1 John 1: 5-10:
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Christian life is the dilemma we have when we know and understand the might and power of God, his omniscience, his omnipresence, and therefore understanding that he is in total control over all things at all times, no matter what happens. We take that and allow it to undermine the weight that is upon us when it comes to obeying the word of God, undermining the responsibilities that we have. This is the dilemma that I talk of, for instance, when we think about prayer. We understand from Isaiah and Psalms that Our God is such that even before we pray, even before we utter the words, he knows them altogether. Even before we ask, he has answered them. And so our immediate reaction, in the times we are lazy to pray is “oh it is okay, he already knows. I don’t need to pray”. But the bible does not say that the command is still to ask, ask and you shall receive, how will you receive if you do not ask? It says in James that, you have not because you ask not. The command to pray is all over the bible. So even though God has full knowledge, it does not apply to the degree that you are exempted from your duties.
Much more is this sort of practical dilemma when it comes to the matter of our sanctification when it comes to us growing in holiness. Often, we grow lethargic about the good fight that we are called to fight, by saying “Oh what do I have to worry about, Jesus has already saved me. I just need to live my life and Go to heaven.” Yes, you don’t have to worry, Jesus truly has saved you, but what you are going to do about it matters, for Jesus calls you to obey him.
- When we receive the rebuke of this degree, asking us not to be complacent about the life that Jesus has gifted us with we often tend to go into this sort of rampage trying to reach this imaginary level of spiritual perfection.
- If not that, especially as young Christians, we are left in this confusion, saying “Well I am saved by faith, my works don’t save me. So why should I put all this effort into trying to satisfy him”
- All Good questions, all good dilemmas to be in should they be answered and guided right through the word of God.
If these doubts were left unanswered, I can summarise them into these broad questions:
- Now that Jesus has saved me, I know that he will work in me through the holy spirit and sanctify me to perfection. But what is expected of me in all this? Am I to work hard for spiritual perfection? Or to not worry too much about how holy I am, or the commandments I have to follow, and just let God do his purification.
- Most of us in one way or another still have these questions, at one point or another, or our lives tend to reflect a type of living that shows us to be people who still haven’t gotten this figured out.
So this set of passages from John is essentially meant to guide his readers in a manner that there no more confusion about this topic, about the topic of sanctification and what should do as Christians to obey God as he sanctifies. Or in other words, what is the Christian expected to do, for his sanctification?
On a side note, I am excited to go through this text with you all this morning because there are so many deep biblical truths that these set of passages teach that should enable us to live our Christian lives like we ought to.
As we go into the text, I want all of you to keep the structure of the text in your mind, how John has organized these passages. It is very simple.
- There first section, Verse 5, gives us the foundation, the key principle that we need to understand before we think about sanctification.
- The next section, Verses 6 and 7, gives us the application of this understanding from Verse 5, how am I to apply this to my life concerning my sanctification now that I know what verse 5 is teaching me?
- The last section is, Verse 8-10, which gives us an explanation of the application. He gives this explanation by way of a few warnings and teaches us how not to apply this to our lives.
To summarize, verse 5: foundation, verses 6-7: application, and verses 8-10: Explanation.
Let’s start with verse 5, the foundation.
- This is the foundation, that God IS THE LIGHT. We are not new to this image of God, are we? It is all over the bible. For instance:John as he talks about Jesus at the very beginning of his Gospel account,
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.Or in the old testament as David calls to God,
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
- God is explicitly referred to as light.
So what does it mean to say God is light?
- The picture of light in itself has a lively effect to it doesn’t it, as opposed to darkness? For instance in movies, we see a setting that is meant to show, liveliness, happiness or success, we never see a scene that is all dark, rainy probably, with silence all over, that immediately spells out a dull atmosphere. Darkness has that effect on it, and light on the other hand does not. You see a well-lit setting, the flowers blooming left right and centre, the sun shining bright and all that, and you immediately get a sense of happiness and joy.
- Similarly, in the scripture, we have the word light being used to refer to good things or to paint a good scene, all the time.
For instance in Philippians 2:15 “God’s children who are “blameless and pure” to shining stars in the sky, they shine as light into this world.”
And not just that, in a similar fashion, the bible often refers to good attributes, such as righteousness, goodness, and purity using the word: light.
In Provers 4:18, righteousness is referred to as the “morning sun”.
- In Matthew 5:16, Jesus pictures good works using the word light: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds”
So we can sum it up to say, that word light is synonymous with all good things, love, purity, goodness, kindness, righteousness and so on.
- So therefore one side of the meaning, when we say God is Light, is that it means everything good, all the attributes that relate to goodness, like purity and righteousness, he is that.
- Now the word ’is’, in the sentence “God is light” is very important.
- It is not the same as saying, for instance, Michelle is good. There is a definition of Goodness, and she possesses the quality of a good person.
- But when we say God is good, we do not mean the same thing. He does not possess the quality of a good person, he is the very definition of the word good. We understand what it means to be good to him.
- Or similar to when we say God is Love. He is simply not a being that can love, he is the very definition of the word Love. Out of him flows love in perfection.
- So when we say God is light, in all the attributes that it stands for, purity, goodness, righteousness etc. we mean that he IS all those things, he is the very definition of all those things.
- And now we go back to any other verse in the bible that refers to him as the light, it makes more sense.
For instance, in John 8:12 where Jesus himself uses the same language, he says
12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world.”
So let us imagine a world, filled with darkness, filled with sin, with no hope whatsoever, reserved for damnation. Then God from the heavens shines a light down on the world, by the name of Jesus, he is the guiding light that he sends down so that his elect may find their way out of sin, out of the darkness. This light is the very source of all things good, and everything in this world that is not of this light is not good. He lights the path to salvation and reconciliation with God. If therefore, anyone wishes to walk the path of righteousness, walk the good walk towards eternal life, there is only one pathway that leads you to it, and it is the one that is lit by the light of Jesus Christ.
- No matter what definition the world might have for good, if that is not of Jesus, it is not truly good
- Whatever path the world might have for salvation, if it is not a path that is lit up by this light, it is a path of destruction
Jesus is our guiding light, he is the only guiding light that shines out perfect goodness. There is not a speck of sin, dirt or darkness that is in him, just perfection.
And this is the foundation that John lays out for us in verse 5, God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. -> there is nothing imperfect about him.
By foundation, John means to state that we need to understand this principle understanding if we desire to make sense of the remainder of the passage and therefore this lays the bedrock for our study this morning.
Now we move on to the next section of our study today, which is the application, verses 6 and 7.
6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
There are 2 sides to this application, one that talks of darkness, walk in darkness, what we should avoid doing and another of light, walk in the light, that we should try to do.
Let us look at the two aspects of the application that John is exhorting us on.
Walking in Darkness
From what we have learned so far, we see that Jesus Is the light of this world. Take the entire world, and there is one source of light. There is one source of all goodness and truth. As a believer, you are under that light, you can see the world because of the light from this source. The Bible says, he is the only source of this light, therefore for whoever is not exposed to his light, all they see is darkness, right?
So let us imagine this, let us cut that source of light completely and take all those who are exposed to this light out of the scene. There is no light, and all that remains in this world are those who cannot see this light, unbelievers.
So, when scripture uses imagery, it usually refers to this, the absence of truth and light, the absence of Jesus, and the result thereof, therefore utter darkness and hopelessness.
We see the same imagery, that of Darkness and of light in other parts of scripture, that is, in Matthew’s account of the start of Jesus’ ministry.
Matthew 4: 15-16:
15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”
The land of Zebulun and Naphtali Is called the land of the Gentiles, the land where all the cast-out folk live. As we see in the book of judges, these were the people that failed to fulfil the commandments of God, and so even according to the Jewish standards, these people did not know God at all.
- So there you have it, a land filled with people who do not know the Lord, described as a land filled with darkness. The absence of the knowledge of God is attributed to darkness.
- Then comes Jesus, walking into this land to begin his ministry and he is called the light, the light that dawned on this dark forsaken land, the light that came as hope and salvation to this land.
And so the question that should arise is, but as believers, that does not apply to us, does it? For we are not those that are in utter darkness, we are not blinded. We are his elect, who are a new creation, we are not veiled from this light anymore, but we are exposed to this light. Therefore, we are not in darkness.
So what does this darkness here mean then?
John does not write this to unbelievers, he is writing this house churches and in Ephesus, to those who are believers. What does John refer to as darkness here, concerning believers?
We need to observe the way John writes to be able to see what he means here specifically, as he says darkness. He writes in the Gospel account, (John 2:8) in chapter 8, The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. The same language is used in the epistle of John, that is the second chapter of this epistle (1 John 2:17), where he says, “The world is passing away and the desire of it.”
“The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” -> “The world is passing away and the desire of it.”
So to walk in darkness is to desire the things of the world, the things that are not a part of this light, the things that are against this light.
So can a Christian walk in darkness from time to time? Yes. We are still sinners and we desire the things of this world in our sin from time to time and end up sinning.
But can a Christian walk in darkness such that he ends up in utter darkness, completely blinded and unable to see Jesus, bound to hell? Yes and No.
- A Christian can walk in darkness, persisting in sin in a manner that he displays the fruit of the wolf, only desiring the things of the world and satisfying the desires of the flesh.
- The Bible says, that they are those who are given over to Satan for they were never of God, to begin with.
So there we have it, John writing about those that persist in walking in darkness, those that lie that they have fellowship with Jesus, while they truly do not and says to us, do not be like them, not even desire anything of this work, do not desire darkness like them. But instead, desire the light, walk in the light, it says in verse 7.
Walking in the light
When we said verses 6 and 7 where John gives us the application, we already see that he points to the negative side of the application, to walk in darkness, and asks us to avoid it. Now moving on to the positive side, verse 7:
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
The Greek word for a walk means to tread or to move forward, and it specifically points to the effort put into action.
- Therefore if, the light means good things, all good characters, everything that leads to the path of life in Christ, then to walk in the light means to willingly take an effort to do things that are defined to be good by the word of God.
- So, even though it is hard, as you take the step to be an obedient son child at home, put in the hard effort and study, put in the extra hours to be best at what you do, be at war with the flesh and yet fight against the temptations and weaknesses of the flesh, love and care for your wife, or to take care of and to bring up your children in the admonition of the Lord; whatever be the effort you are willingly putting into for the sake of Christ, all of it is you walking in the light.
Therefore, John says, if you put effort into being Christ-like or like 1 John 5 says, through your love for Jesus, you follow his commandments, then you walk in the light.
I just love the way John Piper puts it, regarding this matter:
“If God is light, and in him is no darkness at all, then he is the bright pathway to the fulfilment of all our deepest longings. He is the deliverer of all dark dangers and obstacles to joy. He is the infinitely desirable One. If in his light he shines forth as a Being of infinite worth, then he is the star of glory that we were made to admire and cherish. If God opens the eyes of our hearts to see all that, then our desires are captured by the surpassing glory of God over everything that the world has to offer, and we walk in the light as he is in the light.”
The way John structures his plea to walk in the light is by stating that if we do this, we will be rewarded in two ways:
- We will have fellowship with one another, that if with God and our fellow believers
- We will be cleansed by the blood of Christ
Have fellowship with one another
- When John says if we fellowship with one another, what does he mean?
- In the immediate context of this verse, he seems to be talking about God
- In the larger context he is, as we look back at the verses that precede this verse, we see that he refers to one another as, the fellowship with fellow believers.
- So therefore, when we take into consideration the context of everything that John has written so far we see that when he says fellowship with one another, he does simply mean with God or our fellow believers but with both.
- Our vertical relationship with God is impacted when desire the things of the Lord, when we actively take steps to move towards God, that is to walk in the light, that vertical relationship impacts our horizontal relationship, that is the relationship with our fellow believers. To immediate blessing you receive when you walk in the light is that you are given a deeper fellowship with God and therefore a deeper fellowship with your fellow believers.
Cleansing from all our sins by the Blood of Jesus Christ
- The blood of Christ cleanses away our sins,
- Hebrews 9:24 has this to say about the cleansing work of Christ: The blood of Christ . . . will cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
- The blood of Christ . . . will cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
- We will have a desire for sin, his blood that saves us will clear our conscience and help us work against thereby helping us fight it.
- We know, God wants to do this because We see that Jesus inf act hates sin, and cannot stand through it, so he had to destroy it: we see him say this in the next few chapters
- Chapter 3: Verses 8-9
- “He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God.”
- This is called progressive sanctification.
- But Christ’s blood also cleanses us, in a way that Romans 5:9 says we are cleaned:
- Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”
- That is, once we are saved, we are washed by the blood of Christ in a manner that, we are justified once and for all, punishment for our sins has been paid for, and we are forgiven through our faith in Christ
- We are called to live out this justification through the act of forgiveness, the reason God is open-heartedly able to forgive us the moment we repent to him and plead for his mercy is that the full penalty is paid for in Christ, and we can be exempted of it, forgiven that is when we cry out to him.
- That is why it says in verse 9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
- This is the doctrine of justification and the text says this blessing we have when we walk in the light
- When we walk in the light, we are cleansed by his blood, such that we are not only justified, that our sins have all been forgiven, but we are actively being sanctified, that the blood of christ is causing in us an ability to fight temptation and therefore fight sin, allowing us to grow in holiness, to be sanctified that is.
So, sum up, as we walk in the light, the blessings that we attain our fellowship with God, Fellowship without fellow believers, and to wrap it all together, we are cleansed by the blood of Christ, justified and continually being sanctified.
We need to go back now and overserve further the nature in which John states this sentence. Just verse 7. It is very key that we get this point, should we miss it, we miss the entire point of our study this morning. Wherever our thoughts are, whatever we are writing, I want all to keep it away and pay close attention to this part of our study.
John says here that, that you walk in the light, you have fellowship with God, with other believers, and cleansing by his blood, all very core aspects of our Christian life, Justification is a key aspect of the salvation that God gives us, so, therefore, the fellowship that we have with God now that we are justified. But John does not state it as a sort of natural blessing. “You say you’re a Christian? Great here are your blessings.” No, he does not say that rather he puts it as a condition. The fact that that sentence has an if defines the very structure of what John is trying to teach us.
He says if you walk in the light.
- Let’s invert that, if you do not walk in the light, you do not have fellowship with God, nor are you justified by the blood of Christ. He just ripped off the very essence of salvation, all on the aspect of whether or not you are walking in the light.
- To put that into a clearer sentence, the passage says that, if you do not walk in the light you are NOT saved.
- He does this for 2 reasons:
- This is put forward as a direct warning for those that simply proclaim that they are saved, that they have faith that a man called Jesus died 2,000 years ago for them. They say they believe but it is such that they desire things of the world, they are into all sorts of sin. They don’t fellowship with believers because the other priorities, they are least bothered about prayer because prayer seems to be a waste of time, I can go on listing out more grievous sins that one can persist in, all to state only this, a life that he lives is that of one that desires the things of the world, but yet he says he is a believer. To those that do not walk in the light, they do not have fellowship with God, if they say they do, they are liars, it says here in verse 6 that are not even cleansed by the blood of Christ.
- In reply to that, if the Calvinist in you argues that “hey, I have faith in Christ, and I believe we are saved by faith in Christ, not by our works. My walk in the light does not attain my salvation!”
- If that is your argument, then amen brother or sister. John here does not in any way argue against what you but validates what you just said.
- Yes, if you have genuine faith in the Lord, you will be saved. But how do we know of this genuineness? The Bible says in Matthew 7:16 that you will know them by their fruit.
- So, it is by faith that God gifts you with salvation, but that faith if genuine, will result in good works, will result in works that enable you and others around you to grow to affirm your faith.
- Do you know what good work looks like?
- Well, one of the ways that John says that it looks like is if you walk in the light. If you do not, it could mean that you do not truly have faith, faith that results in good works.
- This also means that if you say that you do believe and you have the fruit of genuine faith in your life, now that John is asking of us to walk in the light, we are then to go into a mindless marathon, desperately trying to anything and everything possible to make it looks like we are doing a lot of “Holy” things, therefore establishing that we are walking in the light.
- No, it simply means that, continue desiring God, seeking ways to glorify him by patiently staying away from the things of the word and continuing to seek to do more things that are of Jesus, one step at a time. There is no rush. There is no time limit or expiry to this promise, it is what you are called to do for the rest of your life.
- On the other hand, if you are at that point of your life, apart from doing seemingly Christian things like coming to church every Sunday and proclaiming that you have faith in Christ but in reality, you are daily desiring the things of the world, walking in darkness and not in the light. You are in danger of not being saved as John warns us here.
- So, it does not take rocket science to go in the right pathway from here on, you just need to see your sins, repent and weep to God to forgive you. Like it says a just in the next set of verses.
- Turn away from your old ways, seek the things of Jesus and allow other believers to come into your life, through the church so that you may keep yourself accountable and grow step by step closer to the Lord. One step at a time, walk in the light that is.
Now we make our way to the final section of our study today, that is verses 8-10, the explanation.
Explanation by way of warning
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
The reminder here is against sinless perfection, for if the blood of Christ has cleansed you in a manner that you can sin no more, you are a liar and that is not what I have taught you, John says.
- Walking in the light is meant to shine the light on sin.
- I will reveal sin and gives you a sin consciousness.
The words used by John here are very clear and strong, that is, your act of perfection is not only a sin but it is heretic, for you call God a liar if this is your outcome.
- In your sinfulness, Jesus is sinless and perfect, and he continues to bless and cleanse you.
- Therefore, if walking in darkness is your way of life, there is hope in the blood of Christ. Similarly, if you walk in the light and yet, sin, and tend to walk in darkness through your affections for the world, there is still hope, for the same blood of Christ cleanses and purifies you.
- The hope for the former and the latter group is made available through the merciful gates of repentance, which leads the way for whichever group you belong to.
I want to close by harmonizing all that has been said by John, by first bringing up a word of caution.
We as Christians often tend to get complacent and ignorant regarding the privilege that we have. The gift that is presented to us through faith:
2 Corinthians 5:17
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Beloved, we are a new creation and there is nothing natural about it for it is all a supernatural outcome that only comes through the saving power of God, through the working of the Holy Spirit.
- If you look at the life of a believer and see that he can comprehend the bible, respond to sin in a manner that he is constantly at war against it, or even able to pray, something supernatural had to happen in them, that is the old self to die and the new self to be born, that enables him to do any of this.
- We must not grow in ignorance of the beauty of this privilege that we have as believers.
- Therefore, if we can look at the words of John this morning, and understand and respond to them by walking in the light, the supernatural power of God has to work in us to bring about such a reaction.
Let us look forward with Joy, knowing that although we do not deserve even to comprehend this truth, we are given the ability to respond to it, and it is the God of our universe that enables us to do so.
With this hope in our hearts, let us walk in the light, walk with Jesus.