Word and Life: The Bases of Fellowship
1 John 1:1-4
Additional Texts: John 1:1-18, Col. 1:15-20
The apostle John wrote this letter to Christians to clarify distorted views about Jesus. For example, the false teachings by Gnostics had been spread to many Christian communities, de-emphasizing the person and work of Jesus Christ. John attempts in this short letter to enlighten his readers to the facts concerning Jesus because he and other disciples had observed first hand the life of Jesus.
John boldly expresses his personal experience with Jesus in the most practical manner, drawing on what he understood as the central basis of the Christian faith: Jesus is Lord of the universe, through whom it was created and by whom is saved. John not only emphasizes Jesus' eternal nature in creating the entire cosmos, he also strongly underscores Jesus' humanity, as a man who walked, preached, and suffered on this earth in a very physical way. In short, Jesus was a REAL, living, breathing Savior, not some “mind-tickling” or mere spiritual concept!
John's prologue for this letter is an abbreviated reflection of the prologue from his gospel. The terms “Word” and “Life” are at the center of both prologues. John uses these terms to show the timeless nature of Jesus and his central roles in the cosmos as his Father's personal embodiment and full revelation to mankind.
Our focus for this lesson will direct our attention to the facts, so that “we may know” Jesus was “flesh and blood”, fully human and at the same time divine. Such is the basis of our Christian faith and our fellowship. Our fellowship with God, His Son, and with one another hinges upon these qualities of Jesus!
1. What is the similarity of the opening verses of The Gospel of John and 1 John? What is different in the opening verses of The Gospel of John and 1 John?
Similarities: John uses Word, Life, and Beginning in both openings, each of which are devoid of the usually greetings and author identification seen in other letters. John does not waste time in either book; he gets to the subject of the letter quickly and point-blank.
Differences: John is experiential in 1 John where as he is more theological in the Gospel. His wording is relating his sensory conformation of Jesus' presences in our world. Also, in his gospel, John develops the creation theme more fully than in 1 John.
2. What does John mean by “from the beginning”? What is the practical importance of this phrase? What should it mean to us?
The “beginning may have two meanings, each of which will fit the context of the letter. He may, as in his gospel be indicating that through Jesus the entire cosmos has been created. Jesus was from the beginning, before time exist with God the Father. A second meaning may rest in the fact that Jesus Christ had a beginning to his human life as he entered this world. Thus people and family knew Jesus from that beginning life on earth. The former meaning though is better for the context and in light of John's gospel prologue.
The practical importance of John phrase, rest in the fact that Jesus Christ was from the beginning and is eternal. This fact establishes Jesus as divine and eternal with God the Father. John's message is foundational to our faith and how we live that faith in our world.
These verses also give us a strong understanding that Jesus is definitive and not just another good preacher, prophet, or teacher. In our world of competing religions or faiths, the story of Jesus is unique and true. We cannot compromise on this central story of the Christian faith.
3. John uses the phrases, “have seen”, “have heard”, “have looked at”, and “have touched” in verse 1 to indicate his own personal experiences with Jesus Christ. Why are these phrases important to John's message to his original readers and to us today? Relate these same phrases of verse 1 to John's continued message in verse 2.
John's phrases give him a special authority because he experienced Jesus and his life personally. Thus, he can confirm the gospel message because of his personal knowledge. Also, the words used by John are sensory and experiential. John is not discussing a theology knowledge learned from reading and studying but he is relating personal experience from real life. These words reflect a deep intimacy that all Christians can experience.
4. Why does John use the terms “Word of Life”, “Word”, and “Life” for Jesus in 1 John 1:1-4 and John 1:14? Why are these words significant?
Logos (Word) expresses the message of Jesus as well as being comprehensive in that it covers the entire nature and work of Jesus. We see life has an expressed action and logos has an eternal emphasis. Each complete the picture that Jesus is eternal and his Life affects the past, present, and future. We must understand that his salvation is offered to us now and its effects are now only in the future.
5. In verses 3 and 4, John's major purpose for writing this letter appears. What is the basis of our fellowship with God, Jesus Christ, and one another?
The proclamation that Jesus is eternal and appeared in human form is the basis of fellowship. Christian fellowship exists because of and through the “Word of Life.” The Word of Life is our salvation before God the Father. Koinonia (Gk: fellowship) means, “to share something in common with one another.” We share Jesus! This sharing is not an option or a luxury but a necessity. Sharing is part of the Life that we are offered now while we still living in this present time.
6. Why does John say that our joy is made complete in this fellowship?
God intended for Christian to have fellowship with one another and with Him. As we mature in our faith, we come to understand the necessity of true fellowship as well as the spiritual benefits. Once we experience true Christian fellowship, our joy is made complete. This joy is not based on earthly possessions or knowledge but on the Word of Life. It is a joy that is eternal, pure, heavenly, and complete.
Note Jesus' words in John 15;11 and 16:24
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