The now old apostle John pens this letter to all Christians in about A.D 90, probably from Ephesus. He tells us why he is writing to us – “So that we may know that we have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). This letter was written to assure us.
It seems as though John’s readers were encountering three wrong teachings: (1) that Jesus never really came in the flesh; (2) there is knowledge about spiritual matters to be gained outside of Jesus that really matters; and (3) godly living doesn’t count for much. 1 John deals with all of these troubles. He tells them of the Jesus of history they touched and felt. Godliness does matter because it has to do with love and learning to love is the Christian life, if nothing else. He refutes special knowledge by saying that the Holy Spirit knows everything and there is nothing to know that the Spirit doesn’t already know.
We are to remember that John wrote 1 John to assure his readers. Since the 17th Century the letter has been used differently. In some circles it has become a type of manual that says, “If you do this then it proves you are a Christian after all.” 1 John can cause great introspection – questions of how well and loving we really are. If we are thinking that the level of our love proves our salvation we will have trouble. John should not be taken this way. 1 John 3:1 says he writes to children of God, and that is what we are! He is not causing doubt but assurance! John then tells us that the more we have fellowship and the more we love, the more we will experience being genuine children. Our experience will match up to what we are. Read it this way and it will be a great blessing to you.
And please consult some good commentaries. You will agree that the ‘sin that leads to death’ is to not believe in the gospel at all, while every other sin God will forgive.
Pic: St. John the Evangelist at Patmos – Alonzo Cano (1645)