Background of 1 John
The background of this sermon or letter is unclear. The author, whom tradition identifies as John, expresses concern about false teachers who are leading astray the Christian fellowship. Exactly who these people were or where they lived is unknown. John calls the false leaders “antichrists” (2:18). They seem to have left the churches of John and his community to set up their own (2:19), but their teachings and informal contacts were still causing trouble. What they taught is also difficult to know, but they seem to have denied that the Christ came in the flesh (4:2) and that JesusJesus is the Messiah whose life, death, and resurrection are God's saving act for humanity More is the Christ and the Son of God (2:22; 5:1-5). They may also have taught that the Christ did not suffer or die (5:6). They appear to have believed that they knew God better than other, lesser believers (2:4). They may have denied any clear connection between faith and holiness or discipleship (2:4-6), perhaps because they saw life in the flesh as of no importance. These teachings led to faction, division, and hatred within the church, which John strongly opposes.