Audience: Believers (Christians)
Subjects: Jesus is God's messiah,
our actions reveal beliefs, God's children don't sin, etc.
John explains that God is completely holy, with absolutely no evil or sin. Therefore, if we are living sinfully we are not saved (John says, "the truth is not in us" v.8), but instead we are deceiving ourselves. However, those who repent and stop sinning will be forgiven by God.
It is important to notice that John is speaking to people already believed to be Christians. He is giving an argument that Christians do not live sinfully, telling "believers" "who sin" to repent or else they are not saved (v.9-10).
According to John, if you believe and do not sin, the truth is in you (saved). However, if you say you believe, but still sin, the truth is not in you (not saved), because God is light (holy) and has no darkness (evil).
John then explains that whoever repents can be forgiven, explaining what is means to repent. Whoever obeys God's commandments has repented and is saved.
However, John says we are liars if we say we are Christian, and saved, and that we know God, yet we live sinfully. Instead, we are to live like Jesus lived, which is in obedience to God, and without sin (1 John 2:6).
John then gives specific examples by saying that if we say we are saved, but we hate fellow Christians, then we are deceiving ourselves because we cannot be saved if we hate others. In addition, we cannot be saved while evils like lust and greed exist in our hearts.
1 John 2:15 "Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world."
John then gives his audience encouragement to repent of any sins and return to obeying God, saying that our lives (and the world) will eventually end. He also says that those who deny that Jesus is the Christ are called antichrists, and he warns them to not be deceived by antichrists.
Speaking of Jesus, John says, "abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming." (1 John 2:28)
We who have repented and do right are children of God. Those who commit sin are children of the devil. Jesus Christ destroys the work of the devil (evil and sin) by being in us. Whether or not we are children of God or children of the devil is revealed by our actions and behaviors. Those who do wrong and do not love others are children of the devil.
1 John 3:9 “Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God's seed (Jesus) abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God.”
Love each other; do not hate. Hating others makes us murderers, and murderers do not receive eternal life. John gives examples of loving versus hating others, such as by having resources (food, money, etc.) and refusing to help others in need. We show love or hate by our actions.
John summaries his whole point in 1 John 3:23 "And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us."
His point in writing this letter has been to tell "believers" that in order to actually be saved, saying that you believe in Jesus as the Messiah is not sufficient. You must believe in God's salvation through Jesus Christ AND repent of sin by obeying his commandments, which is summarized as loving others.
Those who say they believe, yet they sin, hate others, don't help those in need, etc. are considered liars.
Warning again of antichrists, John speaks of determining if someone is of God by whether or not they confess that Jesus is God's messiah and salvation.
However, based on what John has already covered, it would also be important to use their behavior as an indicator of whether or not they are from God. Jesus also covers this subject by saying, "You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?" (Matthew 7:16)
Having spoken of antichrists, John then summaries the true message of God's salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are to love each other, just as God loves us and shows his love through Jesus Christ's sacrifice to forgive us of our sins.
John then clarifies the meaning of love, again saying that those who hate others are lying if they say they love God.
"For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments." (1 John 5:3)
John explains that believing in Jesus Christ (v. 1), loving God (v. 2-3), and obeying God (v. 2-3) are the same thing. He then continues by saying that obeying God is not difficult, because by believing in Jesus Christ and having faith we are able to obey God.
Loving God, obeying God, and believing in Jesus Christ is how we are saved. They are all the same thing. To not obey God is to not love God, which is to not truly believe that Jesus Christ is God's messiah. "Knowledge" of something does not change behavior, but belief does.
1 John 2:17 "those who do the will of God live forever."
1 John 3:15 "All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them."
John clarifies that eternal life is given by God through his son Jesus Christ. He then summarizes many of the same points he has already made.
It is important to remember that one of the biggest issues during the 1st century was (1) whether or not Jesus Christ was God's messiah.
Many Jews expected God's messiah to deliver his people from the oppression of the world's powers (such as the Roman Empire). Most people, including Jesus' disciples initially, did not understand that God was liberating his people from sin and the fate of eternal death, not from worldly powers and governments.
With this issue in mind, John is speaking to believers, warning them about people who claim to be of God, but deny that Jesus Christ is God's messiah.
John also warns them (2) about claiming to be believers of Jesus Christ, but failing to show their belief through their actions by loving others and obeying God.
These two issues are the main subjects of John's first letter, which he repeatedly addresses. If you read 1 John and feel that he is being repetitive, it is because he is. He basically says the same thing several times differently.