Introduction (1 John series #1)


Read 1 John 2:1-17

Monday, April 29, 2013.


The apostle John wrote this circular letter quite late in his life – half a century or so after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The gospel account that John authored is also, in N.T. terms, a late work – the other gospels, especially Matthew, were written decades earlier – so John’s writing generally, and especially in this letter, is more developed and theological. That makes it a rich vein for us to mine.

However, John’s gospel had been circulated for a few years, at least, before this letter did the rounds, and John expects his readers to know it well. At the heart of the gospel account is an ‘old command’ that returns here, with emphasis, as a ‘new command’ (verse 7).

The early church, like us, had people who could talk the talk but not always walk the walk. This is what John addresses here. What integrity is there in claiming to know Jesus, but not living out what Jesus said to do. What, in essence, did Jesus set out as His rule of life for His followers?

TO EXPLORE: What is the ‘old command’ John refers to? It probably pivots on John 15:12 but look at what precedes it, and the emphasis of John chapter 14. Is it about loving others – or about receiving God’s love?

What does it tell us about the importance, even priority, of relationships?

There is an interesting progression in the way John sets out his argument. “I write this to you so that you do not sin,” is the start of his train of thought (at the beginning of our chapter 2).

“…you do not sin…”? What does avoiding sin look like? Obeying his word, obeying His commands (vv.3-5) leads on to being the evidence of God’s love in us (v.5) which was what Jesus demonstrated in His walk (v.6). The reasoning builds, and the ‘old command’ is now recalled as a ‘new command’ for the new era of the Spirit (vv.7-8).

God’s love in us, if that is genuine, must find expression in loving others. If we are really in that kind of relationship with the Father, we will (ought to be able to) love brothers and sisters around us, and this will keep us in the light. Relationships are key!

TO EXPLORE: What comes to mind in John’s gospel that speaks of relationships? What do you think John is hinting at here in his letter, that readers would have been familiar with from his gospel?

Clearly the letter also addresses a kind of ‘believer’ who claimed to be in the light, but turned this into a lie by their deficiency in relationships with others – lack of love, to put it bluntly. Whatever degree of light they were in, this failure to live God’s life, God’s way – by demonstrating God’s love in us – meant that they would be losing it to darkness, and getting into more and more difficulty.

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