WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXVII) 11/10/20

Ian Howard Marshall (1934-2015) points out the English word “Fellowship” renders a Greek noun koinōnia, which means “having in common, or “in partnership with.” Two or more persons can be said to have fellowship with one another when they have something in common. James and John were sharers with Simon in their common pursuit of fishing.[1] Paul and Titus shared in a common faith.[2] Believers share in the grace of God,[3] in Jesus the Anointed One,[4] and spiritual gifts generally.[5] As a result, fellowship has two aspects. There is the element of participation in some spiritual gift or Christian service. There is the union element with other believers due to the shared enjoyment of some spiritual privilege or in some Christian activity.[6]

Michael A. Eaton (1942-) points out that it was terrific for those who were physically present with Jesus and fellowshipping with Him. But what about those in subsequent generations like us? John’s answer is clear: When Christians who are not eyewitnesses of physically manifested Eternal Life come to accept the apostolic testimony concerning Him, they begin to share the fellowship with Jesus and with the Father that the Apostles have known.[7] In other words, through the Apostles, we amazingly have a connection with the Anointed One, just as through Him we have fellowship with the Father. Knowing and accepting this helps us see even more in His marvelous light.

Gary M. Burge (1952-) explains that the strained grammar of verse one underscores John’s emphasis on the incarnate Word’s centrality. A literal rendering makes the sense clearer:

                        1 What [8] was from the beginning;

                        what we have heard;

                        what we have seen with our eyes;

                        what we beheld and our hands touched-concerning the Word of Life.   

In this way, John stacks four relative clauses at the beginning to emphasize the object of proclaiming the Word rather than the Word having to declare itself. Of course, that Word was none other than the Word of Life, the incarnate Son of God. Therefore, John says that the whole scope of Jesus’ life bears importance to his subject in the opening. In the Anointed One, God walked with humankind, and anyone who had contact with such reality, anyone who heard, saw, and touched the Truth, the Way, and the Life could never make it less than essential.[9]

Bruce B. Barton (1954-) notes that the first twelve disciples had intimate, personal fellowship with Jesus the Anointed One. That fellowship did not stop when Jesus died, nor did it end with the Twelve. They shared the message of salvation in Jesus so that others could join this “fellowship” also. This corporate identity and relationship passed on from generation to generation. As believers fellowship with one another today, they participate in the Apostles’ same faith and so “share fellowship” with them and with the Father and Son. Four principles undergird true Christian fellowship: Christian fellowship grounded in God’s Word; Christian fellowship dependent on the unity; Christian fellowship renewed daily through the Holy Spirit; Christian fellowship demands obedience to the truth.

Marianne M. Thompson (1954-) begins by saying that this Life that came to earth was already with the Father in heaven. It provides both a description and testimony to the origin and character of Life itself. Whether physical or spiritual, such life is the gift of a gracious, creating, life-giving God. God alone fashions and sustains life. And in Jesus, God offers everlasting life, which is neither more nor less than knowing and having fellowship with the one true living God.[10] God was not happy that He had to bring death to Adam and Eve because of their disobedience; that’s why He sent His Son with healing and liberty. Through the Word of Life’s proclamation, that is, the message about Jesus, subsequent generations of believers come to know about and ultimately to receive the gift of life for themselves.[11]

Daniel L. Akin (1957-) declares there has never been a time when the Son of God was not, never. He was before the beginning, in the beginning, and from the beginning. It is what John believed. It is what Jesus taught. Jesus boldly declared in John’s Gospel, “Before Abraham was, I am[12] (indicating He is the God of Abraham.)[13] Jesus also said, “The Father and I are one.”[14] And He told Philip, “Anyone who sees Me sees the Father.”[15] Clearly, Jesus believed Himself to be God, and John confessed the same. This life is the Life of undiminished deity made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth.

Akin strongly believes that theologically, we must understand the essential nature of the doctrine of the incarnation. The biblical Jesus is no myth, fairy tale, or fable. He is no ghost or illusion. He is indeed the God who took on full humanity. “The Word became flesh,” says John.[16] And Jesus the Anointed One is entirely God and fully human. He is not half God and half man, all God, no man, or all man and no God. Nor is Jesus simply a man uniquely in touch with the divine. No, He is the God-man, like no one else who will ever live. He has always been with the Father, and at Bethlehem, He came to be with us. To the Jews, it became a scandal, a stumbling block to believing in the incarnation.[17]

Bruce G. Schuchard (1958-) points out that since those reading this letter by the Apostle John did not physically see, hear, or touch Jesus when He was here on earth, he wanted them to have fellowship with the Lord through those who did. John and the other apostles did live with and followed Jesus for over three years. And when He ascended back to the Father, He charged His disciples to share their testimony with everyone, everywhere. It is now our mission to bring sinners into communion with God through Jesus the Anointed One by telling about our experiences with Him since being born again. That not only will bring joy to them but for us as well.[18]

F. Wayne Mac Leod (1961-) notes that there is an evangelistic thrust to this letter. While he is writing to believers (“my dear children,” 2:1), he is conscious that not all those who call themselves Christians can testify to being truly saved. He wants those who have not yet received everlasting life to reach out and grasp it. John also has as his purpose of edifying and encouraging true believers in their faith by reassuring them of the truth of Christ’s claims. He wants to see these believers grasp, with greater assurance, the truth about the Lord Jesus. As his readers become more robust in their faith concerning the Lord Jesus as a person, they would enter a deeper fellowship with John as they participate more fully together in God’s work.[19]

Another current scholar, Robert W. Yarbrough (1962-), says that from the Apostle John’s point of view, the truth would by no means oppose much of what natural science affirms today; in fact, it would remarkedly be in harmony. Truth is as much a matter of what God, by word or deed, revealed what humans observe and conclude in creation or redemption. Ideally, the divine revelation and humble human inference work together, and when they do, truth in a full sense can emerge. Precisely this concurrence of divine self-disclosure and human self-awareness is what John writes about here as he “testifies” or “bears witness.”[20]

Peter Pett (1966-) says that the Apostle John brings out two aspects here. The first that “we” (those who had been with Jesus) heard Him and seen Him with their own eyes,[21] and still did so. It indicates something happening in the past and continuing into the present. John cannot forget the glory of it, which still bubbles within him. We heard, says John, and we continue to pay attention, we saw, and we still see. The Apostle is stressing that it was a real experience and that it will ever be with them. There is an emphasis on their actual hearing and seeing of Him as He was in the flesh.[22] That spiritual hearing and seeing still goes on more deeply, for it is embedded in their hearts, illuminated by the Spirit, and experienced daily in their lives because He is the living One, the Word of life.


[1] Luke 5:10

[2] Titus 1:4; cf. Jude 1:3

[3] Philippians 1:7

[4] 1 Corinthians 1:9

[5] Romans 15:27

[6] Marshall, I. Howard. The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 104

[7] Eaton, Michael: 1, 2, 3 John, Christian Focus Publications, 1996, p. 35

[8] The Greek pronoun hos can be translated as “who, which, what, that.”

[9] Burge, Gary M. The Letters of John, op. cit., p. 52

[10] John 17:3

[11] Thompson, Marianne M., 1, 2, 3 John, op. cit., p. 37

[12] John 8:58

[13] Exodus 3:14

[14] John 10:30

[15] Ibid. 14:9

[16] Ibid. 1:14

[17] Akin, Dr. Daniel L. Exalting Jesus in 1, 2, 3 John (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (Kindle Locations 129-156). B & H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[18] Schuchard, Bruce G., 1-3 John – Concordia, op. cit., pp. 90-91

[19] Mac Leod, F. Wayne. The Epistles of John and Jude: A Devotional Look at the New Testament Letters of John and Jude (Light to My Path Devotional Commentary Series Book 36). Light to My Path Book Distribution. Kindle Edition.

[20] Yarbrough, Robert W: 1-3 John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI, 2008, p. 36

[21] 1 John 4:14

[22] John 1:14

About drbob76

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