One little word that stands out in the original language of the First Epistle of John is “ma” with the rough breathing over the i, and which is therefore pronounced “hina” and is often used to introduce a purpose clause. As we meditate upon the epistle, we can see where John uses this little word of purpose to show us the purposes of God in the writing of the epistle, the purposes of God toward His children, and the purpose of God in the coming into the world of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In this article we want to look at the purposes behind the writing of the epistle. When we start to study an epistle, we should always ask ourselves why it was written. The answer is easy in books such as First Timothy, for the purpose of the writer is stated in 4:14-16. It is also relatively easy in First Peter for he states his purpose in 5:12. It is easy in Jude for he writes, “It was necessary for me to write to you and to exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith, once for all delivered unto the saints.”
Lets look at First John, searching for the word “hina” which introduces purpose clauses, and ask what was the great burden of John as he sat down with paper and ink and gave us these words breathed of God.
It Was Written To Foster Fellowship
“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you that (hina) ye also may have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ” (1:3). Fellowship is the translation of “koinonia,” and means a participation in that which is held in common. It is the word translated “partners” in Luke 5:10. The apostles had been brought into a fellowship with the Father and with His Son, a fellowship which had as its foundation the Word of Life, which was revealed to them and which they now shared with others.
Paul writes a similar thought when he pens, “God is faithful by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (I Cor 1:10). At conversion, we were brought into a fellowship, a sharing with other believers and even with the Father and with His Son. What a position!
It Was Written to Fulfil Joy
“And these things write we unto you that (hina) your joy may be full,, (1:4). Wasnt their joy going to be full simply on the basis that they were participating in a glorious fellowship with Divine persons and with the apostles? John introduces another thought. Not only was the fellowship based on life, but also there is the great truth that God is Light. Because of the Word of Life, fellowship has been made. Because God is Light, that fellowship can only be maintained when believers manifest that Life into which they have been brought and walk in the Light even as He is in the Light.
It would seem that John is showing his readers that the joy that is theirs, because of the life they share, can only be fully realized when the practice is consistent with the position. The fellowship has been made by the Father; it is maintained by our conduct. The fellowship can be marred by sin, and when this is the case, joy is broken and can only be restored when the sin is confessed. This was Davids experience in Psalm 51, when, after acknowledging his transgressions and his sinnership, he prays, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation,, (51:12). Salvation had not been lost, but the joy of it had been interrupted by sin.
As we go further in Johns first epistle we see also the work of the Advocate, the Legal Counsel of the Christian, the Provision for Sinning Saints, the Mender of the Fellowship.
We have seen that the joy is the result of the fellowship attained. The fullness of that joy, the maintaming of the fellowship is based on our conduct, our confession of sins, and our Counsel in His Presence.
It Was Written To Fortify Against Sinning
“My little children, these things write I unto you that (hina) ye sin not,, (2:1). This is Johns third purpose in writing to fortify them against sinning! In the first chapter he has told them that there is sin within and that to deny that is to be deceived. Further, he reminds them that sin will ever be a problem, for he tells them of the need for confession. How is it here then that he writes, “in order that you may not sin?”
The first reason is that sinning is inconsistent with the new life that has been imparted to them as children of God.
Secondly, it is inconsistent with the fact that God is Light. Sin is darkness, but with Him there is no darkness and so darkness cannot characterize those that are His. We cannot say that we have fellowship with Him and then walk in darkness.
The third reason for not sinning is the cost of sinning. One of the costs is broken fellowship with the Father. When that fellowship is valued, the believer will walk so as to preserve it.
No doubt also, as we peruse the entire epistle, we will see that sinning is not only inconsistent with the Life and with the Light, but also with the Love, for God is Love. Paul was constrained (hemmed in on every side) by the love of Christ (2 Cor 5:14).
John gives another fortification against sinning at the end of the second chapter as he reminds them to “abide in Him that if He should be manifested at any time, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at his coming” (2:28). The believer is to live always with a view to the Lords imminent return. Sinning is inconsistent with confidence at His appearing.
It was Written to Forewarn Against the False Teachers
“These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abideth in you, and ye need not that (hina) any should teach you,, (2:26-27). False teachers had arisen even in these early days. In this epistle John is correcting error concerning the humanity of the Lord Jesus. In the Gospel, John assumes His humanity and proves His deity. In the epistles, he assumes His deity and proves His humanity.
In the statement on the essence of Godliness, Paul states that “God was manifest in flesh” (I Tim 3:16). His real humanity, sin apart, did not detract from His Deity. Deity could not absolve itself of Deity, but in Jesus Christ, Deity was clothed in the garment of humanity. He became what He had not previously been but never ceased to be what He ever was.
John shows the believers that they have within them the Great Teacher, the Anointing (2:20,27), He Who came with the promise, “He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance” (John 14:26).
Our theology cannot be based on supposition; it cannot be speculative; it cannot be based on rationalism but rather on revelation. The Holy Spirit has been sent as the Great Revealer of Truth to the family of God. The truth He reveals is contained within the Book.
It Was Written to Furnish Assurance
“These things have I written unto you that (hina) ye may know that ye have eternal life.,, (5:13) What means does John employ to test for reality in others and to give assurance of a life abiding within? It is an epistle of three great tests an epistle whereby the reality of the profession of others may be tested, but also by which the believer can see if he himself is displaying the evidences of divine life within.
The first test is the test of behavior. “And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (2:3-5). Obedience to the implanted Word is a test of life.
It is important for us to realize that John treats the course of a believers life. Sin should be an accident in the Christian life. If one professes to be a believer and sin is his course, then John would say that he has not been born of God. He shows us clearly that Christians do sin and need confession and an Advocate. The sense therefore of 3:6-10 can only be found if we look at the progressive tenses. For example, 3:6 could be read, “Whosoever abideth in Him does not habitually practice sin: whosoever habitually practices sin hath not seen Him, neither known Him.” In 3:9 we see that every one who has been born of God does not practice sin for His seed abides in him, and he cannot practice sin for he has been born of God. Again, when sin occurs, there is provision; if sin is a course, then it is a proof that divine life has not been imparted.
The second test is the test of brotherly love. “We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren” (3:14). This is not a passive love but is one that is active. It is not in word and tongue but in deeds and truth. See 2:9-11, 3:17-18,4:7-12, 4:20-21.
The third test is the test of belief. Persons are tested as to their reality by the doctrines that they hold. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (5:1). This belief in the truths associated with His Person has ever been the test even as the Lord Jesus asked, “But whom say ye that I am?” (Mat 16:15).
We must ever be protectors of the doctrines concerning His Person, and we must always be careful to maintain the truth of what is called the “hypostatic union” the union in One Person of two natures.
In summary, we have attempted to see what were the purposes on the heart of the beloved disciple as he was borne along by the Holy Spirit in the writing of this epistle. John wanted to see a happy, harmonious people, preserved in their behavior and in their belief.