I have always found this letter very confronting. It puts what we do as opposed to what we say, front and centre. The circuitous manner of writing is unusual and requires a lot of attention to follow his reasoning sometimes.
To write a commentary on this letter is probably beyond me but I would just lay before you a few points that require attention.
That there are many similarities between this letter and the gospel of John is evident. That it was written at a later date than the gospel seems likely. That it is John as an old man, looking back as well as looking forward at the new problems facing the church, “his children”, after his death.
The epistle is remarkable for covering a lot of teaching in a small compass , this is pointed out by Loyd-Jones.
Christ appears again as “The Word” made flesh. The emphasis is on the reality of Christ’s body as opposed to the early heretics that said He only appeared to be flesh. Jesus was not only seen but touched.
Yet although made as a man Christ was not mere man, but one with the Father.”Very God of very God”.
He was life, eternal life.
In eternity past He had dwelt in fellowship with the Father: Now because He had come in the flesh, lived and died on His peoples behalf , was resurrected and ever lives, He comes into fellowship with the believer and we have fellowship with the Father through Him.
This relationship is revealed by family traits in the Christian. They all “walk in the light”, they acknowledge their sin and confess it but do not indulge themselves in it, and if they were to deny their sins it would make Christ out to be a liar. When they do sin they know that upon confessing it, mercy is available and Jesus’ blood cleanses from all sin. Indeed so prevailing is this great sacrifice it is sufficient for the sins of the whole world if only they would come.
This portion of the letter really shows what a terrible thing sin is. We need this lesson today more than ever.
The believer,”the child of God”, obeys His commandments; they have the light and walk in it as opposed to the darkness wherein the whole world lies. This is to walk as Jesus walked and live as He did. It is to live in the truth as Christ is the Truth and way and life.
It is to walk in love because we have known the love of God in Christ. It extends to all but especially those who are one in Him. To those who claim Christ but do not love as He did is proof of their continued walking in darkness.
John writes his letter to people at every stage of Christian life and age group. He gives guidance and warning of the dangers and delusions, false doctrines and errors, waiting to spring on them.
How careful we need be that we bear the marks of the child of God: and be prepared for the traps lying in wait for us.
If we have received the light let us walk in it. If we know anything of the love of God in Christ let us love as He does.
In one of his letters, Samuel Rutherford complains of the attribution of superior sanctity and spirituality that many of his friends and acquaintances gave to him. He said that they only saw him from the outside and read what he wrote in his letters. If they knew what was inside him they would not so highly esteem him.
This age more than any other, falls into the trap of idolizing personality. Even in the sphere of Christianity there a preachers and teacher gathering around themselves a following hanging on there every word, reading everything they write and believing it as gospel.
We follow men only as far as they follow Christ and not a step further. We esteem our leaders but do not forget that they are fallible human beings. We know that they are saved sinners as we are. We listen to their teaching with an open Bible and pray for guidance and wisdom to know truth from error.
As nothing can stop the falling of the rain; so nothing can hinder Christ’s gracious influences, when he designs to awake, convince, or soften a hard heart. When those showers do fall on sinners, the most obstinate will must yield, and cry, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? John Willison quoted by Spurgeon in the “Treasury of David”.