Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries

The First Epistle of John Expounded in a Series of Lectures

1 John

- 1 John

by Robert Smith Candlish

The First Epistle of John Expounded in a Series of Lectures








Prepared for Libronix Digital Library System by
William A. Anderson <>, December, 2008

Prepared for e-Sword / theWord by: <> / <>

Preface To Second Edition (1869)

IN issuing this book anew, I have scarcely anything to add to what I wrote in issuing it before. I have very carefully revised it, more than once or twice; not so much, however, it is fair to say, with a view to its being more learned or critical, as with a view to its bringing out more clearly what I thought I had ascertained to be the apostle’s general line of thought.

I have accordingly—still making my table of contents a sort of index or analysis of the teachings of the epistle—made some slight alterations upon it. I do not think it possible indeed to reduce this warm outflow of the loving apostle’s heart into regular and exact logical order; and if I indicate successive parts, it is with the full apprehension of the thoughts and feelings brought out in them running into one another. But I fasten on three emphatic words: light, righteousness, love; “God is light,” “God is righteous,” “God is love;” and with a preliminary statement of the general idea of the apostolic fellowship, and a fourth or concluding part about its prevalence over the fellowship.

Of the world and the wicked one in whom the world lies, I am inclined to hope that I have indicated somewhat better than I did before the general lie of the country.

It is fair also to say that, in revising these lectures, I have not lost sight of my teaching as to the Fatherhood of God, on which, as I have explained in the preface to my former edition, the study of this epistle had a material influence. I hope to follow up this new issue of my exposition of 1 John, with a corresponding re-issue of my Cunningham Lectures.

Preface to First Edition

Two “Expositions” of this First Epistle of John came into my hands about the end of last year (1865): the one by the Rev. John Stock, late Vicar of Finchingfield, Essex; the other by Dr. Morgan of Belfast; both published in the course of that year, and both, especially the latter, of great practical interest and value. If they had appeared at an earlier date, I might have abstained from issuing this volume. But in my Lectures on the Fatherhood of God I had previously referred to these discourses of mine on this Epistle, as being completed and ready for publication. And I did not see how I could well draw back, especially as I wished my views on that subject to be looked at in the light of the beloved Apostle’s argument in his great Epistle. (At the risk of a charge of egotism, I may mention that this course of lectures was begun in October 1860, and continued, with frequent interruptions, till January 1864; that the lectures, as they were delivered, were carefully written out, in a way tolerably fit for the press; and that in preparing them for the press now, I have found little or nothing to alter beyond verbal corrections and improvements. They were all finished before the delivery of the Cunningham Lectures on the Fatherhood of God in February and March 1864. And I referred to them, as thus finished, when the Cunningham Lectures were published, about a year after.)

I must frankly add, also, that on a perusal of the two works, I have not found any reason for thinking that mine may not still be a contribution of some value to the theological and exegetical study of this inspired treatise.

I speak of the theological and exegetical study of it. And I do so advisedly. For I am deeply convinced, after years of thought about it, that it can be studied aright exegetically only when it is studied theologically.

Of course I do not mean that a cut-and-dry creed, accepted beforehand, is to rule, or overrule, the critical and grammatical interpretation of the ascertained text. But I think no one is competent to deal in detail with this wonderful book who is not familiar with the evangelical system as a whole, and able, therefore, to appreciate the bearings of John’s line of thought in connection with it. I do not speak of the higher qualification of spiritual mindedness. I make this remark simply as a theologian and an expositor.

The writer to whom I am most indebted is Dr. John H. A. Ebrard, Professor of Theology in the University of Erlangen. I must acknowledge my obligation also to Dr. Friedrich Lücke, of the Prussian University of Bonn. But it is Dr. Ebrard who has helped me most. (I know both of these works through the translations published by Messrs. Clark; that of Lücke in 1837, and that of Ebrard in 1860. The last is especially valuable, and for an English reader, acquainted with theology, very easily intelligible.)

I have not met with English commentators or expositors of much value as bringing out the full sense of this epistle, (An exposition of a part of it, the first two chapters, by Dr. Nathanael Hardy, an eminent Puritan Divine (died 1670), has been recently republished in Nichol’s Series of Commentaries (Edinburgh, 1865). So far as it goes, it will be read with interest by those who can appreciate the sound evangelical doctrine and thorough learning of that school of theologians.) There are few separate expositions of it; and when it is handled in a general commentary on the whole Bible or New Testament, it is apt to be handled somewhat perfunctorily.

An exception to this remark ought perhaps to be made. Among the “Continuators” of “Matthew Poole’s Annotations,” we find the name of John Howe, to whom the three epistles of John were allotted. His notes, however, are brief, and given verse by verse, without much attempt to trace the connection of the Apostle’s successive lines of thought. In a spiritual and practical point of view, they are interesting and edifying; but they do not help much towards the exegetical interpretation of this book.

For myself, and as regards these lectures of mine, I must disclaim all intention of presenting to the learned anything like a critical commentary, properly so called. I do not quote authors, or discuss their different views and opinions. I attempt no minute analysis of texts, nor any elaborate verbal and grammatical construing of them. My object is a wider and broader one. It is to bring out the general scope and tenor of the Apostle’s teaching, as simply and clearly as I can.

I do not, therefore, discuss any questions about our Lord’s titles, proper to him in his pre-existent state;—such as “the Word of Life,” or “the Life” (1 John 1:1-2);—titles which are better studied in the beginning of John’s Gospel, and which have no material influence on his reasoning in this Epistle; at least none that does not come out sufficiently in the course of his argument. For the same reason, I abstain from other critical discussions. And for an additional reason also I do so in some cases.

Thus, in regard to the doubtful reading (1 John 3:16), I rather evade the question; for I hold it to be of no importance whatever. I am willing that the disputed words—“of God”—should be omitted. But then the clause must run: —“Hereby perceive we this love, because he,” the Son of God (1 John 3:8), “laid down his life for us.” I might notice other points of criticism, but I forbear.

I have only to say further, that I ask special attention to the table of contents, as indicating the successive lines of thought which I have tried to trace in this epistle. I cannot say that I am quite satisfied with the divisions I have indicated, although I have followed generally some preceding authorities. Still I would like my book to be read in the light of the table of contents, as giving at least a tentative sketch of the general lie of the country.