Summary: Without Christ there is no Christianity!
Text: I John 1:1-4
Title: The Essence of Christianity
Big Idea: Without Jesus Christ, there would be no Christianity; it is Christ, or nothing!
Preached on: January 4, 2008
“A number of years ago, in preparation for a discussion period on a Christian radio program, an interviewer went into the streets of Philadelphia to ask people this question: ‘What is Christianity.’ The answers were surprising. Some said that Christianity is ‘the American way of life.’ Others called it ‘an organization.’ It was ‘an ethic.’ One man termed Christianity ‘a tool used by capitalists to repress the poor.’ When the interviewer tried to help the people by asking, ‘And who is Jesus Christ?’ the answers were even more outlandish. He was called ‘pure essence of energy,’ ‘a good man,’ ‘our leader.’ Many replied, ‘I am not sure…I just don’t know.’” (James Montgomery Boice, The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary, (Baker Books: 1979), p. 20)
The situation faced by the interviewer in Philadelphia is not a new problem. In fact, it is a very old problem. Today we are going to begin a series exploring the Epistle known as 1 John.
Author: The author of this book is the Apostle John. “John was the younger son of Zebedee (since James is almost always listed first when the two are mentioned together), a prosperous fisherman on the Sea of Galilee who owned his own boat and had hired servants (Mark 1:20). John’s mother was Salome (cf. Mark 15:40 with Matt. 27:56), who contributed financially to Jesus’ ministry (Matt.27:5-56), and who may have been the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus (John 19:25). If so, John and Jesus would have been cousins” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody, 2007), p. 6)
“Along with James and Peter, John was part of the inner circle of the Twelve (cf. Matt. 17:1; Mark 5:37, 13:3, 14:33). After the Ascension, he became one of the leaders of the Jerusalem Church…According to tradition, John spent the last decades of his life at Ephesus, overseeing the churches in the surrounding region…and writing his gospel…and three epistles…Toward the end of his life…John lived until the time of the emperor Trajan [A.D. 98-117], and was banished to the island of Patmos. It is there that he received and wrote the visions described in the book of Revelation (c. A.D. 94-96)” (Ibid)
Theme: If I were to simply state the theme of the 1 John is that Christ is the Essence of Christianity. Without Jesus Christ, there is no Christianity. Without Christ there is no Christianity!
Purpose: The purpose in writing 1 John was to counteract a virulent heresy that was just in its beginning stages. The heresy grew to be a philosophical system known as Gnosticism. “Gnosticism taught that matter was inherently evil and spirit was good. That philosophical dualism led the false teachers whom John confronted to accept some form of Christ’s deity, but to deny His humanity. He could not, according to them, have taken on a physical body, since matter was evil.” (MacArthur, p. 8). Further, the Gnostics taught that salvation was not found through the shed blood of Christ, but rather through a special knowledge, or gnosis, of one’s true condition.
To these heretics and their followers the Apostle John boldly asserted: “What was from the beginning; what we have heard; what we have seen with our eyes; what we beheld and our hands touched…We proclaim also to you.” He said, “and the life appeared and we have seen and testify, and announce to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was revealed to us; What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you.
John makes it utterly apparent that salvation is not found by uncovering some secret revelation, but rather salvation is found in believing in a definitive revelation: the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of the God-Man, Jesus Christ.
I. Jesus Christ is the Source of our Salvation.
a. “Contrary to what the false teachers taught, experience Christ and His gospel is not some mystical, spiritually transcendent, secret insight reserved only for those elite who ascend to some higher understanding. John told his readers—even those who were young in their faith (cf. 2:12)—that they could apprehend the actual historical truth about the Word of Life” (MacArthur, p. 16)
b. This is not the words about life. This is the Life-giving Word, the Word of Life! John states here that Jesus Christ is the Source of our Salvation! How this echo’s his majestic prologue found in his Gospel and Chapter 1. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (Verse 4) In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (Verse 14) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the Only Begotten Son of God.”