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Preaching - 1 John 1.1-4 - Preaching Notes

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1 John 1:1-4

Ø Many people think of Christianity as the Historic Profession of Belief in Jesus Christ

·        That is to say – it is the historic movement – or religion – that has unified around some common beliefs about Jesus

-       But rather than speaking of Christianity as the Historic Profession of faith in Jesus – it would be better to speak of it as the Profession of the Historic Jesus

·        That may not sound like much of a difference to you – but in reality – there is a huge difference between those two perspectives

-       Because history has proven that many, many people are willing to profess belief in Jesus – as long as they are able to redefine Him however they wish

·        And so you have cults – through the years – who have wanted to be regarded as essentially Christian

-       simply because they profess a belief in Jesus

-       yet it is a Jesus of their own making

-       you have – of course – Islam that makes some profession of faith in a Jesus of their own definition

Ø And back in the third century of the church – you had the heresy of Gnosticism – which professed a faith in Jesus…

·        but it was a Jesus defined by their Gnostic assumptions

-       which first of all meant that Jesus could not have had a physical body

·        In many cases – theirs was a phantom Jesus – a mere vision or spirit – who appeared before people – as though he walked on the earth – but in reality it was only an appearance

Ø For Gnostics – physical and material things were inherently evil – so for Jesus to be God and also to have a human body was impossible

·        They professed faith in Jesus but it was a Jesus of their own making

Ø And there have been those through history who profess faith in what you might call a “secular” Jesus

·        That is a Jesus who has been stripped of what they think are all the “myths” and “legends” surrounding Him

-       particularly myths related to Him having miraculous powers – or rising from the grave

-       their Jesus is the embodiment of a sort of “warrior” for some social or political cause

§  or a teacher of moral principles alone

·        And so they claim a belief in Jesus – and they make a claim to being a part of historic Christianity

Ø We might add a group here – whose claim of faith in Jesus is more mystical than anything else

·        For them – their faith in Jesus is little more than a preoccupation with their subjective experiences

-       The Jesus they worship is not so much the one who is revealed on the pages of Scripture as it is the one who conforms to their personal desires

-       He is little more than a divine “good luck charm” – or “magic spell”

Ø Against all these claims of faith in Jesus of some sort – is the profession of faith in the Historic Jesus

·        The Jesus revealed in the flesh – validated by miracles – verifies by the testimony of multiple witnesses

Ø This is the Jesus that John is concerned with in the book of 1st John

·        and his concern is that this is the Jesus we profess

-       His great burden – as he writes this book – is to deal with those who have begun to profess a different kind of Jesus than the one declared by the apostles – in their NT writings

-       And John’s concern is for those who have fallen prey to false notions of Jesus

§  He wants to call them back from chasing whatever experiences they may be chasing

§  and to call them to a clear profession of the true Jesus – because it is only through that clear profession of faith in the right Jesus that people can truly experience the salvation and spiritual blessings He brings

Ø Now we will see this concern of John right from the beginning of the book of 1st John – in the first 4 verses

·        as John opens up this letter – not with the standard greetings that you find in most other NT letters

-       but with a straight-forward declaration of the Christ whom he and the other apostles had declared to the world

·        If you ever want to know the main point of a passage of Scripture – you normally look for the main verb

-       And in the opening verses of 1 John – the main verb is found in (v. 3) – “we proclaim” to you

§  Everything else in these opening verses sort of modifies that statement

·        This – then – is a statement about what the apostles proclaim

-       This is a definition of their proclamation

§  A definition of their message

§  A clarification statement of their gospel

Ø As I said – John bypasses the standard greeting that you will find in all other NT letters

·        even the greetings found in John’s other letters

-       so that he can go directly into this definition of the gospel

·        And his urgency here would seem out of place to people who think the gospel – and the message of Christ – doesn’t need that attention given to its definition

-       They are comfortable with what I call “ball park” theology

§  That is – “as long as you are ‘in the ball park’ somewhere – as long as you believe something about Jesus – it doesn’t matter whether your definition is precise or not

·        Or John’s urgency here wouldn’t make sense to people who think that you can spend too much time examining the gospel

-       I mean – didn’t John write a whole gospel account and record of Jesus’ life to clarify the gospel about Jesus

§  And it doesn’t make sense to them that John would then write yet another book to clarify this message

§  To them – perhaps the gospel has become mundane – or less than central

Ø But to John – it was a matter of continual urgency

·        And it demanded continual attention…

-       not only so that it can be defended

-       and not only that it might be preached

-       but so that – by it – Christ can be worshipped and adored

Ø So – with this urgency – John opens this letter with Four Fundamental Realities              . that Define the Apostolic Gospel

·        The Eternal Habitation of Christ

·        His Historic Manifestation

·        The Apostolic Proclamation

·        The Joyous Reconciliation

The first of these is…

1.     The Eternal Habitation of Christ

Ø John begins this book – in a very similar way to how he began his gospel

·        He speaks of “that which was from the beginning”

-       And because John doesn’t use the personal pronoun “he”

§  Some people think he is talking about the “gospel” that was from the beginning

§  Or the gospel that was first preached by the apostles

Ø But we shouldn’t stumble over the fact that John didn’t use the personal pronoun “He”

·        Its obvious as you look at these opening verses – that he is talking about the Lord Jesus

-       He says at the end of verse one – that his subject is “the Word of Life”

-       And at the beginning of verse 2 – this “life was manifest, and we have seen it

-       This “life” that John is talking about – is the Lord Jesus Christ

§  He is the One who said in John 14 – “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”

Ø John opens his epistle – the same way he opened his gospel account – by establishing the eternal pre-existence of Jesus Christ

·        He is “from the beginning”

-       It is the same phrase he uses over in chapter 2:13, 14 to speak of believers who “know him who is from the beginning

·        John is talking about the beginning of all things

-       The beginning of the universe

-       The pre-existent one

·        And – as we said a few weeks ago – when we looked at the opening words of John’s gospel…

-       bound up with this idea of “pre-existence” is the idea of “self-existence”

-       that is – Christ did not derive His life from anyone else

-       he possessed it through all eternity

Ø Consequently – He can rightfully take upon himself the title “Lord of life”

·        He has life in Himself

-       He is one and the same with the “Living God”

-       And that is why John goes on to call Him the “Word of Life” here

·        Jesus Christ gives life – and He is able to give life – eternal life… because He is the source of life

-       Life doesn’t come from outside of Him

-       He is the Source of it

·        He is the eternal one

-       Who existed before all things

-       And gives life to all things

Ø John emphasizes this at the beginning of his gospel

·        He emphasizes it here at the beginning of His epistle

-       And he repeats the word “life” throughout these opening verses

§  (v. 1) – “Word of Life”

§  (v. 2) – “life…manifest” and “eternal life”

§  (2:25) – “This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life

§  (3:14) – “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren

§  (5:11-12) – “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life

Ø And in those two verses out of chapter 5 – you hear the real reason that John has placed so much emphasis on this truth

·        …why he has placed it right at the beginning of this book

-       Because eternal life is in the Son

-       The same self-existent life that is in the Father

·        And He who has the Son – has this life

Ø Right at the beginning of the gospel – John is establishing this fundamental truth

·        That Jesus doesn’t promise us life from some source outside of Himself

-       He is the source of life

-       He has life to Himself

§  He has always existed

§  And He always will

·        And because He has life in Himself – He has authority to give life

Ø And Jesus teaches us this truth about Himself over and over again in John’s gospel

·        He calls Himself the “Bread of Life”

-       The “Light of Life”

-       The “Water of Life”

-       Or the spring “Living Water” – that once you drink of Him – you will never thirst again

·        He – unlike any created being – has authority to offer life that never ends

-       Eternal life – because He, Himself is eternal

Ø Jesus wasn’t just the messenger of life

·        He was life

-       He was the “Way, the Truth, and the Life”

-       He was the manifestation of Life

-       He was life that could not be conquered by the death and the grave

·        And having conquered death for us – He has promised to give eternal life to all who believe in Him

Ø That is good news – because – as 1 John 3:14 – live in death

·        Because of our sin – we are born dead spiritually

-       We are dead to God

-       We are dead to His Law

-       We have no heart for Him – or for truth righteousness

·        And – also we have no power to give life to ourselves

-       We are born spiritually dead

-       And we are in bondage to physical death

§  And although some people may feel like they are the source of life unto themselves – they are deceived

§  Physical death is the one equalizer for all mankind

-       It proves our universal powerlessness

§  And it proves our universal need of a life-giver

§  A Source of Life – a Source of Eternal life

After announcing that Eternal Habitation – John points us to his…

2.     Historical Manifestation

Ø John tells us that this life which existed in eternity – stepped into time and space

·        And (v. 1) He became that “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands

-       This life existed with the Father in eternity past

§  As John says at end of (v. 2) – He “was with the Father and was made manifest to us

·        We couldn’t have known this life had he not deliberately revealed himself – and manifested Himself to us

-       He existed as eternal Spirit – with the Father in eternity past

-       Put John is telling us that he manifested Himself to us – in physical life

Ø And this manifestation is what has validating Him before the eyes of men – as the true giver of life

·        It is what has taken the message of life – and demonstrated the source of that message

-       And He did that by manifesting life – “physically”

-       He stepped into time and space – and into a physical body – to manifest the power of Life

Ø The writer of Hebrews points to this – as he speaks of Jesus taking on flesh and blood so that he could defeat death

·        Hebrews 2:10-17 – “it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering…. (v. 14) Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery

Ø In His power – Jesus had the ability to simply eradicate death

·        But that would have been a violation of His own righteous standards of justice

-       Because He had decreed His law – that the penalty for sin is death

·        So the only way for death to be abolished was for him to step into the physical world – and to face death personally

-       And by the power of His life to overcome it

Ø If Jesus had not done that – death would still reign

·        If Jesus’ life on the earth had been a mere vision – or spiritual manifestation – he could never have faced death

-       Jesus’ power of life would have been useless to us

·        Or – in another case – If His resurrection had been just a myth – then you and I would have a savior who Himself was defeated by death

-       And death would still reign

Ø So Jesus’ physical presence – and physical body – and physical resurrection – are vital to His work of salvation

·        And this is exactly what John refers to in these verses

-       He is writing against those who – obviously – were questioning the physical nature of Jesus’ body

·        And against their questions – John brings unmistakable testimony

-       He was real

§  And I heard Him

§  I saw Him

§  I touched Him

Ø This wasn’t just another message – or vision from God

·        This was God – the Word of Life – in the flesh

-       John Stott says – “To have heard was not enough; men ‘heard’ God’s voice in the Old Testament.  To have seen was more compelling.  But to have handled was the conclusive proof of material reality, that the Word was ‘made flesh, and dwelt among us’

Ø And this physical manifestation was unmistakable

·        There were literally thousands and thousands of witnesses who could confirm it

-       But especially for the apostles – and for John – this manifestation was unmistakable

§  They lived with Him

§  They ate with Him

§  The walked with Him

§  Watched Him suffer

§  John even leaned on His bosom at the last supper

Ø And as John had said (v. 2) – there are these sort of four ascending levels of validating interaction with the Lord that the disciples experienced – and to which they bore witness

·        They heard, saw, looked at, and touched

·        First – he “heard” – in the sense that he heard all the discourses – and all the sermons – and all the parables

-       He heard Jesus expound the OT Law

§  And he would have had the same reaction that all the other people had – they were amazed because Jesus taught as one having authority, not like the Scribes and Pharisees

-       So there as a distinct quality to His teaching

§  There was a piercing truth to His words

§  And John gives testimony to that

·        Secondly John also says we “we have seen with our eyes

-       And this word “horao” – by the way – speaks of the physical act of seeing

§  This isn’t the word you would use for seeing a vision

-       We have seen with our eyes – not with our minds

§  He saw Jesus physically

§  He saw Him reaching out to the leprous person – and completely healing His skin

§  He saw Him reaching out and touching the lame person – and him walking again

§  He saw Him taking the hand of a dead girl – and her rising from the dead

§  He saw him lift up a few loaves of bread and some fish – and powerfully multiply it to feed more than 5000 people

-       He saw all these things – along with all the apostles – and they give testimony to it

·        Thirdly – John goes further – to speak about what they “looked upon

-       And it sounds like he is just repeating himself

-       But really – this goes beyond just a physical sight

§  Theaomai

§  This really implies a careful study – a watching closely

§  And John is emphasizing that they scrutinized and watched carefully all that Jesus did

·        These are the testimonies – not of men who simply saw Jesus perform some mighty miracles in the spotlight

-       They lived with him day-in and day-out

Ø They watched Him every day – and observed not only is miraculous works

·        But over the course of three years – living with Him nearly every day – they observed His sinless character

-       They could give testimony to the perfection of His life

·        But then – finally – we “have touched with our hands

-       John says, “This is no apparition, this is no phantom – I held Him in my hands.”

§  And we know enough about John to know that John even leaned on His chest, didn't he?

-       He describes himself that way in his own gospel

§  He had three years to touch Jesus, to handle Him, to be near Him

·        And John is giving that testimony here – as did all the other apostles

-       And those close to the Lord

-       The Bible everywhere affirms what Paul wrote in Philippians 2:6-8 – “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross

Ø But even more powerful than the accounts of His physical birth and life – there was hundreds who witnessed His post-Resurrection body

·        Luke 24:39 – Jesus met the disciples and said to them “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have

-       His life was not just some spiritual appearance

-       And neither was His resurrection

·        1 Corinthians 15 tells us that more than 500 people witnessed His resurrected body

Ø So John is opening up this letter – and bypassing any greetings – to get right to the main point

·        A direct statement about the eternal pre-existence of Jesus

-       Followed by an equally clear statement about His manifestation in a physical body – to take on physical death for us

And he follows that up with a clear statement about

3.     The Apostolic Proclamation

Ø “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

·        John is just repeating all those truths now for the sake of clarity – and emphasis

-       But then he adds – that this was the message proclaimed – and given witness to by the apostles

·        There was no confusion in this message

Ø And so – the manifestation has become “proclamation”

·        And this became the response of the apostles

-       It became the responsibility of the apostles

·        Jesus – obviously – did not reveal Himself to all people as He did to the apostles – and those who lived at that time

-       And so – He inherently ordained that the ultimate way in which people come to know Him and this eternal life that He gives – is through the proclamation of His life

§  His message of life is to be proclaimed

·        He has not revealed Himself to you and I in flesh and blood

-       Even most of the people to whom John wrote would ever have seen Jesus in the flesh

§  they wouldn't be then witnesses of Christ

§  they wouldn't have heard and seen and looked upon and handled the Word of Life

·        But John is there to be the eyewitness to proclaim to them the truth – that the eternal life – which was with the Father was manifested on earth

-       Jesus manifested Himself – to multiple witnesses

-       He validated Himself – historically – if you will

-       And that testimony has now been passed down to us

Ø And people shouldn’t stumble over the fact that they are asked to believe in a savior they have never seen

·        Because saving faith – is really not an issue of seeing Jesus physically

-       You may remember there was even a time when Philip – who had seen all Jesus’ miracles and all His mighty power – said to Jesus “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?

·        Even seeing Jesus – Philip still wanted to see the Father

-       And Jesus basically said – you don’t need to see Him to believe

-       If You believe Me – you have seen the Father

·        And John would give us a very similar answer

-       God is revealing Himself to people still today

§  Not in His physical presence – but in the message

-       In the testimony of His apostles

-       In the proclamation that has come down to us through their word

Ø And Peter says to his readers (1 Peter 1:8-9) – “8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls

·        And this has been the testimony of millions down through the centuries

-       That even without seeing Christ physically – through the proclamation of His life – and His death and resurrection – to come to know Him – as though they had seen Him themselves

§  And they rejoice with joy inexpressible

Ø And this is exactly what John says he wants for his readers

Look with me back at John 1…

4.     The Joyous Reconciliation

Ø John says (v. 3) “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

·        You hear the purpose there – fellowship

-       And the result is “joy”

Ø This was the purpose of John’s proclamation

·        So that although you have never seen Jesus physically – you can still have fellowship with Him and with the Father

Ø “so that you may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ

·        This was the purpose of the message for John

-       It was fellowship

§  Fellowship with God

§  And fellowship with Jesus

·        That is what the apostolic message offered

Ø That is very different – by the way – from our modern day emphasis on “salvation”

·        John never uses that word here

-       He speaks rather of “fellowship” with God

·        The “Salvation” that is offered – so many times today – is interpreted in a very individualistic way

-       It emphasizes that very individual benefit

§  And it gives emphasis to the way that many people view their spiritual life

-       It is very self-focused

-       It is very individualistic

·        But that was not John’s message

-       It was about fellowship – which is very mutual

§  It implies relationship

§  It was about a new relationship and interaction with God

-       This is a message of RECONCILIATION

-       Because our sin has separated us

-       And this was the apostolic message

§  And so Paul writes (1 Cor. 1:9) – “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord

Ø This is what the message of the apostles was

·        It was a call to fellowship with God

-       Which – of course – came with a clear cut call to leaving behind a love of sin

-       Because you cannot fellowship with God – and fellowship with darkness

§  And that will become a dominant theme of John’s book

·        This fellowship is exactly what Jesus offered

-       John 17:3 – “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent

Ø So this message – for John – was not just about getting eternal salvation

·        This was about fellowship

-       This was about “knowing God”

Ø And plainly speaking – you cannot know God – unless you are given a new nature

·        The Bible says we are made partakers of the “divine nature”

-       Or as Jesus says – you must be born again

Ø So John is saying – we proclaimed this message to you – so that you too could “know Christ”

·        So that you too could be born again – and enter into fellowship with Him

·        And – of course – if the true purpose is not just individual salvation – but true fellowship…

-       …then you will know if you have this fellowship by whether or not you have fellowship with others who fellowship with God

§  And that – too – will become a dominant test in this book

Ø John says he proclaims all this – so that you might have fellowship – and through that fellowship – so that your joy would be “complete”

·        He actually says “our” joy

-       But that is just a reflection of the fellowship he hopes for

§  This isn’t just some joy for you to experience

§  This isn’t something just for John

§  This is something believers experience together

·        This joy is the result of a life that is in fellowship with God

-       There is no other way to have the kind of joy that John speaks of

-       People today offer joy through Christianity

§  But it is an empty promise – because they never speak of fellowship

§  Or if they speak of fellowship – or friendship – or relationship with God – they never speak of the need of being born again – (of having a new nature)

-       And so their promises of joy are empty promises

·        But John’s message was a message that resulted in joy

Ø The certainty of eternal life – because of the certainty of Jesus’ life

·        The certainty of fellowship with God – because of the certainty of Jesus’ life

-       And the joy that constantly flows from that certainty

§  That is the apostolic message

§  It is the message that John never tired of defending

-       And he never tired of telling it

-       Hearing it

-       Because it was the source of His greatest joy

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