In Adam the human race declared war with God. We became a rebel kingdom; sunk in the darkness of the blackest night of hatred toward God. We want to rule ourselves, to determine good and evil by our own reckoning, and worship at the altar of self-glory. Our position before God is that of traitors and rebels. Left to our own devices we will not seek God, nor reconciliation with Him. Yet, we were made to enjoy the fellowship of His glorious presence. We hate this darkness, but we hate the light of God’s holiness more. The good news is that the Son has risen; and His light brings life.
1 John 1:5-10
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. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Summary of the Text
John’s introduction (vs.1-4) is no innocuous greeting. It is laden with theological and philosophical claims regarding Jesus Christ, concluding with the crescendo that this is all written that our joy may be full. The message which John heard from Jesus and declares unto us is that God is light, and there is not a shred of darkness in him (v5). This is followed by five “if/then” statements; these are foundational to John’s later discussion of antichrists (1 Jn. 2:18, 4:1-3) and assurance (1 Jn. 2:3).
First, claiming to have fellowship with God, yet continuing in the darkness of error, is evidence that you are a liar like your father Satan (v6, cf. Jn. 8:44). Second, walking in the light results in fellowship with God and His people, and being cleansed from sin through the blood of Jesus (v7). Third, claiming to be without sin is self-deception and is a tell-tale sign of the absence of truth (v8). Fourth, confessing our sins brings the assurance that Christ is faithful and just to forgive and to cleanse from unrighteousness (v9). Finally, claims to sinlessness blaspheme God’s holiness, and prove that His word (by which we are born again, cf. 1 Pt. 1:23) is not in the one who claims to be without sin (v10).
God is Light
This is Jesus’ message, not John’s. John has simply been sent to proclaim. While later on John teaches that “God is love (1 Jn. 4:8),” he doesn’t lead with that. Rather, Jesus’ message is: “God is light!” Light here encompasses all of God’s perfections: His white hot purity of being. All of His divine attributes in perfect concord, no disharmony, no external source. As the hymn states: “Self-fed, self-kindled like the light, changeless, eternal, infinite.” His holiness, wisdom, understanding, and power. All without mixture, defect, or deficiency.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ declared: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (Jn. 8:12).” Following Jesus, then, is man’s only path out of the darkness of sin and into the glorious light of God’s favor in which is found abundant, eternal life. Jesus’ Gospel is quite simple: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him (Jn. 3:36).” This is why we confess our belief that Jesus is “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made.”
Light for the Greek mind would signify knowledge, wisdom, understanding; for the Jew, it would be understood in the context of God’s creating power and thus His holiness as the Almighty God. The Jews’ longing for the promised Messiah who would restore holiness to the people of God, and the Greek longing for true wisdom are found in the light of Jesus Christ: God in the flesh, the eternal Word of Life, and the lone Mediator between God and Man, our only way to fellowship with God (Jn 14:6). The pathway to life was not through the dark promises of the gnostic’s hidden knowledge, nor in the shadowy figures of the Old Testament. The life-giving light of God’s holiness and wisdom shine in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
However, “What communion hath light with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14)?” How can God’s holiness and our sinfulness be reconciled? By a Mediator of the covenant: the man Jesus Christ. While many attempt to exalt the love of God to a place of supremacy within God’s attributes, and while it is a glorious reality that God is love, we must remember God is light and God is love. Light before love. Holiness which endures no sin subsisting with affectionate charity which grants mercy. John lays the foundation of God’s holiness, in order to reveals His lovingkindness.
These if/thens are promise language. You experience the light of God’s holiness, wisdom, and power as either wrath and justice or love and mercy. In order to be saved from God’s wrath we must be convinced of our positional guilt in Adam, and receive the positional righteousness of Christ. False Christology always leads to man’s sin not being dealt with or forgiven. These false gospels explain away sin. Covenant breakers insist on finding in themselves, or in some antichrist, a savior. They always run to one extreme or the other: hedonism or asceticism; intellectualism or sentimentalism; traditionalism or spontaneity; legalism or licentiousness. So they remain under the wrath of God.
New Covenant Saints walk in the light–which is the Lord Jesus Christ–for in His light is the only hope for propitiation of our sins (1 Jn. 2:2) and eternal life (1 Jn. 2:25). Tozer once said: “We must hide our unholiness in the wounds of Christ as Moses hid himself in the cleft of the rock while the glory of God passed by. We must take refuge from God in God.” Matthew Henry put it wonderfully: “[Jesus Christ’s] blood applied to us discharges us from the guilt of all sin, both original and actual, inherent and committed: and so far we stand righteous in his sight; and not only so, but his blood procures for us those sacred influences by which sin is to be subdued more and more, till it is quite abolished.”
Do The Truth
False saviors can only offer false righteousness. Jesus Christ offers cleansing from our unrighteousness. Antichrists command us to do; Christ commands us to rest in His doing. Claiming to have fellowship with God, while walking in the darkness of a false gospel, is the vanity of “doing not the truth (v.6).” They remain blind corpses.
By contrast, if you are to “do the truth,” you must believe in Jesus and all that He claimed to be: the one mediator between God and man. By faith you are united with Him in His righteousness. The light of Christ pierces through the darkness of unbelief, and by grace opens the eyes of your faith to behold in Him your only salvation from sin and means of fellowship with Almighty God (cf. Ps. 36:9 & Is. 45:22). Christ is the only channel whereby eternal life is extended to you, along with the fullness of enjoying the Father’s love. So as you walk in the light of Jesus Christ, you are reckoned righteous and may say with John, “what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God (1 Jn. 3:1).”