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 our joy may be complete.
John was an eyewitness to Jesus. And as an eyewitness, John was able to speak with authority when it came to matters about Jesus. This was important because in the time before the bible was compiled, the early followers of Jesus needed an authority. They needed a person (or group of people) to whom they could look for the truth about Jesus. That group of people was the apostles. The apostles were those who had been chosen by Jesus to be with him during his earthly ministry. The apostles had witnessed the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The teaching of the apostles was the authority for the Christians of the first century. The bible drives home this truth in Ephesians 2:20, as it states that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.” After Jesus left the earth, the apostles were the first generation gate keepers of the truth of the gospel. John was one of the apostles, and therefore he spoke with authority on behalf of Jesus.
The fact that John was an eyewitness to Jesus points to another important reality, which is the historical reliability of the gospel. The claims that John (along with other eyewitnesses) make about Jesus remind us that Jesus is a real person, who stepped into real space and real time. Every spiritual truth about Jesus is rooted in the historical reality of Jesus. Thanks to eyewitnesses like John, we know the truth of who Jesus is. That truth has been passed on from one generation to the next.
In his book, Taking God at His Word, Kevin DeYoung writes “From the very beginning, Christianity tied itself to history. The most important claims of Christianity are historical claims, and on the facts of history the Christian religion must stand or fall. Luke followed all things closely, researched things carefully, and relied on eyewitnesses so that Theophilus could have certainty about the gospel story (Luke 1:1-4). John wrote about the wonders Jesus performed so that his audience would accept the miracles, understand the signs, believe that Jesus is the Christ, and have life in his name (John 20:31). All four gospel writers are eager for us to know that, though some were spreading rumors that Christ’s body had been stolen after his crucifixion, the tomb was really empty because Jesus had really been raised. If Christ wasn’t raised, said Paul, the whole Christian religion is a sham and those who believe in it are pitiable fools (1 Corinthians 15:14-19). To discount history is to live in a different world from the one that the biblical authors inhabit.”
When we talk about Jesus, we are talking about an actual man, who lived an actual life, who died an actual death, who was actually resurrected, and who will actually return again. Jesus is real, and he gives real life to all who come to him!