WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXVIII) 11/11/20

Dr. Pett believes John emphasizes the actual physical part of the Apostles seeing and the handling our Lord boldly without over spiritualizing it. They saw, and their hands handled. The verbs used accentuate the never-ending nature of seeing and hearing. The handling stresses the on-going physical aspect. It happened to all (those who followed Jesus in His life on earth). They actually saw Him in the flesh, handled Him in the flesh, for He was indeed flesh, He who was from the beginning became a man. Here the list of witnesses are from the past. The “handling” especially has in mind the words of Jesus to Thomas,[1] also what Jesus said to His disciples.[2]

Karen H. Jobes (1968-) has the Apostle John extending an invitation to his readers to fellowship with the apostles and God. The English word “fellowship” might connote little more than coffee and donuts after church or the large room in the church building where they serve potluck dinners. The Greek word koinōnia translated “fellowship” means having a close relationship and an association based on shared interests and purposes. John invites his readers to enter into a relationship with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, by embracing God’s redemptive purposes for the world in general and individual lives in particular, as He revealed them.

For Jobes, disciples who lived and walked with Jesus the Messiah during His earthly ministry experienced intimate fellowship with Him. It was not just because He was the Messiah but also because He was the Son of God. The title “Son of God” has become so familiar to Christian ears as to have almost lost its meaning. It has undoubtedly lost the shock value it must have had among the earliest hearers of the Gospel. Within the pagan world, “son of god” could refer to various demigods in Greco-Roman mythology and human heroes. They even referred to Roman emperors as “sons of god” and often would be beatified, sometimes even before their death.[3]

Douglas S. O’Donnell (1972-) asks us to envision the Apostles being in a courtroom. The prosecutor asks them for evidence that this Jesus of Nazareth was a real person who claimed to be the Messiah. One after the other, they offered proof that they saw Him in the flesh with their eyes and heard Him speak with their ears. The prosecuting attorney has no one to call to dispute their testimonies. Then the Apostles’ attorney, Paraclete, walks over and says He has one question to ask. I believe all of you saw Him and heard Him, but did any of you actually touch Him? The courtroom is silent as James, the son of Alphaeus, stands up and says, “He washed my feet.” Matthew and Thaddeus say in unison, “Me, too.” They all say, “Me, too.” Peter then steps forward and says, “I touched His hand when He pulled me out of the stormy sea.” Then John quickly joins in, “I laid my head against His chest at the Last Supper.”

Finally, Thomas moves to the microphone. The crowd mumbles beneath their breath, “Doubting Thomas, doubting Thomas, doubting Thomas.” But the other eleven are filled with excitement. “They all touched His resurrected body,” begins Thomas. In the packed courtroom, there is a hush. “And . . . I did, too.” “Not only that,” says Thomas slowly, “but He also told me to put my finger in the nail prints in His hands and His wounded side.”[4] The Judge pounds His gavel three times! The verdict is clear! Jesus was indeed God in human flesh! The Apostles’ victory cheer echoes throughout the chambers.[5]

While we may not have the same testimony, the Apostles’ did in that we actually saw Him, except for some imaginary paintings, or that we heard Him, except through the Gospels, or that we never touched Him. But one thing we can testify to is that we have been “touched” by Him. We know the moment we were reborn, and His Spirit entered to live in us. We became a new person. And He touched some of us when He healed us. But it was when He touched our heart and filled us with love to overflowing.

Tom Thatcher (1973-) points to the four verbs in verse one (heard, have seen, looked at, and touched) referring to sensory experience used here to emphasize that the “Word of Life” is mystical and spiritual and physical and tangible. This dual emphasis immediately distinguishes John’s teaching from that of the antichrists. While the antichrists would argue that the Holy Spirit’s mystical experience guides the Church, John insists that we establish our faith in objective realities from a real moment in human history.

Thatcher then points out that many biblical linguists find the Greek noun logos used herein as “Word of life” is somewhat complicated. In one place, it refers to Jesus manifested, and in another place, it stands for the message. Yet, this should not be such a puzzle since logos applies to Jesus as the Messiah and the Message. Thatcher also notes that the Greek noun koinōnia is, unfortunately, translated as “fellowship.” Greek writers employed this word to describe everything from close friendship to communion, followed by agape meals. Koinōnia refers to a bond of partnership in a common cause. It applies to being part of a community and the dynamic esprit de corps that binds them together as one to promote their cause.[6] To put this another way, we just don’t add Jesus to our life. We enter into a close relationship of sharing experiences with Him. He died and was resurrected for us so we can live our lives for Him.

David Jackman (1973-) tells us that the Greeks used the word Koinōnia (“fellowship”) in classical writings and speech as a favorite expression for the marriage relationship, the most intimate bond between a man and a woman. It is particularly appropriate to describe the Christian’s relationship with God and John’s fellow believers here, and later in verses six and seven. But this kinship is more than status; it requires participation, as in a partnership. There is no other way into open union with the Anointed One; into true fellowship with God than by believing the apostolic testimony. You cannot know God without knowing Christ. You cannot know companionship with Jesus without receiving the truth.[7]

David Guzik (1984-) explains that we can use our eyes even though we don’t know every detail of how vision works. We can also use our ears for hearing, although we may not comprehend all the small particulars that make it happen. Similarly, we can know God and believe in Him as He has revealed Himself, even though we can’t understand everything about His person or nature. This bold and straightforward statement means that one can have a close relationship with God. This idea would surprise many of John’s readers, and it should be astounding to us. The Greek mindset highly prized the concept of fellowship but restricted human to human – the idea of such an intimate relationship with God was revolutionary.[8]

Muncia Wells (1975-) believes that what the Apostle John declares here in verse three showed the whole purpose of writing the letter. Jesus was not a mythical person who only lives in His followers’ minds, but He is the manifestation of God Himself. This fellowship is unique because it speaks of a close relationship between God and humanity through Jesus the Anointed One. John does not start with our communion with the Father and then move to our relationship with each other. Instead, he points first to our fellowship and then to God with us. Someone might ask, “Don’t we need first to have fellowship with God before we have any unity with each other? John’s answer is “No.” Establishing a relationship with God comes through being acquainted with His children and the Gospel they preach. Says Wells, “One cannot by-pass the Gospel and know the fellowship of God.”[9]

Chinese Pastor-Teacher Vincent Cheung brings up a point that if it is possible to know God without knowing very much about Him, what does it mean to know God? If knowing God means to have some kind of fellowship with Him, as John says here in verse three, then it entails at least recognition – one must understand that He is, what He is, and how to fellowship with Him. A person who fellowships with God must know that there is a God, that God is a Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and not Allah, or Buddha, his neighbor’s cat, or the tree in his backyard.

A person must also know the conditions under which they must relate to this God, and they must know the means and methods that make this fellowship with the Deity possible. Fellowship also involves communication requiring the exchange of thoughts. It requires knowledge about many, many things, and many words and ideas. One cannot communicate with another without exchanging information in the form of propositions or how the information conveyed is reducible to propositions.


[1] John 20:20, 27

[2] Luke 24:39

[3] Jobes, Karen H.. 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament series Book 18) (p. 53). Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.

[4] See John 20:24-28

[5] O’Donnell, Douglas Sean. 1-3 John (Reformed Expository Commentaries) (Kindle Locations 302-317). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

[6] Thatcher, Tom. 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary) (Kindle Locations 5284-5333). Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.

[7] Jackman, David, The Message of John’s Letters – The Bible Speaks Today, op. cit., pp. 23-24

[8] Guzik, David – Enduring Word, op. cit., p. 12

[9] Wells, Muncia, Epistles of John & Jude, 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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