John is telling us about Jesus, the eternal Son of God, who died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay the penalty for our sins and purchase a place for us in heaven that he offers to us all as a free gift that can only be received through faith. Toward the end of his letter, John explains his purpose for writing. 1 John 5:12-13 says, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 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.” At the beginning of this letter, he gives us another reason for writing. It’s not a different reason but rather a result we will experience if we come to grips with the reality of our eternal life through faith in Christ.  In John 1:3-4, he asserts his personal experience and knowledge of Jesus and how he wants to pass it on to us for a particular reason. He says, “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed, our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”

Assurance of our eternal life is certainly something that gives us great joy. This is especially true in the face of death. It brings purpose and meaning to life that nothing in this world can satisfy. We might find some happiness in life without Christ, but it’s not the same as the happiness one finds in Christ. David Allen wrote, “Christian joy is far removed from what is commonly construed as happiness, which is dependent upon outward circumstances. It can certainly include such, but Christian joy is much deeper and richer in meaning. Joy describes a reality in life of genuine satisfaction intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Joy is a spirit of exultation regardless of circumstances. Joy is a sense of supernatural strength that can only come from the Lord: “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). I have seen the joyless eyes of miserable people in many cities around the world. I have observed the joyless faces of people in Third World countries, clawing and scratching to eke out an existence for themselves and their families. Even those fortunate enough to be in decent economic shape along with those who have anything and everything money can buy might sometimes experience happiness, but without God through Christ they can never experience genuine joy. The wisest and richest man who ever lived found that out when he sailed the high seas of life in an effort to find fulfillment. The man on whom the world exhausted itself and for whom the world was not enough discovered the bitter truth that at the end of every paycheck, the bottom of every bottle, and the morning after every one-night stand, there was no joy in Mudville. So, he tells us in his personal memoirs known as Ecclesiastes. Mighty Solomon had struck out. Only God can grant joy to the human soul. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). The crown of joy can only be worn by those who have been adopted into God’s royal family through his Son, King Jesus. The banner of joy will only fly over the castle of your life when the King is in residence there. Joy is the response of the soul that is rightly related to God through the knowledge of Christ as our Savior and Lord.”[1]

As Solomon relates to us in Ecclesiastes, we are all looking for meaning and purpose in life. We know that without that, there can be no joy in any lasting way. The whole Old Testament might be just one long story of men and women trying to find joy in their lives. Marianne Thompson said, “Biblical writers continually looked for the day when they would know joy, when they would rejoice. But John writes in this epistle that the expected joy of fellowship with God is now available to those who fellowship with God through Jesus. No need to wait any longer—full joy can be ours through Jesus Christ. A long-awaited blessing of the messianic age is here. Joy is not given to us apart from the circumstances of our earthly life, or as a substitute for pain or an escape from sorrow. Joy does not depend upon the elimination of the things that weigh us down or trouble us here. Joy comes from the deep trust of knowing that precisely in this world one is nevertheless in touch with the God who has given us life in the midst of the death that surrounds us.”[2]

[1] Allen, David L. 2013. 1–3 John: Fellowship in God’s Family. Edited by R. Kent Hughes. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

[2] Thompson, Marianne Meye. 1992. 1–3 John. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.