by Mike Ratliff
1 Ὃ ἦν ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς, ὃ ἀκηκόαμεν, ὃ ἑωράκαμεν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν, ὃ ἐθεασάμεθα καὶ αἱ χεῖρες ἡμῶν ἐψηλάφησαν περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς – 2 καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἐφανερώθη, καὶ ἑωράκαμεν καὶ μαρτυροῦμεν καὶ ἀπαγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον ἥτις ἦν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα καὶ ἐφανερώθη ἡμῖν – 3 ὃ ἑωράκαμεν καὶ ἀκηκόαμεν, ἀπαγγέλλομεν καὶ ὑμῖν, ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς κοινωνίαν ἔχητε μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν. καὶ ἡ κοινωνία δὲ ἡ ἡμετέρα μετὰ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ μετὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 4 καὶ ταῦτα γράφομεν ἡμεῖς, ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ἡμῶν ᾖ πεπληρωμένη. (1 John 1:1-4 NA27)
1 What was from the beginning—which we have heard, which we have seen, with our eyes, which we beheld and touched with our hands—with respect to the Word of Life— 2 indeed the life was manifested and we have seen it and we give testimony and we proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—3 what we have seen and we have heard we proclaim also to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed fellowship with our Father and with his son, Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write that our joy may be made full. (1 John 1:1-4 a personal translation from the NA27 Greek text)
While there is counterfeit Christianity all around us, let us stay focused on the “real deal.” How do we do that? We look to God’s Word as his truth and from it we learn of Christ’s divinity, his incarnation as the God-man, and his saving death on the cross. We also learn about our role in God’s Kingdom while we are still on this side of eternity such as intercessory prayer ministry. The Word of God teaches us about God’s Holiness and his standard for being in his Kingdom and the ubiquity of human sin, which disqualifies all of us, but then we have our Lord’s substitutionary death on that cross that purchased a people for himself. In this “equation” we must learn that our salvation was all of God’s doing, not ours. He is the one who keeps us as well, but we do have a part to play and this is to walk in repentance for the rest of our lives. Some make the mistake of teaching that we can become perfectly holy and sinless in this life, but as we shall see, this is unbiblical and puts people in bondage for those who teach that invariably are the same ones who also teach that we earn our salvation in so doing so we can also lose it.
5 Καὶ ἔστιν αὕτη ἡ ἀγγελία ἣν ἀκηκόαμεν ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀναγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν, ὅτι ὁ θεὸς φῶς ἐστιν καὶ σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία. 6 Ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι κοινωνίαν ἔχομεν μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ σκότει περιπατῶμεν, ψευδόμεθα καὶ οὐ ποιοῦμεν τὴν ἀλήθειαν· 7 ἐὰν δὲ ἐν τῷ φωτὶ περιπατῶμεν ὡς αὐτός ἐστιν ἐν τῷ φωτί, κοινωνίαν ἔχομεν μετ᾽ ἀλλήλων καὶ τὸ αἷμα Ἰησοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ καθαρίζει ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἁμαρτίας. 8 ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἔχομεν, ἑαυτοὺς πλανῶμεν καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν. 9 ἐὰν ὁμολογῶμεν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν, πιστός ἐστιν καὶ δίκαιος, ἵνα ἀφῇ ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας καὶ καθαρίσῃ ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἀδικίας. 10 ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι οὐχ ἡμαρτήκαμεν, ψεύστην ποιοῦμεν αὐτὸν καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν. (1 John 1:5-10 NA27)
5 And this is the message, which we have heard from him and we proclaim to you that God is light and there is not any darkness in him. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him and we walk in darkness, we lie and are not practicing 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 his son cleanses us from every sin. 8 If we say that we do not have sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins he is faithful and righteous that he will forgive us our sins and 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 1:5-10 a personal translation from the NA27 Greek text)
In v5 John reflects back to the Old Testament revelation of God where light symbolizes both knowledge and purity. We have looked many times at the Greek word John used here which I translated as “light,” φῶς, “phōs.” It is light that is neither kindled nor can man put it out. John goes even further in proclaiming that there is no darkness in God at all, in other words, John is attempting to describe God’s spiritual perfection, moral excellence, and utter transcendence. In contrast in v6 there are some who insist that they are in fellowship with God, but walk in darkness, but that is a lie. It is impossible. No one can be in fellowship with God and be an unrepentant sinner.
On the other hand look at v7. Those in Christ are washed clean by the blood of Jesus and are continually cleansed of every on of their sins by it, they have fellowship with other Christians and they walk in the light, that is, they walk in agreement with the truth of God’s Word. In v8 John again clearly states that those who say they have no sin are deceived and the truth is not in them, but in v9, true believers confess their sins to God. In is faithfulness and righteousness he forgives their sins and cleanses of their unrighteousness. In v10, John makes the statement even stronger. Those who say they do not sin actually are saying the Word of God is wrong and this makes God a liar. Well, that can’t be true so who is the liar? It is those who make the false claims proving that the Word is not really in them at all. They claim to be Christians, but are not.
1 Τεκνία μου, ταῦτα γράφω ὑμῖν ἵνα μὴ ἁμάρτητε. καὶ ἐάν τις ἁμάρτῃ, παράκλητον ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν δίκαιον· 2 καὶ αὐτὸς ἱλασμός ἐστιν περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν, οὐ περὶ τῶν ἡμετέρων δὲ μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου. 3 Καὶ ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐγνώκαμεν αὐτόν, ἐὰν τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ τηρῶμεν. 4 ὁ λέγων ὅτι ἔγνωκα αὐτὸν καὶ τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ μὴ τηρῶν, ψεύστης ἐστὶν καὶ ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἀλήθεια οὐκ ἔστιν· 5 ὃς δ᾽ ἂν τηρῇ αὐτοῦ τὸν λόγον, ἀληθῶς ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ τετελείωται, ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐσμεν. 6 ὁ λέγων ἐν αὐτῷ μένειν ὀφείλει καθὼς ἐκεῖνος περιεπάτησεν καὶ αὐτὸς [οὕτως] περιπατεῖν. (1 John 2:1-6 NA27)
1 My little children, I write these things to you so that you do not sin and if anyone sins we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins, not for ours only, but also for the whole world. 3 And in this we know that we have known him if we keep his commandments. 4 The one saying, “I have known him,” and then does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps his Word, truly in this one the love for God has been perfected. In this we know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:1-6 a personal translation from the NA27 Greek text)
John give us some theology in vv1-6. We should always walk in repentance, that is, to be wary of the flesh, to deny it, to seek to be living sacrifices (Romans 12:1,2), but he doesn’t tell us in these verses that it is up to us and our flimsy will power to do this. No, first off, as we walk through each day we must do so in the knowledge that we will sin no matter what we do about it. When we sin is it over as some teach and preach? No, we have an advocate with the Father. Who is it? It is Jesus Christ the Righteous. Remember 1 John 1:9. We confess our sins and God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Look at 1 John 1:7, “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 every sin.” Because we are brought near by the blood of Christ, we are also cleansed and when we sin, and we will, he is our advocate before the Father who forgives and cleanses us continually as we walk in repentance.
Look at 1 John 2:2. Yes, all in Christ have him as their propititiation, but is he the propititiation for 100% of all people from the beginning of time to the end of time? No, John is saying that Jesus’ sacrifice is offered and made available to everyone in “the whole world,” not just to John and his current readers.
I have heard so much false teaching based on vv4-6. Those who teach that we can attain “holiness” or “perfection” in this life attempt to use these verses and similar ones to teach that God demands perfection, but as we have seen in this same passage that God is showing us that we sin and if say we do not sin then we are liars and are not part of his Church. However, those who confess their sins and walk in repentance are his true children. These are the ones who are humble before him and learn to abide in Christ and walk the way he walked.
As we mature in grace we should learn to stop acting like the world, that is, being controlled by our flesh. We learn to control our tongues. We learn to control our tempers and our desires and our focus in this life becomes turned more and more to eternal things rather than temporal things. This is what John is talking about becoming one who abides in Christ and walking as he walked.
Soli Deo Gloria!