If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out 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, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
– 1 John 1:6-10
John lays out 3 false claims, their negative results, and then 3 right responses and their positive results. The three false claims concern:
- The consequence of sin in our relationship with God
- The reality of sin in our nature
- The reality of sin in our conduct
Denying how we act and who we are affects our relationship with God. Therefore, having fellowship with God depends an honest view of God and of ourselves. Here’s the text of 1 John laid out in a grid to help assimilate what God is telling us, and then a few comments follow.
|False Claim||Negative Results||Right Response||Positive Results|
|1:6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness||we lie and do not live by the truth.||1:7 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, purifies us from all sin.|
|1:8 If we claim to be without sin||we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.||1:9 If we confess our sins||he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.|
|1:10 If we claim we have not sinned||we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.||2:1 But if anybody does [occasionally] sin,||we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.|
The first false claim states sin does not affect our relationship with God. John speaks against the ideas that: 1) God’s laws are not relevant to believers; 2) one can be righteous without doing righteousness; 3) a relationship with God is independent of obedience to God.
However, religion without morality is deception. It is impossible to have fellowship with God without first going to the cross (cf., 2 Cor. 6:14; Heb. 10:26-27; 2 Pt. 1:19; 1 Jn. 2:3-6). Speaking the truth without living it is the height of hypocrisy. Those who belong to God necessarily share in his nature (2 Pt. 1:3-4; 1 Jn. 3:9).
In Verse 6 John is saying that we must come to God on his terms, and that those terms are non-negotiable. Christianity not only claims that God is holy, righteous, and morally pure, but that all who belong to him take sin seriously and pursue being like Him. The good news of our faith is that we are not left to our own resources and ourselves. God has provided a solution to our problem of sin: The cross of Jesus!
To walk in the light is to be in the presence of God himself. It is a conscious, sustained effort (the Greek tense of “walk” is on-going) to be responsive in our behavior and attitude to God’s illuminating truth.
There are three benefits from “walking in the light:”
- “Fellowship with one another”
John already said that to have fellowship with God’s people means having fellowship with God (1:3). For John, fellowship is not some casual acquaintance with others by way of a common religious association. Rather, fellowship is a devoted alliance between individuals who actively participate in a mutual spiritual heritage.
- “The blood of Jesus . . . purifies us”
The effects of the cross extend far beyond our salvation; they are vital to our sanctification as well (the Greek could be rendered “continues to purify us”). As believers, the cross is not only a part of our past, but also an essential part of our present. The idea of “purity” is not limited to forgiveness alone, which often means a judicial pronouncement of “not guilty.” Being purified by Jesus’ death ensures the consequences of our sin do not blemish our new identity in Christ (cf., 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20). If more believers could only realize the benefits of the cross, there would be far less therapy going on and far more healing taking place! Jesus’ “blood” is an allusion to his death, which was a cogent reminder to those false teachers who believed that Jesus was not fully human.
- “from all [or “every”] sin”
The cross is God’s comprehensive plan for dealing with each and every sin that has been committed or ever will be committed in our lives (Rom. 6:10; Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 26; 1 Pt. 3:18). However, this does not mean that we are free from the presence of sin, only the power and stain of sin (Rom. 6:6, 7, 14; 1 Jn. 2:1). While there are no “sinless” Christians this side of heaven, we are in a continual process of becoming what we are – pure, holy, blameless, and without stain or wrinkle (Eph. 5:26-27; Tit. 2:14; Heb. 10:10; 1 Jn. 1:9). Moreover, what God has begun in our lives will be completed (Philip. 1:6).