Don’t Be Rattled; Just Be Confident in Christ

The Prologue of 1 John

1 John 1:1-4


Has anyone ever caused you doubt your beliefs? 

Has anyone said: “Do you really believe that nonsense about Jesus Christ? Do you really believe the stories about a big fish swallowing a man? About someone turning water into wine? About someone returning to life after death? Don’t you know that heaven is simply a fairy tale?”

I’ve faced all those questions and more, and I’ve studied through them and I’m intellectually convinced of the truthfulness and trustworthiness of Scripture. But what about you? Have other people sowed troubling doubts in your mind? 

That happened in the days of the apostle John and to the people in his churches. He answered by writing the epistle of First John. It begins with this eloquent and powerful prologue. We’ll draw out seven incredible factors of our faith:

Scripture: 1 John 1:1-4

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.


Many people say the book of 1 John is the most difficult to outline and organize in the Bible. But after studying it over and over again, I think I have begun to understand the way this book is structured, and why.

We have to figure out why John wrote this letter to begin with. The person who has helped me the most with this is Dr. Colin Kruse in his very excellent commentary on 1 John.

The apostle John was now the last surviving member of the twelve disciples of Jesus. He’s the elderly bishop of Ephesus and he oversees the churches in that area, looking to present his Christian memoirs. So he wrote the Fourth Gospel. In that Gospel he stated emphatically that Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be almighty God. Jesus was and is God Himself who was made flesh and dwelt among us, who died and was resurrected, and who did so to give us fellowship—a relationship—with God.

This literal view of the dual nature of Jesus Christ, both God and man, both dead and resurrected, was too much for some of the Greek-oriented thinkers that populated the churches in John’s region. Their philosophical background made it difficult for them to accept this, so they began leaving the churches. 

After these skeptics began leaving the churches, those who remained no longer had assurance they could believe what John was saying. The defectors had planted doubts in their minds. So John wrote 3 letters to deal with this crisis: 1, 2, and 3 John. His basic message was—we are right and they are wrong.

The key to the whole book is in chapter 2, verses 19 and 20: They [these deserters] went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.

In other words, you know the truth. You are on the right side of this, and they are wrong. Don’t be bullied, don’t be dismayed, don’t be spooked, and don’t let people plant spurious doubts in your mind.

In this first letter, John is going to give his listeners (and all of us) one assurance after another, one affirmation after another, that we are right and they are wrong. But he began with this wonderful, beautiful prologue, which summarizes in four verses the 21 chapters of his recently-published Gospel, which had provoked such a reaction. And in that prologue he very clearly gives us seven faith factors that undergird our Christian beliefs.

1. Jesus is God. He Has Been God From The Beginning

Let’s begin with verse one: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched….

This is very similar to the way that John began his gospel. The gospel of John, chapter one, verse one, says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Now, I want to take a moment to explain something. When the Jews of the first century went into their synagogues for worship, the Hebrew version of the Scripture was often read. But most of the people in the New Testament era spoke Greek or Aramaic. So Jewish scholars developed a series of Aramaic-speaking commentaries and paraphrases of the Old Testament, and these were called Targums (an Aramaic word meaning translation). We have written Targums going back to the second and third centuries, but they were based on earlier ones, on oral targums dating back to before the first century. In these targums, the Jewish scholars didn’t want to use the holy name of Yahweh, so they substituted the Aramaic word Memra

Memra was the Aramaic term for Word.

I’ll give you just one example. Genesis 15:6 says, “Abraham believed Yahweh.” In the Targums, it said, “Abraham believed Memra.” 

He believed the Word, meaning he believed God. 

The Aramaic term Memra is the same as the Greek term Logos. And this was John’s name for Jesus: “In the beginning was the Memra or Logos.” John’s listeners would have known the term Logos was the term by which they identified Yahweh. They would have known in the first sentence of his Gospel that he was presenting Jesus Christ as God Himself. Look at the Gospel of John 1:1-4 and 14:

In the beginning was the Memra or LogosGod the Word, and God the Word was with God, and God the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him—God the Word—all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

God the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

So emphatically was John claiming that Jesus was God that some-shallow thinking Greek attenders of the churches were shocked. That’s why they began leaving the churches. But in the prologue of his epistle John doubled down on his assertion. He was not going to yield the point. Yet he also makes it abundantly clear that Jesus Christ was also fully human.

2. Jesus is Human

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched….

This is John’s way of telling us that Jesus Christ was God who also became human. He said we heard him speak with our ears, we saw his face with our eyes, we touched his body with our hands. He wasn’t vapor, He wasn’t spirit, He wasn’t a phantom; He was literal physical flesh and blood.

3. Jesus Died and Rose Again

Third, Jesus was dead and He came back to life. You say, “Where is that in this sentence?” Well, it’s a clear allusion to what John said at the end of His Gospel, in John 20. John said that when Jesus first appeared to the disciples after the resurrection, Thomas was absent. Thomas later said, “I don’t believe it. Unless I feel the scars on His body, I will not believe.” The next week Jesus appeared again, and this time Thomas was present. Jesus said, “Here, look at My wounds, look at My scars, put your hands here and touch Me. Fill Me, and stop doubting but believe.” John said that he and the other disciples had felt, and with their hands had handled, the resurrected body of the Messiah.

So in the first half-sentence of his epistle, John doubled down on the fact that Jesus was both God and man, both slain and resurrected.

4. I’m Never Going To Stop Proclaiming This Message

Now let’s go on to the last part of verse one: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 

Here John again uses the term Logos to identify Jesus Christ, and he said, “I’m going to proclaim this from the housetops.”

I love that word proclaim. John was being assertive. He was doubling down. He was retreating not an inch. He was going to keep on proclaiming the truth about Jesus.

Something amazing happened in the late 1960s and early 1970s among young people in America: the Jesus revolution or the Jesus movement. And the unofficial song of this movement said, “I’ll shout it from the mountaintops, I want my world to know the Lord of love has come to me, I want to pass it on.” And that has been the driving desire of my life ever since. And all the ways available to us, we want to shout it from the rooftops and from the mountaintops. This we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

Can you believe that all of this tremendous content is contained in simply the very first verse of this little book of First John?

5. This Is The Message of Eternal Life.

Now let’s go on with verse two. John is going to repeat himself and take things a bit further, as he unrolls his content sentence by sentence and thought by thought.

The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 

There’s a kind of progressive parallelism here. John is repeating himself, but taking matters a little further. He said, in effect, “Jesus Christ dwelled with God the Father and highest heaven but He came down to earth and appeared to us, and we saw Him with our eyes. As long as I live, I’m going to testify about this and to proclaim it to you, because it is the source and the secret of eternal life.”

No one in the Bible loved talking about eternal life more than the apostle John. It was one of the great themes of his Gospel. In the fourth gospel, he said:

  • … whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
  • Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life (3:36)
  • Very truly I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life (5:24).
  • For My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day (6:40). 
  • Very truly I tell you, the one who believes in Me has eternal life (6:47). 
  • I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish (10:28).

We have that kind of talk all the way through the Gospel of John, and also all the way through the First epistle of John. One of His glorious themes is that because Jesus is both God and human, both slain and resurrected, we have the potential of living forever, everlastingly, eternally. 

The Christian Broadcasting Network recently carried the story of Tina Hines, who had a cardiac emergency and whose heart stopped beating. Emergency responders got her to the hospital, restored her heartbeat, and put her on a ventilator. The next morning after they removed the ventilator and Tina woke up, her husband placed a pencil and notebook in her hands and she wrote two words. They were difficult to make out, but he finally recognized that she had written “It’s Real!” He said, “What is real? The pain? The hospital?” But no, she was referring to heaven. During her time of unconsciousness she had evidently come face to face with Jesus and with heaven. Now she has an entirely new perspective on death and dying.

Stories like that are intriguing, but we don’t base our theology or our beliefs on them. We base our assurance of eternal life on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and on the biblical promises regarding Heaven. And based on that, we can say with full assurance and total confidence, “It’s real!”

6. This is the Basis of All Enduring Relationships

Now, let’s go on to verse 3 and we can add another point to John’s reasoning:

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

The idea of fellowship is having a wonderful, personal, active relationship with someone. When you meet another Christian anywhere in the world, there is an unusual bond that is difficult to describe. Recently I got a taxicab from my hotel to the train station in Naples, Italy. As we bounced through the streets, I noticed that on the driver’s dashboard he had a fish symbol with the word JESUS in it. I told him that I liked his symbol. He said in broken English, “Jesus! He’s Number One. He is my life!” I told him the same.

When we arrived at the train station, I gave him a friendly pat on the back and said, “My brother in Christ!” On the curb there were two young men who appeared to be in their 20s. They were Brazilians who had just arrived at the train station and needed a taxicab. When they heard me say, “My brother in Christ,” they cried out, “Us too! Us too!” They said they were Jesus’ followers who were traveling in Italy. 

I expect that in the coming ages in heaven we’ll look each other up and revisit the experience.. It’s our commonality in Christ that gives us a kind of relationship that nobody else has in the world, and it’s because our fellowship it’s not just with one another. It is with the Lord Himself – it is with Christ. Look at verse three again:

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

7. This Brings Unspeakable Joy to Our Lives

Now, there is one more thing to say. Look at verse 4:

We write this to make our joy complete.

This is one of those times when we have a text critical issue. Some old Greek manuscripts say, “We write this to make your joy complete.” Others say, “…our joy.” And both are true. The reality of what John is talking about gives us all joy. It gives us joy unspeakable and full of glory. 

It’s taken me about a half-century to begin to understand and practice the joy of the Lord. Even now, I don’t practice the joy of the Lord perfectly. We all have different personalities, some melancholy by nature. But I’m a far different person now; I have more of the joy of the Lord in me.

How do we develop it? John said, “I am writing something to you. I am giving you some inspired Scripture. And if you study it, I will have more joy and you will have more joy.”

Perhaps he was thinking of what he had earlier written in his Gospel of John, when he quoted Jesus as saying, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

The Psalmist said, “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart” (Psalm 119:111).

Jeremiah said, “When Your words came, I ate them; and they became unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart” (Jeremiah 1:16).

As we prayerfully and patiently study this wonderful book, there’s something about it that feeds and fuels our joy. And that’s our seventh faith factor:

This living relationship brings unspeakable joy to our lives every day by what we read in God’s Word.

So don’t let anyone undercut your faith. There will always be detractors and defectors. But remember this powerful prologue to John’s letter.