John writes a letter to Christians—people who trust in Jesus as God’s Son. He wants them to know they have eternal life (5:13). He wants us, not just to believe, but to be sure.
He needs to do this because other mischievous ideas are being promoted that will not have the power to sustain their faith, hope and love. The gospel is a ‘word of life’—a message that creates what it says. It’s not just information or advice. We need to hear God’s Son speak, and live (John 5:25).
John gets straight to the point in this first section (1 John 1:1-4). He’s knows what he is talking about. He’s seen and heard it for himself. And he’s been appointed to tell us.
We need to hear this word because it’s impossible to work up a Christian confidence from where we are. John starts by giving us four basic certainties.
First, if something is true, it must always have been true. This message comes ‘from the beginning’. It’s always been this way and it’s eternal.
The similarity of this statement with the beginning of John’s Gospel shows he is referring to when the world is made. Jesus is God’s Word, bringing the world into existence. He is with God and is God. We are alive because we’ve been created. So now, if we are going to be sure of eternal life, it will have to be because God makes it happen.
Second, this ‘word of life’ has come among us. It’s actually Jesus—the person. John remembers the sound of his voice. He remembers seeing and touching him. He may be remembering the day when Jesus asks his disciples to touch him and give him some food. He has been raised from the dead and wants to assure them he is not a ghost. Our faith is based on physical evidence.
John has written a whole Gospel to make this point (John 20:21). Here, he is just saying that it is so. So, we can be sure God is speaking to us through Jesus—God the Son—as a human being. We don’t ‘hear’ like the apostles did. We were not present to see Jesus raised from the dead. But we are blessed by hearing what the apostles pass on to us (John 20:29).
Third, God is calling us to share life with him. He exists and lives as a fellowship of persons—Father and Son, and what happens between them is important for us. (Later, John will talk about the Spirit as well.). By speaking to us, he is bringing us into that relationship.
We actually know God the Father, and we know his Son (John 14:21-23). We know the love between them. We know we are included in this fellowship of the Father with the Son—if you like, in the same way that children know they are secure when their father and mother love each other.
We are created to be ready for this relationship. Any ideology or doctrine that doesn’t do this can’t be true. Eternal life is knowing the Father and the Son (John 17:3). We don’t just need reliable facts or ideas. We need to come home!
Fourth, sharing this word with others brings a lot of joy. And why not. God himself is our confidence. We’re not asking others to think the same as us but to share what we’re in. Our confidence is an overspill of this joy. And it brings joy to others. Uncertainty may have been the great spoiler of life, but now we’ve got something to offer.
In this way, we become part of God’s family where the relationships are real because we all hear the same Father speaking to us through his Son. We have discovered true community—something eternal and authentic.
We need this message deeply. The alternative is trying to suck life out of what has been made. And this is where confusions arise. God’s gifts in this world are good, but he hasn’t put everything we need there. We need him.
There’s much more John wants to share with us about being sure of God. The next section tells us how to be sure we are walking with God.