Context is vital to understanding. When we read the Bible and, in life, we need to understand the context of what we hear and what we read. Without context, our minds will go all over the place trying to assign meaning to things we might not understand without it. As I was reading through 1 John today, I was thinking about context. There’s a lot of teaching to be found in this letter, and if we’re not careful to understand the context, we can be filled with many disturbing ideas.

Introduction to 1 John

Although the author of 1 John doesn’t state his name, it’s believed that the Apostle John, the writer of the Gospel of John, also wrote this letter. There’s some debate as to the audience of the letter. Some say it was written to Christians others say it was written to both Christians and Non-Christians. Others still, that it was written to Christians and those who thought they were Christian. I support the latter idea. It was written to those who were Christian and those who thought they were Christian.

I think there’s a debate over the intended audience because it was sent to a group of people who had been shaken by false teaching, and some had abandoned their faith in Christ as it had first been taught. Namely, that Jesus had come first in the form of a human being while still being God. There was teaching amongst the Greeks that the flesh is evil and the spirit is good. Therefore, how could the Lord have come in the form of sinful flesh? Some Greeks believed this false teaching and turned away from the true Gospel to live their lives how they saw fit. However, they still claimed to love God and belong to Him.

Furthermore, these misled believers thought themselves superior to those who were true Christians, because they thought their “insight” into this teaching set them above everyone else, so they stopped joining in fellowship.

Does any of this sound familiar? It does to me. Although the specifics might be slightly different, some of the attitudes are the same. There are people today who think they belong to Christ while doing whatever they want in the world.

When we read 1 John, understanding this context, I think what we read makes more sense. I hope I’ve captured the essence of the context here, so let’s get into some of the verses that stand out to me.

Sin and Repentance

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 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.

1 John 1:6-7 (NIV)

There are many “tests” within 1 John. These tests are ways in which we can evaluate our fellowship with God. These two verses are one such test. Although they are in the form of a statement, the unasked question remains. How can we live the way the world lives and claim that we follow God?

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

1 John 1:8,10 (NIV)

None of us should think we’re above sin and don’t sin.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9 (NIV)

How do we receive 1 John 1:9? Do we read it with thanksgiving, knowing that God will purify us from all unrighteousness when we confess our sins? Not seeking sin out but knowing when we do sin we can be forgiven? Do we read it with thanksgiving, believing we can do whatever we want and God will forgive us? Do we think of it before we sin, and then sin, knowing God’s forgiveness is there?

God forbid we accept 1 John 1:9 as a license to do whatever we want! (cf. Romans 6:2)

I think our reception of 1 John 1:9 says a lot about the condition of our soul, giving us insight into the condition of our salvation.

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

1 John 3:6 (NIV)

This verse is talking about habitual and willful sin. It’s not talking about the fact that no one is without sin. We can ask the question, “How can someone continue to live a sinful lifestyle and claim to know God?” Some of these lifestyle choices are obvious; living together as husband and wife while not being married, sex outside of marriage, homosexual relations, drug, and alcohol abuse use, etc. While others might not be so readily apparent to others. In either case, they are obvious to God.

Loving Each Other

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 3:18 (NIV)

The writer is continuing his teaching, mentioned in other places in 1 John, about how we are to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. Christians can say they love each other all they want. However, how do they act toward one another?

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:35 (NIV)

And James says.

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

James 2:15-16 (NIV)

I know it’s Christmas time, and many of our hearts have been turned to the less fortunate around us. However, as Christians, we need to be ever mindful of our brothers and sisters in Christ and be there to help them because we love them all the time. Not just in the holiday season.

Sin to Death

If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that.

1 John 5:16 (NIV)

This is one of those verses that can make us shudder. And we should shudder when we think about committing sin. How do we receive 1 John 1:9? However, this verse is talking about a specific sin that leads to death. The sin that leads to death is a willful and obstinate rejection of God’s grace and persistence in unrepented sin. (The reason we don’t pray for that sin has to do with free will. However, I’m not going to get into that in this devotion today.) This might seem confusing, sin that leads to death and sin that doesn’t lead to death. What does Paul tell us?

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 (NIV)

1 John also tells us this:

All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

1 John 5:17 (NIV)

Sin doesn’t lead to death when we repent and ask God for His forgiveness. We must be careful not to think it’s okay to sin. That’s not what it means when it says there isn’t sin that leads to death. Again, how do we receive 1 John 1:9?

Guilty Conscience

Sometimes we say things like, “God knows my heart.” Allow me to suggest that this is something we say before we’re going to do something we shouldn’t be doing or it’s something we say after we’ve done something we knew we shouldn’t have done. This saying reminds me of this verse from 1 John.

If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

1 John 3:20 (NIV)

When we say something like, “God knows my heart” I think our hearts are condemning us. Telling us we’ve done something wrong and, if we choose to accept it, it’s the nagging guilty conscience within. When we’ve sinned and we’ve not gone to God for forgiveness, our guilty conscience can bother us to the point where we don’t want to go to God because of our shame. Well, God already knows, and His hands are open to forgiving you.

Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.

1 John 3:21-22 (NIV)

Children and dogs will run-up to their parents expecting the world when they’ve done something wrong. It’s right for us to not want to ask God for anything when we’ve sinned and not repented. However, we are confident, when we are forgiven, that we can ask God for anything according to His will and He will do it. As loving children, we want to please God. We please God when we do as He commands. You might also be familiar with this verse from Hebrews.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

Faith pleases God and doing what He tells us to do pleases Him. Jesus also tells us, ““If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15 NIV).

Conclusion

There’s a lot that I didn’t cover today from 1 John. Hopefully, what I did cover makes sense to you and is well received. I hope the rest of your day is blessed and covered by the grace of God.

Do you know God? God knows you, and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart, and I receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.