Summary: In our day, as in John’s, there were people promoting a faith beyond the faith in Jesus Christ. Is there anything worthwhile beyond Jesus?
I wonder sometimes if the Church hasn’t become bored with Jesus. I mean, after all, there’s only so much we can know about Him; only so much praise, it seems, we can offer Him. And it’s tempting sometimes to create other messages, other goals, another focus besides this two thousand year old focus on the proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ. That’s what was happening in the Church during the time that John wrote this epistle. And it’s something that really hasn’t gone away. This belief (or teaching) that there must be something beyond Jesus, there must be something we can add to Him, in the first century that was called Gnosticism; a belief that Jesus was fine, but there was something beyond Him, a secret wisdom that I could teach you and that if you had this secret wisdom (and that’s what the word ’gnostic’ means – ’wisdom’ or ’gnosis’ – it means wisdom), if I could teach you this special, secret wisdom then you would be better off than you were just with the focus on Jesus. It’s kind of easy in our day too to get our focus off of the fundamental faith of and in Jesus Christ and instead to replace that old (and maybe we think somewhat worn out) truth with something new and fresh and alive – or so we think.
The book of 1 John is really a response to that heresy that came to be known as Gnosticism, the response to that misdirection or deviation from the path of Jesus onto some other thing. He responds in this book in a very positive way. He doesn’t talk that much about Gnosticism, only in kind of an oblique way in promoting and glorifying the centrality of Jesus Christ. In the process, he shows the shallowness of any truth that seeks to glorify something in addition to the truth revealed in Jesus.
Now these first four verses are very awkward in the Greek language. The main verb doesn’t really show up until verse 2 and actually in the NIV which I’m using they actually insert it here in verse 1, "This we proclaim concerning the word of life." That word ’proclaim’ really isn’t there. But the editors of the NIV put it there because it’s so awkward to leave it until further on. Some people can hardly make heads or tails of this, but one commentator I read called this language ’the language of ecstasy.’ John is so overwhelmed and taken with the person of Jesus Christ, who he’s talking about here without naming Him until verse three. He’s so taken with Him that he just kind of goes on and on. It is all one sentence in Greek from verse one to verse four, all one sentence. You know, of course, that the verses and the chapters weren’t added to the Bible for centuries after it was written. So, sometimes the verses kind of interfere or the "versification” interferes. In this case, it’s all one sentence. It’s somewhat like Paul did in Ephesians 1 when he’s so taken with the idea of being adopted by God through the person of Christ, and so he’s taken with the great riches, he goes on and on and on, verse after verse after verse, all one sentence in Greek.
So, how do we make heads or tails of this? You’ll notice the way John writes is different from the way Paul writes. Paul has a very logical, step by step approach. John is a little more random and he certainly is random in his language here in these first four verses. How do we understand them?