1 John 1:5
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
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[2.First Half. God is Light (1John 1:5 to 1John 2:28).


(2)FIRST INFERENCE: The true fellowship (1John 1:6-7); the Christian must not sin.

(3)SECOND INFERENCE: Confession of sins (1John 1:8-10); the Christian must not conceal his sin.

(4)THIRD INFERENCE: Remedy for sins (1John 2:1-2).





(a)Signs whereby they should know the forerunners of the last time (1John 2:18-23).

(b)Exhortation to continue in the light (1John 2:24-28).]

(1) (5) This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you.—What the Son had received from the Father, this the Apostles were to report to the world. The attention is aroused, as by the silence before the thunderstorm, to expect a central and fundamental notion of the utmost importance.

That God is light.—Here is the essence of Christian theology, the truth about the Deity as opposed to all the imperfect conceptions of Him which had embittered the minds of the wise. To the heathen, Deity had meant angry, malevolent beings, worshipped best by the secrecy of outrageous vice; to the Greeks and Romans, forces of nature transformed into superhuman men and women, powerful and impure; to the philosophers, an abstraction either moral or physical; to the Gnostics it was a remote idea, equal and contending forces of good and evil, recognisable only through less and less perfect deputies. All this John, summing up what the Old Testament and our Lord had said about the Almighty Father, sweeps away in one simple declaration of truth. Light was God’s garment in Psalm 104:2; to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:2), the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord was brightness; to Habakkuk (1John 3:3), His brightness was as the light; Christ had called the sons of God children of the light (John 12:36), and announced Himself as the Light of the World (John 8:12); in the Hebrews (Hebrews 1:3), Christ was the refracted ray of the Father’s glory, “the express image of His person;” to James, the Almighty was the Father of all lights (James 1:17); to Paul, He dwells “in the light that no man can approach unto” (1Timothy 6:16); to St. Peter, the Christian state is an admission “into His marvellous light” (1Peter 2:9). These ideas John comprehends: God is Light. Light physical, because (1) it was He who called everything first out of darkness, and (2) from whom proceeds all health and perfection; light intellectual, because (1) He is the source of all wisdom and knowledge, and (2) in His mind exist the ideals after which all things strive; light moral, because (1) His perfection shows that the difference between good and evil is not merely a question of degree, but fundamental and final, and (2) the life of Christ had exhibited that contrast sharply: once for all. Thus, on this declaration depends the whole doctrine of sin: sin is not merely imperfection; it is enmity to God. There can be no shades of progression, uniting good and evil: in Him is no darkness at all. Good and evil may be mixed in an individual: in themselves they are contrary.

(2) (6) If we say.—A favourite form with John, expressing sympathetic delicacy.

That we have fellowship with him. . . .—Some of the Gnostics (like the Anabaptists) said that on account of their spiritual knowledge they were free to act as they liked, without committing sin. For walking as a description of the spiritual state, compare 1John 2:6; 2John 1:6; Romans 6:4; Romans 8:4; Ephesians 4:17; Philippians 3:20.

Darkness would include any conscious habit which was opposed to God’s example of perfection.

We lie.—We are a self-contradiction, and we know it.

And do not the truth.—The truth with St. John is as much a matter of action as of thought and word; that sphere of conduct which is in harmony with God, whose nature is Light.

(7) As he is in the light.—The effulgence of the atmosphere of the perfectly good, the sinlessly loving, the gloriously pure, which, created by God and proceeding from Him, is specially “His throne.” At the same time, wherever such characteristics of Divine Light are found, there He is particularly present.

We have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.—The antithesis to “lying and doing not the truth,” presented under the twofold aspect of (1) the brotherly result of walking with God, (2) its purifying influence. Each human being that comes near us becomes the object of our friendly sympathy; and the sacrifice of Christ has both put away the sin of the world and prevents sin from reigning in our mortal bodies; it obtains forgiveness for us, and by reminding us that it was sin that brought Jesus to the cross, has a continually purifying power over us, through the Spirit of Christ and of the Father. (See 1Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 1:19-20; Hebrews 9:14; 1Peter 1:19-23.)

(3) (8) If we say that we have no sin.—The preceding words had reminded St. John that even mature Christians, though certainly not “walking in darkness,” yet have sinful tendencies in themselves: sensuous impulses, non-spiritual inclinations, lack of self-knowledge, a lowered standard, principles and views borrowed partly from the world, wavering of will, and hence even graver faults. Not to admit this would be to mislead ourselves, and in us the power and energy of light, searching the very corners of the heart, would not be working. (See Romans 7:18-23; Galatians 5:17.)

(9) If we confess our sins.—An advance in the thought from the general “having sin.” Confession to God must recognise and measure each particular fault. (Psalm 32:5; Psalm 51:3; Proverbs 28:13; Luke 15:21.)

He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.—He, from the context, cannot possibly be any other than God. Here another grand progression of thought meets us: not merely “we are in the truth,” but the actual and glorious result on God’s side; faithful and just on account of Christ’s sacrifice and our repentance. For the double notion of forgiving and cleansing, see Note on 1John 1:7. The Romish interpreters, in their arbitrary way, limit the cleansing here to purgatory.

(10) If we say that we have not sinned.—The argument of the passage equally excludes the interpretation “freedom from guilt since conversion” as “innocence during the whole life.” St. John is here repeating, in a more emphatic form, the thought of 1John 1:8.

We make him a liar, and his word is not in us.—Stronger far than “we lie,” or “the truth is not in us.” Our foolish presumption is regarded in its worst aspect: an impiety against God, whose word, revelation, appeal to our conscience, and witness by the Spirit, are thus blasphemously contradicted. Parallel to “we do not the truth” and “the truth is not in us,” the practical result here is that we cannot be regarded as having in any sense received God’s revelation into our hearts.

1 John 1:5-7. This then is the message — That is, one part of it; which we have heard of him — The Son of God; that God is light — The light of truth, wisdom, holiness, glory. What light is to the natural eye, that God is to the spiritual eye; and in him is no darkness at all — Not the least mixture of ignorance or error, of folly, sin, or misery; if we say — Either with our tongue, or in our heart; if we endeavour to persuade ourselves and others, that we have fellowship with him — If we pretend to, or make a profession of it; and walk in darkness — Live in a state of ignorance, error, folly, or sin, which things are as contrary to his wise and holy nature, as darkness is to that of light, whatever professions we may make of our acquaintance with Christianity, and of being zealous for its interests; we lie, and do not the truth — Our conduct shows that our professions are false, and that the truth is not in us. But if we walk in the light — In the way of truth, knowledge, and holiness; as he is (a deeper word than walk, and more worthy of God) in the light — Is essentially and perfectly wise and holy, then we may truly say, we have fellowship one with another — God with us, and we with him; for that is the fellowship the apostle is speaking of 1 John 1:6, namely, fellowship or intercourse between the head and the members of the community: a fellowship which consists in the Father’s bestowing blessings on us through the mediation of Christ, and in our receiving these blessings from the Father and the Son with thankfulness. As if the apostle had said, We who have seen, and you who have not seen, do alike enjoy that fellowship with God and Christ, the imitation of God being the only sure proof of our having fellowship with him. And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son — With the grace purchased thereby; cleanseth us from all sin — Taketh away all the guilt, and therewith all the power of sin, both original and actual. There is also a cleansing from all sin in a higher sense, even from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, (see 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:25-26; Colossians 1:22; Titus 2:14,) from whatever is contrary to the mind of Christ and the image of God, which may be experienced in the present life, by the blood of Christ, who, having died to procure for us the influences of the Spirit for fully sanctifying our nature, may be truly said to cleanse us from all sin by his blood. Of this cleansing, however, the apostle does not speak directly in this verse, but he speaks of it 1 John 1:9.

1:5-10 A message from the Lord Jesus, the Word of life, the eternal Word, we should all gladly receive. The great God should be represented to this dark world, as pure and perfect light. As this is the nature of God, his doctrines and precepts must be such. And as his perfect happiness cannot be separated from his perfect holiness, so our happiness will be in proportion to our being made holy. To walk in darkness, is to live and act against religion. God holds no heavenly fellowship or intercourse with unholy souls. There is no truth in their profession; their practice shows its folly and falsehood. The eternal Life, the eternal Son, put on flesh and blood, and died to wash us from our sins in his own blood, and procures for us the sacred influences by which sin is to be subdued more and more, till it is quite done away. While the necessity of a holy walk is insisted upon, as the effect and evidence of the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus, the opposite error of self-righteous pride is guarded against with equal care. All who walk near to God, in holiness and righteousness, are sensible that their best days and duties are mixed with sin. God has given testimony to the sinfulness of the world, by providing a sufficient, effectual Sacrifice for sin, needed in all ages; and the sinfulness of believers themselves is shown, by requiring them continually to confess their sins, and to apply by faith to the blood of that Sacrifice. Let us plead guilty before God, be humble, and willing to know the worst of our case. Let us honestly confess all our sins in their full extent, relying wholly on his mercy and truth through the righteousness of Christ, for a free and full forgiveness, and our deliverance from the power and practice of sin.This then is the message which we have heard of him - This is the substance of the announcement (ἐπαγγελία epangelia) which we have received of him, or which he made to us. The message here refers to what he communicated as the sum of the revelation which he made to man. The phrase "of him" (απ ̓ αὐτου ap' autou) does not mean respecting him, or about him, but from him; that is, this is what we received from his preaching; from all that he said. The peculiarity, the substance of all that he said, may be summed up in the declaration that God is light, and in the consequences which follow from this doctrine. He came as the messenger of Him who is light; he came to inculcate and defend the truths which flow from that central doctrine, in regard to sin, to the danger and duty of man, to the way of recovery, and to the rules by which men ought to live.

That God is light - Light, in the Scriptures, is the emblem of purity, truth, knowledge, prosperity, and happiness - as darkness is of the opposite. John here says that "God is light" - φῶς phōs - not the light, or a light, but light itself; that is, he is himself all light, and is the source and fountain of light in all worlds. He is perfectly pure, without any admixture of sin. He has all knowledge, with no admixture of ignorance on any subject. He is infinitely happy, with nothing to make him miserable. He is infinitely true, never stating or countenancing error; he is blessed in all his ways, never knowing the darkness of disappointment and adversity. Compare the James 1:17 note; John 1:4-5 note; 1 Timothy 6:16 note.

And in him is no darkness at all - This language is much in the manner of John, not only affirming that a thing is so, but guarding it so that no mistake could possibly be made as to what he meant. Compare John 1:1-3. The expression here is designed to affirm that God is absolutely perfect; that there is nothing in him which is in any way imperfect, or which would dim or mar the pure splendor of his character, not even as much as the smallest spot would on the sun. The language is probably designed to guard the mind from an error to which it is prone, that of charging God with being the Author of the sin and misery which exist on the earth; and the apostle seems to design to teach that whatever was the source of sin and misery, it was not in any sense to be charged on God. This doctrine that God is a pure light, John lays down as the substance of all that he had to teach; of all that he had learned from him who was made flesh. It is, in fact, the fountain of all just views of truth on the subject of religion, and all proper views of religion take their origin from this.

5. First division of the body of the Epistle (compare [2637]Introduction).

declare—Greek, "announce"; report in turn; a different Greek word from 1Jo 1:3. As the Son announced the message heard from the Father as His apostle, so the Son's apostles announce what they have heard from the Son. John nowhere uses the term "Gospel"; but the witness or testimony, the word, the truth, and here the message.

God is light—What light is in the natural world, that God, the source of even material light, is in the spiritual, the fountain of wisdom, purity, beauty, joy, and glory. As all material life and growth depends on light, so all spiritual life and growth depends on God. As God here, so Christ, in 1Jo 2:8, is called "the true light."

no darkness at all—strong negation; Greek, "No, not even one speck of darkness"; no ignorance, error, untruthfulness, sin, or death. John heard this from Christ, not only in express words, but in His acted words, namely, His is whole manifestation in the flesh as "the brightness of the Father's glory." Christ Himself was the embodiment of "the message," representing fully in all His sayings, doings, and sufferings, Him who is LIGHT.

It being the professed scope and design of his writing, to draw men to a final participation and communion with God in his own blessedness, he reckons nothing more necessary to it, than to settle in their minds a right notion of God. Which, that it might be the more regarded, he introduces with a solemn preface;

This then is the message, & c., (though the word also signifies promise, it here more fitly bears this rendering), to notify:

1. That this which follows was not an imagination of his own concerning God, but his true representation of himself.

2. That it was given him in charge to be delivered and communicated to others; a message a man neither hath of himself, nor is to reserve to himself,

we have heard it of him, and declare it to you, as (consonantly hereto) he speaks. It is the Divine pleasure it should be published to the world, and that all men should know that as from him, i.e. that he is not a Being of mere power, as some, or of mere mercy, as others, are apt to fancy of him, either whereof were a very maimed and most disagreeable notion of the Deity: power without goodness were apt to run into fury; goodness without wisdom and righteousness would as naturally turn to a supine indifferency, and neglect of distinguishing judicially between good and bad; things neither suitable to the Governor of the world, nor possible to the absolutely perfect Being.

God is light; in God all true perfections and excellencies must be understood eminently to concur; and of them more could not have been comprehended under one word, (especially that belong to him considered relatively to his creatures, of which perfections it concerns us to have more distinct, formed, positive conceptions in all our applications to him), than are here some way represented or resembled by light, viz. that he is a Being of most lively, penetrative vigour, absolute simplicity, immutability, knowledge, wisdom, sincerity, righteousness, serenity, benignity, joy, and felicity, and especially of most bright and glorious holiness and purity; and in whom

is no darkness at all, nothing contrary or repugnant hereto.

This then is the message,.... Of God by his Son the Word, or from Christ by his apostles. The Syriac version renders it, "this is the Gospel"; which is good news from a far country, a message sent from the King of kings to sinful men: or this is the annunciation, or declaration; that is, the thing declared, or showed. Some render it, "this is the promise", that whereas God is light, such who walk in the light shall have communion with him, and others shall not:

which we have heard of him; of Christ, who has declared him, that he is light without any mixture of darkness; that is a pure Spirit, and must be worshipped in a spiritual way; and that only spiritual worshippers are such as he seeks, and admits to communion with him. Moreover, they might hear and learn this of Christ, by his telling them that he himself was light, who is the image of the invisible God, insomuch, that he that has seen the Son, has seen the Father also. Wherefore, if the one is light, the other must be likewise; nor is there any coming to the Father, and enjoying communion with him, but through Christ; all which our Lord told his disciples. The Ethiopic version reads, "which ye have heard", very wrongly; for the words regard the apostles, who made a faithful declaration of the message they heard, and had from Christ, which is as follows:

and declare unto you that God is light; that is, God the Father, as distinguished from "him", Christ, of whom they had heard this message, and from Jesus Christ his Son, 1 John 1:7, what is declared of him, agreeably to the report of Christ, is, that he is "light"; that is, as light is opposed to the darkness of sin; he is pure and holy in his nature and works, and of such pure eyes as not to behold iniquity; and so perfectly holy, that angels cover their times before him, when they speak of his holiness: and as light is opposed to the darkness of ignorance, he is wise and knowing; he knows himself, his own nature, being, and perfections, his Son and Spirit, and their distinct modes of subsisting; he sees clearly all things in himself, all things he could do, or has determined shall be done; he has perfect knowledge of all creatures and things, and the darkness and the light are alike unto him, nor can the former hide from him: he is knowable, and to be discerned; he is clothed with light, and dwells in it; he may be known by the works of creation and providence; even the invisible things of him, his eternal power and Godhead, may be clearly seen and understood by them, and especially in his word, and most clearly in his Son; it is owing to the darkness of men, and not to any in and about God, who is light, that he is so little known as he is: and, like the light, he illuminates others; he is the Father of lights, the author and giver of all light; of the light of reason to men in general; and of grace here, and glory hereafter, to his own people, which are both signified by light; in whose light they see light; and he refreshes and delights their souls with the light of his countenance now, and with his glorious presence in the other world:

and in him is no darkness at all; no darkness of sin; nothing is more contrary to him, or more distant from him: nor any darkness of error and ignorance; what is unknown to men, as the times and seasons; what angels were ignorant of, and even Christ, as man, as the day and hour of Jerusalem's destruction, were known to the Father; in him is no ignorance of anything whatever; nor is there any variableness or shadow of turning in him, as there is in the luminous body of the sun; but God is always the same pure and holy, wise and knowing Being. It is usual with the Cabalistic Jews (e), to call the supreme Being light the most simple light, hidden light, and infinite light, with respect to his nature, glory, and majesty, and with regard also to his grace and mercy, justice and judgment; though, as R. Sangart says (f), this is to be understood of him figuratively.

(e) Lex. Cabalist, p. 63, 64. (f) Sepher Cosri, par. 2. sect. 2. fol. 61. 2.

{3} This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

(3) Now he enters into a question, by which we may understand that we are joined together with Christ, that is, if we are governed with his light, which is perceived by the ordering of our life. And thus he reasons, God is in himself most pure light, therefore he agrees well with them who are of the light, but with them that are of the darkness he has no fellowship.

to 1 John 2:111 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:11.

After the apostle has indicated the fulness of joy, which is in the fellowship with the Father and with the Son, as the aim of his Epistle, he brings out in what follows, from the point of view that God is φῶς (1 John 1:5), in opposition to moral indifferentism, the condition under which alone that fellowship can exist.

1 John 1:5. This verse contains no inference from what precedes (καί is not = igitur, Beza), but the thought that lays the foundation for what follows.

ἔστιν αὕτη ἡ ἀγγελία] “and this is the message;ἔστιν is here put—contrary to its usual position, comp. 1 John 2:25, 1 John 3:11; 1 John 3:23, 1 John 4:3, etc.—before αὕτη “in order to mark the reality of the message” (Braune); αὕτη here—as elsewhere also—refers to what follows: ὅτι ὁ Θεὸς κ.τ.λ., by which the subject-matter of the message is stated. Calvin incorrectly, following the reading ἐπαγγελία: promissio, quam vobis afferimus, hoc secum trahit, vel hanc conditionem habet annexam.

The word ἀγγελία only here and 1 John 3:11 (where, however, it is also not unopposed); frequently in the LXX. 2 Samuel 4:4; Proverbs 12:26; Proverbs 25:26; Proverbs 26:16; Isaiah 28:9; Jeremiah 48:3-4. The reading ἐπαγγελία is more difficult with the meaning “promise;” yet this may be justified in so far as every N. T. proclamation carries with it a promise.[47] De Wette prefers this reading, but takes ἐπαγγελία, following the example of Oecumenius, a Lapide, Beza, Hornejus, etc.,—contrary to the constant usus loquendi of the N. T.,—in the signification: “announcement” (Lange: “teaching”).

ἣν ἀκηκόαμεν ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ] “from Him, that is, Christ.” Instead of ἀπό, it is more usual to have παρά, comp. John 8:26; John 8:40; John 15:15; Acts 10:22; Acts 28:22; 2 Timothy 2:2.

αὐτός in the Epistle, not always (Paulus, Baumgarten-Crusius) indeed, but mostly, refers to God, while ἐκεῖνος refers always to Christ; here it refers backwards to τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰ. Χρ. in 1 John 1:3; Düsterdieck: “From Him, Christ, the Son of God manifested in the flesh (1 John 1:3), whom the apostle himself has heard (1 John 1:1 ff.), has he received the message about the Father.” In favour of the correctness of this explanation is also the following: ὅτι ὁ Θεός.[48]

καὶ ἀναγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν] ἀνΑΓΓΈΛΛΕΙΝ is synonymous with ἈΠΑΓΓΈΛΛΕΙΝ, 1 John 1:2-3, only that in ἈΝΑ the idea “again” is contained; Erasmus: quod filius annuntiavit a patre, hoc apostolus acceptum a filio renunciat.[49] This ἀναγγέλλομεν refers back with peculiar subtleness to the preceding ἀγγελία, and thus testifies to the correctness of that reading (Düsterdieck). The subject is, as in 1 John 1:2-3, John and the rest of the apostles. To reduce their proclamation to the word which they heard from Christ Himself serves to confirm its truth; comp. the combination of ἀκούειν and ἀπαγγέλλειν in 1 John 1:3. Ebrard wrongly interprets this ἀναγγέλλομεν also of the proclamation of John which occurred in his Gospel, to which this Epistle is related as the concentrating development.[50]

ὅτι ὁ Θεὸς φῶς ἐστί] φῶς is inappropriately translated by Luther: “a light;” the article weakens the thought; God is light, i.e. God’s nature is light = absolute holiness and truth (comp. chap. 1 John 4:8; Gospel of John 4:24);[51] for the signification of the symbolical expression “light,” compare especially Jam 1:13; Jam 1:17.

As God is φῶς in absolute sense, so also all light outside of Him is the radiation of His nature, as all love flows forth from Him whose nature is ἀγάπη; comp. chap. 1 John 4:7 ff.

καὶ σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία] The thought contained in the foregoing is emphasized by the negation of its opposite, which is here expressed in the strongest manner by οὐκοὐδεμία, in accordance with John’s diction (comp. chap. 1 John 2:4; 1 John 2:18, etc.).

σκοτία: antithesis of φῶς: sin and falsehood; the same antithesis is frequently in the N. T.; comp. Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:8 ff.; 1 John 1:5-10. The Message of the Incarnation and the Duty which it brings. “And this is the message which we have heard from Him and are announcing to you, that God is light, and darkness—in Him there is none. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and be walking in the darkness, we lie and are not doing the Truth; but if we be walking in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanseth us from every sin. If we say that we have not sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the Truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, faithful is He and righteous to forgive us the sins and cleanse us from every unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we are making Him a liar and His Word is not in us.”

5–7. Fellowship with God and with the Brethren

5. This then is the message which we have heard of Him] Better, And the message which we have heard from Him is this. ‘This’ is the predicate, as so often in S. John: ‘But the judgment is this’ (John 3:19); ‘The commandment is this’ (John 15:12); ‘The eternal life is this’ (John 17:3): comp. 1 John 3:11; 1 John 3:23; 1 John 5:3; 1 John 5:11; 1 John 5:14; 2 John 1:6. In all these cases ‘is this’ means ‘This is what it consists in, This is the sum and substance of it’. The conjunction does not introduce an inference: here, as in the Gospel, the main portion of the writing is joined on to the Introduction by a simple ‘and’. Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Rhemish all have ‘and’: ‘then’ comes from Geneva, apparently under the influence of Beza’s igitur. The connexion of thought seems to be this. S. John is writing that we may have fellowship with God (1 John 1:3): and in order to have this we must know 1. what God is (1 John 1:5), and 2. what we consequently are bound to be (6–10). The word for ‘message’ (ἀγγελία) occurs only in this Epistle (1 John 3:11) in N.T., but is more frequent in LXX.

Once more we have a striking parallel between Gospel and Epistle: the Gospel opens with a sentence very similar in form; ‘And the witness of John is this’ (John 1:19). All these similarities strengthen the belief that the two were written about the same time, and were intended to accompany one another.

from Him] From Christ. The pronoun used (αὐτός) is not the one (ἐκεῖνος) commonly used for Christ in this Epistle. But here the context decides: ‘Him’ refers back to ‘His Son Jesus Christ’ (1 John 1:3), the subject of the opening verses (1–3). Moreover, it was from Christ, and not immediately from the Father, that the Apostles received their message.

and declare unto you] Better, and announce unto you: not precisely the same verb as was rendered ‘declare’ in 1 John 1:2-3. Both are compounds of the same verb; but while the former has merely the notion of proclaiming and making known, this has the notion of proclaiming again what has been received elsewhere. The one is annuntiare, the other renuntiare. S. John hands on the message received from Christ: it is no invention of his own. It is a message, and not a discovery. So also the Spirit makes known or reveals to us truths which proceed from the Father (John 16:13-15): comp. John 4:25; 2 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Peter 1:12, where the same verb is used in all cases.

God is light] This is the theme of the first main division of the Epistle, as ‘God is Love’ of the second: so that this verse stands in the same relation to the first great division as 1 John 1:1-4 to the whole Epistle. No one tells us so much about the Nature of God as S. John: other writers tell us what God does, and what attributes He possesses; S. John tells us what He is. There are three statements in the Bible which stand alone as revelations of the Nature of God, and they are all in the writings of S. John: ‘God is spirit’ (John 4:24); ‘God is light’, and ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8). In all these momentous statements the predicate has no article, either definite or indefinite. We are not told that God is the Spirit, or the Light, or the Love: nor (in all probability) that He is a Spirit, or a light. But ‘God is spirit, is light, is love’: spirit, light, love are His very Nature. They are not mere attributes, like mercy and justice: they are Himself. They are probably the nearest approach to a definition of God that the human mind could frame or comprehend: and in the history of thought and religion they are unique. The more we consider them, the more they satisfy us. The simplest intellect can understand their meaning; the subtlest cannot exhaust it. No philosophy, no religion, not even the Jewish, had risen to the truth that God is light. ‘The Lord shall be to thee an everlasting light’ (Isaiah 60:19-20) is far short of it. But S. John knows it: and lest the great message which he conveys to us in his Gospel, ‘God is spirit’, should seem somewhat bare and empty in its indefiniteness, he adds this other message in his Epistle, ‘God is light, God is love’. No figure borrowed from the material world could give the idea of perfection so clearly and fully as light. It suggests ubiquity, brightness, happiness, intelligence, truth, purity, holiness. It suggests excellence without limit and without taint; an excellence whose nature it is to communicate itself and to pervade everything from which it is not of set purpose shut out. ‘Let there be light’ was the first fiat of the Creator; and on it all the rest depends. Light is the condition of beauty, and life, and growth, and activity: and this is as true in the intellectual, moral, and spiritual spheres as in the material universe.

Of the many beautiful and true ideas which the utterance ‘God is light’ suggests to us, two are specially prominent in this Epistle; intelligence and holiness. The Christian, anointed with the Holy Spirit, and in communion with God in Christ, possesses (1) knowledge, (2) righteousness. (1) ‘Ye know Him which is from the beginning’ (1 John 2:13-14); ‘I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it’ (1 John 2:21); ‘Ye need not that anyone teach you’ (1 John 2:27); &c. &c. (2) ‘Every one that hath this hope on him purifieth himself, even as He is pure’ (1 John 3:3); ‘Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God’; &c. &c.

and in Him is no darkness at all] Or, retaining the telling order of the Greek, and darkness in Him there is none at all. This antithetic parallelism is characteristic of S. John’s style. He frequently emphasizes a statement by following it up with a denial of its opposite. Thus, in the next verse, ‘We lie, and do not the truth’. Comp. ‘We lead ourselves astray, and the truth is not in us’ (1 John 1:8); Abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him’ (1 John 2:10); ‘Is true, and is no lie’ (1 John 2:27): comp. 1 John 2:4. So also in the Gospel: see on John 1:3. The denial here is very strong, the negative being doubled in the Greek; ‘none whatever, none at all’.

Another parallel between the Gospel and the Epistle must here be pointed out. In the Prologue to the former we have these ideas in succession; the Word, life, light, darkness. The same four follow in the same order here; ‘the Word of life’, ‘the life was manifested’, ‘God is light, and darkness in Him there is none’. Must we not suppose that the sequence of thought here has been influenced by the sequence in the corresponding portion of the Gospel?

The figurative use of ‘darkness’ for moral darkness, i.e. error and sin, is very frequent in S. John (1 John 2:8-9; 1 John 2:11; see on John 1:5; John 8:12). These passages shew that the meaning of this verse cannot be, ‘God has now been revealed, and no part of His Nature remains unknown’; which, moreover, could never be stated of Him who is incomprehensible. S. John is laying the foundation of Christian Ethics, of which the very first principle is that there is a God who intellectually, morally, and spiritually is light.

“In speaking of ‘light’ and ‘darkness’ it is probable that S. John had before him the Zoroastrian speculations on the two opposing spiritual powers which influenced Christian thought at a very early date” (Westcott).

1 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:28. God is Light

1 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:11. What Walking in the Light involves

This section is largely directed against the Gnostic doctrine that to the man of enlightenment all conduct is morally indifferent. Against every form of this doctrine, which sapped the very foundations of Christian Ethics, the Apostle never wearies of inveighing. So far from its being true that all conduct is alike to the enlightened man, it is the character of his conduct that will shew whether he is enlightened or not. If he is walking in the light his condition and conduct will exhibit these things; 1. Fellowship with God and with the Brethren (5–7); 2. Consciousness and Confession of Sin (8–10); 3. Obedience to God by Imitation of Christ (1 John 2:1-6); 4. Love of the Brethren (1 John 2:7-11).

1 John 1:5. Ἡ ἀγγελία) ch. 1 John 3:11. The declaration, which relates to the main subject. Neither in the gospel nor in the epistles does John speak of the Gospel by name; but he terms it the testimony, the word, the truth; and here, by a closely resembling sound, ἀγγελίαν, the declaration. That which was in the mouth of Christ ἀγγελία, a declaration, the apostles ἀναγγέλλουσι, declare; for they in turn give forth and propagate ἀγγελίαν, the declaration received from Him. It is called the word, ch. 1 John 2:7.—ἀπ ̓ αὐτοῦ, from Him) from the Son of God: John 1:18.—φῶς) The Light of wisdom, love, and glory. What the light is to the natural eye, that God is to the spiritual eye. As he here calls God Light, so ch. 1 John 2:8, he calls Christ Light.—σκοτία, darkness) The meaning of this is plain from the opposite.

Verse 5-1 John 2:28. - 2. FIRST MAIN DIVISION. God is Light. Verse 5-1 John 2:6. -

(1) Positive side. What walking in the light involves; the condition and conduct of the believer.

(2) 1 John 2:7-28. Negative side. What walking in the light excludes; the things and persons to be avoided. Verse 5. - This verse constitutes the text and basis of this division of the Epistle, especially on its positive side. And the message which we have heard... is this. Again we have a remarkable parallel between Gospel and Epistle; both begin with a καί (which connects the opening with the introduction in a simple and artless manner), and with the same kind of sentence: "And the witness of John is this." The reading ἐπαγγελία (1 John 2:25, and frequent in the New Testament) must be rejected here and in 1 John 3:11 in favour of ἀγγελία (which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament), on overwhelming evidence. Ἐπαγγελία in the New Testament means "promise," which would be almost meaningless here. The change from ἐπαγγέλλομεν (verses 2, 3) to ἀναγγέλλομεν is noteworthy: the one is "declare," the other "announce." The message received from Christ, the apostle announces or reports (renunciat) to his readers. He does not name Christ ἀπ αὐτοῦ; he is so full of the thought of Christ that he omits to name him (cf. John 20:7, 9, 15). Ἀναγγέλλω is used of authoritative announcements; of priests and Levites in the LXX; of the Messiah (John 4:25); of the Spirit (John 16:13, 14, 15); of the apostles (Acts 20:20, 27; 1 Peter 1:12). St. John speaks with authority. God is light; not the Light, nor a light, but light; that is his nature. This sums up the Divine essence on its intellectual side, as "God is love" on its moral side. In neither case has the predicate the article: ὁ Θεὸς φῶς ἐστίν ὁ Θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν. Light and love are not attributes of God, but himself. The connexion between this message and the introduction is not at first obvious. But St. John writes with his Gospel before him, and the prologue to that supplies the link. There, as here, three ideas follow in order: λόγος ζωή φῶς. There, as here, φῶς immediately suggests its opposite, σκοτία. It is on the revelation of the Λόγος as φῶς, and the consequent struggle between φῶς and σκοτία, that the Gospel is based. And this revelation is the highest: men alone are competent to receive or reject it. Other organisms exhibit the creative power as life: none but men can recognize it as light. And to know the Λόγος as light is to know the Father as light; for the Λόγος is the Revelation of the Father's nature. That God is, in his very nature, light, is an announcement peculiar to St. John. Others tell us that he is the Father of lights (James 1:17), the Possessor of light (1 Peter 2:9), dwelling in light (1 Timothy 6:16); but not that he is light. To the heathen God is a God of darkness, an unknown Being; a Power to be blindly propitiated, not a Person to be known and loved. To the philosopher he is an abstraction, an idea, not directly cognizable by man. To the Jews he is a God who hideth himself; not light, but a consuming fire. To the Christian alone he is revealed as light, absolutely free from everything impure, material, obscure, and gloomy. Light was the first product of the Divine creative energy, the earnest and condition of order, beauty, life, growth, and joy. Of all phenomena it best represents the elements of all perfection. "This word 'light' is at once the simplest and the fullest and the deepest which can be used in human discourse. It is addressed to every man who has eyes and who has ever looked on the sun." It tells not only "of a Goodness and Truth without flaw; it tells of a Goodness and Truth that are always seeking to spread themselves, to send forth rays that shall penetrate everywhere, and scatter the darkness which opposes them" (Maurice). In like manner, darkness sums up the elements of evil - foulness, secrecy, repulsiveness, and gloom. In all but the lowest forms of existence it inevitably produces decay and death. Everything of the kind is excluded from the nature of God. And hence St. John, in his characteristic manner, immediately emphasizes the great announcement with an equivalent negative statement: Darkness in him there is not any at all (comp. verse 8; 1 John 2:4, 23, 27; 1 John 3:6; 1 John 4:2, 3, 6-8; 1 John 5:12). He does not say, "in his presence," but "in him." Darkness exists, physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual; there is abundance of obscurity, error, depravity, sin, and its consequence, death. But not a shade of these is "in him." The Divine Light is subject to no spots, no eclipse, no twilight, no night; as a Source of light it cannot in any degree fail. 1 John 1:5This then is (καὶ αὕτη ἐστὶν)

Rev., correctly and literally, and this. According to the proper reading the verb stands first in order (ἐστὶν αὕτη), with emphasis, not merely as a copula, but in the sense "there exists this as the message." For a similar use of the substantive verb, see 1 John 5:16,1 John 5:17; 1 John 2:15; John 8:50.

Message (ἐπαγγελία)

This word, however, is invariably used in the New Testament in the sense of promise. The best texts read ἀγγελία, message, which occurs only at 1 John 3:11; and the corresponding verb, ἀγγέλλω, only at John 10:18.

We have heard of Him (ἀκηκόαμεν ἀπ' αὐτοῦ)

A form of expression not found elsewhere in John, who commonly uses παρ' αὐτοῦ. See on John 6:46. The phrase here points to the ultimate and not necessarily the immediate source of the message. Not only John, but others in earlier times had heard this message. Compare 1 Peter 1:10, 1 Peter 1:11. Ἁπό points to the source παρά to the giver. Thus, John 5:41, " I receive not honor from (παρά) men." They are not the bestowers of honor upon me." John 5:44, "How can ye believe which receive honor from (παρά) one another;" the honor which men have to give, "and seek not the honor that cometh from (παρά) God;" the honor which God alone bestows. On the other hand, 1 John 3:22, "Whatsoever we ask we receive from (ἀπό) Him," the ultimate source of our gifts. So Matthew 17:25 : "Of (ἀπό) whom do the kings of the earth take custom - of (ἀπό) their own children or of (ἀπό) strangers?" What is the legitimate and ultimate source of revenue in states?

Declare (ἀναγγέλλομεν)

Compare the simple verb ἀγγέλλειν to bring tidings, John 20:18, and only there. Ἀναγγέλλειν is to bring the tidings up to (ἀνά) or back to him who receives them. Ἀπαγέλλειν is to announce tidings as coming from (ἀπό) some one, see Matthew 2:8; John 4:51. Καταγγέλλειν is to proclaim with authority, so as to spread the tidings down among (κατά) those who hear. See Acts 17:23. Found only in the Acts and in Paul.

God is Light (Θεὸς φῶς ἐστὶν)

A statement of the absolute nature of God. Not a light, nor the light, with reference to created beings, as the light of men, the light of the world, but simply and absolutely God is light, in His very nature. Compare God is spirit, and see on John 4:24 : God is love, 1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16. The expression is not a metaphor. "All that we are accustomed to term light in the domain of the creature, whether with a physical or metaphysical meaning, is only an effluence of that one and only primitive Light which appears in the nature of God" (Ebrard). Light is immaterial, diffusive, pure, and glorious. It is the condition of life.

Physically, it represents glory; intellectually, truth; morally, holiness. As immaterial it corresponds to God as spirit; as diffusive, to God as love; as the condition of life, to God as life; as pure and illuminating, to God as holiness and truth. In the Old Testament, light is often the medium of God's visible revelations to men. It was the first manifestation of God in creation. The burning lamp passed between the pieces of the parted victim in God's covenant with Abraham. God went before Israel in a pillar of fire, descended in fire upon Sinai, and appeared in the luminons cloud which rested on the mercy-seat in the most holy place. In classical Greek φῶς light, is used metaphorically for delight, deliverance, victory, and is applied to persons as a term of admiring affection, as we say that one is the light of our life, or the delight of our eyes. So Ulysses, on seeing his son Telemachus, says, "Thou hast come, Telemachus, sweet light (γλυκερὸν φάος)" (Homer, "Odyssey," xvi., 23). And Electra, greeting her returning brother, Orestes, "O dearest light (φίλτατον φῶς)" (Sophocles, "Electra," 1223). Occasionally, as by Euripides, of the light of truth ("Iphigenia at Tauris," 1046). No modern writer has developed the idea of God as light with such power and beauty as Dante. His "Paradise" might truthfully be called a study of light. Light is the only visible expression of God. Radiating from Him, it is diffused through the universe as the principle of life. This key-note is struck at the very opening of "the Paradise."

"The glory of Him who moveth everything

Doth penetrate the universe, and shine

In one part more and in another less.


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