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?
Well, one of the ways we make heads or tails is that there are three words that are repeating over and over and over again, and anyone who was a Hebrew, a Jew, and John certainly was; the way they would emphasize something was to repeat it over and over and over. They didn’t have a lot of superlatives like we do. They didn’t have a word for ’awesome’ or ’really cool’ or any of those kinds of phrases like we would use. They would just use the word again. John here in this passage is going to describe to us the great foundational majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ. This book telling us, "Don’t be fooled! Don’t be dragged in another direction. Focus on the reality of who you are because of who He is." There’s great security found in this book. There’s great joy. There’s great purpose, even found in these first four verses. Let’s look at them together and look at these three words that are so powerful.
The first word we want to look at is this word ’life.’ Jesus is Life. Jesus is presented here, in these first four verses, as life itself. It’s such a simple word, ’life.’ It’s easy to define, in terms of human beings. We see this on TV sometimes. If somebody thinks somebody is dead, he puts two fingers to the carotid artery. "I can feel the pulse. They’re alive." Or sometimes they go down to the wrist for the pulse or sometimes they put them on a machine to measure brain waves, some way to tell them if a person is alive. Life may seems simple but it’s an incredibly complex force. When you look at those TV shows or the news, when you find out a person has died, in spite of the best efforts on the part of doctors and technicians to keep that person alive, they died. With all of our technology, we cannot sustain life. The children of Ted Williams can remove his head from his body after he was dead and put his head into a cryonics lab up in Scottsdale hoping that someday they can cure his disease and reattach it, but I don’t know if that’s a good idea Taking a person’s head off is very serious. Life is an incredibly complex thing. Not only can we not sustain it, in spite of all our technology, but we can’t create it either.