WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXII) 11/17/20

Samuel Logan Brengle (1860-1936) tells us that God wants His people to be full of joy. “I have told you this,” said Jesus, “so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”[1]  And again, He said, “Until now, you have not asked for anything in My name. Ask, and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”[2] “We write this to make our joy complete,” wrote John.[3]The fruit of the reborn spirit is joy,” wrote Paul here in Galatians Five. And again, he writes, “The Kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”[4]  It is an oceanic current that flows unbroken through the holy, believing soul, though surrounded by seas of trouble and encompassed about by hardships and afflictions and sorrows. Some think of Jesus as “the Man of Sorrows,” overlooking His fullness of triumphant joy.[5]  Joy can be cultivated and should be, as is faith or any other fruit of the spirit.[6]

In his Greek word’s studies, William E. Vine (1873-1949) notes that the verb “joy” denotes more than mere appearance in verse four.  The conjunction at the beginning of verse four “and” connects this historical reality with the personal experience and testimony of the Apostles who openly bear witness and proclaim to have seen Eternal Life, in verse three. Again we see that this incarnate Life was the object of clear, abiding sense perception on the Apostles’ part. They perceived His true identity, also viewed as having an ongoing impact. Another “and” further connects their experience with all current activities.

Hiebert D. Edmond (1928-1995) also notes that the first “and” (verse three) emphasizes the “communication of truth,” while the second “and” (verse four) highlights the same communication of truth. With the use of “we” three times in these two verses as the subject of both verbs, John expresses a deep sense of solidarity with the Apostolic testimony. Therefore, more than one person’s memories lay behind the Apostolic testimony. The two present tense verbs convey two aspects of the same activity.[7]                     

Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965) comments that in these first four verses, the Apostle Paul announces the topic, or subject matter, of his letter: Jesus the Anointed One, the eternal Word, became flesh for the salvation of humanity. It shows John’s intimate knowledge of the subject, he writes: What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we inspected, and our hands touched, concerning the Word of Life. The Word of Life is his theme, the eternal, essential, personal Word, which was at the beginning with God and was God; it is Jesus the Anointed One, called the “Word,” because in Him. God has revealed Himself, has made Himself, and His entire counsel of salvation known to mankind. He is the “Word of Life” because He, as the true God, has the fullness of true, everlasting life in Himself, because the Anointed One is the Source and Fountain of all true life, and because He gives eternal life to all those that come to Him in truth.

Of Him, John says that He was from the beginning; He did not come into existence at the beginning, at the creation of the world, at the period when time first began to be reckoned, but He was. He already existed: He is from eternity. The eternal Son of God became man, for John says that he heard Him, that his ears received the doctrine of life from His lips; that he saw Him with his own eyes. John had many opportunities to gaze upon this amazing God-man. He stood near enough on many occasions to inspect Him closely and note everything He did. John’s hands also touched the Anointed One. And as he leaned on Jesus’ breast at the evening Passover meal in the Upper room, it no doubt wasn’t the first time.[8]

Greville P. Lewis (1891-1976) believes that John’s mention of the joy of the apostles being satisfied in the hearts of his readers is a deliberate reference to the words of Jesus on the eve before the crucifixion, “That my joy may be in you, and that you may be complete.”[9] Through all His trials and agonies, Jesus was essentially the Man of Joy, and the secret of His joy was His uninterrupted communion with the Father, His perfect trust in Him, and His sacrificial self-giving to the fulfillment of God’s will. It is the same formula we have available today.[10]

William Barclay (1907-1978) suggests that anyone who sits down to write a letter or gets up to make a speech or preach has some object in view. Their intention and hope are to affect the minds, hearts, and lives of those targeted by this message. Likewise, here in his first epistle, at the very beginning, John sets down his goal for writing this critical warning against Gnosticism.  And what was his object? Barclay says that first, his wish to produce fellowship with the community and communion with God. Second, it was his wish to bring his people joy, which is the essence of Christianity. And thirdly, John aims to set Jesus the Anointed One before them as the one with whom they start their fellowship with each other and communion with the Father.[11]

F. F. Bruce (1910-1990) believes that combining the first two-and-a-half verses, coupled with the parenthesis in verse two with verse four as one block, makes it more intelligible for English readers. Bruce renders it as: “Our theme is that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we beheld and our hands handled. Our theme, in short, concerns the word of Life — that Life which was made manifest. Yes, we have seen, and we bear witness; we make known to you the Eternal Life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us. What we have seen and heard we make known to you also, so that you in your turn may have fellowship with us.”[12]

A German Catholic priest and Final Covenant scholar Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002), emphasizes that another fundamental reason for John’s writing this epistle was to achieve his joy and the joy of his fellow witnesses. No doubt, John picked this up from Jesus, who promised His disciples the same thing in His farewell discourse.[13] John clearly understood God sent His Son to deliver the Good News to those who believed, and now John feels that he is replicating that same act in honor of his Savior and to the glory of the Father.

Furthermore, this joy came through the Anointed One’s communion with the Father and which was His alone to give. Therefore, since John shared fellowship with the Son and connection with the Father, he was authorized to share this joy. It went to those who believed his report about the One he heard, saw, and touched.[14]

Daniel C. Snaddon (1915-2009) believes that the Apostle John may have had the church of Ephesus in mind because of the warning letter written to them by the risen Lord. He told them I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.[15]

Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) points out that one reason the English translation of the first four verses is somewhat complicated is that the original Greek is not very good compared to traditional standards. We know from Acts of the Apostles that John was an uneducated Galilean, which means he could neither read nor write in Aramaic nor in his Galilean dialect. It may have been a complication for his scribe. Or, suggests Brown, his chosen writer may not have been interested in putting it in an excellent Greek rendition. Nevertheless, it has come down to us crystal clear and leaves no doubts that John knew what He was talking about.


[1] John 15;11

[2] Ibid 16:24

[3] 1 John 1:4

[4] Romans 14:17

[5] Luke 10:21; John 15:11

[6] Brengle, Samuel Logan, Lt, Col., : Soul-Winner’s Secret, The Salvation Army Printing and Publishing House, New York, 1920, p.

[7] Hiebert, D. Edmond, An Exposition of 1 John 1:1-4, Bibliotheca Sacra, 145, July, 1988, pp. 205-206

[8] Kretzmann, Paul E., First Epistle of John – Popular Commentary, loc. cit.

[9] John 15:11

[10] Lewis, Greville P., The Johannian Epistles, op. cit., p. 14

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

[12] Bruce, F. F. The Epistles of John: A Verse-by-Verse Exposition (Kindle Locations 567-570). Kingsley Books, Inc. Kindle Edition.

[13] John 15:11, 16:20, 22, 24; 17:13

[14] Schnackenburg, Rudolf: The Johannine Epistles, Crossroad, New York, 1992, pp. 62-63

[15] Snaddon, Daniel C., First John, op. cit., loc. cit

About drbob76

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