1 John – Lesson One
The True Son of God
The study of 1 John
It will greatly enhance your study if you take time to read 1 John at one setting. I also suggest you read the introduction, if your Bible has included one. If this isn’t possible, read the introduction and the first two chapters; then when we begin chapter 3, read 3-5.
Introduction to 1 John–Lesson 1
“[Christ] became what we are to make us what He is.”
The Epistle of First John was written by the Apostle John probably in the latter years of his life toward the end of the first century. By this time, the body of Christ would have consisted of second and third generation believers who hadn’t experienced the initial thrill and excitement of the new teaching and the eye witness accounts of Jesus’ life as the first generation believers had.
John’s first purpose was to assure believers of their salvation and to affirm their beliefs through emphasizing the true nature of God. John’s second purpose was to protect his readers from a growing threat “within” the body of Christ. Believers were being seduced by false teachers who were distorting the truth and promoting heresy. It is possible, since persecution is not mentioned in this book, that believers had become apathetic which would have made them vulnerable to deceptive teaching.
The heresy taught by these false teachers within the body of Christ threatened to erode the truth of the Word at the very heart of the gospel of salvation–-believing that Jesus is the Christ, the God-man incarnate.
It is extremely important to understand 1 John in light of his two purposes. John passionately and vigorously refutes and exposes these false teachers with the truth of God’s Word.
(Important Note: Many commentators think the heresy John proves false may have been a very early form of Gnosticism and/or Docetism. Those teaching “Gnosticism” (meaning “knowledge”) claimed to possess “superior knowledge,” especially in regard to the deity and nature of Christ. Because they thought they had “superior knowledge,” they claimed to be perfect, though they were immoral. They believed that all matter–the world, including the human body–was entirely evil, but God–who is pure spirit–is entirely good. Only those with this “superior knowledge” could connect with God, so all others were inferior and unsaved. Because of this thinking, they didn’t believe that deity could take on evil human flesh since flesh is evil; therefore, they denied that Jesus was really a man, they decided that the human Jesus became divine when the divine spirit of Christ entered into Jesus at His baptism, and they asserted that the divine spirit of Christ left His body before the human Jesus suffered, died, and rose again. Since they thought ‘spirit’ was good and could not suffer or experience evil, Christ must have left the human Jesus.
Those who believed in Docetism (meaning “to appear” or “to seem”) believed that the body of Jesus was not real, not flesh and blood. It just appeared to be flesh–an illusion (1 John 4:2-3).
1. Read 1 John 1:1-4. As one of John the Baptist’s followers, John began to follow Jesus after Jesus was baptized. Sometime later he became one of the original twelve disciples. John had witnessed the life and teachings of Jesus from the start. From verses 1-2, what is John’s strong witness for the incarnation of Christ? (Note: The “beginning” in verse 1 refers to the start of Jesus’ public service. Incarnation means “becoming flesh”.)
2. As you think back over the life of Jesus, what would indicate that Jesus was truly human? Give the reference for your answer. (Example: He was hungry (Matt. 4:2). Give an example that proves Jesus was fully God.
3. John called Christ the Word of life. What do you learn about the “Word of life” from the gospel of John 1, verses 4 and 14? (Note: This “beginning” refers to the beginning of creation.)
4. Recorded in the Gospel of John are the words John actually heard Jesus speak. From John 11:25 and John 14:6, what did Jesus teach about His life?
5. Read Matt. 17:1-9 and John 20:19-20. Explain what may have been John’s experience with the appearing of Christ’s glory mentioned in John 1:14. Why do you think this event left such an impression on John about the reality of Christ’s Incarnation?
6. How do you think the experience recorded in John 20:19-20 and John 20:25-28 influenced John as he was writing 1 John 1:2? Explain.
7. How did these experiences (in addition to the teachings of Jesus) refute the false teaching of Gnosticism?
8. Reread 1 John 1:3-4. (Note: Remember that John is writing to believers.) “Fellowship (Greek koinonia) is the spiritual union of the believer with Christ.”1 Fellowship also means “to share in common.” What did John and the other apostles desire for the readers?
9. How can leaving the true teaching of the Word of God in order to believe false teaching interrupt fellowship with God and other believers?
10. By relating his personal experiences and the teachings of Jesus Christ, John affirmed the faith of believers. The body of Christ is still vulnerable to false teachers. How can we encourage the faith of others?
11. According to 1 John 1:4, how would these eyewitnesses be affected if the readers embraced the reality of Christ’s incarnation, the true knowledge of Christ, as a result of their testimony? Why?
12. According to 3 John 1:4, what gave John the greatest joy?
13. J. Dwight Pentecost wrote, “If mortals really want to know God they must give themselves to a study of the written Word of God.” When you consider the first four verses of 1 John and why he wrote 1 John, why do you believe that Pentecost’s words are important to heed?
“The doctrine of the humanity of Jesus is vital to the…faith. If Jesus had not become a man, there would be no forgiveness of sin and consequently, no possibility of a relationship with God.”
—Clinton E. Arnold
Journal your thoughts and insights.
1The NIV Study Bible
About the author
Bonnie was a member of Circle Community Church in Orlando, FL for over 30 years before moving to Arkansas. She served in the teaching ministry in adult Women's Sunday School and in discipleship of individuals and groups. She enjoys writing encouragement letters for the women of Pioneers, Bible studies for Deeper Roots Publications and Thrive. She has also written Jr. and Sr. high and adult Bible curriculum for home school and Christian schools. In addition, she has authored three books: "Fruit that Remains, Spiritual Growth Through Life Experience," and 2 "Encouragement for Home School Moms" studies. Bonnie's Purpose Statement: My purpose is to help believers "think deeply" in Scripture, to know God, and to understand and apply truth in their lives through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, thereby, assisting them to grow progressively in their relationship and fellowship with Christ, and to mature spiritually to the glory of God. Howard and Bonnie served as missionaries in Papua, New Guinea with New Tribes Mission and are now serving part-time with PIONEERS. They have been blessed with five children, four in-law children, and 12 grandchildren.View all articles by: Bonnie Lisech
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