Sunday, 04 January 2009 00:00

An Introduction to the Series

I John 1:4 (ESV)

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

Today we begin a verse-by-verse exposition of I John. I will be using the ESV translation.

  1. The author's identity... John, son of Zebedee, brother of James, a fisherman by trade.
    The only letters in the New Testament where there is no internal statement as to who wrote them are I, II, and III John, and Hebrews. I believe that John wrote this epistle.
    1. The earliest Christian writers acknowledge that John is the writer.
      Irenaeus (d.200), Clement of Alexandria (d.215), and Tertullian (d.220)
    2. The writer identifies himself as an eye-witness of Jesus' earthly life (1:1).
      "We have seen with our eyes; we have looked upon and touched." John did this. He was one of the first disciples. He was with Jesus during His ministry. He was one of only three at the transfiguration. He was in the Garden. He was with Peter in the courtyard, at the tomb, and at Pentecost. He was an eyewitness of Jesus.
    3. The style of writing resembles that of the Gospel of John and Revelation.
      John wrote Revelation on the Isle of Patmos after being exiled to that island by the Romans because of his Christianity. He had faced many trials in his life.
  2. The author's intention... "We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete."
    In spite of all his trials, John writes I John, speaking on behalf of the early Christians. Consider this statement: It is possible for a Christian to have an incomplete joy in life. Joy means "happy, glad, or cheerful." Complete means having every necessary or normal component. These are two general mistakes made when it comes to joy:
    1. First, there are those who look for joy apart from God.
      This is incomplete joy. These people find that "Happiness happens when happenstances happen to be happy." The lacking ingredient is joy from God.
    2. Second, there are those who thin Christians shouldn't feel joy.
      But this can't be right, because one of the fruits of the Spirit is "joy" (Galatians 5:22). "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever" (Westminster). If the major theme of I John is to help you to have a complete joy, then it would seem to me he would write and warn against those things that would cause you to have an incomplete joy as you follow after Christ. This is precisely what he does.
  3. The author's implication... "There are some specific things that create a deficient joy."
    There are three places where John adds to his major theme of having complete joy.
    1. An incomplete joy arises when I make poor choices in life (sin).
      "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin" (I John 2:1).
    2. An incomplete joy arises when I think contrary to truth (deception).
      "I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you" (I John 2:26).
    3. An incomplete joy arises when I doubt God's relationship with me (insecurity).
      "I write these things... that you may know you have eternal life" (I John 5:13). All three of these things (personal sin in my life, friends that influence me, and spiritual doubts), cause my joy to be incomplete. This is why I John is written, and this is why each of our studies will be a variation of one of these themes.

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