James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
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;1 John 1:1-2:28
GOD IS LIGHT
First John is addressed to no particular church or individual, but it is thought that the apostle had in mind a cycle of churches like the seven of Asia (see Revelation 1). It is likely that the Christians to whom he wrote were of Gentile rather than Jewish origin, as judged by the few references to the Old Testament, and by such allusions as that in 1 John 5:21.
The epistle was written later than the Gospel by the same author, as gathered from the circumstances that an acquaintance with its facts is presupposed, and also because the words of Christ are cited if known.
The occasion of its writing seems to have been the presence of false teachers (e.g., see1 John 2:18-25 and 1 John 4:1-6). And, indeed, we learn from the writers of church history that at a very early period there were three classes of heretics as they were called: The Ebionites, who denied the Deity of Christ; the Docetists, who denied His humanity; and the Cerinthians, who denied the union of the two natures, humane and divine, prior to His baptism.
The theme is stated to be Fellowship with God in 1 John 1:3-4, and the idea is presented to us not in a progression of thought, but after the manner of the law of recurrence, which we have come to recognize in other instances. Perhaps it might be said rather, that the apostle gives us three distinct cycles of thought, which form in their combination a beautiful picture of truth, and a cumulative application of the main line of instruction. For example, God is light (1 John 1:5), hence fellowship with God depends on our walking in the light. Again, God is righteous (1 John 2:29), hence fellowship with God depends on our doing righteousness. And finally, God is love (1 John 4:7-8), hence fellowship with God depends on our possessing and manifesting love.
INTRODUCTION (1 John 1:1-4)
In the introduction, three thoughts are set before us concerning the apostleship of Christ, which may be thus expressed:
1. The proofs of the apostleship, specifically: to have seen and heard Christ (1 John 1:1); 2. The character of the apostleship, namely: the declaration of Christ (1 John 1:2); 3. The object of the apostleship, fellowship in Christ (1 John 1:3-4). What peculiar expressions in the opening chapter of John’s Gospel are recalled by the first verse? What bearing has this upon the statement that the Gospel was first written? Against which of the heresies, previously mentioned, do these words seem directed? How does the Revised Version translate 1 John 1:2, especially the phrase “that eternal life”? Against which of the heresies does these words, as given in the RV, seem directed?
FIRST CYCLE OF THOUGHT (1 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:28)
What is the first message that John declares to them (1 John 1:5)? If “God is light,” how is fellowship to be maintained with Him (1 John 1:6-7)? If fellowship is to be maintained by walking in the light, how may we walk in the light?
1. By perceiving and confessing sin in the faith of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:8 to 1 John 2:2); 2. By keeping God’s commandments (1 John 2:3; 1 John 2:8); 3. Especially the commandment of love to the brethren (1 John 2:9; 1 John 2:11); 4. This keeping of God’s commandments is incompatible with the love of the world (1 John 2:15-17); 5. It is incompatible with the fellowship of false teachers (1 John 2:18-28). Notice how this last corroborates the remarks concerning the nature of the heresies in John’s time. Notice the peculiar title ascribed to Christ in 1 John 2:20. How does this verse and 1 John 2:27 harmonize with John 15:6, and Acts 2:32-33? What then is the unction believers have received from Christ?
1. To what churches probably was this epistle addressed?
2. Why is its origin dated later than the fourth Gospel?
3. Name and define the three classes of heretics in mind.
4. State the theme and the manner of its treatment.
5. Give the main outline.
6. How may we walk in the light?