By Jeffery Kingry
John’s concept of man’s relationship with God was not one that depended or varied with man’s understanding-but he claimed it was based upon God’s revelation. “For the life was manifested … and was manifested unto us; That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you that ye also may have fellowship with us: And truly our fellowship is e with the Father, and with his son Jesus Christ” (1 Jno. 1:2,3). n John believed that fellowship with God depended on a il proper understanding of the revelation which was given to him and to the other Apostles. What was the substance of this revelation? “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you: That God is light and in In him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship el with him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth. to But, if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have e. fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1:5-7).
God’s Conditions of Fellowship
There is certainly no place of righteousness in the writing of John for the one who claims to “walk in darkness” (i.e. those who remain in “sins of ignorance” or sins of ” weakness”). “To walk” is an expression used in the Scriptures to indicate the entire life, with special emphasis on what is done outwardly. “To walk in darkness” is to live ‘in the practice of sin. The man who lives in the practice or state of sin is a twofold liar. When this man confesses his fellowship with God, he lies with the mouth. His protest of a good relationship with God is untrue. But further, if he continues in that sin, “And do not the truth, ” he lies in his life. His practice is opposed to the truth. Man’s relationship, therefore, is not only dependent on man’s heart, but man’s deeds in submission to God’s revealed word. Any other affirmation of fellowship with God is a deceived one: “Every man that hath this hope in him (the hope to be like Jesus when he comes again, 3:2b) purifieth himself, even as. he (Jesus) is pure. . .Little children, let no man deceive you, he that doeth righteousness is righteous even as he (Jesus) is righteous” (I Jno. 3:3-7).
Consequences of Fellowship with God
On the positive side, John tells us that “if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another . . . . ” “The light” is God’s revelation of what pleases Him. To “walk in the light” means to live according to all that God has given to man, or as Paul put it, “Ye were once in darkness, but are now light in the Lord: Walk as children of light (For the fruit of the light is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth)” (Eph. 5:8,9). “Walking in the light” further demonstrates growth or progression. One may not walk and remain in one place. As Paul said, “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13,14).
Some may raise the question “Are you not in darkness to the extent you are in ignorance while you are growing? Does not the fact that you move from one level of understanding to another necessitate God’s grace covering your sins of ignorance while in a lower level of understanding?” The answer is “No.” One cannot “grow” in darkness. One can only grow in the light. As long as one practices sin he is in the grips of Satan, the Prince of all darkness (I Jno. 3:8). Whoever is growing in the light of God’s revelation does not remain or continue in sin (1 Jno. 3:6). He repents of his sin and confesses his sin to God (1:9a) and God cleanses that one continually from all the consequences of his sin (1:9b).
Further, the shedding of the blood of Jesus did not cleanse us once and for all time from the consequences of sin. The child of God continues to need the atoning power of the blood, and contacts it. through his penitence. “And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. ” This implies that the child of God still needs the cleansing power of the blood. John uses the present tense “cleanseth us. ” He did not say “hath cleansed us,” or “will cleanse us” but “is cleansing us.” The cleansing process is a continuing one. But the continual cleansing is dependent-not only on God’s grace, for that is already ours-not on man’s heart alone, for God requires action to demonstrate the intent of the heart but on “walking in the light as he is in the light.” Our cleansing depends on our continual submission, emulation, ,and practice of God’s Agoodness, and righteousness, and truth.” It is a peculiar doctrine indeed that states that man is continually cleansed of sin while in the very practice of that sin.
Man’s Confidence of Heaven
“But,” some may say, “This is a terrible burden to live under. We must live in fear that we have committed some unrepented sin. There is no peace, assurance, or confidence if the nature of the Christian life is one of constant fear!” This also is an odd response to the favor of God. Man had only a fearful, fiery expectation of eternal separation from God before Jesus came to this earth. The witness of the scriptures is “Fear not.” We are rather to rejoice that God has provided us a way to overcome the power of sin. Penitence is a small price for us to pay for the consequences of our sins. John said, “These things I write unto you, that ye sin not. But, if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins” (2:1,26). God has not called us to uncertainty and, groping but to “life,” “love,” “Knowledge,” and “fellowship.” The gospel is God’s power to save man and in the gospel is God’s way of making man right revealed as a system that begins and ends with confidence in God’s testimony (Rom. 1:16,17). God shows us that we can know we are saved. John testifies that we can know that we know God.
Our assurance is not based upon man’s desire, motive, or purity of intent, but on obeying the commandments of God. Some are immature and arrogant in their truth-seeking. The Lord tells us that the only way we will reach additional truth is to perform the truth that we already have (Jno. 7:17). We
do not give up the truth we already hold because there are some who reject it, or because we see that there is a level of understanding we have not yet attained. True knowledge of God is dependent on keeping God’s commandments. “He that saith. ‘I know him.’ and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: Hereby know we that we are in him ” (2:4,5).
Some, interested in only what they can “get away with” might ask, “Which commandments must we keep? Only direct commands?” Paul had no difficulty in answering that question, “If any man think himself to be spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). To the one intent on submission, the scriptures give answers-not dilemmas.
God Demands Perfection
Again the objector rises to declare, “You then, require sinless perfection in practice as a requisite for salvation!” No, that would be to claim something God has revealed man has no right to. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”(1 Jno. 1:8). There are those who deny sin by defining it out of existence. They claim, like the serpent, that to commit some sins, “You shall not surely die.” They make their own definitions of sin, and thereby remove the terrible consequences of sin-eternal death. They claim sin is misdirection, imperfect development, inherited weakness to the errors of life, and thus seek to absolve the sinner of personal guilt. He who reduces sin to “mistake” only “deceives himself.” By closing his eyes to the truth of God he is groping about in the dangerous arena of darkness. Not only does he deceive himself but he actually seeks to put away the testimony of God. “If we say we have not sinned we make Him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1:10). What a terrible thing to call God a liar by what we practice and teach!
But to answer the question fully: “Yes” God does require us to be perfect, and gives us the means to be so. Perfection does not mean “sinlessness” but “completeness.” A mechanic who knows his job, is skilled through long practice, and has all the necessary tools and manuals could be said to be “perfect (complete), throughly furnished unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). This does not mean that he never made a mistake or will never make one in his work as a mechanic, but he has the knowledge, tools, and facilities to find his mistakes, correct them, and learn from them. No matter what his purity of motive or desire may be, if he is “not equipped” he will fail in his resolve to repair the engine. God has given us everything we need to be perfect in every phase of our life and living (2 Tim. 3:16,17). We do not depend on our own ability, but the revelation of God to lead us into right living (2 Cor. 5:7). Our standard is divine; not human or worldly, and following that standard and conforming to it in all areas prove(s) what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2). This goal is scoffed at only by those who have wearied of the necessity to please God in all things (Col. 1:21-29).
In our lives as Christians we do not fear eternal hell unless we are living in sin. Only the disobedient fear an ultimate hell. But, we have been cleansed and will continue to be cleansed as long as we remain true to Him who cleansed us. We have an assurance as penitent believers that no man or power on earth can wrest from us. We accept God’s promise of salvation because we trust his word. “For. without faith it is impossible to please him: For he that cometh to God must believe that he is. and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him ” (Heb. 11:6). We need to be diligent in our doing of his will. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promises… wherefore my beloved seeing that ye look for (a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness), be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace. without spot. and blameless… Ye therefore beloved, seeing that ve know these things before, beware test ye also. being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:9,13,14,17,18).
Truth Magazine, XVIII:39, p. 11-13
August 8, 1974