What is the Book of 1 John About?

Read this 3-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and inspire you to read 1 John!


Historical Context

John the son of Zebedee probably wrote his three New Testament letters no later than the 90s AD. He wrote from Ephesus (in present-day western Turkey), perhaps to churches like those mentioned in Revelation 2:8–3:22. John also wrote the Fourth Gospel and the book of Revelation. 

From Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote 1 John for your good and to lead you into joy.

The Setting of 1 John 

c. AD 85 

John likely wrote 1 John from Ephesus, where apparently he had relocated near the time of the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in AD 70. The letter was probably intended to be read by the church in Ephesus and perhaps also by other churches in the surrounding cities. Ephesus was a wealthy and highly influential port city in the Roman providence of Asia, and was renowned for its temple of Artemis (Diana).  

The three epistles of John form a single “package,” probably designed to be taken together. First John is the main document of the three; it is essentially a written sermon and lacks the normal salutation (compare Romans 1:1–7) and farewell ­instructions (compare Romans 16:1–27) of a typical epistle. However, the short letter we know as 2 John contains the elements of a salutation. And 3 John contains the personal instructions often included at the end of an epistle. All three epistles thus probably formed a single packet delivered together: a cover letter to the congregation (2 John), a cover letter to the pastor (3 John), and the main written sermon (1 John). 

—Michael LeFebvre

Content taken from 1-3 John: A 12-Week Study © 2018 by Michael LeFebvre. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. 

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Message Series

Light & Love: A Study in 1 John by Jay Thomas

These five messages by Jay Thomas, handpicked from his church’s series on 1 John will introduce you to the main themes in 1 John. Pastor Jay will make you laugh, help you understand this beautiful letter, challenge you toward obeying God’s Word from this letter practically, and help you see the glory and goodness of God.  

1 John Dictionary

As you read through 1 John, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know!

Someone who supports, comforts, gives help to, or speaks up for another person. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are advocates for members of God’s family (see John 14:16,26; 1 John 2:1).

The great enemy of Christ Jesus who pretends to be the Messiah. The Bible tells us that before the second coming of Christ, the Antichrist will rule over the world.

To have faith or to trust that something is true. The Bible tells us that we can believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and trust him to keep his promise to forgive sins. We show that we believe that God loves us and wants what is best for us by obeying his commands.

The Greek word that means “God’s Chosen One.” “Messiah” is the Hebrew word meaning the same thing. Jesus was the Christ.

(1) To find someone guilty of doing something wrong and to declare or pronounce a punishment. (2) To be against or disapprove of something because it is wrong.

Tell or agree about what is true. Confess sometimes means telling God your sins. Confess can also mean to say in front of other people that you believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that he died and rose again to forgive you for your sins.

(1) To be certain about the things we cannot see or to trust someone because of who he or she is. For example, a Christian has faith that Jesus is God’s Son. (2) The whole message about Jesus Christ—that he is God’s Son and that he came to take the punishment for our sin so that we may become members of God’s family. This describes the faith of a Christian.

Thinking and doing what is correct (or right) and holy. God is righteous because he does only what is perfect and holy. A person who has accepted Jesus as Savior is looked at by God as being free from the guilt of sin, so God sees that person as being righteous. People who are members of God’s family show their love for him by doing what is correct and holy, living in righteous ways.

This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Tough Questions