Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
1 John 1

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-4

Ιωαννου α in A. B. Ιωαννου επιστολη α Cod. Sin. al. [other Codd. read επιστολη Ιωαννου τρωτη; l. r. Ιωαννου του αποστολου επιστολη καθολικη πρωτη.—M.].


1 John 1:1-4


1That which1 was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of 2life; (For2 the life was manifested, and we have seen it,3 and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which4 was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3That which we have seen and heard declare5 we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship6 is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4And these things write7 we unto you that your joy8 may be full.


The exordium (1 John 1:1-4) describes in vivid and definite language the object and purpose of the Apostolical annunciation and of this Epistle.—The affinity of this exordium with the prologue of the Gospel of St. John is unmistakable.


The Gospel.

The First Epistle.

John 1:1. In the beginning (ἐν�) was the Word.

1 John 1:1. What was from the beginning (ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς.)

John 1:1-2. And it was with God (πρὸς τὸν Θεόν.)

1 John 1:2. Which (Life) was with God [with the Father] (πρὸς τὸν θεὸν.)

John 1:1-4. The Word (λόγος) in Him was Life (ζωή.)

1 John 1:1. The word of the Life (τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς.)

John 1:5. The Life was the Light of men, and the Light shineth (φαίνει)—

1 John 1:2. The Life was manifested, appeared (ἐφανερώθη.)

John 1:9. He was the true Light, who lighteneth every man, come into the world.


John 1:14. We gazed upon His glory (ἐθεασάμεθα.)

1 John 1:2. What we have seen with our eyes, what we gazed upon (ἐθεασάμεθα.)

Equally unmistakable is the difference between the two exordia; the prologue of the Gospel is a monologue, a testimony and confession, where the Apostle, soaring aloft like an eagle, is raised in calm contemplation above all the tumults of life; the exordium of the Epistle, however, is written in profound emotion under the impressions of a blessed experience in the past, and of the present in hearty sympathy with and tender anxiety for the readers of the Epistle; its address is eloquent, pathetic and lively.

In point of form this exordium differs from that of almost all the Epistles of the New Testament, and resembles only the exordium of the Epistle to the Hebrews; it is alike devoid of the name of the writer, of a description of the readers, and of the salutation. But even in the second and third Epistles, although addressed to individuals, and specifying their name or description, the name of the author is not given, his office only being mentioned (ὁ πρεσβύτερος).—As in the Gospel, so in the Epistles, John loves to suppress his name (John 1:35; John 1:40; John 13:23; John 18:15; John 19:26; John 20:3; John 21:20, and cf. J. P. Lange, the Ev. Jo., p. 63. 2). But although he does not name himself, the Apostolical office and vocation of the author are accurately marked; and although the readers are not even designated, his relation to them is made sufficiently prominent, so that we must say that the Epistle is written not only for them, but to them. But the salutation (χαίρειν) may be alluded to in ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ὑμῶν ᾖ πεπληρωμένη.

The structure, 1 John 1:1-3, owing to its liveliness, is not quite simple; it is repeatedly interrupted and has been variously given. The fundamental or leading word (the verbum finitum), is doubtless ἀπαγγέλλομεν, 1 John 1:3, which for the sake of clearness is appropriately placed between the object of the annunciation and its purpose. The purpose is simply and definitely indicated: ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς κοινωνίαν ἔχητε μεθ’ ἡμῖν. In defining the object, the Apostle seems to struggle for the right expressions, and renders it prominent in a double series of clauses, first, 1 John 1:1 : ὃ ἦν�’ ἀρχῆς—ἐψηλάφησαν; then 1 John 1:1 : περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς—ἐφανερώθη ἡμῖν. He marks it first according to its import and being, 1 John 1:1. ὃ ἦν�’ ἀρχῆς, in the second part of 1 John 1:1; περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς, and 1 John 1:2, ἡ ζωή ἡ αἰώνιος ἥτις ἦν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα, and then according to its manifestation, 1 John 1:1 : ὃ ἑωράκαμεν—ἐψηλάφησαν, 1 John 1:2 : ἐφανερώθη—ἡμῖν, or first according to its mysterious sublimity and fulness, and then according to the manifold internal relations in which it stood and stands to John and his associates. The Apostle, while strongly marking the object of the Apostolical annunciation after the first series of relative clauses by περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς, takes occasion to introduce with the Genitive ζωῆς a parenthesis, 1 John 1:2, which concludes with ἐφανερώθη ἡμῖν, and cannot be resolved or broken up. This constrains him to connect the sentence, thus interrupted by the parenthesis, with what goes before by ὃ ἑωράκαμεν καὶ�, and so that, as the sentence begins with a relative, now that the object has been distinctly defined by περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς, it also concludes with a relative. We have therefore here no period with protasis and apodosis, but a simple sentence, much enlarged indeed and interrupted by long parentheses, the structure of which however is plain enough and does not allow any other construing.

The Object Of The Apostolical Annunciation. 1 John 1:1-3 a

a. The First Series of Clauses.

1 John 1:1

1 John 1:1. What was from the beginning.—The opening words remind us of John 1:1 : “In the beginning was the Word,” and of Genesis 1:1 : “In the beginning God created.” Not the moment of creation, but the purely eternal existence until the beginning of the world and its history. The word ἀρχή must always be defined by the context, e.g., in 1 John 2:7 : “Ye had from the beginning,” the beginning denotes the time when they became Christians, in 1 John 3:8, “the devil sinneth from the beginning,” i.e., from the time when he became the devil, which happened immediately after the creation of the world; in 1 John 2:13-14 : “Ye have known him that is from the beginning,” i.e., from eternity, Jesus Christ.—The beginning of the devil dates from the creation of the world (1 John 3:8), the beginning of faith lies in the life of the readers themselves (1 John 2:7), and the beginning here and at 1 John 2:13, denotes eternity before the creation of the world. The sense is clear from the parallel sentence, 1 John 1:2, “ἦν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα,” and corresponds with πρὸ πάντων Colossians 1:17, πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου Ephesians 1:4, πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι John 17:5, or with ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:26. But ἀπό does not equal πρὸ, nor is ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς equal to ἐν�, John 1:1.—In the Gospel the Apostle describes and considers the Existence of the Logos with the Father before the Creation, and then proceeds to denote His agency in the creation; but here the Apostle passes from the Existence of the Logos to His manifestations in history. He was therefore before the world was, and He was, before He appeared in history [i.e., before His incarnation.—M.]. The Apostle looks back from his personal experience to the eternity from whence He came; His eye travels over thousands of years from the beginning to the time of His personal experience. As He became not the Logos when He became man, so He became not [began to exist—M.] when the world was made, began to exist. The reference is consequently not to the μυστήριον Θεοῡ (Theophylact, Oecumen.), or to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Socinus), or to the res a Deo destinatæ (Grotius).—The simplest explanation of the designation of the personal Logos by the Neuter ὃ, is the supposition that the Apostle, moved by the mysterious sublimity and the fulness of essential [belonging to the Being or Essence of Christ—M.] glory (which will not be fully recognized and known before His ultimate revelation in His second advent, 1 John 3:2 : καθώς ἐστι), writes with a soaring sense of indefiniteness, and views the Person to whom he refers at the same time as the principle of the world and its history, although this does not pass into a reflecting consciousness [sic in German.—M.]. Similarly τὸ κατέχον precedes ὁ κατέχων in 2 Thessalonians 2:6; similar terms may also be seen in Luke 1:35; John 3:6; John 6:37; Hebrews 7:7; 1 Corinthians 1:27 sq.; Colossians 1:26; 1 John 5:4. The reference is consequently not to abstraction, the Word of Life, the Life (Huther), or to the connection of the Person of Jesus with His history and doctrine (Lücke Ebrard), or the taking together of His preëxistence and historical appearance (Düsterdieck), or to the mere designation of the Apostolical annunciation (Hofmann). [Braune’s explanation lacks perspicuity, and really seeks to combine the views of Huther and Düsterdieck, with the addition of a reference to the second coming of Christ; we doubt whether it will convince many readers, while Huther’s explanation, which we give in full, supplies a clear and natural reason for the use of the Neuter ὅ. “The Apostle points to the Apostolical annunciation, namely, the personal Christ, by the Neuter because he thinks of Him as ‘the Word of Life,’ or ‘the Life.’ The reference then being to an abstract (per se) or general idea, ζωή, the Neuter ὅ seems to be in place. The Apostle might indeed have used ὅς for ὅ, because this ζωή is to him the personal Christ; but considering that the characteristic import of Christ consists in His being the Life (not only a living individual) and that John, full of this idea, begins this Epistle, it was more natural that he should use ὅ than ὅς”—M.]

What we have heard—seen—gazed upon—handled is a rising gradation; hearing is the lowest degree of the climax, it strikes the ear from a certain distance, perhaps unsought for; with our eyes intensifies the word seen; seeing indeed may be involuntary, but the beginning of self-activity is already marked; gazing upon gives prominence to this self-activity [voluntary exercise of the sense of sight—M.], with the secondary idea of continuance; handled with our hands denotes the nearest and most direct intercourse. By “what we have heard” the Apostle naturally passes from the eternal existence of the Logos to His historical appearing; the λόγος ἄσαρκος becomes the λόγος ἔνσαρκος. He makes Himself known first and most naturally in the Word. Not what he had heard of Him in the Word of the Old Testament, in the prophecies until John the Baptist, but that he had heard Himself. “O cannot be another object than in the first clause; the same word, ὅ, is used in all the clauses, and designates the same object, the Logos; the perceptions and modes of revelation only differ. The Apostle had not only heard words of the mouth, words from human lips, but in such human words, and through them the speaker Himself, the Logos; not the Apostle’s ear, but he himself has heard, his soul of course through the instrumentality of the material organ of hearing.—He had seen, as he says, in order to lay peculiar emphasis on the testimony of his ears and eyes, with his own eyes, the form of a servant, the Son of man, but of course what lived therein shown forth therefrom in look and mien, in manner and motion; the soul of John, therefore, looked with bodily eyes into the Nature of the manifested, incarnate Logos. Hence again the same object. Indeed He says Himself: “He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father,” John 14:9 compared with John 12:45.

What we gazed upon—handled are Aorists, not Perfects, as just before. This change of tense is neither arbitrary nor inaccurate, but designed and wise. The Apostle had heard and seen in single moments; these are finished acts, facts with their effects; but now he intends by the use of these Aorists to point to the past as an expiring present, how he had ever and anon had continuous intercourse with Him in the most direct nearness and lively self-activity.—The verbs “heard” and “seen” rather denote involuntary perception, while the others, “gazed upon” and “handled,” signify voluntary, intentional perception for the purpose of making sure of the reality and nature of the Logos. (Huther).—The man Jesus only was gazed upon, His body only was handled, but through all that sensuousness the Son of God was recognized and felt, and His Divine glory perceived and experienced. We have, therefore, to deal with the same object throughout. The verb “gazed upon” reminds us of the language of John in his Gospel (John 1:14): “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we gazed upon (ἐθεασάμεθα) His glory;” the verb “handled” is connected with the words of the risen Saviour, Luke 24:39 : “Behold my hands and my feet that it is I myself; handle me (ψηλαφήσατέ με), and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have,” cf. John 20:27. John, who leaned on His bosom, John 13:23 : ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ, John 13:25; John 21:20 : ἐπὶ τὸ στῆθος, denotes thereby the most intimate relation, rendering shaking of hands and kissing proper, and thus places the real humanity and bodily existence of Christ beyond the possibility of doubt. “He patiently allowed murderers to handle Him, why should He not have suffered those who love Him to do the same.” (Pfenninger). Thus the Apostle marks here two things, first, the fulness of his perceptions, and, secondly, their authentication. Luther says correctly: “He multiplies words, and thus makes the matter great and important. We have, says he, looked and gazed upon with the utmost care and diligence; we have not been deceived, but are sure that it was not an illusion. He says this in order to make his hearers perfectly sure of the matter.” Thus both the glory of the incarnate Word, so difficult to understand, and the authentication of the testimony, so important in its bearing, are portrayed in such lively colours on account of the object.

b. The Second Series of Clauses.

1 John 1:1-3 a.

Of the word of the Life is neither an independent appositive addition to the preceding definitions of the object (Huther), nor governed by the last verb, ἐψηλάφησαν (Erasmus, al.), nor, indeed, by ἧν�̓ ἀρχῆδ (S. G. Lange, “What happened to the Word of Life from the beginning!”). It is the beginning of a new clause, parallel with the series of relative clauses as to matter (Düsterdieck), which terminates with them in ἀπαγγέλλομεν. That which before had been taken indefinitely as a Neuter, is here described for the first time as a Person. The Word of Life, per se, may stand both for the Gospel of Life and the Personal Logos of Life, and taken as the Apostolical Word, or the hypostatical Word. If it be taken in the former sense as verbum simpliciter (Bengel), the Genitive τῆδ ζωῆδ may designate the quality (Socinus, Grotius), like ὁ ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆδ, John 6:35, τὸ φῶδ τῆδ ζωῆδ, or the object (Luther: “we speak of the life,” Düsterdieck), as in 1 Corinthians 1:18 : ὁ λόγοδ τοῦ σταυροῦ. But this construction of περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆδ ζωῆδ is impossible, because it must be connected with ἀπαγγέλλομεν (1 Thessalonians 1:9 : περὶ ἡμῶν�); the construction with περὶ instead of the Accusative is designed to guard against the possible misunderstanding of making the Word designate the Gospel and not Christ. To speak the Gospel concerning, respecting the Word, although in the manner of a declaration, pertains rather to the province of science, is more the work of the theologian than of the Apostle. But grammatically it is inadmissible to infer from the parenthesis after ζωῆδ, namely from the words ἀπαγγέλλομεν τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον, that λόγοδ τῆδ ζωῆς is equal to said words, i.e., the declaration or annunciation of life. The Word, ὁ λόγος, the object of the Apostolic annunciation, must be, as in John 1:1, sqq., the original, eternal, personal Word, the eternal Son of the eternal Father, and fully accords with ο͂ ἧν�̓ ἀρχῆδ, with the sole difference that the neutrum becomes a masculinum, in order to bring out the personal character of the Logos according to His historical manifestation. On ὁ λόγοδ see J. P. Lange, The Gospel According to John, p. 38, sq., Germ. edition.—The Genitive τῆδ ζωῆδ is explained by John 1:4 : ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν. The Word has Life in itself, is Life Itself, and imparts Life to others. It is the true, eternal, primal Life, and this Life is the Nature of the Logos, but the object of the annunciation is the Logos Himself. (Düsterdieck).

1 John 1:2. And the Life was manifested.—καὶ adds in a vivid manner an explanation by introducing a parenthesis and interrupting the sentence; ἐφανερώθη recalls John 1:4-5, “And the Life was the Light, and the Light shineth (φαίνει) in the darkness.” The Life of the Logos appeared, was manifested, so that we may infer His Being and Nature from His Life, and thus acquire a knowledge of the Son. This epiphany is the immediate consequence of the Incarnation, of the ἐνσάρκωσιδ. John 1:14 : ὁ λόγοδ σάρξ ἐγένετο.

And we have seen—testify—declare.—Antithesis of John 1:5, “And the darkness has (Luther: had) not comprehended it.” The climax is: ἑωράκαμεν connected with ἐφανερώθη, he had been a spectator, but did not see in vain; for he became a witness through intercourse with the manifested One, and in his capacity of witness he fixes his eye on what had become visible, the acts and events which he had experienced: what he thus sees and utters is purely objective without reference to his hearers and their wants or relations, but in the interest in and for the matter itself. But he does not stop there; he now declares also what he has seen; he explains and applies at the same time; he unfolds in their fulness, and with a special interest in his readers, the thoughts and facts comprised in his personal experience. The objective is brought near through the subjective. Thus he joyfully recalls to himself that blessed manifestation, and is constrained to testify for himself, and to declare to others, that they also may have such an experience. ̓Απαγγέλλειν=καταγγέλλειν, Acts 17:27; and =κηρύσσειν, Romans 10:14, sq., cf. Matthew 28:8; Matthew 28:11; Acts 26:20. In John’s writings, ὁρᾷν and μαρτυρεῖν are frequently joined together, John 1:34; John 3:32; John 19:35; but the last of these passages, like John 15:27, is without an object, which, however, may be readily supplied from the context. The object of the three verbs is the Eternal Life (Oecumenius, Lücke, Huther), and not only of ἀπαγγέλλειν (Fritsche, de Wette, Düsterdieck). The life is called eternal, ἡ αἰώνιοδ, because it did not take its beginning in the world, but rather gave a beginning to the world and the life in the world. It is Absolute Life, the source and root of all life in the world, physical and ethical (Lücke on John 1:4). It was before it appeared, became visible; it did not become [come into being] perchance, when it appeared. On that account the Apostle adds ἥτιδ ἧν πρὸδ τὸν πατέρα.—The relative ἥτιδ is not=ἥ, but = ut quæ, hence, eternal life as which it was, that is to say, which was (ἦν) as such before its revelation in the direction towards the Father, not with, alongside of Him; it denotes not a mere juxtaposition, but a being together, having mutual intercourse; it is directed towards Him, turned to Him, longing for and leading to Him, according to its nature. It is not in the Father, but from Him, and hence directed towards Him. Here is asserted of the ζωή what John 1:1 predicates of the λόγοδ; in Him truly is such life, in Him also it has become manifest. Because John had just had such a lively conception of the Life of the Logos, he was able to begin in the Neuter, ο͂ ἦν�̓ ἀρχῆδ; for it is without the world, before the world, with and for God in the Logos.

And was manifested unto us.Eternal Life has appeared, and just now become manifest to us the Apostles. Thus closes the parenthesis with a return to the thought at the beginning, and it is because of this conclusion (ἐφανερώθη) that John resumes the interrupted sentence, the words “what we have seen and heard” being placed before, and, in consequence of the prolonged interruption, breaks off and drops the series of clauses beginning with περὶ τοῦ λόγου, and resumes the first series of clauses, in a brief and concise form. The object is the same as in 1 John 1:1.

The Subject of the Annunciation, 1 John 1:3.

On ἀπαγγέλλομεν see the notes on 1 John 1:2.

1 John 1:3 a. Declare we also to you.—Καὶ ἱμῖν places the readers of this Epistle alongside of other Churches who had heard the Apostolical annunciation; hence John, in using the Plural in the verbs from 1 John 1:1 onward and ἡμῖν in 1 John 1:2, probably did not only refer to himself after the manner of authors, but to himself and his brethren, more particularly to the disciples of Jesus and the Apostles; the opposition of ἡμῖν and ὑμῖν is only the opposition of the first Christians and the immediate disciples of the Lord, or the Apostles and the Churches formed by the instrumentality of the former, or founded by the agency of the latter. John is fond of including himself among the whole of Christendom, 1 John 1:6-8; 1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:1. But the comparison of John 15:27 seems to render it probable that John in this place speaks of himself as connected with the Apostles, the reference being to the founding and conservation of Christian Churches. He does not stand alone, but like him all the Apostles have heard, seen and handled, and bear witness with him.

Purpose of the Annunciation, 1 John 1:3 b.

1 John 1:3 b. That ye also may have fellowship with us.—The word also, καὶ before ὑμεῖδ after the preceding καὶ ὑμῖν, renders it very prominent that the purpose of the Apostolical annunciation is always and every where the same with all the Apostles in all Churches, namely: unity and fellowship. Fellowship with us is not the same as fellowship such as we have it, like us, with the Father and the Son (Socinus, Episcopius, Bengel); The position of the words forbids such a construction. It is rather the fellowship with us, the Church-fellowship of Christians among themselves.—Μετά (from μέσοδ, between, among) τινοδ denotes the circle into which one enters, consequently cöexistence, whereas σύν τινι signifies connection with, coherence (so Krüger). The Church of the first disciples, of the Apostles, is the primitive Church into which they must enter in order to partake [of its fellowship—M.]; mere connection with it is not sufficient. The Apostles are and remain the foundation on which we must take our stand (Ephesians 2:20), the mediators who must take us by the hand (Ephesians 4:11-12); they are the stem out of which the Churches break forth and grow like branches. All (καὶ) the Churches are to be in Church-fellowship with the Apostles.—ἔχητε is not: acquire (Fritzsche), nor does it denote progress (à Lapide [who says: “pergere et in ea, κοινωνίᾳ, proficere et confirmari”—M.]), but indicates simply permanent possession, constancy.

And our fellowship indeed is with the Father, etc.—καὶ does not connect with the preceding clause, so that also that which follows depends on ἵνα (Luther: and our fellowship be, so Augustine, Calvin, Grotius, Ebrard); for there is also a δὲ after κοινωνία [see Appar. Crit. 5:3:5.—M.]. The reference, therefore, is to a κοινωνία, here as well as in the preceding clause, hence καὶ ἡ κοινωνία ἡμετέρα; but this fellowship is yet another μετὰ τοῦ πατρὸδ, etc. The other stands, in some sort of antithesis to this; it must go beyond the former, and in it come to the latter, hence δὲ. Similar is the construction, John 6:51; John 8:17; Matthew 16:18; Mark 4:36; Luke 2:35. Winer, p. 393. We have here a separate clause, in which ἐστί must be supplied, which adds a new and somewhat different particular, as if we did read: καὶ ἡμεῖδ ἔχομεν κοινωνίαν μετὰ ψοῦ πατρὸδ κ. τ. λ., so that they have not only fellowship with the Apostles, but also with the Father and the Son. The thought itself forbids a close connection with ἵνα. The purpose of the Apostolical annunciation is not to effect a union with the Father and the Son, for that is the office of Jesus Christ, the Mediator. The Apostle insists upon Church-fellowship, and that is sufficient, because in it is the fellowship with the Father and the Son; a fellowship with God in Christ is not to be created from Church-fellowship; the Church-fellowship is not without the former, and the former is in the latter; otherwise the Church-fellowship would be no Church-fellowship, the Apostolical fellowship, no fellowship with the Apostles. Κοινωνία is a fellowship with the Father and the Son, so that we form part of Them and are personally united with Them, They are in us and we in Them (John 14:23), Their Life is our Life (1 John 1:6). Besides the Father, His Son Jesus Christ is particularly named, and thus the full designation of Him ὅ ἦν�̓ ἀρχῆδ, of the λόγοδ τῆδ ζωῆδ serves to show His identity with the Incarnate Saviour; and thus the conclusion is found. Cf. John 17:22-26. [This κοινωνία is one of essence and being, founded on the circumstance that its subjects are begotten of the same σπέρμα θεοῦ (1 John 3:9), and that the same power of a heavenly and glorified life animates them; so Sander. The definition of Zuinglius deserves transcribing: “De qua loquatur societate, quodque intelligat consortium, exponit; non qua homines hominibus solum pace, concordia et amicitia fraterna juguntur, sed qua homines Deo animo, mente atque adeo fide hic uniuntur indissolubiter et posthanc cum eo aeternum viventes. Hoc est quod Christus orat Patrem, John 17:0.”—M.].

The Epistle and its Design, 1 John 1:4.

1 John 1:4. And these things we write unto you.And not only connects, but continues, leads us further, and marks the next progress; the fellowship just described promotes joy, operates in the depth of the heart. Ταῦτα is neither what precedes (Sander), nor what follows immediately (Socinus), but the whole contents of the Epistle (Lücke Wette, Düsterdieck, Huther, Ebrard). John considers the Epistle with its contents as documentary evidence connected with the oral annunciation.

We write.—Although the personal relation of the Apostle to the readers is here more prominent than in the Plurals of the preceding clauses, the Plural is not used, after the manner of authors, for the Singular. John continues impressed with the convictions of the common Apostolical annunciation; he knows that he is in perfect agreement with all the Apostles, that he speaks as they speak, and that their speech is like his; nor does he stand alone, but has his associates and assistants, like Paul (1 Corinthians 1:1, Παῦλος και Σωσθένης ὁ�; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; Philemon 1:1, Παῦλος καὶ Τιμόθεος; Philippians 1:1, Παῦλος καὶ Τιμόθεος δοῦλοι; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1 : Παῦλος καὶ Σιλουανὸς καὶ Τιμόθεος). Writing is indeed another species of μαρτυρία, coördinate with oral communication. Bengel:—Testimonium genus; species duæ: annuntiatio et scriptio; annuntiatio ponit fundamentum, scriptio superædificat.” The Epistle seems only to build up and perfect the life already existing in the readers. Düsterdieck.

That your joy may be fulfilled.—The reading ἡμῶν would make the joy of the Apostles over the Churches [i.e., joy, because their word yields fruit among their hearers. Theophylact: “ἡμῶν γὰρ ὑμῖν κοινωνούντων πλείστην ἔχομεν τὴν χαρὰν ἡμῶν, ἥν ταῖς θερισταῖς ὁ χαίρων σπορεὺς ἐν τῇ τοῦ μισθοῦ�, χαιρόντων καὶ τούτων ὁ.τι τῶν πόνων αὐτῶν�.”—M.]. So does Bede with reference to Philippians 2:2; “gaudium doctorum sit plenum, cum multos prædicando ad sanctæ ecclesiæ societatem perducant.” John 17:13; John 15:11 cannot be adduced in support of this reading; said passages, besides the reason already stated above in Appar. Crit. [1 John 5:4; 1 John 5:8—M.], may have suggested this reading. The identical language occurs at John 16:24 : ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ὑμῶν ᾖ πεπληρωμένη. To be sure, according to John 15:11 : ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ἡ ἐμὴ ἐν ὑμῖν ᾖ καὶ ἡ χαρὰ ὑυῶν πληρωθῇ, the joy of Christians is the joy of Christ, of which they had become partakers. For Christ has in Himself the Life, Life eternal, true, full, unobstructed Life, which is happiness and peace. Whoso derives Life from Christ becomes a convalescent, recovers health, the health of the soul, and that is peace and joy. Surely, he who is holy, must be happy, and none but the holy and sanctified are happy. If Christ’s high-priestly intercession (John 17:13) still continues the object and ground of great joy, it contemplates also the growth of joy in individuals going on to eternity, even as John remarks in a private Epistle addressed to a friend (2 John 1:12).—Hence Christ speaks of His joy, which shall become our joy, even as Christ’s Life shall become our Life through faith; hence χαρὰ πίστεως, Philippians 1:25.—Given is the joy by Him, but only like a grain of wheat, which must grow in order to become perfect and to yield fruit. But that which is to be perfected must exist. The perfection, however, is not instantaneous, magical or miraculous, but has its stages and maladies of development,—struggles—dangers; hence: ᾖ πεπληρωμένη. Now this takes place in the fellowship, both in that of the Church and in that with the Father and the Son; there, joy is not only a transient emotion, but an habitual state becoming ever more perfect. Luther (Schol. ed. Bruns.):—“Principium hujus gaudii est, quum incipimus credere; postea quum fides augescit meditando, docendo, studendo, tum fit plenum gaudium.” The reason why the Apostle dwells on joy (χαρὰ) rather than on peace, may be that at the beginning of the Epistle he thinks with reference to the readers of the greeting, χαίρειν, which, apart from the Epistle of Claudius Lysias to Felix (Acts 23:26-30), occurs only in the circular of the Apostles at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:23) and at James 1:1. [Wordsworth contrasts the πλήρωμα χαρᾶς with the πλήρωμα of the Gnostics.—M.]

[Düsterdieck:—“The peace of reconciliation, the blessed consciousness of sonship, the happy growth in holiness, the bright prospect of future completion and glory,—all these, are but simple details of that which in all its length and breadth is embraced by one word, Eternal Life, the real possession of which is the immediate source of our joy. We have joy, Christ’s joy, because we are blessed, because we have Life itself in Christ.” Compare the beautiful extract from Augustine, below in Doctrinal and Ethical, No. 7.—M.]


1. On the word λόγος cf. J. P. Lange on John 1:1, Vol. IV., p. 41, sq., of the Bibelwerk, German edition.—It is characteristic of John, and perfectly analogous to the Gospel, to start from the historical stand-point, John 10:1-3., cf. John 1:14, and draw the à posteriori conclusion of the Eternal Being and Nature, and then taking there, as it were, a firm position, to trace the epiphanies and operations of the Logos in the world, in time and among men. On this account the Apostle begins here, as in the Gospel, with the Prëexistence of the Logos (ο͂ ἦν�̓ ἀρχῆς ἡ ζωή ἡ�, ἥτις ἧν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα). He does not lose himself in the genesis of the Logos, like the Gnostics with their theogonies, but only dwells upon His Being, as ζωὴ αἰώνιος, in relation to the Father (πρὸς τὸν πατέρα). Hence we must not connect the λόγος and the ζωὴ as a (third) syzygy with Valentinus (†160 on the island of Cyprus), “that most profound, spiritual, thoughtful, intelligent and imaginative” Gnostic (see Gieseler, K. G., I., p. 155; particularly Kurtz, K. G., I., 136, sqq.). Eternal, true, full life is only the Being of the Logos, as it is the Being of the Father. But this Life He has not only in Himself as a possession, as John 1:4 : ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, but He Himself was truly and altogether Life, eternal Life in His Being (1 John 1:2), of the same Life-substance with God the Father, indissolubly united with Him, although different from Him in Person, there is nothing in Him which is not likewise in the Father, but He is self-dependent, turned to and belonging to the Father (πρὸς τὸν πατέρα).

2. Threefold is the mode of existence of the Logos: a. anterior to the world of time; b. earthly-human; c. glorified. The first is made prominent in the beginning of this Epistle: ο͂ ἦν�̓ ἀρχῆς, ὁ λόγος τῆς ζωῆς, the second is intimated in ἐφανερώθη, and in conjunction with the third in υἱὸς αὐτοῦ ̓Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ. For λόγος and υἱός are to be distinguished, so that the historical Christ is called Son, cf. John 10:1-3 with John 1:1; John 1:14. But in reality it is the same Person. The incarnate Logos does not become the Son of God, and this designation is not so much of ethical as of metaphysical import. He is called and is the Son of God only because of the relation essential to His Person, and of His eternal and ante-temporal relation to God.

3. The humanity of the Logos is referred to with marked emphasis, in the terms ἀκούειν, ὁρᾶν, θεᾷσθαι, ψηλαφᾶν, John 10:1-3. The Son of Man has become audible, visible, sensible to the children of men. His being ἐφανερώθη to the disciples was only brought about by His human nature, but so that He really σορξ ἐγένετο and ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν(John 1:14). He is perfect man. But His becoming man is not brought out as much, by John as by the other Apostles with reference to His humiliation, because John recognized the Divine glory in the form of the Servant, the Divine attributes in the form of His human appearing, sought their traces with peculiar love, and found them with a jubilant soul. John was more concerned with what the Son of God brought with Him, His eternal Life which He had in Himself, than with what He did assume, human flesh and blood. The Apostle sees in all the epiphanies and exhibitions of the Incarnate One, in all the humiliations of His earthly-human Being and Life, the Love, the Wisdom and the Power of Christ; he follows their traces with ardent attachment, and he follows them not in vain. He bears more testimony to the κρύψις than the κένωσις, but also more to the Lutheran intermixture [German: Into-one-another—M.] of the Divine and the Human in Christ.—Traces of the transcendency and immanency of God may also be found and proved here, and how both have to be held fast together.

4. Christ is the eternal principle of the life of men and of the world in general; He is the Mediator of all the activity of the Father exerted with reference to the world. The thought expressed in the Epistle to the Hebrews by φέρων τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτο͂υ is the fundamental pre-supposition of ο͂ ἦν�̓ ἀρχῆς, ζωὴ αἰώνις, ἥτις ἦν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα, κοινωνία μετὰ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ μετὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ ̓Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ, as well as of ἵνα—πεπληρωμένη. John, by the use of ἀπ̓ ἀρχῆς—, which, as opposed to ἐν�, John 1:1, within the beginning, points as a definite sphere, and as opposed to κατ̓ ἁρχὰς (Hebrews 1:10) along the beginnings, following the beginnings,—points, although fastened to a longer line, more than ἐξ�, John 6:64, out of the beginning as out of a fountain, to a source of history after the beginning—intends to mark the power existing in eternity as present and real in time and the course of history. [The peculiarly involved and occasionally obscure style of Dr. Braune will tax the patience of the reader, as it does that of the translator, who tries his best to express B’s meaning in idiomatic English. The last sentence was peculiarly difficult, but the use of dashes and other marks of punctuation will, it is hoped, enable the reader to catch the author’s meaning.—M.]. But it must be remembered that the Apostle is more concerned with the life of individuals, of the Apostles and of Churches, than with that of the whole world. Still what holds good in the case of individual man, the microcosm, must also apply to the whole world, the macrocosm. Christ could not be the principle of salvation to individuals, unless He were potent and destined for the whole world. Because in the creation He is the Mediator of the beginning of the world’s life (John 1:3) so also in the redemption He is of course the Mediator of the consummation of the world’s life. The earth requires no new suns, and mankind no other Saviour. The truth of Christ is the only and eternal truth for all nations and times. Christ is not a world-historical personage, like Alexander the Great, but the Living One that has the keys of hell and of death (Revelation 1:18).

4. 1 John 1:3 indicates the relation of Churchliness and Christianness, of Church-dom and Christianity, [I am not altogether satisfied with these terms, but they express as nearly as possible the German words, Kirchlichkeit, the quality of being Church-like, Christlichkeit, the quality of being Christ-like, or Christian, Kirchenthum, the state, existence or establishment of the Church, and Christenthum, the religion taught by Christ.—M.] For ἡ κοινωνία μεθ̓ ἡμῶν, the fellowship of the Churches with the Apostles and among themselves is Church, while κοινωνία μετὰ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ ̓Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ denotes the nature of Christianity. John insists only on Church-fellowship for the promotion of Christianness. It is Apostolical that the Churches should keep to the Apostles and their annunciation, and be united among each other without independentism, but it is equally and only Apostolical that the Christ-like or the Christian-like should be the basis and aim of the Churchly. The Churchly must ever be measured and adjusted by the Christ-like.

5. The Church is a whole, an organization embracing heaven and earth in the Church militant and triumphant, and in the Church militant all the different local Churches (καὶ ὑμῖν, καὶ ὑμεῖς, 1 John 1:3), and all the Churches of all centuries (ἀπαγγέλλομεν) gathered by the Apostolical ministry in general, with its continuous activity (Lücke). What Paul says (1 Corinthians 3:9 to 1 Corinthians 11:16; Ephesians 2:20 sq.; cf. 1 Peter 2:5) of the Church, that it is a building of the temple of God founded on Christ the corner-stone, or a body of which Christ is the head (Ephesians 1:22 sq.; Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18), is here also present to the mind of John, who, with a leaning to John 15:1, seems to think of a growth, in which the Church is the stem founded by Christ, out of which believers come forth on all sides like branches (John 17:20).

6. The Apostolical annunciation, ἀπαγγελία, presupposes an eventful experience from personal intercourse with the Redeemer, and is accompanied by the Apostolical writings (γραφόμεν). All information derived from oral communication must be strengthened, guided, cleared and completed by the written communication. He only is able to work for the Lord and the brethren that has lived with Him in intimate converse, to whom He did yield Himself and whom he did draw to Himself, so that he “cannot but speak the things which he has seen and heard,” (Acts 4:19-20).

7. Joy is the essence of Christianity. Augustine, Conf., 10, 22, says: “Est enim gaudium, quod non datur impiis, sed iis tantum, qui te gratis colunt, quorum, gaudium tu ipse es. Et ipsa est beata vita gaudere ad te, de te, propter te, ipsa est et non altera.”—The Christian faith does not move in a circle of different objects, thoughts, words and works, some of which must be done and others shunned; but it moves in that which it does gladly, and shuns that which it scorns to do. The Word and Life of Christ are as much the Christian’s element as air is the element of birds, and water that of fishes. The exercises of godliness are to him not charms against an evil, or the worship of God a slave-work, or prayer a burden. The godliness, which is kindled by the loving-kindness of God is true happiness and felicity. The fear of God does not bring to the Christian gloomy self-denial and renouncing of the world, as if the Christian’s life consisted solely in the suppression of ardent desires and want, but in joys which he experiences, according to the exhortation of the Apostle Paul in the Epistle for the fourth Sunday in Advent (Philippians 4:4): “Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say rejoice.” Or according to the Lord’s promise in the Gospel for the third Sunday after Easter (John 16:22): “Your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” Hence the reiterated monition: “Be not afraid,” and the promise of the Comforter and of peace. In the praise and love of God we have a token and a standard of true Christianity. Delight in the Lord (Psalms 37:4) with His creating, preserving, overruling, pardoning, atoning and glorifying (John 3:2) love, is the Christian’s duty and life. Only that he abide, and the joy or Christ abide in him, and that his joy may be full (John 15:1-11).


Seek Jesus and His light; all without that is unprofitable.—Seek in all your experience in time for that which is from all eternity.—Seek in all sensuous manifestations for the supersensuous kernel with its life, which continues to all eternity, even as it is from all eternity.—Nothing is more sure than that which is of Christ: He is from all eternity, and brings His own into the Kingdom of the Father.—Learn more and more that God is not only above thee, but in the world, not far from thee, but very nigh thee.—Speak of Christ only as His witness. Speak of Him, because thou hast known and felt Him within thee, not because thou art a preacher or a theologian, or because thou art baptized.—Do not despise Church-fellowship; it contains a blessing, even an eternal blessing.—Be not satisfied with thy churchliness (churchmanship) unless it make thee more happy in, and more sure of the Father and the Son.—Christian knowledge, like all science, is possible only in fellowship with the whole, especially in going back to the fountain-head in the writings and the testimony of the Apostles.—Holiness and joy are indissolubly united in the Christian, but impiety and lust in the worldly-minded.—Be ashamed, if for want of faith or courage, or even because of a desponding mind, thou dost not rejoice in thy Lord.—Be afraid lest thy joy in Christ and the Kingdom of heaven decrease.—Strive that thy joy in Christ grow fuller and fuller. Delight in the Lord is thy duty, in order that thy duty become thy joy and honour, not thy task and burden.—A Christian must be joyful, for his is the truth which maketh free, the righteousness that availeth with God, the liberty of the children of God, the peace that passeth all understanding, the joy that no man may take away, the Divine sonship and inheritance, the life which death cannot kill, and the happiness which endureth and groweth forever.

Starke:—Christ is Absolute Life, and our life depends upon Him, not only this earthly life, but also blessed, eternal life through faith in Him.—He that despises the word of the Gospel, despises also the Absolute Word of God, for Christ is the star and kernel of the whole Bible.—Christ liveth, and the believers shall live too. Glorious consolation! Mighty strengthening of our faith, in adversity and temptation and in the hour of death! Because Life and Light have appeared unto us in Christ Jesus, we should most diligently use them, for sure he will be without excuse that notwithstanding remaineth in darkness and blindness.—What shall it profit an unconverted teacher, to testify of Christ the Life, and to urge the people to receive Him, if he himself remains in death and in his life and by his works denies Him?—In order to be saved, it is not enough that a man know and believe Christ to have come into the world, but he must know and believe Him to have also risen and shone as the Morning-star in his heart.—The design of the Gospel is to lead men to fulness of joy, for God has not called us to sadness, but to joy.—If our joy turns sometimes into sorrow when affliction without and temptation within, as it were, threaten to take it by storm, we know, for our edification and comfort, that Christ will come again and turn our sorrow into joy. [Cf. Dr. Muhlenberg’s hymn, “I would not live alway.”—M.]

Spener:—Our life in Christ is eternal life, and out of (extra) Him there is no life; although hidden now, it shall be revealed hereafter.—The Divine word of the Gospel is given unto us for the purpose of restoring us to the fellowship with God, and it is therefore an inestimable benefit that it gives us not only the knowledge of certain truths, but actually bestows upon us the blessings which it announces.—The written Word of God is not less potent to produce faith than the preached word, and this Word the Apostles have left us as a legacy which may be heard and read at all times, and therefore we ought to consider the written Word as more sure and trusty than the declarations of men.

Lange:—In spiritual matters every man should for himself examine and understand the truths of God, and not blindly believe the report of others, lest like a blind man he be led astray and miserably cheated.—All human fellowship should be so arranged and constituted that it do not oppose the fellowship with God. We should regard the Epistles of the Apostles as Epistles of God addressed to ourselves, and know that they are most surely addressed to us in order that we may become, as it were, living Epistles of God, known and read of all men.

Besser:—There is no fellowship with the Head of the Church apart from the instrumentality of the joints of the Apostles. Those who are inserted in the edifice of the Church, rest upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ Himself as the chief corner-stone.—Out of infinite Love the Son of God became what we are, in order that He might give us power to become what He is; He became partaker of our nature, that we should become partakers of the Divine nature. (Irenæus.)

Heubner:—Christianity demands a solemn and deep contemplation wholly absorbed in Christ [or entering into Christ.—M.]; hasty and superficial looking and hurrying away is unprofitable; Christianity wants profound natures.—Christianity rests mainly on facts, as external revelations of God, in order that thus the Godhead may become visible to the sensuous man [to our senses.—M.], without any injury being done to its dignity.—The Apostles as such eye-and-ear-witnesses are also most sure and reliable, and it is impossible that their account of so many facts, their harmonious and many-sided account, could have been fabricated or be spurious.—These Apostolical writings compensate us for that which we can no longer see with our own eyes. We have, moreover, the testimony of the Church for those facts, for without them it [the Church.—M.] could not have come into existence.—The vocation of the Apostles was most philanthropic and beneficent: the design of their testimony and of the preached Gospel in general, is to lead all men to the fellowship of the same life which was enjoyed by the Apostles. The Apostles did not wish to keep their life to themselves, but loved to communicate it. The true nature of life is its impulse, wherever it is, to pour itself into others. The Apostles were to the first Christians, and are still to all Christians, channels and conductors to the Life Eternal; without the Apostles we should have neither Christ nor Christianity. The Apostles conduct us to it. Those who reject the Apostles and their testimony, cannot reasonably continue to discourse of Christianity; they have only left to them a Christianity of their own making.—Holy Scripture is a standing monument of history that may not be interpolated; it remains a pure and ever-accessible fountain; oral delivery would have grown more and more unreliable, the memory would have lost much, and our delight in the enjoyment of the Gospel would have lessened.—The evangelical history the most sublime history: 1. We will convince ourselves of it, it comes from God, continues in God, and leads us to God; and, 2. Lay to heart the conclusions we draw: behold the poverty of those who despise and neglect it! Give more attention and diligence to it!

Christian joy is from its very nature the highest joy. For,
I. a. Whence is it? Of God, of heavenly origin. b. What does it aim at? The eternal salvation of our souls. c. For whom does it exist? For all in the same manner (without exception).

II. (Conditions on our part): a. Acquire a thorough understanding of the truth that sin is our common misery, and that none can save us therefrom but Jesus Christ alone, b. Believe in Jesus, the Son of God. c. Animate this faith by habits of devotion.

The Apostolical testimony of the Word of Life.—1. How it is attested (as to its verification); 2. How joyful it is (as to its object: the Life was manifested, and as to its effects: Fellowship of Christians among themselves and with God).

The firm foundation of our faith.—It rests, 1, upon the Apostolical annunciation of the witnesses of Him who is the Beginner, Fulfiller and Object of our faith (1 John 1:1); 2, on its joyful object (contents, German) 1 John 1:2, which could not have spontaneously entered into any man’s heart; 3, on the testimony of the Holy Ghost in those who receive the word of faith from the lips of the aforesaid witnesses.

Spurgeon:—It is indeed written (Proverbs 14:10): “A stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.” The secret is with them that fear Him, and their joy no man taketh from them. But we would remind you of the proverb, “Still waters run deep.” The brook rushing over the stones dries up in summer, but the deep river flows uniformly along in freshets, or in heat and drought, and yet glides calmly through the fields. We do not speak or boast so loudly of our joys, as you do of your pleasures, because it is unnecessary; ours are as well known in silence as in lively company. We do not want your company to indulge our joy, still less the manifold condiments with which you try to flavour your joy. We require no cups, no banquets, no fiddles, no dance in order to be joyful.—Our joy does not depend on transitory things, but rests in the eternal, unchangeable Creator of all things. I know very well, notwithstanding all we shall say, the slander will continue that the children of God are a wretched people.—We have joy, we have delights, so precious that we would not exchange an ounce of ours with a ship-load of yours; not drops of our delight for rivers of your pleasures. Our delight is not tinsel, painted joy, but solid reality; our joys are such as we take along with us to our quiet resting place beneath the dust; joys which sleep with us in the grave and will wake with us in eternity, joys on which we may courageously look back, and which, therefore, we enjoy a second time in memory; joys also which we enjoy beforehand, and know already here below as the antepast of eternal joy and delight. Our joys are no soap-bubbles which only glitter and sparkle in divers colours in order to burst, they are no apples of Sodom which crumble in your hand into ashes; true joys are real, true, solid, lasting, enduring, eternal! What more shall I say? Joy and true piety are eternally joined together like root and blossoms, as inseparably as truth and assurance; they are indeed two precious jewels, set side by side in the same gold setting.”

[Sermons and Sermon-Themes:

Ch. I. II. Binning, Hugh: Fellowship with God, or twenty-eight sermons on the first and second chapters of the first Epistle of St. John. Works, II., 177.

1 John 1:1-3. Mill, W. H.: The Word Incarnate, the essential basis of individual and social Christianity. Sermons, (Advent, 1846), I.

1 John 1:3. The same author: The Word Incarnate in the totality of His exhibition in the Church, the true centre of Christianity. Sermons, (Advent, 1846), XXVIII.

Bradley, C.: Fellowship with God. Sacramental, 216.—M.]


1 John 1:1; 1 John 1:1. German [“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we gazed upon and our hands handled, of the Word of the Life.”—M.]

1 John 1:2; 1 John 1:2. German [“And the Life was manifested, and we have seen and testified and declare unto you the eternal Life, as which it was with the Father and was manifested unto us.”—M.]

[3][It, supplied by E. V., not necessary; it is better to construe ἐωράκαμεν, μαρτυροῦμεν and ἀπαγγέλλομεν with ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον. So Lachm., Hahn, Theile, Tischend. and Lillie.—M.]

[4][On the whole, the rendering of E. V., “that eternal Life which was with the Father,” is preferable to the German, and the meaning is clear without the adoption of the Greek idiom, “Life Eternal,” by Wordsworth.—M.]

[5] 1 John 1:3. [German: “What we have seen and heard, declare we also to you, that ye us; and our fellowship indeed is with Christ.” καὶ—δὲ; the καὶ adds something, and δὲ is slightly adversative, cf. 2 Peter 1:5, also Matthew 16:18; Mark 4:36; Luke 2:35; Acts 3:24; Acts 22:29; Hebrews 9:21; John 6:51; John 8:16-17; John 15:27.—Indeed or truly seem to bring out this slightly adversative sense better than again (Lillie).—M.]

Cod. Sin. has καὶ�. The first καὶ occurs also in Theoph. and Vulg. (Cod. Amiatinus; it may have crept in from 1 John 5:2). The second καὶ is found in A. B. C. Cod. Sin. has before this second καὶ an erased ι, as if ἲνα καὶ ὑμεῖς was to have followed forthwith; καὶ ὑμῖν seems therefore to be copied.

[6]Cod. Sin. has ὑμῶν after ἡμετέρα, but a disapproval in the margin.

1 John 1:4; 1 John 1:4. B. ἡμεῖς for ὑμῶν, [Cod. Sin. ἡμεῖς and ἡμῶν.—M.]

[8] B. G. al. ἡμῶν; so Vulgate with the variation, “ut gaudeatis et gaudium nostrum sit plenum.” Both ἡμεῖς and ἡμῶν have probably arisen from the μεθ’ ἠμῶν and ἠμετέρα of 1 John 5:3, [ἠ χαρὰ ὑμῶν. A. C. K. al. Copt.; Tischend.—M.]

[German: “And these things we write unto you that your joy may be fulfilled.” Wordsworth: “filled up to the full;” but fulfilled is better.—M.]

[German:—And this is the message, which we have heard from Him, and announce yon again, that God is Light and darkness in Him is none whatsoever.—M.]

Verse 5


1 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:28


1. Leading thought: God is Light

5This then Isaiah 9:0 the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you,10 that God is light, and in him is no darkness11 at all.


1 John 1:5. And is not like οὖν (igitur, Beza) or δὲ (Episcopius); for it is neither an inference, nor even a delicate antithesis; it simply connects with the preceding, as does καὶ—γράφομεν, 1 John 1:4, with ἀπαγγέλλομεν, and while ταῦτα points to the contents of the now opening Epistle, καὶ connects with the exordium, in which preparation is made for what follows, and αὕτη ἡ� points to the subsequent words [ὅτι ὁ θεὸς κ. τ. λ.—M.].

This is the message.—Contrary to the usual position of the words (αὕτη ἐστίν, 1Jn 2:25; 1 John 3:11; 1Jn 3:23; 1 John 4:3; 1Jn 5:11; 1 John 5:14, cf. John 17:3), ἐστιν is emphatically placed first to denote the existence and reality of the message. The poorly authenticated reading ἐπαγγελία is very awkward, the word denoting not annunciation (Oecumen., Beza, de Wette contrary to the grammatical usage of the N. T.), either here or elsewhere (1 John 2:24; 1 John 3:11; cf. var. 2 Timothy 1:1; Acts 23:31), and if taken in the sense of promise would have required here an enlargement of the thought. Calov: non jubemur tantum in luce ambulare ac mundari sanguine Christi, sed utriusque etiam gratia nobis promittitur, illius per Spiritus Sancti illuminationem, hujus per expiationis Christi applicationem; quia utraque fruimur per beatam cum Deo et Christo communionem. [Huther thinks that the reading ἐπαγγελία in the sense of promise might be justified on the ground that every announcement of the New Testament is fraught with promise, and cites Spener, who says: “Promise, as the sequel indeed conceals a promise. God is not only a light in Himself, but He is also the light of believers. And that is the promise.”—M.].—ἀπαγγελία, which occurs no where in the New Testament, as Socinus and Episcopius read, is an arbitrary correction. The outwardly best authenticated reading is strongly supported by the context, for it seems to rëecho in the following ἀναγγέλλομεν: the message of Christ is announced again by His Apostles. Erasmus: “Quod filius annunciavit a patre, hoc Apostolus acceptum a filio renunciat nobis.”

Which we have heard from Him.—The Apostle alludes to 1 John 1:1. He thinks of the first disciples, and more particularly of the Apostles. Hence both the ἀγγελία, the ἀκηκόαμεν, and the contents of the message: ὁ θεός κ. τ. λ̓.., suggest the reference to Jesus, the Christ; this is also rendered necessary by the preposition ἀπό, which indicates the Prophet-speaker, the Person of the Master, on whose lips the Apostles hang as hearers and disciples. John uses ἀκούειν παρά, John 8:26; John 8:40; John 15:15, but there it is the Father who speaks and the Son who hears; this (παρὰ) presupposes the nearness, the being together, and had to be used when the Son was hearing the Father, the other (ἀπό) denotes distance, and could hardly have been used in the aforecited passages; παρὰ points also to familiarity ἀπό only to derivation in general αὐτοῦ denotes, with reference to 1 John 1:3 : τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, Christ; the assertion that αὐτοῦ, as distinguished from ἐκεῖνος, which always relates to Christ, invariably refers to the Father (Paulus, Baumgarten-Crusius) is incorrect. The sense then is: From Him, the Incarnate Son of God, whom we have heard, etc., 1 John 1:1, we have received the message concerning God the Father (Düsterdieck, Huther). Socinus, who takes the relation of God and Christ not as conjunctio esseritiæ, but only as conjunctio voluntatis et rerum aliarum omnium, understands a Deo et Christo, i.e., a Deo per Christum, thus representing Christ as the mere mediator and not as the author of the message.

And announce to you again.—Next to the note of Erasmus, as quoted above, we cite the admirable exposition of Bengel: “Quæ in ore Christi fuit ἀγγελία eam apostoli ἀγγέλλουσι; nam ἀγγέλιαν ab Ipso acceptam reddunt et propagant.” ἀναγγέλλειν is not exactly = ἀπαγγέλλειν, the latter denotes to continue announcing [rather to bear tidings from one person (ἁπὸ) to another—M.], the former to announce anew, back, again, as in John 4:25; John 16:25, where, however, ἀπαγγελῶ is the more authentic reading. As our Lord conversed with the Syrophœnician woman as the Messenger of God Reporting what the Father had told Him before, so the Apostles report what the Lord had told them before (John 20:21).

God is light.—This is the substance of the ἀγγελία. But Christ did not say so, although He called Himself the Light, John 12:12; Jno 15:46; and speaks of the children of the Light (John 8:36), even as James refers to the Father of the Lights, τῶν φώτων, James 1:17, see the note above ad loc. But Christ, as the Son of God, is ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσες αὐτοῦ (Hebrews 1:2), and this it is which John and his fellow Apostles (1 John 1:1) had heard, seen and gazed upon, so that the sum-total and centre of the message of Christ, as well as His personal manifestation and revelation in the flesh, may truly be expressed in the words “God is Light.” Christ reveals this, but no philosopher is able to find it; without Christ the wise men of the world pass it by. It is not a light, as Luther translates, as if there were other lights beside and out of Him. The Being of God is Light. Neither is it in the light, as if it were only surrounding Him, nor as the Light. It is not secundum similitudinem (Bullinger), but secundum substantiam. Light is His garment (Psalms 104:2); Ezekiel (1 John 1:0.) and Habakkuk (1 John 3:3, sqq.) beheld the glory of the Lord as fire, pure and bright as lightning. He is not only the Author of light, to whom belongs His first creative fiat (Genesis 1:3), but the Father of all light (James 1:17), a mighty sphere of light surrounds Him (1 Timothy 6:16); and the marvellous light wherein Christians walk is God’s (1 Peter 2:9). This sentence is parallel to the sentence: “God is Love” (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16), with the same fundamental thought, although in the one instance the expression is figurative, and in the other literal, and the figurative expression lays peculiar emphasis on one side of the Divine Being, and this, on account of the antithesis in the following verses (1 John 1:6-10), is also holiness, perfect pureness, but not omniscience, as Calov maintains, although in Daniel 2:22 light is the symbol of the omniscience of God; it may include, however, the wisdom of God. [Alford:—“Of all material objects, light is that which most easily passes into an ethical predicative without even the process, in our thought, of interpretation. It unites in itself purity, and clearness, and beauty, and glory, as no other material object does; it is the condition of all material life and growth and joy. And the application to God of such a predicative requires no transference. He is Light, and the fountain of light material and ethical. In the one world, darkness is the absence of light; in the other, darkness, untruthfulness, deceit, falsehood, is the absence of God. They who are in communion with God, and walk with God, are the light, and walk in the light.”—M.]

And darkness in Him is none whatsoever.—This second negative member, stated with marked emphasis (οὐκ ἒστιν οὐδεμία, similar to John 15:5, see Winer, p. 521. [“The two negations produce one negation, which is the more frequent case, and serve, originally, to make the principal negation more distinct and forcible, and exhibit the sentence as negative in all its parts.”—M.]), rejects any and every darkness, i.e., impureness [or absence of all admixture.—M.]. Oecumenius: ἢτοι τὴν ἂγνοιαν, ἢ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν. Rather both: neither an untruth or a lie, nor any sin is in Him. The fulness of the reference contained in this expression is brought out by Lorinus in the following passage cited by Huther: “Deus lux est, quia clarissime se ipsum percipit, omniaque in se ipse, utpote prima et ipsissima veritas; quia summe bonus, ac summa et ipsissima bonitas; fidelis absque ulla iniquitate, justus et rectus, quia fons omnis lucis in aliis, i.e., veritatis atque virtutis, non solum illustrans mentem, docensque quid agendum sit, verum etiam operans in nobis, ut agemus et sic radiis suis liberans mentem ab ignorantiæ tenebris, purgans a pravitate voluntatem.”—John’s speculation or mysticism is so thoroughly ethical, that he is solely concerned with the practical working out of the truth: “God is Light.” As he connects this sentiment with the preceding by καὶ, namely, the fellowship with the Father and the Son, so he develops the nature of this fellowship-life in the sequel (1 John 5:6-21). Now, since the nature of this fellowship and of the life in it depend upon the nature of the Father, he begins with the leading thought (1 John 1:5) and with reference to errors in a sentence of two members, the one positive, the other negative. [Huther: “John properly makes the truth that God is Light, as the chief substance of the ἀγγελία of Christ, the starting-point of his development; for it is the essential basis of Christianity, both as to its objective and subjective substance, and it involves both the consummation of sin and the redemption from sin by the incarnation and death of Christ; both the necessity of repentance and faith and the moral problem of the Christian life.”—M.]


1. Monotheism and the absolute personal existence of God are with John two chief points, which may be also identified here, although one side only is made prominent. Of the two sentences, “God is Spirit” (John 4:24), and “God is Love” (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16),—the former denoting the Being of God physically, the latter ethically; the former describing the nature and substance, the latter the character of God,—the second only will have to be connected with the sentence, “God is Light,” and thus be further defined by a metaphorical expression. Spirit and Love are indeed correlative fundamental ideas, since Spirit denotes “free self-glory in self-consciousness and spontaneity over a substantial fulness of real vital powers,” and Love “free self-surrender with conscious and intentional conservation of the essential original determinateness both of oneself and of others” (Plitt). But the phrase “God is Light,” declares “the superiority of God to all sensuous wants” (Köstlin), the holiness of God, and thus defines further the character of God, His Love, and this as a holy Love, while it enables us to take the Love of God as contemplating also the communication of His Holiness. We may add, “God is—eternal Life” (John 1:20) as a correlative, so that His Love as well as His Holiness are live. There is no manner of darkness in Him. He is not a God in process of being coming to Himself in the history of creation, the world or in the spirit of man, as Plato maintains: He is operative prior to all the ὒλη of Plato, or the dark Urgrund of Schelling, as a self-conscious, holy, loving and living God. Nor has sin, evil, its original beginning in Him, as was taught by the Gnostics in their doctrine of emanations. [Wordsworth: “A sentence opposed to the error of most of the Gnostics, who asserted the existence of two hostile Deities, one a God of Light, the other of Darkness. Irenæus I., 25. 28, ed Grabe. Theodoret, Hæret., fab. prœm. Epiphan., Hæres, XXVI., cf. Ittig. Hæres, p. 34; note in his Comment. on John 1:5; and Bp. Andrewes, III., pp. 371–376. Almost all the Gnostics adopted the theory of dualism, derived from the Magians, and afterwards developed by the Marcionites and Manichæans.”—M.]

2. God is Light—must not be taken as a notice, a truth without reality, a reality without efficiency. As the sentence “God is Spirit” (John 4:24) is immediately followed by “and those who worship Him, must worship Him in Spirit and in truth,” so this sentence must be taken as a principle, the application of which is contained in the sequel. The sentence is through and through ethical and practical. John wants no science without practice. He does not allow an enlightenment of the mind without a corresponding bias and purifying of the will.

3. The question “Whence comes sin, evil into the world?” the Apostle here decides very distinctly in a negative form: in no event from God. Evil though connate, is not co-created.

4. Nothing must be taught or announced that does not rest upon or does not agree with the testimony of Christ. Those who pretend to know eternal truth which maketh free, different from Him, do not know it better, and are not servants, but adversaries and rebels.—It is at once Apostolical and Protestant to go back to the beginning of the Gospel in Christ. We are much more the Apostolical Church than the Church of Rome with its claims to Apostolicity.


God is Light. 1. Whence do you know it? 2. What does it mean? 3. Whither does it point?—Whatever right and true views you may have of God the Father, you have them from Christ, no matter whether a messenger of salvation, a servant of the Church have announced them to you, whether they were told you by your mother or commended by the counsel of a friend, whether Christian hands brought them to you in the Bible, or the Holy Ghost excited them in your heart.—Nothing gladdens the hearts of men more than light; but how have they abused the Word and deprived it of its best part, and try to make it chime in with unholiness in thought, in word and in deed!—The world’s light dazzles without illumining, shines without producing a spring with blossoms or an autumn with fruit.—The world’s light may be useful, build you in this life bridges of honour, bring wreaths to artists and fame to the wise, make account of order in the land and in the streets, rejoice the heart in the social circle and refresh the mind, but also undermine and destroy the salvation of your soul. But it cannot carry a shine of consolation into the night of life, still less into the night of death; it cannot help the soul to find love and the life which death cannot destroy.—The world’s light sets like the sun in the sky; but the Light which is God the Lord, shines through all the night of sin, of life, of death.—Try every light, whether God be in it.—If He, the Holy One, is absent, that light is no light worthy of the name, but a false light, a will-o’-the-wisp.—Do not look for salvation in any light of science or civilization, if it denies the holy light. Fear only the darkness in which God the Father is not found.

Starke:—Teachers should not pronounce any thing in things Divine but that which they have heard from the Lord in His Word; for if the Apostles themselves were firmly tied by it, how much more are they bound to cleave to it? The thoughts of man, being fallible, are not sufficient for the foundation of the faith.—Because God is Light, and in Him is no darkness whatsoever, it is wholly impossible that He can be the Cause of sin, which is the greatest darkness.—God is all Light, Wisdom, Holiness, Consolation and Joy; who would not desire to be united with Him?

Lange:—Because God is Light we have often to sigh in our fellowship with Him: “Lord, cause Thy face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us.”

Spener:—God is Light. 1. Holiness and Righteousness, showing that He not only has no evil within Himself, but also cannot suffer sin or evil in His creatures. 2. All wisdom and Allwisdom. 3. Glory and salvation.

Heubner:—Christianity has showed to all men the light-nature of God in Christ in the clearest brightness; that He is through and through perfect Knowledge, Omniscience, Wisdom, Love, Grace, Holiness and Happiness, and delights in the happiness of His creatures. Why does John specify this as the chief announcement? 1. Because it is of the first importance and indispensably necessary for sinful man to know that it is not by the hostile and malicious purpose of an omnipotent Being that he has been cast into this misery, that God did not plan his ruin, and that it does not come from Him, because He is pure and good. 2. Because salvation, a restoration of happiness may be expected from this God who desires all men to be happy. This belief is man’s first support [holding-point] of salvation. And this His Will God has proved most strongly in fact—through Christ.

Besser:—John convicts of falsehood three classes of spirits by declaring the vanity of the boast of fellowship with God on the part of such as walk in darkness instead of walking in the Light, of such as comfort themselves with the assurance of being perfectly pure instead of relying upon the continual cleansing of the blood of Christ, and lastly, of such as, instead of confessing their sins, deny their sinfulness. Worldly-mindedness, boast of sanctity and self-righteousness are exposed by John to the condemnatory light of the truth, and accompanied by an exhortation to a sincere, humble and penitent walking in the Light.

[Bp. Hall:—Divine Light and reflections. Sermons, Works, 5, 419.—M].


1 John 1:5; 1 John 1:5. ἒστιν αὒτη, B. C. G. K., Cod. Sin., al. [Syr., Theoph., Oecumen., Tischend., Buttmann, Wordsw. καὶαὒτη ἐστὶ, A., Vulg., Lachm., Rec.; this is altered from the original reading.—M.]

[10]Instead of ἀγγελία, A. B. G., al. [Griesb., Scholz., Lachm., Tischend., Wordsw.—M.] we find ἐπαγγελία in C., and in Cod. Sin., over ἀπαγγελία, the following correction, probably emanating from the transcriber himself: ἁγαπη τῆς ἐπαγγελίας; but a later hand has added ἀγγελία as the right reading.

[11][ἀναγγέλλομεν, renuntiamus, announce again, Report (Lillie). Declare, E. V., is too weak, it denotes a repetition of an announcement already made and known, brought out by the preposition ἀνα. See the notes of Bengel and Erasmus in Exegetical and Critical.—M.]

Verses 6-7

2. First Inference: The True Fellowship.

1 John 1:6-7

6If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness,12 we lie, and do not the truth: 7But if we walk in the light, as he13 is in the light, we have fellowship one with another,14 and the blood of Jesus15 Christ his Son cleanseth16 us from all sin.17 18


The sequence is clear: the Apostle concludes from the Being of God the nature of their life who are and live in fellowship with God. He postulates that spiritual fellowship necessitates an affinity among persons in fellowship with one another, and that this internal fellowship must manifest itself externally in their life, so that fellowship with God is impossible without a corresponding godlike life as exhibited in the walk and conversation of men.

1 John 1:6. The negative part of the inference stands first, connecting with the last clause of the preceding verse (“and darkness in Him is none whatsoever”).

If we say.—John is very fond of this phrase, 1 John 1:7-10; 1Jn 2:1; 1 John 4:12; it is similar to ἐάν τις, 1 John 2:1; 1Jn 2:15; 1 John 4:20, or ὂς ἂν, 1 John 3:17; 1 John 4:15. As to the sense, the following phrases present parallels: πᾶς ὁ ἒχων, 1 John 3:3; πᾶς ὁ ποιῶν, 1 John 3:4; πᾶς ὁ μένων, 1 John 3:6; πᾶς ὁ�, 1 John 2:23; without πᾶς, 1 John 2:4; 1Jn 2:6; 1 John 2:9-10. The Apostle is thus wont to describe an objective possibility (Winer, p. 308), i.e., he assumes that it may be so, and that the event would show whether it will be so. The Apostle renders this hypothesis general by the use of the communicative Plural, and thus makes his speech more lively; if we,—not excluding myself and the Apostles, beginning with myself down to the most humble reader of this Epistle, or to any individual Church-member,—should say. Thus John combines in the communicative and hypothetical form generality of application and considerate delicacy (Lücke). Saying does not denote here the inaudible language of the heart, that is thinking, but articulate utterance and assertion induced by the force of conviction. But it is not on that account nos gerere (Episcopius), as if the reference were to a testimony of our walk and practical conduct, although this saying and alleging must be taken as equivalent to an act, a fact or an action. [Wordsworth suggests that ἑὰν εἲπωμεν contains a reference to the saying of the Gnostics, who alleged that by reason of the spiritual seed in them, and of their superior spiritual knowledge, and communion with the light, they were free to act as they chose, and were not polluted thereby, and were not guilty of sin (Irenæus, I., 6, 20). Some of them even ventured to extol the workers of the most audacious acts of darkness, such as Cain, Korah and Judas, as persons gifted with superior freedom of thought and intrepidity of action, and to affirm that, since the soul could not attain unto perfection except by knowledge, it was even requisite for men to make themselves familiar with all manner of evil, in order that by a universal empiricism of evil they might arrive the sooner at their ultimate consummation. See Irenæus, I., 25, 4, ed. Stieren; p. 103, ed. Grabe; II., 32, ed. Stieren; p. 187, ed. Grabe, and cf. Blunt on the Heresies of the Apostolic Age, Lectures, 1John 9, p. 179.—M.]

That we have fellowship with Him.—See the notes on 1 John 1:3. Here the Father only is mentioned, of whom it was said above that He is Light, in order to draw therefrom a conclusion bearing on the nature of the Christian life. [Fellowship with God is the centre and foundation of the Christian life.—M.]

And walk in the darkness.And combined with say makes one sentence.—Walk, περιπατεῖν, 1 John 2:6; 2 John 1:6, occurs also Romans 6:4; Romans 8:4; its synonymes are πολίτευμα, Philippians 3:20, ἀναστροφὴ and ἀναστρέφειν, Ephesians 4:17, sq., 1 John 2:2, sq.—Bengel: “actione interna et externa, quoquo nos vertimus.” It embraces all our actions, not only those perceptible to men (Ebrard), but also that on which these depend, whereby they are caused, the inward actions of our life.

In the darkness indicates the sphere and element in which that walking takes place, cf. John 8:12. Darkness, which is not at all in God, does not in any way belong to Him, is the undivine, the unholy, that which is separate from Him—sin, evil. It is therefore not: to have still adhering to one sin or evil, or failure and falling through haste or weakness in temptation, in the struggle; but as the walk does not denote gross and common sin only, so walking in the darkness does not imply the presence of satisfaction with sin, or the entire passing through the whole territory of sin in all directions; the reference must be to one particular phase of life; some want to be Christians and make good their profession in every thing except honour; others are not severe with themselves or unfaithful to God and His Word in matters of worldly possession or in some master-passions, although in other respects they are strict and faithful. Such men walk, nevertheless, in the darkness, and the words “we lie” apply also to them. It is a contradiction and opposition, cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14, sqq. Not exactly intentional lying and conscious hypocrisy, but actual contradiction between Christian principle and the Christian sphere of life, and the real exhibition of life, certainly not without personal guilt; it is our guilt and our sin, our own lie, we ourselves are liars. Whenever, under those circumstances, we say that we have fellowship with Him, we lie; we lie to ourselves, if we say it only within ourselves, in our heart, think or imagine it, or we lie to others, if we say it to them in our words or our works. Such lying consists, therefore, in thoughts, words and deeds.

And do not the truth.—This is not the same as ψεύδεσθαι, as if ποιεῖν τὴν� were identical with ἀληθεύειν, Ephesians 4:15. It is neither the same as agere recte (Socinus), nor sincere (Beza, Grotius, Carpzovius), nor veraciter (Calvin). The truth consists not only in words, but also in thoughts and deeds; its sphere embraces the whole life, the whole man. The truth, according to John’s view, must be done; saying with him implies acting; not to do the truth is here parallel with walking in the darkness, while to do the truth corresponds to walking in the Light. “It is one and the same truth, which is apprehended in faith and confessed with the mouth, which, as a holy, Divine power, recreates the life of the new man and manifests itself in internal and external deeds.” (Düsterdieck), cf. John 3:19-21 [where ποιεῖν τὴν� is opposed to φαῦλα πράσσειν, and where special reference is made to the ἒργα.—M.]—Thus the Apostle raises his powerful protest against every form of show-, word- or lip-Christianity, but his reference is to Christians, and therefore he passes on to 1 John 1:7, to the positive part of the inference. But if we walk in the Light.—δὲ marks an antithesis. In the Light is explained by the antithesis ἐν σκότει, and by the additional clause, as He is in the Light, with reference to 1 John 1:5. [But this, it seems, is not the only antithesis, for it is also antithetical to ἐὰν εἲπωμεν, ὂτι κοινωνίανἒχομεν μετ̓ αὐτοῦ, 1 John 1:6, viz.: if we not only say that we have fellowship with God and not walk in the darkness, but if we really walk in the Light; so Huther, Ebrard.—M.].—Our walk in the light embraces, therefore, the holiness of our inner and outer life, a holiness which in its consequences operates a communion among the brethren, and fully corresponding to the Light-Being of God, which is also Love, exhibits its essential strength in the formation and preservation of fellowship. As He is in the Light is only formally different from God is Light; the latter phrase denotes Light as the Being of God, the former designates the element in which He is and lives.—ὡς indicates the oneness of element [in which Christians walk and God lives and moves—M.] and ground in God and ourselves; His holiness must be traceable in us if we have fellowship with Him. He indeed is in the Light, while we walk in the light, it matters not how poor and defective our efforts may be. The sense is very similar to 1 Peter 1:14-16; 2 Peter 1:4. [Cf. ἐστι and περιπατῶμεν. God is infinite—man finite.—M.]

We have fellowship one with another.—The reading μετ̓ αὐτοῦ cannot be right; for to walk in the Light and to have fellowship with Him coincide. But we naturally expect an advance in the argument. It is, therefore, not right to take μετ̓ ἀλλήλων as ἡμῶν τε καὶ τοῦ φωτός (Theophrast., Oecumen.), especially because God and men, the Creator and His creatures, are not of sufficient equality to be comprised in μετ̓ αλλήλων. Equally inadmissible is the construction of Beza (cum illo mutuam communionem), and that of de Wette, who renders our fellowship with God. It is the fellowship of Christians one with another, as 1 John 1:3, μετ̓ ἡμῶν, cf. 1 John 3:11; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 4:11-12. To have (see note on 1 John 1:3) and to keep this fellowship is not a light matter; it is the fruit of the walking in the Light, of the fellowship with God, of a holy life and of holy aspirations. For sin separates, impedes and constantly destroys that fellowship. [This passage shows that the fellowship of Christians, or the “communion of Saints,” as it is expressed in the Apostles’ Creed, rests on a truly Catholic basis, and that its restriction to the narrow limits of a sect is at once un-evangelical, un-Apostolic and un-Christian.—M.] Hence the Apostle continues:

And the blood of Jesus His Son cleanseth us.—The copula καὶ establishes a parallel with the preceding words, and points consequently not to fellowship with God and the brethren to be established, but to a fellowship already existing, and so well established that the first, viz.: fellowship with God, has already yielded the fruit of the second, viz.: fellowship with the brethren. It is impossible to take and interpret καὶ = γὰρ, as alleged by Oecumen., Bede, Calov, Semler, al. The question is not to supply proof of the fellowship with the brethren, but to state a consequence of walking in the Light. The only question is whether the cleansing through the blood of Christ takes place alongside or inside the fellowship of the brethren with one another. The work of redemption is a whole, and not mechanical, but organic and moral, so that this cleansing takes place inside the fellowship of the Church, of the fellowship essential to and established for redemption. Exegetically important is, moreover, the meaning and the Present form of καθαρίζει. This word cannot be the same as ἀφιέναι τὰς�, because it recurs, 1 John 1:9, by the side of and after that phrase. The reference is, therefore, not to the remission of sins, to exemption from punishment or the pardon of guilt, but to the cancelling of sin and redemption from it. The Apostle does not advert here to justification, regeneration, conversion, the actus judicialis or forensis concerning the sinner, but to sanctification. The Present may suggest the idea of daily repentance and forgiveness of sins, but the meaning of the verb forbids also this reference. But wherein that cleansing consists is defined by the cleansing subject: the blood of Jesus His Son. It is said αἷμα, consequently not: God’s new covenant with us established by the blood of Christ (Socinus), not: our faith in the sufferings of Christ (Grotius), not: Jesus Christ who shed His blood for us, not: the contemplation of the death of Jesus (Paulus), not: the reasonable belief of the moral end of the crucifixion of Jesus (Oertel); τὸ αἶμα Ιησοῦ is the blood shed upon the cross, the bloody death of Jesus on the cross, as in 1 John 5:6, sqq. [The blood which Jesus, so-called because of His incarnation, shed as a sacrifice at His Crucifixion, or the bloody sacrificial death of Jesus, so Huther, Düsterdieck, Ebrard.—M.]. This indicates the historical fact when the man Jesus died upon the cross at Golgotha, the sufferings of the Lord when He made experience of the sins of men, suffered for them, carried them also, assumed them (ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ αἲρων, etc., John 1:29), and took them away as Reconciler, but takes them away also as our Saviour, having died for us, but now lives and works in us, cf. 1 John 3:5. [Wordsworth: “No less a sacrifice than the death of the Son of God was required to propitiate the offended justice of God for sin; and no less a price than His blood, to ransom us from the bondage of Satan, to which we were reduced by sin.”—M.]. The addition of τοῦ υἲου αὐτοῦ points to His relation to God the Father, consequently to His Divinity, where two things are to be considered, first, the exaltation and glory, secondly, the humiliation and servant-form of the Crucified One; the blood of the God-Man is the subject which cleanses. Now the death of Jesus is a sacrificial death, His blood sacrificial blood, shed for the atonement of committed guilt, for reconciling the offended majesty of God and the inimically disinclined sinner, a ransom for mankind doomed to death and condemnation. See 1 John 2:2; 1 John 3:5; 1 John 4:9; 1 John 5:6, sqq. He creates to believers justification before God, but the power that creates preserves also that which it creates. The redeemed congregate at the cross of Jesus; sin is forgiven, the debt remitted, sin must now be cancelled and fresh guilt avoided; in believers pecatum manet but non regnat. Thus in the Church congregated at the cross and preserved in unity, sanctification continues in operation, after having begun its operativeness in justification. It is not our walking in the Light, not our own efforts in sanctification, but the blood of Jesus which cleanses us. (See Doctrinal and Ethical, No. 3).

[The whole doctrine of this verse is very fully and admirably set forth in Düsterdieck. The sum of what he says we give in the language of Alford: “St. John, in accord with the other Apostles, sets forth the Death and Blood of Christ in two different aspects:
1. As the one sin-offering for the world, in which sense we are justified by the application of the blood of Christ by faith, His satisfaction being imputed to us.
2. As a victory over sin itself, His blood being the purifying medium, whereby we gradually, being already justified, become pure and clean from all sin. And this application of Christ’s blood is made by the Spirit which dwelleth in us.
The former of these asserts the imputed righteousness of Christ put on us in justification: the latter, the inherent righteousness of Christ wrought in us gradually in sanctification. And it is of this latter that he is here treating.”—M.]

From all sin—whether sins of thought, word or deed, sins of rashness or sins of ignorance, sins of malice, sins of omission or sins of commission, sins in affectu or sins in defectu, sins of pleasure or sins of pain, sins committed at our work or during our recreation, sins against the first or the second table of the decalogue. Bengel: originale, actuale.

[Wordsworth notices the completeness of this doctrinal statement, which declares that Jesus is the Christ, against the Cerinthians (but this rests on the doubtful reading χριστοῦ, see App. Crit., 1 John 5:7; 1 John 5:4), that He is the Son of God, against the Ebionites, that He shed His blood on the cross, against the Simonians and Docetæ, that it cleanseth from all sin, against those who deny pardon on earth to deadly sin after baptism, and that it cleanseth us if we walk in the Light, against the Antinomian Gnostics, who changed the grace of God into lasciviousness (Judges 4:0), and alleged that a man might walk in darkness and yet be clean from all guilt of sin.—M.]


1. As He is in the Light, 1 John 1:7—is not a Gnostic dogma simply required to be known and understood, but an ethical principle for the governance of our walk. Light, as it is the Being of God (1 John 1:5), so it is also the element of God, and because it is the Being of God, therefore it is also His element, wherein He dwells and lives. Light must become our element in order that it may also become our Being; we must live in Him that He may more fully live in us, for we are destined to become θείας κοινωνοὶ φύσεως, 2 Peter 1:4. To strive after resemblance of God (Lücke) is saying too little. Nor is Bengel altogether right in saying: “imitatio Dei criterium communionis cum Illo.” For if the Lord says (Matthew 5:48): “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (cf. Luke 6:36), perfection or compassion is not set down as a foreign and distant goal, or held up as an ideal rule, but the experience and enjoyment of the perfect compassion of God is to become an impulse for receiving and appropriating it, in order that we, in our turn, may exhibit it. 1 Peter 1:15-16 is similar. Even Paul says (Ephesians 5:1): γίνεσθαιοὖν μιμηταὶ τοῦ θεοῦ ὡς τέχνα�. As children they are in their converse with the Father to inhale and receive what they experience at His hands, in order that they may have within themselves a living fountain, causing in its turn the streaming forth of Divine life, and to do as the Father doeth. The reference is not to an artificial imitation, but to a filial following the Father in ardent attachment to Him. The child is not so much literally to imitate as to cleave to the Father, to receive Him, and as the Lord so often requires it, to follow Him. Such a life in converse with God, in the life-sphere of God, John emphatically demands as the chief requirement of individual Christians, as well as of the whole Church.

2. The Person of Jesus is again taken as uniting the Godhead and Manhood, when His blood is spoken of as αἶμα τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ (of God). The word αἶμα testifies against Docetism, because it is operative as a real power, and against Ebionism the words “His Son,” whose the blood is: the Godhead, in brief, is a factor in the work of redemption. This combined expression opposes as much Nestorianism, which separates the two natures, as Eutychianism, which confounds them, and testifies for the Lutheran doctrine with its communicatio idiomatum, and against the Reformed principle: finitum non capax infiniti. Luther, in his Confession of Faith, A. D. 1528–29 (Guerike: Symbolik, p. 666), says: “Again I believe and know that the Scripture teaches, that - - God the Son - - did assume a whole, full humanity, and was the true seed or child promised to Abraham and David, and was born as the natural son of Mary, every way and in every form a true man, as I am myself and all others; but that He came without sin, of the Virgin alone, by the Holy Ghost. And that this man is truly God, and became (other reading: was born) one inseparable Person of God and man, so that Mary the holy Virgin is a very and true mother not only of the man Christ, as the Nestorians do teach, but of the Son of God.” But if Luther in a Trinity Sermon (Erlangen edit., 9, p. 25), on the ground of Acts 20:28, calls the blood of Christ straightway the blood of God, it is to be borne in mind that in that passage κυρίου and not θεοῦ is the best authenticated reading, and that such an oxymoron must not be pressed beyond seeing in it the doctrine of the inseparable God-Man. Calov’s following Luther cannot be regarded as a precedent of great moment, since the Scripture, with its wisdom in the choice of terms, does not require us so to do.—Cf. Doctrinal and Ethical, on 1 John 1:3, No. 3. [Also the last note on 1 John 1:7, in Exegetical and Critical.—M.]

[Article II. of the 39 Articles of the Church of England and the Prot. Episc. Church in the U. S. states thus briefly the doctrine of the Person of Christ: “The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead and buried, to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.” And the Athanasian Creed, 1:28–35, thus defines:

28. Est ergo Fides recta, ut credamur et confiteamur, quia Dominus noster Jesus Christus, Dei Filius, Deus pariter et Homo est.

29. Deus ex substantia Patris ante sæcula genitus: Homo, ex substantia Matris in sæcula natus.

30. Perfectus Deus, perfectus Homo, ex anima rationali et humana carne subsistens.

31. Æqualis Patri secundum Divinitatem: minor Patre secundum Humanitatem.

32. Qui licet Deus sit et Homo, non duo tamen, sed unus est Christus.

33. Unus autem, non conversione Divinitatis in carnem, sed assumptione Humanitatis in Deum.

34. Unus omnino, non confusione Substantiæ, sed unitate Personæ.

35. Nam sicut anima rationalis et caro unus est Homo; ita Deus et Homo unus est Christus.”—M.]

3. The work of Jesus is strongly characterized in one direction: “His blood cleanseth from all sin.” This statement involves the following particulars:

1. We can nevermore cleanse ourselves, our cleansing remains the work of Christ.

2. It is just the death of Christ that effects and accomplishes our cleansing; dying for sin, He conquers it; the victory of sin is its defeat, and the defeat of Christ is His victory; fighting unto death, He acquires the life of His own, and sin in its triumph over Him on the cross is discomfited. For His sake God turns to the world His reconciled countenance, and through faith in the Crucified One the world abandons sin, which is enmity against God. The cross, the death upon the cross, possesses an overwhelming power of attraction, and the life of the Son of God shut up in the life of the body breaks through in the life of the Spirit, in the working of the Spirit sent by Him and the Father, who now becomes operative in believers (John 7:39; Col. 16:7; Acts 2:33).

3. Sin still cleaves to the justified; justification does not miraculously or magically cancel sin by a judicial decree, it only absolves us from punishment, guilt and condemnation, but requires the carrying on of the work of redemption (of which it is the beginning), and of its consummation in sanctification; justification does not end, but it does begin redemption.

4. Justification does not even effect the independence of the believer, but merely introduces him into the walk in Light, to the fellowship of the brethren one with another, as into the sphere within which redemption may be carried on and consummated, and also in the individual; redemption, like the knowledge of infinite Love, is a common experience (Ephesians 3:18, sq., σὺν πᾶσιντοῖς ἁγίοις).

5. Sanctification is the continuation of justification, it must ever return to it and recur to its power and might.
6. Sanctification is a work gradual in its growth.
7. It has respect to all sin, not only to its manifestation, but to its seat and origin.

8. Justification and sanctification, the power of the death upon the cross and the fellowship with the brethren, the walk in the Light and the cleansing from all sin, all these reciprocally operate on and promote each other; this holds more particularly good of brotherly, of Church-fellowship, and of the hallowing power of the Saviour’s death upon the cross, so that we are reminded of the words of Cicero: “Nisi in bonis amicitia esse non potest.” Or, we must distinguish, but not separate Christ for us, before us, and in us.


Every thing depends on the reply you give to the question whether sin rules you or as yet only adheres to you. If sin reigns over you, you belong as yet to the darkness, but if the reign of sin is broken in you, though there be still sin in you, you belong to the children of light.—It is not with pride, but with gratitude to God, that the Christian contemplates his being in the light. —Love of God and of the brethren is the power of sanctification, and this is the life of love.—It is just the sanctified who see even the smallest sins with painfulness and perceive that they stand in need of cleansing through Jesus Christ.—If thy sin troubles thee in its deep motions, know that in the cross thou hast a well, whence thou mayest and must draw consolation. It is not sufficient that thou art a Christian who is shone upon, thou must become an enlightened Christian.

Starke:—The ungodly are children of darkness without admitting it, they walk in the darkness without perceiving it, they commit the works of darkness without believing it. O, terrible blindness! Lord, open thou their eyes that they may see, tremble and return from their evil way.—How busy are people during the natural day! O, that they would not suffer the acceptable time and the day of salvation to pass by idly and without profit! Walk in the Light!—The virtue of the blood of Jesus Christ effects not only our first cleansing from dead works, but also our daily cleansing.

Spener:—We may say it and glory that we have fellowship with God; nor is it spiritual pride to acknowledge the grace of God which we nave received, provided we do not ascribe it to ourselves.—Light is impatient of darkness, and God of sin. By this test thyself, whether thou art God’s. Moses shone beautifully through long converse with this light; why should not the soul wherein He dwelleth do likewise? Let thy light shine, and do not deceive thyself by false conceits.

Neander:—To those who sincerely strive to walk in the Light, yet make daily experience of the still remaining influence of sin, and are disquieted in their conscience on hearing that fellowship with God, who is Light, can only be had by those who walk in the light,—to such is offered the comfortable assurance of entire cleansing from the sin as yet adhering to them. But the self-deception of those is also met, who trust to cleansing through the blood of Christ, without a corresponding course of life. The close connection between Christ in us and Christ for us is here indicated.

Heubner:—Only among the pure is fellowship, i.e., true concord, love, confluence of the hearts. Evil separates, and is the source of discord.—The kingdom of God is the kingdom of love and peace; that of Satan the kingdom of discord.

Ahlfeld:—Which are the seals and evidences of true fellowship with God? 1. That we walk in the light; 2. that we have fellowship one with another; 3. the humble confession that we owe the cleansing from our sins solely to the blood of Jesus Christ.—Providence moves pari passu from the first creative fiat to the last judgment.—Thou knowest that every transgression enshrouds thy heart in night.—True fellowship does not flow from our natural life, not from leagues for the commission of common sin, not from common pleasure or common profit, but only from the walk in Light.—First His passion, then thy passion; first His dying, then thy dying.—As long as Christ is our Righteousness, you also must go with Him into the walk in Light. As long as He is truly your Surety and Sacrifice, you also must with Him present to God your heart and will as a sacrifice of sweet savour. But he that learns to sacrifice himself, remains also in the fellowship with the brethren.

Besser:—But how many, who, perchance, do not know the school-name of the modern Nicolaitanes, the Pantheists, yet do their works, while from the fear of a separateness from sin, grievous to the flesh, they change the frontier-line between good and evil, put light for darkness and darkness for light, and then spread a figment of their own thoughts, which they call God, as a pillow for their worldly-mindedness.—Our fellowship with God, whom we do not see, is evidenced by our fellowship with one another, where one sees the other.—There are also will-o’-the-wisp-fellowships, and the mere saying of any Church-fellowship that it has fellowship with God is not sufficient.—Anna, the electress of Brandenburg, ordained in her will: “Our text shall be 1 John 1:7 : The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

Steinhofer:—“A soul washed in the blood of Jesus Christ has very delicate perceptions. The light which has risen in her shows her the smallest dust-particle of sin and the most subtle motions of the flesh, and makes her perceive whatever accords with her happy frame in gladsome converse with God and the Saviour, and whatever disturbs it.”

[Rieger:—The Bible-verse of the blood of Jesus Christ and its cleansing virtue is a verse for the children of God, for the children of the Light, and says to them: your love of the light, your hatred of darkness with its unfruitful works were insufficient to warrant your access to God, your joyous appeal to His Love; with these only your approach of the Light would have caused you to melt away as wax exposed to the heat of fire; but it is the blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God, that is, God’s sending His Son into the world to make atonement for your sins, whatever He did and suffered, especially His sacrificial blood-shedding in the voluntary surrender of Himself, and His present priestly appearance before the face of God with His blood and the treasure of all His merits contained therein, it is this which must be of avail to you. The design of this blood-shedding was the cleansing of your sins; and thus we find it declared in the Gospel, for our use in penitence and faith; thus it was sprinkled over us in Holy Baptism; and thus the Holy Ghost applies it in our daily renovation, bestowing upon us the double benefit of the forgiveness of our sins and the cleansing from all unrighteousness. At every motion of sin in our conscience or in our members, we may, under the influence of the Spirit, apply to this blood and its cleansing virtue, and thus prevent the calling into question or the sundering of our fellowship with God, and that in the power of the power of the high-priesthood of Christ we may ever become and remain nearer to God.”—M.]

[Bp. Hall:—As He is Light, so every aberration from Him is darkness; if we then say that we have fellowship with this pure and holy God, and yet walk in the darkness of any sin whatsoever, we belie ourselves, and do not according to that truth which we profess.—M.]


Griffith, M.:—The spiritual antidote to cure our sinful souls.

Charnock, Stephen:—The virtues of the blood of Christ.

Earle:—The Popish doctrine of purgatory repugnant to the Scripture account of remission through the blood of Christ.—M.]


[12][1 John 1:6. ἐν τῷ σκότει, in the darkness; so German, Lillie, al., Dutch, Ital., French verss.—M.]

[13][1 John 1:7. ὡς αὐτὸς ἐστιν, as He Himself is, etc.; so Meyer, Lillie, Wordsworth, al. Winer: “Among the Greeks, as is well known, αὐτός in the casus rectus does not stand for the mere unemphatic he, nor could any decisive examples of this be found in the N. T.”—M.]

[14]μετ̓ ἀλλήλων. The best Codd., also Sinait., have this reading; μετ̓ αὐτο͂ν is substituted chiefly by Latin Codd., but the less authentic reading, and clearly a correction designed to conform 1 John 5:7 to 1 John 5:6.

[15]After ̓Ιησοῦ A. G. K., al. read χριστοῦ, probably on account of 1 John 5:3. [It is omitted by B. C. Sin., al., Lachm., Tischend., Buttm.—M.]

[16] καθαρίσει or καθαριεῖ lacks sufficient authority.

[17][Sin. reads ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν.—M.]

[18][German of the last clause:—“and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”—M.]

Verses 8-10

3. Second Inference.—Perception and Confession of Sins

1 John 1:8-10

8If we say that we have no19 sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.20 9If We confess our sins, he is faithful and just21 to forgive us our sins,22 and to cleanse23 us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned; we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.


Connection.—The structure of these verses is unmistakably the same as that of those immediately preceding them: negative (1 John 1:8) and positive (1 John 1:9), while the negation (1 John 1:8) is continued (1 John 1:10) with reference to the positive (1 John 1:9), and the parallel is even indicated in the form: ἐὰνεἲπωμεν. 1 John 1:8; 1 John 1:10. The connection of 1 John 1:8 with the presuppositions at the end of 1 John 1:7 (καθαρίσει�) that sin is still inhering in us, is equally unmistakable. But it is just as unmistakable that the perception and confession of sins are here emphatically dwelt upon as following and accompanying the true fellowship with its walk in the Light. The continuance of the Plural form (we, us, our) denotes also the general character both of what is said here and in the preceding verses. After all, we have here a second inference drawn from the leading thought that “God is Light,” (1 John 1:5).

1 John 1:8. Perception of Sin.—If we say, cf. 1 John 1:6, above in Exegetical and Critical.

That we have no sin.—̔Αμαρτία in the Singular denotes sin in general; the absence of the Article points out that the reference is neither to a particular sin, nor to the whole, full sin [but to any sin.—M.]. Hence the application of the term to original sin as contrasted with actual sins (peccata actualia), as maintained by Augustine, Bede, Luther, Calvin, Beza, Calov, Baumgarten-Crusius, Neander, Sander and Düsterdieck, is as inadmissible as that which refers it to a particular sin or a particular kind of sins, as in 1 John 5:16; ἁμαρτία πρὸς θάνατον, or μὴ πρὸς θάνατον, sins of infirmity, light offences, against which so early a writer as Augustine remarks: “Multa levia (peccata) faciunt unum grande.” Nor can ἁμαρτία designate the guilt of sin, as held by Socinus, Episcopius, Löffler and Grotius, the latter saying: “Habere peccatum non est: nunc in peccato esse, sed: ob peccata reum posse fieri,” nor describe sins committed or inhering anterior to entrance into fellowship with God the Light, where the Greeks Oecumenius, Theophylact and the Scholiasts have the precedence. ̔Αμαρτία is simply sin, nothing more or less, but it is certainly sin. Nor does ἒχομεν make any change in the matter, so as to designate the state “in which sin has not yet wholly disappeared” (Lücke). But it is less the state which is the result of continued sinning, than the state from which results such sinning, i.e., the state which is not the product of former sin, but the producer of new sin. John says: We have sin, and that denotes, both that original sin gives us still trouble, and that we still do sin in thought, in word and in deed; if not as servants, under the dominion of sin, who looking for reward are in the service of sin, yet by hastiness, infirmity or ignorance, now only suffering it by the force of habit or because of its congenital strength, or again by offering it too little resistance; sin insinuates itself into our good and our good works, even into prayer, partly in affectu (self-love, hardness in firmness, etc.), partly in defectu (gentleness even to parting with virtue, the love of our neighbour, as well as the love of self with fear, etc.). ̔Αμαρτία is a sinful demeanour of any kind, falling away from true, godliness, from that which is well-pleasing to God; here we may name particular inclinations, tendencies, principles, and especially the forms of the life of the imagination [German: Artung des Phantasielebens, an expression of Ebrard, who alludes to the impure representations of a depraved imagination preceding the overt acts of vice and sin.—M.]. This we must not deny. The sentence with its substance and bearing becomes clearer if we take it in connection with περιπατεῖν ἐν σκότει. The darkness is the territory of the undivine, well marked off in every direction and containing the whole system of sin,—the sphere of the walk, the life and doings of men. A Christian cannot and may not be said to walk thus in the darkness, but he still has sin. There is still within him a territory which is constantly receiving some kind of admixture from the territory of darkness. He is no longer in sin, but sin is in him; the degrees, indeed, are infinitely different and adjusted to the degree of the cleansing and growth of the inner man. But even John is constrained to say: “We have sin.”

We deceive ourselves.—Here we have the Active, not the Middle Voice; ἑαυτὸν πλανᾶν. This form brings out the self-activity which sinks more into the background by the use of the Middle with its Passive form. This brings out a difference like that in the German, “ich selbst ärgere mich—ich ärgere mich selbst.” In the latter case the cause is excluded in others, while in the former it is definitely laid within myself, and thus gives prominence to my own guiltiness, whereas the second case describes only a suffering without any one else’s guilt. The pronoun of the third person εἁυτοῦ in the Plural is used frequently both for the first (Romans 8:23) and the second person (John 12:8). See Winer, p. 163, No. 5. The context removes all doubt that the reference is here to deception, to lying and error, as in 1 John 3:7; Matthew 24:4; Matthew 24:11, and elsewhere. This is also the proper meaning of this verb. It is parallel with ψευδόμεθα of 1 John 1:6, but gives greater prominence to self-guilt; there he lies before others in word or deed, here he lies to himself and this sin works into himself greater perdition. There an unregenerate man wants others to believe that he is a Christian, here a regenerate man deceives himself through pride. [Augustine: Si te confessus fueris peccatorem, est in te veritas: nam ipsa veritas lux est. Nondum perfecte splenduit vita tua, quia insunt peccata: sed tamen jam illuminari cœpisti, quia inest confessio peccatorum.”—M.]

And the truth is not in us.—Since deceiving oneself runs parallel with the lying of 1 John 1:6, so this sentence concludes parallel with not doing the truth, (1 John 1:6). The truth, ἡ� is to be taken objectively (Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Huther); the subjective lies in ἐν ἡμῖν (Bengel: non in corde, neque adeo in ore”). It is the Divine truth in Christ; the absolute principle of life from God, received into our heart. Hence it is neither studium veri (as maintained by Grotius and Episcopius), nor a truthful disposition (Lücke), nor the truthfulness of self-knowledge and self-examination, of purity (de Wette), nor that which is true in general (S. G. Lange, Paulus), nor better moral perception, melior rerum moralium cognitio, as Semler interprets. Moreover, the being, the existence of the Divine truth as the principle of life in us is also denied (οὐκ ἒστιν). Hence this is even stronger than the former οὑποιεῖν τὴν�, 1 John 1:6; the latter is without the deed of the truth, the former without its existence; here the truth being in us is denied, in 1 John 1:6, only its manifestation and expression in our life.

1 John 1:9. Confession of Sins.—If we confess our sins.—The connection of this sentence with the preceding is not like that of 1 John 1:7 with 1 John 1:6, by δὲ, as Luther renders; the negatives of the preceding verse are strongly and abruptly antithetical to the positive of this verse; [Ebrard: “Now follows the second thought-member in a conditional sentence which introduces the opposite case. ̓Εὰν ὁμολογῶμεν τὰς ἁμαρτίς ἡμῶν. Here also John scorns a merely tautological repetition; he does not say: ἐὰν ὁμολογῶμεν ὂτι ἁμαρτίαν ἒχομεν, but where he opposes to the negative the positive, Confession, he does not speak of sin in general (as a state), but of definite, concrete, specific sins. For this is the form which the confession of sins must assume, in order to be inwardly true and efficacious. The mere confession in abstracto that we have sin, would be without truth and value and shrink into a hollow phrase, unless it be attended by the perception and acknowledgment of concrete particular sins. It is much easier to make pious speeches concerning repentance and the greatness of the misery engendered by sin, than in a specific case of sin to see one’s wrong, admit and repent it, and to be sorry for it. John requires the latter.”—M.].—The Apostle is not satisfied with εἲπωμεν as before, but uses ὁμολογῶμεν, which is much more comprehensive than the former, and of course involves it as well as the inward opining, thinking, saying and feeling convinced, which finally develops into audible utterance and declaration before men; nor is this all, for it involves the additional particular of confessing one’s guilt before God, and this confession of guilt must be so lively and profound as to become public and ecclesiastically ordained, and stands in nothing behind the former εἰπεῖν. It is therefore not enough to see here only a perception or recognition (Socinus: “Confiteri significat interiorem ac profundam suorum peccatorum agnitionem.” Baumgarten-Crusius: “ὁμολογεῖν is to perceive, to be sensible, and to become conscious of, as contrasted with εἰπεῖν μὴ ἒχειν�”), or “an inward act grounded in the whole inward bias of the mind” (Neander), all which is taken for granted. Nor is it only the real utterance of sin inwardly identified and confessed to oneself (Huther, Düsterdieck), for this also is implied as a consequence. Nor must we exclude the acknowledgment before God, and “the confession” ordained for the comfort of a disquieted conscience, from which no truly penitent man will withdraw himself, and which is gladly sought and made by such as are of a contrite heart. [The reference here is to the Lutheran “confession,” which must not be confounded with the R. C. auricular Confession., Luther himself distinguishes three kinds of confession: the first, before God (Psalms 32:6), which is so essential that it ought to be the sum-total of a Christian man’s life; the second, towards our neighbour, and is the confession of love as the former is that of faith (James 5:16. This confession, like the former, is necessary and ordained. The third is that ordered by the Pope to be made secretly into the ears of a priest with an enumeration of sins. Luther condemned compulsory private confession, and left it optional with individuals to determine if, and what they should confess. Still he commends private confession, saying, “it is advisable and good.” The Augsburg Confession, II., IV., says: “Confession has not been abolished in our Churches, and the usage is not to give the Lord’s Body to those who have not been previously examined and absolved,” and Luther in his Larger Catechism supplies a form of confession which is very full of private matters (Catech. Minor., IV., 16–29). The present practice varies in different Lutheran establishments, some retaining private confession, others substituting general confession. The latter custom prevails, I believe, among Lutherans in the United States.—M.].—The proud εἰπεῖν stands in antithesis with the humble ὁμολογεῖν, which includes all the aforesaid particulars. The original ὁμολογεῖν signifies to speak together [hence to hold the same language.—M.], then to accord, assent to, and points to a dialogue between God accusing and reproaching us in our consciences by His Word and His Spirit, and man assenting thereto in humility, faith and prayer, even unto pouring out his heart before loved fellow-men, from his nearest friend to the spiritual guardian of his soul, the servant of the Word, the Minister of the gifts and Steward of the mysteries of God. Hence the object is designated by τὰς ἁμαρτίας. The sins are “the particular manifestations of ἁμαρτίαν ἒχειν” (Huther), “definite, concrete, specific sins” (Ebrard), of whichever kind they may be, lesser and even the least sins, even as repentance goes ever deeper and deeper and attains more clear and distinct perceptions of sin in its endless turns, in its hideousness and wrong. See below on 1 John 1:10, and on 1 John 3:4.

He is faithful and righteous.—That is only God the Father (so Lücke, de Wette and the majority of commentators), who is the ruling subject in the work of redemption, since for Christ’s sake, and through Christ the Mediator, He forgives and makes us happy, although Christ is referred to in 1 John 1:7, and below in 1 John 2:1. The reference to the Father and the Son is inadmissible (J. Lange, Sander, S. Schmid). The subject is not defined, because the reference is to God the Father, who is the principal subject throughout [1 John 1:5-10]. God is faithful, He does not become so through forgiveness consequent upon our repentance. God is faithful because His Essence accords with His workings, and these in all particular manifestations accord with one another and all of them together. The primary reference is to God’s faithfulness towards us, to the truth-and-light-essence which reigns in us, if we confess our sins, and is related to and in accordance with His Own Essence (Ebrard); but to this must be added a secondary reference to His Word with its promises of help, blessings, redemption and remission of sins (Düsterdieck, Huther, al.), and this secondary reference follows from the context 1 John 1:10, which re-adverts to the Word of God, although it had already been mentioned in 1 John 1:1; 1 John 1:3; 1 John 1:5, and is in perfect harmony with the grammatical usage of both Testaments and the views they express (cf. Psalms 32:3 sqq.; Ezekiel 18:31 sq.; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1Co 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:18-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; Hebrews 10:23; Hebrews 11:11). And more than this, the term πιστός, held thus absolute and undefined, has surely a wider bearing. It concerns something which He has produced as Creator and suggested as Regent in dispensations, to which the Father and the Lord have given consciousness in the Word, and which is in perfect harmony with the Light-nature of God. He is faithful to His Own Being, to His doings for, and in man as Creator, Preserver, Governor, Redeemer and Revealer. He is “stiff and firm” (Luther) in cleaving to His holy purpose of grace, that is, His faithfulness; πιστός therefore is not only misericors (S. Schmid). Besides this we have the epithet δίκαιος, righteous, just, which applies to one who acts in accordance with the duties arising from his position; it denotes the disposition and righteousness which gives to every man his due. God is righteous or just when He punishes those who walk ἐν σκότει, 2Th 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:7, where the reference is to δικαία κρίσις, then He κατακρίνει but blesses those who walk ἐν φωτί, forgiving, cleansing and ultimately glorifying them. It is only the juxtaposition of πιστός and the context which render the limitation of δίκαιος to the judicial character of God with reference to the penitent admissible in this passage. Faithful towards the penitent, agreeably to His Love, His eternal purpose of grace, His Word of promise and His work of redemption, He is also righteous, just, to them as promising them forgiveness and cancelling what is still unrighteous in them in conformity to His appointed laws. Hence δίκαιος is not =bonus, lenis (Grotius, Schöttgen, Rosenmüller, nor = æquus, benignus (Semler, G. S. Lange, Carpzov, Bretschneider), nor again =πιστός (Hornejus, “in promissis servandis integer”), nor = δικαιῶν (Ebrard). Nor does the righteousness of God appear here as justitia vindicativa, which was revealed in the death of Christ, so that the forgiveness of sins is Christo justa non nobis (Calov), or in that the sinner, appealing to the ransom paid in the blood of Christ, has his sin cancelled, because it would be unjust to insist upon a twofold payment (Sander). Luther’s explanation is excellent; he says, “God is righteous who gives to every man his due and accords to those who confess their sins and believe, the righteousness acquired through the death of Christ, and thus makes thee righteous.” This righteousness of God is closely connected with His faithfulness. But we must guard against the distinction that πιστός relates to peccata mortalia, δίκαιος to peccata venalia, “quia sc. justi per opera pœnitentiæ, caritatis etc. merentur de condigno hanc condonationem” (Suarez). Faithfulness is rather the soil and foundation from which righteousness springs up. [The blessings conferred upon Christians conformably to the δικαιοσύνη of God, are in fulfilment of the Divine promises.—M.]. In Holy Scripture goodness and righteousness, truth and righteousness are syzygies (Nitzsch, System, 6th ed., p. 176). Cf. Psalms 143:1, and notes on 1 John 2:29.

To forgive us our sins.—̓̀Ινα is not =ὢστε, so that, or ὂτι with which it alternates, 1 John 1:5, 1 John 3:11. The difference is, whether we have here simply the contents of the message (1 John 1:5), or its purpose (1 John 3:11). The meaning here seems to be: “He is faithful and righteous for the purpose of forgiving. It is His Law and Will to forgive (de Wette), but of course the Will manifests its energy in action (contrary to Huther). [I should prefer putting this with Winer thus: “He is faithful and righteous in order to forgive us,” i.e., the Divine attributes of faithfulness and righteousness are exercised in order to our pardon, as Wordsworth puts it.—M.]. The sins which have been confessed He remits. Pardon, forgiveness of sins, i.e., the cancelling of the debt of sin and its culpability as well as of the consciousness of guilt or of an evil conscience; justification and reconciliation are therefore the first consequence of the confession of sin; the second consequence is:

And cleanse us from all unrighteousness.—Neither an epexegetical addition (Semler) nor an allegorical repetition of the preceding (Lange). It is a coördinated clause describing sanctification as the continuation of justification, or redemption as the consequent of reconciliation. On καθαρίζειν see notes on 1 John 1:7. Unrighteousness, ἀδικία, is synonymous with ἁμαρτία, and consequently not =pœna peccati (Socinus); the latter denotes the formal, the former the material side of sin; the latter indicates the genesis of sin (or its course of development) which does not coincide with the law, the former the fact of the effect of sin as violating, transgressing and offending against the Law, and on that account liable to punishment and conducing to ruin and perdition.

1 John 1:10. Conclusion.If we say.—Cf. 1 John 1:8, of which this verse is not merely the repetition, but the intensification and continuation.

That we have not sinned goes back to ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἒχομεν, but οὐχ ἡμαρτήκαμεν is a much stronger expression; the former denotes a state or condition of which the latter is the actual expression [1 John 1:10 describes the concrete act, 1 John 1:8 the abstract state—M.]; we have here the conduct (1 John 1:10) in a certain relation (1 John 1:8) in connection with ἀδικία, 1 John 1:9. The use of the Perfect does not warrant an exclusive reference to sins anterior to entrance into the Church (Socinus, Paulus), but denotes active sinfulness reaching down to the present and sins just committed; τὰςἁμαρτίας, 1 John 1:9, show that the separate acts, the actuosity [actuositas—M.] of the ἁμαρτία (1 John 1:8) are here dwelt upon. [Huther: “The Perfect does not prove that ἡμαρτήκαμεν denotes sinning prior to conversion (Soc. Russmeyer, Paulus, etc.); the reference here, as well as in all the preceding verses, is rather to the sinning of Christians; for no Christian would think of denying his former sins. The Perfect is in part accounted for by John’s usus loquendi, according to which an activity reaching down to the present is often expressed by the Perfect tense, and in part by the fact that confession always has respect to sins committed before.—M.]

We make Him a liar.—This clause answers to ψευδόμεθα and ἑαυτοὺς πλανῶμεν, but is a much stronger expression; we not only lie for ourselves, we not only deceive ourselves, but we make God (αὐτὸν) a liar, and this takes place not without pride, stubbornness or bitterness even unto blasphemy (cf. John 5:18; John 8:53; John 10:33; John 19:7; John 19:12). He who is πιστός is blasphemed as. ψεύστης, of course only by such men.

And His word is not in us, i.e., His word of promise containing the ἀλήθεια, 1 John 1:8; not only the truth and its knowledge are wanting to such persons, but they are also without the Word, the frame and vessel of the truth. As the reference is to Christians, His word probably designates the Gospel of, or concerning Jesus (Socinus, Calov, Neander, Luther, Huther, Düsterdieck), and not the Old Testament in particular (Oecumenius, Grotius, de Wette, al.), or only the New Testament (Lachmann, Rosenmüller, nor in general the revelation of God absolutely, His entire self-disclosure, including the λόγος, John 1:1 (Ebrard).—It is not stamped into the heart in living characters (Spener), it has remained or become again “outwardly or inwardly strange to us” (Huther); for the regenerate may fall from grace. A man that is not conscious of sin still adhering to him, not conscious, therefore, of the true nature of the holiness for which he was born and born again, cannot be or have been wont to contemplate and examine himself in the mirror of the Divine Law, in the Light of the Divine Word, by the pattern held up to us in the revelation of Jesus Christ. Such a one does actually, carelessly or maliciously accuse of falsehood the Word of God and the God of the Word, who looks upon us sinners and calls us to the consciousness of sin. Such men may remember the Word of God, know it by heart, but it is not to them an animating life-principle and impelling power; it is not extant in their inward life and consciousness.


1. The want of redemption which is universal is also permanent, which even in the Church of the redeemed has not disappeared (1 John 1:8), although it is disappearing more and more (1 John 1:9). The certainty of the difference between walking in the darkness (περιπατεῖν ἐν τῷ σκότει) and walking in the light (περιπατεῖν ἐν τῷ φωτί) is not greater than the certainty that those who are walking in the light have sin adhering to them (ἁμαρτίαν ἒχομεν). Vast as is the difference between these two modes and spheres of life, yet the import of the difference among Christians still affected with sin, but experiencing a daily growing redemption from sin, vanishes before the purity of God the Father, no matter how marked and important the difference may be between a John and individual Church members. The perception and cognition of sin, especially of one’s own sin, and the clear consciousness of it in all humility, are indispensable requisites for the walk in the Light. Though your sin, as compared with that of the unregenerate, be light, take care lest you esteem it light. The smallest stain soils a clean garment. If you despise it when you weigh it, be afraid when you count it up. Many little sins make one great sin; many drops make a river.

2. Self-deception is so fearful because it will progress to the denial of the truth and the truthfulness of God and His Word, even to open and formal blasphemy (we lie, 1 John 1:6; we deceive ourselves, 1 John 1:8; we make God a liar, 1 John 1:10). Christians are saints, but only in process of being, and not already complete and perfect. [German:—becoming, not yet become.—M.]. This contradicts the Donatist error.

3. Justification is before sanctification, its antecedent; τὰς ἁμαρτίας� precedes the καθαρίζειν� (1 John 1:9); this is the fixed order in the kingdom of God.—Both are acts of God; the first an act occurring once only, the second involving the continuous doing of God [the first is a solitary act, the latter a continuing process—M.]. Although the former is only a solitary, momentary act, and not a process like the latter, the former repeats itself whenever there occurs an interruption in the walk in light, or a loosening or sundering of the fellowship with God (1 John 1:9).

4. The forgiveness of sins, as the principal part of justification, consists of different elements: 1. cancelling or diminishing of the punishments of sin; 2. cancelling of the debt of sin and the culpability connected therewith (culpæ et debiti); 3. removal of the consciousness of guilt or of an evil conscience; 4. the inclination of Divine grace to the sinner as actually evidenced in the communication of positive, and especially of spiritual and eternal riches; 5. abrogation of the strength and power of sin, wherewith the blotting out of sin did begin, redemption, loosening from the power of evil, the purification of the reconciled sinner from sin. While the two last elements (Nos. 4. 5) mark the transition from the realm of justification to that of sanctification (καθαρίζειν, 1 John 1:7) that named first and relating to the punishment of sins is so externally related to the subject needing the forgiveness of sins, that its centre may be sought and found only in the other two, viz., the cancelling of the guilt and the removal of the consciousness of guilt, in perfect analogy with the confession of a justified man, as supplied by St. Paul in Romans 5:1-5, a passage which may be called classical in this matter: εὶρήνην ἒχομεν. The centre of the forgiveness of. sins is the non-imputatio peccati. Temporal ills appointed as punishments of sin cease to be punishments to one who has received the forgiveness of sins, they are to him only δοκιμασία or παιδεία; they are not always or altogether cancelled and removed, and are not the worst, particularly as they do not terminate in damnation, ἀπώλεια, whereas guilt and an evil conscience disquiet and cause pain. The forgiveness of sins simply changes the sinner’s relation to and before God, but afterwards there springs up a different conduct of God towards the sinner and of the sinner towards God in sanctification, wherein sins are forgiven and forgotten, the sinner is no longer regarded by God as a sinner, but as another man, and God appears to, and is felt by the sinner no longer as Judge, but as a merciful Father. But such a relationship springing from the forgiveness of sins may indeed be disturbed and impaired and needs therefore repeated renewing and quickening.

5. The factor of the forgiveness of sins is God the Faithful and Righteous with His purpose of grace and its revelation (1 John 1:9). No man can forgive his sins to himself; self-redemption is a lie. Very beautifully says Luther in execrable Latin: “Amor Dei non invenit, sed creat suum diligibile; amor hominis fit a suo diligibili.”

6. The condition of the forgiveness of sins is the confession of sins (ὁμολογεῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας) resting upon and conditioned by perception of sins and self-knowledge. After the death of Christ with its sufferings as well as with the proof of His perfect obedience (1 John 1:7) has operated on the sinner’s conscience and caused him by that light to perceive his own sinfulness, and to feel at the same time the mercy of God, as having special regard to, and influence upon him, he ceases in the love of faith in Christ to love himself and sin within himself, is afraid of himself in his ugliness, afraid of sin and its perdition reaching to the bottom of his heart and to eternal damnation, afraid of the wrath of God in the holy energy of holy love, and confesses his sin, which he has discovered, before himself, before God and before men. Thus penitent he not only confesses his sins, but he is also another man, he is regarded as such by God, who now remits to him the debt of sin. This is the initial phase of sanctification, which begins with the forgiveness. The reconciliation of sinners is effected through the reconciliation in the bloody sacrificial death of Jesus, so that as the sons of God by grace, through the Son of God by nature, they make experience of the further communication of His grace, and in virtue thereof grow up into heirs of His glory. This was very correctly perceived by Luther: “Here John meets the objection: ‘What must I do then? my conscience reproaches me with my many sins, and John says, Confess thy sins. Thereby he confounds all such objections as if conscience says: What must I do to be saved? How shall I set about to grow better? Nothing else, says he, but this: Confess thy sins to Him, and pray Him to pardon thy grievous guilt.’ ” “This must be the form of confession,” says Ebrard, “in order to be inwardly true and efficacious.” The mere confessing in abstracto that we have sin, etc. [See above in Exegetical and Critical on 1 John 1:9.—M.] The child after the deed and with his deed, which is evil, is a very different child, if he goes and sorrowfully and truthfully confesses his sins to his father. [“I will arise and go to my Father and will say unto Him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called Thy son,” etc. Luke 15:18-19, compared with Luke 1:21-24.—M.] It is wholly unwarranted that the Concil. Trident. XI 1:100:5, p. 37, cites this passage along with Luke 5:14; Luke 17:14; James 5:14, in proof of auricular confession, that auricularis carnificina and alleges “Dominus noster Jesus Christus, e terris ascensurus ad cœlos, sacerdotes sui ipsius vicarios reliquit tamquam praesides et judices, ad quos omnia mortalia crimina deferantur.” Likewise à lapide says: “Quam confessionem exigit Johannes? Hæretici solam, quæ fit deo, admittunt; catholici etiam specialem requirunt. Respondeo, Johannem utramque exigere. Generalem pro peccatis levibus, specialem pro gravibus.” Equally unwarranted is the inference drawn in favour of purgatory from καθαρίση as if the forgiveness (αφιέναι τὰς ἁμαρτίας) took place here and the cleansing from all unrighteousness (καθαρίζειν�) not until hereafter in another state of existence; even the reading καθαρίαει would not warrant such a construction. It is Paul’s particular aim to guard his readers against all such false satisfactions and hopes as those in which auricular confession and purgatory entangle men, and pastors and friends also should bear this in mind in private confessions. [See above note on 1 John 1:9.—M.]


The truth that we are altogether sinners is very bitter, universal in its application and reaches deep. But those who flatter themselves, and think higher and better of themselves than they really are, lose the truth. If you think any thing of yourself, you ruin yourself. God only knows and is able to make something of man. Without the perception of sin no confession of sin, without confession of sin no forgiveness of sin, without forgiveness of sin no cancelling of sin, ergo without grace no salvavation. The denial of our sin and sinfulness will hardly avail with a human judge, but it will ruin us with the Judge Eternal. Without truthfulness and the love of truth you will have no room for God and His word in your heart and lose all susceptibility for them. Be afraid of desiring to know any thing, and especially thy heart, better than God, the Lord.

Starke:—We must not look for perfect holiness in this world; those who entertain the fancy that they may be or are perfect are like those who walk on stilts or over precipitous cliffs: before they are aware of it they will

fall and come to naught. Whoso seeks righteousness in absolute deliverance from sin, will lose it if he has it already, and never get it if he has it not. Confession of sins before God is necessary to the forgiveness of sins; but we cannot merit forgiveness by confession of sins. The confession of sins is here simply adduced as a sign of hearty, contrite repentance; it comprises all these parts and is founded on a thorough knowledge accompanied by a perfect hatred and detestation of sin; but it must take place without all cloaking and concealment, sincerely and from the heart. Moreover it must take place with the heart and with the mouth, first and foremost before God whom we have offended therewith and who, we hope, may forgive it us; but also before men, whom we have either offended or vexed thereby. It is a congenital fault of men to love making themselves innocent by their own efforts [literally “to burn themselves white”—M.]; but let none act the hypocrite to himself; for God has concluded all under sin, and no man living is righteous before him.

Spener:—Those also who walk in the light, stand in fellowship with God and are cleansed by the blood of Christ, have sins adhering to and remaining in them, from which they still require to be cleansed. If God has forgiven your sins, He will also cleanse you from all unrighteousness: now if you desire the one benefit without striving for or refusing to receive the other, you seek to overturn the righteousness of God and therefore cannot get it; for God has ordered that they must remain together. If the word of God is to be profitable to us, it must be kept and planted within us in order that it may be powerful and efficacious in us.

[Collect for second Sunday in Advent: “Blessed God, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, that, by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which Thou hast given us in our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”—M.]

J. Lange:—If God daily forgives penitents their sins, how much more ought we to forgive one another’s sins; if we have been offended by men and we do not willingly and truly forgive them, neither will God forgive us.

If one thinks himself perfectly holy and pure, he comes short of,
1. Daily renovation;
2. The sense of godly poverty of spirit;
3. The daily prayer for the forgiveness of the sins and transgressions he has committed;
4. Spiritual watchfulness and carefulness;
5. Avoiding what may excite his inward desires and appetites;
6. The right use of the means of grace which are appointed for the furtherance of virtue;
7. The proper regard and daily appropriation of the blood of Christ for cleansing from all unrighteousness;
8. Bounden sympathy with, and compassion on his faulty and erring brethren. Thus he will at last fall from the grace of God into abominable selfishness and spiritual pride; and, unless he turn from the error of his ways, into eternal perdition.

Whiston:—Although we should like David and Peter fall from fellowship with God, He will, if we humbly and penitently confess those repeated sins and beg for mercy for Christ’s sake, forgive them also and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We must not however boldly go on sinning, but rather shun sin the more.

Heubner.:—The beginning of all wisdom is to know one’s sin. There is a difference between having and doing sin. The first is partly former guilt, partly the remaining bias to sin which misleads us to the commission of many sins of infirmity; the second is living in some master sin, to be wholly the servant of sin. The matter stands thus: God says on every page of His Book: All men, consequently you and I also, are sinners; but man says, I am not a sinner. One or the other therefore must lie. If man denies his sin, he affirms that God has lied in His Word; yea, the whole Christian religion, Christ’s coming into the world would become a lie; for He came for the salvation of sinners—and there would be no sinners! Hence pride, self-righteousness is so dangerous, hateful and loathsome to God, because the proud accuse God of lying.

Nitzsch:—I. The warning against the false method of getting acquitted of the burden of our guilt before God. The Apostle warns,

1. Against the false interpretation and depreciation of the law; the precepts, which I have not violated, cannot preserve my righteousness and innocence in the one which I have broken; nor is ignorance of any avail to me, how often I have unconsciously or half-consciously transgressed; more malice may lie concealed in a word than in a deed, and more still in a thought. Knowledge of sin is the only gain we can derive from the law.

2. Against excuses of sin from external or internal circumstances (the world, fate, human nature); we lose more by taking from God what is His, than if we give up all self-praise. Why did you not threaten or entice with God when men threatened or enticed you with the world, and seek to lead those to virtue who wanted to mislead you to vice? and have you always done the good you knew and were able to do? That ignorant sinner remains to be found who has not knowingly transgressed the Divine precepts.

3. Of false satisfactions; for they contain one and all an untrue and unhappy release from the state of guilt.

II. The true way of getting acquitted of our guilt before God:

1. Ask what the confession of our sins is; and,

2. Consider how on the right confession of sin God the True and Righteous will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The man who confesses his sins in Psalms 32:0, does not make a show of his wickedness, nor regard his transgressions with the fear or carelessness of the natural man, nor say yea to the general situation and complaint, and yet feel his guilt as he feels the regular pulsation of his heart, satisfied with his condition. No, his whole being, thinking, moving and life fully participate in his confession, which insists upon the full act and truth of our separation from sin and the accomplishing of all that to which grace in Christ will lead us. It is full knowledge of sin and of our sin in us; we feel truly the guilt and misery of sin and that sin imperils our life, we confess in despair unto salvation, yet not without faith, but in faith in holy Love. This is the way with the beginning and progress of being cleansed from all unrighteousness.

T. A. Wolf:—Of the true constitution of those who live without the knowledge of sin.

1. Its marks: rude security, tender selfishness, self-contented pride.

2. Its consequences: without the light of the truth, without the consolation of forgiveness, without strength for real amendment.

3. Its end: either dying without the knowledge of sin, partly with fearful presumptuousness, partly with a firm courage that might make us doubt our belief, or attaining to a penitent and sincere knowledge of our sin.

Krummacher:—The throne of grace—1. Is concealed from ignorant or bad self-righteous men; 2. Unveiled—to believers; 3. Left too soon by levity, idleness, or culpable opinionativeness.

Friedrich:—Either God is a liar, or we are altogether sinners. 1. A call to decision as to whether we will believe God’s Word in general or not. 2. A call from sleep whether we will continue to yield ourselves to the dream of self-deception or not. 3. A call of the judgment, whether we will seek the grace of the forgiveness of our sins, or be lost forever.

Clauss:—The Confession: 1. What it ?Isaiah 2:0. What are its effects?

Besser:—God grant that the truth be written not only in our confessions, but in our hearts!—No sanctification unless its root be forgiveness; and no forgiveness unless its fruit be sanctification.

[Stanhope:—On 1 John 1:9, “That the true purport of this condition be not mistaken, it is fit we remember that nothing is more usual in Scripture than to express a man’s duty by some very considerable branch of it. Thus the whole of religion is often implied in the love or the fear of God; and thus confession here, no doubt, denotes not only an acknowledgment of our faults, but all that deep humility and shame, all that afflicting sorrow and self-condemnation, all that resolution against them, all that effectual forsaking them for the future, all that diligence to grow and abound in the contrary virtues and graces, all that entire dependence on the merits and sacrifice of our crucified Redeemer, all that application of His Word and sacraments ordained to convey this cleansing blood to us, which accompany such acknowledgments, when serious and to the purpose, and which are elsewhere represented as constituent parts of repentance and necessary predispositions to forgiveness. In the mean while, as the mention of this singly was sufficient, so was no part of repentance as proper to be mentioned as this; for it was directed to persons vain and absurd enough to suppose themselves void of sin, and thereby evacuating, so far as in them lie, the whole Gospel of Christ; for the Gospel propounds a salvation to all men, to be obtained only by His death,—a death undergone on purpose that it might propitiate for sin, and consequently a death needless to them who had no sin; a death of none effect to any who do not allow the necessity and trust to the virtue of it, for the remission of their own sins; but to all who do, so beneficial that God can as soon renounce His Word, as disappoint their reasonable expectations. His promise is passed, and He is faithful; the Judge of all the earth cannot but do right; His Son has paid the debt, and He is just; He will not therefore require from the principal what the Surety has already discharged. So sure are we to be happy, if we be but sensible how miserable we have made ourselves; so sure to be miserable, if puffed up with vain confidence in our own real impotence, and insensible that to Jesus Christ alone we owe the very possibility of our being happy.”]

[Barrow:—“When from ignorance or mistake, from inadvertency, negligence or rashness, from weakness, from wantonness, from presumption we have transgressed our duty and incurred sinful guilt; then, for avoiding the consequent danger and vengeance, for unloading our consciences of the burden and discomfort thereof, with humble confession in our mouths, and serious contrition in our hearts, we should apply ourselves to the God of mercy, deprecating His wrath and imploring pardon from Him, remembering the promise of John: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”—M.].


1 John 1:8-9. Augustine: If we say that we have no sin, etc. Libr. of the Fathers, 20. 947.

Trench: Sin forgiven by a faithful and just God.

1 John 1:9. Burnet, Gilbert: God’s readiness to receive returning sinners. Pract. Serm., 2. 321.

Hook, W. T.: Auricular Confession. Controversies of the Day, 187.—M.].


1 John 1:8; 1 John 1:8. [ German: “If we say that we have not gin,” but the rendering of E. V. is better and idiomatically more correct, for ἁμαρτίαν ἒχειν is to have sin, and ἁμαρτίαν οὑκ ἒχειν denotes to have no sin, to be absolutely free from it.—M.]

[20]ἐν ἡμῖν οὐκ ἒστιν A. C. K. al. [Lachm., Tischend., Wordsw.—M.] is a more authentic reading than οὐκ ἒστιν ἐν ἡμῖν B, G. al. Sin. Vulg.; which is probably a correction according to 1 John 5:10.

1 John 1:9; 1 John 1:9. [German: “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins.” δίκαιος “ocurs other five times in this Epistle, and is always in E. V. so rendered. The opposition, moreover, between God as δικαιος and the ἀδικία from which the Church is cleansed, is lost in E. V.” Lillie.—The omission of our, supplied in E. V., is idiomatic German, but hardly English.—M.]

[22]ἠμῶν, Cod. Sin., but otherwise feebly sustained, is probably added from the first clause of the verse.

[23] καθαρίσει A. al. [perhaps also in C**] cannot be received as the original reading. καθαρίση has the the weightier authority of Sin. B.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 John 1". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/1-john-1.html. 1857-84.
Ads FreeProfile