If you were in a court of law, could you prove that you are a Christian? Or, more importantly can you prove it to yourself? You see Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21, cp. Luke 6:46). Can we really know whether we belong to Jesus or not? Can we really be sure that we are going to heaven? Maybe it is more important to ask, “How important do we think it is?” The aged Apostle John was confronting some false teachings. Some had “gone out” to do their own thing (1 John 2:19). They had new ideas about Jesus, sin and what it means to be a child of God. Those that held to the apostles’ teachings were confused. So the apostle John told them how a person can know that they know Jesus. He said:
3Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
You will notice that the apostle did not say that this is how you earn favor with God or even that this is what you should do. Rather he is giving us the first of several tests that we can use to evaluate our relationship with God. God has done it all (1 John 2:1-2). These are things that will be there if God is at work in our life. So, what was the apostle saying? Well he was explaining what he had already said. He is saying we can “know that we know Him” (v 3) or that we “have fellowship with Him” (1 John 1:6) when we “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7) or “keep His commandments” (v 3; Word, v 5).
He is using different language to say the same thing. But, what does he mean by the word “keep?” The word simply means to “retain,” to “hold on to” or to “pay attention to.” We only do that with things that are important to us. To “keep” His commandments suggests a certain amount of commitment, just as “walking in the light” (1 John 1:7). We will “keep” or hold on to the things that we trust. Does God really know what He is talking about? If so, His Word is trustworthy.When a parent tells their child, “listen to me,” they expect the child to do more than just listen. If we “keep” (value) God’s Word, we will allow it to guide our life as if it were a light in the darkness. We may not be perfect, but we will allow it to show the way.
We can convince others that we are a good Christian. We can tell others God’s Word is important, BUT we cannot lie to our self or to God. If we truly have fellowship with God, we will be listening to Him. We will be walking in the light of His word. This is the first test. The apostle Paul explained the alternative this way, “They profess to know God, but in [their actions] they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (Titus 1:16). So, with this first test, we must ask our self, “What are we really trusting?”
Now, he does not say that this is just some warm feeling. He describes it as, “walking in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7). Here he explains that to be consistent, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (v 6). It is not that you must be perfect, but are you becoming more like Jesus? The apostle Paul said that we are to “grow up in all things into Him who is the head, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). God’s standard for everyone is to become perfect “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
Now that is a high standard! Will we become “perfect” in this life? No, “If we say that we have no sin [failures], we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Nonetheless, this is God’s standard for us. How can we live with so high of a standard? The apostle John is not saying a person must be “obeying” all of God’s Word. He is saying that we must “keep His Word” or “walk in the light.” If we are not doing that, we are “walking in darkness.” The “truth is not in [us]” and we cannot practice the truth (v 4; 1 John 1:6).
Did you notice, the apostle said that a person who claims to be a Christian and is not keeping His Word or walking in the light “is a liar” (v 4; 1 John 1:6)? He did not say that they are “mistaken.” That means that deep inside we know the truth. So are you trusting God’s Word or are you relying on our own opinions. If it is not God’s Word then you are in “the dark.” You do not know the truth and you cannot have fellowship with God. The apostle Paul said we are at “enmity against God” (Romans 8:7).
So, what must we do to have fellowship with God? The apostle already explained. “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). Lets look at that again. When we do fail to live up to God’s standard, we need to admit (or confess) it to God. We are not talking about going out and living a debauched life and thinking that is all right. But, if we trust the Light, then we can trust Him even when we fall short. We can trust that He is “faithful” to His promises and that He is “just.” The price for our sin has already been paid by Jesus. So He is willing to forgive (take the guilt away) and to cleanse us (remove that which is not right). This process is part of “walking in the Light.” It is acknowledging that God’s Word is just and right and that we do fall short as His word says.
If you do not see your need, you only fool yourself and the truth is not in you. It would be a terrible shame to miss out on all of this simply because you did not understand or because you just didn’t make the effort to understand.
If you were in a court of law, would you listen to your attorney? After all, he is your “advocate.” He is there to argue and support your cause. That is what advocates do. An “advocate” is any person who comes along side to assist in any given situation. If we are “walking in the Light (1 John 1:7). We have a Great Advocate!
The apostle John said, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). He also said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). That means we have a problem. John was not saying that we are all living vile and debauched lives. The word “sin” simply means to “fail” or “miss the mark,” and all of us have fallen short of God’s plan for our life (Romans 3:23). So, the aged apostle John said:
1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
This is a message of HOPE. You see, there is just such an advocate in the great court of the Almighty. Someone once said:
WE owed a debt we could not pay
HE paid a debt He did not owe — C.H. Spurgeon
This is the great exchange. Jesus Christ exchanged His RIGHTEOUSNESS for our GUILT. This is nothing short of amazing! Think about it. Are you willing to listen to Him? John says that he is writing “so that you may not sin.” Some had been saying they “have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness” (1 John 1:6). Like many today, who say “I am a Christian,” but they never have time for God or His Word. This is inconsistent. The apostle Paul put it this way, “They profess to know God, but in [their actions] they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (Titus 1:16).
Many people talk really good. They say all the right things, but their actions betray them. John says they “lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6). This is not what the apostle is talking about here, when he speaks of “sin.” He is not saying that we can live a life of rejecting God’s Word, and think it is okay. John is saying that as we live our lives [walk] guided by God’s Word [light], we may fall short. At that point, we have, an “Advocate,” someone to come along side, assist and plead our case. It is “Jesus Christ the righteous.”
Jesus is “able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession [advocates] for them” (Hebrews 7:25). The apostle Paul asked, “Who is it that condemns?” His answer, “It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession [advocates] for us” (Romans 8:34). That is Jesus is not only the “prosecuting attorney” (bringing the charges), but He is also the “defense attorney.” He “advocates” for those who belong to Him. He can do that because He paid the fine (died for your sins).
This is what John was referring to when he said, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.” That word “propitiation” is not a real common word. It means to “win someone’s favor.” In the ancient world, many did not know the one true living God. They would worship gods that were more like super heroes. When there was a problem they “appeased” [propitiated] their gods. They would offer some sacrifice [a propitiation] to their gods. This idea is not found anywhere in the Bible.
However, the apostle Paul did use the word to describe what God did for YOU (Romans 3:23–26)! Note, the apostle said “all have sinned” or fallen short. That means we need an “advocate! The apostle went on to say that we can be “justified” or declared just and right because of God’s “grace” or compassion for us. This is possible because Jesus Christ paid the redemption or ransom for our sins. Then the apostle explained that God the Father offered Jesus (God the Son) as a propitiation by His blood. That is “God offered God as a sacrifice to satisfy God. It is all about His love for you.
It had to be so. God had to demonstrate His own righteousness. He just couldn’t say “Oh poor baby I forgive you.” He had to be “just” and right. So, for God to justify (declare to be just and right) a sinner, He had to first pay the penalty for sin. The apostle went on to say, sinners are justified or declared right by God because of their faith in Jesus. In other words they trust God enough to “walk in the light.”
If I say I “have fellowship with Him,” and do not pay attention to what He says is true, I “lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6). His propitiation for my sins does not help me. John had said that he wrote so “that you also may have fellowship” and so “that your joy may be full.” Christ’s propitiation provides salvation for all (Hebrews 2:9). You see, God did it for “the whole world” (v 2). It is as wide as sin. Yet, everyone must be reconciled with God (2 Corinthians 5:19-21). If people do not experience the benefit of Christ’s propitiation, the fault is theirs. You see, this “advocacy” is limited to those who have been reconciled (v 1; 1 John 1:7). If you do not belong to Him, you miss out. It would be a terrible shame to miss out on all of this simply because you did not understand or because you just didn’t make the effort to understand. You need to admit (confess) your sins to God (1 Johm1:9) then live a life trusting God’s revelation. Then you will experience the love of God. God is “faithful” to His promises and He is “just.” The price for sin has already been paid by Jesus.
“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God” — C.S. Lewis
“Light is electromagnetic radiation that has a wavelength that may be seen by the normal unaided human eye.” It is light that reveals the world around us. Without light we are in the DARK!
The apostle John said, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” What in the world was he saying? Well, in the first verses of his letter the apostle John said that they had “heard,” “seen with their eyes” and “handled” the “Word of Life” [Jesus]. He went on to say that he was “declaring” or telling us what he had heard from Jesus. Then he said:
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and 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 Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just 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.
“This is the message” that the apostles heard from Jesus. This is what he is “declaring” to us. Jesus said that “God is Light.” Now that is profound! Note, He did not say “light is God.” So what does he mean? The apostle is using the word “light” as a figure of speech, to describe God. In other words, it is God that reveals the truth about the world around us. Without God we are in the dark about life, about who we are and about God Himself.
So, if God shows us the truth, how does He do that? In Hebrews 1:1-2 we read, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.” God reveals the truth through Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
The apostle said, “The things we saw and heard from Jesus, who was revealed to us, we tell to you” (1 John 1:2-3). For more than 3 years John had followed Jesus. He was there at the crucifixion. He was in the upper room when the risen Jesus appeared. He was an eyewitness! Now he is telling us that it should be as life changing for us as it was for them. He points out that many were confused about what this means. Some said, “We have fellowship with Him” (v 6).
That is they may have said that they were “Christians” and had fellowship with Jesus, but they still “walk in darkness.” Maybe they just went to church or did what they thought was right. But, they were not trusting Jesus to reveal the truth. Many do that today. The apostle says that if we are doing that, “we lie and do not practice the truth.” In other words we are really not a Christian. Why? Because Jesus also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). A person may say they are a Christian, but just saying it does not make it so. John says Christians “walk in the light as He is in the light” (v 7). That is, they trust Him enough to allow Him to change their life. Can you trust the all-knowing Creator to lead you in life? If you do trust Him to do that, then “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses [you] from all sin.” That is good news! Jesus paid the price for your sin when He died on that cross, and He said, “IT IS FINISHED” (John 19:30). There is nothing to add!
A second mistake we might make is to say, that now that we are trusting Jesus to change us, “we have no sin” (v 8). Even while allowing Jesus to light our way, we “fall short” of God’s plan for our life. That is what “sin” is. It is failing to be all that God has planned for us. If we think we have become sinless, “we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” That is, we do not know what God’s Word says. We don’t understand what God’s plan really is for our life.
A third mistake some may make is saying that they have never sinned (v 10). God’s word says, “All have sinned and fall short of God’s plan for their life” (cf. Romans 3:23). So, if we say we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and His word is not in us. This is not good! So, what is the solution? We need to see that God has a good, acceptable and perfect plan for each of our lives (cf. Romans 12:2). If we ignore God’s Word, it may be evidence that we are really not a Christian. But, even when we allow Him to lead us, we will fall short.
There are two things we must see. First, “it is the blood of Jesus Christ His Son [that] cleanses us from all sin” (v 7). It is not our efforts. It is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). None of us have anything to brag about. It is all about God’s love for you! He did it for you. The victory is won. You only need to “walk in that victory.” It would be a shame to miss out on so great a love.
Second, when we do fail, we need to admit (confess) it to God (v 9). If we trust the Light, then we can trust Him even in our failures. God is “faithful” to His promises and He is “just.” The price for sin has already been paid by Jesus. “Confessing” (admitting) our sins to God is in reality a part of embracing His Word. It is seeking His “Forgiveness” and “cleansing.” If you do not see your need, you only fool yourself.
Once you grasp what it means to “walk in the Light,” and “practice the truth,” you will see Him at work, changing who you are from the inside out. You will begin to experience that fellowship with Him. That fellowship brings lasting joy. God says that in His presence is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (without end, Psalm 16:11). We will see later on that the apostle John will tell us that when we experience this fellowship and that joy, we can KNOW that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13).
What doing with your life? You may see jail as an interruption of what you want to do. Or you could see it as God at work in your life. It can be a starting point of a new life. It is up to you!
The apostle John began his gospel account with the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Then he said, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He was clearly talking about Jesus. Here, in his first epistle (letter), the apostle continues that discussion by referring to, “That which was from the beginning” (the Word of God, Jesus).
In this “greeting” John neither mentions who he (the writer of the letter) is nor to whom he is writing. He just cuts right to the chase and says:
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
As we read the Scriptures, we tend to think that these are just some religious writings. Notice, John did not even say that He was an apostle as Paul did (cp. Romans 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1). He did not even say that it was the Spirit of the living God that guided him as Peter did (cp. 2 Peter 1:16–21). While both are true, John gives another reason why we should listen to what he has to say. So, what in the world was this old man talking about?! Quite simply put, about forty years earlier, he saw something that not only changed his life, but it would also change the whole world. In these first 4 verses of his letter, the apostle John clearly explains why we should listen to what he has to say.
Back when John wrote this letter (about AD 70), there were already people that wanted to “reinvent” Jesus. There were people that thought that they knew better than to believe all of this stuff. As a matter of fact there was a church somewhere in Asia Minor, probably at Ephesus, that had split (1 John 2:19). Some were saying that they had some new ideas about who Jesus was, about life and what sin is. They couldn’t understand why there ideas weren’t just as good as those of this old man. So they just walked out. Today, there are many people that claim to be “experts.” We need to ask what their credentials are. Even more importantly, we need to ask ourselves why we believe what we believe.
The truth, how do we know what it is? Believing a lie is the fastest way I know to get in trouble. It can even cost us our life if we believe something is good for us, but is in reality poisonous. We need to start by defining truth as “that which is real.” No one, not even the Church can redefine reality. At 80 or 90 years of age the apostle John was heartbroken. He saw some of those he cared about turning away from the truth. Like many today they thought they could believe what they wanted.
About 40 years after that day in the upper room (John 20:19–23), John still remembered what he had “heard” Jesus say. He remembered what he had “seen, with his eyes.” It was not some dream or a ghost. Jesus said, “Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39). That word “handle” is the very same word John uses here. After 40 years we tend to forget a lot of things, but those things that have had an impact on our life are indelibly etched in our thinking. John clearly remembers all he heard, saw and touched. JOHN WAS AN EYEWITNESS!
What was it that he experienced? Why, it was Jesus! He was alive three days after He died on that cross. Unbelievable, you say? Well, John may have agreed with you, except he was there and saw it. He could not ignore the facts about the “Word of life” (Jesus, v 1). John says that the risen Jesus was “manifested” (revealed) and John bore witness and declared the truth about that life (v 2). What is it that John “declares” to be the truth as he heard it from Jesus? He says, that Jesus had “eternal life” with the Father. He was “from the beginning” and was “eternal.” These are only true of God! As he said in his gospel account, God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). In other words, Jesus is GOD in the FLESH. He is GOD become MAN. Now if you have trouble understanding that, John did NOT say he understood all of it, but that it IS the TRUTH. Now, YOU have a crisis, a dilemma. Will you believe only what YOU have seen and touched? Or will you include what the APOSTLE JOHN heard, saw with his eyes and touched?
If you think that you need to stay ONLY with what you know, ask yourself “Why?” It is not a matter of fact, but rather a matter of choice. You may have chosen to make yourself the master of your destiny, without God’s interference? This is like saying, “I do not believe Washington DC exists.” What I believe does not change the fact that the city is there and that Congress is making laws that affect me. Just because we have not seen something or someone, does not mean they do not exist. John wrote this letter to people 2,000 years ago. This letter is true for us as well. And, Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). This letter says that we can experience that life (in Jesus)! John wants his readers to have “fellowship” with God. Now that deserves some thought! And, John says this is the only way to make “our joy to be full.”
Listen, how many times have you said or thought, “I have a right to be happy.”? The apostle John is telling you how you can have lasting joy! God says that in His presence is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). Furthermore, God created all the pleasures you desire. Sight, taste, smell, touch and hearing all come from God. The problem may be that you don’t want God’s plan to interfere with your pleasure. God is the only one who can make your joy full.