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Opinions of Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Columnist: Pious D. Serwonu

What was from the beginning

The Qur'an The Qur'an

Recently in a discussion, a colleague mentioned that Muslims believed in Jesus. And I quickly asked, “Which Jesus?” The Jesus of Islam is not the same as the Jesus of Christianity or the Bible.

The Jesus Muslims believe in was not crucified and did not die for their sins. The Jesus of Islamists is not the Son of God in the sense that many Christians believe. The God of Islam is too pure or great to have a son, says the Quran. The Jesus of Mohammed is only one of the prophets that came before and to prepare a way for the founder of Islam.

(Quran 4:157-158, 4:171, 61:6)

On the other hand, the Jesus of the Bible was crucified, died for saving people from perishing in sin, is the Son of God. The Jesus of the Bible is the last Prophet (in the sense in which we speak now) and none like Him has come or will come after Him.

(John 19:18, John 3:16, 1 Timothy 1:15-16, Hebrews 1:1-2, Mark 12:6)

Meanwhile, the Christian Jesus ended His ministry warning of many false Christs who would come after Him, one of which Mohammed is claiming to be in the Quran.

Whereas the Bible’s Jesus is the last Prophet (Hebrews 1:1-2), the Quran’s last Prophet is Mohammed, and Jesus is rather last but one (Quran 33:40, 61:6).

Simple equation: Mohammed fits the description of a false Christ according to the Bible, and the “Jesus” he described can only be a misrepresented one a false one, like Ahmad himself.

I have a love for all our Muslim friends, and as is characteristic of love, I rejoice in the truth, at least of the difference between the Jesus I believe in and the one they are told about in the Quran. My Jesus saves me, theirs doesn’t.
But I am not writing about that distinction. I am commenting on 1 John 1:1, the first verse of the prologue of John’s letter.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (1 John 1:1, KJV)

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— (1 John 1:1, CSB)

What interests me here is that even though the Greek word “hos” which is translated as “that which” in the King James Version (KJV) can also be translated as “who” many versions chose to use pronouns such as “what” and “that which”. The Christian Standard Bible (CSB), for instance, reads “What was from the beginning”.

Even though the subject in question is revealed in the very first verse as “the Word of life”, it is “what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and touched with our hands” (CSB) concerning it that John is about to write about.

Jesus indeed is the Word of life. He is a Who. He is a Person of the Trinity and Son of the Father. Just as humans cannot be called things, their Creator can in no wise be an It. However, when we preach Jesus, we do not just preach the Person. It is the “What” that we preach. It is the facts surrounding His existence, words, and life on earth that we testify.

It is not enough to mention the Person. Without a description, no communication can be made of Him. It is the “what” of Jesus that explains the Who. This is why it is not enough to know of a certain Jesus.

According to 1 John 1:1, this is what we should know and declare about Jesus.

1. Existence

We should know of “what was from the beginning”. Where did Jesus come from? The Bible says He existed with Father from the beginning. This Word of life was at the beginning with God and was God. (John 1:1,4) Any true knowledge of the Word of life should be right about what He was (and is) from the very beginning of creation.

2. Words

Any true teacher (and student) of the Word of life should also teach (and learn) “what we have heard”. That is, the words of Jesus are an inseparable part of His Person. We cannot love Jesus and hate His words. Indeed, He said, “if you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Let no one use the name of Jesus as a tag and preach their own words or philosophy. The Word of life speaks. And we should speak what we heard from Him in the historic Gospels and the rest of Scripture.

3. Life on Earth

When we mention Jesus the true Jesus, we are also referring to the baby that was born to a virgin, grew, and lived on earth in a particular space of time. Any spirit that denies that Jesus lived on earth in the flesh is referring to the wrong Jesus (1 John 4:2-3).

In the words of the Bible, that is indeed the spirit of the antichrist. The Jesus we preach about was born, lived, died, and rose again. These are the things that were seen and reported by the eyewitnesses in historic (Biblical and extra-biblical) documents.

John said in his prologue that the things he would write concerning the Word of life were things “we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and touched with our hands”. This speaks to the earthly ministry of Christ. Whoever is right about Christ must be right about His earthly life and ministry, and His resurrection as well; because He was seen, heard, and touched after His resurrection.

Conclusion

In conclusion, let us not simply shout about the Person called Jesus Christ. Let us get it right on “what” He is. It is only in knowing “what” He is that we can know who He is. We need to know Him as the Eternal Son of God, God’s Word to us, our Atonement, and our Life-giver.