Welcome to our first week of memorizing 1 John together! I have been working ahead so I can share with you some tips and observations about each week’s passage which will hopefully help you to hide it away in your heart.
One of the main things that helps me is simply understanding the text—what is John trying to communicate in our passage? This is usually the strongest memory aid we have at hand, but unfortunately, John opens his epistle with a slurry of verb phrases which don’t find their action until leaping over the parenthetical verse two and landing in verse three.
We are left with looking for patterns of words and simply using brute force—repetition—to shove these verses into our minds, from where they will travel to our hearts in the coming weeks as we add more passages. The further into his letter we go, John’s opening will make more sense. For now, however, we must give diligent effort to repeating them and photographing them with our eyes and tucking them into our memories.
1:1 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—
Verse 1 speaks of something—that which was from the beginning—which “we,” (the apostles, including John) have heard, seen with their eyes, looked upon, and touched with their hands. John repeats the word “which” 4 times. That’s a pattern worth focusing on. Next, note the actions. I actually touch my ear for “heard,” then my eye for “seen with our eyes,” then point out with two fingers for “looked upon,” then open my hand for “touched with our hands.” Also note the pattern that every other one of these actions is expanded with “with our eyes,” then “with our hands.” All of these things are “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—
John interrupts his flow of thought to explain the “word of life” with which all this is concerned. One action in the passive: “the life was made manifest,” followed by three more actions: “we have seen it, testify to it, and proclaim to you.” The seeing, testifying, and proclaiming are about the life, this time qualified with “eternal life,” and we are told where this life was—“with the Father”— before it was then “made manifest to us,” the apostles, who are doing the seeing, testifying, and proclaiming.
3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim
also to you, so that you too may have fellowship
with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the
Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
John resumes his original line of thought with a bit of a reminder, in case we lost the train, that he’s writing about “that which we have seen and heard.” (thanks for that, John, we almost forgot.) But now he gets to the point—the seeing and hearing led to them “proclaim(ing) also to you.” Why did they proclaim this to us? “so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (Note the funny little pattern of “to you—you too.” Every little bit helps.) The apostolic proclamation is for the purpose of including us in the fellowship of the church, whose fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ! Now that’s a purpose worth getting to and remembering! This purpose leads naturally to his final thought in the opening of his epistle—
4 And we are writing these things so that our joy
may be complete.
John is writing—indeed, every apostolic writing is—for the purpose of bringing complete joy to the fellowship we share in the church and with our Father and his Son our Savior. Knowing the truth of our salvation, knowing that it rests not in our own puny efforts, but in the steadfast faithfulness and even the justice of God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, brings us a joy which nothing can steal away from us—not trials and tribulations, not false teachers, not broken earthly fellowships.
But I’m getting ahead of myself… Stick around and keep working to hide this epistle in your heart. There’s much more good stuff to come!
Here’s the point: knowing the truth, the eternal, bedrock truth of our faith strengthens us and brings true joy.