Yesterday morning we engaged in a new preaching series through the letter of 1 John—one of three letters written by the apostle John who also penned the Gospel of John. Over the next 90 days, we intend to walk through this relatively short letter and examine our own faith and walk with the Lord in the process. As John wrote this letter most likely from Ephesus, his audience would have been the churches in various cities surrounding Ephesus in Asia minor. John desired to edify the body of Christ by causing them to examine themselves to see if they were in the faith and to promote a serious approach to the faith which was under attack and was becoming a bit lazy among the churches.
Know This: Jesus Was God Who Became Man
In a brilliant explosion of intense light, from the very beginning John bursts forth into an array of doctrinal themes including the highest—the deity of Jesus. John writes, “That which was from the beginning” and it sounds much like the way he began his Gospel account (John 1:1-3). If the church in John’s day and if the church in our day will live boldly for Christ, we must have a healthy understanding of his deity. The very moment that we come to the reality that Jesus is not a fictional character in a story book for children or a mere figurine for the Christmas tree, but that he is sovereign God—creator of the entire universe—at that moment we should be brought to a place of humble submission. Jesus is God. That’s the way John begins his letter of encouragement.
John also wanted to emphasize the humanity of Jesus. Not only was he from the beginning, but he was actually a real man in time. Very God of very God took upon himself human flesh as he entered the womb of a young Jewish lady named Mary. Jesus was able to be heard, touched, and visibly seen by the apostles. What was once invisible had now become manifest—and John wanted everyone to understand this unique point. God had become a man without ceasing to be God, yet he became a real man at the same time.
Know This: The Proclamation of the Gospel has a Purpose
John used two different terms that point to the reality of his ambition to make Christ known. He talked about testifying (μαρτυρέω) which means to confirm or attest something on the basis of personal knowledge or belief, bear witness, be a witness. John also said that he was proclaiming (ἀπαγγέλλω) which means to give an account of something or report (back), announce, tell.
The purpose of John’s proclamation was for people to come into fellowship with the church and with God the Father and his Son—Jesus the Christ. John points to the blessing of fellowship (κοινωνία). This word means, “close association involving mutual interests and sharing, association, communion, fellowship, close relationship, marked by intimacy.” True Christian fellowship transcends “hello” in the hallway or a slap on the back on Sunday. As John will unfold more as we continue through his letter, we are called to love one another in the church and that isn’t possible without true fellowship. How is fellowship accomplished? It’s accomplished through the saving grace of God upon a group of sinners who are adopted into the family of God.
In like manner, this saving grace of God enables true fellowship to happen between sinners and holy God. As the sins of people are taken away by Jesus, they are brought out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ. Sinners are no longer the enemies of God as they are saved by Jesus, and this enables people to have true fellowship with God. What a joy and privilege to know and be known by God.
John’s ultimate joy in life came through connecting people to Jesus Christ. Do you have a greater joy from your job, your material possessions, or other things in your life than testifying and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus? The heartbeat of John and his fellow apostles was centered on connecting people to joy in Jesus! What is your greatest joy and ambition in life?
As we consider the Christian life, God wants us to know some things about him, our salvation, the faith once delivered to the saints, and he likewise wants us to have assurance of our salvation. Christianity should not be superficial and shallow. That’s why John uses at least three different Greek words over 30 times that point to the need to know certain things about God and our faith. Alistair Begg once said,
[We] must understand that Christianity is not served by mindlessness, but by the knowledge of God through the Word of God. Such knowledge engages our minds, stirs our hearts, and transforms our lives. This knowledge is personal. How is it fostered? By listening to what He says (the priority of preaching), by engaging Him in conversation (the emphasis on prayer), by spending time in His company (the need for a devotional life), and by being with others who know Him too (the need for gathered worship). This knowledge is progressive and dynamic, not static. At the end of our journey, we should still be exclaiming with Paul: “I want to know Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:2).