Welcome to Wednesday’s podcast and welcome to a new book of the Bible. Today we start our journey through the chapters of 1 John. Before I read today’s verses, let’s spend a moment or two looking at the context and background of John’s writing.
Firstly, most commentators think that this letter is not actually a letter, but a sermon. John is an old man by the time he is penning it, and it is most likely to have been written for a group of churches near Ephesus that John had pastoral oversight of.
It would appear this sermon was written to address some heretical teaching that had taken root amongst the community, causing a group of people to go their own way and set up a rival church. The followers of this alternative teaching claimed that it wasn’t necessary to accept Jesus as the Son of God, or as your personal saviour, in order to have a relationship with God. They also denied or ignored the issue of sin and rejected the need to seek forgiveness through Jesus’ death on a cross.
It’s important to know this context as it helps to explain why 1 John, and his subsequent two letters, focus so much on the fundamentals of Christian theology. In his sermon, John wanted to re-assert or re-teach the Gospel, in order that others did not drift away or divert from the truths of their faith.
However, before you fall at the first hurdle and think, ‘Oh my goodness! My lockdown brain is not able to cope with and process the fundamentals of Christian theology’……..Fear not! The books of John are brief, easy to understand, and in the original Greek John only uses 303 different words across all 3 books – so there is a lot of repetition to help us along the way!
With that in mind, let’s turn to today’s Bible passage which is 1 John 1:1-10, with a focus on the first 3 verses.
“From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us. We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you, so you can experience it along with us.”
I ummed and aahed about which translation to use for this podcast, as I like the different wordings of the NIV, the Message and The Passion. In the end I used the Message translation, but I’d encourage you to try and read the other two versions at some point today.
The reason that I went with the Message was because of the phrase – “and now we’re telling you” – that is used in verses 2 and 3.
In the NIV and the Passion we see this expressed as: “we proclaim to you” and “we testify to you.” Elsewhere in these verses we also see the use of words such as ‘verified’ and ‘witnessed.’ These are all good words and phrases, but I think the plain and simple “and now we’re telling you” is great and really easy to understand.
So, what exactly is John now telling people?
Well, in today’s verses, John is really trying to emphasise the point that the Word of Life (the Life Giver as the Passion translation puts it) was not just an idea or a thought, a theological or spiritual message; but that Jesus Christ was this very same life – in human, physical form; whom John had actually touched, seen with his very own eyes and heard with his own ears.
The first fundamental point of Christian theology is that with God it’s real, and with God it’s personal, because Jesus is God, the Word of Life, who lived on earth, and with whom we can experience and enjoy a personal relationship.
John wants to leave his readers, or those listening to his sermon being spoken aloud, in absolutely no doubt about this.
John knew it, and now he was telling others.
The fact that John goes to such lengths and is so passionate in sharing his own personal testimony and experience of knowing Jesus is both inspiring and challenging.
Words like ‘proclaim’, ‘testify’, and even ‘witness’, can sound frightening or daunting, but the questions we face as a response to John’s words, are actually quite plain and simple – who are we telling now about Jesus? And what are we telling people now about Jesus?
The first question only you can answer, but if you are not sure about what you would say for the second, how about using a slight re-wording of 1 John 1:1-4? It might go something along these lines:
“This is what Jesus has been speaking to me about……..and now I’m telling you. This is what I’ve seen Jesus do…….and now I’m telling you. This is how Jesus has touched and changed my life……and now I’m telling you. This is my experience of having a relationship with Jesus…..and now I’m telling you. I want you to have this same joy filled and life-giving relationship with God……and so now I’m telling you about Jesus.”
When it’s written like that, being able to share some of the fundamental aspects of Christian theology doesn’t seem so complicated after all. In fact it sounds quite plain and simple. Jesus is real, we can have a personal relationship with him, and through this relationship we can experience a life filled with joy.
Who are you telling that to now?
Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to us, so that we could have a life filled with joy, and come into a relationship with you. Help us to tell others about how Jesus has spoken to us and what he has done in our lives, in order that they might also be able to experience this too. Amen.
BIBLE READING: 1 John 1:1-10 (MSG)
From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.
We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!
This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in him.
If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth—we’re not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges all our sin.
If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.