1 JOHN – SERIES : NR 2
Scripture : 1 John 1: 5 – 10
Theme: The message from Jesus Christ
To read or preach through 1 John one should have a compass to guide you. Almost like a map of the complete picture that keeps you on course the whole time. Otherwise, you may become lost.
Briefly, the map once more.
The churches to whom John is writing are beset by troublemakers. False preachers, whom the Apostle calls ANTICHRISTS. Initially, they were part of the churches, but have left the church and in that way also moved away from the authority of the teaching of the Apostles. They professed however that they did NOT leave the Christian Faith, but that they have discovered a better and more advanced version. A popular version. Which will be more acceptable to the world.
However, John says that they have created a completely new religion – which is merely hiding behind the banner of the Christian Faith – but is not that any longer. In reality, it is idolatry, he says.
The overhead scene of this entire letter is, therefore – on the one hand – the first-hand eyewitnesses of Christ – the teaching and authority of the Apostles, and – on the other hand – the antichrists who were attempting to lead the churches away from the teaching of the Apostles.
And at the same time, the Apostle is helping the churches to regain their faith confidence. To regain the correct focus. He comforts them and instructs them and gives them a foundation of truth beneath their feet.
You will realise that, throughout the letter, the apostle is all the time moving between negative and positive. He exposes and encourages. He exposes the antichrists and encourages the true church. Throughout the entire letter, he does this. Expose and encourage. A true preacher cannot encourage without pointing out the evil. And can also not point out the evil without encouraging! We will see it now in these verses…
Within this map, fit in verses 1: 5-10 and it asks WHAT EXACTLY IS THE MESSAGE THAT THE APOSTLES HEARD FROM GOD?
But before he tells what it is, in the first sentence of verse 5 he gives the three attributes of authenticity by which his readers and the church of all the centuries can know for certain that it is the authentic message. We/the church can not believe any pious or fine-sounding message. It must bear the hallmark of authenticity.
In the first sentence of verse 5, he gives the THREE attributes.
FIRSTLY: It comes from Christ himself. He says: “This is the message we have heard FROM HIM”. Heard first-hand – with own eyes and ears! The WE are the Apostles – no one else. It is not all of us. It is also not all those who today dream dreams and see visions and hear voices. It is the Apostles.
SECONDLY: The authentic message was heard by the APOSTLES.
THIRDLY: The Apostles PROCLAIMED it to us.
There are the three attributes of the only authentic message which the church must and shall believe. It sounds very simple, but it was ignored by the antichrists at the time of John, and trampled and violated left and right up until our time today.
The ONLY message we believe is the message that came from God, was heard by the apostles and prophets, and is proclaimed to us.
There is NO way in which someone in 2021 can hear the Word of God except through the mediation of the first-century prophets and apostles (add to that the OT prophets). No modern “apostle” or “prophet” or “hearer of voices” or “see-er”. The voices/impressions that I hear in my mind, must be banished from the Scriptures, otherwise, I hear the wrong voices.
Everything you hear: Test it by the three attributes: 1 > Coming from God 2 > Heard by the apostles and prophets 3 > Proclaimed to US by THEM.
And WHAT is the message that the Apostles heard from God and is proclaimed to us? The rest of verse 5 to the end of verse 10 sets it out for us. It is the complete opposite of what the Gnostics (John calls them antichrists) went to teach the churches. Take note of how he continuously moves between truth and lies. With the truth, he encourages the churches. And expose the false preaching.
The truth is: GOD IS LIGHT.
The message that comes from God, is that God is light. And in Him, there is no darkness at all.
God is holy. Man is a sinner. Therefore man needs salvation and a Saviour.
If one reads John’s Gospel along with 1 John, you will see how the Apostle shows who God really is. God is Spirit (John 4:24). God is light. And God is love (1 John 4:8). God is not A spirit, A light, A love. No, He IS Spirit, light, and love. In Greek, there is no indefinite article.
It is very significant that, when the Apostle John comes with the essence of the message received from God, then it is NOT that God is love – as one often hears these days. Later in the letter, he indeed says that God is love. But of greater importance is the holiness of God. Completely the opposite of the popular contemporary message.
That God is light, means that He is Holy. He is not only love. He is also holy. Holy means set apart. He is 100% without darkness and sin and lies. He is not good and bad. There is no question of darkness in Him. That is why the seraphs around the throne had their faces covered (Is 6).
The fact that God the Father is light is holy, is also true of Jesus Christ. “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father also”, Jesus told Philip. That is also why John could say: “We heard from Him that God is holy” because he knew Jesus and heard it from Him and saw it in Him.
The darkness in our personal life as well as in the world cannot be conquered in any way, other than that people meet with this God and begin to walk with Him. There is simply no alternative.
The question is how one can belong to Him who is light, and at the same time can enjoy the darkness – can continue living in it as if all is okay? That is exactly what the Gnostics (antichrists) preached.
From verses 6-10 the Apostle is going to point out three false claims that the false prophets preached – in reaction to this essential message of “God is light and in Him, there is no darkness”. Three false claims/denials concerning this. Here they are:
FIRST FALSE CLAIM > Verse 6-7 > The Gnostics said that they had a higher and more exemplary fellowship with God than the ordinary Christians. But in their daily lifestyle, it was clear that they did not regard sin as serious – they were still living in the darkness. They CONFESS one thing but LIVE something else. “Cheap grace” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it. “As long as you are under grace, your life of sin does not matter, God will embrace you with all pity and understanding“. The point is: HE is light and in Him is no darkness. How can you be included with Him and happily continue with darkness? It is simply not possible.
The first false claim, therefore: One can live in fellowship with God and simultaneously live in peace with your sin. You forget about something like sin-consciousness and the struggle with victory over sin because that belongs to your past. You are a new creation in Christ. The old is passed. Do not focus on the sin any longer – focus on your righteousness in Christ and forget the struggles.
The Apostle John says that if you talk like that you are LIAR and you do not live in the truth! Straight and to the point!
Why so? Because the righteousness in Christ and new creation in Christ results precisely in a serious dealing with all manifestations of sin and can never live in peace with it.
Listen to what verse 7 is saying…
Verse 7 is the Apostle’s answer to the antichrists.
The person who is living in fellowship with Him who is light – and who is therefore living in the light – can not and shall not have peace with and be comfortable with sin of whatever nature which is practiced as a habit. You cannot confess that you are a new creation in Christ and regard sin lightly. Whoever does that, do not live in the truth and must repent.
The confession of the truth must accompany a lifestyle that testifies of it. The truth in the inner heart (Ps 51:6) shall manifest in the practical life of righteousness. “Walk in the light” does not mean a life of sinless perfection. No, it means precisely to deal seriously with remaining sin and continuously being cleansed from it. According to verse 7 “walk in the light” shall manifest in two things:
1 > You will consciously seek fellowship with other believers who also walk in the light. Such people have a part in the same fellowship WITH ONE ANOTHER. People who are allergic to fellowship with others who walk in the light, immediately show that they are not walking in truth and do not live in the light. It is either one or the other. Life in the light draws you to other people who are also living in the light.
2 > Whoever lives in the light, discovers that the blood (death) of Jesus Christ is available as an ever-present purifier from all sin. Take note of the present-tense time frame of the verb purifies in verse 7. Not only sin in general but EVERY SIN, meaning by name and individually. And that continuous fountain of purifying exists for PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY WALKING IN THE LIGHT. A clear proof that the Gnostics’ first claim is FALSE.
SECOND FALSE CLAIM > Verses 8-9 > The antichrists assert that believers do not have sin any longer. There is therefore nothing to lie awake about during the night any longer. Whoever does that shows their ignorance about the gospel. The Good News is that a person who is in Christ has no sin any longer.
But John says that the antichrist is deceiving us. Such people deceive themselves and the truth is not in them. Once more: Straight and to the point. THIS is false and THIS is the truth.
Well, what IS the truth? Verse 9 says what the truth is: Someone who claims to be in the light does not say that he/she is without sin, but he/she CONFESS the sin and receive purification and forgiveness on an uninterrupted basis! The WE to whom he refers are people who are already in Christ! It is he – as Apostle – and the people of the churches to whom he is writing! And all of it is once again in the present tense time form.
People who are already in Christ and CONFESS their sins. That means: Agree with God’s judgement about it – with humility and gratitude. CONFESS means to agree. Not standing by your own opinion, but agreement with God’s opinion – in deep gratitude.
And what happens then?
God is faithful and just and will forgive that particular sin and purify us from all unrighteousness.
FAITHFUL > He keeps His promise to do it. He is faithful to His promise to do it. He promised and said in (for example) Isaiah 1:18: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow”. And He is faithful in that.
RIGHTEOUS > God does not forgive sin only because He is so loving and kind, but He forgives because that sin was dealt with in Jesus’s death on the cross. When God forgives, He must at the same time remain righteous. He cannot forgive by simply sweeping it under the carpet. Somehow it must be punished with eternal death. Someone has to pay. That was the death of Christ Jesus. Now God remains righteous when He forgives sin if the sinner is IN CHRIST. In Christ can God forgive the sin and remain righteous – because that sin is perfectly punished in the Mediator on the cross. Jesus’s death has satisfied the righteous wrath about the sin. That is why no one can be forgiven without Christ. No one can be forgiven based upon God’s goodness and love because then God would not be righteous when He forgives. It would be like a judge releasing a convicted person without the sentence having been served.
No, praise God, He purifies because He is FAITHFUL and RIGHTEOUS.
THIRD FALSE CLAIM > Verse 10 > This is surely the most serious of the three false claims. Not only do I not sin any longer, but I have never sinned. The verb now changes to the past tense.
This false claim repudiates clear Biblical pronouncements like for example Rom 3:23 and Rom 6:23 and also Is 53:6. All people have sinned.
It sounds very strange that someone could claim that he/she has never sinned against God. But we see it in the public domain where we preach the Word of God. Some shake their head in denial: “No, it is not true about me”. The degree of arrogance and self-exaltation against Biblical truth knows no bounds.
But what is the apostolic answer to this? John merely says: Such a person make God out to be a liar and God’s word has no part in his life. Once again, straight and to the point.
To all these false claims and false teaching, the Scriptures have only three answers:
1 > The person who lives in the light, shall be characterized by brokenness and submission before God about their sin and also the joy of continuous forgiveness. Like Isaiah: “Woe is me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty. Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it, he touched my mouth and said “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
2 > The person who lives in the light, shall grow spiritually. Instead of a life of compromise with sin, he/she shall increase in holiness and devotion. The Bible and prayer are more and more precious and the fellowship with other Christians is a joy.
3 > The person who lives in the light, shall serve the Lord with devotion and follow Him – under His authority and surrender of your authority.
Translated by Marthie Wilson