Reasons to Study 1 John
Purpose of this post: Answer the question, “Why should we spend so much time in the letter of 1 John?”
I once had a friend in college who often said off-the-wall stuff. Before going out late one night after swimming, he declared, “If chlorine don’t kill it, Dial soap won’t either.” I will never forget such wisdom. But he said something else that has always stuck with me. On another late night as I was in the lobby of my dorm, he strolled through and in his typical bizarre-statement, unsolicited advice way declared, “Read 1 John every night; it will change your life.”
Whether coincidence or providence, I had already been reading and studying 1 John on my own. I had already come face to face with teachings and concepts that I knew were profound, and as typically happens with 21st century readers who think in phrases or pictures rather than in long, well developed paragraphs, I knew there was a bounty to harvest, but I didn’t understand how to work the tools.
John, the apostle, the elder, the writer of the gospel, the epistles, and the Apocalypse (the book of Revelation), has a way of writing that says so much about such simple topics in short spaces using well-crafted sentences. Indeed, in reading just the first four verses, one quickly realizes the sophisticated writing style as well as the length (those four verses make one complete sentence).
“Read 1 John every night; it will change your life.” I was reading it every night. I wasn’t frustrated. I simply shrugged in my ignorance and took what little tidbits I could retain and took my leave. Concepts like “God is love,” and “stop sinning,” as well as ” walk in the light,” and “If you say you are without sin, you make God a liar,” did stick with me, and these concepts have served me well. But John put much time, effort, and love into that letter for believers to walk away with more than simple sentences that would fit on bumper stickers.
John spent years, and probably his last years at Ephesus. Paul has much good to say about them, but Scripture records three issues at Ephesus. First, Paul prophesied to the Ephesian elders about “savage wolves” who would harass them (Acts 20:29-30). Second, Paul repeats these warnings to Timothy, the pastor at Ephesus (2 Timothy 3:1-7; 4:3-4). Finally, John has a letter from Jesus delivered to the Ephesians, found at the beginning of the book of Revelation from where we get our often quoted phrase, “you have lost your first love.” Historical record indicates that John was at Ephesus when he wrote his first letter, and he wrote it to a people who needed to be reminded what it means to love and what they have believed since the beginning.
And this is the modern church. We need these same reminders. We need repeated warnings about false teachers because now, with the internet, every person with a computer and wifi can have every false teacher in the world knock on their virtual doorstep. Also, the internet and media fuel hate and division in the name of unity (another blog topic for another day).
We need the teachings of 1 John. We need his encouragement, his rebukes, his witness as an apostle, his letter which was written “to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (5:13). We will be in 1 John every week for several months. Perhaps it will change our lives.