WRITER: The Apostle John, as unbroken tradition affirms, and as internal evidence and comparison with the Gospel of John prove.
DATE: Probably A.D. 90
THEME: First John is a family letter from the Father to His "little children" who are in the world. With the possible exception of the Song of Solomon, it is the most intimate of the inspired writings. The world is viewed as without. The sin of a believer is treated as a child's offence against his Father, and is dealt with as a family matter ( 1 John 1:9 ; 2:1 ). The moral government of the universe is not in question. The child's sin as an offence against the law had been met in the Cross, and "Jesus Christ the righteous" is now his "Advocate with the Father." John's Gospel leads across the threshold of the Father's house; his first Epistle makes us at home there. A tender word is used for "children," teknia, "born ones," or "bairns." Paul is occupied with our public position as sons; John with our nearness as born-ones of the Father.
First John is in two principal divisions.
- The family with the Father, 1:1-3:24.
- The family and the world, 4:1-5:21.
There is a secondary analysis in each division of which occurs the phrase, "My little children," as follows:
- Introductory, the incarnation, 1:1,2.
- The little children and fellowship1:3-2:14
- The little children and secular and "religious" world2:15-28.
- How the little children may know each other, 2:29-3:10
- How the little children must live together, 3:11-24.
- Parenthetic: How the little children may know false teachers, 4:1-6.
- The little children assured and warned, 4:7-5:21.