“The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” I John 1:2
One of the greatest challenges we face as believers is fear in evangelism. It’s not that we don’t want to share Christ with others. Nor is it due to a lack of commitment. I believe most Christians would love to share the gospel with non-Christians, but they are overcome with fear. They are afraid of rejection. They are nervous about not knowing what to say.
It is important to understand that fear in evangelism is normal. Even the apostle Paul was afraid to share the gospel at times. This is why he asked believers to pray that he would have boldness in preaching the gospel (Ephesians 6:18-20; cf. I Corinthians 2:3). The issue is not having no fear in evangelism. The issue is overcoming fear by growing closer to Christ.
In the first verse of I John, the apostle John described his and the other apostles’ experience with Jesus, “the Word of Life,” using a progression of sensory perception: “heard… seen… looked upon… handled” (1:1). These men were drawn closer and closer to Jesus, much like metal objects being pulled toward a powerful magnet. Christ uses His magnetic power to draw us closer to Himself so He can love us for who we are, not what we can do or have done, but love us simply because we are God’s beloved children. The closer we get to Christ, the more His love for lost people will become ours.
John then writes, “The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” (I John 1:2). John testifies that “the life” or “that eternal life… was with the Father.” Later in His epistle He identifies Jesus Christ as “the true God and eternal life” (5:20). John places great importance on the eternality of “the life” Jesus offers. 1 Jesus “was with the Father” in eternity past before the universe was created (John 1:1-2; 17:24). Christ never had a beginning as some false religions teach.
What kind of relationship did “the life” (Jesus) have with the Father? The apostle tells us in his gospel: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18). John informs us that “no one has seen God” in the fullness of His glory or His unveiled divine essence. If people saw God’s unveiled glory or divine essence, they would not live (cf. Exodus 33:20).
The only One Who can and has seen God in the fullness of His glory and divine essence without dying, is His Son, Jesus Christ (John 6:46). The reason Jesus could do this is because He also is God. He has the same divine nature as God the Father. When John writes that Jesus is the “only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18b), He is affirming that Jesus is God. The phrase “only begotten Son” does not mean Jesus had a beginning like a baby that is birthed by his parents, as many false religions teach today. The compound Greek word translated “only begotten” is monogenḗs, which literally means “one (monos) of a kind (genos).” 2 Jesus Christ is the only One of His kind. He is fully God (John 1:1-3) and fully Man (John 1:14). No other person in all the universe can make such a claim.
When John says that Jesus was “is in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18b), he is referring to Christ’s very close and intimate relationship with God the Father. The word “bosom” (kolpos) refers to the upper part of the chest where a garment naturally folded to form a pocket. 3 The picture here is that of a son resting his head on the chest of his father, experiencing a very close and intimate relationship with him. Jesus had the closest and most intimate relationship with God the Father. He knows the heart of God the Father better than anyone because His head often rested upon His Father’s chest in eternity past.
Who better to tell others what a Person is like than the One who is closest to that Person and has known Him the longest in an intimate relationship!?! There is no one more qualified to tell us what God is like than the only begotten Son of God who has known God the Father forever in the closest of relationships with Him.
Therefore, John then says, “He has declared Him” (John 1:18c). The word “declared” (exēgeomai), is where we get our English words, “exegete” and “exegesis” from. It means “to set forth in great detail, expound.” 4 In seminary, we learned to “exegete” or explain God’s Word, the Bible. We were taught to “read out” of the Bible God’s intended meaning through a grammatical, historical, and literal interpretation instead of “reading into” the Bible our own biases and assumptions.
God the Son, Jesus Christ, has “exegeted” or “explained” what God the Father is like. Jesus is more qualified than anyone else to explain what God the Father is like because He, being God, knows God the Father longer and more intimately than anyone else. Hence, we learn from this verse that Christ had a relationship with the Father that was eternal and very close or intimate.
We also learn from John’s gospel that Jesus’ relationship with the Father was one of love and unity. Christ prayed to the Father that all who will believe in Him, “21 may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:21-23). Christ prayed for these future believers to “be one” and experience the same unity as He and the Father have in their relationship (17:21). This is a fundamental unity of purpose, love, and doctrine. 5
This vision of oneness or unity among believers (17:21-22) would be possible because it is Christ and the Father in them that unites them with one another (17:23a). This oneness shows the world that God loved His people, so they could love one another. As Jesus prayed for those who will believe in Him through the word of His disciples, He asked that “the world may know that” the Father “loved them as” He “loved” Jesus (17:23b). The word “as” is fascinating here. Jesus is saying that the Father loves us “as” to the same degree or equally as He does His Son, Jesus Christ. This means there is no one and nothing, including Jesus Christ, that God the Father loves more than those of us who believe in Jesus! God loves all believers the same with a beyond what we can ask or imagine kind of love (cf. Ephesians 3:17-20). What is the Father’s love toward His only Son like?
– It is FOREVER – “for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (17:24b). There has never been a time when the Father has not loved Jesus. Think about that! Together, the Father and Son have been working side by side for all of eternity past. After spending billions of years working together in perfect harmony, Jesus tells us that His Father loves us exactly as much as He loves Him! People may stop loving us and may even abandon us, but God the Father will never stop loving us. He loves us the same as His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ!
– It is INTIMATE – “that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (17:26b). The Father’s love for His Son goes deep and is very intimate. He continues to work with us to make us more like His Son. He develops in us the skills to relate peacefully with one another, so we can experience the same oneness that characterizes His relationship with His Son (17:11, 21-23). All of us long to be loved and to love. Only God’s love can meet our deepest needs.
With this understanding of Christ’s relationship with the Father, let’s return to I John 1:2. Like verse one, there is a progression in John’s choice of verbs: “was manifested… have seen… bear witness… declare” (1:2). “The life,” Jesus Christ, “was manifested” (phaneroō) or “made known, revealed” 6 to John and the other apostles through His incarnation. 7 Christ was not an invisible God. He visibly manifested Himself to the apostles so John could say, “we have seen” Him.
As a result of this visible encounter with Jesus, the apostles were motivated to “bear witness” (martureō) or “testify” 8 to the truth about Christ. This verb is used in a courtroom setting and refers to speaking the truth. Because of their intimate fellowship with Christ (1:1), the apostles were highly motivated to testify to others about the truth concerning Jesus Christ and His love for them.
The final verb in this progression is to “declare” (apaggellō) or “make something known publicly, announce.” 9 Hence, we learn that seeing Christ in human flesh led the apostles to testify to the truth about Him and publicly make Him known to others. This is the result of intimate fellowship with Jesus (1:1). The more we know Christ and His radical love for us (1:1), the more we will want to communicate His love to others (1:2).
It is intriguing to observe the different Greek verb tenses in this verse: “was manifested” (ephanerōthē – aorist tense), “have seen” (heōrakamen – perfect tense), “bear witness” (martyroumen – present tense), “declare” (apangellomen – present tense). Christ makes Himself known as a matter of fact (aorist tense) to the apostles. The impact of seeing Jesus makes a lasting impression on them that continued to influence them at the time of John’s writing (perfect tense). Their intimate fellowship with Christ in the past continued to motivate them to constantly “bear witness” or tell the truth about Jesus (present tense) and publicly “declare” or announce (present tense) His message of life to others.
After the visible Lord Jesus draws the apostles to Himself like a magnet (1:1), His love for them compells them to go out and proclaim His message of life and love to others (1:2). 10 Intimacy with Christ causes us to move out from seeing to bearing witness to proclaiming. 11
Anderson writes, “If a crime takes place, but if I don’t see it, I can’t talk about it. On the other hand, I might see it but decide not to tell anyone. If, however, the police suspect that I have seen the crime, I might receive a subpoena to bear witness in the courtroom as to what I have seen. I’ll talk if you force it out of me. But to openly proclaim (apaggellō)… is a very proactive declaration. There is no subpoena behind this word. It is used of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary when they heard the good news that Jesus had risen from the dead and ran to report these things to the disciples (Matthew 28:8). Our Magnetic Messiah becomes our Motivating Messiah… The principle is that the closer we get to Jesus, the greater our desire to witness becomes!” 12
The closer we get to the heart of Christ, the closer we get to the people for whom He died. Jesus’ heart bleeds for the lost. Jesus said in Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The heart of our Lord is a seeking heart. Aren’t you thankful for that? We would still be lost in our sins if Jesus did not seek us out.
Look at God’s heart: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2;3-4). Is there any human being God does not want to save? No. God created hell for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), not for people. God desires that all people go to heaven, and He wants to use you and me to introduce people to the Savior Who can get them there. He may use you at work, school, the marketplace, the mall, or He may use you in your backyard talking across the fence with your neighbor. The key is to open your heart to Him, so He can use you.
The closer we grow to Jesus, the greater our desire will be to tell others about Him. Lovers understand this principle. For example, when a couple gets engaged, they have no difficulty telling others about their fiancé before their wedding. The future bride doesn’t hide her engagement ring behind her back when she approaches others. Instead, she holds her ring finger out everywhere she goes Why? Because that ring represents her love relationship with her future husband. And she wants others to meet him because of their love for one another.
Anderson explains, “The truth is that we talk about what we love the most. Most folks love their kids more than anything on earth, so they brag about their children every chance they get. Some people love possessions more than anything else, so you will hear them talking about money, or their new boat or new vacation home. Some guys love sports, so they talk about historic plays and record batting averages. There are some people who talk about Jesus more than anything else. Why? Because they love Jesus more than anything or anyone else in the world. Consequently, they can’t help themselves. They just can’t keep from talking about Jesus for very long. Such open proclamation of our love for Christ actually intensifies that love. As we talk about Jesus, we find ourselves even more in love with Him.” 13
“The Communists discovered this principle and utilized it in building the strength of their party. Douglas Hyde, who was the head of the Communist Party in London for twenty years before he became Christian and renounced his party membership, describes this dynamic in his book Dedication and Leadership.” 14
“He said the first assignment given to a new member of their party was to go out onto the streets of London to pass out tracts promoting the Communist cause. If the new convert to Communism successfully carried out his mission, the effect within him was always the same: he came back with an increased fervency and love for the cause. Why? Because people either ignored him, ridiculed him, or asked him questions. By openly proclaiming the virtues of Communism the new convert’s positive feelings about the cause increased. Hyde wondered why modern Christians don’t give their new converts the same assignment. That’s what Jesus did with His disciples. According to Hyde, many of the principles for reaching the world used by the Communists came straight from Jesus.” 15
During mission trips to the Philippines when we would preach the gospel eight to twenty times a day to various classrooms or assemblies at public schools, I found my love increasing for Christ and His gospel message. Hearing the good news of Jesus’s death and resurrection coming out of my own mouth reminded me of His infinite love for me – a very broken sinner who deserves eternal condemnation. Yet because of Jesus’ radical love, I know I have eternal life simply by believing in Him. Hearing these truths many times a day intensified my love for the Lord. I needed to hear that message just as much as the unsaved students or teachers at the public schools in the Philippines.
May I be so bold to say that every Christian needs to hear the gospel message because we still need to be reminded of the underserved love and grace of Jesus Christ. Remember John wrote that “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). The more we proclaim the good news of Christ’s perfect love for us, the less fear we will have in evangelism. Zephaniah reminds us that Jesus “will quiet” our anxious hearts “with His love” (Zephaniah 3:17). That, too, is good news!
Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for making Yourself known to the apostles so they could proclaim Your message about life to future generations. Thank You so much for the principles in these first two verses of John’s epistle which emphasize the importance of Your love’s magnetic power which draws us closer and closer to You. And as we grow closer to You, the more we will experience Your perfect love which casts out fear and quiets our anxious hearts. Intimacy with You, Lord, increases our desire to make Your love known to others. Talking to others about Your love actually increases our love for You as we are reminded of Your death and resurrection and free offer of eternal life to all who believe in You. May each of us grow in Your love by proclaiming Your gospel message to a lost world. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.
1. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 7.
2. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 658.
3. Ibid., pp. 556-557.
4. Ibid., pg. 349.
5. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 225-226.
6. Bauer, pg. 1048.
7. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3456 to 3460.
8. Bauer, pp. 617-618.
9. Ibid., pg. 95.
10. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 26.
12. Ibid., pg. 26.
13. Ibid., pp 27-28.
14. Ibid., pg. 28 cites Douglas Hyde, Dedication and Leadership (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966), pp. 42-43. 15. Ibid.