1 John 1:1-5 “That which was from the beginning
(A portion of a bible study from 1 John)
1 John 1:1-5 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life-- 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us-- 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. 5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”
There are several beginnings mentioned in the Bible- In the gospel of John he opens it with explaining the deity of the Son – that He pre-existed; the word that was with God became flesh. It uses the same outline we see in Genesis, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. John is using the pattern of the Genesis account, as he explains creation. God in the beginning - his glory, is the light coming into the world of darkness. John does the same in the Book of Revelation, showing what was lost in the fall is being restored. So he is replaying the events of Genesis- Ex: Gen. 1:1, God created the heavens and the earth Revelation 21:1 God creates New Heaven and new Earth. Gen.1:10, God created the seas Rev. 21:1: There are no more seas. Gen.1:5, darkness called night. Rev. 21:25, there is no more night. Gen.1:16, sun and moon are created. Rev. 21:23, no need for the sun and moon God reverses the fall of man that happened in Genesis.
The son is called the word in Jn.1:1, John says in the beginning was the word– meaning he did not “come into existence” but was existing already from the beginning- when creation commenced. John begins with the Sons deity. Wherever you find the beginning, Christ will already be there. The acts of creation are attributed to him, “all things were made by him.” In a certain way the term “The Word” is used in a metaphorical sense, accomplishing God’s will, in much the same way as the phrase the “arm of the Lord,” (indicative of the messiah) brings salvation.
The common term in the Old Testament Hebrew for the “word” is dabar, used by the Rabbis to mean divine wisdom which was sometimes considered distinct from God. The Aramaic term for “the word” was Memra, They considered the Memra the agent of creation and also the means of salvation.
The rabbis considered the word as God personally revealing Himself, as the agent of creation or the means of salvation, one who communicates to man both the mind and will of God. The Rabbis said that God always revealed Himself to the prophets by the word.
The word was also a Theophany in the Old Testament (the means by which the invisible God became visible) such as The Angel (Messenger) of The Lord. By calling Jesus the Word, it meant He embodied the full revelation of God to man, all that was spoken and written (the fullness of God in bodily form).
John wrote in Greek but used a Hebraic meaning, the word expresses the personification of the wisdom of God. The word is also called “the word of this salvation” (Acts 13:26); “word of His grace” (Acts 20:32); The word is called “truth” (James 1:18) Christ is called the word and the truth. The “Word” is title of a person who John says is God.
Another beginning occurred when Christ came into the world. When the Son of God, becomes the Son of man. In other words, when deity became flesh and was born at Bethlehem.
Here, in 1 John 1 he opens up his teaching 1:1 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life”
They had actually handled, touched, and seen with their eyes-- Jesus of Nazareth, who is truly God come to in the flesh, (refuting the Gnostic idea that God could not take on a human body).
He goes on in v.2 calling Jesus the word of life – this eternal life was made flesh. Only of God can it be said that He was from the beginning having within Himself eternal life.
There is a difference in John’s gospel and his epistle using this phrase - beginning. By the words “in the beginning was the Word.” John looks at the initial point of creation, describing the Son as already in existence when creation began. The phrase “from the beginning,” John looks back to the initial point of time, and describes the beginning – when they were introduced to Jesus at the start of His ministry. [that which we have heard] John includes himself with the other disciples who were with the Saviour through the whole of his ministry. Luke recorded (Lk.1:2) what they had seen and heard as eyewitnesses.
They have seen with eyes- Jesus was not a spirit, an optical illusion as claimed by the Docetists who were a certain group of the Gnostics, Jesus had an actual human body. He appeared on earth and could be seen like anyone else, He was physical. His works and words indicated his character and origin, they proved he was indeed God manifested in the flesh and the apostles recorded what they had seen (1 Pt.1:8-12). Jn.20:29 Thomas believed because he had seen; WE -- by faith believe the testimonies of what they have seen and heard, and enter in together with them having the same faith that was once for all delivered to all the saints.
“Which we have heard- day in and day out they heard how He spoke, what He spoke and were deeply moved. Luke 4:32 “and they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.” He cast out demons and healed by His word.
Mark 1:22 ‘they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes”
Jesus explained John 12:49-50 “For I have not spoken on My own authority ; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life.”
Jesus as a man submitted himself to the Father’s authority being a servant in his humanity. So he did not use any independent power or authority that he had but waited to be instructed by the Father.
“We have seen with our eyes- and adds- [Which we have looked upon] this is a different wording than just seeing-– The Greek word is theaomai where we get the word theater, it means to gaze upon intently, to study intensely, contemplatively. As in Jn.1:14 and we beheld his glory. They were amazed at the things he did.
“Our hands have handled- He appeared on earth; He could be heard, seen and touched like anyone else. He was real, he was flesh, they came to know Jesus as they traveled with him, they were able to touch him. John is presenting the evidence that refutes Gnosticism. Jesus was a man subjected to the sense of touch- being fully human.
Handled is the same word used by Christ in one of his post-resurrection appearances (Luke 24:39: John 20:25-27) also refuting that he was a spirit. However, John does not mention the Resurrection in his epistles he assumes the knowledge of certain historic facts on the part of his readers are already known by the gospels and other letters that have circulated for years In the church.
v.3 What we have seen and heard is said three times. They are bearing witness by evidence of their testimony, making the point that He was truly God incarnate. In Acts 4 when the disciples were arrested and commanded to stop speaking and teaching in Jesus’ name. Both Peter and John answered them, for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard” (v.20). We can be just as bold and assured by faith in the word.
The purpose is that we can enter into faith and have fellowship with all those who know the Father and His Son, Jesus. John is bringing us into the same fellowship He himself had. We do not know him in the flesh as they did but we can know him the same way by the Spirit. This was the primary aim of John's gospel that he first wrote; to proclaim Christ as deity and promote a relationship to him by believing in who he is, and by following Him we would have the same fullness of Joy. Psalms 16:11 “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy.”
John now tells us what is the word they are spreading to all v.5-6 this is the message they heard from Him: - God is light having no darkness at all. (John uses the word light 24 times in his writings). He is giving a dichotomy of light vs. darkness.
LIGHT- in Scripture is a symbol for purity, perfection, and goodness of the divine nature- and most importantly- TRUTH.
DARKNESS- implies all imperfection, and principally ignorance, sinfulness, misery, a LIE.
Two opposites that cannot fully exist in the same place at the same time. Physically speaking, darkness is the absence of light, that is what makes darkness. Spiritually speaking you cannot have darkness where there is light, it removes it.
This word is the Son – He is “the Word of life,” meaning the Word in which eternal life resided, the source and fountain of life. At one point in Jesus ministry they were leaving because some of his sayings were hard and the people could not understand them, so he asked the disciples if they too were going to leave- Peter responded where else can we go, only you have the words of eternal life.
He being the word is eternal life. Life- in Greek is the word zoe, “of life,” when accompanying a subject it is often used to characterize the word which accompanies it. For Ex: we have the “crown of life” (Rev 2:10); “water of life” (Rev 21:6); “book of life” (Rev 3:5); “bread of life” (John 6:35); The Word Himself is the Life.
The Word in John 1:1, Jn.1:2 “He was in the beginning with God, In him was life... From this we see this life is synonymous with a person. And V:4 both are joined “In him was life, and that life was the light of men -- His life is the source, He is the living word.
1 Tim.3:16 it says it was “God was manifested in the flesh,” (appeared in). 1 Jn.1:2 this eternal life that was with the Father was manifested to us - from eternity, before anything was made. The eternal life which is God’s nature became known to man is proclaimed by the apostles.
1 John 3:8, it specifically says “the Son of God was manifested.” He assumed mortality, would put on flesh and blood - the human nature. How incredible that creator of all things, the fountain of all life was made flesh, became one of his own creatures and dwelt among us and conversed with us and then died for us so we can have a relationship with God.
1 Jn.4:2; and 2 Jn. 7 it says He “came in the flesh.” Refuting the Gnostics that claimed he was only spirit. Jn.1:14: “The word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as the only begotten of the Father.” Here Jesus’ glory is that of the Father. It is the glory he shared with him before anything was made according to Jn.17:5.
To summarize the epistle, John’s focus on who Jesus is-- John tells us in his epistle he is the V.1-Word of life—2.-the life was manifested” and that v. 5.“God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” John is reiterating what he has written in his Gospel 1:4-5 “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
Now I would like us to look at the very best example in the New Testament that Jesus gave of him being the life and light that John is writing us about. This particular event is recorded in all three synoptic gospel accounts. John will later write about Jesus’ glory, not from an earthly perspective but an eternal one as he receives the Revelation when he is exiled on the Isle of Patmos and sees a vision of the glorified Christ in heaven.
6 days prior to this event all three gospels record Jesus saying to them, they would see the Son of man coming into his kingdom, or see the kingdom of God (Mk.9:1; Lk.9:27; Mt.16:28). Marks account adds, “present with power” (this power is the Greek word Dunamis - meaning, miracle power that was used for signs to validate who Jesus was). “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power” (Mark 9:1-10).
The Bible mentions 3 specific groups Jesus was training in his ministry, the 70, the 12 that were specifically picked to be apostles, and out of the 12 three became his closest learners and friends.
Luke 9 tells us they went up the Mountain to pray which he and his disciples frequently would do. Jesus took his three closest disciples with him to reveal to them the glory of God that he hid within himself - Peter, James and John. It was Peter who had the revelation of him being the Son of God. Now Jesus will show him what that means.
Mt. 17:1-9: “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. “ While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”
In 2 Pt. 1:16-18 Peter describes this event they witnessed on the mountain, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty (glory). For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with him on the Holy mountain.”
Whenever God has His glory appear on earth like this it becomes holy ground as it did with Moses at the burning bush. What we learn from this is that the testimony of the Father is toward His Son - our mediator. When God speaks audibly from Heaven it is called Bat-Kol in Hebrew.
The Father bore witness all through Jesus’ ministry showing that he was approved by Him and is who He said He is by both his words and actions. This is not the first time he spoke like this in the New Testament, he bore witness audibly- once to Israel at his baptism. This other time is to his closest disciples with 2 Old Testament prophets with him - which is significant.
In Hebrew the visible presence of the Lord is called the Kvod adonai, Kvod in Hebrew means Glory and weight, adonai is another word for Lord. It describes a special visible appearing of God on earth. In the Old Testament many saw what is called the shekinah glory as the physical manifestation of the presence of God in a specific location.
The Old Testament has numerous theophanies- appearances of God that were accompanied by His glory. This glory was especially manifested in the tabernacle over the arks mercy seat once a year when the high priest went behind the veil, on the Day of Atonement. When Moses received the law he came down off Mount Sinai bathed in his glory. The glory of God's presence was reflected in His face, like the moon reflects the suns light at night, it was so bright that he needed to wear a veil. Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 3 this glory represented the law but would eventually fade away. He explains that the glory associated with Christ in the new covenant is even greater. 2 Cor. 3:9-10 “For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels.”
As God revealed his glory to Moses on Mt. Sinai, He revealed it through his Son to his three closest disciples Peter, James and John with Moses also being there.
Each one of these accounts of Jesus’ transfiguration have different details to what transpired as He revealed himself to his disciples in a way that they never knew before. This event occurs sometime after the half point of his ministry.