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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

1 John 1



Other Authors
Verses 1-10

WE MUST NOT confound “from the beginning” with the words, “In the beginning,” with which the Gospel opens. There, the eternal existence and deity of the Word is stated, and we travel back to the beginning, and even beyond the beginning, of all things that can be said to have had a beginning. Here, we are concerned with the fact that all Christian truth begins with the revelation which reached us in Christ incarnate. That was the beginning of the true manifestation of God and of life eternal. That was the basis of all apostolic teaching. The antichrists pushed their seductive teachings which merely originated from their own foolish minds. The apostles declared that which was from the beginning, and not something which had been introduced since.

In verses 1 John 1:1-2 the Lord Jesus is not mentioned personally, for the point is rather that which was presented to us in Him. He was “the Word of life.” In John 1:1-51, He is “the Word,” and being such He creates, so that creation may express something at least of God. Also He becomes flesh and dwells amongst us that He may express God fully to us. Here the thought is similar, but more limited. Life is the point: He was “that eternal life which was with the Father” and in Him it has been manifested unto us. We are to have the life in having Him; but the first thing is to see the full character of the life as it came out in Him.

The life was eternal life, but it also was “with the Father.” This statement, we are told, gives the character of the life; so that it is not merely a statement of the fact that it was with the Father, but rather that it was such a life as that. It was with the Father inasmuch as He, who is the Fountain Head of that life, was with the Father, and in Him it has been manifested unto us. He became flesh that it might be manifested.

By the fact of His becoming flesh He placed Himself within the reach of three out of the five senses or faculties with which man is endowed. He could be heard, seen and felt. Hearing comes first, for in our fallen condition it is to that faculty that God specially addresses Himself. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). And so in the first place the apostles heard the Word of life, and thus were able to apprehend Him.

But then they also saw Him with their eyes, and even “looked upon,” or “contemplated” Him. There had been in earlier days fleeting manifestations of this great Person as “the Angel of the Lord,” only then it was impossible to contemplate Him for He was seen but for a moment. Now, come in flesh, all was different. The apostles spent years with Him, and could scrutinize Him with attention. They gazed at Him long and earnestly, even though they did not properly understand all that they observed until they had received the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Also they came into physical contact with Him. Their hands actually handled Him. This guaranteed that He was no mere Spirit manifestation. He was amongst them in a real human body of flesh and blood. After His resurrection He sojourned among them in His risen body of flesh and bones, and we may remember how He specifically enjoined them to handle Him and see He was not a Spirit after His resurrection.

All this establishes then beyond a doubt that there had been this real manifestation of eternal life before them. John 1:1-51 shows that in Him the Father was declared (ver. 18); Colossians 1:1-29, that God was perfectly represented in Him as His Image (ver. 15); Hebrews 1:1-14, that as the Son He is the Word, and that He is the expression and outshining of God’s Being and glory (vers. 2, 3). Here we find that He furnished the only true, objective manifestation of eternal life. It is remarkable that, just as we have four Gospels setting forth His life from differing aspects so we have these four passages which set forth from differing aspects all that which came into revelation in Him.

The reason why John laboured this point in his opening verses was that the anti-christian teachers belittled it, or even denied it altogether. They were called “Gnostics,” because they claimed to be “the knowing ones.” They preferred their own subjective impressions and philosophic speculations to the objective facts established in Christ. Now everything for the apostles and for us begins with well established facts. The faith once delivered to the saints is rooted and established on facts. We cannot be too clear and emphatic as to this. That which is (as we shall see) subjectively produced in the saints is strictly in keeping with that which has been objectively manifested in Him.

The manifestation was made in the first place to the apostles. They were the “we.” But then, “that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.” The “you” were the saints generally. The manifestation made before the apostles brought them into “fellowship... with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” They have made known to us that which was manifested, that we might be brought into the same wonderful fellowship. The Father and the Son are made known to us. The eternal life connected with the Father and the Son has been manifested to us through them. The things of the Father and the Son have been revealed. Nothing could be more wonderful than this: nothing more absorbing, if once by the Holy Spirit we begin to lay hold of it. Nothing more calculated to fill our hearts with abiding gladness. No wonder the Apostle adds, “These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”

Verse 1 John 1:4 makes it quite clear that the communication of these things to us by the apostles is through the Scriptures. “These things write we...” The apostles heard, saw and handled. We must read. Thank God for the Holy Writings which bring the knowledge of these things to us for our joy.

In verse 1 John 1:5 John begins his message. Where does he start? With this great fact that “God is light” and not, as we might have expected, with the fact that God is love. All the emphasis would no doubt have been on His love had the manifestation been made in regions of unsullied purity and light. As however the manifestation has been made in this world, so filthy with sin and full of darkness, the first emphasis must be laid on light.

As to light—who can define it? Men have formulated theories to account for the light of creation, but they cannot really explain it. Who then shall explain the uncreated Light? We know that light is necessary if life is to exist in any but its lowest forms. We know that it is healthful, that it illuminates and exposes all things, and that if it enters darkness flees. In God there is no darkness at all, for darkness stands for that which is removed from the action of light, that which is hidden and sinful.

Not only is God Himself light but, as verse 1 John 1:7 tells us, He is “in the light.” Once the Lord had said, “that He would dwell in the thick darkness” (2 Chronicles 6:1); and the fact that Solomon built Him an house did not alter it, for His presence was still found in the Holy of Holies, where all was dark. This was altered by the coming of the Lord Jesus, for God stepped into the light in Him. The God who is light is now in the light.

This fact is used as a test in verse 6. We have in this verse the first of many tests which are propounded. The presence of many false teachers with their varied and boastful claims made these tests necessary; and we shall notice that none of them are based upon elaborate or far-fetched considerations. They are all of the simplest sort and based upon the fundamental nature of things. Here, for instance, the fact that God is light, and that He is in the light, tests any claim that is made of being in fellowship with Him. Such an one cannot possibly be walking in darkness, for as we read elsewhere, “What communion hath light with darkness?” There is no communion (or fellowship) at all between the two. They are diametrically opposed.

The point here is not whether we always walk according to the light that we have received. We are all found offenders as to this at some time or other, as we know to our sorrow. To “walk in darkness” is to walk in ignorance of the light that has shone in Christ. A reference to Isaiah 50:10, Isaiah 50:11, at this point may be helpful. The one who “walks in darkness and has no light” is to “trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” However, even in Isaiah’s day there were those who preferred to “kindle a fire” and walk in the light of the fire and the sparks that they kindled. It was just like this in John’s day, and still is so in our own. There are all too many false teachers who prefer the sparks of their own kindling to the light of God’s revelation. Consequently they and their followers are in darkness in spite of all their pretensions, and they have no fellowship with Him.

The true believer walks in the light of God fully revealed. The light has searched him of course. It could not be otherwise. But he walks happily in the light because he has learned in that light that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Every spot of defilement exposed by the light is removed by the Blood.

The word is “cleanseth”—the present tense. From this some have deduced that the blood is to be continually applied. But the present tense is also used to denote the nature or character of anything; just as we say, “Cork floats.” “Fire burns.” “Soap washes.” Such are their respective natures. Those properties belong to them. So it is the nature of the blood of Christ to cleanse from all sin. That blessed property is inherent in it. The idea that the Blood has to be continually or repeatedly applied contravenes the teaching of Hebrews 9:23-28; Hebrews 10:1-14. We are “ONCE PURGED” by the “one offering,” so as to have “no more conscience of sins.”

Not only were men found who professed to have fellowship with God while yet walking in darkness, but there also were found some who went so far as to say, “We have no sin.” 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. If any indulge in such high and unfounded claims they do not show that sin is not in them. They only make it very manifest that the truth is not in them.

It is very difficult to imagine true believers deceiving themselves in this way, save for a very brief time. The only true and honest attitude for us is that of confessing our sins, and doing so at once. It is true of course that the only honest thing for the unbeliever, when conviction reaches him, is to confess his sins; then forgiveness, full and eternal will be his. The believer is in question here however. It is, “If we confess...” The sin of a believer does not compromise or upset the eternal forgiveness which reached him, when as a sinner he turned to God in repentance. It does nevertheless compromise his communion with God, of which we have just been reading. That communion will be suspended until he confesses the sin that has broken in upon it.

When we confess, God is faithful and just to all that Christ is, and has done, and the sin is forgiven so that fellowship may be restored. This is what we may call paternal forgiveness, to distinguish it from the eternal forgiveness which reached us as sinners.

Not only does He forgive, but He also cleanses from all unrighteousness. The honest confession of sin by the saint not only ensures forgiveness but it also has a cleansing effect. Confession of sin means the judgment in our own hearts and minds of what we confess. And that means cleansing from its influence and deliverance from its power.

A third pretension comes before us in verse 10. Some may be so far deluded as to say that they “have not sinned.” A test is propounded in regard to this; namely, the Word of God. To make such a preposterous statement is to place ourselves in opposition to the Word of God and to make Him a liar. He plainly states that we have sinned, which ends the matter. We cannot contradict His Word, and yet have His Word abiding in us.

As surely as we are in the light, shall we know that we have sinned and that sin is still in us. Yet we shall also know the value of the blood of Christ and its cleansing power, as also the restoration that reaches us upon honest confession. Thus communion in the light with the Father and His Son is established for us, and also maintained. We are enabled to know and rejoice in the life which has been manifested, and in all that from the beginning has been set forth in the blessed Son of God.

Our joy being full in such things as these, we shall not feel inclined to run after the men who would entice us with their professed improvements and enlargements of “that which was from the beginning.” The sparks they display before us may be quite pretty, but they are only of their own kindling, and they die out into darkness.


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on 1 John 1:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

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