Friday, July 27, 2007

First John

I have always found it interesting that the Apostle John never used his own name when he wrote his account of the life of Jesus. He never used his own name when he wrote three short letters much later. (First, Second, and Third John.)

(He did use his own name in the Book of The Revelation - three times in the first chapter, and once in the last. It’s a pretty long story, but when John put his name own name in The Book of the Revelation, it actually caused some to argue that John didn’t write it. The canonization of The Book of the Revelation is a pretty interesting story. We may talk about it some.)

Of more importance to today, however, is that while John didn’t use his own name, several times he calls himself “the one that Jesus loved” (John 13:3 for example). It’s an amazing thought that John was so impacted by Jesus that he, in some sense, lost his identity as “John, brother of James, son of Zebedee” and thought of himself as “beloved of Jesus.” John was consumed by the love Jesus had for him. It became his identity, his passion, his emphasis, his joy, his strength…. his concept of himself was rooted in his relationship to Jesus. I wonder how I would approach my day differently if I thought of myself less as “Steve” and more as “one loved by Jesus.”

With that background, let’s start looking at the book of First John. It starts with a very long, very complex sentence. The sentence starts with a series of dependent clauses. “That which we have seen” etc. The verb in the sentence does not show up until verse 3. In the NKJV the verb is in the phrase “we declare.” John’s big starting point is as follows. (The text is in bold italics, my comments are in plain text.)

That which was from the beginning, - A first description of something not yet named
which we have heard, - A second description of something not yet named
which we have seen with our eyes, - A third description of something not yet named
which we have looked upon, - A fourth description of something not yet named
and our hands have handled, - A fifth description of something not yet named
concerning the Word of life – The "something" is named, but not very clearly
(the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us) - A parenthetical clause that finally defines the “something” to which all those clauses referred. This parenthetical clause also explains a presumed objections… how is it possible that “they” could have seen, heard, looked upon, and handled that which was “from the beginning.” i.e. eternal. The answer is that the Word was eternal with the Father, but it was also manifested to us.
that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, - There is the subject verb and object of the sentence.
that you also may have fellowship with us; John actually gives several reasons for writing this book, this is the first of those.
and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. John reinforces the fact that his identity is completely wrapped up in his fellowship with Jesus Christ, and that this fellowship is available to us.

John’s opening sentence is “declaring” or “proclaiming” the facts that the same Jesus that was seen, heard, and touched by so many is eternal God. His reason for that focus is so that his readers can join in fellowship with those eye-witnesses and in fact with God Himself.

As I was studying this, the thought that struck me was about John. He did not see himself most accurately, fully, and completely, as “a son of thunder,” or as “one of the inner three,” or as “the brother of James,” not even as “John.” His must complete understanding of himself was “the one loved by Jesus.” That one, the one loved by Jesus, had one singular passion, revealed in these opening verses…. To declare to others that Jesus is the eternal Word of the Father. Because he was “loved by Jesus,” he was passionate about declaring the truth of Jesus to others, so that they too could know His love.

I wonder why so many modern Christians are so passive about declaring truth to others. I wonder how our evangelism would change if we saw ourselves not as “Americans,” or “Alabamians,” or “conservative protestants,” or even as “Christians,” but rather, we saw ourselves most clearly, and most fundamentally as “I am the one that Jesus loves.”

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