The Writer's Authority as an Eyewitness to the
Gospel Facts, Having Seen, Heard, and Handled Him Who Was from the
Beginning: His Object in Writing:
His Message. If
We Would Have Fellowship with Him, We
Must Walk in Light, as He Is Light.
1. Instead of a formal, John adopts a virtual
address (compare 1Jo 1:4). To
wish joy to the reader was the ancient customary address. The
sentence begun in 1Jo 1:1 is
broken off by the parenthetic 1Jo 1:2, and is resumed at 1Jo 1:3 with the repetition of some words from
That which was—not "began to be," but
was essentially (Greek, "een," not
"egeneto") before He was manifested (1Jo 1:2); answering to "Him that is from the
beginning" (1Jo 2:13); so
John's Gospel, Joh 1:1, "In
the beginning was the Word." Pr 8:23, "I
was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the
heard … seen … looked upon …
handled—a series rising in gradation. Seeing is a more
convincing proof than hearing of; handling, than even
seeing. "Have heard … have seen" (perfect
tenses), as a possession still abiding with us; but in
Greek (not as English Version "have," but simply) "looked
upon" (not perfect tense, as of a continuing thing, but aorist,
past time) while Christ the incarnate Word was still with us.
"Seen," namely, His glory, as revealed in the Transfiguration and in
His miracles; and His passion and death in a real body of flesh and
blood. "Looked upon" as a wondrous spectacle steadfastly, deeply,
contemplatively; so the Greek. Appropriate to John's
hands … handled—Thomas and the
other disciples on distinct occasions after the resurrection. John
himself had leaned on Jesus' breast at the last supper. Contrast the
wisest of the heathen feeling after (the same Greek as
here; groping after WITH THE
HANDS") if haply they might find God (see Ac 17:27). This proves against Socinians he is
here speaking of the personal incarnate Word, not of Christ's
teaching from the beginning of His official life.
of—"concerning"; following "heard."
"Heard" is the verb most applying to the purpose of the Epistle, namely
the truth which John had heard concerning the Word of life, that
is, (Christ) the Word who is the life. "Heard," namely,
from Christ Himself, including all Christ's teachings about Himself.
Therefore he puts "of," or "concerning," before "the word of life,"
which is inapplicable to any of the verbs except "heard"; also "heard"
is the only one of the verbs which he resumes at 1Jo 1:5.
2. the life—Jesus, "the Word of
was manifested—who had previously been
"with the Father."
show—Translate as in 1Jo 1:3, "declare" (compare 1Jo 1:5). Declare is the general term;
write is the particular (1Jo 1:4).
that eternal life—Greek, "the
life which is eternal." As the Epistle begins, so it ends with "eternal
life," which we shall ever enjoy with, and in, Him who is "the life
which—Greek, "the which." the
before-mentioned (1Jo 1:1) life
which was with the Father "from the beginning" (compare Joh 1:1). This proves the distinctness of
the First and Second Persons in the one Godhead.
3. That which we have seen and
heard—resumed from 1Jo 1:1, wherein the sentence, being interrupted
1:2, parenthesis, was left
declare we unto you—Oldest manuscripts
add also; unto you also who have not seen or heard
that ye also may have fellowship with
us—that ye also who have not seen, may have the
fellowship with us which we who have seen enjoy; what that
fellowship consists in he proceeds to state, "Our fellowship is with
the Father and with His Son." Faith realizes what we have not seen as
spiritually visible; not till by faith we too have seen, do we know all
the excellency of the true Solomon. He Himself is ours; He in us and we
in Him. We are "partakers of the divine nature." We know God only by
having fellowship with Him; He may thus be known, but not
comprehended. The repetition of "with" before the "Son,"
distinguishes the persons, while the fellowship or
communion with both Father and Son, implies their
unity. It is not added "and with the Holy Ghost"; for it is by
the Holy Ghost or Spirit of the Father and Son in us, that we are
enabled to have fellowship with the Father and Son (compare
3:24). Believers enjoy the
fellowship OF, but not WITH, the Holy Ghost. "Through Christ God closes up
the chasm that separated Him from the human race, and imparts Himself
to them in the communion of the divine life" [Neander].
4. these things—and none other, namely,
this whole Epistle.
write we unto you—Some oldest
manuscripts omit "unto you," and emphasize "we." Thus the antithesis is
between "we" (apostles and eye-witnesses) and "your." We write
thus that your joy may be full. Other oldest manuscripts and
versions read "OUR joy," namely, that
our joy may be filled full by bringing you also into fellowship
with the Father and Son. (Compare Joh 4:36, end; Php 2:2, "Fulfil ye my joy," Php 2:16;
4:1; 2Jo 8). It is possible
that "your" may be a correction of transcribers to make this verse
harmonize with Joh 15:11; 16:24; however, as John often repeats favorite
phrases, he may do so here, so "your" may be from himself. So 2Jo 12, "your" in oldest manuscripts. The
authority of manuscripts and versions on both sides here is almost
evenly balanced. Christ Himself is the source, object, and center of
His people's joy (compare 1Jo 1:3, end);
it is in fellowship with Him that we have joy, the fruit
5. First division of the body of the Epistle
report in turn; a different Greek word from 1Jo 1:3. As the Son announced the message heard
from the Father as His apostle, so the Son's apostles announce what
they have heard from the Son. John nowhere uses the term "Gospel"; but
the witness or testimony, the word, the truth, and here
God is light—What light is in the
natural world, that God, the source of even material light, is in the
spiritual, the fountain of wisdom, purity, beauty, joy, and glory. As
all material life and growth depends on light, so all spiritual
life and growth depends on God. As God
here, so Christ, in 1Jo 2:8, is
called "the true light."
no darkness at all—strong negation;
Greek, "No, not even one speck of darkness"; no ignorance,
error, untruthfulness, sin, or death. John heard this from Christ, not
only in express words, but in His acted words, namely, His is whole
manifestation in the flesh as "the brightness of the Father's
glory." Christ Himself was the embodiment of "the message,"
representing fully in all His sayings, doings, and sufferings, Him who
have fellowship with him—(1Jo 1:3). The essence of the Christian life.
walk—in inward and outward action,
whithersoever we turn ourselves [Bengel].
in darkness—Greek, "in
the darkness"; opposed to "the light" (compare 1Jo 2:8, 11).
do not—in practice, whatever we
the truth—(Eph 4:21; Joh
7. Compare Eph 5:8, 11-14. "We
walk"; "God is (essentially in His very nature as 'the
1:5) in the light." Walking in the light, the element in
which God Himself is, constitutes the test of fellowship with Him.
Christ, like us, walked in the light (1Jo 2:6). Alford
notices, Walking in the light as He is in the light, is no mere
imitation of God, but an identity in the essential element of
our daily walk with the essential element of God's eternal being.
we have fellowship one with
another—and of course with God (to be understood from
1Jo 1:6). Without having fellowship with
God there can be no true and Christian fellowship one with another
and—as the result of "walking in the
light, as He is in the light."
the blood of Jesus … cleanseth us from all
sin—daily contracted through the sinful weakness of the
flesh, and the power of Satan and the world. He is speaking not of
justification through His blood once for all, but of the present
sanctification ("cleanseth" is present tense) which the
believer, walking in the light and having fellowship with God
and the saints, enjoys as His privilege. Compare Joh 13:10, Greek, "He that has been
bathed, needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean
every whit." Compare 1Jo 1:9,
"cleanse us from all unrighteousness," a further step besides
"forgiving us our sins." Christ's blood is the cleansing mean,
whereby gradually, being already justified and in fellowship with God,
we become clean from all sin which would mar our fellowship with
God. Faith applies the cleansing, purifying blood. Some oldest
manuscripts omit "Christ"; others retain it.
8. The confession of sins is a
necessary consequence of "walking in the light" (1Jo 1:7). "If thou shalt confess thyself a
sinner, the truth is in thee; for the truth is itself
light. Not yet has thy life become perfectly light, as sins are
still in thee, but yet thou hast already begun to be illuminated,
because there is in thee confession of sins" [Augustine].
that we have no sin—"Have," not "have had," must refer not to the
past sinful life while unconverted, but to the present state
wherein believers have sin even still. Observe, "sin" is in the
singular; "(confess our) sins" (1Jo 1:9) in the plural. Sin refers to the
corruption of the old man still present in us, and the
stain created by the actual sins flowing from that old
nature in us. To confess our need of cleansing from present sin
is essential to "walking in the light"; so far is the presence of some
sin incompatible with our in the main "walking in light." But
the believer hates, confesses, and longs to be delivered from all sin,
which is darkness. "They who defend their sins, will see in the
great day whether their sins can defend them."
deceive ourselves—We cannot deceive
God; we only make ourselves to err from the right path.
the truth—(1Jo 2:4). True faith. "The truth respecting
God's holiness and our sinfulness, which is the very first spark of
light in us, has no place in us" [Alford].
9. confess—with the lips, speaking from
a contrite heart; involving also confession to our fellow men of
offenses committed against them.
faithful—to His own promises; "true"
to His word.
just—Not merely the mercy, but the
justice or righteousness of God is set forth in the
redemption of the penitent believer in Christ. God's promises of mercy,
to which He is faithful, are in accordance with His
to—Greek, "in order that." His
forgiving us our sins and cleansing us, &c., is in
furtherance of the ends of His eternal faithfulness and
cleanse—purify from all filthiness, so
that henceforth we more and more become free from the presence of sin
through the Spirit of sanctification (compare Heb 9:14; and above, see on 1Jo
unrighteousness—offensive to Him who
"is just" or righteous; called "sin," 1Jo 1:7, because "sin is the transgression of
the law," and the law is the expression of God's righteousness,
so that sin is unrighteousness.
10. Parallel to 1Jo 1:8.
we have not sinned—referring to the
commission of actual sins, even after regeneration and
conversion; whereas in 1Jo 1:8, "we
have no sin," refers to the present GUILT remaining (until cleansed) from the actual
sins committed, and to the SIN of
our corrupt old nature still adhering to us. The perfect "have …
sinned" brings down the commission of sins to the present time, not
merely sins committed before, but since, conversion.
we make him a liar—a gradation; 1Jo 1:6, "we lie"; 1Jo 1:8, "we deceive ourselves"; worst of all,
"we make Him a liar," by denying His word that all men are sinners
(compare 1Jo 5:10).
his word is not in us—"His word,"
which is "the truth" (1Jo 1:8),
accuses us truly; by denying it we drive it from our hearts (compare
5:38). Our rejection of "His
word" in respect to our being sinners, implies as the consequence our
rejection of His word and will revealed in the law and Gospel as a
whole; for these throughout rest on the fact that we have
sinned, and have sin.