The apostle John son of Zebedee was one of the inner three disciples of the Lord Jesus and was very crucial in the planting of churches. History shows that John started churches in Asia, of which Ephesus was the center. Therefore it is believed that John wrote First John to the Christians within the churches that he started in this area. The letter is sent to combat errors and false teachers that are trying to lead others away.
In the letter of First John we do not see the false teachers referred to specifically or any specific mention of the errors that they were spreading. We do see many references to errors in the letter of First John that he warns the believers not to fall into or be led astray by them. It seems that John’s gospel account, which was written in A.D. 80 was what caused a split in his churches. There were some that decided to leave John’s churches because they did not agree with John’s account and description of the Lord Jesus. One of the first errors of those that seceded from John’s churches was that they did not believe that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh. John makes it clear that he himself had physically touched Jesus (1 John 1.1). They had greatly emphasized Jesus’ deity, and almost completely eliminated His humanity. John shows in his letter that both are essential (1 John 4.10, 15).
Another major problem with the teaching of those that had seceded from John’ s churches was that they were ethically and behaviorally corrupt. They were having a form of godliness, but they were not truly changed by God’s grace. They seemed to be very “spiritual” but they were living in sin. As a result of this they were not only saying by their example that they could accept Christ and live in sin, they were teaching this lifestyle verbally to Christians. John writes to the Christians in Ephesus and lets them know that they need to be obedient to Christ because this is how we show that we love the Lord. John makes it clear that obedience is the major way that Christians show that they love God. It doesn’t matter how many oblations are made, or how loud you praise God. John makes his point very clear; if you say you are a Christian then let’s see it. John lets the Christians know that actions show who you are. He also lets them know that they as Christians will sin (1 John 1.9), but that they should not live in sinful excess like those who had seceded from the church (1 John 1.6).
The first error that John combated was people teaching that Jesus had not come in the flesh. There is no explanation why they believed this, but it seems that maybe they were trying to defend God’s honor in some way. Maybe they were trying to make sure that no one would see Jesus as just human. When we try to defend God, we just cause problems. We should let Him handle His own character because He is perfect. The second error is that the false teachers were saying that it didn’t matter how they lived because they were “saved”. This error is still prevalent in churches today, and unfortunately on our campus. People are very quick to cry liberty, and not obedience to the Word of God, because they are “saved”.