That You May Know: An Exposition of First John
Lessons from First John
The Parallel Outline of First John
A 1:1–4 — Prologue — Eternal Life Manifested
B 1:5–2:2 —The Truth Proclaimed
C 2:3–17 — The Love Commandment
D 2:18–27 — Antichrists Deny Jesus is the Christ
E 2:28–3:10 — Confidence as Children of God
F 3:11–18 — The Message: Sacrificial Love for One Another
E’ 3:19–24 — Confidence in God’s Presence
D’ 4:1–6 — Antichrists Deny Christ Came in the Flesh
C’ 4:7–5:5 — The Love Example
B’ 5:6–12 — The Testimony Received
A’ 5:13–21 — Conclusion — Eternal Life Assured
First John urges us to cling to Jesus Christ. This faith produces the fruit of seeing our sin for what it is (1:8-9), trusting in the forgiveness available through Christ’s work (2:1), and being faithful to love the brethren (3:16).
We must deal with sin as sin. As 1 John 1:8-9, teaches, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The Epistle began (1:1-4) with a testimony to the Incarnation which is the way we have Life, rather than death because of sin. John proclaims this way of life in fellowship (koinonia) with the Father and Son. The recurring theme of assurance in this life forms the intro and conclusion of the book. He says of the entire Epistle, “I have written to you” in order that “you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13).
We must cling to Christ in faith. As 1 John 2:1–2 teaches, “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.” A repeated theme of this Epistle is that we believe in Christ in His Person and work (the propitiation for our sins). The spirit of antichrist is the source of the denial of Jesus and His redemptive work. Therefore, we must be vigilant against Christ-denying errors. A survey of 1 John provides a comprehensive list of these errors.
1) We must be Vigilant Against Errors of Idolatry - "Guard yourselves from idols" (5:21). "This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son" (2:22). Those who proceed in terms of false worship therefore disobey the First and Second Commandment (No other gods, No graven images). All paganism and polytheism and ultimately all Trinitarian heresies fall under this category (like the "oneness" Pentecostals, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc). Ultimately all error becomes idolatry.
2) We must be Vigilant Against Errors of Biblical Authority - "He who is not from God does not listen to us" (4:6). John explains that "we" (apostles) heard, saw and handled the incarnate Christ (1:1-2). Many heresies begin with an aberration on the Scripture. (Islam, Romanism, Mormonism, Bahaism - all have additional revelation which nullifies the Word of God.
3) We must be Vigilant Against Errors of Christ’s Person and Work - "Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God" (4:2-3). John also references those who deny that Jesus is the Christ (2:22). He explains that Jesus’s death is the propitiation of our sins (2:1, 4:10). Therefore, there is category of heresy relating to the Person and Work of Jesus, such as the early gnostic heresy (denying Jesus was a man), Arianism (denying the full divinity of Jesus), Pelagianism and Socinianism (denying the sufficiency of the Work of Christ), and the various ways of denying the orthodox view that Jesus is the divine Son of God in two distinct natures (human and divine) and one person forever.
4) We must be Vigilant Against Errors of Creation - Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and therefore much heresy stems from an anti-creational error often influenced by alien philosophies such as Greek notions that matter is evil. This philosophy does not recognize the inherent goodness of God’s good creation (Gen. 1). Paul (like John) calls this kind of error a doctrine of demons when "men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know t