29/11/20 – 1 John 1:1-7


1 John is said to have been written 95-110 AD from Ephesus where John is said to have lived a lot of his life. Others suggest 85-95 AD.

Traditionally the disciple John was supposed to have written 1, 2 and 3 John, and Revelation, as well as John’s gospel. Modern views largely deny this. There are similarities such as the beginning of this and John’s gospel being along similar lines. This strongly suggests the same person wrote John’s gospel and 1 John.

John 20:31 strongly suggests that the gospel was written to unbelievers, yet 1 John is clearly aimed at those who are already believers.

It is said to have been written for a Gentile audience, because it lacks the richness of OT quotes that Paul might use. However, note “from the beginning” (1 John 1:1) which suggests Genesis 1:1. Compare John 1:1 with 1 John 1:1.

Also “which we have heard” = the Word per John 1:1?

A careful study of these similarities should be made.


Many calvinists such as MacArthur (and his contemporaries) state that this epistle was written to Jewish Christians, which may be so but not necessarily so. 1 John doesn’t mention to whom it is written, but it may have been to churches in Asia. However, MacArthur needs some way of putting a calvinist spin on 1 John 2:2 or else his limited atonement heresy is overly obvious. He says that “our sins” refers to the sins of the Jewish people and therefore “the sins of the whole world” then applies to the rest of those who will ever believe (that is, limited atonement). It is clear, though, from a quick study of the pronouns used in the verses leading up to 1 John 2:2 that even if John had been writing to Jewish Christians, “our sins” cannot apply to just the people he is writing to. More on this when we get to that verse!


1 John 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, of the Word of life;


the beginning – arche (beginning; origin; the first person or thing in a series)


have looked upon – theaomai (to behold; look upon; view attentively; contemplate; learn by looking) This is more than just seeing; it involves some time for contemplation. A studying rather than a mere looking.


we – Who does this refer to? Clearly John includes himself as one of those who spent much time with Jesus, hearing, seeing, looking upon and touching. But, is John including those to whom he is writing as partakers now of that same hearing, seeing, looking upon, and touching? This, though, is unlikely! It is clear that John is referring to himself along with the other disciples as the “we” who were eyewitnesses of His actual personage. Note that Peter also uses “we” in 2 Peter 1:16 – For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

Thus the pronouns here – “we” and “our” – would have to refer to those who actually heard, saw, looked upon and touched.


have handled – pselaphao (to handle, tough and feel) Note its use in Luke 24:39 – Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle (pselaphao) me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.


It is possible that this is a very Hebrew style of writing, a form of Hebrew parallelism called Climactic Parallelism, where the initial statement is fairly mild, but builds up into stronger and stronger terms. Thus: we heard > we have seen > we have looked upon > we have handled/touched. To hear someone does not require much involvement with that person, yet to handle (touch) a person does require significant involvement.


the Word– Logos  and  life – zoe

of – or “concerning” Thus “concerning the Word of life”.

Its obvious connection with John 1:1-4 defines Logos here as the same Word who was with God and the Word was God (or, rather, literally, “God was the Word”).


While some modern scholars doubt that the same author wrote John and 1 John, the similarity of the beginning of each is quite notable.

John 1:1-4 – 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2The same was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

Of course, many of those same modern (“critical”) scholars also doubt that the apostle John wrote the gospel of John. However, John 21:24 (This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.) does point to the apostle John writing the gospel of John.

Note that tradition from the early church supports John the apostle as the author of the gospel of John, plus 1, 2 and 3 John, and Revelation. I’ll go along with this view, and ignore so-called “modern” scholarship as an effort to mislead.


Why “That” and not “Who”? it is likely that “That” not only refers to the personage of Jesus as the Word, but also His position, His being, His attributes.


which was from the beginning – This probably has similar meaning to the “In the beginning” of John 1:1. In John 1:1, Jesus as the Word was co-existent with the Father from the beginning, probably from the start of time (and thus all effectively all eternity). John uses the same phrase “from the beginning” twice in 1 John 2:7 where he refers to a commandment which they had (and had heard) from the beginning.

1 John 2:7-8 – 7Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. 8Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.

The context of 1 John 2:7-8 points to “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18) and therefore “from the beginning” here could refer to the giving of the Law.


However, in 1 John 1:1 it appears to better refer to the context in John 1:1-4 where the Word (Christ) was with the Father from the beginning, co-existent and co-creator.

That is, that One who was co-existent with the Father from the beginning is the One whom we have personally heard, see, looked upon and handled; this concerns the Word of life – John 1:4 – In him was life; and the life was the light of men.


On the other hand, if we ask ourselves what was John’s reasoning in writing this, we could then see it as Jesus being the Christ from the beginning; that at no time was He not the Christ, the Word of life. That is, He was the Christ, the Word of life from the beginning, or effectively at all times in their presence. Everything they heard, saw, looked upon and touched, from the beginning, was always the Christ, the Word of life. This then would relate to Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. It would then be understood as an absolute consistency of Him being the Word of life, without change, a sort of permanency of His eternal life.

John also defines this life in the next verse as “eternal life”.


Life (as eternal life) is a significant theme of 1 John, being followed up in the next verse – 1 John 1:2 (twice), and then in 1 John 2:25, 1 John 3:14, 1 John 3:15, 1 John 5:11 (twice), 1 John 5:12 (twice), 1 John 5:13, 1 John 5:16, and 1 John 5:20; 13 times in all.


In John’s gospel, Jesus is the Word of God (emphasising the eternal qualifications of Jesus to speak as God), while here in 1 John He is the Word of life (emphasising the highest qualification with regard to giving life, possibly referring to His role as co-creator with the Father (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). In a way He is the last or final word, in fact, the only word, on life.)


1 John 1:2 – (For the life was manifested, and we have seen [it], and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)


was manifested – phaneroo (make manifest; make visible; make known by teaching; be made known; become known; be plainly recognised)


bear witness – or “give testimony” or “give a good report” (Greek – martureo, a verb) It is translated “do testify” in 1 John 4:14 – And we have seen and do testify (martureo) that the Father sent the Son [to be] the Saviour of the world.

martureo is used 7 times in 1 John. 1 John 4:14do testify”); 1 John 5:6beareth witness”), 5:7bear record”), 5:8bear witness”), 5:9hath testified”) and 5:10gave”).

A major theme of 1 John is this idea of bearing witness or testifying or bearing record. He also uses the noun marturia (a witness; a testifying; a record; a report) 6 times in 1 John 5:9-11.


shew – apaggello (bring tidings; bring word or report; proclaim; make known openly; declare) This word is also used for “declare” in Vs 3 below.

apaggello is derived from aggelos (angel; messenger).


Today’s passage (1 John 1:1-7) focuses upon declaring a message based upon the eye witness accounts of John and fellow disciples. An angel (aggelos) is a messenger. Not only is apaggello derived from aggelos, but epaggeliathe message” in Vs 5) and anaggellodeclare” in Vs 5) are also derived from aggelos (angel; messenger)

Thus another significant theme of 1 John is that it is a message from Christ’s teachings to the readers through John as the writer.


John goes on to say that this (eternal) life was revealed (by Christ the Word of life – see Vs 1 above), and that we (John and the others who shared his eye witness of Christ) actually saw it, literally were eye witnesses of this life (clearly referring to the resurrection evidence as per Luke 24:39 – Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. John had seen Christ die and then physically live again; what more evidence was needed to demonstrate eternal life? John had seen it and was now making it openly known (proclaiming it to his readers). This is a witness statement that could be presented in a court of law.


This eternal life is not just the everlasting life that is ours, either, but it (or rather, He) was with the Father as the Word of life (John 1:2), thus, this life here is the Christ of whom John testified in John’s gospel. It was this same Christ (who had been with the Father) who was now revealed to us (who are here again probably John and others who had been with Jesus, but, by implication, also revealed to those to whom John was now writing). That is, John is now revealing his eye witness understanding to others.


In a way, John is doing what Paul told Timothy to do: that our Christian wisdom must not be kept to ourselves. If we have benefitted from any special circumstance or have been taught well by others, then pass it on!

2 Timothy 2:2 – And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.


Christ is not just the giver of eternal life, but He is eternal life Himself. “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life:” (John 11:25) Also note John 14:6.


1 John 1:3 – That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship [is] with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.


That which we have seen and heard – the same words as “have heard” and “have seen” in Vs 1 above, but in different order.

It appears that John is making it clear that what they (John and other disciples) heard, saw, looked upon and touched is what John is declaring (apaggello – used for “shew” in Vs 2 above) to his readers.


fellowship – koinonia (fellowship; association; community; joint participation; the share which one has in anything) Like koinoneo (which is translated “communicate” in Galatians 6:6), it has the idea of holding things in common with others. Therefore, in order to fellowship, they must hold in common their beliefs in regard to what John is talking about. That is, see things the same way as John is seeing them.

Barnes says: The object of the apostle in what he wrote was, that they might have the same views of the Saviour which he had, and partake of the same hope and joy. This is the true notion of fellowship in religion.


that ye also may have fellowship with us – That is, in order to have fellowship, there must be no (significant) disagreement between them and John regarding Jesus Christ being the Word of life as John has testified.

This fellowship would then be (truly) also with the Father and with Jesus Christ the Son of God.


1 John 1:4 – And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.


joy – chara (joy; gladness; the cause or occasion of joy) It is related to charisgrace” – Ephesians 4:7) and charismagifts” – 1 Corinthians 12:4)

All these words derive from chairo (to rejoice; be glad; to be well)


be full – pleroo (to make full; fill up; cause to abound; complete; fill to the top; render perfect; carry through to the end; accomplish; bring to realisation; perform; execute; of promises – bring to pass, ratify; fulfil God’s will)

pleroo has the idea of being complete without any more to be added, fully accomplished.

The noun pleromafulness” – Romans 11:25) is derived from this verb pleroo. pleroma has the idea of all things being in a ship inasmuch as it is filled (i.e. manned) with sailors, rowers, and soldiers. That is, the full ship’s manifest is on board and the ship is ready to sail. “that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness (pleroma) of the Gentiles be come in.” Romans 11:25

Therefore pleroofull”) in 1 John 1:4 would mean that if you had a checklist of everything that would be needed to give you joy, then everything would be ticked off as present.

John 15:11 – These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy (chara) might remain in you, and [that] your joy (chara) might be full (pleroo).


write – grapho (to write) This is another of those terms that John uses a lot (13 times in 1 John).

John is writing all these things for a purpose. He notes in a number of verses in 1 John that he is writing or has written to them for some purpose.

Eg. “These things have I written (grapho) unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13)


1 John 1:4 assumes that their joy will not necessarily be full if John does not write these things to them. He assumes that joy will be the consequence of him writing (in this case, primarily Vss 1-4 but also logically the whole of 1 John).


John again writes on behalf of others (“we”) and it may well be that he is here merely the spokesman for the views of the disciples, although, when he wrote this, some of those disciples may not have been still alive. Therefore, the pronoun “we” assumes that John is writing with what he considers to be the eye witness support of the other disciples, even though they may not be presently with him.


1 John 1:5 – This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.


In Vss 1-4 above, John has now established that he speaks as an eye witness of Christ, the Word of life, and is writing this testimony to them so that their joy may be full or complete. He has therefore now established his credentials, his qualifications, for writing to them as a teacher of doctrine. His doctrine covers a number of aspects, including the assurance of eternal life in Christ, the love God has for us and thus the love we should have for each other, and the holy life (free from sin) which all Christians should live in obedience to Christ. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)


the message – epaggelia (an announcement; a promise; the act of promising; a promise given; a promised good or blessing) It is clear that “message” is probably not the right word to use here, but rather “promise”. In fact, epaggelia is used 53 times in the NT, and translated “promise” in all but one, which is translated “message” in the verse above.


declare – anaggello (to announce; make known; to report; bring back tidings)

This is the message that we have heard from Christ, and we now announce it to you: that God is light and there is no darkness at all in Him. Here is another of the main themes of 1 John: righteousness vs evil; light vs darkness. (1 John 1:5-7; 2:8-11) God is light and not darkness, so therefore those who serve God must walk in the light and not in the darkness (see next verse, Vs 6 below). This is used as an allegory to demonstrate righteousness (light) and evil (darkness).


Jesus is the light of the world.

John 8:12 – Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

And darkness cannot make the light dark.

John 1:5 – And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not (literally couldn’t take hold of or appropriate it; effectively the darkness could do nothing to make the light into darkness).


Evil walks in the darkness for fear of the light finding it out. Evil loves darkness; truth loves light. Note what John writes about this in his gospel:

John 3:18-21 – 18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

1 Timothy 6:16 says that God alone “hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto”


1 John 1:6 – If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:


John spells out the dichotomy of light vs darkness: you cannot be in both light and darkness at the same time. If we say that we have fellowship (koinonia – see both Vs 3 above & Vs 7 below) with Christ, yet walk in the darkness, we lie, for Christ is the light and in Him (God) there is no darkness at all (Vs 5 above). The truth says that you cannot walk in both darkness and light at the same time! If you say you do, then you are not telling the truth; therefore you are lying. John is defining a simple point of logic here. This is simply a case of being one or the other, for you cannot (or probably, should not) have a foot in both camps here.

dichotomy – a division into two mutually exclusive categories; everything fits into one or the other group. Eg. the dividing into the sheep and the goats! Or serving either God or mammon. (Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24b)


More dichotomies in 1 John:

1 John 1:8 – If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1 John 1:10 – If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 John 2:4 – He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

1 John 2:9 – He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.

1 John 2:15b – If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

1 John 2:21 – I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.


1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.


fellowship – koinonia (to hold in common with others – see Vss 3 & 6 above)

If we are to be genuine Christians, we will be righteous and therefore will not be afraid to walk in the light. We will not be afraid that the light will find out our sin (note Numbers 32:23); we will not be ashamed of being seen with Christ (1 John 2:28) who walks in the light because He is the light (John 8:12).


Also, all those who walk in the light will be one with each other in fellowship; we will hold in common with each other our walking in the light of Christ. We will not be (should not be) of those who walk in darkness who cannot have fellowship with (who cannot have anything in common with) Christ or those who are walking in the light with Him.

Note 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 – 14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you,


1 John 1:7 is the righteous side of the coin, the light of Christ, as opposed to the evil side of the coin, the darkness which is the consequence of not walking with Christ the light of the world. This presents the dichotomy: good vs evil; light vs darkness; walking with Christ vs not walking with Christ; fellowship with believers vs fellowship with unbelievers; associating with believers vs associating with evil ones; Christians vs non-Christians.

Just like “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24), you cannot be in both groups. You must choose which you will walk in: either light or darkness. Your lifestyle will determine where you walk, for if you sin you walk in darkness. “He that committeth sin is of the devil” (1 John 3:8)


But Christians can and do sin, so does that mean that they walk in darkness too? John answers us here by saying “and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Yes, we do sin, but if we are walking with Christ, we must be continually cleansed (sanctified; purified) from our sin. As often as we sin, we must confess and be cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Even if we sin, we have our atonement, our covering of the blood sacrifice that averts God’s righteous wrath at even the smallest sin.

We will follow this up further next week.


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