Q: In 1 Jn 1, what was the main reason 1 Jn was written?
A: John wrote against those who were trying to lead people astray: libertine proto-Gnostics who denied Jesus coming in the flesh. Likewise Tertullian, writing 207/208 A.D., said it was against Antichrists such as the Marcionites in Against Marcion book 3 ch.8 p.327, However, some people today disagree, so here are four parts for an extensive analysis.
Explicit: The most straightforward solution would be to ask John. Here is what he said about why he wrote.
a. That your joy may be complete. 1 John 1:4. John also discusses being complete in God’s love in 1 John 4:12,17,18.
b. So that we will not sin. 1 John 2:1
c. Both an old and a new command. (love others) 1 John 2:7-8
d. Writing to those who know God, have their sins forgiven, have overcome the evil one. 1 John 2:12-14, and to those who know the truth. 1 John 2:21
e. John is writing about those who are trying to lead God’s people astray 1 John 2:26
f. Writing to believers so that they can know they have eternal life. 1 John 5:13. 1 John uses the word "know" 42 times according to the NIV Study Bible p.1908.
Notice that the reasons John gives go from the general to the specific. 1 and 3 are setting the general context for what John will be saying. 4 is not so much a reason why John is writing, but rather, a reminder of why John is writing to them. Whatever someone claims is the main point of 1 John, it should relate to what John claims are the main points of 1 John, especially points 2, 5, and 6.
Absolute: Of the 104 verses, here is a breakdown of the top topics that includes 90% of the verses. These are apparently the major points John emphasized.
Comparative: Common aspects of 1, 2, and 3 John
a. Watch out for deceivers who deny Jesus coming in the flesh. 1 John 2:18-19,26; 4:1-3; 2 John 7
b. Joy be complete. 1 John 1:4; 2 John 4,12; 3 John 3
c. Truth 2 John 1-4; 3 John 1,3,4,8,12
Love 2 John 1,3
d. Walk in love and truth.
e. Much to write but want to talk face to face instead of using pen and ink. 2 John 12, 3 John 13
Historical context: John primarily ministered in Asia Minor, and 1 John was probably written between 70 and 110 A.D. Here were some of the heresies then.
Cheap-grace (Jude 4,8; Revelation 2:2,6,14-15,20-23)
Eusebius (3:28-29; 4:14) Irenaeus (26)
Jews and Judaizers (Revelation 2:9; 3:9) Irenaeus (26), Ignatius to the Philadelphians
Denying Jesus coming in the flesh. Hippolytus (225-235/6 A.D.) mentions the Docetists, and Polycarp ch.7 (110-155 A.D.) refers to 1 John 4:3
False apostles and teachers, and denying the true apostles (Revelation 2:2 Irenaeus, Eusebius)
Those who went out from the church due to the heretical combination of denying Jesus coming in the flesh, antinomialism, and different apostolic authority, are three of the five points of libertine Gnosticism. (The other two points are a fanciful mythology of demigods and belief that the God of the Old Testament was evil and different from God in the New Testament. We know a great deal about the heresy of Gnosticism through the Christian writings of Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Eusebius, and others, and the fit is perfect except for one thing: Gnosticism was not an identifiable movement until later. However, proto-Gnostic elements, such as the heresies of Simon Magus, the libertine proto-Gnostic Cerinthus, and possibly the Docetists were present. John personally denounced Cerinthus according to Irenaeus, who heard this from Polycarp, the disciple of John. This is recorded in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History 3:28; 4:14. Irenaeus’ Against Heresies (ch.26) (182-188 A.D.) also mentions Cerinthus, without mentioned the bath incident with John.
Conclusion: The explicit, absolute, comparative, and historical context analyses have the common element of warning against deceivers who deny Jesus coming in the flesh. The main point of 1 John seems to be warning the flock in truth and love against those who
1. Deny Jesus coming in the flesh
2. Do not obey God’s commands
3. Do not practice loving the brothers
Q: In 1 Jn 1, who were the Gnostics?
Q: In 1 Jn, is it true that John writes all his inspired works with one heretic, Cerinthus the Gnostic, in mind, as one Catholic claimed?
Q: In 1 Jn 1, was this book written primarily to be read by Jewish Christians, as the hyper-Calvinist John Gill taught?
Q: In 1 Jn 1:1-4, is John speaking of his experience as a Christian or his experience as a disciple and an eyewitness of Jesus?
Q: In 1 Jn 1:5, how can there be no darkness with God?
Q: In 1 Jn 1:7, since Christ cleanses us from all sin, why do Christians still sin?
Q: In 1 Jn 2:1, is Christ the propitiation for the sins of the whole world? If so, will all be saved?
Q: In 1 Jn 2:1, does this refer to all people or all kinds of people?
Q: Does 1 Jn 2:3-5 contradict being saved by grace?
Q: In 1 Jn 3:1-2, are female Christians called "sons of God", too?
Q: In 1 Jn 3:4-6; 1 Jn 3:9, and 1 Jn 5:18, do we have to be sinless, or have no sin, to be saved?
Q: In 1 Jn 2:12-14, why does John emphasize fathers, young men, and little children?
Q: In 1 Jn 3:10,14-18, 23-24, if a Christian hates or does not always love others, will he or she go to Hell?
Q: Does 1 Jn 3:10 contradict God saying He loved Jacob but hated Esau?
Q: Does 1 Jn 4:1-3 refer to spirits or to people?
Q: In 1 Jn 4:1, since some people are trying to find God, why would God knowingly allow false prophets?
Q: Does 1 Jn 4:2-3 talking about Jesus having flesh before or after His resurrection, or both?
Q: In 1 Jn 4:7, since God is love, doesn’t that mean that love is God and everything done for love is automatically done for God as Christian liberals claim?
Q: In 1 Jn 4:10, does this mean we do not love God and predestination is true?
Q: In 1 Jn 4:12, how has no one seen God apart from Jesus, since Isaiah saw the Lord in Isaiah 6:1?
Q: In 1 Jn 4:18, since "love casts out all fear", why are we to fear God in 2 Cor 5:11?
Q: In 1 Jn 4:20-21, how are we supposed to love others?
Q: Does 1 Jn 5:1 mean that everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah is going to Heaven?
Q: Was 1 Jn 5:7-8 added to the Bible?
Q: Does 1 Jn 5:6-8 mean that since the Holy spirit is a witness along with water and blood, the Holy Spirit is not a living being?
Q: In 1 Jn 5:7,8, how could God let a sentence get added to the Bible?
Q: In 1 Jn 5:13, how can know we have eternal life, since the hell-bound people in Matthew 7:21-23 thought they knew they had eternal life? In other words, assurance of salvation does not mean much if we can never know if we have false assurance.
Q: In 1 Jn 5:14-15, how come we do not always get what we pray for?
Q: In 1 Jn 5:16-17 what is "sin that leads not to death" versus "sin that leads to death"?
Q: Does 1 Jn 5:16-17 refer to the Catholic concept of "mortal sins" vs. "venial sins"?
Q: In 1 Jn 5:18, is Satan unable to "touch us", or can Satan "sift" us as wheat in Lk 22:31?
Q: In 1 Jn 5:21, is it OK to have statues of idols in your house if you do not worship them?
Q: How do we know that 1 Jn was really written by John?
Q: In 1 Jn, how do we know if what we have today is a reliable preservation of what was originally written?
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