Wednesday, August 12, 2009

1 John 1:5-7

V5-7 – 5This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But 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, purifies us from all [or, every] sin.

John in v6, gives the first error of the false teachers that he wants to address in this letter: “If we claim to have fellowship with [God] yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” The false teachers claimed to have fellowship with God, yet they walked in the darkness. So John calls them liars, and he says that they “do not live by the truth.” In other words, the false teachers propose that sin doesn’t matter, that we can walk in sin and still fellowship with God. John responds to their error with three statements. First, in v5, John says, “God is light,” not darkness. Second, in v6, John points out that the false teachers are liars, noted by their hypocrisy. And third, in v7, John says that the pursuit of holiness, walking in the light, along with the forgiveness of sins, is evidence of fellowship with God.

In v5, John reiterates the message, or more literally “the promise,” he’s been declaring, which he heard from Jesus: “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” In other words, God is holy. It’s the same terminology used in the prologue of his gospel. Light refers to moral purity and omniscience, leading to our need to confess sin and receive forgiveness. John’s point here is that the truth ought to define our behavior. God is holy, and we believe that God is holy, so we ought to live holy lives. “Be holy as God is holy” (1 Corinthians 1:2; Hebrews 12:14). It’s a simple doctrinal declaration that demands an appropriate response. If you really believe that God is holy, then you will strive for holiness. Therefore, as one preacher noted, “To claim to have fellowship with a God who is light, a God who is pure, and yet to live in contradiction of that light in our own lives reveals hypocrisy.”

That preacher continued, “John is stressing is that a life bent in a godward direction, a life spent in the pursuit of godliness, a life which manifests a person’s heart desire to be holy, to be morally like his heavenly Father or her heavenly Father: that kind of life reveals God’s grace. And correspondingly, a life that is lived away from God, a life that has a bent toward sin, a life that does not manifest a concern for godliness or uprightness shows a lack of grace in the heart. Just as a life bent in a godward direction shows God’s work of grace in the heart, so also a life bent away from God shows a lack of God’s work of grace in the heart. And so [John] begins with whom God is in order to show us that anyone who says that you can live however you want in sin and in immorality and still have fellowship with God doesn’t really know much about the God of the Bible.”

John might conclude here, “Don’t tell me that you believe the truth; instead show me by doing the truth.” He sounds a lot like James (James 2:14-16); and it’s no wonder that Martin Luther called Satan the “prince of darkness.” John wraps up by declaring that the pursuit of holiness proving our fellowship with God (and with one another) must necessarily involve the forgiveness of sin, which comes through the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9:22-28). Therefore, if you have truly trusted in Jesus Christ alone for salvation as He is offered in the gospel (not some fictitious Jesus), if you have been saved by grace through faith in Christ and not by your own deeds, then your life will exhibit consistency with what you have professed to believe. Now this life won’t be flawless, and John will address that erroneous teaching next. But, as Calvin points out, for us, “Integrity of conscience is alone that which distinguishes light from darkness.” We strive to please God; unbelievers do not.

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