Seven Purposes for John’s Letter
In the course of John’s epistle, the apostle gives us seven purposes for writing his letter. The first stated purpose for John’s letter is given in 1 John 1:4, which says,
4 And these things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
As we will see later, John’s second purpose for writing this letter is found in 1 John 2:1,
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin…
A third purpose is found in 1 John 2:12,
12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.
A fourth purpose is found in the next verse, 1 John 2:13,
13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.
A fifth purpose is found in 1 John 2:21, where we learn of John’s concern about deceivers.
21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
The sixth purpose is similar, and it is found in 1 John 2:26,
26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.
The seventh and final purpose for John’s letter is found in 1 John 5:13,
13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.
These seven may be arranged according to a Hebrew chiasm, or parallelism:
A That our joy may be made complete
B That you may not sin
C Because your sins are forgiven
D Because you know Him
C Because you know the truth
B To counter deceivers
A That you may know that you have eternal life
In such Hebrew chiasms, A and A are parallels, B and B, C and C. The middle feature (in this case, D) is the climax, the most important point being made. To know Him is John’s greatest purpose.
Hence, we see the connection between our return to complete joy (A) and the knowledge that we have eternal life (A). It is impossible to have such joy without the assurance that we have eternal life. When religious leaders make man’s will (“works”) the basis of eternal life, rather than God’s will (“grace”), it is not possible to have that assurance, because all of man’s works fall short of the glory of God.
Likewise, there is a connection between not sinning (B) and not being deceived (B). Deception, especially self-deception, causes men to sin. This is about antinomianism (“lawlessness,” or despising the law of God) which Jesus condemned in Matt. 5:19 and 7:23.
There is also a connection between having our sins forgiven (C) and knowing the truth about the blood of Jesus (C). The blood of Jesus alone cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
All of these distinct purposes reach their culmination in knowing Him (D), which is the central thought that John presents to us.