Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1160 MP3 Audio File Video File

Walking in the Light

1 John 1:5-9

Delivered 03/26/23

Good morning, Bereans. We are taking a break from our Thessalonian study this morning because something came up that I want to deal with. Last week I was accused of teaching "progressive forgiveness" because I quoted 1 John 1:9 in the message. Let me just say here that this is the main reason that I do a Q&A at the end of the message. So, if I say something in the message that you don't understand or if I say something that you think is wrong, you can question me on it, and I can hopefully clear it up.

In an email entitled, "Are We Progressively Forgiven," a listener writes, "As an ex-Roman Catholic I recognize the damage of perceiving ourselves as being 'progressively forgiven.' The reason why, doing so, inadvertently reinforces law-keeping for our righteousness. A religious 'practice' which I contend is apostate in terms of 'veiling the glorious gospel.' While promoting both sin consciousness & sin-management for a righteousness by human effort & performance by its practitioners."

He goes on to say, "What I heard you share, as it relates to 1 John 1:9, is forgiveness is something we identify with & realize progressively. We are thus 'in and out' of our sins on the basis of our 'works' or 'confession of our sins.'"

He may have heard that, but that is not what I said. He goes on in a lengthy email to show how we are not progressively forgiven. And the thing that is frustrating is that in this very message dealing with the phrase "obey the gospel," I stressed the fact that salvation is by faith alone apart from works.

Then later in the week someone sent me a video of a guy talking about "Asymptomatic Salvation" and calling anyone a gnostic who thinks we are saved by faith alone. My question to him would be what are the symptoms of salvation? How many different answers do you think you would get from churchianity on this question? So, am I teaching an asymptomatic salvation? Not at all. What is the biblical symptom of salvation? It's a one-word answer. Faith.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 ESV

If you look back to verse 35 you will see that "coming to Yeshua" and "believing in Yeshua" are synonymous concepts. These are parallel terms, coming to Christ is the same as believing in Christ and vice versa. This is very important in understanding this text. What Yeshua is saying here is that no one can believe in Him unless the Father irresistible draws him to Himself. So, if someone believes in Christ, it is because the Father has drawn him to Himself. Notice what John writes concerning this.

Everyone who believes that Yeshua is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 1 John 5:1 ESV

People, if you believe, it is only because you have been born of God. Your faith in Christ is the symptom that you have been saved.

The asymptomatic salvation charge against me makes much more sense than my being accused of teaching a works righteousness. But both are wrong.

Believers, this is an extremely important topic to me. There is much confusion on it in churchianity.  How is a person saved and how does he know he is saved? So, for our study this morning, I'd like for us to look at 1 John 1 and seek to understand what exactly John means in this text.

As we delve into this text, we must keep in mind whom John was writing to. Let me ask you: Whom was this letter of 1 John written to? This was most likely a circular letter and was intended to be passed around to various churches in Asia. There is nothing in our text that would make me think it was limited to the first-century audience. The only thing that can be said for certain about the intended readers based on the content of the letter itself is that they were Christians.

These things I did write to you who are believing in the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that life ye have age-during, and that ye may believe in the name of the Son of God. 1 John 5:13 YLT

Unlike the Fourth Gospel that was written to bring people to faith in Christ, this epistle is written to those who have already trusted Christ, instructing them on how to have fellowship with Yeshua and the Father. I see the purpose of this letter as fellowship.

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 Yeshua Christ. 1 John 1:3 ESV

This verse introduces the purpose of the Epistle: "So that you too may have fellowship with us."  This is a hina purpose clause with a present active subjunctive. The main theme of the Epistle is fellowship with Yahweh. Believers, this book is about how we, right here and right now, can walk in fellowship with Yahweh, the God of all creation. Psalm 50 says:

The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Psalms 50:1 ESV

This Hebrew phrase, "El Elohim YHWH," can be translated as "Yahweh is the greatest God." And this is the God we can fellowship with just as Enoch did.

Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. Genesis 5:24 ESV

"Walked with God"—is a very significant phrase. It is also used of Noah in chapter 6. This phrase only occurs three times in the Tanakh and none in the New Testament. When God walks with men, it is a very rare thing. The first occasion of this was in Genesis 3 of the "LORD God walking in the garden." Adam was in that Garden. Adam walked with God in that Garden/Temple. Walking with God depicts a direct divine encounter, a fellowship. Enoch had a holy intimacy with the Creator that separated him from the world around him.

Fellowship with God is the highest and greatest human experience. Adam knew it and lost it. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David fellowshipped with God. Elijah fellowshipped with God and was caught up into the presence of God.

If John's readers are to have fellowship with the Father and with the Son (v. 3), they must understand what makes this possible. Some antinomian Gnostics believed that knowledge was superior to virtue and morality. John's revelation here countered that error.

In the Prologue (verses 1-4), John claimed that he was numbered among the eyewitnesses of the Word of life. Then, in verse 5, he defines the content of his message.

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. 1 John 1:5 ESV

This verse provides a basis for what follows in verses 6-10 and, in a sense, in the whole rest of the letter. In the Greek, this verse begins with the conjunction, kai. This conjunction forms the link between the prologue (1:1-4) and the present section, 1:5-2:2.

"This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you." John is affirming his personal presence during Yeshua's teaching. He is passing on Yeshua's revelations, not his own! The pronoun "we" refers to John and the other eyewitnesses and followers of Yeshua during His earthly life. The "you" here refers to the believers in Asia.

John is saying that the message that they were proclaiming to them had been given to them by Christ. In other words, they were only relaying what He told them. In John chapter 8 Yeshua said:

I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father." John 8:38 ESV

So, there is this chain of communication: God the Father communicates to Christ what He wants men to know, Christ comes and instructs His disciples, and then the disciples share with the believers in Asia Minor the message that Christ gave them.

And that message is this: "God is light." This message is essentially one about the character of God. In many ways the statement that God is light is the thesis of the epistle. It includes a definition of God's character as well as implications for the life of Christian discipleship.

What does he mean by saying that "God is light?" Lazarus would be drawing his imagery here from the Tanakh. He was a priest; he knew well the Tanakh. In the Tanakh we see that the reference to God as light has several different meanings. Light attends and characterizes God's self-manifestation (Ex 3:1-6; 13:21-22; Ps 104:4). The psalmist pictures God clothed in garments of light. Paul says of God in 1Timothy 6:16: "who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light." This "unapproachable light" is an appropriate symbol for the One who is pure, righteous, and holy.

Light also speaks of God's revelation through the spoken and written word. That word offers moral guidance and direction for living in accordance with God's will.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalms 119:105 ESV

Just as light shows people where to walk when it is dark, so God shows the way in which human beings are to walk.

The "light" figure emphasizes many qualities in God, including His splendor and glory, His truthfulness, His self-communicative nature, His purity. But the main idea here is that He is holy. As the following context and the introduction of the light/darkness motif make clear, this involves the moral realm and thus constitutes a description of God's character as pure and completely sinless. So, the message is clear: God is holy!

The Gnostic false teachers asserted that light referred to knowledge, but John asserts that it refers also to ethical purity. Today, just as it was back them the subject of God's holiness is just not popular. If you want to draw the crowds you have to talk about "God is love." Everyone wants to hear that, but people don't want to hear about the holiness of God.

"In him is no darkness at all"—using a strong double negative (ouk oudemia), the author states the same thing negatively. It is an assertion of the unchanging holy character of God.

The symbols of light and darkness are themes which are rooted in the Tanakh and which are drawn upon and applied in the New Testament. Light is a significant metaphor in Scripture, and the word "light" occurs on the very first and very last pages of Scripture and more than 250 times in between.

The contrast between light and darkness is also a major theme in the Dead Sea Scrolls (1QS 1:9-10). The metaphor of light and darkness is used frequently in the New Testament and in a variety of ways, and in every case the context provides the clue to its meaning. In our text, John is using it as good and evil.  Paul does the same in Ephesians 5.

Therefore, do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light Ephesians 5:8 ESV

Because believers are "Light in the Lord" so Paul says, "Walk as children of Light." Paul moves from the indicative of what they are in the Lord to the imperative of how they should live. Just because we are children of Light does not guarantee that we will live that way. So, Paul says, in effect, "Be what you are! You are Light; now, walk that way!" How do we do that? By living righteous lives.

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 1 John 1:6 ESV

In this verse, John sets forth the first of his three conditional sentences which portray what he understands to be the position of his opponents.

"If we say"—the "we" here is the functional equivalent of "someone." This covers anyone who says this. This is the first of several third-class conditional sentences which refer to the claims of false teachers. A first-class condition would be "since." A second- class condition would be "if and it's not." And the third-class condition is "maybe you will and maybe you won't." These third-class conditions are the only way to identify the assertions of the false teachers, who appear to be early (incipient) Gnostics.

The literary technique of a supposed objector is called diatribe. It was a way of presenting truth in a question/answer format. It can be clearly seen in Malachi and in Romans.

Evidently the false teachers in Ephesus were in one way or another complacent about their own sinfulness. John is not writing to them but to his own followers in Ephesus who were in danger of listening to those who had left the churches. Their teaching was apparently still influential. Some were saying: "You can have fellowship with God whether or not you are walking in the light in the way John says."

Now in Asia Minor and in the world that John writes to, there was the false teaching of Gnosticism, in particular, the Cyrenthian brand of Gnosticism. They held the view that Yeshua of Nazareth was simply a man and not really the Son of God and not a divine being. He was simply a human being and that at a certain point in his ministry, often associated with the baptism, the Messiah, the heavenly Christ, came upon him and he performed the will of God for a lengthy period of time. And finally, at the cross, that Christ departed from him and so he died as simply a man—Yeshua of Nazareth.

Although John speaks in the first-person plural "we," this does not necessarily imply that any of his readers are actually making such claims. Rather, he is using a rhetorical device to make vivid the danger of adopting this viewpoint: "Now imagine if we were to say…." To each of these false statements, then, John advances a theological counterclaim (1:7, 9; 2:1). Each counterclaim consists of two parts. John first refutes the cessationist's claim to be without sin, to be light as God is light. Second, he affirms the importance of the atoning work of Christ for the sinner.

"If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness"—some of the cessationists are claiming to have fellowship with God even though they are walking in darkness. They claimed that fellowship was based on knowledge only. This was an aspect of Greek philosophy from Plato. However, John asserts that Christians must live Christlike lives.

"Walk" is a present active subjunctive. This is a biblical metaphor expressing a moral lifestyle. God is light with no darkness. His children should be like Him. So, if we are living in sin and yet saying that we have fellowship with the Father, "We lie and do not practice the truth"—these are both present tense verbs. John's claim here is that the Christian who professes to "have fellowship with God" who "is Light" (holiness), but disobeys Him (walks in "darkness"), is lying.

They are guilty of two offences. First, they are guilty of lying about their relationship with God. Second, they are guilty of "not practicing the truth". The expression "practice the truth" is found only here in 1 John, but it also occurs in John 3:21. In that context, "does what is true" is the opposite to "doing wicked things" (John 3:20), which suggests that here in 1 John "practicing the truth" means living in the light of the truth and seeking to avoid sin.

Some commentators take the phrases "have fellowship with Him" and "walk in the light" as describing salvation. Advocates of this view say that if a Christian does not persevere in holy living, he or she is not a Christian. As I said earlier, the issue here is fellowship, not salvation. The Christian who walks in darkness is still saved, but they are not in fellowship with God. John earlier said his aim was that his readers, who were Christians (2:12-14, 21, 27), should enjoy fellowship with the disciples who were eyewitnesses.

So, verse 6 reflects a claim of the opponents, now in verse 7 we have the counter-claim of John.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Yeshua his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7 ESV

John's counter point is also in the form of a conditional sentence. "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light"—"walk" is another present tense which emphasizes continuing action. "Walk" is a New Testament metaphor for the Christian life:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, Ephesians 4:1-2 ESV

Truth is something we are to live out, not just something we know! Walking in the light does not mean that those who do so never sin but that they do not seek to hide that fact from God.

By "walking in the light" he means living up to what God shows us in His holy Word as his will. These verses are not "evangelistic" verses. John is challenging Christian people to be in fellowship with God. He is not questioning anyone's salvation (as 2:12-14 makes clear.

"As he is in the light"—in 1:5 John said, "God is light," but here he says that God "is in the light," which indicates that he is going to use the metaphor in an ethical fashion.

Believers are to think and live like God:

Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. Ephesians 5:1 ESV

As image bearers we are to reflect His character to a lost world.

The consequences of walking in the light are twofold: "We have fellowship with one another"—the first consequence is, we have fellowship with one another. Who is the "one another" here? Is it that we have fellowship with God or with other Christians? It is both! God is in the light, so when we walk in the light, we have fellowship with Him. Two Christians who are in right relationship with God will also naturally be in right relationship with each other. As people walk in the light with God, they have fellowship with one another. If you are in fellowship with God, you will also be in fellowship which other believers who are in fellowship with God. The term "fellowship" is the Greek term koinnia, which means a joint participation between two persons.

The only grounds on which we can have fellowship with another man or woman, as brothers and sisters in Christ, is on the foundation of the Gospel. Those who deny the fundamentals of the Gospel cannot be considered Christians. If they're not proclaiming or declaring the Gospel according to Christ, we cannot have fellowship with them. To proclaim that people must be baptized in water, specifically for the purpose of "the remission of sins," in order to be saved is to teach a false gospel. We cannot have fellowship with those who teach a works salvation.

The second consequence of walking in the light is: "And the blood of Yeshua his Son cleanses us from all sin."  This is a present active indicative. By his use of the present tense for the verbs 'to walk' and 'to cleanse', the author represents both the walking and the cleansing as ongoing activities.

The term "sin" is singular with no article. This implies every kind of sin. Notice this verse is not focusing on a one-time cleansing (salvation), but an ongoing cleansing in the Christian life. Both are part of the Christian experience.

God "cleanses" us at conversion in the sense that He will never bring us into condemnation for our sins (Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 1:7). However, we need continual cleansing from the defilement that sinful daily living brings because it hinders our fellowship with God. This is the same thing we see in John 13:

Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Yeshua answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Yeshua said to him, "The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you." John 13:8-10 ESV

What I see is happening here is that Yeshua distinguished the two types of spiritual cleansing that believers experience. Let's call them forensic and family forgiveness. When a person believes in Yeshua as Savior, God removes all the guilt of that person for sins committed in the past, present, and future. Yeshua spoke of this forensic or legal forgiveness as a total "bath" (louo). After a person believes in Yeshua as Savior, he or she commits sins—and those sins hinder the believer's fellowship with God.

So, in our text, John is NOT referring to initial salvation but to the removal of the obstacle to fellowship which is consciousness of sin. It is the cleansing of the conscience. One can be a Christian but not (at any particular point of time) be experiencing this. If we—we Christians—do not walk in the light, we will not have fellowship with God, we will not have fellowship with one another.

The "blood of Yeshua" is a metonymy for the death of Yeshua. Through it He points to his violent death on the cross, and it is this death which provides purification from sins for those who walk in the light with God. Because the early Gnostics denied Yeshua's true humanity John's use of "blood" reinforces Yeshua's true humanity.

Since this cleansing from sin is something that follows when we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, it must refer in this context primarily to ongoing practical sanctification.

So, let's talk about sanctification. During the transition period, the Church was growing to maturity. They were "being built" for a dwelling place of God. During the transition period, the Church was growing into the image of Christ. This is speaking about position, not practice. This growth was completed in AD 70 when the Lord returned consummating the New Covenant.

This progressive sanctification was something that happened to the first-century saints, not us. They were growing in their positional holiness. Now let me say this: I believe that we are to be growing in practical holiness. As you walk with the Lord, your life should reflect His values and attributes. But we are not growing into Christ's image positionally. We are complete in Christ.

All right, so what about believers living beyond AD70? What does sanctification mean to us? Well first of all, sanctification is synonymous with being in Christ and being set apart. In other words, we are holy. This is our position. But I believe that there should be a "practical" or "experiential" aspect of sanctification to us. I believe that Yahweh has called us to live holy lives. And that is what I see John talking about when he says that we are to "walk in the light."

W. Hall Harris III writes this concerning 1 John 1:7: "If we understand these statements to refer to initial justification, the force of the conditional construction in the apodosis ('if we walk in the light') would make one's justification contingent upon one's deeds or behavior, and this comes perilously close to making one's salvation depend (at least in part) upon one's good works."

The author is not worried about the initial justification (salvation) of the people to whom he is writing. Rather, he is reassuring them about forgiveness of sins committed after having become Christians.

Verse 8 gives us the second of the three clauses beginning with "if we say" and representing the false teaching of the cessationists.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8 ESV

"If we say we have no sin"—the Greek word for "sin" here is hamartia. Thayer defines hamartia as "to be without a share in, to miss the mark, to err, be mistaken, to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honor." This word occurs 17 times in 1 John.

What is the meaning of "We have no sin?" Some have interpreted the phrase "no sin" to mean no sin nature or no sin principle. But this seems out of harmony with John's other uses of "to have sin." Cessationists were not claiming that they were by nature free from the sin principle but rather that they were not guilty of committing sins. In other words, they probably meant that they had not sinned since they came to know God and experienced the anointing.

Within the sphere of Preterism, there are some who are saying that sin ended in AD 70 and, therefore, we do not sin today. This is a self-serving view that allows them to engage in all kinds of sinful behavior and say it is OK. But beyond AD 70, men still sin—hang on to this one—Christians still sin. You still sin.

John says that "If we say we have no sin," "We deceive ourselves."  The claim "to be without sin" is presented as a completed act while the self-deception is presented as ongoing.

John is dealing with the possibility that some of his readers might come to accept the adversaries' claims. If they were to agree to the false teaching and claim to be free from the guilt of sin, they would be deceiving themselves.

"And the truth is not in us"—this is synonymous with deceiving oneself. The word "truth" is from the Greek altheia which occurs nine times in 1 John. From this survey of the use of the word "truth" in 1 John, it is clear that the Johannine understanding of truth is different from Greek notions of truth. The Johannine idea of truth is found in the word of the Father turned to mankind, incarnate in Christ, illuminated through the action of the Spirit.

Verse 9 contains the second counter-claim of John,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 ESV

This verse is the converse of verse 8. Acknowledging the sins of which we are aware is the opposite of saying we are not guilty of sinning. There are some who insist that 1 John 1:9 has nothing to do with Christians but that it is an invitation to non-Christians.

"If we confess our sins"—"confess" is a compound Greek term homologeo which is from "to speak" and "the same" so this literally means "to say the same thing." Confessing, therefore, means saying about our sins what God says about them, namely, that they are indeed sins, offenses against Him. It is present tense, which implies ongoing action. Believers continue to agree with God that they have violated His holiness.

Some say that believers are already forgiven of all sin and that they don't need to confess their sins. What do you think? Well to not confess your sins would be to not agree with what God says about sin.

The confession of sin is not a theme that is found much in the New Testament. We really only see it in three other places. We see it in the Synoptic accounts of the ministry of John the Baptist when people came confessing their sins to be baptized by him (Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:15). We see it in James 5:16"confess your sins to one another and pray for one another." We also see confession of sin in Ephesus when the people confessed their evil deeds and burned their magical books during the ministry of Paul in that city (Acts 19:18).

Because in each of these cases confession of sin was public, some teach that John is saying that we need to confess our sin in public. But John doesn't specify the exact circumstances under which confession is to take place. Therefore, I would say that the confession of sin by the believer is what is important and not the circumstances surrounding it.

The confession could be a private confession of sin by the believer in prayer to God. I think this is the main idea here. But it could also be private confession of sin by the believer to another believer. This could be because your sin was against another believer. It could also be for accountability or a public confession of sin by the believer to the Christian community, possibly in the context of a worship service. I have seen this in worship services, and it has been very encouraging to young Christians. It's good to know that you're not the only one struggling with living the Christian life.

I think that the believer's life should be marked by continual confession of sins. It begins at salvation and goes on throughout one's life. It seems clear that confessing sin is a crucial part of walking in the light.

When the believer agrees with God about his sin then, "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." Yahweh is a faithful God. Exodus 34:6, which also links God's forgiveness with his faithfulness, may be behind this text.

Before the judgment throne of God, the sins of believers are forgiven even before they are committed and even if they are never confessed because God has said He has forgiven all our sins. As a righteous judge, He has done that because He thoroughly and completely punished Yeshua for our sins. The price is paid in full and, therefore, God by justice cannot hold us guilty because the price has been paid.

Some expositors teach that this verse cannot apply to Christians because God has already forgiven Christians. In other words, we do not need to ask for what we already have. For example, Romans 8:1 states:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Yeshua. Romans 8:1 ESV

Why, then, do we need to be forgiven again when we sin after salvation? This viewpoint fails to distinguish between the positional forgiveness received at conversion and the family forgiveness that we need after conversion.

Positional forgiveness makes us as holy and righteous as Christ and members of God's family. Whereas family or practical forgiveness enables us to experience intimate fellowship as sons within God's family. Sin interrupts fellowship but cannot change our positional relationship.

"And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"—as the believers continue confessing their sins, they are forgiven and cleansed. "Forgive and cleanse" are both aorist active subjunctives. These two terms are synonymous in this context; they refer both to the salvation of the lost and to the ongoing cleansing necessary for fellowship with God.

So, when a believer sins, he does not lose the forgiveness and cleansing that took place at salvation. But he does not experience it in his walk until he confesses his sin.

If Christians confess the sins that they are aware of, they may be sure that God will forgive their sins and cleanse them not only from those sins they confess but from all unrighteousness.

This confession and forgiveness is an on-going process and that's why we are always confessing and always being forgiven and being cleansed. Your justification is a fixed and settled reality. Your practical sanctification ebbs and flows dependent on how you deal with the sin in your life.

When a believer refuses to walk in fellowship with Yahweh, he puts himself in a position of discipline. God gets angry with His children when they sin.

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." Hebrews 12:5-6 ESV

The word "chastises" here is from the Greek word mastigoo which means "to skin alive with a whip." This clearly indicates to us that God's discipline can sometimes be severe. Believer, God sees your sin, and He is displeased with it.  He disciplines you because of that sin and chastises you because you are His child and He cares about your progression in holiness.

Believers, we cannot walk in the light if we aren't confessing our sins. If you compare verses 6-7 and verses 8-9, you can see from these parallels that denying our sin is part of what it means to walk in darkness, and confessing our sin is part of what it means to walk in the light.

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