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1 John 1.1-2.2 Notes

1 John 1:1 - 2:2 - Biblical Commentary

THE CONTEXT:  For the context, go to the Introduction at


1:1 That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we saw, and our hands touched, concerning the Word of life 1:2 (and the life was revealed, and we have seen, and testify, and declare to you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was revealed to us); 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us. Yes, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 1:4 And we write these things to you, that our joy may be fulfilled.

The following verses are the Prologue of the Gospel of John (John 1:1-18), and have much in common with the Prologue of 1 John:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn't overcome it. 6 There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came as a witness, that he might testify about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but was sent that he might testify about the light. 9 The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world.   10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world didn't recognize him. 11 He came to his own, and those who were his own didn't receive him. 12 But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God's children, to those who believe in his name: 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified about him. He cried out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me, for he was before me.'" 16 From his fullness we all received grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The one and only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him. (John 1:1-18)

"That which was from the beginning" (1:1a).  This brings to mind two scriptures:

  • "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).
  • "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made" (the Gospel of John 1:1-3).

In the verses from the Gospel of John, the Word refers to the Christ, as becomes obvious when we read a bit further.  John says:

"The Word became flesh, and lived among us.  We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.  John (the Baptist) testified about him.  He cried out, saying, 'This was he of whom I said, "He who comes after me has surpassed me, for he was before me"' (John 1:14-15).

The "in the beginning" phrase in the Gospel of John 1:1-3 was obviously modeled after Genesis 1:1.  The Gospel of John places "the Word" at the beginning with the Father.  1 John 1:1 strikes the same note.  The Word--the Son--Jesus the Christ--is eternal, having no beginning and no end.  He was in the beginning with the Father, and is with the Father now and for eternity.

"that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we saw, and our hands touched" (1:1b).  The apostles all saw the risen Christ, including Paul, who became Jesus' apostle after Jesus' resurrection (Matthew 28:16-17; Mark 16:7; Luke 24:36-53; John 20:19-29; 21:1-14; Acts 1:1-11; 9:1-9; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

  • Jesus also appeared to the women at the tomb (Matthew 28:9-10).
  • And to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18).
  • And to two men on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12; Luke 24:13-32).
  • And to five hundred people (1 Corinthians 15:6).

So John affirms that he and the other disciples heard Jesus, saw him with their own eyes, and touched him with their hands.  Their experience of the risen Christ was firsthand.  Their status as witnesses is unimpeachable.

Seeing the risen Christ transformed Jesus' little band of disciples and gave them courage to come out from behind locked doors to face danger in Christ's name.  There is no other explanation for their newfound and persistent courage than that they had seen the risen Christ.

"concerning the Word of life" (1:1c). The Word of life could refer to the message of life--or to the one whose work on earth opens the door to life eternal.  In this case, it means both, because the Gospel message merges with the one who made the Good News possible--Jesus Christ, Lord of Lord and King of Kings.

"and the life was revealed, and we have seen, and testify" (1:2a).  In verse 1b (above), John made it clear that he and the other apostles had seen the risen Christ with their own eyes, had heard him speak, and had touched him with their hands.

  • He could also have said that the apostles had been in a room with locked doors, when Jesus appeared in their midst. (John 20:19).
  • He could also have mentioned that, because Thomas had said, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe," Jesus later appeared to Peter, saying, "Reach here your finger, and see my hands. Reach here your hand, and put it into my side. Don't be unbelieving, but believing" (John 20:25-27).
  • He could also have mentioned that Jesus had eaten a piece of fish in their presence (Luke 24:42-43).

"and testify, and declare to you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was revealed to us" (1:2b).  John declares to these Christians "the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father"--and reminds them once again that God had revealed these things to the apostles.

"that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us. Yes, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ" (1:3).  John's purpose is to make it possible for these Christians in crisis to have fellowship with the apostles--and with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.

John's message has the urgency that we usually associate with EMT's or emergency room physicians.  It has life or death implications.

"And we write these things to you, that our joy may be fulfilled" (1:4). This isn't what we thought John would say.  We expected him to say, "that YOUR joy may be fulfilled," but instead he says, "that OUR joy may be fulfilled."

The apostles could not be joyful at the news of these churches in conflict and of disciples falling away.  Such news could only make them sad.  John is writing in the hope that these disciples might continue in faithful service.  If his letter is successful, the apostles will indeed be filled with joy.

I am reminded of a professor, age 60 or so, who said, "As you get older, you will find that much of the pleasure of your life will be due to your work."  He was teaching in a Christian college, and was preparing students for ministry.  His classes in Christian doctrine were renowned for their effect on students from several generations--and for the way that his former students had used what they learned from him to teach their congregations correct doctrine.  This professor knew that his work had had a positive influence on many lives in many places, and that brought him joy.

So also, John is writing to these Christians in crisis to help them not to stumble so that he and the other apostles will find joy when remembering them.


1:5 This is the message which we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and don't tell the truth. 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. 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1:10 If we say that we haven't sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

"This is the message which we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1:5).  Light and darkness are used in both Old and New Testaments as metaphors for good and evil--order and chaos--security and danger--joy and sorrow--truth and untruth--life and death--salvation and condemnation (Isaiah 5:20; John 3:19-21; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 4:17-18).

The Gospels do not tell of Jesus saying that God is light, but that doesn't mean that Jesus did not say that in the presence of his apostles.  The Psalmist said of God that "he covers himself with light as with a garment" (Psalm 104:2).

Others testified that Jesus was the light (Matthew 4:16; Luke 2:32; John 1:1-4)--and Jesus said of himself, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12).  He also told his disciples, "You are the light of the world," and told them to let their light shine that people, seeing their good works, might glorify their Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).

"If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and don't tell the truth" (1:6).  Light cannot coexist with darkness.  The light of even a small candle will dispel the darkness throughout a large room.

We can assume that the false teachers claim to have fellowship with God, but John believes that they are walking in darkness--that their lives are evil--that they don't tell the truth--and that they are living under the threat of condemnation.  In that case, they are lying when they say that they have fellowship with God.  They aren't telling the truth.  Jesus said:

"This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light;
for their works were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the light, and doesn't come to the light, lest his works would be exposed.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his works may be revealed, that they have been done in God" (John 3:19-21).

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship (Greek: koinonia) with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin" (1:7). Walking in the light is a metaphor for that which is good, for the sinner whose sins have been forgiven, for truthfulness, and for faith.

John says that those who walk in the light "have fellowship (koinonia) with one another."  The Greek word koinonia has a number of meanings:  Fellowship, participation, sharing, or contribution.  All of those meanings convey the image of open arms--of welcome--of community.

It is natural that those who walk in the light should fellowship with each other.  As they say, "Birds of a feather flock together."  We see that in our churches.  Likeminded people--people of faith--come together to worship and to fellowship with one another.  They care for each other.  They learn from each other.  Their faith becomes mutually reinforcing, with this one growing in faith because of the witness of that one--and that one growing in faith because of the witness of this one.  When those who walk in the light fellowship with each other, both their light and their faith will grow stronger.

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1:9).  We can assume that the false teachers claim that they "have no sin."  That places them in jeopardy, because those who believe that they have no sin will neither ask for nor receive forgiveness.

The classic example is Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.  Pharisees, of course, were known for their meticulous observance of the law, and tax collectors were the spiritual lepers of their day.  So the Pharisee prayed (to himself, Jesus says), "God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortionists, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get."  But the tax collector, feeling the weight of his guilt, stood afar with downcast eyes, beating his breast in contrition.  Unable to muster a beautiful prayer, he was able to say only, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"  Jesus said, "I tell you, this man (the tax collector) went down to his house justified rather than the other (the Pharisee); for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:10-14).

The danger for those who claim not to have sinned is twofold:

  • First, they deceive themselves. Believing something that isn't true is a prescription for disaster. The person who believes that which isn't true is likely to make faulty decisions and live a life doomed to mistakes and failures.
  • Second, they shut the door on the forgiveness that they claim not to need.

"If we confess (Greek:  homologeo) our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1:9).  The word homologeo (confess) is a combination of homou (together with) and lego (to say).  It can mean either a confession of faith or a confession of sin.  It is the latter which is intended in this verse.

In verse 8, John warned us of the danger of saying that we have no sin.  Now he specifies the rewards that accompany a confession of sin.  The person who confesses sin can expect that God will both forgive and cleanse him/her.

To understand the meaning of confession, it would be helpful to examine scriptures having to do with it:

  • Aaron the priest was required to lay his hands on a live goat and confess the sins of the people, so that the goat would bear the iniquities of the people (Leviticus 16:21-22).
  • When people sinned against another person, they were required to confess their sin and to make full restitution, adding one-fifth to the amount (Numbers 5:5-7).
  • The person who both confesses sin and forsakes it shall be forgiven (Proverbs 28:13).
  • The Psalmist confessed his sin and asked to be cleansed from it (Psalm 51:2-7). Cleansing involves purification and forgiveness involves the removal of the offense. They are related but different.
  • Ezra and the people wept when confessing their sins (Ezra 10:1).
  • Nehemiah confessed his sins and those of the people of Israel, acknowledging the grievous offense they had caused God, and pleading for forgiveness (Nehemiah 1:6-11).
  • John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance. People went to him, confessing their sins, and he baptized them. However, he rebuked Sadducees and Pharisees who came for baptism, telling them to bear fruit worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:4-9; see also Mark 1:4-5).  In this story, repentance, confession and baptism merge.
  • "Many also of those who had believed came, confessing, and declaring their deeds. (Acts 19:18).
  • James said, "Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed (Greek: iaomai). The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective" (James 5:16).

These examples suggest that confession involves something more than saying, "I have sinned" or "I am sorry."

  • Confession was linked to repentance (not simply feeling guilty, but being determined to move in a new and more righteous direction).
  • Sinners exhibited heartfelt sorrow for their sins, so they confessed and and pled forgiveness.
  • In one instance, confession required restitution. In another instance, confession required bearing fruit worthy of repentance.
  • In one instance, confession was to be made to "one another"--to fellow members of the faith community--so that those members could pray for one another for healing (iaomai)--restoration of spiritual health and salvation.

If we say that we haven't sinned, we make (God) a liar, and his word is not in us" (1:10).  As noted in the comments on verse 9 above, we can assume that the false teachers have claimed that they haven't sinned--and that John is responding to that claim.

Various scriptures tell us that sin is our common condition.

  • "Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5).
  • "Every one of them has gone back. They have become filthy together. There is no one who does good, no, not one" (Psalm 53:3).
  • "All we like sheep have gone astray. Everyone has turned to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6).
    "The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).
  • "All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
  • The Apostle Paul spoke of his own struggle with sin:

"For I don't know what I am doing.  For I don't practice what I desire to do; but what I hate, that I do.  But if what I don't desire, that I do...." (Romans 15-16).

Those are the claims of scripture, and we have seen them verified in our own experience and in the lives of those around us.  Anyone who says that he/she has not sinned is denying the truth of God-inspired scripture, and makes it seem as if God is a liar.


2:1 My little children, I write these things to you so that you may not sin. If anyone sins, we have a Counselor with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. 2:2 And he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.

"My little children" (2:1a).  The word that John uses here is teknion, which is best translated child.  It would have been acceptable for a teacher or pastor (such as John) to address parishioners in this way.

These words do two things:

  • First, they convey the deep affection that John has for these believers. While not able to be with them most of the time, he has a pastor-parishioner relationship with them.
  • Second, they signal a transition. Until now, John has been countering problems raised by the false teachers. Now he begins to address his pastoral charges directly.

"I write these things to you so that you may not sin" (2:1b).  The false teachers have separated themselves from the church, but they still present a danger to church members who might be persuaded to listen and to accept what the false teachers say.

Another problem is that, since God will forgive sins (v. 9), these new Christians might be tempted to sin promiscuously in the expectation that their sins will have no consequences.

The Apostle Paul dealt with this problem in his letter to the Roman church.  He said:

"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  May it never be!  We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer?  Or don't you know that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him through baptism to death, that just like Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be part of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin.  For he who has died has been freed from sin.  But if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him; knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dies no more.  Death no more has dominion over him!  For the death that he died, he died to sin one time; but the life that he lives, he lives to God.  Thus consider yourselves also to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:1-11).

"If anyone sins, we have a Counselor (Greek:  parakletos) with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous" (2:1c).  The Greek word parakletos is used only five times in the New Testament--four in the Gospel of John to refer to the Spirit (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) and once in this verse to refer to Jesus.

Parakletos can mean a lawyer who pleads your case or a witness who testifies in your behalf.  It can refer to a person who gives comfort, counsel, or strength in time of need.  It can refer to a person who comes to the aid of someone who is in danger. The literal meaning is "someone called in; but it is the reason why the person is called in which gives the word its distinctive associations....  Always a parakletos is someone called in to help when the person who calls him in is in trouble or distress or doubt or bewilderment" (Barclay, 194).

Parakletos has been translated Advocate, Counselor, Comforter, and Intercessor, but each of those expresses only one facet of parakletos.  The original readers of this epistle would have heard the full richness of its various meanings.  Some English-language Bibles use the word Paraclete, which is not an English word but a transliteration of the Greek word.  The problem is that most people today don't know what a Paraclete is, so using Paraclete without explanation won't communicate clearly to most readers.

"And he is the atoning sacrifice (Greek: hilasmos) for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world" (2:2). The Greek word hilasmos (translated "atoning sacrifice" here) is usually translated "atonement,' "propitiation," or "expiation"--words calculated to put people sleep--but the distinctions among them are worth noting.

ATONEMENT has to do with making amends for sins or repairing the spiritual damage caused by sins.  It also has to do with restoring relationships that were broken by sin--in particular the relationship that we enjoyed with God prior to the introduction of sin into the world.

Some people interpret PROPITIATION to mean appeasing the wrath of God by offering a sacrifice.  They believe it inappropriate to use the word propitiation in relationship to God, because they understand God as gracious and loving --not wrathful--not requiring sacrifices to appease his anger.

EXPIATION, on the other hand, involves the removal of sin--or the forgiveness of sin.

Most Christian scholars today favor the words atonement or expiation rather than propitiation.

1 John 1 BLB Commentary - Fellowship with God

Most people understand that the important things in life are not things at all- they are the relationships we have. God has put a desire for relationship in every one of us, a desire He intended to be met with relationships with other people, but most of all, to be met by a relationship with Him. In this remarkable letter, John tells us the truth about relationships- and shows us how to have relationships that are real, for both now and eternity.

A. The purpose of the letter: to bring you into relationship with God.

1. (1 John 1:1-2) John begins with the center of relationship: Jesus Christ.

1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life- 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us-

a. That which was from the beginning: The beginning John wrote of is not the beginning of this world; nor is it the beginning of creation. It is the beginning of Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1, the beginning there was before there was anything, when all there existed was God.

i. The beginning of Genesis 1:1 is simple: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The beginning of John 1:1 is profound: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John takes us back to this time in eternity past, to meet this One which was from the beginning.

ii. Whoever, or whatever, John wrote of, he said his subject is eternal- and therefore is God, because they existed before all else, and they are the source and basis of the existence of all things.

b. Which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled: This indicates that this eternal being- That which was from the beginning- came to earth, and John (among others) had personally experienced this eternal One.

i. "We deliver nothing by hearsay, nothing by tradition, nothing from conjecture; we have had the fullest certainty of all that we write and preach." (Clarke) The idea that this eternal subject of John has been audibly heard, physically seen, intently studied (have looked upon), and tangibly touched (hands have handled) would have enormous implications for his readers.

ii. Enormous because it said that this eternal God became accessible to man in the most basic way, a way that anyone could relate to. This eternal One can be known, and He has revealed Himself to us.

iii. Enormous because it proves that John's words have the weight of eyewitness evidence. He did not speak of a myth or a matter of clever story-telling. He carefully studied this eternal One, and he knew whom he spoke about.

iv. Enormous because it debunks dangerous teachings that were creeping into the church, known as Gnosticism. Part of the teaching of Gnosticism was that though Jesus was God, He was not actually, physically man, but some kind of pseudo-physical phantom- but John says, "I heard Him! I saw Him! I studied Him! I touched Him!"

c. The Word of Life: John identified this eternally existent being, who was physically present with John and others (note the repetition of our, not "my"), as the Word of Life - the same Logos spoken of in John 1:1.

i. The idea of the Logos- of the Word- was huge for John, for the Greek world of his day, and for the Jewish world of his day. For the Jew, God was often referred to as the Word, because they knew God perfectly revealed Himself in His word. For the Greek, their philosophers had spoken for centuries about the Logos- the basis for organization and intelligence in the universe, the Ultimate Reason which controls all things.

ii. It is as if John said to everyone, "This Logos you have been talking about and writing about for centuries- well, we have heard Him, seen Him, studied Him, and touched Him! Let us tell you about Him."

d. The life was manifested: This life was manifested, that is, made actually and physically real. John solemnly testified as an eyewitness (we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you) that this was the case. This was no fairy tale, no "once upon a time." This was real, and John tells us about it as an eyewitness.

e. Eternal life which was with the Father: In calling Jesus eternal life, not only did John recall the words of Jesus (John 5:26; 6:48; 11:25; 14:6), he also repeated the idea expressed in his first words: that Jesus Himself is eternal, and therefore God.

i. We say that people are eternal, and that God's Word is eternal; but we say this with the understanding that we mean they are eternal in the future sense- they will never perish, being immortal (Isaiah 40:8; John 5:29). Yet people are not eternal in the past sense; to say that something is eternal in the past sense is the same as saying that it is equal to God or God's Word.

ii. The eternal existence of Jesus is also declared in Micah 5:2- But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. The word everlasting here literally means, "beyond the vanishing point."

f. Which was with the Father: This refers to the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son. There was an eternal relationship of love and fellowship between the Father and the Son. Jesus referred to this in John 17:24: "for You loved Me before the foundation of the world."

i. This eternal relationship is clearly described in the Scriptures, but we could also understand it from simple logic. If God is love (1 John 4:8) and God is eternal (Micah 5:2), we understand that love in isolation is meaningless. Love needs an object, and since there was a time before anything was created, there was a time when the only love in the universe was between the members of the Godhead, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

g. Was with the Father: The word with indicates that this being, who is eternal, and is eternal life Himself, is distinct from the Father. John builds the New Testament understanding of the Trinity- that one God exists as three Persons, equal and one, yet distinct in their person.

i. The Bible links together the names of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in a way that is unimaginable for other persons. We read, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Yet we would never say, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of Michael the Archangel."

ii. We read, The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Corinthians 13:14). Yet we would never say, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of the Apostle Paul, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all."

iii. We read, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:2). Yet we would never say, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of the Apostle Peter."

2. (1 John 1:3) An invitation to relationship.

3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

a. That you may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ: The purpose of John's declaration about this eternally existent, physically present, Word of life who is God, yet is a person distinct from the Father, is to bring his readers into fellowship with both God's people and God Himself.

i. You can enjoy this fellowship even though you do not understand all the intricacies of the trinity. You can use your eyes even though you don't know every detail of how your vision works. You can know God and believe in Him as He has revealed Himself, even though you can't understand everything about His person or nature.

b. Fellowship: The idea of fellowship is one of the most important ideas in this letter of John's. It is the ancient Greek word koinonia, which speaks of a sharing, a communion, a common bond and life. It speaks of a living, breathing, sharing, loving relationship with another person.

i. "This is one of the greatest statements of the New Testament, and it may safely be said that its greatness is created by the richness of the word which is the emphatic word, viz., fellowship." (Morgan)

ii. "The Greek word koinonia is derived from the word koinos, which very literally means common, in the sense of being shared by all." (Morgan) The use of the word in Acts 2:44 is very helpful: Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common. The word common is the ancient Greek word koinonia.

iii. "Those who have a fellowship one with another, are those who share the same resources, and are bound by the same responsibilities. The idea becomes almost overwhelming when it is thus applied to the relationship which believing souls bear to the Father, and to His Son Jesus Christ.... The Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and all believers have all things in common. All the resources of each in the wondrous relationship are at the disposal of the others. Such is the grace of our God, and of His Son." (Morgan)

c. Fellowship ... with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ: This simple and bold statement means that one can have a relationship with God. This idea would astound to many of John's readers, and it should be astounding to us. The Greek mind-set highly prized the idea of fellowship, but restricted to men among men- the idea of such an intimate relationship with God was revolutionary.

i. Jesus started the same kind of revolution among the Jews when He invited men to address God as Father (Matthew 6:9). We really can have a living, breathing relationship with God the Father, and with Jesus Christ. He can be not only our Savior, but also our friend and our closest relationship.

ii. Speaking honestly, for many people this is totally unappealing. Sometimes it is because they don't know who God is, and an invitation to a "personal relationship with God" is about as attractive to them as telling an eighth-grader they can have a "personal relationship with the assistant principal." But when we know the greatness, the goodness, and the glory of God, we want to have a relationship with Him.

iii. Other people turn from this relationship with God because they feel so distant from Him. They want a relationship with God, but feel so disqualified, so distant. They need to know what God has done to make this kind of relationship possible.

d. Fellowship ... with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ: The kind of relationship John described is only possible because Jesus is who John says He is in 1 John 1:1-2. If someone invited you to have a "personal relationship" with Napoleon, or Alexander the Great, or Abraham Lincoln- or even Moses or the Apostle Paul- we would think them foolish. One cannot even have a genuine "spiritual" relationship with a dead man. But with the eternal God who became man, we can have a relationship.

i. The word fellowship has in it not only the idea of relationship, but of sharing a common life. When we have fellowship with Jesus, we will become more like Him.

ii. The disciples did not have the close fellowship with Jesus when He walked this earth with them. As Jesus said to Philip at the very end of His earthly ministry, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip?" (John 14:9) Their true fellowship was not created by material closeness to the material Jesus, but by a work of the Holy Spirit after the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Therefore we can enter into the same fellowship with God that the Apostles could enter.

e. Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ: We have the potential of a relationship of a shared life with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. It is as if the Father and the Son agree together to let us into their relationship of love and fellowship.

i. This idea of a shared life is essential. This doesn't mean that when Jesus comes into our life He helps us to do better what we did before. We don't add Jesus to our life. We enter into a relationship of a shared life with Jesus. We share our life with Him, and He shares His life with us.

f. That you also may have fellowship with us: We may think it curious that John first considers fellowship with God's people; but this is often how people come to experience a relationship with God: they first encounter God through relationships with God's people.

i. "When fellowship is the sweetest, your desire is the strongest that others may have fellowship with you; and when, truly, your fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, you earnestly wish that the whole Christian brotherhood may share the blessing with you." (Spurgeon)

g. With the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ: Here John finally names this being- eternally existent, physically present, the Word of Life, God yet distinct from the Father- it is God the Son, whose name is Jesus, who is the Christ (Messiah).

3. (1 John 1:4) The result of relationship.

4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.

a. That your joy may be full: The result of fellowship is fullness of joy. This joy is an abiding sense of optimism and cheerfulness based on God, as opposed to happiness, which is a sense of optimism and cheerfulness based on circumstances.

i. John clearly echoed an idea Jesus brought before His disciples the night before His crucifixion. He wanted fullness of joy for them- even knowing that the cross was directly in front of them.

- These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11)

- Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:24)

- But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. (John 17:13)

b. That you joy may be full: Fullness of joy is certainly possible for the Christian, but it is by no means certain. John wrote with the desire that believers would have fullness of joy- and if it were inevitable or very easy to have he would not have written this.

i. The Christian's joy is important, and assaulted on many fronts. External circumstances, moods and emotions, or sin can all take away our joy. Yet the Christian's joy is not found in the things of this world, as good as they might be. When John wrote about these things, he wrote about this relationship of fellowship and love we can share in with God the Father and the Son Jesus Christ.

ii. Too many Christians are passive in their loss of joy. They need to realized it is a great loss and do everything they can to draw close to God and reclaim that fullness of joy. "The Christian's joy wants looking to. If any of you have lost the joy of the Lord. I pray you do not think it a small loss." (Spurgeon)

4. Observations on this first portion of the book, which is one long sentence in the original manuscript.

a. John began with the beginning - the eternal God, who was before all things.

b. He told us that this God was physically manifested, and that he and others could testify to this as eyewitnesses.

c. He told us that this God is the Word of life, the Logos.

d. He told us that this God is distinct from the person of God the Father.

e. He told us that we may have fellowship with this God, and that we are often introduced into this fellowship with God by the fellowship of God's people.

f. He told us that this eternally existent God, the Word of Life, who was physically present with them, and present for fellowship, is God the Son, named Jesus Christ.

g. He told us that fellowship with Jesus leads to a life lived in fullness of joy.

h. We could say that in these four verses, John gave us enough to live our whole Christian life on. No wonder one commentator wrote, "Observe the note of wonder in the Apostle's language. Speech fails him. He labours for expression, adding definition to definition." (Expositor's)

B. John's message from God: dealing with sin and maintaining relationship.

1. (1 John 1:5) Sin and the nature of God.

5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

a. This is the message: This is a claim to authority. John isn't making this up; these are not his own personal opinions or ideas about God. This is God's message about Himself (which we have heard from Him), which John now reveals to us (and declare to you).

i. What John will tell us about God is what God has told us about Himself. We can't be confident in our own opinions or ideas about God unless they are genuinely founded on what God has said about Himself.

b. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all: We must begin our understanding of God here. John declares this on the simple understanding that God Himself is light; and light by definition has no darkness at all in it; for there to be darkness, there must be an absence of light.

i. A good definition of God is, "God is the only infinite, eternal, and unchangeable spirit, the perfect being in whom all things begin, and continue, and end." Another way of saying that God is perfect is to say that God is light.

ii. "LIGHT is the purest, the most subtle, the most useful, and the most diffusive of all God's creatures; it is, therefore, a very proper emblem of the purity, perfection, and goodness of the Divine nature." (Clarke)

iii. "There are spots in the sun, great tracts of blackness on its radiant disc; but in God is unmingled, perfect purity." (Maclaren)

c. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all: Therefore, if there is a problem with our fellowship with God, it is our fault. It is not the fault of God because there is no sin or darkness in Him at all.

i. Any approach to relationship with God that assumes, or even implies, that God might be wrong, and perhaps must be forgiven by us, is at its root blasphemous and directly contradicts what John clearly states here.

2. (1 John 1:6) God's sinlessness and our relationship with Him.

6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;

a. If we say that we have fellowship with Him: John first deals with a false claim to fellowship. Based upon this, we understand that it is possible for some to claim a relationship with God that they do not have. We can also say that it is possible for someone to think they have a relationship with God that they do not have.

i. Many Christians are not aware of their true condition. They know they are saved, and have experienced conversion and have repented at some time in their life. Yet they do not live in true fellowship with God.

b. And walk in darkness: John speaks of a walk in darkness, indicating a pattern of living. This does not speak of an occasional lapse, but of a lifestyle of darkness.

c. We lie and do not practice the truth: God has no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). Therefore, if one claims to be in fellowship with God (a relationship of common relation, interest, and sharing), yet does walk in darkness, it is not a truthful claim.

i. The issue here is fellowship, not salvation. The Christian who temporarily walks in darkness is still saved, but not in fellowship with God.

ii. If John said "that is a lie," it means he thinks in terms of things being true or being lies. John is much too plain for our sophisticated age, which doesn't want to see anything in black or white, but everything in a pale shade of gray.

iii. In 2004, the governor of the state of New Jersey was caught in a scandal. Though he was a married man with children, he was also having a sexual relationship with a man. At the press conference he held to admit this, he began by saying: "My truth is that I am a gay American." Those were very carefully chosen words: My truth. In the thinking of the world today, I have my truth and you have your truth. But Jesus said, "I am the truth" and the Bible clearly tells us of a truth that is greater than any individuals feeling about it.

3. (1 John 1:7) The blessing of walking in the light.

7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

a. But if we walk in the light: This means to walk in a generally obedient life, without harboring known sin or resisting the conviction of the Holy Spirit on a particular point.

i. John's message here means that a walk in the light is possible. We know that on this side of eternity, sinless perfection is not possible. Yet we can still walk in the light, so John does mean perfect obedience.

ii. The Christian life is described as walking, which implies activity. Christian life feeds upon contemplation, but it displays itself in action. "Walking" implies action, continuity, and progress. Since God is active and walking, if you have fellowship with Him you will also be active and walking.

b. As He is in the light: Since God is light (1 John 1:5), when we walk in the light we walk where He is. We are naturally together with Him in fellowship.

c. We have fellowship with one another: We would have expected John to say, "We have fellowship with God." That is true, but already in the idea of walking together with God in the light. John wants to make it clear that fellow Christians who walk in the light enjoy fellowship with each other.

i. This leads to an important idea: if we do not have fellowship with one another, then one party or both parties are not walking in the light. Two Christians who are in right relationship with God will also naturally be in right relationship with each other.

d. The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin: As we walk in the light we also enjoy the continual cleansing of Jesus. This is another indication that John does not mean sinless perfection by the phrase walk in the light; otherwise, there would be no sin to cleanse in this ongoing sense.

i. We need a continual cleansing because the Bible says we continually sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Even though Christians have been cleansed in an important general sense, our "feet" need cleaning (John 13:10).

ii. The verb form John used in cleanses us from all sin is in the present tense, not in the future tense. We can do more than merely hope we will one day be cleansed. Because of what Jesus did on the cross for me, I can be cleansed today.

iii. "Observe, yet again, that in the verse there is no hint given of any emotions, feelings, or attainments, as co-operating with the blood to take away sin. Christ took the sins of his people and was punished for those sins as if he had been himself a sinner, and so sin is taken away from us; but in no sense, degree, shape or form, is sin removed by attainments, emotions, feelings or experiences." (Spurgeon)

e. The blood of Jesus Christ: This continual cleansing is ours by the blood of Jesus. This does not mean the actual drops or molecules of His literal blood, but His literal death in our place and the literal wrath of the Father He endured on our behalf. The blood of Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all our sins- past, present, and future.

i. The work of Jesus on the cross doesn't only deal with the guilt of sin that might send us to hell. It also deals with the stain of sin what hinders our continual relationship with God. We need to come to God often with the simple plea, "cleanse me with the blood of Jesus." Not because we haven't been cleansed before, but because we need to be continually cleansed to enjoy continual relationship.

ii. "'The blood' is more specific than 'the death' would be, for 'the blood' denotes sacrifice. It is always the blood that is shed." (Lenski)

iii. "Observe, here is nothing said about rites and ceremonies. It does not begin by saying, 'and the waters of baptism, together with the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us,'- not a word, whether it shall be the sprinkling in infancy, or immersion of believers, nothing is said about it-it is the blood, the blood only, without a drop of baptismal water. Nothing is here said about sacraments- what some call 'the blessed Eucharist' is not dragged in here- nothing about eating bread and drinking wine- it is the blood, nothing but the blood." (Spurgeon)

iv. "Does my walking in the light take away my sins? Not at all. I am as much a sinner in the light as in the darkness, if it were possible for me to be in the light without being washed in the blood. Well, but we have fellowship with God, and does not having fellowship with God take away sin? Beloved, do not misunderstand me- no man can have fellowship with God unless sin be taken away; but his fellowship with God, and his walking in light, does not take away his sin- not at all. The whole process of the removal of sin is here, 'And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.' " (Spurgeon)

f. From all sin: We can be cleansed, by the blood of Jesus, from all sin. The sin we inherited from Adam, the sin we committed as kids, the sins of our growing up. Sins against our father, against our mother, against our brother and sister. Sins against our husbands or wives, against our children. Sins against our employers or our employees, sins against our friends and our enemies. Lying, stealing, cheating, adultery, swearing, drugs, booze, promiscuity, murder. Sins that haunt me every day, sins I didn't even know I did- all sin can be cleansed by the blood of Jesus.

i. Sin is the hindrance to fellowship and the blood of Jesus, received by faith as the payment for our sin, solves the problem of sin and opens the way to fellowship with God.

- You can't come to fellowship with God through philosophical speculation

- You can't come to fellowship with God through intellectual education.

- You can't come to fellowship with God through drugs or entertainment.

- You can't come to fellowship with God through scientific investigation.

- You can only come to fellowship with God by dealing with your sin problem through the blood of Jesus.

ii. We might say that the only sin that cannot be cleansed by the blood of Jesus is the sin of continuing to reject that blood as payment for sin.

4. (1 John 1:8-10) The presence of sin, the confession of sin, and the cleansing from sin.

8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

a. If we say we have no sin: John has introduced the ideas of walking in the light and being cleansed from sin. But he did not for a moment believe that a Christian can become sinlessly perfect.

i. To think this of ourselves is to deceive ourselves, and to say this of ourselves is to lie- the truth is not in us.

ii. "Our deceitful heart reveals an almost Satanic shrewdness in self-deception ... If you say you have no sin you have achieved a fearful success, you have put out your own eyes, and perverted your own reason!" (Spurgeon)

iii. There are few people today who think they are sinlessly perfect, yet not many really think of themselves as sinners. Many will say "I make mistakes" or "I'm not perfect" or "I'm only human," but usually they say such things to excuse or defend. This is different from knowing and admitting "I am a sinner."

iv. To say that we have no sin puts us in a dangerous place, because God's grace and mercy is extended to sinners. Not to "those who make mistakes" or "I'm only human" or "no one is perfect" people, but sinners. We need to realize the victory and forgiveness that comes from saying, "I am a sinner- even a great sinner- but I have a Savior who cleanses me from all sin."

b. If we confess our sins: Though sin is present, it need not remain a hindrance to our relationship with God- we may find complete cleansing (from all unrighteousness) as we confess our sins.

i. To confess means, "to say the same as." When we confess our sin, we are willing to say (and believe) the same thing about our sin that God says about it. Jesus' story about the religious man and the sinner who prayed before God illustrated this; the Pharisee bragged about how righteous he was, while the sinner just said God be merciful to me a sinner. (Luke 18:10-14) The one who confessed his sin was the one who agreed with God about how bad he was.

ii. Confess is a verb in the present tense; the meaning is that we should keep on confessing our sin- instead of referring to a "once-for-all" confession of sin at our conversion.

iii. You don't have to go to a confessional to confess your sin. When you are baptized, you are confessing your sin by saying you needed to be cleansed and reborn. When you receive communion, you confess your sin by saying you need the work of Jesus on the cross to take your sin away. But of course, we need to confess our sin in the most straightforward way: by admitting to God that we have done is sin, and asking for His divine forgiveness, based on what Jesus has done on the cross for us.

iv. Our sins are not forgiven because we confess; if this were the case- if forgiveness for a sin could only come where there was confession- then we would all be damned, because it would be impossible for us to confess every sin we ever commit. We are forgiven because our punishment was put upon Jesus, we are cleansed by His blood.

v. However, confession is still vital to maintain relationship with God, and this is the context John speaks from. As God convicts us of sin that is hindering our fellowship with Him, we must confess it and receive forgiveness and cleansing for our relationship with God to continue without hindrance.

vi. Confession must be personal; saying "God, if we have made any mistakes, forgive us" isn't confession, because it isn't convinced (saying "if we made"), it isn't personal (saying "if we made"), it isn't specific (saying "if we made any"), and it isn't honest (saying "mistakes").

c. He is faithful and just to forgive us: Because of Jesus' work, the righteousness of God is our friend- insuring that we will be forgiven, because Jesus paid the penalty of our sin. God is being faithful and just to forgive us in light of Jesus.

i. "The text means just this - Treat God truthfully, and he will treat you truthfully. Make no pretensions before God, but lay bare your soul, let him see it as it is, and then he will be faithful and just to forgive you your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness." (Spurgeon)

ii. The promise of 1 John 1:9 shouldn't lead us into sin, saying "Hey, I'll go ahead and sin because God will forgive me." It should lead us out of sin, knowing that God could only be faithful and just to forgive us our sins because the wrath we deserved was poured out on the sin. Since each sin carries with it its own measure of wrath, so there is a sense in which each sin we commit added to the agony of Jesus on the cross.

iii. There is no more sure evidence that a person is out of fellowship with God than for someone to contemplate or commit sin with the idea, "I can just ask for forgiveness later." Since God is light and in Him is no darkness at all, we can rest assure that the person who commits sin thinking that isn't in fellowship with God.

d. If we say that we have not sinned: If we deny the presence of sin, we are self-deceived and denying God's word. Yet, though sin is always present, so is its remedy- so sin need never be a hindrance to our relationship with God.

i. The idea that His word is not in us is related to the idea that Jesus is the Word of life (1 John 1:1); if we refuse to see sin in us, we show that Jesus is not in us.

ii. "No man was ever kept out of God's kingdom for his confessed badness; many are for their supposed goodness." (Trapp)

C. Fellowship and the problem of sin.

1. (1 John 2:1a) - A purpose of John in writing this letter - that you may not sin.

1a My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.

a. These things I write to you, that you may not sin: 1 John 1:8 makes it clear that sin is a fact (at least an occasional fact) in the life of the Christian. 1 John 1:9 makes it clear that there is always forgiveness for confessed sin. Yet, John wants it also to be clear that the Christian should be concerned about sin. One reason in writing this letter was that you may not sin.

i. John previously rebuked the idea that we can become sinlessly perfect (1 John 1:8). At the same time, he wants to make it clear that we do not have to sin. God does not make the believer sin.

b. That you may not sin: This is God's desire for the believer. If sin is inevitable for us, it is not because God has decreed that we must sin. All the resources for spiritual victory are ours in Jesus Christ and that resource is never withdrawn.

i. John addresses this because of the issue of relationship with God (1 John 1:3), and the fact that sin can break our fellowship with God (1 John 1:6). He wants to make it clear that God has not made a system where we must break fellowship with Him through sin.

ii. The weakness comes in our flesh, which is not consistently willing to rely on Jesus for victory over sin. God promises that one day the flesh will be perfected through resurrection.

2. (1 John 2:1b-2) Help for the sinner and the restoration of fellowship.

1b And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

a. We have an Advocate: God's desire is that you may not sin. Yet if we do, there is provision made- an Advocate, a defense lawyer on our side. Our Advocate is Jesus Christ Himself.  i. Lenski on the ancient word for Advocate: "Demosthenes uses it to designate the friends of the accused who voluntarily step in and personally urge the judge to decide in his favor."

b. We have an Advocate: Jesus is our defender, even when we sin now. God is not shocked by human behavior. He has seen it all in advance. He didn't forgive you at one time to later say, "Look what they did now! If I would have known they would go and do that, I would have never forgiven them." His forgiveness is available to us now.  i. It is as if we stand as the accused in the heavenly court, before our righteous Judge, God the Father. Our Advocate stands up to answer the charges: "He is completely guilty your honor. In fact, he has even done worse than what he is accused of, and now makes full and complete confession before You." The gavel slams, and the Judge asks, "what should his sentence be?" Our Advocate answers, "His sentence shall be death; he deserves the full wrath of this righteous court." All along, our accuser Satan, is having great fun at all this. We are guilty! We admit our guilt! We see our punishment! But then, our Advocate asks to approach the bench. As he draws close to the Judge, he simply says: "Dad, this one belongs to Me. I paid his price. I took the wrath and punishment from this court that he deserves." The gavel sounds again, and the Judge cries out, "Guilty as charged! Penalty satisfied!" Our accuser starts going crazy. "Aren't you even going to put him on probation?" "No!" the Judge shouts. "The penalty has been completely paid by My Son. There is nothing to put him on probation for." Then the Judge turns to our Advocate, and says, "Son, you said this one belongs to You. I release him into Your care. Case closed!"

c. We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: We may think that our sin sets God against us. But God's love is so great that in His love, He went to the ultimate measure to make us able to stand in the face of His holy righteousness. Through Jesus, God can be for us even when we are guilty sinners.  i. A human defense lawyer argues for the innocence of his client. But our Advocate, Jesus Christ, admits our guilt- and then enters His plea on our behalf, as the one who has made an atoning sacrifice for our sinful guilt.  ii. Jesus Christ the righteous means that Jesus is fully qualified to serve as our Advocate, because He Himself is sinlessly perfect. He has passed heaven's bar exam, and is qualified to represent clients in heaven's court of law.  iii. We need Jesus as our Advocate because Satan accuses us before God (Revelation 12:10). We need to distinguish between the condemning accusation of Satan and the loving conviction of the Holy Spirit.

d. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins: This means that Jesus is the one who atones for and takes away our sins, and not only our sins, but also the sins of the whole world.  i. Propitiation has the idea of presenting a gift to the gods, so as to turn away the displeasure of the gods. The Greeks thought of this in the sense of man essentially bribing the gods into doing favors for man. But in the Christian idea of propitiation, God Himself presents Himself (in Jesus Christ) as that which will turn away His righteous wrath against our sin.   ii. Alford on propitiation: "The word implies that Christ has, as our sin-offering, reconciled God and us by nothing else but by His voluntary death as a sacrifice: has by this averted God's wrath from us."

e. And not for ours only but also for the whole world: Though Jesus made His propitiation for the whole world, yet the whole world is not saved and in fellowship with God. This is because atonement does not equal forgiveness. The Old Testament Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:34) demonstrates this, when the sin of all Israel was atoned for every year at the day of Atonement, yet not all of Israel was saved.

i. The words "but also for the whole world" announce to the world that God has taken care of the sin problem by the propitiation of Jesus Christ. Sin need not be a barrier between God and man, if man will receive the propitiation God has provided in Jesus.   ii. "The reason of the insertion of the particular here, is well given by Luther: 'It is a patent fact that thou too are part of the whole world: so that thine heart cannot deceive itself and think, The Lord died for Peter and Paul, but not for me.' " (Alford)