posted on Jun, 30 2017 @ 05:00 PM
When John writes his first epistle, he is not, like Paul, addressing himself to a specific church under particular circumstances.
He writes, on behalf of himself and his fellow teachers, to anyone in the Christian body who will take his advice. Though his first readers were
probably in Ephesus and that region of Asia Minor.
His purpose is to teach these Christians, or to remind them, that they are dwelling in God, through Christ, and to show them how this knowledge should
be affecting their conduct.
He begins by re-affirming the basic principle that lies at the centre of the Christian message.
What is it that “we” proclaim to you? It is “the word of life” (ch1 v1)
He and his fellow-apostles are proclaiming something which was “from the beginning” , operating from eternity.
They proclaim “what we have heard”, which may include the words of the law and the prophets preparing the way for Christ.
And they proclaim “what we have seen with our eyes and looked upon and touched with our hands”, which brings us to Christ himself, the gospel
“Touched with our hands” may include a reference to their first encounter with the resurrected Jesus.
All this “concerns the word of life”.
Strictly speaking, the second verse interrupts this complex opening sentence. John picks up that word “life”, describing (as in the first chapter
of the gospel) how that Life was “with the Father” and then “made manifest to us”, in the person of Christ.
So the disciples had personal experience of Life at work (“we saw”).
They are able to bear witness to the fact (“we testify”).
And they are able to declare it openly as the gospel (“we proclaim”).
John returns, in v3, to his opening point, relating to what the disciples have seen and heard concerning the word of life.
They are proclaiming these things in order to bring John’s readers into fellowship.
Fellowship, that is, with ”us” in the first instance. But this leads into fellowship with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
So John is writing this letter in order that “our joy may be complete” .Or “your joy” may be complete.
Apparently there is manuscript authority for both readings. It doesn’t matter much, because the sentence works well either way. The joy of the
readers will be complete if they are in fellowship with God, and the joy of the first disciples will be complete if they can see this happening.
The teaching of this letter begins (v5) with the fundamental message which the disciples received “from him” (that is, from the Son), and now duly
“God is light, and in him is no darkness at all”.
There is an emphatic double negative in the original version of that statement- “not no darkness”.
One of the running themes of John’s gospel is the contrast between the light and the darkness.
If God was not light, he would not be revealing himself to us. Without that self-revelation, we could not know him, and if we did not know him we
could not be in fellowship with him.
We may be mistaken about the true state of our relation with God, in various ways.
We may think we are in fellowship with God, when we haven’t even started (vv6-7).
For if we are “walking in darkness”, we cannot be in fellowship with a God who is light.
If we make that claim, then we must be lying, because it conflicts with the gospel teaching about the difference between the two states.
Putting it another way, we do not “do” the truth.
The remedy is to turn to God and walk in his light, thus entering into the state of fellowship with him.
Then we are “cleansed from all our sin” by the blood of Christ.
Of course that last phrase is a shorthand expression for “the fact that Christ died”.
He means that the death of Christ deals with our state of sin in such a way that it no longer interferes with our relationship with God. We are no
longer “unclean” in God’s eyes.
Although we may be “cleansed of sin” in the eyes of God, it remains a mistake to think that we “have no sin” (vv8-9). That is, to deny the
continuing presence of sin as a driving force in our conduct.
If we make that claim, then we are deceiving ourselves.
Putting it another way, the truth is “not in us”.
The remedy is to acknowledge and “confess” our sins, concealing nothing from ourselves.
God’s response will follow on from the fact that he is “faithful” (he keeps his promises) and from the fact that he is “just” (he does what
God is light, and he will do what belongs to the light.
Which means, in this case, that he will forgive us our sins (an metaphor which treats them as a kind of debt), or cleanse us from our unrighteousness
(a metaphor which treats it as a kind of stain).
Or we may think that we have not been sinning (v10).
In other words, we may think that our conduct has not been moved and affected by our sinful nature.
If we make that claim, then we go as far as calling God a liar, because his voice will have been speaking to our consciences.
Putting it another way, his word of truth is “not in us”.
The first mistake ignores the reality of sin, the second mistake ignores the responsibility for sin, and the third mistake ignores the fact of our
We find, in the next chapter, that part of the purpose of this letter is to deal with the last problem problem in particular;
“I am writing this to you that you may not sin”.
This chapter has been teaching them to find their remedy in holding onto the word of truth, coming “out of the darkness” and into God’s
But the real key to their relationship with the Father, as we learn from the rest of the letter, lies in their relationship with Christ.