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1 John 1:1-2 by Robert Dean
Series:1st John (2000)
Duration:58 mins 9 secs

The Christian Life and the Incarnation; 1 John 1:1-2


logos [logoj] isn't the subject of verse 2; life is the subject of verse 2: "and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us." That tells us that the life John is talking about is infinitely connected with Jesus Christ because it was with the Father and was manifested to us. In the case of our Lord Jesus Christ the man in the message and the message is the man, and we can't talk about the man without talking about the message, and we can't talk about the message without talking about the man. But we can talk about either the man or the message but the other is always present. John's focus here is on the message. It is the message of life which was exemplified for us at the first advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was in His perfect and sinless life that He was qualified to go to the cross, and in His life He not only fulfilled the obligations of the Mosaic Law in the Old Testament but He also set the precedent and pattern for the spiritual life of the church age. 1 John is John's commentary and his expansion of the themes in the upper room discourse. It is addressed to believers to teach them how live that abundant life which was exemplified by Christ, That is the message of life. It was exemplified by the one who was life.

In Greek, word order is not important to the meaning of the sentence because the meaning is defined by its syntactical ending. The object of the verb is in the accusative case in the Greek. What we have in verse 1 are four relative clauses that are neuter accusative and therefore cannot refer to a person, so we know they are not talking about the person of Christ, they are referring to a thing which would be the message. They are accusative which means that is where the object of the verb lies. So, "we proclaim to you what was from the beginning." We have also seen that there is this difficult phrase at the end, "concerning the word of life," which uses the preposition peri, and peri is associated with a verb, translated "concerning the message," but you can't see, behold and handle a message. So concerning doesn't relate to what John just said, it has to relate to what he is going to say.

By taking a more strict translation of 1 John 1:1-4 it comes across as a little complex in the English and its meaning can be missed. So we could retranslate this differently in order for us to catch the main thrust in English of what John is saying: "We proclaim to you [that is bringing right up to the front the main clause] concerning the message of life." You can proclaim something related to a message, and that is what he is talking about. He is talking about its content, the doctrine. He is not talking about the man, he is talking about the message. He is talking about how crucial the message is to having fellowship. If you don't have the content right, if the doctrine isn't right, there can't be fellowship. Remember, that is the purpose clause: "so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." The point is that if you want to have fellowship with God you have to have right doctrine.

The point of all this is that John is talking about how we understand the abundant life. That is, the message of the upper room discourse: abiding in Christ. Abiding is a key word in this epistle. If John is talking about living the Christian life and the Christian life is exemplified for us by Jesus Christ's life during the period of His incarnation, and he really wasn't a man but an illusion, then that destroys the whole witness of His life as an example setting the precedent for the spiritual life and it is a subtle assault on the unique Christian life for the church age. That is the underlying issue here, and he is basically saying we can't abide in Christ, can't have fellowship with God, can't fulfil the highest commandment which is to love others as Christ loved the church, of we deny the reality of the humanity of Jesus Christ. So the humanity of Jesus Christ is foremost in His thinking and he starts off by using these relative clauses because he is emphasising the empirical knowledge the disciples had of Jesus Christ and His message.     

Translation: "We proclaim to you concerning the message of life [the doctrine of the spiritual life], what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, and the lift was revealed [phaneroo /fanerow, which means to reveal, to illuminate], and we have seen and give our testimony and announce to you the eternal life which is with the Father, and was manifested to us. What we have seen and heard we announce to you also that you might have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ." That is a re-translation and it gives us in English a better understanding of what John is emphasising, what he is saying, in these first three verses.

He is making three points in this introduction. The first is that the man is the message and the message is the man, they are intrinsically and inseparably connected. The second is that the empirical evidence of the apostles' witness during the life of Christ, and specifically John's own personal contact, substantiates the message. Third, it is the message, content of the gospel, that is the object of belief necessary for salvation and ongoing fellowship with God, and it is also necessary to have right doctrine to maintain fellowship with God.

During the incarnation Jesus Christ faced every category of testing in every area just as we do and yet He never sinned. How did He do it? It wasn't just in His deity. He doesn't rely on His deity to solve the problems of life. He does it as a man relying upon the Holy Spirit and on Bible doctrine. That is what sets the precedent for the church age. During the time of the hypostatic union on the earth Jesus Christ is doing two things. First, He is fulfilling all of the requirements of the law. Bu His reliance upon the Holy Spirit He lives a perfect life, thus fulfilling the law and qualifying Himself to go to the cross. So He fulfils all of the mandates in the Old Testament. Second, by doing it on the basis of the Spirit of God plus the Word of God he sets the precedent for how the believer in the church age is to live the spiritual life. It is on the basis of the filling of the Holy Spirit plus the Word of God that the believer grows to spiritual maturity in the church age. So in His life He fulfils the Old Testament mandates and He sets the pattern and precedent for the church age. If He is not true humanity, facing those problems just as we do as a genuine human being, then it is all fraudulent and there is no precedent for the spiritual life in the church age. The spiritual life of the church age is not based on the spiritual life of the Old Testament; it is not based on the Mosaic Law. Christ fulfilled the law and He is the end of the law, Romans says. The church age spiritual life is based on the precedent of Christ living the spiritual life during the incarnation on the earth when He faced all the trial, all the testings in His life under the power of God the Holy Spirit.

John uses phrase like "from the beginning" and "logos" to cause our thinking to automatically go to the Gospel of John chapter one: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God…" This is because he wants us to be thinking about the person behind the message, and that you can't take the person away without destroying the message. John makes it clear to us that life is intimately, intrinsically and inseparably connected with the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father but through me." He makes three statements; He identifies Himself with life. This is confirmed by John 1:4, "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men." It is His life that illuminates us; it is what reveals God to us. John 5:26 NASB "For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself." 1 John 5:20 NASB "And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life." Jesus Christ is the true God, that is the clear statement of the deity of Jesus Christ. So John concludes the epistle with what he begins the epistle, and that is the identification of life with Christ and that we must be in Him.

The phrase "in Him" is a phrase that is particularly unique to John. It is not to be taken as "in Christ," that is a Pauline term. In John's writings "in Him" is not talking about positional truth. "In Christ" for Paul is positional truth, our eternal reality in Christ, but John's writings "in Him" is used and it is a relational term. "In Him" is relational; "in Christ" is legal. When John talks about being "in Him" he is talking about being in fellowship or not in fellowship. This emphasises for us the whole doctrine of the hypostatic union. The word "hypostatic" comes from the Greek word hupostasis [u(postasij] which means essence or substance. So it is talking about the essence of God, that there is a union of essence, union of being, two things united together. It describes the union of two natures: undiminished deity and true humanity in the one person of Jesus Christ. These natures are inseparably united without loss or mixture of separate identity—when Jesus became man He didn't lose any divine attributes; when Jesus was incarnate on the earth there was not a mixture of human and divine attributes, they do not bleed into one another; they are distinct natures, they maintain their distinction, so He is true humanity and undiminished deity—without loss or transfer of properties or attributes, the union being personal and eternal. Jesus Christ will always be in hypostatic union with humanity. The second person of the Trinity is united with true humanity forever and ever and ever, and thus He can be seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven right now. We see this exemplified in Hebrews 1:3 NASB "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." Only true humanity sits down.

An aside: Because He is seated at the right hand of God the Father in His humanity—His humanity is what went to the cross and died for us—He is localised in His humanity on high and He cannot become localised in an ongoing communion service, therefore there is no physical presence of Christ in the Lord's table (or the Mass, which is the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation). He cannot be localised in Heaven and then each time the Mass is celebrated have His body become ubiquitous on earth.

The doctrine of the incarnation

Definition: "Incarnate" comes from the Latin carne, meaning flesh, matter, and it means to be made in flesh, that God became human flesh.

The incarnation was not some afterthought of God, the incarnation was determined by God in eternity past at the council of divine decrees. It was first prophesied in the Bible in Genesis 3:15 NASB "And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel." Here we see that the Messiah would be "her seed," the seed of the woman, true humanity. Genesis 12:1-3, we find out that the Messiah would come through the line of Abraham. Genesis 49:10 NASB "The scepter [sign of a ruler] shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh [Messiah] comes, And to him {shall be} the obedience of the peoples." It is further clarified in 2 Samuel 7:12 in the Davidic covenant NASB "When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom." We get a further indication of the miraculous quality of His birth in Isaiah 7:14 NASB "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son [genuine humanity], and she will call His name Immanuel [God with us]." So here there is a clear indication in the Old Testament that God would be united with humanity in the person of the Messiah. Isaiah 9:6 NASB "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father [Correctly, Father of eternity, a designation of His eternal attributes], Prince of Peace." There are four titles in that verse and they are only applied to deity in the Old Testament. Further, the prophesies in the Old Testament define the birthplace of Messiah. Micah 5:2 NASB "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, {Too} little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity." The fulfilment of these prophesies is given in Matthew 1:18 NASB "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. [19] And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. [20] But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. [21] She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.' [22] Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: [23] 'BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,' which translated means, 'GOD WITH US'." John 1:14 NASB "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." 1 Timothy 3:16 NASB "By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory." Hebrews 2:14 NASB "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil." Philippians 2:5-9 NASB "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, [6] who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men. [8] Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

The incarnation had two purposes. The first was salvation. Jesus Christ had to be true humanity to die as our substitute. But what is more important for this epistle is that Jesus Christ was true humanity not just to die for our sins but in order to exemplify for us and set the precedent for the spiritual life of the church age. If He is not true humanity than He could not handle the problems, the testings, the temptations, the adversities in life on the same resources that we do. But Jesus is true humanity in order to demonstrate for us the power of God the Holy Spirit, so that no matter what we face in life, no matter what the problem is, Jesus Christ has faced it all, and on the basis of the filling of the Holy Spirit and the application of doctrine from the Word of God Jesus Christ was able to face that, yet without sin.