Bible Passage: 1 John 1:1-2:2
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 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. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we 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. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
Another gospel came in. What they believed in: This physical world is unholy. Jesus Christ, who is God, cannot come into this world, much less become part of this world by becoming a man. The first gospel, presented by apostle John, is wrong. This new gospel is the gospel that can save. According to this new gospel, you need to receive some kind of spiritual knowledge in order to be saved. If you don’t accept what they teach, it is a higher knowledge, very complicated. Only those who can understand it, can be saved. Christians presented with two gospels. Some lost assurance. The key problem is assurance. What should I do to be saved? How do I know that I am really saved? Last week, we saw two ways that we can be assured of our salvation. Firstly, by believing in the incarnation. Jesus was heard, seen, and touched. He really became human. And John saw what Jesus did as a human: taught, performed miracles, died, and was raised. Salvation is not by knowing some kind of higher, spiritual knowledge. It is by knowing Jesus and the saviour, who died for our sins. This is simple enough for everyone to understand. And those who receive this teaching, will be saved. Those who believe in this gospel, have direct fellowship with God.
But Secondly, it is by fellowship with others. Verse 3 says, “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” By believing in Jesus Christ, we are immediately united to him. Other than this faith, there are no other prerequisites. Once we are joined to Jesus, nothing can separate us from his love. But this faith does not only unite us with Christ. It also unites us with every other Christians who are also united to Christ. Today, we will see one more. We can be assured of our salvation by living out a holy life. Why? We must begin with God.
God is light
V.5, God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. The gospel of John described Jesus as the light that came to the world. Vv.4-5. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” What is this light describing? It is an ethical light. God is holy, we are sinful. Why is God’s holiness described as light? Because light has two properties similar to God’s holiness. One, light cannot coexist with darkness. Somehow it is easier for us to accept that light cannot coexist with darkness, but harder for us to accept that the holy God cannot coexist with evil men. But actually, both are designed by God. There is no reason why light cannot coexist with darkness. It is so because God wills it to be so. Light cannot coexist with darkness is a simple, undeniable fact. It just is. The same with God’s holiness. He cannot coexist with evil. Because that is who he is. It is a simple, undeniable fact. It is so because God wills it to be so. Two, light has absolute dominance over darkness. Gospel of John v.5. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” When light shines, darkness is dispelled. When the light of God shines upon us, there are only two possible outcomes: Either we remain in darkness and are dispelled by the light. Or we are lit up by God’s light, so that we shine together with God. Gospel of John v.9. “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” That is why we are called the light of the world. We also shine with Christ’s ethical light. Matt 5:16. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
We must walk in the light
Because God is light, it has an important implication for us. V.6. “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Those who have fellowship with him, will walk in God’s light. Heard of the stories of repentance. V.6. “Walking” in darkness. Refers not to occasional sins. But a lifestyle. A kind of acceptance and approval of sinful patterns. Reminds of Psalm 1. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked. But his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Not knowledge, but action, is true knowledge. Some truths, if you believe it, you must do it. Illustration: breathe → live. If you choose not to breathe, then you don’t believe it. This is Esp. important for Reformed people. Theology cannot be the basis of our assurance that we know God. There are those who know less theology, but live a holier life than us. They know the Bible better than us. Reformed theology cannot save you. You must come to Christ, the light of the world. He can save you. But expect that when you come to this light, you either become the light, or you are dispelled by the light. Christianity is not something you believe intellectually, but something you believe practically. Matt 7:21. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Judas called Christ “Lord,” yet betrayed him and had gone down to hell. Thomas Brooks, paraphrased. “If we don’t practice what we read, why do we read? To increase our condemnation?” Practical difficulty: I want to believe in Jesus. Why am I still living in a sinful pattern? Because you think that, other than becoming the light, or being dispelled by the light, there is a third option: To come into the light, but still remain partially in darkness.
Do not walk the tightrope. 1 Cor 6:9-10. “9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” From the outside, there is only a slight difference between a Christian who is still under the effects of the fall, and a sinner who pretends to be a Christian. Analogy: benign and malignant tumour. If a mole grows, gets itchy, or the colouration is spilling into the surrounding skin, it could be malignant. But before you get it checked, you will never know. The difference between the two diagnosis results are great. Same for Christian life. The difference between a Christian who is struggling with his sins, and a non-Christian who is pretending to be a Christian may not be obvious on the outside. The difference is trajectory and direction. Christian picks up the cross and follows Jesus. But a non-Christian only picks up the cross. HS promises to sanctify, change, mature, support, remind, rebuke, pray, etc. We are to enter the kingdom of heaven, not to stay at the door. We are to pursue maximal holiness, not to pursue minimal holiness. There are only two realms: light and darkness. Do not think you can be part light and part darkness. You have come into the light. You must walk in the light. Let go of your sins. You no longer belong to darkness.
Does it mean sinless perfection? No. That’s what the people who believe in the false gospel taught. V.8. “To have sin.” The expression ‘to have sin’ is found only here in 1 John, but it occurs four times in the Gospel of John (John 9:41; 15:22, 24; 19:11). And in each case it means to be guilty of sins. Not that they are saying they do not sin thus do not need Christ. But saying that after they became Christians, they have never committed sins. V.10 Also. Not only do we lie, we also make God a liar. Because the truth is, we are not perfect. And God had made preparations, so that the imperfect us can follow Christ. V.9. “If we confess our sins…” We are to live a life of constant self-examination. Constant repentance. Not that I am perfect, but I press on…Instead, we should see our Christian life as a path of purification. V.7. Walking and purifying are both in the present tense. Meaning it’s happening now. No matter where you are in your Christian life, it is still happening now, and it will happen throughout the path. In other words, it is ongoing. We should not reject God’s purification. What does purification look like? Confession. V.9. Repentance. I.e. walk in the light.
But what if we still sin?
Chap.2 v.1. “So that you may not sin.” Living in darkness while claiming to be in the light is extremely dangerous. You are threatening your salvation. But John doesn’t want them to forget about the mercy of God. Because we are not striving for holiness as if we are still not yet forgiven. As if we are still condemned in our sin. Chap.2 v.1. “But if anyone does sin…” V.9 to confess is ongoing, present tense. God is faithful (remembers his promise, the promise that brought Jesus down in the first place) and just. Just: It is a problem which the apostle Paul had to deal with when explaining his gospel in Romans 3:21–26, and his resolution of the problem was that God can be both just and the justifier of sinners because he set forth Christ as the atoning sacrifice (hilastērion) for their sins. The author of 1 John does not state the matter as clearly as Paul does, but it is plain that he, too, understands God to be righteous in forgiving those who confess their sins because he sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice (hilasmos) for those sins (cf. 2:2: ‘He is the atoning sacrifice [hilasmos] for our sins’; 4:10: ‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice [hilasmos] for our sins’).
1. God is light (holy), and we become Christians by being called into that light. Knowing this reality, why is it still difficult for us to let go of some sins in life?
2. Knowing that we Christians are tempted by sin, how can we avoid treating God’s grace as a free pass to sin?