Summary: The Word of Life is 1) Unchangeable (1 John 1:1a), 2) Historical (1 John 1:1b–2a), 3) Communicable (1 John 1:2b–3a), 4) Relational (1 John 1:3b), and 5) Joyful (1 John 1:4).
We live in an era that looks with suspicion on any type of certainty or conviction about the truth. Our society has abandoned the idea of absolutes, choosing instead to arbitrarily grant equal validity to every opinion and philosophical musing. Sadly, today’s church, influenced by the surrounding culture, has fallen prey to an inclusivism that tolerates seemingly any and every viewpoint, except dogmatism. Dogmatism is utterly contrary to today’s relativistic attitudes, and those who hold it are consistently condemned as insensitive, unloving, and anti-intellectual. The reality is that those who deny Scripture’s clarity are likely motivated by rebellion against its clear message of sin and righteousness (cf. John 3:20). Denying that the Bible can be understood gives false comfort to those who do not like the truth it reveals. In contrast, those who love the truth are quick to seek it out and apply it to their lives (John 3:21). Such God-honoring adherence to divine, absolute truth is precisely what the apostle John exalts in his first epistle as the evidence of genuine salvation.
The writers of Scripture, were absolutely certain of what they believed and, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, wrote with a clarity and boldness that makes the message of salvation in its fullness understandable to the regenerated and illuminated mind. For the Apostle John, the teaching of 1 John may be divided into three categories of certainty: theological certainty regarding the gospel and the person of Jesus Christ (2:1–2, 22; 5:1, 20), moral certainty regarding the commandments of God (2:4, 7, 29; 3:9, 22), and relational certainty regarding love (2:10; 4:7, 21; 5:2–3). John's aim here is that you may have joy (1:4) thereby eliminating sadness. He aim to foster holiness (2:1) that you may reduce sin and he strives to promote assurance of salvation (5:13) that you may eliminate doubt. We know John spent his later years in and around Ephesus. He wrote this letter to the churches of Asia Minor probably between A.D. 80 and 85. The church was now composed of second- and third-generation Christians. For some Christians this was a time of persecution. For others perhaps the thrill was gone and the flame of devotion to Christ was flickering. False teachers were infiltrating some of the churches, and some Christians were becoming lax in their Christian standards. Into these circumstances steps John with his letter (Allen, D. L. (2013). 1–3 John: Fellowship in God’s Family. (R. K. Hughes, Ed.) (p. 19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.)
Consistent with his firm commitment to the certainty of divine truth, John dispenses with all introductory amenities—he did not even name himself as the author, nor did he identify his audience. Rather, he immediately launches into writing the Spirit-inspired truth. He began by presenting five certainties about the person and work of Christ: The Word of Life is 1) Unchangeable (1 John 1:1a), 2) Historical (1 John 1:1b–2a), 3) Communicable (1 John 1:2b–3a), 4) Relational (1 John 1:3b), and 5) Joyful (1 John 1:4).
1) The Word of Life Is Unchangeable (1 John 1:1a)
1 John 1:1a That which was from the beginning, (which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life) (ESV)
Why, then, did John use the neuter pronoun “that which” to begin v. 1? It is because he wishes to draw attention equally to the “Word proclaimed” and the “Word as person.” The message and the person ultimately cannot be separated. Each explains the other. The message about Jesus is intimately related to who Jesus is (Akin, D. L. (2001). 1, 2, 3 John (Vol. 38, p. 51). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)
The message of redemption is unchanging. From the beginning of the proclamation of the gospel it has been the same. Those who preach the true gospel have always commanded faith and repentance (Matt. 4:17; John 3:16–18; Acts 2:38; 17:30), declared that the kingdom of God is at hand (Matt. 3:2; Acts 19:8), announced the merciful and gracious availability of divine forgiveness (Acts 10:43; Eph. 1:7), and urged sinners to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18–21). This “beginning” is the same “beginning” as that of Genesis 1:1 and of John 1:1, the beginning of time and space. Genesis 1:1 has reference to the activity of Christ at the moment of creation. John 1:1 has reference to the existence of Christ before creation. 1 John 1:1 has reference to the activity of Christ since creation. (Gingrich, R. E. (2005). The Books of I, II, II John and Jude (p. 8). Memphis, TN: Riverside Printing.)
Please turn to Galatians 1 (p.972)
When the apostle John wrote this epistle, an incipient Gnosticism (which I will detail later on) were already threatening the churches of Asia Minor. Its proponents denied the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ and, therefore, His true nature essential to the gospel. They further claimed to have attained, apart from the gospel, a transcendent knowledge of the divine, available only to the “spiritual” elite and otherwise beyond the reach of the common believer.