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1 John - Geneva Series of Commentaries (Candlish)

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Robert Candlish’s exposition of 1 John, in the Geneva Series of Commentaries, was the ripe fruit of years of careful and loving study of the great themes in Johannine teaching. His aim was not so much to produce a detailed technical commentary after the fashion of much exegesis in the new German tradition, but to set on display the heights and depths of the theology of John’s letter: ‘it can be studied aright exegetically, only when it is studied theologically.’

His driving purpose, like that of the apostle, is to see truth and joyful assurance born and brought to maturity in the hearts of his readers. The multi-faceted privileges of fellowship with the Father and the Son through the Spirit are constantly brought to the fore.

Table of Contents:

Preliminary Chapters – General Aim of the Book

1. The Doctrine and Fellowship of the Apostles – 1 John 1:3

2. The Joy of the Lord, and its Fulness – 1 John 1:4

Part First: Primary Condition of the Divine Fellowship – Light

3. The Ground or Reason of this Condition; Light at once the Nature and the Dwelling-place of God – 1 John 1:5-7

4. This Condition Fulfilled in the Confession of a Guileless Spirit – 1 John 1:8-10

5. Sinless Aim of the Guileless Spirit – Provision for its Continued Sense of Sin – 1 John 2:1

6. Nature and Ground of Christ’s Advocacy as Meeting the Needs of the Guileless Spirit – 1 John 2:1, 2

7. The Guileless Spirit realizing through Obedience the Knowledge of God as the means of Being and Abiding in God – 1 John 2:3-5

8. The Christlike Walk of one with Guileless Spirit Abiding in God – 1 John 2:6

9. The Commandment at once Old and New to one Walking with Guileless Spirit in the Light – the Darkness Passing – The True Light Shining – 1 John 2:7, 8

10. Brotherly Love a Test and Means of Being and Abiding, with Guileless Spirit, in the Light – 1 John 2:9-11

11. The Guileless Spirit abiding in the Light in its threefold aspect of Childhood, Fatherhood, and Youth – 1 John 2:12-14

12. The Guileless Spirit loving not the World, which is Darkness; but God, who is Light – 1 John 2:15, 16

13. The Guileless Spirit, amid the Dark World’s flow, established in the Light of Godliness – 1 John 2:17

14. The Guileless Spirit, amid Antichristian Defections, established by a Messianic Unction and Illumination – 1 John 2:18-20

15. The Guileless Spirit, amid Antichristian Denial of the Son, acknowledging the Son so as to have the Father also – 1 John 2:21, 22, 23

16. The Guileless Spirit abiding in the Son and in the Father, so as to receive the Promise of Eternal Life – 1 John 2:24, 25

17. The Guileless Spirit, through the Abiding Messianic Unction and Illumination of the Holy Ghost, abiding in Christ, so as to have Confidence at his Coming – 1 John 2:26-28

Part Second: Intermediate Condition of the Divine Fellowship – Righteousness

18. Ground or Reason of this Condition in the Righteous Nature of God – the New Birth unto Righteousness – 1 John 2:29; 3:1

19. The Divine Birth – The Family Likeness – 1 John 2:29; 3:2

20. The Divine Hope Perfecting the Sinless Family Likeness – 1 John 3:2, 4

21. The Secret of Sinlessness – Abiding in the Sinless One as manifested to take away our Sins – 1 John 3:4-6

22. The Secret of Sinlessness – Our abiding in Christ – The Seed of God abiding in us – Our being born of God – 1 John 3:6 & 9

23. The Secret of SInlessness – The Contrasted ‘Doings’ – Doing Righteousness and Doing Sin – Their Incompatibility in respect of their Opposite Origins or Parentages – God and the Devil – 1 John 3:7, 8

24. Connection of doing Righteousness with Brotherly Love as proving a Divine Birth, in contrast with the Unrighteous and Unloving Spirit indicating a Devilish Parentage – 1 John 3:10-12

25. Brotherly Love the Fruit and Test of passing from Death unto Life – the World’s Hatred – the Love of God – 1 John 3:13-16

26. Righteousness or Truth in Brotherly Love – Essential to the Answer of a Good Conscience in Ourselves and before God – 1 John 3:17-21

27. Righteousness essential to our Pleasing God, and to his Hearing us – 1 John 3: 22, 23

28. Our Righteousness attested by Obedience, as implying our Abiding in God, and His Abiding in us, by the Spirit given by Him to us – 1 John 3:24; 4:1

29. Our Righteousness exercised in Trying the Spirits; the Test, confessing that Jesus Christ is come in the Flesh – 1 John 3:24; 4:4

30. The Spirit of Christ in us greater than the Spirit of Antichrist in the World – 1 John 4:44-6

Part Third: Ultimate Condition of the Divine Fellowship – Love

31. Love is of God – God is Love – 1 John 4:7-10

32. Love going forth towards what is seen – 1 John 4:10-12

33. Love the means of Mutual Indwelling; God in us and we in God – 1 John 4:13-16

34. The Boldness of Perfected Love – 1 John 4:17-19

35. The Objects of our Love – the Children of God and God himself – 1 John 4:20, 21 – 5:1-3

Part Fourth: The Divine Fellowship of Light, Righteousness, and Love, Overcoming the World and its Prince

36. Love to God keeping his Commandments and not finding them Grievous – 1 John 5:2, 3

37. Filial Faith overcoming the World – 1 John 5:4, 5

38. The Three Witnesses and their Agreement – 1 John 5:6 & 8

39. The Witness or Testimony of God to and in Believers – 1 John 5:9, 10

40. The Substance of the Testimony – Eternal Life God’s Gift in his Son – 1 John 5:11, 12

41. Eternal Life connected with Confidence in Prayer – 1 John 5:13-15

42. Prayer for a Brother’s Sin, but not for a Sin unto Death – 1 John 5:16, 17

43. The Believer as born of God keeping himself so as not to sin – 1 John 5:17, 18

44. Our being of God – The World lying in the Wicked One – 1 John 5:18, 19

45. Knowing the True One and being in Him – 1 John 5:26

46. Jesus the True God and Eternal Life against all Idols – 1 John 5:20, 21


Robert Smith Candlish (1806-1873) was called to St George’s, the most prominent pulpit in Edinburgh, in 1833 when he was still in his twenties. He was soon established as a leading figure in the group of evangelicals who would, after the Disruption in 1843, become the Free Church of Scotland. Candlish was deeply committed to the preaching ministry – he declined a chair in the newly formed denominational college, although much later (1862) he would become Principal of New College. He was Moderator of the Free Church Assembly in 1861, and received D.D. degrees from Princeton College (1841) and the University of Edinburgh (1865). His lifework well-illustrated the biblical and Reformation ideal of the pastor-theologian as both his pulpit ministry and his published works show.