The Epistle of first John
Lesson Number 1
Getting Our Bearings
The Thrust of the Book
To briefly summarize the similarities between the Gospel of John and the Epistle of First John, both have two distinctive strata of thought. Both strata pertain to Deity: i.e., God as revealed through Jesus Christ. The two are "light" and "life." Much of the teaching of both John and First John revolve around these key concepts.
These two words are found seventeen times in First John, and are pivots upon which the message of this book revolve (1:1,2,5,7; 2:8,9,10,16,25; 3:14,15,16; 5:11,12, 13,16,20). They appear no less than fifty-times in the Gospel of John. They are, to be sure, key words of Scripture.
Applied to Deity
"Light" and "Life" are both applied to Deity. The central message of this book, for example, is "God is Light" (1:5). The Lord Jesus is said to be "in the light" (1:7). The Lord Jesus is appropriately described as "that Eternal Life, which was with the Father" (1:2). Not only are the Father and the Son Themselves "light" and "life," they are the immediate Source of them for believers. Both terms speak of illumination and spiritual vitality. The Persons of God and the Son are the only Source of understanding, insight, and spiritual life and response. These cannot be achieved independently of Them.
Intended for the Redeemed
Both "light" and "life" are intended to be experienced by the redeemed. In fact, they form the boundaries of spiritual life. Apart from them, there is no acceptance with God or triumph over the devil. Unlike the Old Covenant, the New Covenant is not a system of discipline and lifeless procedures. Understanding, receptivity, and response to God are imperative. Thus believers are said to "walk in the LIGHT as He is in the LIGHT" (1 John 1:7). It is further confirmed that our response to the people of God indicates whether or not we are "in the light" (2:9-10). Further the purpose of God for men, as revealed in Christ, is declared to "eternal life" (1 John 5:11).
This, then, is the THRUST, or EMPHASIS of this book: light and life. The discernment of saints, and their awareness they have eternal life is the point of its writing. Once we read the words, "hereby we do KNOW" (2:3). Twice we read, "hereby we KNOW" (3:19,24), and twice "Hereby KNOW we" (4:6,13). Once we read, "by this ye KNOW" (5:2), and once "that ye may KNOW" (5:13). Once we read "Hereby KNOW ye" (4:2). In addition to the above references we read "we KNOW" eight times (2:18; 3:2,14; 5:2,15,18,19,20), and "ye KNOW" seven times (2:20,21,29; 3:5,15).
Written to Bolster Confidence
This book is written to bolster the confidence of believers-to assure them of who they are and what they have obtained in Christ Jesus. The statements to which we will be subjected are powerful, and thus effective to accomplish this purpose. Recalling but a few of them will confirm this to be the case.
"But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and YOU KNOW all things" (2:20, NKJV).
"And YOU KNOW that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin" (3:5, NKJV).
"WE KNOW that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death" (3:14, NKJV).
"These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that YOU MAY KNOW that you have eternal life" (5:13, NKJV).
"WE KNOW that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (5:19, NKJV).
In all of these, and more, immediate and vital identity with both the Father and the Son are required. God will not allow His people to progress in the faith or obtain confidence independently of this involvement. Academic pursuits, however noble they may be, will not acquire these blessings. Nor, indeed, will the most rigorous personal discipline confirm to the heart what has been affirmed in these verses.
Spiritual confidence or assurance is not a luxury. It is necessity, an absolute requisite to obtaining Divine benefits and overcoming the world. Thus the Spirit identifies the nature of God and His salvation in this book. He also provides evidence of spiritual life, and assures our hearts that salvation comes with all of the resources required for both life and godliness. We must never allow the intrusion of any persuasion that takes these things from us. The body of Christ sorely needs the message of this Epistle. That, of course, is why it has been given to us. Let us receive it with joy and thanksgiving.
FIRST HAND TESTIMONY
In both references, the Spirit refers to "the beginning." Those words, of course, are used in the very first statement of inspired writing: "In the beginning God . . . " (Gen 1:1). Whether we are referring to Genesis, John, or First John, the words mean the same thing. They are not speculative words, but an expression that tells us where to begin our thinking. They define the boundary line of our present knowledge. It all started with the creation-with the genesis, or beginning, of the heavens and the earth. They are the Divinely created and appointed arena for the enactment of the drama of redemption.
Here and there, glimpses of eternity prior to the creation of the heavens and earth are given. However, there is a consistent covering of obscurity spread over them. The phrase "before the foundation of the world" is an example. In His High Priestly prayer, Jesus said the Father loved Him "before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24). He also referred to the glory He had with the Father "before the world was" (John 17:5). Those in Christ Jesus are said to have been "chosen in Him before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4). In His redemptive capacity as the Lamb of God, our Savior was "foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Pet 1:20).
There are also allusions to "the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation" (Jude 6), whom "God spared not" (2 Pet 2:4). The fall of Satan himself is also mentioned. Jesus said he "abode not in the truth" (John 8:44). Both Isaiah and Ezekiel touch on the same subject (Isa 14:12-14; Ezek 28:13-18). In the Revelation, Jesus refers to our adversary as "a great red dragon, who "drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth" (Rev 12:3-4). We assume this is a reference to the "angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation."
But none of these things are called "the beginning." They are not the point from which our thinking is to START. This means spiritual reasoning is not primarily philosophical. It is not speculative, compelling the individual to probe into areas concerning which little revelation is given. God has specified "the beginning" from which we proceed to consider the things of God, as well as our own persons.
We begin with the creation-with the forming of the environment we presently occupy. Jesus referred to "the beginning" in this sense (Matt 19:4,8; 24:21; Mk 10:6; 13:19; John 8:44). The Apostles also referred to "the beginning" in the same manner, taking us back to creation (Eph 3:9; 2 Thess 2:13; Heb 1:10; 2 Pet 3:4; 1 John 3:8).
Thus we begin with the revelation of God's purpose concerning humanity. Our reasoning is not to begin with the insurrection of the devil or the fall of the angels who sinned. Neither, indeed, are we to peer back into eternity past, developing our theology and spiritual views upon the basis of Divine choices and determinations made then. It is enough to know that Divine purpose did not begin with time. In the salvation of men, God is not reacting to the devil's delusion, but carrying out an "eternal purpose."
Another Sense of Beginning
There is yet another since in which the word "beginning" is used. It also has to do with the commencement of the new creation. With the coming of Jesus into the world, a new work was initiated. He is appropriately called "the Second Man" and the "Last Adam" (1 Cor 15:45-47). Note, Jesus is not the second Adam, but the "Second Man." With the manifestation of the Son of God a new era of revelation began.
Frequently the Holy Spirit refers to the ministry of Jesus as "the beginning"-a fresh start. "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mk 1:1). Luke refers to the Apostles as men "which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word" (Lk 1:2). John says Jesus "knew from the beginning who they were that believed not" (John 6:64). Jesus said to His disciples, "And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning" (John 15:27).
A Combination of the Two
When John writes "That which was from the beginning," He encompasses both perspectives of "the beginning." The Person of Whom he writes is the One who was "in the beginning" with God. But He is also the One who was revealed, chose them, taught them, and commissioned them.
Mark this well, John is not going to expound the Law or the tradition of the elders. He will not take up an argument about keeping the Sabbath day, observing times and seasons, or adhering to dietary practices inculcated under the Law. The Person he reveals was before the Law. The teachings he will unfold were after the law. In other words, the Spirit is directing John to write concerning the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. He will assist the saints in obtaining confidence of who they are in Jesus, and the evidences of their status.
Jesus is the Heart of it All
As elementary as this may seem, much preaching is outside the circumference of the Gospel of Christ. Such things ought not to be. In "these last days" God has nothing to say to humanity that is not said through Jesus, and in strict harmony with the Gospel. The Epistles (Romans through Jude), for example, contain the name "Jesus" 276 times, "Christ" 453 times, "Lord" 333 times, and "Son" 54 times. By way of comparison, "marriage" is mentioned twice, "husbands" ten times, "wives" nine times, and "money" one time. There should be no question about the thrust of God's message in this "day of salvation!"
Further, all of God's dealings with humanity are in view of Christ-whether before the Law, during the Law, or after the Law. The polestar of the saints is not nature. It is not the Law of God, although it is holy, spiritual, and good. Men cannot gather a proper perspective by looking at themselves, the home, or their country. None of them shed enough light to brighten our path! The Lord Jesus Himself is the "bright and Morning Star" (Rev 22:16). If our attention is not drawn to Him, we will go adrift. God will not allow any person to have proper focus apart from His only begotten Son.
Thus, John makes clear what His subject will be. He is going to expound the Lord Jesus Christ "which was from the beginning." He is the preeminent One they "heard," and the dominant sight they "saw." He was "God manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim 3:16), Whom they "touched," and upon Whose bosom John Himself reposed (John 13:23). The Lord Jesus is at once the Creator, Sustainer, Savior, and Mediator. He is the theme of this marvelous Epistle.
We Have Heard
It is interesting to consider the placing of hearing before seeing. Such a placement should not surprise us, for "faith cometh by hearing" (Rom 10:217), not seeing. When John says "which we have heard," he means hearing with discernment, not just being subjected to sounds. When Saul of Tarsus confronted the glorified Christ on the road to Damascus, some heard "a voice," yet did not comprehend it (Acts 9:7; 22:9). No doubt special reference is being made to the post-resurrection teaching of Jesus, when for forty days He spoke to them "of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).
We Have Seen
John was among those who were "eyewitnesses" of the incarnate Word. More than simply seeing Him as a man, they also were "eyewitnesses of His majesty," particularly when He was transfigured before them (2 Pet 1:16-18). The extent of their exposure to Christ was specified by Peter when they prepared to choose an Apostle to take the place of fallen Judas. "Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that He was taken up from us . . . " (Acts 1:22). Multitudes saw Jesus, but not in the sense the Apostles saw Him! They saw Him when He prayed. They Him in His glory. They saw Him after He was risen from the dead. They saw Him in storms, feeding multitudes, healing the sick, and having compassion on the multitudes.
We Have Looked Upon
Their vision of Jesus was an extended one. They "looked upon," or looked more closely on Him, allowing their minds to come into synch with their sight. They were looking at Him when they said, "What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!" (Mk 8:27). They "looked" upon Him as He cleansed the temple, remembering "that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up" (John 2:17).
Our Hands Have Handled
The supreme experience of the senses was contact with the Lord Jesus Christ- particularly the risen Christ. As John looked back over time (nearly sixty years prior), he did not think of the fish he once held, or his father's nets that he once mended. He considered the supreme touch to have been when he touched the Lord. He doubtless recalled Jesus' when He appeared to them as they gathered in fear: "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Lk 24:39).
The Word of Life
What a term for the Lord Jesus! Later in this Epistle, He will again refer to Jesus as "the Word" Who is in heaven (5:7). It is the same "Word" which was "in the beginning" (John 1:14). Here he calls the Savior "the Word of life." What does He mean?
He means the Lord Jesus CONFERS life-spiritual life. He is the One through Whom God makes people alive unto Himself. As Jesus said, "For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself" (John 5:26). That is, the risen Christ has been given charge of conferring life upon those who receive Him. He did say, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
Why Does He Speak in This Way?
There is good reason for this introduction. The Spirit knows our life depends upon the integrity of the Gospel. Therefore, He brings the Word to us through those closest to the Lord Himself. Mind you, this does not give the Word more power. It does, however, strengthen our spirits to hear the testimony from those who were selected by Jesus-who heard Him, saw Him, looked intently upon Him, and even touched Him. All of this does not accentuate the Apostle, but the message he now brings to us. The person of John is unique because of the message that He declared. The message set him apart, not vice versa. It is ever the Word that sanctifies.
THE LIFE MADE KNOWN
These expressions confirm the transcendency of the Person of Christ, who IS greater than the revelation of Him. His real Being was concealed by His humanity, even though portions of it were made known. For this reason, Jesus is never called "the eternal Son," as some creeds have said. Be BEGAN to be the Son (Heb 1:5), but He Himself never had a beginning (Heb 7:3).
All of these are not to be viewed as theological technicalities. Rather, they are intended to assist us in considering Christ in the Spirit, and not in the flesh. As it is written, "Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more" (2 Cor 5:16). What Jesus did when He walked among men, together with His atoning death and resurrection, are to be understood in light of Who Jesus was BEFORE He came into the world.
Perhaps a brief elaboration will be helpful. The Lord Jesus Christ was not a revelation of the potential of man, but of the Person of God. He was not sent into the world to display what men could be, but to unveil God Himself, His love and His purpose.
Now, John refers to Him as "the Life" and "that Eternal Life, which was with the Father." By this He means the Lord Jesus Christ is the fountain of life, "whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Mic 5:2). To put it another way, the creation does not revolve around man, but around "the Word," Who was in the beginning.
Do not miss what is being said here. In Jesus, Deity was made known . The Source and focus of life was revealed. Thus John says, "The LIFE was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness." He is making known what was NOT evident during the life and ministry of Jesus. He will unfold the accomplishments that were never seen by those lacking spiritual vision. John will not tell us about the people Jesus healed, the storms He calmed, or the food He miraculously supplied. His wondrous works are not to be diminished, but we must see more than that to wage a successful warfare against the powers of darkness.
When He says of Jesus, "that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us," He is not speaking of a recognition of the historical Jesus. Rather, he is referring to the understanding of Jesus ministered to them by the Father Himself. This experience was introduced when Peter perceived Who Jesus really was (Matt 16: 17-18). By referring to the Savior as "that eternal life," He immediately associates Him with our salvation. It is another way of saying "Christ, Who is our life" (Col 3:4). The Lord Jesus Himself confirms the Father's love for and interest in us. John and the other Apostles did not study Jesus diligently, finally figuring out Who He was. Rather, He was "manifested," or "made known" to them. The word translated "was manifested" comes from the word evfanerw,qh (ephan-er-otha), which means to make known, or cause to be seen.
Notice with what care John presents the Lord Jesus Christ and the great salvation He has brought to us. He does not anchor our faith in his Apostleship, but in the God who has made Jesus known. He takes us back into the eternal realms from which our Savior came. In this, he is emphasizing Divine purpose above human need. He accentuates Divine initiative, not human response. It is essential to see this approach to Christ. At no point must men allow themselves or their accomplishments to supercede the Person of Christ Jesus. Only a proper understanding of the Son will yield a good understanding of other things. It is in His light that we see light. When God is more clearly seen, the shadows of delusion are scattered, and all things become plain.
DECLARING WHAT WAS SEEN AND HEARD
What, therefore, John writes to us is not his private opinion or interpretation of Christ Jesus. No Scripture, including First John, "is a matter of one's own interpretation" (2 Pet 1:20NASB). He is going to declare to us what God enabled Him to see and hear. This book is NOT "made by an act of human will, but" John, being "moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (2 Pet 1:21).
At this point, there is an important Divine manner to perceive. Before Jesus left His disciples, He told them He was going to send the Spirit of Truth to them. "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:26). According to the way men think, the best time to record a matter is when it occurs-or at least as close to that time as possible. With men, time erodes recollection, and important details are soon forgotten, or even distorted.
But First John was NOT written right after Jesus ascended into heaven. Nor, indeed, were any New Covenant writings. It is generally conceded that Mark is the earliest New Covenant book. It was written 40-42 A.D., or 10-12 after the ascension. First John was written, so far as we know, somewhere between 80-95 A.D. That is 50-65 years after the ascension! Such a procedure is not the manner of this world.
Mark it well, this is a critical Epistle, written to bolster the confidence of believers, and assure them they have eternal life (1 John 5:13). Such objectives cannot be realized by philosophizing about truth, or sharing private perceptions of the Gospel. The statements about the Lord Jesus Christ must be precise and to the point (1:3,7; 2:1; 4:9,10,14; 5:5,6). The benefits accruing from His achievements must also be flawless and clear (1:7; 2:20,27; 4:2).
Here is where the Holy Spirit comes into the picture. Over half a century after Jesus ascended into heaven and was seated on the right hand of God, the Spirit brings such recollection and insight to John that he is able to effectively minister to "God's heritage" (1 Pet 5:3). John is not depending upon his memory to declare what He has "seen and heard." Even as in the beginning of his ministry, he could not help but speak the things he had "seen and heard" (Acts 4:20)-but he did so under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit did not move men along like robots, however. First, He worked with "holy men." Second, He used those who had been exposed to the Person, words, and works of the Savior of the world. In the writing of Scripture, experience and insight are woven together by the Spirit of God. The personal seeing and hearing of these things enabled the Apostle to write with both joy and zeal. The insight empowered him to write with confidence and power.
THE REASON FOR DECLARING IT
The spirit of these texts is reflected in John's reason for writing: "that ye also may have fellowship with us." Herein is a marvelous depiction of the nature of life in Christ Jesus! What believers of all ages experience is not only harmonious with what the Apostles received, it is of precisely the same order. Peter states the case well. "Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 1:1 RSV). The NASB refers to this faith as "of the same kind as ours." Candidly, this is a refreshing thought. It bolsters the confidence of believers to know there is nothing about their standing in Christ that is inferior. While we are not able to do "the signs of an Apostle" (2 Cor 12:12), our faith is not inferior to their's. Our acceptance is just as sure as their's was.
"Fellowship" involves having a kindred spirit and a preference for the same things. There is an effective mutuality in "fellowship" that finds those involved sharing with one another. This is not the mere sharing of earthly goods, although when that is required believers gladly do so. This is a "fellowship" that is created by faith and fed by love. It is "dwelling together in unity," an environment that is blessed by God Himself (Psa 133:1-3). The spirits of those in spiritual fellowship have been merged. They are thus equipped to bear one another's burdens, and share each another's joys (Gal 6:2; Rom 12:12).
Fellowship cannot be legislated. It is not an objective of itself, but the result of something higher and more noble. In our text, it is the targeted result of proclaiming "that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto" John and the Apostles.
A Subordinate Fellowship
But John, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, is not rallying believers to himself, or making an attempt to establish The Saint John Christian Church. The fellowship into which he is drawing the people is a subordinate one. The primary thing was not fellowship with John, or any of the other Apostles. The aged Apostle was actually calling them into involvement with the Father and the Son!
Ponder the excellence of this word: "and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." Here is an aspect of salvation, common to all believers. This is not a description of a uniquely Apostolic privilege. While I know of no one who categorically teaches such a thing, there seems to be a attitude in the Christian community that assumes this to be the case.
In salvation, we are called by God "into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor 1:9). This fellowship is effectual. As it is written, "But by His (God's) doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor 1:30). This is the very unity for which Jesus prayed in Gethsemane-a unity between the Father, the Son, and believers. "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John 17:20-21NIV).
Where this "fellowship" is not realized, the grace of God has been frustrated, and the intent of salvation unrealized. A religion that allows for an absence of Divine fellowship is impotent, and is a tool of the devil. Hear the Lord Jesus state the case again. "He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him . . . If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him" (John 14:21,23NASB).
Fellowship with the Father and the Son involves receiving from Them and working together with Them. Here there is participation in the Divine nature (2 Pet 1:4) This is the fellowship John is targeting. He is not merely passing along lifeless information. He knows no soul will be able to arrive safely in the glory apart from fellowship with the Father and the Son. Regardless of the seeming precision of a person's theology, if he is not in fellowship with the Father and the Son, he is in jeopardy of being cut off, as Ephesus (Rev 2:1-4). Oh, that more were convinced of this truth! Altogether too much professed New Testament Christianity allows its constituents to remain out of fellowship with the Father and the Son.
What Is Fellowship with Deity?
What is involved in the fellowship of reference? It is more than simply being around Jesus, like the multitudes were when He "dwelt among us." Being in a place where the presence of Jesus is confirmed is by no means being in fellowship with Him. Knowing there is one God is not to be equated with being in fellowship with Him.
Note, our text does not say the Father and Son are in fellowship with men, but that men are in fellowship with Them. This is a fellowship of involvement-one in which the purposes and intentions of God are embraced by the individual. Such glorious fraternity involves the abandonment of a personal agenda, counting all things "loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:8). In hearty agreement, those in fellowship with the Father and the Son acquiesce to be separated from this world in order to obtain an "eternal inheritance" (Heb 9:15). This is a fellowship of understanding, joy, and confidence in the Lord. The accomplishment of such glorious fellowship is the objective of this letter. The truth expounded will, if believed and embraced, yield the intended benefits. Fulness of joy and a strong confidence that we have eternal life are within your grasp.
FULLNESS OF JOY
Joy and Faith
Notice that a fulness of joy comes from something that is "written," not a profound circumstance of life. The reason for this is apparent. Joy springs out of the rich soil of faith, and faith comes by hearing. For this reason, spiritual joy is called "joy of faith," or "joy in the faith" (Phil 1:25). Such marvelous joy is helped along by the faithful communication of realities in Christ Jesus. Like Paul, therefore, John is a helper of our joy (2 Cor 1:24), assisting us to rise into the heavenly realms where joy is "unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Pet 1:8).
The word "joy" depicts a very large experience. Thorough satisfaction is implied. As it is written, "The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage" (Psa 16:5-6). This is what Jesus alluded to when he told the Samaritan woman, "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14).
"Full joy" is like the eruption of faith through the gate of human emotion. It is the result of comprehending we are in the world, but are not of it (John 15:19; 17:14,16). True joy enables us to hold our heads high during the most adverse of human experiences, knowing it is only "a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (Heb 10:37). This joy brings us to rejoice in the future, something those that are of this world cannot do. For them the future is dark with mystery, and uncertainty as well. However, the good news of the Gospel has clarified the future for us, bringing us a fulness of joy.
Joy and Strength
Believers must learn it is difficult enough to traverse these lowlands of sin and sorrow without doing so with our joy being incomplete and crippled. If any part of us has to hobble or limp, let it be the flesh! Full joy belongs to our spirits, which must not be weak. We will find it to be true, even as Nehemiah told his workers, "the joy of the LORD is your strength" (Neh 8:10). The reason for this is quite simple. As we come into a closer fellowship with the Lord, our experience of Him converts into joy. This is described by David in the twenty-eighth Psalm. "The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him" (V 7).
And how will the Spirit contribute to our joy being made "full." He will move John to write about the Father and the Son. He will tell us "God is light," and that provision has been made for us to "walk in the light." He will remind us why Jesus came into the world, and what He is doing now in our behalf. In short, He will clarify salvation.
In this short, but profound, Epistle, the Spirit is bringing the well of salvation within our reach. There are profound pleasures and rich satisfaction to be realized as we draw from this well. As Isaiah prophesied, "Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation" (Isa 12:3). That "joy," being "full of glory," buoys up the soul in the good fight of faith. Suffice it to say, without this fulness of joy, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (Tit 2:12). Fulness of joy is a powerful means to overcoming the wicked one and living triumphantly.
THE HEART OF THE MESSAGE
"Light" is also the manner in which the Word entering into the world was described. "4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. 6 There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man" (John 1:4-9). There is a slight difference between these expressions and that of our text. In the Gospel of John, the Word made flesh is called "THE light." However, our text says "God IS light," NOT "God is the light." The difference between the two expressions is simply this. The Savior was a revelation of God. He is the solitary Source of acquaintance with God. In Him, the Divine nature was brought within the range of mankind.
By saying "God IS light," the Spirit shows this is His nature. He is not merely a Dispenser of light, but is Light itself. This is a profound consideration, revealed only through John. Other's wrote of God being the "Father of lights" (James 1:17), One who possesses "marvelous light" (1 Pet 2:9), and Who dwells in the light ( 1 Tim 6:16). We are taught to relate light with Him, not with nature. "Light" is like a garment with which God covers Himself: "Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment" (Psa 104:2). Light dwells in Him, and is never to be considered apart from Him (Dan 2:22).
But our text states "GOD IS LIGHT." Not only does it state this, is affirms "This is the message we have heard from Him." It is the kernel, or heart, of the message. It is the truth from which other insights spring, and with which all valid knowledge is connected. Yet, this is the only place in all of Scripture where this affirmation is made.
We conclude, therefore, that this is the point clarified by the incarnate Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. When you take everything Jesus said and did, and boil it down to its essence, it is this: "GOD IS LIGHT!" Salvation rescues men from the snare of sin, but that rescue is not the heart of the message: God is the heart of the message. Men may come to possess what they conceive to be a good understanding of human duties. But until they comprehend God to a measurable degree, they have missed the message! The message is "GOD IS LIGHT!"
The very expression "God is Light" is fraught with mystery. There are some things we know about light, but precious little when we consider that "GOD IS LIGHT."
Corporeally, or as it appears, light has SPLENDOR. It draws attention to itself, and diffuses a glory that draws attention away from all that surrounds it. When it comes to the Living God, His Person and His work cause all competing persons and works to pale away in unimportance.
Intellectually, and I speak as a man, light is KNOWLEDGE. It speaks of enlightenment, illumination, clarification, and explanation. When God is perceived, everything else is made clearer. As it is written, "in thy light shall we see light" (Psa 36:9). Conversely, nothing is seen correctly apart from the Lord. A failure to comprehend Him brings distortion to everything else.
Morally, light is PURITY. There is no taint in light, no defilement, no contamination. Our text states it this way, "and in Him is no darkness at all." What He says and does is always right. His purposes are perfect and uncorrupted, and not to be questioned.
By nature, light GIVES LIFE. Little wonder the Spirit said of Jesus, "In him was life; and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4). He is the Source of all life. Again, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).
Alas, it seems we only beat around the bush in our comments about "GOD IS LIGHT!" Beyond all question, it is a profound utterance. It brings out the inadequacy of human wisdom and the frailty of human speech. Perhaps this is the compelling point that is being made. "GOD IS LIGHT!" That is the message! He is at once the heart and substance of the message. All revelation, whether given to Abraham, Moses, the Prophets, or the Apostles, had the Living God as its center Point.
And when it comes to the Lord Jesus, in whom "the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily" (Col 2:9), we have the ultimate revelation of God. There, in the Son of God, the Person of God was more clearly made known that ever before. In fact, Jesus was the appointed Expositor of God. He alone knows the Father, and thus He alone can show Him to us (Matt 11:27). Coming from "the bosom of the Father," the Savior declared "HIM" (John 1:18). He operated within the strict confines of the Father's agenda, doing "nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5:19).
It is possible to read the Scriptures with entirely the wrong motive. The astute Jews of Jesus' day were guilty of doing this. Thus, Jesus said to them, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me. And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life" (John 5:39-40). For them, perceived duty was the primary thing. They imagined if they measured up to everything required of them they had obtained the blessing. But this was not at all the case.
The Scriptures, strictly speaking, are an unfolding of the Person of God. It is His purpose that is delineated, and His will that is expounded. In Christ, bountiful provisions of His grace are made known, together with the glorious things He has prepared for those who love Him. Those who look for patterns and secrets in the Bible that enable them to be separate from all others are stumbling over the stumbling stone (Rom 9:32).
If, in their hearts, men are not turned to God, they will come into condemnation. He is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all. There can be no substitutes for Him, no diversions from His Person, and no ignoring of His promises. Jesus was sent by God to offer Himself without spot to Him, and bring us to God. Jesus has no significance whatsoever apart from God! He is "the Son OF GOD," the "Lamb OF GOD," and the "Word OF GOD" (John 1:,29,34; Rev 19:13). He is called "the Power OF GOD" and the "Wisdom OF GOD" (1 Cor 1:24).
The message, then, is not what man is, but who God is! It is not what the church is, but what God is! It does not center in duty, but in Deity. "God is light," pure and unalloyed-unmixed with anything. He is not a composite of a number of things, as we are. This means there is no diminishment or decline with God, only ever increasing glory.
THE DEMANDS OF TRUTH
What does it mean to "walk in darkness?" Primarily, it is living apart from Divine influence-conducting our lives outside the circumference of Divine fellowship. It is another was of saying walking "after the flesh," setting the mind upon the flesh (Rom 8:5). "Darkness" is the state of nature from which we were delivered in Jesus Christ (Col 1:13). It is a condition where an ignorance of God dominates the soul, thereby alienating the individual from God (Eph 4:18).
Darkness is the realm ruled by Satan because God is absent from it. Thus we read of "the power of darkness" (Lk 22:53; Col 1:13), and "the rulers of the darkness of this world" (Eph 6:12). From one perspective, darkness is the absence of light. Considering our text, darkness is where God cannot be found. There are "works of darkness" (Rom 13:12)-works that are done in ignorance of God and out of the energy of the flesh. In salvation, God effectively called us "out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Pet 2:9). That is what occurs every time a person is born again, receives Christ, is baptized into Christ, or puts on Christ-however you prefer to state it. There are no new births into darkness. There is no affinity with God in darkness-none at all!
It Cannot Be Done
The Spirit is forthright on this matter, leaving no question about His meaning. "If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth" (RSV). Notice, it does not say "If we say we are Christians," or "If we say we are saved," "If we say we are believers." Because we have been "called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor 1:9), he refers to having "fellowship with Him." This does not mean the individual says these actual words. Any claim to an association with the Lord falls into this category: i.e., born again, saved, Christian., member of Christ's body, etc.
Viewed From Zion
This expression is to be viewed from Mount Zion, not Mount Sinai. While holiness is a requisite for all of us, the Spirit is not, so to speak, commanding us to be holy. Rather, He is revealing to us the manner in which the grace of God works. There is such a thing as knowing, or comprehending, "the grace of God in truth" (Col 1:6). When this occurs, grace teaches, or instructs us "to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus" (Tit 2:11-13). That is a vivid description of walking in the light. This is what occurs when the human spirit is "joined to the Lord" (1 Cor 6:17).
Throughout this book, the Spirit will show us evidences-evidences of both light and darkness. In this particular verse He is affirming that there is no spiritual life where the individual has not been effectively taught by grace. It is not possible to experience oneness with the Living God, Who is Light, and remain in a state of spiritual darkness of ignorance. Our very conversion is described as an enlightening experience. "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 4:6NKJV). That is a marvelous circumstance experienced by everyone who is born again.
Any individual who professes he is in fellowship, or company, with God, yet walks in spiritual ignorance, is lying. No explanation is needed. The individual's life contradicts his profession, and therefore the profession is not true.
It is not necessary for us to pass eternal judgment on such persons. That is not our prerogative. The point of the passage is that union with God is not based upon a one time decision, or a single magical event or act of obedience. Fellowship with God yields a life that grows brighter and brighter unto the perfect day (Prov 4:18). A process is taking place in God's people in which they "are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Cor 3:18NASB). Where this is not happening, there must be no profession of allegiance to or affinity with God.
Notice how the Spirit phrases this statement. He does not call upon us to begin evaluating everyone around us. Rather He says, "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." This is intended to provoke us to self-evaluation. As it is written elsewhere, "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-- less indeed you fail the test?" (2 Cor 15:5NASB).
If we want to be assured that we have eternal life we will be required to test ourselves. We must examine our own lives to see if our profession is valid.
Not Doing the Truth
Herein is an intriguing expression: "we lie, and do not the truth." The NKJV and NASB read, "do not practice the truth" The NIV reads, "and do not live by the truth." The RSV says, "do not live according to the truth," and the NRSV reads "do not do what is true." An interesting expression is found in the Basic Bible English paraphrase: "our words are false and our acts are untrue."
Jesus spoke of the person who does the truth. "But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God" (John 3:21). This is a striking phrase, indeed: doing the truth! Christ's words confirm it is evidence that God is working in the individual: "what he has done has been done through God" (NIV). This is the very process described in Philippians 2:12-13. "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
Fellowship with God involves Him working in us, for God has no fellowship with anyone in whom He cannot work! If, therefore, God is not working in us, it is because we are not in fellowship with Him. That is why the truth cannot be done, or wrought, in us. For if God does not do work in us to do the truth, it simply cannot be done. Further, He only so works in those who by faith are in fellowship with Him. Salvation calls us into affiliation with God, enabling Him to work in us. This is a marvelous consideration, and promotes great confidence in those so blessed. They will be better suited to fight a good warfare who know these things.
THE RESULT OF A SPIRITUAL WALK
This differs radically from the writings of mere men. Only the Spirit of God can speak in such a manner, "for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God," and "the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God" (1 Cor 2:10-11).While the Apostle John is himself convinced of these realities, and speaks out of that persuasion, they have been shown to him by the Spirit of God. That is why he writes with such power.
Remember, this Epistle is written so we may also have fellowship with the Father and the Son, and those in fellowship with Them. Too, it is written so our joy may be full, and in order that we may know we have eternal life. Those objectives cannot be served by ambiguous statements, mere intellectual novelties, or personal opinions. Faith must have a rock-solid foundation upon which to build. That is the reason for these strong statements.
IF - IF - IF
"But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light." In Scripture, the word "if" is not intended to produce doubt, or lead believers to think they are not safe in Christ. Rather, it is a word encouraging self-examination. It teaches us that in this world we are subject to contradicting influences, and thus are in the realm of jeopardy. What we have in Christ is firm and unshakeable, as we will see. Yet, it is not to be taken for granted. We will be richly rewarded with confidence and peace if we invest ourselves in this great salvation.
Whenever we read the word "IF," human response is the point at issue. Strictly speaking, there are no "ifs" with God. With Him there is "no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). Too, wherever human response is the issue, there is always grace to enable the required response. It is essential that every believer be convinced of this reality.
Walking In the Light
The word "walking" denotes living in a preferred pattern, and with personal objectives in mind. For the believer "walking" is progression to glory. For the unbeliever it is retrogressing to perdition. Every person, saved or lost, is living in a certain direction. For those in Christ, there is an acute awareness of that direction. For the unbeliever, the end of their life is hidden to them, and they are unaware of where they are headed.
Notice the precision of the Spirit's statement. He does not refer to walking in the light, but to walking in the light "as He is in the light." Walking in the light equates to living in purity and with spiritual understanding. It is living in the power of the "new creation," and in possession of the "Divine nature" (2 Cor 5:17Gal 6:15; 2 Pet 1:4). Salvation not only involves God doing something WITH US, it also includes doing something IN US. Divine power was exerted upon us when we were "delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the Kingdom of God's dear Son" (Col 1:13). In a sense, we were wrested from the hands of the devil and the powers of darkness. It can be said of every person in Christ, just as surely as it was said of Joshua the high priest, "And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire" (Zech 3:2)? Independently of our own strength, the Lord wrought salvation upon us. He did something TO us, even as He did with Joshua the high priest. "Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair miter upon his head. So they set a fair miter upon his head, and clothed him with garments" (Zech 3:4-5).
Much of Christendom allows their view of salvation to end with this perspective. But this is the beginning of our dealing with the Lord, and not the whole of it. We now enter into fellowship with Him-a fellowship that is expressed in life-"walking." Walking in the light is living in harmony with the Lord, in an acute awareness of Him, and in joyful union with Him. It is living by faith and walking in the Spirit. It is the opposite of living in the flesh.
By saying "as He is in the light," the Spirit emphasizes we are living according to God's agenda. Heavenly influences dictate our path, and Jesus is our focus. This is also doing the truth.
Evidence, Not Cause
A critical distinction must be made here. Walking in the light is NOT the cause of our acceptance, but the EVIDENCE of it! God does not accept us because we walk in the light, but we walk in the light because He has accepted us. Because Christ "has received us to the glory of God" (Rom 15:7), we are empowered to "walk in the light as He is in the light."
This is why it is so sinful for a professed believer to walk in darkness. For those who have come to Christ to revert back to walking in darkness requires the quenching, grieving, and resisting of the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 5:19; Eph 4:30; Acts 7:51). Such must refuse Him who is speaking from heaven (Heb 12:25). They must harden their hearts (Heb 3:8), make a place for the devil (Eph 4:27), and ignore the escape route provided by God when tempted (1 Cor 10:13). It is never a light thing when someone who has received Christ allows "an evil heart of unbelief" to rise within them (Heb 3:12).
If believers will learn to recognize the work of God within them (Phil 2:12-13), it will bring great confidence to them. That will be abundantly confirmed in the statements of this marvelous verse.
Fellowship With One Another
John has already stated he is writing so we may have fellowship with them (the Apostles). That fellowship is realized by believing the Word they have given by the Spirit of God. Jesus spoke of this fellowship in His high priestly prayer. "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me" (John 17:20-21). That fellowship extends to all others who are in Christ Jesus. They are all "ONE" in the Father and in the Son, as Jesus prayed.
Now John tells us how that fellowship will be realized-by us walking "in the light as He is in the light." Institutionalism allows for camaraderie among those whose walks are not in the light. The Spirit, however, makes no such allowances. Our fellowship is not only based upon WHO we are, but WHERE we are! Because we are sons of God, we have fellowship with one another. That fellowship is also realized because we are living in spiritual illumination-walking in the light.
"Fellowship," in this case, is infinitely more than being under the same denominational banner. It is a life of interinvolvement. There is a sharing of life, where one life penetrates the other, enabling the mutual bearing of burdens and sharing of joys. First Corinthians 12:26 states it this way. "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it" (NKJV). That is having fellowship with one another!
This fellowship is not an objective to be attained. Rather, it is the result of a walk in the light. If this fellowship is not realized, it is really pointless to launch a special unity-program to cause it to happen. The reason for the absence of "fellowship one with another" is because someone is not walking in the light. Someone is not seeing things like God sees them. Someone does not have their eye set on the appointed goal. Someone is living in the flesh and walking in darkness-profession notwithstanding.
The only effective antidote for this is walking in the light as He is in the light. That will only come when our joy is made full and we know we have eternal life.
Cleansing From All Sin
" . . . and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." Here is a statement that soars far beyond the capacity of the human mind. Here cleansing is associated with the life of one in Christ Jesus. He is not speaking of our initial entrance into Christ, when our sins were "washed away" (Acts 22:16). That was a glorious and needful beginning, to be sure. But cleansing must be maintained if Divine acceptance is to be sustained. God could not receive us in a defiled state before we were in Christ, and He cannot receive us in such a condition after we are in His Son!
Continual cleansing takes place when we walk in the light as He is in the light. God is pleased by such a walk-so much so that He refuses to impute sin to the individual. Rather, He cleanses the person of "all sin." In this, the saying of David is fulfilled, "Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity" (Psa 32:2). Taking this matter further, the Holy Spirit thus elaborates. "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Rom 4:6-8). What child of God is there that is not heartened by that word?
This is experienced at the moment we are buried with Christ by baptism into death, and raised to walk in newness of life
(Rom 6:4). It also continues as we do, in fact, "WALK in newness of life." That "walk" is the same one of which John speaks:
walking in the light as He is in the light. In that walk a continual cleansing takes place-a cleansing that is required as we are
being changed from one stage of glory to another, even as by the Spirit of our God (2 Cor 3:18).
As we will see, this does not mean we have no need to confess our sins. There are, however, numerous deficiencies and shortcomings of which we may not even be aware. Under the Law, there was a sacrifice for sins committed in ignorance (Lev 5:15-18; Num 15:24-27). Our text is the New Covenant parallel to that offering. In Christ continual cleansing from all sin takes place when we walk in fellowship with God. You may rest assured, such a provision would not have been made if there was not a need for it. By stating this benefit, the Spirit provides further incentive to walk in the light. Blessed be God for this benefit! Let every child of God be encouraged to confidently exert themselves to walk in the light as He is in the light.
THE CHILD OF GOD AND SIN
Again, the unwavering firmness of the statement confirms its importance to the believer. We will now confront the fact that those in Christ continue to deal with sin. What is more, they are often overcome by it, even though they sorely wish that was not the case. Remember, the intent of these statements is to make our joy full, and convince us we have eternal life.
If We Say We Have No Sin
"8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. There is no point in the life of faith where we cease to require the grace and mercy of God! That is, there is no point where we are, in reality, absolutely free from all impurity and contamination. One might argue that forgiveness is full. This is true, yet righteousness is "imputed," or "counted" to the believer upon the basis of his faith, not his purity. Whatever we may think of the salvation of God, we had best not adopt a theology that declares us sinless, for that is not the case at all.
By saying "have no sin," the Spirit means no guilt, no contamination, no need for cleansing. No honest and informed person would say this, but all people are not in that category. Some denominations have even concocted a doctrine called "sinless perfection," or sometimes called "total sanctification." They imagine that believers can arrive at a state where it is no longer possible for them to sin. Their doctrine thus contradicts the testimony of the Spirit.
Let us hear from one of the champions of the faith-from one who excelled as an Apostle, which category was placed "first" in the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:28). As Paul said, speaking for all who are in Christ Jesus, "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom 7:23-24). Paul would be the first to tell you he was forgiven, having "obtained mercy" (1 Tim 1:13,16). But he would NOT tell you he was sinless.
Who among us is not able to associate Solomon's observation with their own struggles against sin. "Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands?" (Eccl 5:6).
We Deceive Ourselves
The Spirit is forthright about this matter, and we must be also. If we say we have no sin, "we deceive ourselves." In this case, we cannot even claim the devil has deceived us, as in Revelation 20:10. In such a case, our own words have clouded our understanding and thrust us into conflict with the Almighty. Simultaneous with that deception, we have loudly stated we have no need of grace or mercy. We no longer need an Intercessor, or the ministry of the Holy Spirit or angels. What a serious deception, indeed!
The Truth Is Not In Us
For those daring to affirm they have no sin, truth may be near to them, but it has found no home within them. Truth does not exert its power from without, but from within. Further, truth flees like a wounded dove from the one who dares to affirm their own self-sufficiency. At the point the soul declares itself free from any need of mercy, truth can no longer remain. "Mercy and truth" have joined together in Christ Jesus, and cannot be separated (Psa 85:10). Thus, where one is no longer required, the other is also forfeited.
If We Confess Our Sins
"9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Here is one of the most comforting statements in Scripture. I cannot go a day without being reminded of its glory and necessity. I also find this to be one of the most difficult things to grasp by a person in Christ who has sinned. We must allow the Spirit to convince us of the truth of this affirmation.
Confess Our Sins
This word is for believers, not for alien sinners who have not yet received Christ (John 1:12). Here forgiveness is placed within the reach of every child of God. It is promised upon the basis of our acknowledgment of sin, as heart-breaking as that confession may be. Throughout the Scriptures people have confessed, "I have sinned." When David, a man after God's own heart, was convicted of his sin against Uriah the Hittite, he cried out "I have sinned against the Lord!" (2 Sam 12:13). As grievous as that sin was, the Lord "put away" his sin (1 Sam 12:13b). When this man of God numbered Israel, he once again was smitten in conscience and cried out, "Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly" (2 Sam 24:17).
The words spoken by Elihu to Job were true. "He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light" (Job 33:27-28).
We must not allow our sins to keep us from the Lord, or build an impenetrable wall between us and our Savior. Quickness to confess our sins, admitting them freely to the Lord, will bring forgiveness!
Faithful and Just
The forgiveness of the Lord is as faithful and just as His condemnation of sin. The same God who will not allow sin to go unrebuked, will not permit confessed sin to go unforgiven. His character will not let Him ignore the confession of sin. The timorous soul that is smitten with guilt can count on God being faithful to Himself, His Word, and the individual who confesses his sin.
The vicarious atonement of Christ makes it just, or right, for the Lord to forgive sin upon the basis of its confession, or acknowledgment. That means it would be unjust for the Lord to allow us to carry guilt and condemnation after we had confessed our transgression to Him. All of salvation, every single aspect of it, is righteous as well as merciful. From beginning to end, the Lord is, in truth, "just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom 3:26).
Someone has said, "It is a great moment to be fully persuaded, that when we have sinned, there is a reconciliation with God, ready and prepared for us" John Calvin. A great moment, indeed. In that moment the devil is overcome, the power of sin neutralized, and the grace of God lavished upon the soul!
If We Say We Have Not Sinned
"10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us." The phrase "we have no sin" speaks more to the guilt and effects of sin. It is a denial of our natural condition. The expression "we have not sinned" addresses the actual transgression itself. This is the deviation from the truth, being captured by the law of sin within our members, and committing the trespass. Surely no sensitive soul will dare to affirm such a thing-and yet the warning is issued, because such a thing is, indeed, possible. Whether we are assessing our entire lives, the whole of our existence in Christ, or today-let no person dare to say "I have not sinned." There is no place for this utterance in the Kingdom of God! It is one prompted by alienation.
Should a person be so foolish as to make such a statement, he has also affirmed a number of other things. If one has not sinned, there is no need for forgiveness, no demand for grace, and no requirement for a heavenly Intercessor. There is no need for the work of the Holy Spirit, a New Covenant, or the ministry of holy angels. Thus, there is no necessity for the gift of righteousness, the exceeding great and precious promises of God, or faith itself. All of these things presuppose the existence of both the sinful nature and sin itself.
We Make Him A Liar
The Spirit does not let the matter rest here, leaving us thinking only of the absurdity of such a thought. He confirms to us that God takes personally such brash and foolish statements. It is not that such a thing is possible, for God cannot lie (Tit 1:2). It is as though those saying they have not sinned have written a new Bible, and have thrown away the good Word of God. They have held out God as though He were a liar, saying things that are not so, and providing things that are not needed.
In the end, of course, the assembled universe will know who is really the liar. As it is written, "Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: 'That You may be justified in Your words, and may overcome when You are judged'" (Rom 3:4; Psa 51:4NKJV).
His Word Is Not In Us
This is most serious condition. Note, the Spirit does not say the Word may not be in those saying that have not sinned, but it IS NOT. Jesus condemned His critics, saying, "ye have not His word abiding in you" (John 5:38). He further stated they sought to kill Him "because My word hath no place in you" (John 8:37). This is, then, no light matter!
Knowing these things, the admonition of Colossians 3:16 leaps into life: " Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . " Later in this very Epistle, John will commend faithful "young men" because "the word of God abideth in you" (1 John 2:14). You may recall Jesus promised prayer would be answered upon the basis of His words abiding in us. "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (John 15:7).
The person who says "I have not sinned," by that very statement, acknowledges that God's Word is not in him. It makes no difference what profession is made, or what church affiliation is claimed. The Word of God cannot and will not remain in a person who says they have not sinned.
Confidence Is Building
In these expressions, the Spirit is building the confidence of those who admit they are sinners, and that they have sinned. If those saying they have no sin are deceived and the truth is not in them, then those who say they have sin are NOT deceived and the truth IS in them. If those affirming they have not sinned make God a liar, and His Word is not in them, then those acknowledging they have sinned JUSTIFY God, and His Word IS in them. May your heart take hold on this. This truth is to be possessed.
What is more, we are not being exposed to a mere academic lesson. There are glorious results to be realized.
Who cannot fail to see the need of this message? While we remain in the body, and in a sinful and cursed world, we need to have a sure foundation. We need to know about continual cleansing, and fellowship with the Father, the Son, and all who also have fellowship with them. Let us prepare ourselves for a marvelous and edifying experience that will yield full assurance.