This anonymous sermon or letter, typically attributed to John the Elder, is about the nature of Jesus Christ and what it means to follow after Christ in this world. Major themes include the coming of the Son of God fully into the flesh ("incarnation") and the importance of linking faith with life, especially a life filled with the love of God expressed in concrete deeds. John calls all the church to unity in the Spirit that we may be a community of life, light, and love, working against the worldly forces of death, darkness, and hate.
There is a strong connection between belief and life. It is important to get our views of Christ correct, yet equally these doctrines are not purely abstract but powerfully connected to our way of life. This book also focuses strongly on love and fellowship as keys to Christian discipleship.
Where Do I Find It?
The First Letter of John is the twenty-third book in the New Testament. It is the first of the three "Johannine Letters," a collection of writings that share much in common with each other and with the Gospel of John.
Who Wrote It?
Similarities among this book, 2 John, and 3 John indicate that the same author (identified as an "elder" in the other two letters) is responsible for all three. The elder and his colleagues were likely also the authors of the Gospel of John. This person may or may not have been the Apostle John, son of Zebedee.
When Was It Written?
The First Letter of John comes from around 90 C.E., during or soon after the time when the Gospel of John was put together.
What's It About?
Believers are to have faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made flesh, and are to live a life of love and discipleship in the unity of the Spirit.
How Do I Read It?
Read this letter like you would a sermon, written to encourage faith and life in Christian community. Remember that it was written to a specific time and community, but it speaks to us also. Recognize that the book's simple language conveys profound theological and ethical points.
AUTHOR: Alan Padgett, Professor of Systematic Theology