When Marlon Brando, the renowned actor, was called as a witness in the murder trial of his son, Christian, he refused to take the oath promising to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” Citing religious scruples (or the lack thereof!), Brando refused to call on God as a witness that he was telling the truth. He was allowed to promise without swearing an oath, and he took the witness stand to testify to what he had seen and heard.
When religious sensitivities were more sharply focused than they are today, the very thought of swearing on oath invoking God’s judgment was enough to ensure that the witness would not lie. For many people those days are long gone, but the person who lies on the witness stand is still committing perjury and is still subject to prosecution.
John’s first epistle opens with a statement of personal testimony. True, John swore no oath. But given the seriousness of the statement being made, the purpose for which it was given, and the churchwide credibility of the witness, there can be no doubt that this is a piece of evidence concerning Jesus Christ that is of the first magnitude.
There is no hearsay here. Concerning Jesus, John said, “We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands” (1 John 1:1). It was common knowledge among believers that John and his colleagues had lived in close proximity to Jesus during his ministry. On the basis of his personal experience, John testified without hesitation that Jesus’ life was so exemplary, his works so miraculous, his words so powerful, and his teaching so life-changing that John had no doubts that Jesus was “the one who existed from the beginning . . . the Word of Life . . . the one who is eternal life” (1:1-2). John had been a witness to Jesus’ death on the cross, Jesus’ appearances after his resurrection, and Jesus’ ascent into heaven. There was not a doubt in John’s mind—he had seen it, heard it, felt it, and lived in the good of it. So he testified.
John’s goal in testifying was “that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1:3). John not only wanted his readers to believe as he did, but he also longed for them to enjoy Jesus as he had. This would make his joy “complete.”
Sharing truth is a joy, and experiencing reality is a delight.
For Further Study: 1 John 1:1-4