ALTHOUGH 1 JOHN has traditionally been regarded as a letter, it lacks key distinguishing features of a letter (salutation, introductory greeting, final greeting). On the other hand, John addresses the readers as "My little children" (2:1). He seems to be writing to a specific group of people with whom he has a close relationship. In its basic purposes of admonition and instruction, I John is similar to most of the New Testament letters.
It is notoriously difficult to outline this brief letter. Its themes seem to be linked loosely together. The language is not difficult or technical, but the ideas are profound. John says that God has been revealed in Christ in order to communicate eternal life to those who believe. God is light, truth, and love - each of these characteristics is the subject of some meditation, but always in connection with the development of corresponding virtues in the believers.
The ideals of purity and love that are held out to the reader are gifts of God communicated from His self-revelation. At the same time they are real only in action. This reality is possible through being born again and through the forgiveness of sins.
The enemy of the gospel attacks at every point. He impugns the self-revelation of God by trying to deny that Jesus Christ was incarnated. With this he threatens to undermine the believer's confidence before God. Moreover, the adversary tries to make the case that someone can believe in God without taking part in the love and kindness that is God's nature. This would make salvation also a mere appearance. To the light and truth of the gospel, the antichrist opposes darkness and lies, or the rule of hatred and mental confusion.
Unlike those of Paul, John's ideas are not reasoned logically from point to point. The final statements, that God is light, and that Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin, are already stated in the first few verses. These he elaborates in a spiritual way throughout what follows.
- The Reformation Study Bible
Published by Ligonier Ministries, Sanford FL
Permission to quote granted by Ligonier Ministries