1 John 1:5- 1:10
5This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7but 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.
8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
The author continues to speak in the plural first person, “We” have heard from “him”. “Him”, of course, would refer to Christ. Writing from what is, likely, John’s original community – to what may be another community which was founded from that, perhaps a “daughter” or “mission” church. When I visited Cuba, I saw that every central “church” or “temple” as they call the central churches in Cuba, had a number of “mission” churches, sometimes house churches meeting in homes. I can see the leaders of the central church writing advice to the missional church, especially if those are new Christians. In this instance, it seems they are writing after some people have left the new church, or have been asked to leave. Most scholars believe the church receiving this writing has undergone a split – we will talk about the things the writers challenge as we go along.
The first part of the letter (let’s call it that, “writing” feels awkward) is about God’s light and the darkness in the world. It is introduced here, “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” Remember John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Light was a metaphor for God, used often in the writings of “John”. Light reveals, darkness conceals – light is truth, darkness covers lies – light is open, darkness closed – light is love, darkness hate. The contrast is found throughout this first part.
Following the introduction there is a series of 5 “if – then” statements:
- If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true
- 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
- If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us
- If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness
- If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
So – that series pairs – the second contrasts to the first; the fourth to the third; and the last reinforces the contrast to the fourth. Walking in darkness results in lying, while walking in light results in truth, in fellowship with one another, and in forgiveness of sin.
Saying that we have no sin is lying to ourselves, while confessing our sins results in forgiveness. The idea of saying that we do not sin being a lie is repeated, more strongly – not only do we lie by saying we have not sinned, but we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
This may be the first hint of what those who left the church had believed – perhaps they had renounced the idea of sin, or perhaps they said that they were “special” or “chosen” and had never sinned. If the author(s) is writing to counter a “heresy” or false belief among those who have left the church, one of the things he begins with is that there is no one who can say they have never sinned. And yet, he reminds us that if we confess our sins they are forgiven. For all of us, the things hiding in the dark corners of our hearts must be brought into the light if we are to move forward in living a new life.