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Walking in the Light February 2, 2014

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 John 1:5-2:14.

Summary: John begins with the following announcement: God is pure, and He makes all things clear by His brightness; thus, He hates an evil conscience and wickedness. Thus, if a person claims to possess the Gospel, yet the power of fellowship with God does not shine in their life, then that person does not act truthfully. On the other hand, those who conform to God are in union with Him; moreover, the expiation of Christ – as effected by His death – allows them to obtain God’s favor.

John then states that if a person claims to lack a corrupt inclination and refrain from actions that render them guilty before God, then they are lying. They blaspheme God and reject the great truth that everyone is guilty. On the other hand, God – based on His justice – will be propitious to those who acknowledge themselves as sinners; moreover, He will renew and reform them.

Now John testifies to his readers that his teaching is meant to help them abstain from sin; yet when they contract new guilt on a daily basis, they can flee to their advocate – Christ, who is innocent and offered Himself to obtain God’s favor for them. Moreover, the expiation of Christ extends to all who embrace the Gospel by faith.

John then asserts that those who strive to shape their lives in conformity to God’s will obtain the living knowledge of God. As they make progress in the complete keeping of God’s law, they also make progress in loving Him wholeheartedly. They can enjoy fellowship with the Father and with the Son by being like Christ. On the other hand, those who boast that they have faith while lacking piety are charged with falsehood.

Now John notes that his teaching concerning love had been heard by the faithful from the beginning, since the Gospel is God’s eternal truth. Moreover, God renews His teaching concerning love by daily suggesting it; indeed, if holy love continually exists among believers, then they will be truly united to Christ, and their knowledge of Christ alone will be sufficient to dissipate darkness.

John states that if a person is a stranger to love, yet claims to love their brothers, then they are blind. Even if a person has a specious appearance of excellency, yet does not possess love, then they are ruled by their sinful nature. On the other hand, if anyone acts in love, then they are not blind.

John addresses his readers by assuring them of the free forgiveness of their sins based on the expiation of Christ. John concludes by stating that the Gospel is right for the following members of his audience:

  • the old – because they learned about the eternal Son of God through it
  • those who are in the flower of their age – because they receive strength from Christ to defeat Satan through it
  • the young – because they have been adopted by God through it.

Thoughts: This passage reminded me of the song In The Light by DC Talk, especially since my roommate during my freshman year of college was a big fan of DC Talk. I recently perused the lyrics of that song; it seems that the lyrics are compatible with this passage, as they essentially state that apart from God, one cannot live properly. Phrases such as “I despise my own behavior” and “It’s a cancer fatal to my soul” illustrate the danger of not walking “in the light.” Yet it also seems that the lyrics do not address the necessary effects of salvation. The lyrics imply that walking “in the light” is equivalent to being cured of the above-mentioned “cancer” and not despising one’s actions; thus, Jesus is portrayed as a Great Doctor. Yet this passage also calls us to be like Jesus by loving God and loving our neighbors. Perhaps it is best to characterize this song as a valuable starting point for a seeker.

Perhaps the main point of this passage is that a genuine believer will obey God’s commands to love Him and to love their neighbors. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 3 of chapter 2:

But, some might assert, there is no one who does God’s will in everything; there would thus be no knowledge of God in the world. To this I answer that the apostle is not being at all inconsistent, since he has already shown that all are guilty before God. So he does not mean that those who keep his commandments wholly satisfy the law; no such instance can be found in the world. He refers to those who strive, as much as human weakness allows, to shape their life in conformity to God’s will.

Calvin stresses that if one truly walks “in the light,” then they will strive and aspire to obey God’s commands. Of course, an unbeliever could ask a believer, “how do you know if you are truly striving and aspiring to obey God’s commands? Isn’t the answer to that question subjective?” Believers typically respond to this query by stating, “I can see the drastic changes that God has effected in my life. Before I was a believer, I did Bad Thing X. I have not done Bad Thing X since my conversion.” The unbeliever typically responds by stating, “well, people can always change by their own efforts; how do you know that God helped you to avoid doing Bad Thing X?” Perhaps we, as believers, need to hew as closely as possible to Jesus’ radical lifestyle, as that would be a better testimony to a skeptical unbeliever.

It is clear that John establishes the following facts in this passage:

  • In order to have fellowship with God the Father and God the Son, one must first acknowledge their inherent sinfulness, which is an obstacle to this union
  • One must also acknowledge that the only way for them to have fellowship with God the Father and God the Son entails relying on the expiation of Christ
  • Those who rely on the expiation of Christ will constantly strive to love God and love their neighbors
  • Those who constantly strive to love God and love their neighbors have fellowship with God the Father and God the Son

Again, believers are faced with the challenge of constantly striving to obey the two greatest commandments. I recall finding 1 John to be an extremely challenging read during my previous excursions through this letter, and this passage highlights the main reason for my struggles – the facts that John establishes here strike at the very basis of my standing before God. I assume that all believers would benefit from reading this letter every now and then, as it would spur them to walk more closely with God. Hopefully I will make more progress on loving those people who are not easy for me to love.

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