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.
1 John 1:5-7
In the book of 1 John, John writes a prologue which is similar to his other letters and his gospel. He talks about the revelation of Jesus, who was the word of life from the beginning and has now been made manifest to them. He states his purpose for his letter, to share the Gospel of Christ that the disciples had received. He goes on to say that this message proclaims that God is light; a central theme to his Gospel that says that Jesus is the true light coming into the world.
John is encouraging his audience to walk in the light of Christ. Christians were constantly bombarded with competing doctrines and lifestyles that drew them away from a life devoted to God. Walking in the light instead of darkness was not a metaphor for them to make good choices and stay away from the dark and tainted world. Rather, it was a metaphor for God’s truth and holiness. If God is light, then he exposes darkness and has the power to destroy it.
John makes a good argument for why we should embrace this gospel message. God is light, he is pure and good. Walking in the light means that we have redeemed fellowship with God and each other, all of our sins being cleansed by his blood. Why, then do we so often fail to live out this message?
We have a constant struggle with our pride. John gives us the two ways that we can falsely walk in the light:
- “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. “ This directly echoes James’ statement that faith without works is dead. Walking in God’s light means that we are not only in his truth but his holiness. We can say that we believe and know his Word, but we are not truly God’s children if we do not bear the character of God. We are not true followers of Christ if we are not becoming more like him by the power of the Spirit.
- If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. The second way we falsely walk in the light is by covering our sin with our own, filthy, self-righteousness. Walking in the light means that we are not only in his holiness but his truth. We can try our best to live righteously and do good things, but if we cannot admit to our sin then we are not truly walking in the light of the gospel.
So, how do we walk in the light correctly? John says that we deceive ourselves. Like Adam and Eve, we often point the finger for our sin and disobedience. We look to the world and Satan to blame for sin. But the gospel doesn’t point to these things. The light doesn’t expose them as the culprit for sin. It exposes our own hearts. That is why it is so difficult to embrace the gospel. The first part of the message says that we are the darkness and we have no part in fellowship with God. It shows us how much we deserve to be exiled from his presence and how much we deserve his wrath. That is not a message that is easy to embrace. But thankfully, that is not the whole of the message.
There are two answers that John gives for the ways we can walk falsely in the light:
God gave us Jesus to reveal our sin to us – show us the truth. Part of that truth is that we are sinners, but the other part is that he is our Savior. By his truth we can painfully see our unrighteousness. Through his blood, we are made holy. The truth hurts and it is painful to deal with sin, but God wants to reveal his Son to us so that we may have fellowship with him and each other.
Ultimately, it is our own pride that hinders us from the gospel. In order to truly walk in the light, the light must shine upon us, exposing every dark deed in our hearts. Only then can we see how much we need Jesus and call upon him to cleanse us so that we may join him in righteousness.
This was the heart cry of the disciples who had been changed by Jesus. They wanted everyone to be free from their sin and share in the life that they had found in Christ.
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.
1 John 1:1-4