The Life Appeared (1 John 1:1-3)


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According to 1 John 1:1-3, the foundation of the Christian faith is eyewitness testimony about Jesus Christ. But what did the eyewitnesses see: the mere facts of Jesus’ ministry or their spiritual significance?
 
Let’s read 1 John 1:1-3 again for an answer to this question.
 
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
 
It is very clear that John was an eyewitness of the facts of Jesus’ ministry. He heard what Jesus said, saw what Jesus did, and touched Jesus’ resurrected body. Such is the plain meaning of this text.
 
But it is also clear that John interpreted the facts of his experience. He attached spiritual significance to what he heard, saw, and touched. He believed that what he heard, saw, and touched warranted the conclusion that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God who entered the world to give us eternal life.
 
Notice how John describes Jesus in these verses. First, he is “from the beginning.” This timestamp is a deliberate echo of the opening verses of the Gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” (1:1, 2). According to John, we misinterpret the facts of Jesus’ ministry if we date them only to the early first century. They begin in eternity.
 
Second, in John’s description, Jesus is “the Word.” This also is a deliberate echo of John 1:1, 2. In the Gospel, the Word is both “with God” and “God” himself. This introduces a distinction into the Godhead between “the Father” and “his Son,” which both the Gospel and the epistle recognize (John 1:14, 18; 1 John 1:1, 2).
 
Third, this eternal Son of God entered history as a human being. John repeats the verb “appeared” two times in verse 2. That Jesus’ appearance was not spiritual in nature is clear from the fact that John says he and other eyewitnesses “touched” Jesus. The eternal Son of God entered human history in material form. Or, as the Gospel puts it, “the Word became flesh” (1:14).
 
Fourth, the purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world was to give us “life.” In verses 1 and 2, John describes Jesus as “the Word of life,” “the life” and “the eternal life.” This indicates the close connection between Jesus’ person and work. As the Gospel puts it, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (1:4).
 
Have you received that life?

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