Friday, February 02, 2024

The Vision (2.2.24): Eyewitness of the Word of Life


Image: Ruins from the Basilica of St. John in Ephesus, built in the sixth century, supposedly on the sight where John the Apostle was buried.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 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, or the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).

The early Christians were beset by problems on two sides. We might say they were fighting a war on two fronts.

First, there was the external struggle with non-Christians, whether with Jews who were casting Jewish Christians out of the synagogues, or with Roman authorities who saw Christians as a threat to the civil order.

Second, and perhaps even more difficult and destructive, there were conflicts within the Body of Christ. There was an internal front that involved a battle against false teaching and false teachers.

One of the greatest early struggles for authentic believers and for true churches was controversy over Christology. Namely, there were those who denied that the Lord Jesus had been a true man. Today the main problem is that people deny the true deity of Christ, but in the early days the more common problem was that they denied his true humanity.

They asked, How can you say that Jesus was true God and also say that he was a true man who was conceived in the virgin’s womb, who slept, hungered, thirsted, wept, perspired, and, most of all, who suffered and died on the cross?

Their explanation was that Jesus had not been a true man, but that he had only appeared to be a man. The Greek verb for to appear to be is dokeo. Later theologians would call those who denied our Lord’s true humanity, Docetists and their belief Docetism.

1 John is a writing from the Apostle John that was composed, in part, in order to help a group of Christians, a church, which had been stirred up by a group of false teachers who denied Christ’s true humanity. We get various clues about this throughout 1 John.

One clue of schism in this church is found in 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us…”

Another huge clue of dispute is found in 1 John 4:1-3, which contains a call for discernment (“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God…”). Some had denied that Christ had come “in the flesh” (as a true man), and so, John says, they had a spirit of “antichrist” (opposing right teaching about Christ).

John wrote to provide these believers with a testimony that he, as an Apostle, was an eyewitness to the life of Christ, whom he calls “the Word of life,” and that Christ was and is a true man. He did not just appear to be a man. He was not a ghost, a specter, a spirit, a hologram, but a true flesh and blood man. If Christ had not been a true man he could not have sympathized with us in our weakness, and if he were not true God he could not have saved us to the utmost.

The Lord Jesus Christ is true God and true man!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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