March 29, 2000

1 John 1

Just a few opening points.

First, there is no doubt that the Apostle John wrote this book, for it is very similar to the book of St. John.

Second, the time of the writing of this book is probably well after the destruction of Jerusalem, maybe as late as 90 AD. Note that at this late date, there is no echo of the gloom and doom that is found in John's other book, the Revelation — another evidence that the purpose of Revelation was to prepare the Jewish Church for the coming destruction of Judaism and the Jewish nation.

Third, some general messages found in this book. John warns about the many antichrists, i.e., false teachers, that were already at work in the church. They were easily recognized by their compromised "Christian" message — it failed to emphasize Christ and his work. As we will see, the antichrist of John's warning was and is not identified as a person nor spirit who openly hates Christians; rather, it is any person, spirit or system that denies that Christ is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, or that undermines the doctrine of Christ in any way. I believe that basically John was referring to what was left of the Jewish religion. However, his warning fits well within the false gospels we have going around today among "Bible believing" churches. Their corrupted plans of salvation fail to present the gospel of grace by faith in Christ Jesus, an idea we could spend many pages developing.

I believe it is significant that no doubt due to John's warning, the Jews – followers of the Jewish religion – kind of faded into the background of history, though still attempting to control history. However, in the last 200 years or so, they have regained much public acclaim. My reasoning for that change of attitude has been the acceptance of the idea of a personal antichrist off in the by and by. Thus, the church no longer heeds John's loud and clear warning as found in this book.

Fourth, John speaks of the last time, and of the many antichrists that will appear at that time. In fact, he says the way to recognize the last time is by the appearance of the many antichrists, false teachers. The false teachers were undermining the gospel of Christ, 1 John 2:18.

In #1Jo 2:18, "it is the last time, " probably does not refer to any particular event (as the destruction of Jerusalem, which was now many years past) but refers to the nearness of the Lord's coming as proved by the rise of Antichristian teachers, the mark of the last time. It was the Spirit's purpose to keep the Church always expecting Christ as ready to come at any moment. The whole Christian age is the last time in the sense that no other dispensation is to arise till Christ comes. Compare "these last days, "# Heb 1:2. Ephesus may be conjectured to be the place whence it was written. The controversial allusion to the germs of Gnostic heresy accord with Asia Minor being the place, and the last part of the apostolic age the time, of writing this Epistle. (JFB)

Fifth, the theme of the book is fellowship with the Father and with the Son. True fellowship, or Christianity, claims John, is shown by our attitude one toward another. The purpose of the book is also to confirm believers in the Christian faith, summed up as believing that Christ was and is who he claimed to be.

Sixth, this book tells us that Christ destroys what was done at Babel, Genesis 11. There sin brought about confusion, disunity, hatred and wars among the various tribes of the nations. Christ reunites mankind, only mankind is reunited around love for God and for one another. John will make it plain that that unity can only be the result of the indwelling Spirit of God. Because of the work of the Spirit, God's people dwell in peace and unity one with another.

Note that starting with Adam, God meant for mankind to be unified in one purpose – that is, glorify him by doing all things according to his word, which is the truth. Mankind continually failed until the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit now places that unity around God and his word in the hearts of his people.

John is not afraid to repeat himself, and does quite often. He has some central themes – the antichrist, Christ's claims, visible Christianity, love, sin, &c., and hits those subjects several times.

John was a son of Jesus' mother, Mary's sister. See John 19:25, Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40.

Vv. 1-4.

Vv. 1-3, identifies John as the author, though it does not name him; this book uses the same descriptive phrases concerning Christ as does the gospel according to John, e.g., Word of life. The author of this book establishes his authority to write – he heard, saw, watched the actions and touched the Word of life. In his "gospel," John continually makes the point that Christ is the life and light of the world sent by God the Father, and he repeats that theme in this book. He states several times in this first section that he, along with others, were personal, eye-witnesses to the person of God in the flesh.

The reason he is emphasizing the point that God the Father sent his Son into the world and that he and others were eye-witnesses, even hearing and touching the Son, will be obvious as we go through the book. He is countering the teachings of the many false prophets, antichrists, who deny that the eternal God took on a body of flesh and dwelt among his creation as one of them. But there is more to being an antichrist, false prophet, than just denying the incarnation; antichrists, or false prophets, can even teach the incarnation, but deny the gospel of Christ – that is, salvation by grace alone through faith in his completed work upon the cross (and all that entails).

To counter the false prophets who were denying the gospel of Christ, either his incarnation or the completeness of the gospel, John says:

Christ was from the beginning (1; he could mean beginning of creation or the beginning of the gospel.).
John, along with many others, heard him speak (2).
They saw him with their eyes – looked upon him (3).
They handled him, so he was not a spirit (1).

Thus he points out that he is qualified to write the things he is about to say.

Fellowship (communion, or intimacy) one with another is based in a common faith, belief or cause. Men join a union or lodge, and call each other "brother." The common cause is around that organization. Genesis 11 records the common cause of rebellion against God which united people. Though that particular movement was stopped at Babel, the common cause of rebellion lives on, and will until the end of time. The fallen nature seems quite willing to unite and finance about any cause other than unity around the common Christian faith.

However, that common cause will not permit fellowship with God the Father, nor will it yield eternal life, nor will it yield fullness of joy. Thus true fellowship, unity and joy is the common faith in Christ.

V. 4, the purpose of writing is the same as he gave in his larger book — so the readers would be grounded in the Christian faith, which is based in the virgin birth and Christ's victory over sin and death.

Joy may be full. I believe this statement shows the effect the false teachers were having on the new believers (by new, I mean the early church; by the time of this book, John and others would have been "Christians" for about 60 years). The false teachers were undermining the truth of Christ, which probably caused great disturbance among the Christian community. Probably the false teachers were claiming some kind of authority to undermine the Christian truth about Christ by saying that they were alive then or that they had been told by those who were alive during the time of Christ. And the force of their speech was taking from the believers their joy in the Lord.

Vv. 5-8

John continually says that what he is now writing is from personal experience – both hearing and seeing the Lord Jesus.

Light, darkness. John introduces a major theme. Light throughout Scripture represents purity, truth, knowledge, prosperity and happiness in the Lord and his word. Darkness is sin, and is just the opposite of what God is. (Barns)

God is light, not contains light nor walks in the light: God IS light – that he, he is pure and totally without sin. In fact, he defines sin. It is impossible for God to sin.

V. 6, walk in the light. John introduces another theme which he will repeat many times – those who claim to be Christians will (not must, for they will have the desire) live accordingly. Those who claim to be of God and to love him yet find little or no problem with sin are liars. For the indwelling spirit of God is totally sinless. God's people, those born from above not only know the truth about God and his word, but they DO the truth. We do the truth by obeying the promptings of the indwelling Spirit, who operates according to the law-word of God, 1 John 3:4.

V. 7, walking in the light includes the following (see Barnes):

1) leading holy and pure lives. Christians will be characteristically holy people. They will be a light unto the world in their examples. (Matt. 5:16.)

2) walking in the truth. Christians will accept the truth of God's word over all the errors of heathenism and infidelity. They will have a clear, spiritual view of truth which the unconverted never have, 1 Corinthians 2:14. Note that it is God who must shine his light into the hearts of the unconverted, 2 Corinthians 4:6. (1 Pet. 1:8.)

3) enjoying the comforts of religion. Christians will have a joy that only the Father can give, 2 Corinthians 13:11.
conversely, godly living identifies us with God the Father and unites us together one with another, which is another theme of this letter. The indwelling Spirit unites God's people, gives them a genuine love one for another; he also keeps them cleansed from all sin – he convicts them of sin and impresses them to make their sins right with God and with others.

The blood cleanseth us... The teaching of Scripture is that cleansing does not come automatically, but is a continual process. The Spirit of God will not allow sin to remain for long. He will bring conviction so that God's people will repent, confess and forsake sin. Carol had I have met many people on visitation that live together without marriage, yet they claim to be Christians. I am not saying that Christians will not do that, but I am saying they will not be at peace doing that, nor will they be able to continue in that life style. (Cf. 1 Cor. 5.)

However, there are many continued unknown sins that are in our lives. The Spirit does not show us all our sins at once, or we would be overwhelmed. He shows us sins to deal with a few at a time as we mature in Christ. I am confident that we will be surprised in that day of judgment at the "unknown" sins theat were covered under the blood of Christ though we knew nothing about them at the time.

Vv. 8-10

This section is one of the better known in Scripture, among my "crowd" anyway.

V. 8, though John is preaching and will continue to preach sinlessness – i.e., you claim Christ, so live like it – no person is sinless. Every child of God has the indwelling Spirit who impresses him to walk in the light even as God is the light, but clearly, no person will obtain sinlessness.

Vv. 8, 10, John is quite firm – even the confidence that one is above sin marks him as a lost person, without even the Holy Spirit. The reason it is a mark of not having the Holy Spirit (the truth is not in him) is because the Holy Spirit convicts one of sin. If there is no conviction, there is no Holy Spirit. There are groups around who claim "sinlessness."

V. 9, is defined in Proverbs 28:

13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. 14 Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief. 15 As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people.

In other words, Biblical confession that brings forgiveness of sin involves confession with the intent to forsake. One may not forsake that sin for very long, but the desire will be there to forsake it:

Proverbs 24:16 For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.
Matthew 18:21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Luke 17:4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

Those justified by faith will fall, but they will get up and go again. The Lord's words tell us that the Christian life is a continual series of "falling" and getting back up and trying again.

John is clear in his introduction and all through this letter: Those who claim no sin are not saved; the saved will sin, but the indwelling Spirit will convict them to make it right, or else. Moreover, there seems to be degrees of sin – upon conversion, some many start living an almost perfect life, while others struggle with sin, gaining only a small victory at a time as they grow in grace:

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

Growing in grace and in knowledge means that we mature as Christians. Since grace is the desire and the power to please the Lord, note the order, grace and then knowledge. Implied here is that God gives us the grace to obey what he shows us from his word, and he gives the grace first; he gives the desire and the power to do what he will soon show us to do from his word. Thus we need to be in his word, and as we are, he will speak to us by his Spirit. And his Spirit will not require more of us than what he will equipt us to do.

John seems to present us with a paradox – the Christian will live sinless, but he will sin. The answer is that the child of God will have a converted attitude toward sin: He will not find the pleasure in sin as he once did, and he will work at staying out of sin.