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The opening paragraph of 1 John 1 boasts many treasures. I want to focus on verse 3, with a sidelong glance at verse 4.
Assuming that the author is the apostle John, the “we” that is doing the proclaiming is most likely an editorial we, or a we that is self-consciously speaking from the circle of apostolic witnesses. Thus in this context it is distinguished from the “we” of all Christians; it is distinguished, in particular, from the “you” who constitute the readers: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard” (1 John 1:3). The previous two verses specify what John and the other witnesses have seen and heard. It is nothing less than the Incarnation: “That which was from the beginning” (1 John 1:1) one with God was nothing other than what appeared in real history and was repeatedly heard, seen, and touched. The eternal Word became a man (John 1:14); here, the “life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us” (1 John 1:2). So John reiterates, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard” (1 John 1:3).
There is no Christianity without the Incarnation. Moreover, the Incarnation is not some vague notion of the divine identifying with the human. It is relentlessly concrete: the Word that was with God and that was God became flesh (as John writes elsewhere, John 1:1, 14). That is fundamental in John’s day, when he is combating those who presuppose that what is truly spiritual might don human flesh but could not become a human being; it is fundamental today, when we might be combating a philosophical naturalist who insists that the only reality is what occupies the continuum of space and time.
John tells his readers that he proclaims this truth to them, “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). Fellowship in the New Testament is more than warm fuzzies. It is committed partnership, in which personal interests are subsumed under the common mission. The first witnesses entered into fellowship “with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” John’s readers may enter that fellowship by entering into the fellowship of the apostles. That is why John proclaims what he has seen and heard. The apostles mediate the Gospel to others. We cannot enter into fellowship with God and with his Son Jesus Christ without entering into fellowship with the apostles who were the first witnesses of the Incarnation.
None of this fosters stuffy religion. John writes to make “our” or “your” joy complete (1 John 1:4): whichever variant is original, it tells the truth on this point.
The account of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31) stirs the imagination by its powerful reversal. The rich and powerful man ends up in hell; the poor man at his gate ends up by the side of Abraham. Some observations:
(1) The narrative does not make explicit the reason why Lazarus the beggar was received up into the presence of Abraham, or why the rich man was excluded from that blessedness and consigned to hell. But there are hints. Although the Bible is far from imagining that every poor person is automatically justified (read Proverbs) and every rich person automatically condemned (consider Solomon, Zacchaeus, and Philemon), nevertheless there is some kind of alignment. Elsewhere Jesus insists it is impossible to serve both God and money (Matt. 6:24). The narrative before us says that Lazarus lay ill and hungry outside the rich man’s gate, and was literally dying to receive scraps of food. The rich man provided nothing. He was therefore without compassion; he was contravening even the most elementary societal expectations of courtesy and hospitality; he would not even give alms. As for Lazarus, he belongs to a long tradition in Israel going back to the Wisdom Literature that often associates the poor and the despised with the contrite and the righteous. That is simply assumed here. The reversal follows. It would be shocking to those of Jesus’ hearers who were pursuing the almighty shekel.
(2) At least part of the description of the state after death must be symbolic (Is there a real chasm between Lazarus and the rich man? Can residents of the two domains converse back and forth at will?). Nevertheless some elements of this description have to be accepted at face value, or the entire account unravels. The rich man is in conscious torment (entirely in line with other passages of Scripture). Lazarus is in (literally) “Abraham’s bosom”—i.e., he is with Abraham, and wherever Abraham is, there must be peace and blessing. The fixed chasm ensures that no one may pass from one abode to the other—which rather discourages the view that some people may be converted after death.
(3) Abraham’s response to the rich man’s concern for his surviving brothers establishes two important points. First, they were without excuse because they had the Scriptures (“Moses and the Prophets,” Luke 16:29). We should not think that those who will not listen to what Scripture says will listen to anything else—so why resort to gimmickry? The assumption is that Scripture is the first recourse. Second, even the spectacularly miraculous is not more convincing than Scripture (Luke 16:31). Those who will not be convinced by Scripture “will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). And someone has.
1:1 Solomon the son of David established himself in his kingdom, and the LORD his God was with him and made him exceedingly great.
2 Solomon spoke to all Israel, to the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, to the judges, and to all the leaders in all Israel, the heads of fathers' houses. 3 And Solomon, and all the assembly with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon, for the tent of meeting of God, which Moses the servant of the LORD had made in the wilderness, was there. 4 (But David had brought up the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim to the place that David had prepared for it, for he had pitched a tent for it in Jerusalem.) 5 Moreover, the bronze altar that Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, had made, was there before the tabernacle of the LORD. And Solomon and the assembly sought it1 out. 6 And Solomon went up there to the bronze altar before the LORD, which was at the tent of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it.
7 In that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask what I shall give you.” 8 And Solomon said to God, “You have shown great and steadfast love to David my father, and have made me king in his place. 9 O LORD God, let your word to David my father be now fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. 10 Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?” 11 God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, 12 wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.” 13 So Solomon came from2 the high place at Gibeon, from before the tent of meeting, to Jerusalem. And he reigned over Israel.
14 Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. 15 And the king made silver and gold as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah. 16 And Solomon's import of horses was from Egypt and Kue, and the king's traders would buy them from Kue for a price. 17 They imported a chariot from Egypt for 600 shekels3 of silver, and a horse for 150. Likewise through them these were exported to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria.
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—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—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. 4 And we are writing these things so that our1 joy may be complete.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
7:1 Woe is me! For I have become
as when the summer fruit has been gathered,
as when the grapes have been gleaned:
there is no cluster to eat,
no first-ripe fig that my soul desires.
2 The godly has perished from the earth,
and there is no one upright among mankind;
they all lie in wait for blood,
and each hunts the other with a net.
3 Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well;
the prince and the judge ask for a bribe,
and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul;
thus they weave it together.
4 The best of them is like a brier,
the most upright of them a thorn hedge.
The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come;
now their confusion is at hand.
5 Put no trust in a neighbor;
have no confidence in a friend;
guard the doors of your mouth
from her who lies in your arms;1
6 for the son treats the father with contempt,
the daughter rises up against her mother,
the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
a man's enemies are the men of his own house.
7 But as for me, I will look to the LORD;
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me.
8 Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the LORD will be a light to me.
9 I will bear the indignation of the LORD
because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
I shall look upon his vindication.
10 Then my enemy will see,
and shame will cover her who said to me,
“Where is the LORD your God?”
My eyes will look upon her;
now she will be trampled down
like the mire of the streets.
11 A day for the building of your walls!
In that day the boundary shall be far extended.
12 In that day they2 will come to you,
from Assyria and the cities of Egypt,
and from Egypt to the River,3
from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.
13 But the earth will be desolate
because of its inhabitants,
for the fruit of their deeds.
14 Shepherd your people with your staff,
the flock of your inheritance,
who dwell alone in a forest
in the midst of a garden land;4
let them graze in Bashan and Gilead
as in the days of old.
15 As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt,
I will show them5 marvelous things.
16 The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might;
they shall lay their hands on their mouths;
their ears shall be deaf;
17 they shall lick the dust like a serpent,
like the crawling things of the earth;
they shall come trembling out of their strongholds;
they shall turn in dread to the LORD our God,
and they shall be in fear of you.
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our6 sins
into the depths of the sea.
20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers
from the days of old.
16:1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures1 of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures2 of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world3 are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth,4 so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.5 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.
18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side.6 The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house—28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”