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…
I. HIM OF WHOM JOHN IS HERE SPEAKING — "that which was from the beginning." What God is in His nature, persons, life, blessedness, glory, immortality, and eternity, is, and ever will be, incomprehensible (Job 11:7, 8, 9). The person of Christ was from the beginning. He was as God-man before the world, and had a glory with the Father before the world was (John 8:58). This most glorious one, who was God-man before the world was, became incarnate in the fulness of time. John lived in the days of Christ's Incarnation; he had the honour to see Christ, the Messiah, and was favoured with communion with Him. This was grace and glory inexpressible.
II. HE HAD HEARD, HE HAD SEEN, HE HAD HANDLED HIM. So had others also. These various terms of hearing, seeing, looking, handling, are designed to express the reality of our Lord's Incarnation. That He had a real body. It was a palpable one; it was seen; it was touched; it was heard. The truth of this was denied by some heretics in the apostolic age; to refute which the apostle expresseth himself as he here doth. There was satisfaction given, and such demonstration given to every sense of body and mind, that Christ had a body like our own, that no greater proof could be given. He was made in all things like unto His brethren. It was in our nature He obeyed. Bore the sins of many in His own body on the tree. The person of Christ is a most transcendently excellent subject. The Incarnation of Christ, a deep and most momentous subject.
III. THE PERSONS WHO HAD THUS SEEN HIM — "which we have heard," etc. They were the apostles themselves. He speaks in their and his own name here. Not but other saints beside them saw the Lord in His incarnate state; yet they were not called and appointed to be witnesses of this, as the apostles were. The evidence the apostles had of His person and Incarnation was different from ours. We receive ours from them: and that in a way of believing. They had the evidence of sense as truly as we have the evidence of faith. True believers hear the voice of Christ in His Word, and in hearing it their souls live. They see Christ in the light of the gospel, and behold salvation and everlasting life in Him; but this is with the eyes of their mind. They touch, they taste, and handle Christ mystically and representatively in their fellowship with Him in His holy supper, yet this is quite different from what the apostle is here speaking. Yet it is as effectual to us for our souls' benefit as theirs was. Yet notwithstanding this, the different ends answered by the same are so essential, that they ought to be distinguished. They were to record His life, His words, His miracles, His threatenings, His promises, His prophecies, His holiness, His righteousness, His passion, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension into heaven, His session at the right hand of the Majesty on high, His coronation in glory, and His sending down the Holy Ghost from heaven, to prove Him to be the Lord's Messiah, the Saviour of the world. Now the apostles who were to be witnesses of all this unto the people, saw God incarnate, and conversed with Him in His incarnate state — a sight we shall never behold. It is everlastingly impossible we should, that state being past. We shall see God incarnate, God-man, in heaven — we shall see Him in the state of ultimate glory. We see Him now, in the glass of the everlasting gospel, as truly as the apostles did, in our measure and degree, though not as they did with their bodily eyes. We see Him with the eye of faith, as certainly as those persons did with the eyes of their body, and as truly, yet not so clearly and fully, as saints in heaven do by sense and vision.
IV. THE TITLE JOHN GIVES THIS MOST WONDERFUL ONE. He styles Him "The Word of life." The word is the index of the mind. By what is contained in the mind is expressed. So Christ, as one in the self-existing Essence, speaks out the mind of the eternal Father. It was by His Almighty fiat the heavens and the earth were created, and all the host of them. It was by Him all the secrets of the Most High were spoken out and proclaimed, and the invisible God brought out of His invisibility. It is in Him the full revelation of Godhead is made known. It is in the essential Word all the mind of God is opened, all the love of God expressed, the whole of God declared. It is as this essential Word, and only begotten Son of God, shines forth as God-man, in His most glorious person, mediation, work, grace, and salvation, in the everlasting gospel, and enlightens His Church therewith, that they in His light see light.
(S. E. Pierce.)
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;