First John: So You Know You Have Eternal Life

first john

First John was written to dispel doubts and to build assurance by presenting a clear picture of Christ. Entering history, Jesus was and is God in the flesh and God in focus – seen, heard, and touched by the author of this letter, John the apostle. John walked and talked with Jesus, saw him heal, heard him teach, watched him die, met him arisen, and saw him ascend. John knew God – he had lived with him and had seen him work. And John enjoyed fellowship with the Father and the Son all the days of his life.

John wrote about the most vital aspects of faith so that readers would know Christian truth from error.  He emphasizes the basics of faith so that we can be confident in our faith.  In our dark world, God is light. In our cold world, God brings the warmth of love.  In our dying world, God brings life.  When we lack confidence, these truths bring us uncertainty.

Do you know God? Do you know Christ? Do you know that you have eternal life? First John was written to help you know the reality of God in your life through faith in Christ, to assure you that you have eternal life, and to encourage you to remain in fellowship with the God who is light and love. Read First John knowing that it is written by one overwhelmed by God’s love, and with renewed confidence, pass on his love to others.

Writer of First John

Written by the apostle John, brother of the apostle James who was martyred in A. D. 42 by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2). Possibly written from Jerusalem, since the apostles were headquartered there during the Great Scattering.

The ESV Study Bible, Large Print edition features the content of the award-winning ESV Study Bible with a highly readable, large-print type. Extensive study notes, charts, maps, and articles make this study Bible a valuable resource for serious readers, students, and teachers of God’s Word.

Date Written

During the Great Scattering described in Acts 8-12 (A. D. 40’s).

The idea that I John was written from Ephesus in the A. D. 90’s comes from the notion that the so-called “John of Ephesus” was the author. (See comments on this man in the Outline to the Gospel of John. The gospel was first presented in Ephesus by Paul in Acts 18-19.

To Whom Written

To those Jews who had formerly been his student in the Great Unity in Jerusalem who now had been scattered abroad. This letter is untitled and was written to the church at large, as it has no greetings or farewells. It was sent as a pastoral letter to several Gentile congregations.

Purpose of First John

The purpose of First John was to address the Jews who had been dispersed abroad in the Great Scattering, all of whom had been part of the Great Unity in Jerusalem – as opposed to James, which was written to those whom were the ekklesia (leaders among the newly formed groups of Jews) during the Great Scattering. John was writing to those who had once been his pupils, but who had now become teachers themselves. He wrote to remind them of the lessons he had formerly taught them, as well as to offer them advice in dealing with the issues that they were now facing. One of the primary issues was the presence of false teachers and liars, men whom Satan had caused to come in craftily among them.

John mentions four reasons for writing this epistle to believers. (1) to add to their joy; (2) to guard them against sin; (3) to warn them against false teachers; and (4) to strengthen their faith in Christ and assure them of eternal life.

Historical Setting of First John

First John has none of the usual features of an epistle: no salutation or identification of author; no greetings; and no references to persons, places, or events. Ironically, although its format is impersonal, like a sermon or a treatise, its tone is warm and personal. This suggests that it was written to a broad audience (probably in and around Ephesus) that was very dear to the author.

Theological Contribution

Like the Gospel of John, the epistles of John are built on the foundation blocks of love, truth, sin, world, life, light, and the Holy Spirit. The epistles of John emphasize the great themes of knowing, believing, walking and abiding. The keystone in the arch of the gospel is that God has appeared in human form. The incarnation is life; and this life is available ion the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Fellowship with God is realized by knowing God and abiding in Him: joined to Him in righteousness, truth, and especially love.

Special Consideration in First John

Many Christians wonder about John’s declaration, “Whoever abides in Him [Jesus Christ] does not sin” (3:6). This does not mean that if someone sins he is not a Christian. Indeed, in these epistles we are told that Christ came to forgive sins; and we are admonished to confess our sins to Him. The statement means that Christ has transferred us from death to life and has caused us to share in the nature of God. Consequently, we are no longer confined to darkness, because Jesus Christ has broken the power of sin in our lives.

Scripture Study Resources

ESV Study BibleStudy Bibles give you a deeper understanding of God’s Word with tools for life application like commentary, maps, charts, concordance, and study notes. Search our popular translations- NIV, ESV, NKJV, KJV and more!

Believer’s Bible Commentary: Second Edition – A Bible commentary is a written, systematic series of explanations and interpretations of Scripture. Commentaries often analyze or expound on individual books of the Bible, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. Some commentary works provide analysis of the whole of Scripture.

The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible – The best concordance for word study! This exclusive new edition of a legendary classic puts generations of biblical research at your fingertips. A valuable tool for pastors, teachers, and students of the Bible. 

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words – This classic word study resource allows you to study the meaning of biblical words in the original languages without spending years learning Greek or Hebrew. A great resource for students, seasoned pastors, and anyone who enjoys biblical word studies–even if they have little to no formal training in Hebrew or Greek.

Halley’s Bible Handbook – The beloved and classic Bible companion has been thoroughly updated, while retaining its time-honored features and Dr. Halley’s highly personal style, to offer even greater clarity, insight, and usefulness.

Click here to print or download the scripture outline “First John: So You Know You Have Eternal Life”


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