Friday, January 8, 2010

1 John 1:1-4 (Scripture Notebook)

Gracious heavenly Father, you know that we are incompetent to see much more here than words on a page, sounds in our ears, or ideas in our heads. Will you open us to see Truth as He stands before us in this moment? May you continue to use this text as the location in which You reveal Your Son to us as you have done for your church for centuries. We are your people, the sheep of your pasture. Shepherd us, O God, and teach us to find rest for our weary souls in You.

Scripture Notebook on 1 John 1:1-4

Surely we ought to see this passage as speaking of 'The One Who was from the beginning' and not the benign, veiled 'What' of the NASB and other translations. This is important, for the text is not speaking of a 'what' in terms of a message, a fact, or a thing, but it is speaking of a 'Who' in terms of a person who can only be the Lord over all, Jesus Christ.

And He who is from the beginning, the Eternal One, the Living God, has been 'heard,' 'seen' and 'looked at,' and even 'touched with our hands'! The physical, objective character of the Living God is an astounding fact that we can only marvel at and worship before. This astounding passage can only be explained in terms of a Chalcedonian Christology that affirms the deity and humanity of Christ in dynamic union in Christ's person. Lest anyone think that this kind of talk becomes vain speculation, let us hasten on to the next fact: the Eternal God can only be referred to here in his connection with man. He is the "Word of Life." Jesus Christ is the Word. He is not the Word of Death, nor is He the Word of Information. He is rather, the "Word of Life." This means that God wills life--eternal life!--for us. The character of His identity as the "Word of Life" can only be explained by reference to the concrete events of His life, death and resurrection, wherein God's purpose for man was accomplished. To understand this pregnant statement, then, would take a trip far afield into the gospels and into Romans and, if we really were serious, back into the Old Testament, too.

This "Word of Life" can only (!) be proclaimed by the church. The power of proclamation should not be diminished in all zeal to be people of action. Indeed, our primary action, our most important task as the people of God is to be 'proclamation.' Certainly some will quickly object that our actions are proclamation. This may be true, but the emphasis should be first of all on the fact that our proclamation is an action. If we order the sequence this way, then we keep Christ's work as "The Act," rather than making our own actions (liberative, redemptive, merciful, etc.) primary.

Finally, we have to note that the reception of the proclamation (however this comes about!) can only be entrance into fellowship with both God and man. The entrance into the latter is always grounded in the former: the fellowship we have with one another is only by virtue of our new fellowship and partaking of the divine nature in Christ. Whatever understanding we want to have of Christian fellowship must begin with an understanding of the Trinitarian fellowship which precedes it and grounds it. Once we have some rough understanding of this fellowship, then and only then can we see something of what it means to be in fellowship with one another. Sadly, most Christian talk of 'fellowship' in recent years has begun with some vague and humanistic notion of cooperation and mutual interest and then an interpretation of 1 Cor 12 in a metaphorical fashion as a prooftext. This leaves the church impoverished, for our fellowship has much deeper roots than this.

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