"What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life — and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us — what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete." (1 John 1:1-4)Some have asked how we can trust and believe in a book that is almost two thousand years old, yet its not the book we trust in but its message; it is its message that gives hope to our lives and in which we trust and believe. It is a message of the Christ who came and lived among us and it is related to us, not secondhandedly, but by those who actually heard Christ and lived with Him and walked with Him. Their message is their first hand experience with Jesus and their message is the things He taught them personally and expressly. Our faith rests not in some ancient text or manuscript but in the words of those Apostles, chosen by God, to personally witness and report what they heard, saw, and learned. They are the apostles of our faith; they are the ones God entrusted with His message; they are the ones who heard and knew Jesus as He lived among us. Our faith is solid because we count them and their testimony true and reliable. Among these apostles was John.
John's message was a message of life, not ordinary life, but life eternal, full of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness. This life, and its knowledge, was hidden with the Father yet, at the proper time, was revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come to communicate to us some new religion or to impart some new philosophy, rather He came to impart to us life and to show us the path to eternal life with the Father. At the heart of the teaching of Christ is the teaching of life. What we believe and what we teach are judged by the measure to which they reveal eternal life with God. By this I do not mean just the message of salvation. Rather, does our life and teaching reflect the true nature of this eternal life or does it obscure the message of Christ and lead us back into death and the bondages of this life? When people watch what we do and hear what we say, do they see and hear a message of life or a message of decay and death? John lived this life and his teachings reveal this life to us.
There is no fellowship in doctrine but there is fellowship in revelation. John had a revelation of life and this revelation brought him into fellowship with the Father and His Son. John's goal in his teaching was that others might understand the revelation and that together, John with those who had likewise received the revelation, might together have fellowship with the Father and with Christ. Some Christians find fellowship in identity, they all belong to the same denomination and their identity and fellowship is bound by their common association. Others find fellowship in common beliefs or in their common affinity to certain teachers or christian persuasions. And others find fellowship in their common fear, fear of punishment should they in anyway depart or stay from the tenants and demands of their religion. However, these are all week bonds that are easily broken by offense, persecution, and time itself. The bond that joins us all as believers and that makes us brothers and sisters is our common revelation of the life Jesus came to bring us. This commonality, that we are all partakers of a common life in Christ, is strong enough to bind us together in fellowship and to preserve our fellowship through whatever may come.
John's joy was in seeing others come to the same revelation he had and to see them enter with him into the same fellowship with the Father and the Son. Love always seeks to expand, to increase its circle of communion, to continually bring more and varying ones into fellowship with itself. John's teachings were not for his own benefit but that others might benefit and come to know the life Jesus came to reveal. His joy was not found in some satisfaction this life could provide but in seeing others find satisfaction, peace, and Joy in God. John does not speak of "my joy" or "your joy" but "our joy." The joy we have in God is communal and increases, not only as more individuals find joy in God, but as we together grow together and find joy together in God. God's joy is a joy that is not meant to be loved alone but in communion and fellowship with others. Only then can your joy and my joy "be made complete."