I John 1



vs. 1-4 - THE INTRODUCTION. It 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.  (The

writer, the apostle John, was one who had been brought into close contact

with the Person of the Lord Jesus)


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 of John, 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 ajpagge>llomen, and the clauses

introduced by o[ give the substance of the ajpa>ggeli>a.


ajpagge>llw, — ap-ang-el’-lo; from (575) (ajpo>) and the base of

(32) (a]ggelov); to announce: — bring word (again), declare,

report, shew (again), tell.


The sentence is broken by the parenthetical verse 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.”


v. 1 – “In the beginning beginningis not quite the same as in John 1:1; there

St. 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 ejqeasa>meqa is more than “have seen”  eJwra>kamen. Seeing

might be momentary; beholding implies that steady contemplation, for

which the beloved disciple had large and abundantly used opportunities. “And

our hands handled” -  we may see a reference to Luke 24:39, where the

same verb is used yhlafh>sate; and still more to John 20:27, where

the demanded test of handling is offered to St. Thomas, provoking the

confession of faith to which the whole Gospel leads up, “My Lord and my



“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” (Maurice). Between the

first clause and what follows lies the tremendous fact of the Incarnation;

and St. 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 St.

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,” cf. Luke 2:21-32; for qea~sqai of contemplating

with delight [St Mark 16:11-16], John 1:14, 34; <440111>Acts 1:11.


What St. 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



v. 2 - The main thought of vs. 1 & 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.”


(“For the life was manifested) –


THE LIFE WAS MANIFESTED IN TIME.  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 gather

rather round its denial than around its assertion.  The Divine Life could only

 be manifested to man by taking the form of man and this Jesus did when He took

our form, became like one of us, was tempted as we are, “yet without sin

Hebrews 4:15



great is the mystery of godliness:  God was manifested in the flesh, justified

in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the

world, received up into glory” – I Timothy 4:16


and we have seen it” – sums up the four verbs in v. 1.


we…bear witness and shew” – carries a stage further – the communication

of the experience!


v. 3 - Compare this verse with John 17:21. St. 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” (Jelf).


Jesus told Thomas “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)

v. 4 – “that your joy may be full” - 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 alway (1 Thessalonians 5:16);

“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.


                         FIRST MAIN DIVISION:  GOD IS LIGHT!


v. 5-ch. 2:6  - Positive Side. What walking in the light involves; the condition and

                       conduct of the believer.

1 John 2:7-28 - Negative side. What walking in the light excludes; the things and

                       persons to be avoided.


v. 5 – “This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare

            unto you” – John tells his readers where he got the information!


that God is 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: oJ Qeo<v fw~v ejsti>n oJ Qeo<v ajga>ph ejsti>n. Light and love

are not attributes of God, but Himself.


Three ideas follow in order: lo>gov (word) -zwh> (life) and fw~v (light).

There, as here, fw~v immediately suggests its opposite, skoti>a (darkness).

It is on the revelation of the Lo>gov as fw~v, and the consequent struggle between

fw~v and skoti>a, 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

Lo>gov as light is to know the Father as light; for the Lo>gov is the Revelation

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

peculiar to St. John. Others tell us that He is the Father of lights (James 1:17),

the Possessor of light (1 Peter 2:9), dwelling in light (1 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; 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. 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 (Maurice). 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 St. John, in his characteristic manner,

immediately emphasizes the great announcement with an equivalent

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

1 John 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.


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

we lie, and do not the truth” - If God is Light to the exclusion of all

darkness, then fellowship with darkness excludes fellowship with him.

By  walking” peripatei~n  is meant our daily life, our movement and activity

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

will inevitably express the koinwni>a (fellowship) in which we live. To have

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

darkness, is IMPOSSIBLE.  We are false in both word and deed.


“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,

that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM  should not perish, but have

EVERLASTING LIFE.  For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn

the world; but that the world THROUGH HIM might be saved.  He that

believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned

already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of

God.  And this is the CONDEMNATION that light is come into the world,


deeds were evil.  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh

to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.  But he that doeth truth

cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought

IN GOD.   (John 3:16-21)


v. 7 - 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”. 

Having fellowship with one another is a sure result of that fellowship with

God which is involved in walking in the light.  Darkness is an unsocial

condition, and this the light expels.


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 oJ leloume>nov,  (bathed – washed from head to foot) the man that is

bathed (John 13:10); the former is the frequent washing of the feet (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.


v. 8 - 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 (1John 2:1-2);
  • obedience (1 John 2:3-6).


“If we say that we have no sin” - The present e]comen 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.

Plana~|n (deceive ourselves – akin to the English word “planet) – wander,

roam, go astray) is specially frequent in the Revelation, and used always of

archdeceivers — Satan, the beast, antichrist, false teachers  - it seems to

imply FUNDAMENTAL ERROR. (comp. 1 John 2:26).


v. 9 - 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 St. John neither

forbids nor enjoins. Note the asyndeton; there is no de>, as in verse 7. He is

faithful and righteous”, Di>kaiov must be rendered “righteous” rather than

just,” to mark the contrast with unrighteousness ajdiki>ti, and the

connexion with “Jesus Christ the Righteous” (1 John 2:1). “To

forgive… to cleanse” -  As explained in verse 7, the one refers to freeing us

from the penalties of sin, justification; the other to freeing us from its

contamination, sanctification.



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 i[na

ajfh~| hJmi~n. – (to forgive us)


v. 10 - Once more we have no mere repetition, but a fresh thought.

if we say we have no sin” (v. 8) refers to our natural condition; “If we

say we have not sinned” (v. 10) refers to definite acts. Note the climax:

we lie” - (v. 6); we lead ourselves utterly astray (v. 8): we make God a liar”

 (v.10). 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.


His word is not in us; i.e., we are cut off from all communication with Him

(John 5:38; 8:31). “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.”


(I find it very interesting that when God revealed Himself to Moses, He is

characterized as being “abundant ….in truth” – Exodus 34:6 – CY – 2009)


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                                                ADDITIONAL NOTES




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

is a personal revelation, and not a discovery” (Westcott, in loc.). 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. 


What does it tell us about God?  Positively: “God is Light.” Physically, light

is the splendour 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


Hence the text speaks:  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.


Who brought this message down to earth? The everlasting Son of the Father,

who came from Him.  The “Sent”) – John 6:29 - This message was brought to man

directly by the greatest Messenger from the eternal throne that even heaven

itself could send!  “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in

time past unto the fathers by the prophets,  Hath in these last days spoken unto

us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, BY WHOM ALSO


AND THE EXPRESS IMAGE OF HIS PERSON, and upholding all things by

the word of His power, when He had  BY HIMSELF purged our sins, sat down

on the right hand of the Majesty on high:  (Hebrews 1:1-3)


The message 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”.


Jude calls it “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” – v. 3


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

His Son, Jesus Christ, which is in itself “ETERNAL LIFE” – John 17:3


It is the Christian’s responsibility to share the truth of God, especially

the “truth as it is in Jesus!” – Ephesians 4:21


v. 5 – “God is light and in Him is no darkness AT ALL” –


God is “the Father of lights” – James 1:17


Jesus Christ is “the Light of the world” – John 8:12


It is God’s purpose that Jesus Christ light “every man than

cometh into the world” – John 1:9


We “were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord:  walk as

children of the light”  - Ephesians 5:8


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.” The highest

intelligences ceaselessly praise Him, crying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of

hosts.” “His name is holy, and He dwells in the high and holy place.” 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, St. 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.


Let us reverence this Great and Holy Being!  Let us seek His life-

giving, enlightening, and invigorating influences!


v. 7 – “and the blood of Jesus Christ, His son, cleanses 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.


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.” The cleansing is not

accomplished at once and for ever. 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.


This Cleansing is Thorough. 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,” - (Isaiah 1:18;  Ezekiel 36:25;

Hebrews 9:13-14).



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 peculiar people,  zealous

of good works.” – (Titus 2:14)


v. 10 – “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and

            His word is not in us”


The Bible declares that ALL MEN ARE SINNERS” – Romans 3:10-18


The Bible declares that with God “there is FORGIVNESS” and with

Him is “PLENTEOUS REDEMPTION”   - Psalm 130:4,7


The Bible warns “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper but

whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” – Proverbs 28:13








“I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own

sake, and will not remember thy sins.  Put me in remembrance:

let us plead together:  declare thou that thou mayest be justified” –

Isaiah 43:25-26


“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our

transgressions from us.” – Psalm 103:12