Chapter 52: “Walk in the Light as He Is in the Light”

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 428–33


Map Chp. 52

1 John—a Letter to the Christian Communities, ca. A.D. 96

 

1 John

Walk in the Light of Christ

1:1–7

We Must Break from Our Sins

1:8–10; 2:1, 2

The Saints May Know God and Christ

2:3–6

Abide in the Light Through the Law of Love

2:7–14

“Love Not the World”

2:15–17

Anti-Christs to Come in Latter Days

2:18–26

The Holy Ghost Leads Saints to Truth

2:27–29

The Sons of God Shall Be Like Christ

3:1–3

Saints Must Not Continue in Sin

3:4–9

Love the Brethren and Gain Eternal Life

3:10–18

Gaining Answers to Prayers

3:19–24

“Try the Spirits”

4:1–6

“God Is Love”

4:7–21

“Who Is Born of God?”

5:1–4

Many Witnesses Testify of Eternal Life in Christ

5:5–21

Interpretive Commentary

(52-1) What Is the Theme of 1 John?

“Written by the Disciple whom Jesus loved, and who in turn had such great love for his Lord and his fellowmen that he gained permission to remain on earth and seek to save souls until the Second Coming—this Epistle has as its essential Theme:

“That God is love;

“That love is the foundation upon which all personal righteousness rests;

“That all the purposes and plans of Deity are based on his infinite and eternal love; and

“That if men will personify that love in their lives, they will become like the Lord himself and have eternal life with him.

“The doctrines expounded include how to gain fellowship with God; how to know God and Christ; how to become the sons of God; how to abide in the light and love the brethren; how to dwell in God and have him dwell in us; how to be born again and gain eternal life.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:371.)

(52-2) Where and When Was It Written?

As with the other general epistles, so with 1 John: the letter provides us with little or no evidence on which to fix a place of writing. If the tradition regarding John’s long residence in Ephesus is correct, the letter could have been written from there. Although John spent the major portion of his life in the Holy Land, Christians as well as Jews were unwelcome there following the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in A.D. 70.

The letter seems to belong to a period in which the so-called Gnostic philosophy was on the rise. It also bears a close relationship to the fourth Gospel, which is dated about A.D. 90 or 95.

The book of 1 John was probably written sometime around A.D. 96 and almost certainly between A.D. 70 and 100.

(52-3) 1 John 1:1. “We Have Seen with Our Eyes … and Our Hands Have Handled, of the Word of Life”

To Jesus’ apostles, John being one, was given the sacred privilege following the Savior’s resurrection of seeing the resurrected Lord in the flesh. “Behold my hands and my feet,” the Savior said, “that it is I myself.” But that is not all. They were also privileged to feel his wounds: “Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” (Luke 24:39). John wishes it clearly understood that it is he, a personal witness of the resurrected Christ, who is writing this letter.

(52-4) 1 John 1:3. “Our Fellowship Is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ”

“To have fellowship with the Lord in this life is to enjoy the companionship of his Holy Spirit, which makes us one with him; and to have fellowship with him in eternity is to be like him, having that eternal life of which he is the possessor and originator.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:374.)

(52-5) 1 John 2:1. “We Have an Advocate with the Father”

An advocate is one who pleads on behalf of another. Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father. God is a god of justice, and his law requires that every sin be paid for. If it were not for the Atonement, all men would stand condemned because of the law, because all men sin. But Jesus Christ suffered the punishment and thereby paid the price for the sins of all mankind. Therefore, he can plead on our behalf before the Father. (See D&C 45:3–5.)

(52-6) 1 John 2:2. “He Is the Propitiation for Our Sins” and “Also for the Sins of the Whole World”

God’s divine justice cannot simply wave sins away; payment must be made. Propitiation means just that. Because Jesus was totally righteous and had no sins for which to answer personally, he can propitiate, or pay, for our sins through atonement. This righteous act satisfies the demands of justice and makes mercy, or forgiveness, possible (Alma 42:12–25).

But Christ’s atonement is universal. It is extended to all who will accept it by faith in Christ and repentance from sin. The Savior suffered “the pain of all men,” the suffering due for the accumulated sins of the “whole world.” Only those who will truly repent, however, are made its beneficiaries. (Read D&C 18:10–12.) The rest must live without full benefits of the Atonement. (Read Alma 11:40, 42.)

(52-7) 1 John 2:3. “Hereby We Do Know That We Know Him, If We Keep His Commandments”

It was this same John who quotes our Savior as saying, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3.) Now he tells us how it is possible to know God.

“It is by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel! and in no other way! …

“Since the very fact of knowing God, in the ultimate and full sense, consists of thinking what he thinks, saying what he says, doing what he does, and of being like him, thus having exaltation or godhood—it follows that saved souls must advance and progress until they acquire his character, perfections, and attributes, until they gain his eternal power, until they themselves become gods.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:377.)

(52-8) 1 John 2:6. “Walk Even as He Walked”

“Merely saying, accepting, believing are not enough. They are incomplete until that which they imply is translated into the dynamic action of daily living. This, then, is the finest source of personal testimony. One knows because he has experienced. He does not have to say, ‘Brother Jones says it is true, and I believe him.’ He can say, ‘I have lived this principle in my own life, and I know through personal experience that it works. I have felt its influence, tested its practical usefulness, and know that it is good. I can testify of my own knowledge that it is a true principle.’” (Howard W. Hunter in CR, Apr. 1967, p. 116.)

(52-9) John 2:18, 19. What Is an Anti-Christ?

The prefix anti means exactly the same in Greek as it does in English, namely, that which is against something else. An anti-Christ is one who stands in opposition to Christ, or seeks to amend, change, add to, or undermine his doctrine. The devil is the best example, for he “opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped. …” (2 Thessalonians 2:4.) John speaks not of the devil, however, but of those men in his day who followed the devil in opposition to Jesus Christ. These apostates, though they had once been in the church, “went out from us, but they were not of us; for had they been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.” Examples of anti-Christs would be men like Sherem (Jacob 7:1–23), Nehor (Alma 1:2–16), and Korihor (Alma 30:6–60).

(52-10) 1 John 2:20, 27. What Is the “Unction,” or “Anointing,” of Which John Speaks?

“This unction, this holy anointing, is the gift of the Holy Ghost, which gives them access to the infinite wisdom of the Father and the Son so that they may know all things as fast as they are able to bear them.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:383.)

(52-11) 1 John 3:9. What Does John Mean by “Whosoever Is Born of God Doth Not Commit Sin”?

In the Inspired Version, Joseph Smith translates the passage as follows:

“Whosoever is born of God doth not continue in sin; for the Spirit of God remaineth in him; and he cannot continue in sin, because he is born of God, having received that holy spirit of promise.”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explains:

“All men sin, before and after baptism, but those saints who strive to keep the commandments, and are continually repenting and returning to the Lord, no longer continue in that course of sinful rebellion against God and his laws which was their lot before they were baptized for the remission of sins. Church members who do so continue in sin are members in name only; they do not receive the companionship of the Holy Ghost, through whose revelations alone can the Lord be ‘known’” (DNTC, 3:386)

(52-12) 1 John 3:21. “Beloved, If Our Heart Condemn Us Not, Then Have We Confidence toward God”

“An actual knowledge to any person, that the course of life which he pursues is according to the will of God, is essentially necessary to enable him to have that confidence in God without which no person can obtain eternal life. It was this that enabled the ancient saints to endure all their afflictions and persecutions, and to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing (not believing merely) that they had a more enduring substance.” [Hebrews 10:34.] (Lectures on Faith, Lecture Sixth, vs. 2.)

(52-13) 1 John 4:8. What Does John Mean by “God Is Love”?

“‘Our God is a consuming fire.’ (Heb. 12:29.) ‘God is light.’ (1 John 1:5.) Similarly, God is also faith, hope, charity, righteousness, truth, virtue, temperance, patience, humility, and so forth. That is, God is the embodiment and personification of every good grace and godly attribute—all of which dwell in his person in perfection and in fulness.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:398.)

(52-14) 1 John 4:12. “No Man Hath Seen God at Any Time”

“No man hath seen God at any time, except them who believe. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (Inspired Version.)

(52-15) 1 John 5:8. “There Are Three That Bear Witness in Earth, the Spirit, and the Water, and the Blood”

“… just as there can be no mortal birth without:

“Water (the viable fetus being immersed in such in its mother’s womb); and

“Blood (the life of the mortal body is in the blood, without which there is immediate death; and there can be no mortal birth as such without the loss of blood by the mother); and

“Spirit (the offspring of God which comes from pre-existence to dwell in the tabernacle of clay formed from the dust of the earth in the womb of the mother);

“So there can be no spiritual birth into the kingdom of heaven without:

“Water (baptism by immersion under the hands of a legal administrator); and

“Spirit (the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit which burns sin and iniquity out of the human soul as though by fire, thus making the soul fit to dwell with holy and pure beings in God’s kingdom); and

“Blood (the shed blood of Him who poured out his soul unto death so that all of the terms and conditions of the plan of salvation would have force and validity and so that mortal man might be ransomed from the temporal and spiritual death brought into the world by the fall of Adam). …

“Also: The symbolism here used helps center our attention in the atoning sacrifice of the Son. The same elements were then present:

“Spirit (in that our Lord voluntarily gave up the Ghost, permitting his spirit to leave the body);

“Blood (in that he there completed the act, commenced in Gethsemane, of shedding his own blood for the sins of men); and

“Water (in that when ‘one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, … forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it [John himself] bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.’) (John 19:34–35.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:403–5.)

Points to Ponder

The Saints Enjoy a Unique Kind of Friendship

Membership in the Church exists, in part, to further one’s spiritual condition. Fellowship is the principle means by which this is to be accomplished. Through fellowship, men and women with common goals and aspirations are given an opportunity to uplift and strengthen one another. This kind of fellowship far transcends that found in social groups or political parties. John knew that this fellowship is the distinguishing mark of the true Church, for it is not found anywhere else.

What, you may ask, is the unique fellowship that the Saints can enjoy but which cannot be enjoyed outside the Church? To find the answer to this question, read carefully 1 John 1:3–7. John declares that in the church of Christ two types of fellowship are necessary. What are they? Which of these must precede the other?

Do you see that to John, fellowship with God and Christ must precede that of one person to another? Why is this order a necessity for true fellowship?

The message of John’s letter is that we must become partakers of the fellowship of God and his children if we are to obtain eternal life. This can be done only as we love and serve both God and each other. Only in this way can there be true fellowship. How much sense does it make for a person to say, “I love God” but then display hatred towards one of his children? Conversely, how much sense is there in the statements of those who say they love their fellow men but disavow the existence of God?

(52-16) When We Love God and Our Fellow Men, We Cannot Be Deceived by Those Who Profess Love for Humanity but Work against Man’s True Welfare

“The world largely ignores the first and great commandment—to love God—but talks a lot about loving their brother. They worship at the altar of man. Would Nephi have slain Laban if he had put the love of neighbor above the love of God? Would Abraham have taken Isaac up for a sacrifice if he had put the second commandment first?

“The attitude of the world is reflected in a phrase of falsehood that reads, ‘Presume not God to scan, the proper study of mankind is man.’ But only those who know and love God can best love and serve his children, for only God fully understands his children and knows what is best for their welfare. Therefore, one needs to be in tune with God to best help his children. That’s why the Church, under the inspiration of the Lord, encourages its members to first look to themselves, then their family, then the Church and if need be to other voluntary agencies to help solve the problems of poverty, unemployment, hunger, sickness, and distress. Those who are not moved by that same inspiration turn instead to government. Such man-made course of action does little good compared to the Lord’s approach and often results in doing great harm to our Father’s children, even though the intentions may seem to have been noble.

“Therefore, if you desire to help your fellowmen the most, then you must put the first commandment first.

“When we fail to put the love of God first, we are easily deceived by crafty men who profess a great love of humanity, while advocating programs that are not of the Lord.” (Ezra Taft Benson in CR, Oct. 1967, p. 35.)

True Fellowship with God and Man Is Enjoyed Only by Those Who Walk in the Light of Christ

Let us turn our attention to another phase of John’s writing: the suggestion of how we can enjoy true fellowship with God and with our fellowmen. His instructions are clear and simple. Read the following verses and consider the requirements: 1 John 1:8, 9; 2:9, 15, 24; 3:23; 4:7, 20, 21; 5:2. Do these teachings seem difficult? Well, the road to perfection is not easy, but it is John’s testimony that you can make it. Read again these promises and assurances from John: 2:1–3, 5, 24, 25; 3:24; 4:12, 13; 5:18–20. This time, however, consider how these teachings apply to you and to your ability to gain fellowship with Christ.

Do you understand the promise John is making to you? Can you see that as you determine to keep the commandments, you will receive power and love from God, and that he will readily cleanse you from all sin as you love and serve his children? Further, do you see that God’s power and love will be perfected in you until you become perfect and enjoy full fellowship in Christ and partake of his Spirit and blessings? God is offering you the power of eternity, and all he is asking in return is that you love and obey him and willingly serve his children. Can you make the offering of love so that you might be filled with his glory?