By Dr. Donald Whitchard
If you have not read part one, you can find it here: 1 John: Christianity in Black and White
“For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” – 2 Peter 1:16
“And truly Jesus did many signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” – John 20:30-31
“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas (Peter), then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles, then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
“And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid, I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”
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- Jesus Christ, Revelation 1:17-18
The entirety of the New Testament as well as the declarations made by the prophets and statesmen of the Old Testament declare that what we have in our possession is nothing less than the recorded Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible is its own best witness as to what the LORD needs to present to His people in terms of living and adherence to His expectations. The Bible is the blueprint of historical fact and an accurate portrait of the true nature and thoughts of men who reject the notion of God’s rule over their lives. The Bible presents the only means by which anyone can have a right relationship with God, who has set the terms and conditions that leave no room for deals or half-hearted allegiance. The Bible is clear in its declaration that we are totally unable to redeem ourselves apart from an intervention by God on our behalf. The Bible is the complete record of what God has to say to us, and nothing else needs to be added. There is no need for “new revelation”, or “a fresh word from God”, or “a new move of the Spirit” as some followers of Christ proclaim. God has not changed His mind nor has He forgotten to add anything else to the Bible.
What I have said here thus far is not merely the product of what some skeptics refer to as “blind faith”. Nowhere does the Bible condone or encourage such an approach to a belief in God or His message. If anything, Scripture invites us to study, research, examine, and question its claims. Men and women throughout time have made it their life’s work to present proofs through historical records, archaeological discoveries, language study, manuscript evidence, and the testimony of countless individuals who approached the Scriptures with skepticism only to surrender their lives to its claims, especially concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ. We need to remember that critics of Scripture are like hammers that hit an anvil. So far, the critic’s hammers have shattered against the anvil of God’s Word, and if I’m not mistaken, the Scriptures have outlasted all of the criticism thrown against them, which is in of itself a testimony to their claim of truth and redemption.
The claims presented by the writers of the Bible are not mere stories founded upon a fertile imagination. There have been too many deaths and horrors faced by believers in Jesus Christ throughout history, and especially today, for the sake of what the Bible presents about Jesus. People don’t die and risk their reputations for what they know to be a fabrication and myth. All they had to do in the face of certain death was to renounce what they believed and taught if it were all just a lie, but they didn’t. The evidence that our Lord Jesus, the apostles, and the Church Fathers presented over the years and centuries affirmed that what they taught and lived by was not a mere fluke of religious bliss, but of fact in the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus and His mission of salvation.
Because of the courage, faith, and absolute assurance that what I possess is real on the part of the brethren who have gone before me and of the fact that God does not lie or exaggerate, and through years of study and research, I walk in the footsteps of past giants and have devoted my life to proclaiming that what is presented in the pages of Scripture is the God-inspired truth, and no other religion even comes close to what is presented in the Bible in terms of the blunt truth of our sins and the need for salvation outside our own abilities. None of the followers of Jesus ever relied on their own limited comprehension of their character to seek salvation through their own works, but totally relied on the mission of redemption by Jesus Christ on the cross for the atonement of our sins. All of the writers of the Bible gave full and complete glory and credit to God for saving them from their wicked ways and sinful lifestyles that, if left to themselves, would result in eternal death in hell (Matthew 25:41; Luke 16:19-31, Mark 9:42- 48; Matthew 7:21- 23; Revelation 20:11-15).
Let’s look at the first four verses of 1 John, Chapter 1:”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, concerning the Word of life – 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- that which we have seen and heard we declare to you.
That you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, and these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”
From the start, John is affirming that the Lord Jesus Christ to whom he has given his life is God manifested in the flesh and is a sharp rebuke to the false doctrine of the Gnostics. It is also an absolute statement of truth based on credible eyewitness testimony on the part of John to assure his brethren that they are indeed following the one true God and Savior promised in the Scriptures and in the teaching and witness of the apostles. What we see here is the establishment of fact and not an opinion that a reader could give or take. If Jesus were just a spirit as the Gnostics taught, then the plan of salvation would have not been possible, for it took the death of an innocent being to atone for the sins of the people (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:7, 22). John and the other apostles grew up under the Mosaic covenant, which called for the sacrifice of an animal at varied times of the day for the forgiveness of sins. When Jesus took upon Himself the role of the Sacrificial Lamb, spotless and without sin, His death was a permanent sacrifice that provided atonement and forgiveness once and for all to those who would come to Him in faith for the salvation of their souls. After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, there was no longer any need for daily sacrifices. Christ, and Him alone, was the acceptable sacrifice and never needed to be repeated again. When Jesus said, “It is finished” while on the cross, this meant that the work of salvation and redemption was completed, and would be affirmed by His resurrection. This act of redemption was a gift of love from God the Father to His fallen creation as the only means by which there could be complete and lasting reconciliation and promise of eternity with God in heaven.
Unlike today’s concept of Christianity, where spirituality is measured by emotions, experiences, alleged dreams and visions, gibberish, prophetic manifestations by celebrity preachers and teachers, prosperity and wealth, and bad interpretation of Scripture, what is presented in these opening verse is absolute truth based on the sure foundation of Scriptural promises and the eyewitness testimony of a man who saw Jesus with his own eyes and was a witness of His resurrection, even recording the words of an honest skeptic like Thomas (John 20:24-29), who wanted unmistakable evidence of Jesus’ claims and ended up confessing that Jesus was Lord and God. What we are reading here is the account of the life of our LORD as seen and recorded by flesh and blood men who risked all to tell everyone the story of Jesus and His saving power. The Scriptures do not change for anyone’s opinion or disbelief. It does not bow to the demands of a godless society that insists that it adapt to modern times. Scripture demands that we adapt to its times and teachings and will not apologize for its bluntness and honesty. It doesn’t care if it offends anyone or calls out bad behavior.
If anyone is offended, it is God for the way we treat and malign Him, and He will have something to say about that when His time of vengeance and judgment come upon this wicked world, which may not be too far off in the future. As we go deeper into John’s teachings, we will come to realize that the concept of self is foreign in the plan of salvation and that you’d better be serious about your walk with God if you claim to be His follower. To John, it’s either fish or cut bait, but there is no place for inactivity or half-heartedness. Commitment to Christ is just that – a total refutation of your interests and ideas and compliance to what the LORD desires.
John’s message to this day and age is simple. Either you’re for Jesus or not. Either something is right or wrong, good or evil, devout or devilish, black or white. Relativism and its fruits are not part of the biblical narrative. Spirituality is measured by obedience to the word of the LORD and devotion to His will. John taught that following Jesus meant total and unconditional surrender to His Lordship and Divinity, despite what you might think or feel. This letter will present concepts that need to be heard today more than ever. Next time, we will look at Chapter 1, verses 5- 10 and learn about the true nature of Christian fellowship (Hebrews 10:25). Stick around.