That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life (and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us); that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also, that ye also may have fellowship with us: yea, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ: and these things we write, that our joy may be made full (1 John 1:1-4).
John begins his first letter with no welcoming message per se; instead, he begins the letter like he began his Gospel: speaking concerning the Word of life.
John speaks regarding “that which [is] concerning the Word of life.” Much is made of the Word of God as revealed in the Bible, and this is natural and understandable. But John here speaks of the incarnate Word, that which was from the beginning, with God and being God, and active in the creation (John 1:1-3). This Word becomes flesh (John 1:14). We recognize that John is speaking about Jesus, but he does so in a very powerful way.
Christianity is unique among religions because, at its heart, it is centered on a Person. Jesus is the Word. He Himself, in the flesh, is God’s message to mankind. God has taken on flesh, has walked among mankind, and has provided the true light from Heaven (John 1:4-5, 14). Judaism is about the Torah; Islam is about the Qu’ran; eastern religions are often about meditation or ritual. Christianity, while having the Bible, is still about Jesus, the incarnate Word of life. This emphasis is seen constantly in John’s Gospel and later in his letter (cf. John 6, 1 John 2:3-6, 4:11). Eternal life is in the Son, the Word of life (1 John 5:10-12). Everything is centered on Jesus.
And this Jesus is no mere phantasm, no “seeming” person. He was truly God in the flesh. John heard, saw, looked upon, and touched the Word of life (1 John 1:1). He did this not by touching a book or by man’s work on stone or wood, but by being present with and experiencing the manifestation of “the life,” Jesus in the flesh (1 John 1:2; cf. John 1:14). He testifies to Jesus as a witness of His glory and power: testimony is a central piece to John’s themes, both in his Gospel and letter. His message to Christians comes with authority: the authority of one who saw Jesus and heard the message of God from His lips (1 John 1:1-2).
And this is why he writes: he proclaims the message to Christians that he heard from Jesus so that Christians can have fellowship with him, as he has fellowship with the Father and the Son (1 John 1:3). Fellowship is the Greek word koinonia, and it indicates joint participation, association, a sharing. The message of Jesus is something in which we believe and then participate together in our common goal. One cannot be a believer in Jesus Christ while having no association with others who believe, as John will continue to make clear (1 John 1:7).
By writing the message and having Christians hear it and have fellowship with him and with God, John’s joy is “made complete” (1 John 1:4). Let us join together in a common faith in the message of Jesus so that God’s and our joy may be made complete!
Ethan R. Longhenry