An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 1: An Exposition of 1 John 1:1-4 -- By: D. Edmond Hiebert

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 145:578 (Apr 1988)
Article: An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 1: An Exposition of 1 John 1:1-4
Author: D. Edmond Hiebert

An Expositional Study of 1 John
Part 1:
An Exposition of 1 John 1:1-4

D. Edmond Hiebert

Professor Emeritus of New Testament
Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California

The forceful simplicity of its utterances, the grand theological truths it portrays, and the unwavering ethical demands of its teaching have made 1 John a favorite with Christians everywhere. It is as vital and relevant today as it was when it was first written.

Introduction to 1 John

This epistle does not display the regular features of a letter as seen in the models of contemporary correspondence; yet in the early listings of the New Testament books it was always classified as a “letter.” Its contents indicate that it arose out of a definite life situation and was intended to meet the needs of its recipients. It was a written communication to a group or groups of readers personally known to the writer. The absence of all that is merely local supports its description “as encyclical or circular in nature and pastoral in function.”1

The epistle is anonymous, but from earliest times the view has prevailed in the church that John the Apostle was its author.2 It portrays an author who was well known to the readers, one who spoke from direct personal knowledge with an inner sense of authority that felt no need to justify his position of authority among believers. This view was held almost unanimously until the rise of modern critical scholarship. The varied arguments against the traditional view have not proved convincing to theologically conservative scholars.3 “There is…no good reason,” Hodges asserts, “for denying the traditional belief that the letter is of apostolic authorship.”4 The view of apostolic authorship agrees with the persistent Christian tradition that the Apostle John spent the closing years of his long life at Ephesus, where he carried out an extensive evangelistic and pastoral ministry to the regions around.5

The writer apparently had no direct part in the original evangelization of the readers addressed (2:7, 24). Yet he was intimately acquainted with their spiritual condition and felt a warm personal affection for them. These churches apparently had already existed for many years and most members were advanced in their knowledge of Christian truth (2:7

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