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Bible Commentaries
1 John 1

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

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A.M. 4094. A.D. 90.


(1,) The apostle bears testimony to Jesus as the Word of life, which, as manifested in the flesh, they had heard, seen, and handled; and thereby shows the firm ground on which his preaching and writing, and the faith of believers, were built, 1 John 1:1-4 .

(2,) Represents the necessity of holiness, in order to fellowship with God and Christ, 1 John 1:5 , 1 John 1:6 .

(3,) Bears witness to the guilt and depravity of mankind, and represents pardon and sanctification as blessings necessary, and provided for them through the blood of Christ, and ensured to all the truly penitent, by the mercy and faithfulness of God, 1 John 1:7-10 .

Verse 1

1 John 1:1. That which was That is, as the expression here means, the word which was, namely, with the Father, (1 John 1:2,) before he was manifested; from the beginning This phrase sometimes means the beginning of the gospel dispensation, as 1 John 2:7-8, and is thus interpreted here by Whitby, Doddridge, and Macknight. But if the apostle be speaking, as the context seems to show he is, of the eternal Word, the Son of God, he could not mean to tell us merely that he existed from the beginning of the gospel, for who needed to be informed of that? since it was well known by all professing Christians, that, even as to his human nature, he had existed near thirty years before the gospel dispensation was in any degree opened by the ministry of his forerunner, John the Baptist. The expression, from the beginning, here seems to be equivalent with in the beginning, (John 1:1,) and therefore to mean from the beginning of time, or rather, from eternity; that which we The apostles; have heard Most credibly attested by authentic witnesses; nay, have heard discoursing to us times innumerable; which we have seen with our eyes And that not only daily, for three years before his crucifixion, but repeatedly after his resurrection from the dead; which we have looked upon Εθεασαμεθα , have contemplated; the word is different from that rendered we have seen, in the former clause; and denotes their beholding him attentively, and considering maturely and diligently his person and conduct, his words and actions, his doctrine, sufferings, and miracles, and all the other particulars by which he manifested the reality and extraordinary nature of his life in the flesh. And our hands have handled, &c. Here the apostle seems chiefly to allude to what Christ said to his disciples when he appeared to them after his resurrection, and said, Handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have, Luke 24:39. On many other occasions, however, the disciples had an opportunity of handling their Master, and knowing that he had a real body. For example, when he washed their feet; when he took Peter by the hand to prevent him from sinking as he walked on the water; when the disciples gave him the loaves and fishes, and when he, after multiplying them, put them into their hands to be distributed to the multitude. John, in particular, had an opportunity of feeling Christ’s body when he leaned on his bosom during the last passover supper, John 13:23. Of the Word of life He is termed the Word, John 1:1, the Life, John 1:4, as he is the living word of God, who with the Father and the Spirit, is the fountain of life to all creatures, particularly of spiritual and eternal life.

Verse 2

1 John 1:2. For the life The living Word; was manifested In the flesh to our very senses; and we have seen it In its full evidence; and bear witness Testify by declaring, by preaching, and writing, 1 John 1:3-4. Preaching lays the foundation, writing builds thereon: and show unto you Who have not seen; the eternal life The eternal Word and Son of God, who lives himself for ever, and is the author of eternal life to us, John 10:28; Hebrews 5:9; which was with the Father John 1:1-2; in his bosom, John 1:18; of the same nature and essence with himself, and was with him from eternity; and was manifested to us With all the genuine characters of the Son of God and the promised Messiah. That the apostle speaks of his eternity a parte ante, (as they say,) and as from everlasting, is evident, in that he speaks of him as he was in and from the beginning; when he was with the Father, before his manifestation to us; yea, before the making of all things that were made, as John 1:2-3. So that he is the eternal, vital, intellectual Word and Son of the eternal, living Father. Now here was condescension and kindness indeed! that a person possessed of eternal, essential life, should put on flesh and blood, or the entire human nature; should assume infirmity, affliction, and mortality, in order to visit sinful mortals, to dwell among and converse with them; to reveal to them, procure for them, and then confer on them, eternal life; even felicity and glory unspeakable with himself for ever!

Verses 3-4

1 John 1:3-4 . That which we have seen Him, I say, of whom we have such infallible knowledge, or that which we have seen and heard from him and of him; declare we to you For this end; that ye also may have fellowship with us May enjoy the same fellowship which we enjoy; or, in other words, that, being fully satisfied and firmly persuaded of the truth of our testimony, and laying hold on him by a lively faith, you may have fellowship with God and with Christ, such as we apostles, and other faithful Christians have, and may partake with us of the benefits and privileges we enjoy thereby. And truly our fellowship Whereby he is in us, and we in him; is with the Father We are savingly acquainted with, have access to, and intercourse with, the Father, and partake of all those blessings which God the Father has promised to those that are in covenant with him; and with his Son Jesus Christ And we partake also of all those privileges Christ has purchased for his members, namely, pardon, reconciliation, the divine favour, adoption into God’s family, the Spirit of adoption sent into our hearts, regeneration, sanctification, a lively, joyful hope of the heavenly inheritance, and an earnest of that inheritance by his Spirit dwelling in us, whereby we sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus. And these things write we unto you We not only declare them in word, which might soon escape from your remembrance, but we put them down in writing, that you may frequently peruse and consider them; that your joy may be full So our Lord also, John 15:11; John 16:22; that is, to confirm you in the faith, and direct you into that way, wherein you may have an abundant source of comfort. There is a joy of faith, a joy of hope, and a joy of love. Here the joy of faith is chiefly intended: and the expression, your joy, chiefly means your faith, and the joy arising from it. It likewise, however, implies the joy of hope, and the joy of love.

Verses 5-7

1 John 1:5-7. This then is the message That is, one part of it; which we have heard of him The Son of God; that God is light The light of truth, wisdom, holiness, glory. What light is to the natural eye, that God is to the spiritual eye; and in him is no darkness at all Not the least mixture of ignorance or error, of folly, sin, or misery; if we say Either with our tongue, or in our heart; if we endeavour to persuade ourselves and others, that we have fellowship with him If we pretend to, or make a profession of it; and walk in darkness Live in a state of ignorance, error, folly, or sin, which things are as contrary to his wise and holy nature, as darkness is to that of light, whatever professions we may make of our acquaintance with Christianity, and of being zealous for its interests; we lie, and do not the truth Our conduct shows that our professions are false, and that the truth is not in us. But if we walk in the light In the way of truth, knowledge, and holiness; as he is (a deeper word than walk, and more worthy of God) in the light Is essentially and perfectly wise and holy, then we may truly say, we have fellowship one with another God with us, and we with him; for that is the fellowship the apostle is speaking of 1 John 1:6, namely, fellowship or intercourse between the head and the members of the community: a fellowship which consists in the Father’s bestowing blessings on us through the mediation of Christ, and in our receiving these blessings from the Father and the Son with thankfulness. As if the apostle had said, We who have seen, and you who have not seen, do alike enjoy that fellowship with God and Christ, the imitation of God being the only sure proof of our having fellowship with him. And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son With the grace purchased thereby; cleanseth us from all sin Taketh away all the guilt, and therewith all the power of sin, both original and actual. There is also a cleansing from all sin in a higher sense, even from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, (see 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:25-26; Colossians 1:22; Titus 2:14,) from whatever is contrary to the mind of Christ and the image of God, which may be experienced in the present life, by the blood of Christ, who, having died to procure for us the influences of the Spirit for fully sanctifying our nature, may be truly said to cleanse us from all sin by his blood. Of this cleansing, however, the apostle does not speak directly in this verse, but he speaks of it 1 John 1:9.

Verses 8-10

1 John 1:8-10. If we say Before Christ’s blood has cleansed us; that we have no sin To be cleansed from; or if, even after we have experienced the cleansing virtue of his blood, and are acquitted through the merit of it from all past guilt, and saved from all evil tempers, words, and works; if, even after this, after we are both justified, regenerated, and sanctified, we say we have no sin, but are perfectly sinless, and that our spirit and conduct can bear the scrutiny of God’s holiness and justice, as exhibited in his spiritual and holy law; we deceive ourselves And that in a very capital point; and the truth is not in us Neither in our mouth nor in our heart; we must be destitute even of that self-knowledge which, in the nature of things, must necessarily precede every other branch of experimental and practical religion. If we confess our sins With penitent and believing hearts; he is faithful Having promised this blessing by the unanimous voice of all his prophets; and just Surely then he will punish: no; for this very reason he will pardon. This may seem strange, but, upon the evangelical principle of atonement and redemption, it is undoubtedly true. Because when the debt is paid, or the purchase made, it is the part of equity to cancel the bond, and consign over the purchased possession; both to forgive our sins To take away all the guilt of them, and to give us peace with himself, and peace of conscience; and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness From all iniquity of heart and life, and to purify our souls from all vile affections and unholy dispositions, from every thing contrary to the pure and perfect love of God. Yet still we are to retain, even to our lives’ end, a deep sense of our past sins: still, if we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar Who saith, all have sinned; and his word is not in us We give it no place in our hearts.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 John 1". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/1-john-1.html. 1857.
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