Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "Later New Testament Epistles"
1 John



Return to Syllabus

Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible


  1. Prologue: THE MANIFESTED LIFE 1:1-4
    The beginning of Christianity is the beginning of Christ's work on earth. Contrast verse 1 with "the beginning" of John 1:1 prior to creation.

    The time of John's writing is between AD 90-100, at which time the Gnostic heresy had made considerable progress. They claimed that Jesus, the Logos, never took on an actual human form but just appeared to be human, So John punctures Gnosticism here. The purpose of the epistle is stated here: fellowship with its joy.

  2. The Message: THE MANIFESTED LIGHT 1:5-2:2
    Observe God is light before He is love.

    Verse 6 is evidently the profession of an unsaved man (cp. Jn. 8:12; 3:19-21; 9:39-41).

    Verse 7 is not profession but an actual fact. It is not a question of how close we are to the Light, but whether we are in the Light at all, i.e., saved or not. The veil is rent and the Light shines out from the Holy of Holies upon us as believer-priests, ministering in the Holy Place. The blood is on the Mercy Seat and (literally) "keeps cleansing us from every sin." If that blood stopped cleansing for a single moment, we would be lost. Position is in view. This is the ground of fellowship.

    Verse 8, "If we say we have no sin (nature)"

    Verse 9, "If we confess our sins..." To confess is to say the same thing about our sins as God does. Then God is "faithful and righteous" to forgive. This is experiential truth. His forgiveness of us as sinning saints is never based on mercy but on righteousness and justice. All the mercy we will ever need was manifested at Calvary. "Faithful" - to Christ because it is due Him. "Just" - to us because Christ has paid for every sin.

    Verse 10, another profession. "If we say we have not committed sinful acts.. ." Verse 8 was a denial of sinful nature; here, of sinful acts. Who is worse, the eradicationist (8) or we who refuse to "say the same thing about our sin (confess) as God does" (10)?

    In 2:1-2, John is writing to keep us from the habit of sin. Sin is customary but not normal. Not a future but a present advocate is in view; He advocates while we are sinning. Christ pleads for us in the presence of God. Our advocate is not Jesus Christ the merciful, but Jesus Christ the righteous. It is righteousness that keeps us, not His love. His love might get out of patience with our sins, but His righteousness cannot. "For the sins of the whole world" - available for all, but experienced by those who believe. Sin affects fellowship with God, not relationship to God.

  3. Life evidenced by obedience: FITNESS FOR GOD 2:3-11
    Contrasts between the whole trend of life of the believer or unbeliever.

    The trend of our life is to keep His commandments. This aims at genuineness of Christian confession.

    Verses 7-8 are explained by 3:23. The old commandment is "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, " whereas the new commandment is to love one another while living a godly life. Verse 8b may be taken historically of the incarnation, but this also took place when Christ came into your life.

  4. THE FAMILY OF GOD 2:12-4:6

    1. A short sermon for the family 2:12-3:3

      1. Introduction 2:12-13
        "Children" (not "little") - the whole family is in view (12). The family is composed of three groups:
        "Fathers" - Christians for a long time (13a)
        "Young men" - not Christians as long as the fathers but strong, full-grown (13b)
        "Little children" - "babes" in Christ - because ye have known the Father; young converts (13c)

        All these have their sins equally forgiven (12)!

      2. Body of the message 2:14-27

        1. Fathers 14a
          These are long-standing believers whom he does not presume to instruct; they know the Lord perhaps as well as he.

        2. Young men 14b-17
          Even though 14b is true (overcome), keep on your guard because it is so easy to love the world -the world system.

          The Father can't find His delight in a son like the one pictured in verse 15b; only in One like Mt. 17:5.

          Note: it is not the babe but the Christian who has gone on who is in greatest danger of bogging down in the rut of living for time and sense (worldliness).

        3. Babes 18-27
          The danger of the babe is to be misled by false teaching.

          The chief error in John's day was Gnosticism. This does not say that the babe in Christ does not need human instrumentality in being taught so that he may grow. It is rather that he does not need a human teacher to tell him that a given religious system is false. The Holy Spirit does that through his inner consciousness. The Holy Spirit u[ the anointing (unction) which all believers have received.

      3. Conclusion 2:28-3:3
        A much needed warning and a blessed encouragement to holy living. A good literal rendering of 3:3 is: "Everyone who hath this hope set on Him is ever purifying himself, even as He is pure."

    2. The two families and the two natures  3:4-10
      Sin is an attitude as well as an act; character as well as conduct. The believer should be dominated by the new nature; the unbeliever is dominated by the old nature. The old family has not a new nature; the new family is not to be dominated by the old nature. These statements are blacks and whites indicating the general trend of a man's life, not every single experience.

    3. Life evidenced by love 3:10-24a
      1 John 3:16 is a wonderful counterpart of John 3:16, showing the expected progression in a believer's life.

    4. The two spirits 3:24b-4:6
      The spirit of truth (Holy Spirit)
      The spirit of error (antichrist)

      The world listens to them (5)! It simply is not true that a liberal preacher always empties a church and a faithful gospel preacher always fills one.

    This love, spoken of as a sign of life, is not something pumped up but something that is in us because God is in us. It is the word for love like God's love (Jn. 3:16).

    Verse 17 has nothing to do with our (perfect) love for Him but the apprehension by us, by faith, of His perfect love for us. An apprehension of His love (Rom. 5:5) casts out all our fear (Rom. 8:11).

    1. Perfect love described 4:7-10

    2. Perfect love's results 4:11-5:5

      1. It gives assurance to us who are His children 4:11-16

      2. It casts out all fear 4:17-18

      3. It produces love for our brethren as a family characteristic 4:19-5:3

      4. It produces a victorious faith 5:4-5


    1. The Divine witness upon which my soul rests 5:6-13

    2. Confidence in prayer 5:14-15

    3. Sin unto death 5:16-17
      This passage has puzzled many. 1 Corinthians 11:30 makes it perfectly plain that God can and does sometimes use illness and death as disci­plines. However, we are instructed here to leave the question as to which it is with God and not intrude. Just pray for the brother.

      Griffith Thomas has a helpful rendering for the last sentence of verse 16:
      "I do not say that you shall inquire concerning it."

    4. Divine certainties 18-21
      Three of them: "know. "

Return to Syllabus


"Mason's Notes"

(formerly Philadelphia Biblical University, Philadelphia College of Bible.)
Copyright © 2012 to present,
All rights reserved.

Cairn University

200 Manor Avenue
Langhorne, PA 19047
United States of America
"Mason's Notes" Study materials on this website are made available here free, through the generosity of Cairn University, and may be copied for use in Bible study groups, in limited numbers, providing that no charge is made for them.  No further distribution or use of these materials is allowable under U.S. or International Copyright Law without the express permission of Cairn University.