“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. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 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. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
1 John 1:5-10 ESV
As I mentioned in our previous study in 1 John, followers of Gnosticism believed that all matter was evil and only spirit was good. Besides this impacting the way they thought about the incarnation of Jesus, the Gnostics also believed that, since their bodies were material, they could do whatever sinful acts they wanted in their bodies. Even though they had these senseless ideas, the Gnostics thought that they knew God and were actual Christians, perhaps even a step higher than the “normal ones”. This posed several problems and the apostle, John, addressed three of them in 1 John 1:5-10.
The first is that of fellowship with God (and one another). God is often described as the Personification of Light – completely holy, full of perfect moral integrity, but also revealing the sinful thoughts and acts of humanity. In other words, nothing can be hidden from God. If we claim to have fellowship with God, but “walk in darkness”, we are living a lie. “Walking in darkness” describes actively and wilfully continuing in sin, such as the Gnostics would adhere to.
The second problem is that of denying our own sinful behaviour. Born-again Christians know and confess that they still sin on a daily basis and are grieved by it. If we deny our sin, we are lying to ourselves and the truth of the Gospel hasn’t taken root in us (see Romans 1:18-32).
The third problem is to deny our sinful natures (See Ephesian 2:1-3). God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, comes to us on the fact and basis of our sinful natures. If we deny this, we make God a liar (which is blasphemous!) and don’t believe the words of the Bible.
Let’s look at the flip side of this – if we walk in the light, not only do we have fellowship with God, but also with one another (you cannot see ANYTHING outside of yourself if you walk in complete darkness!). We have fellowship with God through the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin.
“If we confess our sins…” – the plural implies a confession of specific sins, not just the general confession we make with other believers every Sunday. In other words, if we confess our personal and specific sins to God, He justly and faithfully forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness through our ongoing sanctification (God making us holy). We do not deserve this – it is the epitome of grace!
Take note that God takes the initiative in all of these things – we have fellowship with God because of the blood of Jesus Christ; we are able to see and confess our own sin, because of God’s light shining into our darkness and His work of sanctification in our lives.
Questions for reflection: If you still walk in darkness, denying your sinful nature and never confessing personal and specific sins to God, do you really understand the Gospel? Do you know who God is? Do you truly understand the doctrine of grace? Are you indeed a born-again Christian? If these questions scare you or make you feel uncomfortable, do not hesitate to reach out to any of our ministry staff – we would love to help you!