Hello! Today, we’ll be reading through 1 John 1:1-4 and seeing what we can learn from it.
Before we do that though, let me introduce myself.
I just finished my second year studying economics at University of Toronto and have been involved with P2C-Students for a grand total of two years. I like Uno, video games, and fried chicken. Another thing I enjoy is writing (although I still have a ways to go), and I started a blog a while ago sharing some of the insights and observations I have had while reading Scripture. Apparently that was resumé enough and voilà, somehow I’ve ended up here. The moral of the story is: if you want to write for P2C-Students, you can bypass the application process by meeting their staff and agreeing to be part of their 17 Questions interview on their instagram account.
So back to the post. Essentially, this will be a series of posts where I’ll be reading through 1 John with you, offering some of my insights and observations, looking to understand the text, and seeing what we can take away from it. It’s not to say that everything I write will be absolutely correct or that you will agree with everything, but I hope that it can be a learning experience for all of us. I hope that if you do join me on this journey, you’ll enjoy these next couple weeks ahead!
First things first: 1 John is the first of the “three epistles of John.” The style and content in these letters run very similar to the gospel of John and so, the three epistles of John are traditionally attributed to, you guessed it, the apostle John. The letter, although it cannot and should not be summed up in only a few words, has a few major themes that run throughout.
Three main themes that I’ve been able to identify so far:
- The importance of obeying God and following his commands
- The importance of loving our fellow brothers and sisters
- The connection between those prior two themes: of being one with Christ
We won’t be diving into those themes today as we want to focus on the first chapter, but here are some verses you could take a look at regarding those themes:
The importance of obeying God and following his commands:
We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person (1 John 2:3-4 NIV).
The importance of loving your fellow brothers and sisters:
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. (1 John 2:9 NIV).
Another verse stressing the importance of both:
This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:2-3)
Since I have no way to actually read 1 John chapter 1:1-4 with you all, I’m going to skip that part and assume you can follow along on your own (and if you didn’t, that’s fine as well!), and point out some observations or things I found interesting! Just for clarity, I’m reading from the NIV (New International Version) translation.
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
There are a couple of interesting things I noticed right away! First is the deeply personal aspect of the letter:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched. (v.1)
The author is writing from their own personal experience, and it shows an intimacy —both in relation to the author with Jesus or “the life” (v. 2) and in relation to the recipients––in which he writes “we write this to make our joy complete.” (v.4)
Another observation is the repetition of the words “seen” and “heard.” It’s repeated a couple of times in chapter one and continues to play a role throughout the letter. John isn’t just making this stuff up about Jesus, he actually knew Jesus. He travelled, lived, ministered, and was extremely close to Jesus. John teaches from his personal experience and testimony. That is significant.
Two significant points of interest are the uses of “the Word of life” (v.1) and “eternal life” (v. 2). The “Word of life” is interesting—we may read it and think he’s talking about Scripture or “the gospel,”’ but when we view how it’s used, that “the life was made manifest to us” (v. 2 ESV), he’s talking about that word of life coming to life. It might help to understand the Greek word being used here, logos, which we have translated as “word.” Although it can mean “word” in the way we generally understand it, the actual meaning(s) behind it are much, much broader. Although it would be too complicated to go through all the theories on which exact way it’s being used or where exactly John got the idea from (but feel free to look it up on your own, it’s only a google search away!), it is particularly helpful to look at the Gospel of John, chapter 1, where we are told:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)
John is talking about the same Word in 1 John as he is in the Gospel of John–and he’s really talking about Jesus! Jesus is the Word. These are some ideas we should have in mind as we read that Jesus is “the word made manifest,” that:
- The Word was there since the beginning (which is stated as well in 1 John 1:1) with God
- The Word was (and is) God
- Through him all things were made
There are all sorts of crazy connections on these ideas alone, eg. just looking at point three and these other verses… “By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place” (Proverbs 3:19) and, “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). I want to focus on 1 John 1 so I’ll leave that for you all to dive into on your own.
The other point of interest is the “eternal life” that appears in verse 2. Often, we’ll think of life after death when we hear those words, but if we stick to the idea that the author of 1 John draws ideas from the gospel of John, there’s a pretty clear verse on what eternal life is:
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
And now, knowing that, we can get a feel of what this letter will be about: knowing Jesus and knowing God.
What’s even more interesting is if we read the entire section of 1 John 1:1-4 again, what is it about? Going back to the first observation I made… throughout the entire introduction, the writer talks about the intimacy of him knowing Jesus, the Word of life. And then what does he say in verses 3?
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
It’s all connected!!!
Knowing this, what should we take away from these few verses of 1 John 1? The author tells his testimony—what he’s heard, what he’s seen, what he’s touched. Why? In hopes that the recipients can share in fellowship with him, and ultimately with God the Father, and Jesus the Son (v. 3). So as we go out and share the work that God has done in our lives, let us not forget why we do so. We do so not only to invite them into our lives to fellowship with us but also to fellowship with God, and in doing so, make our joy complete (v. 4).
Stay tuned for the next post on 1 John!