How was your first week of memorizing? Those four verses were tough, and they remind me of the joke: “Watch out for that first step—it’s a doozy!” That first week was indeed a doozy!
Now we are moving into the meat of the epistle, and will be able to make sense of what John has written as we see the logical flow of his arguments. And if you like patterns to aid your memory this week’s passage is pattern-rich. After announcing plainly that this is the message they have heard and proclaim (finally! At last!), John tells us the message, and then goes on to give five conditional statements, each beginning with “if we” hypotheticals.
John begins with a clear statement of the proclaimed message. He still uses the plural, because this is the same message heard and proclaimed by all the apostles: God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. Next are the five statements which logically flow from this premise, alternating between negative and positive: three negative and two positive declarations delineating believers from unbelievers. John speaks with the hypothetical “we,” inviting us to enter into the proposed action and examine our own walk with Christ. He uses stark contrasts to display the obvious contradictions of those who claim one thing yet live in a wholly opposite fashion, as well as sure comforts for those whose lives reflect their confession of faith. Are we walking and talking in a way which confirms or denies our faith? Let’s take a closer look—
5 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.
“This is the message,” at last! Plain, clear speaking—here it is, this is the message! You should bounce right off this into the rest of the thought. Which message is it? It is that which “we have heard from him and proclaim to you.” These two actions are consistent with his introduction in which there was lots of hearing and proclaiming. What is the message? “that God is light.” This will inform the rest of our passage—and, indeed, the rest of the epistle. The sentence finishes with a restatement of the obvious, “and in him is no darkness at all.” None. At all. Nada. Think of the implications… They follow in the next verses, onward to the 5 “if we” statements:
6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we
walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the
Here’s our first “if we” statement, and when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. It also leads straight off the former thoughts that the purpose of the proclamation is fellowship with God (1:3), and that there is no darkness in God. “If we say we have fellowship with him (he who is light) while we walk in darkness (the absence of light), we lie (a dark practice) and do not practice the truth (restatement of “lie,” to clarify). To walk and to practice are the same thing, and we cannot do these opposing things at the same time. If we say one thing but our life—our walk—shows something else, it proves we are lying.
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 his Son cleanses us from all sin.
In contrast to verse 6, verse 7 assures us that “if we walk in the light,” we are walking in step with the Lord, or rather, “as he is in the light.” Our walk matches our talk. Note the contrast between the negative and darkness of the last verse and the positive and the light in this. This walk in the light leads to two necessary consequences—“we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Our common fellowship is grounded in the crosswork of Christ. Grammatically, that is the sequence, but we must understand that the walking does not precede the cleansing, rather, the walking is the result of the cleansing (for more on this look for the upcoming blog post on our study lesson #3). And how much sin is cleansed? All of it.
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us.
Speaking of sin, if we deny that we are sinners, or “if we say that we have no sin,” we are in a sorry state, because we aren’t only deceiving others, “we deceive ourselves.” Just in case we aren’t sure how thorough that deception is, John elaborates to make his point—“the truth is not in us.” Ouch. However, there’s good news:
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to
forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all
This is one of the most comforting verses in all of Scripture. We do sin, and “if we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive!” He is not only faithful, but he is also just, for it would be unjust for him to refuse forgiveness to a Believer whose sins have been nailed to the cross. Note that both times it appears in this verse, “sins” is in the plural. We have a lot of sins which need forgiving, and a merciful God who forgives them all through Christ. Just to make the point, John again elaborates that forgiveness of our sins equals cleansing from all unrighteousness.
10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a
liar, and his word is not in us.
The final “if we’ statement switches back to negative with another denial of truth. This time, “if we say we have not sinned” takes on a slightly different meaning than in verse 8. There the denial was of a sin nature, here the denial is that our actions are sinful. God has said in his word that human beings are sinners (Rom. 3:23), so if we deny that, we are making him out to be “a liar.” This is such an unscriptural and sacrilegious claim that clearly, “his word is not in us.” If God has said it, it’s true—if we deny it, we are speaking pure folly.
That’s all for this week. I pray that your memory work is going well. Find a friend who will listen to your weekly progress and encourage you, whether it’s someone who is also memorizing or not. My weekly prayer partner and I help one another, and every day I recite my verses out loud while I walk my dog (and since we walk really early in the morning or late at night, I’m walking in darkness while I recite my claim to have fellowship with him—oops!). Every little bit of encouragement helps!