WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

Chapter One (Lesson IX) 10/15/20

The same things are said of each, and the same characteristics attributed to each. The fundamental resemblance lies in the fact that each is the revealer or tangible expression of the Invisible God. As the written or spoken word expresses, to communicate to another the invisible and inaccessible thought, so Jesus the Anointed One as the Incarnate Word, and the Holy Scriptures as the Written Word, express and communicate knowledge of the invisible and inaccessible God. “Those who have seen Me have seen the Father.” “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.[1] [2]

I like what Alan England Brooke (1863-1939), Provost of King’s College, Cambridge, ordained priest in the Church of England and Professor of Divinity lays out for us to comprehend the full revelation of the Word of Life through the incarnate Son of God whom the Apostle John saw, heard, and touched. He says that what John announces about the Word of Life, the revelation of life, is no recent discovery. The revelation began with creation. It continued in the history of the nations and the People, in the work of Prophets, Psalmists, Legislators. It culminated in the earthly life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, the mystery, which is as old as creation, was gradually revealed, until it was wholly manifested in Jesus the Anointed One, the Son of God.

Brooke continues by saying that the phrase “the Logos of Life,” necessitates some such interpretation of the phrase. It cannot refer to the eternal, pre-existent nature of the personal Word, though in the writer’s conception, this is no doubt included. The whole message of God’s revelation, as it has been gradually unfolded, is the object of the writer’s writing. The mystery which he takes his part in “revealing” is concerned with the eternal reality underlying the phenomena apparent to sense-perception and needed to explain them. What he has to say is one stage in its unveiling; his words are part of a process of teaching which began when “God said. Let there be light.”[3] In other words, the Son of God coming to earth was not the Word of Life’s first appearance to humanity. It started in creation with nature and continually grew in intensity through the Law and finally through Jesus of Nazareth. It is when personal communion and fellowship with God became possible. But it is still not finished. This same John said that one day we will all see Him for who He is.[4]

H. A. Ironside (1876-1951), a Canadian-American Bible teacher, preacher, theologian, pastor, and author who pastored Moody Church in Chicago from 1929 to 1948 and belonged to the Plymouth Brethren, sees some distinct beginnings emphasized in Scripture. We read, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth[5] That was the beginning of creation. Some speculate that it occurred about six thousand years ago; it might have been much more than that, but the Bible does not say. But go back as far as you want, and you still find that, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” Whenever that event took place, it was God who did it. He was there. In other words, it was not the beginning of God, nor was it the beginning of the universe, but the beginning of the earth and its atmosphere.

Ironside continues by saying that it may have gone through a great many changes before the conditions described in Genesis 1:2. Nevertheless, it was created by a personal God in the beginning – the beginning of creation. Then in the Gospel of John, we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”[6] That is the beginning of the beginning. When everything that ever had a beginning began, the Word already was. He had no beginning but was the eternally existing Son subsisting in the bosom of the Father. Then in the first chapter of this Epistle, “That which was from the beginning” is not the beginning of the creation; neither is it the beginning of the beginning of John 1:1. Still, it is the beginning of the new dispensation – the beginning of Christianity when the truth was revealed in the Anointed One.[7] Stephen Steward Smalley (1931-2018) adds that the allusion to the “Word” existing from the beginning is a possible allusion to the pre-existent Word as eternity itself, rather than to the “beginning” of creation as such.[8]

Greville Priestly Lewis (1891-1976) calls this work a pastoral tract rather than a personal letter. It starts without any greeting to the readers and not addressed to any specific church or person. The unique thing is that the Apostle John starts his prologue in verse one and ends in verse four with a striking summary of his main theme: That which was from the beginning…we write to you that your joy may be complete.[9]

William Barclay (1907-1978) says that John’s message is of Jesus the Anointed One; he has three great things to say about the Lord. First, he says that Jesus was from the beginning. That is to say, in Him, eternity entered time; in Him, the eternal God personally entered the world of men. Second, that entry into the world of men was a real entry; it was authentic manhood that God took upon himself. Third, through that action, there came to men the Word of life, which changed death into life and mere existence into real living. Again, and again, in the Final Covenant, He is called “Word” – Logos, and it is of the greatest interest that we see the various connections in which this term is used.[10] By becoming a real human being, our Lord Jesus made it possible for us to become real children of God.

Wendell C. Hawley (1930) says that the Apostle John says “what was from the beginning” to start this letter. There are two explanations for John’s use of the relative pronoun “what” instead of the personal pronoun “who.” John used “what” because it is more inclusive; it encompasses everything about the “Word of Life” that the Apostles came to know and experience that this prologue is a poem, John likely intended both meanings.[11]

Dr. Peter Pett, a retired Baptist minister and college lecturer points out that here the aging Apostle John addresses his readers with great tenderness as his little spiritual children (Greek teknia) – in that they followed Jesus.[12] And he assures them that he does not write to them like this so that they may feel that they can freely sin, or feel that they cannot help but lose the battle against their known sins. He does it so that they may not sin. His longing is that they may be so aware of the God who is pure light that they shy away from sin, seek earnestly to be sinless. He desires that they become holy people walking in the Light. While it is not possible to be completely innocent, the Holy Spirit can empower people so that they gain the victory over all known sin, of which they are aware. If they walk by the Spirit, they will not fulfill the desire of the flesh.[13]

Judith Lieu (1951) shares an appealing thought about the sensory perceptions of hearing, seeing, and touching. As far as touching is concerned, Lieu says that it echoes what we read in Isaiah about the people complaining that, although they wait for light, there is darkness and they walk in the gloom and “grope” like the blind along a wall.”[14] The Greek verb psēlaphaō translated here by the NKJV as “handled,” “touched (NIV),” means to “grope,” says Lieu. It is used that way about blind Isaac gropingly touching and “recognizing” Jacob-in-disguise as Esau.[15] Yet this should not lead to any uncertainly about the Apostles touching Jesus.[16] It is best understood when putting it into the context of the first three years when the disciples physically followed the Lord. It wasn’t until His resurrection they finally realized it was all true, God had come in human form, and now they had no fear or misgivings about their testimony of this reality.

Ken Johnson (1965), author and lecturer on Bible prophecy, ancient history, and the coming last days, points to John’s quote from the prophet Micah who speaks of Bethlehem where the Messiah would be born and whose origins are far in the past, back in ancient times. It clearly shows that Jesus was God incarnate. Because of this, Jesus is the only source of eternal life because He is Life eternal. Johnson then goes on to show a comparison between John’s Gospel and what the Gnostics were peddling as their gospel.[17]


[1] John 14:9, 11

[2] Mauro, Philip: Life in the Word, The Fundamentals – A Testimony to the Truth, Vol. 2, R. A. Torrey, Ed., pp. 125-126

[3] Alan E. Brooke: The International Critical Commentary, S. R. Driver, A. Plummer, C. A. Briggs Eds., T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1912, The Johannine Epistles, pp. 1-3

[4] 1 John 3:2

[5] Genesis 1:1

[6] John 1:1

[7] Ironside, Harry A. Notes on Selected Books, loc. cit.

[8] Smalley, Stephen S. Word Biblical Commentary, op. cit., p. 7

[9] Lewis, Greville P., Epworth Preacher’s Commentaries, Johannine Epistles, Epworth Press, London, 1961, pp. 6-7

[10] Barclay, William: The New Daily Study Bible, The Letters of John and Jude, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 1958, p. 26

[11] Wendell C. Hawley & Philip W. Comfort, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, 1-3 John, Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, IL. 2007, p. 329

[12] See John 13:23

[13] Peter Pett: Commentary on the Bible, StudyLight, loc. cit.

[14] See Isaiah 59:9-10

[15] Genesis 27:21-22

[16] Lieu, Judith M., The New Testament Library, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 2008, pp. 39-40

[17] Johnson, Ken. Ancient Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., pp. 53-58, Biblefacts.org. Kindle Edition.

About drbob76

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