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1 John N E W T E S TA M E N T


Jon Thorpe

Student edition first published March 2011 Anglican Youthworks PO Box A287 Sydney South NSW 1235 Ph: 612 8268 3344 Fax: 612 8268 3357 Copyright Youthworks Press © Jon Thorpe This book is copyright. Apart from fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without the written permission of the Publisher. Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. National Library of Australia ISBN 978-1-921460-73-9 Managing Editor - Natasha Percy Production Manager - Julie Firmstone Typesetting and Design – Rebecca Jee ‘Spot the difference’ illustration – Faith Oxley


YOUTHWORKS Bible Study series

LIVING THE REAL THING Introducing the book of 1 John How can you tell the real Christian from the fakes? How can I know that I have the truth? How can I be confident that I will stand before God one day and be declared righteous? They are big questions and the answers either lead to confidence, peace and joy or a terrible uncertainty. These are the issues that the Christians are facing in 1 John. Some members of their Christian community, whom they trusted, whom they called brothers and sisters, have now split away and have become wolves in sheep’s clothing. They claim to be true Christians but have rejected the truth and now threaten to seduce true Christians with their lies. From the internal evidence of 1 John we can get a picture of what these wolves believed (they are called ‘secessionists’ in the commentaries, which means people who formally withdrew from the Christian community). 1.

They claimed to ‘know’ Christ, but in fact were walking in darkness.


They claimed to be without sin.


They claimed to know God but did not obey Christ.


They denied Jesus is the Christ.


They denied Jesus is an atoning sacrifice for our sin (linking back to point 2, if they are without sin then there is no need for an atoning sacrifice).

Where this teaching came from is a point of significant debate. One popular suggestion is that it’s an early form of Gnosticism, which became more developed in the second century. The Gnostics believed that it was all about having a special knowledge of God (‘Gnostic’ comes from the Greek word for knowledge) and they believed that they had connected with the true knowledge of God and ultimate reality. If knowledge is the heart of how we connect with God, what we do with our earthly, fleshly bodies is irrelevant and this seems to reflect in their attitude to sin and their denial of Jesus’ death and resurrection. John writes to the Christian community to expose the wolves and to give the Christians an assurance of their salvation. For John, assurance is not just a feeling of being right with God, it is grounded in objective reality. What we believe, how we respond to sin, how we live, our perseverance in our faith, all objectively testify to our salvation and the work of the Spirit within us. The whole book is a checklist that affirms the true Christian, rebukes the wolves and challenges those who have started to be seduced by this false teaching. Each week, the study will create another point to add to the check-list. Unfortunately it’s not a case of 50% is a pass mark – the real Christian will be able to tick each box, not because we are perfect, but because these things will be characteristic of our lives. 1 John


Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18


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In 30 seconds, see how many differences you can spot in the two pictures above.

Lots of people claim to be Christians. Imagine you are playing ‘spot the difference’ in a crowd of ‘real’ and ‘pretend’ Christians. How would you pick the ‘real Christians’ from the rest?

1 John


When 1 John was written, some people in the Church claimed to be Christians but were actually trying to lead true Christians away from God with lies. This caused some of the real Christians to doubt that they were saved, and left them questioning the truth they had heard about Jesus. So John wrote them this letter to give them confidence in who they were in Christ.

WHO CAN WE TRUST TO TELL US THE TRUTH? Read 1 John 1:1–4 Who/what is the ‘Word of life’?

What do we know about the ‘Word of life’ from these verses?

Do you think John is a trustworthy witness? Why?


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Why does John say he has written this letter?

How does he describe fellowship here?

How is fellowship different from friendship?

John is not saying ‘I tell you these things so we can be friends’. He is saying ‘I am telling you these things so we can be brothers and sisters in Christ’. Fellowship is the result of being saved by Christ and therefore the issues of 1 John are not just important, they are fundamental to our eternal salvation.

How does John’s eyewitness account help you to believe what you read in the Bible, especially concerning Jesus and being saved?

1 John


As readers of John’s letter today, we also receive John’s proclamation of what he has seen and heard.



What does ‘fellowship’ look like for you as you meet in your small group, church or with Christian family and friends?

Pray that you will have confidence that you know the truth and are saved. Pray that God will help you to recognise any change that needs to happen in your understanding of him. Pray that your group will have true fellowship as brothers and sisters in Christ as you meet together.

Other things we can pray for:


YOUTHWORKS Bible Study series

How can I know I’m a Christian? How can I tell a real Christian from a fake one? How am I supposed to live out my faith when things get tough? These studies on 1 John address these questions, which are important for young people to work through and answer. Prayer, sacrificial love and perseverance are topics which also come under the spotlight in the pages of the small but powerful book of 1 John. About the author Jon Thorpe has been involved in youth ministry for many years. He is currently the Director of Ministry Support at Anglican Youthworks, which advises and equips people involved in children’s and youth ministry in the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church. About the Youthworks Bible Study series More than ever, young people today need answers to life’s big questions. The Youthworks Bible Study series is designed to challenge and encourage young people to be confident in their faith in Jesus in a changing world. The studies have been written by experienced youth leaders and are arranged into one of three categories— Old Testament, New Testament and Topical—for a clear overview of the Christian message. ISBN 978-1-921460-73-9

9 781921 460739

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