Today’s selected reading is found in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle John. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses one through ten of the first chapter of the epistle. When we come to this particular set of verses—not only do we find the first chapter of this first epistle written by the apostle John beginning, but we also find the first of three epistles written by the apostle beginning. Thus far within the New Testament we have been given the gospel of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ presented unto us by the apostle John. Now as we prepare to conclude the New Testament we find three distinct letters being written by the apostle John unto the saints which were at Ephesus. What I absolutely love about how the apostle John begins and opens up this particular epistle is that he opens up the epistle much like he opened the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus earlier on in the New Testament. As you begin reading with and from the opening verse of this first chapter you will find the apostle John speaking of that which was from the beginning. Within the opening set of verses within this epistle we find the apostle John writing and speaking of beginnings—much like he wrote and spoke of beginnings in his gospel account of Jesus’ life and ministry. When the apostle John set out to write this first epistle he undoubtedly sought to convey to his readers and audience the tremendous power and truth of what took place in the beginning—what took place when the Word became flesh and dwelt among men. Undoubtedly the apostle thought back to and remembered those three and a half years when he walked and talked with Jesus the Christ. Undoubtedly her apostle was going back to those moments when he walked with Jesus and followed Him throughout His earthly ministry. I can’t help but wonder what it was like for the apostle John to sit down and begin writing an epistle unto the congregation in Ephesus concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ.
As I sit here this morning and think about and meditate upon this first epistle which was written by the apostle John I can’t help but be gripped with the fact that this epistle is much like the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles. If you read the first five books found within the New Testament you will find that one of the four gospels written was written by the beloved physician Luke. Based on eyewitness reports given by those who walked with, talked with and even followed Jesus, the beloved physician sought to present a treatise concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ—one that was based on everything Jesus said and did while on the earth. When the gospel of John draws to a close you will find the book of Acts next in the canon of scripture and New Testament. What is so interesting and unique about the book of Acts is that whole the gospel which Luke wrote details and describes the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the book of Acts describes the life and ministry of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ. The New Testament book of Acts was written in order to present Theophilus with an account of the church of Jesus Christ. This is actually quite interesting, for picture being this man who was the recipient of Luke’s writings and not only receive and read the account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, but also receiving an account of the life and ministry of Jesus’ body on the earth. The opening few chapters of the New Testament gospel or Luke describes the birth of the Son of God, while the first two chapters of the book of Acts describes the birth of the church. As the New Testament gospel or Luke continues and progresses, it does so describing the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, and how He taught, performed miracles, performed signs and wonders. When you come to the New Testament book of Acts—not only do you read of the birth of the early Church, but you also read concerning the growth of church during its early years, as well as the profound ministry of engaged in during the years after it’s inception. While the gospel of Luke ended and concluded with the ascension of Jesus Christ unto the right hand of the Father who was in heaven, the book of Acts brings its readers and audience face to face with the awesome and incredible reality of how the story didn’t end with the ascension of Jesus Christ. Much like the story didn’t end with the crucifixion of Jesus, by continued with His resurrection from the dead, so also the story didn’t conclude with the ascension of Jesus, but continued with The emergence of His body within the earth.
THE STORY IS NOT OVER YET! I absolutely love how this second treatise was written unto Theophilus, for He might have been tempted to think that the story ended with the ascension of Jesus unto the right hand of the Father in heaven. Sure he read Jesus’ final words which were spoken unto His disciples prior to His ascension concerning their tarrying in Jerusalem until they be endured with power from in high, and sure he read about Jesus’ words to the disciples concerning being His witnesses in the earth, but he was left wondering what happened after Jesus ascended. Without the second half and second part of the story, this young men would have been tempted to conclude that the story ended with Jesus’ ascension unto the right hand of the Father. There is not a doubt in my mind that Theophilus read the gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus which Luke wrote, but had questions when he came to the end of the gospel—namely, whether or not that was the end of the story. Without a doubt the first treatise which Luke wrote was to bring him face to face with Jesus who is the Christ and Lord, but the second treatise was to demonstrate how men and women lived their lives after Jesus’ ascension, and after the Holy Spirit was released and poured out on the day of Pentecost. This second treatise was written with the hope and expectation that Theophilus would recognize and understand that the Tory did not end with Jesus ascending unto the right hand of His Father who was in heaven, but continued with the church being born and brought into existence on the day of Pentecost. Although the physical body of Jesus Christ was no longer present within and upon the earth, there was now a spiritual body which was found present within and upon the earth. The apostle Paul would write over and over and time and rime again concerning this body of Christ which was present within and upon the earth, and how it was the extension, expression and manifestation of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ upon the earth. Oh we dare not miss and lose sight of this awesome reality, for through the book of Acts we find the wonderful and powerful account of the continuation of the story through the life and ministry of the body of Christ within and upon the earth. If I am Theophilus and I’m receiving this second treatise which was written by Luke I am anxious within my heart and spirit, for it means that there is more to the story. If I am this young man who receives this second treatise I am confronted with the reality that the story didn’t end with Jesus ascending to the right hand of the Father which is in heaven, but continued with the account of His spiritual body continuing within and upon the earth after His departure. Consider if you will how the New Testament gospel of Luke concludes, and how the New Testament book of Acts begins and opens up concerning the body of Christ:
“And as they thus spake, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And He said unto them, Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when He had thus spoken, He shewed them His hands and His feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, He said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And He took it, and did eat before them. And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning me. Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all. Nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen” (Luke 24:36-53).
With these final words which were written by the beloved physician Luke, we find Jesus appearing unto His disciples after His resurrection from the grave in order to correct their thinking, and to strengthen their faith, their trust and their confidence. As you read these final words of the New Testament gospel of Luke you will find Luke concluding this treatise with a wonderful and powerful description of Jesus leading His disciples out as far as Bethany, and there at Bethany—as He was blessing them—He was parted from them, and removed from their sight into heaven where He would return to His Father. It’s actually quite interesting to consider the words which Luke records in the final set of verses within this final chapter of this treatise, for the words which Luke uses to describe the ascension of Jesus Christ is similar to the words which the author of the second book of Kings wrote concerning Elijah’s being caught up into heaven by a whirlwind. The author writes how beyond the Jordan River Elijah was separated from Elisha, and how Elijah was taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire with horses at the helm of the chariot. Just as Elijah was parted from Elisha, so also was Jesus the Christ parted from those whom He brought as far as Bethany when He ascended unto the right hand of His Father who was in heaven. How absolutely wonderful it is to think about and consider this awesome and incredible reality of Jesus leading His believers and followers out to Bethany where He would be ascended unto the right hand of His Father who was in heaven. In fact, when the New Testament gospel of Acts ends and concludes, it does so with those whom Jesus led out to Bethany returning with great joy to Jerusalem where they would follow through with and obey the instruction and command of Jesus to remain and tarry there until they be endued with power from on high. Now, upon the conclusion of that particular treatise Theophilus might have been tempted to read those words and conclude that the story ended with Jesus returning to heaven and his disciples returning to Jerusalem with great joy worshipping and blessing the living God. I am so thankful that Luke wrote a second treatise which was sent unto Theophilus, for this second treatise presents this young man with the awesome and incredible reality that the story concerning Jesus Christ was not over, but would continue on through the life and ministry of His body within and upon the earth. Consider if you will the words which are recorded in the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts beginning with the first verse of the chapter:
“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after that He thought the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen: to whom also He shewed Himself alive after His passion by man infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which saith He, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when He had spoken these things, while they behold, he was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they were looked steadfastly twoard heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath’s day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren” (Acts 1:1-14).
When the gospel of Luke concluded, it did so with Jesus ascending unto the right hand of His Father in heaven, and the disciples returning with great joy unto Jerusalem. As you come to and approach the New Testament book of Acts you will find Luke writing concerning that first treatise, and how within that treatise he set forth to present all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen. Within the first treatise Luke sought to present unto Theophilus the tremendous reality of how Jesus showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, and how He was seen of men forty days after the resurrection, as he spoke the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. In opening this second treatise Luke writes concerning his purpose within the first treatise, and how the first treatise was set forth to present him with the life, the ministry, and the works of Jesus who is the Christ. That first treatise, however, ended with the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven, and unto the right hand of His Father in heaven. This is actually the reason for the second treatise, for the story could not end with Jesus in heaven at the right hand of His Father, and that’s it. The story couldn’t end with Jesus in heaven at the right hand of the Father, and His disciples returning to Jerusalem worshipping and blessing the living God. The entire New Testament book of Acts was written with the wonderful and powerful intention of presenting the life and ministry of Jesus continuing on within and upon the earth—first through the apostles, and later through various other men and women whom the Holy Spirit would endure with power from on high, and transform into wonderful and powerful witnesses for and concerning Jesus Christ. The book of Acts is not only a book about the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ—although within the first ten chapters or so, we seem to only see the works of the apostles, and how they taught and preached, and performed great signs, wonders and miracles confirming the truth of Jesus Christ. Within the sixth and seventh chapters you will find that there were deacons who were appointed by the apostles, and by the early church to carry out additional ministry unto the saints, while the apostles continually gave themselves unto the preaching and teaching of the word of God, and unto prayer. Ultimately and eventually this would culminate with the stoning of Stephen who would be the church’s first martyr after he addressed the Sanhedrin and all those who sought to accuse him with their words and condemn him with their stones. ACCUSED WITH WORDS, CONDEMNED BY STONES! (Please don’t overlook this reality, for such a reality still takes place today—the reality where those around us will seek to accuse us with their words, and others will seek to condemn us with their stones. Sometimes, certain individuals can partake of both realities, and will be part of both groups, for not only will they attempt to accuse you with their words, but they will also seek to condemn you with t heir stones).
As you continue on in the New Testament book of Acts you will find the account of the life and ministry of the apostle Paul, and how the apostle Paul engaged in three different and three distinct missionary journeys within and throughout the region of Asia, for he was raised up, ordained and appointed to be the apostle unto the Gentiles. While the first ten chapters of so seem to speak of the works and ministry of the original apostles, and the latter portion of the same book seems to speak of the works and ministry of the apostle Paul, we dare not neglect the fact that the apostle Paul never moved or operated alone within and upon the earth. The apostle Paul was accompanied on his missionary journeys by men such as Barnabas, Silas, John Mark, Timothy, Luke, and was even accompanied by Titus, as well as Aquilla and Priscilla. The work of the ministry which took place after the ascension of Jesus Christ was too big and too great to be carried out by one single individual, and would require the unified work and effort of countless men and women who would work together in prayer, in labor, in teaching, in intercession, in preaching, and the like. The eighth chapter of the book of Acts opens up with a great persecution breaking out against the church within the city of Jerusalem after Stephen’s death, and how as a result of this great persecution the church was scattered throughout the regions of the earth. There is not a doubt in my mind that not only do we find in the New Testament book of Acts the account of the birth and inception of the church, but we also find within this New Testament book the expansion of the church—not only as a direct result of the persecution which broke out within Jerusalem, but also as the promise of the Father and the gospel concerning Jesus Christ would be manifested among the Gentiles. Eventually and ultimately the promise of the Father and the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ would reach Rome itself, and would bring about the formation of a body of believers within the city. Despite the tremendous persecution which would break out against the church by the Roman Empire itself, the church itself—the Temple of the Holy Ghost made without human hands—could never be destroyed, nor could it be removed from the face of the earth. Despite persecution and opposition by the religious community, as well as the secular community, the true church, and the true body of Christ could never be destroyed or removed from the earth. This is actually quite a wonderful and powerful reality to think about and consider, for the work of the ministry—the work concerning the kingdom of heaven and the work of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ must continue upon the earth, and can never be thwarted by the gates of hell. It was Jesus Himself who declared that “upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” While He was still present among us on the earth Jesus spoke of the formation of His church upon the earth, and that the gates of hell would and could not prevail against it. Oh that we would read the New Testament book of Acts and recognize and understand the tremendous reality of the saints of God continuing and carrying out the work which began with Jesus who is both Christ and Lord while He was upon the earth.
Now, you might be wondering why I would take so much time writing about the two letters and treatises’ which were written by the beloved physician Luke, and I fully understand why you would wonder about my choosing to do so. I chose to spend a considerable amount of time writing concerning the gospel of Luke, which described and detailed the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, as well as the book of Acts, which describes the life and ministry of the body of Christ, for the book of Acts is ultimately an expression and extension of the life and ministry of Jesus—that which began with the Lord Jesus Christ and would continue with, through and by His body. What we find in the New Testament book of Acts is a wonderful and powerful picture of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ being carried out and continued by His followers, His apostles, and those who believed and trusted in His name. The book of Acts describes how men and women lived in light of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ after his death, burial, resurrection and ascension unto the right hand of the Father who was in heaven. I am convinced that this first epistle written by the apostle John bears a similar nature to that which is found in the book of Acts, for just as the book of Acts describes how the saints of God and followers of Jesus Christ lived their lives after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, so the first epistle of John is essentially an invitation to conduct one’s life in light of the truth concerning Jesus Christ. The apostle John wrote his gospel account concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ in order to present his readers and his audience with the tremendous reality concerning the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. In fact, in the final verses of this gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus we find the apostle John writing the following words: “This is the disciples which testifeth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that His testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:24-25). When the gospel of John opens, it opens with a presentation of the awesome and incredible reality concerning Jesus the Christ, and how in the beginning was the Word, and how the word was with God, and how the Word was God. What we find in the first chapter of the gospel according to John—ultimately within and throughout the entire gospel—is a powerful declaration of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ within and upon the earth. The apostle John begins and opens up this gospel account by writing and speaking of the beginning—a similar reality which is found in the first chapter of the first epistle he wrote unto the congregation which was at Ephesus. Consider if you will the words which are found in the first chapter of the gospel of John:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of Him, and cried, saying, This was He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for He was before me. And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by 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” (John 1:1-18).
In the opening verses of the gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, the apostle John writes how in the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. When we come to and approach the first epistle which the apostle John wrote, we again find him writing and speaking about beginning, for in the first verse of the first chapter these words are presented: “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” (1 John 1:1). As the apostle John opens up this first epistle, he does so writing concerning that which was from the beginning—that which they had heard, that which they had seen with their eyes, and that which they had looked upon, and that which their hands did handle of the word of life. The apostle John—in this first epistle—sought to write from the unique perspective of experience, for he did not seek to write some cleverly devised fable or tale woven together by his own imagination. What I absolutely love about this first epistle written by the apostle John is that it was one which was written based on personal experience and personal interaction with the living word of Life, which was not only in the beginning with God, and was God, but also which took on flesh and dwelt among us. I love how the apostle John wrote concerning that which they heard, that which they had seen with their eyes, that which they looked upon, and that which their hands did handle concerning the word of life, for there are many men and women attempt to speak, and even preach from a place of authority and power, and yet they do not have the experience to back it up and enforce what they are saying. I am convinced that there are a number of men and women who are attempt to speak from a place of authority and power, and yet there is absolutely no experience to back up and support the words which they are speaking with their mouths. The apostle John wrote concerning his experience with the Word of life—much like the apostle Peter who wrote and spoke concerning his own experience. I so love reading the epistles written by the apostles Peter and John, for these epistles were written from the unique vantage point of experience, for they were actually eyewitnesses to the tremendous works, signs, wonders, miracles, and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostles Peter and John both wrote from the unique vantage of point of what they had heard with their ears, what they had seen with their eyes, and what they had handled with their hands, and I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Peter wrote in his second epistle found in the New Testament: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We also have a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:16-21).
What you find in the opening chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle John is a statement of experience—not just any experience, but experience with the living Word, and with Jesus who is both Christ and Lord. In fact, in the second verse of the first chapter the apostle John wrote how the life was manifested, and how they had seen it, and do bear witness, and shew unto others that eternal life, which was with the Father, and yet was manifested unto us. Again in the third verse of this first chapter the apostle John writes concerning that which they saw and heard, and how they declare it unto them, in order that they might have fellowship with them. What’s more, is the apostle John goes on to write how their fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. The purpose for this epistle was not only to encourage and instruct them how to life in light of what was found in his gospel account concerning the life and ministry of Jesus, but also that they might have fellowship with them—fellowship with the Father, as well as with the Son. What I find in this particular epistle is a wonderful and powerful invitation to live one’s life in light of the awesome and incredible truth concerning Jesus the Christ. In fact, I would dare say that we cannot, we dare not, we must not read this epistle without first recognizing and understanding that within this epistle is a wonderful and powerful call to action based on the knowledge we have concerning Jesus the Christ. It’s one thing to know about Christ, and it’s one thing to learn of Christ, however, it’s something else entirely to take such knowledge and to live our lives in light of what we know concerning Christ. There are countless men and women who know enough about Christ, yet when it comes to actually fleshing and living out that which they know concerning and about Christ, they are absolutely and utterly blind. I am convinced it is not enough to simply know all there is to know about Christ, and to even be able to speak concerning Christ, and yet there is no experience, no witness, no living proof that such knowledge is reality within our hearts and lives. If you are going to read this first epistle written by the apostle John, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that you understand that what is contained within the epistle is a wonderful and powerful invitation to remember everything you have learned concerning Christ, and to put such knowledge to action, for knowledge apart from action is utterly and completely useless. What we need is not more men and women with knowledge concerning Jesus Christ, but men and women of experience—men and women who actually conduct their lives in light of the knowledge and understanding they have concerning Jesus Christ, and who live their lives as an extension and expression of the Lord Jesus Christ.