WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXV) 11/06/20

John shares his experience to lead us to where the Lord brought him, says Jelf, that we may live in the power of the manifested Life. In a few words, John sums up what he received from his Lord. “Our fellowship,” he says, “is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus the Anointed One.” Oh yes! There it is – fellowship with God! That was the wondrous new life which flowed into John; that was the power which overcame all that needed cleaning; that was the Light which dimmed all other lights that filled his eyes up until now. This oneness with God came through his communion with the Anointed One. It is that unity John wanted to impart to his hearers and all who would read this letter.[1]

In a sermon by Independent minister James Morgan Gibbon (1855-1932), he says that the substance of the Gospel is found here in the last analysis in this text. First, it is something eternal – “that which was from the beginning.” Christianity is not one of the religious movements of recent years, nor is it of a particular class. Don’t bother to compare it with other religions since its sources are out of sight. When the fullness of time came, Jesus manifested Himself as being from the beginning.   

Secondly, it is something historical. As John declares: “That which we heard, we saw [not in a vision] with our eyes, and touched is what we now report to you.” These are not fantasies. Here are the facts: they are the eternal truth revealed in God’s time. And thirdly, it is something unique. “The word of life, the eternal life, which was with the Father.” the Anointed One appears among humanity. He does not come as one of many, on an ordinary errand of sympathy with sorrow. His mission is exceptional. He comes alone. He comes to give life – everlasting life – life as it was with the Father, the very life of God Himself in its purest form.[2]

Canadian evangelical Anglican presbyter, author, and lecturer Dyson Hague (1857-1935) suggests that one can well believe the story of a Japanese thinker who studied the Judeo-Christian narrative of heaven and earth. The fact struck him that in the Bible there was more theological character than philosophy, that the concept satisfied the mind and soul more than all other sacred oriental books. Just one sentence: “In the beginning God…” separated the Scriptures from the rest of human writings.

The wisest philosophy says Hague, of the ancient Platonic-Aristotelians or Gnostics, never reached the pinnacle that God created the world in the sense of absolute creation. In no science dedicated to the origin of the universe, we do not find a record of the idea that God created heaven and earth on His own will as a self-existent personality. The highest point reached by their philosophical speculations was a kind of atomic theory; of cosmic atoms and germs and eggs possessed by some unknown force of development, out of which the present cosmos evolved over billions and billions of years.

It is accepted, notes Hague, that matter somehow existed from eternity, but cannot explain its origin. The Bible teaches that the universe was not a causa sui[3] or a mere evolution of nature. Neither is it a mere transition from one form to another, from non-being to being. It was a direct creation of the Living, working God who made something out of nothing. He decided when and how to do it with the instrumentality of the eternal Logos. In magnificent contrast to agnostic science with its sad creed, “I believe that behind and above and around the phenomena of matter and force remains the unsolved mystery of the universe.”[4] The Christian presents his triumphant solution, “I believe that God created the heaven and the earth in the beginning.”[5] The first verse of the Bible is proof that the Book is of God.[6]

James Morgan (1859-1942) says we should understand that it is the believer’s privilege to have “fellowship with the Father.” John was able to see God in the light of a Father and cherish Him with a child’s feelings. It contains the essence of the communion the Apostle maintains with Him. It is not difficult to explain. Before Jesus ascended, He said to His disciples, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.”[7] They were to understand that this was His relationship with the Father, and also of theirs. God was Jesus’ Father, and also theirs.  

Jesus brought the disciples into this relationship with God because He was sacrificed as a lamb and became their representative. He took their nature, stood in for them, answered the demands of the law against them, and appeared in the presence of God on their behalf. They took shelter in Him before the judgment-seat. They were joined with Him and in Him. They could pray, “God, see our shield [the king]; look at the face of Your anointed.”[8] Thus, standing before God, they could bear the radiance of His glory. They could look up and say, “Abba, Father.” They could say, “Praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with the Anointed One,[9] and so enter into fellowship with Him.[10]

Albert Barnes (1872-1959) has an interesting note on what John may be talking about here in verse three concerning what he is declaring to them. The fact that he “declares it to them, says Barnes, John has not merely referred to what he would say in this epistle but that he supposes that they had his Gospel in their possession. Therefore, the phrase “Word became flesh” was no surprise to them.

Some scholars propose that John sent out this Epistle along with his Gospel[11] and later detached as a separate manuscript. Barnes says he sees no evidence to support this idea. No one can doubt John believed that the ones receiving this letter already had access to his Gospel. That’s why John uses part of his Gospel as a testimony to the incarnate Word – Logos.[12]

Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952) notes that throughout verses 1-3, the pronouns “we” and “our” refer to the Apostles, and John includes them as a source for what he is saying. There were indeed many other saints who saw and heard the Lord in His incarnate state, yet they were not ordained to be public witnesses of the same kind as the original twelve. Perhaps, they did not see and hear as much of the Anointed One as did John and his fellow Apostles. There were only two of them present with John when the Savior restored the life of Jairus’s daughter.[13] The same two were with him on the holy mount.[14] John’s brother James and Peter were with him when they gazed upon the Anointed One’s agony and bloody sweat in the garden of Gethsemane.[15]

Those in the Anointed One’s inner circle, says Pink, were in such proximity to the Lord and enjoyed such intimate contact with Him that it fully satisfied both their minds and senses of the reality. Several disciples were not part of Anointed One’s inner circle during the days of His flesh as were Peter, James, and John. The same is true today of the various spiritual insights Christians have of Him. Only three Apostles watched His sorrowed appearance in the Garden of Gethsemane and His radiant countenance on the Mount of Transfiguration. Likewise, today, fewer believers are privileged to enter experientially into both the Anointed One’s sufferings and glories than John and many of his fellow disciples.[16]

William Barclay (1907-1978) says this about John’s term of the word “fellowship.” He says it was John’s wish to produce fellowship with the community and communion with God. Therefore, every pastor aims to bring people closer to one another and closer to God. Any message which encourages and leads to division is a false message. We can sum up the Christian message as having two great aims – love for one another and love for God.[17] We can certainly add to this that our fellowship with the Father, Son, and each other is facilitated by the Holy Spirit, who blends us as one Body of the Anointed One. So regardless of race, ethnicity, color, gender, or one’s station in life, we all stand as one in honor of our Redeemer, Savior, and Comforter.

Another commentator offers this: The purpose of John’s letter is fellowship, “so that you also may have fellowship with us” (verse 3a). The Greek word translated “fellowship” in the NIV is koinōnia, which means to have something in common. Koinōnia describes shared labor such as the Apostles James, John, and Simon Peter as fishers of souls,[18] or the enjoyment of some gift or experience such as God’s grace[19] and the blessings of the Gospel.[20] It is the core of John’s thought and the purpose of his writing. Christian community is not some passing association of people who share common sympathies for a cause.[21]


[1] Drylander, E. A Commentary on the First Ep;istle of St. John in the Form of Addresses, (W. O. E. Österley, Ed.), London: Elliot Stock, 1899, pp. 7-8

[2] Gibbon, J. M. Biblical Illustrator, Joseph Exell Ed., loc. cit.

[3] Causa sui is Latin and means “cause of itself.”

[4] Torrey, R. A., Editor, The Fundamentals, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI, 1958, p. 106

[5] John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:1; Colossians 1:16

[6] Hague, Dyson: The Doctrinal Value of the First Chapters of Genesis, Fundamentals, R. A. Torrey (Ed.), Vol. 1, Ch. 14, p. 233

[7] John 20:17

[8] Psalm 84:8 (9) – Complete Jewish Bible

[9] Ephesians 1:3

[10] Morgan, James, An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 12

[11] See Hug, Johann Leonhard: Introduction to the New Testament, Translated by David Fosdick Jr., Gould and Newman, Andover, 1836, §68, p. 461

[12] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1949, p. 4794

[13] Mark 5:21-43

[14] Matthew 17:1-3

[15] Ibid. 26:36-44

[16] Pink, Arthur W. An Exposition of First John (Arthur Pink Collection Book 20) (Kindle Location 592-602). Prisbrary Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[17] Barclay, William: The Letters of John and Jude, Revised Edition, The Daily Study Bible Series, op. cit., pp. 23-24

[18] Luke 5:10

[19] Philippians 1:7

[20] 1 Corinthians 9:23; or the Holy Spirit, 2 Corinthians 13:14

[21] Burge, Gary M., The Letters of John, op cit., pp. 54-55

About drbob76

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