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Thoughts on First John, Chapter 1 PDF Print E-mail
Written by T.S. Dalton   


The apostle begins this epistle in the same abrupt manner that he did his Gospel, without any particular address or salutation. He wrote truly as a witness or messenger in his own sententious, declaratory way, and not so much in an argumentative manner. And if he meant Christ as the Son of God in his beginning here (and surely he could not have meant any other), the term from the beginning must denote from eternity; for if the creation and time were coeval, that which was from the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, must have been eternal. While it is true that the same expression is used in some other places denoting the first opening of the gospel dispensation, yet this idea does not seem at all consistent with the context in this place.
The obvious meaning however is this, that the essential good which was from the beginning with God, by whom all things were created, had become flesh, to dwell on earth among men, and the publish His salvation, and had seen Him with their eyes and handled Him with their hands, and had thus beheld His glory as the only begotten of the Father, "full of grace and truth." They had not just transiently seen Him; but they had accompanied Him in his journeyings, and had seen the power of His miracles; and they knew Him, both in respect to His wisdom, and holiness of character, and His love and mercy during these years, until they at last saw Him expire on the cross; and then saw Him after He arose from the dead, and their hands had handled Him while He was giving them full proof of His resurrection from the dead, that they might witness it to others.
This divine person is the Word of life, the word of God made incarnate, that he might be the life of men; and this is that "Great mystery of godliness" that the apostle Paul declared to mankind. John wrote to assure his brethren everywhere, and throughout all the ages, of the reality of Christ’s human nature, which some in that age denied, and of His divine nature, which His resurrection fully demonstrated. For the life—the source and author of life, natural and spiritual and eternal, who possessed life in Himself, and is therefore called, "The life"-- therefore our life must be derived from Him. John says "This life was manifested," that is in the flesh, and we have seen it, and testify that those who possess eternal life have Christ living in them; and therefore like Paul we say, "The life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who died for me and rose again."
When the Son of God, the essential life of His people, was thus manifest in the flesh, the apostles were peculiarly favored to be thus chosen to be with Him, to be His attendants during His ministry, to see and honor Him after His resurrection, and to be eye witnesses of His ascension to the right hand of the Father, that they might bear witness to others of these things, and could unhesitatingly testify that he was very God and very man, and "In him was life, and, this life was the light of man;" for He was truly the unbroken essence of the Godhead yet possessing distinct personality as, "The only begotten of the father," by an eternal and incomprehensible generation, and who in the fullness of time was manifested as the author and giver of eternal life to poor sinners of Adam's apostate race, through the redemption of His blood and the communion of his new creating Spirit. Therefore the apostles did not have to rely on mere report, or what they learned from men, or theological schools, when they started out to the nations, to encounter the privations, dangers, hardships and persecutions, incident to the preaching the gospel of the Lord to them; but they declare the things concerning the person, doctrine, and salvation of Christ, which they had seen with their own eyes, and heard from the precious lips of Jesus himself, and had been assured of His miracles, resurrection and ascension.

The learned Scott, in paraphrasing on the third and fourth verses, beautifully said, "They shared the special love and favor of God the Gather, all of His perfections ensured their happiness; they were made partakers of His holiness and even of His divine nature; and they had the assured hope and blessed earnests of enjoying Him as their all sufficient and eternal Father, and a sacred union having been formed between Him and their souls, through Jesus Christ and by the power of His Holy Spirit, a most honorable and happy communion, and intercourse was continually carried on between the glorious God and them; while they poured out their inmost souls before Him, made Him their hope and confidence (centered their interests not in self, but in Him), aimed to do His will and manifest His glory, celebrated His praises, were His devoted worshippers, and sought their felicity in His favor and acceptance, while in return He graciously heard their supplications, accepted their persons, and services, communicated to them His holy consolations, showed them His will, supplied them with wisdom and strength suited to their wants, and took on Him the care of all their concerns. This "Fellowship with the Father" arose from their fellowship with His son, Jesus Christ. This was no enthusiastic imagination, or hypocritical pretense, as many were disposed to represent it; nor was it an unsatisfactory, or inefficacious transaction, as others might suppose, who did not deny its reality; but they had the happy experience of it in their souls; and manifested the excellency of it in their lives, and shared with their brethren in this Sacred Communion, such comforts and substantial satisfaction, as made them ample amends for all their losses, sufferings and hardships. Being therefore assured, that this alone was sufficient to make men happy, and knowing the inexhaustible "fullness of Christ," and His inestimable salvation; they desired exceeding that their fellow-sinners would come and share their felicity, and leaving the lying vanities of the world, or empty forms, and superstitions of false religion, would seek with them this "fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ."

The same principle induced the apostle John to write this epistle to the churches, that, rejecting the heretical doctrines of false teachers, "having fellowship with Christ," with those who adhered to the apostles’ doctrine, and avoiding whatever could interrupt their communion with God, their holy joy might be complete; and they might live in actual possession of these invaluable privileges, to which they were called by the gospel."

The heavenly message then in verse 5 is to tell that Jesus Christ has done this great work for sinners, and the apostles went out to deliver faithfully the message God had given them; and they testified that "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." The substance of this declaration is that "God is light," pure, perfect intellect, an all-pervading all-penetrating Spirit, essential knowledge, wisdom, holiness, love and felicity, so that "in Him there is no darkness at all," no ignorance, error, moral evil, no defect in any particular, therefore none of these can be derived from Him. Therefore it is a just conclusion to be drawn from this message, of such professors of religion who have not true fellowship with God, and yet say they walk with Him, "If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness (or error) we lie, and do not the truth." To "walk in the light," is to believe the teachings of God’s word, and frame our lives according to the divine law.

May God help us more and more to walk in the light, and may our everyday lives be such as becometh the true saints of the Lord; and may we at last be brought, by His grace and Spirit, to that sweet haven of eternal rest, to meet with the blood-washed throng and join them in praises to the dear Lord forever.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 September 2006 )
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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.