The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. Click here: 1 John 1:1-4, to download or stream the audio sermon, or click here: 1 John 1:1-4. for the video version. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you watch or listen.
1 John 1:1-4, The Assurance of the Word of Life:
- If you missed last week’s introduction, please take a moment in the week to get caught up! Now if you were here last week, you’ll know that John writes for the sake of Christian assurance. Now throughout John’s letter, we’ll come across these assurances!
- So what’s of first importance is the source of our salvation. See, if the Gnostics are correct, and Jesus was a man who received the spirit Christ, then the sacrifice isn’t sufficient.
- Let me take a step back. Since Genesis 3, what is man? Sinful. And according to Romans 3, what is the payment for sin? Death. So in order to clear our name from sin, we need to pay its price, the problem is – we can’t afford to pay it and live. So what’s the solution?
- God is the solution. You see, only God can fully satisfy the full price of sin. Man is incapable of satisfying God’s justice except by spending eternity in hell. There is no service, sacrifice, or gift that man can offer that will appease the holy wrath of God or satisfy His perfect justice.
- The only satisfaction that could be acceptable to God and that could reconcile man to Him had to be made by God. For this reason God the Son, Jesus Christ, came into the world in human flesh to be the perfect sacrifice for sin and make atonement “for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).
- Therefore, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The only way for God’s wrath against sinful man to be appeased and for us to be reconciled to God is through Jesus Christ. There is no other way.
- John was fully aware of this truth and wanted to overwhelmed and confused Christians in Ephesus to have this assurance as well. So in 1 John 2:2, John says “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”
- So coming to our verses for this morning, have this in mind, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the only thing that can turn away God’s divine condemnation of sin. Yet, if He weren’t God and man, it wouldn’t be impossible for anyone to be saved. Therefore the first assurance John wants us to have is this; the Word of Life is permanent, tangible, proclaimed, embraceable, and enjoyable!
1. The Word of Life is Permanent:
- Text – 1 John 1:1
- Explanation – Now for clarity, the Word of life refers to the person His work, and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. So here’s a big word you’ll learn today, it is incarnation. The word incarnation means “the act of being made flesh.” It comes from the Latin version of John 1:14, which in English reads, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”
- So the first thing John tells us is that the Word of Life has been since the beginning. In his Gospel writing, John says ‘in the beginning was the Word.’ Now in this context ‘the beginning’ means the time before the creation of the world.
- But in 1 John, ‘the beginning’ has a different meaning. See, the expression ‘that which was from the beginning’ functions as one of a series of relative clauses describing ‘the Word of life’. This means that when John is talking about the beginning, he is referring to the Word of life’s incarnation.
- Illustration – Nevertheless, the reality is that the Word of life has not and never will change. Therefore, John says ‘what I’m going to tell you about the Word of life is what was from the beginning.’ The beginning of what? The beginning of the proclamation of the gospel, the proclamation of Christ.
- He basically says that he’ll give us the same message that has been preached since the start. The message that was, in a sense, started by John the Baptist and then by Jesus. The message of repentance; the forgiveness that’s available; and the reconciliation with God. That’s salvation’s equation.
- Nothing changes. This is John’s first shot at the heretics and their lies. See the heretics always have something new, right? John says, nope I’ll tell you what has been since the start, Christ. John says, I don’t have anything new.
- So friends, if someone comes to you with new revelation, such as; the Book of Mormon, or the Pearl of Great Price, or the Doctrines and the Covenants, or the Watchtower writings, or the writings of Ellen G White, or Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health and Key to the Scriptures, or when the supposed “true Jehovah’s Witnesses” come with a document called The Harps of God, you better run!
- Application – John’s first assurance then is that which is from the beginning, the permanent timeless and eternal message of Christ. I cannot be any clearer about this, there’ll never be another faith. Hebrews 13:8-9 says, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Then verse 9 continues, “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to hem.” So what’s the conclusion? If it’s new, it’s wrong.
- Conclusion – Go to Galatians 1:6, Paul says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”
- “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” So there’s no room for another gospel.
- Bridge – This is why John starts that which was from the beginning. It was the Word of life and the message concerning the Word of life. It is Christ and the gospel. And therefore the Word of life then is permanent & unchangeable with is such an encouraging assurance. This brings us to a second assurance,
2. The Word of Life is Tangible:
- Text – 1 John 1:1b-2a
- Explanation – John uses these words because the Gnostics wanted to cast religion into a mystical sense, like it being only imaginable. Therefore John wants us to know that our senses can observe this Word of life because it’s not mystical.
- John can say this because he experienced Him, and heard Him, and saw Him. He looked upon Him and even touched Him. John is telling us that Jesus Christ isn’t mystical. In fact, in his Gospel writing, John 1:14 – “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
- John argues that God became man and they experienced it. He even calls Him the eternal life who was with the Father. So how can we have the assurance of the Word of life in a tangible way? John mentions four features:
- Illustration – Firstly, John says ‘what we have heard.’ Listen, we’ve studied Mark’s Gospel and every Sunday we saw the words Jesus spoke with His mouth, the parables, the stories, and the sermons. Guess who was there? John! He was there with Jesus for the duration of His ministry and he says Jesus Christ was tangible because we heard Him.
- Secondly he said, ‘what we have seen with our eyes. It’s real, it was physical sight. He was there when Jesus cast demons out. He was there when Jesus reached out and helped a lame. He was there when Jesus touched the eyes of the blind and they saw. He was there when He put his hand over the ears of the deaf and they heard. He was there when Jesus walked on water, and fed the thousands. It wasn’t a vision, it was the true & living Word of Life.
- Application – Thirdly, John says, ‘what we beheld.’ It is not the same as “What we saw with our eyes.” It means examine or look closely at or look deeply at it. And that’s what the disciples saw when they looked into the realities of who Christ was. They saw His power over sin and darkness. They saw Him overcome death. They saw Christ truly even in His humanity.
- And then he adds one more. ‘What we touched with our hands.’ It means to fondle or feel after like a blind man. You see, a blind man trusts that what his fingers feel becomes his sight. An example of this can be seen in Luke 24:39 when Jesus told Thomas, “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.”
- Conclusion – I mean case closed after that one… as John says “I have heard,” and “I have seen,” and “I beheld,” and “My hands touched.” And this isn’t just one man’s testimony, however, he is a lead witness. He’s an expert on being with Christ because He witnessed the divine Life became visible.
- In his Gospel, John 1:4, he writes, “And in Him was life.” Furthermore, in John 14:6 He records Christ saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to Me except by the Father.” He is life. That’s John’s conclusion after being tangible with Christ.
- Bridge – In fact, by the end of the letter in 1 John 5:12, he argues that “He who has the Son has the life. He who doesn’t have the Son of God doesn’t have the life” because he personally experienced it! This brings is to our third point,
3. The Word of Life is Proclaimed:
- Text – 1 John 1:3a
- Explanation – Here’s where we get practical. John tells us that it is his responsibility to bear witness and proclaim to the eternal life. And he does it as one who saw Him, and he shares this personal witness from the standpoint of experience. See the people to whom he wrote had never seen Jesus. They were living in Asia Minor, Jesus never went there.
- Illustration – furthermore, there’s nothing to indicate that anybody in the churches there had met Jesus Christ. Technically John would be the only credible witness. Yet his testimony can be carried forward.
- Peter also gives us an eyewitness account. Peter says he was an eyewitness to the visible glory of Christ at the transfiguration. All the other apostles or those who were associated with the apostles give us this apostolic eyewitness account.
- Application – And so Christ manifested Himself to them. Many of them wrote it down, like Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote it down. And they are the eyewitnesses who have given us their account. Therefore John is certain that this is the true message and the true proclamation.
- Conclusion – Now if we share in the Word of Life, and we want to continually have the assurance of His work and presence in our lives, then proclaiming Christ & the Gospel will surely encourage us and we’d remain hopeful despite the counters of false teachers.
- Bridge – now there’s two more assurance John points to,
4. The Word of Life is Embraced:
- Text – 1 John 1:3b
- Explanation – This fourth assurance simply means we have fellowship with other believers and more importantly with the Father & the Son, Jesus Christ. In fact, this is the reason that we proclaim the Word of Life. But this word can be misinterpreted. See some of us might run down to the hall to grab as much as the treats we can and chat about the things we are entertained by. But when we talk biblically about fellowship, it’s something very different. Fellowship is the word koinōnia, meaning partnership.
- Application – It’s not about a relational connection. It’s about a real partnership. It’s more than just socializing. It’s being linked together in a common life. It is a real sharing of life. 1 Corinthians 1:9 uses it in this context, “God is faithful through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” That is partnership.
- Conclusion – This is what happens when you are saved; You are immediately placed into a relationship, an eternal partnership with God and with Christ. You now possess the life of God in you. This is our true fellowship. Now there’s one final thought,
5. The Word of Life is Enjoyed:
- Text – 1 John 1:4
- Explanation – The Word of Life will provide joy. This is the anchor point to our assurance in Christ, it is a fulfilment that can never be lost. This is why Paul repeatedly says, “Rejoice always, and again I say rejoice.”
- Conclusion – That’s the beauty of Christian assurance, we can have hope and encouragement in these realities: Christ is permanent, from before time and into eternity. Christ is tangible as He still serves as our High Priest mediating on our behalf. Christ is proclaimed leads to new life as hearts are changed & His kingdom expanded. This then is our fellowship with Him and His people from now on till our joy is fulfilled in glory one day!