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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 97 – John 21:24
1 John 1: 4 – The joy of the Gospel


‘We write this to make our joy complete’ says John. And even before we start into the epistle proper that simple statement raises a big question. Who are the ‘we’? (I am going to call it an epistle, even although that word really means ‘letter’. It is a slightly posh word, appropriate here because it has no statement about who wrote it, or who it was to, or any of the other things we expect to find in a true letter. It is more like an essay, a statement of intent, a document to be sent to many people.

So an epistle it is.) Because neither the Gospel of John nor this epistle ever says who wrote them we cannot be sure who they were. The writers of the very early church very soon decided that John, one of the sons of Boanerges, the apostle, the beloved disciple, was the author of both. The decision makes good sense so I am going to refer to the writer as John and assume it was the same person as the writer of the gospel. Both assumptions seem to be very likely right. The other assumption we must make is that this epistle was written after the gospel, although, as we saw in the last study of the gospel John was probably very old when he wrote the gospel and it may even have been put together by some close helper. That person, a close disciple of John, may also have had a hand in this letter, compiling it on the basis of things John had said and taught in his old age in the city of Ephesus. That is important to note because quite a lot of the things he says in this epistle seem to refer to a particular atmosphere and line of teaching which was building up in the fellowship of which John was, or had been, a part and probably the leader.

Another reason for assuming the direct authorship of John is the tone of these first few verses. They clearly refer back quite deliberately to the opening words of the Gospel, which in turn refer back to the opening words of the book of Genesis. ‘In the beginning’ figures large in all three places. But then John goes on here to express his joy at what he has been privileged to be a part of. Had he been a child he would quite clearly have been jumping up and down with exuberant joy at what had happened. We heard, we saw, we touched, he says – obviously meaning he heard and saw and touched Jesus. He wants to share the emotions those facts and the attitudes that they caused to erupt in him that he enjoys so much. That way he feels that he will be able to establish a joint shared delight with his readers in the words, the actions and the meaning of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection.

I started off accepting that verse 4 is about ‘our joy’ but you will note that the footnote in your Bible almost certainly suggests it might equally be ‘your joy’ and since we are the recipients of the epistle that is now ‘our joy’. Wow! . Let us try to believe and therefore to act in the sort of way that John does, even if our experience is necessarily not as exciting as his, for we do not hear, see and touch the real living Jesus, the Son of God, as he did.

Think back. Count up the top moments of your walk as a Christian follower of Jesus and rejoice. Perhaps, like me, you are too old to literally jump up and down with joy but do so in your heart, in your imagination. He is worthy. He is glorious. He is our promise of eternal life as John has just pointed out.

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