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Bible Commentaries
1 John 1

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

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Verse 1


WRITER: The Apostle John - Apostle of Love

DATE: About A.D. 90

THEME: The dominant term is "Little Children". Father children relationship is set forth in love. It is the most intimate book of the Bible in expressing affections, except the Song of Solomon. Sins of a believer are considered as sins in a child toward his father. John, the aged Apostle, appeals to (Greek teknia) little children, born, immature ones, to: 1) walk uprightly, 2) to fellowship with one another, 3) to avoid worldliness, 4) to avoid false teachers, 5) to walk together in truth and love, 6) to overcome the world, and 7) to know that they have or hold eternal life.

DIVISIONS: (Two Major)

I Children with the Father – 1 John 1:1 to 1 John 3:24.

II The Family and the World 1 John 4:1 to 1 John 5:21.

General Subject Analysis

1) The Incarnation (Introductory) 1 John 1:1-2

2) Born Children and Fellowship 1 John 1:3 to 1 John 2:14

3) Born Children and the Secular & Religious world, 1 John 2:15-28

4) How Born Children May Know Each Other, 1 John 2:29 to 1 John 3:10.

5) How Born Children Should Live Together 1 John 3:11-24

6) Parenthetic-How Born Children May Know False Teachers 1 John 4:1-6

7) Born Children assured and warned 1 John 4:7 to 1 John 5:21.


1) "That which was from the beginning," (Greek

ho en, means "that one" from (Greek arches) archaic, beginning, ancient the Saviour in the flesh,

John 1:1; 1 John 2:13.

2) "Which we have heard," John certifies that the testimony which he is about to give was based on a personal physical touch that he and other saints had experienced from the very beginning of our Lord’s life and ministry and by words they had heard from His own lips – John 5:24; Acts 4:20; Mark 9:9.

3) "Which we have seen with our eyes." John was to testify of Jesus things he had experimentally seen, with others. He had seen His holy life, His compassionate life, His miraculous deeds during His life and seen Him after His resurrection. Such was to be the nature of his testimony. John 1:14; John 1:20-31.

4) "Which we have looked upon " (Greek etheasametha) means which we have gazed upon with critical eye, scrutiny. Peter, James, and John (and other disciples) visually watched the life of our Lord and certified it to be real, genuine, 2 Peter 1:16-17; Matthew 17:1-5.

5) "And our hands have handled", literally, "our hands have touched". Thus John and other early disciples and apostles joined in offering testamentary evidence of the nature and genuineness of their Lord’s ministry, based on their senses of hearing, seeing , and touch. Luke 24:39; John 20:27-28; Mark 5:27-34.

6) "Of the Word of life", Jesus Christ is the audible, visible, touchable Word of Life, who cam e as God’s only begotten Son to show fallen men that God is real, touchable, compassionate, lovable, cares for all men. John 1:1; John 1:14; Galatians 4:4-5; 1 Timothy 3:16.

Verse 2

1) "For the life was manifested’ - the term (Greek he zoe) means the life of God, the Word -"Was manifested" means made to shine or break forth - God the Father shined forth into humanity in the person and through the flesh of Jesus Christ –Romans 16:25-26; 1 Timothy 3:16.

2) "And we have seen it, and bear witness," John declares that in Jesus he and the other early apostles and disciples had seen The Life of God – Divine and sinless life - shine forth or break forth. Hebrews 1:2-3.

3) "And shew unto you that eternal life" Even to you and me, persons addressed by John, eternal life, God life is to be recognized. 1 John 2:25; John 14:9.

4) "Which was with the Father, ’ The kind of life innate (Eternal life) in God the Father, was also in Jesus Christ the Son, and is given to every believer, when he believes. John 5:26 declares that "as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself." And this eternal life He gives to every Child of His. John 10:27-30; John 5:24.

5) "And was manifested unto us" John asserts That supernatural, eternal, divine life was inherent - self existent in God the Father, manifested or shined forth in Jesus Christ, and had shined forth upon, unto, and within the life and experiences of the apostles and disciples. The testamentary and necessary interference therefore indicates, that to us this eternal life may too be manifested, experimentally, John 1:1-2; John 1:4; John 1:9; Matthew 5:15-16.

Verse 3

1) "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you " John rectifies, to remove any doubt, that the things he was writing about Jesus Christ, had been incontestably seen, heard, and affirmed by both him and other brethren of the Lord. The term "declare" comes from (Greek angelos) and means "we bear or bring to you this testimony as a minister from God."

2) "That ye also may have fellowship with us": (Greek hina) means "in order or so that" - ye may have a "Common ministry or testimony" and work in close association with us. (Greek koinonian). This desire of John shows the unselfish concern he had for the spiritual welfare of others, Philippians 2:4; Romans 1:13-16.

3) "And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." Through faith in Jesus Christ, John asserts that he and the early disciples and apostles of our Lord had a common fellowship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. When one is born into the family of God he receives eternal life, that very life in nature and kind, that God the Father and Son have, John 17:21; Romans 8:14; Romans 8:16.

Verse 4

1) "And these things write we unto you." The "these things" John was about to write were things concerning a) The Incarnation of Jesus Christ, b) The Divine Life, eternal life, He had given to His children, c) The fellowship, joy and love to be shared by brethren in Him, and d) warnings against worldliness and false prophets.

2) "That Your joy may be full" as our Lord spoke final loving words to His church that their joy might be full, so John the beloved apostle wrote this letter to the Lord’s immature "Little Children," (Greek teknia) that their joy might be full, John 15:11; John 16:24; 1 Peter 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:16; Philippians 4:4.


Adoniram Judson went as a missionary to Burma. He so burned with the desire to preach the gospel before he had learned the language that he walked up to a, Burman and embraced him. The man went home and reported that he had seen an angel. The living Christ was so radiant in Mr. Judson’s countenance that men called him Mr. Glory-Face.


A bigoted Chinese who never could be induced to attend a Christian service went to a missionary and said, "I want to hear about your religion. I never have heard the words of it, but I have heard the laughter in your house and in the houses of my countrymen who have embraced your faith. And if you have anything that makes people so joyous I want it." One great need in all lands is for more glad Christians.

Record of Christian Work

Verse 5

1) "This then is the message," (Greek Kai aute) means "this even or also is" (Greek he angelia) the angelic report (message). The story Jesus brought from the Father, concerning His nature and attributes, is angelic.

2) "Which we have heard of him " The term (Greek ap) "of or from him" indicates that the angelic message he is about to disclose had come audibly to him and other early disciples and apostles from the very ’throne of God, Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5. God audibly spoke to John and early disciples to "hear ye him", Hebrews 1:3.

3) "And declare unto you", (Greek Kai anangelomen) means "we also (Angelic-like) announce to you". Thus John asserts that this letter is of divine inspiration. Not mere human council.

4) "That God is light," (Greek hoti ho theos) that the Elohim-trinitarian God-is "light" in His essential being - as light is indefinable and incomprehensible, so is God - What God, the trinity was, Jesus became in the flesh – Hebrews 1:3 "the express image of His being" the light of the world. John 3:20-21; 1 Timothy 6:16.

5) "And in him is no darkness at all." As "the express image" of God from heaven to the world, Jesus audibly declared Himself to be "the light of the world," and further asserted audibly that anyone following Him would not walk in darkness, John 8:12. He is even the believer’s light and life to drive darkness from the shadow-valley of death, hallelujah! Psalms 23:4. This message of eternal life and light is good in death!

Verse 6

1) "If we say" - Greek ean eipomen) If we should say -conditional of possibility.

2) "That we have fellowship with him," that we have or hold a (Greek Koinonian) common-of-kind fellowship (Greek met) in close association with him God the Father, 1 John 2:9-11.

3) "And walk in darkness" and (Greek peripatomen) meaning "putter around" or walk in circles of darkness, in gray areas of morality.

4) "We lie", Concerning such a claim John asserted that such conduct would even involve him, and other early apostles and disciples, in hypocritical claims of bearing false testimony, Galatians 5:25.

5) "And do not the truth ’ " - the phrase "do not" means "are not doing" the truth - what the body of truth, the Word of God sanctions. The one who claims fellowship with God, even if it is me, John writes, but does not walk like Jesus walked, is walking and talking a living, progressive lie. John 8:39-44

Verse 7

1) "But if we walk in the light." In contrast with the shady - or darkness manner of walk, one should circumnavigate, walk around, deport himself in the light, showing that he has the "light-nature" from God.

2) "As he is in the light ’ (Greek hos autos estin en to foti) means as He exists (Greek estin) continually in the light. Neither God nor His Son ever exists in essence of nature of being in darkness nor does a deed of darkness. Neither should His little children.

3) "We have fellowship one with another." Children of God with the light-nature of God, manifesting it thru upright conduct, offer thereby a continuing basis for common, mutual, fellowship with each other. Every believer who walks uprightly should find a common-kind of light-nature-fellowship with other believers. (Psalms 133:1; Hebrews 13:1). Believers may have fellowship with other upright walking believers outside of church fellowship.


A happy Christian one day met an Irish peddler, and said to him, "It’s a grand thing to be saved." "Aye," said the peddler, "It is. But I know something better than that." "Better than being saved?" asked the other. "What can you possibly know better than that?" "The companionship of the Man who has saved me," was the reply. The companionship of Jesus! - we may all have it.

- Selected

4) "And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." The believer who walks "in the light" and daily confesses his sins has the Divine pledge of daily cleansing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Matthew 6:11-12; Hebrews 7:25 indicates that Jesus is before the throne of God ever living to make intercessions, offer pardon and forgiveness for confessed sins to Him and the father, on the basis of His shed blood. He is the believer’s advocate by whom he may receive daily forgiveness and escape chastisement, 1 John 2:1-2.

Verse 8

1) "If we say that we have no sin". John includes himself in this hypothetical affirmation. "If we (subjunctive) should say, affirm, or claim" "that (a) sin not we (Greek echomen) have, hold, contain or embrace"; this affirms at least an abiding sin nature or disposition exists in every Child of God. Romans 7:17-18; Romans 7:20-21; Romans 7:23.

2) "We deceive ourselves" (Greek heautous) "Ourselves, you and I", (Greek planomen), "we deceive or delude" - we stick our head in the sand, like an ostrich; we pull the wool over our own eyes; we look the other way, like the man with a beam in his eye who tries to detect a speck in the eye of another, Matthew 7:3-5.

3) "And the truth is not in us". Anyone claiming not to have, hold, contain or embrace sin in him, his old nature, old man, is a self -deceiver. And concerning his claim to have no sin John asserts the claimant doesn’t tell the truth. His relatives know he doesn’t tell the truth; his acquaintances know he doesn’t tell the truth; the devil knows he doesn’t tell the truth and John wanted these "little children", believers, to recognize that they still had the old nature of sin continually present to incite them to thoughts, words, and deeds of wrong.

Verse 9

1) "If we confess our sins". While every believer has the sin nature, every believer also commits daily sins - For even "the thought of foolishness", and "idle words" are sin, need confessing. (Proverbs 24:9; Matthew 12:36). One who tries to hide, conceal or cover up his sins shall not prosper, but each who confesseth them "shall be blessed". Proverbs 28:13; James 5:16.

2) "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." (Gk. pistos estin) means "a faithful one he (Jesus) is," and (dikaios) - righteous - (Gk. hina) means "in order that" He might forgive or bear away our sins - as the fit one, our scapegoat, Leviticus 16:21-22; Romans 3:24-25; 2 Corinthians 5:21.

3) "And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". (Greek Kai Katharise) means his faithfulness and unrighteousness, qualified him to cleanse, purify, (cauterize) us believers from (Greek pases) all kinds of unrighteousness. Let every "little child", therefore, approach the throne of God boldly seeking pardon and cleansing. When one feels need of water he seeks or asks for it; food or clothes, for hunger or cold, he seeks or asks for it. May every believer humbly approach the throne of Grace for pardon and he shall find it. Hebrews 4:16. There is mercy, pardon, and forgiveness when one falls at the Master’s feet. John 8:11; Luke 7:37-50.


It is said that Vanderbilt, multimillionaire, asked as he neared death a faithful Negro servant, to come to his bedside and sing the old gospel hymn, "Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy". The Negro put much feeling and pleading pathos into the hymn.

At the conclusion of the hymn, Vanderbilt said, "I’m a poor and needy sinner!" Such are all of us in God’s sight whether we be penniless paupers or multimillionaires.

W. B. K.

Verse 10

1) "If we say that we have not sinned". John offers a supposition, a hypothetical suggestion, that if he and other early apostles and disciples should say that they had not sinned, such a claim would be untrue, out of the realm of revealed and experimental truth, 1 Kings 8:46; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23. Concerning such a claim one does not tell the truth.

2) "We make him a liar." We, in disclaiming acts of personal sin, would make God to be, or appear to be a liar, prevaricator, falsifier. Yet, Romans 3:4 reads, "Let God be true (found true) but every man a Iiar." John 3:33 asserts that "God is true".

3) "And his word is not in us". (Greek Kai ho logos autou ouk estin en hemin) means "His reasoning (Word) is not in us" as we make such lying claims. Every child of God does sin, needs to confess his sins daily Matthew 6:12. His Word is true "from the beginning", and He "cannot lie". Ps 119-160; Hebrews 6:18.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 John 1". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-john-1.html. 1985.
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