Having seen the tumultuous religious climate into which John is writing this epistle (with all kinds of “-isms”) and that fellowship is rooted in the apostolic witness of Christ’s life (1.1-4), we now turn our attention to the moral nature (perfect) and how we might have fellowship with this perfect God (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.
The message we have heard – their epistemology (source of information) is Jesus; ours is the apostles.
God is light – Not a cosmic luminary (i.e. the sun, stars), not physical; this is a symbol of God’s moral perfection. Further, John establishes the standard by which every issue of morality must be measured.
No darkness at all—again, not physical; this (darkness) is a symbol of moral imperfection. Hence, there is not a hint of darkness whatsoever in God (cf. Habakkuk 1.13; James 1.17).
6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
If we say… – this is a catch phrase John will use to expose religious and doctrinal error.
We have fellowship with him (that is, God) while we walk in darkness – John introduces two key concepts here: fellowship and walk.
Walk – this defines a settled practice, a career. It has definite characteristics: direction, progression/continuity, destiny, separation, companionship. To claim fellowship have an improper walk means you 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.
But – here is the contrast to the preceding verse.
If – this is conditional.
We walk in the light – here is the Christian’s career: to live according to the standard. We make it our aim/goal to live for and like God (Jesus Christ). The standard is ever and always before us. Our direction is toward God. Our walk is progressive (cf. Rom 6.19). Our destiny is heaven. We separate from sin more and more. And we have companionship with God, Christ, and one another.
As he is in the light – God is light and is in the light (cf. 1 Timothy 6.16).
We have fellowship with one another – this is the fellowship a Christian with his/her God. Since God is perfect, he cannot fellowship anything less than perfect. Hence, we stand before God, in the presence of God perfect. “We have” it…now!! It is a present reality. How?
The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin – While our aim is perfection, practically we do fail; we sin. Yet, that sin does not break fellowship with God. How? The blood of Jesus continues to cleanse us, keeping sin from ever reaching the record book (cf. Psalm 32.1). Hence, a progressive walk in the light = progressive fellowship with God = progressive cleansing from the blood of Jesus.
All sin – if all sin is taken care of, how much remains? None. If there is even a fraction of percents worth of sin on our record, we cannot have fellowship with God. Every last bit of it must be removed. For the Christian, this is the present reality; all sin is removed making fellowship with a perfect God possible.
Perfect walk? If v.7 demands a perfect walk, what is the need for the continued cleansing of the blood of Jesus
License to sin? To begin a practice of sin would be to walk in darkness, away from God. Indeed, John writes this that we sin not (2.1; cf. Rom 6.1). The highest motivation for clean living is what Christ has done for us.
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we say… – again, catch phrase to catch these erroneous teachers.
We have no sin – this is a present tense verb. This is a refutation of those Gnostic teachers and ascetics who were saying that they could live above the world and therefore above sin. Somehow, of their own ability and power, they could be free from sin. This man admits a standard and assumes he is keeping it perfectly; in reality, he does not live by the standard.
But John says if we say that we deceive ourselves (self-deception, you lie to yourself) and the truth is not in us. This person is living by the wrong standard: his own. Every person must acknowledge before the holy God that although we acknowledge the standard and live according to that standard, we will fail to keep that standard perfectly. We have sin; that we must confess.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we confess our sins – What is confession? Greek – homologeo, homo- (same), -logeo (from logos, word). Hence, confession is “to speak the same word.” If we say the same word about our sins…same word as whom? God. We admit before Almighty God we are sinners, we have sinned, we will sin. We agree with God the Father that there is a mark (standard) and we have missed it. Characteristics of a confessor: admits and acknowledges the standard, admits deviation, pleads for help, and expresses gratitude.
He is faithful and just – that is, God is faithful and just. He is a promise making and promise keeping God. Truth him and he will forgive. But he is also “just” or “righteous.” That’s his nature – 100% light. So it is right for God to forgive this person. Again, two very important conditions: walk in the light, acknowledge sin and be grateful. Based on His faithfulness and his “right-ness” he acts on our behalf.
To forgive us our sins – Indeed, this forgiveness touches not only the guilt of our sins, but also the penalty of them. Christ on the cross receives the full force of the wrath of God poured out on (our) sins and by his blood and death we find forgiveness of our sins.
To cleanse us from all unrighteousness – As seen in v.7, this cleansing is continual (predicated upon our living according to the conditions aforementioned). And the cleansing points us to the blood of Jesus. His blood cleanses us of ALL unrighteousness. Again, if all is removed, how much remains?
Every sin? If we must confess every sin, we are in trouble. There is no way (unless we are omniscient) that we can know every sin we have ever committed and tell God about them all. Further, God (who is omniscient) knows our every sin and does not need an update.
No specific sin? There are sins that can plague us (possibly our entire life) which we struggle with. These should be taken to the Father often and we should be seeking His help to rid ourselves of those sins which can wreck our walk.
Arrogant attitude? This would go against everything we have discussed about confession. Sin is serious and we should be mindful of sin around and sins we commit. But to acknowledge God as a faithful forgiver or to express gratitude for His forgiveness is not arrogant.
10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
If we say – catch phrase used to expose some error.
We have not sinned – perfect tense verb. This person says he does not presently nor has he ever sinned! Pretty serious claim. Who is John exposing? Perhaps the antinomian (outlaw attitude) or the Epicurean—both parties were focused on indulgence and sins of the body had no effect upon the soul. Perhaps also the Gnostic – this mindset that Jesus came to save the soul from the body.
We make him (God) a liar – How? God says we have sinned and commit sin. This person says he has not.
His word is not in us – there is no place for it. This communicates a severing of communication.
Ch. 1 has dealt with sin as a moral issue and the only way to have fellowship with God is if we 1) walk in the light and 2) live a life of confession. Ch. 2 will deal with sin from a judicial perspective and the need for a defender.