This Week's Focus Passage

1 John 1:1-4 ‘These things we write, that our joy may be made full.’


This Week’s Focus Passage: 1 John 1:1-4

‘These things we write, that our joy may be made full.’


    John’s epistle, which we know as 1 John, may, some have implied, been an accompaniment to his gospel; they may have been written almost together. John writes from, perhaps Patmos, to his church in Ephesus. Again, it may be that this epistle is complementary, in some way or other, to the gospel that he wrote. Opinions among scholars are mixed. These were sent to John’s ‘children, his little children,’ those under his care; Ephesus first and then the rest of the churches in Asia Minor that were part of his ‘circuit.’ He was their aged ‘father.’

    There is evidently an importance, not to say a certain centrality, with regard to Ephesus in the New Testament. It is the first of the seven churches to which John was directed to send his ‘letters from Christ;’ Revelation, chapters two and three. Besides Ephesus, Thyatira and Laodicea are the only churches of the seven in the book of Revelation that are mentioned elsewhere; Laodicea is mentioned four times in Colossians, and apparently there was an epistle of Paul sent to Laodicea that is no longer extant. Thyatira is mentioned once beside its notice in Revelation, and that with regard to its being Lydia’s hometown; cf. Acts 16:14. They were sent not so much in order to instruct as to edify, to build up ‘his little children.’ John is desirous to remind them of their position in Christ; to assure them of it; to bring them to a care of their love for one another; their fellowship; to incite them to self-examination and to warn them of the errors that false teachers were bringing in.

    What was the condition of the world in John’s day? ‘The world was indeed perilous; but it was rather by its seductions than by its hostility.’ Is this not the church in the world today? We first hear of Ephesus in Acts 18:18, 19, where we read, And Paul, having tarried after this yet many days, took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila: having shorn his head in Cenchrea; for he had a vow. And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews. The result of his sojourn in Ephesus was that, this continued for the space of three years; so that all they that dwell in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

    Thus a church was founded by the apostle Paul. It was the elders of Ephesus that he summoned to meet him at Miletus where he exhorted them, Acts 20:28-30, Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood. I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them. Paul here prophesied of those who would arise even from among the elders of Ephesus. While he was in prison, he wrote, possibly for the last time, the two ‘pastorals’ to Timothy, who was then at Ephesus. This then was the church which the apostle John became the leader of, possibly leaving Jerusalem for Asia Minor shortly before its destruction in A.D. 70.

    Returning to our thoughts upon John’s first epistle, which he began with the intriguing words, That which was from the beginning. Does this differ, and how, from in the beginning that is found at the start of John’s gospel? Some insist that they are the same. John employs the phrase in several places in his gospel account. He records Jesus using the expression in John 8:25. They said therefore unto him, Who art thou? Jesus said unto them, Even that which I have spoken unto you from the beginning. Surely, this refers to the beginning of His preaching. In 8:44, speaking of the devil, Christ said of him, he was a murderer from the beginning. That would refer to almost the beginning of creation. And again, is his first epistle, John, wrote (2:13), I write unto you, fathers, because ye know him who is from the beginning. Does John speak here of the Father, or of the Son? Did Christ not tell us that if we the Father, we would know Him? Peter used the phrase in his second letter, (3:3, 4), in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lust, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. And Paul adds this, in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth. One has asserted that, “from the beginning’ is not synonymous with ‘in the beginning,’ though in the depth of its meaning it is virtually the same.” 

    There should be no misunderstanding here. John spells it out in the rest of the verse. He has told us, that which was from the beginning is also that which we have heard, is also that which we have seen with our eyes, is also that which we have beheld, is also that which our hands have handled. And just is that, or rather, Who is that, but the Incarnation Himself! We have not heard, seen, beheld, or handled God in any other way than through the Son of God manifested in the flesh. This is the testimony of John that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh; God has united with man in the Person of the God-Man, Immanuel, God with us. The question was once asked by a sincere inquisitor, ‘Was it God, or a man, who died upon the cross?’ The answer they received was a blessed answer, and one that it is impossible to forget. They were told that the One who died upon the cross was a Person; a Person who was Jesus, the Christ, Jesus, the Anointed, God manifested in the flesh; He was, and is, a Person. This should remind us of that blessed prologue of the gospel account written and given by John the apostle, when he began that remarkable account with these even more remarkable and unforgettable words of Truth and Grace, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Along with the even, if that were possible, more astounding truth from the Spirit of God, at the fourteenth verse of that first chapter of John. May we, each of us, let these wonderful words of truth, roll around our minds, and the pathways of our hearts, And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father) full of grace and truth.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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