Friday, 6 March 2020
…the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 1 John 1:2
John, after introducing us to “the Word of life,” now begins a parenthetical thought beginning with, “the life was manifested.” Here, he is using the term “the life” in a manner almost synonymous with “the Word.”
Like at other times, it is expressing the nature of Christ. He is the Truth, He is the Light, He is the Way, etc. The words “the life” are no different here. The One who bears the meaning of “life” – in its fullest sense – was manifested, meaning made clear, or made known. He was plainly revealed in the coming of Christ.
This is analogous to what is said of Christ in John 1:14 which says, “And the Word became flesh.” The only difference is that a different characteristic of Christ is revealed in these words. In the gospel of John, He is the Word – the One who explains the Father to us, He is the Life – the One who reveals life itself to us, and so forth. The various terms are given to help explain these natures so that we can come to a fuller understanding of who Christ is.
John then repeats the same idea that he said in verse 1, “and we have seen.” “That which was from the beginning” was seen. “That which” was the Word from John 1:1, but it is also the Life. The apostles had seen the very source of life itself – with their own eyes. He was manifest unto them not as a secret enlightenment for a select few, but as a means of conveying the truth of God to the world. For this reason, John says they “bear witness.”
In John 1:7, John the Baptist came “to bear witness of the Light.” The One who would draw all peoples to Himself as a beacon through His death, as noted in John 12:32, is also the One who would come to give life. Certain people were selected to bear witness to these things. There would be an experiential knowledge which would lead to a personal testimony, and that would lead to the proclamation of the gospel.
Understanding this, John then says that he and the others who had seen these things now “declare to you that eternal life.” The Greek is much more precise, stating, “the life, the eternal.” The apostles declared the Life. It is He who is the Life, and it is He who provides eternal life. There is a development of thought being presented.
Adam was created to live and not die. But through sin, death entered the world. In the doing of the law, man was promised to live (Leviticus 18:5). But fallen man is incapable of fulfilling the law. However, Christ, the Life, was capable of doing so. In His fulfillment of the law, He could provide that eternal life for man by removing the law, taking it out of the way, and thus bringing eternal life.
The process requires more than the words of John to understand. Indeed, it takes all of Scripture to grasp what God has done in Christ, but John’s words make the simple proclamation that it is so. This is the declaration of the life, the eternal life “which was with the Father.”
In saying that the Life was with the Father, it is saying that He is prior to the creation. The same Life that was with the Father, apart from any created thing, is the Life that was manifested to the world in Christ. They are not two, but one. This is confirmed by Jesus’ own words, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30).
The Father expresses Himself in and through the Son. The life that is in the Father is the Life who came to dwell among the people He created. It is this Life that John says, “was manifested to us.” This Life – which has always been, but which has not been seen in man since the fall of Adam – is what was presented to the world. Christ came to perform a mission which was to restore life to man and to thus reclaim man for the Father in the state which He was originally intended to exist.
Of this, Vincent’s word studies states –
“In living, active relation and communion with the Father. ‘The preposition of motion with the verb of repose involves eternity of relation with activity and life’ (Coleridge). The life eternally tended to the Father, even as it emanated from Him. It came forth from Him and was manifested to men, but to the end that it might take men into itself and unite them with the Father. The manifestation of life to men was a revelation of life, as, first of all and beyond all, centering in God. Hence, though life, abstractly, returns to God, as it proceeds from God, it returns bearing the redeemed world in its bosom. The complete divine ideal of life includes impartation, but impartation with a view to the practical development of all that receives it with reference to God as its vivifying, impelling, regulating, and inspiring center.”
Life application: When reading John’s gospel and epistles, it’s hard not to get the sense that he simply couldn’t believe the blessing of encountering Jesus Christ, the Son of God. His words overflow with amazement at the immensity of what he had personally experienced.
From eternity past, the Word existed. But John exclaims that he and others saw the Word, looked upon the Word, handled the Word – all evidences of the incarnation. This is the life that was manifested to him and those he walked with. He again says, “we have seen” the Word. It is as if he is saying, “It’s really true and my words are insufficient to explain; let me repeat myself in an attempt to do so.”
Because of the absolute surety the apostles held concerning their eyewitness, John says that they bear witness, and declare what they had seen. One can imagine him going to bed, night after night, and saying, “These eyes beheld the Lord; my own two eyes.” When waking up in the morning, he probably repeated himself, “My own two eyes….” And so, he proclaims what he saw – that the eternal life which was with the Father became flesh and dwelt among the sons of men. It is this Life – this bridge between the finite and the infinite – which was manifested to a select group of people who would tell the story of eternal life to a world stained by sin and by darkness.
John will continue to weave together his words in a way which will detail the work of the Word, the significance of the Word, and the love of God as displayed in the Word. All of this was done to give eternal life to anyone who would but believe. Take time to think about the eternal Word of life, coming in human flesh to reveal the heart of the Father.
Surely no greater story has ever been told than that which details the life and work of Jesus Christ. O God, thank You for allowing our eyes to see Jesus in the pages of the Holy Bible. In seeing Him, we see You. May we faithfully study the words You have provided, and may our doctrine be pure as we pursue an understanding of His work and His glory. Amen.