WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXIII) 11/18/20

As a result, Brown gives us his paraphrase, which will enable us to understand the ebb and flow of what John was saying:[1]

1a. What was from the beginning                                          perfect             [unfinished]

1b. what we have heard,                                                        perfect             [completed]

1c. what we have seen with our eyes,                                    perfect             [completed]

1d. what we looked at,                                                           active              [past]

1e. and what our hands felt                                                    active              [past]

1f. about the Word [Logos] of Life [zoe].

2a. and the life was revealed                                                  active              [past]

2b. and we have seen and testify                   perfect & present            [completed/current]

2c. and we proclaim to you                                                    present             [current]

2d. the eternal life

2e. of the sort which was toward [with] the Father                imperfect            [unfinished]

2f. and was revealed to us                                                      active              [past]

3a. what we have seen and heard                                          perfect             [completed]

3b. we proclaim also to you                                                   present             [current]

3c. so that you too many have communion [koinonia] with us

3d. and indeed our communion with the Father

3e. and with His Son, Jesus the Anointed One,

4a. and we ourselves write these things                                 present             [current]

4b. so that our joy may be fulfilled.                                       perfect             [completed]

D. Edmond Hiebert (1928-1885), professor emeritus of New Testament at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, California, gives us a somewhat academic treatment of what Paul says here in verse two. It forms a parenthesis, says Hiebert, following the opening sentence. The conjunctive “and” points to another thought added to what was already said, affirming the historical appearing and eternal nature of “The Life” just mentioned. The clause “and the Life was manifested” then declares the historical fact, comprehensively setting up the Incarnate Life’s appearance here on earth. For John, this Life was not an abstract principle but a real person. The verb “manifested,” common in John’s writings, comprehends the process whereby this Life became visible and tangible.

Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) uses an excellent illustration of imitation Christians. He says, suppose you have a counterfeit bill and think it is genuine. So, you pay for a tank of gas with this fake $20 bill. The gas station manager then uses it to buy supplies, and the supplier pays a grocer for his groceries. The grocer goes to the bank with the phony bill in his deposit. That’s when it comes to light. The bank teller tells the grocer, “I’m sorry, but this bill is counterfeit.” That $20 bill may have done a lot of good while it was in circulation, but the bank exposed it for what it was and pulled it out of circulation. So it is with a counterfeit Christian. They may do many good things in this life, but rejection will be their reward when they face the final judgment.[2]

Karl Marx (1818-1883), one of the founders of Communism, wrote, “The abolition of religion as the people’s illusory happiness is the demand for their real happiness.”[3] But the Apostle John wrote, in effect, “Faith in Jesus the Anointed One gives you a joy that can never be duplicated by the world. I have experienced this joy myself, and I want to share it with you.”[4] What the world calls “joy” is simply happiness based on circumstances. Christians call “joy” based on faith, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.[5]

Amos N. Wilder (1893-1993) points out that Eternal life, Fellowship, and now Joy are all interrelated in John’s message. Therefore, our joy is the same joy of every believer. John’s connection of “fellowship” with joy reminds us of what he wrote in his Gospel.[6] [7] It fits very well with what Ignatius wrote to the Magnesians “Let there be in common one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope in love, in the joy which is without fault.”[8]

Martin Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) shares a personal story on what John says here about wanting those he was writing to experience the fullness of joy. Dr. Lloyd-Jones had a practice of preaching on Sunday mornings to his congregation as though they were all believers. Then on Sunday evening, he preached an evangelistic sermon for those who were not yet Christians. This method was called into question by many who thought that if that becomes the routine in each church, then those who attend on Sunday morning may not bother to attend on Sunday evening.

However, preaching Sunday morning in Toronto, Canada, on one occasion, as he and the pastor were shaking hands, a lady who never came to the evening service stated that she would be back that night. When the surprised pastor asked why the lady said she learned she was not a Christian, she returned to become a true believer.[9] I must confess that I followed that same pattern as a Pastor for many years.[10] But I hoped that if there were sinners present, they would evaluate themselves and come to the same conclusion as this lady in Toronto. That’s why on Sunday mornings, the speaker gives an invitation to anyone who needs to make that decision right away.

Paul W. Hoon (1910-2000) says that eternal life means “Joy.” Joy motivates, informs, and issues from fellowship, but it is holy joy. There is a story about a young Roman officer named Marius who visited some Christian friends one evening. When he entered Cecilia’s villa garden, he heard them singing in what struck him as a new way to express joy. In Marius’ eyes, “It was the expression not altogether of laughter, yet of some wonderful sort of happiness – the carefree expressiveness of a joyful soul in people upon whom some all-subduing experience had wrought heroically, and who still remembered, on this bland afternoon, the hour of a great deliverance.”[11] Those who genuinely behold the Word of Life, says Wilder, are ruled by so great an experience that they must sing about their joy.

Donald W. Burdick (1917-1996) says that John’s primary purpose in continuing his declaration of the incarnation was that his hearers might “have fellowship” with the Apostles. And by saying, “may have,” John was not expecting an immediate conversion to his point of view. Paul’s use of the Greek noun is koinōnia (“fellowship”), comes from the root word koinos, which means (“common”). It is used in secular Greek to refer to things “held in common.” Therefore, fellowship, then, is based on something held in common by two or more persons. Jesus says that all it takes is for two or three to get together to form a fellowship with Him.[12] The context of John’s message, says Burdick, is that what they hold in common is the truth of the incarnation of God’s Son. Without accepting this fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith, there can be no such thing as “fellowship” in the Final Covenant sense.[13]

Rudolph Alan Culpepper (1930-2015) sees John’s opening words in his First Epistle as a prologue to the whole epistle, announcing that “the word of life” has been manifest. Life’s message is grounded in the life of Jesus, God’s Son, who revealed the nature of eternal life, that God’s children now share. As a prologue, says Culpepper, it introduces many of the Epistle’s significant concerns. That includes the reality of Jesus’ incarnation, and the nature of life revealed in Him. It highlights the importance of participation in the community so a person can share in that life.[14] Therefore, eternal life is not something we hope for or await at some distant time, but it is now in our possession. Once you are born again to live for the Anointed One, you are born again to live with Him forever.

Stephen S. Smalley gives us an excellent translation of these first four verses: “What was there from the beginning – which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have observed, and felt with our hands – is our subject; the word of life. That Life was revealed. We have seen it; we are bearing witness and proclaiming to you the eternal life which existed with the Father and has been revealed to us. What we have seen and heard we are declaring to you as well, so that you also may share in our fellowship: a fellowship which we have with the Father, and with His Son Jesus the Anointed One. And we are writing this in order that our joy may be complete![15]


[1] Brown, Raymond E. The Anchor Bible, Epistles of John, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, NY, 1982, p. 152

[2] Wiersbe, Warren W., Be Real (1 John): Turning from Hypocrisy to Truth (The BE Series Commentary), op. cit., p. 24

[3] Marx, Karl: Introduction to a Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Deutsch-Französische Jahrbucher, February, 1844

[4] Wiersbe, Warren W., ibid. p. 27

[5] Hebrews 11:1

[6] John 15:10-11

[7] Wilder, Amos N., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., p. 220

[8] Ignatius: Epistle to the Magnesians, Chapter 7

[9] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn: Life in Christ, op. cit., pp. 23-24

[10] My motivation behind this was that on Sunday morning non-church members would be attending services in their own church, but on Sunday evening when their church did not have an evangelistic service, they were free to come or be invited to our church to hear a salvation message.

[11] Marius the Epicurean, Vol. 2, by Walter Horatio Pater, E. P. Hutton, New York, 1934, “Everyman’s Library,” Part 4, Chap. 21: Two Curious Houses, The Church in Cecilia’s House, p. 196

[12] Matthew 18:20

[13] Burdick, Donald W., The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 21

[14] Culpepper, R. Alan:  Harper’s Bible Commentary, Mays, J. L. (Ed.), Harper & Row. San Francisco: 1988, p. 1291

[15] Smalley, Stephen S. Word biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, 1, 2, 3, John, Word Books, Waco, Texas 1984, p. 3

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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

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXI) 11/16/20

I begin with this proposition, continues Morgan Dix: The proportion in which religious belief becomes intellectualized and refined, in that same magnitude, loses its power over people and ceases to control the practical order of their lives. It is readily seen by contrasting two types of worldly religion: First, the unrefined worship of idols by one’s emotions. Second, the refined philosophical mind. The former is pointless superstition, the latter a rationalistic theory. However, of these two, idolatry is better than rationality.[1] This concept may be a little hard to understand at first, but in thinking it over, it becomes clear that those who worship idols do so out of cultural ignorance while those who pay homage to what the mind creates a false god.

Presbyterian minister and Word Studies expert Marvin Vincent (1834-1921) says that the word “full” should more correctly be “fulfilled.” John does this frequently in his writings.[2] The peace brought by reconciliation leads to the blessed consciousness of sonship, the happy growth of holiness, and the bright prospect of future completion and glory. Based on their length and breadth, all these simple details are embodied in these two words: “Eternal Life.” Possession of this brings an immediate source of joy. The Anointed One’s joy brings blessings because He is Life and living itself. As Augustine said, “For there is a joy which is not given to the ungodly, but to those who love You for Your own sake, whose joy of which You are the fountain. And this is the happy life, to rejoice in You and because of You.”[3]

Erich Haupt (1841-1926) says that not even this effort to redouble his joy exhausts the apostle John’s design. His aim is not only to establish fellowship with God and the brethren, but this itself is to him again a means to elevate the believer’s joy to its highest stage of life’s purpose and plan, and that is in its most perfect degree with God and each other.

Haupt goes on to say that since John describes The Life as The Light for humanity, it declares that The Life manifested Himself for them in a way that would have been unlikely for the rest of creation. It is self-understood that this Light is not thought of in the physical sense but in its reference to the spiritual realm. By its very existence, light communicates itself to objects capable of receiving it and illuminates them as a result.

We may examine another Scripture that speaks of, says Haupt, “The eye is the light of the body. If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.”[4] The thought expresses itself so clearly: The eye receives the light and thereby becomes enlightened and enlightening. So also, in the prologue of John’s Gospel: all of creation owes its life to The Logos; but only humanity is capable of receiving His Light. Therefore, they alone can accept the nature of the Logos pouring toward them as Light so that they are consciously transformed by it into a new creation.

Haupt goes on to say since humanity has a passive relation to His life, that is, instinctively fulfills His destiny for them, but an active life also.  That means, not only is their conscious ethically and morally placed in order, but they have the capacity not only to receive Life from The Logos but also to have this new Life as their light. It allows them to be able to discern or know Him in His nature, to be able to reflect His image to the world. Now, wherever humanity forgets or ignores this purpose, they close their eyes to what God has given them to be able to receive The Logos as Light. As a result, they wander in the dim domain of darkness.[5]

Charles Gore (1853-1932), Bishop of Oxford, and influential Anglican theologian mentions that some have pointed to a distinctive note of John’s theology due to perceptions of spiritual truth based upon and molded by external experiences or facts. Therefore, it is seen as a corporate and not individual conviction because everyone shares the same view. Or, it can be the conviction of a whole society that gives witness to the facts. Therefore, realizing its true meaning through fellowship in the community. It seems evident that Gore is speaking of those whose faith comes from being part of a Christian community and those whose beliefs come from the Christian Church – the body of the Anointed One.

Thus, Wescott’s citing of the comment of Bede the Venerable is noticeable, says Gore: Bede says that John plainly shows that anyone wanting communion with God must first establish fellowship with the Church. Neither the apostle John or Paul would agree to this latter-day practice of “putting the Church in place of the Anointed One.” With all sadness, we must recognize how the Church has justified its sins and shortcomings – in a word, its worldliness. But, as I say, notes Gore, the Apostles John, and Paul, would be shocked by it. The Church is but human fellowship by which the Spirit of God, the Anointed One, is found in a bodily presence. So, how can you substitute the body in place of the person? Or, how can the fellowship of God be realized except in brother and sisterhood? It is what He appointed as an instrument for spiritual harmony.[6]

James Morgan (1859-1942) encourages all believers to attain the joy that the Gospel yields. We should do so for the sake of our holiness. “When He shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.” We should do so for the credit of Christianity. There is everything in it to commend it to mankind. And it is unworthy of its professors to exhibit a behavior calculated to dishonor it. We should do so for the honor of the Anointed One reflected in us. “You are the epistles of the Anointed One, known and read of all people.”[7] And for the world to witness His glory in us, let us joyfully submit to His justifying righteousness and cheerful obedience to His holy commandments. In so doing, our joy may be full.[8]

Cosmo Gordon Lang (1864-1945), Archbishop of Canterbury, says three questions lie deep in the spirit of humanity, and sooner or later, if they think at all, they must encounter them, and they will ask them for an answer. First, what is the real nature of this unseen, infinite, eternal life that lies behind the things we see, creating, sustaining, controlling them? The second is, what is the life in mankind which can bring to them into harmony with the infinite and eternal life? The third is, how can this life be obtained and kept? Those who are in doubt about the answer to these questions stumble on in darkness. Those who can find a solution have the Light of Life. And it was the Light of Life that the Anointed One brought in His revelation that exposed these significant needs.

Lang explains that the Anointed One answered the first question when He appeared in the flesh for human ears to hear, human eyes to see, and human hands to touch. It was all done out of love that flowed from an eternal relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit.

The Anointed One answered the second question when He brought His Divine Life into human nature. He lived under human conditions, revealing what it was to be a begotten Son of the Most-High God – thereby bringing our humanity into union with Divine Life.

And to the third question, the Anointed One answered by having the Holy Spirit come and dwell in the hearts of humans, leading it to respond to the Divine love and bring all its energies, desires, and affections into union with God.[9]

Robert Law (1860-1919) says the Apostle John intends to give us his conception of God. He says that John presents God under four great affirmations: God is Light (1:5); God is Righteous (2:29); God is Love (4:8); God is Life (5:20). And though, characteristically, John does not endeavor to bring these ideas into a creed or confession, their inter-relationship is sufficiently clear. Righteousness and Love are the primary ethical qualities of the Divine Nature. Life is the essence in which these qualities. That God is Light signifies that the Divine Nature, as Righteousness and Love, reveals itself to become the Truth, the object of faith, and the source of spiritual illumination to every being capable of receiving the revelation.

Wordly thinkers speculated that Divine Nature was mystical, says Law. They defined it as the ultimate spiritual essence eternally separated from all that is material and changeable. These thinkers wanted union with Divine Life solely by the mystic vision of the Light emanating from John’s conception of God. It was primarily a form of ethics. As such, these thinker’s deity was an unreal being that could never awaken the human soul to worship. They showed no reverence for boundlessness or everlastingness.

For the thinkers, Law continues, God is the atoms of moral good since He is not in “the light of the setting sun, and the round ocean, and the living air, and the blue sky.” However, for John, the Eternal Life, the very Life of God, brought into the sphere of humanity in the person of Jesus, the Anointed One who is Righteousness and Love. With his whole soul, John labors to stamp on the human mind the truth that only by Righteousness and Love can they walk in the Light of God and have fellowship in the Life of the Father and His Son Jesus the Anointed One.[10]


[1] Dix, Morgan: First Epistle of John, The Biblical Illustrator: New Testament, Kindle Location 665388-665398

[2] See John 3;29; 7:8; 8:38; 15:11; 2 John 1:12; Revelation 6:11

[3] Vincent, Marvin R: Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. II, First Epistle of John, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1889, p. 811

[4] Matthew 6:22

[5] Haupt, Erich, The First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., pp. 21-22, 24–25.

[6] Gore, Charles, The Epistles of St. John, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1920, pp. 61–63

[7] 2 Corinthians 3:3

[8] Morgan, James, An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 30

[9] Lang, Cosmo Gordon: Church Pulpit Commentary, Arnold, Thomas; Maurice, F.D.; Burgon, John., (12 vol. Now in One) (Kindle Location 92338-92341). http://www.DelmarvaPublications.com. Kindle Edition.

[10] Law, Robert, The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 53, Edinburgh

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POINTS TO PONDER

Perhaps all of us want to be known as being an orderly person. That means we don’t like clutter and try to keep things nice and tidy. What could be wrong with that? Orderliness is a personality trait, associated with other qualities such as cleanliness and carefulness – and the desire for order and balance, and is generally considered to be a desirable quality.

However, we learn that in psychology, an excessive desire for orderliness can be associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder and the terms “fussy” or “finicky” are used conversationally to describe such a person with attention to orderliness and detail that is seems like an obsession. This doesn’t mean that orderliness is wrong, there’s enough disorder and chaos around us to desire such orderliness. We are all familiar with the term “Law and order.” Only when it is insisted upon at the inconvenience of others does it raise questions.

Psychologist point out that in nature and culture, order and disorder are present everywhere, and humans can avoid or eliminate neither order nor disorder. God endowed humans with the preference for order, structure, and patterns over disorder, randomness, and chaos. For example, even 2- to 3-month-old infants can seek and detect consistent patterns that would empower them to easily predict their environment. In most research, disorder refers to the lack of visible perceived order (a peaceful and safe state) and self-control (an act of maintaining).

The visible perceived order includes social and physical cues. Visual social disorder usually refers to people who are loitering on the streets, drinking to excess, taking drugs, or engaging in dangerous behavior. Visual physical disorder refers to the appearance of the physical environment, such as places that are dirty with vandalism and graffiti, high levels of noise, and buildings that are in disrepair or abandoned. On the other end of the continuum, visual social and physical order include quiet, drug-free people, no people loitering, and buildings that are clean and in good repair.

Therefore, the core distinction in disorder/order perception is the degree of orderliness, regularity, pattern, and rationality. Various studies have revealed that disorderly environments encourage impulsive and disorderly behaviors such as rule-breaking and crime. Until now, little has been known about whether the inborn capacity of seeking orderliness and the universal order and disorder in the environment are affected and associated with people’s mental abstract representations of stimuli, including events and objects.

Order effects refer to differences in people’s responses that result from the uniformity in which the information is presented to them. Order effects can occur in any kind of situation. People may answer questions differently depending on the order in which the questions are asked. The fact is that the order in which the conditions are presented may affect the response.

Orderliness effects occur for many reasons. Practice effects occur when participants warm up or improve their performance over time. In reaction time studies, for example, participants usually respond faster as a result of practice with the task.

People may also perform differently when dealing with issues because they are bored or tired. These fatigue effects are more likely when the procedure is lengthy and the task is repetitive or uninteresting. These effects are more likely when conditions are in an orderly fashion. They also depend on the particular sequence of conditions.

Master Social Worker Edie Weinstein says that over the years, he has heard folks say that they know where everything is and if they organized their home, work area or car, they wouldn’t be able to find anything. While there may be a grain of truth to that, it can also be an excuse not to clean or remove objects that take up unnecessary space and put things into order. We are an acquisitive species that loves collecting stuff. 

He goes on to say that when he was in an environment that is messy or cluttered, he feels uneasy. It was a challenge when he worked as a home care social worker. There were times when some patients’ homes were a safety hazard and he was reluctant to sit on the furniture. Piles of newspapers, stacks of note paper, boxes of books, dirty dishes in the sink were common sights. He chalked some of it up to physical debilitation that made it challenging to clean. He also considered that many had a long-term hoarding problem that he wasn’t going to rectify.

Psychologist Sian Bullock admits that she has heard the phrase “a cluttered desk, a cluttered mind.” Indeed, as Martha Stewart, the magazine Real Simple, and thousands of self-help books will tell you, being orderly leads to improved mental health, life satisfaction, and better thinking.

But it is true? Does being in an orderly environment – at work or at home – improve our lives? It turns out that it depends on what we are trying to do. In a nut shell, orderly environments prompt us to stick to valued social norms, like being generous or eating healthy (think grabbing that apple rather than the tempting candy bar). And, it’s easy to see how such choices might improve our well-being.

In another study they find that mental health benefits from keeping an orderly living space. For instance, it reduces stress. A 2009 study found that women with high levels of cortisol, a hormone indicating stress, revealed that their houses were untidy. On the polar opposite, the women who were more comfortable and happier had more organized houses. This de-stressing also leads to a healthier body – eating more nutritious foods, getting better sleep, building your immune system, and being more active.

They also found that a more organized and orderly house can lead to more production, according to a Princeton study. You’re less stressed and more focused without distractions from clutter and dirt. With distraction, your mind can process at a faster pace.

It was also proven that if you’re having friends, family, or even friends of their you don’t know, it can be anxiety-inducing if you don’t have an impressively orderly house! That confidence in your own house’s orderliness when showing off your abode can transfer outside the home, too.

Furthermore, they noticed that an orderly house can lead spark creativity. Maybe you’ll innovate your storage, think of new decor ideas, and envision a whole new furniture layout just by being able to see what’s there!

Here are some tips they give for keeping an orderly house: 

Leave shoes at the door! You don’t want any accidental mud prints…or prints that look like mud but don’t smell like it.

Clean a little every day! When you save cleaning for one day, it can become stressful rather than mindful. Clean or organize for 15-30 minutes a day.

Make your bed. Keeping your bedroom room neat is conducive to better sleep. That sense of serenity and satisfaction can be applied to the rest of the house to help maintain a healthy mind and body.

Do the dishes as you go. Even better, team up on the dishes after your meal! It takes less time, you get time with your family, and it’s less stressful!

God’s holy Scriptures are not silent about the benefits of orderliness. The Bible begins with God bringing orderliness out of chaos: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”[1]

Then, king Solomon noticed the lack of orderliness when he walked past a field that belonged to a lazy man. It was a vineyard that belonged to someone who understood nothing. Weeds were growing everywhere! Wild vines covered the ground, and the wall around the vineyard was broken and falling down. What did Solomon learn? That if you sit back and do nothing, you’ll end up losing everything.[2]

And the prophet Jeremiah tells us that there is an orderly time for everything, and everything on earth will happen at the right time. There is a time to be born, and a time to die. There is a time to plant and a time to pull up weeds. There is a time to cry and a time to laugh. There is a time to be sad and a time to dance with joy. There is a time to collect stones and a time to throw them away. There is a time to hug someone and a time to let go.[3]

Even Luke when he wrote his Gospel, told his friend Theophilus, many others have tried to give a report of the things that happened among us to complete God’s plan. What they have written agrees with what we learned from the people who saw those events from the beginning. They also served God by telling people his message. I studied it all carefully from the beginning. Then I decided to write it down for you in an orderly way.[4]

And the apostle Paul told the Corinthians, everything should be done in a way that is right and orderly.[5] Then he told the Colossians, through God’s power all things were made in an orderly fashion: things in heaven and on earth, seen and not seen – all spiritual rulers, lords, powers, and authorities. Everything was made through him and for him.

Being orderly does not mean being restrictive or prohibitive. Instead, it constitutes a way of dealing with things that is not confusing, complex, complicated, or confounding. When you put objects where you want them to be, they will still be there when you go to get them. But orderliness also applies to our relationship with God and each other. By putting God first everything else will fall in line. By putting your spouse first, will result in orderly communication and marriage. And by putting others first, it will bring harmony to you and your family, neighbors, and friends. For God is not a God of disorder but of orderliness as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.[6] – Dr. Robert R Seyda


[1] Genesis 1:1-5

[2] Proverbs 24:30-34

[3] Ecclesiastes 3:1-5

[4] Luke 1:1-3

[5] 1 Corinthians 14:20

[6] 1 Corinthians 14:33

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

TURN ON THE LIGHTS!

Most of us know how hard it is to admit something that everyone else already knows. But to willingly go public so that others who are dealing with the same thing can have the courage to take a break from their emotional imprisonment is admirable. This young lady decided to do so, and we can all benefit from her experience.

She begins by telling that when she was overweight, she frequently struggled with depression. She confesses I had my “I am depressed” routine: Take my negative thoughts into a dark room in my messy house where ignored bills lay on the table but not look into the mirror to see I wasn’t taking care of myself.

But when God began to convict me, I knew I had to make a choice: His way or my way. Was I willing to let Him teach me how to cope with my depression so that things could change into the way they were supposed to be?  Her answer was clear, she says, I said “Yes!” to both questions. So, she decided to trust God’s Word, and that’s when things began to change.

She read in John 6:63, where Jesus says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” It was a matter of getting out of the darkness into the light. What God has done for me, she says, He can do for you.

God’s love was so strong that she felt compelled to follow Him. It was His love that drew her to change, not misery nor self-condemnation. She decided she wanted a better life than the one she was living. That’s why now she tells everyone that God loves them too, just like He loved her. But they are the only ones who can make the decision that they want to live differently. No one else can do it for you.

One therapist says that in her years of coaching people, she discovered that there are people who are perfectly happy being miserable. That way, they get attention and sympathy from others because of their agony. Their discomfort gives them something to talk about.

They bought into the lie that they cannot change. And some people do not want to change because despair is all they know. Deep down, they see grief as safe because they know what that feels like and they are afraid of the unknown. God did not create us to live in anguish. He created us to live in joy, no matter what we experienced in our past or outward circumstances in the present. Just like the prophet Jeremiah, “God has great plans for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future.” (29:11).

In fact, He gives us a promise and offers us an exchange for our gloom and doom. Listen to what God told Isaiah: “To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (61:3). Here is the exchange: If you are mourning, God gives you Consolation and the Oil of Joy. If your life is in ashes, God gives you Beauty. If you have a spirit of heaviness, God gives you the garment of Praise.

But, are you willing to believe Him and make the exchange? Jesus did not die so that you could live pre-occupied with our past, our shortcomings, and in the pursuit of gratifying our flesh. We are called to be a tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified.

Not only that, but 1 Peter 2:9 reminds us even more of who we really are and what we are called to do: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

Did you get that? According to God’s word, you are: A chosen generation (you were created for such a time as this). A royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own special people. Because this is your identity through Jesus Christ, then you were called to proclaim His praises because He has called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

But how will you proclaim His praise when you continue to make darkness your friend? You are called to walk in the light as He is in the light. So how do you do that? There are two guidelines from the scriptures: “The night is far spent; the day is at hand. Therefore, let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13:12)

The first step is to renounce your friendship with darkness. Repent of any wrong thinking that has set up a stronghold in your mind. Repentance starts with an attitude of your heart. It is agreeing with God that you believe His Word above your feelings. You will no longer worship at the altar of your feelings. You will instead be diligent each day to meditate on His Word and trust that in time, your feelings will have an extreme makeover!

Just as physical food is designed to give you physical strength, so God’s word is designed to give you Spiritual strength. With that Spiritual strength, you will be able to handle whatever the enemy tries to throw at you. In addition, you spend time with God in prayer. His presence is like your water – you can’t live Spiritually without that! Be honest with God and yourself through prayer. In doing so, you expose the works of darkness into the light. There is an old saying that the strength of sin is secrecy.

How well I know, she says. I used to eat “normal” in front of others and binge in secret. To stop that, I needed to protect myself from those foods that trigger binges and eat foods that helped me feel emotionally stable. In that way, I could live with integrity – acting the same way whether I was with others or alone.

I learned to be transparent about what I was doing, I told myself the truth, and stop justifying why it is okay that I continue to live in darkness. As Luke 8:17 says, “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.” Our challenge today is to live in the light of God’s love and order our thinking according to God’s word.

1 John 1:5 declares: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”

Maybe your hang-up is not food but other things that make you feel you don’t measure up to other people’s standards. Think about it, you have become judge and jury, sentencing yourself to a miserable life. A lot of times, the thing that gets us down is that we can’t do anything as good as others. That bothers us. Instead of trying to improve or finding something we are good at we let it get inside our minds and the light for doing better goes out.

But through His Word we see where God has put a light switch on the wall of our minds, all we have to do is turn it on. Here’s what the Scriptures tell us: “You are all people who belong to the light. You belong to the day. We don’t belong to the night or to darkness. So we should not be like other people. We should not be sleeping. We should be awake and have self-control.” (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6). Also, “We should live in the light, where God is. If we live in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood sacrifice of Jesus, God’s Son, washes away every sin and makes us clean.” (1 John 1:7). Furthermore, “But anyone who follows the true way comes to the light. Then the light will show that whatever they have done was done through God.” (John 3:21). So, take this message with you: “You were former cellar-dwellers, but now you have come out into the light of the Lord. So live like children who belong to the light. This light produces every kind of goodness, right living, and truth.” (Ephesians 5:8-9). – Dr. Robert R Seyda

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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

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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

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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

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXVII) 11/10/20

Ian Howard Marshall (1934-2015) points out the English word “Fellowship” renders a Greek noun koinōnia, which means “having in common, or “in partnership with.” Two or more persons can be said to have fellowship with one another when they have something in common. James and John were sharers with Simon in their common pursuit of fishing.[1] Paul and Titus shared in a common faith.[2] Believers share in the grace of God,[3] in Jesus the Anointed One,[4] and spiritual gifts generally.[5] As a result, fellowship has two aspects. There is the element of participation in some spiritual gift or Christian service. There is the union element with other believers due to the shared enjoyment of some spiritual privilege or in some Christian activity.[6]

Michael A. Eaton (1942-) points out that it was terrific for those who were physically present with Jesus and fellowshipping with Him. But what about those in subsequent generations like us? John’s answer is clear: When Christians who are not eyewitnesses of physically manifested Eternal Life come to accept the apostolic testimony concerning Him, they begin to share the fellowship with Jesus and with the Father that the Apostles have known.[7] In other words, through the Apostles, we amazingly have a connection with the Anointed One, just as through Him we have fellowship with the Father. Knowing and accepting this helps us see even more in His marvelous light.

Gary M. Burge (1952-) explains that the strained grammar of verse one underscores John’s emphasis on the incarnate Word’s centrality. A literal rendering makes the sense clearer:

                        1 What [8] was from the beginning;

                        what we have heard;

                        what we have seen with our eyes;

                        what we beheld and our hands touched-concerning the Word of Life.   

In this way, John stacks four relative clauses at the beginning to emphasize the object of proclaiming the Word rather than the Word having to declare itself. Of course, that Word was none other than the Word of Life, the incarnate Son of God. Therefore, John says that the whole scope of Jesus’ life bears importance to his subject in the opening. In the Anointed One, God walked with humankind, and anyone who had contact with such reality, anyone who heard, saw, and touched the Truth, the Way, and the Life could never make it less than essential.[9]

Bruce B. Barton (1954-) notes that the first twelve disciples had intimate, personal fellowship with Jesus the Anointed One. That fellowship did not stop when Jesus died, nor did it end with the Twelve. They shared the message of salvation in Jesus so that others could join this “fellowship” also. This corporate identity and relationship passed on from generation to generation. As believers fellowship with one another today, they participate in the Apostles’ same faith and so “share fellowship” with them and with the Father and Son. Four principles undergird true Christian fellowship: Christian fellowship grounded in God’s Word; Christian fellowship dependent on the unity; Christian fellowship renewed daily through the Holy Spirit; Christian fellowship demands obedience to the truth.

Marianne M. Thompson (1954-) begins by saying that this Life that came to earth was already with the Father in heaven. It provides both a description and testimony to the origin and character of Life itself. Whether physical or spiritual, such life is the gift of a gracious, creating, life-giving God. God alone fashions and sustains life. And in Jesus, God offers everlasting life, which is neither more nor less than knowing and having fellowship with the one true living God.[10] God was not happy that He had to bring death to Adam and Eve because of their disobedience; that’s why He sent His Son with healing and liberty. Through the Word of Life’s proclamation, that is, the message about Jesus, subsequent generations of believers come to know about and ultimately to receive the gift of life for themselves.[11]

Daniel L. Akin (1957-) declares there has never been a time when the Son of God was not, never. He was before the beginning, in the beginning, and from the beginning. It is what John believed. It is what Jesus taught. Jesus boldly declared in John’s Gospel, “Before Abraham was, I am[12] (indicating He is the God of Abraham.)[13] Jesus also said, “The Father and I are one.”[14] And He told Philip, “Anyone who sees Me sees the Father.”[15] Clearly, Jesus believed Himself to be God, and John confessed the same. This life is the Life of undiminished deity made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth.

Akin strongly believes that theologically, we must understand the essential nature of the doctrine of the incarnation. The biblical Jesus is no myth, fairy tale, or fable. He is no ghost or illusion. He is indeed the God who took on full humanity. “The Word became flesh,” says John.[16] And Jesus the Anointed One is entirely God and fully human. He is not half God and half man, all God, no man, or all man and no God. Nor is Jesus simply a man uniquely in touch with the divine. No, He is the God-man, like no one else who will ever live. He has always been with the Father, and at Bethlehem, He came to be with us. To the Jews, it became a scandal, a stumbling block to believing in the incarnation.[17]

Bruce G. Schuchard (1958-) points out that since those reading this letter by the Apostle John did not physically see, hear, or touch Jesus when He was here on earth, he wanted them to have fellowship with the Lord through those who did. John and the other apostles did live with and followed Jesus for over three years. And when He ascended back to the Father, He charged His disciples to share their testimony with everyone, everywhere. It is now our mission to bring sinners into communion with God through Jesus the Anointed One by telling about our experiences with Him since being born again. That not only will bring joy to them but for us as well.[18]

F. Wayne Mac Leod (1961-) notes that there is an evangelistic thrust to this letter. While he is writing to believers (“my dear children,” 2:1), he is conscious that not all those who call themselves Christians can testify to being truly saved. He wants those who have not yet received everlasting life to reach out and grasp it. John also has as his purpose of edifying and encouraging true believers in their faith by reassuring them of the truth of Christ’s claims. He wants to see these believers grasp, with greater assurance, the truth about the Lord Jesus. As his readers become more robust in their faith concerning the Lord Jesus as a person, they would enter a deeper fellowship with John as they participate more fully together in God’s work.[19]

Another current scholar, Robert W. Yarbrough (1962-), says that from the Apostle John’s point of view, the truth would by no means oppose much of what natural science affirms today; in fact, it would remarkedly be in harmony. Truth is as much a matter of what God, by word or deed, revealed what humans observe and conclude in creation or redemption. Ideally, the divine revelation and humble human inference work together, and when they do, truth in a full sense can emerge. Precisely this concurrence of divine self-disclosure and human self-awareness is what John writes about here as he “testifies” or “bears witness.”[20]

Peter Pett (1966-) says that the Apostle John brings out two aspects here. The first that “we” (those who had been with Jesus) heard Him and seen Him with their own eyes,[21] and still did so. It indicates something happening in the past and continuing into the present. John cannot forget the glory of it, which still bubbles within him. We heard, says John, and we continue to pay attention, we saw, and we still see. The Apostle is stressing that it was a real experience and that it will ever be with them. There is an emphasis on their actual hearing and seeing of Him as He was in the flesh.[22] That spiritual hearing and seeing still goes on more deeply, for it is embedded in their hearts, illuminated by the Spirit, and experienced daily in their lives because He is the living One, the Word of life.


[1] Luke 5:10

[2] Titus 1:4; cf. Jude 1:3

[3] Philippians 1:7

[4] 1 Corinthians 1:9

[5] Romans 15:27

[6] Marshall, I. Howard. The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 104

[7] Eaton, Michael: 1, 2, 3 John, Christian Focus Publications, 1996, p. 35

[8] The Greek pronoun hos can be translated as “who, which, what, that.”

[9] Burge, Gary M. The Letters of John, op. cit., p. 52

[10] John 17:3

[11] Thompson, Marianne M., 1, 2, 3 John, op. cit., p. 37

[12] John 8:58

[13] Exodus 3:14

[14] John 10:30

[15] Ibid. 14:9

[16] Ibid. 1:14

[17] Akin, Dr. Daniel L. Exalting Jesus in 1, 2, 3 John (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (Kindle Locations 129-156). B & H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[18] Schuchard, Bruce G., 1-3 John – Concordia, op. cit., pp. 90-91

[19] Mac Leod, F. Wayne. The Epistles of John and Jude: A Devotional Look at the New Testament Letters of John and Jude (Light to My Path Devotional Commentary Series Book 36). Light to My Path Book Distribution. Kindle Edition.

[20] Yarbrough, Robert W: 1-3 John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI, 2008, p. 36

[21] 1 John 4:14

[22] John 1:14

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXVI) 11/09/20

You cannot dismiss a true eye-witness easily. John involved himself more than being a spectator to the man and the ministry of Jesus. He not only saw, but heard, touched, and felt. It added more weight to his testimony. So often, we become just onlookers when we should be participants. When it comes to witnessing, God is our judge, but the world is our jury. Let’s not only be an observer to who Jesus was and is and will be, but engaged in every facet of serving Him, worshiping Him, and glorifying Him before the world and His Father in heaven. What John says here is not something he just made up; it came from the lips of his Master: “I have told you these things so that you can have the joy that I have. I want your joy to overflow.”[1] John Stott (1921-2011) put it this way: “He not only showed Himself to the disciples to qualify them as ‘eyewitnesses,’ but gave them an authoritative commission as ‘apostles’ to preach the Gospel.”[2]

In the New American Standard Study Bible (1963-1971), we find this note: “The two central passages for continued fellowship with God are John 15 and 1 John 1. John 15 relates the positive side of fellowship, that is, abiding in the Anointed One. 1 John 1 unfolds the other side, pointing out that when Christians do not abide in the Anointed One, they must seek forgiveness before fellowship can be restored.”  Professor F. F. Bruce makes this point: “Those who abandoned the apostolic teaching and fellowship severed themselves from fellowship with the Father and His apostles.”[3]  And Thomas F. Johnson makes this observation: “It is evident here that ‘fellowship’ (koinōnia) is not merely a matter of love and hospitality, but is primarily a matter of eternal life and death.”[4]  Unfortunately, as William Barclay expresses it: “In the first days of Christianity there was a glory and a splendor, but now Christianity had become a thing of habit, ‘traditional, half-hearted, nominal.’ Men had grown used to it, and something of the wonder was lost.”[5]

Robert Law (1860-1919), minister of Laureston Place Church, Edinburgh, explains that the knowledge of the Divine Revelation given to the world in Jesus the Anointed One is derived ultimately from the testimony of the Apostles and a few other contemporary witnesses. They communicated it by word-of-mouth and epistles like all information in those days. Those who know share it with those who are uninformed. Those who “have not seen and yet have believed” are often considered inferior to the original eyewitnesses? John’s Epistle assures its readers that they are in no such position of inferiority. They have the testimony and teaching of the Spirit.[6]

Law also finds that all Biblical interpreters cannot agree on the grammatical relation and the precise meaning of these two clauses. The Latin Vulgate Version (followed by Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and others) places both clauses under the guidance of “that you may have fellowship with us, and that our (common) fellowship may be with the Father and with His Son Jesus the Anointed One.”

We can set this aside, says Law, on the grounds of both the grammar and as an impossible sequence. On the other hand, some regard the second clause as indirectly contained in the first – “That you also may have fellowship (with God) along with us; and, truly, our fellowship is with the Father.” But there is no warrant for taking the word fellowship as meaning “fellowship with God,” and, even if taken that way, the interpretation of the Greek noun koinōnia as “fellowship with God in common with us” is very strained. Koinōnia comes from the Greek root word koinōnos meaning “partnership.”

The real difficulty, says Law, is to determine the meaning of koinōnia we have with God and each other, respectively. We modify our mental image of fellowship by the different objects to which it is related. The first clause points to a community of privilege between the Apostle and his readers. They have John’s historical Gospel, this being the purpose of his announcement. The second clause is participation in the Life and Light of God. The logical link of connection is that the basis of both “fellowships,” human and divine, is found in the knowledge of God manifested in the Anointed One.[7] Humanity receives it due to the incarnate life of the Anointed One. By participating with the Apostles holding that knowledge, readers can enter into the “fellowship” of the Father and the Son.[8]

Alan E. Brooke (1863-1939) says that fellowship with God became possible when the Anointed One revealed Him to mankind as the Father, with whom His children could enter into communication. Such harmony, namely, which is possible between parent and child, is only realized in and through Jesus the Anointed One, the man sent to make God known. The title Jesus Messiah always emphasizes both ideas, the historical life and human nature of Jesus of Nazareth, and the Divine commission of God’s Anointed One. And the use of the title “Only-begotten Son” emphasizes His capacity to make God known to humanity.

John can conceive of no adequate knowledge of God, which can be apprehended by man except in so far as it is revealed in real human life, by One who is an only begotten Son of God. Only a Son can reveal the Father. Only a begotten Son sums up all the qualities of His Father. The burden of the writer’s message is added up in the last verse of the Prologue to the Gospel, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”[9] [10]

D. Edmond Hiebert (1910-1995), a pastor, professor, and theologian in the Mennonite Brethren Church and then the Baptist Church, makes a note of the four opening clauses in verse one. We see that each beginning with “which,” are parallel in scope and declare the reality of the Incarnation. All four are the direct objects of the verb “proclaim,” which he expresses in verse three. This use of the neuter “which” does not mean that John had in view an abstract message. Instead, he was thinking about the comprehensive reality of the historical manifestation of Eternal Life in the flesh as the Anointed One. The first clause relates to the Incarnation itself; the remaining three declare the Anointed One’s apostolic experiences. The opening clause, “Which was from the beginning,” has been variously understood. Hiebert remarked that these words, considered in themselves, may say all that it is possible to say, and yet when they are isolated, they fundamentally declare nothing. We must see their significance in the light of what follows.[11]

It was not the Apostles’ physical nearness to Jesus the Anointed One that made them what they were, says Warren Wiersbe (1929-1919). Wiersbe once responded to a student who claimed that because the Apostle John saw and heard Jesus in person, he had an advantage to claiming these things. How can we say that we know Jesus personally as John did? It was their spiritual nearness, says Wiersbe. They committed themselves to Him as their Savior and their Lord. Jesus the Anointed One was real and exciting to John and his colleagues because they had trusted Him. By putting their faith in the Anointed One, they experienced the gift of everlasting life![12]

Simon J. Kistemaker (1930-2017) says that John has several points to communicate. First, by emphasizing that the Life was seen, heard, and touched, that gives even more proof that He was not a ghost or phantom. He was a real human being with whom they had fellowship. It may have been done as a warning to his readers to be aware of phase doctrines going around that attempted to deny our Lord’s human nature, physical appearance, and later on, His bodily resurrection. Secondly, John’s purpose for declaring this news was his assurance of having had physical contact with the Anointed One. He prayed it might result in their joy in knowing that the Anointed One in whom they believed for their salvation and eternal life was real, as he says in the next verse.[13]

Rudolph M. Smith (1931-2016) says that this passage’s implications for Christian teaching are clear enough. We are dealing with a crucial aspect of what has since been called the “doctrine of the incarnation.” What is at stake here? Here in the Apostle John’s letter, we find a definitive answer to the question of the nature of Jesus and His coming, provided in opposition to the teaching that John deems not only flawed but malicious. Jesus came in the flesh, and to refuse to affirm this is heresy.[14] How could He die on behalf of human beings if He were not one Himself? That’s what God demanded; that’s what God got.


[1] John 15:11; 1 John 1:4

[2] Stott, John R. W., The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Revised Edition, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, loc. cit., p. 67

[3] Bruce, F. F. The Gospel & Epistles of John, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, loc. cit., p. 39

[4] Johnson, Thomas F. 1, 2, and 3 John, New International Biblical Commentary, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, op. cit., p. 27

[5] Barclay, William: The Letters of John and Jude, Revised Edition, Daily Study Bible, op. cit., p. 3

[6] Law, Robert (1909), The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle on St. John, op. cit., p. 111

[7] John 17:3

[8] Law, Robert: op. cit., pp. 370–371

[9] John 1:18

[10] Brooke, Alan, E. The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptural of the Old and New Testaments, The Johannine Epistles, T. & T. Clarke, Edinburgh, 1912, p. 8

[11] Hiebert, David E., An Exposition of 1 John, pp. 201-202

[12] Wiersbe, Warren W., Be Real (1 John): Turning from Hypocrisy to Truth (The BE Series Commentary), op. cit., p. 22.

[13] Kistenmaker, Simon J. op. cit., pp. 237-238

[14] Smith, D. Moody. First, Second, and Third John: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (pp. 39-40). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition

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