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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
1 John 1

 

 

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Verse 1

That which 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 life;

Instead of a focal, John adopts a virtual, address (cf. 1 John 1:4). To wish joy to the reader was the ancient address. The sentence begun, 1 John 1:1, is broken off by the parenthetic 1 John 1:2, and is resumed at 1 John 1:3, with the repetition of words from 1 John 1:1.

That which was - essentially (not 'began to be') [ een (Greek #2258), not egeneto (Greek #1096)]; before He was manifested (1 John 1:2): answering to "Him that is from the beginning" (1 John 2:13); so John's gospel, John 1:1; Proverbs 8:23.

We - apostles.

Heard ... seen ... looked upon ... handled. A gradation. Seeing is a more convincing proof than hearing of; handling, than even seeing. "Have heard ... have seen" [ Heoorakamen (Greek #3708)] (perfects), as a possession still abiding with us; but [ etheasametha (Greek #2300)] "looked upon" (without "have:" not perfect, as of a continuing thing, but aorist, past time), while Christ the incarnate Word was still with us. "Seen," namely, His glory, as revealed in the transfiguration and in His miracles; and His passion and death, in a real body of flesh and blood. "Looked upon" as a wondrous spectacle, stedfastly, deeply, contemplatively. Appropriate to John's contemplative character. "Hands have handled" [ epseelafeesan (Greek #5584)] - Thomas and the other disciples, on distinct occasion, after the resurrection. John himself had leant on Jesus' breast at the last supper. Contrast the wisest of the pagan feeling after (the same Greek, Acts 17:27 : cf. Romans 10:8-9), groping after WITH THE HANDS, if haply they might find God. This proves against Socinians; he is speaking of the personal incarnate Word, not of Christ's teaching, from the beginning of His official life.

Of , [ peri (Greek #4012)] - 'concerning;' following "heard." "Heard" is the verb most applying to the purpose of the letter-namely, the truth which John had heard concerning the Word of life; i:e., (Christ) the Word who is the life-namely, from Christ Himself; all Christ's teachings about Himself. Therefore he puts 'concerning' before "the Word of life," which is inapplicable to any of the verbs except "heard;" also "heard" is the only verb which he resumes at 1 John 1:5.


Verse 2

(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)

The life - Jesus, "the Word of life."

Was manifested - previously having been "with the Father."

Show , [ apangellomen (Greek #518)] - as 1 John 1:3, "declare" (cf. 1 John 1:5). The general term: write in the particular (1 John 1:4).

That eternal life , [ teen (Greek #3588) zooeen (Greek #2222) teen (Greek #3588) aioonion (Greek #166)] - 'the life which is eternal.' As the letter begins, so it ends with "eternal life," which we shall ever enjoy with, and in, Him, 'the eternal life.'

Which , [ heetis (Greek #3748)] - 'the which;' inasmuch as it was with the Father "from the beginning" (cf. 1 John 1:1; John 1:1). This proves the distinctness of the First and Second Persons.


Verse 3

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

That which we have seen and heard - resumed from 1 John 1:1, where the sentence was interrupted by 1 John 1:2, a parenthesis.

Declare we unto you. 'Aleph (') A B C add also: unto you also who have not seen or heard Him.

That ye also may have fellowship with us - that ye also who have not seen, may have the fellowship with us which we who have seen enjoy. What that fellowship consists in he states: "Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son." Faith realizes the unseen as spiritually visible. Not until by faith we too have seen, do we know all the excellency of the true Solomon (1 Kings 10:6-7). We are "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). We know God only by fellowship with Him. He may thus be known, but not comprehended. The repetition of "with" [ meta (Greek #3326)] before the "Son" distinguishes the persons, while the fellowship with both Father and Son implies their unity. It is not added, 'and with the Holy Spirit;' for it is by the Holy Spirit of the Father and Son in us that we have fellowship with the Father and Son (cf. 1 John 3:24). Believers enjoy the fellowship OF, but not WITH, the Holy Spirit. 'Through Christ God closes up the chasm that separated Him from the human race, and imparts Himself to them in the communion of the divine life' (Neander).


Verse 4

And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

These things - and none other: this whole letter. Write me unto you. 'Aleph (') B have [ heemeis (Greek #2249)] "we" for [ humin (Greek #5213)] "unto you." Thus the antithesis is between "we" (apostles and eyewitnesses) and "your" (A C). We write thus, that your joy may be full. But B 'Aleph ('), Vulgate, read 'OUR joy.' In this case, for antithesis' sake, I prefer "unto you," in the former clause. 'We write unto YOU that OUR joy over you may be filled full' [ pepleeroomenee (Greek #4137)], by your being brought into fellowship with the Father and the Son. (Compare John 4:36, end; Philippians 2:2; Philippians 2:16; Philippians 4:1; 2 John 1:8.) John 15:11; John 16:24, make "YOUR" the probable reading; for John often repeats the language of his beloved Lord. So 2 John 1:12, "your" in most of oldest manuscripts. Christ Himself is the source, object, and center of His people's joy (cf. 1 John 1:3, end). It is in fellowship with Him that we have joy, the fruit of faith (Romans 5:11).


Verse 5

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

First division of the body of the letter (cf. 'Introduction').

Declare , [ anangellomen (Greek #312)] - 'announce;' report in turn: different from 1 John 1:3. As the Son announced the message heard from the Father as His apostle (John 15:15; Hebrews 3:1), so the Son's apostles announce what they have heard from the Son. John nowhere uses 'gospel;' but the witness or testimony, the word, the truth: here the message.

God is light. What light is in the natural world, that God, the source of even material light, is in the spiritual-the fountain of wisdom, purity, beauty, joy, and glory. As all material life and growth depend on light, so all spiritual life and growth depend on GOD. As God here, so Christ, in 1 John 2:8, is called "the true light."

No darkness at all. Strong negation [ skotia (Greek #4653) ouk (Greek #3756) estin (Greek #2076) oudemia (Greek #3762): 'no, not even one speck of darkness']; no ignorance, error, untruthfulness, sin, death. John heard this from Christ, not only in express, but in acted words-namely, His whole manifestation in the flesh as "the brightness of the Father's glory." Christ Himself was the embodiment of "the message" representing fully in all His sayings, doings, and sufferings, Him who is LIGHT.


Verse 6

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

Have fellowship with him (1 John 1:3) - the essence of the Christian life.

Walk in inward and outward action Walk - in inward and outward action.

In darkness (Greek, 'in the darkness') - opposed to "the light" (cf. 1 John 2:8; 1 John 2:11).

Lie - (1 John 2:4.)

Do not - in practice, whatever we say.

The truth - (Ephesians 4:21; John 3:21.)


Verse 7

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

We walk. (Ephesians 5:8; Ephesians 5:11-14) 'God IS (essentially, in His very nature, as "light," 1 John 1:5) in the light.' WALKING in the light, the element in which God IS, is the test of fellowship with Him. Christ, like us, walked in the light (1 John 2:6). Alford, 'Walking in the light, as He is in the light, is no mere imitation of God, but an identity in the essential element of our daily walk with the essential element of God's being.'

We have fellowship one with another - and of course with God (understood from 1 John 1:6), without having fellowship with whom there can be no Christian fellowship one with another (cf. 1 John 1:3). To believe, with John, is eternal life; to love, is blessedness; to serve, is usefulness.

And - as the result of 'walking in the light, as He is in the light.'

The blood of Jesus ... cleanseth us from all sin - daily contracted through the weakness of the flesh, and the power of Satan and the world. He is speaking, not of justification through His blood once for all, but of present sanctification ("cleanseth"), which the believer, walking in the light, and having fellowship with God and the saints, enjoys as his privilege. Compare John 13:10, 'He that has been bathed [ leloumenos (Greek #3068)] needeth not save to wash [ nipsasthai (Greek #3538)] his feet, but is clean every whit.' Compare 1 John 1:9, "cleanse us from all unrighteousness:" a further step besides 'forgiving us our sins.' Christ's blood is the mean whereby, being already justified, and in fellowship with God, we become gradually clean from all sin which would mar fellowship with God. Faith applies the cleansing, purifying blood. 'Aleph (') B C omit "Christ;" A retains it.


Verse 8

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Confession of sins flows from 'walking in the light' (1 John 1:7). 'If thou shall confess thyself a sinner, the truth is in thee; for the truth is light. Not yet has thy life become perfectly light, as sins are still in thee; yet thou hast already begun to be illuminated, because there is in thee confession of sins' (Augustine).

That we have no sin. "HAVE," not 'have had,' must refer, not to the past life while unconverted, but to the present state, wherein believers have sin even still. "Sin" is singular; "(confess our) sins," 1 John 1:9, plural. Sin means the corruption of the old man still in us, and the stain created by actual sins flowing from that old nature. To confess our need of cleansing from present sin is essential to 'walking in the light;' so far is the presence of sin incompatible with our in the main 'walking in light.' But the believer hates, confesses, and longs to be delivered from all sin, which is darkness. 'They who defend their sins will see in the great day whether their sins can defend them.'

Deceive ourselves - not God (Galatians 6:7): we only make ourselves to err.

The truth - (1 John 2:4.) True faith. 'The truth respecting God's holiness and our sinfulness, the first spark of light in us, has no place in us' (Alford).


Verse 9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Confess - with the lips, from a contrite heart; involving confession to our fellow-men of offences against them.

He - God.

Faithful - to His own promises: 'true' to His word.

Just. Not merely the mercy, but the justice of God is set forth in the redemption of the penitent believer in Christ. God's promises of mercy, to which lie is faithful, harmonize with His justice (Romans 3:25-26).

To , [ hina (Greek #2443)] - 'in order that.' His forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from, etc., further the ends of His eternal faithfulness and justice.

Forgive - remitting the guilt.

Cleanse - purify from filthiness. Henceforth we more and more become free from the presence of sin through the Spirit of sanctification (cf. Hebrews 9:14; above, note, 1 John 1:7).

Unrighteousness - offensive to Him who 'is just.' Called "sin," 1 John 1:7, because "sin is the transgression of the law," and the law is the expression of God's righteousness; so sin is unrighteousness.


Verse 10

If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Parallel to 1 John 1:8.

We have not sinned - commission of actual sins, even after regeneration and conversion; whereas in 1 John 1:8, "we have no sin," refers to present GUILT, remaining (until cleansed) from actual sins committed, and to the SIN of our old nature still adhering to us. The perfect "have ... sinned" brings down the commission of sins to the present time: not merely sins before, but since, conversion.

We make him a liar - a gradation: 1 John 1:6, "we lie;" 1 John 1:8, "we deceive ourselves;" worst of all, "we make Him a liar," by denying His Word that all are sinners (cf. 1 John 5:10).

His word is not in us. "His word," "the truth" (1 John 1:8), accuses us truly; by denying it we drive it from our hearts (cf. John 5:38). Our rejection of it, as to our being sinners, involves our rejection of His word and will revealed in the Law and Gospel as a whole; for these throughout rest on the fact that we have sinned, and have sin.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 John 1:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/1-john-1.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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