Skip to main content

John’s First Letter

Byzantine illumination depicting John dictating to his disciple, Prochorus (c. 1100). Wikipedia. GNU Free Documentation License.
Byzantine illumination depicting John dictating to his disciple, Prochorus (c. 1100). Wikipedia. GNU Free Documentation License.

Download this PDF if you want to read the volume from your computer, smart phone or tablet. Pages are sized 8.5"x11" for easy printing.

Introduction to John’s First Letter

When discussing the Epistle of James, brief reference was made to certain “false prophets” and their teaching. Following the passing of James, this erroneous teaching became a serious problem for the early church. These false prophets combined certain Jewish, Christian, and pagan beliefs, and claimed that in the process they had attained a higher understanding of spiritual things; and they persuaded many Christian converts to accept their teaching. As a result of this “falseprophet” activity, some Christian converts placed emphasis on asceticism—avoiding things material and seeking to separate themselves from the world; while others took the opposite course of licentiousness, using all material things without discrimination, and practicing all varieties of immorality. All this constituted a very serious problem for the Christian leaders. Thus it came about that several New Testament epistles were written in an effort to counteract this activity, and to warn Christian converts against erroneous ways of thinking and living. These epistles include The Three Letters of John and The Letter of Jude.

While the writer’s name of The Letter of John not actually mentioned, this Epistle is usually regarded as the work of the Apostle John. After the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the break-up of the Apostolic Council, John journeyed to Ephesus, and became the head of the Christian church in that city. John at that time was also regarded as the presiding elder, or bishop, of the Christian groups in the western area of Asia Minor.

The main purpose of this letter was addressing the “false prophets,” who sought to introduce into the Christian groups some heretical teachings regarding the person of Jesus Christ. This caused some Christians to think of Jesus as a phantom. They began to deny the reality of His earthly manifestation, and regarded Him as only a temporary manifestation of Deity. The Epistles of John were written in an effort to counteract all these false teachings, with the writer placing great emphasis upon the reality of Jesus Christ, and declaring that He had indeed “come in the flesh” (I John 4:2).

Introduction to John’s First Letter by Herbert J. Hunt, former Dean of Bible Studies for the Unity School of Christianity.

First John 1

(Online: ASV WEB)

The Word of Life

1:1 That which was from the beginning,1 that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we saw, and our hands touched, concerning the Word of life2 1:2 (and the life was revealed, and we have seen, and testify, and declare to you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was revealed to us); 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship3 with us. Yes, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 1:4 And we write these things to you, that our joy may be fulfilled.

  1. That which was from the beginning. All first principles.
  2. The Word of life “The life was revealed” (ASV, manifested) in Jesus [the Word], and it must be manifested in us all before the new heaven and the new earth can appear. Everyone must have a part in this work and must undertake to discharge his part gladly and joyfully.
  3. Fellowship. Fellowship implies that people are of one mind or have a community of interest. Fellowship with God brings a realization that the universal life, energy and power are accessible to us.

God Is Light

1:5 This is the message which we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light,1 and in him is no darkness2 at all. 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and don't tell the truth. 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,3 and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.4 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1:10 If we say that we haven't sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

  1. God is light. In the mental world light represents clarity of vision, intelligence, understanding, or wisdom, according to the degree of its manifestation. The inability to understand life and live it intelligently and fully is at the root of man’s shortcomings.
  2. In him is no darkness. Darkness is merely the absence of light. God is Spirit, the all-knowing Principle of being. Darkness is ignorance, the absence in consciousness of the all-knowing Principle of being.
  3. Fellowship with one another. Right conduct actuated by the wisdom and knowledge of Divine Mind makes us all one, and this oneness is true fellowship.
  4. Cleanses us from all sin. Sin is a failure on the part of man to apprehend and acknowledge the mind of God. We are forgiven in the measure in which we open our heart to divine love and drop from our thoughts all condemnation of ourselves and of others.

Fillmore Study Bible annotations by Mark Hicks.

First John 2

(Online: ASV WEB)

Christ Our Advocate

2:1 My little children, I write these things to you so that you may not sin. If anyone sins, we have a Counselor[1]1 with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. 2:2 And he is the atoning sacrifice[2]2 for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world. 2:3 This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commandments. 2:4 One who says, "I know him," and doesn't keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth isn't in him. 2:5 But whoever keeps his word, God's love has most certainly been perfected in him.3 This is how we know that we are in him: 2:6 he who says he remains in him ought himself also to walk just like he walked.

  1. Counselor (ASV, Advocate). The “Counselor” the truth that perfect goodness, perfect love and wisdom, and the power to make these manifest reside within man, and can be reckoned and realized by him when he is inspired by the thought that such things are possible to him. The spirit of this truth must lay hold of him and arouse him to faith in his possibilities before the Advocate can he said to be active.
  2. Atoning sacrifice (ASV, propitiation for our sins). When anyone “sins” or goes contrary to the divine law, the Christ consciousness is available to him, and if he enters into it and puts himself again in harmony with divine law he “propitiates” the law. In this universal consciousness the sins of “the whole world” may be swallowed up and done away with.
  3. God's love has most certainly been perfected in him. What other quality in us is perfected by our keeping the divine law? Love. “Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily hath the love of God been perfected.” Love makes obedience easy.

A New Commandment

2:7 Brothers, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning. The old commandment1 is the word which you heard from the beginning. 2:8 Again, I write a new commandment to you, which is true in him and in you; because the darkness is passing away,2 and the true light already shines.3 2:9 He who says he is in the light and hates his brother, is in the darkness even until now. 2:10 He who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no occasion for stumbling in him. 2:11 But he who hates his brother is in the darkness, and walks in the darkness, and doesn't know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

2:12 I write to you, little children,

because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.

2:13 I write to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,

because you have overcome the evil one.

I write to you, little children,

because you know the Father.

2:14 I have written to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

I have written to you, young men,

because you are strong, and the word of God remains in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

2:15 Don't love the world, neither the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the Father's love isn't in him. 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, isn't the Father's, but is the world's. 2:17 The world is passing away with its lusts, but he who does God's will remains forever.4

  1. The old commandment. The old commandment to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, interpreted in a new way to meet the needs of a new age and to include the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.
  2. The darkness is passing away. The darkness in our mind that takes the form of distrust, hatred, and suspicion, all of which prevent us from understanding one another and working together toward a common goal.
  3. The true light already shines. The light of Truth or divine understanding that causes the darkness to pass away.
  4. He who does God's will remains forever. We make life an expression of the divine will by loving others instead of condemning and criticizing them. In turn, Divine Love obliges us to be our best, to allow those who love us to see our ideal side.

Warning Against Antichrists

2:18 Little children, these are the end times, and as you heard that the Antichrist1 is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen. By this we know that it is the final hour. 2:19 They went out from us, but they didn't belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have continued with us. But they left, that they might be revealed that none of them belong to us. 2:20 You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know the truth. 2:21 I have not written to you because you don't know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 2:22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 2:23 Whoever denies the Son, the same doesn't have the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also. 2:24 Therefore, as for you, let that remain in you which you heard from the beginning. If that which you heard from the beginning remains in you, you also will remain in the Son, and in the Father. 2:25 This is the promise which he promised us, the eternal life.

2:26 These things I have written to you concerning those who would lead you astray. 2:27 As for you, the anointing which you received from him remains in you, and you don't need for anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, you will remain in him.

2:28 Now, little children, remain in him, that when he appears, we may have boldness, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. 2:29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of him.

  1. Antichrist. That which denies or opposes the idea that the Christ dwells in and is the true self of each individual (against Christ; the meaning of anti is opposite, against, contrary to). Those who make the indwelling Spirit of truth their guide and authority will not be deceived by false claims made either by individuals or by institutions. The way to safety is to trust the Spirit of truth continually for protection from false ideas. The "man of sin" is the carnal mind in each individual, and it always opposes and misrepresents the Truth; sometimes it poses as an angel of light and Truth. Every one who overcomes this inner adversary will be saved from all deception that may be practiced by anybody or anything that claims the place of the Lord Jesus Christ. The overthrow of the "man of sin" is promised; to obtain fulfillment of that promise we have only to keep ourselves one with the Spirit of truth. (MBD/Antichrist)

Fillmore Study Bible annotations by Mark Hicks.

World English Bible Footnotes:

  • [1] v2:1. Greek Parakleton: Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, and Comfortor.
  • [2] v2:2. "atoning sacrifice" is from the Greek "hilasmos," an appeasing, propitiating, or the means of appeasement or propitiation--the sacrifice that turns away God's wrath because of our sin.

First John 3

(Online: ASV WEB)

Children of God

3:1 Behold, how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! For this cause the world doesn't know us, because it didn't know him. 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God,1 and it is not yet revealed what we will be. But we know that, when he is revealed, we will be like him;2 for we will see him just as he is. 3:3 Everyone who has this hope set on him purifies himself, even as he is pure. 3:4 Everyone who sins also commits lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness. 3:5 You know that he was revealed to take away our sins, and in him is no sin. 3:6 Whoever remains in him doesn't sin. Whoever sins hasn't seen him, neither knows him.

3:7 Little children, let no one lead you astray. He who does righteousness3 is righteous, even as he is righteous. 3:8 He who sins is of the devil4, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. To this end the Son of God was revealed, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 3:9 Whoever is born of God doesn't commit sin, because his seed remains in him; and he can't sin, because he is born of God. 3:10 In this the children of God are revealed, and the children of the devil. Whoever doesn't do righteousness is not of God, neither is he who doesn't love his brother.

  1. We are children of God. The offspring of spiritual parentage is spiritual in its nature.
  2. We will be like him. We manifest the Christ Spirit only as we enter into it consciously and think, live, and act in that Spirit. We become like that which we express or manifest; therefore as we manifest the Christ we become like the Christ.
  3. Righteousness. A state of harmony established in consciousness through the right use of God-given attributes. It leads directly to eternal life. Truth working in consciousness brings forth the perfect salvation of the whole man—Spirit, soul, and body—and righteousness (right relation) is expressed in all his affairs. (RW/righteousness)
  4. Devil. The "devil" signifies the mass of thoughts that have been built up in consciousness through many generations of earthly experiences and crystallized into what may be termed human personality, or carnal mind. Another name of the "devil" is sense consciousness; all the thoughts in one that fight against and are adverse to Truth belong to the state of mind that is known to metaphysicians as the Devil. (MBD/Devil)

Love One Another

3:11 For this is the message1 which you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 3:12 unlike Cain, who was of the evil one, and killed his brother. Why did he kill him? Because his works were evil, and his brother's righteous. 3:13 Don't be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. He who doesn't love his brother remains in death.2 3:15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. 3:16 By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 3:17 But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and closes his heart of compassion against him, how does the love of God remain in him?

3:18 My little children, let's not love in word only, neither with the tongue only, but in deed and truth. 3:19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and persuade our hearts before him, 3:20 because if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 3:21 Beloved, if our hearts don't condemn us, we have boldness toward God;3 3:22 and whatever we ask, we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight.

3:23 This is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as he commanded. 3:24 He who keeps his commandments remains in him, and he in him. By this we know that he remains in us, by the Spirit which he gave us.

  1. For this is the message. The chief thought running through this epistle is that of the inner conviction of the reality of the Christ, the foundation hope of the Christian faith.
  2. He who doesn't love his brother remains in death. Death, metaphysically understood,is the selfish personal consciousness that keeps us from feeling love for others. “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.” When we leave personal consciousness behind, we enter into the consciousness of eternal life or life universal.
  3. We have boldness toward God. That confidence or assurance comes to us only as we overcome the habit of condemning ourselves. As we leave this form of negation behind us we gain power to demonstrate the law.

Fillmore Study Bible annotations by Mark Hicks.

First John 4

(Online: ASV WEB)

Testing the Spirits

4:1 Beloved, don't believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets1 have gone out into the world. 4:2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 4:3 and every spirit who doesn't confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God, and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of whom you have heard that it comes. Now it is in the world already. 4:4 You are of God,2 little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world. 4:5 They are of the world. Therefore they speak of the world, and the world hears them. 4:6 We are of God. He who knows God listens to us. He who is not of God doesn't listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

  1. False prophets. Deceptive thoughts that have been built up by error, selfish desires. Outwardly they present the appearance of being candid and open; inwardly they are ravenous for personal sensation and worldly gain. In order to attain their end they deceive even "the elect."
  2. You are of God. The offspring of spiritual parentage is spiritual in its nature. See v3:2.

God Is Love

4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God. 4:8 He who doesn't love doesn't know God, for God is love. 4:9 By this God's love was revealed in us,1 that God has sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice[3] for our sins. 4:11 Beloved, if God loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another. 4:12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love has been perfected in us.

4:13 By this we know that we remain in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 4:14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as the Savior of the world. 4:15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him, and he in God.2 4:16 We know and have believed the love which God has for us.

God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 4:17 In this love has been made perfect among us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, even so are we in this world. 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear,3 because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love. 4:19 We love Him, because he first loved us. 4:20 If a man says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who doesn't love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 4:21 This commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should also love his brother.

  1. By this God's love was revealed (ASV, manifested) in us. God love is manifested in man through the Christ or supermind.
  2. God remains in him, and he in God. Jesus Christ was the perfect expression of God's perfect ideal man. Whoever sees in the life and works of Jesus Christ the full expression of the Christ consciousness is awakening to the that consciousness, and becomes aware of the universal presence of Spirit, in which the race lives, moves, and has its being.
  3. Perfect love casts out fear. To follow principle, regardless of consequences and even without considering consequences, and to do right even when it works to our apparent disadvantage, is the perfect expression of love. Then we “have boldness in the day of judgment.” Then we have no fear that the course we choose may prove the wrong one. We trust the Christ wisdom to show us the way, and we follow it wholeheartedly and confidently knowing that all things work together for good.

Fillmore Study Bible annotations by Mark Hicks.

World English Bible Footnotes:

  • [3] v4:10. "atoning sacrifice" is from the Greek "hilasmos," an appeasing, propitiating, or the means of appeasement or propitiation--the sacrifice that turns away God's wrath because of our sin.

First John 5

(Online: ASV WEB)

Faith Conquers the World

5:1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.1 Whoever loves the father also loves the child who is born of him. 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. His commandments are not grievous. 5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith. 5:5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

  1. is born of God. Only the spiritual recognizes that which is Spirit. He who believes that the perfect manifest man is sprung from the one source thereby proves himself to he divine.

Testimony concerning the Son of God

5:6 This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.1 5:7 For there are three who testify[4]: 5:8 the Spirit, the water, and the blood;2 and the three agree as one. 5:9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is God's testimony which he has testified concerning his Son. 5:10 He who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. He who doesn't believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. 5:11 The testimony is this, that God gave to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 5:12 He who has the Son has the life.3 He who doesn't have God's Son doesn't have the life.

  1. The Spirit is the truth. “Spirit” is a name for God. Spirit is synonymous with Mind; therefore we know God, Spirit, as Mind, the one Mind or intelligence of the universe.
  2. The Spirit, the water, and the blood. Christ is the Word of God, and the life of the Word must he a form of energy far transcending any life current that inheres in blood. Blood represents life, but it is only the vehicle that carries life through the body, not the life itself.
  3. He who has the Son has the life. A person who realizes the presence of the indwelling Christ has all the qualities of the ideal, including the will, patience, vision, intelligence, faith, and courage to express the will of the Father in his daily thought and conduct.


5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life,1 and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

5:14 This is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he listens to us. 5:15 And if we know that he listens to us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him. 5:16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life for those who sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death. I don't say that he should make a request concerning this. 5:17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.

5:18 We know that whoever is born of God2 doesn't sin, but he who was born of God keeps himself, and the evil one doesn't touch him. 5:19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 5:20 We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding, that we know him who is true, and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

  1. That you may know that you have eternal life. To express perfect love proves that one has entered into eternal life, since whatever is perfect is destined to endure.
  2. born of God See v.5:1

Fillmore Study Bible annotations by Mark Hicks.

World English Bible Footnotes:

  • [4] v5:7. Only a few recent manuscripts add "in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that testify on earth"

© 2022. Fillmore Bible Society. All rights reserved.

Creative Commons License image The Fillmore Study Bible is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) License, except where otherwise noted. You are free to download the work and share it with others as long as you follow the license terms:

Contact Fillmore Bible Society for permission to adapt and/or republish.