1 John 1:1-10 – 2022 Nov 17

We must remind ourselves that John was writing to believers here, in a kind of apologetic, stating his case for the happenings described in Scripture as the death, burial, and resurrection of one Jesus of Nazareth, setting out not only the proof of their own eyes and that of the other Apostles, but how to gain that reality for yourself, and how to sort out those who claim this but do so falsely and wrongly. 

We need to note that at the end of the first century, John was dealing with what I have come to term proto-Gnostics.  The arguments were already all there in a somewhat jumbled format, being refined and codified for these false religionists to claim, but in John’s day, it wasn’t full-blown Gnosticism, just this proto-Gnostic heresy promising adherents to that sect a secret knowledge that would save them from the coming wrath of God.  Many believed this wrath to be imminent, and 200 years later, I am surprised at how little has changed.  Though the headlines these days make one sit up and take notice.  That can be a topic for discussion some other time if you like. 

It should also be noted that this is well into the persecution by Rome that we looked at in 1 and 2 Peter, and I think John is writing in a kind of code. That code is evident to real believers, and in that day, they would have known its meaning clearly, but no unbeliever would be able to decode it, though it was still plain language.  The reason for this is of course the Holy Spirit living in only the real believers.  I think this may be why this text can be such a false proof-text source of heresies, but we won’t get into that now.

In dealing with these proto-Gnostics, John started with the kind of statement that sounds in our ears something like, “Hey, I was there and you weren’t, and I’m not the one making stuff up like you.”  From that place, he begins to call out each false belief and show how it is not how salvation is gained, and then explains how it IS actually gained.  The whole letter of 1 John is a treatise on how to distinguish true doctrine and teachers from false teachers and doctrine, as well as the behaviour that should demonstrate the life of a true person of faith.  I don’t want to give too much away, so I will jump into the text here. 

I broke the text down like this:

KV3:  The Basics of Salvation in Christ Alone

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

1-4:  We are telling you what we experienced with Christ, not stuff we made up

5-7:  Holiness is a necessity of walking with Christ, not just whatever you like

8-10:  Constant confession is a key to holiness, not just false “sinless perfection”

John makes no bones about it, he was there, and his critics were not, and he knew that, because he was there and didn’t see them.  John is starting out with a statement of fact and truth, and yet one of personal experience.  Just because someone has a personal experience does not mean that it is automatically invalid.  In terms of the facts, it has always been accepted that someone who was there has a more valid view of events than someone who read the report later.  This is supposed to be the cornerstone of real journalism today, although many “news services” seem to have forgotten that in present day.  And Beloved, this was the biggest news story in history – you know – His story.  It has implications for everyone that has ever lived, and even those who are alive today, and all people who will be born in the future.  Every living human soul.  Let’s see what this is about.

KV3:  The Basics of Salvation in Christ Alone

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

John shows that he is as sharp as any of his other Apostolic counterparts in demonstrating that he has the ability to think, not just parrot talking points like they teach in so-called institutions of higher learning today.  He uses the rules of logic to present a cogent and lucid line of reasoning that discusses how to escape the coming wrath of God that is speeding toward us all like an out-of-control freight train.  This theme is behind every gospel thought in Scripture, that the Word of Life Himself will come to judge humanity for good or evil, depending on how they have viewed His truth and held Him in what esteem or lack thereof.

John begins his argument with insisting he was an eyewitness to gospel events, and that they have real implications to every soul that has ever lived, is living now, or will ever live.  He is not spinning made up yarns or rattling off old wives’ tales.  He talks about it in broad terms, and then talks about how one can partake of it, and then talks about how we need to actually WALK IN HOLINESS as Christ has changed our natures, and then talks about the key to this being constant confession, and even gives a counterpoint to heresies that were around then and are still active today, about 1900 years or so later.  But hey, don’t take my word for it, let’s actually do the work and get into the text.

1-4:  We are telling you what we experienced with Christ, not stuff we made up

John speaks about the truth in classic spiritualized terms as a sort of a code because of the persecution.  I think that the Holy Spirit in His own wisdom wrote to believers in a sort of code that He translates for us Himself as we read it, and for unbelievers that get a hold of copies of the letter, they do not know quite what to make of it.  Notice John’s lack of personal identification in all of these letters.  For example, a Roman official gaining a copy of the letter would have no actual proof of who wrote it that he could use legally.  Still everyone knew John penned the letter, and would have said so had they been asked.  Not legal evidence, really.  Let’s look at the text in detail.

1:  What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—

  • The very first phrase John uses in the letter is “What was from the beginning…”  The word “beginning” is a form of the Greek arche, meaning “the origin, or the active cause” in many cases in English.  This is the very phrase he begins his Gospel with, with the very word arche in verse 1:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word.” [literal Greek].  I believe that these phrases are connected.  The Beginning there is John’s beginning here.  He is speaking of the primary active cause of everything in this reference, and as we read on, we will see similar phrasing to those initial verses of John 1 here in 1 John.
  • What we have heard.  This is a reference to the measure of things with our sense of hearing, and that would be in my thinking a reference to hearing the Word of God spoken by the Word of God Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • What we have seen with out eyes.  John is telling us that when Jesus fed the 5000, he was there.  When he raised Lazarus from the dead, he was there.  When He died on the cross for us, he was there.  When He rose from the grave, he was there.  Everything Jesus did in public ministry, John saw, and he wasn’t making this up.  He witnessed it all first hand [beheld in the text].
  • And touched with our hands.  He’s speaking in the plural, and I think it is clear that he is speaking of the rest of the capital A Apostles, not some form of the royal “We.”  handling with his hands is in my thinking a reference to how he experienced all of this first hand at close range, and some of it required physical contact.  John actually touched the man Jesus, who was God made flesh.
  • How do we know John is talking about Jesus?  This is a code phrase, “the Word of Life.”  The Greek phrase is logou tees zoees, Word, as in what I have often defined as the divine expression, Life as in the way God has life, in an ultimate and absolute sense.  This is the context John is setting in the first verse of this letter.

2:  and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—

  • And the life was manifested.  The word for manifested means originally “to uncover,” or “to lay bare,” or “to reveal” according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of old and New Testament Words.   I kind of grinned when I realized that this is the Apostle John and he is in fact John the Revelator. John is telling us that the life as God knows it was revealed in Jesus Christ, Beloved!
  • We have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you!  The word for seen is not the word for physical sight, it suggests rather a discerning mind (horao instead of blepo).  Bear witness is a single word, which is a form of marturion, to testify or give testimony as a witness.  Proclaim is the Greek for “to announce,” and is something different than giving detailed testimony as a witness.  Announcing is stating the case.  Testifying is telling why you know the announcement is true. 
  • What are they showing here?  Literally zoeen teen aionion, the life of the ages, or eternal life. John tells us that that life was with God the Father and says so right in the text.  Then he says that that life was revealed (same word as earlier, same form, same tense, same number, same gender) to us.  John is saying that the life was first manifested by God the Father to the Apostles by Jesus Christ, and now the Apostles are taking this message to everyone else as God commanded.

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

  • See?  The very thing we have seen we are now relating to you in the power and by the command of God the Father about God the Son by the power of God the Holy Spirit.  Why?  So that you may have fellowship with us, and John and the rest of the Apostles have fellowship with the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  What is John referring to?  Look for a moment at John 17.  Look with me at that text starting in v.6.
    • “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.  (vv.6-8)
    • “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.  (vv.20-23)
  • John is telling us that He was there in the Garden at the very least.  He heard at least that part of the Lord’s high-priestly prayer (we know he fell asleep at some point).  There is a lot in the text which I have just connected, but it isn’t my job this evening to exposit that text.  However, the connection is plain.  All of the truth that our Lord Jesus spoke there is clearly reminiscent of what the Lord Jesus Himself prayed, and in a way that tells us that John was commissioned to tell everyone else he met about this.  In fact so are we, by Jesus Himself.  We call it the great commission.  Too many today treat it like the Great Suggestion, but it really isn’t an option for the believer today.  More on that as we go along.

4:  And these things we are writing, so that our joy may be made complete.

  • Why again is John writing this?  So that we may place you under guilt and shame to motivate you to speak to others about the gospel?  No, that isn’t it.  That we may make you afraid NOT to preach the gospel?  That can’t be it either.  John is saying it to make our joy complete.  Not His joy, not just the Apostles’ joy (he was the only surviving Apostle at this time) but OUR joy as those who are reading this letter (or hearing it as it is read).  What is John writing?  In short, he is writing the gospel of Jesus Christ, and more specifically about its implications for our lives.

John, as a reminder here, is writing to believers, and he is taking the time to connect us all by means of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who he both knew personally and loved, and heard from him first hand that all believers through all the world through all of time are in fact connected by God Himself by the person of God the Holy Spirit, by means of the work of God the Son, by the power and authority of God the Father into His body on earth as long as He grants us breath, and destined to reign with Him for eternity!  Yes, Beloved, it’s all in there, you just have to know what the Apostle John is connecting to, and how he does it textually to see it.  We are connected by the Word of Life, the Word of God, God Himself.  Don’t forget that as we continue, because we are about to see John address the proto-Gnostic heretics.

5-7:  Holiness is a necessity of walking with Christ, not just whatever you like

One of the first things that the heretics tried to do was allow for people to continue to walk in horrific sin and continue to insult the Spirit of Grace.  If we allow ourselves for a moment to think like the enemy of God (and we do this most of every day anyway, even as believers, because we live in rotting bags of dead flesh), strategically, this kind of move makes sense.  Oh, you want to believe Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for your sins?  Great!  That means there is no price for YOU to pay personally!  We know differently of course, but this kind of argument can be enticing for false converts that want to give intellectual assent to the idea of Christ as Lord but not to suffer because He is their Lord.  That way, one could continue to give that mental assent and live anyway they like, because after all, HE paid the price so I don’t have to!  Yes, beloved, I am aware of how things I say are sometimes twisted.  I’m not the one doing the twisting.  Words have meanings.  Let’s see what John says.

5:  And this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

  • After this glorious gospel introduction John has given, he hits his main point directly.  “THIS is the message that Jesus, our Messiah, Himself told us, and what we declare to you:  God is light.  Yes, He’s going to say more, but I must pause here for this.  The Greek here says …ho Theos phos…  God is light.  We get our word “photon” from this in English, which is how physicists refer to a “particle” of light.  In Greek, it means “to give light,”  and this is more than simply a physical phenomenon.  Metaphorically, and there is metaphor in this statement, it means to illuminate (to give light to) the mind.  Light not only allows us to see obstacles in our path, but to see color and detail, and all of it has meaning.  Because our human minds are limited we can get those details confused, but that doesn’t invalidate the detail.  To summarize, God brings illumination to our minds.  This illumination will cause us to see what it is He wants us to do in following Him.  Sometimes we get that confused, but His Spirit who lives in us will help us sort that out.  It’s important to note that, given where John is about to go.
  • In Him [that is, God], there is NO DARKNESS AT ALL.  The Greek here speaks in this reference of a moral darkness, and this is indicative of sin as a source as a condition of moral and spiritual radical depravity.  God does not have this in Himself.  It is something that was a consequence of the disobedience of our first parents in the Garden of God, and has been passed down to all of us.  Though the biologist in me wants to make a genetic connection (which is there), there is more to this than just genetics.  God does not have the problem that we have.  He does not have this moral failing of darkness in His soul.  He is light by His own nature.  Thatis what John is saying at the beginning of this unit of thought.  John is about to make a qualification here, so listen closely.

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

  • Now which one of us does not want to claim allegiance to the Almighty?  Of course we are on His side, like the good soldiers we profess to be, right?  Not so fast.  John lays it down right here.  What we say has to line up with our behaviour.  If we call ourselves Christians, and yet still allow sin to fester in our lives, we are LIARS!  If we say God has saved us, and still walk in our old, say car-thieving ways, we are lying, and we are NOT His children, and that’s exactly what John is saying.
  • If we call ourselves believers in the humble Christ, and still walk in pride without taking action to humble ourselves (as opposed to being humiliated as an outside imposed state), then we are not being His children but children of destruction.  If we are claiming to be His representatives and not taking actions to represent Him well, then we are not very good representatives.  Beloved, John isn’t HINNTING at this.  He’s just flat-out said it to us.
  • Now maybe you are seeing this in your own life.  Beloved, that’s what John said it!  So you would realize your sin and come to repentance and the knowledge of the Truth of Jesus Christ.  I will freely confess, and many of you know I’m not perfect, but I am taking steps.  That demonstrates my repentant attitude.  I will not be perfect until the Lord comes and rescues me from this present evil age.  Until then, it is incumbent on me to display that humble attitude of repentance in reality, not just pay lip-service to it.
  • How do we do this?  Well, really, there are two things that are required.  The first of those things, Beloved is that YOU turn from your present attitudes and opinions and circumstances and towards the living God.  This may require for you that you do things to correct (and I’m being kind here) the damage you have done to yourself and people around you.  That damage you are doing is not okay.  You may need to apologize, or you may need to do other things.  The details are going to vary from person to person, but everyone here needs to do this.  There is a biblical word for this:  Repentance.  I means to change your mind and direction.  This is a chance to do it.  Loke beloved, remember the last verse?  God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  This is like R. C Sproul’s assertion of the holiness of God.  He is completely separate and apart from us.  He will not look at your sin or make friends with it.  He will judge it and you if you will not lay it aside. 
  • Think of how Isaiah must have felt when he, a sinful creature (and he knew this about himself) when in Isaiah 6 he tells of how he actually SAW the Living God on His Throne.  No flesh can see God and live!  He was undone–and he KNEW it!  And yet because he had a humble attitude, one of repentance, God made provision to purify him.  God will not be mocked!  God stands against the proud, but will give grace to the HUMBLE.  The Penitent.  Those that will turn to Him in faith that He has made provision.  Or we lie and do not do the truth.

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.

  • See?  If we will turn, if we will repent, that is change our minds and directions morally and spiritually, and specifically turn to Him because He Himself is in the Light, he will make provision for us.  And what is required?  Walking in the light as God Himself is in the Light.  After Isaiah was cleansed, he was commissioned as a prophet of God.  What are we doing as God cleanses us? 
  • Beloved, allow me to offer my own thought of that.  After God cleanses us, we should be like Isaiah, doing whatever God gives us opportunity to participate in by His sovereign will.  If God has called you, then God has justified you.  If that is your case, you are no longer your own.  Isaiah knew it, and he did the thing God was calling for at the time–someone to go and speak for Him.  God is making that same call today.  As he cleanses us, we become fit to BE called by Him, and we should go, in the context of His collective people, today that is the church, and serve Him in whatever specific way He calls us.  For me, that is as a pastor and teacher of His word and all the consequences that go with that.  For some, it is as an administrator that organizes and executes within the body or Christ so that His house is in order.  For some it is as a doorkeeper in the house of God, we call those ushers today, to serve the saints as they come and serve in whatever way God has called them in Christ.  Some give of themselves and their means to support the local gathering.  Some sing hymns and psalms and spiritual songs in worship and praise to glorify Him on the earth.  For some, it is just being there, because as Milton said, “they also serve who only stand and wait.”  But whatever they are called to, they stand in the Light.  What could that possibly mean?
  • It means we walk in holiness of life, that sanctification that God initiates in us on the day He justifies us, and that will continue to purify us as we go through whatever He brings us to in whatever way He tells us to go through it, and that WILL involve suffering on our parts as we choose to do His will for us in contradistinction with what everyone else on the planet is doing.  We will not smoke, we will not chew, and to the taunting of worldlings, we will not spend time with those who do.  As God is separate from sin, we should also cooperate with Him and separate ourselves from our sins, and even the sinful situations that give us the opportunity to sin where possible.

What this should tell us is that it isn’t enough to simply pay lip service or give mental assent to Jesus being God and that He died on the cross in our place.  We need to live like that matters for us, and that is the very definition of the word faith.  We believe in the idea of something (in this case Someone, our Lord Jesus Christ) so strongly that it requires us to live according to it.  I can tell you that if you call yourself a Christian and don’t live like one, and people can smell all of the pride and self-righteous religiosity coming off of you, you are no Christian.  What you are in that case is a false convert at best, and definitely a hypocrite.  This leaves no room for a Gnostic.  There is no secret knowledge for initiates here, only the Truth as it is in Jesus, and you must find it and respond to it yourself.  No one can do it for you, not even me.  Talk to me after if you need help, or get a hold of me on the email address that’s busy scrolling across the bottom of your screen right now, or call the number and leave a message.  Moving on.

8-10:  Constant confession is a key to holiness, not just false “sinless perfection”

In the next thought unit, John continues that main thought seamlessly, but takes the occasion to deal with a false teaching that was coming into its own even then and is today known in part as the heresy of sinless perfection and showing how it is not only a false theology, but that adherence to this false theology is kind of a sorting filter.  If this is what you believe, you are not one of His, and if it is NOT what you believe, it has further refinements.  Let’s just get into the text and see what we see.

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

  • John is directly saying that we all have sin, by the way.  This is no different than Paul or James, incidentally, or Peter.  He is flat-out saying that if we believe is a critical Before I get inot the meaning, theere that we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves, and more importantly, we are not Christians.  He says that this way:  the Truth is not in us.  Now before you decide you want to try jumping down my throat about saying that people who think they don’t have any sin are not believers, I didn’t say it, John did.  If the truth is not in you, you cannot have Christ, because John also tells us in John 14:6a that He is the way, the truth, and the life.  And if Christ isn’t in you, you’re not saved, and that’s the only kind of Christian there is in the Bible.  So why would anyone say this?
  • Think it out.  Proto-Gnostics are the ones that are putting this forward.  Why would they do this?  TO GAIN FOLLOWERS!!!  Eventually, this would morph into a kind of “secret knowledge.”  People that Jesus died for have had their sinful nature removed, they say (wrong, read Rom. 7), so anything they do isn’t sin anymore.  Now if you’re only pretending to be a believer, or if you were a false convert and don’t have the Holy Spirit in you so that you can tell the difference, what could be better?  The Saviour died to make me not a sinner anymore, so that thing that to you looks like sin, say sleeping with my stepmom like in 1 Cor. 5, isn’t really sin for me, because Jesus took away my sin nature.  Okay, do you all see how stupid that really is?  That’s just word games, sophistry at its best.  And people today still believe it.  We talked about one last week named Jesse Morrel, and he has more problems than just that.  He used to put up these laughable videos of him “preaching the gospel” that were basically just him arguing with people about anything but the gospel.  At least I never heard it one time from him.  Maybe he did.  He is, among other things, a sinless perfectionist, and also an open theist, which suggests that God does know everything that will happen, and we KNOW that isn’t true.  That’s just an attack on His omniscience (all-knowing).  There has never been a day in the universe that God has had to “learn” anything.  Now, John doesn’t end here, so neither should we.

9:  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

  • As if in counterpoint to the “sinless perfection” argument, John here acknowledges that we will sin.  But instead of harping on sinless perfectionism, all he did in the las verse was say it was incorrect belief, and then tell the truth here in verse 9.  Before I begin to get into the meaning, there is a critical bit of Greek grammar that I need to explain.  This is in the present continuing tense.  The way the translators have rendered this is accurate, but for clarity on the point, I will rephrase this slightly.  Instead of “if we confess our sins,” I will say it this way:  If we are continually confessing our sins.”  Both are correct in my understanding of the text, but the way I phrased it shows how we must walk in holiness.  We must be continually acknowledging our sins to God and asking forgiveness as they come up.  That’s hard, because we are broken and proud. 
  • Now I know you may not believe me here, so I will tell you the Greek word John uses for “confess.”  It is the Greek word homologeo, or rather a form of it, and it means literally to “speak the same thing,” or we would say “agree” in English today.  Admit, declare, like that.  If we will agree that the thoughts, words, and (or) deeds that we did were wrong, a violation of God’s holy standard, and admit that before Him, then the rest of the verse applies. 
  • And what is the rest of the verse?  That God is both faithful and righteous to keep forgiving us of those things to which we agree with Him are sin, and to keep cleansing us from the condition of not being right before Him [Gk., adikia].  What is required?  Repentance and faith, Beloved.  We’ve been over this before, and as He saved us from His own wrath that is coming, so we must continue to walk in repentance and faith.  As we began, so we continue.  Beloved, what makes us think that because we began in faith and repentance that we would have to continue in some other and fleshly way?  It simply isn’t the case.  This verse is a wonderful promise from God Himself for those that will accept it.  I should also point out here that the word sins is plural, and that usually means we should be specific as often as it comes up.

10:  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

  • Now this is a little different from verse 8.  There, John said if we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us.  We were fooling ourselves.  Here, John is saying something different.  He is saying that if we claim we have not sinned, we are making God a liar.  Paul said Let God be true and every man a liar.  If we deny that we have committed thoughts, words, or deeds in violation of God’s holy standard, we are in fact doing just that:  accusing God of being a liar.  Beloved, my own experience tells me that God is no liar.  In fact it is impossible for Him to lie.
  • However, if we will stick to our lying claims, John tells us that His word is not in us.  Personally, because Christ is not only the Truth, but is also the very Word of God in physical form, Christ is not in us if we do that.  That means we are not His followers, we are not His at all.  We cannot legitimately call ourselves Christians if we deny what He says in His Word.

What John is doing here is addressing the heretics that confronted believers in his own day, and set the record straight in plain language for the time.  The reason people still get this mixed up is because it is spiritually understood, and no unbeliever has the person of the Holy Spirit inside them, so they have to come up with some other understanding of the text.  I’m constantly amazed at the mental backflips these people make, when all they really have to do is read the text humbly and let it speak to their hearts.  God forbid they should let that happen.  But Beloved, we are persuaded of better things concerning you.  If you will read the Word daily in humble fashion and take your marching orders from it, and not your basic desires for your own ease and comfort, then the Lord will speak to you and give you all the direction you will ever need.

That’s 1 John 1, and next week we will attempt the first 14 verses of chapter 2!

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