Series: Best Book In the BibleEvery Christian knows the importance of reading their Bible, but many are overwhelmed with the task of devouring such a monstrous book! Often times, when Christians lose steam in their yearly reading plans, they can become frustrated and feel defeated. It is for this reason that individual book studies can be a lifesaver. In the Best Book in the Bible series, we will provide entry points into faithful study through “selling” you on why you should fall in love with the various books of the Bible.
One of the most widely asked questions by many professing Christians today is: “How do I know if I am really saved?” With the newest onslaught of revivalist tactics over the last few years, churchgoers are coached into making declarations and decisions for Christ, often times with little or no follow-through. It is not uncommon for a person to say The Sinner’s Prayer—even be baptized—and end up wondering if they are truly a Christian. However, an entire book of the New Testament is devoted to helping believers test and understand their salvation. If you find yourself unsure of your standing before God, 1 John is for you!
Main themes: Christian assurance, love
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
“We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
While there are no distinct breaks in the book, it is certainly possible to outline the letter. However, John’s major themes are woven through each chapter seamlessly—after all, there were no chapter divisions when this was written!
After a brief introduction in 1:1-4, John sets out to describe the markers by which believers can identify themselves as members of Christ’s body. From 1:5-2:2 John establishes the standard set by God for entrance into the realm of salvation. He establishes that “God is light” (1:5)—perfect purity and holiness—and in order to be in fellowship with Him, we are also to “walk in light” (1:7), which begins by the confession of sins (1:8-10). And forgiveness of sins comes by way of Christ’s propitiating work on the cross (2:1-2)—the full satisfaction of the wrath of God. Put another way: Because Christ has stopped God’s righteous anger against us, we can now be forgiven when we confess our sins.
John next addresses proper Christian conduct in 2:3-27. He says that true believers seek to keep God’s commandments, which includes an active love for the brethren (2:7-11; cf. John 13:34). Further, Christians are to separate themselves from worldliness (see 2:15-17), and affirm sound doctrine (18-27).
Next, John exhorts believers toward purity, righteousness, and prayer. True believers do not devote themselves to rebellion against God (3:4). Following this, he encourages believers to administer tests in order to discern what is true and godly versus what is satanic. The remainder of chapter 4 is a beautiful discourse on brotherly love and fellowship, noting that the original of all love is God Himself (4:19).
Finally, John sums up the major themes of the book in chapter 5, noting the believer’s love for the brethren, a desire to obey God, an overcoming of the world, and an affirmation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What Makes This Book So Great:
John’s first epistle is simple and straight-forward enough for new believers, yet theologically rich enough to nourish seasoned Christians. Not only is 1 John one of the most beautifully written letters, but it is as equally uplifting. In many ways John’s first letter is a companion piece to the Gospel of John, expounding on the theological themes surrounding true discipleship. One can never grow weary reading 1 John and will be endlessly enriched by re-examining their faith, and beholding the unsurpassing love of Christ.
@NatePickowicz Right now, 1 John. It's very helpful for discerning what is/isn't Christian, and reassuring to those who have doubts.— Michelle Lesley (@MichelleDLesley) July 21, 2015
As with many of the shorter books in the Bible, I would encourage you to read it in one sitting as often as you can. Challenge yourself to read 1 John every day for 30 days! As you study, try and tease out the major themes and identify the markers of true faith: love for God, love for the church, obedience, godliness, etc. Test yourself and see what areas of your life need to be conformed to this standard. This is a wonderful book for sanctification!
- John MacArthur, 1—3 John. Chicago: Moody, 2007.
A verse-by-verse commentary that is helpful for any thinking student.
- John R.W. Stott, The Letters of John. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1988.
A helpful scholarly treatment from a faithful Bible teacher.
- Robert W. Yarbrough, 1, 2, and 3 John. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008.
A high-level exegetical study in a top-notch series.
Note: Find the rest of the Best Book in the Bible series here: EntreatingFavor.com/BestBookSeries