Names and Titles of Christ in the First Epistle of John
Address given at Canterbury Conference 2012
Let us begin by reading one verse from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. Proverbs 30 verse 4 in the middle, where it says according to the JND translation: “Who hath established all the ends of the earth, what is his name and what is his son's name if Thou knowest?” The verse I just read is a rather mysterious verse in the Old Testament. Mysterious not in the sense that it cannot be understood, but that it expresses an ignorance, in a way, of men at that time concerning God and His Son. Evidently Solomon here speaks of God and His Son, but he puts it in the form of a question. “What is His name?” How many names of God do we not find in the Old Testament: the Almighty, Jehovah, the Lord etc. How many titles of the Lord Jesus, His beloved Son, do we not find in the Old Testament: The Anointed, The King, etc. But this is not our subject.
The subject tonight is: The Son of God especially in the writings of the Apostle John with whose First Epistle we are occupied during this conference as we were during the past. The verse quoted shows us that there is a certain ignorance as to the Son of God because in the Old Testament it was not revealed that the Lord Jesus is the Eternal Son of God. In Psalm 2 verse 7 God says, “Thou art my son, this day have I begotten Thee”, but it is absolutely clear that this is said in view of the manhood of Christ. In eternity it could never be said that the Lord was generated, that He had an origin. There is no eternal generation. In eternity it could not have been said, “this day”. There was not a day in the eternity. One could say the whole eternity is one day without beginning and without an end. So when it says, “Thou art my son, this day I have begotten Thee”, this speaks of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus in this world, not of His eternal being. When the Lord Jesus was standing in judgement before the High Priest, the High Priest asked Him, “Art Thou the Son of God, the son of the Blessed One?” The Jews knew that Messiah would be the Son of God, but only in the sense of Psalm 2 - born as man into this world. And that is one of the reasons which explain the question in Proverbs 30. There was no revelation in the Old Testament as to the eternal sonship of Christ.
We have another passage further on in the Prophet Isaiah chapter 9 verse 6: “For unto us a child is born , unto us a son is given ”. Now we could say that this was mere repetition, but in the Word of God nothing is mere repetition. The mention of the child which is born is clearly pointing to the Lord Jesus as the eternal Son of God coming down into this world as man. But the Holy Spirit adds, “a son is given”, because as Son He was never born but existed from all eternity and was given to us when He came into this world. The writer of the Old Testament prophecy did not know and understand what he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It can only be understood in the light shed by the Holy Spirit after His coming down in consequence of the work of salvation which the Lord Jesus has accomplished.
There are things which have not been revealed in the Old Testament: the assembly, the Church of God united to the Lord Jesus as the glorified Man in heaven who is the Head of His body. It was a mystery not revealed in the Old Testament, but only in the New Testament. But when we come to the New Testament and especially to the epistles of John, we will find something which induces me to tell you a little story. You can read it as it were in Mr J N Darby's Miscellaneous Writings vol. 5 (which is not in the Collected Writings series of 34 volumes, but in one of the two light blue volumes added later on by a brother in the United States). If you open this volume you will find the amount of work Brother Darby has put into the research of the precious person of the Lord Jesus in the New Testament. You will find there a list of all verses in the entire New Testament beginning in Matthew and ending in Revelation which contain one or more names or titles of the Lord Jesus. Our brother has gone through the entire New Testament, and noted by hand every verse where the Lord Jesus is mentioned in one of His names or titles. Then he has grouped these in a second part of this list according to their frequency, i. e. how often each name occurs in the books of the New Testament.
Just to mention one example: “The Christ” is mentioned in Colossians – practically the only epistle where it is used continuously. It is characteristic of that epistle. But to find this out you have to go through the entire epistle, and so forth. This gifted and well known brother has sat there for hours and days reading Scripture, noting the precious expressions concerning the Lord Jesus and then grouping them all, so we can just read them. In our age of the computer it is much easier to find out all these things than at that time. Therefore I tell you this little story which impressed me. When I saw this for the first time decades ago I must say I was stunned. But looking at this work - I'm only speaking of this research going through the whole Testament to find all the precious names of his Lord and Saviour and then he could speak and write about Him, – I tell you that all this was hard work, but it was crowned by a life of which we can think with reverence because our brother has brought to light many more precious truths.
Now we turn to the First Epistle of John with which we are occupied. If we go through this epistle tonight, there are about 25 different titles and names of the Lord Jesus. But we won't go through them all - don't be afraid. I will take up some of them which are only used by John and mostly in this epistle. These are names of the Lord Jesus which are specific to the apostle John.
We know that John is a special disciple. He is the only one who wrote of himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. And I hope we're all clear about the matter, that he did not mean to say that he was the one Jesus loved specially, more than the others. If that was your thought you would not have grasped what John meant. He did by no means place himself above the other disciples. The Lord Jesus loved him as He loves us all. There is no difference. We have actually this difference that the Lord says in John 14: 23, “If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him”. He loves us all in the same way as His saved ones, but if we are obedient there will be - the Lord says it Himself - the love which goes beyond that love of the Saviour.
But John did not mean that. John spoke of the love that the Lord Jesus had for all His disciples. But there the question is: Are we conscious of that fact? Are you conscious of the fact that the Lord Jesus loves you? Now that is the answer to the question, What did John mean when he said “the disciple whom Jesus loved”? He did not mean to say, He loves me more than the others. And he did by no means mean to say that he did things which pleased the Lord more than what the others did. The only answer is that John was the one disciple who was conscious of this continuous love of the Lord, and that's why he could write that. He did not place himself above the others, but expresses how important it is that we not only know in our heads that the Lord Jesus loved us and gave Himself for us but we have it in our hearts and enjoy it and can say, “I am a disciple, I'm a believer, whom Jesus loves.”
We are not concerned about John tonight, but with what he was inspired to write about the Lord Jesus alone. And the first of these several expressions is in the first epistle of John, chapter 1, verse 2 - where it is said between brackets “and the life has been manifested and we have seen and bear witness and report to you the eternal life which was with the Father and has been manifested to us.”
This is the first name of the Lord Jesus. I wouldn't say this is a title. A title is officially given to a person. But what is said here of the Lord Jesus is the culmination point of a sentence which begins right at the start of the epistle where the apostle writes “That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, that which we contemplated and our hands handled concerning the Word of Life”. Then follows the sentence placed between brackets. So we see here the things concerning the “Word of Life”, then “the Life has been manifested” and finally “the Eternal Life”. It is the Lord Jesus, the Eternal Son, of whom it is said that He is the Word of Life, the expression of all that God is. In the beginning was the Word, and when He came into this world He was not only the “Word” as the full, perfect, expression of everything which is in God because He was and is God, so only He could express what is in God, but He is also the “Word of Life” because He gave us eternal Life. So we have here the “Word of Life”, the “Life”, but then the last culminating expression is “The Eternal Life”.
Everybody who believes on the Lord Jesus may know: I have eternal life. Superficially one might say, Well, eternal life is a life without an end. This is true, but it is not even half the truth. The truth we find in this verse, right in the beginning of the epistle and one more time only at the end of the epistle in chapter 5 verse 20, where it is said, “and we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding that we should know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and Eternal Life”. These are the two occurrences of the expression which show us what eternal life really means. It is far more than life without an end. One could truly say that even an unbeliever has an eternal existence - I would not say life. All men have an eternal existence. The soul is immortal. But what is said here means much more than what is generally seen in John 3:16, where the Lord says that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him may not perish but have eternal life”. One could think here it is a blessed existence for all eternity. This is true, but it falls short of what the Word of God means by eternal life.
What the Holy Spirit – especially in the writings of John – means when He says “Eternal Life”, is not only an existence, not even a quality of existence, but it is a person. The Eternal Son is “the Eternal Life”. It is something which Paul once approaches when he says in Colossians 3 verse 4 ”Christ our Life”. This is the only passage in which Paul approaches this thought that the life which we have received by believing in the Lord Jesus is not a quality which we possess, but that it is a Person: Christ is our life. And here He is before us as the only “true God and eternal life”. What we have received by faith is Christ as the “Eternal Life”, and this is unique for John. None of the other apostles goes so far and so deep concerning the relationship of the believer with God as John. God gives us life, and in chapter 5 verse 11 it is said that this life is in His Son. But in these two passages we see that the Lord Jesus, the Eternal Son, is also the “Eternal Life” Himself.
What does that mean for us? I hope that everybody who is present here can say, “Well, yes, I have received that eternal life even if I don't know everything about it, the depths of its meaning, but I have it.” Eternal life means that we have received divine life, but that this life is present in the Lord Jesus in us. He is our life. And this is one of the reasons which prove that a true believer can never be lost again. Could Christ, his Life - far be the thought - be lost with him? Impossible. Eternal life means that God has given us His own life as revealed in the person of His Son who is Himself Eternal life. He is the true God and the Eternal Life.
We may reverently say, that God could not give a greater gift to men, because man can never become God. But could a man by grace receive more than the life of God Himself in the eternal Son who is His image, who brought God close to us in coming into this world, but who could only bring us to God by dying on the cross, bridging the cleft which separated us from Him? What a precious thing! Only John speaks of this gift and of this relationship. Nothing could place us in a closer relationship than to be a child of God, possessing the same life as God. It was revealed in His Son, “and the life is His Son”. He is our life, He the eternal life.
1 John chapter 5 verse 11, “this life is in His Son”, shows us another part of this truth, namely that eternal life is intrinsically not in ourselves. We have to be very careful not to go too far in our expressions, but the life is not originally and intrinsically in ourselves. In this way it is only in the Lord Jesus, i. e. in the Eternal Son. But He has given it to us because we believed in Him. So we have this life, but we have it in Him. Still, what a precious thing to consider – the divine nature, the divine life in the Eternal Son, and we being able to say: He, the Eternal Life is our life. This is blessing, the riches which the human mind cannot grasp and which human expressions are too feeble to express. But it is a wonderful thing, and given to us only by the Apostle John.
“The Advocate or Comforter”
We have another beautiful expression in chapter 2 verse 1, where John writes, “My children, these things I write to you in order that you may not sin; and if anyone sin we have a patron with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous”. The note in the JND Translation is very illustrating. It says parakletos means “comforter” as in John's gospel, chapter 14. Christ manages all our affairs for us above, as the Holy Spirit does here below. “Patron” has the sense of the Roman patron who maintains the interests of his clients in every way: so Christ on high, and the Spirit here for the saints below. In another passage (John 14: 16, note) the New Translation of JND says the word “comforter” or “patron” or “advocate” (as it is sometimes translated) actually means the modern solicitor. It is somebody capable, able and willing to take upon him the cause of his client and do everything for him to make a success of his cause. That is the meaning of this word parakletos (patron or comforter). This explains that there are two comforters, two patrons. The One is here in first John 2 verse 1, the other in the gospel of John, chapter 14. I just mention one of the four passages where the comforter is mentioned. It is John 14 verse 16: “And I (says the Lord Jesus) will beg the Father and he will give you another Comforter, that he may be with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive.” So here He speaks of another Comforter whom He identifies as the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, whom everybody who believes in the Lord Jesus receives after believing the gospel of salvation.
Why does the Lord Jesus say “another Comforter”? Simply because here Christ Himself is our Comforter in the first place. The Lord Jesus was the Comforter, the Advocate of His disciples when He was with them on earth. Now He says, “I will leave you now but you will not be alone – I will send you another comforter.” So it is a wonderful truth that as believers we are not left alone and on our own in this world, but we have two Advocates! The One is in us and with us, the Holy Spirit, of Whom we read many things in John chapters 14 to 16. He takes our cause in hand and will lead us until the end of our pathway, when the Lord Jesus will come and take us home. He is with us and He will never leave us. He is with you and He is in you and He will be with you in eternity, the Lord Jesus said.
But then we have a Patron at the right hand of God, our Lord Jesus, the Son, as our Patron with the Father. And in first John 2 it is said why. One could ask, if we have eternal life and the safety which can never be shaken, why do we need a Patron with the Father? Why do we need a Comforter, an Advocate, a divine, heavenly solicitor, who takes our cause in hand and will accomplish it, if our salvation is secure and unshakable? It is true, our salvation is unshakable. But how are we walking and behaving here on earth? How was our day today, the last seven days, the last month, the last year, our entire Christian life? Can we say that we have always lived in the full enjoyment of the blessing which we have received in Christ? I couldn't - could you? That's why we need the comforter in us to always take us back to the Father. On our own, we wouldn't keep ourselves, we couldn't keep ourselves. It's always and only the care of the Lord Jesus by His Spirit and by Himself. The Spirit in His practical working can be put aside in our lives, and we can do the same with the Lord Jesus. Still the work of the Spirit and the work of the Lord Jesus goes on.
What if we have gone astray and sinned? Satan says, In this state you can never go back to the Lord. Do you know that? Have you experienced that? Satan tells you, You must first prove that you are really a child of God before you can go back to Him. – In this way Satan tries to keep us away from the Lord. But the Lord is our patron with the Father, and He is there to bring us back. Have you ever realized, that when you have gone astray, maybe only in thought, not with your feet, who it was that has taken you back to the pathway of faith? You, yourself? Everyone will admit that it is not like that. We won't turn back by ourselves. The prodigal, the lost son, a type of an unbeliever, didn't go back by himself, when he came to himself (Luke 15: 17). We see here the result of the two preceding parts of that parable – the Shepherd who seeks the sheep, the woman with the oil lamp who seeks the coin. In the third part of that one parable we see the result of the searching activity of the Lord Jesus as the shepherd and the woman with the lamp of oil as a type of the Holy Spirit. The first two parts show us what is going on from God's side, and the third part, the prodigal, shows what this brings about in our hearts by the prodigal's coming to himself. It was not of himself. It is the Lord Jesus who works in our conscience and heart towards confession, but for us as believers He also intercedes with the Father. He is our Comforter, our Patron, with the Father who will never suffer that we go astray. He will follow us to take us back. As we see in the second verse He does so by bringing into remembrance His own work. Isn't it a very touching picture to read, “Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins". It is not the slightest question here of a believer being in danger of getting lost again.
Propitiation is the third expression which is peculiar to John. It's the foundation of our relationship with God - an eternal propitiation. Christ is the Patron who takes our cause in His hand and will not suffer that we go astray and remain in that state. This is different from the Lord Jesus as the High Priest in the Epistle to the Hebrews. The High Priest has nothing to do with sinning. But here it is sinning – “if anyone sin”. It doesn't say, “if we have sinned”, because this is not considered as normal. The text runs: “My children, these things I write to you in order that ye may not sin [“you” in the plural]; and if anyone sin [he doesn't say: “if we sin”, i. e. we as Christians], but “anyone”. God cannot suffer the thought that His own go ahead sinning. It is always I dare say an “accident”. But “if anyone sin”, he does not have to despair. He knows and may remember, I have a patron with the Father – Jesus Christ the righteous One. He is the guarantee that I will never be lost. It is true, my sin puts a barrier between myself and the Father in the practical communion, but I will not be lost. Christ Himself is “the propitiation for our sins; but not for ours alone, but also for the whole world”.
This is the third title of Christ which we find in the First Epistle of John – He the propitiation for our sins. It is repeated once in chapter 4 verse 10 where John writes of God, ”Herein is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent his Son, the propitiation for our sins.” In chapter 2 it is to reassure the believer who has gone astray, who has sinned and whose confidence and faith may be shaken. And this is very often the case. He says: No, Jesus Christ the righteous, He is our propitiation. He has accomplished everything. Propitiation is a word which is used very often in the Old Testament. Especially when we turn to the Great Day of Atonement, we see what propitiation is. In Leviticus 16 we see Aaron the High Priest and several sacrifices, among others two rams. He kills the one and takes its blood into the Tabernacle, into the Holiest and puts the blood on the Mercy Seat. The Mercy Seat is mentioned in the New Testament in Hebrews 9 verse 5 and in Romans 3 verse 25. In both cases it is the same expression. It is actually a place of propitiation. In Roman 3 verse 25 the Lord Jesus Himself is called the “Mercy Seat”. So it is translated in the JND Version. He is the realisation of that type of propitiation in Leviticus 16. He has made the propitiation, and as a Person is the realisation of that propitiation. It is not only His work; it is His Person. The High Priest – who by the way is also a type of the Lord Jesus - takes the blood of the sacrifice - another type of the Lord Jesus - and puts it on the mercy seat – again a type of the Lord Jesus - under the eyes of the Cherubs, which means before the eyes of God, because the mercy seat in the Old Testament is a type of the throne of God. That is propitiation. The blood of Christ, the perfect sacrifice, fully and perfectly answered all the righteous demands which God had in view of man. We were not able to fulfil them. The Lord Jesus has done it. And by His blood on the mercy seat, the propitiation was accomplished.
Propitiation means that all God's desire was fulfilled and His righteous demands with a view to sin were fully answered by the blood of a perfect sacrifice. There was only One who in His life answered to all demands of God and Him God has given as the one and only sacrifice for propitiation that could answer by giving His blood, presenting it in the presence of God. That's the atonement side of propitiation. But then John says, “for our sins”. So the work of propitiation is not only Godward - it is also manward. Of this the second ram on the Great Day of Atonement speaks, which was not killed. The ram was taken, the High Priest put his hands on its head and confessed the sins of all the people on the ram's head and then it was sent away into a desert place never to return. Here we have the other side of propitiation – substitution “for our sins”. Propitiation is in the first place Godward, but not only. The reason for propitiation were our sins, but it had to be the answer to God's righteous demands as to sin and sinful man. The Lord Jesus is the propitiation in fully answering to all righteous demands of God as to sin and to our needs as lost sinners. The first side is called atonement, the second substitution.
Furthermore propitiation is not only for the security of the believer, but we see in chapter 4 verse 10 that it is also part of the gospel. The gospel cannot do without propitiation. Therefore it is said, just to repeat, “Herein is [Divine] love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son a propitiation for our sins.”
“From the Beginning”
Then we have another name which is only used by John, found in the second chapter in verses 13 and 14. In verse 13 John writes, ”I write to you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning”, then he writes, “I write to you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one”. And thirdly, “I write to you, little children, because ye have known the Father.” And then he repeats: “I have written to you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because ye are strong and the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the wicked one”. Then follows the exhortation, ”Love not the world”. That subject goes on until the end of that paragraph, and thirdly in verse 18 he again speaks to the little children. This is the longest exhortation which continues practically until the end of the chapter (verse 27).
These three groups of believers, the fathers, the young men and the children are really existing groups of believers. Perhaps we would say, Why doesn't he begin with the children, those who have much to learn as the following passages show until the end of the chapter, and then the young men who are already grown up but not quite fully, and finally the fathers. The Divine thought is different.
You will find throughout Scripture that God always begins with that which is closest to His heart. In the Tabernacle He doesn't begin with the court but with the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat – the type of the Lord Jesus. This was the central point on which normally nobody could put his eyes (except the High Priest once a year), it was, as it were, invisible, but for God it was the most important thing.
If we take the sacrifices in Leviticus 1-6, the sin offering is not the first thing mentioned. Our needs do not take the first place. God starts with the burnt offering, the sacrifice which was entirely for Him. So here He does not start with those who have just believed in the Lord Jesus and who have much to learn. He is occupied with them, but He begins with those who are closest to Him. And how can we see that they are closest to the Father? Because they “have known him that is from the beginning”. He “that is from the beginning” is the Eternal Son of God, coming to this world as man, exactly what we have found in chapter 1 verse 1 etc. When He came into this world, He formed in a way the beginning of the present era of grace, of faith in Christ, and of the assembly. That is the beginning. It is not here the beginning marked by creation as in the first verse of the Gospel of John. In that respect it would be quite out of place to say: He is from the beginning. Is the Son of God eternally from the beginning? No, for there it is said, ” In the beginning was the Word.” He was there before the world was created. But “ from the beginning” speaks of the beginning of the humanity of the Lord Jesus on earth. That is what “from the beginning” means. And this we can easily gather from the first verse of chapter 1, where John says, “That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes; that which we contemplated, and our hands handled”. Thus he could say as it were, We know what we are speaking of. That is what “from the beginning” means here, i. e. when the Lord was in this world. The eternal Son coming into this world, laying by His life and by His death the foundation of the new era in which we live.
And was not this Person, the Lord Jesus, the Eternal Son in this world accomplishing the will of God, was He not the one Person in whom God found all His delight? “Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I have found my delight.” God says this twice, at the Lord's baptism and on the Mount of Transfiguration. If the spiritual fathers have known Him that is from the beginning, in a satisfying way of enjoyment, they cannot have anything higher. Do you understand that? You cannot have anything higher than Him that is from the beginning - the Lord, the Son of God coming into this world, accomplishing the will of God for the blessing of men. Why can't you have more than that? There is nothing more. And there is nobody else. I have mentioned the two times when God the Father opened the heavens and spoke to and of His beloved Son “Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I have found my delight.” Can you imagine you could need more than God needs? God finds all His delight in His Son. The Father delights in His Son. Could we then say, I need more? There is nothing more.
A brother once said something which impressed me very much: God never takes His eye from the Lord Jesus at His right hand, the beloved Son in the bosom of the Father. How often we do. That is why it is said to the young men, who are strong and have overcome the wicked, “Do not love the world”. Our heart answers, No, I don't love the world, but then God says “... nor what is in the world”! Oh, that's another thing! It will only take you away from the Lord.
The fathers, mature Christians, male or female, have come to a point where they say, I have enough in Christ, I don't need anything more. I remember, when I was young, hearing a brother in Holland saying in prayer: Oh Lord Jesus, keep us close to Thee, keep us from seeking anything else than Thyself. Amen. That was the whole prayer. He was a father in Christ. He did not want nor need anything else. And he desired that others should be in that same position. “I write to you fathers because you have known him that is from the beginning.” There is nobody else beyond the Lord. What a wonderful thing. So the Spirit repeats that twice. There is nothing to add. In the other groups, the young men need a little more, the little children much more, because they are in danger. Not so the fathers. What a wonderful thing!
Then we have two more names of the Lord. These are very well known things, but it was on my heart to draw our attention to these precious expressions. The next one is found in chapter 4 verse 9: “Herein as to us has been manifested the love of God, that God has sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” How precious the Son is for the Father. We have seen a little bit of that already. Here it is said that He is the only-begotten Son. Time doesn't allow us to enter in depth into the meaning of this expression, but one thing is clear: “only-begotten” does not carry the thought of “begetting“. That would be a false thought. In German is the same thing “eingeboren” – only born, only-begotten. It gives a false sense. The meaning of the Greek monogenes is the only one of his kind - that is the sense. It was translated in a wrong way. Perhaps false thoughts were already existing right at the end of the 4 th century, when in the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible, the Greek mono-genes was rendered by uni-genitus . In this Latin word you have a participle which means generated or begotten. But the eternal Son has no beginning. There was not a day when He was begotten, He was not begotten in eternity, but He is eternally the Son as the Father is eternally the Father and the Holy Spirit is eternally the Holy Spirit. Otherwise there could be no Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, if One had come forth from the Other. It is a contradiction in terms. Either God is eternal, or a part of the Godhead – forgive me to say so - is not eternal. He is the only Son, the only one of His kind, but He is the Son. There is no subordination, absolutely not. It is only showing us the relationship.
In the eternal Godhead there is no father and son in the human sense of the word. We know parents and children. But the Lord is never called child of God, and rightly so. We are called children of God because we are begotten by the living seed of the Word of God and by the Holy Spirit. He however is the only one of his kind. The relationship between the eternal Son and the eternal Father is the relationship of oneness in love. Oneness in love - that is the relationship which is shown to us. When it is said, “God is light” (1 John 1: 5), it is more or less absolute. Light sends its rays, but does not have to have an object. The light shines in the darkness, and even if the darkness does not accept it, the light is there.
But love has to have an object. The Lord, the eternal Son, who says in John 17:24, “Thou hast loved me before the foundations of the world,” was eternally the only worthy object of the love of the Father. We were no worthy objects - at least I was not. But there was eternally one perfectly worthy object of the perfect love of the Father. And we can say, vice versa. “I love the Father” (John 14: 31). But when God revealed His love to us we were unworthy. Let us not think that we, the sinners, were the first objects of the love of God. No, there was eternal love between the Father and His only-begotten, His only, His unique Son. And this Son - the object of the perfect love, and this was reciprocal - God did not spare (Romans 8: 32) He did not spare His own Son but gave Him for us all, His only-begotten, His only Son, that we might live through Him. Of that eternal life we have heard a little, so we see that these names are linked with each other to form a perfect pattern, a perfect picture. He sent, He gave His only-begotten Son.
Here in the First Epistle of John, the name “only-begotten Son” occurs only once, but in the gospel of John it is found four times: first in John 1 verse 14, “The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” This shows us the relationship. We cannot look at the other Scriptures in John 1: 18, then chapter 3:16, “He gave His only-begotten Son” and once more in verse 18. Of the five times this expression is mentioned in John's writings, there is only one in this epistle.
“The Saviour of the World”
The last name or title to which I should wish to draw your attention is in chapter 4 verse 14 where we have the words, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world”. Here we listen to apostolic speech. “We” means the apostles, not us, the believers. We haven't seen Him with our eyes. But the apostles could say, “We have seen, and testify”. And what did they testify? “... that the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world”. This is also an expression unique to John. It is a very well-known expression, and frequently used, yet only found in John, and not only here. In John's gospel it comes from the mouths of the whole company of people to whom the woman at the well of Sychar had spoken of the Lord Jesus (John 4 verse 41). “And more a great deal believed on account of his word; and they said to the woman, It is no longer on account of thy saying that we believe, for we have heard him ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.” The Lord Jesus, the Son of God, is the Saviour of the world. Saviour means somebody who brings salvation, somebody who takes men out of their state of perdition and brings them to salvation, into nearness of God, into His communion. But for this He had to die. The Son of God had to die on the cross of Calvary. John 3:16 says: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him may not perish, but have life eternal”. That's the one of only two ways. That's why we have need of a Saviour so that we could have eternal life.
In looking at all these wonderful names of our Lord, it was my desire to deepen our understanding a little for the wonderful language and words John uses as to the Lord Jesus, the Son of God. He is our Saviour. And this is the way, the only way for man to know the Lord Jesus. Perhaps there are one or two here who do not know the Lord Jesus as Saviour. Perhaps you may have thought, “What is this man speaking about? I can't understand a bit,” because if the Lord Jesus is not your Saviour you cannot understand anything about Him, the Son of God. You cannot understand anything about the most precious Person that has ever lived in this world – the Lord Jesus, my Saviour. I hope He will be yours too.