Summary: In 1 John 1:1-4, the apostle shares out of his own personal encounter with “the Word of Life.”
PROLOGUE TO FIRST JOHN
The prologue of 1 John is similar to the prologue in the Gospel of John. The “beginning” in John 1:1 is a reference to the beginning of time. When time began, “the Word” (Logos) already existed. The “beginning” in 1 John 1:1 can refer to the beginning of time or to the beginning of the Gospel. Perhaps both are correct. John wrote with the authority of one who had first hand knowledge of the gospel. John was an “eyewitnesses” to the events of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The so-called “Gnostic Gospels” were written well over one hundred years after Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. None of the writers of the Gnostic Gospels were “eyewitnesses.” John makes it clear that he was present when the gospel story took place. He said in essence, “we heard Him, we saw Him, we beheld Him, and our hands handled Him.”
John calls Jesus, "the Word of Life," "the life," and "the eternal life" in these verses. Jesus is called "the life" because he is the living one who is life in himself. He is the source of life. He is also the substance of life. Jesus came into the world so that you and I might have life and have it more abundantly. He came that we might have eternal life. He came to give us a live that is real. In 1 John 1:1-4, the apostle shares out of his own personal encounter with “the Word of Life.”
Some false teachers in the late first century denied the humanity of Jesus Christ. Others denied His deity. Some were teaching that Jesus only seemed to be real, that he was only an illusion. John however, had been an eyewitness to Jesus Christ, and so testified of his own personal encounter with Christ. John knew firsthand that Jesus Christ was no illusion, and that he was and is real. While none of us have seen Jesus with the eyes of the flesh, our experience can be just as real.
John declared that Jesus is “eternal in His deity” (1:1) and “historical in His humanity” (1:2-3). Verse 1 begins in a similar way that the Gospel of John begins. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;).
All of the apostles with the exception of Thomas and Judas saw the risen Lord Jesus Christ on the first Sunday evening following the resurrection. Judas had already committed suicide and Thomas was absent when Jesus appeared in the Upper Room on resurrection Sunday evening. When Thomas was told of the resurrection, he refused to believe. He would not believe unless he had the same evidence that the other apostles had. A week later, the apostles were again gathered in the Upper Room. Thomas was with them that time. Suddenly, Jesus appeared and spoke to Thomas. When Thomas saw the risen Christ, he gave one of the most beautiful confessions of faith in Scripture. He exclaimed, “My Lord and my God." Jesus said, "Because you have seen me, you have believed, blessed are those who have not seen me and yet have believed." John 20:29.
John experienced the “Word of life” because that life had been revealed to him. The word “manifested” in the King James and the NASB is translated “appeared” in the NIV. It speaks of a life that has been revealed, that is, a life made known in Jesus Christ. God has always taken the initiative in revealing himself. He is ever the self-revealing God. This means that Christianity is not the story of man’s quest to find God. It is the story of God revealing himself, and making himself known to us.
In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself in different ways. However, God’s supreme revelation is his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (Heb.1:1-2). Once Philip made a request of Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father." Jesus responded, "He that has seen me has seen the Father." God gave His only begotten Son for us that we might have the life that is real, abundant and eternal. That life is only found in Jesus Christ.
John expresses his desire to share “the Word of Life.” What would you think of a person who discovered a cure for cancer and never told anyone about his find? That would be cruel indeed. Yet many believers in Jesus have found forgiveness of sin and eternal life, yet fail to share the good news with others. The life we have in Jesus is meant to be shared.