WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

Chapter One (Lesson VII) 10/13/20

James McKnight (1721-1800) reminds us that the Apostle John is not merely describing “the word” but “the Living Word.” It is “the Word of God” clothed in human flesh to be seen, heard, and touched. Furthermore, this Word was not new; it existed from the beginning. Now the Living Word would be tested by actual encounters with wickedness and the temptations of the devil. It was proven to be real by baptism, the Holy Spirit’s descent in the form of a dove, and a voice out of heaven declaring Him to be God’s Son. He was no apparition because he walked, talked, ate, slept, and communed with humanity.[1] In other words, the Word became real in the world’s eyes, more real than even their idols who could not do what He did to bring the message of salvation to a lost and dying people.

Samuel Eyles Pierce (1746-1829) tells us that the Apostle John wrote this First Epistle to address his concerns of the believer’s communion with God the Father and His Son Jesus the Anointed One through the grace and influence of the Holy Spirit. It is the very essence and utmost excellence of grace, either on earth or in glory. The Apostle John is part of God’s chosen people in the Final Covenant, while Daniel was among God’s chosen people of the First Covenant. Daniel was spoken to by an angel, “O man greatly beloved,”[2] and John earned the reputation as the disciple whom Jesus loved. He was highly favored by our Lord Jesus the Anointed One. It is told that John rested his head on our Lord’s chest just like the Anointed One lay in the arms of His Divine Father before time began, and drew the love of His Father’s heart into His own, and reflects the full splendor of it, and mirrors the glorious shine of it on His church. And he was, thereby, most eminently qualified to write concerning one of the greatest of all subjects – communion with the divine Godhead, in the incomprehensible essence as they stand related to us, and are personally interested in us, according to their sovereign will and grace.[3]

Pierce concludes his sermon with eloquence by saying with the title, “Word.” John styles this most wonderful Anointed One as “the Word of life.” Yes, we have heard with our ears, we have seen with our eyes, we have looked upon, and our hands have handled “the Word of life.” We find these words recorded in the First Covenant, “By the Word of the LORD were the heavens made.”[4] We also read the Word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Fear not, Abram; I am your shield, and exceeding great reward.”[5] David says, “For Your Word’s sake, and according to Your own heart, You did all these great things, to make your servant know them.”[6] So the Word of Life has always been valuable.

In all these passages, our Lord bears the title of “the Word.” The Word is the index of the mind, by accounting for and expressing what the mind contains. So, the Anointed One, being one in the self-existing Divine Essence, speaks out the eternal Father’s intentions. The heavens and the earth were created, with His Almighty’s approval and all that surround them. It was by Him, all the secrets of the Most-High were proclaimed, and the invisible God brought out of His invisibility. So, says our Evangelist in the first chapter of his Gospel, “No one has seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”[7] It is in Him the full revelation of Godhead is made known. By the Son of God’s union, with the man Jesus the Anointed One, there is the most apparent evidence given to us of the Trinity in Unity for us to understand. In the essential Word, all of God’s mind is opened; all the love of God expressed; the whole essence of God declared. It is as this essential Word, the only begotten Son of God shines forth as God-Man in His most glorious person, mediation, work, grace, and salvation, in the everlasting Gospel, and enlightens His Church so that in His light they can see the Light.[8]

In 1823 Richard Rothe (1799-1867) received an appointment as chaplain to the Prussian embassy in Rome. In 1828 he was made Ephorus,[9] at the preachers’ seminary of Wittenberg, Germany, and afterward professor in Bonn and Heidelberg. Rothe was considered one of the most profound thinkers of the century, equaled by none of his contemporaries in his speculation’s grasp, depth, and originality. As he sees it, the first four verses form a preface to the whole Epistle. They point to the contents of the communication of the writer and state its purpose. However, says Rothe, in the Epistle itself, we do not meet with this communication again. On the other hand, they are presented to us clearly and distinctly in John’s Gospel.

Rothe states that the words “That which was from the beginning,” signifies its original self-existence. Being eternally existent, therefore, the only real, actual existence of the Absolute. It adds to the manifestation of the Redeemer’s superior dignity and worth. With that being the case, John’s message’s essential thought means this self-existence is the real and eternal life of which John will speak in verse two. You could not have anything eternally futuristic unless it existed before the beginning. It is especially valid when speaking of God’s Son as the Divine Logos – the Word. Hence, His message was not new; it already existed and only need to be revealed. That’s John’s opening message.[10]

German Lutheran Pastor and theologian Johann Eduard Huther (1807-1880) focuses on the Anointed One’s theological genealogy whom the Apostle John calls “the Living Word.” This thought, says Huther, is inconclusive in itself, but is more fully explained by the following relative clauses to this extent: “that which was from the beginning” is identical with that which was the subject of perception by the Apostle’s senses.[11]

And English Bishop in the  Anglican Church and noted scholar, Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1880), notes that John begins this Epistle without mentioning himself. He appears to be unconscious of his individuality and so absorbed in contemplating the Divine Glory of the Anointed One that he heard, saw, and touched that he only sees the One who came down from heaven out of infinite love for His creation. We hear John reverting to the opening of the First Covenant: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”[12] That was the beginning of the visible world. Then in his Gospel, John speaks of the beginning of the spiritual world.[13] And here in his Epistle, he begins with Him who had no beginning but is and has been from the start. So, by seeing the Anointed One, John looked at someone existing before the commencement of the world’s creation.[14]

William Graham (1810-1883) summarizes what the Apostle John was thinking while writing this letter to his readers. Graham has John saying, I taught you something of the nature and universality of sin, of the deceivers and hypocrites who say they have no sin. Still, it would be best if you did not misunderstand that sin is an element of our being. Neither is it attached to us as an absolute necessity or infused into us by God’s will or authority. Also, that resisting such might and dominion are vain and impossible. On the contrary, says John, the main object of my Epistle lies in four words, “that you sin not.”

It is the aspiration of my heart, says John, and the end of all my labors as an Apostle of Jesus the Anointed One, the divine Redeemer. You must not yield to sin but resist it to the uttermost, in the assurance that the grace of the Anointed One will be sufficient for you, and every fresh victory over it will prepare the way for new conquests until the crucifixion of the old self. We must bring every thought into subjection to the Gospel of the Anointed One.[15]

English Baptist minister, college head, and Biblical scholar Joseph Angus (1816-1902) says that we learn the true nature of our partnership with God. He is Light and Love, and being one with Him implies conformity to Him as the Light and purified humanity, redeemed, and holy.  And in conforming to His Love, they must love God and love one another. However, when we deny the Anointed One, all these blessings are lost. We discover the blessedness and duties of sonship. As a family, adoption is our privilege in the Anointed One, and again we are led to the same results. God is righteous: as His children, we too must be righteous! The Anointed One came to take away sin, and in Him is no sin; we must conform to Him. He gave His life for us, and herein His love is our model. Having His Spirit, we shall share His other blessings. Again, if Christ is denied, especially in His human nature, and these blessings are lost.[16]


[1] James McKnight: On First John, op. cit., p. 24

[2] Daniel 10:19

[3] Pierce, Samuel E. Exposition of the First Epistle of John, Sermon 1, Vol. 1, London: J. Nisbet & Co., 1835, p. 1

[4] Psalm 33:6

[5] Genesis 15:1

[6] 2 Samuel: 21

[7] John 1:18

[8] Samuel Eyles Pierce: First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 8-9

[9] Ephorus is usually the head of an evangelical seminary or monastery supported by scholarships

[10] Rothe, Richard: Exposition of the First Epistle of St. John, The Expository Times, London, January 1890, p. 85

[11] Johann E. Huther, Epistles of James and John, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the General Epistles, Funk & Wagnalls, New York, 1886, p. 469

[12] Genesis 1:1

[13] John 1:1-3

[14] Christopher Wordsworth: The NT with Introduction and Notes, Vol. II, Rivingtons, Waterloo Place, London, 1872, p. 107

[15] Graham, W. (1857). The Spirit of Love, op. cit., p. 75

[16] Joseph Angus: The Bible Hand-Book: An Introduction to the Study of Sacred Scripture: New Edition, Thoroughly Revised and in Part Re-written by Samuel G. Green, The Religious Tract Society, London, 1904, p. 753

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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