What about 1 John 1:9? Part eight.

Posted: Sun. Mar, 11 2018

Five related statements

1 John 1:6-10
  If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself 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 that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

We begin by making several basic observations about this passage.

First, and most obviously, there are five sentences or verses, and they all have something in common.

Each sentence begins with the word “if”.

The technical name for a sentence like that is  a “conditional” sentence.

If A, B.

Now there are technical names for A and B, and I will give them to you now, but rest assured we are going to come back in a little while and get more technical about the Greek language here.

For now, we simply use the technical word for A, which is the “protasis”.

The technical word for B is the “apodosis”.

Protasis, apodosis.  Sounds like a medical diagnosis!

“We regret to inform you that we have found five cases of protasis apodosis in your lower cranial region”…   anyway…

But again we have five of these in a row in 1 John 1:6-10.

That’s the first thing.

 

The B’s:  just the facts

But there are several other things about this passage that are equally noteworthy.

Take a fresh look at the 5 apodoses (the B's).

Here they are :

6: we lie and do not practice the truth.

7: we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

8: we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

9: He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

10: we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

These statements alternate between stating negative things (vs. 6, 8, & 10)  and positive things ( vs. 7 & 9)  about the people in view.

 

Wildly different

The positive and negative statements are so wildly different that they cannot possibility be said about the same people.  There are two completely different groups in view here.

Listen as they tell you about themselves.

One group tells us that they are liars and deceivers with no truth in them, who make God out to be a liar.

The other group has fellowship with one another, their sins are forgiven, and they are cleansed from all sin and unrighteousness.

As we saw in the last blog, the statements in verses 6, 8, and 10 reappear later on in the letter of 1 John, where they invariably refer to John’s opponents.  See 1JO 2:4, 1JO 2:9, 1JO 2:22, and 1JO 5:10.

False teachers lie, deceive themselves, have no truth in them, make God out to be a liar, and do not have God’s word.

True apostles and teachers fit the exact opposite description.   They tell the truth, teach the truth, are honest about themselves, and rely on God’s word.

On the other hand, the statements  in 7 and 9 simply describe believers.

Believers have fellowship with one another. The blood of Jesus cleanses them from all sin. They are cleansed from all unrighteousness, and their sins are forgiven. And what a marvelous thing it all is, too.

 

The A’s:  Who says these things?

And when you take a look at the protases (the “if A's….”), you find a similar pattern.

6:  If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness,

7: if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light,

8:  If we say that we have no sin,

9:  If we confess our sins,

10:  If we say that we have not sinned,

Believers, including apostles and other genuine teachers of the Word, cannot walk in the darkness, or say that they have no sin, or say that they have not sinned.

Only unbelieving false teachers can do or say those things.

On the other hand, believers, particularly apostles, walk in the light and confess their sins (putting  aside for now  exactly what this means).

Clearly these particular unbelievers do not  confess their sins - because they don’t think they have any!
 

More work to do

Now in making these observations at the outset, we have not “closed the sale” as it were.

We have more work to do before we can be completely convinced that all of these things are facts about unbelieving opponents or (especially) believing teachers.

We need to examine in some detail some of the specific things that are said in these five verses.

Those things include the following:

  • Having fellowship with God
  • Walking in the darkness
     
  • Walking in the Light
  • Having fellowship with one another
     
  • The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin
     
  • Saying we have no sin
  • Confessing our sins
     
  • God forgiving us our sins
  • God cleansing us from all unrighteousness

 

Darkness and Light

The first four elements come in pairs:

  • Having fellowship with God / Having fellowship with one another
  • Walking in the darkness / Walking in the Light

The first two, although not identical, are complementary to one another.

The second two are absolute opposites.

We are going to begin with walking in the darkness /walking in the light.  This will  shed “light” (sorry) on the topic of fellowship.

What does it mean to walk in the darkness?  And who does that?

How about walking in the Light? 

 

The Gospel of John holds the key

Now earlier in this series we learned that the Gospel of John can serve as a lexicon of sorts for the letter of 1 John.  If there is any doubt about what a word or expression means in the letter, we can consult the gospel to get more information about it.

The Gospel of John holds the key to understanding what  John means by walking in the darkness and walking in the Light here in 1 John.

What does the Light signify in the Gospel of John?  How about the darkness?

 

The Light shines in the darkness

John 1:1-13
1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2  He was in the beginning with God. 3  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7  He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8  He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.

9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even  to those who believe in His name, 13  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Right away in verse 4 John identifies the Light.

The Light is the life that is in Christ.

The darkness comes in verse 5. The darkness does not comprehend the Light.

Verses 9 and 10 further define the Light and the darkness.

The true Light in verse 9 is Christ Himself. He is the Light of the world.

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

So what is the darkness?

In verse 10, the "world" is not planet earth, but the people in the  world.    We know this because the world did not know Him.  Planet earth cannot know anything, but people can.

The world did not know Him.    The people of the world were completely ignorant about Christ.

So the Light  - Christ and His message of Life - shines in the darkness because the true Light enlightens every man.

So the darkness is every man before the Light shines on him.  In other words, the darkness is the world of people who are ignorant of eternal life in Christ

The world as a whole (unbelieving people) did not know Him.

Receiving Christ - the Light -  means believing in Christ, as verse 12 states.

 

Who loves the darkness?

The next section of the gospel of John that deals with light and darkness is John 3:16-21.

John 3:16-21
16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  18 " He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  19 "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  20 " For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  21 "But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."

John often writes in terms of complete opposites.  We have that in 1 John. We have that again here in the gospel.

The opposites are basically the same two as in 1 John:  believer and unbeliever.

John says here in John 3 that the believer is not judged, while the unbeliever has been judged already.

And what is the judgment that is upon the unbeliever? The Light has come into the world, and these unbelieving men loved the darkness rather than the Light.

The unbeliever does evil, and hates the Light, and does not come to the Light. In other words, it is the unbeliever who hates the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is the unbeliever therefore who remains in the darkness.

The believer practices the truth and comes to the Light.  The believer walks in the Light.

Our Lord Jesus Christ has come into the world so that men would be saved by Him and receive eternal life.

Let’s consider two more passages in the gospel of John that also speak of the Light and the darkness.

 

Who does not walk in the darkness?

John 8:12
12 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, " I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."

Now first we need to see in the gospel of John who it is that Jesus says follows Him.

John 10:26-28
"But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.  27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;  28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

The Lord’s sheep follow Him.  Who are the Lord’s sheep? The ones who believe!  The ones to whom the Lord gives eternal life.

John 8:12
12 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, " I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."

The ones who follow Jesus are the ones who believe in Him.    They have the Light.  The Light is Christ, and the Light is life.

Believers do not walk in the darkness.

Those who walk in the darkness do not have the Light. They do not have Christ, and they do not have eternal life.

 

Believe in the Light

The evangelistic phase of the ministry of our Lord in the gospel of John ends with chapter 12.  He mentions the Light and the darkness in His final appeal to the Jews to believe in Him.

John 12:35-36
35 So Jesus said to them, " For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.  36 "While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light."

John 12:44-46
44 And Jesus cried out and said, " He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me.  45 " He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me.  46 " I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.

This is our Lord’s final appeal to the Jews to believe in Him while they have Him, meaning while He is walking among them.

If they do not believe in Him, the darkness will overtake them, and they will walk in the darkness.

Every one who believes in Him will not remain in the darkness. Rather, they will become sons of Light.  They will walk in the Light, which here means they will believe in Christ.

 

Sinning versus being good?

Now, in Christian circles, “walking in the darkness” in 1 John is commonly  understood to refer to a person who is currently sinning - engaging in acts of disobedience.  "Walking in the light" is understood to refer to a person who is living righteously by not being in a state of sin - “being good”.

According to this line of doctrinal thinking, "light" is a synonym for goodness or righteousness, "while darkness" is a synonym for sin.

 

Light and darkness defined

However, as we have seen, Light in the Gospel of John is never defined as goodness or righteousness.  Instead, Light is defined as eternal life in Christ.

Darkness is the absence of light.  Darkness in the Gospel of John  indicates the state of death, which is man in ignorance of God and rejection of Christ. They reject the revelation of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Darkness means abiding in death by rejecting God’s message of eternal life through Christ. It is the place where the unbeliever remains.

Next time, we will bring these definitions of darkness and light back to 1 John 1:5-7.

After that, we will examine whether or not the rest of 1 John further validates this definition.

This will set us up to tackle what John means by fellowship.

 

Until the next time, we’re all ….

In His grip,

Pastor John

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