The Christ Chapter
There is a striking similarity between the opening verses of the first chapter of the Gospel of John and the first chapter of the First Epistle of John. In the Gospel we read, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." It goes on to say that the Word was made manifest.
The Epistle says, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our bands have handled, of the Word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it)."
As we study the statements of the Epistle we wish to suggest a few things lying open before us.
1. In the opening verse Christ is described as the Word of Life which we have heard.
2. He is the Word which we have seen,
3. He is the Word which we have looked upon.
4. He is the Word which we have handled.
5. He is the Word which we declare and of which we bear witness.
We would like to take these statements up step by step.
Just now we ask you to observe the opening words of the Book of Luke. The beloved physician writes: "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the Word." Here is the same thing. They spoke of that which they knew, of that which they had seen. There was no guessing in it whatsoever. The Spirit gave the Word; their experience verified it.
1. The Word of Life which we have heard. It was the Lord who opened their minds that they might understand what they heard. It must have been a wonderful privilege to have sat at the feet of the Master, and to have heard Him as He opened His lips and spoke to them: words so full of love, light, and life. It was in after years that the Spirit brought to their remembrance the things which they heard.
2. The Word of Life which we have seen. Not only did they hear with their ears, but they saw the "Word" with their eyes, for Christ was the Word, and the Word was Christ, He did not speak apart from His own personality. His words were His own personality shining forth in all Divine beauty and glory,
3. The Word of Life which we looked upon. This is a deeper experience than simply having "seen" the Word. It carries with it the thought of gazing gazing with admiration and wonder. They heard, they saw, and they looked upon. Even Peter fell down and said, "I am a sinful man, O Lord."
4. The Word which we have handled. Here is something which grips. They knew that Christ was no fairy, no phantom, no fable. Thomas was invited to touch the Lord, for Christ said, "A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have." Christ, the Word of Life have we handled.
5. The Word of Life which we declare, to whom we bear witness. Thank God that we have such a Messiah to preach.
I. CHRIST, THE LIFE (1 John 1:2)
Our verse reads, "For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us."
1. The expression, "that Eternal Life." The sentence means that the Christ whom the Apostles heard, and saw, and looked upon, and handled, and to whom they bore witness, was the Christ who in the eternal past was with the Father. He Himself said, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father." Eternal life is without beginning and also without ending. Jesus Christ is the great "I Am," not merely the great "I Was," or "I Will Be." There is no past with Him, and there is no future, for, He dwells in an eternal n-o-w. He said, "I am Alpha." that is, the Beginning; He also said, "I am * * Omega," the Ending; He did not say I was, and I will be.
2. The expression, "the Word of Life." Jesus Christ was not only life. He was the Word that creates life, the Word that gives life. The Epistle of Peter says, "Being born again, * * by the Word of God." James, in his Epistle, writes, being begotten "by the Word of truth."
3. The expression, "the Life * * manifested." Here is something that we need to study. Christ was the manifestation of the life. The first chapter of John says, "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten, of the Father), full of Grace and Truth." John 1:18 says, "the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." Thus, Jesus Christ was the manifestation of the Father. He said, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known * * the Father?"
II. CHRIST AND FELLOWSHIP (1 John 1:3)
"That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ."
These words hold in them all the throbbing tenderness of those other words, "Abide in Me, and I in you." They hold the deeper significance of the words, "I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one." Our Lord gave us the invitation to abide in Him, then He gave, in return, the promise, "I will abide in you."
One day D. M. Stearns said to me, "Brother Neighbour, would you like a little string of pearls for your ten fingers?" Then he repeated the words of Hosea, "Thou shalt be for Me," Dr. Stearns said, "Now let me give the other five." "I will be for thee." There they were: ten pearls in all, How true is their story. That sweet union of Christ and His children is precious.
Our fellowship, however, is not only with the Lord, but first of all with the Father, then, with the Son. This brings to our mind the statement of John 14:1-31 : "I will come unto you, and My Father will come unto you, and We will take up Our abode in you." It is not the Father alone without the Son, nor the Son without the Father, but the twain in the Spirit.
What a hallowed relationship!
III. CHRIST AND JOY (1 John 1:4)
Our Scripture is short but wonderfully full of truth. Here it is: "And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full."
1. The purport of His message. All we have been reading and considering thus far was written to give us joy. The Lord God does not want His children to be unhappy. He wants them to be filled with gladness and with song. Thirteen times in the little Epistle to the Philippians we read of joy and rejoicing. What, then, is the source of our joy? Here it is from His written Words. His Word is our joy, the Word of His promise, the Word of His revelation.
2. He, Himself, is our joy. There is no contradiction here, We have just said His Word is our joy. Now, we say that He is our joy; for, He is the Word. Therefore, whatsoever the one does to us, the other will do. In John 15:1-27 Christ said the same thing: "These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." He was anointed with the oil of gladness, and with joy above his fellows. If we have Him dwelling in us, we will have His joy dwelling within.
One of the greatest verses in the Bible on joy is found in Galatians 5:22. "The fruit of the Spirit is * * joy." joy does not depend upon the thing which we possess. It depends upon Him. He must be present with us. His Word must indwell us.
IV. CHRIST OUR LIGHT (1 John 1:5)
The absence of light is darkness. The way to dispel the darkness is to turn on the light. We have just spoken of life; how fitting that we shall now speak of light. Where there is no joy, there is darkness and gloom. Wherever there is joy there is light. Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. Therefore, He is the joy of the world. Jesus Christ is the joy of the world, therefore He is the Light of the world. As long as the world knows Him not, and receives Him not, the world will be in darkness, not only intellectual darkness, but the darkness of despair.
There is a striking statement in the Book of Jude concerning those who deny our only Lord God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Jude says, To them is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. There is a solemn and illuminating statement found in the Book of Revelation: They have no need of sun, or moon, or stars to give them light, for the Lord God giveth them light "and the Lamb is the Light thereof."
How sad is the statement, "Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil!"
Light illumines the mind in the knowledge of Him. Light shines upon the pathway on which we walk. Light opens up the things to come. It scatters the shadows of the great beyond. The path of the just is as a lamp that shineth brighter and brighter unto the perfect day the day of perfect light.
V. FELLOWSHIP AND LIGHT (1 John 1:6-7)
1. Pretentiousness rebuked. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him. and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth."
How many there are who delight in boasting of their religiousness, of their piety, pride, and holiness. They like to say that they walk with God and talk with God, and that God walks and talks with them. In other words they pretend that they are intimate in their relationship with the Father, and with the Son.
God strongly rebukes those who falsely claim fellowship with Him, while they still walk in darkness.
These pretentious people are like those in Ezekiel, who came as the people came, and sat before the Lord as His people. They even heard His words, but they never did them. They spoke much with their mouths, prating about their love, yet their hearts were going after covetousness. They spoke of the Lord as a. very lovely song, and yet they did not show Love.
God demands sincerity, and despises pretense. The scribes and Pharisees loved to pray long prayers. They enlarged the borders of their garments, and made broad their phylacteries; and yet, they were not clean; they were merely "whited sepulchres, * * [filled with] dead men's bones."
2. Realities confirmed. "But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another." It is not saying, we have fellowship with Him that counts, it is having fellowship. It is when we walk in the light "as He is in the light," that we have fellowship with Him.
Incidentally, as a sequence, we then have fellowship with one another. The greatest tie that binds believers one to another is the tie that binds us to Christ, As the spokes of a wheel get nearer the hub, they get closer together. As we get nearer to our Lord, we get nearer to one another.
VI. SCRIPTURAL HOLINESS (1 John 1:8-9)
Let us carefully peruse our Scripture. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
1. Inherent sinlessness is impossible. Paul wrote, "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing." Some people boast that they are holy, but they arc not inherently holy.
2. Sin is never in the new man, because the new man is begotten of God in righteousness, and in true holiness. That which is begotten of God sinneth not.
We deceive ourselves when we say that we have no sin, We may not live in sin. In fact, we may not sin, but we have a nature that is corrupt, and is capable of sinning.
3. If we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of our sinful nature, That, however, will not change our nature.
Holiness, Scripturally understood, is Christ in us; the Holy Spirit ruling, Christ reigning, the old nature reckoned dead.
If the old nature were dead, we would not need to reckon it dead.
4. We should put off the old nature, pay no attention to it, refuse to listen to it. At the same time we should put on Christ, and walk in the new man, Let us remember, however, if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves.
It does not read, "if we say we are not sinning"; for we should all be able to say that we are not living in known sin. None of us, however, can say that we have no sin. If we took our eyes off Christ and walked in the old man, we should soon fall.
1. Destroying the basis of all redemption. "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us." This expression looks backward to our past walk and life.
If we say we have not sinned, we make God a liar inasmuch as He has written "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."
We do more than this. If we say we have not sinned we proclaim that God sent Christ to the Cross unnecessarily, inasmuch as he who is not a sinner, requires no Saviour.
2. The call to a sinless life. The opening verse of chapter 2 reads. "My little children, these things write. I unto you, that ye sin not."
We have sinned in the past, because we were walking in divers lusts. We were children of darkness, followers of Satan.
Now, however, we are God's children, begotten of the Spirit. To us God says, "sin not." It is not necessary for us to sin because God has provided us with victory along every line.
With the shield of faith we can quench all of the fiery darts of the wicked one.
By faith we can overcome the world; and, if we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
Why, then, should Christians sin? For, "greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world."
3. Sin and the sin-bearer. While the Apostle writes to us not to sin, he immediately adds, "And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." 1 John 2:2 continues with "And He is the propitiation for our sins: and. not for our's only, but also for the sins of the whole world." "Propitiation" means that He is the "mercy seat" for our sins. We need not sin.
We should not sin, we need not sin, but if we do sin, thank God there is a mercy seat, a place of cleansing through the Blood of Jesus Christ. We may not say we have not sinned; we may not say we have no sin; we may and should say, we are not sinning.
CHRIST, THE INEVITABLE
The story has come down to us from the early centuries that when the storm of persecution broke over the Christian church In Rome, the little company of believers besought Peter to seek refuge in flight. His sense, both of loyalty and of honor, rose up in protest. But his friends pleaded that their deaths would be only the loss of a few sheep of the fold, his would be the loss of the shepherd. He set out by night along the Appian Way. But as he traveled a vision flashed upon him of a figure clothed in white and a face crowned with thorns. "Quo vadis, domine?" "Whither goest Thou, Lord?" Peter cried to Christ, who answered, "To Rome to be crucified-instead of thee."
"Into the night the vision ebbed like breath.
And Peter turned and rushed on Rome and death."
That is a parable of the inevitable Christ. Whether we seek Him or seek Him not, whether we are in the way of our duty or out of it, the vision of Christ shall meet us face to face. Rev. W. M. Clow.