leader when correcting false teaching.

Secondly, because false teaching has led to controversies, “Some have wandered away” <1 Tim.1:6 (NIV)> from the faith; primarily because they are ignorant of the facts that are taught in the very Law that they are persistently teaching in error. “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.” <1 Tim.1:8 (NIV); cf Gal.3:3, 10-13>; they want to be teachers of the Law but they do not know what they are teaching <1:7>. The Law is good, says Paul, and was not given to condemn the righteous but to condemn the lawbreakers and rebels <1 Tim.1:8-10>, “and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine” <1 Tim.1:10b (NIV)>, and this conforms to the gospel message entrusted to Paul.

Paul then digresses from his instructions to Timothy to express his own experiences of the gospel that he so faithfully preached <1 Tim.1:12-17>. He commences by giving thanks to “Christ Jesus our Lord” who considered him faithful and appointed him to serve in preaching the gospel <cf Gal.2:7; 1 Thess.2:4; 2 Tim.1:14>, and that he has faithfully guarded his responsibility. He also speaks to the fact that “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” <1 Tim.1:14 (NIV)>; and what was true of Paul is also true of every believer in Christ. None of us are worthy of God’s favour, but He freely and abundantly poured out His grace upon us, even though we were rebellious, and even though in our self-righteousness we claimed to live by the Law and commandments <cf Rom.1:32; 3:20-24; 5:1>. This was made possible because “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” <1 Tim.1:15 (NIV)>, reminding Timothy of the fact that our salvation and justification is by faith in Christ only and not by observing or keeping of the Law <see Gal.2:16>. So, Paul concludes this section with praise to God for His wonderful grace to all mankind; “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” <1 Tim.1:17 (NIV)>.

Paul now gives Timothy his first directive <1 Tim.1:18-20>, consistent with the predictions made about him. Nothing is said as to what these prophecies were, but consistent with other instances where men were ordained for specific duties, we can assume that there were some specifics revealed to Timothy at his ordination <cf 1 Tim.4:14; Acts 13:1-3>. “I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight” <1 Tim.1:18 (NIV)>: Timothy is expected to fight the good fight of faith, and the same expectation is required of all Christ’s disciples today.

What does it mean to fight the fight of faith? God expects us to live by faith in Him; this means that we should follow His commands even though we do not know the outcome, acknowledging that whatever happens, God is in control. He does not allow us to see the outcome, but He expects us to follow His leading <Matt.10:39>. “I have vivid memories as a kid of my father taking me to an auction sale, telling me, “Don’t scratch your nose at the wrong time, son.” He said to me, “Always remember this: whenever you go to an auction sale, make sure you know your upper limit price.” That is ingrained in me. The great danger for us is that we walk into the Christian life knowing clearly our upper limit price. Jesus does not allow us to set that. “If you save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake and the gospel’s, you will keep it,” said Jesus [Mark 8:35]. Our calling is to a life of unconditional obedience where the price is unknown.” [from Perfect Illustrations; Citation: Colin Smith, pastor of Arlington Heights Evangelical Free Church, Arlington Heights, Illinois; source: Preaching Today #204]

So, like Timothy, we are expected to fight, for that is exactly what it is. Paul, writing to the Ephesian Church reminds them that our struggle is not against the enemy that we know or can see, but against the enemy that is unknown and unseen <Eph.6:12>; and this was what Timothy encountered in carrying out Paul’s charge to him; he was to do so by “holding on to faith and a good conscience.” <1 Tim.1:19 (NIV)>; that is the outcome from the love, pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith that Paul had referred to earlier <see 1 Tim.1:5>. It is unfortunate that some believers in Christ then, and presently, have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.” <1 Tim.1:19 (NIV); cf. 1 Tim.1:6-7; 6:21; 2 Tim.2:18>. It is extremely important that all believers in Christ be cautious of false teaching, avoiding meaningless discussions of subjects that do not pertain to, or are not taught by scripture.  We do so by individually educating ourselves in studying the Bible and not being entirely dependent upon what others teach.

Paul then closes this section by making reference to two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander <1 Tim.1:20>, and very little is said as to who they were, but they are used here as examples of church discipline; he states, “whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.” <1 Tim.1:20 (NIV); cf 1 Cor.5:5, 13>. Being handed over to Satan is a figure of speech where the individual is expelled from the Church fellowship and left in Satan’s “territory” in an attempt to destroy the sinful nature of that individual.

What is Blasphemy as is used in the Scriptures? It signifies speaking evil of God or to curse the Name of God <cf Psa.74:18; Isa.52:5; Rom.2:24>. There are two general forms: (1) Attributing some evil to God, or denying Him some good; (2) Giving the attributes of God to a human being <cf Lk.5:21; Matt.26:65; Jn.10:36> which was the accusation of the Jews given to Christ. The punishment given under the Mosaic Law was either atonement, when committed in ignorance or thoughtlessness; but if when in rebellion against God the punishment was by stoning <see Lev.24:11-16>. In the New Testament Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is also referred to as the “unpardonable sin” <see Matt.12:31-32; Mk.3:29; Lk.12:10>; where it appears to have been based on attributing Christ’s miracles to the power of Satan, and it is questionable whether it may be extended beyond this one limited and special sin [source: Unger’s Bible Dictionary].

In the case of Hymenaeus and Alexander, the punishment was separation from the fellowship and care of the Church, having been sent back into the outside world where they would learn not to blaspheme.

From the very beginning of the Church age false teaching was a problem for the Church elders. During the early years of the Church, Paul and the Apostles were constantly harassed by Judaizers who insisted that all converts to Christ must adhere to the Mosaic Law; that is, a Gentile could not become a Christian unless he or she first became a Jew; further adding that Gentile converts should practice physical rituals of the Law such as circumcision, for faith in Christ alone was not sufficient <see Acts 15:7-11>.  Judaizers caused much turmoil which affected the evangelical work of the apostles and for the Church leadership. Church leaders also had to be careful of Gnostic teachings that crept into the Church; teaching such things as Jesus wasn’t really God’s Son, and that Christ and God could not have united in the person of Jesus; they professed to have special insight to the secret truths of life. There were also those that taught the beliefs of the Nicolaitans, which was a more extreme form of Gnosticism, they claimed that only what their spirits did was important and because their physical bodies were evil, they had freedom to indulge in indiscriminate sexual relationships, that they could do anything they pleased with their bodies, and were free to practice idolatry <cf Rev.2:14-16>. Such doctrines have been combined and modernized in today’s society and have affected the Church in all forms of worship; Satan has duplicated our worship and praise to God and introduced false worship into our Churches and we must be constantly examining anything new that is introduced to our practice of worship to God.

False doctrine in the Church must be swiftly and severely reprimanded!


Life is filled with many counterfeits, and this is evident in every area of life especially in merchandising; we make a purchase of a name-brand that we trust only eventually to find out it is a fake. Sadly, we find that this has moved into our Christian lives and our Churches, and at times it is shocking to hear the messages from some of our church pulpits, and this is Satan’s design! “Wherever God does a work on earth, Satan first tries to oppose it, and next to corrupt it by introducing a sham” (From Egypt to Canaan by John Ritchie)

In the book of Exodus, we find that Pharaoh is a depiction of Satan, and many of his attempts to avoid releasing the Israelites involve some counterfeit action or suggestion to God’s command. His magicians duplicated Aaron’s rod by doing the same with theirs <Ex.7:11-12>; the Nile water became blood and again and this was duplicated <Ex.7:20-22>; again, the plague of frogs was replicated by the magicians <Ex.8:6-7>; but we find that after this when the magicians could not produce a counterfeit, Pharaoh responded with alternatives.

God’s command was “Let my people go, so that they may worship me…. We must take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, as he commands us.” <Ex.7:16; 8:27 (NIV)>; and Pharaoh’s first suggestion was, don’t go too far <Ex.8:28>, later after the Egyptians had endured God’s judgments, Pharaoh suggested that only the Israelite men should go <Ex.10:11>; and finally, he suggested that that all the Israelites could go but their animals should be left behind <Ex.10:24>.

So, we find that throughout the accounts recorded in the Scriptures Satan introduced his own alternatives to what God had done or commanded His people. One of the first incidents recorded is that of Abraham, Sarai and Hagar. God made a promise to Abraham and Sarai <Gen.15:4>, but because of Sarai’s infertility <Gen.11:30>, she doubted God and decided on her own solution <Gen.16:1-5>, and the result of this action is evident throughout the centuries to this day in the animosity between the Jews and the Arab nations. After their departure from Egypt and their anticipated entrance into Canaan, Moses rehearsed God’s promises and gave them God’s specific commands, as recorded in the book Deuteronomy; “The Lord your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.” <Deut.26:16 (NIV)>, and one specific command was concerning the inhabitants of Canaan who were under the condemnation of God because of their detestable worship customs, God intended for the Israelites to carry out His judgment upon these people; He commanded the Israelites to completely destroy the people and everything that related to them, because God knew that if anything was left of them the Israelites would be attracted to their form of worship. After Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan river and the conquest began, Satan immediately introduced a deception which, unfortunately they fell for <see Jos.9:3-6, 14-16> and allowed the Gibeonites to live in the land, which later on was to their regret <see Jud.2:2-3>. How often today Christians are faced with similar situations, they know what the Scriptures teach but they deliberately disobey God’s commands to their detriment. Moving forward; during Solomon’s reign his son Jeroboam rebelled against his father, and some years after the death of Solomon we see a division in the kingdom; Jeroboam rules over the northern kingdom of Israel where he introduces a substitute place of worship and sacrifices, no doubt influenced by Canaanite worship, to discourage the people from travelling to Jerusalem for the Temple worship, <see 1 Kings 12:26-33>; which led to the eventual fall of the northern kingdom to the Assyrians. The Kingdom of Judah soon followed the northern kingdom into captivity by the Babylonians for the same sins; they had allowed the Canaanite worship to influence them <see Deut. 28:43; 31:29>.

This pattern continued on to the birth of the early Church after Christ’s ascension. Several times the apostles were confronted by Judaizers and other false teachers, and Paul had to write to Timothy and Titus giving them specific instructions in dealing with false teachers that had infiltrated the early Churches, and throughout the other books recorded in the New Testament we see that false teachers were constantly at work, and we continue to see evidence of their teaching today as Gnosticism and Nicolaitan doctrines continue to creep into the Church. Satan will continue to introduce various counterfeits and suggestions to God’s people and we have to be extremely cautious in bringing these counterfeits into our lives and into our Churches. Sermons are preached, teachings and variations in our worship are introduced in our Churches today that have no semblance to what is taught in God’s Word, and we as Christians, followers of Christ, must be continually on our guard; we must know what the Scriptures teach so that we can readily recognize the Satanic counterfeits and suggestions that are facing us;  “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>.