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Bible Commentaries
1 John 1

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verses 1-2

"Concerning the Word of Life"

The first sentence of John's first epistle actually covers the first four verses. There are great similarities between these verses and the first fourteen verses of John's gospel. The expression "that which was" refers to the Word of life and the characteristics exhibited by Him. The word "beginning" has a number of meanings in John and can only be understood by careful examination of the context ( 1Jn_2:7 ; 1Jn_3:8 ; 1Jn_2:14 ). The great parallels to John's gospel account make us believe the beginning referred to here is that of creation. The "we" of this verse would seem to be the apostles, who certainly heard and saw Jesus ( Act_4:2 ; Mat_13:16-17 ; Luk_10:23-24 ).

The A.S.V. has "that which we beheld" instead of "which we have looked upon." Both were trying to make us realize the meaning here involves more intense investigation than mere looking. Certainly their eye-witness account was not made from the viewpoint of a casual observer but of those who actually were able to touch the resurrected Lord ( Luk_24:39 ; Joh_20:24-29 ). Jesus' whole purpose in coming to earth was to open up the way of life to man by paying the price of salvation ( 1Jn_1:1 ; Luk_19:10 ; Joh_14:6 ; 2Co_5:18-21 ; 2Co_6:1 ; Joh_1:4 ).

The second verse of 1Jn_1:1-10 is actually a parenthetical statement expanding upon the thoughts of the previous verse. From all eternity, the Life had dwelt with the Father ( Joh_1:1-3 ). Then, that Life was made known, or revealed, in the flesh ( Joh_1:14 ; Php_2:4-7 ). John and the other apostles had seen Jesus and could testify as eyewitnesses ( Joh_14:8-11 ). To truly understand Jesus the Life, He must be seen as eternal in nature, having been with God in creation, then having taken the form of man and now seated on the throne ruling with the Father ( Act_2:25-36 ).

Verses 3-4

Developing a Fellowship With John, the Father and His Son

After the parenthetical thoughts of verse 2, John resumed the thoughts of verse 1 by emphasizing again his position as an eyewitness. It appears this epistle was written, in part, to answer those who did not believe God could take a fleshly form because, they thought, flesh was sinful. John responded with great emphasis on the firsthand nature of his account. The word "fellowship" comes from the Greek word Koinonia which Thayer says means "fellowship, association, community, communion, joint-participation."

John said his purpose in writing was to enhance development of such joint-participation between himself and the Christians addressed. Actually, such began when one became a Christian which made him a partner with the Father and His Son (compare 1Co_1:9 ; Joh_13:8 ; Joh_14:23 ; Joh_17:21-23 ). It continued as each experienced the blessings of his Father-son relationship with God and was manifested in reverent, yet joyful, worship at His feet. If they grew in their fellowship with the Father, Son and their fellow Christians, then their joy would be filled to the brim and so would John's ( 1Jn_1:4 ; 3Jn_1:3-4 )

Verses 5-6

God Is Light

The Gnostics John was likely dealing with claimed to be specially enlightened. The word gnosko means "I know." John proclaimed God as light and even said there was no darkness in Him. Of course, in the Bible light is used to represent righteousness, holiness and salvation ( Psa_36:9 ; Psa_119:105 ; Psa_119:130 ; Psa_27:1 ; Isa_49:6 ; Joh_1:9 ; Joh_3:19-21 ; Joh_8:12 ; Joh_12:35-36 ; Joh_12:46 ). In contrast to that, Satan is pictured as the prince of darkness, which stands for all that is evil ( Eph_2:2-3 ; Eph_5:8-14 ; Eph_6:22 ; Isa_5:20 ; Col_1:13 ). Our English statement "no darkness at all" comes from a double negative in the Greek which stresses emphatically God's lack of any darkness, or evil ( 1Jn_1:5 ; Jam_1:17 ).

The knowledge the Gnostics believed they possessed was a mystical one imparted to them specially. There were ascetic gnostics who tried to totally separate themselves from the world. The libertine gnostic believed he could participate in all kinds of evil without harming his pure knowledge. Thus, John took up a discussion of some who claimed to be in partnership with God, yet walked in darkness. The word "walk" describes the whole of human life or conduct. John says it is impossible to be in fellowship with God and live in sin. Christianity is not a mere mental exercise, but a belief practiced in one's life ( 1Jn_1:6 ; Jam_1:21-22 ).

Verse 7

Walking in the Light

The Christian's walk should be in the light. Woods says, "The verb 'walk' here ( ean peripatomen ) is present active subjunctive, thus literally, 'If we keep on walking in the light....'" The daily lives of God's children must be so conducted as to remain in the light of God's direction. Naturally, such living places them in partnership with God, Christ and all others who walk in the light of God's will. Thus, fellowship with Christian brethren is dependant upon fellowship with the Father and Son ( 1Jn_1:7 ).

Just as physical life is in the blood ( Lev_17:11 ; Lev_17:14 ), eternal life is in the blood of Jesus ( Heb_9:22 ; Mat_26:27-28 ; Joh_19:33-34 ; Rom_6:3-4 ). Christians are set free from sin and placed on the pathway of light by the blood of Jesus. So long as they continue on that path their sins, which are more evident in the light, are cleansed. The word "cleanses" is in the present tense just as walk is. So, those continually walking in the light rejoice in a continual cleansing from sin's defilement.

Verses 8-10

The Christian and Sin

Some evidently claimed to be above sin. They may have said, "We are spiritual and cannot sin." Today, some teach the doctrine of salvation by faith only, which likewise implies one's conduct does not matter. They effectively say faith sets them above sin. One who believes he does no sin is self deceived, according to John, and without truth in him ( 1Jn_1:8 ; compare Joh_8:44 ).

However, those who willingly confess their sins can find forgiveness. Thayer says the word "confess" means, "to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent...to admit or declare oneself guilty of what one is accused of." It is as if God listed the various wrongs one has committed and he admits his guilt. The confession here is to God just as the forgiveness is from God. Again, the word "confess" is in the present tense which would suggest the necessity of continuing to confess individual sins to keep on being cleansed. God has promised to forgive confessed sins and will be faithful in keeping that promise ( Psa_143:1 ). He is justified, or righteous, in forgiving sins because Jesus' blood paid the price. When God forgives, all guilt is removed.

Verses 6, 8 and 10 of 1Jn_1:1-10 begin with "if we say." The apostle appears to have been identifying himself with those who held to false doctrine to soften the blow of saying they were in error. In verse 8, it appears sin is considered abstractly, while in verse 10 John is speaking of specific sin as brought up in verse 9. When one says he is guilty of no specific sin, he makes God a liar. In Jesus' death on the cross, God acknowledged man's sin and sought to give him a means of pardon. God's word is the whole of the gospel ( Joh_5:36-38 ; Joh_8:37 ; Joh_12:44-50 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 1 John 1". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/1-john-1.html. 2014.
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