1 John 1:1-4
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”
The Apostle John opens his letter in a very similar way to his Gospel.
“That which was from the beginning…” (1 John)
“In the beginning…” (Gospel of John)
“…that eternal life, which was with the Father” (1 John)
“The Word was with God…” (Gospel of John)
“of the Word of life” (1 John)
“In the beginning was the Word…in him was life” (Gospel of John)
“…we have seen it and bear witness” (1 John)
“The same came for a witness, to witness of that Light” (Gospel of John)
The first three verses of 1 John serve as a remarkable commentary and expansion on the first twelve verses of the Gospel of John. When reading the two side by side, a glorious picture of our Savior begins to come into focus.
He was from the beginning, He is the Word of life that was manifested in the flesh and is the Light of men. We bear witness of His life and light that leads to eternal life to be with God the Father as He is and has been for all eternity. His own received Him not, but as many as received Him he gave the right to be children of God and we declare these things so that all may have fellowship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
The capstone of all of it is our joy. All of the Gospel of John and all of the book of 1 John and all of the Gospels and letters and books contained in the Bible are written for the fullness of our joy.
As we take a closer look at the opening statement here in 1 John, one of the reasons our joy is complete is because we have full assurance that Jesus is who He claimed to be. The apostle says, we heard and saw and handled the Word of Life. This isn’t theory, it is reality.
They heard him speak with their own ears. In John 7:46, we hear the report of officers sent to apprehend Jesus and they returned saying, “No man ever spoke like this Man!”
They saw him work with their own eyes.
Peter put it this way, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty”. 2 Peter 1:16
John 1:14 echoes, “..we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father”.
They were eyewitnesses of His glory.
They touched him with their own hands. Even the doubting disciple, Thomas, was encouraged by Jesus to touch the holes in his hands, feet and side and believe that He was truly risen.
Jesus went to great lengths to ensure His followers experienced Him with the fullness of their senses, so that they would be more authentic witnesses of Him.
This authentic witness of the apostles for the church is a constant reminder that our faith is certain and our hope is secure. The assurance of faith is cause for great joy. It is the completer of joy.
How can our joy truly be full, if what our joy is founded in is proven false? The knowledge that our faith can never be disproved or overturned completes our joy, because our joy is built on a foundation that will never be shaken.
The implication is that we are called to be eye-witnesses of the Word of Life to the world. Not that we have seen Him or heard Him or touched Him with our physical senses, but we have experienced Him in very real ways through the working of His Spirit. Our transformation is our witness.
As Paul says, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
We SEE him, but not like they saw him. We see Him as in a mirror, through the eyes of faith. As we look, we are transformed into His image by His Spirit. In this sense, we are eye-witnesses and our joy is complete.