So, let us start this very exciting journey through the first epistle of John. It is thought by the majority of scholars to have been written by the apostle, John, who was the son of Zebedee. He was also one of the original twelve disciples. (Mark 1:19-20) John was called "the disciple whom Jesus loved" because Jesus seems to have been closer to Him than the others. (John 13:23; John 21:20) Jesus also put the care of His mother into John’s hands when he was dying on the Roman cross. (John 19:26) Jesus must have known John’s heart of love for Himself and the people of Israel. The "gospel" of John, three, separate letters and the book of "Revelation" were all written by John the apostle. John lived for many years after Jesus’ death and he probably wrote this first letter around AD 80-90.

John had developed a deep love for his "dear children" and, as the "elder statesman" of the early church, he was very concerned about the heresy that had begun creeping in. This said that Jesus had never actually lived on earth at all. False teachers were saying that Jesus had been simply a "spirit being" or a vision but, as we will see in this letter, John knew with all his heart that Jesus had lived as a human being, both fully God and fully man. John, therefore, is using his first letter to reinforce the vital importance of the deity of Christ. He had begun his "gospel" in the same way, emphasising Jesus full humanity as well as His deity. John described there how Jesus was with the Father and the Holy Spirit at creation.

The deity of Christ forms the very foundation of our faith. Our salvation depends on it. If Jesus was not fully human, then His death would have no meaning. He could not have offered Himself as the sinless sacrifice for all the sins of the entire human race. John wrote this first letter so that his readers might appreciate that they had eternal life and had full assurance of their position in Jesus Christ. (1 John 5:13) He wanted them to know the reality of God in their every-day lives, receiving His love through faith in Jesus Christ and having fellowship with the Father and other believers.

John walked and talked with Jesus on a daily basis for three years. He saw Him healing people, raising the dead and feeding the hungry. He had listened to all His teachings and then watched Him die. He had continued talking with Him after He had risen from the grave and he saw Jesus ascend to the heavens. John knew that Jesus was the only Son of God and he had continued to have fellowship with the Father after Jesus’ death by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing like a first-hand report from an eyewitness to bring a story to life.

Let us pray that, as we commit to walking through this amazing book, that the Holy Spirit will "open our eyes to see wondrous things from God’s law." (Psalm 119:18)

Who is this Jesus?

John starts his letter by linking back to his earlier "gospel" and reminding us that he is talking about the "Word of Life" - Jesus Christ Himself. Although John doesn't introduce himself formally, it's probable that the recipients knew him and were already expecting his letter. He reminds them that, although it had been some years before, John had been there physically with Jesus. He had seen Him, heard Him and even touched Him. He could confirm that Jesus was an ordinary human being: a real person for all to see and know. John was keen to declare that the "word" which was "made flesh" in the Mary's womb was also the eternal "Son of the Father" who had existed since before the beginning of time and who had been the agent of all creation.

The "Word of Life" did not merely come into existence at Bethlehem; He had already existed, from the very beginning, with the Father. John's whole focus is on the reality of Jesus Christ - as our focus should also be. John could never forget that time when Jesus was transfigured on the mountain. His face had shone like the sun and His clothes had become as white as the light. Then a bright cloud had enveloped them all (the disciples) and they had heard a voice speaking from the cloud, which said: “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:1-9)

After His resurrection, Jesus spoke to His frightened disciples who were convinced that they were seeing a ghost! He told them: "See My hands and My feet, that it is I myself! Feel and handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have." (Luke 24:39) John is pointing out that Christ was alive but, more than that, that He was (and is) Life itself. It is through Him that we have eternal life and will, one day, live with Him for ever in a place that He has prepared especially for us. (John 14:1-3)

The light of life

The "Word of Life" that John is talking about in 1 John 1:1-2 is the same "Word of Life" as the "Light of Men" that he talked about in John 1:4-5. This is such an encouragement if we feel that everything around us is dark and the devil is trying to overpower us. We can remember that we have the very "Light of Life" living in us and there is no way that any power of hell can overcome this living light. Even when we are at our weakest; even when we feel that the light within us is small; the devil’s darkness is still no match for it.

Imagine yourself in a totally dark room... You can’t see anything... Then someone turns on a small torch. Your focus is immediately on the light. Even though it is very small, the massive blackness of the room changes and yields to the light. So in our lives, when we look at Jesus Christ - the light in our world and in our circumstances - we shall see our situation from a new perspective and our hearts will fill with faith to expect His victory, no matter how dark things may be. (Ephesians 5:8-16)

Gary Chapman, in his book "The Love Languages of God", affirms what John is pointing to here: that Jesus understands how we all have different ways of expressing and receiving love. During His time on earth, Jesus used many different ways of expressing love to people: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, service and physical touch. All of these can be seen in the life of Jesus as He demonstrated the love of His Father to all people. We will build on this in a later study.

This was the same Jesus whom John knew personally had made arrangements for His own mother after His death, but had also ensured that His message of hope and salvation would spread to people throughout the world and down through every generation to the present day. Jesus accomplished so many mighty works on this earth but deflected the glory of His achievements away from Himself, saying: "Rather, it is the Father, living in Me, who is doing His work." (John 14:10)

Human and divine

Jesus didn’t go around proclaiming Himself as God during His thirty-three years on earth, but neither did He deny it. He acknowledged that He was the Son of God - the "Messiah" (Chosen One). He referred to God as His Father, but never made the assertion that He was "The Most High God". He told His disciples that God the Father was greater and mightier than He. (John 14:28) He made it clear that He hadn’t come to earth as God - like one of the Roman or Greek gods of the time, taking on the appearance of a human but still being a god in reality. No, Jesus had come as a man, with all the limitations of humanity. Since God was His Father, He was not born with the sinful, human nature inherited by all the sons and daughters of Adam. But, having being born of a woman, in all other respects He was a fully human man and called Himself the "Son of Man" (or "Son of Adam"). He spent His time on earth as an example of how God the Father had always intended human beings to live. In so doing, He opened the way for us to live in the same way that He did, by following His example. Indeed, we are expected to do the same mighty works - through the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit - that Jesus Himself did. (John 14:12) What a challenge for us today!

"We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3)

Humanity is something really special, made by God in His own image to have fellowship, firstly with Himself and then with each other. Some people seem to have the idea that God made human beings so that He would have something to dominate. But God is not like that. He is Love personified and love needs to have someone to give to. That is why God made human beings. He made us so that He could share with us His love. He also created angelic beings and lavished His love on them, but showing love to angels did not provide total fulfilment, because angels were not made in His image.

It is the same for us with animals. We can relate to them and even domesticate some, making them "pets" and lavishing our own love on them. They are wonderful to have, but there comes a time when we need communication on our own level and they don’t provide that. We have a deep desire to have "fellowship" (partnership) with someone like us. "Fellowship" with the Father and Son means that God and Jesus come to us and share our lives with us. (John 14:23) When we have "fellowship" with God and Christ (by the power of the Holy Spirit), then we also have fellowship with other believers. Dare to believe that you’re someone really special today: a one-of-a-kind creation, made by God in His very own image. Dare to receive His love and dare to love Him back!

"We write this to make our joy complete." (1 John 1:4)

When believers have fellowship with God, they also have joy. John's intention in writing his letter was to encourage his readers to enter into fellowship with God. John knew that this would give them great joy and that thought brought him great joy as well. The good news about Jesus Christ always brings joy. Jesus himself said: "I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete." (John 15:11) Just think about that. Christ’s joy is in us, as the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Joy is worked out as: Jesus, Others, Yourself. So what is your "joy thermostat" telling you? Are you feeling really stressed, tired or exhausted? Then JOY is the answer! "Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10)

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