I John 1

 

 

Vs. 1-4 is an introduction which declares the writer’s authority, based on personal

experience; announces the subject-matter of his Gospel, to which this Epistle forms

a companion; and states his object in writing the Epistle. These opening verses help

to raise the reader to the high frame of mind in which the apostle writes. Emotion,

suppressed under a sense of awe and solemnity, is shown by the involved construction

through which his thoughts struggle for utterance. We are reminded of the introduction

to the Gospel, especially in the first clause. Both announce to us the subject of the

writing which follows — the Word who is the Life. Both set before us, in

the simplest language, truths of profoundest meaning. But while in the

Gospel he seems to lose sight of his readers in the magnitude of his subject,

here the thought of his “little children” is uppermost.

 

The construction of the first three verses may be taken in more ways than

one; but almost certainly the main verb is ἀπαγγέλλομεν apaggellomen

we are reporting -  and the clauses introduced by (ὅ - ho – which)  give the

substance of the απαγγελίᾳ - apaggeliareport.   The sentence is

broken by the parenthetical v. 2, after which the main part of v. 1 is

repeated for clearness. Reduced to a simple form, the whole runs thus:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have

seen with our eyes, which we looked upon, and our hands handled,

concerning the Word of life, we declare to you also, that ye also may have

communion with us.”

 

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;” The first clause states what or how

the object is in itself; the next three state John’s relation to it; “which,” in the first

clause nominative, in the others is accusative. The neuter (ὅ - ho – which) expresses

a collective and comprehensive whole (John 4:22; 6:37; 17:2; Acts 17:23, etc.); the

attributes of the Λόγος – Logos – Word - rather than the Λόγος Himself are

indicated. Or, as Jelf expresses it, “the neuter gender denotes immaterial

personality, the masculine or feminine material personality.” In the

beginning is not quite the same as in John 1:1; there John tells us

that the Word was in existence before the world was created; here that He

was in existence before He was manifested. Thus far all is indefinite; the

philosopher, about to expound a law of nature, might begin, “That which

was from the beginning declare we unto you.” What follows is in a climax,

making the meaning clearer at each step: seeing is more than hearing, and

handling than seeing. The climax is in two pairs, of perfects and of aorists;

the aorists giving the past acts, the perfects the permanent results.

Together they sum up the apostolic experience of that boundless activity of

Christ, of which the world could not contain the full account (John 21:25).

Beheld ἐθεασάμεθαisetheasamethais we gaze -  more than have seen

ἑωράκαμεν  heorakamenwe have seen . Seeing might be momentary; beholding

implies that steady contemplation, for which the beloved disciple had large and

abundantly used opportunities.  In our hands handled we may see a reference to

Luke 24:39, where the same verb is used ψηλαφήσατε psaelaphaesatetouch;

handle ye; and still more to John 20:27, where the demanded test of handling is

offered to Thomas, provoking the confession of faith to which the whole Gospel

leads up, “My Lord and my God!” Had John merely said “heard,” we might have

thought that he meant a doctrine. Had he merely said “heard and seen,” we might

have understood it of the effects of Christ’s doctrine. But “our hands handled

shows clearly that the attributes of the Word become flesh are what John insists on,

and probably as a contradiction of Docetism. Those who read his letter could have

no doubt that he was referring to the time when he saw the face of Jesus Christ,

when he heard his discourses, when he grasped His hand, when he leaned upon

His breast.  Between the first clause and what follows lies the tremendous fact of

THE INCARNATION and John piles verb on verb, and clause on clause, to show

that he speaks with the authority of full knowledge, and that there is no possible

room for Ebionite or Cerinthian error. The first clause assures us that Jesus

was no mere man; the others assure us that He was really man. Precisely

that Being who was in existence from the beginning is that of whom John and

others have had, and still possess, knowledge by all the means through which

knowledge can have access to the mind of man. (For “seeing with the eyes,”

compare Luke 2:30; for θεᾶσθαιtheasthai - of contemplating with delight –

Mark 16:11, 14, John 1:14, 34; Acts 1:11.)  Concerning the Word of life.

περί - peri - concerning - may depend on “have heard,” and, by a kind of

zeugma (the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words when it is

appropriate to only one of them or is appropriate to each but in a different way),

on the other three verbs also; or on the main verb,” we declare.” “The Word of life”

meansthe Word who is the Life,” like “the city of Rome,… the Book of Genesis;”

the genitive case is “the characterizing or identifying genitive.” The περί is strongly

against the interpretation, “the word of life,” i.e., the life-giving gospel. Had John

meant this, he would probably have written ὅν ἀκηκόαμεν... τὸν λόγον τῆς ζωῆς

ἀπαγγέλλομενhon akaekoamen….ton logon taes zoaes apaggellomen

(John 5:24, 37; 8:43; 14:24);  περί is very frequent of persons (John 1:7-8, 15, 22,

30, 48, etc.). Moreover, the evident connection between the introductions to his

Gospel and Epistle compels us to understand Λόγος in the same sense in both

(see on John 1:1 in this Commentary, and in the ‘Cambridge Greek Testament’

or ‘Bible for Schools’). What John has to announce is his own experience of the

Eternal Word incarnate, the Eternal Life made manifest (John 14:6); his hearing

of His words, his seeing with his own eyes His Messianic works, his contemplation

of the Divinity which shone through both; his handling of the body of the risen

Redeemer.

 

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;)  Parenthetical. The main thought of verses 1 and 3 is,

“We declare to you a Being both eternal and yet seen and known by us.” That of

v.2 is, “This Being, in His character of the Life, became visible, and in

Him are centered all the relations between God and man.” Quite in John’s style, v. 2

takes up and develops a portion of v.1, using its last word as the basis of a new

departure (compare John 1:14; ἐφανερώθη ephanerothaewas manifested - gives the

same fact as σάρξ ἐγένετο sarx egenetomade flesh - from another point of

view). Became flesh is the fact in itself; the incarnation of the Λόγος (Word)

“Was manifested” is the fact in reference to mankind; their admission to the

knowledge of it. The union of “see” with “bear witness” recalls John

19:35; and here, again, v. 2 resumes and develops part of v. 1. Have

seen sums up the four verbs in v. 1; for in all languages sight is used of

experience generally. Bear witness and shew (declare) carries us a stage further

— the communication of the experience. It is doubtful whether τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον

taen zoaen taen aionionthe life, the eternal life - is the object of all four verbs or of

ἀπαγγέλλομεν (we are reporting) only. Note the double article: the life, the eternal life.

The Epistle begins and ends with this theme (ch.5:20). (For ἥτις haetiswhich - and

πρόςpros -  with; toward - compare John 8:53; 1:1.) Which indeed (as all must know)

was with the Father. The verse ends as it began, but not with a mere repetition; the Life

was manifested, and in particular to us.

 

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.”  The main sentence is resumed from v. 1, only the chief

points being retouched. We declare to you also καί - kaiand - must be read before

ὑμῖν humin -  unto you - on overwhelming authority); i.e., “you as well as we must

share in it,” rather than “you as well as others to whom we have declared it.” Of

course, ἀπαγγέλλομεν, must be rendered alike in both verses “we

declare; we report.” To what does it refer? Not to this Epistle, which does not

contain the writer’s experience of the Word of life manifested to mankind, but to

his Gospel, which the Epistle is to accompany. The parallel between the

two writings must often be noted, especially between the Epistle and John

17. Compare this verse with John 17:21. John’s aim in writing his

Gospel is that the great High Priest’s prayer may be fulfilled — that

believers may be one in that communion of which the unity between the

Father and the Son is the pattern and the basis; may be joined together in

the same body, the same belief, the same knowledge, the same sins, the

same hopes, the same destinies. Communion with Christians is

shown to mean a great deal — no less than communion with the Father and

with the Son. Note the double μετά - meta -  with - John’s writings teem with

indications of the unity and yet distinctness between the Father and the

Son. Communion with the one, so far from absorbing and canceling

communion with the other, implies it as a separate bliss. The clause καὶκοινωνία δὲ -

kai hae koinonia de – and the fellowship yet - κ.τ.λ..,, does not depend on ἵνα hina,

as the δέ - de shows; we must supply ἔστιesti -, not - hae. (For καὶ.. δὲ, compare

John 6:51, where, as here, καὶ  is the leading conjunction; in John 8:16-17 and 15:27, 

δὲ leads.) “Blessed are they that see not and yet believe. It is we who are here         

described, we who are designated. Then let the blessedness take place in

us, of which the Lord predicted that it should take place. Let us firmly hold

that which we see not, because those tell us who have seen” (St. Augustine)

.

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

While vs. 1-3 refer to the Gospel, this refers to the Epistle; but, although ταῦτα

tautathese -  in I John 2:26 and 5:13 refer to what precedes, there is no need to

limit ταῦτα here to these opening verses; it covers the whole Epistle. The reading

ἡμεῖς haemeiswe - seems preferable to ὑμῖνhuminye; you -  and ἡμῶν

haemonour – to ὑμῶν humon - your. But ἡμεῖς and ἡμῶν are not coordinate:

ἡμεῖς is the apostolic “we;” ἡμῶν means “your joy as well as mine.” This verse

takes the place of the usual “grace and peace” in the opening of other Epistles;

and as v. 3 recalls John 17:21, so this recalls John 17:13. The joy is

that of knowing that, though in the world, they are not of it, but are one

with one another, and with the Father and with the Son. The gospel is

always joy: “Rejoice evermore” (I Thessalonians 5:16 – I am now 71 years old

and still remember this being one of my paternal grandmother’s favorite verses

and she was an invalid for sixteen years! – CY - 2015); “Rejoice in the

Lord alway(Philippians 4:4). To know that the Eternal Life has been

manifested, that we have communion with Him, and through Him with the

Father, must be joy. Whereas Gnosticism, by denying the atonement, and

“the personal office of God in the salvation of the world,” cuts off one

great sphere of God’s love, and consequently one great cause of the

believer’s joy. To sum up this introduction:  John gives his Gospel to the

Church ἀπαγγέλλομεν in order that all may share in the union for which

Christ prayed; and to the Gospel he adds this Epistle καὶ ταῦτα γράφομεν

kai tauta graphomenwe are writing -  that all may realize the joy resulting

from this unionthat our joy may be fulfilled.  In this introduction we find the

following expressions which are characteristic of John, serving to show the

common authorship of the Gospel and Epistle, and in some cases of the Revelation

also: Λόγοςζωή φανερόω μαρτυρέω ζωὴ αἰώνιος η΅ν πρόςχαρὰ η΅ι

πεπληρωμένηho Logos hae zoae phaneroo martureo zoae aionios aen pros

hae chara aen peplaeromenae.  It is among the many excellences of the Revised

Version that characteristic expressions are marked by a uniform translation;

whereas in the Authorized Version they are obscured by capriciously

varying the translation: e.g. μαρτυρέω martureo -  is rendered in four different

ways - “bear witness,” “bear record,” “give record,” “testify”

 

 

                                                Introduction (vs. 1-4)

 

  • SUBJECT OF APOSTOLIC PROCLAMATION.

 

Ø      What is thrown into prominence.

 

o       The absolute concerning the Word of life. “That which was from

      the beginning.” By this form of expression we are taken back to

      a point which has existence only in thought, and from that point

      we are called to look forward. “That which was from the

      beginning,” or, strictly, “that which is timeless,” concerning the

      Word of life, viz. His Divine Personality and attributes, was

      included in the proclamation. It is put first as the grand

                                    background of the Incarnation. The Incarnate One must be

                                    thought of as having timelessness and all that belongs to

                                    timelessness.

 

o       The historical concerning the Word of life. “That which we have

                                    heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we

                                    beheld, and our hands handled.” John uses the plural number,

                                    as writing in the name of the apostles, of whom he was the sole

                                    survivor. There could also be predicated of Christ that He was

                                    the Object of phyical perception. This was not from the

                                    beginning, but in time. We thus come upon the historical

                                    existence of Christ. “That which we have heard.” In

                                    accordance with the context, we are to think only of what they

                                    had heard from the lips of Christ. They had been so near Him as

                                    actually to hear Him speaking. They had heard Him when He

                                    spoke the sermon on the mount, when He taught them to pray,

                                    when He bade the sea be still, when He uttered the seven

                                    voices on the cross, when He saluted them after His resurrection,

                                    when He blessed them in parting from them. “Have heard.”

                                    That which they had heard — the words and tone of voice —

                                    was their permanent possession; and it is the permanent

                                    possession of the Church still in substance, though

                                    not now associated with impressions through the sense of

                                    hearing. “That which we have seen with our eyes.” Some had

                                    only come into contact with those who had seen Christ: they

                                    had seen Him with their own eyes. They had seen Him when

                                    He was teaching, when He was walking on the sea,

                                    when He was transfigured, when He was hanging on the cross,

                                    when He was risen, when He was going up into heaven.

                                    “Have seen.” The impressions received through the sense of

                                    sight remained with them, instead of which we have only the

                                    descriptions of the evangelists. “That which we beheld.”

                                    By a change of verb we are referred to seeing with an intention,

                                    and by a change of tense we are referred to separate acts. On

                                    occasion after occasion they looked purposely, and satisfied

                                    themselves that He was indeed bone of their bone and flesh of

                                    their flesh. “And our hands handled.” This is joined closely in

                                    the same tense to what goes before. They had the solid evidence

                                    of handling on which to proceed. They not only touched,

                                    but touched with an intention. They must often have felt the

                                    touch of His hand; and we can think of them looking forward

                                    to an opportunity, and satisfying themselves, in the actual

                                    contact, that He was indeed their own flesh. There was one

                                    remarkable occasion after His resurrection; when He

                                    stood suddenly in the midst of them, they were terrified and

                                    affrighted, and supposed that they beheld a spirit; and He

                                    asked them to go beyond beholding. “Handle me, and see;

                                    for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having.”

                                    (Luke 24:39)  And apparently they were each favored with the

                                    convincing evidence of handling Him.

 

o       The designation of Christ as the Word of life. “Concerning

      the Word of life.” In the introduction to his Gospel John

      calls Christ “the Word.” The natural interpretation is that He is

      the Word in relation to God, as essentially manifesting God.

      Instead of God here we have Life, which therefore is to be

      taken as a designation of God. Created life has only a

                                    partial significance; life in its absolute significance is ONLY

                                    TO BE FOUND IN GOD!   The chief elements of life are:

§         consciousness,

§         activity, and

§         gladness;

                                    in the Word, God sees brought out the infinite richness of His

                                    own conscious, active, glad life.

 

Ø      Parenthetical statement.

 

o       Designation of Christ as the Life. “And the Life.” In the former

                                    designation God is thought of as the Life; now Christ, as

                                    essentially manifesting God in the particular aspect, is designated

                                    the Life (John 1:4).

 

o       Another manifestation which is connected with the evidence of

      sight.  “Was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness.”

      As the Word, Christ was manifested to God; but here we come

      upon another manifestation. The reference is to the Incarnation,

      or His becoming flesh (as it is expressed in John 1:14). As the

      Word, He was hidden from men; as the Incarnate, He was

      manifested to men, specially to the apostles. He came

                                    within the sphere of their vision, and they were put in the

                                    position of eyewitnesses to the Life as manifested.

 

o       The second manifestation not announced out of connection

      with the first. “And declare unto you the Life, the eternal Life,

      which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.”

      They realized the importance of making public the manifestation

      of the Life to them, but, at the same time, what He was before

      being manifested to them. He was eternal; while entering into

      time, in the life which essentially belonged to Him, He was

                                    timeless. He was also with the Father — a Companion, as it

                                    were, in whom the fatherly love found its object. This was the

                                    blessed concealment out of which He came. It is only when the

                                    Incarnation is thus connected that its graciousness appears.

                                    He who manifested the fullness of the Divine life was

                                    manifested in a form level to SENSE.   He who was manifested

                                    eternally was manifested in time. He who was manifested with

                                    the Father was manifested in the midst of uncongenial society.

 

Ø      Former statement, which was left incomplete, resumed. “That which we

                        have seen and heard declare we unto you also.” We are not told who the

                        recipients of this Epistle were. They were not all Christians, for, having

                        declared their message to others, they declared it to them also. Their

                        message was based on facts for which they had the evidence of sight and

                        hearing. In accordance with what has been said, they presented those

                        facts with their proper setting, viz. as facts in time concerning Him who

                        was before all time. They also presented them with their proper

                        interpretation, viz. as showing the Divine desire for HUMAN

                        SALVATION!  This gave a great simplicity and power to their

                        preaching: they had a few facts to tell, which they themselves

                        could attest. Christ is not now in the world, so that we can

                        have faith founded on the testimony of our own senses of sight and

                        hearing; but we can have faith founded on apostolic testimony. We

                        owe a debt of gratitude to the apostles that they were as careful

                        witnesses, looking purposely and handling purposely, and that they

                        took such pains to make their testimony known; and we owe a debt

                        of gratitude to the great Head of the Church, who made use of them

                        for the eliciting and establishing of our faith.  (Matthew 28:18-20)

 

  • AIM OF THE APOSTOLIC PROCLAMATION AND OF THIS

            EPISTLE.

 

Ø      Aim of the apostolic proclamation.

 

o       Fellowship with apostles. “That ye also may have fellowship

      with us.”  Fellowship depends, to a great extent, on a common

      range of experience.  There were saving experiences which the

      apostles enjoyed, in connection with which many had fellowship

      with them; they wished these, too, to have fellowship with them

      in connection with the same experiences. Therefore they preached

      THE INCARNATION  to them, for that was the condition of

      those experiences being enjoyed.

 

o       Fellowship with God. “Yea, and our fellowship is with the

      Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” Of far more importance

      than having fellowship, even with apostles, is having FELLOW-

      SHIP WITH GOD!  This is the principal end for which we are

      associated. We have fellowship with the Father. In His fatherly

      love He enters into all our experiences, and we have to enter into

      His loving  thoughts and purposes and to share in His peace and

      joy. (See John 14:23 – CY – 2015)  We have fellowship with the

      Father, as identified with His Son Jesus Christ — Him whom

      He sent forth on THE ERRAND OF HUMAN SALVATION!   

      From His human experiences, even of death, the Son can enter

      into all our experiences; and we are to be encouraged to enter

      into sympathy with Him in the whole extent of His saving work.

      The apostles proclaimed the Incarnation, that, within the

      Christian circle, this elevating fellowship might be promoted.

 

o       Aim of this Epistle. “And those things we write, that our joy

      may be fulfilled.” It is implied that his letter was in keeping

      with the apostolic proclamation. In the joy of the experiences

      connected with the Incarnation there was one element of pain.

      It was the feeling that man did not share, or did not share more

      fully, in the joy of these experiences. He sought relief from this

      pain in writing. He had some joy in his readers experiencing the

                                    joy of the Incarnation; he wished to have his joy completed in

                                    the completion of their joy. This was the apostle’s feeling,

                                    which, as the last of the apostles, he was conserving in the

                                    name of all.

 

 

                                    The Life (vs. 1-4)

 

There are two great stages in the history of the Church’s learning of Christ:

 

A.  The first, to come to the knowledge of what He was by experience of what He did;

B.  the second, to come to experience of what He did and does by knowledge of what

      He is.

 

The former is that of the period when Jesus was on earth; the second is that of the

period after His ascension into heaven and the descent of the Holy Ghost. This is true.

And there is also an intermediate truth with which we are closely concerned. It is the

truth of which we are reminded at the opening of this Epistle, viz. that the

instrumentality by means of which we now pass on to the second stage is the

writings of those who passed through the first. This is evidently intended to be

the effect of this inspired letter; written, it can scarcely be questioned, by the

author of the Fourth Gospel; written upon a specific theme, on a distinct method,

with an avowed aim. Two preliminary statements hereupon require distinct and

emphatic notice:

 

1. There is a declaration that the writer was one who had been brought into

close contact with the Person of the Lord Jesus, who had himself intimately

known Him, and who had associates in knowledge of and fellowship with Him.

 

2. The internal evidence that the author of this Epistle is the same who

wrote the Fourth Gospel is unusually clear. If any man could be known by

his style of writing, surely the Apostle John can be by the way he plays

upon the words “life,” “light,” “love.” Note: Each apostle has his own keywords.

Those of John are the ones just specified. That of James is “works.”

That of Paul is “faith.” That of Peter is “hope.” The main keyword of John

here is “life.” In these introductory verses the apostle opens up his theme.

The purport of his Epistle, yea, not only of his Epistle, but of his entire

apostolic and ministerial life, is indicated here; it has to do with “the Word

of life.”  In opening up this introductory paragraph we may trace the Life in five stages.

 

  • THE LIFE ETERNALLY EXISTENT. “That which was from the

            beginning.” With God there is no beginning. With Him there shall be no

            end. But Divine revelation is worded to suit the exigencies of our limited

            apprehension. Finite minds make their own horizon of thought. Both back

            and front there are limits beyond which thought cannot go.  Hence we are

            mercifully allowed to think as of a beginning and as of an end. Not as if

            either were a “definite concrete fact.”  Let us, then, go back to this

            beginning.” It is not said, either here or in John 1, that the Life then

            ἐγένετο egeneto - came to be, but ἦν aen - was (compare Proverbs

            8:22-31; also Philippians 2:6, ὑπάρχων huparachonbeing inherently.

            There is here no thought of life apart from a Living One — a personal Being.

            There can be none. That Living One was before all creation — its ground,

            its medium, its reason, its center of support. In Him all things hold together.

            This Life was “from the beginning.” But note:

 

  • THE LIFE WAS MANIFESTED IN TIME. “The Life was manifested”

            (v.2). From what afterwards follows, there can be no question that the

            apostle here refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. And in thus declaring that He

            passed out of eternity into the limits of time, out of the invisible to the

            visible realm, He thus avows the mystery of the Incarnation. A mystery,

            without the assumption of which the words and life of the Christ can no

            more be accounted for than the stability of the framework of nature can be

            accounted for without the law of gravitation. The difficulties that gather

            round the doctrine would be insuperable if it were a mere marvel, leading

            nowhere and effecting nothing. But since it is the center of a framework of

            doctrine around which the noblest hopes do gather, and the substratum of

            the renewed life of an entire living Church, the difficulties gather rather

            round its denial than around its assertion. The Life was manifested. The

            Divine Life can only be manifested to man by taking the form of man.

 

  • THE LIFE PERSONALLY VERIFIED. “We have ‘seen,’ ‘tasted,’

            handled,’” etc. This should be compared with John 1:14, “We beheld

            His glory.” The seeing of the glory was by no means coextensive with

            beholding the bodily form. “The eye only sees that which it brings with it

            the power of seeing.” Some saw Christ to vilify; others to adore Him. “The

            pure in heart will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)  The Nathanaels will see heaven

            opened (John 1:46-51), but the “wise and prudent” will miss the sight.

            (Matthew 11:25)

 

  • THE LIFE THUS VERIFIED IS AUTHORITATIVELY

            DECLARED. “That which we have seen… declare we unto you.” Here

            are, in due sequence the ideas of:

Ø      personal experience,

Ø      responsible affirmation, and

Ø      authoritative announcement.”

            This latter is involved in the words, “we declare.” Some object to authority in

            matters of religion. But why? Only ignorance can demur to it, so long as

            the authority is a lawful one. And since the authority here implied is that

            which comes from adequate knowledge on the matter in hand, none ought

            to demur to it for a moment.

 

  • THE LIFE AUTHORITATIVELY DECLARED WITH A DEFINITE

            AIM. The aim is twofold:

 

Ø      That of a kindred fellowship of souls who are in communion with the

                        Life! No other fellowship to compare with this. It is

o       pure,

o       undying.

 

Ø      That out of the closeness of fellowship there might come a fullness of

                        joy. Life is the root of joy. Joy is the fruit of life. A plant is not in

                        perfection till it blooms. The Christian life is not perfected till it

                        smiles and sings.

 

  • In conclusion, note:

 

Ø      The real and only valid succession in the Church is that of life.

Ø      There can be no value in forms, except as they express life.

Ø      Through the Divine Life men are reborn to the noblest fellowship

                        with God and with one another!

 

 

                                    The Apostle’s Aim and Method.  (vs. 1-4)

 

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard,” etc.

 

  • HERE IS AN OBJECT EMINENTLY WORTHY OF AN APOSTLE

            OF JESUS CHRIST.That ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly

            our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these

            things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”  John sought to

            lead his readers into:

 

Ø      Participation in the highest fellowship. “That ye also may have

                        fellowship with us,” etc. (v 3). The word “fellowship,” or “communion,”

                        signifies “the common possession of anything by various persons.” By

                        the “with us” we understand the apostles and others, who

                        had been eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ. And John’s aim was that his

                        readers should participate in the truth and trust, the life and love, which

                        the older generation of Christian disciples already possessed; that they

                        should share in his own highest and holiest experiences. And it was not

                        into an exalted human communion merely that the apostle endeavored

                        to lead his readers. “And truly” he says, “our fellowship is with the

                        Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” In infinite condescension,

                        the heavenly Father and the Divine Son admit Christian believers into

                        vital and intimate communion with themselves. This fellowship is a

                        thing of character and of life. They who share in it are “begotten of God;”

                        they have “become partakers of the Divine nature”; and they realize

                        with joy the Divine presence. The apostle sought to lead his readers into:

 

Ø      Realization of perfect joy. “And these things write we unto you, that

                        your joy may be full.” Hitherto the joy of those to whom John wrote

                        had not been full; for their acquaintance with Christian truth had been

                        imperfect and partial. By the fuller disclosures of that truth he hopes

                        that their joy may be fulfilled. How rich and manifold and abundant

                        is the joy of the true Christian! The joy of:

 

o       the forgiveness of sins,

o       reconciliation with God,

o       progress in truth and holiness,

o       hope of future perfection and glory..”

                       

                        Our Lord said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy

                        might be in you and that your joy may be full.”   (John 15:11)

                        “Rejoice evermore.” (I Thessalonians 5:16)

 

  • HERE ARE MEANS EMINENTLY ADAPTED TO ACCOMPLISH

            THIS OBJECT.  John endeavored to attain his aim by declaration of

            the truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice:

 

Ø      The title applied to Him. “The Word of life.” Each term of this title

                        demands consideration.

 

o       The Word — the Logos (compare John 1:1). “The term Logos

                                    denotes at the very least something intimately and everlastingly

                                    present with God, something as internal to the Being of God

                                    as thought is to the soul of man. In truth, the Divine Logos is God

                                    reflected in His own eternal thought. In the Logos God is His own

                                    object.  This infinite thought, the reflection and counterpart of

                                    God, subsisting in God as a Being or hypostasis, and having a

                                    tendency to self-communication, — such is the Logos. The Logos

                                    is the thought of God, not intermittent and precarious like human

                                    thought, but subsisting with the intensity of a personal form. The

                                    expression suggests the further inference that, since reason is

                                    man’s noblest faculty, the uncreated Logos must be at

                                    least equal with God .... The Logos necessarily suggests to our

                                    minds the further idea of communicativeness. The Logos is

                                    speech as well as thought.

 

o       The life which is predicated of the Word. “The Word of life.” We

                                    cannot define this life. Its essential nature is hidden from us. But

                                    life in an extraordinary sense and degree is attributed to the Lord

                                    Jesus Christ. Twice He Himself said, “I am the Life.” And John

                                    says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

                                    (John 1:4)  “As the Father hath life in Himself, even so gave He

                                     to the Son also to have life in Himself.”  (John 5:26)  He is the

                                    Giver of life to others. “All things were made by Him, and

                                    without Him was not anything made that was made.”

                                    (ibid. ch. 1:4)  “I came,” said He, “that they might have life,

                                    and that they might have it abundantly.” (ibid. ch.10:10) 

                                    “As the Father raiseth the dead, and quickeneth them,

                                    even so the Son also quickeneth whom He will.” (ibid. ch. 5:21)

                                    He has life in himself, and He is the great Bestower of all

                                    life to others. And His life is eternal. It “was from the beginning.”

                                    He existed before creation, and before time, and His existence is

                                    independent of time. “We declare unto you that eternal life.”

                                    He is ever-living and unchangeable.

 

Ø      His intimate communion with God the Father. “That eternal life which

                        was with the Father” (compare John 1:1). “The Word was with God.”

                        He was not merely along with God, but πρὸς τον θεόνpros ton Theon

                         was God.  This last preposition expresses beyond the fact of

                        coexistence or immanence, the more significant fact of perpetuated

                        intercommunion. The face of the everlasting Word, if we may dare so to

                        express ourselves, was ever directed towards the face of the everlasting

                        Father.”   The life was towards the father.… A life which did indeed

                        flow forth from the bosom of the Father, but which did at once return

                        back into the bosom of the Father in the ceaseless flow of the inmost

                        being of God.”

 

Ø      His manifestation to men. “And the life was manifested, and we have

                        seen,” etc. “The Word” also suggests the idea of revelation or

                        communication; for the Logos is not only reason, but discourse; not

                        only thought, but the expression of thought. The life was manifested

                        in the Person of Jesus Christ — in His words and works and life

                        amongst men. It was exhibited gloriously in His splendid triumph

                        over death by His resurrection. “It was not possible that He should

                        be holden of it.”  (Acts 2:24)  “The Word became flesh, and dwelt

                        among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only

                        begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”   (John 1:14) 

                        We have said that these means — the declaration of the truth

                        concerning the Lord Jesus Christ — were eminently adapted to

                        lead men into participation in the highest fellowship and realization

                        of perfect joy. The statement is capable of ample proof.

 

o       A right relation to God is essential to fellowship with Him

      and to true joy. For us, who have sinned against Him,

      reconciliation to Him and trust in Him must become facts

      before we can have any communion with Him.

 

o       A true knowledge of God is essential to right relation to

      Him. If we regard Him as a stern Lawgiver, offended,

      resentful, implacable, we cannot even approach unto Him.

      And the guilty conscience is prone to entertain such views

      of Him.

 

o       The true knowledge of God is attainable through Jesus Christ.

      “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son,

      which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.”

      (John 1:18)  “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”

      (John 14:9)  In Jesus Christ, God is revealed unto us as

      a just God and a Saviour (Isaiah 45:21), as mighty and

      merciful, as faithful and forgiving, as infinitely holy

                                    and gracious and full of compassion. Such a revelation

                                    of God is attractive; it is fitted to melt the heart into

                                    penitence, to awaken its confidence in Him, and to draw

                                    it to Him in the fellowship of life and light.

 

  • HERE IS AN AGENT EMINENTLY QUALIFIED TO USE THESE

            MEANS. The apostle was qualified by various and competent knowledge

            of Him concerning whom He wrote.

 

Ø      He had heard His voice. That which was from the beginning, which

      we have heard.” John and his fellow-apostles had heard His words on

      very many occasions both in public discourse and in private conversation.

 

Ø      He had seen His human form and His mighty works. “That which we

                        have seen with our eyes ….The Life was manifested, and we have seen

                         it.” This is a special reference to his having seen Him accomplish His

                        great and beneficent miracles. But the apostles had seen their Master in

                        various circumstances and conditions. They had seen Him in His majesty

                        and might quelling the tempest and raising the dead to life; and they had

                        seen Him exhausted and weary. They had seen Him bleeding and dying

                        on the cross; and they had seen Him after He had risen again from the

                        dead.  John and two others had seen Him bowed in anguish in

                        Gethsemane; and they had seen him radiant in glory on Hermon.

 

Ø      He had intently contemplated Him. “That which we looked upon,” or

                        beheld. This looking upon Him is more internal and continuous than the

                        having seen Him with their eyes. With the most intense and affectionate

                        and reverent interest the apostle contemplated Him.

 

Ø      He had handled His sacred body. The hands of John and the other

                        apostles must frequently have touched the body of their Divine Master.

                        But there is, perhaps, special reference to the touching of Him after His

                        resurrection: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle

                        me,” etc. (Luke 24:39). “He saith to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger,

                         and see my hands,” etc. (John 20:27). Thus we see how eminently

                        qualified John was to testify concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. How

                        conclusive is the testimony which he bears! And how fitted is such

                        an agent with such means to introduce men into the blessed fellowship

                        and the perfect joy!  Have we entered into this high fellowship? Do

                        we realize this sacred and perfect joy? Let those who are strangers to

                        these hallowed and blessed experiences seek them through Jesus Christ.

 

v. 5 to ch. 2:6 is the FIRST MAIN DIVISION - God is Light.

 

(1) Positive side. What walking in the light involves; the condition and

conduct of the believer.

(2) Negative side. What walking in the light excludes; the things and persons to

be avoided.  I John 2:7-28.

 

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.”

This verse constitutes the text and basis of this division of the

Epistle, especially on its positive side. And the message which we have

heard… is this. Again we have a remarkable parallel between Gospel and

Epistle; both begin with a καὶ (which connects the opening with the

introduction in a simple and artless manner), and with the same kind of

sentence: “And the witness of John is this.” The reading ἐπαγγελία epaggelia

promise  (ch.2:25, and frequent in the New Testament) must be rejected here and

in ch.3:11 in favor of ἀγγελία aggelia - message (which occurs nowhere else in the

New Testament), on overwhelming evidence.  Ἐπαγγελία in the New

Testament means “promise,” which would be almost meaningless here. The

change from ἐπαγγέλλομεν (vs. 2-3) to ἀναγγέλλομεν is noteworthy: the one is

“declare,” the other “announce.” The message received from Christ, the apostle

announces or reports (renunciat) to his readers. He does not name Christ ἀπ αὐτοῦ -

ap autouof Him - he is so full of the thought of Christ that he omits to name Him

(compare John 20:7, 9, 15). Ἀναγγέλλω is used of authoritative announcements;

of priests and Levites in the Septuagint; of the Messiah (John 4:25); of the Spirit

(John 16:13-15); of the apostles (Acts 20:20, 27; I Peter 1:12). John speaks with

authority. God is light; not the Light, nor a light, but light; that is His

nature. This sums up the Divine essence on its intellectual side, as “God is

love” on its moral side. In neither case has the predicate the article: Θεὸς

φῶς ἐστίνΘεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίνho Theos phos estin ho Theos agapae estin

that God is light, God is love.   Light and love are not attributes of

God, but Himself. The connection between this message and the

introduction is not at first obvious. But John writes with his Gospel

before him, and the prologue to that supplies the link. There, as here, three

ideas follow in order: λόγος ζωή φῶςlogos, zoae, phos – Word, Life, Light.

There, as here, φῶς (light) immediately suggests its opposite, σκοτία skotia

darkness. It is on the revelation of the Λόγος (Word) as φῶς and the consequent

struggle between φῶς and σκοτία. that the Gospel is based. And this revelation

is the highest: men alone are competent to receive or reject it. Other organisms

exhibit the creative power as life: none but men can recognize it as light. And

to know the Λόγος as light is to know the Father as light; for the Λόγος is the

Revelation of the Father’s nature. That God is, in His very nature, light, is an

announcement peculiar to John. Others tell us that He is the Father of lights

(James 1:17), the Possessor of light (I Peter 2:9), dwelling in light (I Timothy

6:16); but not that He is light. To the heathen God is a God of darkness, an

unknown Being; a Power to be blindly propitiated, not a Person to be

known and loved. To the philosopher He is an abstraction, an idea, not

directly cognizable by man. To the Jews He is a God who hideth Himself;

(Isaiah 45:15); not light, but a consuming fire. To the Christian alone He is

revealed as light, absolutely free from everything impure, material, obscure, and

gloomy. Light was the first product of the Divine creative energy, the

earnest and condition of order, beauty, life, growth, and joy. (Genesis 1:3) 

Of all phenomena it best represents the elements of all perfection. “This word

‘light’ is at once the simplest and the fullest and the deepest which can be

used in human discourse. It is addressed to every man who has eyes and

who has ever looked on the sun.” It tells not only of a Goodness and

Truth without flaw; it tells of a Goodness and Truth that are always

seeking to spread themselves, to send forth rays that shall penetrate

everywhere, and scatter the darkness which opposes them.   In

like manner, darkness sums up the elements of evil — foulness, secrecy,

repulsiveness, and gloom. In all but the lowest forms of existence it

inevitably produces decay and death. Everything of the kind is excluded

from the nature of God. And hence John, in his characteristic manner,

immediately emphasizes the great announcement with an equivalent

negative statement: Darkness in Him there is not any at all (compare v. 8;

ch.2:4, 23, 27; 3:6; 4:2-3, 6-8; 5:12). He does not say, “in His

presence,” but “in Him.” Darkness exists, physical, intellectual, moral, and

spiritual; there is abundance of obscurity, error, depravity, sin, and its

consequence, death. But not a shade of these is “IN HIM!” The Divine Light

is subject to no spots, no eclipse, no twilight, no night; as a Source of light

it cannot in any degree fail.

 

 

                                                The Message (v. 5)

 

The Son of God, whom we have seen as manifested Life, has brought us a message

from the invisible and everlasting Father.  A careful study of the text will suggest

several points for consideration and expansion.

 

  • WHAT THE MESSAGE IS.

 

Ø      Whom it concerns. “God.”  The announcement as to the nature of God

                        is a personal revelation, not a discovery.”  We know something of God

                        by reasoning upward from the works of nature. Nature speaks (Psalm

                        19:1-4). Her works are a manifestation of God. But not a full or a

                        clear one. We want a testimony direct from God, as to what He

                        is, as to His thoughts towards us; and HERE IT IS!

 

Ø      What does it tell us about God?

     

o       Positively: “God is Light.”

§         Physically, light is the splendor in which all else is revealed.

§         Intellectually, light is knowledge.

§         Morally, light is purity.

                                    God is the One Being in and by whose existence all else receives                

                                    an adequate interpretation of its coming into being. He hath:

§         knowledge without limit.

§         purity without stain.

                                    Hence the text speaks:

 

o       Negatively: “No darkness at all.” Not the least speck. He is:

§         absolutely pure, 

§         infinitely wise.

                                    How much is summed up in the three sentences which John

                                    has recorded:

§         God is Spirit;”

§         “God is Light;”

§         “God is Love”!

                                    Not all the collective wisdom of man could have taught us so

                                    much as this.

 

  • WHENCE THE MESSAGE CAME. “We have heard from Him ;” i.e.

            from the Lord Jesus Christ, as the incarnate Manifestation of the Invisible.

            Obviously, the value of such a message depends on the Person who brings

            it. If, then, we ask the all-important question — Who brought this message

            down to earth? apostles, one and all, join with unwavering tongue in

            declaring that it was brought by the everlasting Son of the Father, who

            came from Him. This is the distinctive assertion of Christianity. It is made,

            not doubtfully, not apologetically, but categorically and positively, for the

            acceptance and salvation of man. This message was brought to man

            directly by THE GREATEST MESSENGER  from the eternal throne

            that even heaven itself could send!

 

  • HOW THE MESSAGE REACHES US. “We announce unto you.”

            The Lord Jesus Christ asserted His claims and proved them.

 

Ø      He sealed them by His death,

Ø      confirmed them by His resurrection, and

Ø      gave to apostles the unwavering certitude of their validity by

      the gift of THE HOLY GHOST!

 

            They, thus sure of and confirmed in the message, living on it themselves as

            their own life and joy, preached and taught it, and also put it down in writing,

            that it might be spread over the world through the after-ages. They gave it

            forth authoritatively, with the authority which comes:

 

Ø      of a Divine commission to declare it, and

Ø      of adequate knowledge of that which they declare.

 

            Thus the message reaches us. In the Epistles we have the sum and

            substance of that which in the first century was orally received.

            In the Epistles we have the written sum of that which the apostles

            gave forth orally —  the message which has remained unchanged

            from the beginning of the Christian age. The verse of our text has as

            much force as if the Apostle John were now living and actually uttering

            the words in our ears: “This is the message,” etc.

 

  • HOW DOES THE MESSAGE BEAR UPON US? We can but briefly

            suggest.

 

Ø      The fact of this truth coming as a message from God unto us, shows us

                        that God is concerned about His intelligent creatures knowing who and

                        what He is.

 

Ø      It shows us also that, if we are adequately to know who or what God is,

                        it must be by a message from Him to man, and not through man

                        attempting to search out Him.

 

Ø      We see, further, that by means of such a message, brought by such a

                        Messenger, we may come to know the very greatest fact in the very

                        simplest way.

 

Ø      This revelation of the nature of God is not for the purpose of satisfying

                        speculative inquiries; it is intended to yield practical results (compare

                        vs. 6-10).

 

Ø      The right use of this message will yield us a knowledge of God and of

                        His Son Jesus Christ, which is in itself “the eternal life” (John 17:3).

 

  • INFERENCES AND APPLICATION.

 

Ø      This sublime truth, being presented to us as a message from God,

                        indicates to us so far an element of truth in agnosticism. “The world

                        through its wisdom KNEW NOT GOD!   (I Corinthians 1:21, Revised

                        Version).

 

Ø      If the gospel be a message from the everlasting God, then the one point

                        which has to be verified is, not whether the message be in all respects

                        such a one as we might have expected, but whether the Messenger be

                        at once capable and true.

 

Ø      To demand the same kind of verification which a man gets of his own

                        discoveries in physical science, is ABSURD!   The only possible

                        verification of a testimony lies in the proof of the ability and veracity

                        of the witness. Each kind of truth has its lines of verification in its own

                        direction, and in no other.

 

Ø      Most jealous care should be taken that we do neither the Messenger nor

                        the message an injustice through allowing any prejudice or any dogmatic

                        assumption to interfere with the consideration of their claims.

 

Ø      The substance of the message is in itself a strong argument for the truth

                        of the Messenger. One assumption only is involved therein, viz. that

                        GOD CAN REVEAL HIMSELF!

 

Ø      There is an infinite difference between an agnosticism that is such

                        because it never heard the message, and that which is such because it

                        scornfully ignores it under the pretence that God is unknowable.

                        The one is a grievous misfortune; the other, a more grievous sin.

                        In the one there is a yearning for the light; in the other, a turning

                        from it. “They did not like to retain God in their knowledge.”

                        (So what happened?  Romans 1:28-32 – Is not all this happening

                        today?  In the late 1960’s, Bro. Marion Duncan preached a series of

                        sermons on the signs of the last days.  He took them from II Timothy

                        3:1-5.  He read Revelation 20:1-8 after each of the sixteen characteristics

                        of the end times, and asked [speaking of the devil] “IS HE LOOSE?” –

                        CY – 2015)

 

 

                                    The Great Message (v. 5)

 

“This then is the message which we have heard of Him,” etc. Notice two

preliminary points.

 

1. That the Christian minister has received a message from the Lord Jesus

Christ. He spoke to His apostles and to many others. He revealed unto

them God the Father, and the great truths concerning human redemption.

He still speaks to us through the sacred Scriptures.

 

2. That the Christian minister should announce this message to others. It

is his duty not to preach the theories of men, but the truth of God, and

especially the truth revealed by Jesus Christ. There has been too much

preaching of our ecclesiastical and theological-isms instead of the great and

gracious truths of the gospel of our Lord and Saviour. In our text John

briefly announces the great message which he had received from his Divine

Master: “that God is Light, and in him is no darkness at all.” Light is

frequently associated with the Divine Being in the Bible. It is His vesture.

“Thou coverest thyself with light as with a garment” (Psalm 104:2). It

abides with Him. “The light dwelleth with Him” (Daniel 2:22). He abides

in it. “Dwelling in light unapproachable.”  (I Timothy 6:16)  It accompanies His

manifestations. “His brightness was as the light” (Habakkuk 3:4). He is

the great Source of ALL ILLUMINATIONS!. “The Father of lights” (James

1:17). He calls His people to dwell and to walk in light. “Who hath called

you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9); “Ye were

once darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light”

(Ephesians 5:8). Our Lord claimed to be “the Light of the world”

(John 8:12). His “life was the light of men” (John 1:4). But in our

text light is said to be the essence of the Divine Being. “God is Light.” Of

all material things light is most fitted to set forth truth and holy spiritual

being. It unites in itself purity, and clearness, and beauty, and glory, as no

other material object does.” And Milton, “Light ethereal, first of things,

quintessence pure.” The emblem suggests:

 

  • THE INFINITE INTELLIGENCE OF GOD. He is the Omniscient. No

            intellectual ignorance can darken His all-embracing survey of actual and

            possible fact. Unto him all hearts are open, all desires known, and from

            him no secrets are hid. “O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me.

            Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine uprising,” etc. (Psalm 139:1-6);

            He telleth the number of the stars,” etc. (ibid. ch.147:4-5); “He

            knoweth the secrets of the heart” (ibid. ch. 44:21); “God knoweth all

            things (ch. 3:20); “I know thy works,” etc. (Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19;

            3:1, 8, 15). Every sparrow is known unto Him (Luke 12:6-7).

            Let us endeavor to personally realize this great and solemn truth: God

            knows me always and thoroughly.

 

  • THE ENLIGHTENING INFLUENCE OF GOD. He created the light

            of the material universe. “God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”

            (Genesis 1:3)  He is the great Fountain of all intellectual and moral light. He

            inspired Bezaleel to devise and execute skillful handiwork (Exodus 31:1-5).

            The scientist, the metaphysician, the statesman, the poet, the artist, each and

            all derive their light from HIM!  He communicates religious truth to man. He

            inspired, and still inspires, the great religious thinkers, and the far and

            clear-sighted spiritual seers of our race. By His Son Jesus Christ He

            lighteth every man” (John 1:9).

 

  • THE LIFE-GIVING AND INVIGORATING INFLUENCE WHICH

            GOD EXERTS. Light cannot create life; but it quickens, develops, and

            strengthens it. Physical light appears to be the producing,

            forming, quickening principle of all organization, in its essence self-

            communicative, and the stimulating principle of all physical organic

            functions of life.  Light is essential to every kind of life with which we are

            acquainted. Without it our world would speedily become one vast, dreary,

            dread abode of the dead. Great forces also of various kinds are produced

            from light. As George Stephenson pointed out, it is light which propels so

            swiftly our long and heavy railway trains. “It is light bottled up in the earth

            for tens of thousands of years, light absorbed by plants and vegetables

            being necessary for the condensation of carbon during the process of their

            growth, if it be not carbon in another form; and now, after being buried in

            the earth for long ages in fields of coal, that latent might is again brought

            forth and liberated — made to work, as in that locomotive, for great

            human purposes.” God is the great Author of all life and of all force. He

            created the physical universe, and HE SUSTAINS IT!   The forces of nature

            are expressions of His awful or beautiful might. Evolution is a mode of Divine

            operation. And the life and strength of souls he inspires and renews. He

            inspires the soul with life. “You being dead in your sins… hath He quickened

            (Colossians 2:13). The true Christian “is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8); he

            is born of God” (ch. 3:9). And God imparts and renews strength to His people.

            “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth

            strength,” etc. (Isaiah 40:29-31).

 

  • THE EXISTENCE OF GOD AS A TRINITY IN UNITY. This is at

            least suggested by speaking of Him as Light. In two ways does light

            suggest the triunity of God. “The researches of Young and Helmholtz,”

            says Mr. Sugden, “have proved beyond the possibility of doubt that the

            three primary colors are red, green, and violet, and that by various

            combinations of these three all the colors with which we are acquainted

            are produced; whilst the combination of all three in equal proportions gives

            white light, apparently one simple and homogeneous sensation, but in

            reality a compound of three. Have we not here a most striking illustration,

            if not more than an illustration, of the Christian truth about the nature of

            God, which teaches us that He is A TRINITY IN UNITY  three Persons,

            and one God?… As Luthardt well says, ‘God has, in the history of salvation,

            revealed Himself in a triune manner — as Father, Son, and Spirit; and we,

            in that work of appropriating salvation, through which we become

            Christians, have experience of God according to this distinction, viz. as Him

            to whom we are reconciled, and as the Spirit who has inwardly

            appropriated to us the grace of reconciliation, and made it the power of a

            new life to us. Thus do we become certain that there are distinctions in the

            Godhead, that God is the triune God.’ “Light suggests the same truth in

            another way. It is thus stated by Professor Lias: “When we reflect on the

            threefold nature of light, its enlightening, its warming, its chemical powers,

            we are reminded of the Holy Trinity — the unapproachable Light Himself;

            His eternal Revealer, bringing light to earth, and quickening by His genial

            warmth the frozen hearts of men; and the eternal Spirit, dwelling in their

            hearts, and slowly bringing His healing influences to bear upon their

            diseased souls.”

 

  • THE PERFECT HOLINESS OF GOD. Light is pure and purifying. It

            visits scenes of corruption and decay, and exercises a cleansing and healing

            influence there, and pursues its glorious course without having contracted

            any taint, STILL ABSOLUTELY PURE!   Fit emblem of the infinite

            holiness of the great God. “No stain can soil His robe of awful sanctity.”

            He is preeminently “THE HOLY ONE!” “Thou only art holy.” (Revelation

            15:4)  The highest intelligences ceaselessly praise Him, crying, “Holy, holy,

            holy, is the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:3)  “His name is holy, and He dwells in

            the high and holy place.”  (ibid. ch. 57:15)  His holiness is the glory of His

            Being.  He is “GLORIOUS IN HOLINESS.”  As if to set forth the entire

            purity and perfection of the Divine nature considered as light, John says,

            “And in Him is no darkness at all.” No  kind of darkness whatsoever has

            any place in Him. “Neither ignorance, nor error, nor sin, nor death”

            is found in Him.

 

  • CONCLUSION.

 

Ø      Let us reverence this great and holy Being. Let us seek His life-giving,

      enlightening, and invigorating influences.

 

6 “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness,

we lie, and do not the truth:”  A corollary from v. 5. If God is Light to the exclusion

of all darkness, then fellowship with darkness excludes fellowship with Him. If

we say ἐὰν εἴπωμενean eipomen -  if any of us, no matter who he be, at any time say.

The construction marks the supposed action as one likely to occur. The

apostle includes himself in the possibility, and of course he and his readers

did say that they had communion with God. By περιπατεῖνερσαρι

perutatein ersari - walking is meant our daily life, our movement and activity

in the world (John 8:12; 11:9-10; 12:35; 21:18; Revelation 21:24); this activity

will inevitably express the κοινωνία koinoniafellowship -  in which we live.

To have communion with Him who is Light, and be continually exhibiting a life

of darkness, is impossible. The Carpocratians and other Gnostics, who taught

that to the enlightened all action is indifferent, because neither purity nor

filth can change the nature of pure gold, are perhaps here aimed at. We lie, and

do not the truth. As in v. 5, John enforces a statement by denying the

opposite. But the negative is not a mere equivalent of the positive: the two

together mean, “we are false both in word and deed.” Truth with John

is not confined to language; it is exhibited in conduct also (compare  ποιεῖν ψεῦδος

poiein pseudosmaketh a lie - Revelation 21:27; 22:15).

 

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.”  The contrary hypothesis is now stated, and the thought is

carried a stage further (compare v. 9). He again speaks conditionally ἐάν ean

but if; if ever -  and does so until ch.2:3; after which the participial substantive

λέγων - ho legonhe that sayeth (ch. 2:4);   ἀγαπῶνho agapon - he that

 loveth (ibid. v. 10); μισῶνho misonhe that hateth (ibid. v. 11);  represents

the conditional clause. The change of verbs is significant: we walk, God is, in the

light. We move through time; He is in eternity. Our activity involves change; His

does not. Like the sun, He both is Light and dwells in the light; and if we walk

 in the light, which is His atmosphere, we have fellowship one with another.

DARKNESS is an unsocial condition, and this the light expels. From v. 6 we

might have expected, “we have fellowship with Him;” and some inferior

authorities read μετ αὐτοῦ - met autouwith Him.  But John’s repetitions are not

mere repetitions: the thought is always recut or reset to carry us a step further

(compare vs. 3-4). Having fellowship with one another is a sure result of that

fellowship with God which is involved in walking in the light. “Here is a

reply to those who would restrain universal communion to their own sect”

(Wordsworth). Another result of walking in the light is that the blood of

Jesus (His sacrificial death) cleanses us day by day continually (present

tense) from our frequent sins of frailty. This cleansing is not the same as

forgiveness of sins (v. 9). The latter is the case of λελουμένοςho leloumenos

he that hath been washed; the one having been bathed -  (John 13:10); the former

is the frequent washing of the feet (compare Revelation 7:14; 22:14). The expression,

the blood of Jesus, in Christian theology, “is dogma with pathos.… It implies, as no

other word could do, the reality:

 

  • of the human body of Jesus,
  • of His sufferings,
  • of His sacrifice.”

 

By His blood new life-blood is infused into human nature.

 

 

     The Condition and Consequences of Fellowship with God (vs. 6-7)

 

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him,” etc.

 

  • THE CONDITION OF FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD. John states

            this condition both negatively and positively.

 

Ø      Negatively. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and

      walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.

 

o       There may be a profession of fellowship with God, while the

      practice is utterly opposed to His character and will. We have

      spoken of this fellowship in our treatment of the third verse.

      To “walk” is an expression frequently used in the sacred

      Scriptures to indicate the entire life, with special reference

      to its outward aspects. To “walk in darkness” is to live in

                                    the practice of sin. In John’s time there were persons who

                                    claimed to have communion with the Light, but walked in

                                    the darkness. The Gnostics professedly devoted their souls to

                                    the pursuit of the highest knowledge, and yet were guilty of

                                    the vilest sins with their bodies, alleging “that the flesh was

                                    so corrupt that no filthiness of life could affect it.”

 

o       That such profession, joined with such practice, is a twofold lie.

      “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in the

      darkness, we lie.”  Here is the lie of the lip. The profession is

      untrue. “And do not the truth.”  Here is the lie of the life.

      The practice is opposed to truth. Truth is not only to be spoken,

      but acted. Life should be brought into harmony with the

                                    eternal verities. The truth acknowledged in the creed should be

                                    expressed in the conduct. But in this case supposed truth is

                                    neither spoken nor acted.

 

Ø      Positively. “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have

                        fellowship one with another.”  This walking in the light, as He is in the

                        light is no mere imitation of God, but is an identity in the essential

                        element of our daily walk with the essential element of God’s

                        eternal Being; not imitation, but coincidence and identity of the very

                        atmosphere of life.  The light denotes the sphere of the manifestation

                        of the good and the God-like. The words of Paul, in Ephesians 5:8-9,

                        considerably elucidate this verse: “Ye were once darkness, but are now

                        light in the Lord: walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light is

                        in all goodness and righteousness and truth).”  The whole of

                        Christian morality is here presented under its three great aspects:

 

o       the good,

o       the right, and

o       the true.”

 

                        If we would express the meaning of the apostle’s phrase, “walking in

                        the light,” in a single word, “holiness” is the word best suited to that

                        purpose. We discover three ideas in this expression of John.

 

o       Life in sympathy with holiness. The heart beating in harmony

      with the light.

o       Life in the practice of holiness. The inward principle expressed

      in the outward conduct. The light of the heart shining in the life.

 

o       Life progressing in holiness. He who walks is not stationary, but

                                    advancing. The godly soul “follows on to know the Lord;”

                                    (Hosea 6:3) “presses on toward the goal unto the prize of the

                                    high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

                                    This, then, is the condition of fellowship with God:

§         walking in the light;

§         holiness of heart and of life.

 

  • THE CONSEQUENCES OF FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD.

 

Ø      Fellowship with the saints. “We have fellowship one with another.” The

                        reality of our communion with God is attested by our communion of love

                        with those who are His. Walking in the sphere of truth, righteousness,

                        and love, we have fellowship with all those who walk in the same sphere.

                        All who walk in the light are one in their deepest sympathies, in their

                        most steadfast principles, in their most important aims, and in their

                        highest aspirations; they are one in character, in service, and in destiny.

                        Hence their communion with each other is genuine, vital, and blessed.

 

Ø      Sanctification through the Saviour. “And the blood of Jesus his Son

                        cleanseth us from all sin.” This implies that even they who walk in the

                        light need cleansing from sin. “The requirement that we walk in the light,

                        is confronted by the fact that in us there still is sin and darkness.” Notice:

 

o       The power by which we are cleansed. “The blood of Jesus

                                    His Son.” “The life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11);

                                    “The blood is the life” (Deuteronomy 12:23). The blood of Jesus

                                    denotes the sacrifice of the life of Jesus for us. The power of that

                                    sacrifice is chiefly the power of holy and purifying love. It is the

                                    fullest and mightiest expression of the infinite love of God the

                                    Father toward us, who “spared not His own Son, but delivered

                                    Him up for us all  (Romans 8:32); and of the infinite love of

                                    Jesus His Son toward us in His voluntary self-sacrifice. “Who

                                    gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity,

                                    and purify unto Himself a people for His own possession,

                                    zealous of good works.”  (Titus 2:14)  Holy love received into

                                    the heart, by its own essential nature, is cleansing in its influence.

                                    In proportion as the love of God in the death of Jesus Christ is

                                    heartily believed, will sin be hated and holiness loved and

                                    cultivated.

 

o       The progressiveness of this cleansing. “The blood of Jesus

      His Son cleanseth us.” The apostle uses the present tense.

      He does not write “cleansed,” or “hath cleansed,” but

      is cleansing us.”  It is a continual process. The precious

                                    blood of Christ exerts its purifying and sanctifying influence

                                    until the heart and the life are thoroughly cleansed from all sin.

 

o       The thoroughness of this cleansing. Cleanseth us from all sin.”

      No sin stains are so deep as to defy its power. “Though your sins

      be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,” etc. (Isaiah 1:18;

      compare Ezekiel 36:25; Hebrews 9:13-14).  Let our earnest

      endeavor be to walk in the light, and to trust in the great

                                    and gracious Saviour.

 

8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is

not in us.”  After the great message, “God is Light” (v. 5) and its

application to ourselves (vs. 6-7), we are now told what walking in the

light involves:

 

·         consciousness of sin and confession of sin (vs. 8-10);

·         accepting the propitiation of Jesus Christ the Righteous (ch. 2:1-2);

  • obedience (ibid. vs. 3-6).
  •  

If we say that we have not sin. The present ἔχομεν echomen -  we say - again

shows that the daily falls of those who are walking in the light are meant, not

the sins committed in the days of darkness before conversion. The Lord’s Prayer

implies that we must daily ask forgiveness. We lead ourselves astray from

the truth, and have no right estimate of the gulf between our impurity and

GOD’S HOLINESS, if we deny this habitual frailty. In the sunlight even flame

throws a shadow; and that man is in darkness who denies his sin. The truth

may be near him; but it has not found a home with him — it is not in him.

Πλανᾷν  - Planan - we deceive - is specially frequent in the Revelation, and always

of arch-deceivers — Satan, the beast, antichrist, false teachers; it seems to imply

fundamental error (compare ch.2:26).

 

9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,

and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  As in v. 7, we have the opposite

hypothesis stated, and the thought advanced a stage. Not the exact opposite, “if we

confess that we have sin;” but “if we confess our sins.” It is easy to say, “I am a

sinner;” but if confession is to have value it must state the definite acts of sin. The

context (“deceive ourselvesHe is faithful”) shows that confession at the

bar of the conscience and of God is meant. Circumstances must decide

whether confession to man is required also, and this John neither

forbids nor enjoins. Note the asyndeton a figure of speech in which one

or several conjunctions are omitted from a series of related clauses) there is

no δέ, as in v. 7. He is faithful and righteous, ΔίκαιοςDikaios must be rendered

righteous rather than “just,” to mark the contrast with ἀδικίτιadikiti

 unrighteousness , and the connection with “Jesus Christ the Righteous” (ch. 2:1).

To forgive… to cleanse. As explained in v. 7, the one refers to freeing us

from the penalties of sin, justification; the other to freeing us from its

contamination, sanctification. The sense of purpose is not wholly to be

surrendered. No doubt ἵνα hinathat - like other particles, becomes weakened

in later Greek; but even in later classical Greek the notion of purpose is mixed up

with that of consequence. Much more is this the case in the New

Testament, and especially in John, where what seems to us to be mere

result is really design; and this higher aspect of the sequence of facts is

indicated by ἵνα. It is God’s nature to be faithful and righteous; but it is

also His purpose to exhibit these attributes towards us; and this purpose is

expressed in ἵνα ἀφῇ ἡμῖν hina aphae haeminthat He may be pardoning..

 

10 “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word

is not in us.” Once more we have no mere repetition, but a fresh thought.

“We have not sin” (v. 8) refers to our natural condition; “we have not

sinned” (here) refers to definite acts. Note the climax: we lie (v. 6);

we lead ourselves utterly astray (v. 8): we make God a liar (here).

The whole of God’s dealing with man since the Fall, especially in the

Incarnation, is based on the fact of man’s innate sinfulness. To deny this

fact, therefore, is to charge the God of light and truth with acting and

maintaining a vast and persistent lie. It is difficult to see how this strong

language can be reconciled with the Roman dogma of the immaculate

conception of the Virgin Mary: why does not her “son” (John 19:26-27)

except her from its sweep? His word is not in us; i.e., we are cut off

from all communication with Him (John 5:38; 8:31-32). “His Word” is the

sum total of the DIVINE REVELATION!  That which in itself is “the truth”

(v. 8), when communicated to us is “His Word.” How thoroughly the Church

of England enters into the spirit of these verses (8-10) is shown by the fact

that it appoints confession and absolution as part of public service every

morning and evening throughout the year, as well as of every celebration

of the Eucharist. As Bede points out, the Lord’s Prayer itself, with the

petition, “Forgive us our trespasses,” is a conclusive answer to Pelagian

opponents of John’s doctrine.

 

 

            Message from Christ Brought to Bear on Fellowship with God

                                                     (vs. 5-10)

 

  • NATURE OF GOD, “And this is the message which we have heard

            from Him, and announce unto you, that God is Light, and in Him is no

            darkness at all.” Christ’s message is supported by the conviction that He

            has a message to deliver. The apostolic message, which has still to be

            delivered, was received directly from the lips of Christ. It has particular

            reference to the nature of God, viz. His being Light, with which we are to

            associate INFINITE CLEARNESS OF TRUTH  and INFINITE

            PURITY!   He is Light, to the absolute exclusion of darkness, there

            being in Him not the slightest trace of error, not the slightest speck of

            impurity. The light of the sun is a fit, though only an imperfect, symbol of

            his truth and purity. Christ may have given the revelation in these words,

            though they are not to be found in the Gospels. It is implied in His being

            THE LIGHT,  while at the same time THE WORD!  (John 1:1-9).

            It was because He manifested the essential light-nature of God that

            He was Light-bringer to men. We do not have here the

            good message (language which John nowhere uses), viz. mercy to men,

            though there may be suggestion of this in the great diffusiveness of light.

            We have that which mercy presupposes in God and seeks to DIFFUSE

            AMONG MEN!

 

  • THREE FALSE CONDITIONS CONDEMNED, AND THE THREE

            OPPOSED POSITIONS JUSTIFIED.

 

Ø      First false position.

 

o       Stated. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and

      walk in the darkness.” The three hypothetical sayings,

      introduced in the same way (“if we say”), are unchristian.

      As one who would be warned as well as others,

                                    John includes himself. Christians, according to the conception

                                    in v. 3, are those who say that they have fellowship with God.

                                    The position supposed here is saying this while we walk in the

                                    darkness, i.e., while we habitually move in this element — while

                                    we keep our life away from true and pure influences, loving

                                    error and impurity.

 

o       Condemned. “We lie, and do not the truth.” Our lie is saying

      that we have fellowship with God. Our doing not the truth

      evidences our lie. We make our life a contradiction of the

      nature of God, which is light, and thus necessarily unfit ourselves

      for fellowship with God; for what concord hath light with

      darkness?  (I Corinthians 6:14)  It cannot be held that we can

      be indifferent to our manner of life and yet maintain friendship

      with God.

 

Ø      First opposed position.

 

o       Stated. “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light.” This is

      the Christian supposition opposed to the other. As one who would

      be confirmed, John includes himself. Let us also include

      ourselves. Light is the Divine element; let it also be ours. God is

       in the light, i.e., has ABSOLUTE FIXEDNESS  in it. We are

      to walk in the light, i.e., to throw our life open to all true and

      pure influences, thus moving forward toward His fixedness.

 

o       Justified. One good consequent. “We have fellowship one with

                                    another.” This results from our walking in the light. Having a

                                    common element for our life, and therefore common sympathies

                                    and antipathies, the foundation is laid for our having fellowship

                                    one with another. This, according to the Johannine teaching, is

                                    closely related to our having fellowship with God. But how are

                                    we to be fitted for this higher fellowship? The answer is given

                                    in what follows. By walking in the light, we come within the

                                    influence of the blood of Christ.

 

o       Another good consequent. “And the blood of Jesus His Son

      cleanseth us from all sin.” (v. 7)

 

§         A present power. The blood of Christ refers to the death

      of Christ, but is to be distinguished from it in marking it

      as having present virtue. It is a great living reality of the

      present. It is mentioned, along with other verities,

                                                in Hebrews 12:24: “Ye are come… to the blood of

                                                sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”

 

§         A human-Divine power. It is the blood of Jesus, and

      therefore human blood; but it is also the blood of God’s

      Son, and therefore blood of INFINITE VIRTUE!

 

§         A cleansing power. It is blood that cleanses, because it

      was shed in satisfaction for sin. (Isaiah 53:11)  The

      cleansing is with a view to our having fellowship

                                                with God. There was constant instruction in this truth

                                                under the Jewish dispensation. The cleansing, in

                                                accordance with v. 9, is to be referred to sanctification.

                                                Even after we have been cleansed from guilt, we need to

                                                be cleansed from impure thoughts and desires, in order

                                                that we may be fitted for fellowship with Him who is Light.

                                                Our whole dependence for sanctification must be on the

                                                efficacy of the blood, along with the agency of the Spirit.

 

§         A universal power. It is blood that cleanses from all sin.

      The light-nature of God is constantly revealing the

      presence of sinful elements in our nature. We have the

      remedy in THE BLOOD OF CHRIST which will

      gradually remove all sinful elements, until, thoroughly

      purified, we are as fitted as creatures can be for holding

      converse with Him who is a consuming fire to all sin.

 

Ø      Second false position.

 

o       Stated. “If we say that we have no sin.” This goes back on the

      previous thought, viz. the cleansing away of the remaining

      impurity, until we are completely fitted for fellowship with God.

      What if this is unnecessary? if our sanctification is already

      completed? This is the supposition which is now made.

 

o       Condemned. “We deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

      It is too violent a supposition to be entertained in ignorance. It

      can only be entertained where there has been a considerable

      amount of self-activity in the way of presenting to the mind

      deceitful appearances — sophisms, such as the Gnostic idea

      of superior enlightenment. While there is the activity of

                                    self-deception, there is not the activity of THE TRUTH!

                                     If it were active in us, it would show us that there was much

                                    remaining evil to be overcome.

 

Ø      Second opposed position.

 

o       Stated. “If we confess our sins.” The precise converse would

      have been saying that we have sin. There is a going beyond that

      to the practice of the Christian duty of confession, which is

      literally,” a saying along with,” i.e., along with God. It is a

      duty which cannot be performed unless with feelings of

      penitence, arising from a proper view of what we are and have

                                    done. What we are to confess is not merely that we have sin, i.e.,

                                    have the taint still in us, are not completely sanctified; but we

                                    are to confess particular manifestations of sin. “Against thee,

                                    thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil.” (Psalm 51:4)

                                    David had his sin brought home to him very pointedly,

                                    “Thou art the man!”  (II Samuel 12:7) and he did not then

                                    hide it, but confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

                                    (ibid. v. 13)  It is much easier to make pious speeches to the

                                    effect that we are sinners in a general way, and expressive of

                                    general deep contrition, and of the misery engendered by sin,

                                    than to acknowledge the particular wrong we have done, and

                                    to endeavor as far as possible to repair it. Many who are ready

                                    enough to admit generally that they are sinners would be the

                                    first hotly to repel a charge of sinfulness on any one

                                    special point, SO DEEP IS THE SELF-DECEPTION OF

                                    THE HUMAN HEART which is often furthest from God

                                    when the lips are busiest in honoring Him.   Let our

                                    confessions have the particularity which is here suggested.

                                    Let them be founded on self-knowledge, and on self-

                                    knowledge in particular manifestations. The sorrow that

                                    prompts to confession cannot be all that it should be unless

                                    we clearly realize wherein we have violated the spirit of

                                    the Divine precepts and especially of the gospel.

 

o       Justified. “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins,

      and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” When particular

      sins are in question, there is brought in the blessing of

      forgiveness as well as of cleansing. God has pledged His word

      to forgive us our sins: “I, even I, am He that blotteth

                                    out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember

                                     thy sins.”  (Isaiah 43:25)  He has also pledged his word to

                                    advance our sanctification: “I will put my Law in their inward

                                    parts, and write it in their hearts.”  (Jeremiah 31:33)  This

                                    Scripture itself is a distinct promise. If, then, we walk in the light,

                                    and fulfill the specific condition, viz. confess our sins, we may

                                    with the utmost confidence look to God to forgive us our sins,

                                    and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness of disposition

                                    which would lead to the commission of sin. He not only

                                    holds Himself bound by His promise, but the promise is

                                    thoroughly in accordance with His nature. In view of what

                                    He has done in redemption, He regards it as not only a

                                    gracious thing, but even a righteous thing, to attach the

                                    double blessing to confession of our sins. Doing, then,

                                    what He commands, we can appeal to Him, even as

                                    righteous, to bless us.

 

Ø      Third false position.

 

o       Stated. “If we say that we have not sinned.” This is a very large

                                    assumption, even if we do not take into account our pre-

                                    Christian state: We have never committed sin since we entered

                                    into union with Christ. It is going beyond the previous

                                    assumption, inasmuch as this involves complete sanctification

                                    from the beginning. This, then, is the most thorough-going

                                    perfectionism. Thus perfect, we may say with Christ,

                                    “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (John 8:46)  But

                                    what is said about the assumption?

 

o       Condemned. “We make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.”

      The wildest assumption receives the severest condemnation.

      The blood of Christ is for our CONTINUAL CLEANSING!

       God is therefore dealing with us on the supposition of our

      partial sanctification. To claim complete sanctification is to

      make Him a liar, i.e., to contradict this supposition. It

                                    can be said, further, that His Word is not in us, i.e., is not

                                    evidenced in our consciousness in what it says about our state.

                                    We do not need to go beyond the petition which Christ put

                                    into the mouth of disciples, “Forgive us our sins.” (Luke

                                    11:4)   It is the height of presumption to imagine that we can

                                    here outgrow the Lord’s Prayer.

 

 

                                    “If… if:” which shall it be?  (vs. 6-10)

 

The purpose of God in revealing Himself to us as Light is that we may come into

fellowship with Him; and that in this fellowship we ourselves may become sons of

light, which by nature we are not.  The only way in which the purpose of this Divine

message about God Himself can be accomplished in us is by our first recognizing

truly and fully what we are, and then acknowledging our state before Him.

 

  • THE ENDS OF GOD IN THUS DECLARING HIMSELF MAY BE

            FRUSTRATED IN ONE OR OTHER OF THREE WAYS.

 

Ø      If we maintain that our fellowship with God follows as a matter of

                        course, independently of moral considerations; e.g., if we:

 

o       say that we have fellowship with Him (v. 6), and if we

o       walk in darkness.

 

                        In that case we are:

           

o       false in word: “we lie;”

o       false in practice: “we do not the truth.”

 

                        The truth is not merely to be objectively perceived by the

                        understanding, but is also to be transmuted into life. Men

                        would soon go on to know more of objective truth if they would

                        but put in practice what they already know.  A fellowship in the Light,

                        and a living and walking in the darkness, are far asunder as the east is

                        from the west.

 

Ø      If we maintain that there is no wrong in not being in fellowship with

                        God, or if we deny that sin is the great barrier to fellowship, i.e.,

                        if we say that we have no sin” (v. 8), — in that case:

 

o       we are self-deceived;

o       “the truth is not in us,” i.e., as an informing guide, or as a

      regulating power. Note: To take a true view of sin — its evil,

      its guilt, its subtlety, its destructiveness is an imperative

      condition of understanding the value of the gospel message

      and of the Redeemer’s work.

 

Ø      If we maintain that sin, albeit it may be located in us, has never broken

                        forth into act; i.e., “if we say that we have not sinned” (v. 10), — in

                        that case:

 

o       we are putting the lie on what God has said; for certainly God

      Himself and we are in violent moral contrast. But if so, and we

      say we have not sinned, then we charge the sin on God; and

      since the revelation of God as Light is meant to throw up our

      sin in its DARKNESS and ENORMITY, if we deny

                                    our darkness, we thereby deny GOD’S LIGHT!

 

o       God’s Word is not in us, i.e., as the moving power or the

      enlightening force. It is outside us; but we close the eye,

      and will not let it shine within.  It may be, it is, true that in

      God we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28):

                                    that we cannot flee from His presence: that He has beset us

                                    behind and before, and laid His hand upon us (Psalm 139);

                                                and yet we may, like Cain, “go out from the presence of the

                                    Lord” (Genesis 4:16),  and be out of fellowship with Him; we

                                    may, yea, we shall, remain unillumined by His brightness, and

                                    unsaved by his revelation of Himself, unless we first learn to

                                    own our guilt, to take our right place as sinful men before A

                                    HOLY GOD!   To this the Apostle John urges. Hence observe:

 

  • THERE IS ANOTHER AND A BETTER COURSE, IN OUR

            ADOPTION OF WHICH THE ENDS OF GOD IN REVEALING

            HIMSELF MAY BE ACCOMPLISHED IN US. A double duty and

            also a double issue are here pointed out.

 

Ø      Confession. “If we confess our sins” (v. 9); not only acknowledge

                        them, but acknowledge them openly in the face of men.

                        Unquestionably, open confession forms an essential part of our duty

                        (compare Romans 10:9). The open confession before men of Jesus

                        as our Saviour from sin, obviously includes as its basis the

                        acknowledgment of the sin from which we are to be saved.

                        Certainly there must be:

 

o       confession before God (Psalm 32:5), and

o       confession and restitution before man where the wrong has

      been to man (Luke 19:8; James 5:16). This first duty will have

      a twofold issue. Where sin is thus confessed, there will be:

 

§         forgiveness, and

§         cleansing; and both these are guaranteed to the penitent

                                                by:

ü      the faithfulness of God, and

ü      the justice of God!

 

                                    Faithfulness in the fulfillment of the promise; and justice, in that,

                                    when the penitent puts away sin by forsaking it, God puts it

                                    away by forgiving it, through His method of mercy

                                    IN JESUS CHRIST!

 

Ø      Walking in the light is the second duty. We walk in the light, and

      God is in the light. Ours is to be constant advance; God’s is

      permanent being. When once a penitent has by confession

      avowedly quitted the realm of darkness, he at once begins to

      move on in light, and towards FULLER LIGHT!

                        This second duty will also have a twofold issue.

 

o       Fellowship. Sin is the great separator of man from God, and

      of men from one another. We “turn every one to his own

      way.”   Isaiah 53:6)  Jesus is the great Reconciler, and thus

      the Restorer of the ruptured fellowship.

 

o       The efficacy of the blood of Christ will then be fully realized. Few

                                    verses in Scripture have suffered so much as this seventh verse,

                                    by being first halved and then isolated. It must be read as a whole,

                                    and the full force of” the elongated present” must be given to each

                                    verb. “If we are walking in the light, as He is in the light, we are

                                    having fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus

                                    Christ His Son IS CLEANSING US from all sin;  i.e., the

                                    redeeming efficacy of the work of the Son of God is disclosing

                                    itself as a practical power, by removing the estrangement and

                                    the foulness which sin had brought. It can no longer be a question

                                    — Is Christ a Redeemer? for there will be the living, the manifest

                                    proof that He is so, in our being cleansed through Him from

                                    guilt and sin, and restored to communion with God and to

                                    loving fellowship with our brother. Then, then, He who is the

                                    Light will not only have transferred us from the kingdom of

                                    darkness to the kingdom of light, but will actually have

                                    transformed us from being darkness to becoming light in

                                    the Lord. Then will the light and purity of heaven be reflected

                                    in us on earth, and we, while living on earth, shall be steadily

                                    moving toward the brighter light above.

 

 

                        Man’s Attitude Towards His Own Sins (vs. 8-10)

 

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,” etc. It is implied that

man is a sinner, that even Christian men “have sin.” The renewed nature is

not, in our present condition, an altogether sinless nature. The saintly

apostle includes himself in the “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive

ourselves,” etc. But this is not the same moral condition as “walking in the

darkness (v. 6). In that condition the man “is in the darkness;” in this,

the sin is in the man. In that, darkness is the moral region in which the

sinner lives and moves and has his being; in this, he lives and walks in the

light, but is not altogether free from sin. Our text sets before us two

contrasted attitudes of men towards their own sins.

 

  • THE DENIAL OF PERSONAL SINS. “If we say that we have no sin,”

            etc. (v. 8). “If we say that we have not sinned,” etc. (v. 10). Notice:

 

Ø      This denial itself. It may be made variously.

 

o       By affirming that we are free from sin. There may be persons

      whose view of the exalted claims of God’s holy law is so

      deficient, and whose estimate of their own character and

      conduct is so exaggerated, that they think and assert that

      they have no sin.

 

o       By pleading the merit of certain good actions as a set-off

      against our sins. In this case certain small and venial sins are

      acknowledged, but very many virtuous and generous deeds

      are claimed, and great merit is ascribed to them, and they

      are held to far more than counterbalance the slight

                                    offences. Or, like the Pharisee (Luke 18:11-12), a man

                                    may conclude that he has no sin by comparing himself and

                                    his good works with others whom he deems very much

                                    his inferiors.

 

o       By extenuating the character of sin. There are not a few who

      virtually deny the fact of sin altogether. What the Bible calls

      sin they speak of as misdirection, imperfect development,

      inherited tendencies to errors of life; and thus they seek to

      get rid of personal guilt.

 

Ø      The consequences of this denial.

 

o       The self-deception of the denier. “He deceiveth himself.”

      By closing his eyes to the light of truth and holiness, he is

      wandering into moral error, falsehood, and danger. He

      sins against his own soul.

 

o       The manifestation of the solemn fact that the truth of God

      is not in him.  Saying that he has no sin, he testifies that

      neither the truth of the perfect holiness of God, nor that

      of the sinfulness of man, is realized by him.  (“Of how

      much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought

      worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God,

      and counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he

      was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done

      despite unto the Spirit of grace.”  - Hebrews 10:29)

 

o       The negation of the Divine veracity. “If we say that we

      have not sinned, we make Him a liar.” God has repeatedly

      declared that all men are sinners (Romans 3:10-18). All the

      provisions and arrangements for man’s redemption imply

      that he is a sinner and spiritually lost. But if any man has

                                    not sinned, these declarations are untrue, and redemption

                                    itself is based upon falsehood. How dreadful a thing it is

                                     to attempt to “make Him a liar”!

 

o       The manifestation of the fact that the Word of God is not

      in him. By “His Word” (v. 10) we do not understand the

      eternal and personal Word but the collective revelation of

      God, not merely that which is contained in the written

      words of the Old and New Testaments, but the entire

      self-annunciation of the nature of God, who is Light.

      The whole revelation of the mind and will of God teaches

      that man is a sinner; he who says that he has not sinned

      contradicts that revelation, and in so doing shows that

      the spirit of that revelation is not in him.

 

  • THE CONFESSION OF PERSONAL SINS.If we confess our sins,

            He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all

            unrighteousness.”

 

Ø      The confession itself. The confession, to be valid, must be sincere; it

                        must be the expression of penitence. The apostle means more than a

                        vague, general confession of sin. It is to be feared that many join in

                        the “general confession” in church every Sunday without any true

                        realization of their personal guiltiness, and whose confession,

                        consequently, cannot be acceptable unto God. Our confession

                        must be personal and particular; it must spring from the heart,

                        and its sincerity must be evinced in the life.  Confession must be

                         made to God. In our text there is no suggestion whatever of

                        confession to a priest. Confession to man is binding only when

                        we have injured man, and then the confession should be made to the

                        injured person or persons. But the confession and forgiveness of

                        which our text speaks are things which transpire between the penitent

                        soul and THE PARDONING GOD!

 

Ø      The consequences of this confession.

 

o       Forgiveness of our sins. As a consequence of genuine personal

                                    confession of sins, God:

§         exempts us from their spiritual penalties,

§         sets us free from their guilt, and

§         delivers us from condemnation.

                                    How completely and graciously God forgives (Psalm 103:12;

                                                                        Isaiah 38:17; 44:22; 55:6-7; Micah 7:19; Luke 15:20-24)!

 

o       Cleansing from our sins.And to cleanse us from all

       unrighteousness.”  Purification is promised as well as

      pardon; sanctification as well as justification. Of this

      sanctification we have already spoken (v. 7).

 

o       The guarantee of these blessings. “He is faithful and just

      [Revised Version, ‘righteous’] to forgive us our sins,” etc.

      The character of God is a pledge that the penitent shall

      receive pardon and purification. He has promised these

      blessings; He is faithful, and will fulfill His promises.

      He is faithful, not only to His promises, but to His own

      holy nature. “God is Light,” and He is true to Himself in

      forgiving and sanctifying those who sincerely confess their

      sins. It seems to us that His righteousness here does

                                    not mean that, Christ having borne our sins and satisfied

                                    Divine justice, the forgiveness of all who believe on Him

                                    is due to Him or to them in Him. That may be taught

                                     elsewhere, but we cannot discover it here. The justice or

                                    righteousness is that of the character of God; and pardon

                                    and purification from sin are bestowed in harmony with

                                    His righteousness. It may be that in the background lie all

                                    the details of redemption, but they are not here in this verse:

                                    only the simple fact of God’s justice is adduced. Justice and

                                    mercy are forms of love. The same is true of righteousness,

                                    or right — this requires both justice and mercy; for no being

                                    can ever think himself righteous who does not exercise mercy

                                    where mercy is possible — ‘faithful and just’ (righteous),

                                    says the apostle, ‘to forgive us our sins.’ God will be just,

                                    retributively, because He is righteous. He will also be merciful

                                    and forgiving because He is righteous.  Our subject presents the

                                    strongest reasons to dissuade us from attempting to cloak or

                                    deny our sins, and the strongest encouragement to humbly and

                                    heartily confess them unto God. “He that covereth his sins shall

                                    not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall

                                    have mercy.”  (Proverbs 28:13)

 

 

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