John, the apostle, is letting us know that we can participate in the divine fellowship.
How can you know whether your participation is real – or not?
1st John 1:5-2:2 begins with a characteristic of God, then tests three claims people make, which leads us to two wonders.
What can we learn from this text to discern real fellowship with God the Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ?
John opens with a declaration: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1st John 1:5).
What does this mean?
This is not the light he created in Genesis 1:3, nor is it an astronomic body like the Sun. God is not these things; he created these things.
The term “light” acts as a metaphor of sorts. For instance, in Isaiah 5:20 the prophet pronounces:
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
Isaiah equates light with good, and darkness with evil.
On this basis, among other things, God is good, pure, holy; in him there is no evil, sin, or unrighteousness.
Not only is he "light," there is "no darkness at all." In other words, God does not compromise or lessen his character to accommodate fellowship.
We are on notice that fellowship with God is determined by the God of that fellowship. Humans do not set the terms and conditions for this fellowship, God does.
Next, John provides us with three claims. How do these claims help us discern whether we are participating in the divine fellowship?
If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 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, purifies us from all sin.
“Walk” is another metaphor, portraying how a person lives, acts, behaves.
Our behavior declares whether we are in fellowship with God, or not.
Let us be clear that this is not living to earn this fellowship; it is living that flows from, and manifests, the reality of divine fellowship.
Given God's character of unsullied "light," fellowship with him does not co-exist with sin. That is why we need to receive God’s free and gracious gift.
Here’s how John puts it:
“the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
A life that accommodates sinful living is disconnected from the God who is light – no matter what is claimed. Yet God provides the means to purify us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
John Stott observes that John distinguishes between “sin” and “sins.” He writes that “sin” is “the inherited principle of sin or self-centeredness.” In other words, “sin” is the root we inherited as descendants of Adam; “sins” are the fruit expressed in our actions, words, and thoughts.
The late televangelist, Robert Schuller, in Self-Esteem: the New Reformation (1982), contradicts the apostle John.
Schuller wrote that “we’re not bad, merely badly informed about how good we are” (p. 115).
What does the apostle say about Schuller's claim?
The denial of our sinfulness marks a false claim to fellowship with God.
A mark of the reality of fellowship with God is a person who acknowledges his or her condition, and confesses – literally, agrees with God about – one's sins.
God's gracious provision is to forgive and purify that person from all unrighteousness.
If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
The denial of one’s sinful acts is the same as calling God a liar.
Denial, and self-justification, of our wrong actions, words, and attitudes is the evidence that we're not listening to God – his word has no place in our lives.
Honest admission that we have sinned, and acceptance of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, is the mark of fellowship with God that is real.
So what can we take-away from this?
Here are three (or so) points – you may have more:
1. God's character is the threshold for the divine fellowship.
2. Our need is exposed through the claims. Disconnects from the divine fellowship include:
If we stopped here, our situation would be pretty hopeless.
3. God's grace invites and sustains us in the divine fellowship on the basis of:
In the words of the old hymn, here are the two wonders:
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.
What do you discern about yourself?
How can you participate in the divine fellowship?
What questions do you have?
Photo credit: Unknown source.
Helpful resources provided to 'living theology' subscribers.YES!