The Book of 1 John
Fellowship with Eyewitnesses
1 John 1:1-4 SCC 5/29/11
We often use the idiom ‘to be on the same page’ to mean we see eye to eye. We are in agreement and have no need for further explanation. We have the same perspective, mutual connection, and knowledge of where each other are coming from. It is nice when this happens with parents and teens or employee and employer or coach and athlete. It is essential when it comes to a believer and the apostles of the New Testament—that we are on the same page with the apostles. They make this very clear so we can be confident we are in the truth. John begins his message arguing for the outcomes related to our being on the same page as the apostles about the incarnational ministry of Jesus Christ. So here is the affirmation of the tangible reality of the incarnational ministry of Jesus Christ announced to ensure true fellowship and joy.
WE HAVE EVIDENCE OF THE INCARNATIONAL REALITY OF JESUS MINISTRY 1-2
We have real revelation 1 The subject here is of what was from the beginning. It is not ‘who’ but ‘what’. So it is an event and not a person. This event is the beginning of Jesus ministry as God the Son in the flesh. Jesus is not just a rabbi or a teacher or guru. His ministry from its inception is associated with His being the Son of God making him a revealer of God. His ministry is authenticated by what John has heard and seen and beheld and touched. The point is that John’s message is based on a historical reality. This, then, is the basis of countering any new ideas that may arise about Jesus and his ministry. The ‘seeing’ he says was with their eyes—not a vision or dream or imagination—but something tangible seen with the eyes. To emphasize this point ‘we beheld it and touched it’. That is ‘concerning the Word of life’. In other words, here is the evidence of the message about life, that is, about God’s Son who is life. This is what this message is all about.
LESSON: Christianity is not a philosophy, a fairy tale, a religion, psychology, or lifestyle. John says it is not based on a vision or a myth. Jesus did not appear to somebody secretly in a cave or behind closed doors. He was as real as you and me. John says his life can be verified by apostolic eyewitness testimony of the revelation of God. What the apostles are talking about was real. Jesus walked on the earth, we saw him, and touched him with our eyes and hands.
We have the apostles declaration 2 Here John adds that not only have we seen and touched him but his life appeared to us. It was manifested to us. What we witness of and announce to you is the manifestation of eternal life, which was with the Father and made known to us. Jesus incarnational ministry was a deliberate and calculated plan of God to reveal Himself and his view of the world to these men—the apostles. Jesus ministry was not happenstance. God wanted to reveal Himself intimately and so Jesus was incarnated in flesh to do just that. Now they have announced to us the message of that life and it is eternal in nature. Jesus was sent from the Father in heaven and that message encompasses Jesus life, ministry, death, and subsequent revelation to the apostles. They faithfully announced it to us in the pages of the New Testament writings.
LESSON: To agree with the apostles is to agree with God. Do not assume that the life and teaching of Jesus in the gospels is more significant than the writing and testimony of his apostles in the letters written to us, the church. A growing number of people want to punt back to Jesus whenever they come across something they do not like in the apostles letters. These letters embody practical instruction for the church from Christ, by means of the Holy Spirit. You may not agree with Paul or Peter or John but they never can contradict what Jesus would teach or write or reveal in his life and ministry. It is clear that the apostles have the authority of Christ to write what the Holy Spirit brought to their remembrance as the basis of how we should live and conduct ourselves in this world. Specifically, we have their firsthand testimony of the character and teaching of the ministry and life of Jesus Christ and the implications of that life lived out today in the church.
THE PURPOSE OF PROCLAIMING THIS INCARNATIONAL MINISTRY IS MUTUAL FELLOWSHIP AND JOY 3-4
The objective 3 For the third time John repeats what he has ‘seen’ and then ‘heard’ concerning the incarnational ministry of Jesus Christ—Jesus, the Son of God, the one who was with the Father and is eternal life. This has been announced to us. They did not keep it hidden or keep it a secret. They could not since Jesus came out in the open with His ministry. It could not be denied. The objective John had in mind when writing about these significant realities was that the readers might have fellowship with the apostles. Fellowship with the apostles is based in the evidence they give us of Jesus Christ and what they taught us. John desires that we have real fellowship with the apostolic circle to which he belonged. In his final analysis, that apostolic fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ. So this is not just any kind of fellowship he is affirming we can have but one with the Father and His Son. There is no other way to have fellowship with God than to affirm the testimony of the apostles concerning the incarnational ministry of Jesus Christ as the revealer of God to us.
LESSON: Like these John is writing to, we also can be allured by other concepts of Jesus, his ministry, the scriptures, and their testimony. If we begin to doubt God’s guarantees to us in Christ, our fellowship with the Father and the Son is in jeopardy. There is no other basis for this fellowship than affirming and receiving the testimony of the apostles. We can have fellowship with the Trinity. The Trinity is the perfect relational concept. We enter into relationship with God by trusting Christ and then have fellowship with God by receiving the testimony of the apostles in our own lives. This is unlike Islam or Judaism for instance, which teach that we can only do God’s will but we cannot have a relationship with him. Our job is to only be dutiful servants. John says we can have fellowship with the apostles who have fellowship with God and His Son. Give me that any day!
The outcome 4 This entire argument is rounded off with a personal touch. If this letter succeeds in its aim, then the things written in it will produce personal and spiritual joy. The spiritual well being of believers will be served this way. John makes the point that they ‘wrote these things’. So the apostles not only (1) experienced the incarnational ministry of Jesus Christ, they also (2) announced it, and they also (3) wrote about it. The written words established the message in a context, which cannot be changed but can be examined. The Bible is revelation but it is also proclamation. Here, if the readers retained their true fellowship with God and His apostles, John says no one would be happier than John himself. That is, the joy of union with the apostles belief about Jesus incarnational ministry.
LESSON: This is a message to us as believers to continue in fellowship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. We can do that as we continue to affirm the testimony of the apostles and their teaching to us. What is significant about their teaching is that we are to perform what they taught us. The application is in the performance for the church. Unlike the Old Testament, we do not perform it but we must apply it since it reveals the heart and mind of God to us. The writings of the apostles are direct revelation for our age and meant to be lived, performed, and applied in our lives. We should never argue with the apostles based on contemporary culture, historical information, or psychological analysis. We must understand them in their context and once deriving the meaning put that to practice. Then we can be confident we are maintaining our fellowship with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.