1 John is organized around two central truths: “God is light” and “God is love.” Both are known through the manifestation of the “Word of Life,” which is the central message of the Christian Faith.
This is the message (aggelia): God is light (1 John 1:5).
This is the message (aggelia): God is love (1 John 3:11; 4:8, 16).
This is what we proclaim (apaggellomen): the Word of Life (1 John 1:1-3)
God is light; therefore believers walk in the light. God is love; therefore believers love each other. And we know God is light and God is love because “the Word of Life” was revealed those truths in the enfleshed life of the Son of God, who is Jesus the Messiah.
1 John 1:1-3 is a single sentence in Greek (as well as many English translations). The main sentence is this: “That which we have. . .we proclaim to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us.” The object is the “what,” the action is the act of proclaiming or announcing, and the purpose is fellowship or communion (koinonia). In other words, John writes this is what we proclaim so that you might enjoy the fellowship we enjoy, and, importantly, our fellowship is with the Father and the Son!
What is the what?
What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have beheld, and
what we have touch with our hands,
that is, the Word (logos) of Life!
What we proclaim is “from the beginning,” and “it” has entered creation and participates in the empirical reality of creation itself. That which is “from the beginning”—from the beginning of creation itself or from the beginning of the Christian movement—is part of creation and shares in its creatureliness. Humanity heard “it,” saw “it” with its physical eyes, and touched “it” with its hands. “It” was tangible; it was really here, both seen and touched. And it was not momentary. We “beheld” it, that is, we took in its presence with long gazes. This was no blimp on a screen; it was a presence within the creation that we saw, heard, touched, and over which we lingered.
What is “it”? It is the “Word of Life;” it is the Logos, which is the same language we find in John 1:1 as well as John 1:14 which describes how humanity “beheld (gazed upon) the glory” of the enfleshed Logos.
The “it” is the incarnation of the Logos (Word), who is Life, the life of God or “eternal life” (1 John 1:2). This i the central proclamation of the Christian Faith. God has come in the flesh; the Word became flesh.
This is such an astounding claim that John interrupts his sentence in order to elaborate what he means by the “Word of Life.” When Word becomes flesh (what we saw, heard, and touched), “eternal life” was revealed. The incarnation is the revelation of God’s own life within the creation as a creature.
This “eternal life” was “with (pros) the Father. This statement echoes John 1:1, which describes the Word as “with (pros) God.” When the Gospel of John affirms the Word was “with God,” it means the Word was “with the Father,” as 1 John 1:2 states.
Significantly, the word “pros” (with) reflects an important aspect of divine life. The One God—the Word is God just as the Father is God, according to John 1:1-18—includes a relationship where the Son (Word) is pros the Father. Pros involves movement; it is not about spatial proximity in the sense of “alongside of” but relationality. The Father and the Son are “with” each other, that is, they are engaged in dynamic movement toward each other. In other words, they share a fellowship or communion, a koinonia.
This one, whom we saw, heard, and touched and who was “with the Father” from the beginning, is “eternal life.” This is a clear statement of the eternal nature of the Son, and that the shared life between the Father and the Son is an eternal one, which now the Father and Son share with humanity. Their communion (koinonia) is eternal.
The central message of the Christian Faith is that the One who shared life with the Father became flesh—what we could see, hear, and touch—so that we might participate in the fellowship of the Father and the Son, which was “from the beginning.” God became flesh so that we might participate in the eternal life of God. God became flesh so that we might share in the fellowship of the Father and Son.
The incarnation of the “Word of Life” reveals the truths that “God is light” and “God is love.” Because God became flesh as Jesus the Messiah, we understand what it means to walk with God who is light. Because God became flesh as Jesus the Messiah, we understand what it means to love one another as God has loved us.
The incarnation, then, is the foundational and fundamental revelation of God; particularly, “God is light” and “God is love.” Because we believe God became flesh as Jesus the Messiah, we love as God loves and we walk as God walks because Jesus showed us how God walks and how God loves.
In this way, when we walk in the light and love as God loves, we know authentic joy.