Real Christianity Is Objective, Not Subjective

In by Right Response Staff

This article is a part of an extended series of articles. If a particular statement seems to be lacking sufficient support or clarification, we encourage you to go back and read the previous articles, as well as commit to reading the following articles as they are published. Thank you for your patience.

INTRODUCTION

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life, 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.

1 John 1:1-2

The Apostle John begins with his credentials. He reminds his readers that he is not speaking out of some subjective, inner-personal experience. This apostle, as with all apostles of Christ, is an eye-witness of the resurrected Lord Jesus, and has been commissioned by Christ to preach and teach with all authority. 

A BIBLICAL KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS

Notice the very first phrase in verse 1 of our text, “That which was from the beginning.” You may notice the parallel between this phrase and the first verse of John's Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Therefore, this first phrase can rightly be viewed as a reference to the divinity and eternality of Christ. While certainly not denying the divinity and eternality of Christ, it is probably more faithful to the text to conclude that this is not John’s primary intent here. Instead, the phrase is most likely simply meant to refer to the beginning of the gospel. John’s point here is that the apostolic witness has not changed. John is still proclaiming the same gospel that he and the other apostles were proclaiming since the very beginning of their ministry. So John’s gospel witness is not the “new gospel” of the false teachers, but the unchanging “old gospel” of Jesus Christ.

“The apostolic witness has not changed.”

The next couple of phrases that appear in verse 1 of our text are these: “Which we have heard” and “Which we have seen with our eyes.” John uses this language in order to clearly convey that he is not simply referring to some subjective and mystical vision of Christ (combating the false teachings of the Gnostics), but that he and the other apostles actually heard and saw Jesus as he lived among them for three years during his earthly ministry. The miracles recorded in the four gospels are only a fraction of those that the apostles witnessed. In fact, John ends his gospel by stating that if all the things that Jesus did were written in detail, the whole world would not be able to contain the books (John 21:25).

“John is not simply referring to some subjective and mystical vision of Christ, but that which he and the other apostles actually saw and heard from Jesus as he lived among them.”

The final phrase on this point in verse 1 is this: “And have touched with our hands.” Here John is using the same word that Jesus used after his resurrection, when he appeared to the disciples and said, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I; 'touch' me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). So John is saying that Jesus Christ really did come in the flesh and bodily rise from the tomb, and that he was historically validated by John and the other apostles in all of these objective ways. Therefore, we are meant to conclude that the message which John is writing is absolutely reliable and legitimate.

A SUPERNATURAL EXPERIENCE OF JESUS

At the very end of verse 1, John states that he is writing “concerning the word of life,” and then adds in verse 2, “the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.” By stating that this “eternal life” was “with the Father,” John is again using similar language to the first verse of his gospel. There John says, “the Word was with God.” Here John says, “the eternal life... was with the Father.” There the focus is on Jesus as the “Word.” Here the focus is on Jesus as the “Life.” While proper knowledge of Jesus (Christ as the Word) is absolutely vital to salvation, a supernatural experience of re-birth in Jesus (Christ as the Life) is also absolutely vital to salvation. The message of the gospel is not merely about ignorant sinners coming to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is also about dead sinners being raised to new life by the resurrection power of Jesus Christ.

“While proper knowledge of Jesus (Christ as the Word) is absolutely vital to salvation, a supernatural experience of re-birth in Jesus (Christ as the Life) is also absolutely vital to salvation.”

CONCLUSION

Real Christianity is not merely a mystical experience based on our own subjective ideas about Jesus. Rather, it is a supernatural experience based on the apostolic witness about Jesus found on the pages of the Bible. Our experience of Jesus is not valid unless it is based on a biblical revelation of Jesus.

  1. How much credence do you give to personal experiences and subjective feelings when it comes to your faith?

  2. Does your view of Jesus align with the apostolic testimony found in the New Testament?

  3. If you are a professing Christian, it is likely that your view of Jesus does not blatantly contradict what the Scripture says about Jesus. However, are there any aspects of the character and nature of Christ that you may be wrongly emphasizing over others? If so, which ones?

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