WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXIX) 11/12/20

Dr. Cheung asks: How does a person get to know God without first hearing about Him? Some people might answer that we know God through religious experience. But religious experience is defined and interpreted by theology or knowledge about God. What is a religious experience? How does a person know they have received one? What does a particular feeling, sensation, or even apparition or encounter mean? Is it the experience of God or Satan? The Bible warns that the devil can appear as an angel of light. Answers to these questions can only come by studying God’s verbal revelation written down by those He chose to record what He said. And even if it is possible to know God through religious experience, what one gains is still only knowledge about God or intellectual information through ideas or concepts.[1]

Bruce G. Schuchard comments on fellowship with the Father and Son. He says that John stresses the importance of a partnership. You’ve no doubt heard of the father and son conglomerate Johnson & Johnson Company. It’s more than each one having a portion of involvement in it; they are partners. That’s John uses the pronouns “we,” “our,” and “us.” Not only do we have fellowship with God in the spirit, but also the flesh. Jesus became incarnate so that He would be able to share our human emotions and tendencies.[2] Thankfully, says Schuchard, the fellowship created by the Anointed One in the days of His flesh within the apostolic band and deepened by the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost was not to be limited just to them. It was extended to the next generation and then the next, and so on down through the ages.[3]

1:4a We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.

EXPOSITION

Here John shares part of why he is writing this letter to the churches in Asia Minor. Just in case they may be somewhat discouraged because of how things were going since he was writing it from Ephesus, no doubt it went to the remote assembly of believers that were outreach ministries of the congregation in Ephesus. What John is saying here sounds similar to what the prophet Isaiah shared about his situation, especially after Yahweh called him to be a light to the nations.[4] “Let me tell you how happy God has made me, says Isaiah! He clothed me with garments of salvation and draped about me the robe of righteousness. I am like a groom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.”[5]

And who can forget the dedication and commitment of the prophet Habakkuk when he declared: “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails,  and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!”[6] And when Jesus was on earth, He too rejoiced in being able to share the Good News. He wanted those who heard filled with joy until their cup overflowed.[7] Every minister and teacher of the Gospel should feel that way.

When we connect everything John said to this point, we conclude that he sees the Gospel’s proclamation as bringing people into fellowship with God and believers. They also may possess and express something the world and their former religion could not give, which is the joy of the Lord.  John touches on this again in 2 John 1:12. And part of that joy is not only what believers have with God, but the delight they have with each other.  As one commentator says, when John says as full of joy as we are, this is inclusive. That signifies, “our joy and yours together.”[8] In the best Greek manuscripts, Greville P. Lewis mentions that it reads “our joy,” not “your joy,” as it reads in the King James Version.[9]

COMMENTARY

Early Church monk Bede the Venerable (673-735 AD) comments, “The joy of all teachers is complete when by their preaching they bring many into the fellowship of the holy church and also into the fellowship of God the Father and His Son Jesus the Anointed One, through whom the church is strengthened and grows.”[10]  Some commentators also believe that the word our is given inclusive force in some versions. Still, it is more in line with the structure of verses one through four to take it as exclusive, referring to eyewitnesses only, not including the persons addressed. The clause indicates that the joy the eyewitnesses have because of their fellowship with God through the Anointed One can be complete only when other Christians share in that fellowship.[11] 

I would take issue with Brother Bede since the joy John speaks is not generated by the fellowship. Instead, it is the assurance put in our hearts by knowing salvation is ours, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our heart is loosed and flows from one believer to another as they fellowship. Believers will feel no joy equivalent to that which comes from God’s presence in their life because such joy is love that is excited about the communion a person has with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In the early days of the Protestant Reformation, Puritan John Cotton (1585-1652) notes that during their lives, children of God often contended with many conflicts of conscience, especially with doubt, at the beginning of their walk with God through the Anointed One. It does seem to mean that they are the object of God’s electing Grace and counted among the number of those that belong to God. It happens because their faith is weak, and the doubt is strong. They don’t seem too sure of their place in God’s kingdom.

Cotton goes on to say that when the sun shines at full strength, no clouds, fog, or mist can interfere with its bright rays. Only when rising or setting does such things seem to come out of hiding. The same is true with our faith’s sunshine and the clouds, fog, and mist of doubt. Such hindrances must be removed to enhance the soul’s confidence and assurance of God’s love and calm the mind with the peace of God. Then the joy of the Holy Spirit will fill their hearts. But even further, our joy cannot be full unless we enjoy communion with God and with His children. It seems to be the object of enlightenment that the Spirit inspired John to write this letter.[12]

German Protestant theologian, Christoph Starke (1684-1744), sums up the message from verses one to four by saying: the Anointed One is Absolute Life, and our life depends upon Him, not only this earthly life but also blessed, everlasting life through faith in Him. They who despise the Gospel scorn the Word of God. the Anointed One is the star and core of the whole Bible. The Anointed One lives, and believers will live also. Oh, what glorious comfort! Mighty strengthening of our faith, in adversity and temptation, and the hour of death! Because Life and Light appeared to us in Jesus the Anointed One, we should be diligent in using them, for surely anyone will be without excuse that nevertheless remains in darkness and blindness.

What will it profit unconverted teachers, testifying of the Anointed One as the Life, says Starke, and urge people to receive Him, if they remain spiritually dead instead of alive, which their good works in this life deny them? To be saved, it is not enough that a person knows and believes the Anointed One came into the world; they must also know and believe that He rose from the tomb and shines as the Morning-star in their heart. The design of the Gospel is to lead people to the fullness of joy, for God has not called us to sadness but joy. Suppose our joy sometimes turns into sorrow when outward afflictions and inward temptations threaten to take it by storm. In that case, we know that the Anointed One will come again and turn our sorrow into joy for our edification and comfort.[13]

John Gill (1697-1771) has an excellent comment on what the Apostle John wrote concerning our joy made full in the Anointed One. He says it means their spiritual enjoyment in this life, with the Anointed One as its object, is increased by considering His divinity, His incarnation, and mediation. It comes by His justification, righteousness, and atonement by His blood, by a sight of His glorious faith, intimate communion with Him, and a discovery of His love, which passes all understanding. Such joy, when increased, may, in a comparative sense, be said to be full, although leaving room for more. It can also mean being as much as can be enjoyed in this earthly state, and nothing can contribute to it more than a declaration of the truths in the Gospel. Furthermore, the joy the saints will have in the world-to-come in the presence of the Anointed One is the fullness of joy and pleasures in perpetuity.[14]


[1] Cheung, Vincent. Systematic Theology (Kindle Locations 208-223). Lulu.com. Kindle Edition.

[2] See Hebrews 4:15

[3] Schuchard, Bruce, G., op. cit., p. 93

[4] Isaiah 59-60

[5] Ibid. 61:10

[6] Habakkuk 3:17-18

[7] John 15:11

[8] Bruce, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 40

[9] Lewis, Greville P., Epworth Preacher’s Commentaries, op. cit., p. 14; see American Standard Version (1901) “that our joy may be made full;” also, The New Testament According to the Eastern Texts (George N. Mansa) (1940) “that our joy in you may be complete;” and Living Translation (1996) renders it, “so that you may fully share our joy.”

[10] Ancient Christian Commentary of Scripture, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 168

[11] UBS Handbook, op. cit., loc. cit.

[12] Cotton, John: A Practical Commentary or an Exposition with Observations, Reasons, and Uses on the First Epistle General of John, Printed by R. I. and E. C. for Thomas Parkhurst, London, 1656, pp. 7-8

[13] Starke, Christoph: Commentary on the Holy Scriptures Edited by John Peter Lange, Vol. IX, Epistle General of John, (Ed.) Karl Gottlob Braune, Homiletical and Practical, Published by Charles Scribner & Co, New York: 1867, p. 26

[14] Psalm 16:11

About drbob76

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