First John, chapter 1, part 2
Dec 30, 2017
In the introduction to John’s first letter, he says in 1 John 1:1, “what we have seen [horao, “to stare”] with our eyes,” using the word horao, “to stare.” He follows up by saying also, “what we have looked at [thaomai, “to examine closely”].” John was emphasizing the fact that he was truly an eyewitness of Jesus Christ, not merely seeing a glimpse of Him in a crowd. He had spent much time with Jesus, whereas Simon Magus, the originator of Gnosticism, had spent no time at all with Him. Hence, John is a credible witness, rather than Simon Magus.
There is another angle to this as well. John’s face-to-face examination of Jesus had changed his life in the manner in which Paul spoke in 2 Corinthians 3:18,
18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding [katoptrezo, “reflecting”] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
In other words, we are transformed into the image of Christ by face-to-face encounters with Him, so that we ultimately become a mirror image of Him, reflecting His glory. Later, in 1 John 4:12, the apostle defines the glory of God in terms of manifesting Love, which is the character of God manifested in Jesus Christ. Simon Magus had never had this experience. He had stared too long at the Greek philosophers and Persian dualists and thus based his ideas on the wisdom of this world and not upon the wisdom of God.
The wording in 1 John 1:1 suggests that to be a genuine witness of truth, one must not only examine Jesus closely, but in addition to this, others must see evidence of His glory reflecting in the witness. If the witness remains unchanged, it is not likely that he has had a genuine encounter with Jesus, nor should anyone give credibility to his testimony.
The Basis of Fellowship
Those who reflect the glory of Jesus have something in common, and this is evidence that such people are part of the same fellowship. True fellowship is not based upon culture, ethnicity, or a common membership in a religious organization. It is easy to become a member of something or to subject one’s self to a single religious leader. But John says nothing of being changed by closely examining a religious leader (such as himself). John was not the Christ, but only a witness of Christ. He pointed, not to himself, but to Jesus, even as did John the Baptist before him (John 1:20, 29, 30, 34).
The Greek word koinonia is translated “fellowship.” The word has to do with communication, community, and communion. Some denominations today restrict communion to members of their religious organization, which they call the church. By excluding genuine believers who have had face-to-face encounters with Jesus, they show that they base their fellowship on membership and submission to denominational leaders, rather than on their relationship to Jesus Christ Himself.
Essentially, they do not understand the meaning of the word church, for they equate it with an earthly organization rather than “to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23). Further, the basis of fellowship has shifted from grace through faith in Christ to the belief in long creeds that require far more than simple faith.
John, however, sets forth the truth about fellowship as follows:
1. The Conditions of Fellowship (1 John 1)
2. The Conduct of Fellowship (1 John 2)
3. The Characteristics of Fellowship (1 John 3)
4. Cautions about Fellowship (1 John 4)
5. The Cause of Fellowship (1 John 5)
Seven Reasons for John’s Letter
The first stated reason for John’s letter is given in 1 John 1:4, which says,
4 And these things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
As we will see later, John’s second reason for writing this letter is found in 1 John 2:1,
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin…
A third reason is found in 1 John 2:12,
12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.
A fourth reason is found in the next verse, 1 John 2:13,
13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.
A fifth reason is found in 1 John 2:21, where we learn of John’s concern about deceivers.
21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
The sixth reason is similar, and it is found in 1 John 2:26,
26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.
The seventh and final reason for John’s letter is found in 1 John 5:13,
13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.
These seven may be arranged according to a Hebrew chiasm, or parallelism:
A That our joy may be made complete
B That you may not sin
C Because your sins are forgiven
D Because you know Him
C Because you know the truth
B To counter deceivers
A That you may know that you have eternal life
In such Hebrew chiasms, A and A are parallels, B and B, C and C. The middle feature (in this case, D) is the climax, the most important point being made.
Hence, we see the connection between our return to complete joy (A) and the knowledge that we have eternal life (A). It is impossible to have such joy without the assurance that we have eternal life. When religious leaders make man’s will (“works”) the basis of eternal life, rather than God’s will (“grace”), it is not possible to have that assurance, because all of man’s works fall short of the glory of God.
Likewise, there is a connection between not sinning (B) and not being deceived (B). Deception, especially self-deception, causes men to sin. This is about antinomianism, lawlessness, which many in the church teach today.
There is also a connection between having our sins forgiven (C) and knowing the truth about the blood of Jesus (C). The blood of Jesus alone cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
All of these distinct purposes reach their culmination in knowing Him (D), which is the central thought that John presents to us.
This is part 2 of a series titled "Studies in First John." To view all parts, click the link below.