Knowing God in 1 John, Part 6

January 15, 2016 at 12:03 PM

1johnAs you’ll no doubt have realized, I’ve shortened the title of this series to simply “Knowing God in 1 John” as opposed to the longer, previous title. We’re still in the same series so I wanted you to be sure to know that. Only the length of the title has changed. The content remains the same.

We ended our last article with 1 John 1:6, so let’s pick it up with verse 7.

But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

You’ll recall last time, we noted that John is referring to our fellowship with God, not our salvation. Certainly, as we have repeatedly stated throughout this series and others, there is no fellowship with God without salvation. This is the first step. You want to “know” God through fellowship? You must have salvation. It is that simple.

John is specifically referring to our relationship or our fellowship with God in Christ in this verse. He is talking to people who have salvation and is explaining to them the extremely important principle of walking as Jesus walked. It is not enough to say you are a Christian. Having salvation is clearly very important and something God desires for each and every person (2 Peter 3:9). However, having salvation is really only our starting point. Much of the New Testament epistles are dedicated to encouraging believers to press on, to learn to walk as Jesus walked and to live a life that pleases God. In doing so, we will experience great fellowship with God and enjoy more of His Presence and power in and through our lives.

Believers must “walk in the light” as Jesus Himself walked in the Light because He was/is the Light. When we walk in the Light, we will then have fellowship with one another. John also points out that as we walk in the Light – which simply means walking in a way that causes us to enter into and maintain fellowship with God – we will be constantly cleansed from sin because we won’t be able to sin as long as we maintain fellowship with God.

What is interesting here is that as we will see from 1 John, people have misunderstood him to say that sinless perfection for the Christian can be gained in this life. Some believe, based on John’s verbiage in 1 John, that the Christian can get to a point where they no longer sin. The truth is that this is the ideal but is often not the way Christians actually live. We still sin and we do sin because we fall out of fellowship with God. It is really very important to understand that Christianity is composed of two things: 1) our salvation, and 2) our fellowship.

Receiving salvation allows God to label us righteous and we’ve gone over that thoroughly in “Christ, Our Righteousness.” Because of our faith in Jesus’ redemptive work on our behalf, God sees that faith in us toward Jesus and that allows Him to judicially label us righteous. He does so by literally imputing Jesus’ righteousness to our lives (Romans 4:5-6; 4:13), by taking the actual righteousness of Jesus and applying that to our account as though it was our righteousness. God then sees us as having the same righteousness that Jesus has and because of that, we are no longer unrighteous.

This is the legal part of the equation, which allows God to forgive and forget our sin – all of it. Just as there is no sin in Jesus, there is legally no sin in us. This is what salvation grants us. However, as far as our relationship to God – our fellowship – we can and do sin. When we do, our fellowship with God breaks down. In order to regain that fellowship, we must acknowledge and confess our sin when we realize it exists.

As we maintain our fellowship with God – by walking in the Light – the blood of Jesus continues to cleanse us. Again though, as we sin, we fall out of fellowship with Jesus, which requires us to acknowledge and confess that sin. Once we do, we can then enter into fellowship again.

It is important to also understand that in these several verses, John was combating theological error that had sprung up in the believing community.

The false positions are (1) moral behavior is a matter of indifference in one’s relationship to God (v. 6); (2) immoral conduct does not issue in sin for one who knows God (v. 8); and (3) the knowledge of God removes sin as even a possibility in the life of the believer (v. 10). [1]

These were the three errors that were held in John’s day and it is not difficult to understand that they are also here with us today. I personally, have met people who believe that the Christian can arrive to the point of living without sin on an ongoing basis. We call this sinless perfection and the Bible does not teach that this is achievable in this life. I have also met people who believe that our relationship with God does not depend upon how we live. They believe that sin has no real impact on that relationship and that the believer who is involved in immoral conduct is not actually sinning because they are “saved.”

That Christians would hold to these beliefs is a sad state. Christians can and do sin and whether they think so or not, that sin does affect their fellowship with God in a very real way.

The man who is legally married and says he is devoted to his wife, yet cheats on her by having an adulterous affair has destroyed the fellowship he might otherwise have with his wife once she learns of it. He has crippled their relationship. It has changed and he is to blame because he chose to ignore his commitment and promises to her.

We all “get” that, don’t we? We understand how that works and we rightly conclude that the husband who cheats on his wife has effectively destroyed the fellowship he may have had with his wife. While there is a way back through forgiveness and even counseling, the truth of the matter is that husband did, in fact, destroy the fellowship he enjoyed with his wife because of his sin.

God is no different. In fact, God expects more from us. There cannot even be a hint of sin in our life and when there is, the Holy Spirit makes us mindful of it so that we can confess it and restore fellowship with God.

You cannot have fellowship with God and live a life of disobedience. It simply doesn’t work that way. Christians can have one or the other, but not both. Either we are in fellowship with God because we are obedient to Him or we are out of fellowship with Him because we are not obedient. It is that simple and straightforward.

Again, the husband who says he loves his wife dearly and is fully committed to her, yet spends his time ogling and flirting with other women is lying. He is not obeying the promises he made to his wife. He is not being obedient to his promises. He is, in fact, tempting himself and eventually, temptation will win the day, causing terrible consequences and ramifications for him and his wife. We need look no further than King David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) to see how this works. Did David lose his salvation? Certainly not, but he lost the joy of his salvation or his fellowship with God (Psalm 51:12), and God was none to pleased with David either.

If we truly want fellowship with God, we must undertake to approach Him on His terms. In the Old Testament, Israelites were only allowed to approach God on His terms then, which included lots of sacrifices and offerings. Today, Christians are not under the Law. We do not need to approach God with a lamb, a ram, two doves or anything else. We approach God on the basis of the atonement for our sins made possible by Jesus Himself. His propitiation fully forgives all of our sin. That is our salvation.

But to fellowship with God, we need to be willing to come to God on His terms and He basically states that He only fellowships with those who are without sin, practically speaking. We need to understand that our approach to God – in fellowship – is governed by a number of things that all have to do with our desire to remain free of sin. This will affect our lives morally. We will come to many crossroads where the world will want us to do one thing with God wanting us to do something else. If we cave into the world, we will have cut off fellowship with God.

For the Christian to enjoy fellowship with God, it is a constant balancing act. We must walk in the Light as He is in the Light. When we move out of the Light into darkness, we cut ourselves off from fellowship with God.

Constant fellowship with God is the ideal and it should also be our goal. It is not automatic. It only happens when we walk in the Light. We do that by obeying His commands.


[1] Dr. Thomas L. Constable’s Notes on 1 John (2015 edition), p. 12


Entry filed under: christianity, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: , , .

What Does John Mean by Knowing God in 1 John, Part 5 Knowing God in 1 John, Part 7

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