That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
1 John 1:1
Introduction to 1 John
John was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, who along with Peter and James his fishing partners, were called by Jesus to follow Him (Luke 5:1-11), eventually also to be sent out as an apostle (Luke 12-16). Jesus nicknamed him and his brother James as “the sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). The author of the Gospel of John, he referred to himself as “the disciple who Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). He is mentioned three times in the Book of Acts (3:1; 4:13; 8:14), and was referred to by the Apostle Paul as one of “the pillars” of the Jerusalem church (Galatians 2:9).
Tradition has it that John most likely left Jerusalem for Ephesus just before it was destroyed in 70 AD. As he referenced in the Book of Revelation which he also wrote, he was later exiled to the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9). He most likely wrote his three letters from Ephesus after the gospel of John and before Revelation, approximately 90-95 AD. While the recipients are not mentioned in the letter, most likely they were written to the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2-3.
John was writing out of a concern for the churches being lured away by false teachers whom he called antichrists, possibly teaching that of Gnosticism or Docetism. Gnosticism taught that a special knowledge reserved for only the spiritual elite was necessary to achieve salvation. It taught that matter was evil but that the spiritual world was good. Docetism taught that Jesus was not really human and only appear to have a physical body.
John’s response as an eyewitness to Jesus Christ to write to encourage them to fellowship with God the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ as the essence of eternal life (1:1:1-4). This fellowship will result in obedience to Him (2:3-8; 3:22-24; 5:2-3) and love for one another (2:9-11; 3:11-18, 23; 4:7-12, 19-21).