Thursday, November 10, 2011

First John Chapter One, Part 3 of 5

1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. James, in joining John’s depiction of our God, writes, “every good and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning,” James 1:17.

Paul agrees that God indeed dwells in unapproachable light, 1st Timothy 6:16. What does this light mean? There is no sin in God. God is perfect, sinless, holy, without blemish. The light Paul describes as unapproachable is because it is the radiance of God’s holiness; sinful man cannot approach a holy God; sinful man cannot so much as see God. God manifested the light of His glory in the person of Christ (2nd Corinthians 4:6) so that when we look at Jesus we see the Father of lights, John 14:9.

The essence then of Christian fellowship, its very bedrock, is holiness. This holiness works itself out practically in the Christian life through obedience to the word of God as we are made by the Holy Spirit to understand it. Peter writes, “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘be holy, for I am holy,” 1st Peter 1:15. God is light. He is a sinless and holy God and to maintain a lively fellowship with Him we ought to walk as He walks, 1st John 2:6. We only retain an active fellowship with God when we do not practice sin. Sin separates; it separates the life of an unbeliever from God and it separates the saint from their God because we’ve chosen disobedience, rebellion and pride over humility, obedience, and faith.

These two separations must be understood clearly. One leads to eternal condemnation if not remedied. The other can lead to physical death if not checked by that saint, 1st John 5:16-17; 1st Corinthians 11:31-32. It will never lead to spiritual death, John 6:37.

This message is something John prefaced his epistle with. God is light and there is no darkness in Him. He is entirely unlike the pagan gods of that time who warred with one another, slept with women and had fits of wild emotion like men. They were every bit as immoral as the people who worshiped them, with character flaws and faults that betrayed their all too human origin. Our God has no such darkness in Him. Sin causes blindness, a deep and abiding spiritual blindness that leads its captive down the broad lane that leads to destruction. The narrow way in Christ can only be found by the light the Holy Spirit’s presence brings; God alone can illumine the way for men to find eternal life, for our God is that eternal life and the light of men, John 1:4; 1st John 5:20.

1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
The NKJV flushes the verse out a trifle and tells us that we “do not practice the truth.” Our testimony is nullified by our lifestyle as Christians. A saint that claims fellowship with God (the same word is translated communion elsewhere) but habitually and willfully sins is a liar. God’s name and holiness is impugned because you are suggesting that God finds your rebellious lifestyle acceptable. God withdraws grievously from a saint given over to error, Ephesians 4:30-31.

Our walk is demonstrable to others, John is suggesting. If we hear from the lips what we fail to apprehend with our other senses that professor is a liar, according to the Holy Spirit who inspired John to pen these words. Not only are we out of fellowship by wantonness against Christ, we compound the error by lying and saying we are otherwise. We are not, as John says, practicing the truth.

Christians ought to find as time goes on and maturity grows that there is a desire and willingness to obey God out of love for Him, spawned in large part by His immense love for us, coupled by all that He has done for us. His love was demonstrated at the cross; He did not expect us to simply take His word for it but showed us that love was an action, and He took that action on our behalf. God laid down an example that we should follow Him, and walk in a way that demonstrates to fellow believers and the unsaved that we are Christ’s; they will know this by our love for God revealed by our care for one another. This is not a sentimental affection the Holy Spirit commands but a willingness to serve other Christians with our time, counsel, material goods, and various gifts bestowed on us. Our light is to so shine that men may see our good works done in Christ and glorify the Father in Heaven, Matthew 5:16.

1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
I am persuaded that this passage is not a salvation passage, but a call for believers to cleanse themselves so they might participate in fellowship with God. I am not saying that quoting this passage for reasons of salvation is improper; merely that its primary import is in reference to fellowship. The condition is in our walk: if we walk in the light (or practice the truth as he said in verse 6) as Christ is in the light we have fellowship one with another; the stipulation being that our conscience is cleansed by our Lord’s efficacious blood. Note that a Christian is commanded to walk in the light; it is said by John that our Lord simply is in the light. For positional or practical purposes our Savior is sinless. Our Lord put it differently:

“[Jesus] riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all,” John 13:4-10.

James contributes: “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed,” James 5:16. The believer in this world is imputed with Christ’s righteousness and positionally speaking will no longer be charged with sin that leads to spiritual death. However we often sully ourselves in this world and need to come to Christ to have our feet cleansed, representing the filthiness of this world as we walk through it. Note that Jesus told the apostles that they were clean due to the word spoken to them, John 15:3; see also Ephesians 5:26. Yet they needed their feet cleaned periodically; the saints still need to come to Christ to be cleansed from our sins.

A good practical example is recorded in the epistles to the Corinthians. In chapter five of the first epistle there is a man who was sleeping with his mother-in-law. Here was a chronicled episode of a saint of God conducting himself like the unsaved, in fact even worse than the unsaved according to Paul’s assessment. He writes:

I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person,” 1st Corinthians 5:9-13.

Paul and John are in agreement: our visible conduct is the measuring stick by which the confession of our walk with Christ is known to men. John called men who profess one thing and perform another liars. Paul writes that they are wicked. Believers who wantonly practice sin without repentance are to be disbarred from fellowship with other believers because they have already disbarred themselves from fellowship with Jesus Christ. Christ is not welcome in their life; and where our Lord is not welcome we should not feel welcome.

Clearly this man repented in due time after being cast out of the Corinthian church, for in Paul’s next letter he affirms that having done what is right in dealing with an erring brother they ought to restore him to fellowship with them. “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him,” 2nd Corinthians 2:6-8. We see first the liar who does not practice the truth in the believer’s attitude toward sin; this is followed by a right attitude brought on by godly sorrow, wherewith Christ’s blood can cleanse the sinner and restore that one to fellowship: both with Himself and with fellow Christians, 2nd Corinthians 7:10-11. The godly sorrow that worketh repentance to salvation is what we term “sanctification;” not salvation from sin’s penalty (that would be justification) but salvation from sin’s power in our daily life. This too is an overarching theme in John’s epistle.

1 comment:

  1. Ian,

    You've touched on some very important doctrine here. As Jesus pointed out, those who believed didn't lose their salvation, they didn't need be saved again, just to wash their feet, to confess their sins. John 14:23-24 stresses that obedience is the evidence whether our love for Christ is real. As Hebrews 12:14 states, without holiness, no man can see God.


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