The Book of 1 John
Walking in the Light
1 John 1:5-10 6/5/11 SCC
There are a number of things that we assume are necessary to enjoy a sense of fellowship, union, or camaraderie. We assume that there must be agreement for instance. Or we might assume what is required is a common enjoyment of this or that activity or hobby. We also could assume that being a similar age as well as interests are necessary for a sense of commonality. I want to suggest another component—actually the most significant one necessary to maintain our fellowship with God. It is not agreement though it includes that; nor is it common interests, though it includes that. God expects honesty and transparency of his children as a basis of holiness and thus fellowship with God. The basic principle in these verses is that since God is light believers are to walk in the light. Here John begins the first of five angles of how fellowship with God is motivated by what God has done for us. With these premises we can measure and test the reality of our personal communion with God.
WE HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH A HOLY GOD 5
In the prologue John asserts he is writing about things he has heard, seen, and touched. Here he continues with something he has heard. The message he heard is ‘from Him’ referring to Jesus Christ whose incarnation he has just mentioned.
This is the message announced to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. We cannot find this specific statement in the gospels but John heard these words even though he did not write them down in the gospel of John. John did mention at the end of his book (21:25) that Jesus taught so much more than what was ‘written down’. So this is truth he had learned form the Lord. The message is that God is holy. This is an attribute of God. He is holy. Holiness described as ‘light’ means that He both exposes and condemns sin. So holiness has a revelatory function to it. It exposes darkness since there is no darkness in Him at all! The Greek gods had darkness in them being as sinful as man is. To have a holy God we can have fellowship with is a radically new idea. The implication is living in the realm of darkness, here it refers to opposite of holiness, sin, means he is hiding from the truth which the Light reveals.
A CHRISTIAN WHO SAYS HE IS IN FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD BUT SINNING IS LYING 6
Since ‘God is Light’, i.e., holy—you cannot claim to be in communion with God while disobeying Him at the same time. Truth is only within the realm of light and so if you are persisting to walk in darkness, while there and doing so, you ‘do not live by truth. Ten times John says darkness refers to sin (John 1:5; 3:19; 12:35; 1 John 1:5-6; 2:8-9, 11). John is saying something that on the one hand seems impossible—our fellowship with God is only in the realm where there is no darkness at all. That is, only with the holiness of God. This tells me that it is possible for Christians to lose touch with spiritual realities and still assume they are in close relationship with the Lord. God declares that you are lying when this happens. It does not matter at all how you might feel about it or what you might believe about it. God says you are lying. Now this is very consistent with the rest of scripture. Jesus says you cannot serve God and money. It is either one way or the other. James says a double-minded man is unstable in all of his ways. He also states that to be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God. So do not deceive yourself into thinking that you and God have fellowship and camaraderie when you decide to disobey Him and sin. Our fellowship is based in the holiness of God, which is based in our honesty about our sinful ways, and being transparent enough to confess that sin so we can stay within the realm of God’s holiness—the only place where fellowship with God is possible.
THE ONLY SPHERE OF COMMUNION WITH GOD IS THE LIGHT ITSELF 7
The basis of fellowship with God is walking in the light. This is the only realm within which a believer can find this communion. God does not fellowship with us in our sin and neither can we fellowship with him there. Only in the light can there be mutual fellowship between God and the believer ‘one another’. The light, then, the holiness of God, itself is the fundamental reality, which they share. So our responsibility is to ‘walk in the Light’. To do so suggests openness, honesty, and transparency. When you walk in the light it will expose stuff. God is not requiring sinless perfection in order to have fellowship with him. He is asking for honesty about our sin. When I am transparent, instead of hiding in the realm of darkness (sin) still claiming to have fellowship with God, then the sins I am honest about and confessing are being cleansed by the blood of Jesus God’s Son. The cross is the only basis upon which imperfect and sinful children can have their fellowship with God maintained. The power of Jesus blood is able to cleanse me as God applies it to the sin I confess to Him. This is similar to the animal sacrifice in the Mosaic Law—to maintain their fellowship with God.
CLAIMING TO HAVE NO SIN IS MISLEADING 8
For some reason, a believer may claim to not sin. In this case, you are overreaching. You will only cause yourself to wander, be misled and ‘the truth is not in you’. So what kind of self-deluding concept is being referred to here? It might be that just because you are not conscious of any sin or failure does not mean that you are free from it. If the truth is ‘in’ you as an overarching reality, then this kind of self-deception may not happen. But you have to be real and honest and transparent about yourself and your tendencies. The Bible never declares that we can be sinless. The sacrificial system was in place to manage unknown sins. There was no sacrifice for known and deliberate sin. It seems, then, that spiritual maturity is an increasing awareness of my sinful nature and ways. It also seems, that our focus should not be on sinlessness but on ‘walking in the light’. When we do that it will take care of the problem since the Light—God’s holiness and obedience in light of that—will naturally or supernaturally expose darkness in our lives. The challenge is that walking in the light will expose darkness in us all the days of our lives. That is not meant to discourage us but for us to confess and repent so we can maintain fellowship with God all of our days. In this way we can become holy as he is holy.
BE READY TO CONFESS ANY SIN GOD’S LIGHT EXPOSES IN YOUR LIFE 9
Instead of claims of sinlessness, lets be ready and willing to confess our sin ‘if we confess our sin’. What is important is what you do with what has been exposed as sin at the moment. What are you going to do with that? We are responsible to acknowledge whatever the light makes us aware of and when we do a complete and perfect cleansing is granted ‘from all unrighteousness’. So when we deal with what we do know to be sin, then there is no need to agonize over the sins of which we are unaware. The assurance is that ‘forgiveness’ is granted based on the cleansing work of Jesus blood applied to it when we do confess as in v 7 too. God is faithful and just in this regard. All of the work necessary to ensure the fellowship of God and His children was accomplished in Jesus Christ work on the cross. God was just in condemning His Son to provide the means of our salvation and to maintain fellowship between God and believers. He is faithful in this regard and cannot change any of it. It is as secure a plan as divinely possible. We can count on this to be true.
DO NOT DENY ANY SIN THAT GOD’S LIGHT EXPOSES IN YOUR LIFE 10
If you are confronted by God’s Word about sin in your life, you should admit that sin rather then deny its reality. To deny one’s personal sin in the face of God’s own testimony about it in His Word to make God out to be ‘a liar’. We are contradicting His Word. So, again, fellowship with God is maintained as we are honest about our sin and His holiness. Without transparency about our sin before God we cannot claim to have fellowship with God. The basis of that fellowship is holiness!
Many people believe that spiritual maturity is sinning less or sinlessness. But consider this:
At the beginning of Paul’s ministry he said ‘I am the least of the apostles; 1 Cor 15:9
In the middle of his ministry he said ‘I am the least of the saints’ Eph 3:8
At the end of his ministry he said ‘I am the chief of sinners’ 1 Tim 1:15
This, I suggest, is personal and spiritual maturity.