In the bosom of Jesus in the bosom of the Father – A Sermon on 1 John 1:1-4

A sermon on 1 John 1:1-4

Audio here

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.

It was a good meal, good friends, good wine.  People were relaxing around the table. One man seemed even more relaxed than the rest.  We’re told that

23 the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to Jesus… Leaning back against Jesus, he asked Him a question… (John 13:23,25, NIV)

This is the Apostle John – the author of this letter.  And the author of John’s Gospel as well.  John remembers this night very well.  He remembers leaning back against Jesus.  And the Old King James version is a lot more literal about the closeness here, even if it uses old fashioned language.  It says:

23 [John was] leaning on Jesus’ bosom …

and in the next verse it describes him

lying on Jesus’ breast (John 13:23, KJV)

He’s laying his head on the chest of Jesus.

John was one of the younger if not the youngest disciple.  And he calls himself “the disciple Jesus loved.”  Clearly he felt completely at ease with Jesus – leaning back on his chest.  Jesus had just washed their feet, He was teaching them about His Father and because it was Passover they would have been singing hymns around the dinner table.  We can imagine throughout Jesus’ arm around His young friend as John leant back on Jesus.

John knew he could find rest and peace and welcome in the arms of Jesus.  But he also knew just who Jesus is.  You see John begins his gospel reminding us that this Jesus is God’s Eternal Word, the Creator of Heaven and Earth. The opening line to his gospel says, “In the beginning was the Word.”  In the beginning was Jesus. Before the universe – Jesus was there.  In fact He wasn’t just there, John chapter 1, verse 18 says Jesus was “in the bosom of the Father.”  To use the old King James translation.  In the beginning Jesus was in the bosom of the Father.

Jesus had enjoyed for eternity what John enjoyed for those few minutes.  Companionable, contented, joy and love.  That has always been Christ’s experience “in the arms of the Father” if you like.

And then, without breaking fellowship in any way with the Father, Jesus came down into our world as flesh.  As one of us.  Fully God and Fully Man.  So that we might rest in His arms.

Can we keep in our heads these two truths about Jesus?  John could.  John had laid his head on Jesus’ chest, he’d heard His heartbeat, he’d felt His breathing, he’d sung songs with the man, he’d walked the dusty Middle Eastern roads with the man and he’d had his own feet washed by the man. The day after this supper, he would even see Christ’s gruesome execution.  He would see Jesus dissected on public display and a spear thrust up into his heart.  He would see him breathe His last and blood and water gush from His side.  John knew the man Jesus.

And he also knew who this Man was.  That Jesus is the beginningless, Son of God, the Word of the Father, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the LifeSource of everything and everyeone.

That’s who Jesus was and is.  Fully God and Fully Man.  And He came as man to bring us all into His fellowship with the Father.  It’s not just John and the other disciples who get to rest in the arms of Jesus.  Jesus does all this to reach the world.

Let me show you that in Jesus’ famous prayer to the Father from John 17.  First of all, John 17:20:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message

Through the message of the disciples many will believe in Jesus.  It’s not just for those Jesus met physically.  But those who Jesus met, who knew what it was to rest physically in His arms, they would preach the message so that all people might believe.  Through the apostle’s message people can share spiritually and eternally what John got to experience physically and briefly.  We get to be brought into the loving embrace of God.

Have a look at verse 24 to see it.  Jesus is still praying and He says:

24 “Father, I want those you have given me [He’s speaking about all believers here] to be with me where I am [and where is He?  In the bosom of the Father], and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Jesus will bring billions to be with Him where He is – in the bosom of the Father.  He wants you and I to share in His position, His glory, and His eternal love.

This is the identity and the mission of Jesus.  Fully God –  Fully Man – to bring man into God.  That’s the identity and mission of Jesus.  And by this message, billions are going to benefit.

As people hear about Jesus, Fully God and Fully Man – to bring Man into God – people will trust in Him.  They will rest in Him and know the love of the Father.  That’s how the world is going to be reached – Jesus is now in heaven.  It’s His message that needs to reach the ends of the earth.

But what happens when people mess with the message?

Turn to 1 John.  Because this was John’s letter written to a congregation of people who had never physically met Jesus.  But through the apostle’s message they had come to believe.

But unfortunately there were those who were twisting and perverting that message.  And it was twisting and perverting the kind of Christianity they were living.

So you’ll see above chapter 2 verse 18 the heading says “Warning Against Antichrists.”  There were people in their congregations who didn’t hold to the apostolic teaching, they proved themselves not to be pro-Christ but to be anti-Christ after all.

Or look at chapter 4 verse 1.  He’s talking about spiritual teachers here and he says:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

Do you see how the message is being assaulted?  They were saying that Jesus did not come in the flesh.  Maybe He just came as an angel or a ghost or an apparition.  He was Fully God but not Fully Man.  In which case He hasn’t come down into our situation.  He rests in God but we can’t really rest in Him.  He holds the hand of God but He doesn’t actually hold our hand.  We’re left on the outside.  Do you see what a mistake this kind of teaching is?

Imagine the opposite truth.  Imagine that Jesus was fully man but not fully God.  Well in that case He’d be someone we can relate to alright.  But He can’t bring us to God.  Because He’s not in the bosom of God either.  Again, we’re left on the outside.

No, the true gospel is Jesus: Fully God, Fully Man to bring Man into God.  Anything less than that and you have a false gospel.

And John was afraid that this church was tempted by a false gospel.

That’s why he writes his letter.

Let’s read these opening verses:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.

Right from verse 1, John is reminding his readers of the true Gospel.  The Word of life – the One who appeared, Jesus Christ – He has been heard, seen, looked at, touched.  Used as a pillow we could even say.  Fully Man.  But also, verse 2, He is Life.  He HIMSELF is eternal life and has been with the Father.  Fully God.   Then verse 3, John reminds them that they’ve heard the true message from the apostles so that they have fellowship with the apostles.  They share in exactly what the apostles share in – v3, Fellowship with the Father and with His Son.

Fully God, Fully Man to bring Man into God.  And that truth brings us into incredible fellowship with each other and with the Father and Son.

When Jesus is at the centre of our thinking we find gospel truth that is incredibly liberating.  And so much of this letter will be a reminder to us, to put Jesus back into His rightful place in our thinking.  Because He slips.  Constantly.

I’ll show you.  Let me do some word association with you.

Think of “In the beginning” what do you think of?  Before the universe began – where does your mind naturally run.  Naturally my mind thinks of lonely nothingness or at best I think of a lonely god.

Try another word association:

Think of “God’s Word” – what do you think of?

Naturally my mind thinks of the bible.  Text written down.  Instructions to follow.  That’s God’s Word right?

Or, think of the phrase “eternal life”.  What do you imagine?  Probably some kind of future bliss – in another time and another place.

Put those three things together and what do you have?

You begin with a lonely god twiddling his celestial thumbs…

…Who then gives us information in the form of a holy book…

…And maybe he grants eternal life in the future to those who follow his instructions.

If you get these three terms wrong that’s what you get.  You get a perversion of the truth.  You get folk Christianity.  But isn’t that kind of what people think Christianity is?  Even Christians think that this is what Christianity is.

So naturally, we begin with a lonely god – a distant individual.  God’s Word is His instruction manual for life and eternal life is a future reward for those who follow the instructions.

Isn’t that what millions think of as religion?  Isn’t it what millions think of as Christianity?

And yet – that’s not the truth.

What is the truth?  What word associations does John make for these phrases?  Let me ask you, look at verse 1 and tell me what does John thinks about when he thinks about the beginning?

Jesus.

And look at the end of verse 1 – what does John think of first and foremost as God’s Word?

Jesus.

Now of course the Bible is God’s Word.  The whole thing is God’s Word written.  But the original Word, the eternal Word, God’s Ultimate message to the world is Jesus.  God doesn’t fundamentally have instructions for us.  Fundamentally God has His Son for us.  That’s what John first thinks of when He thinks of God’s Word.

And then, verse 2 – what is eternal life as John thinks about it?

Jesus!

Eternal life was with the Father and then appeared – He’s talking about Jesus.  Jesus IS eternal life.

Think about that.  Jesus IS eternal life.  It’s not so much a time, it’s not so much a place.  It’s a person.

Let me just show you that from chapter 5.  Flick to chapter 5 verse 11:

11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life…

20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true–even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

Jesus is eternal life.  So the question “Do I have eternal life?” is the same as the question “Do I have Jesus?”  If I do, then I have life, now and forevermore.  I have it right now.  There’s tremendous assurance here.

Do you see how different John’s message is to folk Christianity?  John is saying “In the beginning” there was love – Jesus in the bosom of the Father.  Then God communicated Himself to the world by giving us His Son.  His word to the world is not so much instructions, His message to the world IS Jesus Christ.  And eternal life is simply receiving Jesus.

That’s John’s truth – it’s life-giving, liberating truth.  But John looks out at churches in which this truth is not IN the people.  This truth has not gotten INTO Christians – that’s the phrase he uses repeatedly.  And the result is a Christianity without reality, without power and without love.

First, without reality.

Look at 1:8

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

When the truth gets into us a remarkable thing happens.  We drop the masks.  We stop pretending and we confess to our sins.

But when the truth is not in us, we clam up, we try to look the part, we never get real about our sin.

And boy is that a turn-off.  Unreal Christians, holier-than-thou Christians, Ned Flanders Christians.

And if we find ourselves unable to get real about our struggles and sins, the truth must not be in us.  We must be drinking from the wrong fountain.  Because the living God is all about forgiveness for sinners.  If he were a distant individual who gave instructions and would reward only the good, then I guess you’d better hide all your failures and pretend to be good.  But that’s not Christianity.  If you can’t admit that you are a real sinner, John says “the truth is not in you.”  Because the gospel frees us to be real.

But secondly, the gospel gives us a new power.

Look at chapter 2 and verse 1:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

If the truth is in us, John expects Christians to be real about our sin but he also expects us to love Jesus more than sin.  We’re not supposed to act all powerless before our sin – as though we just shrug our shoulders and continue on in it.

No there is a power to the truth.  That as we get adopted into the life of God, His Spirit brings new desires for Christ-likeness, new hatred of sin, new movement and change.  If you say “I love Jesus but I don’t want to follow Him” you’re a liar, you don’t love Jesus.  You can’t love Jesus without wanting to become like Him.  Obviously the truth hasn’t gotten into you.  But if it gets into you, you’ll love Him, you’ll want to be like Him and you’ll have a new power to do it.

When the truth gets into us it produces Christians with reality, Christians with power, but most importantly in this letter, it produces Christians who Love.

Look at chapter 3:18-19

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence

John saw a lot of “Christians” who were “loving” people with words or tongue.  A lot of platitudes, a lot of really nice, really polite, really sweet words and sentiments.  A lot of verbal kindnesses going back and forth.  But no actions behind it.  And no truth.  And John concludes – the truth mustn’t be IN you.  Or as he puts it in verse 19, loveless Christians don’t “belong to the truth.”  Again, the truth hasn’t come in and done its thing.  Because wherever the truth gets into a person or a church, love comes out.  Real love.  Love in action and truth.  And so much of 1 John will be about this.

But do you see the necessity for getting the truth INTO us.  Without the real gospel, all we’re left with is a distant god who gives us instructions and offers future rewards for the good.  And that kind of gospel produces a Christianity without reality, without power and, worst of all, without love.

And nothing turns the world off more than seeing unreal, powerless, loveless Christianity.  Isn’t that why so many people won’t touch the church with a ten foot pole?  The world sees us as unreal, impotent and unloving.

So John urges us to come home to the true gospel.  Chapter 1, verse 3,

our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.

Fellowship with the Beginningless, Generous, Almighty Father and with His Son – the One so open and available you can lean back into Him and rest your head on His chest.  We HAVE fellowship with the Father and with His Son.  Right now.

Get this and you’ll bubble over with joy.

John did.  Look at verse 4:

We write this to you to make our joy complete.

John really enjoys speaking about this truth.  In fact speaking about this truth increases his joy.  The truth is an overflowing thing.  There’s life that overflows from the Father to the Son, from the Son to the apostles, from the apostles to us, and from us out to the world.  And passing on this truth is a joyful thing.  John shares this gospel truth to make his joy complete.

Have you ever had that experience?  You enjoy the gospel more because you get to share it.

Yesterday I had the privilege of looking at the bible with someone who’s never read it before.  As we chatted he told me that he was really looking for forgiveness and didn’t know quite where to turn.  Well as we looked at John’s Gospel we came to a verse that said “Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

He didn’t know what that meant, why would he?  He just thought “Lamb of God” was a nice image, like Jesus was meek and gentle like a lamb.  And if you hadn’t read the bible before that’s exactly what you’d assume.  But this man, hungry for forgiveness asks me, “What does it mean that Jesus is the Lamb of God?”  I started welling up.  Cos I got to explain to him that in the bible lambs were sacrifices.  When you sinned you took your lamb to the temple.  The lamb was innocent and spotless, you were guilty and stained.  But you confessed your sin over your lamb and your lamb dies in your place so that you are forgiven.

Lights start going on for him.  And then I get to do just what John the Baptist did 2000 years ago.  I get to say “Behold Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” – do you see what it means now?  He saw it and was filled with joy.  But you know what, I was filled with joy.  I had goose pimples all over.

Because I was getting in touch with an overflow that is at the heart of God.  That overflow from the Father to the Son, from the Son to us, and from us out to each other and to the world.  We stand in a stream of overflowing love and joyfulness.

Which means, sharing our faith with each other or with unbelievers cannot be a duty-driven thing.  If it’s duty driven, then what you’re overflowing with is not the life of God.  The life of God overflows with joy and love.  If we’re not overflowing with joy and love then we’ve obviously picked up another stream, from somewhere else.

Is the truth in you?  If it’s not your Christianity will be unreal, powerless, loveless and joyless.  God save us from such a Christianity.  Instead let’s return to the truth.  Jesus in the bosom of the Father.  Fully God.  Who takes flesh – fully Man.  And sums up our wickedness and sin, puts it to death on the cross, rises back to the Father’s right hand and takes us with Him.  Our fellowship – free forgiven fellowship – is with the Father and with His Son.  Meditate on these truths.  Drink from this fountain.  And reality, power, love and joy will be the result.

Posted on by Glen in Doctrine of God, sermons, trinity, union with Christ

About Glen

I'm a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

9 Responses to In the bosom of Jesus in the bosom of the Father – A Sermon on 1 John 1:1-4

  1. Paul Blackham

    Glory!

  2. Bible student

    Glen,

    When it comes to ‘myths in pop biblical theology’, the problem is it is usually easier for us to spot the other guy’s myth and harder for us to reckon with our own (as in Mat 7:3, Luk 6:41, etc.)

    In scripture we see that Jesus’ own words indicate that it is unsafe to simply assuming the traditions of men are true. Still, one has to take off their own shoes before they can take a walk in someone else’s moccasins, and similarly, when it comes to a case of The Bible vs. Tradition, sometimes one has to let go of the traditions of men in order to see the truth that is hidden in plain sight in the text of scripture.

    TheDiscipleWhomJesusLoved.com has a free eBook that compares scripture with scripture in order to highlight the facts in the plain text of scripture that are usually overlooked about the “other disciple, whom Jesus loved”. You may want to weigh the testimony of scripture that the study cites regarding the one whom “Jesus loved” and may find it to be helpful as it encourages bible students to take seriously the admonition “prove all things”.

    While many are content to simply repeat the traditions of men, a better Bible method would be the method of the Bereans, who searched the scriptures to see the things that they were taught were so.

  3. Glen

    Man alive that website takes it’s time before coughing up the answer! I was physically wilting before the screen.

    It’s a very odd combination – all this stuff about being above board and letting the Scriptures speak, married to a lot of mysterious tension-building and intrigue. Strange.

    But anyway. Lazarus eh? Interesting. I will indeed search the Scriptures and see if this be so.

    Out of interest, what did you make of the three myths?

  4. Chris w

    I noticed how you sneakily dropped the usual ‘The original text literally says’ and instead opted for ‘The King James Version says’!

    Great sermon as well, espousal theology at its finest :)

  5. Glen

    Thanks Chris. Don’t think I’ve heard it called ‘espousal theology’ but I like it. Who else calls it this?

  6. Dave Bish

    Espousal theology is a Sibbesism though others might use it too, usually applied to his focus on The Song of Songs and wooing etc.

  7. Tim V-B

    “Sibbesism”. Wouldn’t want to say that with a lisp!

  8. Chris w

    What the mighty Bishnu said! :p

  9. Bible student

    Re: what did you make of the three myths?

    Wrong on 1 & 3. Only partly right on 2.

    It seemed best to skip time-consuming biblical quotations and argumentation and just give a quick answer, as your prior response indicates that you think it best to blurt out answers to questions and prefer not to wade through the bibilical evidence that is required to prove a given point.

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