1 Yochanan, Jewish New Testament and comment David H. Stern
1. The Word, which gives life!
He existed from the beginning.
We have heard him,
we have seen him with our eyes,
we have contemplated him,
we have touched him with our hands!
2. The life appeared,
and we have seen it.
We are testifying to it
and announcing it to you —
He was with the Father,
and he appeared to us.
3. What we have seen and heard,
we are proclaiming to you;
so that you too
may have fellowship with us.
Our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Yeshua the Messiah.
4. We are writing these things
so that our joy may be complete.
This prologue, like the one the same author wrote for his Gospel, seems to be composed as poetry; see Yn 1:1—18&N. The Word, who existed from the beginning, is Yeshua the Messiah (Yn 1M-I8&NN). Believers (you... us) have fellowship (Greek koinonia,, "commonness, communion, community") with God (the Father... his Son; compare Yochanan 17).
5. And this is the message which we have heard from him and proclaim to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him — none!
6. If we claim to have fellowship with him while we are walking in the darkness, we are lying and not living out the truth.
7. But if we are walking in the light, as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of his Son Yeshua purifies us from all sin.
8. If we claim not to have sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9. If we acknowledge our sins, then, since he is trustworthy and just, he will forgive them and purify us from all wrongdoing.
10. If we claim we have not been sinning, we are making him out to be a liar, and his Word is not in us.
Because there is no darkness in God. if we claim to have fellowship (v. 3) with him but are walking in darkness, then we are lying with our words and also with our actions (not living out the truth). Only when we let the light of God shine into our whole life, permitting even its secrets to be judged by him, can we be purified from our sinful habits and be made more holy.
As a rule, people do not want to let in God's light (Yn 3:19-21), but instead of saying so, they claim they don't need it. Yochanan gives two examples: If we claim not to have sin, not to have a nature which tends to sin, not to have a yelzer ru' ("evil inclination"; see Ro 5:12-2IN) ever rearing its ugly head, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Likewise, If we claim we have not been sinning, that our acts have been above reproach, and we have not committed actual sins, we are making him out to be a liar, and his Word is not in us. Either of these claims, if true, would provide an excuse for not letting God judge our inmost heart, in accordance with the prayers of Psalms 19:13-15(12-14), 139:23-24.
In Yochanan's day it was especially the Gnostics who, misusing Romans 6 and 8, said that since the Messianic believer has the Spirit of the Messiah in him, he cannot sin any more. Yochanan agrees that the Spirit of the Messiah cleanses us and gives us
strength to overcome sin, in keeping with Ezekiel 36:27, "I will put my Spirit in you and cause you to follow my statutes, and you will keep my judgments and do them." Nevertheless, we still commit sin, as v. 10 reminds us; this follows along with what is said about the days of the Messiah in Jeremiah 31:29(30), "Everyone will die for his own iniquity." Isaiah 65:20 too speaks of sinners in the Messianic Era, and in the Lord's Prayer believers are told to pray, "Forgive us what we have done wrong" (Mt 6:12).
This is also the answer to the objection raised in the sixteenth century by Rabbi Yitzchak of Troki's Chizzuk-Emunah, which says — citing Deuteronomy 30:6, Zephaniah 3:13, Jeremiah 3:17, Ezekiel 36:25-27 — that Yeshua cannot be the Messiah because in the days of the Messiah there will be everlasting righteousness, and iniquity will cease. Eventually this will be the case (Revelation 21-22); but in the present segment of the days of the Messiah there are sinners. Nevertheless, the Messiah "will justify many" (Isaiah 53:12), and by his death he atones for sin (v. 7, 2:2).
The objection that here Yochanan contradicts what he writes at 3:6. 9 ("...no one who remains united with him continues sinning.... No one who has God as his Father keeps on sinning....") is answered in the notes to those verses.
Believers commit sins. They are not to be confronted by self-righteous fellow sinners passing judgmenl (Mt 7:1-5, Ro 2:1-4) but by God's own Word, which sets the standard for holiness. Then they will not make the mistake of the rich young ruler who asserted thai he had kepi the Ten Commandments from his youth (Mt 19:20). Instead of deceiving ourselves with excuses we should be walking in the light (v. 7), trying to do what pleases God. And we should acknowledge our sins as we commit them, even (hough we do not intend to commit them (v. 9). The Greek word "omologeo" ("acknowledge, confess") is, literally, "say the same thing." If we say the same thing about our sins as God does, namely, that our sins are truly sinful; and if we have the kind ol eotlly sorrow that leads to repentance (2C 7:10-11); then the blood, by which is meant the bloody sacrificial death (Ro 3:25b&N), of Yeshua continually purifies us from all sin. Our identification with his atoning death (Ro 6:3, Ga 2:20) empowers that death to go on helping us put to death our yetzer ra' (Ro 6:16-23, 8:12-13, and Section D of Ro 5:12-2IN), which is what we must do if we are to conduct our life the way Yeshua did (2:6). Also, since he is trustworthy and just (Ro 3:25-26), he will forgive our sins and purify us from all wrongdoing. Compare Yn 13:1-17.
Acknowledging of sin, then, as Yochanan uses the term, is not merely a verbal tnins action but in every respect the full equivalent of repentance, t'shuvah (see Mt 3:1N). The relationship between repentance and blood sacrifice is correctly set forth in these verses. Repentance is the sine qua mm of forgiveness; with this non-Messianic Judaism agrees, as is clear from the Mishna:
"A sin-offering and a trespass-offering atone for sins committed wittingly. Death or Yom-Kippur atones, provided a person repents. Repentance atones for minor transgressions against the Torah's positive commands and for any transgression against its negative commands; for more serious transgressions repentance suspends punishment until Yom-Kippur arrives and atones. "If a person says, 'I will sin and repent, I will sin and repent,' God will not give him an opportunity to repent! If he says, 'I will sin, and Yom-Kippur will atone,' then Yom-Kippur will not atone! Yom-Kippur atones for transgressions from man towards God; but for transgressions between a man and his fellowman, Yom-Kippur does not atone until he has conciliated his fellowman.... Rabbi Akiva said,'.. .Who cleanses you [from your transgressions]? Your Father in heaven, as it is said, "1 will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean" (Ezekiel 36:25). And it also says, "Mikveh-Israel" [which can be translated either "the hope of Israel," referring to God, or "the ritual-bath of Israel"] (Jeremiah 17:13). Just as the ritual bath cleanses the unclean, so does the Holy One, blessed be he, cleanse Israel."'(Yoma 8:8-9)
But at the same time that repentance is proclaimed as essential before God can grant forgiveness, the justice of and necessity for a blood sacrifice is clear both from the Torah (see Leviticus especially; but also Isaiah 1:16-17, Malachi 3:2^4) and the New Testament (see the book of Messianic Jews especially).
vv. 1:5-2:2 This section deals with the relationship of a believer both to sin in general (what theologians call the "sinful nature of man") and also to particular sins. These verses give a threefold message: (1) There is an absolute call to put away sin.
(2) It is impossible to live without sinning.
(3) Nevertheless, one has no right to give up the battle against sin.
The following famous quotation from the Mishna is appropriately cited in connection with many New Testament passages, but I have saved it for this one:
"He [Rabbi Tarfon, 2nd century C.E.] used to say, 'You are not obligated to complete the task, but you are still not free from working at it.'"(Avot 2:16)
- chapter 1
- chapter 2
- chapter 3
- chapter 4
- chapter 5