If God opens the eyes of our hearts to see all that, then our desires are captured by the surpassing glory of God over everything that the world has to offer, and we walk in the light as he is in the light.
There is a walk, there is a lifestyle, that necessarily results from the miracle of new birth when we are given eyes to see the surpassing worth of the light of God. Verse 6 would suggest that it is God and the believer. Verse 6 shows what destroys fellowship with God — walking in darkness. And verse 7 shows what preserves fellowship with God — walking in the light. John says that his desire is to proclaim Christ so that his readers might have fellowship with him. Walking in the light is the condition of fellowship not only with God but also with other believers. You know what this is like.
You have a precious friend — perhaps even a spouse — you have in common the same desires for God. You are both living in the light of his surpassing value. You both hope in his promises, and avoid sin by the light of his word. Then something happens. You discover one day that your friend seems strangely fascinated by some trend, strangely preoccupied with a book or a movie or a fashion or a singer or a career or a piece of lake property. Then you notice that the topic of God is avoided.
Prayer is missing or perfunctory. There are no more comments about the sweet hour in the word of God. Church and Christian people seem to be on the butt-end of periodic sarcasm. The wartime zeal for the global cause of Christ has shriveled up to a me-centered pursuit of two-second pleasures. And the old fellowship is over. Not because you want it to be, but because it is impossible unless we both walk in the light.
So verse 7 teaches that the only way to preserve the precious jewel of deep unity with God and with other believers is to walk in the light — to see things in the light of God, to let God be your bright pathway to joy. The other thing that accompanies walking in the light in verse 7 is cleansing from sin. John makes a connection here between the way we walk and the effectiveness of the blood of Christ to cleanse us of sin.
So we must ask three questions:. We have already answered the first question: walking in the light means living under the controlling desire for God instead of the world — the kind of life you live if you see things the way God sees them and share his values. Walk means life. Does it mean that as we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus keeps us from sinning? Or does it mean that as we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus covers and nullifies our sinning?
In other words, does it refer to progressive sanctification or to the on-going experience of justification? It seems to me that there is good reason for saying it refers to both. The reason the Son God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. In other words, the reason Christ came was not merely to cover sin but to conquer sin. He came not only to justify but also to sanctify. Not only to acquit but also to reform. And if he shed his blood in order to accomplish his purpose, then his blood cleanses not only in that it covers but also in that it conquers sin. But I also think that the cleansing mentioned in verse 7 refers to the ongoing effects of justification.
That is, it refers to the fact that all our sins are already covered and forgiven by God because of the death of Jesus, if we walk in the light. The nearest piece of evidence for this is verse 9. In verse 9 sins are forgiven. The condition for cleansing in verse 7 is walking in the light. The condition for forgiveness in verse 9 is confessing our sins. I think the implication is that one essential part of walking in the light is confessing known sin. Besides, verse 8 warns against claiming to be sinless while you walk in the light.
Walking in the light means seeing things the way God sees them and responding the way he does. We walk in the light when we hate the sin we fall into and name it for the ugly thing it is and agree with God about it and turn from it.
So confessing sin is a crucial part of walking in the light. And verse 9 makes forgiveness of sin dependent on walking in the light. Therefore we are warranted in taking the cleansing of verse 7 to refer to forgiveness and not just to sanctification. In sum, then, the on-going cleansing of the blood of Jesus in our lives refers to two things. First, it refers to the experience of having all our sins forgiven, so that God does not hold any of them against us. Second, the cleansing refers to the ongoing moral effect of the blood of Christ on our conscience, weaning us away from sin, giving us freedom from its power, and enslaving us more and more to the joy of righteousness.
Someday when Jesus returns, this process of sanctification will be completed and we will at last have been cleansed of all sin if we walk in the light! Now we have asked two of our three questions of verse 7. What is walking in the light? And what is cleansing by the blood of Jesus? Now the third question that we must answer is: What is the connection between the two? John does not spell out at this point how walking in the light and being cleansed from sin are related in reality.
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He is content, for now, to say that there is no cleansing of sin for the person who does not walk in the light. This does not answer the question, which comes first? Or, which causes the other?
If we are not walking in the light, we have no warrant for believing that our sins are covered. There is no assurance of salvation while you are living in disobedience. How is such teaching good news? Some people think that the only way to make the gospel really good news is to deny that changes are necessary in our lives. They say that takes away the possibility of assurance of salvation.
They say the way we live after putting our faith in Christ has nothing to do with our salvation.
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I answer that a powerless gospel is not good news. A gospel that only wins lip service is not different than all the other philosophies of the world. Such a gospel produces a Christianity that is a game of words. Such a gospel accounts for how 40 million people can claim to be born again in America at the same time that our moral condition is an all-time low of corruption inside and outside the church.
The message of 1 John — that walking in the light is not optional, but necessary for salvation — is good news because it creates the moral atmosphere of urgency in which serious business is done with God. It gives the flavor of eternity to all we say and do. It militates against religious gamesmanship. It honors the purpose of God in Christ to destroy the works of the devil. It takes seriously the necessity of glorifying God in our bodies. It leads people to real faith instead of encouraging them to be content with a lip service that cannot change and cannot save.
But in the end it simply is not up to us to decide whether the gospel is the kind of good news we would like it to be. Ours is simply to listen and submit to the word of God.
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Now we have seen the foundation in verse 5 — that God is light and in him is no darkness. And we have seen the application in verses 6—7 — that we must, therefore, walk in the light of God in order to go on being cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Now we must look at the clarification in verses 8— John has just said in verse 7 that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin if we walk in the light.
John knows that some of what he says could play right into the hands of the perfectionistic false teachers. See especially 1 John John shoots down the first error in verses 6 and 7, and then shoots down the second error in verses 8— And the reason we are so deceived is that the truth has found no place in us.
When a person is converted, the truth takes up residence in the heart. Or we could say the light of God comes into the heart. And what John says here is not that it immediately drives out all falsehood and sin. That is a battle that lasts a lifetime.
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What he says is that when the truth enters in, its light reveals sin! The mark of the saint is not sinlessness but sin-consciousness! The evidence of indwelling truth is the exposure of error. In this life we never get beyond the awareness of remaining sin. Therefore one of the great signs of maturity in Christ is a deep and abiding brokenness for sin. There is much talk today about esteeming ourselves as new creatures in Christ.
And so we are. Our great joy is that our sin is forgiven in Christ. And our great grief is that so much of this very sin remains and defiles. The mark of the new creature in Christ is not a rosy self-concept. It is brokenness for remaining sin mingled with a joyful confidence in the super-abounding grace of God in Christ.
Here is one of the most beautiful paragraphs I have ever read outside the Bible.