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1 John 1:1-4

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1 John 1:1–4 ESV
1 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— 2 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— 3 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. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Introduction

John writes to the church so that the apostolic joy may be complete, by the church...
Life in Christ (, , )
The Reality of Christ (, )
According to Sproul: “That our joy may be complete”
by the church...
believing the reality of the incarnation
believing the message of salvation
knowing Christ, who is eternal life

Outline

Believe the reality of the incarnation
Believe the message of salvation
Know the Word of Life

Introduction

The difficulty of the passage
I’ve learned something about pastor Siyabulela
Siya gave me the difficult passage (he was supposed to preach this)
But at least it is only 4 verses, so at a mere 15min per verse, we will only be an hour
Difficulty of 1 John
difficult to outline - no linear argument, no structure
repetition of discussions and arguments that he returns to
John MacArthur preached it again
Difficulty of the prologue (v1-4)
These 4 verse are one long complex sentence
R.E. Brown in his commentary calls it “the most complicated Greek” in all of John’s writings
(bear in mind, John wrote down the book of Revelation)
Recap context
John has some over-arching concerns for the church
warn them of false teachers / antichrists
denied the incarnation
All matter is evil - hence, denied the incarnation
They taught that Jesus didn’t actually come as a man - He just appeared to be human
That Jesus didn’t actually die, He just appeared to die
That would mean that there was no actual death, no payment for sin, no atonement, no salvation
Only a select few could attain knowledge of truth
refute their false teaching
encourage them and strengthen their weakened faith with the truth
He does this using contrasts
Some call them tests of true faith, or of the true faith
darkness / light
no sin / confess sin
disobedient / obedient
love the world / love God
hate their brother / love their brother
practice lies / practice truth
father the devil / Father God
By this - and the repeated phrase “by this we know” - he helps the true believers with doctrinal truth, to help them discern false from true. To judge rightly
help them link doctrinal truth with their life experience
Particularly, the living out of the implications of doctrinal truth - especially love for God, and love for each other
1 John 4:8–12 ESV
8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
1 John 4:
1 John 4:11–12 ESV
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

Outline & Main Point of Prologue

John writes to the church so that his and the rest of the apostles’ joy may be complete, by the church...
believing the reality of the incarnation
believing the message of eternal life
knowing Jesus, who is eternal life
believing the reality of the incarnation

1. Believe the Reality of the Incarnation

1 John 1:1 ESV
1 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—
believing the message of salvation
knowing Christ, who is eternal life
Appears to be a connection with the start of:
Genesis… “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
John… “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John begins his first epistle in similar fashion:
“That which was from the beginning…”
In the gospel of John…
Genesis 1:1 ESV
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
John begins this way to show the deity of Christ. He was from the beginning, and He is God, and God became flesh
John 1:1 ESV
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Here again then in John’s first epistle, that same connection is obvious
Who is he presenting?
He is proclaiming the Eternal Christ
The one who was from the beginning
The One through whom, by whom and for whom everything was created (, )
He is the word of life
He is the life that was made manifest
He is the eternal life
So the first thing we can know for sure about what John believes about Jesus, and that he wants the church to believe about Jesus, is that John believes and proclaims that Jesus is God.
But that is not the only reassurance about Jesus that John wants the church to have
After all, the trouble makers, false teachers and anti-christs probably were saying the same thing
But you see, they taught that Jesus was deity and spirit only. They denied that he was made manifest, as John puts it.
They denied that Jesus came as a man
And this is the 2nd reassurance that John wants to give the church...
John wants the church to know that Jesus was made manifest to us in physical, bodily form.
Verse 1 - “That which was from the beginning,
which we have heard,
which we have seen with our eyes
which we have looked upon
and have touched with our hands
John is basically beginning his epistle by stamping his authority as a reliable witness to the truth
And the truth that he wants to establish right from the start, as the foundation of his epistle...
… is the truth of who Jesus is.
Church, I know you might be confused
I know you’re getting pounded with all these different teachings about who Jesus really is and what really happened
Look, I can tell you from first hand experience. Listen to my first-hand testimony
I heard him preach every day for 3 years
I saw him with my own eyes
I saw him and looked upon Him - I studied him and walked closely with him
I touched him with my own hands
I was in personal, physical contact with Jesus during his ministry
Was Jesus real? Yes, emphatically yes. Jesus was and is real.
He literally came to this earth, and he really was a man.
Who is Jesus? He is both God and man. He is God made manifest to us in body.
This is a foundational truth of Christianity - a truth that you must profess and believe if you are to enjoy fellowship with God
You must know and believe that Jesus is Lord, that He is God, and that he came as a man.

2. Believe the Message of Eternal Life

1 John 1:2
1 John 1:2 ESV
2 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—
“concerning the word of life...”
1 John 1:2 ESV
2 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—
What is “the word of life” John is referring to?
We know from elsewhere in Scripture - particularly in John’s writings, that Jesus is called “The Word”
John 1:1 ESV
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:14 ESV
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Revelation 19:13 ESV
13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.
So it is very clear, from the immediate context of verse 1, and the context that we have from John’s other writings, that when John says here that he is writing to the church concerning the word of life, that He is writing to them concerning Jesus Himself.
But I do believe there is something else that John is also referring to here in this complex opening sentence.
The Greek here for “word” is logos, which can carry the meaning of a communication, or a message
Now keep that in mind while you look at the text, and look at the pronouns that John uses:
That” which was from the beginning (instead of He who)
Which” we have heard, seen, and touched (instead of whom)
so it seems then that John is referring to the “word of life” as both a person and a message about what that person did
Some commentators argue one way or another for whether John means the “word of life” to mean the person of Jesus, or the message of Jesus.
I believe John is referring to and incorporating both, because the person of Jesus cannot be separated from the message of Jesus and what He has done.
I believe that John uses these words because He is referring His reader to both WHO Jesus is, and WHAT Jesus has done.
So at this point John adds a parenthesis - that little dash you see there that means he is adding more information for clarity:
John is addressing the church concerning the word of life - Jesus Himself - and the message of what Jesus has done - and this is what that is:
The life was made manifest, we have seen it, we testify to it and proclaim to you...... the eternal life
Both the person of eternal life - Jesus Himself, who was with the Father and was manifest to us - and the message of eternal life - the gospel, which is why Jesus became a man
As you know, we proclaim Jesus - the person of Jesus and who He is in all His glory as the Son of God and God made flesh...
But we also proclaim the good news of WHY God became flesh - He came to die for sinners.
He came to make atonement for our sins so that we could be saved from death and have eternal life
Think about why it was so important for John to convince and reassure the church that Jesus really did come as a man
(and why it is important for us to believe it)
If Jesus didn’t come as a man - a flesh and blood, mortal human being...
Then Jesus could not have died as our substitute
You see, from the day of the Fall, all mankind was cursed to die
In order for that curse to be lifted from man, a man had to die under that curse in our place
: “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.”
Through one man, many die. So also then, through one man, grace abounded to many.
: “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”
Through one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners. So also then, through one man’s obedience, many will be made righteous.
Romans 5:19 ESV
19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Rom 5:
Romans 5:15 ESV
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
Rom 5:
Jesus had to come as a man, and die as a man, in order to lift the curse and pay for our sin.
So I hope you see the importance of believing the literal incarnation of Jesus as a man -
If Jesus didn’t come as a man, He couldn’t die as a man
If He didn’t die as a man, He didn’t make atonement (payment) for our sin
If He didn’t atone for our sin, then all of us remain in our sin and remain condemned and under the curse.
So John is desperate for the church to see the importance of this and to believe this
- both the truth of Jesus’ deity and literal incarnation as a man,
AND the message of what Jesus accomplished for us - atonement for our sin and ETERNAL LIFE
This is John’s encouragement to the church...
This is what he testifies to as a first-hand eyewitness
This is what he and all the apostle (we) proclaim to us all...
That God became flesh and dwelt among us,
That he died on the cross as a man and as our substitute
That he took upon himself our curse, our guilt and our shame
That he suffered in our place under the wrath of the Father as a man
That he died as a man
And that He also was raised bodily from the dead
And by THAT, we all - every believer - have the full assurance that our sins have been paid for and taken away,
and that we have eternal life
This is a foundational truth of Christianity - a truth that you must profess and believe if you are to enjoy fellowship with God
You must know and believe the message of the gospel, that Jesus died to atone for our sins, and was raised from the dead so that all the believing will have eternal life.

3. Know Jesus, Who is Eternal Life

1 John 1:3 ESV
3 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.
John now moves from talking about the doctrinal truths that we must believe, to the implications and experience of these truths for the believer.
That which we have seen and heard - Jesus the Word of Life, and the message of life - we proclaim to YOU...
SO THAT YOU TOO many have FELLOWSHIP with us, and ultimately, fellowship with God.
This is John’s desire - this is what will give him and the rest of the apostles complete joy - that his hearers will have fellowship with them, and with God.
because that would be the result of believing
Oh that God would make our joy complete, by bringing everyone in this room into fellowship with Him this morning.
What is this fellowship that John is referring to here?
FELLOWSHIP...
the act of sharing in the activities or privileges of an intimate association or group, particularly used of marriage, or the Church
John is referring to the privileges of being in an intimate, close personal relationship with a person
specifically, a close personal relationship “with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
What kind of privileges?
The privilege of salvation, and of assurance of salvation and of God’s unending love
The gospel is the good news of what Jesus did and fully accomplished - atonement for our sin
And the gospel is to be proclaimed -
which is what the apostles have done through their witness and testimony which John is referring to here...
and which we continue today through the written testimony of the apostles and prophets
And the gospel is to be believed.
That is how the gift of salvation is received -
by the faithful witness of the apostles and proclamation of the gospel
the faithful proclamation of the gospel
and the response of faith from the believer who receives it
When we received the message of the gospel - that God became flesh, dwelt among us, died for us, and was raised for us -
we move from a position of rebellion against God, to a position of having fellowship with God
What kind of fellowship does John have in view here?
Is he only talking about actually being saved, or is he merely suggesting that those who are already believers should move into a closer walk with God?
The answer is.. both
Within the context, the answer has to be both
The context demands that John means both
As we will see in the next few verses in chapter 1, John says that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all
we cannot have fellowship with God while we walk in darkness
The contrasts that John brings out are not contrasting 2 Christians, one of whom is close to God and the other is not...
He is contrasting darkness against light… lost against saved
But at the same time, John is saying that having fellowship with God through salvation must and will result in a very close, intimate and personal relationship between the believer and Jesus.
By saying that he wants us to have fellowship with Jesus, he is saying that he wants us to move beyond the point of believing in the existence of Jesus and the reality of what Jesus has done...
… to a place of experiencing and enjoying Jesus in a close, personal relationship with Him.
I want you to notice something with me in the text
John says in verse 2: “(we) proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us”
Eternal life is a person
Jesus is eternal life
Let me put it to you this way
It is not enough that I only ask you, “Do you believe that Jesus came to earth as a man?”
because though it is a foundational truth, there are many who acknowledge Jesus as a real man and yet they are not saved
It is not enough that I only ask you, “Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross?”
because though it is a foundational truth, there are many who acknowledge Jesus died on a cross and yet they are not saved
Let me rather ask you this:
Has your belief in the reality of the incarnation of Jesus, and his death and resurrection for the atonement of sin, drawn you into a close, intimate, personal relationship with Jesus?
Christianity and salvation is not primarily about an intellectual knowledge of a historic event; it is about a person.
1 John 1:2 ESV
2 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—
Christianity and salvation is the knowledge of the truth experienced through close fellowship with Jesus.
I can honestly tell you, you cannot know Jesus, without experiencing His love and having your whole life changed by that experience.
analogy of having an encounter with a truck
The only thing I will add to that is that if we do truly know Jesus, then our experience of Jesus will not be a one-time experience that we keep pointing back to…
… but an on-going, never-ending experience of His grace, love, peace and joy every single day of our lives.
Like being hit by a truck every day

Application & Conclusion

John concludes his prologue to the epistle, saying “we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete”
Next to the giants of men who have come before me and who still serve in this church, I am nothing but a humble beggar
but even after my short years of ministry I can testify that the greatest joy I have in ministry is seeing God working in people’s hearts so that they come to faith, and grow in spiritual maturity
I have no doubt that the older and more experienced preachers and pastors feel the same.
My greatest desire for this church, much like John’s desire for the church of his time, is that we would all:
grow in our knowledge of truth, so that we can be a discerning people, able to judge truth from falsehood and spot a false teacher from a mile away
have our faith in the real incarnation of Jesus, the gospel and the finished work of Jesus on the cross strengthened, so that we would be assured of our participation in God’s promises
and finally, that our knowledge of truth and faith in Jesus would lead us into close fellowship with Jesus so that we can truly say that we know Him, and whereby we daily experience His grace and enjoy His presence.
And that all of this would be made manifestly obvious to the outside world through our acts of love to each other, mutual submission, humility, charity, and obedience to God.
May the truth that we all profess, move from our heads to our hearts to our hands.

How?

The desired outcome of theology and doctrinal truth is never just an accumulation of more facts.
The desired outcome of theology and doctrinal truth is never just an accumulation of more facts.
Maybe you’re wondering how you can truly have this experience of Jesus, and enjoy this close fellowship with Him and with each other that I am talking about?
The ultimate outcome and fruit of teaching, proclaiming and personal study of theology and doctrine is always closer fellowship with Jesus Himself.
We have a saying… Doctrine must always lead to doxology… truth fuels worship
The more truth we know about God, the more our hearts will be stirred to love God and worship Him
We follow the pattern in Scripture, and that is also present here in John’s epistle.
Our study of truth must go beyond the acknowledgement of God’s existence, to the experience of God in every part of our lives.
He contrasts the false with the true, encourages with the truth, and then displays the implications of the truth.
So if you want to experience the f
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