Description / Transcription
God, Your Word says the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The rules of the Lord are true and righteous altogether, more to be desired are they than gold, even much fine fold. Sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is Your servant warned and in keeping them there is great reward. With all these things being true, O God, let the words of my mouth, the meditation of my heart, of our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Let’s turn together this morning to 1 John. We’re going to be studying together the first four verses of this book. As Dave mentioned in our prayer, this is our series for the next seven or eight weeks, morning and evening, so we’re looking at the preface of this first epistle of John this morning. Tonight we’re going to be going into verses 5 and following, and next Sunday morning we’ll return to 1 John in morning and evening over the next seven or eight weeks. We’ll be studying this book together from beginning to end.
We’re looking here at the introduction of the book, kind of the big picture, setting the framework, setting the substance of what it is we’ll be studying in more detail over the next number of weeks.
Let’s read together from God’s Word, 1 John chapter 1, verses 1 through 4. This is God’s Holy Word.
“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.”
Dear people of God, all of you have heard probably at one time or another of what is called an elevator speech. Now you realize it’s custom not to talk on an elevator. Right? You’ve probably all experienced that before, which makes the Progressive commercial that maybe you’ve seen of you shouldn’t be like your father, the guy’s riding on the elevator and he ought to be looking toward the door like everybody else but he turns around and faces everybody. He points out the guy’s shirt and introduces himself and asks what the name guy’s in and what his job is… Those are not the things that you are supposed to do on an elevator. Right? When you’re riding an elevator, you stand straight forward, you look at the door, you probably should be looking down, you don’t talk to anybody else around you. That’s what you do on an elevator.
But then there’s this thing called an elevator speech. An elevator speech is a speech that you ought to be able to give about some subject in 2 minutes or so, the amount of time that you ride on an elevator. So somebody might say to you, “Give me your elevator speech, your testimony as an elevator speech.” So you talk about your relationship with the Lord, you’ve got to pack this all into 2 minutes, the amount of time it would take to ride on an elevator, and you share that with somebody. Or maybe you’re at a business meeting and there’s this time at the beginning of the meeting of introducing yourself and somebody says, “Give an elevator speech about yourself to somebody else,” so you’ve got 2 minutes or so tell everything that’s important about you to somebody else.
When we come to the preface here of John’s first epistle, these first four verses are kind of an elevator speech about the core of Christianity. So if you were to give an elevator speech about the essentials, just the core things of Christianity, what would your elevator speech contain? That’s John’s concern. The core of Christianity is his concern in the introduction to this first letter.
It’s an unusual introduction as New Testament books go. John doesn’t identify himself here as the author. So many of Paul’s letters, for example, Paul will say, “You know, I, Paul, writing to so and so,” but John doesn’t do that. He doesn’t introduce himself at all. But from the style of the book, the words that this book uses, the testimony of the early Church, all of these things say, “Yes, it’s John who wrote this book.”
There’s also no audience given, so we don’t know from the intro here exactly who John his writing to, but it’s pretty clear that it’s Christians, it’s believers that John is writing to, people that belong to the Church. This was probably a circular letter, meaning it wasn’t written just to one church but it was written to this church and then passed along to this church and then that to that church, so a series of churches, kind of made a circular route.
It’s clear from this book that this is a pastoral letter. You compare that with John’s Gospel, which is an evangelistic book. This is more of a pastoral letter, written for our assurance. So you turn to the end of the book in the last chapter, 1 John 5, verse 13, and John says “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” So assurance.
It’s written also for our joy. We’re going to see this more fully in just a moment, but at the end of the intro here, verse 4, John says, “We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”
In this introduction John launches immediately into what makes up the essentials of Christianity. He did this because of the threats within the Church. His readers needed to be reminded of what the essentials of the Gospel are: What is it that we believe about Jesus? What is it that we believe about the proclamation of the Gospel? What do we believe about the results or the benefits of knowing Him?
I hope you can hear just from that brief description that the core of Christianity, as John puts it, is Jesus. Jesus Christ. He is the essence of Christianity.
So there’s three things that we want to notice about Christ from this text.
First of all, the person of Christ, then the proclamation of Christ secondly, and then finally the power of Christ. The person of Christ, the proclamation of Christ, and the power of Christ.
First of all the person of Christ. John begins by reminding us here that Jesus is eternal God. That’s the first thing we notice about Christ here. He is eternal God.
John begins with that in the very first part of verse 1. Notice how he begins. He says, “That which was from the beginning.” It sounds a lot like the prologue to John’s Gospel, doesn’t it? Remember how that book begins? “In the beginning.” Here in this first letter, John wants to talk about the beginning again. Both books start in eternity past, before human time, before creation, with the eternal existence of Jesus Christ. He is that which was from the beginning. He is from the beginning. The beginning of all things. Jesus was never born, not created. There was never a time when the Son was not. John wants us to know that right from the very get-go in this book.
He says it in another way, this eternality of Christ Jesus, in verse 2 when he says, “We proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father.” So Jesus was not before the Father, Jesus was not after the Father, He is with the Father, one with the Father. You remember how John puts that so clearly in the intro of his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
John wants us to know that the core of Christianity is this truth that Jesus is eternal God, but he also points out that Jesus is the incarnate Son. In other words, that Jesus took on flesh.
The incarnation, you know, is not about subtraction but it’s about addition. The truth that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is not about the fact that Jesus stopped being God, that something was subtracted from Christ, but rather it’s that He became a man, addition. That’s John’s emphasis here. Even more than the fact that Jesus is eternal God, John’s focus here is that Jesus is the incarnate Son.
You see him elaborating on this because this was one of the threats that faced the early Church. The early Church faced a form of heresy called gnosticism. Probably that heresy gets a bit more developed in the second and third centuries after John writes, but maybe an early form here. It probably came through a man named Cerinthus, somebody that John knew, somebody that lived in the vicinity that John wrote from, John probably writing from Ephesus. Cerinthus taught this – he said Jesus was an ordinary man but at His baptism the Christ descended on Him so that He preached and performed miracles and power, but the Christ left Him before He died.
So here’s Jesus the man, the Christ falls upon Him at His baptism, and then departs from Him before His crucifixion. You see what this was is really just a denial of the incarnation of Christ. Jesus and the Christ are separated, two separate things, not one. The Christ only seemed human, wasn’t really human but only seemed to be human.
That’s what John attacks and addresses all throughout this book. We’ll see it a little bit later on in our study, 1 John 2:22. Who is the liar, John asks, but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? Who is the liar but the one who denies Jesus is the Christ?
That’s really what John is addressing here in this preface. Trying to convince us, piling up evidence of the incarnation of Christ, the full humanity of Jesus.
So John says in verse 1 here “that which was from the beginning we have heard.” We’ve heard Him. We’ve heard the words of Christ. We heard Him speak. John says, “Me and the other apostles, we were there and we listened to the voice of Christ when He preached the Sermon on the Mount, when He spoke His parables. We heard His final words on the cross, It is finished or Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit. We heard His voice.”
John goes on. He says, “We have seen him with our eyes, not only heard His words but we saw Him.” John gives testimony to that in his Gospel, John 19, “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has born witness.” I saw it, I was there.
Whereas Peter says in his epistle, first epistle, “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” Probably talking about the transfiguration, but we saw it, we were eyewitnesses of it.
John goes on. He says, “We also looked upon Christ.” Different than just looking at Christ. This was to behold Him intelligently, to see with perception and understanding.
Then John brings it to a close and he says, “And we have touched Him with our hands.” You could put your hands on Christ like I put my hands on this pulpit. You could touch Him, you could feel Him. In fact, you remember Jesus invited the apostles to do this. Luke 24: “See My hands,” Jesus said, “and My feet, that it is I Myself. Touch Me and see for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you can see that I have.” Jesus is saying, “Touch Me. I’m not a ghost. You can touch Me. Reach out. Touch Me.”
There’s somewhat of a material progression here, isn’t there, from hearing words to seeing Christ to touching Him. Kind of builds. Yet the emphasis of John here is upon seeing. Four times in the first three verses John talks about seeing and why is this the emphasis of John? Probably because seeing is most closely aligned with faith, that faith is seeing with the eyes of our heart. So John wants to say, “We saw Him, we saw Him, we beheld Him, we saw Him.” Over and over again John says this.
John’s point is simply this: Jesus Christ was a real man. You could hear, you could see, you could feel Him, real voice, not just some personal mystical voice that I hear from heaven. No, it was a real voice speaking like you’re hearing me this morning. Jesus is not a hologram, He’s a real person, we could touch Him, you could lay your hands on Him. He’s the incarnate Son of God.
He’s also, just one last thing about Christ here, John says He was also the life giver. John says all of this, this seeing and hearing, touching, all of it’s concerning, the end of verse 1 here, the Word of Life. Life is the emphatic word here. You’ll see John use it again verse 2, the life was made manifest. “We have proclaimed to you,” toward the middle of verse 2, “we have proclaimed to you the eternal life.”
It was just the same way in John’s Gospel. Right? In Jesus was life and in the Word was life, or Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Jesus saying I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
You see why this is, people of God? You see why He is the life giver? This is only true if Jesus is indeed true God and true man. He cannot be the life giver if He’s anything less than fully God, fully man. These things that John has been telling us, He cannot be the Savior if He’s anything less than those things. We need a Savior who is true God, who is perfect, holy, who’s fulfilled all righteousness, who is able to bear the wrath of God against our sins. No human being can do that.
We also need a Savior who is true man, because we need a substitute, someone who is able to take our place. God isn’t going to punish angels or dogs for our sins. He’s going to punish man because man has sinned. And there Jesus is, fully God, fully man, eternal God, the incarnate Son, and therefore the One who can give us life.
Do you know Jesus that way? He’s a life-giving Savior.
Because you see Jesus isn’t just to be analyzed. He’s to be adored. We can think about all these different aspects of Christ, but He’s not simply to be analyzed. Christ is the One who is to be adored and worshiped.
So first of all we have the person of Christ. Second we have the proclamation of Christ.
All that John has been telling us about is meant to be proclaimed. John Stott in his commentary puts it like this – The revelation was given to a few, to the apostles, for the sake of the many. They were to declare it to the world, the historical appearance of the eternal life was proclaimed, not monopolized.
In other words, when you come to know Christ, it’s not yours just to hang onto, “It’s mine, I have it.” No, it’s to be shared. Right? Christ is to be proclaimed. Christ is to be testified to. Christ is to be shared.
John says that’s exactly what we have done. He says it in a few different ways here. First of all, he uses the word “testify.” In verse 2, the life was made manifest and we have seen it and testify to it.
Testify is the authority of experience. The Greek word here is martureum, so we get “martyr” from it. It means to be an eyewitness.
John says we testify to this Christ, to the One who’s eternal God and incarnate Son. We testify to Him because we are eyewitnesses, we saw Him, we heard Him, we touched Him. In fact, to be an eyewitness was one of the qualifications, you might remember, of being an apostle. You had to have been with Jesus to be an apostle of Christ.
It’s an important lesson here for us that we can bear witness to Christ but first of all we must be a witness of Christ. Let me say that again: We can bear witness to Christ, but first of all we must be a witness of Christ. You cannot bear witness to things that you haven’t witnessed yourself. So we must be witnesses of Christ, not in the apostolic sense, we haven’t touched Jesus or felt Him, apostolic office, a foundational office, but in an experiential sense you cannot testify to somebody that you don’t know yourself. Right? We must know Christ then we are able to testify about Christ.
John says, “We have also proclaimed Christ, not just testified, but proclaimed Christ.” This was the authority not of experience, but this was the authority of commission. To proclaim means somebody has sent you, somebody has said, “You are to go and proclaim and declare what you have seen and heard.” The apostles, very name itself means to be a “sent out” one, to be an apostolos is to be sent by God or to be sent by Christ to proclaim what they have seen and heard.
We, too, are sent, aren’t we? Not all in the same way, not all of us are called to go far away, maybe somebody her is contemplating that and we ought to be praying for that as a church, that people will feel the call to be sent out on behalf of Christ to the nations of the world.
Some of us may go into full-time missions, not all of us will do that. But all of us can and should share Christ as the Spirit gives us opportunity. It’s one of the rhythms we’re seeking to build into the life of our church. Right? These frequent O Nights. There not just sort of one-offs, but we’re building them kind of every other week so that this is just part of the rhythm of our life, this is just how we do church together, by going out into our community.
So testify, proclaim, and then John says he also, he and the other apostles, also wrote these things. This is verse 4, “We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”
The apostles wrote down for us what they heard and saw, and of course where do we have that? We have that in the New Testament Scriptures. We have their writings here for us, their eyewitness testimony to Jesus. Praise God, right? For the Scriptures. Praise God for the Old Testament and the New Testament, the testimony of the prophets and the apostles.
This is what our proclamation, our sharing, our teaching, our preaching… This is where it needs to come from. We don’t find our preaching from something beyond the Scriptures. We have what the apostles and the prophets have given us and this is where all of our teaching and our sharing has to come from. This, of course, is the centerpiece of our worship. Right? The piece of furniture that takes the central place within our sanctuary is this pulpit, because we want to open God’s Word and teach what He has said.
I remember hearing this story once of a seminarian early on his preaching came to a church and they had, you might remember this, sometimes in years past the church might have this large, open preaching Bible, pulpit Bible. The seminarian, he came up behind the pulpit and was going to preach for the church. The first thing he did was to close the Bible and set it off on the side. Somebody said, “You really shouldn’t do that.” Right? We want to have an open Bible, not a closed Bible. Right? But we preach from the Scriptures because there we have the testimony of God from the prophets and the apostles and this is our authority.
God’s Word says, “Cursed is anyone who adds or takes away from the words of this book.” We never want to do that.
So we have the proclamation of Christ, and all of this then leads finally to the power of Christ, because where does John end? He ends with two “so that’s.” John says we testify and preach “so that.”
First of all, he says “so that there might be fellowship.” Verse 3: “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you so that you too may have fellowship with us.” John says, “I’m testifying about Christ so that we might enjoy fellowship together. We have seen Christ, we have heard Christ. We want you to know Him, too. Hearing Him, seeing Him, of course with the eyes of your heart, so that we might be bound together in fellowship with one another.”
One of the themes that we’re going to see in our study of 1 John is love for one another. John’s going to remind us, “I’m not giving you a new command, I’m giving you an old command, that you ought to love one another.”
John hits on this, this need for love, this need for fellowship in the Church, because this was one of the things that was threatened by the heresies that had infiltrated the Church. There had been some who had left the fellowship of the early Church and John wanted to see that fellowship strengthened.
Fellowship. Sometimes we might think about that as kind of a bit of fluff in the Church. There are other things that are a lot more important in the Church than fellowship, we might say. But friends, that’s not the case. It’s an essential characteristic of the Church. You remember that the early Church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, but to the fellowship then, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Fellowship is important, fellowship is a needed ingredient or element of the Church and we want to see fellowship grow here.
You’re going to see this fall kind of a push on the behalf of the church toward small groups, men’s groups, women’s groups, groups where couples can be a part of, but small groups. A place to enjoy fellowship. That’s important for our fellowship as a church.
John reminds us here that, of course, our fellowship with each other really comes because of our joint fellowship with God. He reminds us our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Fellowship or unity in the church, if it’s anything less than unity in Christ and His truth, really is a phantom unity. Isn’t it?
We have fellowship with one another, we can have such deep relationships with each other even though, you know, in my case, we’ve only known each other for three years. How does that develop? Well, because we have something in common, don’t we? What we have in common is, I don’t think it’s that your Dutch, most of you aren’t, you know? Kevin and I have that, but not true for most of us, right? It ought not to be because we simply have sort of common jobs or maybe we even live in the same town.
There’s something a lot deeper. We have Christ Jesus together. We have a Father together in our God, and that’s where our fellowship comes from, that’s where our unity is found.
So John preaches here, John teaches here, so that we might know a deeper and deeper fellowship with one another, but also he says I’m preaching and testifying, or we preach and testify, we as apostles, so that our joy may be complete. Verse 4.
You might see a textual note in the ESV. Is this to be our joy? Or your joy? It might be hard to determine which of those is the better. But if you think about our joy as John puts it here, maybe he isn’t just thinking about the apostles’ joy but he maybe isn’t thinking about the joy of those who are reading this letter, or hearing it. Our joy, the joy of John and the joy of his readers.
The point John is simply making is this, that John wanted his readers and us to know the joy of fellowship with God and other Christians, fellowship leading to a joy, to a deep, deep joy that we can experience. Jesus had taught this very same thing. John’s Gospel in John 15 where Jesus is talking about the vine and the branches and of course that’s about deep-seated fellowship and unity, being connected to Christ and to one another. Jesus said, “These things I’ve spoken to you that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.”
Joy is something that we ought to experience. Believers should be people of joy. Not just a few of us, or some of us. Joy, of course, is one of the fruits of the Spirit. It’s deeper than happiness. That often just rides on the circumstances of our life.
Someone put it like this, that joy is the flag flown high from the castle of my heart announcing that the King is in residence.
You go see the White House. If the flag is flying, it means the President’s there. If it’s down, the President’s somewhere else.
Joy is the flag flown high from the castle of my heart announcing that the King is in residence. God lives here. The King is here and therefore I have joy.
Spurgeon put it a little bit more simply. He said – laugh lines around eyes should be marks of faith.
Our joy, of course, is not complete yet. John wants it to be completed. It’s not complete yet. We are waiting for eternity for that, when we’ll have complete fellowship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and perfect fellowship with one another. Then when that day comes we will be filled with joy and God’s presence with eternal pleasures at His right hand.
But John gives us all this about Christ here, the proclamation of Jesus, so that we might be and we might know a deeper fellowship together, that we might be filled with a greater joy that we know up to this point.
Friends, all of this has something to do with the celebration that we’re about to have of the Lord’s Supper. Because think about it. We are coming in this supper to Jesus. He is the Bread from heaven. Isn’t He? Who gives life to the world. He is God’s Son. We’re going to take in our hands bread and juice and that bread and juice point to the broken body of Christ, physical body, to the shed blood of Christ, real blood, fact and truth that Jesus was a real man.
What do we do when we celebrate this meal over and over again? The Bible reminds us that when we celebrate this meal month by month, what we’re doing is we are proclaiming, just as John did, we are proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes, the Gospel to be proclaimed, not monopolized. In this meal we have fellowship with Christ, fellowship with our God, a participation in His body and blood.
We also have fellowship with one another. That’s why we call this table sometimes communion, communing together.
All of this in anticipation of the fullness of joy, when we will feast with Christ in His coming kingdom forever and ever. So let’s prepare ourselves now to come to this table. Let’s join together in a prayer of confession of sin and thanksgiving for our assurance.
Our Father in heaven, You are the holy God and we are sinners. You are the righteous One, we are unrighteous. As John will remind us in the next section, we cannot claim that we have no sin or that we have not sinned. Our sins are always before us, even our secret sins, in the light of Your presence. So we confess our need of You, oh, how desperately we need You, Father, how desperately we need Your forgiveness and Your grace. Then we’re reminded of what John will go on to say, if we confess our sins, God, You are faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That is not just a hope, that is a truth that we must stand upon this morning. Thank You that we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous One. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world. So we thank You for the salvation that we have in Christ and we come in faith to the supper that You’ve given us. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.