“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life…”
which we have heard
John now verifies the apostles’ experience. The “we” in this phrase represent the apostles. The apostles visually encountered the person of Christ. Cerinthus, the apostate, never saw Jesus, yet he talks as if he knows all about Christ. He said Jesus was a phantom.
The issue here is the authenticity and credibility of the message. If Jesus did not have genuine blood but was an optical illusion, then there is no reality to our salvation. John says to Cerinthus, “Did you walk in the presence of Jesus Christ, Cerinthus? Did you see Him with your own eyes? I did.” Cerinthus bought into the current philosophy of the day. He allowed philosophy to give meaning to the Bible rather than the Bible give meaning to philosophy.
The word “heard” indicates that the apostles personally heard Jesus from the beginning, and they continue to his day to remember what they heard. Note that the “we” refers to the apostles, not to just John alone. John was in the inner circle of Peter, James, and John. None heard more of Jesus than the apostle John. John writes many things in the gospel of John that are peculiar to his gospel alone. He was the closest of all apostles to the Lord Jesus.
which we have seen with our eyes,
The apostles saw Jesus with permanent results [perfect tense]. Everything that follows in the first four verses is apostolic testimony to the whole earthly ministry of Jesus.
which we have looked upon,
The words “looked upon” indicate the apostles’ ability to grasp the significance of who and what Jesus is by personal face-to-face observation. There was no deception or error in the apostles’ experience. John uses this word in John 1:14.
Jn 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
and our hands have handled,
The handling of Jesus refers in part to the resurrection of Christ (Jn 20:24-29; Lu 24:39). Jesus had a real body; he was no phantom. He was a carpenter with muscles. He was a man’s man.
Lu 24:39-40, 39 “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” 40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.”
concerning the Word of life
Not only does John concern us with the person and humanity of Christ, but also he involves us with the message of Christ. John’s concern is about the message of life, God’s Son, who is Life Himself (5:20).
The apostle John referred to Jesus as the “Word” in his gospel. By adding the word “life” to the “Word,” John says that the Word is the one who personifies life (1:2; Ac 5:20; Ph 2:16). The “Word” is Christ manifested as God’s message.
The words “Word” and “life” are keywords in the gospel of John (Jn 1:4). “Life” is eternal life. The gospel speaks of the incarnation of the eternal Word; the epistle speaks of the manifestation of eternal life.
“Of life” means life-giving. Jesus is both the messenger and the message. The message and the messenger are identical.
Jesus is at once the One who manifests God and is the message of God.
Jesus had true humanity. The apostles heard Him, saw Him, touched Him. Their sense of sight, hear, and touch made that clear. Jesus was not ½ man and ½ God. He was 100% man and 100% God. He is at once both human and divine.
The Bible is both human and divine. Men wrote it under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit. We can find the risen Lord on almost every page of the Bible, so our attitude toward Jesus should be reflected in our attitude toward the Word of God. We recognize eternal life in people who know Jesus.
Jesus is the Word. He tells out God; He reveals God. He shows forth God as no one else can. He is the genuine expression and thoughts of God.
We can have a physical life without a spiritual life. Some people are dead spiritually (Jn 5:24; 1 Jn 3:14). However, Jesus is the source of spiritual life. Those who believe in Him go through a spiritual experience comparable to physical birth (Jn 3:16, 36). The Bible calls this “eternal life.” Believing in Jesus Christ means more than believing in concepts about Him.