WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XIX) 10/29/20

Paul W. Hoon (1910-2000) says that the invitation of the Gospel is to start living the everlasting life now. The Greek adjective alōnios meaning, “without end, never to cease, everlasting” is John’s way of saying what the other Gospel writers do when they use such phrases as “enter into the kingdom of heaven,” “being saved,” “inheriting everlasting life.” And in the Apostle Paul’s writings, it is expressed as being “in [Christ] the Anointed One.”

We should not let the adjective “everlasting” mislead us. It does not mean a future life, but as constant and characteristic as the life the Anointed One lived. Hoon goes on to say that everlasting life is not some future immortality promising the richest gifts Christianity has to offer. It defines the true measure of quality rather than quantity.[1] In other words, what we already have in the Anointed One will continue after death in a pure, expanded, when we join our Lord in eternity in a more glorious fashion since we leave all the sorrows of the flesh behind.

Daniel C. Snaddon (1915-2009) states that most commentators believe that the “L” in life should be capitalized, making Life to mean the Lord. He was manifested or revealed. “Eternal Life” is a title given to the Anointed One. John says, “He was with the Father, but was “manifested to us.”[2] We see this in the New Life Translation: “Christ Who is Life was shown to us.”

Warren W. Wiersbe (1929-2019), American pastor, Bible teacher, conference speaker, and prolific writer of Christian Literature and theological works, reminds us that real life is not a playground but a battleground.[3] For the Apostle John, it went from just hearing about Jesus to meeting Him and experiencing a personal encounter with Him. It was not something John discovered reading a book nor listening to stories about the Prophet from Galilee. John met Jesus face to face; He watched Him live and studied His words and actions. No one could convince John that Jesus was not real. But it was not the Apostles’ physical nearness to Jesus the Anointed One that made him and his fellow disciples what they were. It was their spiritual nearness.

So, John does not have any advantage over a person today who believes and asks Jesus for forgiveness. The Apostles committed themselves to Him as their Savior and their Lord. Jesus the Anointed One was real and exciting to John and his colleagues because they trusted Him. By having confidence in the Anointed One, they received the promise of everlasting life. The same principle applies to us today.[4] As we see in John’s testimony, Jesus came to be a mediator. But not as Moses, who was given the Law and passed it on to the Israelites, but to be the One through whom God and humanity find familiarity with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) explains it: “Christian fellowship is not the sentimental and superficial attachment of a random collection of individuals, but the profoundly mutual relationship of those who remain ‘in Christ’ and therefore belong to each other.”[5]

D. Edmond Hiebert (1928-1995) points out that the phrase, “We have seen” declares that this incarnate Life was the object of intelligible, abiding perception on the part of the Apostles. They perceived His true identity, again viewed as having an ongoing impact. It further connects their experience with a double present activity because John witnessed what he was proclaiming to his readers. It all involves “communication” in that it involves communicating the infallible truth.[6]

Current Bible scholar Bruce B. Barton (1954-) also addresses how and why John wrote this marvelous letter. He says that at the beginning of 2nd and 3rd John, this author identified himself as “the elder.” This title probably pointed to John’s position as the oldest living apostle and chief leader among the churches in the Roman province of Asia (otherwise known as Asia Minor). Also, since John was the oldest to survive, they called him an elder because of his status. It is made clear in First John by the way he addressed the believers as his “dear children.[7]

However, some scholars think this “elder” refers to a different John based on a quotation from Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor (A.D. 100–140). Papias’ comment, transmitted through Eusebius via Irenaeus, says: “If anywhere one came my way who had been a follower of the elders, I would inquire about the words of the elders—what Andrew and Peter had said, or what Thomas or James or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples had said; and I would inquire about the things which Aristion and the elder John, the Lord’s disciples, say.” Several significant commentators have argued for an elder or presbyter John in Asia Minor, who was different from the apostle John. However, Irenaeus, in “Against Heresies and the Muratorian Fragment” (both from the end of the second century), assigns First John to the Apostle John.

Later, Burton points out that in Hebrew, “the word” was an agent of creation,[8] the source of God’s message to His people through the prophets,[9] God’s Law, and His standard of holiness.[10] The Greeks used “the word” to refer to a person’s thoughts or reason for a person’s speech expressing their opinions. Here we can see an illustration of the written Law and the Living Word.

As a Greek philosophical term, logos was the rational principle governing the universe. For both Jews and Greeks, the term logos signified beginnings. Jesus the Anointed One, the logos, is from the beginning because He is God.[11] John’s use of logos is a good title for God’s Son, who, with the Father and the Spirit, created the universe and then came to earth to be the perfect expression of the Godhead to humanity. Jesus, the logos, reveals God’s mind to human beings. Jesus the Anointed One, the logos, is the image of the invisible God,[12] the express image of God’s substance,[13] the revealer of God, and the reality of God.[14]

Karen H. Jobes (1968-) notes that John reiterates that “we have seen” (perfect tense) and “testify” (present tense) to the Life that appeared. Not only did John see the Life; not only does he give witness to it, but he proclaims that testimony to his readers, specifically that “the eternal Life, which was with the Father … has appeared to us” in the person of Jesus the Anointed One.[15]

Bruce G. Schuchard makes an excellent point by noting that many saw Jesus while He was here on earth. Many were eyewitnesses. However, only a few of the eyewitnesses of the life and times of Jesus later became disciples of the cross. Only a few became His eyewitnesses so that others might know that their seeing Him was neither visionary nor imaginary. They saw Him with their own eyes. They handled Him, the flesh-and-blood Son of God, with their own hands.[16] It is apparent that although Jesus died on behalf of every human being, only those who choose to believe in Him will inherit everlasting life. We wish we could win the whole world today for the Anointed One, but if the Son of God did not see the world as a whole come to Him then, we should not be surprised if many of them do not follow Him today.

1:3a That’s why John can now tell those he is writing to, “We are speaking to you about what we have seen and heard because we want you to have solidarity with us. The fellowship we share is with God the Father and His Son Jesus the Anointed One.

EXPOSITION

Was this some new idea that the Apostle John thought up on his own? Did he have some momentary astounding revelation? I doubt it. He was echoing the words of the Psalmist said a thousand years earlier: “His chosen one replies, ‘I will reveal the everlasting purposes of God, for the Lord has said to me, “You are my Son. It is your Coronation Day. Today I am giving you your glory.’”[17] Furthermore, John was doing what the Psalmist promised to do: “I will tell my people about you. I will praise you in the great assembly.”[18] So John says, I have seen the One who is KING of kings and LORD of lords. But even more, John heard the Master Himself say to His Father in heaven, “I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.[19]

So, what was John’s purpose in sharing his testimony to those in the churches to whom he was writing? He makes it very clear to join him in fellowship to enjoy the communion they will share with God, the Father, and His Son, the Anointed One. While John primarily wrote to the congregations, the Apostle Paul’s message for the Gentile worshippers at Ephesus was the same. It is the church the Apostle John pastored up until his death. He told them this secret truth: by hearing the Good News, those not Jews will share with the Jews in God’s blessings for His people. They are part of the same body, and they share in the promises God made through the Anointed One, Jesus.[20]


[1] Hoon, Paul W., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., p. 219

[2] Snaddon, Daniel C., First John, op. cit. loc. cit.

[3] Wiersbe, Warren W: Be Real (1 John): Turning from Hypocrisy to Truth (The BE Series Commentary) David C Cook. Kindle Edition, p. 19

[4] Ibid, p. 22

[5] Smalley, Stephen S: Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, 1, 2, 3 John, Word Books, Waco, Texas, 1984, p. 12

[6] Hiebert, D. Edmond: 1 John, Bibliotheca Sacra, April-June 1988, pp. 205-206

[7] 1 John 2:1, 18, 28; 3:7; 5:21

[8] See Psalm 33:6

[9] Hosea 1:2

[10] Psalm 119:11

[11] Genesis 1:1

[12] Colossians 1:15

[13] Hebrews 1:3

[14] Bruce B. Burton, Life Application Bible, op. cit., pp. 2-3, 14-15

[15] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John, op. cit., p. 53

[16] Schuchard, Bruce G., op. cit., p. 84

[17] Psalm 2:7 – The Living Bible (TLB)

[18] Ibid. 22:22

[19] John 17:26

[20] Ephesians 3:6

About drbob76

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