WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXX) 11/13/20

Praise be to God that His children can express their ultimate glory and happiness, which is the chief end of His purposes, promises, and covenants. It is especially true of the Gospel and its proclamation. The Syriac version renders this verse has, “that our joy, which is in you, might become full.” It is the joy of the ministers of the Word to establish saints in the faith of the Anointed One’s person and offices, and have communion with Him, by which they declare Him, and bear record of Him.[1]

Alfred Plummer (1746-1829) adds that most scholars admit that this chapter’s first four verses form the introduction. They are similar to the first eighteen verses of John’s Gospel and the first three verses of John’s Revelation. Like John’s Prologue to his Gospel. It tells us what the Apostle proposes to write about is the Word – Logos, who is Life. At the same time, it states the authority with which he writes, a source derived from the continuous evidence of his close personal experience: and it also displays the letter’s purpose – to complete their joy in the Lord.[2]

Thomas Scott (1749-1821), in a practical observation of these first four verses, says that we must pray with enthusiasm to God for a needed revelation concerning the “Word of Life,” in this testimony of John and others who heard, saw, touched, and witnessed His incarnation and resurrection. That way, we can know it was all real. But what words can express the praises of the love of God in causing the manifestation of “the Life,” even “Eternal Life,” which “was with the Father,” so that we condemned rebels, dead in sin, might live in union with Him.

It becomes even more admirable when we consider the deep disgrace and agonizing sufferings the incarnate Word, the Son of God, went through on our behalf. Satan tried to rob Him of His glory, to deny His divinity, and to speak of Him, the one all the angels worshipped, as though He were nothing more than a misguided human like ourselves.[3]

William Lincoln (1788-1844) says that any spiritually alert reader will quickly see the Holy Spirit divinely arranged the epistle John produced. He does not believe that the Holy Spirit left the epistles’ construction and message in the hands of a human alone. Lincoln also believes that the Apostle John was one of the most spiritually advanced of the apostles. The Apostle Paul is beyond Peter because he alone speaks of the church’s mystery, and the Holy Spirit uniting all believers in one body. But John is even beyond Paul. Paul’s writings are about Grace, but John’s are about the “root of Grace” – love. Paul would say, you are complete in Him, but John would put it in this way: “You are in union with Him; so, your eyes should be on Him alone, not on your completeness.” Do not forget joy – it is the atmosphere of heaven. It is the second fruit of the spirit. It is your new power and strength in service to God. He tells you of His desire that you should be His children and companions on purpose; he says expressly that your joy should be full. Let it be![4]

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) says that John reveals his ulterior motive for writing this letter in verse four. It is not about what is still to come in the letter, but what he already said. His purpose is to make the joy of his readers full, to render the joyousness of their standing as Christians complete. Their delight comes from the fact that their faith in the Gospel’s proclamation makes known that they now commune with the Highest, the Absolute, Eternal Life. Yes, they are in fellowship with the Highest of the high. His name is Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, the Anointed One![5]

Robert Smith Candlish (1805-1872) looks at John’s words, “These things we write to you, that your joy may be full.” These are more than thoughts burning in his memory. Undoubtedly they flowed from his heart in response to the emotion in the Anointed One’s farewell discourse and prayer before His ascension: “These things I spoke to you that my joy might remain in you and that your joy might be complete.”[6] The Lord then went on to say, “Ask, and you will receive so that your joy may be full.”[7] Then our Master prayed to His Father, “These things I spoke to the world – those You gave me – that they might have My joy fulfilled in them.”[8] [9]

John Stock (1817-1884) notices that the Holy Spirit’s fellowship includes the Father and His Son Jesus the Anointed One. In this Trinity, none is before or after the other. Also, none is greater or lesser than the other.[10] All three Persons are co-eternal and co-equal – bringing peace and joy. The kingdom of God is within the faithful, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, [11] increasing in fullness, depth, and strength with the progression of faith and loving obedience.

God’s people are not as so good as they might think themselves to be, says Stock. They are not as spiritually minded as they could be. They do not give the diligent observance to the book of joy – the Bible, as one well proclaimed Bishop says it is,[12] nor do they seek to know the Lord as earnestly as they should do.[13] They do not pant after God as the deer pants after the water brook.[14] They do not crucify the deeds of the body through the Spirit. They say their prayers in a hurry, and they pray too seldom. They do not guard their tongues against vulgar language. They fail to sufficiently cultivate a grateful and humble spirit to be thankful in the good times and bad times. And above all, they take no time to study, as Luther did, the doctrine of justification by faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus the Anointed One. Therefore, they not only lack the fullness of peace and joy in believing but do not abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit, as they might and should do. Such things ought not to be that way.[15]

William Kelly (1822-1888) concluded that since we have fellowship with the Father through the Son, and connection with the Son to the Father, could our joy be any fuller? Even heaven, and glory everlasting, decrease in comparison, but we have these too. If we know of such fellowship and do not have it, could our joy be as full as it is? There is no need to wait until we depart this earth to be with the Anointed One or have our bodies changed into His image at His coming to have this fellowship. Unbelief alone hinders any child of God from enjoying it here on earth.

And we have the Holy Spirit personally given that such divine power might start it in us, says Kelly. Here the Son of God came down to earth. Had He not come, we could not have His indwelling presence to any degree, if at all. With the Spirit’s presence on earth a reality, the Apostle began his instruction and laid the divine fellowship’s foundation in everlasting life, which is the only proper and adequate medium of having it as our inheritance. Without everlasting life, no such relationship with the Spirit would have been possible. Consequently, the Lord announced over and over again that this unity is the possession of Christians. It is essential because it contains the particular virtue of eternal life, found only in Him who communicates it to us.[16]

William Burt Pope (1822-1900) points out that the Apostle John tells his readers that their joy is mutual because it comes from the same source.[17] However, if they notice that their delight is not yet complete, that must mean that even though John filled their cup to the fullest, they have not yet filled their cup. That’s the reason he wrote this letter with these revelations for their sake.[18]

Morgan Dix (1827-1908), an American Episcopal theologian, finds that there is nowhere else in Scripture a more remarkable statement than this. “The Word of life is God the Son.” And now speaking of this eternal and Divine Person, the evangelist affirms that he and other men heard Him, saw Him with their eyes, stared at Him, and touched Him. Such expressions may trouble the human mind; they are so real, so physical, so material, so intense. But the whole force of the Gospel is in them. That gospel is no philosophy, no human invention, but the mystery of godliness meeting man’s deepest needs.

Among those needs are real access to God and communion with Him. Not merely by way of thinking, not with a feelingless intellect, but as a member with a body. Hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, are emotions instilled in our flesh by God’s creative nature. Furthermore, these senses do not function for themselves but for the whole body. All that the Apostle declares here satisfies all these needs. That secret lies in the power of the Gospel.


[1] Gill, John: Exposition of the Entire Bible (Kindle Location 339912), Kindle Edition.

[2] Plummer, Alfred E., Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, Epistles of John, op. cit., p.71

[3] Scott, Thomas: On Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 484

[4] Lincoln, William: Lectures on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 14

[5] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., January 1890, p. 88

[6] John 15:11

[7] Ibid. 16:24

[8] Ibid. 17:13

[9] Candlish, R. S., First Epistle of John Expounded in a Series of Lectures, Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1877, p. 15

[10] Athanasian Creed, named after Athanasius (293-373 AD)

[11] Romans 14:17

[12] Wilson, Bishop Daniel (1778-1868): English Bishop of Calcutta, India, The Life of Daniel Wilson by Josiah Bateman, Gould and Lincoln, Boston, 1860, p. 162

[13] Hosea 6:3

[14] Psalm 42:1

[15] Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, Published by Rivingtons, London, 1865, pp. 18-20

[16] Kelly, William: An Exposition of the Epistles of John the Apostle, op. cit., p. 19

[17] See John 17:13

[18] Pope, William B: Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., p. 293

About drbob76

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