1 John | 1 | 2:1-14 | 2:15-29 | 3:1-10 | 3:11-24 | 4 | 5:1-10 | 5:11-21 | PDF |

These small group studies of 1 John contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

1 John 1 Inductive Bible Study Guide – God is Light


I. The personal, eyewitness testimony of John (1-4)
II. God is the Light and we can have fellowship with Him (5-7)
III. We are all sinners, but can be forgiven if we confess (8-10)

I. The personal, eyewitness testimony of John (1-4)


Author – Unlike most of the epistles, the author of “1 John” is never mentioned. However, the early Christian church universally accepted John as the author. In the gospel of John, John never identifies himself by name either (a form of modesty) so it is not surprising that he does not identify himself by name here. The write writes with very clear authority and expects complete obedience from those reading the epistle. The author is a personal eyewitness (1:1-4) of Christ, which John was. He refers to his readers as “little children,” showing his apostolic authority. The readers also certainly knew him so there was no reason to give his name to them. In conclusion there is every reason to believe that John is indeed the writer of 1 John and no compelling reason to doubt it.

Date – The exact date it was written is unknown. John appears to be already quite old in this epistle as he calls his readers “little children.” It is believed that he wrote this epistle after the Gospel of John, which was probably written near the end of the first century. The contents of the book are largely addressed against heresy, of which Gnosticism was the chief one and becoming more popular towards the end of the first century.

Background – At this point, John was probably the last remaining apostle who was still alive. On church leader (Papias) called John a “living and abiding voice.” John’s ministry was centered in Ephesus where he taught and oversaw the churches in Asia Minor. Gnosticism was beginning to seep into the churches and gain a foothold. As John was an eyewitness to Christ and new that this heresy and all it stood for was full of lies, he sought to use his authority to encourage believers to stay true to the real faith and keep heresies in all forms out of the churches.


  • Who does “we” refer to? If John wrote this book himself, why does he say “we”?
  • Why was it important that he had heard, seen, and touched Christ himself?
  • What does the Word of Life refer to? What does this name tell us about Christ?
  • John saw these things and what did he do with this knowledge (verse 2)? Is there any lesson there for us as to what we should do with the knowledge we have of God?
  • What does he mean by the phrase “so that you too may have fellowship with us?”
  • In what way doe these things give joy?


John 1:14 – The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Matthew 17:1 – After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. (John was one of Jesus’ inner circle of three.)

John 13:23 – One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. (This refers to John.)

2 Peter 1:4 – Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Verse by Verse Commentary:

1. “What was from the beginning.” Jesus was from the beginning. See John 1:1. This is a central point to Jesus’ deity, which the apostles unfailingly preach. Jesus was not just a good man, a prophet, a leader, or an innovator. He existed from before the beginning of the world, which means He is God.

2. “Heard…Seen…Touched…” At this point John was the last remaining eyewitness. He must have been very popular. The believers in the church at that time must have enjoyed going to his house to listen to his firsthand stories about Jesus. The kids would probably gather around, “Grandpa John, tell us again about the story of the loaves and fishes!” As the last eyewitness, John’s authority was unquestioned. The Gnostics were starting to come in and preach many lies about Jesus. But John knew the truth. He heard, saw, and touched Jesus. As an eyewitness, his testimony was strong. We should remember too that there were more than 500 eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). All of the disciples except for one were likely martyred for their faith. They were willing to die for their belief in Christ because they saw the risen Lord. They knew for a fact that their belief was true. Throughout history many have said that the disciples were making up a story (ie: lying). But why do people lie? They lie to avoid punishment or gain personal benefit. They don’t lie if the result of the lie is death although they may lie to avoid death! The point is that the eyewitness testimony of John and the other disciples is powerful because they died for their belief and they knew their belief was true. Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 15 that the eyewitness accounts of Christ are a pillar of evidence we can base our faith on.

3. In addition to this, John’s testimony directly refutes the Gnostics. What did the Gnostics teach? One of the core principles of their teaching was that Jesus didn’t have a real body. His Spirit just “appeared” to be a human body. It was more like an apparition or a ghost. This directly contradicts the teaching of Scripture. Most cults attack either Jesus’ deity or his humanity and this is no exception. But John heard and saw Jesus face to face. AND he touched Jesus. Can you touch a ghost? I don’t think so. You could paraphrase what John is saying like this, “Guys, I was there. Jesus was not a ghost. He was real.”

4. Word of Life. This refers to Jesus. He is the Word of Life because if we believe in the words He spoke then we can have life, eternal life and abundant life.

5. John had direct knowledge of Christ (interesting because the word “Gnosticism” means “knowledge,” but John was the one with the real “knowledge” about Christ). What did he do with this knowledge? He testified about it and proclaimed it to others. He didn’t keep it to himself. He didn’t go to the inner mountains of Mongolia to meditate on it. All the things he learned from Jesus he passed on.

2 Timothy 2:2 Bible Verse

He could have made various excuses. Such as?

a) I am only a fisherman. I don’t have a high education. What can I do?

b) Jesus was the Son of God and people didn’t listen to Him. Why would they listen to me?

c) I am getting old and I have given everything to Christ. I need a rest. OR Where has it gotten me?

d) Even after all of this teaching church goers still are led astray and follow false doctrines. What is the point?

But he didn’t make any of these excuses. He continued obeying Jesus’ command to preach the gospel to the whole world until the end of his life.

6. The goal of this preaching was that the listeners might join John and other believers in their fellowship with Christ. Sometimes I admit that after I share the gospel I tend to think, “My job is done. I have done my part. They can take it or leave it.” While partially true, I don’t think this is the right attitude. Like John, we should be passionate about the souls of the lost. We must desperately desire that they too have the same relationship with Christ that we do. If we have this passion and love for the lost, this attitude will “leak” through in our sharing so that it will be very real and tangible (just like John’s love for the people he is writing to in this epistle.)

II. God is the Light and we can have fellowship with Him (5-7)


  • What verb do you see in verse 5 that again shows John sharing what he has learned? Why does he use the word “announce”?
  • What does it mean that “God is Light?” How is this similar to what John wrote in the Gospel of John? Where did he use similar vocabulary about Jesus there?
  • What does the Light represent? How about the darkness?
  • How do we have fellowship with Christ? How can we have better fellowship with Christ?
  • What does it mean to walk in darkness? We are all sinners so do we all walk in darkness? What clues can we get from the phrase “practice the truth”?
  • What does it mean that we have fellowship with one another?


On Light:

Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Proverbs 6:23 – For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light,
and correction and instruction are the way to life

John 1:4 – In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

John 8:12 – When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

On Darkness:

Romans 13:11-14 – And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Once again we see that John is sharing what he has learned. He heard the message from Christ and he announced it to others. We should ask ourselves if we are doing the same. Are we making excuses for not sharing the gospel? If so we should think again about the condition of lost people. There condition is that of a slave to sin, a person on the way to an eternity in hell, which means more pain than we can possibly imagine. What are we doing to help people avoid this horrible fate?

2. There is no darkness at all in God. Are you familiar with the Yin/Yang symbol? If not, show a picture. This is a Taoist concept. It is an ambiguous symbol, but one meaning is that in all bad there is a little good and in all good there is a little bad. While this is sometimes true of lost humanity it is not true of God. There is no bad, no sin, no darkness, no imperfection, no mistakes in God, not even a little. He is pure light, pure good, pure holiness, pure perfection. Think about that for a minute. One sad thing about many world religions is that their gods are somewhat like people since people made them up. One result of this is that their gods have many flaws. Maybe it is lust or hate, or any number of things. Their gods make mistakes and their gods may even sin. But not God. We can worship and follow Him with absolute confidence knowing that He is perfect and will never disappoint us. This is a comforting thought. Sometimes when I read Scripture or look at the world around me I cannot always understand it. Sometimes I might wonder why God lets certain things happen. But I always come back to the rock solid foundational truth that God is good. He knows what He is doing. He has a reason. He has a perfect plan even though I may not see it.

3. Verse 6 clearly teaches that a real relationship with Christ will affect how we live. We can not walk in darkness and have a relationship with Christ at the same time. This doesn’t mean that we never sin. We will see in verse 9 that everyone sins, but then confession brings restoration. The word “walk” shows a continual thing, a habit. The latter part of the verse, which says “practice the truth” has the same idea. No person is perfect. We cannot always do what is right, but do we practice what is right? Is it a habit for us to tell the truth or to lie? Is it a habit to be diligent or to be lazy? Is it a habit to be on time or to be late? Is it a habit to speak kind words to others or to tear them down? We should closely evaluate our own lives to see if we are making a habit out of doing right or if we have a habit of sinning. A title for this verse could be “don’t be hypocrites.” Don’t just go to church and act good and nice and pretend everything is fine and we are a “good Christian” and then go home and engage in secret sins while no one is looking. If we are doing this we are a hypocrite like the Pharisees. We are deceiving ourselves.

4. Here is once again that extremely powerful word, “but.” There is hope. We were all walkers in darkness at one point. The blood of Christ, however, can change all that. This blood cleanses us from all sin. Because of it we can have true fellowship with one another (it removes barriers between people) and with God.

Ephesians 2:14 Bible Verse

Being part of Christ’s family unites us together with people from all over the world, even people we have never seen or met. Imagine for example an oppressive regime where Christians are persecuted. Two people pass in the street under the close eye of the guards. Through some signal or word they recognize that the other is a believer. These two people have a bond. They are connected through Christ though they may never see each other or meet again.

III. We are all sinners, but can be forgiven if we confess (8-10)


  • Have you ever heard anyone say they have no sin? Do you have sin? Is your sin serious? Why would someone think that they have no sin or that their sin is not serious?
  • What hope do we have? Is it enough to confess our sins once? Who do we confess to (ie: who is the one forgiving us?)

Verse by Verse Commentary:

1. The Gnostics believed that the physical was not important. After all, they even said Jesus didn’t have a real body. Instead they felt that a mystical “knowledge” or unseen connection to God was most important. Because the physical aspect of life including the human body is not important, this led them to the belief that sins committed in the body didn’t matter. This also may lead them to the statement that they (their spiritual selves) had no sin. John authoritatively declares that anyone with this view is deceiving himself (verse 8) and is a liar (verse 10).

2. However, this belief that we don’t have sin, is not just a thing of the past. Many people today believe the same thing. I have a relative who believes this. Probably many of us have met someone who has told us this before. Yet even if people admit they have sin, more often than not, they will consider that their sin is not serious. After all, we are good people, right? Wrong! We are not good. We are sinners. There is none good no not one. Adam and Eve “merely” at a fruit in the garden. What was the problem with that? It was in direct rebellion against God. This was the God who created them from nothing and gave them not just a life, but a perfect life in a perfect place. They returned God’s great goodness with great evil. This is what al of us do. People who think that they are basically good are deluded and adding pride and deceit to their already long list of sins. Sins most of us are believes here, what application can we get from this? When we share the gospel we need to make sure that we are addressing sin. Do not skip over it. To come to faith in Christ a person must first realize he is a sinner, and that his sin is serious. I heard a phrase a long time ago that has stuck with me and that is that we must preach a person into hell before we can preach them into heaven. Basically that means a person must realize he is lost before he can accept help to be found.

3. Verse 9 is one of the most famous verses in the Bible and a favorite memory verse for new believers.

1 John 1:9 Bible Verse

Several points:

a) Firstly, we must confess our sins. God offers forgiveness to anyone, but a prerequisite is repentance.

b) Secondly, there is no qualification as to what sins can be forgiven and which ones can’t. They can all be forgiven, as long as we confess. The verse says He cleanses us from “all unrighteousness.”

c) Thirdly, God is the one who forgives. Since God forgives, we should confess to God, not priests.

d) He not only forgives, but He cleanses. Cleansing is something that we need to do physically quite often, every day in the summer heat. We need to regularly confess our sins.

4. John doesn’t mince words. Those who say that they have no sin are liars. They are not disagreeing with us. They are directly contradicting God. That is not a position we want to be in. If we argue with other people we may be right, but if we argue with God, we most certainly are not.

1 John  Bible Study Guide – If you enjoy this study, download our complete study on 1 John or you can get the paperback version from Amazon.

Study 1 John 2:1-14
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