WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XVIII) 10/28/20

1:2:  John continues, we saw Him ourselves, so now we can tell others about Him!

EXPOSITION

Here, John follows the commission given by Jesus to him and the others: “You will tell people about me too because you have been with me from the beginning.”[1]  Then John goes on, So now I want to tell you about Him. The One that was shown to us eternally existed with God the Father. John can confidently base this on what was said about Jesus: “The only one who has ascended ever into heaven is the one who first came down from heaven—the Son of man.[2] And I’m sure John could not forget what Jesus said that he heard with his ears: “I know Him because I am from Him. He is the one who sent me.”[3] Therefore, Jesus was able to pray: “And this is eternal life: that people can know You, the only true God, and that they can know the Savior, the Son of man, the One You sent.[4]

COMMENTARY

John James Lias (1834-1923) disagrees with the KJV’s rendition of this verse (repeated in the NIV), where it reads: “For the Life was manifested, and we have seen it.” Lias says that the word “it” should not be here.[5] The New English Translation agrees by rendering it: “And the Life was revealed, and we testify and announce to you. . .” John saw more than an “it,” he saw a person in the flesh, he heard Jesus speak, and he sat beside in at the last supper. However, it is possible to use “it” when referring to “the Life” as a regular noun instead of a proper noun; it is permissible. From my perspective, John spoke about Life as a Living Life in the person of Jesus the Anointed One.

John Owen (1616-1683) reports an inexpressible delight between the Father and the Son in John’s exaltation. “I was,” he says, “daily His delight, always rejoicing before Him.”[6] But this delight of the Father and Son is not predicated on any perfection of virtues in each person. They are the object of God’s salvation plan for the whole world by Him, who is His power and wisdom unto that end. This counsel of peace was initially between Yahweh and the Branch,[7] or the Father and the Son — He was to be incarnate. Because of that, He was “foreordained before the foundation of the world.[8] Namely, to be a Savior and a Deliverer, by whom all God’s plans became a reality. It was done by His will, agreeing with the Father’s will.

And such a foundation, says Owen, was laid down for the salvation of the Church. It resulted from the counsels of God — between the Father and the Son – in which it is said, “everlasting life was promised before the world was formed.”[9] Although God gave His promise to Abraham after Adam’s fall, yet there was much preparation of grace and everlasting life in these counsels of God. His unchangeable purpose of communicating them to us came with the promise of God’s faithfulness. “God, that cannot lie promised before the world began.”[10] There was everlasting life with the Father – that is, in His counsel treasured up in the Anointed One, and in Him afterward manifested in us. And, to show the stability of this purpose and counsel of God made infallible by His actual promise and becoming effective through “grace,” is said to be “given to us in the Anointed One Jesus before the world began.”[11] [12]

Puritan preacher and scholar Nathanael Hardy (1618-1670) makes this astute comment: We need not look for a Preface in John’s epistle since it not only begins with an inauguration, but an introduction that has no starting part; a text to which a Prologue would be needless, because it is a preface, and yet such an introduction as may be called a book. In reference to this epistle, it is a volume well worth our most earnest study and examination.[13]

Johann Huther says that everything the believer possesses in the Anointed One is not mentioned here in the opening. It is only of the Anointed One Himself; and, besides, to the Apostle John not merely a subjective, but also an objective conception is proved by later in 5:11. It is more significant since the relative twofold clause contains a confirmation of all that the Apostle John has said up until now. In other words, we cannot have a single virtue, attribute, or characteristic of the Anointed One apart from having all of Him in our lives. You cannot have the “Life of Jesus” without the “Love of Jesus.”[14]

Erich Haupt (1841-1926), a German Lutheran theologian, gives us a somewhat academic insight into what John says in verse two. He explains that here John talks about this Logos of Life but adds no more information on who or what it is. Instead, he talks about how he, and the other Apostles, were able to hear, see, and touch the source of that Life. However, in His Gospel, John is quite clear about where the Logos of Life came from and His divine origin. It would be one thing if the Apostle John were expressing his thoughts or speculations about the subject, but what he says comes as a direct message from God through His anointing Spirit.

It is true that in John’s Gospel, the Apostle depicts the influences and energies of the Logos, says Haupt, but it is in such a manner as to exhibit His person in richer light and define that person more precisely. The critical factor that both writings display this Logos of Life in human form. For becoming human was, in fact, the only means of the manifestation, and a medium which had no eternal extension; for, when the Lord glorified Himself, He remained indeed a man. The flesh, whose lusts are a weakness, was penetrated and swallowed up by the power of the Spirit that pervaded it. In John’s Epistle, the subject is the life-giving energy of the Lord. Here the first verse indicates that it was seen explicitly in the risen Savior, who was no longer “flesh and blood” but “appeared” to be so by all witnesses. As such, “appeared” is the most adequate and relevant expression.[15]

Frederick B. Meyer (1847-1929) says that as the aged Apostle began to write, he recalled his first happy experiences with the Savior. He heard the voice, saw the person, touched the very body in which Deity had His home. It was too marvelous a bliss to be enjoyed alone, and John tells us that we may enter into the same close partnership with the Father and the Son. But no impurity or insincerity is permissible to those who enter that fellowship. Our one aim should be to maintain such a walk with God that the union with God may be unimpaired. If there are still sins of ignorance, the blood of Jesus will continue to remove them. Sin differs from sins, as the root of the fruit. God does not only forgive, but He also cleanses. He is faithful to His promises and just to His Son. Notice the “ifs” of these verses;[16] they are the building blocks of the blessed life.[17]

Greville P. Lewis (1891-1976) asks the question, “Who are these eye-witnesses referred to as ‘we’ here in verse two?”[18] The same John, the last living Apostle of the original twelve,[19] wrote the fourth Gospel and wrote this letter. Besides the twelve, there were the women – Martha, Mary, Mary Magdalene, and others. Also, Jesus had many acquaintances such as Lazarus, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, the owners of the colt, and the Upper Room, in addition to the seventy-two He sent out as missionaries. Let’s not forget the 120 who were in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost. Then there were the thousands that Jesus fed, healed, and raised from the dead.

Lewis is not bashful in saying that modern preachers and teachers, like the Apostle John and his colleagues, must respond to the Anointed One’s call to be His witnesses in our age.[20] Our job is not to air our opinions or give good advice from the pulpit, let alone convince people that we are brilliant preachers! Trying cleverly to preach to impress our audience and declare the Anointed One as extraordinarily loving must not be our primary goal. Our task is to be witnesses to the Anointed One and His Gospel resulting from our experiences. It is a way to convince our listeners that this Messiah is the living Savior of all humanity.[21] Let the words of Charles Wesley (1707-1788) in his hymn, “Thy faithfulness, Lord each moment we find,”[22] become ours:

            “The mercy I feel, to others I shew:

            I set to my seal that Jesus is true:

            Ye all may find favor who come at His call;

            O come to my Savior! His grace is for all.”[23]


[1] John 15:27

[2] Ibid. 3:13 (cf. 16:28)

[3] Ibid. 7:29

[4] Ibid. 17:3

[5] Lias, John James, Epistle of John Exposition, op. cit., p. 18

[6] Proverbs 8:30

[7] Zechariah 6:13

[8] 1 Peter 1:20

[9] Titus 1:2

[10] Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 6:18

[11] 2 Timothy 1:9

[12] Owen, John: Christologia, A Declaration of the Glorious Mystery of the Person of Christ, Ch. 4, pp. 71-72

[13] Hardy, N., The First General Epistle of St. John the Apostle, Unfolded and applied, James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, Edinburgh; 1865,pp. 16–17

[14] Luther, Johann: Handbook on Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 476

[15] Haupt, Erich: The First Epistle of St. John: A Contribution to Biblical Theology, (W. B. Pope, Trans.) T&T Clark Edinburgh, 1879, pp. 12–13

[16] Also see 1 John 2:1

[17] Meyer, Frederick B: Through the Bible Commentary, First Epistle of John, loc. cit., StudyLight

[18] Lewis, Greville P., The Johannine Epistles, Epworth Preacher’s Commentaries, The Epworth Press, London, 1961, p. 8

[19] Greville says that John the son of Zebedee had already died. The John who wrote this Epistle was known as John the Elder.

[20] Acts of the Apostles 1:8

[21] 2 Corinthians 4:5

[22] Wesley, Charles, 1741

[23] Lewis, Greville P., Epworth Preacher’s Commentary, First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 10-11

About drbob76

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