WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXIII) 11/04/20

By his “fellowship with us” statement, says Neander, John represents the object for which he declares this the oneness. By this, he means unity with those who testified, as original eye-witnesses, of the eternal Life which made its appearance in human form. Therefore, this fellowship resulted from their calling to follow the divine Life-fountain revealed to the Apostles through the Anointed One. In John’s view, all togetherness with one another springs from that original fact of friendship with the Anointed One. Out of this, the Church concept was formed.    

Neander continues. It is of particular importance as a guard against the tendency, which keeps reappearing, to externalize the Church idea, to attach an undue value to a specific visible organization. At the same time, some forget that being in union with the Anointed One is the main point, the essential elements of the whole church, which, issuing from this fellowship of the saints in harmony, may appear in various outward forms. We must always bear in mind that where this interaction exists, whatever defects may still bring disharmony, is a true Church, as indeed there is no form of divine manifestation in sinful human nature wholly free from defect.

Now, says Neander, in explanation of what he understands by this brotherhood, the Apostle John immediately adds, “And truly our companionship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus the Anointed One.” But later, Neander adds a thought to this personal familiarity with God and the other believers. He says that John designates “Walking in the Light,” in holiness, as a mark of union with God, who is in the Light, who reveals Himself in holiness. “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, then we have solidarity with one another.”[1]

John does not speak directly about a connection with God, notes Neander, but our being in His family with one another. It presupposes companionship with God through the Anointed One. From this, the fellowship of believers with one another proceeds. John thus distinguishes between those who belong, as loyal members, to the communion of Christians (in other words to the Church, a designation never used by John) and those who belong to it only in appearance and not in the truth, those whose pretensions are contradicted by their ungodly life. Fellowship with God, as effected through the Anointed One, and the fellowship of believers with each other is the same thing.[2]

Charles Hodge (1797-1878) in commenting on the incarnation of the divine Anointed One says that John taught that what was in the beginning, what was with God, what was eternal, what was essentially life, and that He appeared on earth, to be seen, heard, looked upon, and handled. Again, a divine, invisible, eternal person has assumed human nature, a real body, and a rational soul. He could be seen and touched as well as heard.  The incarnation is declared to be the characteristic and essential doctrine of the Gospel. “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus the Anointed One came in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus the Anointed One came in the flesh is not of God. It is that spirit of antichrist, which you heard was coming and is already in the world.”[3] [4]

Richard Rothe (1799-1862) notes that we must understand the message John speaks here as a historical proclamation; such proclamation, however, is not contained in this letter but rather rests upon its assumptions outlined in John’s Gospel. In the beginning was the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Jesus the Anointed One is the object of John’s message so that his readers could have a close friendship with Him. That doesn’t mean they were standing outside this divine fraternity or sorority and needed to meet Him, but were inside and already knew Him. It is not just a matter of presence but participation.[5]

Robert Candlish (1805-1872) points out that the phrases “Eternal Father” and “Eternal Son.” mean that what the Father is to the Son and the Son is to the Father, from everlasting to everlasting. In other words, there was no beginning to their relationship, and there will be no end. The Father’s purpose in eternity is to glorify the Son as an heir of all things; His Son’s consent in eternity to be the Lamb slain; establish the final covenant of electing love, carrying out the Father’s decree and the Son’s satisfaction in the seeing of His seed. Then, the fantastic orchestration of that creation-week when the Son, as the Eternal Wisdom, was with the Father, being “daily His delight, always rejoicing before Him, rejoicing in the inhabitants of His earth, His delights being with those He created in His image.”[6]

Furthermore, says Candlish, the Son had many ministries as the Messenger of the covenant on the Father’s behalf among these children of men from age to age till His coming in the flesh. Further still, what the Father and His Son Jesus the Anointed One are to one another, how they feel toward one another, and the unbreakable unity between them. It was all shown through our Savior’s deep humiliation of the manger, the wilderness, the synagogues and sea of Galilee, the streets and Temple of Jerusalem, the garden, and the cross. Finally, the Son is now sitting at the Father’s right hand and that His coming in glory and the Father’s glory can happen any day. Such is the object of “the Apostles’ connection” and yours. It is having union “with the Father and His Son Jesus the Anointed One.”[7]

Daniel Whedon (1808-1885) calls these first three verses “a highly inverted sentence.” The beginning verb is in the third verse, “we declare.” This verb, which is expressed three times and once implied in the first verse, is the objective. The correct order is this: “We declare unto you that (real, bodily personality) of the Word of life that which was from the beginning, we have heard, we have seen, we have looked upon, and our hands have handled.” So, the reason why John uses the neuter “that, which” instead of the masculine “Him, whom,” is because the heretics did not question whether He, the Anointed One, really appeared, but questioned His nature. He was, they said, an apparition, a bodiless phantom, or that Jesus was a mere man upon whom the superhuman Anointed One descended and rested.[8] So it is clear that John wrote this Epistle in the face of criticism that already existed as to whether Jesus of Nazareth was the real incarnation of the Son of God, or just a vessel temporarily used by the Messiah.

William Graham (1810-1883) speaks about communion with God, broken by Adam’s fall. Any restoration was only achievable by the redemption of the fallen and the removal of the curse. Sin separated humankind and God; the curse of Babel divided them into different languages. It made communication a tedious and challenging process; the effects of climate, locality, civil and social institutions, with many other causes, divided us into races of different colors and capacities, which makes the separation more marked and enduring. Out of these circumstances, says Graham, the first stage of society produced nations. It separated us from others by customs, language, literature, and laws. Then came jealousy and suspicion, as well as long, bloody wars. Without a doubt, it influenced the state of humanity to remain in that condition unless a new principle of union and life became available.

Now Graham goes on to say, then commenced the development of the mighty plan of divine love, contemplated in the Anointed One from the beginning. Among the nations, and out of the broken and scattered fragments of fallen humanity, the purpose of Jesus becoming the Redeemer appeared. That brought into being a new corporation – the Church, from all languages, races, and ethnic groups. Its design was to remove all division elements and extinguish all bias, prejudice, and discrimination based on gender, age, and skin color.

In its place, a common bond of brotherhood and sisterhood was born in the family of God. That made it possible to restore communion with God and each other in the whole family of humankind. It became the wondrous idea of the Church: Sin separated us all; grace united us all. Under the leadership of the Anointed One, we have a new rallying point for all nations. The living streams that proceed from the sanctuary on high draw sinners to the Lord, the good, generous, and great from humanity.[9] Graham’s hopes were ambitious and optimistic, but today the world is more divided than ever. Only God can bring about such a change, and for that, we all fervently pray.

William E. Jelf (1811-1875), an English preacher and scholar, devoted much of his time to controversy. He attacked ritualism, confession, indulgences, and Mariolatry in the Church. He maintains that John views the Anointed One’s pre-existence without beginning as an essential part of Gospel truth. It is not that the possession of truth on such doctrinal points is necessary for salvation. However, belief in the doctrine of Atonement, Mediation, etc., are indispensable. Many are, by nature or upbringing, unable to grasp such truths. But do not suppose they will lose their salvation because of it. When they direct their minds toward such truths, they will absorb and understand as much as possible. That’s why teaching is so important.


[1] Neander, Augustus, The First Epistle of John, Practically Explained, Mrs. H. C. Conant, Trans., Published by Lewis Colby. New York, 1852, pp. 26-27

[2] Ibid., pp. 32-33

[3] 1 John 4:2-3

[4] Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology: The Complete Three Volumes (Kindle Locations 18881-18886). GLH Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[5] Rothe, Richard, The Expository Times, op. cit., January 1890, p. 87

[6] Proverbs 8:30

[7] Candlish, R. S., The First Epistle of John Expounded in a Series of Lectures, op. cit., pp. 9-10

[8] Whedon, Daniel D., Commentary on the New Testament, Vol. 5, Titus-Revelation, Published by Jennings & Graham, New York, 1880, p. 253

[9] Graham, William: The Spirit of Love; or, A Practical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of John, Benton Seeley; Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday, London, 1857, p. 20

About drbob76

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