1 John 1:1 – 2:11
Eternal Life: Its Manifestation and Fellowship (1:1-4)
There are a number of beginnings in scripture, but there are three notable beginnings. The beginning in John 1:1 is the beginning of anything that had a beginning; what existed at the furthest point in the past, i.e. from eternity. The beginning in Gen. 1:1 is the beginning of the material creation. The beginning in 1 John 1:1 is the beginning of the manifestation of eternal life in this world, and it corresponds with John 1:14; "the Word became flesh" (however, in the experience of the apostles it was the beginning of the Lord's public ministry). There is also a fourth beginning, mentioned in Rev. 3:14 and Col. 1:18, referring to the beginning of the New Creation.
The term "eternal life" is commonly translated “everlasting life” or “life eternal”. The term is used in two different ways in scripture. In the Old Testament (e.g. Psa. 133:3; Dan. 12:2) and the synoptic gospels (e.g. Mark 10:30) eternal life refers to the Millennial kingdom. But in the other New Testament books, and especially John's writings, "eternal life" refers to a life the Christian possesses now. The word “eternal” does not define the duration of the life, but it defines the character of the life; "the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18). It couldn’t be the idea of "living forever" because eternal life pertains to believers, and even the unsaved live forever in eternal fire. What is implied in "eternal life" is the possession of divine life in communion with the Father and the Son by the Holy Spirit; "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).3 Old Testament saints had divine life, but not in the character of "eternal life" because they did not know God as Father, since the death and resurrection of Christ was not complete (John 20:17). Eternal life is the highest character of life that one can ever know, because it is the same life that the Father and Son enjoy together (1 John 1:3), and which had existed from eternity to eternity (John 1:2). All that God is as light and love are enjoyed by the believer, who is brought into fellowship with Divine Persons through the indwelling Spirit, such that he enjoys common thoughts and feelings with God! In 1 John we find that Christ Himself personally is that eternal life. He is also the perfect expression of that life; the Word of Life. God purposed in His eternal counsels that the fellowship of the Father and the Son would be shared with the sons of men! Read John 14:18-20. We are brought into this fellowship through the gift of eternal life. It is the greatest blessing that God can bestow on man, as it is the very same life of Christ! This eternal life, which He shares with others, is "in His Son" (1 John 5:11) meaning it cannot be possessed apart from Him, and that "he that hath the Son hath life" (1 John 5:12).4Read more…
Light: God’s Nature and Our Fellowship in It (1:5-7)
Light is shown in scripture to acts in two ways. Negatively, the light exposes man’s true condition (John 1:9; 3:20-21). This is what is meant in John 1:9, that He (the Son), "coming into the world, lightens" or illuminates "every man". His life of perfect righteousness and grace here is this world exposed the evil hearts of men. This is pictured in John 8, where Jesus declared "I am the light of the world", after He exposed the true moral state of the Jewish leaders who brought to Him the woman taken in adultery. But the light acts in another way too. Positively, the light gives us the knowledge of God’s character revealed in the Person of the Son (John 1:5; 2 Cor. 4:6). This is pictured in John 9, where Jesus again declared "I am the light of the world", and proceeded to open a man's physical and spiritual eyesight. It is a type of spiritual illumination through new birth. Unless a man is born again (John 3:5), he cannot see the kingdom of God. In that sense, the Divine life in Christ was "the light of men" (John 1:5).In 1 John being "in the light" is a positional thing, where "we walk in the light as he [God] is in the light", and in that position "we have fellowship with one another" (1 John 1:7).
Sin in the Believer’s Life, The Advocacy of Christ, and Its Basis (2:1-2)
Two Patrons. The word paraclete literally means ‘one who draws alongside (para) to help (clete)’. It can be translated ‘comforter’ as in John 14 – 16 referring to the Holy Spirit. However, ‘comforter’ may not be the best translation. The other time the word is used is in 1 John 2:1, where it is better translated ‘advocate’ or ‘patron’. It is a reference to the system of patronage in ancient Rome. An older, wealthy citizen called a patron become a protector, benefactor, and advisor to a younger, less wealthy citizen called a client. This relationship was beneficial in the social, commercial, and judicial spheres especially. The patron-client relationship had been well established in Roman culture in the first century. Jesus was the disciples’ Patron, or Advocate while on earth, but He was going away to the Father. In heaven, He would still be an “advocate with the Father”. Yet God saw to it that they should have a Patron on earth. The Holy Spirit would be that second Advocate. It is “another” in the sense of addition, not replacement.
2 and “he” is the propitiation for our sins; but not for ours alone, but also for the whole world. v.2 Christ the Propitiation. Now we have the second thing that gives us perfect access to God: Christ as the propitiation before God is the righteous basis for our restoration.7 The propitiation of God was accomplished by Christ on the cross, and it involved the offering of His entire Person as a sacrifice to God. Propitiation
is required because of our sins, but it is the aspect of the sacrifice in which Christ has perfectly glorified and satisfied God according to His moral nature. The word ‘propitiation’ simply means ‘satisfaction’. All that God required and more was supplied when Christ offered Himself without spot to God. We read of both propitiation and substitution for sins (plural), but when the issue of sin (singular) is dealt with - the whole principle - it is always in the aspect of propitiation. God is satisfied as to our 'sins', and also as to the outrage of ‘sin’ in general, and because of the latter, propitiation is the grounds of God’s mercy to all mankind. As a result of this, the Gospel can go to the whole world, and anyone who comes to God in faith will be saved. “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). See also 1 Tim. 2:3-6; Heb. 2:9, 17; Rom. 3:24-25.Read more…
Practical Characteristics of Eternal Life: Obedience and Love (2:3-11)
- Eternal life was manifested on earth in the Person of the Lord Jesus, witnessed by the apostles, and reported by them to the saints (1:1-3).
- Eternal life is a circle of fellowship that, at its center is that of the Father and Son, into which the apostles and all who believe their report are included (1:3-4).
- The nature of God has been declared: He is light (1:5).
- The believer is positionally in the light of God revealed, and in that light that we have fellowship with other Christian (1:6-7).
- The blood of Christ has made us fit for that position, by cleansing us of sin (1:7).
- Claims made by some of sinlessness or perfect righteousness expose false profession (1:8,10).
- God has made provision for restoration when a believer sins (1:9; 2:1-2).
- As the first of two characteristics, life in the believer is manifested by obedience to Christ’s commandments and words (2:3-5).
- Communion with Christ is manifested by walking as He walked (2:6).
- Eternal life is true in Christ and in the believer, and as more are saved, the darkness is passing and the true light is shining more and more (2:7-8).
- As the second of two characteristics, life in the believer is manifested by love to one’s brother.
- The believer has eternal life, the life of Christ, as a present possession.
- The believer is positionally in the light of God revealed.
- Life in the believer is manifested practically by obedience to Christ and by love to the brethren.
- This closes as an introductory statement the first part of the epistle. It contains in the former half, the privileged place of Christians, the message giving us the truth of our state here, and the provision for failure: that ends with 1 John 2:2; in the second half, the proofs the Christian has of the true possession of the privilege according to the message: obedience, and love of the brethren, knowing Christ, being in Christ, enjoying the perfect love of God, abiding in Him, being in the light, forming the condition which is thus proved. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
- Now, inasmuch as that life was the Son, it could not be known without knowing the Son; that is, that which He was, entering into His thoughts, His feelings: otherwise He is not really known. It was thus they had communion with Him — with the Son. Precious fact! to enter into the thoughts (all the thoughts), and into the feelings, of the Son of God come down in grace: to do this in fellowship with Him; that is to say, not only knowing them, but sharing these thoughts and feelings with Him. In effect, it is the life. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
- Another has stated that eternal life is... "the possession of divine life in fellowship with the Father and the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit." - Anstey, B. The First Epistle of John.
- A deeper blessing it is impossible for God to bestow or for man to receive; for it is exactly what characterised the Lord Himself, Who is the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us. Only Christ could be said to be that life; we as believers are not, but we have it in Him; and as by faith alone it is received, so in faith it is exercised, sustained, and strengthened. - Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
- “Saying” has a bad character in this Epistle. – Kelly, W. Addresses on the Epistles of John.
- Now God was light, perfect purity, which makes manifest at the same time all that is pure, and all that is not so. To have communion with light, one must oneself be light, be of its nature, and fit to be seen in the perfect light. It can only be linked with that which is of itself. If there is anything else that mingles with it, light is no longer light. It is absolute in its nature, so as to exclude all that is not itself. - Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
- “The righteous” and “propitiation” (1 John 2:1, 2) intimate to us the double character of perfectness – actual state, and work – of Christ, as the basis on which advocacy is carried on to restore the soul. If any man sin, there is an unchangeable and accepted righteousness in Christ, and a perfect work which has been presented to God for our sins, and indeed in view of the whole world. So that neither the ground of our acceptance nor the putting away of our sins are in question for our access to God. – J.N. Darby
- It is not the blessedness of knowing that I am in Him, but that I profess to make Him the home of my soul for every joy and sorrow, for every danger and difficulty. For this is to abide in Him. If it be verily thus with me, I ought to walk as He walked. But is it so in deed and in truth? The failure in real abiding in Him is shown in the shortcoming of our walk. But as Christians, we own Christ as our true standard, however it may humble us. Nor do we pretend that one ever walks in the measure of Christ’s walk, but seeks by grace to walk after that manner. – Kelly, W. Addresses on the Epistles of John.
- That is what is applied here in the Epistle. The Lord gave a commandment which John had already made known in the Gospel. It was given by our Lord when here. Thus we see the ample confirmation of what was said in expounding the first words of the Epistle, that “from the beginning” is altogether distinct from “in the beginning.” – Kelly, W. Addresses on the Epistles of John.
- Here then it is shown that what was the old commandment when He was there is now a new commandment, because now it is true not only in Him but in them. And what was it that made it to be true in them? The death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. This it is that makes all things new. – Kelly, W. Addresses on the Epistles of John
- The darkness then is not past, indeed far from it; but it is passing. Where? In every added Christian… But wherever grace acts, and no matter where, if there be fresh saints of God, the darkness so far passes away. It passes effectually in every Christian. The apostle here too looks at the principle. He is not examining how far it has been realised; for this is not his work. He looks at things as they ought to be in the Christian, acting and carrying out the divine principle that his soul has received… The important point here to remark is that this comes in after Christ’s death and resurrection. Did not the world quench that light in His death? As far as it could, so it sought. But His resurrection gave the lie to the world’s effort; for the light shines more powerfully than ever. “The true light already shineth.” The saints, so weak before, become strong, and forget themselves and their follies in their joy at the risen Saviour. The Spirit given thereon is one of power and love and sobriety. Hence we may see how true the command to love is in Him and in them… Christ banishes the darkness for each Christian, and Christ is already shining for and in them all more than ever. – Kelly, W. Addresses on the Epistles of John.
- The hatred toward his brother is incompatible, not only with love, but with light and life. For these all go together and cannot be separated. The life is shown in obedience, but so it is in love; and the true light which already shines makes such darkness visible. – Kelly, W. Addresses on the Epistles of John.
- Moreover, there is no occasion of stumbling in one who loves, for he walks according to divine light. There is nothing in him which causes another to stumble, for the revelation of the nature of God in grace will assuredly not do so: and it is this which is manifested in him who loves his brother. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.