Text: 1 John 1: 1-4
Proposition: To meet Jesus is to see and hear and be touched by the reality of Who He is, His humanity and His deity, His love and His Word as God.
Introduction: Today I’d like to begin to look at the last book of the Bible that has the final words of a man who lived with Jesus and knew Him closely. The man’s name is John and the last letter or series of letters written by him are what we call 1st , 2nd and 3rd John. Many might think that Revelations was the last book written yet we know that John wrote that while on the Island of Patmos, likely when he was about 70 years old. It was after he was released from this prison island that John then went to the city of Ephesus and lived his remaining days there and eventually was buried in Ephesus. It’s thought that John was the youngest of all the disciples, perhaps only 17 when first called by Jesus. He was the last apostle still alive at the end of the first century. John died in about 98AD. Jesus had a nickname for John and his brother James, He called them Sons of Thunder, perhaps because they were both quite brash and loud in their opinions and ideas. Like Peter the impetuous one who was transformed by the life and resurrection of Jesus so too was the Son of Thunder who in later years came to be called the Apostle that spoke so much about the love of God.
So it is in these last years of his life that John writes a general letter to be circulated amongst the churches. As we read 1st John what becomes clear is that there is a concern because of a distorted teaching called Gnosticism that believed God did not create the earth and mankind because mankind was essentially wicked. It held that only when we escape from the body with its temptations and weaknesses can we really be with God. So there was a duality, the spiritual is good but the physical is corrupt. That belief also extended to the reality of Who Jesus was. In other words Jesus couldn’t have been human, born of a virgin because to have a body was to be encased in sin. So Jesus was a man who did great things only because God visited Him. In essence it was a teaching that sought to separate the humanity of Christ from the deity of Christ, a sinister spiritual deception that that would take the cross, the atonement and the resurrection out of the gospel. It’s to this deception that John, a man now in his 90’s, writes a response to for the church of that day and this day. Turn with me to 1 John 1: 1-4.
I. That Which Was From the Beginning… A Pre-Creation View of Christ.
Religion has many times been called a crutch, a support invented for man by man. Karl Marx called religion the opiate of the masses, meaning it was something the masses needed in order to numb out the pain that marks the lives of all people. In both cases the premise is that man existed first and then their notion of God came into being. Such a God would always be shaped either in the image of man or in the image of the needs of man. But what if it is the other way around, what if man is shaped into the image of God, what if all of who mankind is has been fashioned after the reality and by the reality of God who pre existed him? So John begins to write this brief letter called 1st John, there is no addressee, there is no particular church mentioned, John doesn’t even put his name in it, all the ‘from… to’ tags are missing. Instead John simply states, “That which was from the beginning…”. You can’t miss the fact that he doesn’t say, “He” or “Jesus’ or even “God”. He uses the word ‘that’ because he is referring to more than Jesus. I believe John is referring to the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that John is also referring to the Gospel that God intended before time was ever put into place, before any angelic being was ever created, before any creation came into being. This is difficult for us to even talk about because it goes past our understanding even more than the explanation of the union of the Trinity does. Before time was, God was, He existed in a union, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He was complete in that state, needing nothing to fulfill Him. Love and joy and wisdom and truth marked the relationship of the Father to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. It is in this state of being that the Father conceived the desire for creation, a creation that would not only discover the wonder of the Trinity but also come to share in the love and joy and beauty and hope and faith that characterized them. So the Father with the Son by the Holy Spirit creates, He creates that which has a beginning. For a self existent God who is the Alpha and the Omega, creating was itself a new experience. That which was from the beginning, describes the pre creation person of God but uniquely it describes the pre creation person of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel written by John, likely a good number of years earlier, John had begun it with the words, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…”. The ‘Word’ refers to the intent of God to communicate the glory of Who He is, it was a communication done first through the creating of all that is by the Person of Jesus Christ. It was a General Revelation of God. Then into that creation the Son of God incarnated, the Special Revelation of God, fully God now becoming fully man. So Jesus is not a crutch, , He wasn’t created , His purpose wasn’t to support man it was to stand in the great gap of sin between man and God and by His body and blood and breath , die the death that sin demands and bring a restoration to mankind through redemption from sin.
That is what was from the beginning.
II. The Incarnation of Christ Has Witness and Evidence and Impact.
In just a few words John describes what it was like to actually walk beside Jesus. Imagine a young man of 17, full of thunder, walking beside Jesus and Jesus sees him and calls him and likes him, even loves him like a son. And now it is 68 years later, what do you think was going through John’s mind as he remembered the Jesus Who had been and right now was a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He recalled that, “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled…”. You just have to remember the gospel accounts, listening to Jesus preach the Sermon on the Mount, the words commanding Lazarus to come out from the tomb and out struggled a living corpse. John saw Jesus feeding 5000 people with virtually a few scraps of food, he looked upon Him as He stood up and commanded the wind and waves to cease and be still and they were. They had embraced the risen body of Jesus Christ. John is saying that he is a first- hand witness to the reality of Jesus, that he saw Jesus do what only God could do, that he heard Jesus speak with a wisdom and foreknowledge that only God would have, that he saw a love and a willingness to give that surpassed human kindness and generosity. John’s point is simple, Jesus was a man, fully human in every aspect as we are and yet He was absolutely God. In fact Jesus Himself hadn’t been shy about telling people that He and the Father were One. If they had seen Jesus then they had seen what the heart and character of the Father was. So for these reasons and many more John calls Jesus, the Word of life.
The Word of life describes the everlasting life of the Father. When people become Christians they are given everlasting life from the point when they believed in Jesus to be their only Savior on into an eternal future. But God’s everlasting life is greater than that, it goes into eternity past as well as eternity future. It’s this life that Jesus came to reveal to the world, the God who is from everlasting. But it’s not just the eternality of God that Jesus came to disclose, He came particularly to tell people about the love of God. I like how David Guzick expresses this, “…we understand that love in isolation is meaningless. Love needs an object, and since there was a time before anything was created, there was a time when the only love in the universe was between the members of the Godhead, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” It’s that love that Jesus reveals as the Word of life. It’s the love that would send God Himself to into the crisis of the depravity of man, becoming man Himself that He would bring life, the eternal life of the Father to mankind by addressing the justice of God against sin. He would pay the sentence of death for us. That’s what the term Word of life is getting at.
Then verse 3, for just as Jesus witnessed the purpose and character of the Father so now John witnesses too, he witnesses the person and character of Christ. It is a shot into the very heart of Gnosticism proclaiming the deity of Jesus embraced by the humanity of Jesus for the purposes of bringing life.
The Word of life begins with this truth but then it calls people into fellowship, into a union of belief and love in Christ that has in it a joy of friendship, an armor of faith, a hope of eternity and a love that transcends all human failings. It is a fellowship based not on merit or worthiness or mutual benefit, it’s a fellowship that is linked to the very fellowship that eternally is. It’s into this fellowship that John says is the very purpose of writing this letter, “that your joy”, the cause of occasion of your joy, “ may be full.”