Summary: An exegetical study of 1 John 1:1-5
The Testimony of John: The Son of God has come to Earth 1:1-5
1. Jesus has always existed
2. Jesus has proven who He is
3. Jesus has revealed who He is: The Word of Life
a. By appearing, revealing Himself
b. By identifying with men
4. Jesus has come to earth for the most glorious purpose
a. That we might have fellowship with God
b. That our joy may be complete
5. Jesus has preached the most wonderful message
a. That God is light
b. That there is no darkness in God at all
1. Jesus has always existed
John begins this letter in much the same way that he began the Gospel of John. He starts at the beginning. The context here identifies the beginning as the beginning of all created things. In other words, when all of creation as we know it came into existence, our Lord was already in existence. Therefore, we may assume two things from this; first, since He outdated all creation, He must be uncreated. Second, since He is uncreated, He must be without beginning, and therefore deity. (Col 1:15) (First born, cults)
The inspired writer then stresses that he had personally seen, heard, and touched Jesus, stressing the fact that he had personal knowledge of the humanity of Jesus. The reason that he did this is because he was combating heretical teachings of the time by a group called the Docetic Gnostics, who denied the humanity of Christ. The word “Docetic” comes from the Greek word “to seem”. They were teaching that Jesus only seemed to have a real body and that He was only a Spirit, with no real body.
The first proof that John advances for the fact of the humanity of Jesus is that he and his fellow disciples actually heard Him speak in a human voice. Now, John wrote this about A.D. 90. He heard our Lord speak from A.D. 30-33. So about 60 years passed from the time that John actually heard Jesus speak and the time that he wrote this letter. Now, that’s a long time, however, there are several things that account for John’s memory in the event of the life of our Lord.
One is that in the first century books were few and so men trained themselves to remember much, unlike today, where books are plentiful and people remember little. (average attention span) And, of course, there is the fact that he was talking to God and was His companion for three years. (John 14:26) The Holy Spirit would have brought back to memory anything that would have left his mind.
For further proof of the Lord’s humanity, John turns to the sense of vision. John uses a very distinct word for seeing, (horao), which refers to the actual sense of seeing. By the use of this particular word, he was letting the readers know that he didn’t just see a ghost or a spirit; he knew that when he was with Jesus, he saw a man. A living, breathing person.
John then goes on to say that he “looked upon Him” Here; he uses another word, which means, “to see”. This is from the Greek word “theaomai”, which means “to behold, to, view attentively, to contemplate”. This is where we get our English word “theatre”. So John is saying that not only did he see Jesus, but that he also watched Him and knew a great deal about Him.
Now that he has established proof of our Lord’s actual humanity through the senses seeing and hearing, John turns to the sense of touch. The words translated “have handled” are a translation of a verb which means “to examine closely, or to handle with a view to investigation”. The same word is used in the Greek translation of Genesis 27:22, where blind Isaac felt the hands of Jacob. Isaac, puzzled at the voice of Jacob, handled his hands with a view of trying to investigate whether or not the speaker was really Esau. The same word is also used in Luke 24:29. John is probably referring to Jesus’ resurrection, meaning that they were able to touch Him after He was resurrected, proving that He was not a Spirit, but flesh and blood.
John tells us the things that he heard, saw and felt concerning the Word of life. Jesus is the Word of God in the sense that He is the total sense of God as seen through a human medium. His humanity consists of His human body, His human limitations, and His human life, as lived on earth through the power of the Holy Spirit. Believers as well as unbelievers view this life. (Josephus)
(Vs. 2) John says that the life, which God is, has been “manifested” or “made known”. This life, which is invisible to man, has been made known through the humanity of our Lord. The Messiah left heaven came to earth and lived as a man for 33 years, and in doing so, He made visible to human understanding the life which God is. (Lee Strobel, C.S. Lewis)