Sunday School Bible Survey:      I JOHN

Theme: Fellowship

Key verse:
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (I John 1:7).

From the Scofield Study Bible:

WRITER: The Apostle John, as unbroken tradition affirms, and as internal evidence and comparison with the Gospel of John prove.

DATE: Probably A.D. 90

THEME: First John is a family letter from the Father to His "little children" who are in the world. With the possible exception of the Song of Solomon, it is the most intimate of the inspired writings. The world is viewed as without. The sin of a believer is treated as a child's offence against his Father, and is dealt with as a family matter (1:9; 2:1). The moral government of the universe is not in question. The child's sin as an offence against the law had been met in the Cross, and "Jesus Christ the righteous" is now his "Advocate with the Father." John's Gospel leads across the threshold of the Father's house; his first Epistle makes us at home there. A tender word is used for "children," teknia, "born ones," or "bairns." Paul is occupied with our public position as sons; John with our nearness as born-ones of the Father.

First John is in two principal divisions.

  1. The family with the Father (1:1—3:24).
  2. The family and the world (4:1—5:21).

There is a secondary analysis in each division of which occurs the phrase, "My little children," as follows:

  1. Introductory, the incarnation (1:1, 2).
  2. The little children and fellowship (1:3—2:14)
  3. The little children and secular and "religious" world (2:15-28).
  4. How the little children may know each other (2:29—3:10).
  5. How the little children must live together (3:11-24).
  6. Parenthetic: How the little children may know false teachers (4:1-6).
  7. The little children assured and warned (4:7—5:21).


  1. J. Vernon McGee said the apostle John expressed the purpose for his writing in each of the three types of revelation.
  2. His Gospel in John 20:30, 31: "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."
  3. His first epistle in 1 John 5:13: "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."
  4. His revelation in Revelation 1:19: "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter."
  5. Then Dr. McGee went on to say, "Actually, there is a fivefold purpose expressed in I John:
  1. 1:3 — "That ye also may have fellowship with us (other believers); and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ."
  2. 1:4 — "That your joy may be full."
  3. 2:1 — "That ye sin not."
  4. 5:13 — "That ye may know that ye have eternal life."
  5. 5:13 — "That ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."
  1. The word "Father" is used thirteen times in I John, and "little children" is used eleven times.
  2. Dr. McGee said I John is "the family epistle; John is writing here to the family of God...Paul wrote to the church; John wrote to the family."
  3. Other key words are "light" (used six times); "love" (used thirty-three times); "life" (used fifteen times); and the key word, "fellowship" (used four times).
  4. "Know" is used thirty-eight times, because John wrote to refute Gnosticism, which boasted of a superior knowledge. Gnostics accepted the deity of Jesus, but they denied His humanity.

J. Vernon McGee Outline:

  1. God is Light (1:1 — 2:2)
  1. Prologue (1:1, 2)
  2. How the little children may have fellowship with God (1:3 — 2:2)
  1. By walking in light (1:3-7)
  2. By confessing sin (1:8-10)
  3. By advocacy of Christ (2:1, 2)
  1. God is Love (2:3 — 4:21)
  1. How the dear children may have fellowship with each other by walking in love (2:3-14)
  2. The dear children must not love the world (2:15-28)
  3. How the dear children may know each other and live together (2:29 — 4:21)
  1. The Father's love for His children (2:29 — 3:3)
  2. The two natures of the believer in action (3:4-24)
  3. Warning against false teachers (4:1-6)
  4. God is love; little children will love each other (4:7-2)
  1. God is Life (5)
  1. Victory over the world (5:1-5)
  2. Assurance of salvation (5:6-21)

These are simple Sunday School survey notes. They are not for sale. The author used many outlines from popular Bible teachers such as C.I. Scofield and J. Vernon McGee, and he has tried to give credit when using their material.

—  Pastor James J. Barker  —