1 John 1:1-4
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 1 John 1:1
We have an amazing statement here to start off 1 John. That which was from the beginning – think about that for a minute – is the thing which John and his companions saw, heard, and touched in the here and now. This was important because apparently John was refuting a common heresy that had already arisen, called gnosticism. In a nutshell, this was the notion that Jesus had not lived in the flesh, because physicality was to be equated with evil. John is directly refuting this.
I have for a long time been fascinated with the word translated here and in John 1:1 as “beginning”, the Greek word “arche”. We get words like monarchy, anarchy, etc. from it. It is translated as: “beginning, corner, (at the, the) first (estate), magistrate, power, principality, principle, rule.” Much more than only the beginning of time, it also indicates the beginning of authority. Clearly no one fits the bill, of either the beginning of time or of authority, other than God. This is a statement of deity, and of the incarnation, God become flesh.
The One who from the very start of time has been in charge of everything, is the One we saw and heard and touched, a real flesh and blood man. We have here the words of an actual eyewitness, an apostle who spent time with Him and saw Him and heard Him and touched Him firsthand. These are the words of someone who really knew Him.
I want to add the idea that often times we become wrapped up in the importance of the ultimate truth of things, but despise the specifics. People talk of love for mankind while hating this man or that man. We want to ponder ultimate things but we balk at sitting and talking with an elderly person or a child or even our spouse. Christ came from the world of the ultimate and blessed the specific world of here and now with His presence. His presence, His grace, is with me now, and is with those who are with me now. He cares about the world, but He cares about ME. We ought to pray to be like-minded, for our grasp of eternal truths to touch our specific fellowship here and now.
I’ve read ahead in 1 John, and I want to make an observation. If God were to become a man and walk around the earth, we would expect a lot of strange things, a lot of miracles and such. We know this is true, this is indeed a big part of the story. However, this does not seem to be the thing which impressed John. This letter is not a letter of miracles. You would expect him to fixate a little more on it. Instead there is a lot of talk about supposedly ho-hum things like love and forgiveness and obedience. He seems to have been far more impressed by these ideas than miracles, because he hardly talks about the manifestation of the supernatural in the book at all. He is all about love, really. If we are looking for a move of the Spirit, perhaps we look in the wrong direction if we don’t look for a lot of love and forgiveness and obedience.
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 1 John 1:1-2
This One who John was with, is called “the word of life”. The word (logos) of life. The “logos” was a Greek concept that John had lifted from Greek philosophers who had used the term in different ways over the course of 500 years as a way to define everything from ultimate rational reality to philosophic discourse. John lifts this terms and says, it is the ultimate reality in terms of time and authority, and this is who became flesh and dwelt among us.
John equates this logos with “life”. We only have one word for this, but there are three Greek words used for this: bios (physical), psyche (mental or emotional), and zoe (spiritual). The word here is zoe. These correspond to the three loves, eros (physical), phileo (friend or familial), and agape (spiritual). Jesus is the logos (ultimate rational or reasonable root) of zoe (spiritual life).
This agape life was made manifest. It was made flesh, it was put into action. It was, literally, rendered apparent. It had been concealed or hidden, and now it was unveiled and declared. John says, we have seen it. You can’t say this isn’t true, I and my friends saw Him with our own eyes; it was made manifest. He testifies to it.
There is a difference between speculation and surmise and insight, and testifying and proclaiming. The one looks at what might be true, what might be intuited given certain axioms. The other says, we really saw this, and we are telling you what we saw. John is doing the latter. This is not speculation or surmise. He is not fishing for clever insights. This is an authoritative and believable account of reality.
John is proclaiming the reality of “eternal life”. The word eternal is actually the word “Aionios”, from which we get the word “eon”. It means perpetual, not just into the future, but past, present, and future. Since he puts this qualifier to the word “zoe” for life, it means that not all zoe life is eternal, but the zoe life he is proclaiming is eternal. It is the quality of or kind of zoe that is present with Christ: it is everlasting perpetual life that existed before the beginning of time and will last on to eternity. It is life which we can trust, because it is utterly unbreakable and unassailable. If a thing is eternal, nothing can stop it or end it. The life we have in Christ is unbreakable and unstoppable.
So, John is not just speculating, but testifying, to a rational, unstoppable, ultimate kind of life. It was with the Father, and made manifest in the world to John, and he is relaying this on 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. 1 John 1:3
So, John and the other apostles have fellowship with God the Father and God the Son, because the Son, the eternal word of life, was made manifest. He is testifying to us, because if it were kept to himself, his joy would be incomplete. Here is the true motivation for evangelism and church growth. When we find a new piece of music we love, we can really like it all on our own. However, we want to tell others about it, to share the experience, because we are social creatures and a great pleasure is better enjoyed when shared or communed around. John’s joy is made greater when others come into fellowship in the knowledge of the eternal life made manifest in Christ.