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Morrish Bible Dictionary

John, First Epistle of

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This was doubtless written after the epistles of Peter and Paul. Morally John's writings have their place when the church as a testimony had failed, and the 'last time' had arrived. The three Epistles come in between the Gospel of John and the Revelation. The real remedy for the evils spoken of is the coming in of the Lord as the faithful witness.

Near the end of the first century the error had arisen that Christ had no real body — had not come in flesh: this doctrine is condemned in this epistle. Others held that only the germ of Christianity could be found in existing teachings, and that development must be looked for (an error prevalent also in the present day), which was met by the apostle insisting on 'that which was from the beginning' — the revelation of life in Christ Himself.

The leading truth of this epistle is that eternal life had come down from the Father in the person of Christ; and it was written that

1. The believer's joy might be full, through being in communion with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ by means of inspired and apostolic revelation, He as Advocate maintaining the same.

2. That believers should not sin. 1 John 2:1 .

3. That believers might know that they have eternal life, which is in the Son. 1 John 5:13 . The epistle presents things largely in their own proper character, touching but little upon what is experimentally different therefrom, and thus contains tests of profession.

1 John 1 presents that which the apostles had heard, seen, contemplated, and handled of the Word of life in the person of the Son become man. It is that which was set forth in a Man. That which was with the Father, namely, the eternal life, was thus manifested to the apostles, who reported what they had seen and heard to the disciples, that they might have fellowship with them, and that their joy might be full. The apostles' fellowship was with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. But it is in the light that it is enjoyed, where also christian fellowship is known, and the blood of Christ is the foundation of all.

1 John 2 . What is inconsistent and consistent with the light is then referred to, leading on to the unfolding of the advocacy of "Jesus Christ the righteous" with the Father, and its effects in case any one sinned. The test of the knowledge of God is keeping His commandments, and the love of God is perfected in him who keeps His word. But this commandment of love is no new one; what is new is that which is true both in Him and in His disciples. They are in the light now, for God is fully revealed, and they are in the light of this revelation. He who hates his brother is in darkness. Different stages of growth in Christians are now spoken of, namely, fathers, young men, and babes. What is characteristic of each is presented, together with certain besetting dangers, against which young men and babes are warned. 1 John 2:12 and 1 John 2:28 speak of all Christians under the general term 'little children.' It may be noticed that even the babes have the Holy Ghost — the unction from the Holy One.

1 John 3 gives the nature of the Christian's place and blessings as given of the Father's love, and the actual result of being born of God, both in the practice of righteousness and in loving one another. In these things the children of God are manifested; while in the practice of sin, and the hatred of their brother, the children of the devil are discerned. In John's epistle people are viewed absolutely as either one thing or the other.

Jesus Christ is set forth as the perfect pattern both of righteousness and of love. He is here viewed as veritably God, and the One who came to undo the works of the devil, and He has 'laid down his life for us.' He fully vindicated the rights of God, which sin had compromised, and He loved even unto death.

In fine, this chapter declares, on the one hand, what believers are before God, in present relationship, Christ Himself being the completion and measure of all their blessing; on the other hand, the test of it as regards men, Christ abiding in them that His character may come out in them. In the concluding verse the Spirit is introduced in connection with the conscious knowledge believers have that God abides in them. It is by Him they know it.

1 John 4 gives a test for distinguishing spirits, namely, the confession of Jesus Christ come in flesh, which could only be by the Spirit of God. There were those who, denying this great foundation of the faith, spoke as of the world, and who had the world's approval. Christians are qualified to discriminate as to what is presented to them. Then it is shown that those towards whom God's love is so great ought to love one another. The character of God morally, which had been seen in Christ, is now seen in those who are the objects of His love; they are identified even in this world with Christ as He is, from whom they derive everything in new creation. He who does not love, does not know God. It is in loving one another that believers come out before the world as the disciples of Christ. In this chapter it is said that we know 'that we abide in Him' ( 1 John 4:13 ), not merely that He abides in us: cf. 1 John 3:24 .

1 John 5 gives a test whereby believers may know that they love God's children, namely, when they love God and keep His commandments. Those born of God get the victory over the world — those, in fact, who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. The glory of His person eclipses all that naturally appeals to them, and they are thus delivered from the influence of the world. This leads the apostle to speak of eternal life, which he shows is not in the first man, but in God's Son. "He that hath the Son hath life: he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." The water and the blood show that it involves clearance from all that is morally of the first man, and the Spirit proves it is in another Man. The Spirit is the 'truth' here: but it is to bring believers into the conscious knowledge of eternal life, which is set forth objectively in the person of the Son of God. Christians are brought by the Spirit, through the application of death, into the present enjoyment of eternal life, and He leads their hearts into the heavenly things into which the Son of God, the Man Christ Jesus, has entered.

The epistle closes with a kind of summary of Christian knowledge from its particular point of view. Christians know first the nature of one begotten of God. Then they know that they are of God, and that the whole world lies in the wicked one — the difference morally between Christians and the world. Lastly, they know that the Son of God has come, and that He has given them an understanding to know Him, in whom God is perfectly revealed. They know moreover that they are in God's Son, Jesus Christ, who is the true God and eternal life. No other object should govern the heart. "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Morrish, George. Entry for 'John, First Epistle of '. Morrish Bible Dictionary. 1897.

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