1 John 1:1-10 NIV
The Incarnation of the Word of Life
1That 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.
2The 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. 3We 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. 4We write this to make ourajoy complete.
Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness
5This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is Light; in Him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7But 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 allb sin.
8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us.
The author of this epistle was John, the son of Zebedee, the disciple whom Jesus loved: he was the youngest of the apostles, and survived them all. He does not indeed put his name to this epistle, as the Apostles Paul, Peter, James, and Jude do to theirs; and it is easy to observe, that when this disciple, in his writings, had any occasion to speak of himself, it was usually by such a circumlocution, as the disciple whom Jesus loved, or the other disciple, studiously concealing his name: so that his not putting his name to this epistle need not create any scruple about his being the author of it, which everywhere breathes the temper and spirit of this great apostle; and whoever compares this epistle, and the Gospel written by him, together, will easily conclude it to be his, both from the style and subject matter of it.
It is called "general", because it was not written and sent to any particular church, or person, and not because it was for the general use of the churches, for so are all the particular epistles but because it was written to the Christians in general, or to the believing Jews in general wherever they were; for that it was written to the Jews seems evident from 1 John 2:2.
As for the time when, and place where, this epistle was written, it is not easy to say: some think it was written at Patmos, where the apostle was banished in the reign of Domitian, and where he wrote the book of the Revelations; see Revelation 1:9; and here some say he wrote his Gospel, and this epistle, and that a little before the destruction of Jerusalem, and which he calls the last time or hour; and that his design in writing it was to exhort the believing Jews, either in Parthia, or scattered about in other countries, to brotherly love, and to warn them against false Christs and false prophets, which were now gone forth into the world to deceive men; see 1 John 2:18.
It is called his "first" epistle general, for the other two are written to particular persons, but is the first he wrote, and which is general: the occasion, and manifest design of it, is to promote brotherly love, which he enforces upon the best principles, and with the strongest arguments, taken from the love of God and Christ, from the Commandment of Christ, and its being an evidence of regeneration, and the truth and glory of a profession of religion: and also to oppose and stop the growth of licentious principles, and practices, and heretical doctrines.
The licentious principles and practices he condemns are these, that believers had no sin in them, or need not be concerned about it, nor about their outward conversation, so be they had but knowledge; and these men boasted of their communion with God, notwithstanding their impieties; and which were the sentiments and practices of the Nicolaitans, Gnostics etc.
The heresies he sets himself against, and refutes, are such as regard the doctrine of the Trinity, and the Person and Office of Christ. There were some who denied a distinction, of persons in the Trinity, and asserted there was but one person; that the Father was not distinct from the Son, nor the Son from the Father; and, by confounding both, tacitly denied there was either, as Simon Magus, and his followers; regard is had to these in 1 John 2:22 and others, as the unbelieving Jews, denied that Jesus was the Messiah, or that Christ was come in the flesh; these are taken notice of in 1 John 2:22.
Others, that professed to believe in Jesus Christ, denied His proper Deity, and asserted He was a mere man, and did not exist before He took flesh, of the virgin, as Ebion and Cerinthus; these are opposed in 1 John 1:1. And others denied His real humanity, and affirmed that He was a mere phantom; that He only had the appearance of a man, and assumed human nature, and suffered, and died, and rose again in show only, and not in reality; of which sort were the followers of Saturninus and Basilides, and which are confuted in 1 John 1:1.