From: Over 50 Interpreters Explain 1 to 3 John Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2017
List of All Sources Quoted At End of File
WEB: That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we saw, and our hands touched, concerning the Word of life
Young’s: That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we did behold, and our hands did handle, concerning the Word of the Life --
Conte (RC): He who was from the beginning, whom we have heard, whom we have seen with our eyes, upon whom we have gazed, and whom our hands have certainly touched: He is the Word of Life.
1:1 That which. With the neuter “that which” the Socinian interpretation [is] that “that which” means the doctrine of Jesus, and not the Incarnate Word. [This] cannot stand: the verbs, “have seen,” “beheld,” “handled,” are fatal to it. In using the neuter John takes the most comprehensive expression to cover the attributes, words and works of the Word and the Life manifested in the flesh. 
The reason why John uses the neuter “that which” (which might as well have been the English compound relative what,) instead of the masculine him whom, is because the heretics questioned not that he, Christ, really appeared, but questioned his nature. He was, they said, a docetic, incorporeal phantom; or the Jesus was a mere man upon whom the superhuman Christ descended and rested. 
By those who wish to consider that this sublime utterance does not refer to a person, but to such a thing as a manifestation or a revelation, stress has been laid upon the neuter relative being used and not the masculine. [However] we cannot with any propriety be said to handle a manifestation unless the manifestation is absolutely identical with a person, which in this case it is. 
was from the beginning. When everything that ever had a beginning began, the Word was. He had no beginning but was the eternally existing Son subsisting in the bosom of the Father. 
In the words “from the beginning,” the writer looks back to the initial point of time, and describes what has been in existence from that point onward. Thus, “in the beginning” characterizes the absolute divine Word as He was before the foundation of the world and at the foundation of the world. “From the beginning” characterizes His development in time. 
A possible Old Testament allusion: Thus Proverbs 8:22, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” If the Word was in the beginning, then it is right to say He was from the beginning. He was in eternity and He was from eternity. Before all things, before men, before angels were brought into being, there the Word existed in the bosom of the Father. 
Alternative interpretation: [This] means from the very commencement of his manifestation as the Son of God, the very first indications on earth of what he was as the Messiah. 
Argument that the usage of such language through the epistle makes it refer to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry : There are several verses that support this interpretation. 1 John 2:7: “Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment, which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.” This refers to the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, the commandment given by Him. When was that given? From the beginning of Christianity, the beginning of the new dispensation. In other words, John was saying, “Do not take up with anything new; go back to that which was from the beginning of Christianity.”
Then read verse 1 John 2:14, “I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning.” He was writing to the “fathers” who had known Him from the beginning of this new age of grace. Then in verse 1 John 2:24 we read, “Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.”
In 2 John verse 5 we find these words, “And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.” In other words, don’t fall for something new. The message you received at the beginning is the message you must cling to and is the message that must abide in you. These passages make it clear that this term “from the beginning” does not, as some have thought, refer to eternity. It refers to the start of a new era. 
Objections to this alternative: The meaning of “beginning” must always depend upon the context. Here it is explained by “was with the Father” in verse 2. It does not mean the beginning of the gospel, or even of the world, but a beginning prior to that. It is equivalent to “from all eternity.” The Gospel is no new-fangled invention, as Jewish and heathen philosophers contended. The same Greek phrase is used in [the] LXX for “Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God?” (Habbakuk ), and when this is denied of idols (Wisdom 14:3). 
He dwelt in eternity, He exists from the beginning. Unitarians and those who deny the eternal preexistence of Christ make the expression “in the beginning” refer to the beginning of the gospel dispensation. But it is evident from the term "manifested” in verse 2 that John refers to something that had a prior spiritual existence, and then was manifested, became open to the examination and testimony of the senses. The one manifested was also a person who had been with the Father (verse 2). 
which we. John’s “we” includes Himself personally, and all the apostles representatively, whose office it was to be witnesses of what Jesus said, and did, and was. “We” apostles, are original authorities; whereas the heretics are strangers, basing their speculations on third or fourth hand testimonies, supplemented by their own fancies. And as “we” saw His miracles, heard His own account of Himself, and “handled” His very physical body, so our account is original and ultimate, the first and last word. 
have heard. Attentively considered on various occasions. 
John was with the Savior through the whole of his ministry, and He has recorded more that the Savior said than either of the other evangelists. It is on what He said of himself that he grounds much of the evidence that He was the Son of God. 
With this clause we pass from eternity into time. The first clause refers to something prior to the Creation. Here both the Creation and the Incarnation have taken place. 
which we have seen with our eyes. Emphasizing the direct, personal experience. 
“Seen,” namely, His glory, as revealed in the transfiguration and in His miracles; and His passion and death, in a real body of flesh and blood. 
By these expressions John intends to declare, emphatically, that he had every conceivable means of knowledge that his testimony in respect to the life, death, and resurrection, of Christ was true. 
With all the language at his command he insists on the reality of the Incarnation, of which he can speak from personal knowledge based on the combined evidence of all the senses. The Docetic heresy of supposing that the Lord’s body was unreal, and the Cerinthian heresy of supposing that He who “was from the beginning” was different from Him whom they heard and saw and handled, is authoritatively condemned by implication at the outset. In the Introduction to the Gospel there is a similar assertion; “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us—and we beheld His glory” (John ). Compare 2 Peter 1:16. 
which we have looked upon. Steadfastly, deeply, contemplatively. Appropriate to John's contemplative character. 
“Which we looked upon with steadfast gaze.” The word is the same that is used in Acts 1:11 of the apostles beholding the ascension of the Lord. 
Why this was important: That is what we want to know. We do not want to know what you have imagined and speculated and doubted; we do not want a history of your mental wrigglings and turmoils and tumults and terrors; we have enough of that kind of literature of our own; it you can tell us what you saw and what you heard, let us hear it. 
and our hands have handled. Heard . . . seen . . . looked upon . . . handled. A gradation. Seeing is a more convincing proof than hearing of; handling, than even seeing. 
The reference is, probably, to handle me (Luke 24:39), and to John . This is the more noticeable from the fact that John does not mention the fact of the resurrection in the Epistles, and does not use the word in his own narrative of the resurrection. The phrase therefore falls in with the numerous instances in which John assumes the knowledge of certain historic facts on the part of his readers. 
The apostles themselves were slow to believe the resurrection of Jesus. It was necessary that their eyes should see and their hands handle. So, likewise, when Peter was delivered from prison, and knocked at the gate where many disciples were together praying, the damsel who came to hearken, “when she heard Peter’s voice, opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her, Thou art mad” (Acts ) 
As an indictment of an early heresy: That is, the evidence that He was a man was subjected to the sense of touch. It was not merely that He had been seen by the eye, for then it might be pretended that this was a mere appearance assumed without reality; or that what occurred might have been a mere optical illusion; but the evidence that He appeared in the flesh [and] was subjected to more senses than one; to the fact that his voice was heard; that he was seen with the eyes; that the most intense scrutiny had been employed; and, lastly, that he had been actually touched and handled, showing that it could not have been a mere appearance, an assumed form, but that it was a reality. This kind of proof that the Son of God had appeared in the flesh, or that he was truly and properly a man, is repeatedly referred to in the New Testament. Luke 24:39: “behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.” Compare John 20:25-27. There is evident allusion here to the opinion which early prevailed, which was held by the Docetes, that the Son of God did not truly and really become a man, but that there was only an appearance assumed, or that he seemed to be a man. It was evidently with reference to this opinion, which began early to prevail, that the apostle dwells on this point, and repeats the idea so much, and shows by a reference to all the senses which could take any cognizance in the case, that he was truly and properly a man. The amount of it is, that we have the same evidence that he was properly a man which we can have in the case of any other human being; the evidence on which we constantly act, and in which we cannot believe that our senses deceive us. 
of the Word of life. In view of the Prologue in John 1
(cf. especially “In him
was life”), this phrase is best taken as meaning “the life-giving Word” or
“Logos,” and not (as
The two alternative approaches to the text: The question is whether λόγος is used here of the Personal Word, as John 1:1, or of the divine message or revelation. In the four passages of the Gospel where λόγος is used in a personal sense (John 1:1, 14), it is used absolutely, the Word (compare Revelation ). On the other hand, it is often used relatively in the New Testament; as word of the kingdom (Matthew ); word of this salvation (Acts ); word of His grace (Acts ); word of truth (James ). By John ζωῆς of life, is often used in order to characterize the word which accompanies it. Thus, crown of life (Revelation 2:10); water of life (Revelation 21:6); book of life (Revelation 3:5); bread of life (John 6:35); i.e., the water which is living and communicates life; the book; which contains the revelation of life; the bread which imparts life. In the same sense, John 6:68; Acts . Compare Titus 1:2, 3. I incline to regard its primary reference as personal, from the obvious connection of the thought with John 1:1, 4. “In the beginning was the Word -- in Him was life.” At the same time, I agree with Canon Westcott that it is most probable that the two interpretations are not to be sharply separated. “The revelation proclaims that which it includes; it has, announces, gives life. In Christ life as the subject, and life as the character of the revelation, were absolutely united.” 
WEB: (and the life was revealed, and we have seen, and testify, and declare to you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was revealed to us);
Young’s: and the Life was manifested, and we have seen, and do testify, and declare to you the Life, the age-during, which was with the Father, and was manifested to us --
Conte (RC): And that Life has been made manifest.
And we have seen, and we testify, and we announce
to you: the Eternal Life, who was with the Father,
and who appeared to us.
1:2 (For the life was manifested. Thus “as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” (John ). Thus “in him was life;” thus “I am the resurrection and the life;” thus “I am the way, the truth, and the life;” thus “Christ who is our life.” The Word was manifested not merely as the Revealer of God, but as the Life of God brought down to us. 
The Word became flesh, contemplates simply the historic fact of incarnation. The life was manifested, sets forth the unfolding of that fact in the various operations of life. 
“Was manifested” means became such that He could be known by man. 
Jesus Christ is here called the Life, not only as having life in himself, but as the author of eternal life, or that great and glorious Person, who revealed, and will bestow, that immortal glory. 
and we have seen it. This repetition, or turning over the thought, is designed to express the idea with emphasis, and is much in the manner of John. See John 1:1-3. He is particularly desirous of impressing on them the thought that he had been a personal witness of what the Savior was, having had every opportunity of knowing it from long and familiar contact with him. 
and bear witness. We testify in regard to it. John was satisfied that his own character was known to be such that credit would be given to what he said. He felt that he was known to be a man of truth, and hence he never doubts that faith would be put in all his statements. See John , ; Revelation 1:2; 3 John 1:12. 
[We give] testimony to the truth, with a view to producing belief in the Truth, on which eternal life depends, is one of his frequent thoughts. But the frequency of “bear witness” in his writings is much obscured in A.V., where the same verb is sometimes rendered “bear record” (1 John 5:7), “give record” (), and “testify” (; 5:9), and so also in the Gospel and the Revelation. 
and shew unto you. The Apostle emphatically reiterates that what he has to communicate is the result of his own personal experience. “He that hath seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also may believe” (John -- compare John 20:30-31, John 21:24). 
that eternal life. Literally, “we have seen, and bear witness, and announce to you the life, the eternal one, which was with the Father.” 
which was with the Father. “The which;” inasmuch as it was with the Father “from the beginning” (cf. 1 John 1:1; John 1:1). This proves the distinctness of the First and Second Persons. 
and was manifested unto us.) It wasn’t hidden; it wasn’t kept covert. [rw]
WEB: that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us. Yes, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
Young’s: that which we have seen and heard declare we to you, that ye also may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ;
Conte (RC): He whom we have seen and heard, we announce to you, so that you, too, may have fellowship with us, and so that our fellowship may be with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
1:3 That which we have seen and heard. Referring either to what he purposes to say in this Epistle, or more probably embracing all that he had written respecting Him, and supposing that his Gospel was in their hands. He means to call their attention to all the testimony which he had borne on the subject, in order to counteract the errors which began to prevail. 
“We:” He does not stand alone, but like him all the Apostles have heard, seen and handled, and bear witness with him. 
That which we have seen. In 1 John 1:1 he is thinking mainly of what he has to declare, viz. One existing from all eternity and intimately known to himself: in 1 John 1:3 he is thinking mainly of why he declares this, viz. to promote mutual fellowship. 
and heard. From Jesus’ own lips. [rw]
declare we unto you. For the following purpose. [rw]
Where does John declare Him who was from the beginning and was so well known to him and to others? Not in this Epistle, for no such declaration is found in it; but in the Gospel, which consists of such a declaration. We shall miss the purport of the Epistle if we do not bear constantly in mind that it was written as a companion to the Gospel. Parallels between the two abound: in what follows we have a striking one. Note the sequence of ideas: 1. the evidence on which their conviction was based, “have seen;” 2. their declaration of these convictions as Apostles, “bear witness;” 3. their declaration of them as Evangelists, “declare.” 
that ye also may have fellowship with us. In hearing, seeing, and handling of Christ in a spiritual sense; and by enjoying the same privileges in God's house and family, the same ordinances and spiritual provisions; joining and partaking with them in all the immunities and advantages of a Gospel church state here; and by being with them to all eternity hereafter. 
What is fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ? It is but little understood in its real meaning: Fellowship means having things in common. 
“Fellowship:” The “sharing in common,” “sharing,” “collective participation” in spiritual feelings, duties, and privileges. The verse suggests that fellowship with the apostles is the condition of true fellowship with Christ. 
and truly our fellowship is with the Father. Compare “that they may be one, even as We are” (John ). Christ’s prayer and John’s purpose are one and the same. 
This grand fellowship, that of the saints with the Father and the Son, is simply a guarantee that no good thing will be withheld from us; that “all things are ours.” There is a fellowship of peace, of concord, of eternal life and glory. 
and with his Son Jesus Christ. The repetition of “with” before the “Son” distinguishes the persons, while the fellowship with both Father and Son implies their unity. It is not added, “and with the Holy Spirit;” for it is by the Holy Spirit of the Father and Son in us that we have fellowship with the Father and Son (cf. 1 John ). 
In depth: The nature of a Christian’s fellowship with the Father and Son . That is, there was something in common with him and God; something of which he and God partook together, or which they shared. This cannot, of course, mean that his nature was the same as that of God, or that in all things he shared with God, or that in anything he was equal with God; but it means that he partook, in some respects, of the feelings, the views, the aims, the joys which God has. There was a union in feeling, and affection, and desire, and plan, and this was to him a source of joy. He had an attachment to the same things, loved the same truth, desired the same objects, and was engaged in the same work; and the consciousness of this, and the joy which attended it, was what was meant by fellowship. The fellowship which Christians have with God relates to the following points:
(1) Attachment to the same truths, and the same objects; love for the same principles, and the same beings.
(2) The same kind of happiness, though not in the same degree. The happiness of God is found in holiness, truth, purity, justice, mercy, benevolence. The happiness of the Christian is of the same kind that God has; the same kind that angels have; the same kind that he will himself have in heaven--for the joy of heaven is only that which the Christian has now, expanded to the utmost capacity of the soul, and freed from all that now interferes with it, and prolonged to eternity.
(3) Employment, or cooperation with God. There is a sphere in which God works alone, and in which we can have no cooperation, no fellowship with Him. In the work of creation; in upholding all things; in the government of the universe; in the transmission of light from world to world; in the return of the seasons, the rising and setting of the sun, the storms, the tides, the flight of the comet, we can have no joint agency, no cooperation with Him. There God works alone. But there is also a large sphere in which he admits us graciously to a cooperation with Him, and in which, unless we work, His agency will not be put forth.
This is seen when the farmer sows his grain; when the surgeon binds up a wound; when we take the medicine which God has appointed as a means of restoration to health. So in the moral world. In our efforts to save our own souls and the souls of others, God graciously works with us; and unless we work, the object is not accomplished.
This cooperation is referred to in such passages as these: “We are laborers together with God,” 1 Corinthians 3:9. “The Lord working with them,” Mark . “We then as workers together with him,” 1 Corinthians 6:1. “That we might be fellow-helpers to the truth,” 3 John, verse 8. In all such cases, while the efficiency is of God--alike in exciting us to effort, and in crowning the effort with success--it is still true that if our efforts were not put forth, the work would not be done. In this department God would not work by himself alone; He would not secure the result by miracle.
(4) We have fellowship with God by direct communion with Him, in prayer, in meditation, and in the ordinances of religion. Of this all true Christians are sensible, and this constitutes no small part of their special joy. The nature of this, and the happiness resulting from it, is much of the same nature as the communion of friend with friend--of one mind with another kindred mind--that to which we owe no small part of our happiness in this world.
(5) The Christian will have fellowship with his God and Savior in the triumphs of the latter day, when the scenes of the judgment shall occur, and when the Redeemer shall appear, that He may be admired and adored by assembled worlds.
WEB: And we write these things to you, that our joy may be fulfilled.
Young’s: and these things we write to you, that your joy may be full.
Conte (RC): And this we write to you, so that you may rejoice, and so that your joy may be full.
1:4 And these things write we unto you. Concerning the deity and eternity of Christ, the Word and concerning the truth of His humanity, and the manifestation of Him in the flesh; and concerning that eternal life and salvation which is declared in the Gospel to be in Him; and concerning the saints' fellowship one with another, and with God the Father, and with Jesus Christ. 
The expression “these things” refers not simply to what has here been stated, but to the contents of the entire Epistle. He had already announced the general aim of the apostolic proclamations. 
On the other hand: The expression, “these things” (ταῦτα), is used two hundred and forty-five times in the New Testament, and always, with half a dozen exceptions, with reference to things preceding. The reader, coming to the word in our passage, naturally thinks of the great things just mentioned by the writer. The “and,” introducing the statement, helps the impression. 
write. The apostles heard, saw and handled. We must read. 
that your joy. According to the better reading and rendering, that our joy may be fulfilled. “Our joy” may mean either the Apostolic joy at the good results of Apostolic teaching; or the joy in which the recipients of the teaching share—“yours as well as ours.” 
The apostle could not write these words without having full in his memory, and in his heart, the Lord's own thrice-repeated intimation of a similar sentiment in His farewell discourses and farewell prayer: “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11); “Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24); “These things I speak in the world, that they”—“those whom thou hast given me”—“might have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:3). 
joy. Meaning either their spiritual joy in this life, which has Christ for its object or else it may intend the joy of the saints in the world to come, in the presence of Christ, where are fullness of joy, and pleasures for evermore. 
The joy is that of knowing that, though in the world, they are not of it, but are one with one another, and with the Father and with the Son. The gospel is always joy: “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians ); "Rejoice in the Lord alway" (Philippians 4:4). To know that the Eternal Life has been manifested, that we have communion with Him, and through Him with the Father, must be joy. Whereas Gnosticism, by denying the atonement, and “the personal office of God in the salvation of the world,” cuts off one great sphere of God's love, and consequently one great cause of the believer's joy. 
may be full. By full joy, he expresses more clearly the complete and perfect happiness which we obtain through the Gospel; at the same time he reminds the faithful where they ought to fix all their affections. True is that saying, “Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also” (Matthew ). 
The last word is where the emphasis of thought should be placed. Small or partial joy may be possible from many different sources, but the joy that can come from a faith in the only divine Son of God is full both in the sense of being complete in its extent, and perfect in its quality. It will leave nothing that can reasonably be desired further by a firm believer. 
This is almost the same language which the Savior used when addressing his disciples as he was about to leave them, John 15:11 [“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full”]; and there can be little doubt that John had that declaration in remembrance when he uttered this remark. 
In depth: “Joy” as a benefit of adhering to Jesus . The things just written [collectively] produce supreme joy—joy, and not mere peace or happiness. A cardinal object of the ministry (2 Corinthians ), and of the gospel doctrines, is to produce this joy in Christians. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah ). It is the earnest of heaven, the essence of Christianity. “These things have I spoken unto you,” said Jesus, “that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John ). “Ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John .)
WEB: This is the message which we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
Young’s: And this is the message that we have heard from Him, and announce to you, that God is light, and darkness in Him is not at all;
Conte (RC): And this is the announcement which we have heard from him, and which we announce to you: that God is light, and in him there is no darkness.
1:5 This then is the message. “This” is the predicate, as so often in John: “But the judgment is this” (John ); “The commandment is this” (John ); “The eternal life is this” (John 17:3): compare 1 John 3:11, 23; 1 John 5:3, 11, 14; 2 John 1:6. In all these cases “is this” means “This is what it consists in, This is the sum and substance of it.” 
“Message” includes the entire doctrine of the epistle. 
which we have heard of him. The phrase “of him” does not mean respecting him, or about him, but from him; that is, this is what we received from His preaching; from all that he said. The peculiarity, the substance of all that He said, may be summed up in the declaration that God is light, and in the consequences which follow from this doctrine. He came as the messenger of Him who is light; He came to inculcate and defend the truths which flow from that central doctrine, in regard to sin, to the danger and duty of man, to the way of recovery, and to the rules by which men ought to live. 
and declare unto you. What the Son had received from the Father, this the Apostles were to report to the world. 
Modern application: In fulfilling the ministerial office, it is not sufficient that we set before our people the evidences of Christianity, or inculcate the performance of some moral duties: we are messengers from God to men; and we must “declare to them the message which we have received from Him.” We must not alter or conceal any part of that which we have been commanded to deliver; but must make known the whole counsel of God; and, having declared it with all plainness and fidelity, must urge the acceptance of it with all the energy we possess. 
that God is light. Light was God’s garment in Psalms 104:2; to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:2), the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord was brightness; to Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:4), His brightness was as the light; Christ had called the sons of God children of the light (John 12:36), and announced Himself as the Light of the World (John 8:12); in the Hebrews (Hebrews 1:3), Christ was the refracted ray of the Father’s glory, “the express image of His person;” to James, the Almighty was the Father of all lights (James 1:17); to Paul, He dwells “in the light that no man can approach unto” (1 Timothy 6:16); to Peter, the Christian state is an admission “into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). 
Interpreted in broadest sense: The light of wisdom, love, holiness, glory. What light is to the natural eye, that God is to the spiritual eye. 
The source whence all light, whether it be physical, or moral or spiritual, comes; the Enlightener of the universe. 
This denotes the perfection of God; it excludes alike the evil and the worthless. 
Interpreted in a narrower sense: Light, as here contrasted with darkness, means not intellectual illumination (for which cf. John ) but ethical perfection. It describes the absolute purity and holiness of God, as He has been revealed by Christ. 
There are several of the divine perfections which might be represented metaphorically by light. That holiness is the one here intended, is evident from 1 John 1:7, where it appears that it is an attribute of God, in respect to which men are bound to conform to Him. 
Why Satan is called the prince of darkness is sufficiently evident. When, therefore, God on the other hand is called the Father of light, and also light, we first understand that there is nothing in Him but what is bright, pure, and unalloyed; and, secondly, that he makes all things so manifest by his brightness, that he suffers nothing vicious or perverted, no spots or filth, no hypocrisy or fraud, to lie hid. Then the sum of what is said is, that since there is no union between light and darkness, there is a separation between us and God as long as we walk in darkness; and that the fellowship which he mentions, cannot exist except we also become pure and holy. 
and in him is no darkness at all. No contrary principle. He is pure, unmixed light. 
Strong negation: “no, not even one speck of darkness”; no ignorance, error, untruthfulness, sin, death. 
Or, retaining the telling order of the Greek, and darkness in Him there is none at all. This antithetic parallelism is characteristic of John’s style. He frequently emphasizes a statement by following it up with a denial of its opposite. Thus, in the next verse, “We lie, and do not the truth.” Compare “We lead ourselves astray, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8); “Abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him” (1 John ); “Is true, and is no lie” (1 John ): compare 1 John [“is a liar, and the truth is not in him”]. So also in the Gospel: see on John 1:3 [“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made”]. The denial here is very strong, the negative being doubled in the Greek; “none whatever, none at all.” 
In depth: “Light” as representing the essence of God . That God is, in His very nature, light, is an announcement peculiar to John. Others tell us that He is the Father of lights (James ), the Possessor of light (1 Peter 2:9), dwelling in light (1 Timothy ); but not that He is light. To the heathen God is a God of darkness, an unknown Being; a Power to be blindly propitiated, not a Person to be known and loved. To the philosopher He is an abstraction, an idea, not directly cognizable by man. To the Jews he is a God who hideth himself; not light, but a consuming fire. To the Christian alone He is revealed as light, absolutely free from everything impure, material, obscure, and gloomy. Light was the first product of the Divine creative energy, the earnest and condition of order, beauty, life, growth, and joy.
Of all phenomena it best represents the elements of all perfection. "This word 'light' is at once the simplest and the fullest and the deepest which can be used in human discourse. It is addressed to every man who has eyes and who has ever looked on the sun." It tells not only “of a Goodness and Truth without flaw; it tells of a Goodness and Truth that are always seeking to spread themselves, to send forth rays that shall penetrate everywhere, and scatter the darkness which opposes them” (Maurice).
In like manner, darkness sums up the elements of evil—foulness, secrecy, repulsiveness, and gloom. In all but the lowest forms of existence it inevitably produces decay and death. Everything of the kind is excluded from the nature of God. And hence John, in his characteristic manner, immediately emphasizes the great announcement with an equivalent negative statement: “Darkness in him there is not any at all.” He does not say, “in his presence,” but “in Him.” Darkness exists, physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual; there is abundance of obscurity, error, depravity, sin, and its consequence, death. But not a shade of these is “in him.” The Divine Light is subject to no spots, no eclipse, no twilight, no night; as a Source of light it cannot in any degree fail.
In depth: The cycle of thought from 1:5-2:28 . If “God is light” (1:5), how is fellowship to be maintained with Him (1 John 1:6-7)? [By walking in the light.] 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 1:8-2:2));
2. By keeping God’s commandments (1 John 2:3-8);
3. Especially the commandment of love to the brethren (1 John 2:9-14);
4. This keeping of God’s commandments is incompatible with the love of the world (1 John -17);
5. It is incompatible with the fellowship of false teachers (1 John -28).
WEB: If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and don't tell the truth.
Young’s: if we may say -- 'we have fellowship with Him,' and in the darkness may walk -- we lie, and do not the truth;
Conte (RC): If we claim that we have fellowship with him, and yet we walk in darkness, then we are lying and not telling the truth.
1:6 If we say. “If,” here with the subjunctive, presents a supposable condition, an “objective possibility” (Winer). “If we say”—that is, I, you, or any one else. 
Either with our tongue, or in our heart, if we endeavor to persuade either ourselves or others. 
that we have fellowship with him. If any profess to be partakers of the divine nature, to be like unto God, and to have communion with Him, to have the light of His countenance, and the discoveries of His love. 
“Communion with God is the very innermost essence of all true Christian life.” -- Luther 
and walk. Either inwardly or outwardly. 
A familiar Scriptural figure to describe a regular course of life. 
For walking as a description of the spiritual state, compare 1 John 2:6; 2 John verse 6; Romans 6:4, 8:4; Ephesians 4:17; Philippians 3:20. 
Walking implies continuance. It does not mean fall into some sin through stress of temptation or through being momentarily off one’s guard, but it means habitual, and we may say, willful commission, for walking implies some determination. 
in darkness. Live in sin. 
Darkness would include any conscious habit which was opposed to God’s example of perfection. 
Or: This “walking in darkness” does not mean necessarily to live in vice or immorality, but to pursue the daily task without reference to the will of God, to live according to worldly standards, to seek selfish goals, to exclude the light offered in Christ; this is to make impossible our fellowship with God. 
we lie. It is a contradiction, the thing is impossible and impracticable. 
The [core] heresy of the errorists; claiming that divine communion is perfectly compatible with wicked conduct; professing that they “know God,” and are thereby relieved from all obligation to do right. 
It is impossible to twist the multiplication table into the utterance of an untruth; it is just as impossible to harmonize a life that rejoices in sin with a life that has a fellowship with God. Godliness is holiness. 
and do not the truth. Our actions prove, that the truth is not in us. 
[We] do not act consistently with truth. 
We must both practice and believe the truth for either to do us any good: One man hopes to be saved by his works, while he disregards faith in Christ: another hopes that his faith will save him, though it never produce good works. But both of these deceive their own souls: for no man can do such works as the Gospel requires, unless he embrace the truths which it reveals: and, if he could do them, they would be utterly insufficient to justify him before God. On the other hand, “the faith that is without works, is dead:” and as it differs not from the faith of devils, so will it bring us no better portion than theirs. Knowledge is necessary to produce holiness; and holiness is necessary to evince that our knowledge is truly spiritual and saving. It is not by separating them from each other, but by uniting them together, that we are to “walk in the light as God is in the light.” 
WEB: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.
Young’s: and if in the light we may walk, as He is in the light -- we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son doth cleanse us from every sin;
Conte (RC): But if we walk in the light, just as he also is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.
1:7 But if we walk in the light. Which is a continued and progressive motion, i.e. do persevere and improve in holiness. 
In all languages, light is the natural symbol for three things: knowledge, joy, purity. John’s intense moral earnestness makes him mainly sensitive to the symbolism which makes light the expression, not so much of knowledge or of joy, as of moral purity. And although that is not exclusively his use of the emblem, it is predominately so, and it is so here. To “walk in the light” then, is, speaking generally, to have purity, righteousness, goodness, as the very element and atmosphere in which our progressive and changeful life is carried on. 
as he is in the light. The “as,” as Bishop Alexander says, here expresses similitude, not equality. Thus Paul: “Ye were sometime darkness, but now are in light in the Lord: walk as children of light. For the fruit of the spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth” [Ephesians 5:8-9]. 
we have fellowship one with another. i.e. with other Christians, the result of fellowship with God. 
There are plenty of other bonds that draw us to one another; but these, if they are not strengthened by this deepest of all bonds, the affinity of souls, that are moving together in the realm of light and purity, are precarious, and apt to snap. Sin separates men quite as much as it separates each man from God. It is the wedge driven into the tree that rends it apart. 
Or: Not with the saints, with the apostles, and other Christians, but with God: “we have mutual communion,” as the Arabic version renders it; God with us, and we with Him. Some copies read “with him,” as in 1 John 1:6; and such a reading the sense requires; and agreeably to this the Ethiopic version renders it, “and we are partakers among ourselves with him;” that is, we all jointly and mutually appear to be like Him, and partake of His nature, and have communion with Him. 
Or both envolved: In fact the one idea implies the other. They are inseparable. 
and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son. This is included both because it is true and to protect against the delusion that our moral purity alone is of such a quality that it could possibly result in our forgiveness of sins standing by itself and alone. [rw]
his Son. Not redundant: (1) it is a passing contradiction of Cerinthus, who taught that Jesus was a mere man when His blood was shed, for the Divine element in His nature left Him when He was arrested in the garden; and of the Ebionites, who taught that He was a mere man from His birth to His death; (2) it explains how this blood can have such virtue: it is the blood of One who is the Son of God. 
cleanseth us from all sin. The principle of sin in all its forms and manifestations; not the separate manifestations. Compare all joy (James 1:2); all patience (2 Corinthians ); all wisdom (Ephesians 1:8); all diligence (2 Peter 1:5). 
Taking away all the guilt and all the power. 
The present tense denotes a continuous process—the progressive sanctification of the believer's soul. 
“For this is the virtue of the Lord’s blood, that such as it has already purified from sin, and thenceforward has set in the light, it renders thenceforward pure, if they continue steadfastly walking in the light” (Tertullian, De Mod. XIX.). One who walks in spiritual darkness cannot appropriate that cleansing from sin, which is wrought by the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross as a propitiation for sin. 
WEB: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Young’s: if we may say -- 'we have not sin,' ourselves we lead astray, and the truth is not in us;
Conte (RC): If we claim that we have no sin, then we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
1:8 If we say that we have no sin. Whether “we say” by denying we have done wrong, or by affirming that no wrong we commit is “sin.” 
To say that we have reached a sinless state in which we no longer need the blood of Christ to cleanse us is a deception. This language is in square opposition to the claims of the “Perfectionists” of all ages. 
Confession of sins flows from “walking in the light” (verse 7). “If thou shall confess thyself a sinner, the truth is in thee; for the truth is light. Not yet has thy life become perfectly light, as sins are still in thee; yet thou hast already begun to be illuminated, because there is in thee confession of sins” (Augustine). 
“We:” John includes himself in this statement. 
we deceive ourselves. Not God (Galatians 6:7): we only make ourselves to err. 
Literally, “lead ourselves astray.” 
No test is propounded in regard to this wicked pretension. None was needed since they must of necessity soon be found out. They were deceiving themselves, and John tells them so plainly. They would hardly deceive anyone else; and if for a moment they did, the deception would soon be dispelled by sin being manifested in them all too plainly. 
and the truth. On this subject. 
Using the immediate subject as representative of a broader problem of theirs: i.e. the system and frame of gospel doctrine, as 2 John 1:1. 
is not in us. Neither in our mouth nor in our heart. 
Perfectionism has two causes: (1) The stifling of conscience: “we make Him a liar, i.e., turn a deaf ear to His inward testimony, His voice in our souls. (2) Ignorance of His Word: it “is not in us.” Such a delusion were impossible if we steeped our minds in the Scriptures. Consider the lapses of the saints, e.g., David, Peter. 
[In] some cases the claim arises from a mistaken definition of sin, referring it to some flagrant act alone. Sometimes there is a lack of knowledge of one's own heart, so that a proud self-sufficiency arises. 
WEB: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Young’s: if we may confess our sins, stedfast He is and righteous that He may forgive us the sins, and may cleanse us from every unrighteousness;
Conte (RC): If we confess our sins, then he is faithful and just, so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity.
1:9 If we confess our sins. Man acknowledges, God forgives. 
Note the plural, as compared with the singular, sin, in the previous verse. The plural indicates that the confession is to be specific as well as general. 
There must be no keeping back. We must plainly say to ourselves what we have done; we must write down in blackest ink everything we have done that is wrong. By no euphemism, by no crafty ambiguity of expression, are we to avoid the devil that we have created within ourselves. He must be delineated, portrayed, graphically, lineally, appallingly; and when we see the hideous sight we must say, My transgression is ever before me: God be merciful to me a sinner! 
Admission of guilt and personal responsibility to others: It is a great mistake to suppose that confession of any wrong which we have done to our neighbor is not a confession to God. It is confession to God if done as in His sight and with a view to His approval and the reception of His grace. 
Confession needs to go hand-in-hand with the effort to change rather than be a substitute for it: To confess our sins would be of no value if it led to nothing more. To confess our sins without lamenting them or to lament them without striving to correct them, would be an abuse of God’s mercy. To argue, God is merciful: if we confess our sins, He will forgive our sins—therefore we need use no diligence to keep ourselves pure from sin;--this would be to turn the grace of God into a reason for [further] offending Him. The Christian confesses his sin not because he is satisfied with it, but because he is striving against it; because he sets before him a standard which he has not reached, yet can never be contented without reaching. 
he is faithful. To His promises. He will do what He has assured us He will do in remitting them. 
Having promised this blessing by the unanimous voice of all his prophets. 
and just. He is “just” and accordingly treats differently him who confesses his sins from him who claims that he has no sins. 
The word “just” here cannot be used in a strict and proper sense, since the forgiveness of sins is never an act of justice, but is an act of mercy. But the word “just” is often used in a larger sense, as denoting upright, equitable, acting properly in the circumstances of the case, etc. Here the word may be used in one of the following senses:
(1) Either as referring to His general excellence of character, or His disposition to do what is proper; that is, He is one who will act in every way as becomes God; or,
(2) That he will be just in the sense that He will be true to His promises; or that, since He has promised to pardon sinners, He will be found faithfully to adhere to those engagements; or perhaps,
(3) That He will be just to His Son in the covenant of redemption, since, now that an atonement has been made by Him, and a way has been opened through His sufferings by which God can consistently pardon, and with a view and an understanding that He might and would pardon, it would be an act of injustice to Him if He did not pardon those who believe on Him.
Viewed in either aspect, we may have the fullest assurance that God is ready to pardon us if we exercise true repentance and faith. No one can come to God without finding him ready to do all that is appropriate for God to do in pardoning transgressors; no one who will, in fact, not receive forgiveness if he repents, and believes, and makes confession. 
to forgive us our sins. Freely, fully, forever. 
This is not a repetition in different words; it is a second and distinct result of our confession: 1. We are absolved from sin’s punishment; 2. We are freed from sin’s pollution. The forgiveness is the averting of God’s wrath; the cleansing is the beginning of holiness. 
forgive . . . and to cleanse. “Forgive” refers to the remission of punishment, “cleanse” to the removal of pollution. 
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. All without exception; why then should we put in conditions, and as it were interline God’s covenant? He is a sin pardoning God, Nehemiah 9:31; no God like him for that in heaven and earth, Micah 7:18; He multiplieth pardon, as we multiply sin, Isaiah 55:7; He doth it freely, for His own sake, naturally, Exodus 34:6; constantly, Psalms 130:4. 
In depth: How specific does the confession need to be ? This does not say that we are to confess that we have sins for that would be so general that it would be virtually no confession at all; the sins themselves is what we are to confess. Sometimes persons will come forward in a meeting saying they wish to make a confession, and when given the opportunity will say, “I have not been living as I should.” That does not confess any sin as our verse requires. It may be replied that David made that sort of confession to the prophet because all he said was, “I have sinned.” That is true but it was after his sin had been pointed out so that his statement was an acknowledgment of the specific sin. It was like the action of a jury that says, “We ﬁnd the defendant guilty as charged” without naming any particular misdeed. If a disciple does not know of anything wrong he has done then he has none to confess. Should he have some faults of which he is not aware, verse 7 of this chapter will take care of them. If he has committed sins which only he and the Lord know about, then he needs only to make his confession to Him.
Alternative approach: Not to one other; for though it is our duty to confess our faults to our fellow creatures and fellow Christians which are committed against them, yet are under no obligation to confess such as are more immediately against God and which lie between Him and ourselves; or at least it is sufficient to confess and acknowledge in general what sinful creatures we are, without entering into particulars; for confession of sin is to be made to God, against whom it is committed, and who only can pardon. 
WEB: If we say that we haven't sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Young’s: if we may say -- 'we have not sinned,' a liar we make Him, and His word is not in us.
Conte (RC): If we claim that we have not sinned, then we make him a liar, and his Word is not in us.
If we say that we have not sinned. i.e., since conversion. This interpretation is required by verse 8 and the general context. 
“I deceive myself, and the truth is not in me." I am fast sinking into my old natural habit of evasion and equivocation, of self-excuse and self-justification. “Guile” is taking the place of “truth,” the truth of God, “in my spirit,” “in my inward parts.” I cease to be as sensitively alive as I once was to whatever in me or about me cannot stand the light. I am thus incurring a serious hazard; the hazard of being again found walking in darkness, and so disqualifying myself for fellowship with Him who is light. And I am apt to lose a very precious privilege: the privilege of continual and constant confession, in order to continual and constant forgiveness. 
we make him a liar. God says we have sinned. He declares “There is none righteous; no, not one.” Hence, if we affirm that we are sinless we make God a liar. 
Our sinfulness is so obvious—except to the self-blinded—that in denying its existence we are not only deluded but add an implicit insult to God as well. [rw]
Self-deception is so fearful because it will progress to the denial of the truth and the truthfulness of God and His Word, even to open and formal blasphemy: we lie, 1 John 1:6; we deceive ourselves, 1 John 1:8; we make God a liar, 1 John 1:10. 
and his word is not in us. Since He has in so many ways declared that the conduct and characters of all men are entirely inconsistent with the requirements of His law. 
If there is one thing more clearly revealed in God’s word than another, it is that we have a constant warfare to maintain. Now the man who says that he has not sinned gives the lie to all such declarations as “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day;” “be sober and vigilant, because your adversary the devil [walketh about seeking whom he may devour];” “Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God; toward them that fell severity, but towards thee goodness, if thou continue in his goodness.” Such words of warning and severity are not [found in such a] man. He denies their relevancy as regards himself and as these words are God’s words, he practically makes God a liar. 
In depth: Our very human tendency to judge ourselves of better character than we really are—ways to rationalize our effective sinlessness while never explicitly claiming it . There are few who would plainly state it. But without asserting so in plain terms, there are many ways of practically saying it.
To excuse our offences against the Divine law, on the plea of a corrupt or weak nature, and to pretend that we are as free from blame as that nature would allow:--this is one way of saying that we have no sin. And whoever does so deceives himself. Has he studied to amend that nature by all the means which God has put into his power? To “purify his heart through the Spirit?” To “keep his body in subjection?”
Others form to themselves a law and profess to be governed by it, and say they have no sin [in the sight of God], if they keep within the boundaries of their law of their own. They set up an imaginary charity and an imaginary sincerity—some standard of duty fixed by themselves—and with this they are satisfied. Like the Pharisees, who devoted to some other purpose the money which might have assisted their needy parents, and then thought themselves free from the obligation of the commandment, “Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother” (Mark ).
BOOKS/COMMENTARIES UTILIZED IN THIS STUDY:
All commentaries are in the public domain; the copyright having expired or never been on them.
1 Marvin R. Vincent, D.D. Word Studies in the New Testament. 1886. Internet edition.
2 John Wesley. Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible. 1754-1765. Internet edition.
3 Barton Johnson. People’s New Testament. 1891. Internet edition.
4 Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, David Brown. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Unabridged edition. Internet edition.
5 Charles Simeon. Horae Homileticae. 1832. Internet edition.
6 James Gray. Concise Bible Commentary. 1897-1910. Internet edition.
7 John Dummelow, editor. Dummelow’s Commentary on the Bible. 1909. Internet edition.
8 Frank B. Hole. Old and New Testament Commentary. Internet edition.
9 E. M. Zerr. Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. Internet edition.
10 Arthur Peake. Commentary on the Bible. 1919. Internet edition.
11 John A. Bengel. Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897. Internet edition.
12 John S. C. Abbott. Illustrated New Testament. 1878. Internet edition.
13 Joseph Sutcliffe. Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835. Internet edition.
14 Matthew Poole. English Annotations on the Bible. 1685. Internet edition.
15 Paul E. Kretzmann. Popular Commentary. 1921-1922. Internet edition.
16 John Gill. Exposition of the Entire Bible. 1746-1763. Internet edition.
17 Adam Clarke. Commentary. 1832. Internet edition.
18 Albert Barnes. Notes on the New Testament. 1870. Internet edition.
19 Heinrich Meyer. Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832. Internet edition.
20 Johann P. Lange. Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical. 1857-1884. Internet edition.
21 William R. Nicoll, editor. Expositor’s Greek Testament. 1897-1910. Internet edition.
22 Henry Alford. Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878. Internet edition.
23 Alfred Plummer.
24 The Pulpit Commentary. 1897. Internet edition.
25 John Trapp. Complete Commentary. Lived 1601-1669. 1865-1868 reprinting. Internet edition.
26 William Godbey. Commentary on the New Testament. Internet edition.
27 John Calvin. Commentary on the Bible. Internet edition.
28 Joseph C. Philpot (1802-1869). Commentary on Select Texts. Internet edition.
29 George Haydock (1774-1849). Catholic Bible Commentary. Internet edition.
30 H. A. Ironside. Ironside’s Notes on Selected Books. 1914. Internet edition
31 Lost source; rather than delete the material, I felt it better to simply list the unidentifiable volume and admit my error.
32 Charles J. Ellicott, editor. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers. Internet edition.
33 Daniel D. Whedon. Commentary on the Bible. Internet edition.
34 Philip Schaff, editor. Schaff’s Popular Commentary on the New Testament. Internet edition.
35 Joseph Benson (born 1748). Commentary of the Old and New Testaments. Internet edition.
36 Thomas Coke (published 1801-1803). Commentary on the Holy Bible. Internet edition.
37 Robert S. Candlish. The First Epistle of John Expounded In A Series of Lectures. 1877 edition. Internet edition.
38 Arno C. Gaebelein. The Annotated Bible. Internet edition.
39 Joseph Parker. The People's Bible. Internet edition.
40 Thomas Scott. Commentary on the Bible. Volume Six. Fifth Edition. London: L. B. Seeley et al, 1822.
41 Bernhard Weiss. Commentary on the New
42 M. F. Sadler. The General Epistles of
SS James, Peter, John and Jude.
43 [Robert S. Hunt?] The
Cottage Commentary: The Epistle to the
Hebrews and the General Epistles.
44 Charles Erdman. The General Epistles: An Exposition.
45 W. H. Bennett. The Century Bible: The General Epistles—James, Peter, John, and
46 John B. Sumner. A Practical Exposition
of the General Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude.
47 James C. Gray. Biblical Museum: Hebrews to the End of the New Testament.
48 William G. Humphry.
A Commentary on the
Revised Version of the New Testament.
49 Revere F. Weidner. The Lutheran Commentary: Annotations on the General Epistles of James,
Peter, Peter, John, and Jude.
50 A Short Protestant Commentary on the
New Testament. Volume
from the Third German Edition.
51 O. P. Eaches.
52 Henry A. Sawtelle. Commentary on the
Epistles of John.