1 John 1:1

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

(a) John was with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry. The “from the beginning” phrase appears seven times in John’s first epistle and twice in his second epistle. Here it means the beginning of John’s experience with Jesus, but in 1 John 2:13 it refers to the eternal and timeless existence of God.

(b) What we have heard, what we have seen. John is establishing his bona fides as a credible witness of what he is about to discuss, namely the good news of Jesus Christ. John heard and saw the Lord’s ministry. He witnessed his death, resurrection, and glorious ascension. He was there.

(c) What we have touched. John was part of a small group of people who physically touched the Risen Lord (Luke 24:39). John is refuting the first-century Gnostic view that the material world was evil and a spiritual God would have nothing to do with it. Jesus was fully human. He had a physical body. Anyone who said Jesus was not from God or had not come in the flesh was a deceiver and an antichrist (1 John 4:3, 2 John 1:7).

(d) The Word of Life is Jesus the Word of God and the Word made flesh (John 1:1, 14). Jesus is the Word or the Message or the Revelation of God. Just as we reveal ourselves by what we say, God reveals himself in Jesus the Living Word (see Heb. 1:3).

1 John 1:2

and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—

(a) Throughout John’s writings, Jesus is synonymous with eternal life (1 John 5:20). You can’t have one without the other.

(b) Jesus, who was previously with God, was manifested to us. In other words, “Jesus, the Word of Life appeared. We (apostles) saw it happen!”

1 John 1:3

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

(a) What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you. You do not need a degree or years of study to be a witness for Jesus. All you need to do is tell others what you have experienced in the Lord.

(b) The Greek word for fellowship (koinōnia) means more than friendship or church meetings. It is partnership, union and participation in the zoe-life of the Godhead. It describes the connate union of a vine and its branches (see John 15:5).

(c) So that you too may have fellowship. In the opening chapter of his letter, John is preaching to the lost. He is addressing those who are walking in darkness (verse 6) and who do not have the truth in them (verse 8). He writes so that they may come into fellowship or union with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ (see 1 Cor. 1:9).

Humanity’s problem is not sin, per se, but our separation from the life of Christ. Like a disconnected electrical cord, those without the Spirit have no life flowing through them. Having introduced Jesus as the source of eternal life in the verse, John encourages his readers to get plugged into Jesus so that they may experience the life that is Christ.

How do we get plugged into Christ? By faith. When we put our trust in Jesus, the Holy Spirit joins us together and then maintains that spiritual union.

(d) Being united with Jesus brings many blessings, of which John identifies four: (1) eternal life (1 John 1:2), (2) forgiveness (1 John 1:9), (3) fellowship with us, meaning authentic community among the believers, and (4) fellowship with the Father and Son, meaning acceptance, intimacy, and all that implies.

Further reading: “The many benefits of union.”

1 John 1:4

These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.

(a) These things we write. What did John write? The apostle wrote three epistles, and he likely wrote the Gospel that bears his name and the Book of Revelation. At the end of his Gospel he said wrote so that you may believe in Jesus (John 20:31), and he says something similar at the end of this epistle (1 John 5:13).

(b) Our joy. Once upon a time, John had been a fisherman. Then he met Jesus and became a fisher of men. Just as a fisherman’s joy is to catch fish, John’s joy is to win souls for Jesus.

But John was not just a catcher of fish; he was also a mender of nets. Indeed, this is what he was doing when Jesus first met him (Matt. 4:21). John’s joy was to take care of the church nets, so to speak, to ensure that newly caught fish could not be lured away by false doctrines. This is why he rejoiced to see his spiritual children walking in the truth (3 John 1:4).

1 John 1:5

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

(a) God is Light. There is no shadow in the Father of Lights (Jas. 1:17). He is good all the time and he is good to you all the time. His face is always shining upon you in love.

(b) God does not bring darkness into your life for a season, because in him there is no darkness at all. He will never take your job or your kids or give you sickness. Everything he does and gives is good.

1 John 1:6

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

(a) If we say. We may tell ourselves all sorts of things, but the beliefs and intentions of our hearts are revealed by what we do.

(b) If we choose to walk in the darkness, we can hardly claim to have fellowship with or know the One who is light.

(b) We lie. John is not talking about himself or any child of God. Since those in Christ are sons of the light (1 Thess. 5:5), it is impossible for the believer to walk in darkness. He is talking about those who reject Christ.

1 John 1:7

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.

(a) If we walk in the light. John is talking about believers because those who are one with the Lord walk in the light (John 8:12). We don’t walk in the light to manufacture light, because only God is light (1 John 1:5). We walk in the light because the Light of the Lord shines through us (Eph. 5:8).

(b) We have fellowship with one another. Some say we have to walk right to maintain fellowship with the Lord, but John is talking about fellowship with one another. Authentic relationships are the result of allowing the light of Christ to shine in our hearts.

From time to time we stumble and slip up. When that happens, the Holy Spirit doesn’t depart in a holy huff. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would make his home with us forever (John 14:16). But our relationships with others may be damaged. How do we get back on track? It starts with a revelation of…

(c) The cleansing blood of Jesus. You are not forgiven or cleansed because you walk right or review our sins and shortcomings. You are clean because the blood of Jesus cleanses us and goes on cleansing us.

(d) Cleanses us from all sin. It is faithless to think that Jesus’ blood cleanses us from only some sin. “Jesus saved me, but now it’s up to me to maintain my salvation.” All sin means all sin, past, present, and future. There is no sin Jesus did no carry.

When you sin, don’t heed the voice of condemnation; listen to Jesus who speaks up for you (1 John 2:1). When you are reminded of something you did, remember what Jesus did. When the accuser points to your faults, point to Jesus by whose blood you have been washed whiter than snow (Rev. 12:11). His blood has secured your eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12).

1 John 1:8

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

(a) If we say that we have no sin. John is referring to the self-righteous who have convinced themselves they are without sin on account of their good behavior. Such people do not perceive their need for grace because they think their works make them good enough for God. They are deceiving themselves, for the truth is we all fall short (Rom. 3:23). We are all in desperate need of God’s grace. Although the teachings of first-century Gnosticism are a matter of speculation, it is likely that the Gnostics were among those who claimed to have no sin.

(b) The truth is not in us. Since Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6) and his Spirit is the Truth (1 John 5:6), John is hardly referring to Christians. In his second letter, John says the truth abides in us forever (2 John 1:2). Jesus does not come and go.

Again, John is speaking to those who are disconnected from Christ (verse 3) and walking in darkness (verse 6). One reason why some persist in unbelief, is they do not think they are sinners in need of grace. They are living under a lie and do not have the truth in them. Happily, there is a remedy…

1 John 1:9

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

(a) If we confess our sins does not mean going to confession or reviewing our sins one by one in the hope of meriting forgiveness, for that would be tantamount to preaching salvation by works, and dead works at that. We are not saved by confessing sins but by confessing Jesus is Lord (Rom. 10:9).

The word confess means to agree with or say the same thing as another. It means to admit or concede. In context it is saying “I am a sinner,” which is the counterpoint to the “I have no sin” of the preceding verse. The sole condition for receiving the grace of God is to admit your need for it. And it is a condition for the verse begins with a conditional “if.” If you would receive the forgiveness that God freely offers – the forgiveness which is underwritten by the blood of Christ – then you need to agree with God that you need it.

Remember, John is speaking about people who are disconnected from God. They have no fellowship with the Father or the Son (1 John 1:3). They have not received the free gift of forgiveness because they don’t believe they need it (1 John 1:8). Having told them the bad news – “you are deceiving yourselves” – he now tells them the good news: “Admit your need for forgiveness and you shall have it!” And how many times do we need to do this? Once is enough. The moment we confess our need for Jesus we are cleansed from all unrighteousness.

Sadly, some hijack this verse to condemn those whom Christ has redeemed. They say things like “You have to confess your sins to stay forgiven or maintain fellowship with the Lord.” This is why it is essential that we read all John says. You have been cleansed from all sin by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7), and you have been 100% forgiven on “account of his name” (1 John 2:12). Jesus has done it all.

Biblical confession is articulating faith in a God who is good to us and longs to bless us. It is thanking Jesus for all he has done and receiving, by faith, the full provision of his sacrifice. In contrast, faithless confession that puts the focus on you and your sins is fatal. Reviewing your sins in a futile attempt to make yourself clean will cause you to fall from grace faster than a Galatian.

(b) He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins. God does not forgive us because we are good, but because he is good. He is the faithful and righteous One who loves us in our sin (1 John 2:2). Forgiveness is a done deal – Jesus will never return to the cross – but you will never experience God’s forgiveness unless you receive it by faith.

(c) And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. All means all. John is proclaiming a message of total and complete forgiveness.

Sadly, there are some who use these words to preach a message of self-righteousness, as in we must confess to make ourselves righteous. That is not what John is saying. Jesus alone is the Righteous One (1 John 2:1) and it is his righteousness that God freely offers us by grace (Rom. 1:17). John is simply saying that God’s grace is greater than your worst sin. There is no unrighteousness that cannot be removed by the cleansing blood of Jesus.

Some say that we must confess our sins and keep short accounts to maintain fellowship with the Lord. John says nothing of the kind here (or anywhere). While being open and honest about our mistakes is healthy in any relationship, God’s love is not for sale, and his fellowship is not purchased through confession. God has promised to never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5).

Further reading: “Myth 2: Hypergrace preachers are against confession

1 John 1:10

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

(a) If we say. John is not talking about Christians but self-righteous unbelievers. He is repeating what he has said in verse 8, but with one important addition…

(b) We make him a liar. Someone who says they have no need for grace is essentially calling God a liar. They are blaspheming or slandering the Holy Spirit who seeks to convince them of their need for Jesus (Matt. 12:32). They have put themselves beyond help because they don’t think they need it. No one is lost on account of their sin, but some are truly lost on account of their pride and unbelief.

(c) His word is not in us echoes what John says of unbelievers in verse 8; “his truth is not in us.” Jesus is the word or the truth or the light or the life that unbelievers lack.

Further reading: “What is the unforgivable sin?


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