1 John 1

1 One of John's main purposes of this letter (which might actually be a sermon, since there is no greeting) is to refute a belief system called Gnosticism.

This belief system holds that the physical world is inherently evil, while the spiritual world was inherently good. They believed in the deity of Jesus, but they would not believe that He came in a real physical body. They also believed that they could do any sin they wanted with their bodies as long as they kept their spirits pure.

In the very first sentence, John speaks about the "Word" being not just spiritual, but Someone who was seen, touched, and heard. Jesus came from heaven as a human being. He did not take on the form of a ghost, nor was it a mere illusion that He had a body. Jesus was born with real flesh, He lives a real life on earth, and He bled and died as that real flesh was ripped and pierced. He also rose again from the dead in a real body.

These first three verses might be considered a summarized version of John 1:1-14.

Gnostic should not be confused with Agnostic. An Agnostic believes that one can not be certain about the existence of God. A Gnostic, on the other hand, would claim to have a superior knowledge of God that a "common" Christian would not understand. John makes it clear that such claims are fruitless philosophical speculations. John and many others saw the physical evidence. Gnostics were speculating outside the evidence, and they had drawn dangerously incorrect conclusions. They felt their insights were superior, but since they ignored reality, their theories were completely wrong.

2 John makes it clear that Jesus is the eternal life. Eternal Life became a physical being that could be seen, touched, and heard in order that those who experienced Him in the flesh before the spirit would be able to witness to those who (by faith) could experience Him in the spirit before seeing Him "in the flesh" in heaven.
3 It sounds like John is answering those today who will not believe in God because they can not prove His existence empirically. John makes it clear that he is not talking about a philosophical theory -- he is speaking of Someone who was physically real and provided ample proof that He was God in the flesh. The fact that He works many things beyond the scope of human comprehension does not negate the fact that He does many things that we can perceive. Faith is when we trust the evidence we can comprehend and accept those related things we do not understand. Faith in Christianity means that we trust the evidence the Jesus came in the flesh, died, and then rose again from the dead in a real body. Because we believe this evidence, we can also believe that He is God, as He claimed to be. We can also believe His teachings that His death substituted for our sin, and that those who believe will one day be raised up from the dead and live forever with God.

Those who have fellowship with Christ have eternal life. Jesus has fellowship with the Father, so that when we fellowship with one, we also fellowship with the other.

4 While one reason John writes this letter is to combat Gnosticism, another is to help his audience experience the full joy of being Christians. When we understand who Jesus is and join in fellowship with Him, we can have complete joy because of the hope He has given us.
5 Light is metaphorical for any number of things: goodness, righteousness, creative power, etc. This light is unmarred by anything that is evil. People who have accused God of creating or doing evil show that they do not know the true character of God. Such evil things come from sources outside God, and are, by definition, against God.

In physics, light emanates from an energy source. God is both the physical and spiritual energy source for the universe, so it is appropriate to think of Him in terms of light. Energy relates to power, and we know that God is all-powerful (omnipotent). In physics, light dispels darkness. In the spiritual world, evil is dispelled when God makes His presence known. This will reach completion on Judgement Day, when everything that opposes Him will be expelled from His kingdom. In biophysics, light reveals objects in our surrounding so that our eyes can perceive them. In the spiritual world, God's truth reveals to us what is right and wrong. Many things are very clear, so we do not have to stumble around spiritually wondering what God wants us to do. Some things are still not clear to us, but that has more to do with our sin-stained perception rather than God's revelation. However, when we approach God in prayer about things we are unsure of, He will further reveal whatever we need.

6 Thus, if someone claims to be for God, but practices things that oppose God without repentance, then that person is a hypocrite. Sin breaks a person's relationship with Christ, so he can not claim fellowship with God if he is offending Him.

Some people go to church, but it has no effect on their lives. Others may claim to be Christians simply because they were raised in a "Christian culture" (whatever that might mean), but their language and behavior are indistinguishable from those around them. Of course, the crux of salvation is faith, not deeds, but faith and repentance of sin will affect one's behavior. If there is no improvement in behavior, then it is likely that there is no fellowship with God.

7 However, when a person believes in Jesus and establishes a relationship with God then he can effectively imitate God with goodness, righteousness, and good deeds. This relationship with God should make it easier for Christians to establish caring relationships with one another. Our faith does not make us perfect, but when we find sin in our lives, we ask for forgiveness. Christ cleanses us from the guilt of our sin by virtue of His dying on the cross for us. With the help of the Holy Spirit, our repentance will result in changed behavior.
8 Some say that sin does not really exist, or that they are good enough to enter heaven without Jesus' help. Such philosophies demonstrate either ignorance of God's will, or defiant opposition to Him. In order to remain "sinless," some people redefine sin -- sometimes making their own behavior the only exception. They may be sincere in their belief, but they do not fool anyone around them. The outside observer will see their attitude towards sin as arrogant and hypocritical. Those who claim to be sinless may feel they have mastered the truth, but those around them will easily see that the truth is not in them.
9 God forgives those who recognize that they have sinned (i.e., offended Him) and confess it, according to His promises. We are considered "sinless" in His sight -- not because of our actions, but because Christ has cleansed us.

The word use for confession could literally translate "to say the same." The idea is that the person is able to look at his behavior based on what God says about it, and recognizes those things that displease Him. He can then pray about them and receive corrective instruction and power.

Ideally, we would be in such agreement with God that we would never repeat that behavior. Sometimes that does happen, but other times we can get discourages when we find ourselves doing it again. We must remember that God is patient, and will continue to work with us as long as we are willing to work with Him (Rom 7:15-25).

10 Scripture states in several places that all of us have sinned (Psa 130:3, Isa 53:6, John 13:8-10). If someone says he has not sinned (or has reached the point of sinlessness), he is implying that God has lied. Since we know that God is truthful, then we know that the man who claims to be without sin is really in open defiance of God.