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1 John 1:1-2:2 (ESV)
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
Pastor Doug Kittredge has written a book entitled Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem. On page 73 of the book, he recounts the words of a “Perplexed Rabbi” trying to come to grips with how he is to practically minister to those facing death. The Rabbi states:
“I have more than twenty years of experience in the practical rabbinate and I have learned that what the average Jew wants is not theorizing and philosophizing but – certainty. If I could really convince my people that God appeared to Moses and gave him the Torah for Israel, I would have no trouble at all turning my congregation into shomrey mitzvoth [observers of the commandments]. But I can’t convince them—in fact, I myself am not convinced . . .” Recalling his experiences as a chaplain in World War Two, he said: “My colleagues, the Protestant and the Catholic chaplains, had it easy. At before-zero-hour services they told the men that Jesus would walk alongside them, protecting them in battle or carrying them to Paradise should death strike them down. The Christian boys went into battle utterly certain that if evening would not find them back with their buddies, it would mark their entry into Paradise. I could not speak to the Jewish boys in this fashion. It would have been incompatible with my Jewish philosophy cast into an intellectualist-rational pattern . . . . I always dreaded that a dying soldier might ask me, ‘What is beyond the grave?’ I knew I could not answer the question. Luckily, I was never faced with this situation. But it may arise tomorrow—what shall I say when one of my people ask me, ‘Rabbi, what lies beyond the grave?’” When asked whether he did not think that Psalms could “convey this consolation and certainty” he replied: “You have to be in the practical ministry to know the problems a spiritual leader faces. When a person is dying, the poetic metaphors of the Psalms mean precious little to him. He wants to cry to a God who assures him, him personally, that He hears his cry. We Jews have no such God to offer and this is why we are losing out.” The problem facing religious Judaism is not how to make the Jew conform to the existing Religious Code, or whether to revise the present Code, or to create a new religious code more suitable to changed conditions. The real problem is how to help the Jew find his way back to God.”
Christians take for granted the personal nature of God. I think, in fact, that we take for granted Christ’s role in revealing God to us. We assume that God is altogether like us. We assume that by simply saying a few things about God that we have natural contact and understanding of God. The more I wrestle with the Incarnation, God becoming flesh, the more it is apparent that we would have no meaningful contact with God apart from Christ. God would be veiled in inexpressible light. He would be unapproachable in His infinity and majesty.
The Epistle of 1 John opens with these words:
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us
Time does not permit me to unpack everything here but I want to draw out a few important points that connect the eternal God to that which can be heard and seen and touched.
We sometimes think that if we just have words to describe something that we understand it. We use words like eternal, unchangeable, infinite, and immortal to describe God but if we stop and reflect we don’t really understand what they really imply. To say God is eternal is to say He is without beginning and end but we cannot experience timelessness. Our experience is limited to time and history. We can say that God is unchangeable but all we know is change.
The sad reality of a Rabbi who has denied Christ is that he has cut himself off from the fullness of the revelation in the Old Testament. He has cut Himself off from the point of contact, which God had ordained beyond time to bring man into personal communion with Him.
You see, the distance between God and man is so great that we need a mediator. We need a “stand between”. We cannot grasp the infinite. We cannot touch the eternal. We need some way of understanding God. We need personal contact with the Creator or we are left, like the Jews, with a veil over God’s revelation. We are left in darkness. We only have an indescribable Name. We don’t really know how that God thinks or acts. Eternity is too immense. We cannot grasp it in its fullness. We need Eternity to lay hold of humanity in order for us to reach out and touch it.
And so, that which was from the beginning became flesh. The Son of God, Who was God from all eternity, took on a human nature. He did not change from being God. He did not subtract in order to become flesh but added. The Son of God added a human nature and became a real living, breathing, and thinking Man. One Person, the Son of God, maintained Divinity but took on humanity.
And so, in Christ, the word of life became flesh. He became flesh that could be heard, seen, and touched. Like us in every way. One to Whom we could relate. One Who was no longer infinite but finite.
In Christ, we can think of the Son of God as having a Hand touching both man and God. The finite has a real point of contact with the infinite in the one Person. Eternal life, which had no beginning and no end, became a real person in real history. Jesus the man had a real beginning and it is He who has been proclaimed to us.
We may think, perhaps, that it was only necessary that the Son of God should become flesh so He could put away the offense of our sin. This is certainly true but it is also true that the God-man makes a way for communion with the eternal God that we could never have unless God humbled Himself and became man in Christ.
John continues in verse 3:
3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
Because God Himself, in Jesus, became real flesh we have the ability to proclaim Him. This proclamation of the Good News grants us fellowship. It grants to us communion. This proclamation places us into spiritual relationship to one another and to the very communion that the Son of God has with the Father and the Spirit.
That perfect fellowship – the mutual love and interconnected knowledge that the Father, Son, and Spirit have enjoyed for eternity – is ours in Christ Jesus. Because we can lay hold of Christ, we can lay hold of the Person Who has this eternal communion.
John and the other Apostles wrote of the person and work of Christ that our joy may be complete. Our joy as those who have brought into contact with the Son by the Word. It is the Word that brings life. It is the Word of God that finds its perfect revelation in Christ Jesus for it is He who brings all of Who God is and what He has revealed by becoming a Man for us. By becoming a mediator for us – one Who experienced all of what humanity is and a life and death that we can lay hold of by faith.
Continuing in verse 5:
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
Notice how John shifts from proclamation to hearing. He is not only the proclaimer of this Word but also the hearer. The message is heard and the first Speaker is Christ. We also proclaim it but it is only after we have heard it. What is that message?
That God is light, and in him, is no darkness at all.
Light and life and inextricably linked in John and it reflects the pattern of Scripture itself. In the beginning was darkness and the first act of Creation was God creating light by the power of His Word. God is light giving, He is life giving.
It is interesting to note that all mankind owes existence to the God who created light. We know we could not exist without light on a biological level but, more importantly, we need light at the spiritual level.
In the Fall, man rebelled against God and the Scriptures repeatedly speak of our death – our death is evident by walking in darkness. Even though we still owe the light-giver praise and honor for our life, we are blind to His glory and presence. We imagine that we understand and see the world as it is but deny, at every turn, that everything around us stands in relation to the Creator. We imagine ourselves as those who really see things as they are. We imagine a world of things that we can sort out without any relationship to the Creator. We build things or conceive of things and work for food and shelter and luxuries. All the while we praise our own creativity and industry for it all.
Yet, apart from Christ, we are enemies of God, we walk in darkness. God hates that we do not honor Him for our life and the world around us. Our minds and our wills are hateful toward him. We are born in the darkness of our sin. We are self-obsessed and actively suppress knowledge that is evident. We think we can create a reality by simply describing things apart from Him. We even assume that we, who are in rebellion to God from our birth, can approach Him and demand life and goodness from His Hand.
But God is only light and in Him there is no darkness. He has no fellowship with the darkness that we are enslaved to. He has no fellowship with sin.
This is what troubled Nicodemus in John 3. When he asked Jesus if He was a prophet, Jesus stated that, unless a man be born again of the Spirit, He could not see the Kingdom of God.
Nicodemus responded by wondering how a man could crawl back into his mother’s womb.
Why? Because Nicodemus, for all his reading of the Scriptures was blind.
He needed the light of life. He need the Spirit, which the Son sends to bring men out of darkness into light. He needed eyes to see and ears to hear.
Without the light of life, he would remain blind to the Kingdom of God because he would remain dead to the things of God.
This is what John means in verse 6:
6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
To walk in darkness is to remain dead. It is to remain in Adam – in bondage to darkness.
It’s not as if men believe they have no life. They make decisions. They practice many things. They congratulate themselves about being enlightened and being decent men and women on the right side of history.
Yet, they do not practice the truth and walk in darkness even while many claim to have fellowship with God. Many, in fact, claim to have fellowship with Christ Himself and yet remain in darkness because it is not by the strength of our fallen minds that we resolve to walk with Christ but it is given from above.
But the Godhead was not content that men would remain enslaved to darkness. The Godhead was not content that all men would perish in their sins. It’s not that men in their sins desire God and communion with Him. They hate Him.
But God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that all who believe in Him should not perish but have life everlasting. God the Father sent the Son out of love for the world. The Son of God in flesh obeyed all righteousness by the power of the Spirit. He was despised and rejected of those whom He came to seek and save. He was condemned a blasphemer and a traitor. He was condemned to death on a tree and became a Curse. He hung between heaven and earth. The Person – fully God and fully man. The Man, Jesus, touched humanity and bore the wrath that we deserve and the Person suffered the full fury of God’s wrath for sin. He died a real death and remained under the power of death until, on the third day, He rose with indestructible life.
The Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son, gives men, women, boys, and girls light and life. The same Spirit Who, with the Father and Son, created the universe creates new life in us so that, by faith, we lay hold our feeble hands at the feet of the Savior. We turn from the death of our sin to the life of Christ. We are ushered out of darkness into the light of fellowship with the Son. In the Son we have fellowship with one another and with the Godhead.
John continues in verse 8:
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Why would any say they have no sin? In John’s context, the reason that some said they have no sin is that they concluded that God could have no fellowship with sin and, if we sin, then God can have no fellowship with sin.
Now, is it true that God can have no fellowship with sin?
Yes, it is true.
But the real question is this: can we solve that problem ourselves?
Can we be free of sin, with no help, to make that communion with God possible?
It is only the work of Christ that makes it possible that we would be cleansed from sin.
Many will tell you that there are many paths to God because they conceive of a God who must accept us just as we are. They will wag their finger in your face telling you how intolerant it is to proclaim that Jesus is the only way to God.
It is because their real problem is that they have no truth in them and the last thing they want to hear is that everything about them is a stench in the nostrils of a holy God Who has no fellowship with sin.
Though Christ has made a perfect sacrifice for sin they want no part of it.
But we who are in Christ understand that God has accepted the sacrifice of Christ.
It is because Christ’s sacrifice is perfect that we can have full assurance that our sins are forgiven. Divine justice has been fully satisfied by the death of Christ as He offered Himself up for our sin. The bar of eternal justice declares us not guilty in Christ and perfectly righteous in Him.
Those who claim that we can have fellowship with God apart from Christ, call God Himself a liar. They call God a liar because they deny the love of the Father in sending the Son. They call God a liar in refusing to listen to the Words of the Son of God Who calls out to all: “Look upon Me sinner and be forgiven from your sins! You cannot pay the wrath you deserve and so I have become a sacrifice for sin.”
When we think we can get by in this world without Christ we do not believe the Word of God. The Word is not in us. We are still dead in our sins.
We conclude with the first two verses of 1 John 2:
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
Beloved, the work of Christ has set us free from bondage to sin.
It is not something we can work up within ourselves but we must be born from above.
If we are in Christ, we ought not to desire the darkness because we have been set free from its power.
And yet, if we are in Christ, then we are the true realists.
We see things as they really are.
We still see ourselves as weak and needy.
We know, that in spite of our love for Christ, we still see within ourselves a part of us that still loves sin.
We still sin against a holy God and we are tempted to think that there is no kindness of God.
We think that God could not possibly love someone like us.
There seems to be no way that we’ll escape punishment for our sin.
But then we come to our senses as we remember Christ.
Could it really be true?
Did God love us this much?
We who hated God?
The Father sent the Son for a sinner like me?
How perfect was that sacrifice?
How indestructible was that life?
How penetrating was that light?
The power of the Son of God!
Powerful enough to utterly cast away the sin and guilt of our sin.
I cannot conceive of how I could pay the penalty for the wrath I deserve.
But glory be to God I believe the Son of God can deal with it!
That sacrifice – so holy, so perfect!
It’s powerful enough to put away the sins of the entire world!
If it’s that powerful then He can deal with my sin.
I cannot touch eternity but I can reach out to the hand of a Man.
I can reach out to that perfect High Priest!
In Him I have light.
In Him I have life.
In Him I have fellowship with God and with all His people called by His Name.
Let us pray.