Summary: Discover the foundation to Christian unity and joy.
We begin a new study in this first letter written by John, a disciple of Jesus. It’s a short letter in the New Testament. The author of this letter is the same John who authored the gospel of John and the 2nd and 3rd letter of John in the New Testament.
By the way, our passage this morning, 1 John 1:1-4, in the original Greek manuscript was written as one sentence by John. The subject is "we," the verb is "proclaim," the object is the rest of the stuff. We will look at two of the many reasons for why John wrote this letter and relate these two reasons to how we can have unity (be at a right and healthy relationship) and joy in life.
The FIRST reason why John wrote this letter was to counter two false teachings that crept into the churches after 65 AD. John wrote this letter around 70-85AD. The Christians to whom John wrote were being taught that they could have a right and healthy relationship with God and with one another if they possessed a secret knowledge. This false teaching was called Gnosticism.
I still remember in elementary school, how kids let another into their group if she can speak Pig Latin, or if he knows a certain handshake or if the newcomer dares do a certain activity. As adults, we have more acceptable, but nevertheless wrong beliefs about how we can have a close relationship, whether with God or with one another.
Some believe that we can have a right and healthy relationship with God if we would only be good enough long enough, if we know the secret code to interpreting the Bible, or if we participate in certain religious rituals faithfully. And in terms of belonging to groups of people, some people let language, socio-economic status (the clothes you wear or the cars you drive), political views and such to determine our unity. The Apostle John would tell us we don’t have to live as an elitist, because we have another foundation for unity with God and with one another.
John also wrote to counter the false teaching that joy comes from the spiritual world and that the physical world is evil. This false teaching, called Docetism, could not accept that God would come physically in Jesus Christ to die on the cross to restore sinful humanity to His Holiness. That’s why John took the time to give witness to Jesus’ material existence in the first three verses of this letter.
We still see this dichotomy of the physical world being evil and the spiritual world being good. Buddhists are quite familiar with escaping the suffering and evil of the physical world and finding joy in the spiritual. The positive thinkers who refuse to face reality find joy in their "self-created mental reality." The popular New Age teaching that we are evolving into gods is another escape away from the physical. The Apostle John would tell us we don’t have to live in denial, because we have another foundation for joy.
The FIRST reason for John’s writing this letter was to counter the two lies, and the SECOND reason for John’s writing this letter was to tell us the true foundation for unity and for joy. So we are not to build our relationship with God and with others upon some secret or elitist knowledge. We’re called to tell everyone the good news of Jesus Christ. We are also not to build joy in life by running away from the physical world, which God called us to subdue and manage.
John would want us to know that we build our unity with God and with one another and we build our joy in life upon Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Son of God came in human form to restore us to Himself and to one another. Real forgiveness and real love need to be demonstrated tangibly. That’s why people who try to rid their guilt and to feel loved by going to the non-Christian psychologist or psychiatrist don’t find long-term answers, apart from the person and work of Jesus Christ.
John and others were with Jesus for three years. They heard Jesus’ teachings on the love and forgiveness of God. They observed Jesus making a way for us to experience God’s love and forgiveness as Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins and was raised from the dead to show us death doesn’t have to have power over us.
This morning, John reminds us that God selected a jury, of whom John was one of many. This jury was to represent all of humanity to judge if Jesus Christ stood the test of His claims, that He is the only way to God and that through Him, we can have peace with God and peace with one another. The jury has recorded its verdict in the pages of the Bible.