Below is the beginning of 1 John.
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. 1 John 1:1-4 (NKJV)
What is John’s point in these first 4 verses as he begins? Think of this expression, “A man with an experience has no mercy for a man with an argument.” This is analogous to “Seeing is believing,” which I suspect is rooted in Thomas statement that he would not believe Jesus had risen unless he saw him himself and handled him. The point being that someone who has an actual experience is not easily swayed by arguments. John had that. In 1:1-4 he establishes the foundation and goal of our faith. Our foundation is fellowship (intimate communion) with the Father and Son, John says Jesus was real, He was flesh and blood. He begins this little book by refuting the Gnostic idea that the material or body did not matter. The foundation of the gospel message is Jesus incarnation, it matters! John boldly declares that he knew Jesus, he saw Him and touched Him.
John goes on to tell us that Jesus coming to us in the flesh was the manifestation of the eternal life that was with the Father, came from the Father and was revealed to us. Even though Jesus was revealed in flesh in time, He was ‘from the beginning.’ John asserts that understanding this is the foundation of fellowship among one another as Christians and with the Father and Son. The fruit of this should be joy in our lives. The implication here is that no matter how we may protest, if we refuse to believe Jesus came in the flesh and is God in the flesh we have no real fellowship with either one another or the Godhead. There are two implications here. One is that John clearly refutes the false theology of Gnosticism and affirms the historic Christian faith. The other, which is very important for us today, is that ‘fellowship’ is something more than just a group of Christians spending time together, the byproduct of true Christian fellowship is inner joy outwardly manifest. The implication – if we are lacking in joy we are lacking in genuine fellowship. Are we experiencing or entering into genuine Christian fellowship?
The next question – are we walking in the light?
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. 1 John 1:1-10 (NKJV)
John then builds on the idea of fellowship being connected with joy to also connecting fellowship to light. We can understand joy through observation – how do we understand light? Below are a few of the many relevant scriptures that tell us something about the light of His presence. I have emphasized the focus on light.
6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NKJV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5 (NKJV)
12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “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 (NKJV) 16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. 1 Timothy 6:16 (NKJV)
These verses explain Paul’s heart cry.
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, Ephesians 1:17-18 (NKJV)
Enlightened understanding and hearts draw us deeper into fellowship with the Trinity and one another. It is walking in the light that leads us into right relationships with one another. When we enter into the divine passion and relationship within the Trinity we have something to impart to others. The goal is right relationships that are established by our commitment to truth. To walk in the light we need to obey the truth of scripture through the grace supplied by the Spirit. We walk in the light by walking in Jesus character, walking into righteousness, which means that without focusing on it we are also walking away from sin. In practical terms this means that if we become angry with someone we need to respond based on the truth of scripture and look to the Spirit for the grace/strength to walk in love in relation to that individual. If there needs to be forgiveness or restitution He is the source of our strength.
We see in 1:5-7 that Jesus walked in the light by abiding in the Father. We walk in the light by abiding in Jesus. There is no darkness in our Father so we know that anytime we respond to a situation in our flesh, and manifest darkness rather than light, we are at that moment out of fellowship with our Father. John here attacks the false foundation of much of Gnostic teaching about the role of the body, he states very clearly that we cannot claim to walk with the Living God and consciously choose to practice sin with our body.
This chapter closes by John providing some very important teaching about sin in the lives of Christians.
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. 1 John 1:8-10 (NKJV)
An important distinction here is the separation of seeing sin as who we are ‘sinners saved by grace’ versus sin as something we can do, saints who still have a propensity toward sin residing within us. It is important to differentiate between sin as something we can do rather than something we are. If we have been born again Jesus righteousness is both within and upon us. Once we have been born again the remedy for sin is repentance that leads to forgiveness and cleansing from unrighteousness. This means that if our heart is right at any given moment then at that moment we are pure (righteous) before the Lord. Jesus desire is that this is how we live, immediately dealing with any sin as it arises because He has made provision for it.