The First Epistle of John

1 John 1 - 2:2

This part of the first Epistle of John forms a preface to the rest of the book, and we may notice at once three grand subjects in verses 1-4, 5-7, 8 - 2:2.

These are:

1. Full communion with the Father and Son - perfect love.

2. God is light, and our walk in the light.

3. The question of sin, and the position of Jesus Christ as Advocate.

These three well-known subjects have, no doubt, often occupied our attention; but it may be well to go over them again, looking to the Lord to bless them to us.

Nothing is lost as to the eternal deity of our Lord in observing the characteristic force of the first verses. The character of that eternal life, which was such as was with the Father, is brought into prominence; and so far from our losing sight of the divine glory of the Person in whom this life was manifested, that very glory is enhanced by this special and blessed teaching as to the true nature of eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested to the apostles.

But the apostles declare it to us, that our joy may be full. They had themselves the deep and blessed knowledge of that which they announced. I suppose the case of a father writing to his son in military service in a foreign land. The letter will contain many expressions of affection, and the young man who receives the letter will alone be able to understand its meaning. The messenger, or postman, who brings the letter might be glad to witness the joy of the receiver's heart, but he would not enter into this peculiar joy himself. In the case of the apostles announcing their message, however, it is very different, for they entered into the deep blessedness of what they communicated. Their own joy was full, and they announced full joy to their hearers.

Indeed no higher joy could be known than that which flows from communion with divine Persons. No doubt we are still here in an evil world, but our communion has nothing at all to do with the world and its principles, but belongs to the Father's house, where the Son of the Father is known. Our communion is with divine Persons, and truly outside the world, which might be well represented by a huge city having over its principal gate this inscription, "No admittance to God, or to Christ." The city is grand enough, and full of the arts, sciences, religion, steeples, domes, minarets, the crescent and the cross, but the Father is excluded. Now our communion is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

But now we have another thing to observe, that is the message of verse 5: "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." The light manifests everything, and God has come out, revealed as light, in His own blessed nature, and we are in the light, as He is in the light. Let us not confound this with the unapproachable light of 1 Timothy 6:16. In this latter passage we have the essential Deity which no man can see, whereas in John's epistle it is the revelation of the divine nature, and our being brought into the light, according to God's thoughts.

It is not said here, "If we sin, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us," 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."

True fellowship is in the light, and I will give a very simple illustration to shew the effect of the light. Supposing that several persons come into a dark room, and that a book is taken off the table; each one might give his opinion, and surmise that the book was "a Testament," "a French grammar," "a dictionary," etc. Lights being brought, the book is found to be a Testament, and all divergence of opinion is at an end. This is a poor illustration, but it is very clear that we need to be in the light to have communion one with another; and at the same time it is there, in the light, that we know the full and permanent value of the blood of Jesus Christ, which has answered to all our need. We are in the light on the ground of its value, and it is there (in the light) that its inestimable value is known.

Now we cannot say that we have no sin; nor can we say that we have not sinned. How shall this full and blessed communion be maintained with a God who is Light as well as Love? How shall we, who cannot say that we have no sin, be maintained in communion with the Father, in whose presence we are, in full light? Nothing of the character of pure light has been lost by the relationship of Father being established with us; and how are we, who still have sin in us, to be kept in the joy of such a place?

It is here that the advocacy of Christ is introduced; and let us notice that "Advocate" does not fully give the meaning of the word Paraclete in 2:1. When we talk of advocates we are usually given to limit the force of the word to those who plead in a law court, and this would be quite an inadequate thought in the passage before us. We have One who represents us, who has all our affairs (our highest, most blessed interests) in His hands, and who never fails in His interest in us. As an old Roman patrician represented his plebeian clients, having all that concerned them in his hands, so does the Lord Jesus Christ hold all that concerns us in His own power.

The illustration of a Roman patron is, after all, a feeble one, for we have in our heavenly Representative one who constantly leads us to judge and confess our sins - to judge ourselves in the case of any levity or allowed evil - and who, by a deep work in our souls, brings us back to communion if this has been interrupted.

The ninth verse of the first chapter is very general and abstract, and applies to the full and whole confession of sins at the beginning of, and during, our course. But the apostle writes that we should not sin; there is a full and perfect provision for our walk though sin be in us, and He who is the propitiation for our sins, and for the whole world, is Jesus Christ the righteous. He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high; according to the righteousness of God, and upon the ground of that very righteousness He represents us before the Father.

Confession is a very serious thing, for one is made to feel that the very sin that interrupted the communion cost untold agony to Him who bore it upon the cross; so God is faithful and just to forgive it, in virtue of the deep, atoning work of our Lord.

May we be more earnest, more truly serious, in walking, so that full communion may be maintained between our souls and the Father!