One of the classes I teach is doing an occasional study of I John. It’s occasional in the sense that these are the notes I leave for them when I have to be somewhere other than teaching the class.
I John 1:1-4 questions
NIV 1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched– this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
NRS 1 John 1:1 We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– 2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us– 3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
Start at the end of this paragraph, v. 4. What reason does John give for writing? Note: There is a textual variant here. Some Greek manuscripts have your joy while others have our joy. (It’s the difference between humon and hamon.) Most of the newer translations consider our joy to be the better reading. As you read this book, ask the question, “How might what is written here increase the joy of the writer” (or the recipient)?
Back to the beginning: What is John talking about? He seems to be talking about “the eternal life which was with the Father.” What is this “life?” It seems natural to take it to be a reference to Jesus. Why might one talk about Jesus as eternal life? What is the difference between speaking of Jesus as eternal life and speaking of him as giving eternal life?
What is John’s relationship with this “Eternal Life?” He’s heard it, seen it, looked at it, touched it. That sounds like a close relationship – the relationship of an first-hand witness, not merely someone who has heard second or third hand. If he’s talking about a person, he’s talking about someone he knew intimately, face to face.
Now John is proclaiming this “life.” Why might he do that? Do we do that? Why or why not?
How does v. 2 indicate that John came to know this life? Observe that the life is revealed or manifested; it’s not just something John or the other disciples dreamed up for themselves. Some have suggested that the Christian teaching of eternal life is merely wish fulfillment: We dislike the idea of death, so we dream up some way to avoid it. Here the repetition is a way of emphasizing that John and his companions did not make this stuff up. It was revealed to them. Maybe it isn’t the right word – after all, Jesus – a person – seems to be who is in view here. It’s not just some vague life out there, it is a person who has come and is life.
Where was the life before it came to be with John and his companions? What does it mean to say this eternal life was “with the Father?” Who is “the Father?” Why would the “Life” leave the Father? Some parallel texts to consider are John 1:1-18 (on being with the Father) and John 5:19-30.
NIV 1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
NRS 1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7 but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
NLT 1 John 1:5 This is the message he has given us to announce to you: God is light and there is no darkness in him at all. 6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness. We are not living in the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ is, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
Who is the “him” from whom they have heard this message? When and under what conditions did they hear it? Do we see anything like this in the Gospels, i.e., in the recorded teaching of Jesus? [Consider John 1:4-5; 3:16—21; 5:24; 8:12; 12:35-6]
What’s the difference between “light” and “darkness” in this text? Does this kind of language work in our setting? Why or why not?
What does it mean to “walk in darkness?” What reasons might one choose to walk in darkness? Can one walk in darkness and not know it? How might you tell if someone is walking in darkness? What does it mean to “have fellowship” with him? [If you’ve heard the word “koinonia” before, it’s a transliteration of the Greek word used here for “fellowship.” It has the idea of having things in common.] Why might someone who was walking in darkness claim to have fellowship with Jesus? Is it possible to “walk in darkness” and have fellowship with Jesus? Why or why not?
v. 7 offers a contrast with v. 6. In this verse we see someone who walks in the light as “he” is in the light. Do you think there’s any significance to the fact that all these verbs are present tense? What are the consequences of walking in the light? Are these consequences good or bad? Notice how these consequences pertain not only to our relationship with God, but also our relationships with other people. What are the qualifications for walking in the light? Since we’re cleansed from sin when we walk in the light, apparently lacking sin isn’t a requirement.
How do we handle the time relationships between v. 7 & v 8? V. 7 tells us that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from “all sin.” By v.8, we’re told we’re deceiving ourselves if we say we have no sin. Can one be cleansed/purified of all sin and still “have” sin? What’s the difference between sinning and “having” sin?
We often associate being “just” with holding people highly accountable. In v. 9, however, Jesus is described as “faithful and just” and this is directly connected not with him demanding full payment form us for our sin, but with forgiving us when we confess. This word “just” (dikaios) is often translated “righteous.” The “unrighteousness” from which we are cleansed is closely related – adikias – literally we might call it, “not just” or “not righteous.” Note that the offer is to cleans us from all unrighteousness, not just some. Why might God offer this to us?
Is confession hard to do? How do you do it? Is it really that simple? One way to take the word here is that when we confess, we “say the same thing” that God says – in this case, the same thing God says about our sin. God says:
This sin is bad (“bad enough for me to send my only Son”)
You actually did this, it’s not a mere mis-perception on my part.
You are responsible for it.
Turned around, when we confess sin, we’re saying:
This was truly a sin, something bad and destructive.
I actually did the deed (though sometimes the “deed” is actually an instance of not doing something I should have done)
I am responsible for it. Neither my parents, my environment, nor the devil made me do it.
When we confess this way – not just a “Ok, I did X, now forgive me so I can get back to doing what I want to do (which may include sinning in exactly the same way)” – but a real repentance and turning away from sin – we experience real forgiveness. This is another opportunity to remember Isiah 43:25.
How does v. 10 differ from v. 8? How does it expand and move beyond v. 8? What are its practical consequences?
What is the role of faith in this section? We don’t see the word – except for it’s use describing Jesus in v. 9 (“Faithful”). If we consider that faith has at least three elements (a) believing something to be the case; (b) trusting; (c) obeying – do we see these elements in this chapter? If so, where do we see each, whether implicitly or explicitly?