This short section is like a preface to the entire epistle. It tells us the origin, nature, content, and purpose of the message that the apostle is declaring. Much information and teaching is packed into these four verses. So take the time to think about the passage and its significance.
Did You Know...?
1. Fellowship (1:3): “Hellenistic literature uses [this word] to describe partners in business, joint owners of a piece of property, or shareholders in a common enterprise.” [ref]
Compare verse 1-5 with John 1:1-18 and write down the similarities and the teachings behind them.Hide Answer
Jesus is referred to as the Word (1:1; Jn 1:1), the life, and the light (1:2,5; Jn 1:4,9). He is from the beginning (1:1; Jn 1:1). He was with the Father and has now appeared to us (1:2; Jn 1:18). He came in the flesh, and we have seen Him with our eyes (1:1,3; Jn 1:14). From these similar teachings, we learn that Jesus is the eternal God who came into the world in flesh to bring us everlasting life. He lived among men and many had personally witnessed Him. He came to bring us eternal life and delivered us out of the darkness of sin into His kingdom of light.
To understand the first three verses, we need to read the sentence carefully first and see what it says. a. What is the content of the message that John is declaring? b. What is the nature of this message? c. What is the purpose for declaring this message?Hide Answer
a. John was declaring about Jesus Christ, who was the Word that became flesh, and the grace and truth that Christ brought to us (Jn 1:14).
b. It was from the beginning, which we have heard, seen, looked upon, and handled. He was with the Father and was manifested to us.
c. So that the believers may have fellowship with one another and with God.
What does it mean that John has “heard,” “seen,” “looked upon,” “handled,” and is “bearing witness” to the Word of life?Hide Answer
Jesus Christ came into the flesh and was truly among the people. The disciples had personally heard, seen, and touched Him. They also became firsthand witnesses to His ministry, death, and resurrection.
The sentence structure of verses 1-3 is quite unusual. It starts with the object, and we do not see the subject and verb until verse 3. This is what the sentence would be like if it was written another way. “We declare to you concerning the Word of life, which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen….” Why do you thing the author structured his sentence this way?Hide Answer
The author places emphasis on the message of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ, not the author, who is of prime importance to the reader. The phrase “that which was from the beginning” is also a powerful way to start the introduction of Jesus Christ (See Jn 1:1).
What does the word “fellowship” mean? Read these N.T. passages in which the word is used and try to provide a definition based on these verses: Acts 2:42; 1Cor 1:9; 5:2 (NIV); 10:20; 2Cor 6:14; 8:4; 13:14 (NIV); Gal 2:9; Phil 1:5; 2:1; 3:10; Phm 6 (NASB).Hide Answer
The word has been translated into various English words, such as
“communion,” “participation,” “share a common life,” and “partnership”;
its root meaning is “common” or “shared” as opposed to “one’s own.”
How does John’s description serve as a powerful defense against the denial that Jesus came in the flesh?Hide Answer
Jesus did not just appear to men as a spiritual being. The author assured the readers that he and the other disciples had been with Jesus and had actually heard Him, seen Him, and touched Him (cf. Lk 24:39).
Why is it important to us, the readers, that what the apostle declares is something he has seen, looked upon, and handled?Hide Answer
The testimony of firsthand witnesses is very powerful. Without these witnesses, we may question whether Jesus was a real historical figure or simply a mythical character that people had fashioned. From the transformed lives of witnesses and their courage to risk their lives in order to proclaim the message of resurrection, we know that Jesus was truly among them and had truly been resurrected from the dead.
What can we learn from John in his role as a witness?Hide Answer
John declared the message out of sincere concern for his readers’ well-being. He wanted them to come into fellowship with God and remain in His eternal life. As witnesses, we need to share the message of life, not to prove that we are right, but solely to benefit our listeners and bring them to God.
In what ways have you also seen, heard, and touched our Lord?
The apostle bears witness. to what he has seen. Do you bear witness to what you have seen? Write down things in your faith that you have seen, heard, and touched that you could witness to others about.
Why is the message we have received and share with others the “Word of life”?Hide Answer
It delivers us from spiritual death into God’s eternal life. Having been raised with Christ through baptism, we can live a new life that carries the image of God (Rom 6:4). Christ gives us abundant life so we may bear fruits for the glory of God (Jn 10:10; 15:5).
How does the writer have fellowship with his readers?Hide Answer
By sharing the message of Jesus Christ, the author shares God’s life and all the spiritual blessings with his readers.
How is our fellowship with other believers also fellowship with God?Hide Answer
True fellowship is not possible without God since He is the source of life and blessings. What we share with fellow believers, we receive from God first. For example, God has first loved us so that we can love one another (4:10,11). Only when we have experienced God’s love can we truly love others with His divine love.
Think about or discuss ways we can have fellowship with one another and with God. You may refer to John’s epistles as your guide.Hide Answer
Walk in the light (1:7). Obey God’s commands (5:2). Love one another in deed and in truth (3:18). More specifically, we can have fellowship with one another when we share our personal experience and testimony with others. We can also encourage one another’s faith through discussion of God’s word. When we show our love by providing for the needs of our brothers, we also have fellowship with one another. Serving the Lord with fellow workers is another way to have fellowship. All of the above are possible in the church. So church gatherings are important because they allow us to stay in fellowship with one another and with God.