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 on…
These words are as a head to the body, a gate to the field, a porch to the building of this epistle; an introduction which very much speaketh the writer to be St. John, because it is as it were a resounding to the proem of his Gospel.
I. THE APOSTLE'S CARE OF PUBLISHING THE GOSPEL is that which St. John doth here insert in the behalf not only of himself, but his fellow apostles, for it is not the singular "I," but the plural "we."
1. The first we meet with is μαρτυροῦμεν, "bear witness." This was indeed the chief office to which the apostles were designed by Christ, to bear witness of Him; and that they might be enabled to the faithful discharge of it, He promised the power of the Holy Ghost (John 15:26, 27; Acts 1:8).
2. The next expression, ἀπαγγέλλομεν, is twice repeated, vers. 2, 3, but Englished by two several words, we show and we declare, it is that which intimateth what kind of bearing witness the apostle here intended. The nature of light is to discover, the business of an ambassador is to impart his message; and accordingly the work of an apostle is to reveal the gospel. We declare, as being sent by God to publish this errand; and that which hereby is intimated to us is that these holy apostles did not run before they were sent, but had a mission and commission to show and declare the things of the gospel.
3. There is yet one term more behind, ver. 4, and that is γράφομεν, "we write unto you": and as declaring showeth what kind of bearing witness the apostle chiefly relateth to, so this writing what kind of declaring he especially speaketh of; for whereas there are but two ways of declaring the gospel, to wit, sermo and scriptio, word and writing, by the tongue and the pen, this latter is that which the apostle principally intendeth when he saith, We declare, we write; that is, we declare by writing.
(1) By this it is we speak to many, very many, even those that are absent and far distant from us; in which respect writing is wittily styled an invention to deceive absence.
(2) Again, by this it is we speak, not only whilst alive, but when we are dead, and so declare the truth, not only to them who are coetaneous with us, but shall in future ages succeed after us; in which regard that of the Psalmist is very suitable (Psalm 102:18).
II. THE GOSPEL'S EXCELLENCY.
1. The appellation here affixed to the gospel is choice and comfortable, it is the word of life; a title which is made use of by St. Paul (Philippians 2:15, 16).
2. The reason of this appellation is fit and pregnant, because those words, "eternal life is manifested to us," are such a confirmation that they are withal an explication of the title in both the branches of it.
(1) Would we know what this life is, whereof the gospel is the word? The answer is, it is eternal life; in which respect St. Peter saith to Christ (John 6:68).
(2) Would we know in what respect the gospel is the word of this life? The answer is, because this eternal life which was with the Father is by it manifested to us. To apply this, what should the consideration teach us but —
1. Thankfully to acknowledge what a rich treasure, a precious pearl, God hath vouchsafed to us in bestowing the gospel on us!
2. To endeavour that what this word of life is in itself it may be to every one of us; and as it is the word of life by way of manifestation, so it may be also by way of operation, effectual to bring us to that life which it revealeth to us.
(N. Hardy, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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, of the Word of life;