John (in the book of 1 John) is writing to people who have endured false teaching and false doctrine from within the church. It had not been that long after Christ’s appearance on earth, but there already was discussion and individual interpretation as to how Jesus presented Himself. The people had come to a place where their life experiences were greater than the Scriptures themselves. John was addressing the prevailing thought that Jesus was a mere man, and that Christ had descended to earth and used Jesus as a medium for His revelation. This was the main thought process of Gnosticism, a combination of Hellenistic and Oriental philosophies. Gnostics also declared that the spoken words were that of Jesus but not of Christ, for no one could hear Christ speak, and that one could not see or touch Christ (1 John 1:1-2; 5:6). In addition, they also believed that Christ ascended to heaven before Jesus died on the cross, which meant that the crucifixion had nothing to do with Christ. These were just a few of several prevailing thoughts of the day. People called themselves Christians, while denying the basic teachings of Scripture. This is prevalent in the church even today. There are many different denominations that refer to themselves as Christians, yet different philosophies have crept in where the focus in less on Christ and more on those things that distract us from Him or flat out don’t matter when it has to do with truly following Jesus Christ.
John was warning the people about the following teachings:
1. People were denying the incarnation.
2. God being so good could that he could not have anything to do with evil men.
3. The behavior of man didn’t matter, because that was of his body and had nothing to do with God. (There was a time when people were excommunicated from church membership because they would not change their behavior. While Billy Graham used to say that people should come to the church “as they were,” there was an expectation of a change of their behavior as they grew in the faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ.)
4. Both the incarnation and righteous living were denied by people who professed to be Christian. To the Gnostics, sin was not an issue–it was treated as more of a life learning experience.
When looking at The Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is erroneous to make the following assumptions:
1. The assumption that historical facts and moral precepts of the Scriptures were to be taken literally.
2. The assumption that the Scriptures contain all that was necessary for man’s spiritual well-being.
John presents his information and instruction with a positive approach. He taught the following:
1. Jesus did come in the flesh.
2. You can have fellowship with God. He loves us and cares for us.
3. You can know and have knowledge of eternal life.
4. He gives us assurance of our faith in Jesus.
5. God is light and God is love.
John’s intent was to guide and correct the conduct of the Christian. God’s children are to live up to the highest moral standard, and it is stressed consistently throughout Scripture (1 John 2:1, 6; 3:3, 6, 9). We are to walk like Jesus, who knew no sin, in the anticipation of His return. Emulating the life of Christ helps us to keep the focus to live pure and healthy lives. We are different spiritually in our life with Christ, and He will continue to help you to grow and conform to Christ as you mature in your faith. The change that God makes in our lives not only affects us in a positive way but can also have the same impact on others.
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent also loves his child. This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands. For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands” (1 John 5:1-3). When we understand how much God loves us, with everything accomplished through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we can easily love others and have a heart for others. We should never allow things that do not matter to keep us from fellowship with both believers and non-believers. The only thing that should ever be a deal-breaker is when Christ is not being taught in the church as the Messiah and the Son of God.
John speaks from personal experience and knowledge in 1 John 1:1. The Gnostics stated that you have to have knowledge and experience–John stated that he had both. John stated that Jesus existed from the beginning (Genesis 1:1) and that He was God (Exodus 3:14; John 8:58). John also noted that he was involved with Jesus because he had a relationship with Jesus. We, as a people, can worship what we do not know (John 4:22), but John declared that we worship who we do know, and that is Jesus Christ! John also proclaimed that Jesus would have everything from the Father and that whoever accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will have a relationship with Him (John 6:37). Without being touched by God or understanding the grace of God, one cannot know Jesus Christ as their Savior. To know Christ means that we have been called to Him by God the Father.