1st October, 2011
BRUCE C. WEARNE
Read I John 2: 22-28
What has Jesus promised to those who follow Him? The answer to this question helps us deal with what seems, at this point in the letter, to be a most difficult problem in interpretation. It has to do with one little word which is characteristic of John's contribution in his Gospel and in this letter - it is the little word "beginning" (ARCHE): "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God" (John 1:1), and,"It was what has been since the beginning" (I John 1: 1)
AT THE START The word can have several connotations, one of which is "all along" or "from the outset". PICTURE: Sanja Gjenero (www.sxc.hu_
"With Jesus Christ we have found our true, genuine and perpetual "household". This is where we, of the throng of those the Father calls unto Himself, belong. This is it. This is where we can grasp each and every sense of "beginning" which it is our created and redeemed privilege to experience."
John doesn't differentiate between different uses of "beginning". He seems to simply refer to all of them at the same time. And now we read of that "beginning" in the context of Jesus' promises to us, in the context of His provision of "eternal life", life from here on. Heeding this we receive life. We heed what we have heard. We have heard what has been spoken from the beginning...and so in hearing this word, we realise it has also been spoken to us "from the beginning".
In heeding what John writes we realise that indeed we are being addressed as members of the Father's family in Jesus Christ. That is how we have come to abide in what Jesus taught us "from the beginning". He promised to remain with and in us. We rest content with this, remaining in Him, abiding in the Son and in the Father. This is none other than to find the dwelling place, the shelter of the Almighty (Psalms 90, 91) - "I am your shield and great reward Abraham, walk before me and be complete" (Genesis 17: 1).
With Jesus Christ we have found our true, genuine and perpetual "household". This is where we, of the throng of those the Father calls unto Himself, belong. This is it. This is where we can grasp each and every sense of "beginning" which it is our created and redeemed privilege to experience. It is here, in our life with the Father and with His Son, that our "beginning" is indeed assured. From henceforth. For ever.
This explanation is not a matter of trying to develop some logical or linguistic trick in order to make this letter of John comprehensible. Rather, it is to reckon with the fact that our use of words and terms - like "beginning" or "first and foremost" - are completely dependent upon what we have already been dependent upon "from the beginning". Just as God's creational fiat confronts us everyday and everywhere we look, and has done so "from the beginning", so also the Son's friendship is given to us "for all time". He is utterly reliable. His promises are true. He keeps His promises.
So, just as "in the beginning" can refer to a temporal sequence from which one thing follows after another because that is how God has set things up, so also it is because of what has been established "in the beginning" that we find ourselves confessing in wonder: "Lord our Lord, how utterly majestic are Your ways in all the earth!" (Psalm 8).
The term, as we use it, may also indicate that we believe that at some point a "start" was made to the entire creation order. But the term itself, as John uses it, also refers to God's love for His creation and His image "from the beginning". And therefore it can rightly refer to the first public appearance of Jesus in Galilee, the "beginning" of His teaching ministry, when He announced the Kingdom of God and made the call "Follow me!" Those events were the historic beginnings of Christian discipleship. The term, I guess, can also mean the point at which we began to hearken to the call of Christ Jesus. It has the sense of "all along" or "from the outset". It involves the way we see things, see everything.
John reassures his readers that God has revealed Himself as utterly reliable. He only reveals Himself as the one Who is and Who was and Who is to come (Revelation 1: 4). He has always been "from the beginning" - "I am whom I am" (Exodus 3: 14); "I am the Alpha and the Omega" (Revelation 1: 8). We know all this because from the first He knew us. And in this way we grasp what John is wanting to convey by the "anointing" received by those who believe in Christ Jesus.
In John's Gospel it says that Jesus had the disciples receive the Holy Spirit as He breathed on them (John 20: 19-23). There is something very intimate and personal with the way Jesus brings us into His circle. It is nothing other than the self-same intimate care exercise by God's breathe, His spirit, from the creation, from the very beginning (Genesis 1:2). John seems to be speaking here of the personal face-to-face contact that Jesus had with him, and which because of the continuity and reliability of Jesus' personal contact, this intimacy is maintained in the lives of those who subsequently believe and hence have provoked John's letter. We shook hands with Him because He first reached out His hand to us. We know of a surety because He has revealed Himself to us and not for us only but as part of His redemptive work in doing away with the sins of all the world (1 John 2: 2).
John's letter is effectively saying: "Let me take your hand and shake it!" We clinch our fellowship (KOINONIA) because He made fellowship with us; we are His family.
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