1 John 1:5-10
How do you build a marriage which invigorating and exciting, one full of joy, peace, and ever-increasing intimacy?
First, let me tell you how not to do it. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs wrote the book Love & Respect. In the first part of his analysis of what makes great marriages, he dives deep into the following chart: It’s rightly called the crazy cycle, and after forty-two years of marriage I must say I recognize it. When a husband fails to consistently show his wife love through words, actions, and reactions, she naturally responds with disrespectful words designed to grab his attention to show him the error of his ways. When he feels threatened by her disrespect, he naturally and instinctively responds by acting and speaking in an unloving fashion. Well, you can guess how this goes over with her . . . and that’s why it’s called the crazy cycle. It destroys intimacy and rich fellowship in their relationship, which is the opposite of what God desires.
How do you get off this insane, marriage destroying cycle of sinful behavior? You collectively and purposely confess you are on the wrong cycle and you then determine to get on the right cycle which his rightfully called the invigorating cycle. Here’s what it looks like:
How does it work? Simple. When a husband learns to speak and act in a loving fashion toward his wife, she opens up and deeply respects him as the leader of the family and her partner. Logically, her respectful speech and actions evidenced towards him serves to move him to appreciate, cherish and desire to love her all the more. This love, then, leads to her renewed and deepened respect, which, in turn, leads to his love growing and flourishing towards her. What’s the result? A mature marriage known for peace, joy, and an abiding and ever-deepening intimacy and fellowship with each other.
Spiritually, how does this relate to the Christian’s walk with Christ? First, it relates insofar as it demonstrates how relationships, like the one between Christ and His children, takes lifelong work, daily concentration, and transparency and authenticity. Second, it relates insofar as both parties have a responsibility to do the right thing to nurture and grow the relationship. Translated, the Lord promises to do His part based on who He is, and we are naturally challenged to willfully chose to do our part. Based on this, the chart will look a little different. God’s intrinsic holiness motivates (calls for) our holiness, which, logically motivates His holiness. As this cycle repeats itself, you mature in your faith as you enjoy wonderful intimacy and unbroken fellowship with Jesus.
The opposite can occur, too, because we have free wills as His children. His love summons our need to leave wicked behavior and embrace holy behavior; however, as we all know, and as we see in the Scriptures, we can choose to hold tenaciously to a given sin or sins. When this occurs, our activity does not motivate His Holiness. It challenges it, serving to arouse His jealousy. A God who is jealous of the fact you are not serving Him (Ex. 20:5; 34:14; Deut. 4:24), but some sin, eventually reacts, as we see in Hebrews 12 , with some form of discipline. It’s loving purpose is clear: to wake you up from your spiritual stupor so you can get back into the spiritual energizing cycle so fellowship and intimacy with Him grows and flourishes.
From our introduction to First John, coupled with our analysis of the purpose statement detailed in his opening words in chapter one, verses one through five, we know the churches under John’s care were experiencing harsh and hurtful internal conflict from pseudo-Christians who had infiltrated them and wedded incipient and heretical Gnostic concepts about sin, salvation, and the person of Christ to the sound doctrine the apostles, like John, had historically taught. The result? Fractured relationships. Shattered churches. Fights instead of fellowship. Doctrinal confusion instead of doctrinal cohesion. Ultimately, all of this turmoil, coupled with crafty but misguided teaching, caused some of the saints in these churches to lose their intimacy and fellowship with Jesus as they listened to the wrong voices in their churches.
In First John chapter one, verses five through ten, John, their spiritual father, opened his letter with teaching designed to move the saints away from sin and back into a thriving relationship with Jesus. Some, in our day, conversely, assume John speaks here about non-Christians who do not have a faith relationship with Jesus. According to this camp, the verses here show how to spot the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. I respectfully do not think this position is reflective of the text and John’s argument. To take this position is, in my view, to miss the import of the passage which is concerned with this main motif, as I will attempt to show you:
How Do You Develop An Energized Intimate Relationship With Jesus? (1 John 1:5-10)
John gives us six helpful ideas in six verses of how to answer this question and move on to maturity as saints
First Answer: Recognize God’s Character (1 John 1:5)
The opening connective, kai (Καὶ), serves to show how John quickly moved from the two-fold purpose statement in verse 5 to how to achieve said statement. He wanted these warring saints to have fellowship instead of fighting between themselves and the Lord, and when they would achieve this, he, of course, would fulfill/realize his second purpose in writing: he would be happy and proud of their spiritual progress toward maturity.
Starting with verse 5, John dives right in regarding how fellowship and intimacy with Christ, the living Lord, operates. From John’s perspective, these twin concepts grow out of how a saint responds to God’s holy character. Here is how he couches this concept:
5 And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
5 Καὶ ἔστιν αὕτη ἡ ἀγγελία ἣν ἀκηκόαμεν ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀναγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν, ὅτι ὁ θεὸς φῶς ἐστὶν καὶ σκοτία οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν αὐτῷ οὐδεμία.
The “we” here, once again, speaks of John and the other apostles. What they learned about the person of Christ when He walked the earth as the true God-man, they faithfully replayed to saints like those in Asia Minor. “The message” (ἀγγελία ) here is the Greek for a directive or a command. Interestingly, it is a derivative of the word “angel,” or “angelic” (ἀγγελικός), a word which speaks of human or supernatural being sent by a higher source with a given important message.
The message the apostles joyfully shared concerned the character of God. The hoti (ὅτι) clause , denoted by “that” in English, is declarative here. The apostles minced no words about how God is always, which is denoted by the present (durative) tense copula, “is,” estin ( ἐστὶν), the essence of light. The article “the” precedes the name of Gog here to rightfully show He is the Most High God (Gen. 14:22; Dan. 5:18), or the God of gods (Deut. 10:17). I would grammatically, therefore, classify the use of the article here as the par excellence use wherein God is in a class by himself.
As THE God, of all supposed gods, light, which emanates from His intrinsic holiness, best describes Him. Regarding this Paul correctly states:
15 . . . . God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen (1 Tim. 6).
All of this means that God is absolutely holy (Isa. 6:1-5), which pragmatically and logically means there is absolutely no moral impurity in Him. It also means He, and He alone, is, ipso facto, the essence of all spiritual and moral light. This is why Jesus, the God-man, called Himself “the light of the world” when He walked among us (John 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). And this is also why when a sinner becomes a saint by trusting in Jesus as His Savior he moves from being in the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light (John 12:36, “Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light;” and this is Paul’s salvation story while on trial before Herod Agrippa, Acts 26:18). In passing, I would be remiss in my calling as a shepherd if I didn’t ask you, “Are you a child of light or of darkness?” “What is keeping you from being a child of light and will this be worth it when you one day stand before the Lord of Light?”
John next states the obvious. Since God is always the essence of all spiritual and moral light, it stands to reason any form of spiritual or moral darkness cannot ever be found in Him. John’s words in this regard are most emphatic in the Greek text: “Darkness, scotia (σκοτία ) is not in him, none, or no way.” Why did it make this claim? For one, it is true, by definition. If there was, or is, any spiritual or moral darkness in Him, then He cannot and is not God. For another, the incipient Gnosticism taught by some doctrinal revisionists in these ancient churches in Asia Minor believed God was composed of light and darkness. They probably drew their deviant doctrine from statements in Isaiah 45:7 where the prophet exclaimed:
6 That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, 7 The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these (Isa. 45).
Now it is one thing to state God created physical light and darkness (Gen. 1:3-5), but quite another to say all forms of darkness, physical/ moral/spiritual are associated with Him. In Gnostic thinking, this progressive (more palatable) theological position led to a low view of sin and God’s commands. After all, if God is light and darkness, then we, too, can enjoy light and dark living without fear of divine repercussions. Right.
Let me be frank. Beware, saints, of those who intellectually twist and modify historical biblical doctrine in order to make their sinful lifestyles acceptable and admirable. Truth never changes, especially truth about the person and character of God Almighty. He is absolutely holy and because of this He dwells in blinding, unapproachable light. And because He who is holy is light, His light reveals all sins, internal and external. Ostensibly, then, if you call Him your Lord and Savior, you must understand His holiness calls for your holiness, and His light searches your life to show you your sin so you can move toward holiness and thereby enjoy amazing fellowship with Him. Understanding who God is, therefore, stands at the head of invigorating cycle which can lead to rich, fulfilling fellowship as you positively respond to Him.
Turning from this lofty statement about the character of the true God, John next gives us five hypothetical situations which directly relate to whether we enjoy fellowship with Jesus or not. In Greek, unlike English, there are four ways to construct a conditional clause. A First Class condition denotes certainty, while a Second Class Condition denotes a condition which is untrue (as when we read in Luke 7:39, “If this man [Jesus] were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him”). Here John employs a Third Class Condition, which is denoted by the presence of ean ( Ἐὰν) in the protasis (the “if” part of the clause), and any mood or tense in the apodosis (the “then” part of the clause). He did this because he was not sure where the saints were, theologically speaking, in relation to what he posits. John knew they had free wills as God’s children to either live holy lives more often than not, or to, as saints like Peter, Ananias and Sapphira, Demas, the Corinthians and a whole host of others, have moments of willful, carnal sin. I’m sure you can (unfortunately) relate. Moving through these five conditional statements, John gives us additional insight into how to make sure our fellowship with Jesus is tight and true.
Second Answer: Recognize Your Character (1 John 1:6)
What is our character as saints? Positionally, at the moment of saving faith we have positional holiness because of our faithful relationship with Jesus, our Savior. Many biblical texts validate this wonderful, inexorable truth:
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne; 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood, 6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen (Rev. 1).
The day you were saved by Christ’s gospel, His sacrificial blood covered your sin(s) and released you from His wrath directed against said sin(s). You also immediately became a priest or priestess in His kingdom. Along these theological lines, Paul could not be clearer in his letter to the carnal, sin-ridden Corinthians (1 Cor. 3:1-5):
30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, (1 Cor. 1).
Positional holiness is yours now, as a child of God, and God will never take it away.
Practical holiness is another question altogether. As a saint, you do have the Spirit of God dwelling in you to give you power for victory over sin (Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30; 1 Cor. 12:13), but you must yield to Him to tap into that power (Eph. 5:18). Paul, again, gives us much needed insight into the struggle we face as we attempt, with God’s assistance as we yield to Him, to gain spiritual victories over the sinful power of our flesh:
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please (Gal. 5).
If you are saved, you know the struggle up close and personal, and your victories are related, first and foremost to your will to choose Spirit-dependence and holiness over self-dependence and wickedness. Some days you do great. Other days you bite the spiritual dust. This cycle, of course, positively or negatively impacts your fellowship with Jesus.
With all of this important theology in mind, let’s read what John says:
6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
6 Ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι κοινωνίαν ἔχομεν μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ σκότει περιπατῶμεν, ψευδόμεθα καὶ οὐ ποιοῦμεν τὴν ἀλήθειαν·
Note how he employs “we” language throughout these conditional clauses. If he were speaking about non-Christians, or pseudo-Christians, or what some might call professing Christins, he would have said “If you say . . .” But he didn’t do this because he knew, from a lifetime of wrestling with his carnal nature, as Paul did as well (Rom. 7), that a Christians can wax eloquent to others regarding how great their walk with God is, while having pockets of willful sin and darkness in their lives. In this sense, the saint “does not practice the truth.” “The truth” speaks, therefore, of the revelation in Scripture to moral living as revealed by the God of all light.
I’m sure the churches in Asia Minor had their share of believers who had been duped and messed up by Gnostic teaching in this regard. A watered down, tainted Grecian view of God’s character, coupled with an emphasis on how the body is secondary to the thinking of the inner mind and spirit, put saints in a dangerous position of thinking God’s commands about what to do with their bodies were really no big deal. To sit in church, therefore, and think and project holiness, while acting as if you had a great, flourishing fellowship with Christ was misleading when, in fact, you were sinning by engaging in works of darkness, as if they were light and acceptable to God. What hypocrisy! What sin!
The saint who, on the other hand, desires true, lasting fellowship with Jesus, is the one who understands his character well and takes appropriate action. He knows the flesh fights against the Spirit, against his desire to live a holy life in God’s light, therefore, he is careful each day to seek the Lord’s filling and control over his life. He knows as he submits and yields to God, he will be practicing the truth, as laid out in God’s moral commands. And as he does this, fellowship flows between him and God.
What about your life, saint? Are you projecting to others in the body that you have it all together, while in reality there is major moral/doctrinal compromise going on in your life? Such hypocrisy kills fellowship with Jesus, and with others. Today is the day to come clean, and that’s what we encounter in the ensuing verse.
Third Answer: Recognize Your Cleansing (1 John 1:7)
Again, we must remember the difference between positional and practical cleansing. The former lasts throughout the believer’s life, while the latter occurs as the saint submits to God’s truths regarding how to live a godly life in the here and now. With this in mind, read John’s statement about fellowship:
7 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.
7 ἐὰν δὲ ἐν τῷ φωτὶ περιπατῶμεν ὡς αὐτὸς ἔστιν ἐν τῷ φωτί, κοινωνίαν ἔχομεν μετ᾽ ἀλλήλων καὶ τὸ αἷμα Ἰησοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ καθαρίζει ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἁμαρτίας.
Once more, this is all conditional because John did not know if every believer would, in fact, do it. For those who did walk in the light, which is just a phrase denoting their obedience to God’s commands for holy living, fellowship with God would be great. Note that the next clause “we have fellowship with one another” is not a reference to the believer’s fellowship with other Christians, but specifically (based on the contextual argument and word use) to his fellowship with Jesus. When any believer choses to walk in the light of God’s teachings, the natural result is a deepening of his fellowship with the God who is light.
Can a believer choose to walk in darkness? We covered this before, but we probably need to talk about it again.
7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light (Eph. 5).
The Greek negative, “no” in verses 7 and 11, which is wedded to the present tense imperative forbids, and action IN PROGRESS. This is significant for our study of John for it clearly shows how saints can chose to walk in darkness. When you chose sin over holiness, you throw your fellowship with Jesus out the proverbial window. However, when you willfully chose to obey God’s teachings and commands as disclosed in the Holy Scriptures, you enjoy wonderful fellowship. So, how is it going in your if right now? How is your fellowship with the Lord?
John says those who live obediently find that Christ’s blood cleanses them from all sin. What does this mean since we are positionally forgiven (Eph. 1:7)? Good question. I think it means that as we deal with known sin before Him, He responds by purifying us from sins we have no clue about so we can, in fact, enjoy fellowship with Him. What grace for our good and holy God. He knows we are a work in progress and He works with us as we seek to truly live holy lives.
So you want to have a close relationship with Jesus? You know how to do it. You must be obedient where you are disobedient, and you must realize your efforts will not be overlooked by He who is absolutely holy. His cleansing will come with your desire to follow hard after Him.
Next, intimacy with Christ comes in a fourth fashion:
Fourth Answer: Recognize Your Contagion (1 John 1:8)
As long as you inhabit a body of flesh and blood you will struggle with the pull of the flesh to live contrary to God. In Romans 7, which I offered up earlier, is a classic text in question. Paul frequently did the very opposite of what he wanted to do as a Christ-follower.
Even though this is our spiritual situation, there is always the temptation as we grow in Christ, as we gain victories over the world, the flesh, and the Devil, to cluelessly and arrogantly think, “Hey, I’m doing good,” or “I really don’t have a lot of sin in my life,” or “I’m kind of at a loss to see any real sin. Wow. I’ve really moved onward and upward.” Ah, you must think again, my friend. Here is how John puts it:
8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
8 Ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἔχομεν, ἑαυτοὺς πλανῶμεν καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν.
When you have that moment where you think you are pretty much sinless, you must reconsider and really do more soul-searching. Better yet, draw near to God like Isaiah did and you will quickly see your sin as the brightness of His holiness reveals it to you (Isa. 6).
And, no, John is not talking about salvation here. To not have “the truth” in you does not mean you are not saved, or never were saved. It means, contextually, God’s teaching about moral living which pleases Him, which is “the truth,” is not in you insofar as you are not being obedient to it. One more time, remember, John includes himself in this statement. Why did he do this? Because he knew it applied to him, as it did and does to any other believer.
So, what about it? Are you too smug in your Christian walk? Do you think you are further along than you really are, while you have the contagion of sin about you? Here’s a prayer worth praying, “Lord, show me the sin in my life I am just oblivious to. Yes, bring it out in the open so I can live a life of honesty and not one of prideful self-deception. Do this and you will find God answering in a quick manner. Do this and you will also be on the road to a deeper, more profound walk with Him.
In addition to this, let the content of verse nine, which is a very well-known verse in Scripture, guide you each and every day.
Fifth Answer: Recognize Your Confession (1 John 1:9)
First, let’s read the text and then make some salient observations:
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
9 ἐὰν ὁμολογῶμεν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν, πιστός ἐστιν καὶ δίκαιος ἵνα ἀφῇ ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας καὶ καθαρίσῃ ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἀδικίας.
Note, again, that John includes himself in the conditional sentence for he knows the value of a life of confession. Note, also, the cause/effect nature of confession. When you stop playing games with the God of light who sees your sin and exposes it as well, He quickly and lovingly moves to forgive and cleanse you for whatever wickedness ensnared you (1Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (Heb. 12). How do you stop playing games? You confess your sin. What does this mean? Since the verbal idea means “to say the same thing,” it means you agree with what God says constitutes sin and you tell him you are sorry you see it in your life. Once His piercing light of holiness shows you the area of darkness, you know it. And you respond by not arguing, not rationalizing, not blaming others, but owing your junk, as they say in our culture. When you do this, He forgives and cleanses you from the pollution the sin in question has brought to your daily life. How wonderful. How freeing. How important is confession to developing and maintaining an awesome relationship with Jesus.
For some saints here today, a particular sin has wiped out that fellowship. You know what it is. I’m not going to attempt to prime the proverbial pump. You are shamed by what you’ve done, or permitted in your life, and now the Spirit is moving you to come toward the Lord in confession. Don’t waste any time for He’s waiting to forgive and restore you to the intimate fellowship you used to have.
John closes out his sagacious advice on how to stay in love with Christ, with a sixth answer:
Sixth Answer: Recognize Your Contortions (1 John 1:10)
Boy, does John understand the human condition. Listen and learn from his insight into saints:
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
10 Ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι οὐχ ἡμαρτήκαμεν, ψεύστην ποιοῦμεν αὐτὸν καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν.
John must have dealt with his fair share of believers possessing thinking twisted and tainted by Gnostic thought. By placing a premium value on the inner, spiritual man, and downplaying the inferior flesh, saints could naturally conclude they were sinless in their inner spiritual persons. This is just not a theological stretch, as John states, but it makes God a liar who teaches clearly in His Word what constitutes sin.
From John’s later letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor, it is apparent that sexual sin was cleverly wedded to worship and brought into the churches (Rev. 2:14, 20-21). Of course, this is how worship occurred in surrounding pagan temples, so it’s not shocking it wound up in some of these churches. And I’m sure they rationalized its presence, and severely attacked anyone who’d dare question how someone else worshipped. But sexual sin is sin, no matter how you define it. To call it what it is not is, then, to classify God as a flagrant liar. It is to also, not have His word about this in you insofar as you are willfully choosing to not submit to His light in this given life area.
It never ceases to amaze me how prone believers are to engage in all kinds of textual contortions to call something good, which the Scriptures call evil. It also never ceases to amaze me at how quickly they will form groups who hold their distorted view so they can collectively rationalize their behavior so they feel good about it. The sad truth of this is once God’s word on the matter in question is rejected, distorted, are redefined to fit the acceptable cultural norm, God is instantly called a liar.
At this juncture, I think it wise to stop and ask, “If you call yourself a Christian, are you guilty of hiding your sin behind a contorted view of sin so it doesn’t appear sinful to you and others?” “Have you willingly and purposefully altered what the Scriptures clearly and definitively teach on a given moral or spiritual issue so come out smelling like the proverbial rose before others, but are, in all reality, a foul odor to God?”
If any of this applies, know it is severely impacting your fellowship with the Lord. To get back into that wonderful fellowship, you need to give up the contortions and start aligning your life and thinking up with His truth. And just in case you don’t think you are guilty, then, ask Him and He’ll show you.
Back in the 1960s, I remember when the elementary school I attended brought dental people in to teach us all about dental hygiene. First, they had us all go and brush our teeth with brushes they provided. Then, they gave us these small tablets to put in our mouths. When we asked, “What are these for?” they said, “When the tablets dissolve, they will show all the areas where you didn’t brush well.” Believe me, I was shocked when I smiled in the mirror. The dark, reddish spots in between the spaces between my teeth made it look like I had never brushed.
So it is with the Spirit who desires for you to have a lasting, exciting fellowship and intimacy with Jesus. Ask Him to show you your sinful contortions and He will. At that point, I think you know what to do next. It’s called confession.
 H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Toronto: The Macmillan Company, 1955), 301:2.