1 John 1:5-10
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.…
I. NATURE OF GOD, "And this is the message which we have heard from him, and announce unto you, that God is Light, and in him is no darkness at all." Christ's message is supported by the conviction that he has a message to deliver. The apostolic message, which has still to be delivered, was received directly from the lips of Christ. It has particular reference to the nature of God, viz. his being Light, with which we are to associate infinite clearness of truth and infinite purity. He is Light, to the absolute exclusion of darkness, there being in him not the slightest trace of error, not the slightest speck of impurity. The light of the sun is a fit, though only an imperfect, symbol of his truth and purity. Christ may have given the revelation in these words, though they are not to be found in the Gospels. It is implied in his being the Light, while at the same time the Word (John 1:1-9). It was because he manifested the essential light-nature of God that he was Light-bringer to men. We do not have here the good message (language which John nowhere uses), viz. mercy to men, though there may be suggestion of this in the great diffusiveness of light. We have that which mercy presupposes in God and seeks to diffuse among men.
II. THREE FALSE CONDITIONS CONDEMNED, AND THE THREE OPPOSED POSITIONS JUSTIFIED.
1. First false position.
(1) Stated. "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in the darkness." The three hypothetical sayings, introduced in the same way ("if we say"), are unchristian. As one who would be warned as well as others, John includes himself. Christians, according to the conception in verse 3, are those who say that they have fellowship with God. The position supposed here is saying this while we walk in the darkness, i.e., while we habitually move in this element - while we keep our life away from true and pure influences, loving error and impurity.
(2) Condemned. "We lie, and do not the truth." Our lie is saying that we have fellowship with God. Our doing not the truth evidences our lie. We make our life a contradiction of the nature of God, which is light, and thus necessarily unfit ourselves for fellowship with God; for what concord hath light with darkness? It cannot be held that we can be indifferent to our manner of life and yet maintain friendship with God.
2. First opposed position.
(1) Stated. "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light." This is the Christian supposition opposed to the other. As one who would be confirmed, John includes himself. Let us also include ourselves. Light is the Divine clement; let it also be ours. God is in the light, i.e., has absolute fixedness in it. We are to walk in the light, i.e., to throw our life open to all true and pure influences, thus moving forward toward his fixedness.
(2) Justified. One good consequent. "We have fellowship one with another." This results from our walking in the light. Having a common clement for our life, and therefore common sympathies and antipathies, the foundation is laid for our having fellowship one with another. This, according to the Johannine teaching, is closely related to our having fellowship with God. But how are we to be fitted for this higher fellowship? The answer is given in what follows. By walking in the light, we come within the influence of the blood of Christ. Another good consequent. "And the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin."
(a) A present power. The blood of Christ refers to the death of Christ, but is to be distinguished from it in marking it as having present virtue. It is a great living reality of the present. It is mentioned, along with other verities, in the twelfth of Hebrews: "Ye are come... to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."
(b) A human-Divine power. It is the blood of Jesus, and therefore human blood; but it is also the blood of God's Son, and therefore blood of infinite virtue.
(c) A cleansing power. It is blood that cleanses, because it was shed in satisfaction for sin. The cleansing is with a view to our having fellowship with God. There was constant instruction in this truth under the Jewish dispensation. The cleansing, in accordance with verse 9, is to be referred to sanctification. Even after we have been cleansed from guilt, we need to be cleansed from impure thoughts and desires, in order that we may be fitted for fellowship with him who is Light. Our whole dependence for sanctification must be on the efficacy of the blood, along with the agency of the Spirit.
(d) A universal power. It is blood that cleanses from all sin. The light-nature of God is constantly revealing the presence of sinful elements in our nature. We have the remedy in the blood of Christ, which will gradually remove all sinful elements, until, thoroughly purified, we are as fitted as creatures can be for holding converse with him who is a consuming fire to all sin.
3. Second false position.
(1) Stated. "If we say that we have no sin." This goes back on the previous thought, viz. the cleansing away of the remaining impurity, until we are completely fitted for fellowship with God. What if this is unnecessary? if our sanctification is already completed? This is the supposition which is now made.
(2) Condemned. "We deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." It is too violent a supposition to be entertained in ignorance. It can only be entertained where there has been a considerable amount of self-activity in the way of presenting to the mind deceitful appearances - sophisms, such as the Gnostic idea of superior enlightenment. While there is the activity of self-deception, there is not the activity of the truth. If it were active in us, it would show us that there was much remaining evil to be overcome.
4. Second opposed position.
(1) Stated. "If we confess our sins." The precise converse would have been saying that we have sin. There is a going beyond that to the practice of the Christian duty of confession, which is literally," a saying along with," i.e., along with God. It is a duty which cannot be performed unless with feelings of penitence, arising from a proper view of what we are and have done. What we are to confess is not merely that we have sin, i.e., have the taint still in us, are not completely sanctified; but we are to confess particular manifestations of sin. "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil." David had his sin brought home to him very pointedly, "Thou art the man!" and he did not then hide it, but confessed, "I have sinned against the Lord." "It is much easier to make pious speeches to the effect that we are sinners in a general way, and expressive of general deep contrition, and of the misery engendered by sin, than to acknowledge the particular wrong we have done, and to endeavour as far as possible to repair it. Many who are ready enough to admit generally that they are sinners would be the first hotly to repel a charge of sinfulness on any one special point, so deep is the self-deception of the human heart, which is often furthest from God when the lips are busiest in honouring him." Let our confessions have the particularity which is here suggested. Let them be founded on self-knowledge, and on self-knowledge in particular manifestations. The sorrow that prompts to confession cannot be all that it should be unless we clearly realize wherein we have violated the spirit of the Divine precepts and especially of the gospel.
(2) Justified. "He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." When particular sins are in question, there is brought in the blessing of forgiveness as well as of cleansing. God has pledged his word to forgive us our sins: "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins." He has also pledged his word to advance our sanctification: "I will put my Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts." This Scripture itself is a distinct promise. If, then, we walk in the light, and fulfill the specific condition, viz. confess our sins, we may with the utmost confidence look to God to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness of disposition which would lead to the commission of sin. He not only holds himself bound by his promise, but the promise is thoroughly in accordance with his nature. In view of what he has done in redemption, he regards it as not only a gracious thing, but even a righteous thing, to attach the double blessing to confession of our sins. Doing, then, what he commands, we can appeal to him, even as righteous, to bless us.
5. Third false position.
(1) Stated. "If we say that we have not sinned." This is a very large assumption, even if we do not take into account our pre-Christian state: "We have never committed sin since we entered into union with Christ. It is going beyond the previous assumption, inasmuch as this involves complete sanctification from the beginning. This, then, is the most thorough-going perfectionism. Thus perfect, we may say with Christ, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" But what is said about the assumption?
(2) Condemned. "We make him a liar, and his Word is not in us." The wildest assumption receives the severest condemnation. The blood of Christ is for our continual cleansing. God is therefore dealing with us on the supposition of our partial sanctification. To claim complete sanctification is to make him a liar, i.e., to contradict this supposition. It can be said, further, that his Word is not in us, i.e., is not evidenced in our consciousness in what it says about our state. We do not need to go beyond the petition which Christ put into the mouth of disciples, "Forgive us our sins." It is the height of presumption to imagine that we can here outgrow the Lord's Prayer. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.