The apostle John began his gospel account with the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Then he said, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He was clearly talking about Jesus. Here, in his first epistle (letter), the apostle continues that discussion by referring to, “That which was from the beginning” (the Word of God, Jesus).
In this “greeting” John neither mentions who he (the writer of the letter) is nor to whom he is writing. He just cuts right to the chase and says:
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—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.
As we read the Scriptures, we tend to think that these are just some religious writings. Notice, John did not even say that He was an apostle as Paul did (cp. Romans 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1). He did not even say that it was the Spirit of the living God that guided him as Peter did (cp. 2 Peter 1:16–21). While both are true, John gives another reason why we should listen to what he has to say. So, what in the world was this old man talking about?! Quite simply put, about forty years earlier, he saw something that not only changed his life, but it would also change the whole world. In these first 4 verses of his letter, the apostle John clearly explains why we should listen to what he has to say.
Back when John wrote this letter (about AD 70), there were already people that wanted to “reinvent” Jesus. There were people that thought that they knew better than to believe all of this stuff. As a matter of fact there was a church somewhere in Asia Minor, probably at Ephesus, that had split (1 John 2:19). Some were saying that they had some new ideas about who Jesus was, about life and what sin is. They couldn’t understand why there ideas weren’t just as good as those of this old man. So they just walked out. Today, there are many people that claim to be “experts.” We need to ask what their credentials are. Even more importantly, we need to ask ourselves why we believe what we believe.
The truth, how do we know what it is? Believing a lie is the fastest way I know to get in trouble. It can even cost us our life if we believe something is good for us, but is in reality poisonous. We need to start by defining truth as “that which is real.” No one, not even the Church can redefine reality. At 80 or 90 years of age the apostle John was heartbroken. He saw some of those he cared about turning away from the truth. Like many today they thought they could believe what they wanted.
About 40 years after that day in the upper room (John 20:19–23), John still remembered what he had “heard” Jesus say. He remembered what he had “seen, with his eyes.” It was not some dream or a ghost. Jesus said, “Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39). That word “handle” is the very same word John uses here. After 40 years we tend to forget a lot of things, but those things that have had an impact on our life are indelibly etched in our thinking. John clearly remembers all he heard, saw and touched. JOHN WAS AN EYEWITNESS!
What was it that he experienced? Why, it was Jesus! He was alive three days after He died on that cross. Unbelievable, you say? Well, John may have agreed with you, except he was there and saw it. He could not ignore the facts about the “Word of life” (Jesus, v 1). John says that the risen Jesus was “manifested” (revealed) and John bore witness and declared the truth about that life (v 2). What is it that John “declares” to be the truth as he heard it from Jesus? He says, that Jesus had “eternal life” with the Father. He was “from the beginning” and was “eternal.” These are only true of God! As he said in his gospel account, God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). In other words, Jesus is GOD in the FLESH. He is GOD become MAN. Now if you have trouble understanding that, John did NOT say he understood all of it, but that it IS the TRUTH. Now, YOU have a crisis, a dilemma. Will you believe only what YOU have seen and touched? Or will you include what the APOSTLE JOHN heard, saw with his eyes and touched?
If you think that you need to stay ONLY with what you know, ask yourself “Why?” It is not a matter of fact, but rather a matter of choice. You may have chosen to make yourself the master of your destiny, without God’s interference? This is like saying, “I do not believe Washington DC exists.” What I believe does not change the fact that the city is there and that Congress is making laws that affect me. Just because we have not seen something or someone, does not mean they do not exist. John wrote this letter to people 2,000 years ago. This letter is true for us as well. And, Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). This letter says that we can experience that life (in Jesus)! John wants his readers to have “fellowship” with God. Now that deserves some thought! And, John says this is the only way to make “our joy to be full.”
Listen, how many times have you said or thought, “I have a right to be happy.”? The apostle John is telling you how you can have lasting joy! God says that in His presence is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). Furthermore, God created all the pleasures you desire. Sight, taste, smell, touch and hearing all come from God. The problem may be that you don’t want God’s plan to interfere with your pleasure. God is the only one who can make your joy full.