And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
(1 John 1:4)
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
(1 John 5:13)
Why did John write this letter? There are three options:
- He has two distinct reasons for writing it.
- John 1:4 and 5:13 contradict one another.
- He has only one reason, expressed in two different ways.
I believe that option 3 is correct, and I’ll tell you how I get there.
In 1 John 1:4, I am left wondering how writing this letter makes complete the joy of John. It doesn’t say. It does say that writing about the fact of Christ’s eternal existence, as well as His incarnation, is not primarily for the good of the readers, but for the completion of his joy. But it doesn’t tell us how writing about these things is a means for John to make his joy complete. In addition to the question of how the writing of this letter complete’s John’s joy, I am also led to ask how John could close his letter saying, “I write these things to those who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life”?
It doesn’t seem like his motivations here is his own joy, but rather the saints’ knowledge of eternal life. When we first arrive at this verse, it seems to be in contradiction with his original statement in1 John 1:4 because it is so darn self-disinterested.
“To you who believe”
The first thing to consider in order to sort out this difficulty is John’s audience. They are not unbelievers—they are believers! This letter is written “to you who believe.” If that is not you, I pray that it would be. Since they already believe in the name of the Son of God, we know that they already have eternal life (John 3:16). John is not writing so that they would gain eternal life. They already have it! He is writing them so that they would know that they have eternal life. There is no believer who does not need to be reminded of his position as a possessor of eternal life.
The next thing to be considered is what John writes about to complete his joy. This might help us find the link between the saints’ knowledge of their eternal life and the completion of John’s joy.
Completion of joy
- Christ was from the beginning
- Christ came to earth as a man
- That Christ has allowed people to see His life
- Fellowship among believers is corporate fellowship with God.
John has already written a letter with the intent of bringing life to the unregenerate (John 20:31). His joy is not complete simply in their life, but in their knowledge of their life. Why is that? Because his joy is in the glory of Christ. It gives him joy when Christ gives life to dead people, but it completes his joy when others have this glorious knowledge, because they too are seeing his beloved Christ as the glorious Savior that He already is.