By Colton Corter
“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. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 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.”
(1 John 1:5-7 ESV)
Our God dwells in inapproachable light. God’s holiness, His intrinsic worth and beauty, makes the chasm between us and Him incalculable.
This makes the beginning of John’s passage really bad news. God is light and in Him there is not one single shred of darkness. God alone is completely devoid of sin. God is pure light. He enjoys His own perfections perfectly within the Godhead. He is pure. We, however, are not. Really we are quite the opposite. In our rebellion, man is dark and in us is no light at all. The Bible paints a vivid picture of man’s natural state. We are lovers of darkness (John 3:19), not victims. Our hearts are turned inward, hell-bent on pursuing our joy in everything and anyone but God. This is the grandest injustice in the whole world. God, who created everything so that He might be made much of in the affections of His created beings, is infinitely pure and worthy of our pure devotion. We are unwilling and unable to render to God what is rightfully His!
But John is talking about this message in the positive. That is because God had given us new life. God’s Spirit quickens our dead hearts and opens our blind eyes to see the glory of Christ. No longer do we love darkness and hate God. Pure light now because our highest good. That is because Jesus Christ came, full of this divine light, but was judged as if it were He who had been in love with perpetual darkness. God’s purity was drained on His pure Son. The gospel, this news about the objective work of Christ in His life, death and resurrection, takes what was our worst enemy and makes it our greatest joy. The holiness that once threatened in wrath and indignation now captivates and produces wonder-filled joy. We stand justified before an aweful and holy God.
This very fact leads us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13). John doesn’t say that fellowship with God through Christ is earned by walking in the light. However, he does say that walking with this God of pure light will necessarily be characterized more and more with holiness. Salvation, in other words, leads to something: happiness and holiness. Our obedience has been purchased and is worked in us by the Spirit of God. Justification leads inevitably to sanctification. Pardon leads to life.
John is writing to give us assurance but there is such a thing as false assurance. Assurance is not the same thing as security. We can be fully persuaded that we are indeed children of God but be dead wrong (Matthew 7). If we say that we have come to know God and yet our actions don’t match up with our profession then we are lying. Fruit betrays our real root.
God’s purity affects purity in us. As we behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ found in its fullest in the gospel, we are exposed to the light of the knowledge of this glory. We are transformed as we fight to behold. We go from one degree of glory to another as we walk progressively through the Christian life with God in the light. We cannot claim to have fellowship with this God and continue in our love affair with sin and self. Grace promises so much more than that.
This is the mark of a true Christian. Certainly we aren’t perfect. But we are different. We are characterized by a warfare, even as we are characterized by unshakable gospel confidence. Notice that John says that our walking in the light is what gives us fellowship with the people of God in verse 7. The local church is comprised of those who walk in the light in such a way that testifies to the pure light of God’s glory. It is the church – full of repentant, justified and progressively sanctified people- that displays God’s manifold wisdom to the watching world (Ephesians 3:10).
Brothers and sisters, this passage finishes with an incredible encouragement. It says that if we are walking in the light, if we love the light and hate the darkness, then “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from unrighteousness.” Don’t get this wrong. All of our joy and comfort stand or fall with getting this verse right. Our walking is not the condition for the blood of Jesus cleansing our sin. The blood of Jesus creates our walking. Every good endeavor, every decision to gouge our eye or cut off our hand, was purchased by Christ and enabled by God’s holy Spirit. Sanctification is all of God’s grace. But this grace does more than just justify us. God gives us Himself and allows us to grow in our pleasure in Him. This walking in the light is proof that we have been cleansed by Jesus’ blood on the cross. Our holiness is the proof that the wrath of God due us has been satisfied on the Son. Our fight against our sin is the validation of what we have been declared to be. Subjective assurance gives us confidence in objective assurance.
We have been cleansed by the blood of Christ, positionally. This is good news. You will never been more righteous in the sight of God than you are now. But you will be more righteous than you are right now. The same blood that cleansed us initially and that stands as our confidence before God will continue to cleanse us from sin until that one glorious day when we are free to sin no more.