The Expository Files.


Affirmation, Evidence & Object

1 John 1:1-4



"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life -- the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us -- that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full."

This is the opening paragraph to the first epistle of John, and it is a strong affirmation that Deity (the Son of God) was manifested in the flesh.

The Affirmation Is: Deity was manifested in the flesh.
The Evidence is: The Personal Contact of the Witness With Him.
The Object is: The Joy of Fellowship with the Father.


THE EXPOSITION ...

"That which was from the beginning..."

The first epistle of John begins like the gospel of John, with affirmations about the identity of Jesus Christ. In the gospel account, the statement is that Jesus Christ, as the "Word," was with God in the beginning and is God (see Jno. 1:1). This is a statement of the Deity of Jesus.

Here in the first epistle, the opening statement is that Jesus Christ is "that which was from the beginning." The phrase "that which" is not very common in our language, but in biblical parlance it is a neuter relative reference to a person. This language introduces statements about the nature of the person. John wants to call attention to Jesus Christ and His nature: "that which was, from the beginning." This is a statement of the pre-existent and eternal nature of the Christ. And it is notable that John doesn't say, "that which came into existence," but "that which was, from the beginning." In both the gospel account and here in First John, the inspired writer wishes to say that the Person he is bearing witness to is divine and eternal.

"...which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have look upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life."

These are statements which amount to evidence. They (John and the other eyewitnesses) had personal contact with the One who was manifested. John wants us to know, this Person was no figment of human imagination; no mythical character or ghost-like being. He "was, from the beginning," but He came into the stream of human life here on earth. He became a tangible, human reality.

It may sound crude, but John had to make these vivid statements about Jesus. The influence of Gnostic philosophy made it necessary for John to clearly state the truth about the nature of Jesus. He wishes to set before his readers the reality of Jesus' humanity. Jesus was real; deity was really manifested in the flesh. John listened to Him, saw Him with his own eyes, and "handled the Word of life." These three senses (hearing, seeing, touching) were used by the apostle in his contact with Jesus. They are now called upon as the credentials of a witness.

"There is a distinction to be made in John's words seen and looked upon. At first glance, it might appear that he is saying the same thing in two different ways for the sake of emphasis. A closer examination will show that John is saying two different things. The disciples had not only seen Jesus in the sense that they observed Him, but they had looked upon Him with careful scrutiny. The latter phrase, looked upon, indicates an examination or inspection. The disciples did not casually observe Jesus.

A good example of this scrutiny may be found in the Lord's invitation to Thomas to "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing'," (Jno. 20:27, NKJV). {Max Dawson, "The Word Became Flesh," FC Lectures, 1993}.

"The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare toyou that eternal life which was with the Father was manifested to us."

"Manifested" means to make visible. The divine person, the Word, was made visible; He came to earth. Once manifested, he was seen, and John was bearing witness to Him as the eternal life "which was with the Father and was manifested to us." Verse 2 confirms and expands on the statement in verse 1, which calls attention to this person; deity, who "was" from the beginning, but was manifested. He became a real, tangible, human reality. This is the person John was declaring.

"That which we have seen and heard, we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ."

In verse 3, we finally get to the main verb phrase: "we declare to you." John repeats the presentation of personal evidence: "that which we have seen and heard," and then he makes his main point: "we declare to you." John and the other apostles were witnesses of the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, and in preaching the gospel they declared these truths to men. "John was particularly careful to guard his readers against the conclusion that the Word of life was merely some speech or saying delivered by Christ, and hence emphasized that it was the actual, literal, fleshly body of Christ which he had seen, beheld, heard, and his hand had handled," (Guy N. Woods, Commentary on First John, p.#212).

What was the aim or purpose of declaring these truths? "...That you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ."

FELLOWSHIP is the Greek word "koinonia," and it has to do with partnership; joint sharing or participation. It helps me to think in terms of RELATIONSHIP. Why did John and the others declare these truths about Jesus? So that people can enter into a great relationship, where there is pardon, direction, hope and joy. It all begins when we hear the truth about who Jesus is. When we respond to this truth, in obeying the gospel, we step into the light. As we walk in the light, we enjoy fellowship with God.

"And these things we write to you that your joy may be full."

It was a joy for John to write these things, and the reception of this message would create fullness of joy.

THE LESSONS ...

From this marvelous passage we need to learn:

(1) That the Son of God was made flesh, and He was a real human person. His eyewitnesses conversed with Him, touched Him (even after His resurrection); they ate and drank with Him and watched as He ascended into heaven in a shining cloud. John lived with Him, saw Him and testified: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (Jno. 1:14, KJV). Any interpretation of any passage, any religion, concept or teaching that stands in contradiction to this great truth is error to be rejected. Bonhoeffer said, "If Jesus Christ is not true God, how could he help us? If He is not true man, how could he help us ?"

I believe Jack L. Holt states this truth well in his heretofore unpublished manuscript, "Recycled Views Of The Person of Christ." Bro. Holt answers Apollinarianism, cites the Scriptures relevant to the issue and then observes: "In the incarnation the Word became all that man is. He took on Himself our nature. He didn't just indwell a man, or a human body, He became man. If to be in the form of God means that He is all God is, then to be in the form of man means He is all man is. It doesn't make any difference whether we can understand that or not, we are to believe it. When the Scriptures tell us Jesus became man it means He became what all men are. He became a human being and dwelt among us. Is the Scripture wrong here?"

(2) Those who hear this message and desire the full joy of fellowship with God must acknowledge these truths, trust in Him and walk in the light. There is a complete and perfect felicity we can find only in relationship with God. This is not temporal joy or earthly happiness; this is the deep and lasting joy and assurance that is acquired and maintained only in this relationship. It is this relationship (fellowship) which John and the other apostles declared; their purpose was to share and proclaim the joy of fellowship with God. In order for this fellowship to be realized, I must believe in Christ to the point of surrender and obedience to His Word. And, those who want this need to know: "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son," (2 Jno. 9).

"The whole of Scripture is the word of God, the revelation of His will, but never has the mind and nature of God been more fully and powerfully revealed than when God's own Son clothed Himself in human flesh and lived among us," (Paul Earnhart, Christianity Magazine, Aug. 1987).

 By Warren E. Berkley 
 From Expository Files 3.3; March 1996

 

 

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