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, concerning the Word of Life …
1 John 1:1
It is bad practice to take a verse out of context. It is also not so fantastic to take a part of a verse and start making doctrines from it. This verse is the first in the book, so there is not much in the way of preceding context. And what I see in this verse is not going to change any doctrines, that I am aware of.
John is commonly thought to have written this letter, hence the name of the book, but there is nothing as concrete as in the letters of Paul and Peter to tell me that this is definitely from the pen of John the Beloved. There are some similar thematic elements between this letter and John’s gospel — the focus on love, for example — and, I am told, some similar linguistic constructs — not reading Greek, I could not say — so the likelihood is high that this letter is, indeed, written by John. The audience to whom this letter is written is not explicitly stated, though there are passages that state that the author is writing to little children, fathers, and young men (2:12-14). Essentially, this letter is meant for believers at every stage in life. And that life may be either spiritual or physical, as the things mentioned as pertaining to the three groups are generally spiritual in nature.
With that in mind, what do I see this morning? Verse four (v4) tells me that these things were written so that our joy might be made complete. The things in question begin being described in this verse: (1) What was from the beginning, (2) what we have heard, (3) what we have seen with our eyes, (4) what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life. (1) John speaks of the Word made flesh in his gospel — one of those similarities that make folks think this letter is written by John — and what was from the beginning is God. Nothing else has been around that long. (2) This is not just about God, but about things heard. I can hear about God by reading The Bible and I can hear directly from God Himself. This tidbit does not give me any insight into which is intended. (3) What I have seen is personal experience. While I may have heard about God by reading scripture, a thing must happen to me personally in order for me to have seen it. What the author of this letter is going to be writing about is not hearsay, but is personal experience; eyewitness testimony. (4) As if the preceding was not clear enough, this is added — that these things have been looked at and touched. This implies a thorough examination. This was no cursory glance, but an investigation.
This leaves me with two action items. First, I need to be aware that I can only really testify to what I have personally experienced. If I am not handling God’s Word regularly and am not looking for Him to intervene in my life and seeing that intervention, then I really have nothing to say to others about God. I cannot tell someone about another person’s friend and be credible as a source, I must personally know the One about Whom I am talking. Second, this feels like an invitation to do all of these things: to hear and see and examine and touch. Not only must I have done these things in order to be a credible source when telling others about God, but this sounds like an echo of other places in scripture like the verse that invites me to taste and see that the LORD is good or the verse where Thomas is invited to reach his hands into Jesus’ wounds. God does not want me to stop at a distance and never come close to Him, God invites contact.
Father, thank You that You are not distant, but close. Thank You also, that You are not afraid of my examination, but rather invite it. You want me to hear and see and touch and find out about You personally. Thank You for these things. Please remind me that this is not about rules and regulations, but about a relationship with You. Do This and Do Not Do That is easier to manage than a living, breathing relationship. Rules are such predictable things, but living beings are not. And there is no one more alive than You. Please teach me to be at home with relationship and give me things to recount — times I see Your works and times with You that can be nothing else.