1 John 1:1-4 New International Version (NIV)
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our[a] joy complete.
What is the history of John the disciple of Jesus?
To learn the history of John, the disciple of Jesus, we begin with his life before he met Jesus. John, his brother James, Peter, and Andrew were all partners in the fishing business before they became disciples of Jesus. John was the son of Zebedee who was also a fisherman in Galilee. John’s mother’s name was Salome and some say that Salome was the sister of Jesus’ mother, Mary. John owned a home in Jerusalem. Shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, John moved to Ephesus.
John pastored a church in Ephesus. He communicated with other churches in the area as stated in the book of Revelation. He advised and counseled many people who would later become believers in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
By order of the Roman Emperor, Domitian, John was exiled to the island, Patmos. Domitian ordered his exile because he saw John as a threat to his rule. However, his popularity and influence in the Christian community continued through correspondence with all the churches. John wrote the book of Revelation during his exile. When he was released from exile, he returned to Ephesus. John founded and built churches all through Asia until he was old, and died the sixty-eighth year after our Lord’s passion, peacefully in Ephesus.
During his life, John wrote the book of John and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd book of John and the book of Revelation. Near the end of his life, it is said that he constantly repeated the phrase, “Little children, love one another!” He did that because he believed it was the Lord’s most important commandment.
It is easy for us to get so caught up in the details of our work that we lose sight of the big picture.
So it’s very helpful that the Apostle John, in these first four verses, gives us the big picture of God’s purpose, from eternity past to eternity future.
1: The eternal pre-existence of God’s Son
That which was from the beginning” (v. 1) What beginning is John referring to? John means the beginning of all things; the ultimate beginning before time and space existed. The Eternal Son of God enjoyed fellowship with the Father before the creation of the universe and before He appeared on earth as a man. Jesus Christ, the focus of this epistle, was eternally existent as the Son of God. He is Alpha and omega! Before Abraham was, Jesus said “I am!” He is the One who created time, space, matter, and humanity, and therefore He rules over all!
2: The historical revelation of God’s Son.
“The life appeared” (v. 2) What an amazing turnabout: the Eternal entered time, and He appeared to human beings. The Word became flesh and therefore presented Himself to His creatures. This manifestation did not happen in merely a dream or a vision, as other religious figures supposedly appeared. No. God’s Son was perceived and recorded by three senses: hearing, sight, and touch: “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched.”
Now think about that. If the people of Jesus’ day would have just heard His voice, that would have been impressive, right? But to have heard the Son of God was not enough, for people had heard God’s voice in the OT. Now, to have seen the son of God was even more compelling, though some prophets in the OT also had visions of the pre-incarnate Son of God, or as He was called, the “Angel of the Lord.” But… to have touched the Eternal Son of God, well, that was something else! This was conclusive proof that indeed, the Eternal Son of God did become flesh, and really did live among us!
3: The apostolic proclamation of God’s Son.
“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard” (v. 3) The historical revelation of God’s Son appearing in time and space was given to the few apostles for the sake of the many. They were charged with declaring Him and the Gospel message to the world. John writes that the manifestation given “to us” (v. 2) became a proclamation declared “to you” (v. 3). Note that this charge involved both a testimony (2) and a proclamation (2, 3). Both words imply an authority, but of differing kinds.
A testimony has the authority of an eyewitness; one must be an eyewitness before he is competent to bear witness. True witnesses speak of what they have personally seen and heard; they do not speak of second-hand information.
But a proclamation indicates the authority of one who has received a commission. It speaks of a higher authority who has given you the charge to speak and herald a message for them. This is what Jesus gave His apostles in Luke 9:2 and what Paul knew he was charged with, in Acts 28:31, namely, to proclaim the Kingdom of God… and they did so with authority.
And these two aspects, of being eyewitness testifiers and apostolic proclaimers of the Lord Jesus Christ, are what drives the writing of the New Testament. The 27 books of the New Testament are the written record of the eyewitness accounts and the divinely charged proclamation of the apostles concerning Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God who became a man, to die and be raised, for our salvation, and for God’s glory! Think about the implications of this for or assurance of salvation, and for the boldness we should have in telling others about the Lord!
4: Our joyous fellowship with God, His Son, and one another.
“So that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.” (v.4) The proclamation of the apostolic message about Jesus Christ was not an end in itself. No. Its greater purpose was fellowship and joy, both horizontal and vertical; with one another, as fellow believers in Christ, and with God the Father and with God the Son. And as we see from our profession of faith, our chief purpose in life is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever:
I BELIEVE IN ONE LORD JESUS CHRIST,
THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD,
BORN OF THE FATHER BEFORE ALL AGES.
GOD FROM GOD, LIGHT FROM LIGHT,
TRUE GOD FROM TRUE GOD,
BEGOTTEN, NOT MADE, CONSUBSTANTIAL
WITH THE FATHER;
THROUGH HIM ALL THINGS WERE MADE.
FOR US MEN AND FOR OUR SALVATION
HE CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN,
AND BY THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS INCARNATE
OF THE VIRGIN MARY,
AND BECAME MAN.
Do you see the big picture of God’s purpose in Jesus Christ?
The eternal Son of God…
Appears as a man on earth…
The apostles are eyewitnesses to His life, death, and resurrection…
They are commissioned by Christ to proclaim the Good News about Him…
So that we might have joyous fellowship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… and with one another in the body of Christ…..
For all eternity!
Heavenly Father, during this season of Christmas let us remember that it is out duty (nay, our privilege) to testify to and proclaim the love of Jesus Christ. Let us herald the good news of His birth throughout the entire world and to all his people. Amen