This was intended as a lesson for youth group, which it probably will be as well as a sermon. I wanted to post this as well. One of my favorite books in the New Testament is I John. I love this book, it is so practical and often is way overlooked in Christian circles must to their detriment. This book is full of practical theology and defends the true Gospel very well.
Quick context and introduction, I John was written by none other than the Apostle John, who also wrote the Gospel of John, II and III John, and finally Revelation. This was the Apostle that Jesus loved, also called the Beloved Apostle (Jn. 13:23; 20:2). He wrote, though not specified, to the church in Ephesus, as well as other Christians in modern day Turkey. He wrote to combat early forms of Gnosticism, but also to exhort Christians on how to live and what true faith actually is.
The passage, as told by the title, is I John 1:1-2:2.
This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and our hands have touched (concerning the word of life— 2 and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us). 3 What we have seen and heard we announce to you too, so that you may have fellowship with us (and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ). 4 Thus we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
5 Now this is the gospel message we have heard from him and announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.
2 1 (My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.) But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One, 2 and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.
First, to note, this is very similar to the opening of the Gospel of John. The passages are not necessary identical, but it is very close. The first chapter of I John, as some commentators claim, could very well have been an introduction to the Gospel of John. They claim that the whole book of I John could have been a preliminary for the Gospel.
Notice the “we” in verse 1 of I John 1 and the plural language of the first four verses. Some would say that a group, if not all of the apostles helped write I John. I would say that John is merely referring to the other disciples.
This is their proclamation (vs. 1). Notice their eyewitness testimony (II Pet. 1:16-21). John was a part of the inner 3 of disciples: Peter, James and John. They saw Jesus’ Transfiguration (Matt. 17).
“What we have heard“: The disciples were with Jesus nearly 24/7. They heard nearly every word of His ministry and what they heard, they repeated to others and they eventually wrote it down. They heard the voice of the Father (Matt. 3; 17).
“What we have looked at“: The disciples saw nearly every miracle that Jesus performed. They saw the feeding of the multitudes, the raising of people from the dead, the bitter harassment of the Pharisees, they saw Christ’s baptism and transfiguration.
“What our hands have touched“: The disciples, no doubt, had touched Jesus. I’m sure they felt the many lame people, risen people, demon possessed people, the bread and fish that Jesus multiplied to feed the crowds.
Take all 3 of these things and apply it to 2 more areas: Jesus’ death and Resurrection.
The disciples heard the shouting of the crowds, “CRUCIFY HIM!!!” They heard Jesus’ groaning as the Romans flogged Him and drove the nails in His wrists and feet. They heard the 7 different declarations of Jesus as He died on the cross (Mt. 27:25-26; Lk. 22:42; 23:33-34, 46; Jn. 19:26, 28, 30). They heard the variety of confessions of those around them as Jesus died (Mt. 27:54; Lk. 23:32-43). When they hid, they heard the voice of their Lord risen from the dead! They heard his post-resurrection teaching.
The disciples saw His broken, battered, beaten-up and dead body. Then they saw another miracle. They saw Jesus’ Resurrected body. They saw Him appear to over 500 of their brethren who also believed (I Cor. 15). Finally they saw Him ascend into Heaven.
The disciples touched the Resurrected Christ! In fact Christ told them to touch Him because they were fearful that He was a ghost (John 20-21). The felt His pierced hands and feet and the side where he was pierced with the spear. They knew for a fact that Jesus was not a ghost! They knew that Jesus was alive!
And they were clearly talking about Christ, the Living Word, the Light!
All of these things, they are announcing to their audience. The purpose of this is for fellowship, unity and community. The disciples have fellowship with the Father, they desire that same fellowship to be shared with their audience. The disciples have fellowship with their Eternal Father through Christ and their desire is that their audience have the same exact fellowship. They also desire fellowship with each other.
The testimony of the disciples is very important (vs. 2). They are witnesses. They reveal to their audience what they have seen and testify to it. Think of it as a courtroom. They are some of the only witnesses to this, it is imperative that they get this right. It’s imperative that they share this information accurately. They cannot be wrong.
Finally, in verse 4, they write so their joy may be complete. What makes your joy complete? What brings you joy? Do you know the difference between happiness and joy? Happiness is temporary and rarely, if at all exists during times of trial and difficulty. Whereas joy is long lasting and endures in times of trial.
Verse 5: “Gospel message“: This is what John is talking about, the Gospel. The Saving Gospel. They are talking about the good news of Christ. For they have heard the Gospel message from God, from Jesus Christ. God is their source of this message.
“God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all“: That’s the Gospel? Yep!!! Great news isn’t it!?! I’m serious, this is awesome news! In Scripture, Light and Dark are common euphemisms for good and evil respectively. God is Light! God is completely good. He is full of good, nothing evil dwells in Him. Nothing, period!!!
There is the foundation, now in verse 6 God’s perfect righteousness is made standard. That is only achieved through Christ as our atonement and propitiation. So John says in verse 6, “If we claim to have fellowship with Him” that is the same fellowship as previously discussed in verses 1-4. If we claim to be of Christ, but we keep on walking in darkness, “we are lying and not practicing the truth“.
Immediately we should as, “what are we lying about”, “what is walking in darkness”, and “what are the implications of said lie?” Walking in darkness, remember that darkness is a euphemism for sin, for evil. So this individual is walking in sin. They claim Christ, yet they are walking in sin, complete opposite of Christ, who is Light. They are characterized by this lifestyle of sin, unrighteousness, unholiness, and they do not seek after God. This sounds an awful lot like Romans 3:10-18, 23. This is walking in darkness. It is living in sin.
What are we lying about? The only thing, according to the context, that we can be lying about is who our fellowship is actually with. They claim Christ, but their actions say otherwise. This is what they are lying about. We truly don’t have fellowship with God and rather our fellowship is with the world and Satan.
What are the implications of this? Eternal damnation. A false sense of security. These people, John is talking about are not saved! They need Christ!!!
Verse 7, a wonderful contrast to that of verse 6. Our actions match our claim and our confirmation of bring in Christ. We hold onto that fellowship with Christ as well as our Christian brethren. The nature of these people is clearly different than that of verse 6. What the distinguishing mark is, the blood of Christ! These people, the ones who claim fellowship and walk in the Light are the ones who have been washed by Christ’s blood. The people in verse 6 have not.
We are cleansed from all sin. The washing and renewal of regeneration, by doing Christ’s will, walking in the Light!
There is another contrast found in verses 8-10, confession of sin. Verse 8, if you have no guilt of sin, something is seriously wrong. The truth isn’t in you. I’m not sure if this means all sin, which I doubt. There are sins that I don’t feel guilt for, at least not immediately. Nevertheless there is guilt when you sin, it must be there. That is a sign of a true believer. This verse is clearly referring to self-righteous individuals as well. They feel/think that they are perfect. They are deceived.
The confession of sins, vs. 9, is vital to the walk of a believer. I’m not talking about confession, like the catholic church does nevertheless, confession of sins to trusted brethren is important to accountability, sanctification and discipleship. Also confession is vital for redemption. You must confess your sins in order to be saved. You must confess the fact that you are a sinner in order to follow Christ. Confession of sins after salvation is a reminder that you are a sinner and what we did was wrong.
But do note that confession of sins is directly tied to the forgiveness of sins and justification. Only the person in grief and acknowledgement over sin can be saved. If a person doesn’t recognize their need of a savior than what is the point of a savior? Repentance over sin is the reason of a savior. What good would Christ do if they don’t recognize themselves as sinners, for Christ died for sins? Of course this is not to say that we don’t preach the Gospel to them, but they do see themselves as self-righteous.
Verse 10, Got is not a liar, nor will any of His followers call Him one. Those same people in verse 6 and 8 are described here also in verse 10. This is similar to that of the 2nd Commandment, taking the Lord’s Name in vain. It;s not just speaking His name improperly, but also claiming His name and then taking it in vain because due to debauched and sinful lifestyles.
The conclusion to chapter 1, at least in my mind, is this: So I follow God and keep His commandments, which is exactly what Jesus says in John 14:15: “If you love me you will keep my commandments!” But I still sin. I’m not perfect and I am not characterized by a sinful lifestyle. I am grieved by the sins I do commit.
In the original text, there were no chapters or verses, those came later. If I could translate all of Scripture (I know some Greek, not any Hebrew), but I would keep the first two verses of chapter 2 in chapter 1. It seems like in 2:1-2 is a continuation of thought.
I John 2:1, his point of writing is to encourage and, dare I say, command (by God’s demand) righteous behavior from those who claim to be of God.
Notice what else he says. He writes, so that they may not sin. “But if anyone does sin“. Take careful notice of the wording that John uses. It’s not “when”, but “if”. What’s the expectations? Holiness, righteousness. Obviously the realization is that we are going to sin, but we are striving for righteousness and holiness. Like God, we HATE sin and we are deeply grieved with we do sin. We are not characterized by sin, we are characterized by holiness and righteousness. Look at what John says though we “have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”
I love how Christ is described here as the “Righteous One”. He tells us to imitate Him (Eph. 5:1; I Cor.11:1; I John 2:6). This is what we strive for, righteousness. He is our advocate, He died for our sins, past, present and future!
It’s a sacrifice I relate to with an analogy of soldiers. It;s the one man sacrificing himself for the betterment of the squad or company. He died so that others may live.
But Christ did not stay dead. No, He rose from the dead with a mighty triumph o’re His foes.
The expectation is not sinless perfection, but still righteous living is key to a true believer.
Lastly, verse 2. Christ is our atoning sacrifice. Faith is key. All this righteous living is a mute point unless we have faith in Christ. The two cannot be separated. He sacrificed Himself four our sins as well as the whole worlds. We make that sacrifice vain, insulting it if we claim to be of Him and do not live the way He demands.
I’m of the reformed tradition of belief but this verse knocks out the belief of “Limited Atonement”. Christ died for the sins of the whole world. Plain and simple.
Application: Hopefully as you’re reading you can see the application in your life. It’s righteous living, through and through. Justification, being declared righteous, and sanctification, God’s work of making you more Christ-like go hand-in-hand.
Observe your life, is it conforming to God’s standards? Recognize that you will never be perfect, nor are you right now, but strive for righteousness and holiness.
If you have made it this far, I apologize for the length, and I promise that these will be few and far between in length.