- 1:1 From: Church leader.1
To: God’s handpicked church2 and all her children. I love every one of you. I’m not alone. People who embrace the truth love you, too.
- 1:2 Let me say it again. We love you because that’s how we express the truth that lives inside us and will always be there.3
- 1:3 When we express the truth inside us by living a life of love, God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son will show us kindness and mercy. They’ll give us peace of mind, too.
Watch out for antichrists
- 1:4 I was delighted to meet some of your church members. Their lives show the truth inside them. They’re obeying God.
- 1:5 Let me tell you why I’m writing to you, dear church. I don’t have a new commandment for you. I want to remind you of the commandment we’ve had all along: love each other.
- 1:6 If you’d like to know what love looks like, it looks like someone obeying God. We’ve told you this from the beginning. This is how you’re supposed to live.
- 1:7 Liars have fanned out and covered the world. They’re anti-Jesus Christ. They won’t admit he came in the flesh as a human being.4 Anyone who tells lies like that is the antichrist.
- 1:8 Stay alert. We don’t want to lose what we’ve worked for. We want the full reward.
- 1:9 I’ve got news for everyone who moves on with their life, leaving behind the teachings of the Messiah. They leave God behind, too. He’s not with them anymore. On the other hand, everyone who obeys the teachings can rest assured the Father and the Son are with them.
- 1:10 If any of these people try to sell you other ideas about Jesus, ignore it. Don’t let those folks into your house. Don’t chat with them. And don’t bother to tell them goodbye when they leave.5
- 1:11 Once you engage this person, you open the door to evil. You and evil become partners.
- 1:12 I have a lot more I want to say to you. But not with ink on paper. Instead, I hope I can talk with you face to face. I would love that. I think you would enjoy it, too.
- 1:13 Members of your sister church here send their greetings.
Literally “elder.” The Greek word is presbyteros, source of the Presbyterian church’s name, since representative elders govern the church. It’s not clear what the writer means by the word. Some scholars say he sounds more like the equivalent of a modern-day bishop or district superintendent who oversees many churches, rather than a local church pastor. Jesus’ most talkative disciple, Peter, described himself as an elder. Some ancient Greek copies add John’s name as author of the letter. Some speculate that he may have been someone in a group of Apostle John’s followers, known as the Johannine community. Some scholars say this group wrote all the letters of John and possibly the Gospel of John.
Literally “elect lady,” apparently a reference to a local church. Paul called the church Christ’s “virgin bride” (2 Corinthians 11:2).
The truth that lives inside us sounds similar to what Jesus said, as reported in the Gospel of John: “I’m going to ask the Father to send you another Spiritual Guide….You’ll have this Spirit to teach you the truth” (John 14:16-17).
Some scholars say the writer may have been talking about Christians who left the church and started teaching Jesus was a spirit being who only appeared human. The church latter tagged this teaching a heresy, and called it Docetism, from a Greek word that means “phantom” or “apparition.” Church leaders said if Jesus only appeared to suffer and die on the cross and rise from the dead, then resurrection is only an apparition, too, and nothing much to count on.
Some caution not to consider this a rule for everyone for all time. Most scholars seem to agree the writer was addressing one particular situation.
John calls himself a church leader, also sometimes translated “elder,” and “presbyter.” He could be a pastor, a leading layperson, or someone more like a bishop who oversees many churches. Given what this writer says in this short letter, which one do you think he sounds like?
Some scholars say John may have written this letter to a woman he called the “chosen lady” (1:1 New American Standard Bible). Others say the “lady” is a loving and symbolic way of addressing the church. Which theory makes most sense to you and why?
“God’s handpicked church” (1:1)? What’s up with that? Does God pick us or do we pick God?
John talks about “truth” like ancient wisdom writers talked about wisdom: as though it’s a person or at least a lifeforce that influences us and that others can see in us. He’s a bit vague, though. What do you think he means when he talks about “the truth that lives inside us” (1:2)?
John criticized some for teaching that Jesus didn’t come to earth “in the flesh as a human being” (1:7). Some Christians in the early centuries bought into the Greek idea that the spirit world is good and the physical world is not. Those Christians said Jesus could not have become physical because the spiritual and physical worlds are incompatible, like goodness and evil, or matter and antimatter, or the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos. How would we defend or refute that teaching?
John warns church members not to talk with people who teach this heresy about Jesus. Those not-quite-Christians may have been members of the church earlier, but they dropped out when they came across the new teaching. It rose quickly, church historians say, and threatened to become the dominant view. Isn’t it a tad harsh for a preacher to tell church members to ignore those folks? “Don’t let those folks into your house. Don’t chat with them. And don’t bother to say goodbye when they leave” (1:10).
LIFE APPLICATION. Why do you think Bible writers keep telling us to “love each other” (1:5)? After a while, doesn’t it start to sound like nagging?