1 John is the The New England Primer for all first-year Greek students. I knew I was hitting the big time when I graduated from my 50 flashcards of basic Greek vocabulary to the actual text of 1 John in my Greek New Testament. As one can tell from today’s reading, this is possible because John uses a very limited vocabulary in his letters. There may be a lot of reasons for this. Maybe Greek was a second language to John who had been raised in the Galilee region of Palestine and likely spoke Aramaic natively. Maybe John was not well-educated, however he shows great ability to think deeply about theology. Or maybe John just wants to drive his point home with a beautiful simplicity. Keep it simple and people will never mistake you.
Many of the words that John hangs his message on are emphasized in this very first chapter:
life, light, darkness, fellowship, truth, lie, sin, joy
Add “love” from chapter two and “spirit” and “world” and you have a wide door into John’s thought. Let’s pay attention to how John uses these words and what meaning they have for the aged disciple as we read John’s letters. I’ll bet we see them next month in John’s gospel too.
This passage has a nice confluence of most of these words:
This is the message which we have heard from him, and announce to you: God is light, and there is no darkness at all in him. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the dark, we are telling lies, and not doing what is true. But if we walk in the light, just as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his son makes us pure and clean from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar, and his word is not in us. (1:5-10)