Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
AUTHORITY AS AN
EYEWITNESS TO THE
WAS FROM THE
1. Instead of a formal, John adopts a virtual address (compare
To wish joy to the reader was the ancient customary address. The
sentence begun in
is broken off by the parenthetic
and is resumed at
with the repetition of some words from
That which was--not "began to be," but was essentially
(Greek, "een," not "egeneto") before He was
answering to "Him that is from the beginning"
so John's Gospel,
"In the beginning was the Word."
"I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the
heard . . . seen . . . looked upon
. . . handled--a series rising in gradation.
Seeing is a more convincing proof than hearing of;
handling, than even seeing. "Have heard
. . . have seen" (perfect tenses), as a possession
still abiding with us; but in Greek (not as English
Version "have," but simply) "looked upon" (not perfect tense, as of
a continuing thing, but aorist, past time) while Christ
the incarnate Word was still with us. "Seen," namely, His glory, as
revealed in the Transfiguration and in His miracles; and His passion
and death in a real body of flesh and blood. "Looked upon" as a
wondrous spectacle steadfastly, deeply, contemplatively; so the
Greek. Appropriate to John's contemplative character.
hands . . . handled--Thomas and the other disciples on
distinct occasions after the resurrection. John himself had leaned on
Jesus' breast at the last supper. Contrast the wisest of the heathen
feeling after (the same Greek as here; groping
after WITH THE HANDS") if haply they might
find God (see
This proves against Socinians he is here speaking of the personal
incarnate Word, not of Christ's teaching from the beginning
of His official life.
of--"concerning"; following "heard." "Heard" is the verb most
applying to the purpose of the Epistle, namely the truth which John had
heard concerning the Word of life, that is, (Christ) the
Word who is the life. "Heard," namely, from Christ Himself,
including all Christ's teachings about Himself. Therefore he puts "of,"
or "concerning," before "the word of life," which is inapplicable to
any of the verbs except "heard"; also "heard" is the only one of the
verbs which he resumes at
2. the life--Jesus, "the Word of life."
was manifested--who had previously been "with the Father."
show--Translate as in
Declare is the general term; write is the particular
that eternal life--Greek, "the life which is eternal." As
the Epistle begins, so it ends with "eternal life," which we shall ever
enjoy with, and in, Him who is "the life eternal."
which--Greek, "the which." the before-mentioned
life which was with the Father "from the beginning" (compare
This proves the distinctness of the First and Second Persons in the one
3. That which we have seen and heard--resumed from
wherein the sentence, being interrupted by
parenthesis, was left incomplete.
declare we unto you--Oldest manuscripts add also; unto you
also who have not seen or heard Him.
that ye also may have fellowship with us--that ye also
who have not seen, may have the fellowship with us which
we who have seen enjoy; what that fellowship consists in he proceeds to
state, "Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son." Faith
realizes what we have not seen as spiritually visible; not till by
faith we too have seen, do we know all the excellency of the true
Solomon. He Himself is ours; He in us and we in Him. We are "partakers
of the divine nature." We know God only by having fellowship with Him;
He may thus be known, but not comprehended. The
repetition of "with" before the "Son," distinguishes the
persons, while the fellowship or communion with
both Father and Son, implies their unity. It is not added
"and with the Holy Ghost"; for it is by the Holy Ghost or Spirit
of the Father and Son in us, that we are enabled to have fellowship
with the Father and Son (compare
Believers enjoy the fellowship OF, but not WITH, the Holy Ghost. "Through Christ God closes up the
chasm that separated Him from the human race, and imparts Himself to
them in the communion of the divine life" [NEANDER].
4. these things--and none other, namely, this whole Epistle.
write we unto you--Some oldest manuscripts omit "unto you," and
emphasize "we." Thus the antithesis is between "we" (apostles and
eye-witnesses) and "your." We write thus that your joy
may be full. Other oldest manuscripts and versions read "OUR joy," namely, that our joy may be filled full
by bringing you also into fellowship with the Father and Son.
"Fulfil ye my joy,"
Php 2:16; 4:1;
It is possible that "your" may be a correction of transcribers to make
this verse harmonize with
Joh 15:11; 16:24;
however, as John often repeats favorite phrases, he may do so here, so
"your" may be from himself. So
"your" in oldest manuscripts. The authority of manuscripts and versions
on both sides here is almost evenly balanced. Christ Himself is the
source, object, and center of His people's joy (compare
end); it is in fellowship with Him that we have joy, the
fruit of faith.
5. First division of the body of the Epistle (compare
declare--Greek, "announce"; report in turn; a different
Greek word from
As the Son announced the message heard from the Father as His apostle,
so the Son's apostles announce what they have heard from the Son. John
nowhere uses the term "Gospel"; but the witness or testimony,
the word, the truth, and here the message.
God is light--What light is in the natural world, that God, the
source of even material light, is in the spiritual, the fountain of
wisdom, purity, beauty, joy, and glory. As all material life and growth
depends on light, so all spiritual life and growth depends on
GOD. As God here, so Christ, in
is called "the true light."
no darkness at all--strong negation; Greek, "No, not even
one speck of darkness"; no ignorance, error, untruthfulness, sin, or
death. John heard this from Christ, not only in express words, but in
His acted words, namely, His is whole manifestation in the flesh as
"the brightness of the Father's glory." Christ Himself was the
embodiment of "the message," representing fully in all His sayings,
doings, and sufferings, Him who is LIGHT.
have fellowship with him--
The essence of the Christian life.
walk--in inward and outward action, whithersoever we turn
in darkness--Greek, "in the darkness"; opposed to
"the light" (compare
1Jo 2:8, 11).
do not--in practice, whatever we say.
Eph 5:8, 11-14.
"WE WALK"; "God is (essentially in His very
nature as 'the light,'
in the light." WALKING in the light, the
element in which God Himself is, constitutes the test of fellowship
with Him. Christ, like us, walked in the light
ALFORD notices, Walking in the light as He is in
the light, is no mere imitation of God, but an identity in the
essential element of our daily walk with the essential element of
God's eternal being.
we have fellowship one with another--and of course with
God (to be understood from
Without having fellowship with God there can be no true and Christian
fellowship one with another (compare
and--as the result of "walking in the light, as He is in the
the blood of Jesus . . . cleanseth us from all
sin--daily contracted through the sinful weakness of the flesh, and
the power of Satan and the world. He is speaking not of justification
through His blood once for all, but of the present
sanctification ("cleanseth" is present tense) which the
believer, walking in the light and having fellowship with God
and the saints, enjoys as His privilege. Compare
Greek, "He that has been bathed, needeth not save to
wash his feet, but is clean every whit." Compare
"cleanse us from all unrighteousness," a further step besides
"forgiving us our sins." Christ's blood is the cleansing mean,
whereby gradually, being already justified and in fellowship with God,
we become clean from all sin which would mar our fellowship with
God. Faith applies the cleansing, purifying blood. Some oldest
manuscripts omit "Christ"; others retain it.
8. The confession of sins is a necessary consequence of
"walking in the light"
"If thou shalt confess thyself a sinner, the truth is in thee;
for the truth is itself light. Not yet has thy life
become perfectly light, as sins are still in thee, but yet thou hast
already begun to be illuminated, because there is in thee confession of
that we have no sin--"HAVE," not "have
had," must refer not to the past sinful life while unconverted,
but to the present state wherein believers have sin even
still. Observe, "sin" is in the singular; "(confess our) sins"
in the plural. Sin refers to the corruption of the old
man still present in us, and the stain created by the actual
sins flowing from that old nature in us. To confess our need of
cleansing from present sin is essential to "walking in the
light"; so far is the presence of some sin incompatible with our in
the main "walking in light." But the believer hates, confesses, and
longs to be delivered from all sin, which is darkness. "They who
defend their sins, will see in the great day whether their sins can
deceive ourselves--We cannot deceive God; we only make ourselves
to err from the right path.
True faith. "The truth respecting God's holiness and our sinfulness,
which is the very first spark of light in us, has no place in us"
9. confess--with the lips, speaking from a contrite heart;
involving also confession to our fellow men of offenses committed
faithful--to His own promises; "true" to His word.
just--Not merely the mercy, but the justice or
righteousness of God is set forth in the redemption of the
penitent believer in Christ. God's promises of mercy, to which He is
faithful, are in accordance with His justice.
to--Greek, "in order that." His forgiving us our sins
and cleansing us, &c., is in furtherance of the ends of His
eternal faithfulness and justice.
forgive--remitting the guilt.
cleanse--purify from all filthiness, so that henceforth we more
and more become free from the presence of sin through the Spirit of
and above, see on
unrighteousness--offensive to Him who "is just" or
righteous; called "sin,"
because "sin is the transgression of the law," and the law is the
expression of God's righteousness, so that sin is
10. Parallel to
we have not sinned--referring to the commission of actual
sins, even after regeneration and conversion; whereas in
"we have no sin," refers to the present GUILT
remaining (until cleansed) from the actual sins committed, and
to the SIN of our corrupt old nature still
adhering to us. The perfect "have . . . sinned" brings down
the commission of sins to the present time, not merely sins committed
before, but since, conversion.
we make him a liar--a gradation;
"we deceive ourselves"; worst of all, "we make Him a liar," by denying
His word that all men are sinners (compare
his word is not in us--"His word," which is "the truth"
accuses us truly; by denying it we drive it from our hearts (compare
Our rejection of "His word" in respect to our being sinners, implies as
the consequence our rejection of His word and will revealed in the law
and Gospel as a whole; for these throughout rest on the fact
that we have sinned, and have sin.