1 John 1
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 sin.
8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
(1 John 1:5-10, NIV)
The Daily DAVEotional
The letter of 1 John contains the familiar light/darkness motif that John is known for in his gospel, in which the word “light” shows up 24 times.
John uses the idea of light to depict moral purity and absolute righteousness, whereas darkness refers to sin or unrighteousness.
In this passage, John declares that “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all”, signifying that God is completely righteous and without sin.
John then proceeds to give some qualifications for how we, as believers, can experience fellowship with God. Here are some of the highlights:
- Verse 6 says that we cannot experience fellowship with God if we are walking in the darkness. But what does that mean? Well, if darkness refers to sin and unrighteousness, then walking in the darkness must mean that we are walking in unrighteousness.
- Verse 7 says that if we walk in the light then we WILL experience fellowship with one another and our sin will be purified by the blood of Jesus.
- In verse 8, John tells us that anyone who claims to be without sin is deceiving themselves.
- In verse 9, John tells us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all sin.
- Finally, verse 10 tells us that anyone who claims that they haven’t sinned is making God out to be a liar!
So what do these verses really tell us? It seems that if we want to experience fellowship with God then we cannot walk in unrighteousness, which one might conclude means that we cannot sin.
Yet verses 8 and 10 tell us that anyone who claims to be without sin is deceiving themselves and calling God a liar.
So if fellowship with God requires sinlessness, we are in trouble, because sinlessness is an impossible standard and John himself has said that we can’t claim to be without sin without deceiving ourselves and making God out to be a liar.
So what is really going on here?
To answer this question, I want to appeal to a mathematical law known as syllogism.
The law of syllogism demonstrates the relationship between multiple statements.
For example, if “a” leads to “b” and “b” leads to “c”, then it logically follows that “a” leads to “c”.
Stay with me here because this isn’t as complicated as it may appear. Here is how this relates to this passage. Look particularly at verses 7 & 9.
In verse 7, John says that (A) “walking in the light” leads to “fellowship with God” and (C) “our sin being purified by the blood of Jesus.”
In verse 9, John says that (B) “confessing our sin” leads to “God forgiving our sins” and (C) “purifying us from all unrighteousness.”
Notice that in both verse 7 and verse 9 there are two different actions (A & B) that both lead to the same result: being purified of our sin/unrighteousness. Here it is in simplified form:
- (A) “walking in the light” leads to (C) “our sin being purified by the blood of Jesus.”
- (B) “confessing our sin” leads to (C) “being purified from all unrighteousness.”
What does this tell us? It tells us that there is a relationship between “walking in the light” and “confessing our sins” since both lead to “our sin/unrighteousness being purified.”
So, do you want to experience fellowship with God? John says you have to walk in the light. But what does that mean? Fortunately, the law of syllogism helps us by helping us see how John defined what it means to walk in the light. It means that we are in the habit of confessing our sins and experiencing God’s forgiveness.
Walking in the light does not require some kind of sinless perfection, as John has established that everyone sins and we can’t say that we haven’t sinned.
Walking in the darkness means that when I do sin, I fail to confess it. As a result, I begin to live in rebellion towards God and I cease to experience daily forgiveness for my sins and shortcomings. The result of this is a lack of growth, as I wrote in my recent blog post “Why Some Christians Never Grow“.
Walking in the light simply means that when I do sin, I submit myself to God’s authority and I confess my sin. Confession involves agreeing with God regarding His moral standards. It also involves repentance, which is a posture of humility and openness to God.
The benefits of this simple habit of confession are enormous. We experience daily cleansing from our sins and we continue to experience fellowship with God and with other believers!
What has been your understanding of the concept of “walking in the light”? How would you have described it to another person?
How important has the habit of confession been in your own spiritual journey? What makes it hard for you to confess your sins regularly?
What do you think are the connections between lack of confession and walking in unrighteousness? What are some of the reasons or factors that make it tempting for you and other believers to walk in the darkness instead of walking in the light?
John says in verse 6 that some people claim to have fellowship with God but they’re actually walking in the darkness. What do you think characterizes the lifestyle of this person? What does it look like to walk in darkness but claim to be in fellowship with God?