The apostle John more than any of the original disciples seems keenly aware of
the philosophical implications of the man Jesus Christ and His life on earth. Whereas
most modern theologians would like to think of the Bible narrative as a ‘bottom-up’
revelation of who God is, investigations into the inspired writings of John seemingly
yield a picture of God as transcendent before any immanency takes place. While most
would follow the line of history in developing this argument from the prolegomena of
John’s gospel; a brief glance at his first epistle would procure similar findings.
'That which was from the beginning…'
Here John gives authenticity to the message of Jesus Christ by claiming that
before all hands, feet, eyes, breathe and the very material observed by these human
functions even existed, Jesus simply was. This is a proclamation of solitariness and self-sufficiency that is attributable to God alone. "In the beginning God….." begins the sacredtestimony of Divine Action. Much later during John’s vision on the island of Patmos the Son of Man declared to him," I am the first and the last" (Revelation 1:17). Augustine, probably borrowing from this self-testimony argued that Christ not only was from the beginning; He was the beginning. A Christological interpretation of Genesis 1:1 would read: ‘In the Christ, God created the Heavens and the earth’. Indeed, if all things-invisible and visible- were created by Christ, such a rendition would be theologically accurate,even necessary. No one who takes the witness of scripture seriously would shirk Christ when He says," Before Abraham was born, I AM!" (John 8:57). If the Tetragrammaton truly applies to Jesus, if He is our YHWH, our beginning, then the message John proclaims ought to be taken very seriously.
'Which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched….'
The very authority of John’s testimony seems to arrange hypostatically in the two
premises’ of verse one. His audience would be warranted to accept his word on the
evidence of his having tangible access to Jesus. Alternately, the divine precedent of
eternality would be more than enough for a veritable discussion of who God is and what He has done. How much more the two combined! The prospect of journeying out of the atmosphere and into the solar system, beyond millions of galaxies to the point of the first cosmic explosion, somehow finding a path beyond matter and time through the doorway of the ex nihilo event to experience the glory of the Ground of Being, the putative state of affairs, the First Cause, the infinite God….the prospect of doing this with brains the size of a human fist warrants a dose of despair, if not implosion. Thinking on such a feat too
long humbles us sufficiently to realize why no one can look on the glory of God and live. And yet John counters the despair and meaninglessness of God-talk; talk of the Wholly Other. This self-same God, this God incomprehensible has jettisoned through His own glory into the system of causation. The Uncaused Cause has caused Himself. He has squeezed through the ex nihilo into time and matter, blasting beyond and with the cosmic expansion into the future, traversing across millions of galaxies into our solar system, descending into the atmosphere of Planet Earth and becoming a dot….yes, a dot much humbler than most of us other dots. No one can discard the concept of God’s being in becoming, of God willing His own Being while standing over the manger of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Beginning managed to will His own beginning.
'This we proclaim concerning the Word of Life…….'
It is difficult with these two loci in mind to turn away and not listen to what John
has to say. Surely if God Himself went to all lengths to do this, we would do well to take the message with a speck of fear and trembling. True enough, this appearance of God as incarnation or god-man, is ‘Word’. And not just ‘Word’ alone, but ‘Word of Life’. Jesus Christ is our exact representation of God. To borrow from Karl Barth, He is ‘God’s speech to man’. God-talk has lost its despair; God’s talk has enabled us to talk of Him! Christ is our bridge between finitude and infinity, between man and God. Keeping in mind who Christ is and where He came from, it should be sufficient for revelation that He is ‘Word of God’ . We can no longer do theology without Christ. He must be at the forefront of every God-discipline, since He is the very perfect Revelation of who God is. And if God indeed has revealed Himself as man, as finite being, then our epistemology of this revelation relies entirely on the God-breathed apostolic witness. Those who have
touched, seen, spoken with ‘The Word of God’ bear a living testimony that is sacred as witness to the ‘Word of God’. Since this witness is marked with the Holy Spirit, it is infallible, it is empowered by Christ. It is the Revelation about the Revelation by the Revelation. It is thus infallible, united with Christ, subservient to Him but very much also the ‘Word of God’.
'The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life…'
Making the fullness of the Ground of Being accessible to man assumes the salvation of man. If we can know who this Ground of Being is, if we can see Him and
touch Him and talk to Him and understand Him…surely we have life in full! "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" were the words of Jesus Himself. When God grabs our hand and in glory calls us out from the world, we cannot turn back. We have been touched by sacred things, sealed forever by a bond of knowledge that presupposes a re-creation of our very being. It is no wonder that we find our life in Christ as He is erected on the cross…. We are going to our deaths! As we know Him we are being destroyed, old things gone and new things coming. There is so much (!) life packed into the Word of God that we cannot contain it without crucifixion! "When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead" (Revelation 1:17). This seems to be the pattern for most everyone who obtains eyes to see and ears to hear (Daniel 10:15, Matthew 17:5, Luke 5:8, John 18:6,Acts 9:4). ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him..’ (John 6:44). Even in the finitude of Christ, our knowing of the Christ requires the free act of God. Thus in everything Christ, God for man and man for God, is to be praised! Apart from Him we truly can do no thing.With Him our intimacy with God is immanent, perfected and complete.
'We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.'
And if the apostolate brings this testimony to our ears and we receive these words with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction (1 Thessalonians 1:4):
'Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.'
'We write this to make our joy complete.'