JOHN’S LETTERS were the last to be written: his Gospel was probably written around 85 ad, and his three letters within the following ten years. The first was a general letter to believers.
Jesus Christ is ‘the word of life’ (1:1) because belief in him and his teaching can lead to eternal life. Fellowship ‘with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ’ (1:3) is vital. We need to ‘walk in the light’, that is, be guided by God’s word (1:7) if we are to have fellowship with Christ. He is the mediator through whom alone true believers can obtain forgiveness of sins (1:7, 2:2, 4:10). This blessing enables them to walk with Christ and with one another (2:1–6).
The way of Truth
False teachings were already developing in John’s day. Many were influenced by a philosophy called Gnosticism, whose followers claimed special knowledge (Greek gnosis), contradicting what the Christians had learned about the nature of Christ. John referred to such teachers as ‘antichrists’ (2:18, 22; 4:3). They denied that Jesus had come ‘in the flesh’ (4:2) (that is, having human nature capable of being tempted, see Hebrews 2:14). In the Gnostics’ view it was inconceivable that one who was the Son of God could exist in human form, tainted with evil. This false idea actually paved the way for the later, unscriptural doctrine of the Trinity. The truth is that though God was indeed his Father, Jesus could only be a sacrifice for sin, and our ‘advocate with the Father’ (1 John 2:1), if he shared our nature.
Those who believe in the Son of God can themselves become children of God: ‘See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God’ (3:1). ‘God is love’ (4:8), and it was because ‘God so loved the world’ (John 3:16), that He sent His Son into the world, ‘so that we might live through him’ (1 John 4:9). Such love demands that we show love to others (3:13–23; 4:7–21). We love God when we believe His word and keep His commandments. We love others by showing them the way of truth and eternal life (1:2, 5:20).