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1 John: A Synthetic Look

by Jeff Miller

Book Background
The Apostle was writing to believers in Christ (2.12-14) negatively influenced by works-oriented unbelievers who outwardly deny Christ (2.15-24) and were teaching the readers to do the same (2.27). He writes to assure the readers (2.21) that access to the Father and eternal life is granted through Christ alone (1.5-2.11), and not by works of the law—as the antagonists suggest (2.12-28).

Definitions
Abide (2.6, 10, 14, 17, 24, 27-28; 3.6, 9, 14-17, 24; 4.12-16): To associate oneself intimately and openly with another, such that His characteristics become one’s own. Light & Darkness (1.5-7; 2.8-11): The condition of accepting God’s revelation of Jesus as the Christ (light) or rejecting that revelation (darkness). Eternal Life (1.2; 2.25; 3.15; 5.11-13, 20): The gift of immortality which God grants to one who receives the Revelation of God and accesses Him through Christ. Fellowship (1.3-7): Access to the Father granted through Jesus Christ. Confess (1.9; 2.23; 4.2-3, 15): To agree with God by acknowledging a truth. Deny (2.22-23): To disagree with God by rejecting a truth. Perfect(ed) (2.5; 4.12, 17-18): To represent or reflect clearly or completely. In 1 John, the expression is used exclusively of God’s love in, with, and through believers. Antichrist (2.18, 22; 4.3): One who denies the Revelation of God in Christ, or fails to acknowledge Jesus as the promised Son. Overcome (2.13-14; 4.4; 5.4-5): The position of freedom from captivity to Satan, the world, and sin brought about by the blood of Christ. Confidence (2.28; 3.21; 4.17; 5.14): Hopeful assurance based on the certain Revelation of God.

Characters
Antagonists
Characteristics:
The antagonists appear to be identifiable by their actions: they hate Christians while claiming to love God (4.20). The writer also suggests they were teachers (2.27), which may mean they had a high profile.

Theological Position:

© The Biblical Studies Foundation (www.bible.org)

Summer 2001

The antagonists are unsaved individuals explicitly denying that Jesus was/is the Christ (2.22-23). Rather, they claim to have fellowship with the Father apart from Christ (1.6). In so doing, they contend that access to the Father and to eternal life may be achieved by works.

Readers
Characteristics:
Characteristics are not evident.

Theological Position:
The readers are undoubtedly saved individuals. They are regularly referred to as children (2.1-13, 18, 28; 3.1-18), they are cleansed from their sins (1.7; 4.10), and they have eternal life (5.11-13).

Author
Characteristics:
The writer does not give his name or titles, but clearly identifies himself as a follower of Jesus during His earthly ministry (1.1-5).

Theological Position:
The writer is a fellow-believer with the readers and identifies himself as an Apostle (although he does not call himself by that title). He claims intimate involvement in the life of Jesus which is characteristic only of an Apostle (1.1-4). Furthermore, he claims distinctive authority held by the Apostolic office alone (4.6).

Problem
Physical Activities
Antagonists’ Action Toward Reader
The Antagonists are attempting to deceive the readers into believing they can access God on their own, apart from Christ (2.26; 3.7). They are trying to convince the readers to follow their theology of works rather than adhering to the exclusivity of Christ (2.27). Going hand in hand with a denial of Christ is the poor treatment of His followers.

Reader’s actions resulting from accepting errant theology
By accepting the antagonists’ doctrine that one has access to the Father apart from Christ, the readers are susceptible to a number of harmful doctrines and behaviors.

Self
The readers will refrain from abiding in Christ (2.28) and will refuse to believe in Him any longer (3.23).

© The Biblical Studies Foundation (www.bible.org)

Summer 2001

Brethren
The readers will turn away believers in need since followers of Christ are in error (3.17). Furthermore, the readers will refrain from loving Christians since they no longer appreciate what God did in sacrificially sending His Son (4.20-21).

Unsaved
The readers will love the world and grow accustomed to the things in the world, since there is no longer an edict to not be of the world (2.15). Also, since the reader has forfeited the exclusivity of Christ, the world will no longer hate him. He will not marvel, then, at its treatment of him (3.13).

Antagonist
The readers will unknowingly be deceived by the antagonist by accepting his teaching that the Father can be accessed in ways other than through Christ (3.7).

Author
The readers will reject the Apostolic teaching that Jesus is the Christ, thereby discounting the testimony of the author.

Theology
Source of Antagonist’s Theology Human Wisdom
The antagonists trust in human wisdom rather than Divine Revelation. These teachers are lovers of the world and its wisdom (2.15-24), and their theology represents a fallen mind and its desires rather than the will or plan of God.

Old Testament
The antagonists borrow portions of their theology from the Old Testament. This source, carefully interpreted through their human wisdom, allows them to believe in a God, but prevents them from recognizing that Jesus is the promised Son in the Old Testament (1.5-2.11). So then, in rejecting Christ, they are left to their own works with which to access the Father.

Content of Antagonist’s Theology
The antagonists teach that one has access to the Father through good works rather than through Jesus Christ (2.12-28). They claim to have fellowship with God (1.6) and to love Him (4.20), yet they explicitly deny that Jesus is the Christ (2.22-23). There is no propitiatory sacrifice (1.7; 2.1; 4.10), but such is unnecessary for eternal life (1.1-3; 5.11-13).

Application of Antagonist’s Theology
If the necessity of Christ for access to God is denied, one must come to God through good works. Furthermore, if Christ is not necessary, believers should receive no special treatment. In fact, they should be shunned for their exclusivity and hatred by the world.

© The Biblical Studies Foundation (www.bible.org)

Summer 2001

Problem Summary Statement
Antichrists who deny Jesus as the Son/Christ are trying to deceive believers to accept their teaching that; the Old Testament interpreted through the world’s lusts (human wisdom) indicates that one has access to the Father through good works rather than through Christ, which will result in denying Jesus as the Son of God and poor treatment of Christians.

Solution
Physical Activities
Author’s Action Toward Reader
The Apostle is writing to believers to reaffirm the Apostolic doctrine that Jesus is the Christ and the only access to God and eternal life (2.23; 5.12). He is proclaiming to them the truth about Christ handed down to him from the Father (1.2-5).

Readers’ Actions resulting from accepting author’s theology Self
Abide in Him (2.28) The readers are urged to abide in God through Christ—the only access to God. That is, they are to remain so close to Him as to naturally manifest His characteristics. The context suggests that abiding in God enables one to look forward with confidence to the second coming.

Brethren
Help the Brethren (3.17-18) Since God willingly sacrificed His Son for believers, the readers are to properly respond to that love by helping one another sacrificially. Their love for one another should not be in mere words, but should be apparent to all who look on (3.18). Love one another (3.11; 4.7, 20-21) Again, in light of God’s sacrificial love for believers in sending His Son, the readers are to reflect that same love in their relationships.

Unsaved
Do not love/marvel at the world (2.15; 3.13) Since the whole world is under the power of the evil one (5.19), the readers should refrain from loving it or the things in it (2.15). Furthermore, since the world hated the Savior, the readers should not be surprised if the world likewise hates them (3.13).

Antagonist
Do not let them deceive you (3.7) The writer is attempting to prevent the reader from being influenced by the antagonists and buying into their false doctrine that the Father can be accessed apart from Christ.

Author
The author is inviting the reader to accept his theology—the Apostolic doctrine—rather than the antagonist’s errant one.

© The Biblical Studies Foundation (www.bible.org)

Summer 2001

Theology
Source of Author’s Theology
The revelation of the Apostles and the Old Testament provide the substance of the author’s doctrines. This Apostle had a clear understanding of the Old Testament, seen not only from his explicit references (3.12), but also from his use of it as a foundation for his letter (1.5-3.24).

Content of Author’s Theology
The Apostle was teaching that one has access to the Father through Christ alone (2.2223; 5.11-13). Good works cannot provide access to the Father, nor procure eternal life, since sin still exists (3.1-24). When one trusts in Christ, however, he has an Advocate with the Father who has cleansed him from his sins (1.7; 2.10). Additionally, eternal life is secured only through the Son (5.11-13), and one who trusts in Him can have confidence at His coming (4.17).

Application of Author’s Theology
When one acknowledges Jesus as the Christ, realizing the sacrifice incurred by the Father, he responds with reciprocal love for his God, and sacrificial love for his brother (3.23).

Solution Summary Statement
The Apostle is writing to believers to reaffirm his theology that; The Old Testament and Apostolic Revelation received from Christ indicate that Jesus Christ is the only access to the Father and eternal life, which will result in belief in Him and a response of love for one another.

Argument of the Book
Problem: Christ is being denied as the only access to the Father and to eternal life. Solution: The Apostle reassures the believing readers of the Apostolic doctrine by arguing that the antagonists themselves do not have access to the Father through their works. Theology: The Apostle teaches the readers that fellowship with God is possible only through Christ, the Son of God. Main Issue: Access to the Father is unattainable by works. I. The revelation of life has been passed on from God through Jesus, through the Apostles, to believers (1.1-4)
The Apostle employs an interesting literary progression in the first few verses of the letter. He first acknowledges that life originates with the Father. He then demonstrates that the life was manifest in Christ and that the Apostles occupied a front-row seat to this phenomenon. The Apostles, in turn, are proclaiming to fellow-believers—children of God—what was made manifest to them.

II. The Old Testament pointed to Jesus as the promised Son (1.5-3.24)
The commandment from the beginning has remained the same: Believe and love (3.23). So then, access to the Father has never been through works, but by faith grounded in the Revelation. Since the Son has come from the Father as the fullest expression of that Revelation, belief in Him is essential.

A. Light and darkness represent one’s acceptance (light) or denial (darkness) of the Old Testament Revelation of Jesus (1.5-2.11)

© The Biblical Studies Foundation (www.bible.org)

Summer 2001

B. The readers have acknowledged the Revelation that Jesus is the Christ, and are encouraged to continue to believe in spite of the Antagonists’ deception (2.12-28) C. The readers are encouraged to follow the Old Testament code of purity and righteousness evidenced in loving one another (2.29-3.24) III. The Apostle and the Spirit bear witness that Jesus is indeed the Christ (4.1-5.12)
The Apostle, an eyewitness of Christ’s ministry, challenges the antagonist’s suggestion that Jesus was not the Christ. Jesus is the Son of God, and the Apostle has been sent to proclaim that message. Furthermore, the Spirit validates the Sonship of Christ and testifies within the believer of this reality.

A. Believers in Christ acknowledge the Apostolic witness (4.1-6) B. Believers in Christ love one another out of gratefulness to God in sending His Son (4.7-21) C. Believers overcome Satan, the world, and sin through Christ (5.1-5) D. Believers have received the Spirit who testifies to Jesus (5.6-12) IV. The Apostle offers final exhortations (5.13-21)
The Apostle declares that the believer can exercise confidence in Christ and His work in his behalf. He closes the letter with a brief description of the benefits of belief in Christ.

A. The believer can be confident that his sins are forgiven (5.13-17) B. The believer can be confident that he has eternal life (5.18-21)

Application
Historical Application
Toward readers themselves
Abide in God Continue to believe

Toward the brethren
Help fellow believers in need Love one another through good deeds

Toward the unsaved
Do not love or marvel at the world

Toward the antagonist
Do not let him deceive you

Toward the author
Accept the Apostolic doctrine that Jesus is the Christ

© The Biblical Studies Foundation (www.bible.org)

Summer 2001

Preaching Application
Toward believers
Abide in God, allowing His character to be evident in you Continue to believe

Toward the brethren
Help believers in need Love one another in deed and in truth

Toward the unsaved
Do not love the world or the things of the world Do not marvel at the world or covet what it offers Proclaim boldly God’s love in Christ

Toward those who deny Christ for access to God
Do not let them deceive you Proclaim boldly God’s love in Christ

Specific Application
Toward self
Conduct a study of Christ’s discourses, since faith comes from hearing such as these

Toward the brethren
Seek opportunities to assist fellow-believers (especially in my Sunday School class) in need (i.e. moving, finances, marital problems, etc.)

Toward the unsaved
Resist coveting the stability and financial security enjoyed by unbelievers Seek out opportunities to introduce others to Christ (especially around my neighborhood)

Toward those who deny Christ for access to God
Be aware and mindful of their deceptive ploys Boldly proclaim the exclusivity of Christ when others advocate universalism or a “many ways” theology

© The Biblical Studies Foundation (www.bible.org)

Summer 2001