1 John 1:1-4 - Transcript used for Sunday's service
As you come to the end of David’s life you find that one of his son’s, Adonijah, sets himself us to be king. In 1 Kings 1:5 we read, “Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, ‘I will be king.’”
In 1 Kings 1:7 we find that Adonijah rallied other people to help him in his cause.
There were other men in 1 Kings 1 who saw what was happening with Adonijah and defended the throne of David against this move. Men like Zadok the priest, Benaiah, Nathan the prophet and Shimei and Rei and David’s mighty men were not part of this plot. (1 Kings 1:8 – But Zadok the priest and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada and Nathan the prophet and Shimei and Rei and David’s mighty men were not with Adonijah.)
The apostle John, like Zadok, Benaiah, Nathan, Shimei, and Rei, is a man who writes to these Christians to ensure that they continue to exalt Christ Jesus as the Lord and King who is to be exalted above all other things.
He writes so that any idol would be removed and he writes to exalt Christ. He writes these believers that they might be more confident in who the King truly is. They are to guard against any idol that would seek to have that sacred and holy spot other than Christ Himself. We see this clearly in the way that John writes in 1 John 5:20-21,
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
We will be reminded this morning that we are to worship Jesus Christ alone as He sits upon His throne forever. We will be reminded that the Son of God has come so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. Seeing Christ more clearly then we will act quickly and decisively to pull down any idol that has been exalted above Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 – For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ...
Our text will be 1 John 1:1-4,
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
J.I. Packer said, “Real Christianity has in the past been conceived in terms of orthodoxy, orthopraxy, churchmanship, sacramentalism, syncretism, and various other things...but it is best defined in terms of communion with God – more precisely still, communion with the triune LORD through Jesus Christ the mediator.”
There are countless things that can come to define what we believe to be ‘real Christianity’. Packer does not just give us one example of what some may consider ‘real Christianity’ to be; but he gives us five things to consider.
In fact, Packer goes on to say that ‘realChristianity’ can be defined by ‘various other things’. There are countless (innumerable, endless, a myriad of) things that we can place our faith in rather than in Jesus Christ alone.
Yesterday it was these idols.
Today it is these particular idols.
Tomorrow there will be new idols that we are drawn too.
We would be wise to search our heart to discover what our heart is drawn to trust in and worship each day.
Spurgeon was concerned with this...
Spurgeon gives this warning, “Of all matters, religion is the very worst to play with. It may be easy to mimic it, but the price to be paid for such fooling around will be terrible...The best imitation of religion will make its possessor wail forever when the hand of eternal truth shall lay bare its falsehood.” Because of this danger Spurgeon offers up this little prayer, “O thou who art ‘the truth’, deliver me from all seeming, and let me be in truth that which I profess to be.”
We would all do well to confess with David, “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. Teach me your way, O LORD that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” (Psalm 86:8-11)
In this letter John addresses many things that these false teachers have said that were leading believers away from Christ. These false teachings posed a great threat to the well-being of the church.
Even after he addresses these things John knows that there are many threats and many idols, that Christians will be exposed too. So, believers need to be diligent to avoid them at all times. Therefore, John closes this letter by saying, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”.
John knows that there is always a danger that believers will fail to look to Christ and turn to other things.
Packer makes it clear that there is only one thing that defines authentic Christianity. Real Christianity is ‘best defined in terms of communion with God – more precisely still, communion with the triune LORD through Jesus Christ the mediator’.
This is precisely what John is seeking to convey as he begins this letter. Packers definition can be a thesis statement for 1 John 1. Christians are those who enjoy communion with the triune God through Jesus Christ the mediator.
Because the apostolic teaching concerning Christ had come under attack John begins this letter as an eyewitness of what he had seen, heard and touched. Most agree that the false teaching that was prevalent at this time was an early form or Gnosticism.
Gnosticism emphasized the essential goodness of the spirit and the inherent evil of all matter. These teachers believed that Jesus was a mere man who had a spirit that came upon him at his baptism until his crucifixion. They would not accept that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ. They denied that Jesus was fully God and fully man.
Gnostic teachers believed that salvation was being delivered from the body and its dominion. This deliverance was obtained by some enlightenment and some special knowledge imparted by some special revelation that only a few received.
This Gnostic teaching attacked the heart of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. Therefore, John begins his letter by showing that Jesus Christ was both human and the eternal Son of God.
For example, John opens by saying, “That which”, instead of saying, “He who”. He uses a neutral pronoun rather than a masculine pronoun. At first this may seem very strange. Dr. David Thompson gives a good reason for this when he says, “Jesus Christ was far more than just a masculine person. Jesus Christ was far more than someone who was just a mere human. He was life. Jesus was the word of God. Jesus Christ was in fact God. Jesus Christ is the eternal life.”
Verse One - John Is An Eye Witness To The Word Of Life
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life...
In this verse, John gives four clauses concerning the word of life that has been manifested. In the first clause we read, ‘That which was from the beginning’.
This is not a reference to Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.
It does not refer to the beginning of His earthly ministry when he called the disciples to come and follow Him.
It is a reference to the time when Jesus was with the Father before He had created anything. (John 1:1-5; 8:58-59)
John says that he has heard, seen with his eyes, and touched with his hands the ‘word of life’.
All of these verbs are in the perfect active form. This means that John is stating a fact concerning what has happened in the past and it continues to have implications at the present time. The coming of Jesus Christ into the world continues to this day to have profound implications and we will explore these implications in the coming months but our text today begins with two big implications.
1 John 1:3-4 - “...that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”
John shares these things with others so that they can have fellowship together and with God and His Son Jesus Christ.
John also shares these things so that our joy may be complete.
Notice in 1 John 1:1the phrase, ‘...(That) which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon…’
John emphasizes twice in this verse that they have seen and looked upon Christ.
John uses a different word for ‘seen’ and for ‘looked upon’. John saw Jesus and observed many things concerning Him.
The Greek word for ‘looked upon’ is the word we get the word ‘theater’ from.
John viewed Him attentively. He carefully watched Jesus during His ministry. He watched Jesus on the miracles, Mount of Transfiguration, His arrest and betrayal, His trial and crucifixion, and His resurrection and His ascension. (John 20)
He even saw the smallest details. Remember the rich man in Mark 10:21? We read, ‘Looking at him, He showed love to him, and said to him…’. (NASB)
John perceived Jesus through careful and deliberate observation.
He looked upon Jesus and sought to interpret what he was observing.
They realized that He was the Eternal Son of God.
It is important for us to do the same thing. We need to come to the Scriptures often. We need to study, meditate, and pray that Christ might be made more manifest to us through the Word. It is so easy to become religious and fall into the trap that Packer and Spurgeon referred to earlier.
John Testifies Concerning The Truth About Jesus Christ
Verse 1b-2 -...concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us...
In verse two John makes four points that refer to the life that Jesus revealed.
First, this life was manifested to the apostles. John uses aorist passive verb for ‘manifested’.
This indicates that this is something that happened in the past and that the subject, the apostles, were acted upon by the LORD.
Two implications of this:
Jesus appeared in the past and will not be seen again until He returns at His second coming.
(Mark 13:21-23 – If anyone says to you, ‘Look here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.)
Jesus appeared in the past and manifested Himself to the apostles.
The apostles could not have seen Jesus as the ‘word of life’ or ‘the eternal life which was with the Father’ unless it was revealed to them by the Lord.
Consider Matthew 16:13-17, “Now when Jesus...asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.’”
Secondly, this verse shows us that this life was seen by the apostles. As we have previously discussed, they did not just see Jesus with their eyes but they saw Him with perception and understanding. Let me give you an example that might help with understanding this.
This past year I watched two football games. I watched the NFC Championship game and the Superbowl. After Tampa Bay won the Superbowl I watched some interviews with the players. They would be asked, “What does it mean that you got to play in this game and won?” I expected them to simply say, “Who wouldn’t want to play in the Superbowl!” Their answer surprised me. Everyone of them gave answers that went far deeper than my answer. Most of them said, “After all that we went through this year it feels so great to be here and to have won it.” Those players comprehended far more than my mind perceived because they lived it! They experienced an entire season first hand. I had only watched two games on television.
(Acts 1:21-22, So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us – one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.)
John and the other apostles looked intently upon Jesus. They took every opportunity to be with him. As a result, they had an intimate relationship with him. There is a cost to being a disciple of Christ. It means that we pick up our cross every day and follow after him. Yet, the reward is great in more ways than one.
Thirdly, the apostles witnessed concerning this ‘life’. All of the apostles became witnesses to others about the LORD Jesus Christ and they proclaimed that in Him was life and that only through Him could one have eternal life. Again, both of these verbs are in the present indicative active form. This means that John, and the other apostles, witnessed to these facts for the rest of their lives.
Interestingly, the word that is used for ‘testify’ is the word from which we get our word martyr. These men witnessed of these facts even to their own death. Therefore, this particular Greek word became associated with a person laying down their life for the proclamation and witness concerning this truth – Jesus is the Christ and there is no salvation in any other name.
I like to watch ‘Blue Bloods’. It is a show about Police officers and the judicial system. One of the main plots in these shows is how hard it is to get a witness to testify when they believe that their lives are in danger. Most witnesses back out if they feel that they are in danger. But the apostles and so many Christians throughout history were willing to testify even unto death. They witness joyfully and boldly concerning Jesus even unto death.
Fourthly, the apostles proclaimed to everyone concerning this ‘eternal life’.
“...we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father” The apostles preached that Jesus was with the Father from the beginning. The phrase, “with the Father”, speaks of the fact that Jesus had been face to face with the Father and was equal to the Father.
One catechism asks, ‘How many persons are there in God?’
The answer is, ‘There are three persons in the one true and living God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are the same in substance, equal in power and glory.”
When these believers had questions they received this teaching by the apostle John which contained instruction in truth. John testified boldly that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity and that Jesus was equal to the Father in power and glory.
John’s Motivation In Speaking Of This Is So That These Believers Experience Fellowship And Joy
In 1 John 1:3-4 there are two ‘so that’ statements. These statements indicate two effects that this message will have upon those who receive it by faith. He says, “...that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”
Let me make three observations about these verse.
1. Joy and fellowship with God is enriched when we engage with other believers.
2. To experience fellowship and joy we have to respond in obedient faith.
3. To respond in obedient faith we need to have a high view of Christ and His Word.
Observation #1 – Joy and fellowship with God is enriched when we engage with other believers.
John’s experience when hearing, seeing, and touching Jesus was enlarged and made more meaningful because he shared that experience with others. Notice that he always uses the plural pronoun ‘we’ when he describes this experience. He does this to emphasize the apostolic witness but it also shows us that these relationships with other believers only enrich our relationship to the LORD.
You cannot experience the fullness of fellowship with God and fullness of joy if we isolate ourselves from the brothers and sisters in Christ. Americans are rugged individualists. We speak of my rights, my feelings, my experiences, we speak of what I deserve, and of what I am owed; but when we come to Christ everything changes and we are called to fellowship together and to experience joy together within this new family of ours. (1 John 4:7-11; 5:16)
Observation #2 – To experience fellowship and joy we have to respond in obedient faith.
John is writing to a church that is under attack: spiritual, emotional, cultural, relational, theological, and philosophical.
As a result, their fellowship together is under strain and their joy is diminishing. I am sure that some of them want to walk out of the church and never come back. Many are wondering if it is worth staying in the church.
Into that moment, John writes to this church to say that if they will look to Christ and respond in faith they will experience enriched fellowship with the Lord and their brothers and sisters in Christ. And they will once again experience a profound joy that only manifests itself within the family of God.
How many churches are experiencing this? Are we? If not, why not?
Observation #3 – To respond in obedient faith we need to have a high view of Christ and His Word.
We need to have a high view of Christ and believe that He is the Son of God and we need to have a high view of His Word and respond in obedient faith.
This is not always easy to do.
Paul talked about the church as a body; John talks about it as a family in this letter. So imagine a marriage that has gotten so bad that they believe that the only answer is divorce. They come into the pastor and give him all the reasons that this relationship won’t work. Then the pastor says something that may sound ridiculous in that moment, “You need to look to Christ and respond in obedient faith to His Word. Even though things are as bad as they are now, you can begin to experience greater fellowship and joy together.”
Will this couple respond well to those words or not? The vast majority may not. Will the church and those that are not experiencing fellowship and joy respond well?
Yet, this is the message that John holds out before us as we begin this letter.
2 Corinthians 13:14 – The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.