Experiencing God I John 1
I. PROLOGUE: THE CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP (1:1–4)
1:1 The doctrinal foundation of all true fellowship is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. There can be no true fellowship with those who hold false views concerning Him. The first two verses teach His eternity and the reality of His Incarnation.
The same One who existed from all eternity with God the Father came down into this world as a real Man. The reality of His Incarnation is indicated by the fact that the apostles heard Him, saw Him with their eyes, gazed upon Him with deep meditation, and actually handled Him. The Word of life was not a mere passing illusion, but was a real Person in a body of flesh.
1:2 Verse two confirms that the One who was with the Father, and whom John calls that eternal life, became flesh and dwelt among us and was seen by the apostles.
The following lines by an unknown author show the practical implications of these first two verses for our lives:
I am glad that my knowledge of eternal life is not built on the speculations of philosophers or even theologians but on the unimpeachable testimony of those who heard, saw, gazed at, and handled Him in whom it was incarnate. It is not merely a lovely dream, but solid fact, carefully observed and an accurately recorded fact.
1:3 The apostles did not keep this wonderful news as a secret, and neither should we. They realized that the basis of all fellowship is found here and so they declared it freely and fully. All who receive the testimony of the apostles have fellowship with the Father, with His Son Jesus Christ, and also with the apostles and all other believers. How wonderful that guilty sinners should ever be brought into fellowship with God the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ! And yet, that is the very truth which we have here.
His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus and Christ are one and the same Person, and that Person is the Son of God. Jesus is the name given to Him at birth, and therefore speaks of His perfect humanity. Christ is the name that speaks of Him as God’s Anointed One, the Messiah. Therefore, in the name Jesus Christ, we have a witness to His humanity and to His deity. Jesus Christ is very God of very God and very Man of very Man.
1:4 But why does John thus write concerning the subject of fellowship? The reason is that our joy may be full. John realized that the world is not capable of providing true and lasting joy for the human heart. This joy can only come through proper relationship with the Lord. When a person is in fellowship with God and with the Lord Jesus, he has a deep-seated joy that cannot be disturbed by earthly circumstances. As the poet said, “The source of all his singing is high in heaven above.”
II. MEANS OF MAINTAINING FELLOWSHIP (1:5–2:2)
1:5 Fellowship describes a situation where two or more persons share things in common. It is a communion or a partnership. John now undertakes to instruct his readers as to the requirements for fellowship with God.
In doing so, he appeals to the teachings of the Lord Jesus when He was here on earth. Although the Lord is not quoted as having used these exact words, the sum and substance of His teaching was that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. By this He meant that God is absolutely holy, absolutely righteous, and absolutely pure. God cannot look with favor on any form of sin. Nothing is hidden with Him, but “all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13).
1:6 Now it follows that in order for a person to be in fellowship with God, there can be no hiding of sin. Light and darkness cannot exist in a person’s life at the same time, any more than they can exist together in the room of a home. If a man is walking in darkness, he is not in fellowship with God. A man who says he has fellowship with Him and habitually walks in darkness was never saved at all.
1:7 On the other hand, if one walks in the light, then he can have fellowship with the Lord Jesus and with his fellow Christians. As far as John is concerned in this passage, a man is either in the light or in darkness.
If he is in the light, he is a member of God’s family. If he is in darkness, he does not have anything in common with God because there is no darkness in God at all.
--Those who walk in the light, that is, those who are Christians, have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ continually cleanses them from all sin. All God’s forgiveness is based on the blood of His Son that was shed at Calvary. That blood provided God with a righteous basis on which He can forgive sins, and, as we sing, “the blood will never lose its power.” It has lasting efficacy to cleanse us. Of course, believers must confess before they can receive forgiveness, but John deals with that in verse 9.
1:8 Then again, fellowship with God requires that we acknowledge the truth concerning ourselves. For instance, to deny that we have a sinful nature means self-deception and untruthfulness. Notice that John makes a distinction between sin (v. 8) and sins (v. 9). Sin refers to our corrupt, evil nature. Sins refers to evils that we have done. Actually what we are is a lot worse than anything we have ever done. But, praise the Lord, Christ died for our sin and our sins.
Conversion does not mean the eradication of the sin nature. Rather it means the implanting of the new, divine nature, with power to live victoriously over indwelling sin.
1:9 In order for us to walk day by day in fellowship with God and with our fellow believers, we must confess our sins: sins of commission, sins of omission, sins of thought, sins of act, secret sins, and public sins. We must drag them out into the open before God, call them by their names, take sides with God against them, and forsake them. Yes, true confession involves forsaking of sins: “He who covers his sins will not prosper: but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).
When we do that, we can claim the promise that God is faithful and just to forgive. He is faithful in the sense that He has promised to forgive and will abide by His promise. He is just to forgive because He has found a righteous basis for forgiveness in the substitutionary work of the Lord Jesus on the cross. And not only does He guarantee to forgive, but also to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The forgiveness John speaks about here is parental, not judicial. Judicial forgiveness means forgiveness from the penalty of sins, which the sinner receives when he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. It is called judicial because it is granted by God acting as Judge. But what about sins which a person commits after conversion? As far as the penalty is concerned, the price has already been paid by the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary. But as far as fellowship in the family of God is concerned, the sinning saint needs parental forgiveness, that is, the forgiveness of His Father. He obtains it by confessing his sin. We need judicial forgiveness only once; that takes care of the penalty of all our sins—past, present, and future. But we need parental forgiveness throughout our Christian life.
When we confess our sins, we must believe, on the authority of the word of God, that He forgives us. And if He forgives us, we must be willing to forgive ourselves.
1:10 Finally, in order to be in fellowship with God, we must not deny that we have committed acts of sin. God has stated over and over in His word that all have sinned. To deny this is to make God a liar. It is a flat contradiction of His word, and a complete denial of the reason the Lord Jesus came to suffer, bleed, and die.
Thus we see that fellowship with God does not require lives of sinlessness, but rather requires that all our sins should be brought out into His presence, confessed, and forsaken. It means that we must be absolutely honest about our condition, and that there should be no hypocrisy or hiding of what we really are.
MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995, S. 1 Jn 1:1