The First Letter of John
A translation by Alex Joyner*
That which was from the beginning is also, believe it!, that which we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, the Logos of Life—we beheld and held it with these trembling hands. The Life was revealed and we have seen and bear witness. We proclaim to you the Life of the Age, present with the Father and revealed, ah!, to us.
This is what we proclaim to you—what we have seen and heard—so that you can have koinonia with us. And, really, our koinonia is with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. We write these things so that our joy may find its fullness.
So, here’s the word we heard from him and proclaim to you—God is light and darkness does not abide in God. If we say we have koinonia with God and yet walk in darkness, we lie and neglect the practice of truth. If we walk in the light, as God is in light, we have koinonia with one another and the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges us from all sin.
If we say that we don’t have sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and right-making. God can forgive us our sins and purge us of all that is not right. If we say that we have not sinned, we make God out a liar and God’s Logos is not in us.
My children, why am I writing you? So that you don’t sin. Of course, you know, if anyone does sin, we have an advocate before the Father: Jesus Christ the Just. He is an atonement for our sins. No, not just for us, but for the entire cosmos.
How do we know we have known him? We keep his commands. If someone says, “I have known him,” but doesn’t keep his commands, they are a liar and the truth is a stranger to them. But if someone keeps Jesus’ word, in them the love of God has surely been perfected. That’s how we know we are in him.
If you say you abide in him, you should walk as he walked. Look, I am not writing you something new here. It’s an old command that you’ve had since the beginning. The old command is the word that you have heard.
Then again, I do have something new to write you. It’s a word true in him and in us: The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.
Anyone who claims to be ‘lit’ and hates a fellow believer is actually in the dark even now. Loving your fellow believer is abiding in the light. There is no cause for offense in someone who does this. Hating your fellow believer is darkness—walking in darkness to you know not where—because darkness blinds your eyes.
Children, why am I writing you? To tell you that your sins are forgiven through his name.
Elders, why am I writing you? To tell you that you have known the One from the first.
Young ones, why am I writing you? To tell you that you have vanquished the Wicked One.
Yes, I write you, little children, to say you have known the Father.
Yes, I write you, elders, to say you have known the One from the first.
Yes, I write you, young ones, to say that you are strong and the Logos of God abides in you and you have vanquished the Wicked One.
Don’t love the cosmos, much less the things of the cosmos. If you love the cosmos, you don’t have the greater love of the Father in you, because everything in the cosmos—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the arrogance of a way of life—is not from the Father but from the cosmos. And the cosmos is passing away along with all its fleeting desire, while the one who follows the will of God abides unto the Age.
Children, this is the Time. You have heard about a coming antichrist and now, look, so many antichrists are here. That’s a sign of the last hour. They came from us but they are not of us. If they were of us, they would have stayed with us. But it’s all clear now. All of them were not of us at all.
You have an anointing from the Holy and you know all things. Why have I written you? Not because you don’t know the truth, but because you do know it and because every lie does not trace back to truth. Who is the liar except the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? That’s the antichrist: the one who denies the Father and the Son. Everyone who denies the Son has lost the Father. If you confess the Son, you also have the Father.
As for you, let what you heard from the first abide in you. If what you heard from the first abides in you, then you will also abide in the Son and the Father. And what is the promise that he has promised us? The Life of the Age.
I’m writing about those who are deceiving you. As for you, the anointing you received from him abides in you. So you don’t need anyone to teach you. As his anointing teaches you about all things—and it is true and not a lie—just as it has taught, abide in him.
You children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed in fullness, we can be bold and not be drive from him by shame at his coming. If you know that he is just, then you will know that everyone who does justice has been born of him.
Pause and marvel at the love the Father has given us. To be called children of God! And we are! No wonder the cosmos can’t credit us because it never credited him. Beloved, we are, right now, children of God! What we shall be has not been revealed. What we know is this—when he is revealed, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
Everyone with this hope from him finds purification but that One is pure. On the other hand, everyone who practices sin practices lawlessness, because that’s what sin is—lawlessness. You recall, don’t you?, that he was revealed in order to bear sin away. Sin is not in him. So everyone who abides in him does not sin and everyone who does sin really hasn’t seen him nor known him.
Children, don’t let anyone deceive you. Whoever acts justly is just, just as he is just. Whoever practices sin is from the devil, because the devil has been practicing sin from the beginning. This is why the Son of God was revealed—to destroy the work of the devil.
Everyone born from God does not practice sin, because God’s seed abides in them and they are not able to sin because they have been born of God. You can distinguish the children of God from the children of the devil this way—everyone who does not act justly is not from God, neither is anyone who does not love their fellow believer.
That’s the message you heard from the beginning: we should love one another. The counter-example is Cain, who was evil and who killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain’s works were evil and his brother’s were just.
Don’t marvel, brothers and sisters, if the cosmos hates you. It’s our love for our fellow believers that tells us we have passed over from death to life. Whoever doesn’t love remains in death. Whoever hates their fellow believer is a murderer and you know a murderer does not have the Life of the Age abiding in them.
Here’s how we know love: That One laid down his life for our sake. So now we should lay down our lives for the sake of our fellow believers. If anyone has a livelihood in this cosmos, sees their fellow believer in need, and shuts off their compassion for that one, how does the love of God abide in them? Children, let’s not love in word or speech, but in deeds and truth.
This is the way we will know that we are from truth and reassure our heart before him: if our heart leans toward condemnation, God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart offers no condemnation, we can be bold before God. We receive from God whatever we ask because we keep God’s commands and do what is pleasing before God.
And what else is his command but this? We should have faith in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and should love one another, just as he gave the command to us. The one who keeps his commands abides in him and he abides in that one. By this we know that he abides in us: By the Spirit he has given us.
Beloved, don’t trust every spirit, but test the spirits to see which are from God. Many false prophets have been flung out into the cosmos.
And how do you know the Spirit of God? Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. Likewise, every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. Such a one belongs to the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and indeed is in the cosmos already.
Little children, you are from God and you have conquered them, because the One that is in you is greater than the one that is in the cosmos. They are from the cosmos. They say what say out of the cosmos. The cosmos hears them.
We are from God. Everyone who knows God hears us. Everyone who is not from God does not hear us. This is how you discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of error.
Beloved, let’s love one another because love is of God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Everyone who does not love does not know God because God is love. How was the love of God made manifest in us? God sent God’s only son into the cosmos so that we could love through him. What is love? Not that we loved God, but that God loved us and send God’s Son—Atonement for our sins.
Beloved, if God loves us this way, shouldn’t we love one another? No one has ever beheld God. But if we love another, God abides in us and God’s love is made perfect in us. How do we know that we abide in God and God in us? God has given to us from God’s Spirit. And we have beheld and give witness that the Father has sent the Son—Savior of the cosmos. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in them and they abide in God.
We have come to know and trust in the love that God has in us. Again, God is love and the one who abides in love abides in God and God abides in them. How has love been perfected in us? Let me say this—we have boldness in the day of judgment that just as that One is, so also we are in this cosmos. Also, fear is not found in love, but rather perfect love casts out fear.
We love because God loved us first. Whoever says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer is a liar. Because whoever doesn’t love a fellow believer, whom they have seen!, can’t love God, whim they have not seen. This is the command from God: If you love God, you must also love your brother and sister.
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God and whoever loves the One who gives birth necessarily loves whomever is born of that One. How do we know that we love the children of God? We love God and act on God’s commands. What is the love of God? We keep God’s commands and they are not burdensome. Because every thing born of God conquers the cosmos. And what is the conquering force that conquers the cosmos? Our faithful trust.
More rightly put, who is the one conquering the cosmos except the one who has faith that Jesus is the Son of God? He is the one who is coming through water and blood, Jesus Christ, who comes, to be clear, not through water alone, but through water and blood.
The Spirit is the witness because the Spirit is truth. So the witnesses are three: the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and the three are in one accord. If we receive the witness of human beings, the witness of God is greater, because this is the witness of God that God attested concerning God’s Son.
Whoever has faith in the Son of God as that witness in their self. Whoever does not have faith in God has made a liar of God because they have not had faith in the witness, which God attested concerning God’s Son.
And what is this witness? God gave us the Life of the Age—Life in God’s Son. Whoever has the Son has Life and, likewise, whoever does not have the Son of God does not have Life. I wrote these things to you so that you, who have faith in the name of the Son of God, may know that you also have the Life of the Age.
This is the boldness we have in His presence—He hears us if we ask anything according to his will. If we know that he hears us, whatever we ask, then we know that we have the things requested, which we asked from him.
Whoever sees another believer falling into a sin that does not lead to death should pray and give that one Life—to be blear, for those falling into sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death, but I am not saying to pray with regards to that. All unrighteousness is sin, but there is sin not leading to death.
We know that whoever has been born out of God does not sin but the born out of God watches over their self and the Wicked One doesn’t touch them. We know that we have our true origin in God while the whole cosmos rests on the Wicked One. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know the truth. We are in the truth, in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. This One is the True God and Life in the Age.
Little children, guard yourself from idols.
*I am following David Bentley Hart in using the phrases ‘cosmos’ and ‘life in the Age,’ rather than the terms more commonly used to translate their Greek antecedents—‘world’ and ‘eternal life.’