And these things write we to you, that your joy may be full.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
That your joy may be full - This is almost the same language which the Saviour used when addressing his disciples as he was about to leave them, John 15:11; and there can be little doubt that John had that declaration in remembrance when he uttered this remark. See the notes at that passage. The sense here is, that full and clear views of the Lord Jesus, and the fellowship with him and with each other, which would follow from that, would be a source of happiness. Their joy would be complete if they had that; for their real happiness was to be found in their Saviour. The best editions of the Greek Testament now read "your joy," instead of the common reading "our joy."
write we unto you—Some oldest manuscripts omit "unto you," and emphasize "we." Thus the antithesis is between "we" (apostles and eye-witnesses) and "your." We write thus that your joy may be full. Other oldest manuscripts and versions read "OUR joy," namely, that our joy may be filled full by bringing you also into fellowship with the Father and Son. (Compare Joh 4:36, end; Php 2:2, "Fulfil ye my joy," Php 2:16; 4:1; 2Jo 8). It is possible that "your" may be a correction of transcribers to make this verse harmonize with Joh 15:11; 16:24; however, as John often repeats favorite phrases, he may do so here, so "your" may be from himself. So 2Jo 12, "your" in oldest manuscripts. The authority of manuscripts and versions on both sides here is almost evenly balanced. Christ Himself is the source, object, and center of His people's joy (compare 1Jo 1:3, end); it is in fellowship with Him that we have joy, the fruit of faith.2Jo 1:12, well grounded, John 16:24, such as is of the right kind, and will grow up into the perfect plenitude and fulness of joy, Psalm 16:11.
that your joy may be full; meaning either their spiritual joy in this life, which has Christ for its object, and is increased by the consideration of his proper deity, his incarnation and mediation by a view of free justification by his righteousness, and atonement by his blood; by a sight of his glorious person by faith, and by intimate communion with him, and a discovery of his love, which passeth knowledge: and which joy, when it is large, and very great, may, in a comparative sense, be said to be full, though not absolutely so, and being as much as can well be enjoyed in this state; and nothing can more contribute to it than a declaration of the above things in the Gospel, and an experimental acquaintance with them, and enjoyment of them: or else it may intend the joy of the saints in the world to come, in the presence of Christ, where are fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore; and so may express the ultimate glory and happiness of God's people, which is the chief end, as of his purposes, promises, and covenant, so of the Gospel, and the declaration of it. The Syriac version renders it, "that our joy, which is in you, may be full"; it is the joy of the ministers of the word, when the saints are established in the faith of Christ's person and offices, and have communion with him, with which view they declare him, and bear record of him. Some copies read, our joy.And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1 John 1:4. After stating the subject and aim of his apostolic proclamation, the apostle intimates specially the aim of this Epistle. καὶ ταῦτα γράφομεν ὑμῖν] By καί, γράφομεν is made co-ordinate with ἀπαγγέλλομεν, the particular with the general, not the composition of the Epistle with that of the Gospel (Ebrard). ταῦτα refers neither merely to what precedes (Russmeyer, Sander), nor merely to what immediately follows (Socin), but to the whole Epistle (Lücke, de Wette, Düsterdieck). With γράφομεν ὑμῖν, comp. 1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:12, 1 John 5:13. The plural is used because John as an apostle writes in the consciousness that his written word is in full agreement with the preaching of all the apostles; all the apostles, as it were, speak through him to the readers of the Epistle.
ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ὑμῶν ᾖ πεπληρωμένη] comp. with this John 15:11; John 17:13. The aim of the Epistle is the πλήρωσις of joy which it, as apostolic testimony to the salvation founded on the φανέρωσις of the ζωὴ αἰώνιος (1 John 1:2), was to produce in its readers. De Wette groundlessly thinks that the effect, namely, the perfected Christian frame of mind, is here put for the cause, namely, Christian perfection. It is rather very especially the perfect χαρά (not merely “the joy of conflict and victory,” Ebrard) that is the goal to which the apostle would lead his readers by this Epistle. With the reading ἡμῶν it is the χαρά of the apostles—first of all of John—that is the goal, and no doubt the joy which for them consists in this, that their word produces fruit in their hearers. Incorrectly Ebrard: “If ἡμῶν is right, then the apostle resumes the mutual ἡμετέρα: that our (common) joy may be full;” for, on the one hand, ἡμετέρα is not mutual (embracing the apostles and the readers), and, on the other, ἡμῶν would have to be referred to the ἡμεῖς that is contained in γράφομεν, but not to the more remote ἡμετέρα.
 Theophyl.: ἡμῶν γὰρ ὑμῖν κοινωνούντων πλείστην ἔχομεν τὰν χαρὰν ἡμῶν, ἦν τῆς θερισταῖς ὁ χαίρων σπορεὺς ἐν τῇ τοῦ μισθοῦ ἀπολήψει βραβεύσει, χαιρέντων καὶ τούτων ὅτι τῶν πόνων αὐτῶν ἀπολαύουσι.1 John 1:4. ἡμεῖς, clearly the editorial plural. The reading ὑμῶν seems at the first glance more attractive than ἡμῶν as evincing a generous solicitude on the part of the Apostle for the highest good of his readers, viz., the fulfilment of their joy. Rothe: “Wer es weis, dass das uranfängliche Leben erschienen ist und er mit demselben und dadurch mit dem Vater Gemeinschaft haben kann, dessen Herz muss hoch schlagen”. In truth, however, ἡμῶν evinces a still more generous solicitude—the very spirit of Jesus. As He could not be happy in Heaven without us, so the Apostle’s joy was incomplete unless his readers shared it. Cf. Samuel Rutherford:—
“Oh! if one soul from Anwoth
Meet me at God’s right hand,
My heaven will be two heavens
In Immanuel’s land.”4. these things write we] These words apply to the whole Epistle, of which he here states the purpose, just as in John 20:31 he states the purpose of the Gospel. Both ‘write’ and ‘we’ are emphatic: it is a permanent message that is sent, and it is sent by apostolic authority.
that your joy may be full] According to the better reading and rendering, that our joy may be fulfilled. Tyndale in his first edition (1525) has ‘your’, in his second (1534) and third (1535) ‘our’. In the Greek we have a passive participle, not an adjective: that our joy may be made full and may remain so. Moreover the expression that joy is made full or fulfilled is one of S. John’s characteristic phrases, and this should be brought out in translation. The active ‘fulfil my joy’ occurs Php 2:2; but the passive only here, John 3:29; John 15:11; John 16:24; John 17:13; 2 John 1:12. Comp. ‘These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be fulfilled’, and ‘These things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves’ (John 15:11; John 17:13). Once more Christ’s prayer and S. John’s purpose are one and the same. See on 1 John 1:3. ‘Our joy’ may mean either the Apostolic joy at the good results of Apostolic teaching; or the joy in which the recipients of the teaching share—‘yours as well as ours’. In either case the joy is that serene happiness, which is the result of conscious union with God and good men, of conscious possession of eternal life (see on 1 John 5:13), and which raises us above pain and sorrow and remorse. The first person plural used throughout this Introduction is the plural of authority, indicating primarily S. John, but S. John as the representative of the Apostles. In the body of the Epistle he uses the first person singular (1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:7-8; 1 John 2:12-14; 1 John 2:21; 1 John 2:26, 1 John 5:13). The concluding words of the Introduction to the Epistle of Barnabas are striking both in their resemblance and difference: “Now I, not as a teacher, but as one of you, will set forth a few things, by means of which in your present case ye may be gladdened.” Bede remarks, doubtless as the result of personal experience, that the joy of teachers is made full when by their preaching many are brought to the communion of the Church and of Him through whom the Church is strengthened and increased.
The following profound thoughts struggle for expression in these four opening verses. There is a Being who has existed with God the Father from all eternity: He is the Father’s Son: He is also the expression of the Father’s Nature and Will. He has been manifested in space and time; and of that manifestation I and others have had personal knowledge: by the united evidence of our senses we have been convinced of its reality. In revealing to us the Divine Nature He becomes to us life, eternal life. With the declaration of all this in our hands as the Gospel, we come to you in this Epistle, that you may unite with us in our great possession, and that our joy in the Lord may be made complete.
We now enter upon the first main division of the Epistle; which extends to 1 John 2:28, the chief subject of which (with much digression) is the theme God is Light, and that in two parts: i. the Positive Side—What Walking in the Light involves; the Condition and Conduct of the Believer (1 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:11): ii. the Negative Side—What Walking in the Light excludes; the Things and Persons to be avoided (1 John 2:12-28). These parts will be subdivided as we reach them.1 John 1:4. Ταῦτα, these things) From the emphatic singular he comes to the plural, for the sake of greater convenience of expression. These things, and no other: 2 Corinthians 1:13, much less, smaller and more trifling things, as the defenders of traditions say.—γράφομεν ὑμῖν, we write to you) To this present the past, I have written, ch. 1 John 5:13, answers. Comp. ch. 1 John 2:1; 1 John 2:12, and following verses. Writing gives strong confirmation.—ἵνα, that) Fulness of joy arises from a full and abundant confirmation of soul in faith and love. To this, declaration and writing in conjunction especially tend: 2 John 1:12.—χαρα, joy) Thus also John writes in his Gospel, ch. John 15:11, John 16:22. There is the joy of faith, the joy of love, the joy of hope. In this place the joy of faith is first noticed; and the expression is abbreviated, your joy; that is, your faith, and the joy which springs from thence: but there is also intended the joy of love and of hope, flowing from thence.Verse 4. - While verses 1-3 refer to the Gospel, this refers to the Epistle; but, although ταῦτα in 1 John 2:26 and 1 John 5:13 refer to what precedes, there is no need to limit ταῦτα here to these opening verses; it covers the whole Epistle. The reading ἡμεῖς seems preferable to ὑμῖν, and ἡμῶν to ὑμῶν. But ἡμεῖς and ἡμῶν are not coordinate: ἡμεῖς is the apostolic "we;" ἡμῶν means "your joy as well as mine." This verse takes the place of the usual "grace and peace" in the opening of other Epistles; and as verse 3 recalls John 17:21, so this recalls John 17:13. The joy is that of knowing that, though in the world, they are not of it, but are one with one another, and with the Father and with the Son. The gospel is always joy: "Rejoice alway" (1 Thessalonians 5:16); "Rejoice in the Lord alway" (Philippians 4:4). To know that the Eternal Life has been manifested, that we have communion with him, and through him with the Father, must be joy. Whereas Gnosticism, by denying the atonement, and "the personal office of God in the salvation of the world," cuts off one great sphere of God's love, and consequently one great cause of the believer's joy. To sum up this introduction: St. John gives his Gospel to the Church ἀπαγγέλλομεν in order that all may share in the union for which Christ prayed; and to the Gospel he adds this Epistle καὶ ταῦτα γράφομεν, that all may realize the joy resulting from this union - that our joy may be fulfilled. In this introduction we find the following expressions which are characteristic of St. John, serving to show the common authorship of the Gospel and Epistle, and in some cases of the Revelation also: ὁ Λόγος ἡ ζωή φανερόω μαρτυρέω ζωὴ αἰώνιος η΅ν πρός ἡ χαρὰ η΅ι πεπληρωμένη. It is among the many excellences of the Revised Version that characteristic expressions are marked by a uniform translation; whereas in the Authorized Version they are obscured by capriciously varying the translation: e.g. μαρτυρέω is rendered in four different ways - "bear witness," "bear record," "give record," "testify" (cf. page 10).
The whole Epistle.
Write we unto you (γράφομεν ὑμῖν)
The best texts read ἡμεῖς we, instead of ὑμῖν to you. Both the verb and the pronoun are emphatic. The writer speaks with conscious authority, and his message is to be not only announced (ἀπαγγέλλομεν, 1 John 1:3), but written. We write is emphasized by the absence of the personal object, to you.
Your joy (ἡ χαρὰ ὑμῶν)
The best texts read ἡμῶν, our, though either reading gives a good sense.
More correctly, fulfilled. Frequent in John. See John 3:29; John 7:8; John 8:38; John 15:11; 2 John 1:12; Revelation 6:11. "The peace of reconciliation, the blessed consciousness of sonship, the happy growth in holiness, the bright prospect of future completion and glory, - all these are but simple details of that which, in all its length and breadth is embraced by one word, Eternal Life, the real possession of which is the immediate source of our joy. We have joy, Christ's joy, because we are blessed, because we have life itself in Christ" (Dsterdieck, cit. by Alford). And Augustine: "For there is a joy which is not given to the ungodly, but to those who love Thee for thine own sake, whose joy Thou thyself art. And this is the happy life, to rejoice to Thee, of Thee; this is it and there is no other" ("Confessions," x., 22). Alford is right in remarking that this verse gives an epistolary character to what follows, but it can hardly be said with him that it "fills the place of the χαίρειν greeting, lit., rejoice, so common in the opening of Epistles."
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