STUDY TWO: PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL – 1John 1:1 - 4

© Rosemary Bardsley 2022

 

It is this truth about who Jesus is that was the content of the gospel proclaimed by the apostles:

‘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’ (1:1).

‘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’ (1:2).

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard ...’ 1:3.

For the apostles, the gospel focused on the person of Jesus Christ – God in human flesh.

A. PROCLAIMING JESUS CHRIST

Often evangelistic messages focus on the cross of Christ, and on the salvation that he accomplished by his death. And that is indeed a central part of the Christian message. But the apostles, and Jesus Christ himself, taught that that death and that salvation are applied only to people who believe in him. Salvation is not given universally, nor to anyone who says they want to be saved. It is given only to those who have believed in him – to those who have acknowledged that the man Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

Check these verses. How do they put critical focus on the person of Christ?
John 1:12

John 3:18

John 8:24

John 20:31

Acts 2:36 – 38

Romans 10:9

Philippians 1:15 – 18

Colossians 1:27, 28

Colossians 2:2, 3

Colossians 2:6

 

John and the apostles proclaimed Jesus Christ, whom he calls ‘the Word of life’, ‘the life’, ‘the eternal life’, and ‘what we have seen and heard’ – that is, they proclaimed the truth that this visible, audible, tangible physical man called Jesus of Nazareth was the eternal creator God, the source and giver of life, and of eternal life. He is the life that he gives. They proclaimed that this God, from whom all life exists, had come to earth as a human being.

A.1 The context of this proclamation
In the previous study we looked at the relationship between Jesus Christ and life. Now we see that John, referring to the apostles’ proclamation of Jesus Christ, does so in terms of ‘life’:

‘this we proclaim concerning the Word of life’
‘The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it’
‘we proclaim to you the eternal life ...’

Why did the apostles proclaim Jesus Christ in terms of ‘life’?

Because the default position of every human being is the opposite of ‘life’.

We are banned, excluded, from the ‘tree of life’ (Genesis 3:24).
We ‘perish’ (John 3:16).
We have all sinned, and the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23; 6:23).
We are ‘dead in transgressions and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1, 5).
We are ‘separated from the life of God ...’ (Ephesians 4:18).
We are dead in our sins and in the uncircumcision of our flesh (Colossians 2:13).

As Paul points out in Romans 5, because of Adam’s sin ‘death came to all men’, ‘death reigned’. As the writer to the Hebrews states, we were all our lives held in slavery by our fear of death (Hebrews 2:15).

When the apostles proclaimed Jesus as ‘life’ they were proclaiming him as the one who had the power and authority to bring life where there was death.

Jesus did this in micro during the three years of his ministry, and he did it by the sheer authority of his word:

He spoke to the newly deceased daughter of Jairus: ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’ And she got up out of death (Mark 5:41, 42)..

He commanded the already putrefying Lazarus: ‘Lazarus, come out!’ And he came out.

Jesus, by the power of his word, reversed physical death.

By that same word he also reverses spiritual death. He said that everyone who hears his word and believes in the one who sent him - ‘has crossed over from death to life’ (John 5:24).

There is an intrinsic association between God and life. To believe in God (the one true God) is to live. To reject him is to be dead. This has always been true.

Check these Old Testament references. How do they associate acknowledgement of the true God and life?
Deuteronomy 30:20

Psalm 42:8

Proverbs 14:27

Ezekiel 18:30 – 32

Amos 5:4, 6

 

B. THE PURPOSE OF THEIR PROCLAMATION

John states the purpose of the apostles’ proclamation of Christ:

‘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’ (1John 1:3).

John here refers to the gospel reversing two areas of human alienation that began in Genesis 3: separation from one another and separation from God.

Look at Genesis 3:1 – 24. What evidence can you find there for -
Separation from God

 

 

Separation from each other?

 

 

B.1 Separation from God
Our default human status as spiritually ‘dead’ carries with it a separation from God who is ‘life’. This separation from God is referred to in several ways.

Check these New Testament texts. What words or phrases do they use to express this human separation from God?
Luke 15:6, 9, 32

Romans 5:10

Ephesians 2:13

Colossians 1:21

 

Before we acknowledged Jesus Christ, we were ‘lost’, ‘enemies’ of God, ‘far away’, ‘alienated’ from God. And not only this; we were also banned from God’s presence, excluded and disqualified by our sin from ever being in his presence. Into this situation of alienation and exclusion came the message of the apostles, the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the Word of life. And everything changed.

The ‘lost’ were found.
Those who were once ‘enemies’ God made his friends.
Those who were ‘far away’ were brought near.
The ‘alienated’ were reconciled.

Instead of being banned from the presence of God we are given free and permanent access.

Check these verses that refer to this unconditional and uninhibited permanent reconnection and access to God:
Romans 5:10, 11

2Corinthians 5:17 – 20

Ephesians 2:18

Colossians 1:19 - 22

Hebrews 4:14 – 16

Hebrews 10:19 - 22

 

This access to God, this reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ, is the common possession of all who have received Jesus Christ. All who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ share:

The same reversal of enmity.
The same reconciliation with God.
The same access to the Father.
The same removal of alienation from God.
The same unconditional approach to the throne of God.
The same assured entrance into the presence of God.

 

B.2 Separation from each other
Separation from each other also began in Genesis 3. We see it there in –

Adam’s passing the blame onto Eve, when confronted by God (Genesis 3:12).

God’s statement about how their relationship would be as a result of their fall (Genesis 3:16b).

This separation between humans has continued throughout the history of the human race. We seem to have an innate compulsion to protect, defend, justify, empower and promote ourselves, even when it means pulling down or destroying another.

From the current daily news, what evidence is there of this separation of each other?

 

 

 

 

But the same Christ who has reconciled us to the Father, has also reconciled us to each other. As Paul teaches in Romans 3:22 – 24:

There is no difference, for all –
     - have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
     - and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.’

Because of the apostolic gospel – Christ, the Word of life – all perceived human differences (all of our perceived differing levels of goodness, or merit, or personal righteousness) are exposed as inaccurate and irrelevant. We are all sinners. There is no difference. But also because of the apostolic gospel, the only thing that matters is understood to be Jesus Christ. If we have Jesus Christ all of our perceived human differences no longer matter.

As John states: the purpose and result of the apostolic proclamation of Jesus Christ is:

Fellowship with the apostles (and with each other).
Fellowship with the Father.
Fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ.

 

B.3 Fellowship
The word ‘fellowship’ translates the Greek koinonia which means communion, fellowship, sharing in common, partnership, participation. It refers to a belonging together, a oneness.

John is about to challenge his readers on the basis of this three-tiered fellowship that is established by the gospel. The false teaching both denied and undermined this fellowship. It resulted in people saying and doing things that simply did not fit in with the apostolic gospel. The resultant beliefs and lifestyle denied the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Word of life.

In his gospel, John referred to the fellowship, the oneness, that exists between the Father and the Son, and between those who believe in Jesus Christ.

Check these verses from John’s gospel. What do they teach about this oneness?
10:30

11:51, 52

14:20, 23

 

17:11

17:20 – 23

 

To be united to Jesus Christ by faith is to be united with the Father through that same faith. It is also to be united with every other believer:

Because:

The Father is in Christ, and
Christ is in the Father, and
Every genuine believer is in Christ and in the Father, and
Christ and the Father are in every genuine believer -

Then: every genuine believer is ‘one’ with all the apostles and with all other genuine believers. It is an inescapable fact of the gospel proclaimed by the apostles.

So we understand that ‘fellowship’ is far more than a feeling of warm friendship with other Christians. It is that, but it is also:

Having a common belief about who Jesus Christ is.
Having a common salvation because of what Jesus Christ has done.
Having a common union with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
Having a common commitment and a common purpose.
Sharing a common joy.

 

C. JOY

In his first letter John concludes his introduction with a reference to joy. Translations differ in how verse four is translated:

Some refer to our joy.
Others have your joy.

This is because some ancient manuscripts have ‘our’ and some have ‘your’.

The New English Bible (1970) seems to overcome the difficulty by rendering the verse ‘And we write this in order that the joy of us all may be complete’, which clearly includes the joy of both the writer, and his fellow apostles, and the readers.

The message proclaimed by the apostles, who were witnesses of both the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ, resulted in fellowship with the apostles, with Jesus Christ and with the Father. Jesus, in his last lengthy conversation with the eleven faithful disciples, and in his prayer, spoke of the joy that would result from their fellowship with him and with each other:

John 15:11: ‘I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.’

John 16: ‘... you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.’

John 17:13: ‘... so that they may have the full measure of my joy with them.’

John’s intention in reminding his readers of this, and his intention of everything he is about to say in this letter, is ‘that the joy of us all may be complete’. The gospel about Jesus Christ, and the fellowship created by the gospel, results in joy. Complete joy. But the false teaching was interfering with the gospel, with the fellowship, and with the joy. John wrote his letter to expose and undo both the false beliefs and wrong practices generated by the false teaching, and in doing so to restore the mutual joy that is ours in Christ Jesus.