Fellowship with God is Rooted in the Apostolic Witness

1 John 1.1-4

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—

1.1-2: What is John talking about here? Jesus? Jesus was “in the beginning” (John 1.1) but what was from the beginning? It is something that existed from the Garden of Eden. Life (substantiated by the use of a neuter pronoun, rather than a masculine). Those who have fellowship with God have life.  And not just any life – eternal life, life with the Father. “What the apostle stresses in his proclamation of the gospel is the historical manifestation of the eternal” (Stott, 63).

Adam and Eve had fellowship with God until they ate of the fruit and died spiritually, ending fellowship with God. That which was with God from the beginning has reappeared in Jesus Christ. “We” (that is the apostolic college) heard it, saw it, beheld (contemplated, to look at something with continuity and attention as if the thing observed in unusual) it, and touched it (John 20.28) in a man who had absolute and perfect fellowship with God (“made manifest”). He was no mere man and yet he really was man!

This quickly puts away many of the “-isms” making them “wasms.” They touched a real human body, saw one…this is Jesus. With one round house kick/punch, John KOs the false teachers.

3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

1.3: Here is the message of the apostles: eternal life found in the man Jesus Christ. They preach this so that men might have fellowship with them. Ultimately, fellowship (in the Christian sense) among men necessitates fellowship with God first. If there is no fellowship with God, there can be no fellowship among men. If God is not first our Father and we begotten of Him, how can we be brethren?

Fellowship: sharing, partnership, and expresses a two-sided relationship with a close bond. This can be good or bad (see Prov 28.24 for ex. Of bad). In the OT, never do you find this word, either in Hebrew or Greek, a sense in which man has fellowship with God (something very common in Greek theology). The Israelite had a real of sense of distance from God. This is even communicated them in the place of worship, the temple. Only the HP is allowed in to the Holy of Holies once a year.

But under the New Covenant, things change. Because of Christ, now John triumphantly says, “indeed our (he and his recipients) fellowship is with the Father.” As Christians, we share a common bond, a common undertaking, a common life that is grounded in the person and nature of Christ (cf. Psa 119.63), yes, but the over-above that is our new relationship with the Father. There is a common bond, undertaking, life (eternal) with our God and with Jesus Christ, His Son. Herein is the spirit of NT Christianity.

4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

1.4: John’s purpose – to make the joy of your salvation, fellowship complete (perfect in every regard).

Introduction Material to 1 John


Like the epistle to the Hebrews, 1 John begins immediately without the writer identifying himself. External evidence is in favor of ascribing the epistle to the apostle John. The epistle was known to Polycarp, a disciple of John. It is first quoted by Irenaeus who was himself a disciple of Polycarp. “In his Adversus Haereses (3.16, 18) he quotes fully from 1 John 2.18-22; 4.1-3; 5.1, and 2 John 7, 8” (Morris 18). Clement of Alexandria repeatedly quotes from the epistle as being from John. Tertullian quotes from the epistle about fifty times in his works against Marcion and the Gnostics. When it comes to internal evidence, the author presents himself as an eyewitness and establishes that fact early. Further, nearly everyone agrees that the fourth Gospel and the first epistle are inseparable. Further, the two shorter epistles are undoubtedly from the same hand as the first epistle. Thus, the writer of the gospel narrative and the writer of the three epistles are one and the same: John the apostle, the disciple whom Jesus loved.

Occasion & Purpose

A very grave and antichristian error has cropped up and perhaps crept into the fellowship of the faithful (see 2.18, 22-24; 3.7; 4.1-6). Plummer suggests that John writes to “grapple with the insidious seductions of antinomian Gnosticism, as they threatened the Church at large” (Pulpit Comm. iv). John describes these men in graphic language: antichrists (2.18) and false prophets (4.1). There are “many” of these! Their error was Christological in nature as they assault the nature of the Son of God with their diabolical teaching. They denied Jesus was the Messiah (2.22; 5.1) and that He had come in the flesh (4.2). The Gnostic claimed to have a “more excellent way” and seemingly understood the Gospel better than the apostles! Their teaching about Christ had ethical implications. John’s discussions about light, love, and righteousness, as well as the formula “if we say” or “anyone who says” all seem to be aimed at the ethical errors of the antinomian Gnostics.

All of the theological and ethical discussions through the epistle culminate in the purpose statement of the book: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (5.13). John writes to assure the faithful concerning their possession of life eternal.

Destination & Date

Both of these are speculative at best. John, according to tradition, resided in Ephesus near the end of his life. In all likelihood, the Gospel and these three epistles were penned from that location. This first epistle may have been a general epistle to the churches in Ephesus and in the surrounding locations which were becoming hotbeds for Gnosticism. He probably wrote this epistle sometime between 80-95 AD.

Introductory Material to 1 John

Definition of terminology…This is the theological climate into John the apostle wrote.

Syncretism: To unify (or combine). In a Christian sense, syncretism is the mixing of Christianity with some other religion or religious practice. In the first century, you had a lot of Jews wanting to mix Judaism with Christianity, thereby making it an outgrowth of Judaism. They tried to validate Christianity with the Law which they had had for 1500 years. Also, Gnostics tried doing some of this, mixing in their “secret wisdom” into Christianity (hence, Paul’s use of “mystery” in his writing).

Gnosticism: So hard to define because it is a religion influx and ever changing. But it primary began as a mystery religion with a direct claim on “secret wisdom” or “secret knowledge.” It had pagan roots (esp. in Platonism, teaching of Plato, philosophy) and was influenced by oriental mysticism. Followers thought they had possession of unique higher insight.

Dualism: Along these lines (Gnostics) and even coupled with it, Dualists came up with the idea of two different gods (one good and one evil) which they used to explain the “dual” nature of (well) everything: life and death, body and spirit, light and dark, good and evil, etc. John will work to squash this in his epistle.

Docetism: believed Christ’s body was an illusion because they believed matter was evil. So how could Christ (a divine being) have a body if matter (flesh) is evil? They even went so far so as to distinguish between two gods: good and evil gods. Well, this will mess up salvation…unless you say Jesus didn’t die for us but for our bodies. Of course, if Jesus had no physical body, the virgin birth, the scourging, the suffering, the crucifixion, the seed promise fulfillment, the prophecies of the OT, the shed blood for our sins could never have happened. John will attack this as he confirms the humanity of Jesus.

Antinomianism: anti-lawism, believed God wants man to be dumb and stay dumb. That’s why he took Adam and Eve out of the garden, destroyed Babel, and flooded the earth. But who arises as the hero of the garden is this is true? Satan!

Adoptionism: (AKA Ebionism) They said Jesus did have a physical body and was a good man, but when he was baptized a Spirit came and inhabited his body (Manichaeism?). This Spirit-being came into Jesus and the personality of Jesus was zapped into a comatose state. Hence, Jesus the man is not conscious. He is manipulated by this Spirit for three years until he is hanging on the cross and leaves him (hence, the cry, “My God, my God…”). John proves deity was on the cross.

Asceticism: The belief that if you gratify or please the flesh in any way, it is wrong. The only way to get control of the body is to beat it into submission. See Col 2.8, 20-23. More of the matter is evil but also the appetites and gratification of these appetites is evil.

Monasticism: Monastery life. Go off into the wilderness and live like a hermit (roots).

Epicurean: More philosophy but they were indulgent of the flesh; eat, drink and be merry…

Stoicism: Other philosophers who looked to the see what the Epicurean did and then “bit the bullet.” They were suppressors of the appetites.

Apostolic Epistemology: those who looked to the apostles for doctrine and practice. How do you know what you know? Source of information (epistemology). Where did Jesus get his information? Holy Spirit. What about the apostles? Jesus, later the Holy Spirit. What about us? Apostles. Everything we know comes from the apostolic and prophetic accounts. We know what we know through them. And we get what they got when we read what they wrote. Fellowship with God…