Who is Jesus?

STUDY ONE: WHO IS JESUS? 1John 1:1 - 4

© Rosemary Bardsley 2022

John begins his first letter with a strong affirmation of both the real deity and the real humanity of Jesus Christ.

Read 1John 1:1 – 4. How does he affirm
That Jesus Christ is fully and truly God?



That Jesus is fully and truly human?



Sixty years after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, John was still excited and overwhelmed by this truth about the two natures of Jesus Christ. It is the theme of his gospel. It is the theme of his letters. And it is a dominant theme in Revelation. Near the end of his gospel he stated the purpose of his inclusions: ‘...these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’ (John 20:31) – that the ordinary human being – ‘Jesus’ – is ‘the Christ’, that is, ‘the Son of God.’ John knew that this belief is not just an academic debate to be discussed by theologians, but without any real significance. John knew that what we believe about Jesus of Nazareth impacts not only our life in this world, but also our eternal destiny.


John refers to the true and full deity of Jesus Christ is several ways:

A.1 ‘That which was from the beginning ...’
John is here referring to Jesus as the one who has always existed. When everything else began he already existed. This is the same truth that John referred to in the first verse of his gospel, where he clearly and deliberately identified Jesus as God:

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’

And reflects the opening phrase of the Bible:

‘In the beginning God ...’ (Genesis 1:1).

It is also similar to concepts in Revelation:

‘“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”’ (Revelation 1:8).

‘I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One ...’ (Revelation 1:17, 18).

‘These are the words of him who is the First and the Last ...’ (Revelation 2:8).

‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the end’ (Revelation 21:6).

‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End’ (Revelation 22:13).

If you look at these statements from Revelation, you will find that some are spoken by or about Jesus Christ, and some are spoken by God. Jesus Christ refers to himself in the same way that God refers to himself. What is true of God is also clearly true of Jesus Christ.

The writer to the Hebrews affirms this eternal existence Jesus Christ.

Check these verses from Hebrews. What do they say about this?
Hebrews 1:8 – 12



When John refers to Jesus as ‘That which was from the beginning ...’ he is affirming that Jesus is really and fully God.

A.2 ‘... the Word of life. The life ... the eternal life ...’
Three times in two verses John affirms an essential connection between Jesus Christ and life.

Jesus is

‘the Word of life’ – verse 1.
‘the life’ – verse 2.
‘the eternal life’ – verse 2.

Again this parallels his statements in the opening verses of his gospel:


‘Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men’ (John 1:3, 4).

This essential connection between Jesus Christ and life can be seen right through John’s Gospel. While this connection is true of physical life, it is also, importantly, true of spiritual life.

Check these verses from John’s Gospel. What does John say about Jesus and life?









We could add to these John’s references to ‘eternal life’.

Check these verses from John’s gospel. How do they connect ‘eternal life’ with Jesus Christ?








Later in his first letter John again refers to the connection between Jesus Christ and life:

‘And this is what he promised us – even eternal life’ – 1John 2:25.

‘And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life’ – 1John 5:11, 12.

‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life’ – 1John 5:13.

‘He is the true God and eternal life’ – 1John 5:20.

John, in both his gospel and his first letter, makes it very clear that Jesus Christ is truly God: he is the eternally existing one who was there in the beginning. From him everything else has its origin and its life. This is not only true in a physical sense. It is also true in a spiritual sense – that only in a right relationship with him do we have spiritual life. And a right relationship with Jesus Christ is a right relationship with God.

But, unlike our physical life, which we all have received from his hand, and which began before we were born, eternal life is not something that we can take for granted. It is not something that we are born with. Rather, it is something we are born without. The Bible teaches that because of sin, both the sin of our first ancestor, Adam (Romans 5:12), and our own sins (Ephesians 2:1 – 5), we are spiritually dead. We are separated from God, the source of spiritual life.

A change in our relationship with God has to take place before we experience ‘eternal life’; this change is expressed in our response to Jesus Christ.

John puts it this way:

It is to those who believe in him that eternal life is given – John 3:16.

It is those who come to him who are permanently satisfied spiritually – John 5:35.

It is those who follow him who never walk in darkness but have the light of life – John 8:12.

It is those who believe in him who live, even though they die – John 11:25.

It is those who believe that Jesus is the Christ who are born of God – 1John 5:1.

It is those who believe in the name of the Son of God who have eternal life – 1John 5:13.

To know Jesus Christ is to know God (John 14:5 – 9). To believe in Jesus Christ is to believe in God (John 12:44). To see Jesus Christ is to see God (John 12:45). The flesh and blood Jesus whom John clearly remembers (1John 1:1 – 3) is none other than the true God (1John 5:20).

To have received Jesus Christ, to have believed in him, is also to have received eternal life. John puts it very clearly:

‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him’ (John 3:36).

A.3 ‘which was with the Father ...’
In referring to Jesus Christ as ‘the Word of life’, ‘the life’ and ‘the eternal life’ John also states that he ‘was with the Father’ (1:2).

We also find this truth in John’s gospel, both in John’s words and in Jesus’ own words.

Check these verses. What do they say about Jesus’ existence with God the Father prior to his incarnation?
John 1:1, 2

John 3:17

John 4:34

John 5:36 – 38

John 6:38 – 40

John 7:28, 29

John 17:4

It is this Son of God, this Word of life, who, John says ‘appeared’ - ‘the life appeared ... the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us’ (1John 1:2).

But in what form did he appear?


It is not enough to understand and believe in the real deity of Jesus Christ. It is equally important to believe that the eternal Son of God, the Word, the Creator, came and lived among us as a real human being.

John and the other disciples had no doubts about Jesus being a real, flesh and blood human being. They had lived in his presence for three years, and they had observed him die a real human death. In addition, it was his real and obvious humanity that made the leaders of the Jews reject all of his claims to equality with God. They knew he was a real human. They knew his family – his mother, his brothers, his sisters. So they denied his deity.

When John wrote his letters, the problem he faced was the opposite: the false teaching denied the real humanity of Christ. They denied that God has come in human flesh.

So John begins his first letter affirming the real flesh and blood identity of Jesus Christ. He does so on the basis of the real life experience of himself and the other disciples - 1John 1:1, 2:

We heard him speaking.
We saw him with our eyes.
We looked at him.
We touched him with our hands.

They knew what they had seen.
They knew what they heard.
They knew what they felt with their hands.

For three years -

They had walked the dusty roads with him.
They had been in boats on the lake with him.
They had eaten with him and been invited to dinner parties with him.
They had seen him so tired that he fell asleep in a boat.

And then at the end -

They had seen him so stressed that he sweat drops of blood.
They had seen his blood, they had seen his broken flesh.
They had seen him die.

And they had seen him alive after his death, with the marks of the nails still in his hands, and the hole left by the soldier’s spear still in his side.

Yes. They knew he was a real human being.

What the false teachers were saying towards the end of the first century separated the human Jesus from the Christ. They taught:

That Jesus of Nazareth was just an ordinary human being, the natural child of both Joseph and Mary. (They denied the virgin birth.)

That immediately after this ordinary human Jesus was baptised the Spirit of God came upon Jesus (seen in the form of a dove.)

That before his death, this divine Spirit departed from Jesus.

The Jesus who died was just an ordinary human, nothing more.

(If you want to read more about this, check out ‘gnosticism’, particularly in relation to the New Testament, and Cerinthus, whose teaching John opposed.)

Read these texts. What do they say that outlaws this kind of separation between the man Jesus and the divine Spirit?
Matthew 1:18 - 25


Matthew 2:3 – 6


Luke 1:26 – 37

Luke 1:39 – 45

Luke 2:8 – 12

Philippians 2:6 – 8

Hebrews 1:1 – 3

Revelation 1:17, 18


Here is a copy of the Apostles’ Creed.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

[*that is, the true Christian church of all times and all places]

How does this creed express the truth that the human Jesus was also the Son of God from his conception onwards?




Optional study: Jesus’ debate with the Jews in John 6:25 – 71
In John 6 John reports a lengthy discussion between Jesus and ‘the Jews’. We know that a ‘crowd’ is also present (verse 24, 25) and an extended group of Jesus’ regular followers (verse 60).

In this discussion Jesus repeatedly referred to both his deity and his humanity. This offended not only ‘the Jews’ but also ‘many of his disciples’. The union of ‘the Son of Man’ (the Christ) and ‘flesh’ and ‘blood’ was something that they could not stomach.

From John 6:25 – 71 list:
Statements that affirm the deity of Jesus Christ





Statements that affirm the ‘flesh’ and ‘blood’ nature, the humanity, of Jesus Christ




What did Jesus say that makes acknowledgement of his real deity and real flesh and blood essential for salvation?



How people responded to what Jesus said




In John 6:25 – 64 Jesus made multiple references to his divine nature:

He is ‘the Son of Man’ – the glorious, exalted figure of Daniel 7:13, 14 (6:27, 53, 62).
He gives eternal life (6:27, 33, 40, 47, 50, 51, 54, 57, 58, 63).
He is sent by God (6:29, 38, 39, 57).
He is the bread of God who comes down from heaven (6:32, 33, 41, 50, 58).
He is the bread of life (6:35, 48).
He came down from heaven (6:38).
He will raise people up on the last day (6:39, 44, 54).
He calls God ‘my Father’ (6:40).
He is ‘from God’ (6:46).
Only he has seen the Father (6:46).
He is the living bread that came down from heaven (6:51).
He ascends to where he was before (6:62).

But he also made strong reference to his flesh and blood:

He gives his flesh for the life of the world (6:51).
... ‘eating’ his flesh, and ‘drinking’ his blood is necessary for eternal life (6:51, 53, 54, 55, 56).

Jesus’ statements in this chapter firmly contradict the false teaching that John speaks against in his first letter. Here Jesus himself owns his physical body. He refers to ‘my flesh’, and ‘my blood’. It is ‘my flesh, which I give for the life of the world’. The physical body that was given, that died on the cross, was the physical body of the one who was sent from heaven by the Father. And that, Jesus says, is something that we need to ‘eat’ in order to have eternal life – that is, it is something that we need to accept, to appropriate. If we cannot accept that the Christ, the Son of God, came in a real physical body, then we have no part in him, or in his death.

Leon Morris writes:

On 6:50: ‘... (“eat” is in the aorist tense, of the once-for-all action of receiving Christ)’

On 6:51 ‘... “eat” (aorist tense) refers to the act of appropriating Christ. Any man who takes this decisive action will live for ever, the positive statement balancing the negative of the previous verse. In the manner of v.35 this constitutes an invitation to eat. In a very startling statement Jesus defines the bread that He will give as His flesh. The future takes it out of the realm of the general, and looks to the gift that would be made on Calvary. ... “Flesh” is a striking word. In distinction from “body” or “myself” it puts a marked emphasis on the physical side of life. It is a strong word and one bound to attract attention. Its almost crude forcefulness rivets attention on the historical fact that Christ did give Himself for man.’ The Gospel According to John, 1971, Eerdmans.


It is evident from this discourse that Jesus Christ understood that he was both divine and human – Son of God the Father, Son of Man, but also comprised of flesh, his own flesh, which he would give in a sacrificial death, for the life of the world.