And this is the life that was revealed; we have seen it and testified to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us.
I. HERE IS AN OBJECT EMINENTLY WORTHY OF AN APOSTLE OF JESUS CHRIST. "That ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." St. John sought to lead his readers into:
1. Participation in the highest fellowship. "That ye also may have fellowship with us," etc. (verse 3). The word "fellowship," or "communion," signifies "the common possession of anything by various Persons." By the "with us" we understand the apostles and others, who had been eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ. And St. John's aim was that his readers should participate in the truth and trust, the life and love, which the older generation of Christian disciples already possessed; that they should share in his own highest and holiest experiences. And it was not into an exalted human communion merely that the apostle endeavoured to lead his readers. "And truly" he says, "our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." In infinite condescension, the heavenly Father and the Divine Son admit Christian believers into vital and intimate communion with themselves. This fellowship is a thing of character and of life. They who share in it are "begotten of God;" they have "become partakers of the Divine nature; and they realize with joy the Divine presence. The apostle sought to lead his readers into:
2. Realization of perfect joy. "And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." Hitherto the joy of those to whom St. John wrote had not been full; for their acquaintance with Christian truth had been imperfect and partial. By the fuller disclosures of that truth he hopes that their joy may be fulfilled. How rich and manifold and abundant is the joy of the true Christian! The joy of the forgiveness of sins, of reconciliation with God, of progress in truth and holiness, of hope of future perfection and glory. Our Lord said, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." "Rejoice evermore."
II. HERE ARE MEANS EMINENTLY ADAPTED TO ACCOMPLISH THIS OBJECT. St. John endeavoured to attain his aim by declaration of the truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice:
1. The title applied to him. "The Word of life." Each term of this title demands consideration.
(1) The Word - the Logos (cf. John 1:1). "The term Logos," says Canon Liddon, "denotes at the very least something intimately and everlastingly present with God, something as internal to the Being of God as thought is to the soul of man. In truth, the Divine Logos is God reflected in his own eternal thought. In the Logos God is his own object. This infinite thought, the reflection and counterpart of God, subsisting in God as a Being or hypostasis, and having a tendency to self-communication, - such is the Logos. The Logos is the thought of God, not intermittent and precarious like human thought, but subsisting with the intensity of a personal form. The expression suggests the further inference that, since reason is man's noblest faculty, the uncreated Logos must be at least equal with God .... The Logos necessarily suggests to our minds the further idea of communicativeness. The Logos is speech as well as thought."
(2) The life which is predicated of the Word. "The Word of life." We cannot define this life. Its essential nature is hidden from us. But life in an extraordinary sense and degree is attributed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Twice he himself said, "I am the Life." And St. John says, "In him was life, and the life was the light of men." "As the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself." He is the Giver of life to others. "All things were made by him," etc. "I came," said he, "that they might have life, and that they might have it abundantly." "As the Father raiseth the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son also quickeneth whom he will." He has life in himself, and he is the great Bestower of all life to others. And his life is eternal. It "was from the beginning." He existed before creation, and before time, and his existence is independent of time. "We declare unto you that eternal life." He is ever-living and unchangeable.
2. His intimate communion with God the Father. "That eternal life which was with the Father" (cf. John 1:1). "The Word was with God." "He was not merely: παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ, 'along with God,' but πρὸς τὸν Θεόν. This last preposition expresses," says Canon Liddon, "beyond the fact of coexistence or immanence, the more significant fact of perpetuated intercommunion. The face of the everlasting Word, if we may dare so to express ourselves, was ever directed towards the face of the everlasting Father." Or, as Ebrard expresses it, the life "was towards the father.... A life which did indeed flow forth from the bosom of the Father, but which did at once return back into the bosom of the Father in the ceaseless flow of the inmost being of God."
3. His manifestation to men. "And the life was manifested, and we have seen," etc. "The Word" also suggests the idea of revelation or communication; for the Logos is not only reason, but discourse; not only thought, but the expression of thought. The life was manifested in the Person of Jesus Christ - in his words and works and life amongst men. It was exhibited gloriously in his splendid triumph over death by his resurrection. "It was not possible that he should be holden of it." "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us," etc. We have said that these means - the declaration of the truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ - were eminently adapted to lead men into participation in the highest fellowship and realization of perfect joy. The statement is capable of ample proof.
(1) A right relation to God is essential to fellowship with him and to true joy. For us, who have sinned against him, reconciliation to him and trust in him must become facts before we can have any communion with him.
(2) A true knowledge of God is essential to right relation to him. If we regard him as a stern Lawgiver, offended, resentful, implacable, we cannot even approach unto him. And the guilty conscience is prone to entertain such views of him.
(3) The true knowledge of God is attainable through Jesus Christ. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." In Jesus Christ, God is revealed unto us as "a just God and a Saviour," as mighty and merciful, as faithful and forgiving, as infinitely holy and gracious and full of compassion. Such a revelation of God is attractive; it is fitted to melt the heart into penitence, to awaken its confidence in him, and to draw it to him in the fellowship of life and light.
III. HERE IS AN AGENT EMINENTLY QUALIFIED TO USE THESE MEANS. The apostle was qualified by various and competent knowledge of him concerning whom he wrote.
1. He had heard his voice. "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard." St. John and his fellow-apostles had heard his words on very many occasions both in public discourse and in private conversation.
2. He had seen his human form and his mighty works. "That which we have seen with our eyes The Life was manifested, and we have seen it." There is, perhaps, a special reference to his having seen hint accomplish his great and beneficent miracles. But the apostles had seen their Master in various circumstances and conditions. They had seen him in his majesty and might quelling the tempest and raising the dead to life; and they had seen him exhausted and weary. They had seen him bleeding and dying on the cross; and they had seen him after he had risen again from the dead. John and two others had seen him bowed in anguish in Gethsemane; and they had seen him radiant in glory on Hermon.
3. He had intently contemplated him. "That which we looked upon," or beheld. This looking upon him is more internal and continuous than the having seen hint with their eyes. With the most intense and affectionate and reverent interest the apostle contemplated him.
4. He had handled his sacred body. The hands of John and the other apostles must frequently have touched the body of their Divine Master. But there is, perhaps, special reference to the touching of him after his resurrection: "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me," etc. (Luke 24:39). "He saith to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and see my hands," etc. (John 20:27). Thus we see how eminently qualified St. John was to testify concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. How conclusive is the testimony which he bears! And how fitted is such an agent with such means to introduce men into the blessed fellowship and the perfect joy! Have we entered into this high fellowship? Do we realize this sacred and perfect joy? Let those who are strangers to these hallowed nod blessed experiences seek them through Jesus Christ. - W.J.
For the life was manifested1. We may think of Christ as the manifestation of that eternal life whence has come all that has ever been — all creation, all nature, all time, all history; of that mysterious life which ever beats at the heart of the universe, which ever feeds its unfailing springs.
2. Christ is the manifestation of the eternal, in the extent to which He has brought more fully to light, and more practically established, the spiritual kingdom of likeness to God, of fellowship with God, for which all hearts are intended and required. He at once so guaranteed and illustrated its existence and meaning, as everywhere to lift this spiritual kingdom to a higher plane. He made it far more possible and certain than any other teacher or messenger from God had ever desired or conceived. He brought it within the reach not alone of the chiefest and the best, but also of the commonest and the lowest. He showed it to be the proper life of every man—showed that purity, righteousness, justice, mercy, patience, love, are as essential and necessary to every man as they are to God; that the true and blessed life for man means supremely this — after His own example, fellowship with God, likeness to God, sonship to God.
3. Christ manifested the eternal, not alone by the transcendent excellence and spiritual elevation of His life, but also by the power which He displayed of showing the inherent oneness of material and moral forces — in other words, of proving the rightful control of spirit over matter. What to us may look like signs or wonders or unusual phenomena, to Him were but natural facts, natural revelations or efforts of the deep, underlying oneness between things outward and inward, between all nature and life.
4. Christ manifested the eternal by revealing to us the afterlife, the future world. Of the two, that world seemed to Him even more real than this. He spoke of it with even the same deep intensity, and yet with the same calm, self-evident truthfulness as He did of the existence, and name, and character, and purpose of His Father. To Him the future world, the immortal life, were but the natural outcome of the existence and kingdom and purpose of His Father. To Him, because God is, and ever will be, man, His child, will continue to be as living, as personal as He. Jesus, knowing Himself to be the outcome, the evidence, the gift of all spiritual and eternal realities, could look beyond the seeming defeat and dread suffering of His last days, beyond the bitterness and sting of His own death, beyond the gloom and corruption of His own grave, to an existence for Himself that should be as changeless and lasting as the Father's, whose presence and truth and love He declared; nay, more — He could look beyond all the failure, pain, and death with which any of His brothers or sisters on earth should have to struggle, or to which they should succumb, and could give to them the offer, the assurance, the possession of a life as spiritual, as blessed, as immortal as His own.
(J. T. Stannard.)toward the Father — for so it literally should be — which was Fatherward and was manifested unto us. Now, it is no uncommon thing for a young man setting out in life to set some high ideal before him. You can understand a young man in business setting before him the ideal of a George Peabody or a George Moore. It is not so much the success the man has achieved, as the way in which he spent the well-earned wealth, which fires the ambition of the youth. But what was St. John's ideal? The Lord Jesus Christ. There was the life. The life was manifested, and we have seen it. It is a question often asked, Is life worth living? And that depends very much upon the kind of life you mean to live. If you mean a life of selfishness and self-pleasing, the answer must be distinctly, No! Or a life of worldliness or luxury? No! A life of avarice and covetousness? No! For these kinds of lives are very disappointing now, and 'the issue of them hereafter is terrible to contemplate. If you think of life simply as amassing wealth, if you think of life simply as acquiring esteem, as winning pleasure, you have not seen life. But the life has been manifested, the only life worth living, and he points you back to the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, what were the characteristics of the life which was thus manifested to us? It was a life Fatherward, that was the life, that eternal life, which was toward the Father. There are some who live a life towards the world; their whole inspiration is drawn from the world; their whole pleasure is found in the world. You have a very striking picture of such a life in Ezekiel 17:6, where Israel is likened unto a spreading vine of low stature, whose branches turned toward him. Towards whom? Toward the great Assyrian power, and so it became a vine, and brought forth branches and shot forth sprigs. Instead of seeking all their strength from God, they turned their roots towards Assyria, and tried to draw strength from Assyria. Now, there are a great number of people living who have these earthward lives, their roots turning towards the world — drawing in all their strength, all their sustenance, all their pleasure from the world. St. John says: Life which was manifested was not towards the world, it was towards the Father. This implies absolute obedience. The work that my Father hath given me to do, shall I not do it? This life implies perfect trust. "Your heavenly Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him." This life implies perfect, complete resignation. "Father, not My will, but Thine be done." This life implies the most blessed intercourse. Our Lord Jesus Christ is able to go out on the mountainside and continue all night in prayer to God. Why? Because God was His Father. This life Fatherward means also love to the brethren, for if God is our Father we must love one another. It is not our Father's will that one of these little ones should perish. This life Fatherward implies ambition for the Father's glory. We must let our light so shine before men that they may glorify our Father which is in heaven. And this life Fatherward contains the blessed hope of a reunion. I go to My Father. "If ye loved Me ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father." So you see how, during all our Lord Jesus Christ's life, it was a life Father-wards. And St. John says, We have seen it. Oh, it is a different life to what we see in the world. If you look at a man living towards the world, what a life of fear it is, what a life of terror: he is afraid lest he should break the customs of the world; he is afraid lest he should endure obloquy from the world. A life which is lived towards the world is always a slavish life, because it must be in entire accord with the dictates of worldly policy, But a life towards the Father is without fear. "Perfect love casteth out fear." Now St. John says, "We have seen that life; we walked with Him three and a half years, and we saw all through His life this was His great characteristic — What would my Father wish Me to do? And he goes on to say, Not only did we see it, but we bear witness of it — that is to say, We have tried to follow it ourselves; and now we want to tell you that there is no life worth living compared with this; that we can bear witness to it, and have learned something of what it means. More than that, we come to tell you about it, because we want you to have fellowship in this life. We have seen this life towards the:Father; we have tasted it, and can bear witness that it is the sweetest life, that it is the purest life, that it is the life most worth living, and now we want you to have fellowship with us. And one thing more he goes on to say: "And this is eternal life." It is life not only on the earth here, but in heaven.
(E. A. Stuart, M. A.)
1. To bewail our sad condition whilst we are without Christ; for if Christ be the life, all that know Him not, or believe not in Him, must needs be in a state of death and damnation.
2. To seek after this life, because it is eternal, and to seek it by union with Christ, who is the life.
3. To set an high value upon Christ, and give Him the glory of this great mercy, even eternal life.
(N. Hardy, D. D.)I. THE PERSON SPOKEN OF, THE TITLES GIVEN HIM, AND WHAT IS HERE SAID CONCERNING HIM. For the life was manifested — that Eternal Life which was with the Father.
1. It is Christ, God-Man, is the Person spoken of.
2. I will next glance at the titles given Him in the words before us. He is entitled, "The Life." He is so most emphatically. He is expressly called the living God by the apostle (Hebrews 3:12). He is life essentially, He is life communicatively, He is life spiritually, He is life eternally. He is the life of the whole creation, the life of grace, the life of glory. And He is all this as God-Man, the Lord, the Creator, the Proprietor of every creature. He is "Eternal Life." His life never decays. He lives in all generations, and His Name and memorial are from everlasting to everlasting. Our spiritual and eternal life cometh from Christ only. He is the fountain of it. The knowledge of Him is our eternal life. Communion with Him is the means whereby the blessedness contained in the knowledge of Him is imparted to us and enjoyed by us.
II. THE APOSTLES' HAVING SEEN THIS GREAT SIGHT, GOD INCARNATE. "We have seen it," or rather Him. We have seen Him as manifested in the flesh. We have seen and bear witness, and show the truth of this in our ministry of the gospel unto you. To have seen Christ, God manifest in the flesh, must have been a great sight. To retain the true sense and apprehension of what they saw in Him, and heard and received from Him, must have been to them life everlasting. Their whole ministry was filled up with giving a simple narrative of the Person, Incarnation, Life and Actions, Crucifixion, Death, Burial, Resurrection, Ascension and Exaltation of the Lord Jesus. This they were called to bear their immediate testimony unto. This forms the foundation of the four Gospels. And it is by the spiritual apprehension of Christ, as set forth therein, we live. Nor must the history, nor the mystery of Christ be rejected, nor neglected by us. The one being the foundation of the other, therefore the one must be of as great importance as the other.
III. WHAT THE APOSTLES DECLARED OF HIM, WHICH WAS WHAT THEY KNEW, FROM THE DIVINE KNOWLEDGE WHICH THEY HAD OF HIM, THAT HE WAS THAT ETERNAL LIFE WHICH WAS WITH THE FATHER. This must be the fruit of Divine revelation and inspiration: by which, their minds being renewed by the Holy Ghost, they were, under His further illumination, enabled to receive true apprehensions of the Person, Incarnation, Mission and Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ into their minds. They found real blessedness in the subject — in declaring the same, in bearing their witness and testimony to the truth thereof, in showing forth the eternity, the dignity, the personal glories of their, and our, Lord Jesus Christ.
IV. THIS WAS A VERY PARTICULAR PART OF THE WITNESS WHICH THEY DARE OF HIM — THAT HE WAS MANIFESTED UNTO THEM. A very singular favour. Such as I conceive we can form no adequate ideas of. How should we? That age is past. It will never return. All the Lord's ministers and people, and that to the end of time, will be witnesses for Him, and show forth the truths of His gospel, some in a greater, some in a less measure and degree, yet not in the same way, nor to answer the same end, for which the apostles were appointed.
(S. E. Pierce.)
(N. Smyth, D. D.)John 10:10). Thus and then the life entered! Not like a monarch, to take possession of a fitting palace; but like a physician, to take possession of an hospital; like spring, coming to take possession of a wintry earth; like dayspring, coming to take possession of the darkened skies. What an entrance! Not invited by kindred life, still lingering among men; but uninvited, nay, repelled. It is the absence of life here that is the cause of its manifestation from on high. The life was manifested! And we have seen it! Life in the realms of the dead; light in the land of darkness; God manifest in flesh: this is what our eyes have seen. Yes; at the cradle, and the cross, and the tomb, the life has been manifested! Blessed manifestation for us, the dead in sin! The life has come; and because He liveth, we shall live also; for he that hath the Son hath life. Surely there is no lack of life for us. But what if it be rejected and despised? Here is life for you; but is it in you? Here is life come down to earth; but has it quickened you? Life died that death might live. Immortality went down into the tomb, to bring up thence for us immortality and incorruption. Life for the dead! This is our message to the sons of men. This is our gospel; a gospel for the dead, not for the living. It is the gospel of the "manifested life." You say, perhaps, that it is just your state of death that makes this no gospel to you. Your consciousness of death leads to despondency. Ah! were you not so dead you would not need the life, and would present fewer attractions, as well as fewer necessities, to the living One; there would be less in you to call out the life. The danger lies, not in your being too dead, but in your not knowing how thoroughly dead you are. So long as there is the unconsciousness of death, there is a barrier, a non-conducting medium between you and the Life. The Holy Spirit, in revealing to you your true condition of utter death, is throwing down that barrier, and substituting a conducting for a non-conducting medium. "This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." His Son is the "manifested life," the "resurrection and the life," and "he that hath the Son hath life." What have you found in it? Have you read in it the love of God? Have you obtained from it the life of your soul? But the manifestation of this Life is not yet over. The Life has, as it were, retired for a season, and gone within the veil; but this same Jesus, who came the first time, as the Life, shall come, as such, the second time also; and that day of His manifestation shall be the day of ours as well. The "resurrection unto life" shall be the completion of the great manifestation. As His first coming was its alpha, or beginning, so shall His second coming be its omega, or end. He comes to give His Church the full benefit of the manifested life.
(H. Boxcar, D. D.)
(Canon Gore, M. A.)
(John Watson, M. A.)
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