NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LXXV) 03/19/21
F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) reports that as the aged Apostle began to write, he was living over again his first happy experiences with the Savior. He heard the voice, saw the person, touched the very body in which Deity tabernacled. It was too great a bliss to be enjoyed alone, and John tells us that we may enter into the same close partnership with the Father and the Son. But no impurity or insincerity is permissible to those who enter that fellowship. Our one aim should be to maintain such a walk with God that the union with God may be unimpaired. If there are still sins of ignorance, the blood of Jesus will continue to remove them. Sin differs from sins as the root of the fruit. God does not only forgive; He also cleanses. He is faithful to His promises and just to His Son. Notice the “ifs” of these verses; they are a collection of the blessed life.
Alan E. Brooke (1863-1939) notes that the Greek verb aphiēmiin verse nine (“forgive” – KJV) is sometimes understood to mean “send away.” While it is tempting to accept, it is nevertheless unsound. He will not send “send away” without first annulling a penalty or forgiving debt. This word’s application to “sin” almost certainly suggests the remission or canceling of debts. When the blood of the Lamb cleanses, it leaves no stains behind. When God removes our sins from His view, He does not keep a memo to remind Him of them. The prophet Isaiah expressed it so brilliantly: “Come, let’s talk this over, says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if your soul is stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool!”
Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) says he finds there is a common deep-seated objection to the whole doctrine of sin, and, of course, along with that goes the view of life, which maintains that things are not quite as bad as the Bible and theologians in the past made them out to be. Their philosophy is: As long as we do our best and look to God occasionally for a bit of help, everything will be alright. We must not take these things too seriously; to be a Christian is to be as decent as possible and do good as often as possible; we can expect a certain amount of aid from God. So, we say our prayers and attend an occasional act of worship (on Easter, Christmas, and someone’s christening) is sufficient to keep going; we must not think of all this in those tragic terms of desperate sin and some overwhelming need of the grace of God. It is the same attitude John was addressing. He does not talk about resolving this problem, nor making a few adjustments here and there, but deals with it in a very radical and drastic manner. Either you are in the Light and walking in the Light, or you are still stuck in darkness.
Amos N. Wilder (1910-2000) helps us see the sequence found in verses 6, 8, &10. Verse six: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Verse eight: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Verse ten: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” It is all taken care of when we do what John says in verse seven: “If we walk in the Light as He is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus the Anointed One His Son cleanses us from all sin.” The key is “walking in the Light.”
Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2000) says that John ends this first chapter speaking against the heretics and their claim to sinlessness. Their theory is: as long as my soul is clean, it does not matter what my body does. Nothing, they say, can contaminate my soul that has been washed clean by the blood of Jesus. That claim, says Schnackenburg, is so perverse and immoral that it compromises the holiness and truthfulness of God. That makes their denial of personal sinfulness a crime against God. God already spoke of humanity’s general sinfulness in the First Covenant. John hints at this in verse ten, where he substitutes “His word” for “the truth in verse eight.” As John puts it: To deny human sinfulness is to make God a liar and places a person on a par with the devil who is the father of all lies.
Donald W. Burdick (1917-1996) says that John ends this section on a negative note related to the test of confession. The claimants from verse eight onward insisted that they had no indwelling principle of corruption to practice sin. In other words, whatever they may do with their lusts and passions is a momentary infraction of God’s Law and does not make them a sinner. To them, sin had to be the dominant factor in their lives to be considered a sinner. So, they are not saying they have no sin, but they have not sinned. Both claims are contrary to God’s Word. By doing so, they make God out to be a liar, which is a huge sin. For John, anyone who does that does not have God’s Word dwelling in their heart. Burdick says such things cannot be true of a person who is in a saving relationship with God.
John Stott (1921-2011) looks at a third claim made by the secessionist and heretics. That is, if they continue to insist that they walk in darkness while having fellowship with God and while sinning on the outside are still clean on the inside, a third error is made – they are calling God a liar. It is the most unashamed of the three denials. The heretics maintained that their superior enlightenment rendered them incapable of sinning. However, John is about the outbreak of sin in our behavior and the origin of our nature. He wants everyone to know the consequences if we do not prevent rupturing our sweet fellowship with God. To say that we have not sinned is neither just to tell a deliberate lie nor to be deluded, but actually to accuse God of lying, to make Him out to be a liar, and to reveal clearly that His word has no place in our lives. It is because His Word frequently declares that sin is universal, and the word of the Gospel, which is a message of salvation, clearly assumes the sinfulness of man.
Peter Pett (1966-) says that Christians can have victory over known sin through the Anointed One and His Spirit at work within them. While this is so gloriously true, there will be sins of omission, sins of falling short, which, while they may not be evident to them, will, at times, be apparent to others. Thus, says John, we must all acknowledge that if we say that we have not sinned, we prove our folly and make God a liar (One teaches falsehood.) 
Karen H. Jobes (1968-) offers a very illustrative structure of how the message the Apostle John is structured in this first chapter:
|1 John 1:5-10 |
5a. assertion and – This is the message That we – have heard from Him and announce to you:
5b. content God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all.
6a. condition If we say,
6b. content “We have fellowship with Him,” and
6c. condition walk in the darkness,
6d. result we lie and we do not do the truth.
7a. contrast if we walk in the light As He Himself is in the light,
7b. result we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8a. contrast & condition If we say,
8b. content “We have no sin,” then
8c. result we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
9a. condition If we confess our sins,
9b. assertion He is faithful and righteous,
9c. result to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10a. condition If we say,
10b. content “We have not sinned,”
10c. result we make Him a liar and His Word is not in us.
Jobes goes on to say that there are three essential and related theological points made in this portion of John’s epistle. (1) God’s nature is defined as the ethical and moral standard for human life. (2) The atonement of Jesus’ death is central to having fellowship with God and is, therefore, at the heart of the Gospel. (3) To deny the reality of sin in general or the sin in one’s own life is, in essence, to consider God a liar and destroys any relationship with Him.
The Bishop of the Pentecostal Church in Medora, Indiana, Reverend Muncia Walls, comments on verse ten. He points to one specific thing John teaches us in this passage: we must be honest with ourselves and honest with God if we want to know and enjoy the riches of His mercies. If we cannot be honest with ourselves, and acknowledge when we have sinned and need forgiveness, then we should not expect to find nor obtain the mercies of God when we do call for it. Abraham Lincoln said if a man were going to be a liar, he’d better have a good memory! Someone said that if we always tell the truth, we will not have to worry about how we said it.
David Jackman says that the wording between verses eight and ten is significant. In verse eight, John elaborated on the inward principle of our lawbreaking tendencies and thought process. In verse ten, he points out the outward actions of our lawbreaking tendencies that show what we are like on the inside. It happens all the time in our culture, says Jackman, and affects our church life too. We no longer call sin “sin.” Adultery becomes “having an affair.” Theft is “helping oneself to the perks.” Selfishness is “standing up for my rights.” The last thing we human beings will admit is that we sin. And as John says in closing, “His Word is not in us.”
END OF CHAPTER ONE
 Also 1 John 2:1
 Meyer, F. B. Through the Bible Commentary, loc. Cit.
 Brooke, Alan E. International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 20
 Isaiah 1:18 – Living Bible
 Lloyd Jones- Martyn: Life in Christ, op. cit., p. 107
 Wilder, Amos N. The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., pp. 223-224
 Cf. Genesis 8:21; 1 Kings 8:46; Psalms 14:3; 53:2; Job 4:17; 15:14-16; Proverbs 20:9
 John 8:44
 See 1 Kings 8: 46; Psalm 14: 3; Ecclesiastes 7: 20; Isaiah 53: 6; 64: 6
 Stott, John. The Letters of John, loc. cit., p. 84
 Pett, Peter, Commentary on the Bible, op. cit., loc. cit.
 Schnackenburg, Rudolf: The Johannine Epistles, pp. 83-84
 Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John, op. cit., pp. 61, 73
 Walls, Muncia. Epistles of John & Jude, published by Muncia Walls, 1999, p. 18
 Jackman, David: op. cit., p. 37