We live in a time when certainty and conviction about what is true is not accepted. The politically correct attitude is one of uncertainty with nothing absolute. Opinions and feelings tend to rule the mood of our time. And the church also is following this sort of inclusive thinking that wants to embrace what everybody thinks as truth. So the church has lost its foundations and so let us turn to John, because he is the apostle of certainties.
In these first 4 verses of 1 John 1 you will find 36 times some form of the word “know.” There’s no vagueness or equivocation. John knows what he speaks of, and he has confidence. He is absolutely certain about what he writes. And he wants us to share that same confidence. This is so contrary to the mood today as to almost seem insensitive, unloving, and out of touch. But this is exactly what John in his epistle lifts up and exalts.
John says there is theological certainty of the gospel. Verse 20, “We know that the Son of God has come and this is the true God and eternal life.” Also John wants us to understand that there is moral certainty. God has given a law and that we need to follow that law. And John wants to affirm that there is relational certainty of love. Verse 7, “Beloved, let us love one another for love is from God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
These are the areas in which everyone’s spiritual state is tested. And anyone who fails the test in any of those categories is exposed as a fraud and a liar. So God through John is going to give us some absolutes in those three categories. God is going to give us a test by which anyone’s life can be measured as to its true spiritual condition. So you can find out how God looks at your life. So let us read the text.
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 upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life, 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us, 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us.”
“And truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” John is saying, “I’m not talking about some transcendental experience. I’m not talking about some mystical thing. I’m not talking about some secret formula. No, I’m telling you this Word of life, because I experienced it. I heard Jesus. I looked at Him and I touched Him.”
John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory.” The truth was real and He was there. Christmas is about the word incarnation. We sing it every year in our Christmas carols. If you understand the word incarnation, you will begin to understand what Christmas is all about. Where do we go to understand what Christmas is? The last two verses of our text give us the purpose of Christmas.
And so John is showing us through this epistle that indeed this is all from God. It is God who has given us the gospel. It is God who has given us His commandments, which we are to obey. And it is God who has given us love and the example of love. Having first loved us, we are to love Him in return and others as well. So we can be certain of the Christian faith, they are revealed in history, witnessed by the apostles and confirmed by the Holy Spirit.
Let's look at the first two verses to understand the teaching of Christmas. First, what we have heard. What did they hear? They heard Jesus speak. Well John was there when Jesus spoke the words that came out of His mouth, the parables, the stories and the sermons. He was there with Jesus for the duration of His ministry from the beginning to the end. He was there post-resurrection for forty days, occasionally meeting with the Lord and hearing Him.
We have heard Him in a complete and continuous sense. Sixty years ago for John, but it was still a living truth in his heart. We saw Him with our eyes. He was there when Jesus cast demons out of people time and time again. He was there when Jesus touched the eyes of the blind and they saw. He was there when He put his hand over the ears of the deaf and they heard. He was there when Jesus raised dead people to come alive.
John says we can be certain about Jesus Christ. And that is verifiable, all you have to do is go back and read the gospel record of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. John says, “And our hands have handled.” Jesus said in Luke 24:39, “Handle Me and realize that a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones as you see Me have.” And we know enough about John to know that he even leaned on His chest, right?
They were looking deeply into the realities of who Christ was, His power to forgive, His power over demons, His power over disease, His power over death. So John says I not only saw the events, I saw the meaning. I saw that it was God in human flesh. He is a firsthand eyewitness. Verse 2, “and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.”
My responsibility, John says, is to bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life. As a witness, as a one who saw Him, I am to bear personal witness from the standpoint of experience. The manifestation then becomes a proclamation. Christ manifested Himself to the apostles to qualify them as firsthand eyewitnesses so that they could pass that on to others the gospel. And when received, it would again be passed on to the next generation.
Peter says that he was an eyewitness to the glory of Christ at the transfiguration. All of the books of the New Testament written by apostles or those who were associated with the apostles give us the apostolic eyewitness account. The book of Acts says that the apostles’ doctrine was what was the content of the preaching and teaching and study of the church. So Christ manifested Himself to them, so as eyewitnesses they would write it down.
It is a terrible thing for people to come along, even though they call themselves biblical scholars, and attack the scriptural accounts and attack the honesty and the integrity not only of God, the Holy Spirit but of the eyewitnesses, the apostles. John says it is certain that this is the true message and the true manifestation and the true proclamation. And there’s another interesting certainty. It is the certainty of a true fellowship.
The reason that we proclaim all of this is verse 3, “That you also may have fellowship with us and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.” Fellowship is the word koinōnia, which means partnership. Christmas is not about a relational connection, it is not socializing. Christmas means that we should have fellowship with God first, and secondly that we need to do life together with everyone else.
Let us first look at what fellowship with God means. John 1:4 says, “And in Him (Christ) was life.” John 5:26, “Just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself.” That is to say He has an equal life with the Father. He is equal in essence. And then he says in John 5:40, “You are unwilling to come to Me that you may have life.” Christ is life; He brings life and He gives life.
1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God is faithful through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” When you were saved you were called into a partnership with Christ. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” It’s being linked together in a common life. The preaching of the gospel produces faith, and a person who puts their faith in Christ enters into a real partnership with other believers. That is what it means to share real life.
Christianity is unique. It doesn't say incarnation is normal, but it does say it's possible. It says God is so imminent that it is possible, but he is so transcendent that the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ is an event. Christianity has a unique view on this that sets it apart from other religions. Christmas is also historical. Look at what John says: We saw it. We heard it with our own eyes, our own ears. We felt it, this eternal life.
When we give you these accounts of Jesus walking on the water, of Jesus rising from the dead, of Jesus speaking these words, these are not legends. These are not things we made up. These are not wonderful spiritual parables. These are things we saw. We saw him do this. We heard him do this. In other words, the doctrine of Christmas is that God became historical. The manger, the resurrection, the story of Jesus actually happened in history.
This goes completely against what the average person believes. The average person says these are wonderful stories, but they are parables, legends. They didn't really happen. 1 John 1:1-2 is saying: These are either lies you're reading in the New Testament or they're eyewitness accounts, but they can't be legends. These eye witnesses have told us what really happened. And the Bible includes details that are realistic, but legends do not.
When John says, "I saw him, I felt him, I heard him with my own ears, I saw him with my own eyes," everyone would know immediately he was claiming to be an eyewitness. Therefore, the readers of the New Testament knew if these were fabricated lies or they were true eyewitness accounts. If they were lies, they're the stupidest lies ever made, because these accounts were written when the people involved were still alive.
If you write that 500 people saw Jesus risen from the dead in the Kidron Valley, you wouldn't write it 40 years later like when the Gospels were written. You would write it 100 years later, when everybody in the Kidron Valley at the time was dead. If you falsely write that 500 people saw Jesus in the Kidron Valley, and people are still living the Kidron Valley who were there at that time, you're never going to be believed.
But people believed it, because when they wrote these accounts, they were not contradicted. The point of Christmas is that Jesus Christ really lived, and he really died. It happened in history. What's the big deal? People say, "I like the teachings of Jesus. I like the meaning of these stories. The meaning of these stories is to love one another, serve one another. But it doesn't matter if these things really happened. What matters is that you're a good person."
The great irony is that that is a doctrine of justification by works. When somebody says that, they're saying it doesn't matter that Jesus actually lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died; all that matters is we can follow his teaching. That is a doctrine that says: I'm not so bad that I need someone to come and be good for me. I can be good. God is not so holy that there has to be punishment for sin.
The gospel is not that Jesus Christ comes to earth to tell us how to live. We then live a good life, and then God owes us blessings. No. The gospel is that Jesus Christ came to earth, lived the life we should have lived, and died the death we should have died. So when we believe in him we are accepted and live a life of grateful joy for him. In other words, if these things didn't happen, we can't be saved by grace.
If these things didn't happen, if they're just parables, what you are saying is you believe the doctrine of salvation by works, that if you try hard enough and do enough good things, that God will accept you. The doctrine of Christmas is that Jesus came. If Jesus didn't come, I wouldn't want to be anywhere around these Christmas stories that say we need to be sacrificing, we need to be humble and we need to be loving in order to be saved.
All that will do is crush us into the ground, because by our own efforts we fail miserably, we cannot live holy lives, so then Christmas is depressing. Every year I see stories on the internet saying Christmas for some is the time of year for depression. But not if you believe these first two verses, Christmas is not just an inspiring story we can live up to, but it's doctrinal and historical, of God giving us a way to be saved.
Verses 3 and 4 tell us that Jesus Christ came to earth, God became flesh and lived the life you should have lived, died the death we should have died, as a Savior, not just as a teacher or an example. Then Christmas will do things to you. It will make you deeply thankful, and happy to have a personal relationship with God, and free to have fellowship with others. First John 1:3 says, "Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son."
This word fellowship, means that if Jesus Christ has come, and if Christmas is true, then we have the basis for a personal relationship with God. God is no longer a remote idea, but we can know him personally. If Jesus Christ is actually God in the flesh, we are going to know much more about God. He is going to be somebody we can relate to. If Jesus is who he says he is, we have 500 autobiographies from God.
Look at what God has done to get you to know him personally. Christmas is an invitation to come to know Christ personally. He says, “I don't want to be just a concept; I want to be your friend.” Greeks and Romans and even religious people today believe that the divine would not come down. But the meaning of the gospel of Christmas is that salvation in the kingdom of God has come into this world. The world is so important that He took on physical flesh.
The kingdom of God is here to transform this world, and to save us from ourselves. The future of the gospel is a new heaven and a new earth. The Incarnation gives us a relationship with God. Jesus says, I want to fellowship with you. Jesus says in Matthew 20:28, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” We are being transformed from thinking always about ourselves, to thinking more about others and coming close to them.
And why do we need to think more about others? Because at the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Christmas gives us joy. No matter how bad circumstances are, the joy is knowing that God already has a place reserved for you. Many of us are afraid to entangle ourselves in the lives of other people. But the incarnation means that Jesus Christ, God himself, got involved in our brokenness. He got involved in a major way. He paid the price for us to be saved, and he died on the cross. So similarly you should also get involved with others, Amen? Let us pray.