1 John is a testimony about who Jesus was and is, and what this means for those who seek to follow him. There is a strong emphasis on living out what you say – not just declaring that you belong to Christ, but living it out in practice. Woven through the book is the requirement to love God and each other.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1.8)
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. (1 John 3.1)
7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4.7–8)
It is interesting to read all five books together and see what you think!
If the author of 1 John is John the apostle, he was the brother of James, called by Jesus to follow him early in his ministry. He is often thought to be the 'beloved disciple' of John’s Gospel (see introduction to John’s Gospel for more on this); if he was, then when he was on the cross, Jesus handed over care for his mother to him. Christian tradition states that he took her to live in Ephesus, where he lived to a ripe old age (around 100). If the author is a different John, then we know much less about him. If the same person wrote 2 and 3 John then he was an elder in the church.
Despite the differences between 1, 2 and 3 John, the thread that joins them all is the question of what it means to live out the love of Jesus in the people's everyday lives.
The names of people and peoples
Cain, John of Patmos, John the elder