This passage occurs in the Narrative Lectionary Summer readings (most recently 2014). It also occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary Easter (Year B) readings.
Separate note: I had so much commentary, I divided this up into two posts: 1 John 1:1-4 and this post.
Summary: This verse has a great verse (1 John 1:9) within some much more difficult verses about blood and sacrifice. One could try to unpack the atonement theories of 1 John based on OT metaphors. I think an easier and more helpful way is to think less about how the cross/blood/death actually accomplish this end and more what they actually accomplish. I say this not simply because this is easier, but because I think 1 John is a study, not in the mechanics of justification, but in what forgiveness in Jesus offers us: light, fellowship, and love. These are juxtaposted, not with hell and wrath, but with darkness, isolation and fear, something that the people in my congregation experience all the time.
κοινωνια ("fellowship", 1.6) This word has an intense meaning in the New Testament. It ranges from
- sharings of money (2 Cor 9:13; Romans 15:26; Hebrews 13:16)
- sharings of a common spirit (2 Cor 13:13 original Trinitarian formula; Philippians 2:1)
- sharings of Christ and his suffering (Philippians 3:10; 1 Cor 10:16)
It is a reminder that fellowship is not a diluted term in this passage or anywhere in the New Testament. A look at the related noun κοινωνος (partner) reveals something similar.
αιμα ("blood"; think "hema" like "hematology"; 1.7) The blood cleanses us from sin. This is a tough one to wrap our minds around because we think of blood as very "dirty", certain not sterile and definitely not cleansing. Is there a way to recover this ancient way of thinking of blood?
ινα ("so that", 1:9) I remember back in Seminary one of my professors made a very, very big deal about how to translate this word. The basic argument in this verse is that ινα cannot be translated, "with the result" and must be translated, "for the purpose of." I do not think that argument is instructive here because there isn't a difference in God's purposes and God's results when it comes to forgiveness of the sinner.
In verses 2:1-2, Jesus is called three titles:
δικαινος ("righteous one", 2.1) This is simply a good title for Jesus. The question is, what does Jesus righteousness mean for you and for me?
παρακλετος ("advocate", 2.1) How Jesus and the Spirit are both called "advocates" are tough. Interestingly, in the Gospel of John, when Jesus promises the advocate, John 14:16, he promises ANOTHER advocate, suggesting that he already was an advocate for us.
In the Gospel of John, the advocate seems more like a prayer partner, counseling us through sufferings. In this case, the idea almost seems more legalistic, like one who is defending us before God's judgment. Interestingly though, God's wrath is never mentioned in 1 John. Judgment exists, but there isn't necessary a hell. Simply darkness, isolation and fear. Jesus seems to be reconciling us, in spite of our sins, back to the Father, back to light, back to fellowship and back to love.
ιλασμος ("atonement", 2:2) Discussing the entire meaning of atonement is well, well beyond the meaning of this passage here. But I want to point out that this word here is the one connected to Leviticus, Romans. Furthermore, as BDAG says about this word, "The unique feature relative to Gr-Rom usage is the initiative taken by God to effect removal of impediments to a relationship with God's self." ιλαστηριον definition.