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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

1 John 1

Verses 1-4

  1. INTRO:
    1. Plato said, We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark, the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. (Christian Medical Society Journal, Fall 1975, V. VI #4, P. 30)
    2. Book Overview: God is Light (ch.1,2); God is Love (ch.3-5).
    3. 3 main themes throughout: Light vs. Darkness; Love vs. Hatred; Truth vs. Error.
    4. Warren Wiersbe notes in his Outlines on the NT: The Spirit used John to write the gospel of John, the 3 epistles, & the Revelation. [Watch how they complement each other & give us the full picture of the Christian life]
      1. The Gospel: Emphasized salvation; Past history; Christ died for us; The Word made flesh.
      2. The Epistles: Emphasized sanctification; Present experience; Christ lives in us; The Word made real in us.
      3. The Revelation: Emphasized glorification; Future hope; Christ comes for us; The Word conquering.
    5. Throughout church History, often times “writings” were to counteract heresy that crept into the church! (E.g. Creeds & Councils) Here John was dealing with Gnosticism & Docetism!
      1. Gnosticism – Pagan philosophy in which “matter” was thought to be evil.
        1. Which led to 2 extremes:
          1. Asceticism (Flesh fasting) <-- --> Sensuality (Flesh Feeding)
      2. Docetism(Gk to seem) – Heresy that regarded the body of Jesus as an illusion.
        1. Q: What would this teaching do to the crucifixion account?
        2. He really didn’t suffer then! - The presence of the Son of God was just a masquerade!”
        3. Strongly refuted by Ignatius writing in the 2nd cent to the Magnesians (not milk of) who said, “Be fully persuaded in the matter of the birth, suffering & resurrection in the time of the regime of Pontius Pilate, for these things were truly & certainly done by Jesus Christ.”
      3. But really his letter is practical not a theological treatise(formal/systematic).
        1. Read 5:19 & 1:4. We’re believers; We’re under the sway; We can have joy.
        2. He lists cautions that will be detrimental to our fellowship & rob us of joy.
        3. How? - sin not confessed; lack of love to the brethren; love of the world; will cause us to loose our joy!
    3. He existed before the world began. (This he really drove home already in his gospel)
    4. THE EARTHLY CHRIST! (1b,2)
    5. John saw, heard, & touched the physical Savior.
    6. Umami - Taste is 1 of our 5 senses (Senses are the physiological methods of perception). For years we’ve had 4 main categories [bitter, sour, salty, sweet] but now Umami? A new taste? (Japanese word for savoriness; also brothy, meaty have been proposed)
      1. Well, John didn’t taste him, but we are to taste & see that the Lord is good!
      2. I also learned of supertasters, those w/a taste sharper than average. Women are more likely to fall into this category, as are Asians, Africans, & South Americans.
        1. Probably due to an increased number of fungiform papillae (FUN-ji-form pa-PILL-ay) (mushroom shaped projections on top of the tongue)
      3. John was a super-see’r; super-hearer; super-toucher.
    7. Though we cannot hear, see, or touch Jesus today…the apostles did, & we stand on their testimony!
    8. We have 3 channels of first hand knowledge that came to the Apostles!…Ears, Eyes, & Touch! - These were Touchable & Tangible Truths about the Historical Jesus!
      1. Ears we have heard.
        1. Wow! and what words they heard!
        2. The officers who went to arrest Christ were even amazed! - Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, "Why have you not brought Him?" The officers answered, "No man ever spoke like this Man! (Jn.7:44-46)
        3. Jesus said, But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. Mt.13:16,17
      2. Eyes we have seen, we have looked upon, we have seen.
        1. There is 3 main Greek words for “saw”. We find them all in Jn.20:5-8.
        2. John saw (Βλεπο-Blepo) Only indicates the object had impressed itself on John’s eyes.
        3. Peter saw (θεωρεω - Theoreo) To behold w/intelligence; perceive, or scrutinize.
        4. John saw (Οραω - Orao) To see w/understanding...& believed. (James Montgomery Boice; The Epistles Of John; pg. 27,28.)
          1. It is this last word(Οραω) that John uses 3 times in 1Jn.1:1-3.
      3. Touch our hands have handled.
        1. In the upper room Jesus said, "Behold My hands & My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me & see, for a spirit does not have flesh & bones as you see I have."Lk24:39
        2. Same word as handled in 1 Jn.1:1.
        3. These were Touchable & Tangible Truths about the Historical Jesus!
    9. JOHN’S PURPOSE! (3,4)
    10. John states 3 reasons for Jesus’ Incarnation.
    12. That we might experience the fellowship with both the Father & Son.
      1. This was God’s heart from the beginning (eg. Waking with Adam in the garden)
    13. Warning! Any “reconstructed Jesus” is no Jesus at all!”
      1. Don’t buy into, “Well I think Jesus was like this…” – We can’t depict nor describe any other historical figure as we wish!
      2. We can’t say, “I think Elvis played the Tuba; or that Johnny Cash always wore white; or that Abe Lincoln hated hats; or that Ghandi was Fat; or John Wayne was effeminate; or that Kobe Bryant is a short white guy that can’t jump!”
      3. As there is only one accurate way to describe any Historical figure, so there is only one way to describe the true Jesus.
        1. Any other reconstruction of him or revision of Him is absurd.
        2. We have to rely on the objective experiences that those around Him had.
      4. 2 Cor. 11:4[NLT] You seem to believe whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach about a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.
    14. Main point? –Any other Jesus, who was not “the Son of God in the flesh” could never lead to fellowship w/the Father & Son.
      1. We need this message today more than ever!
    16. That we might experience the fellowship with one another.
    17. A good definition for fellowship is: “The setting aside of private interest & desires & the joining in with another, or others, for common purposes.”
      1. It’s having things in common! (e.g. you might share American citizenship in common, or have coffee fellowship in common; or surf fellowship, bunko fellowship, or Wii fellowship in common)
      2. But John’s talking about that unique fellowship which is only for those who share life in Jesus Christ together!!!
    18. Fellowship has been described using 2 English words: Partnership (God & I working together)​​​​​​​ & Friendship (God & I sharing the lives of friends together).
      1. Note: the Horizontal & Vertical Fellowship!
        1. You must have Vertical Fellowship 1st (hold up 1 vert. finger) before you can have the Horizon Fellowship(+)…note they intersect at the cross!!!
      2. If one of God’s goals for us is this Horizontal Fellowship!
        1. Q: How can we be content with that which disrupts that fellowship?
        2. Q: How can we be content to win men to Christ; but fail to draw them into vital & visible relationships w/one another?
      3. Apostles Creed - “…I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN.”
        1. ​​​​​​​(communo sanctorum) “the communion of saints” – a fellowship of/with the saints.
      4. Christians, more often then not, could best be described like a hand full of marbles…rather than grapes! (i.e. constantly colliding & bouncing off one another)
      5. “Believers are not compared to bears or lions or other animals that wander alone. Those who belong to Christ are sheep in this respect, that they love to get together. Sheep go in flocks, & so do God’s people!” (Spurgeon; pg.70 Spurgeon at His Best)
    19. Fellowship Isn’t our modern day definition? [usually attached to food i.e. Food & Fellowship]
      1. Most churches even have a “Fellowship Hall!”
      2. It is much more than a Christian social activity. It is much more than enjoying food together.
        It is much more than playing games in a Christian atmosphere. Or chatting w/one another about events this past week.
      3. These are not bad, and they do “contribute” to fellowship. But in & of themselves they are not fellowship. The Biblical meaning is richer & deeper!
        1. Ronald J. Sider said, What happens when God grants the gift of genuine Christian fellowship? Deep, joyful sharing replaces the polite prattle typically exchanged by Christians on Sunday morning. Sisters and brothers begin to discuss the things that really matter to them. They disclose their inner fears, their areas of peculiar temptation, their deepest joys!!!
    20. Fellowship Is... Participation, partnership, sharing (i.e. true koinonia).
      1. It is to share together (i.e. joint participation & partnership) & to share with (in the sense of giving what we have to others).
      2. It is a relationship not an activity!
    22. That our joy may be filled to the full.
      1. To make your excitement complete! (Joy, that quiet inner excitement)
      2. It is an full & unshakeable joy.
      3. John the Baptist said, He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. Jn.3:29
    23. Fellowship w/the Father, & w/His Son; leads to fellowship w/other believers; which leads to Joy; which leads to enthusiasm & strength of spirit!

I want the whole Christ for my Savior, the whole Bible for my book,​​​​​​​ the whole Church for my fellowship, and the whole world for my mission field - John Wesley

Heb.10:23-25 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Verses 5-10

    1. GOD’S MORAL PURITY! (5)
    2. God is light - The nature of God determines the conditions of fellowship with Him.
    3. It seems so many Christians today are coming to the bible for personal growth rather than trying to understand the character & nature of God.
      1. Oh, personal growth should become a bi-product of that understanding.
      2. Example: What is the 1st story in the bible? Right, the story of Job.
        1. And what is his story about? Pain? And in it the secret steps to dealing with pain?
        2. No, it seems to teach...its about life & there aren’t any secret steps at all.
        3. It seems the 1st thing God wants to communicate with humanity is life is hard, & there is pain, great pain in life, & its not given any explanation.
          1. Rather, God offers to this pain, or this life experience, Himself!!!He communicates to us, He is God.
          2. And if He can do all Job says (read ch’s.38-41) then He could be trusted!
    4. John has sought to define for us who God is: God is Spirit(Jn4:24); God is Love(1Jn.4:8); God is Spirit (Jn.4:24); God is True (1 Jn.5:20); God is Light (1 Jn.1:5); Hebrews adds, God is an all consuming fire (Heb.12:29).
    5. If light is moral purity, then darkness is moral evil. God & sin are mutually exclusive.
      1. If God is light then fellowship w/Him is dependent on moral purity. (vs.6-10)
    6. OUR MORAL PURITY! (6-10)
    7. Here comes 5 conditional statements - “If”.
    8. Walk in the light = dealing honestly with sin.
      1. Salvation is a matter of life & death, but fellowship is a matter of light & darkness.
      2. If you lie to God, to others, & to yourselves, you will lose your fellowship with God & your character.
    9. For fellowship to be maintained with God, what provision has He enabled?
      1. Honesty & Confession of sin.
      2. Corrie Ten Boom made a keen observation about the futility of rationalizing our sins. She said, “The blood of Jesus never cleansed an excuse.”
    10. If men deny this provision, what can we conclude concerning them?
      1. We lie(6); we deceive ourselves(8); we make him a liar(10)!
    11. Here’s whats happening here...There are 3 different claims false teachers were making. Each moving a step farther from the truth.
      1. First false claim: that a person could sin & still be in fellowship with God (6,7)
        1. The question went, “Is it possible to live in sin & still have fellowship w/God?”
        2. Walk is a present tense verb. Commonly referred to as a person’s moral activity.
          1. In this tense then it draws attention not to a few dark acts, but a habitual lifestyle of walking in the darkness.
          2. The Gnostics believed that knowledge was the key to life & that righteous living was not important!
            1. Though Gnosticism is not a formal religion today many people claim to have fellowship with God, even though they live a life of sin. John taught religion w/o morality is an illusion.
            2. Can the crazy Belizean bird fly both in the dark & light?
      2. Second false claim: that sin is not a part of one’s personal nature (8,9)
        1. To claim you live in sin but that sin doesn’t affect your fellowship w/God is one thing. To claim that you have no sin is quite another!
          1. Note sin is singular, so its the principle of sin, or the sin nature.
            1. (i.e.) The heretical teachers claim to have been cured of their sinful natures because of their gnosis(knowledge).
          2. You deceive yourself, you’re out of touch w/reality!
      3. Third false claim: that the enlightened have never sinned (10)
        1. To claim you live in sin but that sin doesn’t affect your fellowship w/God is one thing. To claim that you have no sin is another. To claim you’ve never sinned is the most blatant denial of all.
        2. And its climatic ascension of would make God a liar!
    12. (7) If we walk in the light - what a true believers lifestyle is like.
      1. Again, walk is a habitual lifestyle of walking in the light of God’s revelation in conformity with His moral standards.
    13. We have fellowship with one another –
      1. Are there relationships that you could naturally deepen by introducing your spouse, friend, or family member to Christ?
      2. Are there relationships in which you realize your level of expected intimacy is too high since Christ is not a part of them?
    14. (9) Cleanse - The blood of Christ does more than forgive; it erases the stain, “it purifies us from all sin”(NIV). [pres tense shows that it’s a continual process]
      1. This is the answer, confession not denial is the answer to our sin problem!
      2. How confess our sins (plural).
        1. Confession is specific & particular, not general.
        2. It involves consciously calling to mind each sinful l deed, 1 by 1, admitting w/God that it was wrong, & then forsaking the sin.
          1. Prussian King Frederick the Great was once touring a Berlin prison. The prisoners fell on their knees before him to proclaim their innocence, except for one man, who remained silent.

            Frederick called to him, “Why are you here?” “Armed robbery, Your Majesty,” was the reply. “And are you guilty?” “Yes indeed, Your Majesty, I deserve my punishment.” Frederick then summoned the jailer and ordered him, “Release this guilty wretch at once. I will not have him kept in this prison where he will corrupt all the fine innocent people who occupy it.”
        3. Key >> Christians don’t deny their sinful bent. They acknowledge it & then confess to God specific sins as they are brought to awareness.
        4. Sin is forgiven, debt is released, stain removed. (what a great feeling when you save a favorite shirt that had gotten stained, & it comes out!)
    15. We said, if God is light then fellowship w/Him is dependent on moral purity. So what does moral purity look like?
    16. Is it a list of what you don’t do?(dance, drink, cuss) Is it a list of things that make you feel better about yourself, or better than other people? Is it based on whether or not a person behaves? Or, is it to make/keep you one with Christ?
    17. A god who says everybody can do as they please would be a bad god, a bad father, giving license for anarchy. Love creates rules, & forgives when they are broken. People would hurt themselves if they did anything they wanted. People do hurt themselves & others all the time by neglecting laws & rules….but what is the reason for morality???
      1. david indicated in Ps.23 God led him in the path of righteousness for His name sake! (Not for David’s sake, though it would benefit him; not for Pete’s sake; but for God’s sake!)
      2. The reason/motive is love for God & love for your fellow man.
    18. When you sin do you see it as breaking a rule of theology, or cheating on a lover?
      1. If you roll a stop sign you’re breaking a law against a system of rules.
      2. But if you cheat on your spouse, you’ve broken a law against a person.
        1. The 1st is impersonal, the 2nd extremely personal.
    19. Our morality then builds oneness & intimacy with Christ. Which in this relational setting becomes the bond/glue which holds our families together, our churches together, our communities together. It becomes the voice of love to a bitter/hurt filled world.
      1. Here’s moral ideas presented in the NT. They involve: loving our neighbors; being one in the bond of peace; loving our enemies; taking care of our own business before we judge someone else; forgiving debt even as we have been forgiven; speaking in truth & love; & protecting the beauty of sex & marriage.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on 1 John 1". "Bell's Commentary". 2017.