Category Archives: Bible Study

Test 1: Walking in the Light 1 John 1:5-7

5 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. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice 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 all sin. 

If you haven’t yet read the previous 2 entries in our study of 1 John, Part 1 and Part 2 let me encourage you to do so before continuing in this one, that way continuity and context is maintained.  Here, in this section of John’s first chapter, we again see his eyewitness testimony, this time in the form of hearing a message from Christ and proclaiming that message to the Churches to whom he’s writing (and subsequently all believers).  His message that he’s relaying is, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all”.  In this passage, some have pointed out that light has 2 characteristic meanings as it relates to God.  The first is that the light is life, namely eternal life.  Support for this can certainly be found in John 1:4, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” and John 8:12 “Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  In these passages we can see the link between the light of God and the life of God.  Without going into greater detail with this possible implication of “God is light,” let’s look at the second one.

It would seem in our passage from 1 John that the more natural interpretation of “God is light” relates chiefly to the holiness of God.  In context, it seems that this is the most likely intention because it is contrasted in the same sentence with “in him is no darkness at all”.  The flow of John’s argument in the following two verses maintains this contrast of light vs. darkness as it relates to an individual’s walk or daily life.  Therefore, it seems best interpreted as a distinction between holiness and sinfulness or perhaps better stated as godliness vs. ungodliness.  This leads us to the first test that John provides which he begins with the statement, “If we say”. 

John’s test is as follows: “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”  The parts to this test are simple and have great implications for us today.  In his test, John outlines a common If/Then statement of logic.  If we, as professing Christians, say that we have fellowship with God, (remember we defined that fellowship last time as being adopted into the family of God, thereby having communion and a relationship with Him) yet we continue to walk in a pattern of sinfulness, then we are liars and our profession is a lie.  The application of this test to your own heart should convict you.  Are you one of the many Christians in name only who profess Christ but display no visible evidence of being in fellowship with Him?  Is your life marked by a pattern and lifestyle of sin, rather than a pursuit of holiness?  Do you detest sin and have a burning desire in your heart to love the things of God, namely His Son, His Word, and His people?  This is the test that lies before us today.  Do you fail or pass?

Not leaving us alone with just the negative implications of the test, John provides the solution for his readers in verse 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 all sin.”   Here he exhorts genuine believers to walk in holiness, as God is holy, such that we have fellowship with one another and efficacy of Christ’s atoning blood sacrifice.  Working through John’s logic backwards we can see that a consequence of Christ’s atonement is cleansing from sin, fellowship in God’s family, and a life marked with holiness.  Justification, adoption, and sanctification. 

The significance of Christ’s blood here cannot be understated.  It’s not to be dismissed or classified as gruesome as so many liberal theologians are apt to do, but must be understood as necessary to bring life to the unbeliever and cleansing from sin.  The entire foreshadowing of the OT blood sacrifices is significant to the bloody death of Christ on the cross.  Hebrews 9:22 says, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”  This echoes the Old Testament passage “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” Leviticus 17:11 Christ Himself emphasizes the significance of His blood as marking the establishment of His New Covenant, “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” Matthew 26:28 and Paul points out for us in Ephesians 1:7 that “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” and again in 2:13 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

This is an oft-neglected and misunderstood aspect of Christ’s atonement, but as we’ve seen it’s essential, not for mystical powers as some have claimed, but for its significance of marking the New Covenant in which Christ’s atoning sacrifice brings cleansing and forgiveness of sins and thereby life to the sinner who repents and puts their faith in Him.  The test that John lays out for us in the passage should either convict or reassure the hearts and minds of those who read it.  Conviction should come to those who understand and realize that their lives are not marked with holiness nor a desire for godliness, but instead are a display of sinful patterns of behavior.  If this is you dear reader, then it is time for you to repent and turn from your sins.  Turn to Christ in faith and trust in Him for the cleansing and forgiveness of your sin.  God alone is holy and it is the righteousness of Christ that you are in need of.  Call on Him today.

Believers, this should either be a wake-up call to you or proof of the genuineness of your faith.  If you are battling besetting sins, then you need to realize that the mark of a genuine believer is walking in holiness.  As we will see in the coming verses, confession of our sins gives evidence of true salvation.  Return to God today, confess your sin, and seek a life of godliness. 

Before reading the next post in this series, consider the following for additional study (from 1 John 1:8-2:2):

  1. What is the next “test” that John offers his readers?
  2. If believers are already forgiven of their sins, past, present, and future, why does John exhort a pattern of confession (vs. 1:9)?
  3. What is the significance of Christ’s role as advocate (vs. 2:1)?
  4. Using a good Bible dictionary or commentary, define propitiation (vs. 2:2). [Note in some Bible versions this word may be translated as ‘atoning sacrifice’; the Greek word is hilasmos]

Expositions from 1 John 1:1-4

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

 

As mentioned in the last post on the Introduction to 1 John, the Apostle begins his letter with a strong affirmation of his own eyewitness testimony to the life of Jesus Christ.  In language that sounds remarkably similar to the introduction of his Gospel account, John establishes the eternality of Christ by stating “that which was from the beginning”.  Comparatively, the Gospel of John says the following, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1  Some have argued that the introduction to John’s letter isn’t so much a declaration of Christ’s eternality, as in John 1:1, but instead a reference to the beginning of the earthly ministry of Christ, and ultimately the gospel, i.e. the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  This view seems to break apart in the context of 1 John, because of John’s statement in vs. 2 “which was with the Father” which gives the implication of the Son eternally co-existing with the Father.  This interpretation mirrors what we just read and John 1:1 and seems most consistent with the author’s intent.

Note in these first 3 verses that John repeatedly testifies to his experience (and that of the other disciples) of witnessing the God-man, Jesus Christ, as he states “[that] which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands” and regarding the “life” he says, “we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life” and concludes, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also”.  In each of the first 3 verses, John emphasizes that this isn’t simply a made up story about the life of Jesus, but was in fact a historical event.  It seems too often we gloss over this point because we get lost in the “stories” of the Bible and fail to see the connection with the rest of history.  There is no need for us to separate the Bible from the history of man, but instead it should give us greater confidence to its truths and greater reliability to its message to understand that the Bible records actual historical people that lived in historical places and they are indeed real.  John is giving testimony that the Son of God, Jesus Christ actually lived on the earth.  God incarnate walked among men and lived, perfectly sinless and blameless.  John was there and saw Him.  He heard Him speak.  He touched Him with his own hands.  He looked upon Him with a recognition and understanding that it was Jesus, the true and living Son of God.  That’s the point John is driving home.  Contrary to the Gnostics belief in a false Christ, John gives weight to his argument through his and the other disciples eyewitness accounts.  It’s almost as if his argument is as follows, “Those men who were in your churches, creating division through the lies they were telling about the person of Jesus Christ, they weren’t even there.  They didn’t see Him.  They didn’t break bread with Him.  They didn’t talk and commune with Him.  They didn’t put their finger’s into the wounds of His resurrected body.  But we did!  We were there and witnessed it all.”  You can almost hear that in the background of John’s introductory statement as he declares the manifestation of Jesus.

This record of eyewitness testimony isn’t unique to John’s letter.  In Luke 1:1-3 we read, 1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning this things you have been taught.”  Similarly, in Acts 4:20 we read of Peter and John saying, “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” while Peter in his own letter states, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made know to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16 Finally, the Apostle Paul records for us in his Corinthian letter that Jesus appeared to 500 eyewitnesses after His resurrection from the grave. 1 Corinthians 15:6 Think about this for a minute, in our court of law today, 1 eyewitness is enough to give a convicting testimony.  But here in God’s Word we have a replete account of eyewitness testimonies to the majesty of God.  That should emphatically tell us that these things aren’t myths or cutsie stories, but are in fact a reality.

After establishing these truths about Christ through his testimony, John then points to the fellowship that belongs between 1) himself and the other apostles and between 2) them and the Father and Son.  His encouragement here is for his readers, i.e. the churches, to partake in that fellowship based on the person of Jesus Christ that he has just laid out for them.  When I read this theme of fellowship, it seems much more than a gathering together in a church fellowship hall and in a sense it’s much more than breaking bread or conversing with one another.  Instead it seems to speak of family, namely adoption into the family of God and because of that we now have fellowship with one another and fellowship with the Father and Son.

Acts 2 provides a beautiful picture of this fellowship amongst believers, 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47 Hidden in this passage is a gem that gives insight into the fellowship of believers and it’s found in verse 44, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.”  This “all things in common” isn’t material as in race, ethnicity, clothing, hair/eye color, or style, but its commonality found between those in the family of God.  Believers are the adopted sons of God and because of that we can have fellowship with each other and fellowship with God through the fellowship, or union, with Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul highlights this adoption of ours in Galatians 4:4-7 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

Finally, in verse 4 of 1 John we read, “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”  There is some discrepancy among translations (depending on which ancient text is used) as to whether the phrase here is “our” joy or “your” joy.  It being only 1 letter difference in the Greek, it’s difficult to say.  But there doesn’t need to be disagreement here.  Instead, it seems John speaks of an inclusivity of “all of our” joy being complete.  He is writing so that not only his joy and that of the “we” mentioned earlier, but also that the joy of his readers be complete.  This joy that he is speaking of comes through the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is a spiritual fruit or evidence of salvation.  John’s is a message of assurance so that the believer might grab hold of Christ and live in joy for Him.

Before reading the next post in this series, consider the following for additional study:

  1. When John says “God is light” in verse 5, what does he mean?
  2. What is the test that he outlines in verses 6-7 of chapter 1?
  3. Practically speaking how can one “walk in the light”?  Conversely, what is walking in darkness?
  4. What is the significance of the “blood of Jesus” in this (and other) passages? [Hint: see also Matthew 26:28, Eph. 1:7, Ephesians 2:13, Hebrews 9:14, 1 Peter 1:17-19, Revelation 5:9, Revelation 7:14]

Introducing 1 John

Recently, I began teaching a study on 1 John and I thought it would be helpful to share my notes and expositions in the form of blog posts.  In this post, I’ve included an introduction and overview of the book, using the familiar Who, What, When Where, Why method.  Feel free to use these notes in your own personal study.  Also, I’ve listed below the many resources I’ve used in my preparation for this study and I commend them to you.

Who: Who wrote it?

  • The Apostle John
  • How do we know?
    • Author claims he’s an eyewitness to Jesus (1 John 1:1-3)
    • Internal Evidence – structure and style is similar to the Gospel of John
    • External Evidence – Church tradition and records
      • Irenaeus (202 A.D.)
      • Dionysius of Alexandria (265 A.D.)
      • Tertulllian (after 220 A.D.)
      • Also fragments of Papias’ writing
  • What do we know about John?
    • “Disciple whom Jesus loved” John 13:23; John 19:26
    • Brother to James Matthew 4:21
    • “Sons of Thunder” Mark 3:17

To Whom: To Whom was it written?

  • Believers!  Like the rest of the N.T. Epistles.
  • Circular Church Letter
  • Churches in Asia Minor that John oversaw (including Ephesus where John was elder)
  • What do we know about these churches, specifically Ephesus?
    • Ephesus appears in Acts, its own personal letter (Ephesians), 1&2 Timothy, 1 John, Revelation

What: What style or form is the book?

  • An Epistle; A letter to the Churches

What does He intend to say?

  • Response to Gnosticism and false teachers through proclamation and tests of genuine saving faith

When: When was it written?

  • Probably between 85-95 A.D.

Where: Where was it written?

  • Ephesus

Why: Why was it written/For what purpose?

  • Proclamation of Truth
  • Provide a test of assurance
    • Doctrinal
      • What do you believe about Jesus?
    • Moral
      • How do you respond to the commandments of Christ?
    • Social
      • Do you love other Christians?
  • Refute False Teaching
  • John’s stated reasons for writing:
    • 1:4 – Gospel Fulfillment
    • 2:1 – Gospel Application
    • 2:12-14 – Gospel Reminder
    • 2:26 – Gospel Defense
    • 5:13 – Gospel Assurance

The Apostle John’s circular church letter, which is entitled 1 John, addresses many of the controversies that were advancing in the churches of Asia Minor during the first century.  It is widely speculated* that these churches were heavily influenced by the heresy known as Gnosticism and subsequently the genuine believers were left confused and uncertain of their faith.  The Gnostics (literally meaning knowledge) had split, or succeeded, from the churches because of their beliefs in 1) a new theology and 2) a new morality, as well as other unorthodox beliefs.  Primarily, the “new theology” said that Jesus was born a man, not God, but that God descended on the man and entered his body upon his baptism by John the Baptist.  They likewise believed that it was the man that died on the cross and that God was not present in His body, but had instead left.  This heresy, being repacked and circulated to this day, had left many in the churches of Asia Minor confused and shaken in their faith.  So it is that John begins his letter with a bold affirmation of his own eyewitness account of Jesus’ life, ensuring the church that Jesus was both God and man.

The “new morality” that Gnosticism promoted asserted that trivial or minor sins that the everyday man committed were no longer sins to them because they had reached a higher life or a higher spiritual plane of living.  It follows then that John addresses this form of the heresy in the latter part of chapter 1 and is a central theme to his polemical argument throughout the letter of 1 John.

At its heart, 1 John provides a series of 3 tests to separate the true from the false profession in Christ.  The tests often present themselves in a repeated series as John reiterates his point.  The tests are as follows:

  1. Doctrinal – What does a person believe about Christ?
  2. Moral – How does a person respond to the commandments of Christ?
  3. Social – Does the person love other Christians?

Before reading the next post in this series, consider the following for additional study:

  1. Why is it important to believe that a) Jesus was born of a virgin and b) that He is both God and man?
  2. What does it mean to have fellowship with other believers?
  3. How can I have fellowship with God and His Son Jesus Christ?
  4.  What is the joy that John is talking about in verse 4?

 

*Please note that the Gnostic beliefs are very broad and wide-ranging and any debate over specific beliefs that may have impacted Ancient Asia Minor does not detract from the Apostle John’s message in the slightest.

Sources for this study:

  • Bruce, F.F. Commentary on The Epistles of John
  • Dever, Mark.  Sermons on 1 John
  • Henry, Matthew.  Commentary on the Whole Bible
  • Inter-Varsity Press – Studies in 1 John
  • Johnson, S. Lewis. Sermons on 1 John
  • Lloyd-Jones, Martyn. The Life of Christ: Studies in 1 John
  • MacArthur, John. Sermons on 1 John
  • Moo, Douglas and D.A. Carson. Introduction to the New Testament
  • Pillar New Testament Commentary on 1 John, Carson, D.A. editor.
  • Poole, Matthew.  Commentary on the Whole Bible
  • ESV Study Bible
  • John MacArthur Study Bible (NKJV)