Why did John write 1 John?

Updated: 4/28/2022
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John had a simple reason for writing the epistle - he wanted to warn Christians of the dangers of false and heretical teachings, and to emphasise the importance of love towards others and how this is put into practice in daily life.

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The First Epistle of John is believed to have been written in the same community as the Gospel of John. Because the books were later attributed to the apostle John, this community is commonly referred to as the Johannine community. 1 John was written shortly after the Gospel and reflects a split in the Johannine community. It appears that at this stage, one group chose to join a community more closely aligned to the synoptic gospels, while those who remained drifted into a more Gnostic form of belief. Their disagreements were essentially about orientation to knowledge (gnosis) versus faith (pistis).

The author of 1 John wanted to charge his opponents with being sinners (1 John 1:8-10), but since his new soteriology (doctrine of salvation) was about sin and forgiveness, the topic could backfire. He did not want to offer his opponents the promise of forgiveness, making it necessary to engage in a logical casuistry with regard to sins for which forgiveness was possible rather than those for which it was not (1 John 2:1-2, 3:4-10).

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