Sermon Notes and Audio
Scripture Focus- 1 John 1:1-4
There is no greeting or introduction and there are no final words of formal conclusion in 1 John. The author’s name is not included either, making it one of only four letters in the NT which do not mention who wrote them- 1, 2, 3 John and the epistle to the Hebrews. The early church fathers believed John to be the writer- Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian. The church as a whole early on, strongly believed it to have been written by John the Apostle.
The recipients of the letter are not specified. John served in Ephesus late in life and wrote to the 7 Churches of Revelation in that region so it is likely he had the same region in mind with this letter. The letter was probably written around 90 AD before the close of the first century, with John writing from exile on the island of Patmos.
False teachers had become a major problem. They are called false prophets, antichrists, liars, and deceivers, and were not of God but from the devil, and from the world. The false teachers deceived people and there was confusion and corruption. We are not sure who the false teachers were but many scholars have identified them as Gnostics, or at least as having Gnostic beliefs. Gnosticism was a mixture of pagan and Christian thought. Gnostic comes from the Greek word which means “to know”.
Gnosticism taught dualism and secret enlightenment.
Dualism held that all matter is evil and the spirit is good. Because matter is evil, a good God could not have created a material universe. Since matter is evil they could not understand how God could take on a human body with pain, suffering, and death. They denied the incarnation of Jesus. They believed anything done in the body, even the worst of sins, has no real significance because real life exists in the spiritual realm only.
They taught secret enlightenment and that elevated knowledge was higher in importance than the Scripture. Gnosticism was based on a mystical, subjective, emotional approach.
John wrote to proclaim truth and refute error, to cultivate assurance of salvation, and to encourage genuine Christian living. John’s purpose is for us to know some things with certainty. The word ginosko, which means “to know by observation and experience,” occurs 15 times in the letter. The word oida, which means “to know by reflection,” is used 25 times. The word phaneroo, which means “to make known,” is used 9 times and the word parresia, which means “confidence,” is used 4 times.
Several Themes Emerge – Light vs. Darkness; Truth vs. Lies; Holiness vs. Sin; Love for God vs. Love for the world; and Christ vs. antichrists, with the major theme being the essentials of Christianity.
John speaks from a first person perspective- v1. . .what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed, and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.
Some argue the Christian faith is a leap of faith without good reason to believe. John provides an altogether different perspective providing eyewitness testimony from those who knew Jesus, and were in His presence for extended times as He ministered. If you think about what the role of an eyewitness is, you may think of someone who sees something randomly or on the spur of the moment. This was not how it was with the eyewitnesses of Jesus.
We have some phenomenal ways to communicate today. Things were not so easy in the first century. During the early years of the spread of Christianity, communication was cherished and important. Letters were generally carried by private delivery, by people who traveled on foot, or sometimes by boat or other ways. The testimony of eyewitnesses was viewed as particularly valuable, particularly when corroborated by multiple witnesses. Early on after the ascencion of Jesus to Heaven, the disciples began to faithfully spread the Good News about Jesus. Time passed and they wrote down what they had seen and experienced under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Early believers received the eyewitness accounts as from God.
While some argue the Christian faith is a leap of faith without good reason to believe, many skeptics outright reject the eyewitness authority of the Gospel accounts. J. Warner Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective. He wrote Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. He gives four reasons why the NT accounts, particularly in the Gospels, should be considered trustworthy eyewitness accounts:
Eyewitness authority was affirmed by the Gospel Authors- They proclaimed their authority as eyewitnesses.
2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
Luke 1:1-4 Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.
John 21:24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
Eyewitness authority was confirmed by the first believers- the early believers and Church Fathers accepted the Gospel accounts as eyewitness documents.
Eyewitness authority was foundational to the growth of the church. They repeatedly identified themselves as eyewitnesses.
Acts 2:32 God has raised this Jesus; we are all witnesses of this.
Eyewitness authority was used to validate New Testament Writings. Paul continually referred to his own encounter with Jesus to establish the authenticity of his office and writings.
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.
“The Word of Life”- This is the same Logos spoken of in John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Jesus is the Word in John 1:1 and Jesus is the Word of life in 1 John 1:1.
The Word idea of the Word was significant. For the Jew, God was often referred to as the Word because they knew God revealed Himself in His word. For the Greek, their philosophers had spoken for centuries about the Logos, understood as the basis for organization and intelligence in the universe, the ultimate reason.
One commentator wrote- “It is as if John said to everyone, ‘This Logos you have been talking about and writing about for centuries- well, we have heard Him, seen Him, studied Him, and touched Him. Let us tell you about Him.’”. (David Guzik)
Let’s consider three characteristics of the Word of Life.
First- The Word of Life is eternal.
V1 What was from the beginning. . .
V2 The eternal life that was with the Father. . .
What was from the beginning points us back to Jesus Christ as our life before creation began. He is eternal, had no beginning and will have no end. He is the source of creation, and all life comes from Him.
In Exodus 3:14 God referred to His eternal nature when He said, I AM WHO I AM. Jesus said the same of Himself in John 8:57-59 Before Abraham was born, I AM. He claimed for Himself the same eternal and self-existent nature as possessed by God. In John 17:5 Jesus said, Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with that glory I had with you before the world existed.
God Himself spoke of the Son in Hebrews 1:8 and says- But to the Son: Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
A number of passages indicate Jesus was responsible for the creation of all things. John 1:3 All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth.
There has never been a time when Jesus was not. The Word of Life is eternal.
Second- The Word of Life was made known in the world.
V 2 that life was revealed
“That life” is affirmation of the virgin birth, sinless life, sacrificial death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What we know is not speculation about God. What we know is what God has revealed about Himself to us. John 1 lists some facts about the revelation of Jesus Christ in the world.
The Word of life is revealed by his teaching- “what we have heard”– they heard the words of Jesus, amazing words. The words of the Word of Life bear witness to who He is.
The Word of Life is made known by His life and miracles- “what we have seen with our eyes”- they actually watched Jesus live before them. They saw Him turn water into wine, feed the 5000, walk on water, heal the sick, and raise the dead. John ended the Gospel of John by stating that if all the things Jesus did were written in detail, the whole world could not contain the books.
The Word of Life is made known by the glory of His person– “what we have observed” indicates careful and deliberate consideration of something. We get our English word “theater” from the word used here for observed. It is the same word used in John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Word of Life is made known by His resurrection- “and have touched with our hands”- this is the same word Jesus used after His resurrection, when He appeared to the disciples. He told Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.” John 20:27
Jesus Christ was made known and historically authenticated in objective ways, before and after the resurrection. The Word of Life was made known in the world.
Third- The Word of Life gives eternal life.
John writes, v2 that life was revealed and then repeats, the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us.
Eternal life = lit. the life, the eternal one
1 John 5:13 I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
God opened their eyes to see Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus is eternal life. Eternal life for the believer in Jesus begins at the moment faith is exercised. John 3:36 The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. . .“Has” is present tense, based on our current standing in Jesus.
Eternal life is inextricably connected to Jesus- John 17:3 This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent- Jesus Christ. In his vision of the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation, John saw a river flowing “from the throne of God and of the Lamb” and on each side of the river stood the tree of life. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:1-2 In Eden, we rebelled against God and were banished from the Tree of Life. In the end, access to the Tree of Life is provided through Jesus Christ.
V3 our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. “Fellowship” means to share in common. The Christian life is fellowship with God, and fellowship with the people of God. The fellowship we share when we come to know Jesus is with God and with one another. It has been said that true Christianity is an experience rooted in revelation and realized in relationship with God and with other believers. Fellowship is divine and human, vertical and horizontal.
Several specific tests are identified by John as to whether one has fellowship with God.
The Doctrinal test- Do you believe what the Bible says about Jesus Christ?
The Relational test- Do you love fellow believers and share life together?
The Moral test- Are you living according to God’s Word?
The Word of Life gives eternal life, leading us to know God and His people.
V 4 We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
This is almost the same language Jesus used when addressing the disciples as he was preparing to leave them– John 15:11 I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. There is little doubt John had that in mind when he wrote 1 John. Joy is “a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope.”
Knowing Jesus is the source of joy by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.