First John, chapter 1, part 1
Dec 29, 2017
John begins his first letter in 1 John 1:1-3 this way:
1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
John made it clear from the start that he was speaking of things as a material witness in a court of law. He was not speaking of things that he had heard from others, but what he has seen with his eyes and touched with his hands.
In other words, John had personally seen and known Jesus Christ. Therefore, whatever others might say about him, whatever others might claim that He taught, their witness carried no weight if they did not agree with John’s witness. Those who tried to claim that Jesus taught the principles of Gnosticism, for example, were simply false witnesses and liars.
Secondly, John tells his audience that Jesus Christ was flesh and blood like every other man. He could be not only “seen” but also “handled.” Those who claimed that Jesus’ body was only an illusion did not really know Him as John did. Greek philosophy claiming that a good God could never inhabit evil flesh were basing their views on the false premise that matter was evil.
Furthermore, to John, this was a “fellowship” issue. One must believe the truth of John’s witness in order to “have fellowship with us.” One’s alleged faith in Christ must be rooted and grounded in truth. If a Greek, Persian, or anyone else desires to join the fellowship of true believers, he must give up the notion that matter was created inherently evil and accept the truth that Jesus Christ was the Word made flesh. This is inherent in believing that He was and is the Son of God.
John’s opening statement is consistent with his opening statement in his gospel, where the apostle equates Jesus Christ with the Word that existed from the beginning and was the same Word by which all things were created. Hence, when Genesis 1:3 says, “Then God said,” we are to understand that the word spoken was Jesus Christ Himself.
John 1:4 says further that “in Him was life,” that is, immortal life and all that springs from such life, including “light,” which is pure truth. John tells us that the physical universe was created by the power of Life and Light that was inherent in the Word, Jesus Christ. The Greek idea that matter was created by the devil (“demiurge”) is a fundamental lie that taints all philosophy built upon its premise and prevents men from having true fellowship with God and with the church.
In other words, John says, one’s belief in Genesis 1:1 is paramount. One must have faith that God—and not the devil—created the heavens and the earth. One must know the origin of matter in order to understand the subsequent incarnation of the Word in human flesh. The issue of the origin of matter is important and fundamental to true Christianity, because it is the premise on which the incarnation of Jesus Christ is built.
The virgin birth of Christ, along with the concept of incarnation as the Son of God, is also the fundamental premise for our own ability and authority to become sons of God (John 1:12, 13). If Jesus’ incarnation was a mere illusion, then there is no reason to think that we ourselves can become sons of God, for both are built upon the same law and process.
Thus, John set forth this fundamental truth at the outset, for he intended to build upon it later in his teaching about the sons of God who are begotten by the Father.
There is a strong group of Gnostics within the Roman Catholic church today, a group which can be traced to the time of the Crusades. The Knights Templar, formed in 1099, were converted to this belief system after encountering it in the Middle East. Eventually, they were suppressed in 1307, but these Gnostic knights simply went underground. With the Templar organization suppressed, the knights joined other Orders and continued their beliefs and rituals in secret.
Only recently have they felt secure enough to come out into the open. Their debut came with the publication of Dan’s Brown’s book, The DaVinci Code, followed by the movie by the same name. At the same time, Laurence Gardner began publishing his books to explain the premises of Gnostic Christianity. Today he is the main spokesman for the Gnostics and for Prince Michael of Albany, a Stewart who claims to be the true heir to the throne of England.
But I have also encountered quite a few Bible teachers today who have absorbed Gnostic teaching, whether they are aware of it or not. Some of them base their teaching on the idea that matter is an “illusion,” thinking that their perspective is spiritual. It is not spiritual, but Gnostic, and it does nothing to honor the One who created matter. All that God created has value, and God loves all that He created. To claim that it is just an illusion dishonors and degrades it.
Because we are now seeing the emergence of Gnostics, who say that Gnosticism is the true heir of the “Christian” title, and because (strangely enough) those Gnostics even claim John as their patron saint, it is important that we understand John’s writings and how he fought against Gnostic teaching.
John’s opening statement in his first letter makes it clear that this is a fellowship issue. The purpose of John’s letter was to cause men to repent of their Greek and Gnostic ideas about the origin of matter, so that they “also may have fellowship with us” (1 John 1:3). If such men hear the Word of Life and are begotten by that Word, they become sons of God.
Later in John’s letter, he will speak more of this.
This is part 1 of a series titled "Studies in First John." To view all parts, click the link below.