Biblical Life Commentary Project
1 John Series – Part 1
For the past several months during my personal devotional time, God has been continually taking me back to the First Epistle of John. After much reflection and prayer, I believe this powerful epistle from the Apostle of Love speaks volumes to the Body of Christ and to the challenges we all face today. For you see, John was the Apostle of Love because he loved the truth of God above all else!
Background on the Epistle
The Spirit-Filled Study Bible places the time that this epistle was written about 90 A.D.[i] This seems logical, since there was no mention of persecution in this work. It was during the reign of Domitian (81 – 96 A.D.) that the church experienced severe persecution around 95 A.D.
This date is important for several reasons:
1. It was before the writing of the Book of Revelation. Some researchers believe it was written at the latter part of the reign of Domitian, after John had fled to Ephesus. The Gospel of John was written while he was in Ephesus and before his exile to the Island of Patmos. So the order of his writings was (1) the Epistles of John, (2) the Gospel of John, and finally, (3) the Book of Revelation.
2. This epistle was written about 24 years after the Apostle Paul wrote his final epistle. Paul’s final work was Second Timothy, which was written shortly before he was martyred for his faith (66/67 A.D.)[ii] It would not seem a huge leap to consider that the Apostle John was familiar with the writings of Paul and understood the “Pauline Revelation” concerning the Gentiles and the Kingdom of God. The First Epistle of John is very commandment centric. I do not believe that this, in any way, conflicts with the teachings of Paul. The Pauline Revelation affected only the commandment regarding circumcision for Gentiles to be considered a part of Israel. The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 and the Book of Galatians are centered solely on this one commandment and how some of the Shammai Pharisees were teaching Gentiles that salvation was through circumcision instead of faith in Christ. No other commandment was even referred to in either the council or the Book of Galatians. The final declaration of the Council of Jerusalem was to attend Sabbath services in the Synagogue and to learn the commandments. (Acts 15:21)
I want to emphasize point three in understanding this epistle. John speaks a great deal about the commandments of God in his writing of this letter to the saints. This epistle was primarily about three things:
1. Truth and the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth. (Positive attitude toward God’s commandments.)
2. Error and the Spirit of Error – the Spirit of Antichrist. (Negative attitude toward God’s commandments.)
3. How to tell which spirit an individual is following.
Now do you see why this epistle is so important today? The lines have become so blurred in the world and in the church that we cannot tell them apart any more. As in the days of Elijah, we have a complex blending of the concepts of the worship of Jehovah and Baal: pagan and sacred have been amalgamated into something the apostles of old would no longer recognize. We need the Apostle who wrote so much about the days we are now living in (the Book of Revelation) to give us clarity and to help us divide truth from error!
First John Chapter One
1 John 1:1-2 (KJV)
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;)
John uses the phrase “from the beginning” quite a bit in this epistle. You can also see that he borrowed from this epistle when he wrote the Gospel of John.
John 1:1-3 (KJV)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In fact, you will see both references to “the beginning” and “the light.” Both of these references come from Genesis Chapter One.
Genesis 1:1-5 (KJV)
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
At the beginning, God was there. Only because of Him do we have light! All light comes from God, but darkness comes from something (or someone) else that caused the world to become void.
The word “was” in Genesis 1:2 means so much more in the Hebrew. God used the Hebrew word “hayah,” which means, “to be, to come to pass, to happen, to occur, to take place.”[iii] This Hebrew word is more than just a descriptive word about its condition; it is a word that shows a causative event. Many Bible commentators believe it was the fall of Lucifer that precipitated the chaos we witness before God’s recreation of the Earth. Finis Dake (author of the Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible) is one of them, and he provides the following insights into Genesis 1:2:
(2) The word "was" in Gen. 1:2 is from the verb to become, not the verb to be, proving that the earth became wasted and empty since its original creation and habitation in the beginning. See note on "was," Gen. 1:2.
(3) The phrase "without form" in Gen. 1:2 (see notes there) is from the Hebrew tohuw (HSN-<H8414>), meaning waste or desolation. It is translated "waste" (Dt. 32:10), "without form" (Gen. 1:2; Jer. 4:23), "vain" (Isa. 45:18; 1Sam. 12:21), "confusion" (Isa. 24:10; 34:11; 41:29), "empty" (Job 26:7), "vanity" (Isa. 40:17,23; 44:9; 59:4), "nothing" (Job 6:18; Isa. 40:17), and "wilderness" (Job 12:24; Ps. 107:40). It can be seen from these passages what the condition of the earth was in Gen. 1:2. Yet Isa. 45:18 states that God did not create the earth "in vain," or tohuw (HSN-<H8414>). Therefore, the earth was originally perfect, dry land, beautiful, and inhabited, but later became empty, waste, and a ruin because of sin (Dt. 32:4; Eccl. 3:11).
(4) The Hebrew for "void" in Gen. 1:2 is bohuw (HSN-<H922>), "empty, ruined, void." It is translated "void" (Gen. 1:2; Jer. 4:23), and "emptiness" (Isa. 34:11). The Hebrew phrase, tohuw wabohuw, "waste and empty," describes the chaotic condition of the earth at the time that it was cursed and flooded because of the sins of Lucifer and the pre-Adamites. It doesn’t refer to the earth as originally created — beautiful, perfect, dry land.[iv]
So John connects several things that have been happening from the beginning:
· God brings light and divine order to creation.
· Satan brings darkness and chaos to creation.
Again, we see the theme of both the Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error from the very beginning!
Jesus Discovered in Genesis 1:1
John makes a very powerful statement in both 1 John 1:1 and John 1:1 – Jesus was there! Let’s see whether we can discover something from the Hebrew that would help reveal what John saw.
In the Book of Revelation, Jesus described Himself as the “beginning and the end” and the “alpha and omega.” “Alpha and omega” was the beginning and ending letters of the Greek alphabet. In Hebrew, they would be the “aleph and tov.” We find the “aleph and tov” standing right next to Elohim in Genesis 1:1 (the Beginning), just as John describes in John 1:1. The Rabbis believe that God divinely inspired the Torah, all the way down to each letter and its position in the scripture. For centuries before the coming of Christ, the Rabbis had been debating “who” or “what” was this word – the aleph/tov – that dwelt right next to Elohim in the beginning. The Apostle John answers this question: it was Messiah!
The Messiah is found in the very first line of the Word of God actively involved in the work of creation. He is also found in the very last two lines of the Bible: a call for Him to come quickly and for His grace to abide with us!
Revelation 22:20-21 (KJV)
20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. 21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Jesus is the beginning and the end of all things: the Word, creation, and life itself! No wonder the enemy wants to obscure who Jesus is, what He has done, and how to walk with Him from both the church and the world!
1 John 1:3 (KJV)
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.
The Greek word for “fellowship” is “koinonia.” This word describes something more than just casual acquaintances. This Greek word can mean “fellowship, association, community, communion, intercourse, and intimacy.” [i] The word is used to express intimate relationships that develop a real sense of community between individuals. It also expresses a deep sense of kindred spirits. This is so much more than we experience in our “church as usual” in a broad sense, although we have all experienced it in a limited fashion with a few in our lifetimes.
The word translated “and truly” in the Greek is also important. “Kai” means “and, also, even, indeed, but.”[ii] It is a little bit perplexing when you realize the same word could have been translated “indeed” or “but.” It might have been translated “that ye also may have fellowship with us: but our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” I believe John chose this word to express a truth:
“Because of what Messiah has done for us, He has brought us into an intimate fellowship with Himself and the Father. We have preached the Gospel to you to bring you into fellowship with Him. Once you have fellowship with Him, we can have fellowship and a sense of community with you.”
Everything about John, 1 John, and even Revelation is about the concepts of light and darkness, Messiah and antichrist, and the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Darkness. Light cannot have fellowship with darkness. This is very similar to what Paul expressed in 2 Cor. 6:15-18.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (KJV)
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Only when someone has truly believed the Gospel and has been changed (born anew) by the Spirit of God, can they have fellowship established with our Heavenly Father. This new birth begins to slowly change everything in their lives. They no longer walk in spiritual darkness and in fellowship with the source of darkness: Satan himself. They are now walking in the Kingdom of God, the Word becomes alive to them, and the ministry of the Word and the Spirit of God transforms them. Since we have experienced the same thing, we can begin having fellowship with them.
This may also explain to me several phenomena that I have experienced in the Church worldwide:
1. I have been in meetings across Europe (when I was in the military) and the nations of North America. I have felt a kindred spirit with those that do not even speak the same language that I do. Our minds could not communicate, but our spirits could. There was a sense that they were part of our spiritual family and walked with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!
2. I have met people in North America and Europe that confessed that Jesus was their Lord, but there was no fruit of the Word or the Holy Spirit in their lives. You could not sense the Spirit of God or the Kingdom of God functioning within them. Over the course of time, they would bring darkness, and chaos into the Church, both overtly and covertly.
This may be the very reason John wrote his epistle. He remembers what Jesus had warned them about:
Matthew 24:4-5 (KJV)
4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
The truth is that there are many individuals who go to Church and claim to be believers, but they do not have a living relationship with Jesus. They are social Christians, but are in fellowship with darkness. They will sow discord among the brethren and will instinctively move against anything the Spirit of God wants to do. (They are still flowing in darkness.) There are also others that know they walk in darkness and come into the Church with ulterior motives: to lead others astray, to seek out weakness, and to sow both discord and doctrines of devils among believers. They are agents of the occult that target believers and ministries, especially those ministries that are affecting their area spiritually for the Kingdom of God.[iii]
Both of these types of individuals are behind most of the grief in congregations today. Generally, ministers are completely unaware of their presence or influence. (Although it has been discovered some have even been pastors too.) They gain influence because we do not understand what John was trying to convey to us in his very first writing: the First Epistle of the Apostle John.
That Your Joy May Be Full
Now notice verse 4:
1 John 1:4 (KJV)
4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
There were things going on in the lives of the people of God throughout the known world during John’s writings that were stealing their joy. Are things really that different today? We need to see that 1 John, the Gospel of John, and the Book of Revelation are all connected – even beyond the author. The Apostle John is the one who leaned on the chest of Jesus at the Last Supper. He was also the one to whom Jesus entrusted his mother to at the time of His death on the Cross. John had heard the heartbeat of the living God and been in the “Circle of One” regarding Messiah’s disciples. So he had a more intimate fellowship with Jesus than most. He very possibly knew what was affecting the church then, and is affecting the church now: darkness masquerading as light!
John tells us that he is writing this epistle with an express purpose: so our joy would be full. Once we heed his words and can separate light from darkness, and embrace the light only, we will find our joy will return to a level of fullness we may have never experienced before!
[i] Strongs # G02842. Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon. BibleWorks for Windows 9.0. BibleWorks, LLC, Norfolk, VA. Copyright © 2006.
[ii] Strongs # G2532. Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon. BibleWorks for Windows 9.0. BibleWorks, LLC, Norfolk, VA. Copyright © 2006.
[iii] Russ Dizdar has been dealing with these issues for over three decades. He has worked with both state and federal officers. Here is a link to a two part teaching on how the occult infiltrate local churches. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fyjzECWR2A
[i] Hayford, Jack W. – General Editor. Spirit-Filled Life Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. Copyright 1991. Page 1925.
[ii] Ibid. Page 1851.
[iii] Strongs # H01961. Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon. BibleWorks for Windows 9.0. BibleWorks, LLC, Norfolk, VA. Copyright © 2006.
[iv] Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments of the Authorized or King James Version Text.
Copyright 2013 by Michael K. Lake, Th.D.
Dr. Lake is the Chancellor and Founder of Biblical Life College and Seminary, the Senior Pastor of Biblical Life Assembly, and the Director of Biblical Life Publishing. He also serves on the International Board of Directors of Restoration Fellowship International.