1 John Chapter One
I. Content of the Chapter
Fellowship in Light
A. The origin and revelation and preachment of the fellowship (v.1-2);
1. Origin: the eternal life which was from the beginning and was with the Father;
2. Revelation: the Word of life can be heard and seen and touched;
3. Declaration: we (the Lord’s disciples) now bear witness and declare to you (believers in later generations);
B. The types and purpose of the fellowship (v.3-4);
a. You have fellowship with us (fellowship among believers);
b. We have fellowship with the Father and His son Jesus Christ (fellowship between God and men);
2. Purpose: that our joy may be full;
C. The condition and hindrance and remedy of the fellowship (v.5-10);
1. Condition: we walk in the light as He is in the light;
2. Hindrance: our sin and sins;
3. Remedy: confess our sins that we will be forgiven and cleansed by the Lord’s blood;
II. Verse by Verse Commentary
1John. 1:1 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life--”
YLT: “That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we did behold, and our hands did handle, concerning the Word of the Life --”
Meaning of Words: “beginning”: commencement, first; “life”: the divine life (zoe); “see”: stare at, behold; “look upon”: look closely at; “handle”: touch with hands;
Literal Meaning: “that which was from the beginning … concerning the Word of life--”, “beginning”, it also appears in the Gospel of John (1:1). But in the gospel it referred to the past eternity before all was created, and here it was from all was created. “From the beginning”, the Word was there in the past eternity (see John 1:1-2). “Word of life” means that “there is word of life in the Word” (see John 1:4), namely, the Lord Jesus Christ, who became the flesh in time (John 1:14); and the words that He has spoken unto us are spirit and are life (John 6:63).
“Which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled”, “have looked upon”: have beheld in a short distance; “have handled”: have personally touched; there are four different verbs to witness the “Word of life”, proving that He is not “a kind of imaginable ghost”, but a “living and real person in the flesh” who can be felt by the five sense organs.
Note that some Bible expositors give two explanations according to the differences of the tense ---- “have heard” and “have seen” are in the present perfect tense, showing that John knew the Word of life is the Son of God now as he knew it before His crucifixion; “did behold” and “did handle” are in the past perfect tense, indicating that John had once after the Lord’s resurrection beheld and touched clearly to prove that He is the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The Lord Jesus is not fictional character, for he has been testifies by men’s ears and eyes and hands, nor a creature, for He was from the beginning.
2) The Lord Jesus is both God and man ---- a perfect God, for He was from the beginning, and a perfect man, for He can hear and see and touch.
3) “One’s words reflect one’s mind”, the Word of life shows that the Lord Jesus came to the world to declare the God whom men cannot see (see John 1:18) and abide with us with grace and truth (John 1:14).
4) He is “the Word of life”, so there is life in His words. We search the scriptures to come to the Lord to hear His words and obtain life (see John 5:39-40).
5) Let us not receive the Lord’s words or teachings as knowledge, but search the life in the divine words or teachings so that we will obtain abundant life.
6) When we are born again, we have obtained a life able to speak, namely, a life able to express the will of God and manifest the glory of God. The more the life grows, the more shall we conform to the will of God and be enabled to bear witness to the glory of God.
7) The “Word of life” can be felt by men. If a Christian can only say and not do (Matt. 23:3), it shows that “the Word of life” has not reigned in him.
8) Our knowledge and experience of “the Word of life” are become ever deepening and substantiating (from hearing to seeing, and from seeing and beholding, from beholding to handling). If believers desire to establish firm faith, they have to have deeper knowledge and experience of the Lord and His words.
9) Only when we behold and touch and experience the Lord personally, can we preach Him to others (see v.3) so that they will apprehend the joy in life (see v.4).
1John. 1:2 “the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us--”
YLT: “and the Life was manifested, and we have seen, and do testify, and declare to you the Life, the age-during, which was with the Father, and was manifested to us --”
Meaning of Words: “manifested”: reveal, appear, show; “see”: behold, perceive; “bear witness”: testify; “eternal”: everlasting; “declare”: announce, report, bring word;
Literal Meaning: “the life was manifested”, “the life” refers to the “Word of life” (see v.1), namely, Jesus Christ; “was manifested”: He came to be incarnated as a man (see 3:8);
“And we have seen, and bear witness”, “have seen”, it shows that His manifestation is a real person whom can be behold; “bear witness”: testify what one has seen to others;
“And declare to you that eternal life … and was manifested to us--”, “was manifested to us”: be manifested to the disciples like the apostle John; “eternal life”: the everlasting life (that never changes or pass away or never grows old); “declare to you”: declare to others;
“Which was with the Father”, it indicates that He is different from the Father, but they are one. Here the truth of the Trinity is suggested.
Here this verse points out the elements of bearing witness to the Lord: a) the object of the witness ---- the eternal life that was with the Father; b) the condition of the witness ---- have seen His manifestation; c) the way of the witness ---- declare to others;
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) “The eternal life” is not a prejudgment by theologians or philosophers, but a real fact handed down by the eyewitnesses at that time.
2) God’s life is not an abstract thing that is difficult to be touched or understood. Instead, the divine life has been vividly manifested in the Lord Jesus and to believers.
3) There are two characteristics of the life we believers have obtained when we are born again: a) which is with God and jointed to Him; b) which is everlasting.
4) The devil fears most of men’s knowledge of the deity and humility of Jesus Christ, and thus propagates two extreme ideas: a) He is God not a man; b) Jesus is only a man, not God.
5) Bearing witnesses is not delivering the second-hand materials, nor narrating a kind of knowledge from men. We believers have to see and touch and experience the Lord personally so that we are enabled to bear witness to the Lord.
6) The Word of life is not given to us for our own enjoyment only, but also for our participation in preaching to and sharing with others.
7) It is the two main means of “bearing witnesses” and “declaration” in preachment: declare the Christ whom we have seen and experienced to unbelievers in the world through our words and conversations.
8) “Bearing witness” is relevant to experiences, and “declaration” relates to ministry. Experience brings about ministry. The more experiences one owns, the more ministries shall he be given.
9) There are three characteristics of Christians: a) God’s active love upon us; b) the life relationship with God through Christ; c) willingness of those who have obtained this life to declare the life;
1John. 1:3 “that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
YLT: “that which we have seen and heard declare we to you, that ye also may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ;”
Meaning of Words: “see”: perceive, behold; “fellowship”: communion, partnership, intercourse;
Literal Meaning: “that which we have seen and heard we declare to you”, “have seen and heard”, here this is the third time of mentioned the same thing (see v.1-2). It seems that the apostle John emphasizes the verity of the life on purpose. “Declare to you”: declaration by words, conversation, etc.
“That you also may have fellowship with us”, “you … us” here it
refers to horizontal fellowship among believers; “fellowship”, it is the
spiritual fellowship in the life of the Lord. The only condition is eternal
life. Therefore, the preachment of the gospel is required so that more people
will “live by faith” (see
“Fellowship” in the original means partnership (see Luke 5:10 “partners”). Therefore, here fellowship means that believers share spiritual experiences and missions and blessings with one another because of the same life.
“And truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ”, it is the vertical fellowship of those who are of God with the Trinity. The spirits of all those who have been born again are quickened by the Spirit so that their function of fellowship has been recovered, i.e. their fellowship with God in spirits has been recovered.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) In order to enable men have fellowship with God, He sent His Son to become the flesh (see v.1-2) and the propitiation for our sins (see 2:2) so that men will live by faith (see 5:13).
2) All real believers have already got the function of having fellowship with God. And the more they have fellowship with God, the more shall they “see” and “hear” in spirit, namely, the more shall they know God.
3) When believers know and experience God, they will not only have joy in their own spirits but also be willing to declare the God in whom they find joy to others so as to enable them also to know and enjoy God.
4) Believers have not only vertical fellowship with God but also horizontal fellowship with one another. Both of them consist of perfect fellowship. The formers one enlarges the latter one.
5) “The eternal life” we have obtained (see v.2), as the life of common creatures, has two basic characteristics: a) the pursuit of survival and growth; b) the desire of having fellowship with the life of the same species;
6) “Fellowship” in the original has deep meaning ---- “we believers belong to each other”. Believers are members who are jointed with and rely on one another.
7) True spiritual fellowship among believers can be fulfilled among believers by the living relationship with Christ only.
8) The preachment of the gospel is not the end, but a starting point, which leads to the fellowship between God and men and among men so that all will be filled with joy (see v.4).
9) The preachment of Christ is paving a path for fellowship. The more Christ believers preach, the wider the range of the fellowship and the higher of its level will be.
10) If we only bring men into “human fellowship” or a kind of social activity after we have preached the gospel, it has gone against the real purpose of our preachment of the gospel. Therefore, whether believers in the church have come into real oneness in spirit can test whether our preachment of the gospel has been successful.
11) It is the best way of resisting the heresies for believers to have normal fellowship with God and believers.
1John. 1:4 “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”
YLT: “and these things we write to you, that your joy may be full.”
Meaning of Words: “joy”: cheerfulness, gladness; “full”: make complete, complete, perfect;
Literal Meaning: “and these things we write to you”, “these things”, in a narrow sense, they refer to the previous three verses, but in a broad sense, all the words in this epistle. “Write to you”, here the writer suggests there are two purpose of writing this epistle: a) that you may have fellowship with us (see v.3); b) that your joy may be full.
“That your joy may be full”, “joy”, it is not only the joy of salvation but more the joy brought by the fellowship in life. “Joy … be full”, the continual and full and complete joy; it is also “that our joy may be full” in some old scriptures. It is the source of joy of helping others, so it is not only those who are helped but also those who help will have joy.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) It is not a bitter ministry of preaching the gospel and Christ, but an amazing way of partaking of joy with others (see Phil. 2:18).
2) The bitterness of men is because they have been afar off God and fallen into sins and transgresses. Only those who have received the way of life and have been delivered from sins will have fellowship with God and obtain true joy.
3) The source of believers’ joy is the fellowship with the God of life and with believers (see v.3), because there is no true joy without the Lord of life.
4) The joy by fellowship is the deep joy in spirit, which is deeper and fuller and more permanent than that in soul.
5) Christians are not satisfied with material riches or mental enjoyment, nor pursue money or ranks, because we have more attractive pursuit than these ---- full joy obtained by fellowship.
6) There are two secrets of joy: a) let our soul magnify the Lord that our spirit will rejoice in God (Luke 1:46-47). Therefore, let us exalt the Lord, not men; b) let us seek the profit of others first (see 1Cor. 10:33), not that of our own (Rom. 15:1).
1John. 1:5 “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.”
YLT: “And this is the message that we have heard from Him, and announce to you, that God is light, and darkness in Him is not at all;”
Meaning of Words: “light”: to shine or make manifest; “hear”: come to ears; “declare”: announce, preach, report; “message”: announcement;
Literal Meaning: “God is light”, “light” according to this verse (1:5-10; 2:8-11) is opposite to “darkness”, and “darkness” has the following meanings: a) which is of sin (see v.8); b) which commits sins (see v.10); c) sins include lies, not practice of the truth (see v.6), self-deceit, lack of truth in heart (see v.8), making God a liar, having no His word in hearts (see v.10), hating brothers (see 2:9, 11); (see 2:11); d) blindness, not know where one is going (see 2:11).
Therefore, “God is light”, which shows: a) God is light and holiness and goodness (see v.7); b) truth (see v.8); c) faithfulness and righteousness (see v.9); d) reality (see v.10); e) true light and shining all (see 2:8); f) discerning all the facts (see 2:11);
“And in Him is no darkness at all”, it indicates that God has not any nature or condition against that “He is light”.
“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you”, note that this is the third time of mentioning the word “declare” in this chapter. The first declaration is because of “having seen…” (see v.2), and the second one is due to “having seen and having heard …” (see v.3), and the third one is because of “having heard …”. We have to see and hear from the Lord ahead so that we will be able to declare Him to others.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) “God is light”, and He is the true light (see 2:8). All the light in the world is merely the illustration and symbol of the true light. The nature of the light manifests the nature of God:
a. Light dispels darkness. And God tolerates no sin or evil.
b. Light exposes. Everything before the light of God is naked and laid bare to his eyes (see Ps. 36:9; Heb. 4:13).
c. Light illuminates and guides. God shines and leads us the way that we have to walk in by the light of life (see Ps. 36:9; 56:13).
d. Light disinfects and sterilizes. The light of God is with healing in His wings (see Mal. 4:2).
e. Light comforts and encourages. The great light of God shines upon the people sitting in darkness (see Matt. 4:16).
2) “God is light”. Once man has seen God, he will see light. If we have real fellowship with God, we will not walk in darkness (see v.6).
3) The entrance of God’s words gives light (Ps. 119:130). If we desire to know clearly our situations and future, we have to take the word of God as a lamp unto our feet and a light unto my path (Ps. 119:105).
4) If we want to preach the Lord’s messages, we have to firstly hear His on-going words and preach to men and profit them.
1John. 1:6 “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
YLT: “if we may say -- `we have fellowship with Him,' and in the darkness may walk -- we lie, and do not the truth;”
Meaning of Words: “fellowship”: intercourse, partnership; “walk”: go, live; “lie”: utter untruth; “not practice”: not keep, not do; “truth”: reality, verity;
Literal Meaning: “if we say that we have fellowship with Him”, “if we say”, the same phrase appears three times in this chapter (see v.6, 8, 10), which quotes the saying of heretical teachers ---- here this is the first heretical saying; “have fellowship with”, the heretical teachers claim that they draw near to God and have fellowship with God.
“And walk in darkness”, “walk in darkness”, the works are completely different from the nature of God “who is light” (see v.5), dark and shameful (see Eph. 5:11-12).
“We lie and do not practice the truth”, “lie”, it shows that their saying of “having fellowship with God” is groundless and false. “Do not practice the truth”: it means that one’s walking goes against the truth that “God is light”.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The real condition of a Christian is not according to his words, but his conversations.
2) One cannot have fellowship with God unless he gets away from the darkness. All things of darkness will prevent the fellowship with God.
3) No one can call him a Christians and yet still live an immoral life in sins.
4) If a proud man does not know utterly his pride, he is not only in pride but also in darkness.
5) If a man only expresses his good expectation but is unwilling to practice in his conversation, he is a liar and his good expectation is untrue.
6) C. H. Dodd said, “The church is a living group that believes a pure and good God and endeavors to do good” (see Eph. 2:10).
7) Truth is not a kind of abstract theory, but a practical principle. Truth not only lies in man’s mind but also manifests in the real life activities.
8) Truth is both rational and moral, which practices man’s mind as well as the whole personality.
9) All that destroys our fellowship with God and men is not real truth. In other words, teachings of real truth will foster the fellowship.
1John. 1:7 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
YLT: “and if in the light we may walk, as He is in the light -- we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son doth cleanse us from every sin;”
Meaning of Words: “light”: brightness; “walk”: go, tread; “as”: like; “fellowship”: partnership; “cleanse”: make … clean, purge; “sin”: miss the mark;
Literal Meaning: “if we walk in the light”, it means that our conversations are according to the nature of God “who is light” (see v.5), i.e. walk in the light of God’s holiness, or in the light of God’s truth, no darkness at all.
“As He is in the light”, as God who bears not “darkness”; it does not mean there is no sin, but we do not commit sins intentionally.
“We have fellowship with one another”, this is the first result of our walking in light ---- draw near to God and have fellowship with God;
“And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin”, “the blood of Jesus”: the blood of Him shedding on the cross for redemption; His blood has remitted not only our sins before we were saved but also those we have committed after we have been saved as long as we confess them (see v.9). “Cleanses”: just like we have not been defiled by the sin; “all sin”: all sins including that we have not realized. The second result of our walking in light is that all our sins are cleansed.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Righteousness has not fellowship with unrighteousness, nor light with darkness (see 2Cor. 6:14). If a believer desires to have fellowship with God, he has to walk in the light of God (see Ps. 36:9).
2) The blood of the Lord Jesus shedding on the cross can cleanse our sins before we were saved as well as all the sins that we have confessed after we have been saved (see v.9).
3) The great redemption of Christ not only justifies sinners but also sanctifies them before God.
1John. 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
YLT: “if we may say -- `we have not sin,' ourselves we lead astray, and the truth is not in us;”
Meaning of Words: “deceive”: be out of the way, go astray;
Literal Meaning: “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves”, “if we say…”, this is the second saying of the heretical teachers (see v.6). The false teachers of heresies announce that the spirits of men are holy by nature and men’s external evil works have always nothing to do with their inner spirits. “Deceive ourselves”, one has obviously sinned, but he denies it for the sake of conscience ---- he is deceiving his conscience.
“And the truth is not in us”, since one has despised the truth in heart, truth will definitely not be in him.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) We are inborn sinners by nature. Though we have been saved, sin is still in us (see Rom. 7:20).
2) Whether man has sinned does not depend on
the defense by his mouth, but on the feeling of his conscience (see
3) He who denies sins not only deceives himself
but also humiliates God, for God’s words tell us that all have sinned (see
1John. 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
YLT: “if we may confess our sins, stedfast He is and righteous that He may forgive us the sins, and may cleanse us from every unrighteousness;”
Meaning of Words: “confess”: acknowledge, assent; “faithful”: trustful, trustworthy; “just”: righteous, equitable; “forgive”: forsake, leave; “unrighteousness”: injustice, wrongfulness;
Literal Meaning: “if we confess our sins”, “confess our sins”: confess all the sins we have committed before God;
“He is faithful and just”, “faithful”: God will definitely fulfill and keep His promises. “Just”: it means that God walks according to just and equitable principles without partiality.
“To forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, “forgive”: God will no longer remember our sins as if we have not sinned. “Cleanse”: clear away all the traces of our unrighteousness and make us wholly pure before Him;
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The right attitude of Christians toward sin is not denial, but confession ---- confess that we may still sin and keep keen feeling of conscience and receive the light of God with equanimity.
2) Some believers misunderstand the disposition of God and over-emphasize the love of God excessively but ignore the faithfulness and righteousness of God. They do not know that the righteousness of God should be firstly satisfied and then God will let His love come upon us according to His faithfulness. It is so not only before we were saved but also after we have been saved.
3) God is faithful, who can not violate His promise to us. God is righteous, who cannot go against His principles of justice.
4) The problem of believers is not whether they have sinned but whether they have been forgiven by God. And the problem of believers is not whether they are righteous, but whether they have been cleansed by God.
5) He who confesses and does not hide his sins will be forgiven by God and his transgresses will be covered (Ps. 32:1-5). The unrighteousness of he who does not find excuses for his unrighteousness will be cleansed by God
1John. 1:10 “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
YLT: “if we may say -- `we have not sinned,' a liar we make Him, and His word is not in us.”
Meaning of Words: “sin”: miss the mark; “make”: cause, appoint; “word”: utterance (logos);
Literal Meaning: “if we say that we have not sinned”, “if we say…”, this is the third saying of the false teachers of heresies (see v.6, 8); “we have not sinned”: have never committed any sin (see v.9);
“We make Him a liar”,
it is because that God’s word has pointed
again and again that all have sinned (see
“And His word is not in us”, since man does not respect God’s word and makes Him a liar, God’s word can not work in such man.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Man’s word is unreliable, but God’s word is reliable. Our real condition is truly what God has spoken concerning us.
2) When a man despises God’s word and sticks to defend for himself, he has just make God a liar. Actually, it is not God but man himself is a liar.
3) Only when we honor the word of God and walk according to it will His word abide in us.
4) The condition of believer’s fellowship with God is not whether we have sinned, but whether we have confessed our sins, and not whether we are holy, but whether we have asked for remission according to His word.
III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons
Five Stages of the Will God Appoints for “the Word of Life”
A. From the beginning (v.1);
B. Manifestation (v.2);
C. Bear witness (v.2-3);
D. Fellowship (v.3);
E. Joy be full (v.4);
Fellowship in Light
A. The origin of the fellowship ---- the Word of life from the beginning, namely, the eternal life which was with the Father (v.1, 3);
B. The reason of the fellowship ---- was manifested that men have seen and heard (v.2-3);
C. The extension of the fellowship ---- bear witness … declare … (v.2-3, 5);
D. The purpose of the fellowship ---- the joy of one another shall be full (v.4);
E. The principle of the fellowship ---- practice the truth and walk in light (v.6-7);
F. The remedy of the fellowship ---- confess one’s sins and be cleansed by the Lord’s blood (v.7-9);
G. The maintenance of the fellowship ---- the word that is in us (v.10);
Three False Sayings ---- “If We Say”
A. That we have fellowship with God and yet walk in darkness (v.6) ---- deny that sins will influence men’s relation with God.
B. That we have no sin (v.8) ---- deny that the relation of the works of the flesh with the holiness of the spirit;
C. That we have not sinned (v.10) ---- deny that the relation of the immoral works with sin;
Five “If”s ---- Elements of Fellowship
A. The first and second “if”s (v.6-7) ---- walk in the light;
B. The third and fourth “if”s (v.8-9) ---- confess sins and be forgiven;
C. The fifth “if” (v.10) ---- by the propitiation (see 2:1-2);
── Caleb Huang《Christian Digest Bible Commentary Series》
Translated by Mary Zhou