“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”(1 John 1:1–4 ESV)
John is attesting to what he has seen & experienced about Jesus. What he is writing is rooted in John’s first hand account of Jesus and His teachings; this is not some man made religion or some weird eclectic vision that he had experienced in a vacuum. John points out to us that Jesus is the preeminent, preexistent, Creator God of the universe (John 1:1). He is God who put on flesh and died, bearing the sins of His people. But, the grave could not hold Him – nor will it be able to hold us!
We normally think that with enough information about something that we can figure it out. We think that we can work out certain scenarios in our minds to learn how they will play out. We think that we can think through things and get all of the pieces put together. We give ourselves too much credit. The Creator’s revelation is what we need; revelation is required. Revelation about God has always been what is required – even for Adam & Eve. We don’t naturally seek God or have eyes to see, ears to hear or hearts to believe. We need God to reveal Himself and His will to us.
Jesus & the gospel is God’s revelation to us. The gospel is not just the saving power of God, but the bonding agent in His church. It connects us and enables us to pursue authentic community. This is because when we truly embrace the gospel, we are embracing an incredibly high view of God and a realistic view of ourselves. We naturally tend to lower our view of God to a grandpa in the sky who gives us good gifts. We naturally tend to think that we are pretty moral, pretty capable, pretty good. We think that Jesus’ sacrifice was necessary to make up for our shortcomings, but that we don’t really have that many. We rarely see ourselves as we really are – selfish control freaks who are stiff necked and refuse to lovingly submit to the God of the universe. The gospel frees us from pretending that we have it all together (we don’t) and it frees us from performing as if we could please God by our hard work (we can’t). The interesting thing about the gospel is that it most fully marks those who know how wicked they really are. That is because God chooses the messiest of people so that THEY WILL NEVER FORGET WHO FREED THEM.
Once you have been freed from believing that you are justified OR ACCEPTED based on your performance, you begin to see that obedience to Christ’s commands actually lead you to greater joy. His commands are not harsh or burdensome. His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). This a recurring theme for John in his gospel (John 15:11; 16:24) and he visits it here in this epistle as well. He sees that joy is to be had in an abiding relationship with Jesus. This is for his joy and for ours. Lord, give us eyes to see.