The following comes from a sermon handout distributed the morning the sermon was preached.
John’s Approach to the this Epistle
John includes three main features throughout this letter (and we see all three in his 1 John 1:1-4). First he proclaims truth. Next he builds on that truth with application. And he does it all in an ever-present environment of pastoral concern.
Truth is the teaching that the Apostles received from Jesus, that they were reminded of by the Holy Spirit, and that they passed on to the Church. It is all based on the life and work of Jesus.
Application is the change that will occur in any true believer based on the truth. Some of the application John insists on includes walking in light (1 John 1:6), a proper response to sin (1:9), obedience to God (2:3), not loving the world (2:15), practicing righteousness (3:7), and loving one another (4:7-8).
John’s pastoral concern drives his message. He is concerned that his readers believe what is true and that they live righteous lives, but beyond that he is concerned for their joy, peace, contentedness, and much more. But primarily – in this epistle – he is concerned for their confidence. He wants them to be assured that they have eternal life (5:13), and he wants them to be confident in every aspect of their faith.
1 John 1:1-3 in a More Accessible Syntax
The first long sentence in 1 John can be difficult to understand because of the way John wrote it. He used an unusual syntax. That means he arranged his words and phrases in a different order than we would expect. He did it in order to achieve a certain effect, but it makes it difficult to figure out what he’s trying to say – especially when the sentence goes on for three verses (98 words in the English Standard Translation)!
To help make these verses more accessible, I’ve put John’s words into a more standard syntax. I haven’t added any words, although I’ve reused the words we proclaim that several time to make clear all of the things that John says they proclaim. I hope this makes the opening verses easier to understand.
We proclaim that which was from the beginning; we proclaim that which we have heard; we proclaim that which we have seen with our eyes; we proclaim that which we looked upon and have touched with our hands; we proclaim concerning the word of life; we proclaim that the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life; we proclaim that which was with the Father and was made manifest to us; we proclaim that which we have seen and heard; we proclaim 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 1:1-3
The Truth of Jesus Christ – the Foundation for Everything
In 1 John 1:1, as John proclaims “concerning the word of life,” who is Jesus Christ (John 1:14) the Truth (John 14:6), he described Him in five ways. Each of these descriptions is supported elsewhere in John’s writings as well (listed following the description):
- That which was from the beginning (John 1:1)
- That which we have heard (1 John 1:5)
- That which we have seen with our eyes (John 19:35)
- That which we have looked upon (or beheld) (John 1:14, 18)
- That which we have touched with our hands (John 20:27)
John makes the case emphatically that it is not some abstract truth he and the other Apostles proclaim. This is real truth embodied in the real person of Jesus Christ. He insists that this same Jesus is the eternal God who was made manifest (revealed Himself) to them. Their message comes from Him. They were eye witnesses to everything He did. And more than that, they saw that He was God.
The Word of Life
the Person of Jesus Christ,
His Life and His Work,
Is the only basis for
That is why John is so emphatic about Jesus.
Opposition to the Truth
False teachers had arisen in the churches to whom John wrote. Many of them denied the certain truths about Jesus, and all of them sought to deemphasize the focus on Jesus and His work. John mentions some of them.
Some believed and taught various things about Jesus, but they denied that He was the Christ when He was born. Some taught that He became Christ at some that the Spirit of Christ descended upon Him at His baptism. John renounces such teaching as of the antichrist in 1 John 4:2-3.
Others rejected the necessity of Jesus’ death in order for sins to be forgiven. They instead focused on Jesus’ teaching and often specifically on the baptism that He commanded. John affirmed the need for baptism, but insisted that we need His blood (His atoning sacrifice on the cross) as well (1 John 5:6).