1 John 1:1-4 September 18, 2016
Sermon Series on I John Sermon #1 “The Big Picture of the Good News of God’s Son”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
1Jn 1:1 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.
Remembering the Big Picture
It is easy for us to get so caught up in the details of our work that we lose sight of the big picture. Many of you perhaps have heard the story of a reporter who came across three stone masons who were chipping away chunks of stone from large granite blocks. The first mason seemed very unhappy with his job, and when the reported asked him what he was doing, he replied, “I’m hammering at this stupid rock, and I can’t wait till quitting time!” The reporter moved to the second mason, and asked him what he was doing. He answered, “I’m shaping this stone so that it can be used to make a wall. Its hard work, but it pays the bills.” The reporter went to the third mason, who was whistling a happy tune, and asked him the same question. He paused, and with a big smile on his face, told the reporter, “I am shaping building materials for a cathedral, for God’s glory!”
It can be easy to miss the big picture of the letter of 1 John, because the Apostle John doesn’t write in the same logical way that the Apostle Paul does, in Romans, for example.
And it’s easy for us to be so caught up in the busyness of life, with all its trials and challenges, that we forget the big picture of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about.
So it’s very helpful that the Apostle John, in these first four verses, gives us the big picture of God’s purpose, from eternity past to eternity future. Let’s look at God’s eternal purposes in Jesus Christ, as they unfold in history:
- The eternal pre-existence of God’s Son
“That which was from the beginning” (v. 1) What beginning is John referring to? I believe John has two key Scriptures in view:
The first is the opening verse of the Bible, in Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
The second passage is the one that John Himself penned for the opening of His gospel account in John 1:1-2 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God is the beginning.”
So John means the beginning of all things; the ultimate beginning before time and space existed. The Eternal Son of God enjoyed fellowship with the Father before the creation of the universe and before He appeared on earth as a man. Jesus Christ, the focus of this epistle, was eternally existent as the Son of God. He is Alpha and omega! Before Abraham was, Jesus said “I am!” He is the One who created time, space, matter, and humanity, and therefore He rules over all!
Our faith in Him and our assurance of salvation are rooted in the wonderful truth that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was eternally from the beginning, and Lord over all.
That’s how deep our spiritual roots go back! We were chosen in Christ from eternity past.
2. The historical revelation of God’s Son.
2 “The life appeared” (NIV)/ “The life was made manifest.” (ESV) v. 2 [John 1:14]
What an amazing turnabout: the Eternal entered time, and He appeared to human beings. The Word became flesh and therefore presented Himself to His creatures. This manifestation did not happen in merely a dream or a vision, as other religious figures supposedly appeared. No. God’s Son was perceived and recorded by three senses: hearing, sight, and touch: “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched.”
Now think about that. If the people of Jesus’ day would have just heard His voice, that would have been impressive, right? But to have heard the Son of God was not enough, for people had heard God’s voice in the OT. Now, to have seen the son of God was even more compelling, though some prophets in the OT also had visions of the pre-incarnate Son of God, or as He was called, the “Angel of the Lord.” But… to have touched the Eternal Son of God, well, that was something else! This was conclusive proof that indeed, the Eternal Son of God did become flesh, and really did live among us!
Let me illustrate. Suppose you are blindfolded, and then another person, a dear friend who you haven’t seen for 20-30 years, comes into the room. First you can only hear their voice, and you wonder if it’s that person. Then your blindfold comes off and you see your friend, and now you are almost convinced of their identity. But then finally you go to your friend and you touch and hug the person. What happens at that point? You are not only certain of who they are; you are full of joy!
To touch means to handle, to examine closely. Think of Thomas, in John 20, touching Jesus’ hands and side, and being convinced that indeed, this was the risen Jesus!
Do you see how this historical and tangible manifestation of God the Son is at the core of what we believe? And how different it is than what Mohammad claimed he saw in a vision, or what Joseph Smith claimed he saw?
One more thing. Although this “touching” of the Son of God is the climax of this sentence in v. 2, the actual emphasis is on the “seeing” Jesus, as it is repeated four times in vv. 1-3. Can you think of why that is true? Probably because your sight qualifies you to be a witness, to testify. It may be that John is particularly referring to the times when the apostles saw Jesus after His resurrection [Lk. 24:39; John 20:26-29]. It also has reference to John 1:14 “We beheld His glory…” That is, the apostles not only saw Jesus, but they were eyewitnesses to His miracles, to His transcendent glory, and to his death and resurrection! That is why even when Peter and John were threatened for proclaiming the Gospel, they answered in Acts 4:20 “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” That leads to our third point:
3. The apostolic proclamation of God’s Son.
“The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life” (v. 2) “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard” (v. 3)
The historical revelation of God’s Son appearing in time and space was given to the few apostles for the sake of the many. They were charged with declaring Him and the Gospel message to the world. John writes that the manifestation given “to us” (v. 2) became a proclamation declared “to you” (v. 3).
Note that this charge involved both a testimony (2) and a proclamation (2, 3). Both words imply an authority, but of differing kinds.
A testimony has the authority of an eyewitness; one must be an eyewitness before he is competent to bear witness. (Cp. Luke 24:48 “You are witnesses of these things” and Acts 1:8 “You shall be my witnesses”) True witnesses speak of what they have personally seen and heard; they do not speak of second-hand information.
But a proclamation indicates the authority of one who has received a commission. It speaks of a higher authority who has given you the charge to speak and herald a message for them. This is what Jesus gave His apostles in Luke 9:2 and what Paul knew he was charged with, in Acts 28:31, namely, to proclaim the Kingdom of God… and they did so with authority.
Think about what that means for the apostles and for us today:
In order to testify, the apostles must have seen and heard Christ for themselves (eyewitnesses);
In order to proclaim, they must have received a commission from Christ Himself (apostles).
And these two aspects, of being eyewitness testifiers and apostolic proclaimers of the Lord Jesus Christ, are what drives the writing of the New Testament. The 27 books of the New Testament are the written record of the eyewitness accounts and the divinely charged proclamation of the apostles concerning Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God who became a man, to die and be raised, for our salvation, and for God’s glory! Think about the implications of this for or assurance of salvation, and for the boldness we should have in telling others about the Lord!
4. Our joyous fellowship with God, His Son, and one another.
“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.” (vv. 3-4)
The proclamation of the apostolic message about Jesus Christ was not an end in itself. No. Its greater purpose was fellowship and joy, both horizontal and vertical; with one another, as fellow believers in Christ, and with God the Father and with God the Son.
As we know from the Westminster Confession of Faith, our chief purpose in life is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, or as John Piper has tweaked it, “The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.”
Do you see the big picture of God’s purpose in Jesus Christ?
The eternal Son of God…
Appears as a man on earth…
The apostles are eyewitnesses to His life, death, and resurrection…
They are commissioned by Christ to proclaim the Good News about Him…
So that we might have joyous fellowship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… and with one another in the body of Christ…..
For all eternity!
Therefore the purpose God’s son becoming a man was not just for the proclamation of the gospel; it was not merely the saving of souls. No. More than that, it was so that you and I would enjoy complete and total fellowship with one another, and also with God Himself!
In other words, the purpose of our gospel proclamation, the purpose of you and I telling others about Jesus, is so that people would be reconciled to God in Christ;
That we would enjoy eternal life with God;
That we would have camaraderie and fellowship with all of God’s saints; and
That we would have complete and perfect joy in Christ, all to His glory!
In this sense, the proclamation of God’s Son leads to an eternal fellowship with God and with one another that is like a great, endless party, full of joy and love
Or as C. S. Lewis put it: “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become the sons of God.”