“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…” (1 John 1:1)
The prolog of First John runs from verses 1 through 4. John launches immediately into a defense of the authenticity of the humanity of Christ, which is the subject of the entire book of First John.
John writes this epistle to counteract the Gnostic heresy. An agnostic knows nothing; a Gnostic knows everything (supposedly). They taught that Jesus was a phantom or spirit, not a genuine human being.
First John focuses on the person of Christ. Joy revolves around Him, “How tedious and tasteless the hours when Jesus no longer I see.” The thrill and joy of the Christian life disappears when we lose sight of Jesus.
As John is writing this epistle, he is thinking about Cerinthus. Cerinthus came into town with a full load of hot air about incipient Gnosticism. This form of Gnosticism denied the humanity of Christ. John attacks that doctrine.
That which was from the beginning,
This verse gives the testimony of those who walked with the Lord when He was on earth. They accompanied Him for 3 and ½ years. They ate with Him and traveled with Him. Jesus personally taught them.
The word “which” is neuter referring to the manifestation of Christ. This collectively gathers into one all the varied and wonderful truths regarding the person of Christ. It is all that He is, represents or ever will be. It is what He is in Himself plus what He is for us and for the entire universe.
The word “was” indicates what Jesus was essentially. This combats the Gnostic heresy that portrayed Jesus as impersonal, a mere emanation.
John’s congregation went berserk over this false system of spirituality. They thought that they could have fellowship with God apart from a true grasp of the humanity of Christ.
which we have heard
The issue here is authenticity and credibility of 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 hear Him with your own ears? I did.” Cerinthus bought into the current philosophy of the day. He allowed philosophy of give meaning to the Bible rather than the Bible give meaning to philosophy.
which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life
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.
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.