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 - apaggelia – report. 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 ἐθεασάμεθαis – etheasamethais – we gaze - more than have seen –
ἑωράκαμεν – heorakamen – we 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 – psaelaphaesate – touch;
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 θεᾶσθαι – theasthai - 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”
means “the Word who is the
Life,” like “the city of
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
ἀπαγγέλλομεν – hon 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 ὁ 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
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 – ephanerothae – was manifested - gives the
same fact as σάρξ ἐγένετο – sarx egeneto – made 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 aionion – the 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 – haetis – which - and
πρός – pros - 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 - kai – and - 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 καὶ ἡ κοινωνία 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 ἔστι – esti -, not ῇ - 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 –
tauta – these - 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 – haemeis – we - seems preferable to ὑμῖν – humin – ye; you - and ἡμῶν –
haemon – our – 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 graphomen – we are writing - that all may realize the joy resulting
from this union — that 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: ὁ Λόγος ἡ ζωή φανερόω μαρτυρέω ζωὴ αἰώνιος η΅ν πρός ἡ χαρὰ η΅ι
πεπληρωμένη – ho 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)
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
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:
§ activity, and
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)
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
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
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.
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 – huparachon – being 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:
(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.
‘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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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)
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
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 θεόν – pros 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
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.
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
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 autou – of 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: ὁ Θεὸς
φῶς ἐστίν ὁ Θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν – ho 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 φῶς – logos, 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.
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
§ “God is Spirit;”
§ “God is Light;”
§ “God is Love”!
Not all the collective wisdom of man could have taught us so
much as this.
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!
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.
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
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
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).
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
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
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
quintessence pure.” The emblem suggests:
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.
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).
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).
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
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.
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 εἴπωμεν – ean 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 περιπατεῖν ´ερσαρι –
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 – koinonia – fellowship - 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 pseudos – maketh 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
ὁ λέγων - ho legon – he that sayeth (ch. 2:4); ὀ ἀγαπῶν – ho agapon - he that
loveth (ibid. v. 10); ὁ μισῶν –ho mison – he 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 autou – with 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 ὁ λελουμένος – ho 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:
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.
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.
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
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
· consciousness of sin and confession of sin (vs. 8-10);
· accepting the propitiation of Jesus Christ the Righteous (ch. 2:1-2);
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 ourselves… He 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, Δίκαιος – Dikaios must be rendered
righteous rather than “just,” to mark the contrast with ἀδικίτι – adikiti –
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 – hina – that - 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 haemin – that 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
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
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
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
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.
FRUSTRATED IN ONE
OR OTHER OF
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
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:
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
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
His Son IS CLEANSING
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.
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
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.
He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all
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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