Exploration of 1 John – 1John 1:1-4
Exposition on 1 John – 1John 1:1-4
There is a gospel according to John and tradition tells us that the Apostle John also wrote Revelation and three short letters simply entitled 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John. We are going to take some time to explore what this disciple of Jesus wrote in the first of those short letters. This letter is packed with truth. Let’s get to unpacking.
One of the keys to understanding what has been written is to know when it was written. This letter was most likely written around 100AD, about 70 years after the resurrection. By this time several different ideas are floating around about Jesus, about what it means to be a follower of Jesus, the ethical and moral rigors of the faith. Unfortunately, there were a number of these ideas that were bad, and John will label them anti-Christ teachings. John writes to make sure that we remain in fellowship with God and each other by correcting these anti-Christ teachings.
1 John 1:1-4 (MSG)
From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we're telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.
3 We saw it, we heard it, and now we're telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!
Joy always finds its foundation in reconciliation with God. Joy is not a fleeting emotional high, but a decision regardless of the circumstances to trust that because of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done your sins are forgiven and you have been made right with God.
Do you have such joy? Do you know the joy of sin forgiven and the joy of a right relationship with God? Do you know fellowship with God? You can. First, you need to acknowledge that there are sins in your life that need to be forgiven. Any action that deterred, damaged, or destroyed a good healthy thriving relationship is sin. Any action that is contrary to the will of God is sin. Own your sins, confess them, acknowledge them before God. Then believe the gospel, that while you were yet a sinner Christ died for you (Romans 5:8), that because of that you can be reconciled to God (Colossians 1:20). If you wonder why Jesus would do this, the answer is because of love, the answer is because God loves you.
John 3:16 (MSG)
This is how much God loved the [you]: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.
Acknowledge to yourself and confess before God that you are a sinner, estranged for the love of God, and believe that Jesus makes it possible for those sins to be forgiven and for you to be reconciled to God. Then make a decision that you will be a Christ-follower, make a sacred vow that you will be a disciple of Jesus, and learn how to live a whole and lasting life. Having acknowledged, believed, and committed simply ask God to accept your faith and make you one of his children.
John 1:12 (MSG)
But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.
In an instant God forgives you of your sins, redeems you from a dead-end way of life (1 Peter 1:18), reconciles you to Himself (Romans 5:10), empowering you with Holy Spirit so that you can follow Jesus. This letter of John is written for you to help you live a whole and lasting life. If that is what you want, you need to talk with God about this. If you decide this is what you want, then let me know, I want to encourage you in your faith. Let the joy begin and let the joy increase.
Did you notice all the “we’s” in those open verses of 1 John?
“We” means us “we were there,” “we heard it,” “we saw it, we touched it, and we are telling it; “we” means us, “we” means us together, “we” means community, “we” conveys a sense of membership, of belonging, of solidarity, of unity. The disciple of Jesus thrives in community. John wants the community to grow, to include more and more. That’s why as a follower of Jesus today we tell what we have heard, and seen and touched. If “we” is absent from your life something is wrong.
Attending “the meeting together of believers” seems to have fallen out of fashion of late. Before the “Stay-at-home” orders issued to control the COVID 19 virus those who called themselves believers were avoiding the congregation. I can find no good reason to do so. How can a person be part of the “we” if they never participate in the community of faith? John seems to indicate that you can’t have communion with the Father and Son by being solitary in your faith. What happens when you choose to isolate from fellowship is that you drift away from your commitment to living a Christ-centered lifestyle.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (MSG)
Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on,
The danger of avoiding worshiping together is that we will drift away. “It's crucial that we keep a firm grip on what we've heard so that we don't drift off” (Hebrews 2:1 (MSG). By choosing to go it alone, you will slowly fall into error and possibly leave saving faith behind. “The Devil is poised to pounce” (1 Peter 5:8 (MSG). This concept is not hard to grasp. When facing an enemy do you want to stand alone or with a group of likeminded individuals? A solitary hike in the wilderness can be exhilarating, but fall and break an ankle, and that exhilaration turns into solitary distress. The faith is about “we,” about together being anchored in Christ.
When we come closer together we come closer to God. Jesus told us that our entire lives can be lived by two simple rules, Love God, Love others. It is in such a love that we have fellowship with one another. In that fellowship is our joy.
One of the sources of Joy is found in the “we” experience of the faith. Another is in firsthand experience with Jesus Himself. John was fortunate to be there at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. He, Simon who will be renamed Peter and John’s brother James are the first ones that heeded Jesus' call to come and follow. John was Jesus’ companion, John tells us that he was there, hearing Jesus' teachings, seeing Jesus’ lifestyle and the miracles, signs, and wonders that occurred to validate those teachings. John touched not an illusion but an actual person, who ate and slept and walked and prayed and laughed and John calls Jesus the Word of life. We can hear, see, and touch but miss the significance of what is happening. John grasped the significance. In Jesus John tells us is the infinite life of God.
Here is a mystery of the faith. You could turn it into a nagging question, determined to discover “why” or “how” but to save you the trouble, don’t. The answer to how Jesus can be fully human and full God is a mystery. The church has struggled with trying to explain how this can be. Some folks that John’s readers came up had answers that either robbed Jesus of his humanity or robbed Jesus of His divinity.
One group of false teachings denied Jesus of humanity. The thought here is that anything material has to be evil. The body is evil, our task is to escape the confines of this body and leave this material world behind. God could never be encased in flesh. That just didn’t make sense.
In the opposite direction is the false teaching that denied the divinity of Jesus. The thought here is that the Christ spirit descended on the man Jesus at his baptism at the Jordan river (John 1:32) and the Christ spirit departed upon the cross at Jesus’s words “why have you forsaken me” (Psalm 22:2 and Matthew 27:46).
The false teachers used contemporary thought to explain the inexplicable and came to the wrong conclusions. History gave both errors in thinking labels. The first is has become known as Docetism, the idea that Christ only seemed to be human but not human. Docetism taught that Christ only came in spirit, not flesh. The second has become known as one teaching under the broad term Gnosticism. For our exploration, we can focus on the error that spirit is good while matter is bad and if you have the right knowledge that divine spark can release your spirit from your body and your spirit then can return to heaven. Throughout John’s letter, he will refute both these false teachings.
John refers to Jesus as the Word of life. In the Gospel of John we read
John 1:1 (MSG)
The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God…
Then in verse 14 the mystery that we cannot explain.
John 1:14 (MSG)
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
Notice again the “we.” This is not just one person’s experience this is the confession of a group. Jesus is the personal expression of what God is, the interpreter of God nature. Most important is that the testimony of this “we” is that God became human.
The Apostle Paul on of the earliest disciples of Jesus wrote to believers in the town of Philippi: “When the time came, [Jesus] set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human” (Philippians 2:7 (MSG). Jesus didn’t set aside deity, but rather the power and privileges of deity to be our example of what it means to be fully human and to reveal to us what God is like (Colossians 1:15).
John affirms that Jesus is God, that God personally entered His creation, takes upon Himself the sins of His creation, so that you and I can be delivered from the penalty of sin and empowered to live life to the full that you and I can participate in His Life. Only God could make things right with God. It is in the “we” that hearing, seeing, and touching Jesus becomes a spiritual reality for the believer. We talk about having a personal relationship with Jesus meaning that there are personal encounters with the living Christ that are ours to be experienced. Jesus must be more than an idea, more than a philosophy, more than a lifestyle. Jesus needs to be real to you. It’s in the fellowship of the “we” that Jesus moves beyond knowing about and becomes personally known to you.
You can know that Jesus is real to you because you also have the desire to tell others about the joy that you have found in Christ. With John, you want to make his joy and your joy complete by introducing others to the great gift of the Father that is ours in salvation through Christ Jesus.
In these first four verses of 1 John three great lessons are presented to us. First is that Jesus is fully God, and fully human. The second lesson is that we experience the reality of Jesus together, all those “we’s” means we will thrive spiritually only in community. It is in this community that we have communion with one and other and in that fellowship enjoy communion with God. The third lesson is that we are to be people who tell others about the joy that we have discovered in the gift of the Son. To be silent is an indication that something is not right in our relationship with Jesus. Love motivates us to spread the joy of the good news of the gospel, of this new way to live life to the full.
That leaves us with some things to consider. Has God claimed us as His own? Have you asked God to accept your faith having acknowledged, believed, and committed? If not today is your invitation to do so. Have you given up on the congregation, isolated yourself from the community of believers, just made your attendance something you do when it's convenient? Then you are robbing yourself of the blessing and power of being part of the “we.” Today is your invitation to rethink your behavior so that you do not drift away from the faith. Remember it is in fellowship that you hear, and see, and touch the living Christ. Be encouraged to also consider whether or not you are telling anyone else about the joy that they too can experience. Are you spreading the word? If not you may want to examine your relationship with Jesus, because the joy of that relationship, that communion, that fellowship naturally spills over in the desire to share it with those who do not know.
Lot’s to think about. May the Holy Spirit direct your thoughts, and your thoughts turn to action.