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Credible Witnesses - 1John 1:1-7

John invites his readers to verify his claims to fellowship with God by examining his life.

1John 1:1-10; Colossians 1:13-14

Jan 19, 2014 12:00 PM


1 John 1:1 -- This letter begins with a direct reference to eternity and eternal things: "That which was from the beginning".  Whatever "that" is, it is the topic of discussion, and John goes to some lengths to explain.

John might be better understood if we read him as saying, "That which already was, even from the beginning, prior to creation".  Mounce translates this phrase, "That which has existed from the beginning".

In other words, John is not talking about something that has simply existed since the beginning, since creation.  That would include anything and everything in the physical universe. Everything we see has existed since the beginning of the visible universe.

This could only be a reference to Deity.  The language here sounds similar to God's pronouncement concerning Himself: "I Am".  Perpetual existence.

The personal pronouns used in the rest of this verse and consistently through the rest of the chapter and into chapter 2 are plural: "us, we".  John is not alone in his testimony concerning the eternal.  He has other witnesses to "that which was from the beginning".  At the very least, he is referring to the Lord's apostles.

John is referring to their collective "eye witness" testimony.  But it is also an "ear witness" and a "hand witness".  Multiple people seeing, hearing, and touching what? "That which is from the beginning." This sufficient, reliable, and legal testimony.  It speaks to the reality and truthfulness of the existence among men of that which was from the beginning.

Then he gives some clarification regarding the identity of that which was: "the word of life".  It was the spoken word of God that gave birth to the entire world and everything in it.  God spoke a word and life exploded into existence.  That is why John refers to "that which is from the beginning" as "the word of life".  The thing of which he speaks, and of which he and the apostles give first hand, eye-witness, first person testimony, is the eternal Creator of all.  This Creator is Life, the possessor of life, and the word of life which brought about all that we see and don't see.

1 John 1:2

John continues to testify to his/their experience regarding the word of life, here simply stated as "the life".  That which is from the beginning, and the word of life, and the life, are all intentionally impersonal references to the same thing. But John's readers undoubtedly understand these must be references to Deity, to the eternal God.  Who or what existed before Creation other than God?

But John is not speaking of an intangible, ethereal, disembodied, eternal spirit-being.  They have seen and heard and handled it.  It is real and substantive and approachable, unlike the God of Israel as portrayed in the Old Testament.  It is also no dead idol.  It speaks, it lives, it exists eternally and is not made or created.  It is the eternal life.

The life first was made manifest in a general way so as to be comprehended by human senses.  It is objective, separate, external to those who saw it.

But this eternal life was also more specifically made manifest to us. John says he and his co-witnesses testify to, and proclaim the reality of this objective, tangible, physical eternal life.

The eternal life which is referred to in impersonal terms is about to become very personal.  "It" was with the Father.  This at least implies that "it" was with the Father from the beginning, or at creation and is therefore in some ways like the Father.

John also says that he and the other witnesses of these things testify to it and proclaim it to others. Testify (from which we get the word martyr, is a formal or official or legal declaration of a truth or fact.  Proclaim means to announce or declare something openly.

So John and his co-witnesses both testify to the truth of THE eternal life and make public proclamation of that truth.  This is not something to be kept under a basket. They have seen in real time and space the physical manifestation of eternal life.  The eternal life can be touched and heard.  It has a physical body.  How many people can say they have seen and handled and listened to Eternal Life?

It is one thing to say, "I have been granted eternal life by God."  It is quite another thing to say, "We have handled, touched, seen, listened to, walked with, and lived with the physical manifestation of Eternal Life!  It is this Eternal Life of which we speak to you."

1 John 1:3

Why do they speak of this?  Why are they making a public proclamation of these things?  Why would they want to talk about the physical manifestation of Eternal Life?  Why would they want to talk about their discovery of the Fountain of Youth, of everlasting life?  Why would they want to talk about the end of all death and dying?

So that you too may have fellowship with us.  So that you may join us in our fellowship.

What fellowship?  What does this fellowship look like?  It looks like fellowship with the Eternal Life!  Or, in clearer, more familiar terms, it is fellowship with God the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.  That is what this is all about.

This is about more than sins forgiven.  This is about more than justification and the avoidance of hell.  This is about more than eternal life in heaven when we die.  It is about fellowship with Almighty God NOW.  A real, personal, and corporate GOOD relationship with our Creator.

1 John 1:4

What could possibly produce more fulfilment, more satisfaction, more completion, more happiness, more purpose in life, more joy, than fellowship with God?  Fellowship with God and with His Son is quite literally as good as human existence can possibly ever be.  Fellowship with God and His Son is a preview of heaven itself.  And to think that He would have fellowship with us NOW!  Even while we are still in this life, still sinful, still so unlike Him.

Fellowship is very similar, nearly synonymous I think, with friendship.  If friendship with the world is enmity with God, what is friendship with God?  Fellowship!  To think that God and the Lord Jesus are now our personal Friends!  You can have a million friends on Facebook, but you should be willing to forsake them all for this Friendship.  What would a person give to be "friended" by God?  By Jesus Christ?

Friend - One who is attached to another by affection; one who entertains for another sentiments of esteem, respect and affection, which lead him to desire his company, and to seek to promote his happiness and prosperity.  (Webster's Dictionary of 1828)

Fellowship looks very much like friendship to me.  But John is talking here about a collective friendship with one another based upon our friendship with God the Father through our close relationship with Jesus Christ, His Son.  When we all experience that kind of friendship/fellowship, that is indeed a joyful experience!

1 John 1:5

"This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you" -- John began by saying he and others had heard and proclaimed the life, the eternal life.  They gave testimony to Eternal Life incarnate, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Now he goes further and says he and others also are proclaiming a message which they heard from Christ, or rather THE message.  Jesus, who was with God from before the beginning of the world, came into the world, chose these men to be His apostles, and gave them a specific message to proclaim.  What is that message?

"God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all".

This is another way of saying God is absolutely righteous, absolutely holy, absolutely without moral spot or blemish of any kind, absolutely perfect.

Light and darkness are common biblical metaphors for righteousness and sinfulness, holiness and wickedness or sinfulness.  Light and darkness are spiritual and moral opposites.

According to the book of Revelation, Heaven is characterized as a city of light but the light there is not from the sunor the moon, but from God Himself.  IT is also a place where there is no night.  That is what John is saying here.  God is light and it is impossible for ther to be any moral darkness in Him at all.

John does not say God is bright and shiny and glowing.  John does not say God is illuminated by light.  John says God IS light.  Just as Jesus is the eternal life incarnate, God the Father is the embodiment of all moral perfections.  There is no trace of imperfection of any kind in God.  That is THE message Jesus gave to the apostles to give to the world and to us.

But that is not the focus of this paragraph.  Because God is all light and no darkness, that sets the parameters for fellowship with Him.  If we would have fellowship with Him, we must have it with Him as He is. There must be compatibility with God.

1 John 1:6-10

Now we come to verse 6, and this is a passage that is easily misunderstood and misapplied.

It is true that we must walk in the light in order to have fellowship, in order to enjoy friendship with Light.  We must be brought out of our natural spiritual darkness and deadness, and be brought into the spiritual light and life of God if we are to have true fellowship with Him.

[13] He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, [14] in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV)

But that is not exactly the point John is making here in these verses (6-10).  The question we need to ask in order to understand the point of this passage is, Who is "we"?  Who is John talking about when he says,

If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar, and His word is not in us."

We, us, our, and ourselves refer to the same people John is referring to in the first four verses which we believe are probably himself and the other apostles.  It refers to those who have seen and heard and touched the Lord Jesus.  It is those who have heard His message and now proclaim it, inviting others to join them in the fellowship which they have with one another and with God the Father and with Jesus Christ.

So why should anyone believe them?  Why is their testimony and their proclamation of these things reliable and trustworthy?  John says, "Look at us.  Look at our lives.  Listen to our words and determine for yourselves whether our testimony should be believed or not."

"If our lives do not reflect the godliness that is necessary for someone to have fellowship with God, then don't listen to us.  If we are walking in the darkness, then we do not have fellowship with light.  If we deny we are sinners, then we are liars and you should not listen to us.  If we say we have not sinned, we directly contradict what God has said about us all and therefore the message we give you is not a message from God.  If we do not walk the walk, then do not believe anything we say."

That's what John was saying of himself and the apostles.  And what was true for them at that time is true for us in this time.  If we do not live lives of godliness and holiness, if we love the world and the things of the world, if we make ourselves out to be righteous and holy in our own strength and not by means of the grace of God, If we do not have genuine fellowship with those who also believe these things, then our witness to the world, to our co-workers, to our family and friends, is not a credible witness.  Say whatever you want, but there is no reason for people to believe what you and I say if we do not have genuine fellowship with God, a fellowship which is characterized by, among other things, godliness.


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