1 JOHN 1
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
Christ is the great reality-the key to everything-the visible, tangible, touchable manifestation to man of all God's everlasting purpose and goodness and holiness. He had to be perfect. He was the perfect God manifested. He was the perfect Word of Life-eternal life-made flesh. *
The Divine Life has been manifested through human flesh. "For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness and show unto you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us " (1 John 1: 2).
The Divine moral attributes were made manifest in the mortal life of Jesus, and in his resurrection (which closed his mortal existence), life and incorruptibility were manifested as an actual experience in human flesh.
"Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world,
received up into glory " (1 Timothy 3: 16).
The life of Jesus from birth to resurrection was a perfect manifestation of the Divine Life, or, the Life of God in the flesh of man: and was graciously given by God as the basis upon which the creation of sons and daughters of God might be effectable from sons and daughters of Adam.
The mind and will of mortal flesh was completely subordinated to the will and purpose of God, and Jesus declares that this was the object of his mission.
"I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the Father which hath sent me" (John 6: 38).
And the spirit in which that mission was fulfilled as expressed in the words of Psalm 40: 8 is,
"I delight to do thy will, O my God, yea, thy law is in my heart."
It was, therefore, not a mechanical or external service that was rendered by the mission of Jesus. It was the absorbent pleasure of that life to manifest the will of God, and keep in subjection the will of mortal flesh. In the last agonies of that accomplishment, when the crowning act of his service was about to be performed, and the intensity of trial had reached the brim of that cup it was intended he should drink, he prayed,
"Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee, take away this cup from me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what thou will" (Mark 14: 36).
The Berean Christadelphian, June 1923.
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
Fellowship with the apostles and with God and His Son, depends on learning and accepting and bringing ourselves into harmony with these things that John reveals and declares.
And what is fellowship? We must ever be on guard against letting technicalities take the place of realities. Fellowship is not an external agreement to associate, but communion, harmony, unity of mind and spirit.
We are in fellowship with God if-and only if-our entire lives and thoughts and desires and interests are centered on God-only if everything we do is done for and because of God; only if we think God's thoughts. *
4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
Joy is God's great purpose of love for man. Is our joy full? Is joy the thankful atmosphere in which we constantly live?-an all-sustaining, all irradiating, all-protective joy?
It will be, if we really believe what we say we believe-If we really have a meaningful faith, and not just a form without power. John wrote to invite us up out of the flesh into the realm of all-enveloping spiritual joy, and if we are willing to follow all the rules, and cast off the encumbrances that hinder, we can enter this joy.
The whole purpose, says John, of his writing, is that our joy may be full.
It is John that records that Jesus said the same thing, on the night that he was betrayed (Jn. 15:11)-
"These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
Joy is the great identification and secret of the Truth. If we have the Truth in a real and living way, we have joy-deep, overwhelming, unassailable joy. This is the key to whether our faith is real or just an empty form.
It is not a joy that ignores the sorrows and troubles and difficulties of this life. It is not even a joy that is in spite of these things. Rather it is a joy because of these things-an intense thankfulness FOR these things. Jesus said (Matt. 5:11)- "When men persecute you, rejoice: be exceeding glad."
James said (1:2)-"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into trials and afflictions."
Paul said (Rom. 5:3)-"I rejoice in tribulations."
And of the disciples it is recorded, when the authorities had beaten them for preaching Christ (Acts 5:40-41)-"They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for his Name."
This is really having the Truth, having God, in a living and saving way!
Do we have it in this burning robust way, or do we just have a pale, cold, powerless form of godliness?
HOW can we joy in tribulations and rejoice in sorrow? Can it be reasonably explained, or is it just a striking form of words? It CAN be explained. It IS real. It is reasonable. In fact, it is the only reasonable, sensible, intelligent course at all. Jesus continued by saying:
"For great is your reward in heaven."
James continues by saying-"The trying of your faith worketh patience. Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
Paul continued by saying-"Tribulation worketh patience, and patience worketh assuredness, and assuredness worketh hope. And hope maketh us unashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts."
Is this reasonable? Is this sensible? Is this the path we want to follow, and the goal we want to achieve?
Present pleasure does us no good. It is nice while it lasts, like candy to a baby, but it really is not healthy. It is a cheat and a deception-it builds nothing lasting. Paul says present pleasure is a living death, because it has no promise for the future. It is just a brief dance of folly on the deck while the boat is sinking under us.
Joy is oneness with the mind of God, being in mental and spiritual harmony with God, seeing everything as God sees it-seeing the meaning and the purpose and the love and the beauty in all the works of God, in EVERYTHING that happens to us and around us; seeing-not just blindly believing-but actually seeing, realizing, understanding, rejoicing that-
"All things work together for good to them that love God."
Would it be nice to be never unhappy, never disappointed, never fearful, never lonely, never worried-always joyful, always content with what we have and what our position is? This is what the Truth freely offers us.
This is what the Truth really is. Do we have it? Have we found it?
The Truth is not just a little tidy packet of doctrines, but a living, transforming spirit-power. Paul said he was troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, yet never in despair; in sorrow, yet always rejoicing; having nothing, yet possessing all things. He said he took PLEASURE in weakness, hardship, contempt, persecution and distress; for when he was weak and poor naturally, then he was strong and rich spiritually. And he said-
"Be ye followers of me."
This is the mind of Christ, the mind of God, the spiritual mind-which is life and peace. Other than this is the mind of the flesh, which is sorrow and death.
"These things," says John, "we write unto you, that your joy may be full"-not just partially filled, but wholly FULL-complete, perfect, unassailable, unalloyed. *
5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
The great, central message that John brings is that God is all Light, pure Light, perfect Light. There are two great definitions of God in this epistle-"God is light."
And-"God is love."
-the two great, eternal, divine realities:
LIGHT - Truth, Holiness, Purity, Righteousness; and
LOVE - Goodness, Mercy, Compassion, Benevolence, Kindness.
Wherein does the significance of this message lie for us, that "God is Light"? The message is that if we seek Life and joy we MUST come to the Light. We must leave all things of darkness behind. Jesus said-
"Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil."
This is natural man-natural desires. We must desire light, and the light we must desire is the light of God's Word as applied to all our thoughts and feelings and actions.
By nature, we are evil. Our thoughts are evil and fleshly. The light of God's Word reveals this evil and tells us what God desires, and if we love God we shall be very anxious to search out and do everything He desires and give His Word the benefit of every doubt.
The natural way is to decide what we desire, and what our flesh desires, and then try to justify it. If we allow ourselves to be deceived by this tendency, we can always find self-justification, and God will let us be self-deceived; yea, help us to be self-deceived.
But if we sincerely want to learn, want to improve, want to change, want to please God rather than ourselves, then God will open our understanding.
Light is the great theme of the Scriptures throughout. The very first thing God said was-"Let there be light...And God saw that the light was good: and God separated the light from the darkness."
And in the last chapter of the Bible we are told of the redeemed-"God giveth them light."
The Spirit through Solomon says-"The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
John said of Jesus - "That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."
And Paul says - "God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
By nature, we are all darkness. It is our life's purpose and our life's work more and more to absorb and radiate the light, and cast out the darkness.
The Light is God's Word: every part of it, from beginning to end. ALL Scripture, we are told, is profitable that we may be made perfect. We must prayerfully and continually study it, ponder on it, agonize to understand every word, as if it were a precious map leading us to great treasure, as it truly is.
All the time we can spare should be given to this. It is the only way to gain the life that only the few will ever find. *
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
' though good practice will not always result from sound teaching, owing to the perverseness of the flesh...bad practice is the certain consequence of satanic teaching'.
John is here addressing himself to those who believe the truth. He gives us to understand that a person who merely knows the truth intellectually - who merely believes there was such a man as Jesus Christ, and that he rose from the dead, and is theoretically offered as the salvation of God, but walks in unrighteousness, is none the better for his knowledge, and deceives himself, if he imagine he is a son of God. The mere knowledge of the truth will never secure for any one an entrance into the kingdom. The truth is but an agency; the gospel is but a means; and unless the end is realised, the means are a failure.
Bro Roberts - Exhort No 4.
"Fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ" consists in walking in the light, as God is in the light. "Fellowship one with another," depends entirely upon our conformity to this first and necessary principle of all fellowship, which John so emphatically lays down in 1 John 1:6-7.
Light" is a figure of speech - a metaphor for divine wisdom, true knowledge, and accurate understanding.
"Walking in the light," therefore, means "believing all things that are written in the law and the prophets," as Paul affirmed he did (Acts 24:14), as well as the subsequent writings in the New Testament: exercising hope towards God as embodied in "Christ our hope," and following "righteousness, faith, love, peace with those that call on the Lord out of a pure heart."
Without the patient and faithful observance of these things, fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ is impossible, and in consequence fellowship one with another is likewise impracticable.
The Christadelphian 1885 p380
To have fellowship with, is to be a fellow of, in the sense of being identical in mind, faith, disposition, principle, practice, taste and intention, and also in nature and relation. To have fellowship with the apostles, is to stand in their position, and their position John defines to be one of fellowship with the Father and his son Jesus Christ...John here says that a man has no fellowship with God if he walks in darkness.
The Ambassador of the Coming Age 1868 p76
"Walking in darkness" is doing anything according to the mind of the flesh. The Word of God sets before us a way of Life-a way of thinking about everything, a way of directing our interests and desires, a way of conduct toward, and thought about others.
It is usually very different from the natural way. It requires learning, practice, and effort, and continual seeking of guidance and help. If we are not consciously examining all we do, and consciously trying to conform it to God's Word, then we're automatically and inevitably "walking in darkness."
Fellowship with God is not just a technicality-not just a form-not just the accepting of certain beliefs or joining a certain group. It is a WAY OF LIFE-a thinking like God, a walking in harmony with His revealed will and commands.
John minces no words. The issue is too grave, and self-deception is too terribly easy. It is so easy to "say that we have fellowship with Him." Millions in the world say this. Wherein are WE different?
And let us not compare ourselves with the worst of them, or even with the average of them. Let us honestly face what the BEST of them are doing (supposedly for God, as they think), and ask ourselves, Wherein are we so different that we expect life while the best of these will get but death?
The primary difference must of course be the Truth itself. True belief, true doctrine, is important-vitally important. It must be what God says and not what man says, for God is all Light, and man is all darkness.
But just having the Light is not enough. We must, says John, walk in it-all the way in, plunging into it joyfully and unhesitatingly, letting it fill us and surround us. Notice the expression in this verse-"We lie, and do not the Truth."
The Truth is not just something we have. It is something we must "DO." *
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
148. Who are his own people?
Those who believe the Gospel and have been baptized and who are continuing in the path of obedience to his commandments.
149. What is the object of his intercession?
That the sins of his Household may be forgiven, and their prayers may be accepted.
150. How do we get the benefit of Christs priestly office?
l understand we get it by connection with him.
151. You do not quite understand me. Suppose a believer falls into sin and repents not, and approaches not God in prayer, but abandons himself to heedlessness, do you think such a man will receive the benefits of Christ's priestly office?
152. What would be necessary for him to do?
To confess his sin in prayer to God, and ask forgiveness through Christ.
153. Do not all believers come short and offend more or less?
Yes, I believe they do.
154. What is their resort for remedy?
Prayer and confession through Christ, whose blood cleanseth from all sin.
The Good Confession
Saints are forgiven if they walk in the light; otherwise they are not.
It is a great and consoling truth, that the saints have " an advocate with the Father." If they had not, they would be in a worse case than sinners, for it is bad not to know the truth ; but it is worse to know it, and not to walk in the light of it. If they had no advocate with the Father, few of them indeed, fewer than the few that will be chosen, would be saved. But, because they have an advocate, some of them will be saved; but of sinners, none.
Through this advocate, " Jesus Christ the righteous one," the Father will forgive the sins of all saints, which are not unto death (1 Jno. v. 16). Mortal sins, however, He will not pardon. No
amount of confession will obtain the remission of these. The advocate will not plead for saints who commit such offences (Eph. v.3, 6 ; Gal. v. 19, 21). Their fate is shame, contempt, and exclusion from incorruptibility and life in the kingdom of the Deity. " They shall not see life ; but the wrath of Deity abideth on them " (Jno.iii. 36).
Sin is a dirtiness, an uncleanness, a defilement. Sin is the natural motions and thoughts of the flesh-
"In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing."
Sin is catering to our own desires, seeking our own advantage and pleasure. Sin is wasting time that God has commanded us to devote to His service.
Sin is using God's goods for our own indulgence beyond the point of necessity or usefulness for His purpose. Sin is everything short of the perfect holiness of the character of Christ.
If we desire and seek God's light, the blood of Christ will cleanse us from all these fleshly things. Until it does, we are dirty and offensive in God's sight.
It is said of the true ecclesia of God, the true Bride of Christ, that Jesus sanctifies and cleanses it with the washing of the Word, that it might not have spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but should be holy and without blemish-a glorious Ecclesia, a pure Bride. "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin."
It is important that we realize this. The Truth-the Way of Life-is an all-or-nothing thing. Unless we are cleansed of ALL sin, we are lost. One seemingly small sin at the beginning plunged the world into 6000 years of sorrow and death.
If we fail through neglect of prayer and study of the Word to discern our sins, if we cling willfully to anything we know to be sin, or even have reason to suspect might be sin, then we cannot be saved.
HOW does Christ's poured-out blood "cleanse us from all sin?" Do we think that God was just establishing a technicality in Christ's death? Do we think God was just proving a point, so He could overlook sin? Do we think that God just waves a magic wand and says, "Abracadabra, you are clean"?
Is THAT our idea of how "the blood of Christ cleanseth us from sin?" It is the idea of many who think cleansing from sin is some sort of a superficial ritual that has all been taken care of for us. But John says (3:3-10)-
"Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself."
"Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not."
"Let no man deceive you: he that DOETH righteousness is righteous."
"Whosoever DOETH not righteousness is not of God."
THIS is how God cleanses us from sins-in reality, not just in symbol. Where does Christ's work come in then? He laid the essential foundation of perfection on which we must build. He established the acceptable place of meeting-the Mercy-Seat-the Seat, or Place, of Mercy-the place and means of cleansing and forgiveness, where man could approach in safety unto God's terrible holiness and exalted purity.
Paul said God set him forth as a Mercy-Seat to manifest God's righteousness, that He (God) might be righteous and also the builder of righteousness within all who approach Him through Jesus. John says of Christ that to all who received him he gave power to become sons of God.
Shall we sit down and say that it is too much?-that it cannot be done? Or shall we thankfully and joyfully take up this power so graciously offered, and by it become the sons of God? Paul exhorted the Philippians-
"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do His good pleasure."
Here in one phrase it seems like we ourselves must do it all, and in the very next it seems like it is all of God-not only the doing, but the very will or desire behind the doing.
Both are true, marvellously and inseparably true. It is all of us, AND all of God.
A very crude comparison is power steering. Tremendous power is there, waiting to do immediately all the work on our behalf as soon as we turn our lives toward the right direction, but it will never turn itself but go straight down the old natural course of death to the end, if we do not try, but just say it cannot be done. *
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
Walk in the light, is in the intellectual and moral sense.
Some inaccurate ideas appear to be entertained by some on the subject of fellowship. They think they are not in fellowship with a meeting or ecclesia if they do not pay or receive a visit from it, and that they are only in fellowship with those actually in their midst. If this were correct, there would be no fellowship "one with another" in personal absence, whereas John declares this to have been the case with those from whom he was personally absent.
Fellowship is that recognised mutual relation of harmony that only waits the opportunity of personal intercourse for its fullest enjoyment. This harmony exists or does not exist quite irrespective of the opportunity of its practical illustration.
If, therefore, when an ecclesia is asked, "are you in fellowship with the Mormons?" it answers they cannot settle the question as to the Mormons as a body, but must wait for individual Mormons to apply for each individual case to be decided on its own merits, such an answer is an evasion of the question.
What holds true concerning the Mormons, is true of the Church of England or of those who will not avow their faith in the infallibility of the Scriptures. An ecclesia that is not able to say whether they are in fellowship with such, but must wait for individual applications, is evidently in such a doubtful relation to the question as to prevent confidence on the part of men of straight purpose.
Men do not require to come within so many yards of each other to know whether they are friends. Friendship of this circumscribed order would be a relapse to barbarism. And so a body of men professing to receive the truth in its uncompromised fulness and integrity, do not require to pay or receive visits from another body or members of it, (who are in a doubtful attitude) to say whether they are or are not in fellowship with it.
A little reflection on this ought to clear honest men of all difficulty in defining their position-a process which had become necessary before the apostle John closed his eyes.
The Christadelphian, July 1887
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Some fail to lay full hold of this cause of joy from the doctrine inculcated by others that there must be no sin after baptism, and that if there is, it is fatal. Some have even gone so far as to profess themselves sinless. It is a beautiful and a pleasing conceit certainly; but by the words of John, and by the teaching of experience, it stamps them as false teachers.
John says, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 Jno. i. 8). Experience proves the truth of the Bible statement, that "there liveth not a man that sinneth not."
But, then, say our fearful friends, "What does John mean when he says 'He that is born of God doth not commit sin'?" (1 Jno. iii. 1-9). Well, remember this is the same John who says, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves." He does not contradict himself. He asserts two things that are in harmony, though in appearance inconsistent. If we adopt a view that makes them contradict each other, or that contradicts palpable experience, our view is, and must be wrong. There is no need for any difficulty.
When John says the children of God sin not and cannot sin, he is referring to the doctrine of a class of spiritual seducers whom he is confuting. "These things I write concerning them that seduce you." These men, in the language of Peter, "turned the grace of our God into lasciviousness": that is, made the fact of justification by grace through faith a reason for "continuing in sin that grace might abound." In contradistinction to those, John maintains in 1 Jno. 3. that the man who holds the hope of seeing and being like Christ at his coming, "purifieth himself as he (Christ) is pure"-lives not in sin as other men do: cannot do so, for the seed of the word which brings forth fruit in harmony with itself, is in him and remaineth in him. It is morally impossible for a man believing the truth to live in rebellion against its demands.
Exhort 280 - TC 10/1896
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(As long as we continuously strive toward purity/ holiness - Be ye holy as I am holy).
It is clear why he had to die. We know sin had to be condemned, the body of sin had to be put to death-the devil, the diabolos, the motions of sin, had to be destroyed by the victory of perfect obedience right to the end-God's pure law vindicated, God's merciful way of reconciliation proclaimed in a foundation of justified holiness.
We know why he had to die. But why did he have to SUFFER? Why did it "please God to bruise him, and put him to grief"? What pleasure did this give God? What good is served, what point is proved, what law is established by inflicting apparently unnecessary suffering on a perfectly obedient, perfectly submissive Son?
Paul throws much light on this, and reveals a vital first principle of holiness when he says (Heb. 2:10)-
"It became Him-that is, it was fitting for Him (God)-for Whom are all things and by Whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings."
There is an answer to it all. The sufferings were to make him perfect.
Was Christ ever imperfect? He was imperfect in the sense that the seed is imperfect as compared to the ripened fruit. His character-always beautiful, always spotless-had to be developed and matured and strengthened and tested in the fierce furnace of affliction, that it might be meet for God's everlasting companionship.
And what was needed for his preparation for the eternal glory of divine sonship is needed for his brethren also. Therefore let us, like Paul, thank God for suffering, seeing in its every aspect and instance the all- wise hand of a loving Father shaping and beautifying us for a glorious destiny-
"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment."
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear."
"And this is the love of God-that we keep his commandments." *
* Bro Growcott - Fellowship With Him
"I don't feel good enough."
This is a reason that is sometimes given by alien friends for refusing to be immersed, and to enter the fellowship of the brethren. This excuse may sound modest, but it borders on wickedness.
The only unworthiness which God has made the ground of non-acceptance is rebellion. Although our friends will not admit it, their excuse in reality is tantamount to a refusal to surrender to the will of God.
God has said,
"Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17).
He has also said that those who come, He will help and sustain (Phil. 2:12-13: 1:5: 4:19).
Concerning short-comings, He has abundantly promised to forgive these-if they are committed through the weakness of our nature (1 Jno. 1-9).
Let a man have an obedient mind, not a rebellious one, and he need not fear to surrender himself to God. Where there is ability to comprehend and believe the truth, there also is ability, if a man choose to use it, to render all the obedience that God requires for salvation.
Bro AT Jannaway