LESSON 2 *July 4 - 10
Experiencing the  
Words of Life
Lesson graphic

Read for This Week's Study:

Deut. 4:1-4; 1 Cor. 15:4-8; 1 John 1:1-4, 5; Rev. 19:13.

Memory Text:

"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" (1 John 1:3, NIV).

      In court a man stands charged with murder. He swears, vociferously, that he is innocent, that he didn't do it, and that he wasn't even at the scene when the crime occurred. He sounds very convincing too. From his words alone, one could be tempted to believe him.

Then, however, witnesses appear. One after another, the eyewitnesses say the same thing: They saw the accused at the scene of the crime, and they saw him (and even in some cases heard him) commit the crime. Though individual details differ, depending on where they were at the time of the incident, their eyewitness accounts are overwhelming, and the man's guilt becomes obvious.

In a similar way John introduces his letter by claiming that he belongs to the circle of eyewitnesses who, having seen and personally experienced Jesus, are able to share this life-transforming information with others.

The Week at a Glance:

Why is Jesus the "Word of life"? What does John hope to accomplish by writing this introduction? How can we, even today, be eyewitnesses to Jesus? What role does community have in the life of a Christian?  

*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 11.


The Introduction to John's First Letter  (1 John 1:1-4)

Read 1 John 1:1-4. What is John saying to us with those words? What hope can you take from them for yourself? Also, why do you believe him?  

John begins by pointing out that he, together with others, is an eyewitness of "the Word of life." Verse 2 further explains this "life," and together with the first part of verse 3, stresses its proclamation.

What two things does John say will come as a result of his declaration about "the Word of life?"  

In verses 1 and 3 John makes seven statements before he finishes the sentence: (1) What was from the beginning, (2) what we have heard, (3) what we have seen, (4) what we have looked at, (5) what we have touched,(6) what we have seen, and (7) what we have heard. Then he ends: "We proclaim to you so that you also may have fellowship" (vs. 3, NIV). In verse 2, which is an insertion and clarification, a fourfold enumeration ends with the phrase "and we proclaim to you the eternal life" (NIV).

The point in all this seems to be that John wants us to know, for ourselves, the reality of God that he himself had experienced through Jesus. He wants us to know, for ourselves, the eternal life, the fellowship, and the joy that we can have through Jesus, the same Jesus he himself had heard, seen, and touched.
What is your own understanding, and experience, of what it means to have "joy" in the Lord? Have you ever known any Christian who is always joyous? How do we understand the promises of joy when so often, even as Christians, our lives are filled with pain and suffering?  


First John 1 and John 1

Those who know the Gospel of John are intrigued when they begin reading the first letter of John and find an introduction similar to the introduction of John's Gospel.

Read 1 John 1:1-5 and compare it to John 1:1-5. What are some things that they have in common?  

Both passages begin almost identically. Both point back to a time in the past, using "the beginning," an apparent reference to Genesis 1:1, the Creation. Both distinguish between God the Father and the Word, and both place them next to each other in close connection. Both sections also use the image of "life" and "light." No question, there's much in common between the two sections.

But there are also differences, as well.

What emphases do we find in John 1:1-5 that are not seen in 1 John 1:1-5?  

John's Gospel strongly stresses Jesus as God and Jesus as Creator. Although the full title "his Son, Jesus Christ" (NIV) in 1 John 1:3 points to both Jesus' humanity and His divinity, the term God is not directly applied to Jesus in the introduction to 1 John as it is in the introduction to John's Gospel. The Gospel of John is also very clear regarding Jesus in His role as Creator. Nothing that was made—that is, nothing created—was created apart from Him. It's hard to see how John could have been more clear, not only about Christ's divinity but His creatorship, as well.

Also, 1 John emphasizes the role of eyewitnesses and their proclamation (and, hence, their authority), an emphasis not found in John's Gospel, which speaks from a more detached and less "personal" perspective.

Taken together, both sections reveal truths about Jesus that are central to the plan of salvation.
Think about all you know about the life of Jesus. What were the things He did, said, and suffered? Also, ask yourself, Why did He do these things? As you do so, dwell on the fact that this Man was also God, the Creator. What hope and encouragement do these truths offer you? How can they help you cope with the stresses and strains of life?  


The Word of Life  (1 John 1:1, 2)

What do you think the phrase "Word of life" means? Why is that such an accurate term for Jesus?  

First John 1:1 mentions the "Word of life." The term word is also found in John 1:1-3, and refers specifically to Jesus. In Revelation 19 the rider on the white horse is called "The Word of God" (Rev. 19:13) and refers to Jesus too. Because in the Johannine literature the term word may in certain contexts designate Jesus, in 1 John 1:1 it most likely stands for Jesus here, as well.

The same is true for the term life. Jesus called Himself "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Thus the life in 1 John 1:2 surely refers to Christ, as well. No wonder, then, He is the "Word of life."

What other evidence from those verses show that John was referring to Jesus when He used the phrase "Word of life"?  

Though some people have argued that the phrase "Word of life" means the proclamation of the gospel, the evidence points instead to Jesus Himself. Although it is possible to hear the gospel of Jesus with one's ears, it is more difficult to see it with the eyes. Meanwhile, it is impossible to touch with one's hands "the Word of life," if that phrase were referring to the gospel proclamation. To hear, see, and touch a person makes more sense than to hear, see, and touch the gospel. Furthermore, the phrase "the . . . life . . . was with the Father and has appeared to us" (1 John 1:2, NIV) also suggests that John had a person in mind when he mentioned the Word and the life.

If we accept that Jesus is the "word of life," what does that means for us? Look at each part of the phrase, word and life. How do the following texts help us better understand what this phrase means in and of itself, and more important, what it means to us personally? Gen. 1:14, Dan. 5:23, Matt. 8:8, John 1-4, Acts 17:28.  




Many people like to go to a soccer game, a concert, a political meeting, whatever. They want to see for themselves what is going on and want to experience the event for themselves. Afterward they are able to share what they have seen and heard with others. Others are involuntary eyewitnesses, for instance, of an accident or a crime and may be called to witness in court.

The apostles were eyewitnesses of Christ's life, death, and resurrection. This "Christ event" influenced them to such an extent that they could not refrain from communicating it to others.

This is what we have with John. In 1 John 1:1-4, John claims to have been an eyewitness to Jesus. He buttresses his claims by saying that he not only saw Jesus but touched Him and heard Him, as well. John repeats those claims in the verses, trying to emphasize the reality of his personal experience with Jesus.

John isn't the only biblical writer to make some powerful claims about eyewitness events. What do the following verses have in common with 1 John 1:1-3? Who is speaking, and what was the background for their claims?  

Deut. 4:1-9

Acts 4:20

1 Cor. 15:4-8

Today we cannot be direct eyewitnesses, at least not to the events of Jesus' life or to the historical events of biblical history. But that doesn't mean we still can't be eyewitnesses to the reality of Christ and what He has done for us. In some ways, especially in a post-modern world, our own personal story, our own personal "eyewitness" account, can be a more powerful witness to the reality and goodness of God than can the historical events depicted in the Bible.
What is your own "eyewitness" account of Jesus? Write it up and bring it to class.  


Fellowship of the Saints

Someone has stated that God has no grandchildren, only children. A Christian experience is not a hereditary experience. We need to make a decision, in our own hearts, to give ourselves to Jesus. Someone else can no more do that for us than someone else can sneeze for us. We have to make the choice ourselves, and it has to be a complete surrender to Him. In this sense, being a Christian is a very personal and solitary experience.

At the same time, in those first few verses John adds another dimension to what it means to be a Christian. John invites us to accept his testimony about Jesus and thereby experience fellowship with him and other Christians. In other words, the proclamation of Jesus is community building. To accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, as Giver of eternal life, means to be added to the family of believers.

According to 1 John 1:3, what are the dimensions of this fellowship?  

Jesus Himself has established His community or church (Matt. 16:18), and He cares for it the way a shepherd would care for a flock (John 10:14-16). Jesus and His church belong together. The proclamation of Jesus and the gospel bring people into fellowship not only with the Father and the Son but also with other believers. There is not only an unseen heavenly connection but also a very real visible connection among these believers. Christians are blessed by the fact that they do not have to master their lives alone and in isolation from others, but have become part of Christ's community and family on earth.

How is this Christian fellowship in its ideal form portrayed in the New Testament? See Acts 2:42-47, Rom. 12:3-17.  

Our passage in 1 John ends with verse 4. John's goal is not only that people enjoy fellowship with God and with believers but also that they have their joy completed.

Verse 4 is, perhaps, looking back at the preceding verses. Our joy is complete because Jesus, "that eternal life," has appeared. The verse also may look forward to the rest of John's first Epistle, in which Jesus and salvation through Him, as well as a life with God (which is a life of love), is unfolded. It finally may envision the future appearance of our Lord. Thus, 1 John 1:1-4 could encompass the time from the preexistent Christ to the final consummation at Christ's second coming.

What has been your own experience regarding Christian fellowship? What can you do differently? How can you better enjoy, and help others enjoy, the community of fellowship that's our privilege as Christians to have?  

FRIDAY July 10

Further Study:  
  Read Ellen G. White, "Peace, Be Still," p. 340, in The Desire of Ages.

"John, who has personally known Christ, desires to share his knowledge with his readers in order that they may enjoy the same fellowship he is already enjoying with the Father and the Son. In the course of expressing this loving desire, he asserts the divinity, the eternity, and the incarnation-and consequent humanity-of the Son. This wondrous knowledge he conveys in simple but emphatic language so that readers, in his own day and in ours, may have no doubt concerning the foundation of the Christian faith and the nature and work of Jesus Christ."—The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 629.  

Discussion Questions:
     As a class, go over together your own "eyewitness" accounts of Jesus. What did they have in common? In what ways did they differ? What can you learn from the experience of others that can help you better know the Lord? At the same time, what have you witnessed that, in sharing, could benefit others?  

   What is it about eyewitness testimonies that can be so powerful? At the same time, why should we not believe every eyewitness account? After all, people do lie, or they simply don't see things accurately. Have you ever thought you saw something, only to realize later that you were wrong? If so, share your experience with the class. At the same time, what is it about the eyewitness accounts depicted in the Bible that give them so much credibility? Do we believe that they're true because they are in the Bible? Or are they in the Bible because they are true? Or is it both?  

   Go over this whole question of fellowship. Why is fellowship so important to all believers? What happens to those who tend to strike out on their own, apart from any body of Christ? At the same time, what potential dangers arise from being too dependent on others or on the church? How do we strike the right balance?  

   What can you do to help your local church be more receptive to the needs of its members, thus helping it fulfill some of the ideals of fellowship, as seen in aspects of the early church? In what areas can your church do better?  

I N S I D E Story    
A God to Love:  Part 2


Tolga yearned to know God, but he couldn't find anyone in his homeland who could teach him. When a Christian tourist introduced him to Jesus, Tolga realized that Jesus was the true God, whom he could love and serve.

Tolga's family pressured him to marry, but he didn't know any Christian girls. His family arranged for him to marry Esin. Tolga and Esin had little chance to get acquainted before their marriage, but Tolga prayed that God would lead. He felt he dare not tell her that he was a Christian.

One day church members planned a trip to the mountains. Tolga's wife had just given birth, and he was afraid she wouldn't want to go. But she agreed to go. They boarded the bus and sat down. She found a paper and began reading it. "What book is this from?" she asked him, showing him the paper. He read the paper and began to sweat. "It's—it's from a holy book," he stammered, "the Bible."

She continued reading. "This is good," she said. "I want to read more. Where can I get a Bible?"

Tolga was astounded. Before he could answer, the church leader said, "1 can give you a Bible."

Tolga realized that God was saying it was time to tell his wife that he was a Christian.

He had prayed for a way to tell her, and now God had opened the door with a piece of paper!

The next day was Sabbath, Esin's first Sabbath. He prayed that God would open her heart to receive the truth. In Sabbath School he watched Esin as she listened carefully to the leader's remarks and even asked questions. The sermon seemed prepared just for her. The speaker spoke about common points between her religion and Christianity. He even read from her holy book about Christ's second coming.

Esin reads the Bible whenever she has time, and she shares what she's learning with customers in her shop. "She puts me to shame!" Tolga says. "I didn't dare share my faith with my wife, but she shares Jesus with everyone! Recently she asked for two Bibles to give to friends!"

Esin attends church when she can and is progressing on her journey to Jesus. Tolga is learning from her to be brave in sharing the gospel.

The church in Turkey has fewer than 100 members. Part of a recent Thirteenth Sabbath Offering went to help the church in Turkey reach out to the millions who don't know Christ. Thank you for your part in sharing the gospel in this great land.

CHARLOTTE ISHKANIAN is editor of Adventist Mission. All names have been changed.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Mission Awareness.
email:   info@adventistmission.org   website:  www.adventistmission.org

Join the SSNET moderated email discussion group.  You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning with your local Seventh-day Adventist congregation.

Editorial Office: 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904.

Principal Contributor:
Ekkehardt Mueller
Clifford R. Goldstein
Associate Editor:
Soraya Homayouni
Publication Specialist:
Lea Alexander Greve

Editorial Assistants:
Tresa Beard
Pacific Press Coordinator:
Paul A. Hey
Art Director and Illustrator:
Lars Justinen
Concept Design:
Dever Design

Copyright © 2009 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist.  All Rights Reserved.

SSNET Web Site Home page
Directory of Sabbath School Bible Study materials
Archive of previous Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guides
Prepared for the Internet by the SSNET Web Team.

Last updated June2, 2009.