I sometimes wonder why God wrote 66 books in the Bible when two alone would have been enough: John and 1 John. Of course, I’m teasing to make a point. Those two books are what I call companion volumes. In many ways, they tell us everything we need to know.
The apostle John wrote both books, but he wrote them for two entirely different purposes. He wrote the Gospel of John to tell us how to come to Christ, and he wrote 1 John to tell us how we grow closer to Him. Understanding their purposes and content shows us how they are two of the greatest pieces in the Bible.
John’s Gospel tells us how to come to Christ and receive eternal life: “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). For this reason, it’s a great book for an unbeliever to read.
Note that the word “believe” occurs 98 times in this Gospel. For example, John 3:16–18 tells us, “for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten son of God.”
To receive eternal life, we have to come to God as sinners, recognize Christ died for us and rose again and place our trust in Christ alone to save us. We must believe.
As a follow-up, John wrote an epistle to believers explaining how to draw closer to Christ: “that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
The Gospel of John concerns itself with salvation through Christ; 1 John concerns itself with fellowship with Christ. That’s why the apostle discusses such subjects as confessing our sin, loving our brothers and sisters in Christ, not loving the world, walking in God’s truth, and obeying His commandments.
Twenty-four times in 1 John, the author uses the word, “abide.” Just as you come to Christ by believing, you draw closer to Him by abiding: “Therefore let that abide in you, which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father… And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:24, 28).
The late Dr. Dwight Pentecost gave the best explanation I’ve ever heard of abiding. He explained that a fish abides in the sea when it draws from the sea all it needs to swim. A bird abides in the air when it draws from the air all it needs to fly. You and I abide in Christ when we draw from Christ all we need to live the Christian life.
The Christian life is not a natural life; it is a supernatural one. Only God can live it through us. As we draw upon His strength, we can live the kind of life He wants us to live and do the things He wants us to do. First John 4:16 assures us, “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”
Two great companion volumes. Want to know how to come to Christ? Read John. Want to know how to draw closer to Christ? Read 1 John. Two tremendous handbooks to master!