John explains his reason for writing this letter: “that you may have fellowship with us” (v. 3a). Fellowship (κοινωνία) refers to “close association involving mutual interests and sharing” (BDAG). We need to avoid thinking this fellowship is like modern Christian fellowship (snacks after church in the fellowship hall). The word can refer to sharing of resources, like a church koinonia fund. Romans sometimes joined voluntary associations which had some benefits, like a funeral association. You gave money to the group and they took care of your burial when you died. Local Christian churches had a similar purpose, people shared food and other resources with others so all were taken care of. Remember Paul giving instructions on care for widows, or the care for widows in Acts 6. But the word can also refer to a partnership, something like an organization that wants to “partner with you” (i.e., share your resources by getting you to give to their capital campaign).
John’s point here is if the reader wants to continue to have a fellowship relationship with the apostolic group he represents, then the reader will accept his testimony as true and respond properly to that testimony (believe right about Jesus and love one another, etc.) If the readers do not have fellowship with author then they have fellowship with the succecessionists.
The second reason for the letter is “so that you may have fellowship with the Father and Son” (v. 3b). On the one hand, this refers to eternal life, but in another sense “having fellowship” here means the believers can have a real sharing of resources with God himself. If one is in fellowship with God, then they also share fellowship with the Son of God, Jesus, the Messiah (3b). The phrase “son of God” might get overlooked here, but this is a messianic title (Psalm 2:6-7, based on the Davidic Covenant in 2 Sam 7:14, cf. Romans 1:4, Jesus is the “Son of God in power”).
It is important to keep the Jewish background in mind when we read Christ as well, this is a title, the Messiah. The purpose of John’s Gospel is that the reader would believe “Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.” This may be something the opponents deny (we will return to the reasons for this later). In 1 John 2:22 “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?”
Finally, John says he is writing this letter “so that our joy might be compete” (v. 4). There is a well-known textual variant here, some manuscripts have “your joy,” there is only one letter difference and the two words sound similar enough to account for the variant. Most modern translations have “our joy,” the KJV has “your joy.” Metzger favors the first person plural, “our joy” since it fits the context better. The writer will have complete joy when the readers believe in his testimony concerning the Word of Life (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition, 639).
The purpose “completed joy” alludes to the Gospel of John. In John 3:29 John the Baptist refers to his role as a friend of the bridegroom (Jesus) as complete now that the bridegroom as arrived. He says “Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.” The Greek is very similar to 1 John 1:4. In John 15:11 Jesus says the things he has spoken things to his disciples so that their joy may be full and in 16:20-22 he says that after the resurrection their joy will be restored and no one can take their joy away from them. In John 17:13 Jesus prays that his disciples may have his joy fulfilled in themselves.
These three reasons for writing the short letter now known as 1 John all relate to how the writer understands those who are part of the apostolic community and those who are outside of that community. John will further define what it means to continue as part of his community. Some of these will right teaching about Jesus, others will be proper behavior as a Christian, summarized in the phrase “love one another.”
7 thoughts on “1 John 1:3-4 – The Reason for Writing 1 John”
love one another.” Lovely
I find your first point very interesting regarding the fact that John wrote this for Christians and improving their fellowship. However, not to be confused with the often-common action of after church fellowship in the lobby. I believe in first John the author commonly wants to clarify many unknowns the people of the time were facing about Jesus. Like Jobes states, “The author of first John writes his epistle to assure Christian believers who were being confused by conflicting views about who Jesus was and what is important to believe about him for eternal life.” (Jobes, Pg. 396). This made it clear to me that the authors intentions were to explain Jesus in a way that the people would be able to understand. I thoroughly believe that the idea of fellowship in which John is referring to is having a guide or devotional that is the same. Meaning, everyone in the same spiritual group can use the same resource as a guide in their worship. I also believe that in the sense that John was creating a book filled with fellowship, this fellowship can also relate to the fellowship that the readers would develop with Christ. The relationship would become stronger allowing the Christian relationship with Jesus to grow. John was attempting to assist the readers in their growth in overall community and their relationship with God.
The author of 1 John seemed to want to connect people together, to have a community of believers come closer together in fellowship. Christians at this time were confused with their conflicting views about who Jesus was (Jobes 396). The problem with this was the fact that they don’t know what to believe about eternal life right now. Life for the Johannine community was very confusing and they did not know what to expect from these letters. They were confused, and this was why John decided to right these letters. Knowledge is found through God and Jesus Christ, but yet how does one find this knowledge. Amongst believers and their community they can find the best way to find Christ and to follow in his footsteps. John address the issues or worship, and fellowship with the community as a way to glorify God and to follow Christ. This would strengthen their relationships with each other, but also with Christ. A significant way to be committed to following God and the example Jesus set for the believers.
I would have to agree with the point that you and John make about the importance of having fellowship with other believers, but also a deep relationship with the Father and the Son. Often times Christians misinterpret what John means when he alludes to “fellowship” with other believers. Fellowship in the context of the book of 1st John points to taking care of orphans, widows, and other believers, but to also communicate with them about the faith that they share. This can be seen through how John encourages his readers to treat each other with love and in his 2nd letter, hospitality (1 John 3:16, 2 John 6). Then there is the matter about a deep relationship and fellowship with the Father and the Son, which needs to be continually grown and strengthened. In 1 John 2:12-14 John refers to “children”, “fathers”, and “young men” and some scholars believe this has to do with the spiritual maturity of the believer rather than the physical age (Jobes, 2011). Many letters to the church, in the New Testament, speak about the essential growth in the spiritual lives of believers because that fellowship with God is so important in the Christian faith. If believers do not desire to grow in their relationship with Christ, are they truly a Christian? Believers should have the desire to grow closer to the Christ and be more like him in all that they say and do. Then believers will enter into the joy that John writes about (1 John 1:4)
Giving the reader of a letter three reasons to read and agree with the letter shows the importance of the letter. The three reasons are hefty ones as well. The first being to have fellowship with those who claim to be apostles of the Messiah (v. 3a). The second reason being to have fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus who is the Messiah (v. 3b). And the third reason is to complete the joy of the author (v. 4). If a first-century Jew was reading this they would be hooked. The coming of the messiah had been awaited for so long and if the Jesus that this author was talking about was truly the messiah then it would have been worth the read. It seems as though John is writing to those who have already been evangelized to or those who have heard but do not understand fully. To help the readers be drawn into the letter John begins with an open invitation and he wants the reader to be a part of their “fellowship.” Partnering with such a generous people might have also seemed beneficial to the readers as well. I am sure the readers had heard of the Way before and how its community lived. More about resources and less about snacks after service. Along with this partnering, they would be able to partners or be in relationship and share resources with the Father AND the Son of God, the messiah, who happened to be Jesus. The joy that would be complete can only be complete by the reader following the instructions that are laid out for them in the rest of the letter. Ultimately to love one another. This is the basis of fellowship with the apostles and with God himself.
It’s interesting that the word John uses for fellowship means something quite different from our modern definition. It meant more of a group to take care of each other or to act like a family to each other, which is what the church is for even if we don’t know it. I think that John may have been reminding them of this fellowship at this time since many church leaders were being tested by heresy and unbelievers so it was important for them to band together and help each other. Jobes talks about these issues on page 413 as well as talking about the false teachings that were being circulated questioning the deity of Christ. There were a lot of issues in the church at this point through persecution and “wolves in sheeps clothing” and so John was reminding them to keep strong and remain in fellowship with each other. I think that another key importance of having fellowship within the church also brings the believer closer to the Trinity as we are being challenged by other believers in our spiritual journey while also being able to challenge others. Along with this we are also able to help those who may need more guidance and help with their theology. Overall as easy as it is to stay at home on Sundays and watch church online, we are missing out on a key and important part of what we are called to do, fellowship.