1 John 1 Commentary

v.3 As eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry, John was qualified to teach the truth about him.  The readers of this letter had not seen and heard Jesus themselves, but they could trust that what John wrote was accurate.  We are like those second-and third-generation Christians.  Though we have not personally seen, heard, or touched Jesus, we have the New Testament record of his eye-witnesses, and we can trust that they spoke the truth about him.[1]

The idea of fellowship is one of the most important ideas in this letter of John’s. It is the ancient Greek word koinonia, which speaks of a sharing, a communion, a common bond and life. It speaks of a living, breathing, sharing, loving relationship with another person.

Fellowship . . . with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ: This simple and bold statement means that one can have a relationship with God. This idea would astound to many of John’s readers, and it should be astounding to us. The Greek mind-set highly prized the idea of fellowship, but restricted to men among men – the idea of such an intimate relationship with God was revolutionary.[2]

v.5 It tells us of the revealing quality in the presence of God. Light is the great revealer. Flaws and stains which are hidden in the shade are obvious in the light. Light reveals the imperfections in any piece of workmanship or material. So the imperfections of life are seen in the presence of God. […] We can never know either the depth to which life has fallen or the height to which it may rise until we see it in the revealing light of God.[3]

vv.6-7 He insists that to have fellowship with the God who is light a man must walk in the light and that, if he is still walking in the moral and ethical darkness of the Christless life, he can not have that fellowship. […] This does not mean that a man must be perfect before he can have fellowship with God; if that were the case, all of us would be shut out. But it does mean that he will spend his whole life in the awareness of his obligations, in the effort to fulfill them and in penitence when he fails. It will mean that he will never think that sin does not matter; it will mean that the nearer he comes to God, the more terrible sin will be to him.[4]

v.7 Truth is the creator of fellowship. If men are really walking in the light, they have fellowship one with another. No belief can be fully Christian if it separates a man from his fellow-men.[5]

v.8 The false teachers not only denied that sin breaks our fellowship with God (1:6) and they had a sinful nature (1:8), but they also denied that their conduct involved any sin at all (1:10).  That was a lie that ignored one basic truth: all people are sinners by nature and by practice.  At conversion all our sins are forgiven – past, present, and future.  Yet even after we become Christians, we still sin and still need to confess.  This kind of confession is not offered to gain God’s acceptance, but to remove the barrier to fellowship that our sin has put between us and him.[6]

v.9 If God has forgiven us for our sins because of Christ’s death, why must we confess our sins? In admitting our sins and receiving Christ’s cleansing, we are: (1) agreeing with God that our sin truly is sin and that we are willing to turn from it, (2) ensuring that we don’t conceal our sins from him and consequently from ourselves, and (3) recognizing our tendency to sin and relying on his power to overcome it.[7]

To confess means, “to say the same as.” When we confess our sin, we are willing to say (and believe) the same thing about our sin that God says about it.[8]

Confess is a verb in the present tense; the meaning is that we should keep on confessing our sin – instead of referring to a “once-for-all’ confession of sin at our conversion.[9]

However, confession is still vital to maintain relationship with God, and this is the context John speaks from. As God convicts us of sin that is hindering our fellowship with Him, we must confess it and receive forgiveness and cleansing for our relationship with God to continue without hindrance.[10]


[1] Life Application Study Bible, study notes (co-published by Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1991) 2275.

[2] David Guzik, http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/6201.htm

[3] William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, Daily Study Bible Series CD (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 2000).

[4] William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, Daily Study Bible Series CD (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 2000).

[5]The Letters of John and Jude ( ed. William Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow;Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 2000).

[6]Life Application Study Bible, study notes (co-published by Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1991) 2275.

[7] Life Application Study Bible, study notes (co-published by Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1991) 2276.

[8] David Guzik, http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/6201.htm

[9] David Guzik, http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/6201.htm

[10] David Guzik, http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/6201.htm

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