1 John 1:1-4, “1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also 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. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” [1]

Verse 1

John, the beloved Apostle, opens this magnificent letter, not with flowery rhetoric nor mere human speculations about who God is, what he might be like, nor who we might be in relation to this God. Rather, he opens by pointing out that this gospel he proclaims, this Jesus he follows, this church that is gathering to read the letter all has their origins in history. He speaks of having physically heard, seen, and touched this “word of life.”

The fact that our faith is one that is grounded in history offers me great comfort and clarity time and again because given our cultural climate, problems of theodicy, and in a world filled with real suffering, I often wonder if God is real and what he is like. Left to my own speculation, I would often conclude that God does not exist and human existence is, in the end, meaningless. Yet, my faith is grounded not in speculation but in revelation. The life, death, and resurrection was witnessed by John, and the other Apostles (and many more!) and the fact that he opens this letter by pointing out the physicality of Jesus grounds me when I’m tempted to throw in the towel.

Verse 2

The term “eternal life” is about as radical as it gets. Here we are confronted with our temporariness and the finitude of everything and everyone around us every single day. “Nothing lasts forever,” they say. And it seems that they’re right. Food expires on the shelf. Money runs out. Our physical bodies eventually return to the earth. Then John emphasizes eternal life by, in, and through the Lord Jesus. What a concept! And to not only embrace the fact that we live forever after we die but for eternal life to be eternal, that would indicate that it is to swallow up the present moment! To sit still, breathe in deep, and ask the Holy Spirit to remind you today of the fact that you’re eternally alive right this moment, would be the best thing for your soul today.

Verse 3

John and the company that he was writing with emphasized that this news is something to be “proclaimed.” In short, this message of eternal life is something that can only be shown through good works, which demonstrate the reality of saving faith. The gospel is a message that is to be spoken, proclaimed, announced, that God sent his Son into the world to save sinners out of incomprehensible love! The gospel is to be proclaimed not only from pulpits but in coffee shops, pubs, in backyards, and ball fields. Today, ask God to give you the boldness to proclaim this good news.

Verse 4

Joy accompanies those who share the good news. Notice that John is talking specifically to Christians about eternal life. Why is this important? Don’t Christians already believe in eternal life through Jesus? Why write this letter? Because there’s a real joy that is shared among the children of God as we look deeper and deeper into this thing called “grace.” Today, go out of your way to encourage a brother or sister in Christ in the good news of the gospel; that God loves us, God has sent Christ in our place, the Holy Spirit indwells us, and eternal life is now ours, both in the here and now as well as the there and then.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 1:1–4). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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