1st John 1:1-4 (CSB) What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—2 that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—3 what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
Having worked through each verse in John’s prologue individually, I want to consider some theological reflections from the prologue of his first epistle:
The first reflection that I want to make pertains to understanding both revelation and inspiration.
The revelation that John received was real and tangible. He could see Jesus, hear Jesus, and physically touch Jesus. This vastly distinguishes John’s revelation from the claims being made today by so-called prophets and apostles. The revelation that John received concerning the Word of Life did not arise from the deep recesses of his imagination; he saw, heard, and touched Jesus incarnate, Jesus transfigured, and Jesus ascended.
The inspiration that moved John to write his letters derived from the real revelation that John received from Christ. The Holy Spirit moved on John (and the other apostles) to bring to their remembrance everything that Jesus did and taught while on earth; the Holy Spirit inspired their testimony concerning the unchangeable revelation of Christ.
The second reflection that I want to make pertains to ecclesiology, or the nature of the Church.
John saw the revelation and inspired testimony of Christ entrusted to the apostles as the gateway for the Church to have personal fellowship with God in eternal life. The notion of individual fellowship with God completely separate from the fellowship of the saints is not in John’s mind as the Holy Spirit moves him to testify concerning the blessed life that we have been given in Christ from the beginning.
The fellowship with Christ given to the Bride that John is declaring has one clear fruit: joy. Far from rote religious observances, the fellowship that the Church has with Christ is characterized by an eternal and living joy that is wrapped up in the person of Christ himself. This is the chief attribute of Christian fellowship.
The third reflection that I want to make pertains to life.
The beloved disciple uses repetition to emphasize the chief subject of his writing: life. His first epistle is fixated on the eternal life that has been given to us by the living Word of Life! John is not setting down a new set of mere ordinances, but rather, he is unveiling the new eternal life that has always been contained in the testimony of God since the beginning, but which was previously unknown and kept hidden until the culmination of all things in Christ Jesus.
This is to say that in Christ the veil of separation that once closed us off from the Word of Life has been crucified on the cross and we are free to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus Christ! This is the unrestricted, unashamed, glorious life that John is declaring by the testimony of the Word of Life.