By Olen Holderby
J.W. Roberts, in his small commentary on the first epistle of John (124), quotes Stott as referring to the three lies which John discusses as “three black lies” of this epistle — thus the title of this article.
The “moral” black lie — 1 John 1:6. “If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth.” This is parallel to 2:4, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” So, if we claim to have fellowship with God, but walk in darkness, John says we lie.
Since the Scripture is God’s word (2 Tim. 3:16), this means that it is God calling such a person a liar. Now, if I called you a liar, it would not make you one; but, if God calls you a liar, you are it! God makes no mistakes.
“Walk” is a way of life and without reference to time; while “darkness” (sin) is one way of life — moral or spiritual darkness. John says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (v. 5); so, there is no sin with God “at all.” The darkness of verse 6 is the same as the dark- ness of verse 5; and the light of verse 7 is the same as the light in verse 5. This suggests that only the sinless can have fellowship with God. This thought may seem to be contradictory to verses 8 and 10, which affirm our sinfulness. Not so!
John goes on to show how this sinfulness can be changed: It is changed by the blood of Christ (v. 7), but only on the condition that we confess our sins (v. 9). Christ is the propitiation for our sins (2:2), and he is our advocate with the Father (2:1); but, it still remains that in order to have fellowship with God, we must rid our- selves of our sins, since there is no darkness at all with the Father. When this is done, the door of fellowship with God is left ajar.
Now, if you claim to have fellowship with God and have not done the necessary things to remove your sins, John says you lie. “. . . all liars shall have their part in the lake with burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death” (Rev.21:8).
The doctrinal black lie — 1 John 2:22. “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ . . .” Keep in mind that this would be God calling such an one a liar. John has already said, “no lie is of the truth” (v. 21). Since God’s word is the truth (John 17:17), this amounts to a denial of God’s word. Further, this amounts to a denial of his divine Sonship (5:20), and, a denial of the Father — God himself.
The Gnostics believed that Jesus existed, but they denied that certain divine attributes were his. Matthew 1:23 argues that Jesus was “God with us.” If Jesus was God, he had to possess the attributes of God; otherwise he could not be “God with us.” In Mark 1:22, it is said that Jesus taught them “as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.” The scribes taught with delegated authority and that from their own priestly officials, and they taught their traditions, opinions, and the Rabbinical teachings. On the other hand, Jesus taught with inherent authority, and he taught the words of his Father (John 12:49). Being all-wise, he could cut through the traditions and teachings of men, and say, “This is it!” His word was law and there was no appeal from it (Ps. 119:89).
So, in both matter and manner Jesus proved himself to be the divine Son of God, the promised Messiah. If I make him any less than this, I make myself a liar. Again, “. . . all liars have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.”
The ethical (social) black lie — 1 John 4:20. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar . . .” So, if I claim to love God and hate a brother, I simply am not telling the truth — I am a liar. For the third time, keep in mind that this would be God calling such a liar.
In verse 19 we read, “We love him, because he first loved us.” This, of course, is in refernce to God’s love for us; and, who could deny this factual statement. However, this is not true when it comes to loving our brother. We love our brother whether or not he loves us.
In John 13:34-35, Jesus gave the whole world the right to judge whether or not we are his disciples, by the love we have one for another. Since love always does what is best for its object, our love sometimes appears to be cruel (see 2 Thess. 3:6). Man’s love goes upward to God, outward to our fellows, and downward to our enemies.
“And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 John 4:21). Thus, we are commanded to love one another; and, if I fail to do so, and at the same time claim to love God, John says that I am a liar. And, once again, “all liars have their part in the lake which bureth with fire and brimstone.”