Monday, November 7, 2011

First John Chapter One, Part 2 of 5

1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life John begins his epistle with simple and candid testimony. Being an eyewitness of Jesus Christ, John was free to use such language since he was a close follower of the Lord both before and after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The apostle states that he heard, saw and touched the Word of life: namely Jesus Christ.

From the very first John endeavors to bring this epistle into a historical, factual setting. He testifies that he saw and felt the Lord; that Christ was truly a man, flesh and bones both before and after His resurrection. Heretical teachings that infiltrated the infant church in the first century wanted to separate Jesus from the Christ, or make Jesus an apparition rather than a man. The Bible knows no such teaching since it adamantly confirms our Lord’s virgin birth (Luke 1:35; Matthew 1:20-21) and His bodily resurrection, Luke 24:38-40; John 2:19-21; 20:27-29.

1:2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)

We read that in Christ was life, and that life was the light of men, John 1:4. The eternal life was made manifest to John and other witnesses; in fact He was made to appear to all of Israel (John 1:11) but they rejected Him. The fact that Jesus is eternal life suggests two things: first, that He is immortal. Jesus as God possessed the same intrinsic glory the Father possesses, John 17:5. Second, Jesus our Lord imparts life only when we receive Him by faith.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” John 1:12-13.

John is presently witnessing for Christ, or more appropriately witnessing of Him. He is laboring to show Jesus to us; this life that dwelt eternally with the Father but had become incarnate and was made to appear to mankind. Verse one states that Jesus our Lord was a man; in verse two John asserts that besides that Christ was more than a man, for He dwelt eternally with God before He was manifested to Israel. Jesus confirmed this in John’s hearing when He said, “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father,” John 16:28. Elsewhere Jesus tells us, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven,” John 3:13. John then begins this epistle with a tacit reminder of both the humanity and deity of the man who founded the Christian Church: Jesus Christ.

1:3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
Jesus made the unqualified statement that eternal life was predicated on the fact of our knowing the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, John 17:3. In this respect our Lord is referring to a saving faith in God; knowing God in regard to placing our trust in Him. A genuine knowledge of the God of the Bible would elicit trust, for the very nature of God is trustworthy, unchanging, and steadfast. To truly know such a God would be to place one’s faith in Him, and when one has believed they have passed from death to life, John 5:24.
John reiterates his message from verse two. First he labors to show us Christ, and as a living witness of Jesus while on earth John endeavors to declare both what he saw and heard from his risen Lord. The ultimate outcome of hearing and receiving John’s testimony is fellowship with God. “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me,” Matthew 10:40. If we receive John’s testimony we in fact receive Christ, and in turn receive the Father, 2nd John 1:9.
I believe this passage begins one of the cardinal themes of 1st John: fellowship. I have heard that the word “cardinal” descends from a Latin term meaning “hinge”; so in other words I am convinced that the doctrine of Christian fellowship is a point on which John’s epistle hinges. I mean both fellowship between Christians and that vital fellowship between a believer and his Lord. Now we know that Christians cannot fellowship with the unsaved because there is no common ground for it; one has eternal, spiritual life while the other is dead in trespasses and sins, 2nd Corinthians 6:14-16. We shall watch as John unfolds the necessity, vitality and fruitfulness of fellowship throughout this brief epistle, punctuated by one overall theme that undergirds John’s inspired message: love.

1:4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
The NASB renders this passage as having our joy complete. Before a Christian may have true joy we must have true fellowship, as per verse three. So far then we see a dual point the apostle makes: he declares all that he saw as a witness of Christ to us that it may invoke fellowship with God. He also writes these things to fulfill or complete our joy. When Jesus our Lord prayed the Father He said, “And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves,” John 17:13. One must ask: what was Christ’s joy, and how do we share in it? We know that Jesus endured the shame of the cross for the sake of the joy set before Him, Hebrews 12:2. Earlier in the epistle of Hebrews I believe we are clued in on the joy of our Lord when the writer pens, “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God,” Hebrews 10:5-7.

In John’s gospel we see Jesus praying to have His joy fulfilled in us. In Hebrews we find our Lord saying that His point for coming to this earth was to fulfill the Father’s will, and that for the sake of both obeying His Father and purchasing the church through His blood His joy was realized. A proper understanding of this amazing truth should certainly cause in us a fulfillment of Christ’s joy. In fact, every time a man or woman believes the gospel and receives eternal life there is another reason why Christ endured the shame of the cross; His joy is being displayed to the world through us, His children, Hebrews 2:13.

Our joy may be full or complete by coming to the knowledge not only of the lengths God went to in order to redeem us and the great love involved, but how much our Lord and Creator wants to be a part of our lives! This is the point of fellowship. When we desire to fellowship with someone we draw near to them and bring them into the sphere of our own life. Someone who is our fellow is someone much like us: our fellow man, a fellow worker, a fellow Christian. When God seeks fellowship with us He desires that we come closer to Christ-likeness; we draw near to our Savior so we might become more like Him. One way God seeks to create in us this image of His Son is through Christian fellowship: the saints loving one another and being like-minded. In fact when we are told that the first century church gathered in Jerusalem had all things in common it was because they were frequently in fellowship. Observe: “And all that believed were together, and had all things common,” Acts 2:44. First comes the latter (they had all things in common) then the former (they were together). Having the bond of Christ brought them together.

We are exhorted not to forsake assembling together as a local body of Christ, Hebrews 10:25. To be of one mind spiritually and to love one another it is expected that we gather together physically to fellowship, worship and minister to one another’s needs. In this the love of God is perfected. A body so functioning can be full of joy even when the world creates tempests we must endure; Christ’s joy is infectious, and the more of the saints that gather together in one mind and accord to serve our great God the better. Donald Barnhouse once said that the Holy Spirit desires to get together with Himself. Seek to enter into fellowship with your Lord by fellowshipping with the saints wherever you find them; in this we can have Christ’s joy fulfilled in us. I know for our part (Gillian and myself) we are glad to God to be included in our own local church and pray to be an asset and a blessing to our brethren.

1 comment:

  1. As Hebrews 10:25 states, the encouragement we get from assembling together becomes ever more critical as the time of the Lord's return nears.

    Great Post.


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