We are writing to you about something which has always existed yet which we ourselves actually heard and saw with our own eyes: something which we had opportunity to observe closely and even to hold in our hands, something of the Word of life! For it was life which appeared before us: we saw it, we are eye-witnesses of it, and are now writing to you about it. It was the very life of all ages, the life that has always existed with the Father, which actually became visible in person to us. We repeat, we really saw and heard what we are now writing to you about. We want you to be with us in this--in this fellowship with the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son. We write and tell you about it so that our joy may be complete.
The First Letter of John
1 John 1
Experience of living "in the light"
Here then is the message which we heard from him, and now proclaim to you: GOD IS LIGHT and no shadow of darkness can exist in him. Consequently, if we say that we enjoyed fellowship with him and still went on living in darkness, we should be both telling and living a lie. But if we really are living in the same light which he eternally exists, then we have true fellowship with each other, and the blood which his son Jesus shed for us keeps us clean from all sin. If we refuse to admit that we are sinners, then we live in a world of illusion and truth becomes a stranger to us. But if we freely admit that we have sinned, we find him reliable and just--he forgives our sins and makes us thoroughly clean from all that is evil. For if we say "we have not sinned", we are making him a liar and cut ourselves off from what he has to say to us.
1 John 2
Love and obedience are essentials for living in the light
I write these things to you my children, to help you avoid sin. But if a man should sin, remember that our advocate before the Father is Jesus Christ and he is just, the one who made personal atonement for our sins (and for those of the rest of the world as well). It is only when we obey God's laws that we can be quite sure that we really know him. The man who claims to know God but does not obey his laws is not only a liar but lives in self-delusion. But the more a man obeys God's laws the more truly and fully does he show his love for him. Obedience is the test of whether we really live "in" God or not. The life of a man who professes to be living in him must live as Christ lived.
I am not writing to tell you of any new command, brothers of mine. It is the old command which you had at the beginning; it is the old message which you have heard before. And yet as I write it to you again I know that it is true--in your life as it was in his. For the darkness is beginning to lift and the true light is already shinning. Anyone who claims to be "in the light" and hates his brother is, in fact, still in complete darkness. The man who loves his brother lives in the light, and has no reason to stumble. But the man who hates his brother is shut off from the light and gropes his way in the dark without knowing where he is going. For the darkness has made him blind.
As I write, I visualise you, my children
I write this letter to you all, as my children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake. I am writing because you have defeated the evil one. I have written to you, dear children, because you have known the Father; to you fathers because you have known the one who has always existed, and to you young men because you all have the vigor of youth, because God's truth is at home in you and because you have defeated the evil one.
See "the world" for what it is
Never give your hearts to this world or to any of the things in it. A man cannot love the Father and love the world at the same time. For the whole world system, based as it is on men's desires, their greedy ambitions and the glamour of all that they think splendid, is not derived from the Father at all, but from the world itself. The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear. But the man who is following God's will is part of the permanent and cannot die.
Little anti-christs are abroad already
Even now, dear children, we are getting near the last hour. You have heard about the coming of anti-Christ. Believe me, there are anti-christs about already, which confirms my belief that we are near the last hour. These men went out from our company, it is true, but they never really belonged to it. If they had really belonged to us they would have stayed. In fact, their going proves beyond doubt that men like that were not "our men" at all.
Be on your guard against error
God has given you all a certain amount of spiritual insight, and indeed I have not written this warning as if I were writing to men who don't know what error is. I write because your eyes are clear enough to discern a lie when you come across it. And who, I ask you is the real liar? Surely the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ. I say, therefore, that any man who refuses to acknowledge the Father and the Son is the anti-Christ. The man who will not recognize the Son cannot possibly know the Father; yet the man who believes in the Son knows the Father as well.
For you yourselves--keep faithful to what you have heard at the beginning. If you do, you will be living in fellowship with both the Father and the Son. And that means sharing his own life for ever, as he has promised.
I had to write to you about these men who try to lead you astray. Yet I know that the touch of his Spirit never leaves you, and you don't really need a human teacher. You know that his Spirit teaches you about all things, always telling you the truth and never telling a lie. So, as he has taught you, live continually in him. Yes, now, little children remember to live continually in him. So that if he were to reveal himself we should have confidence, and not have to shrink away from his presence in shame.
What it means to be sons of God
You all know that God is really good. You may be just as sure that the man who leads a really good life is a true child of God.
Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called "children of God"--and that is not just what we are called, but what we are. This explains why the world will no more recognize us than it recognized Christ.
1 John 3
Here, and now, my dear friends, we are God's children. We don't know what we shall become in the future. We only know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is! Everyone who has at heart a hope like this keeps himself pure, as Christ is pure.
Conduct will show who is a man's spiritual father
Everyone who commits sin breaks God's law, for that is what sin is--a breaking of God's law. You know, moreover, that Christ became man to take away sin, and that he himself was free from sin. The man who lives "in Christ" does not habitually sin. The regular sinner had never seen or known him. You, my children, should not let anyone deceive you. The man who lives a good life is a good man, as surely as Christ is good. But the man whose life is habitually sinful is spiritually a son of the devil, for the devil has been a sinner from the beginning. Now the Son of God came to earth with the express purpose of undoing the devil's work. The man who is really God's son does not practice sin, for God's nature is in him, for good, and such a heredity is incapable of sin.
Here we have a clear indication as to who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil. The man who does not lead a good life is no son of God, nor is the man who fails to love his brother. For the original command, as you know, is that we should love one another. We are none of us to have the spirit of Cain, who was a son of the evil one and murdered his brother. Have you realized his motive? It was because he realized the goodness of his brother's life and the evil of his own. Don't be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.
Love and life are inter-connected
We know that we have crossed the frontier from death to life because we do love our brothers. The man who hates his brother is at heart a murderer, and you know that the eternal life of God cannot live in the heart of a murderer.
We know what love is because Christ laid down his life for us. We must in turn lay down our lives for our brothers. But as for the well-to-do man who sees his brother in want but shuts his heart against him, how could anyone believe that the love o God lives in him? My children, let us love not merely in theory or in words--let us love in sincerity and in practice!
Living in love means confidence in God
This is how we shall know that we are children of the truth, and can reassure ourselves in the sight of God, even if our own conscience makes us feel guilty. For God is greater than our conscience, and he knows everything. And if, dear friends of mine, our conscience no longer accuses us, we may have the utmost confidence in God's presence. We receive whatever we ask for because we are obeying his orders and following his wishes. His orders are that we should put our trust in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another--as he commanded us to do.
The man who does obey God's commands lives in God and God lives in him, and the guarantee of his presence within us is the Spirit he has given us.
1 John 4
I repeat my warning against false teaching
Don't trust every spirit, dear friends of mine, but test them to discover whether they come from God or not. For the world is full false prophets. You can test whether they come from God in this simple way: every spirit that acknowledges the fact that Jesus Christ actually became man, comes from God, but the spirit which denies this fact does not come from God. The latter comes from the anti-Christ, which you were warned would come and which is already in the world.
You, my children, who belong to God have already defeated them, because the one who lives in you is stronger than the anti-Christ in the world. The agents of the anti-Christ are children of the world, they speak the world's language and the world pays attention to what they say. We are God's children and the man who knows God hears our message; what we say means nothing to the man who is not himself a child of God. This gives us a ready means of distinguishing the spirit of truth from the spirit of falsehood.
Let us love: God has shown us love at its highest
To you whom I love I say, let us go on loving one another, for love comes from God. Every man who truly loves is God's son and knows him. But the man who does not love cannot know him at all, for God is love.
To us, the greatest demonstration of God's love for us has been his sending his only Son into the world to give us life through him. We see real love, not in the fact that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to make personal atonement for our sins. If God loved us as much as that, surely we, in our turn, should love each other!
It is true that no human being has ever had a direct vision of God. Yet if we love each other God does actually live within us, and his love grows in us towards perfection. And the guarantee of our living in him and his living in us is the share of his own Spirit which he gives us.
Knowing Christ means more love and confidence, less and less fear
We ourselves are eye-witnesses able and willing to testify to the fact that the Father did send the Son to save the world. Everyone who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God finds that God lives in him, and he lives in God. So we have come to know and trust the love God has for us. God Is love, and the man whose life is lived in love does, in fact, live in God, and God does, in fact, live in him. So our love for him grows more and more, filling us with complete confidence for the day when he shall judge all men--we realize that our life in this world is actually his life lived in us. Love contains no fear--indeed fully-developed love expels every particle of fear, for fear always contains some of the torture of feeling guilty. The man who lives in fear has not yet had his love perfected.
Yes, we love because he first loved us. If a man says, "I love God" and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if he does not love the brother before his eyes how can he love the one beyond his sight? And in any case it is his explicit command that the one who loves God must love his brother too.
1 John 5Only real faith in Christ as God's son can make a man confident, obedient, and loving
Everyone who really believes that Jesus is the Christ is himself one of God's family. The man who loves the Father cannot help loving the Father's sons.
The test of our love for God's family lies in this question-do we love God himself and do we obey his commands? For loving God means obeying his commands, and these commands of his are not burdensome.
In fact, this faith of ours is the only way in which the world can be conquered. For who could ever be said to conquer the world but the man who really believes that Jesus is God's Son?
Jesus Christ himself is the one who came by water and by blood--not water only, but by the water and the blood. The Spirit bears witness to this, for the Spirit is the truth. The witness therefore is a triple one--the Spirit, the water of baptism and the blood of atonement--and they all say the same thing. If we accept human testimony, God's own testimony concerning his own Son carries far more weight.
The man who really believes in the Son of God will find God's testimony in his own heart. The man who will not believe God is making him out to be a liar, because he is refusing to accept the testimony that God has given concerning his own Son. This is, that God has given men eternal life and this real life is to be found only in his Son. It follows naturally that any man who has Christ has this life; and if he has not, he does not posses this life at all.
I have written like this to you who already believe in the name of God's Son so that you may be quite sure that, here and now, you possess eternal life. We have such confidence in him that we are certain that he hears every request that is made in accord with his own plan. And since we know that he invariably gives his attention to our prayers, whatever they are, we can be quite sure that what we have asked for is already ours.
Help each other to live without sin
If any of you should see his brother committing a sin--not a deadly sin--he should pray and God will give him life, provided the sin was not a deadly sin. I am not saying that you should pray about that; every act of wrong-doing is a sin, but not all sin is deadly.
Our certain knowledge
We know that the true child of God does not sin, he is in the charge of God's own Son and the evil one cannot touch him.
We know that we ourselves are children of God, and we also know that the world around us is under the power of the evil one. We know too that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding to know the One who is true. We know that our life is in the true One--in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the real God and this is eternal life.
But be on your guard, my dear children, against every false god!