We must not confound "from the beginning" with the words, "In the
beginning," with which the Gospel opens. There, the eternal existence
and deity of the Word is stated, and we travel back to the beginning,
and even beyond the beginning, of all things that can be said to have
had a beginning. Here, we are concerned with the fact that all
Christian truth begins with the revelation which reached us in Christ
That was the beginning of the true manifestation of God and of life eternal.
the basis of all apostolic teaching. The antichrists pushed their
seductive teachings which merely originated from their own foolish
minds. The apostles declared that which was from the beginning, and not
something which had been introduced since.
In verses 1 and 2 the Lord Jesus is not mentioned personally, for
the point is rather that which was presented to us in Him. He was "the
Word of life." In John 1, He is "the Word," and being such He creates,
so that creation may express something at least of God. Also He becomes
flesh and dwells amongst us that He may express God fully to us. Here
the thought is similar, but more limited. Life is the point: He was
"that eternal life which was with the Father" and in Him it has been
manifested unto us. We are to have the life in having Him; but the
first thing is to see the full character of the life as it came out in
The life was eternal life, but it also was "with the Father." This statement, we are told, gives the
character of the life; so that it is not merely a statement of the fact that it was with the Father, but rather that it was
such a life as that. It
was with the Father inasmuch as He, who is the Fountain Head of that
life, was with the Father, and in Him it has been manifested unto us.
He became flesh that it might be manifested.
By the fact of His becoming flesh He placed Himself within the reach
of three out of the five senses or faculties with which man is endowed.
He could be heard, seen and felt. Hearing comes first, for in our
fallen condition it is to that faculty that God specially addresses
Himself. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God"
(Rom. 10: 17). And so in the first place the apostles
heard the Word of life, and thus were able to apprehend Him.
But then they also
saw Him with their eyes, and even "looked upon," or
There had been in earlier days fleeting manifestations of this great
Person as "the Angel of the Lord," only then it was impossible to
contemplate Him for He was seen but for a moment. Now, come in flesh,
all was different. The apostles spent years with Him, and could
scrutinize Him with attention. They gazed at Him long and earnestly,
even though they did not properly understand all that they observed
until they had received the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Also they came into physical contact with Him. Their hands actually
This guaranteed that He was no mere Spirit manifestation. He was
amongst them in a real human body of flesh and blood. After His
resurrection He sojourned among them in His risen body of flesh and
bones, and we may remember how He specifically enjoined them to handle
Him and see He was not a Spirit after His resurrection.
All this establishes then beyond a doubt that there had been this
real manifestation of eternal life before them. John 1 shows that in
Him the Father was
declared (ver. 18); Colossians 1, that God was perfectly
represented in Him as His Image (ver. 15); Hebrews 1, that as the Son He is the Word, and that He is the
expression and outshining of God's Being and glory (vers. 2, 3). Here we find that He furnished the only true, objective
eternal life. It is remarkable that, just as we have four Gospels
setting forth His life from differing aspects so we have these four
passages which set forth from differing aspects all that which came
into revelation in Him.
The reason why John laboured this point in his opening verses was
that the anti-christian teachers belittled it, or even denied it
altogether. They were called "Gnostics," because they claimed to be
"the knowing ones." They preferred their own subjective impressions and
philosophic speculations to the objective facts established in Christ.
Now everything for the apostles and for us begins with well established
facts. The faith once delivered to the saints is rooted and established
on facts. We cannot be too clear and emphatic as to this. That which is
(as we shall see) subjectively produced in the saints is strictly in
keeping with that which has been objectively manifested in Him.
The manifestation was made in the first place to the apostles. They
were the "we." But then, "that which we have seen and heard declare we
unto you." The "you" were the saints generally. The manifestation made
before the apostles brought them into "fellowship . . . with the
Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." They have made known to us that
which was manifested, that we might be brought into the same wonderful
fellowship. The Father and the Son are made known to us. The eternal
life connected with the Father and the Son has been manifested to us
through them. The things of the Father and the Son have been revealed.
Nothing could be more wonderful than this: nothing more absorbing, if
once by the Holy Spirit we begin to lay hold of it. Nothing more
calculated to fill our hearts with abiding gladness. No wonder the
Apostle adds, "These things write we unto you, that your joy may be
Verse 4 makes it quite clear that the communication of these things
to us by the apostles is through the Scriptures. "These things
write we . . ." The apostles heard, saw and handled. We must
read. Thank God for the Holy Writings which bring the knowledge of these things to us for our joy.
In verse 5 John begins his message. Where does he start? With this
great fact that "God is light" and not, as we might have expected, with
the fact that God is love. All the emphasis would no doubt have been on
His love had the manifestation been made in regions of unsullied purity
and light. As however the manifestation has been made in this world, so
filthy with sin and full of darkness, the first emphasis must be laid
As to light-who can define it? Men have formulated theories to
account for the light of creation, but they cannot really explain it.
Who then shall explain the uncreated Light? We know that light is
necessary if life is to exist in any but its lowest forms. We know that
it is healthful, that it illuminates and exposes all things, and that
if it enters darkness flees. In God there is no darkness at all, for
darkness stands for that which is removed from the action of light,
that which is hidden and sinful.
Not only is God Himself light but, as verse 7 tells us, He is "in
the light." Once the Lord had said, "that He would dwell in the thick
darkness" (2 Chron. 6: 1); and the fact that Solomon built Him an house
did not alter it, for His presence was still found in the Holy of
Holies, where all was dark. This was altered by the coming of the Lord
Jesus, for God stepped into the light in Him. The God who is light is
in the light.
This fact is used as a test in verse 6. We have in this verse the
first of many tests which are propounded. The presence of many false
teachers with their varied and boastful claims made these tests
necessary; and we shall notice that none of them are based upon
elaborate or far-fetched considerations. They are all of the simplest
sort and based upon the fundamental nature of things. Here, for
instance, the fact that God is light, and that He is in the light,
tests any claim that is made of being in fellowship with Him. Such an
one cannot possibly be walking in darkness, for as we read elsewhere,
"What communion hath light with darkness?" There is no communion (or
fellowship) at all between the two. They are diametrically opposed.
The point here is not whether we always walk
according to the
light that we have received. We are all found offenders as to this at
some time or other, as we know to our sorrow. To "walk
is to walk in ignorance of the light that has shone in Christ. A
reference to Isaiah 50: 10, 11, at this point may be helpful. The one
who "walks in darkness and has no light" is to "trust in the name of
the Lord, and stay upon his God." However, even in Isaiah's day there
were those who preferred to "kindle a fire" and walk in the light of
the fire and the sparks that they kindled. It was just like this in
John's day, and still is so in our own. There are all too many false
teachers who prefer the sparks of their own kindling to the light of
God's revelation. Consequently they and their followers are in darkness
in spite of all their pretensions, and they have no fellowship with Him.
The true believer walks in the light of God fully revealed. The
light has searched him of course. It could not be otherwise. But he
walks happily in the light because he has learned in that light that
"the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." Every
spot of defilement exposed by the light is removed by the Blood.
The word is "cleanseth"-the present tense. From this some have
deduced that the blood is to be continually applied. But the present
tense is also used to denote the nature or character of anything; just
as we say, "Cork floats." "Fire burns." "Soap washes." Such are their
respective natures. Those properties belong to them. So it is the
nature of the blood of Christ to cleanse from all sin. That blessed
property is inherent in it. The idea that the Blood has to be
continually or repeatedly applied contravenes the teaching of Hebrews
9: 23-10: 14. We are "ONCE PURGED" by the "one offering," so as to have
"no more conscience of sins."
Not only were men found who professed to have fellowship with God
while yet walking in darkness, but there also were found some who went
so far as to say, "We have no sin." No test is propounded in regard to
this wicked pretension. None was needed since they must of necessity
soon be found out. They were deceiving themselves, and John tells them
so plainly. They would hardly deceive anyone else; and if for a moment
they did, the deception would soon be dispelled by sin being manifested
in them all too plainly. If any indulge in such high and unfounded
claims they do not show that
sin is not in them. They only make it very manifest that
the truth is not in them.
It is very difficult to imagine true believers deceiving themselves
in this way, save for a very brief time. The only true and honest
attitude for us is that of confessing our sins, and doing so at once.
It is true of course that the only honest thing for the unbeliever,
when conviction reaches him, is to confess his sins; then forgiveness,
full and eternal will be his. The believer is in question here however.
It is, "If
we confess . . ." The sin of a believer does not
compromise or upset the eternal forgiveness which reached him, when as
a sinner he turned to God in repentance. It does nevertheless
compromise his communion with God, of which we have just been reading.
That communion will be suspended until he confesses the sin that has
broken in upon it.
When we confess, God is faithful and just to all that Christ is, and
has done, and the sin is forgiven so that fellowship may be restored.
This is what we may call
paternal forgiveness, to distinguish it from the
eternal forgiveness which reached us as sinners.
Not only does He forgive, but He also cleanses from all
unrighteousness. The honest confession of sin by the saint not only
ensures forgiveness but it also has a cleansing effect. Confession of
sin means the judgment in our own hearts and minds of what we confess.
And that means cleansing from its influence and deliverance from its
A third pretension comes before us in verse 10. Some may be so far
deluded as to say that they "have not sinned." A test is propounded in
regard to this; namely, the Word of God. To make such a preposterous
statement is to place ourselves in opposition to the Word of God and to
make Him a liar. He plainly states that we have sinned, which ends the
matter. We cannot contradict His Word, and yet have His Word abiding in
As surely as we are in the light, shall we know that we have sinned
and that sin is still in us. Yet we shall also know the value of the
blood of Christ and its cleansing power, as also the restoration that
reaches us upon honest confession. Thus communion in the light with the
Father and His Son is established for us, and also maintained. We are
enabled to know and rejoice in the life which has been manifested, and
in all that from the beginning has been set forth in the blessed Son of
Our joy being full in such things as these, we shall not feel
inclined to run after the men who would entice us with their professed
improvements and enlargements of "that which was from the beginning."
The sparks they display before us may be quite pretty, but they are
only of their own kindling, and they die out into darkness.