1 John is a follow-up letter to the community who received the Gospel of John. Once they read John's account of Jesus' life, the question they had was, "now that we know Jesus, how are we to live?" John tackles several topics to answer this question. The first section is about fellowship.
We Have Seen the Word of Life
Both the The Gospel of John and the first letter from John begins with similar words - "the beginning." If you have read the first book of the Bible, you will note that it starts in a similar way. This isn't a coincidence. John is making a connection to the beginning of the Bible, specifically, the Creation Story.
John is pointing to the fact that there is a way of life that God has intended for people “from the beginning.” That life was revealed more through the Law to Israel (Exodus to Deuteronomy) – but it has been most fully made known in Jesus. Those who are a part of the Jesus movement have been invited into fellowship with God and have been initiated into the “the-way-things-should-be” life.
God is Light
The life of fellowship with Jesus is a life living in the light. Light is a theme that John brought up in his Gospel, and it is difficult to know what he is really trying to convey in this letter without reading his biography of Jesus first. God is described as the light because in the light, there is no hiding. Light has a connotation of being fully revealed. In this letter, John is saying that there is no ability to live this life of faith half-heartedly or hiding things from God.
It would be good to state one thing before we move on. Some Christians believe that the point of being a follower of Jesus is to become a person who does not sin. To John, however, the call to live a life of faith is not a call to sinlessness – it is a call to vulnerability.
The claim of being “sinless” often leads to the need to hide the truth from ourselves and from others. But the claim of “freedom from sin” invites an open life and heart willing to allow the light to expose our deepest brokenness.
In this section of John's letter, the author is pointing to the important teaching of fellowship. True fellowship requires vulnerability. We must be open to confessing our struggles with one another.