John’s Message and the Professor
Using God’s Light to Reveal our Spiritual Condition
In 2 Corinthians 13:5 Paul wrote, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” Paul was concerned that Christians should not be apathetic about their spiritual condition; they must be actively engaged in testing their spiritual standing. John’s words, in 1 John 1:5 – 2:6 provide a practical way to apply Paul’s advice.
John begins this section by making a bold assertion: “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Pure, white, brilliant light is the emblem of the invisible God; darkness, haziness, fog, and obscurity are all antitheses of the Divine Being.
Throughout 1 John there is much ‘relational language.’ Phrases like ‘little children,’ and ‘sons of God’ highlight the Christian’s spiritual affiliation with God. One of the ways that John’s message (that ‘God is Light’) is useful for Christians is that it reveals the relationship that people have with God. John uses this foundational truth to test the assertions of various people who claim to know God. In essence, John uses God’s character to reveal whether a person has a real relationship with the Father.
To accomplish this, John uses ten ‘if/then’ statements, stretching through the next eleven verses (1:6 – 2:6). While not every statement is worded as an if/then statement, they can all be understood this way. Take a look at these ten statements, and ask yourself whether they apply to your spiritual condition.
(1) IF we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, THEN we lie, and do not practice the truth.
If God is pure light, entirely unblemished by darkness, then God certainly cannot have any affiliation with those who walk about in darkness, whose lives are characterized but what is ungodly.
(2) IF we walk in the light, as He is in the light, THEN we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
On the other hand, those who are ‘in the light,’ who are characterized by the same concept that characterizes God, are genuine in professing to have a relationship with God. Not only do they have a living, vibrant ‘fellowship’ with God, but any sin that they have is cleansed by Jesus Christ.
(3) IF we say that we have no sin, THEN we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
God may be pure light, entirely unstained by darkness, but when man claims to be as pure as God, he is deceiving himself. He is elevating himself from the position of man to the position of God, and the truth is not in him.
(4) IF we confess our sins, THEN he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
In contrast to those who claim to have no sin, true Christians are those who confess their sins. In this context, to ‘confess’ means the same as to ‘forsake’ and ‘repent’ of sin. Whenever a man truly does this, God is faithful and just to him. He forgives his sins and cleanses him so that he is characterized by light, not darkness.
(5) IF we say that we have not sinned, THEN we make him a liar, and His word is not in us.
There are some people who say that they have no sin; others admit that they may have sinful tendencies, but deny that they have ever acted on them. Those who say this are calling God a liar. Rather than accept the cleansing and purifying blood of Christ to change them from darkness to light, they claim the supernatural ability to keep themselves pure.
(6) IF anyone sins, THEN we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
Whoever sins has a possibility to be cleansed from that sin: Jesus Christ, who is himself righteous, is an advocate, ready, able, and willing to plead with the Father and cleanse the sinner from sin.
(7) IF we keep his commandments, THEN we know that we know him.
Those who are characterized by keeping God’s commandments have evidence in their life that they really know him. Their enlightened living indicates that they have a real relationship with the pure light.
(8) IF someone says, ‘I know him,’ and does not keep his commandments, THEN he is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
God’s character really is typified by light – not just words about light, but brilliant, pure light itself. Because of this, the lifestyle of professors must be characterized by the light, not just by talking about the light. Those who say one thing while doing another are liars, and the truth is not in them.
(9) IF someone keeps His word, THEN truly the love of God is perfected in him.
Whoever keeps the word of God is demonstrating his relationship with the true light. Because God is light, he certainly loves the light, and those who are demonstrating ‘light’ in their life are beloved by him. While we may not understand exactly what this means, we are told that His love is perfected in them.
(10) IF someone says he abides in Him, THEN he ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
Because of God’s enlightened character, those who claim to abide in that light have a serious task before them: they must tread in the very footsteps of the true light himself. This is most likely a reference to the ‘Light of the World,’ Jesus Christ. His example is the signpost for Christians to live by – a life of walking in the light.