The Book of 1 John - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.
Our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ
1 John 1:3
This is one of the greatest statements of the New Testament, and it may safely be said that its greatness is created by the richness of the word which is the emphatic word, viz. fellowship. This is a word which was actually used by Paul more often than any other New Testament writer, but the conception is most perfectly interpreted by John. The marvel of this particular statement will best be apprehended if we accurately apprehend the significance of the word. The Greek word koinonia is derived from the word koinos, which very literally means common, in the sense of being shared by all. The use of that word koinos, or common, in our New Testament, which will help us most in this consideration, is that made of it by Luke when he declared that "All that believed were together, and had all things common" (Acts 2:44). Fellowship then is that community of relationship which expresses itself in community of resource and responsibility. Those who have a fellowship one with another, are those who share the same resources, and are bound by the same responsibilities. The idea becomes almost overwhelming when it is thus applied to the relationship which believing souls bear to the Father, and to His Son Jesus Christ. It is a subject which can be meditated in silence better than interpreted by words. The whole of this letter helps us in such meditation. We may reverently attempt to summarize by repeating what is already said. The Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and all believers have all things in common. All the resources of each in the wondrous relationship are at the disposal of the others. Such is the grace of our God, and of His Son.
If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1 John 2:15
Frederick Maurice said of this text: "St. John is never afraid of an apparent contradiction, when it saves his readers from a real contradiction." The importance of remembering this, is recognized when we place these words, by the side of those with which we so constantly comfort and assure our hearts, that "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son." It is always necessary to distinguish clearly what the term "the world" connotes in the particular sentence in which it is used. The world which God so loved as to give His only-begotten Son, is the whole order of His creation, at the summit of which, under Himself, is man. He gave His Son to redeem and reinstate man; and through him, thus redeemed and reinstated, to redeem and reinstate the whole creation. The world which we are not to love, is that same totality which to use a later statement of John, "lieth in the wicked one" (1 John 5:19). When that is recognized, this statement is seen to be, not a contradiction to the one we have quoted, but in strict harmony with it. To love this world as it is, alienated from God, and in rebellion against His government, is impossible to the man who loves it with the love of the Father, which is a love that seeks its highest good, and therefore can make no terms with evil, but is willing to die in order that it may live. Herein is the radical difference between the man of the world and the child of God.
Let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth.
1 John 3:18
This is really a very practical application of the thought concerning the love of God which has been already considered. John had first written the words: "Hereby know we love, because He laid down His life for us." Whatever other men may mean by love, the child of God has had a final interpretation of it in that supreme and awe-inspiring manifestations. That being so, the Apostle here pertinently asked : "But whoso hath the world's goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him?" The enquiry admits of only one answer, that such a man is devoid of the love of God. Therefore the words of appeal follow. In them the Apostle puts two kinds of love into contrast, with a double description in each case. On the one hand is love in word and with the tongue; and on the other is love in deed and in truth. The contrast becomes more powerful when the different parts of each are placed over against each other. Opposed to love in word is love in deed. Opposed to love with the tongue is love in truth. Love in word may possibly be sincere, but it is of no real value if it stops short of the deed. Love in deed is always of value, even though it speak no word. Love with the tongue is evidently insincere, for it is placed over against love in truth. Thus it is finally seen that the first love is not love at all. Love that professes, while it does not act, is not true love. Love which acts is love in truth.
We love, because He first loved us.
1 John 4:19
The omission of the pronoun "Him" from this sentence by the Revisers is unquestionably warranted. So far from robbing the statement of point and power, it leaves it in all its fullness of meaning. It remains true that we love God because He first loved us; but it is also true that we love one another, that we love all men, because God first loved us. When John wrote this, he was true to his whole conception of love. He had come to realize that much which is called love is not love at all. He had already declared: "Hereby know we love, because He laid down His life for us" (3:16); and "Love is of God" (4:7); and superlatively, "God is love" (4:8). To him, then, nothing was worthy of the name which was not of that nature. Therefore when he wrote "We love," he was not thinking of any mere human affection or emotion, in which there may lurk much of selfishness; but of that pure, disinterested love, which pours itself out in the uttermost giving. How true, then, the declaration that "We love because He first loved us." We only come to the knowledge of love, when we find it redeeming us at infinite cost. We only come to the experience of love as that love is shed abroad within us, and begins to lead us out in activities of the same nature. But the statement is positive. When we know that love, when that love is shed abroad within us, then we do truly love. We love God in an utter abandonment of all we are and have to Him. Nothing is withheld from Him. We love men with the same abandonment. Like the early disciples, we do not say that anything we have is our own. Everything is valuable in proportion as it may be given for the enrichment of others.
Little children, guard yourselves from idols.
1 John 5:21
Thus the great epistle of fellowship with God, startlingly and yet fittingly ends. The cry of the heart that truly knows God is surely ever that of ransomed Ephraim: "What have I to do any more with idols?" (Hos. 14:8). And yet the warning is necessary. There can be no perfect fellowship if devotion is divided. The one and only peril that threatens us in the life of fellowship is that we admit any person or passion which seeks to share the supreme place in our lives with our Lord through Whom we have fellowship with our Father. And by saying that we have defined the word "idols." Anything which divides the heart in its loyalty to the Lord, is an idol. It may be a very vulgar thing; or it may be that which in itself is perfectly right, so long as it is subservient to the final sanctions of His control. If its influence in the life is that of alienating us from Him, in thought, or in love, or in will, it is an idol. The urgency of the word is found in the fact that John has employed the strongest possible word to describe our attitude toward idols. We are to keep ourselves in isolation from them. That is the real force of the word. We are not to go near them, nor to allow them to come near us. Anything which has the remotest chance of interfering with our fellowship, is to be put away, to be kept away. We are to live lives of isolation from everything which threatens our devotion to our Lord.