"Walk in the Light"
There are many verses and passages in the New Testament that are replete with urgently significant truths. The following is a case in point:
"3: That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4: And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. 5: This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6: If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (I John 1).
In this declaration, we find the means of fellowship and the blessed consequences of making operative this source or means. As is typically the case, we find in John’s statement matters that necessarily involve both God and man. God is seen as the Source or Provider and man is observed as the beneficiary or recipient providing he accepts what God is offering, in this case, "fellowship," "joy," "truth," and "cleansing," when verse nine is included. Man is to walk in the light. It is imperative that we understand not just what walk in the light means, but also what walk in the light necessarily entails. Consider the apparent milieu or setting in which John’s teaching was originally issued.
I believe it is apparent to the serious Bible student and those familiar with contemporary history that both Docetic and Cerinthian Gnosticism is the immediate reference of much of John’s teaching. The Gnostics denied that "Jesus Christ had come in the flesh." Hence, this teaching was one means of determining fellowship (I John 4: 1-3). The Gnostics were some of the original "once saved, always saved" proponents. Therefore, John belabors man’s responsibility in obtaining and maintaining his relationship with God (cp. I John 2: 2-6). Two singular differences in John's inspired teaching about sin and the Gnostics are: (1) sin is a reality, something for which man is responsible and (2) sin is conditionally forgiven. The expression "if we walk in the light" (ean en to photi peripatomen) and "if we confess" (ean omologomen) set forth the requisite conditionality (vs. 7; 9). Also of interest is the grammatical posture of peripatomen (walk) and omologomen (confess). Both "walk" and "confess" are present tense (Analytical Greek Lexicon, pg. 321; 289). Hence, Jesus' blood continuously cleanses as the Christian continuously walks in the light and confesses his sins.
Having established the foregoing foundation and frame of reference, let us now engage in a serious study of I John 1: 3-7.
John wrote: "3: That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."
Verse three is the outgrowth of John’s statements in verses one and two. Appreciate the fact that John does not write using the masculine pronouns, "he who," but rather using the neuter relative, "that which." In other words, John is not just presenting and considering the Word (logos), but all that appertained to Him (see Addendum 1). The Pulpit Commentary simply presents the grammar in this fashion:
"The neuter…expresses a collective and comprehensive whole…; the attributes of the logos rather than the logos himself are indicated…" (Vol. 22, pg. 1).
Hence, the view that all one must do to be saved and enjoy the fellowship of others is simply to believe that a man named Jesus historically lived is patently refuted in John’s language and grammar. He who is being considered was "…from the beginning" (vs. 1, cp. John 1: 1f.). Regarding the "Word of life," John presented as proof of His existence and being the fact that they had "heard," "seen with their eyes," "beheld," and "handled" (vs. 1). Notice how each of the verbs possess raising gradation or intensity.
This One whom John is presenting is incomparably grand in that he is "life," even "eternal life" (vs. 2). Notwithstanding the grandeur of the One thus being examined, fellowship is possible. First, there is the fellowship between believers and then believers and the Father and the Son (vs. 3, see addendum 2). "Fellowship" (koinonia) is both partnership and approval (cp. 2 John 9-11). Regarding the truth stated in verse three, one commentator wrote:
"The apostle here resumes the thought begun in verse 1, and asserts the purpose for which the Word of life is declared: ‘That ye also may have fellowship with us….’ Through the acceptance of the Word of life a unity of faith, practice, and fellowship is established, and it was for this purpose that the life was being declared. Here, in the most emphatic fashion, the writer points out that only in unity of faith is there communion in religion. It is possible to have fellowship only when there is a common bond established in faith, work, and love" (A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles, by Guy N. Woods, pg. 212, 213).
John continued to write: "4: And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full."
"We write" shows how this "full joy" is made available. This complete joy is the result of knowing and appropriating the "Word of Life" and obtaining the consequent "fellowship" that John has just mentioned. John responded to "their joy" (Christians) with rejoicing on his part. However, John’s rejoicing was not shallow or frivolous.
"4: I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father... 3: For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. 4: I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (2 John; 3 John).
John injects the message received from the "Word of Life," "5: This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (vs. 5).
We need to appreciate the fact that God is light. "The Lord is my light and my salvation," declared David, "Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Ps. 27: 1). Not only is God pure light, but he is also the source of constant and unwavering light (cp. I John 1: 5; Jas. 1: 17). Therefore, there is no need for man to grope about in darkness and despair. Jesus himself is the light of the world. Matthew records many fulfillments of prophecy regarding Jesus. When Jesus came and dwelt in Capernaum, Matthew mentioned the prophecy made by Isaiah: "The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness say great light; and to them which sat in the religion and shadow of death light is sprung up" (Matt. 4: 12-16, see Isa. 9: 1, 2). Jesus plainly said, "I am the light of the world." (John 8: 12). One purpose of light is to illuminate and make clear the way. Hear Jesus, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (Ibid.).
A matter impossible for man to totally comprehend is, "…in him is no darkness at all." All that man knows and experiences is, alas, marred and imperfect, to some degree.
John then turns to examine a saying, no doubt, characteristic of man, especially of the Gnostic variety: "6: If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth."
Man is a master at creating and implementing contradictory statements. Since God is pure light as opposed to darkness, it is impossible for man to claim to have fellowship "with him" and "walk in darkness." The ancient Gnostics (there are actually practicing Gnostics today) and all who have embraced the teaching that how one lives does not affect one’s relationship with God, for the better or worse are teaching matters that contradict the scriptures. Notwithstanding, such blatantly false teaching continues:
"We take the position that a Christian's sins do not damn his soul! The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul…All the prayers a man may pray, all the Bibles he may read, all the churches he may belong to, all the services he may attend, all the sermons he may practice, all the debts he may pay, all the ordinances he may observe, all the laws he may keep, all the benevolent acts he may perform will not make his soul one whit safer; and all the sins he may commit from idolatry to murder will not make his soul in any more danger…The way a man lives has nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul." -Sam Morris, Pastor of the First Baptist Church, Stamford, Texas (A Discussion Which Involves A Subject Pertinent To All Men, pgs. 1, 2.)
Next comes the statement that we shall examine: "7: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (I John 1).
The conjunction "but" (de) indicates a different and even opposite circumstance from the one just stated (vs. 5). The conditional particle "if" (ean) is critical and also pivotal. All conditions different from the "if" are excluded. One common word translated "walk" in the New Testament is the Greek peripateo (word used by John in I John 1: 7). In the total 96 occurrences of "walk" it is used both physically and figuratively (Matt. 4: 18; I John 1: 6-8). "Walk" means, "…the whole round of the activities of the individual life, whether of the unregenerated or of the believer." (W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.)
A further breakdown of
"walk" would be to suggest "walk" is used both positively and negatively.
When one is scripturally baptized, one is to "walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6: 4). In baptism, the old man is put off and the new man is put on (Rom. 6: 6, Col. 3: 1 ff.). The Christian is commanded to "walk by faith" (2 Cor. 5: 7). God's people "walk after the Spirit" (Rom. 8: 4). This means they submit to the Spirit's teaching (the word). It is essential that the saved "walk in truth" and "in wisdom" (2 John 4; Col. 4: 5, 6). Moreover, the godly "walk as he (Christ, dm) walked" (I John 2: 6).
The antithesis of the above is to "walk by sight" (2 Cor. 5: 7). Many "walk in their own ways" and "in darkness" (Acts 14: 16; I John 1: 6). Some in local churches "walk disorderly" (2 Thes. 3: 6). The deceitful "walk in craftiness" (2 Cor. 4: 2). The worldly "walk after the flesh" and in their "earthly members" (2 Pet. 2: 10; Col. 3).
The paramount point involved in "walk" is that God is concerned with how we live. He (his word) teaches how we are to live and how we are not to live. The gospel is more than just "glad tidings," it tells us how to walk (live, Gal. 2: 14).
Christians have turned
from darkness to light and are to shine as lights in the world (Acts 26: 18;
Phili. 2: 15). Paul said that the Thessalonians were, "children of light, and
the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness" (I Thes. 5:
5). Please notice how light and darkness are used antithetically or as
opposites. Light stands for all that is good and true and darkness stands,
conversely, for all that is evil and erroneous.
The word of God is the light source. The world is in a state of darkness, spiritually speaking, not knowing the truth and what is ultimately good (John 3: 16-21). How, then, can man learn of the light and turn from darkness? To this end, please consider the words of the Psalmist:
Two matters result from "walking in the light" and they are: "fellowship one with another" and "…the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."
All the ecumenical efforts of religionists to effect what they call "fellowship" and "unity" are shallow. Most of their "unity" rests on "agreeing to disagree" or "unity-in-diversity." True fellowship and unity (see addendum 3) are the result of all involved "walking in the light." The word used by John having its full grammatical positioning is, peripatomen. Peripatomen is first person, plural in number, present tense, and subjunctive mood (The Analytical Greek Lexicon, pg. 321). Hence, the contemplated action is continuous not on and off, active and inactive.
Notice the second stated benefit of "walking in the light." Regarding "cleanseth," John used the Greek katharizei (3 person, singular in number, present tense, indicative mood, and active voice, The Analytical Greek Lexicon, pg. 206). The present tense in the indicative mood normally suggests ongoing or continuous action. Hence, Jesus' blood keeps on cleansing from all sin.
The Gnostics taught that "sin" was not a problem and was automatically removed. Two singular differences in John's inspired teaching about sin and the Gnostics are: (1) sin is a reality, something for which man is responsible and (2) sin is conditionally forgiven. The expression "if we walk in the light" (ean en to photi peripatomen) and "if we confess" (ean omologomen) set forth the requisite conditionality (vs. 7; 9). Also of interest is the grammatical posture of omologomen (confess). Both "walk" and "confess" are present tense (Analytical Greek Lexicon, pg. 321; 289). Hence, Jesus' blood continuously cleanses as the Christian continuously walks in the light and confesses his sins.
The "light" and living therein ("walk in the light") is observed as emphatically critical and crucial. As seen, light is the opposite of darkness. Darkness symbolically stands for sin and false doctrine; light for purity and the truth. Only the pure have the expectation of "seeing the Lord" and it takes the truth to set free and to constitute the proper atmosphere for acceptable worship (Heb. 12: 14; John 8: 32, 4: 24).
In practical terms, then, "walking in the light" necessarily involves matters of practicing the freedom of moral corruption and the, "perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7: 1). The succinct command to, "Flee fornication" is indicative of the effort to totally avoid and escape all moral impurity (I Cor. 5: 18). The speech, decorum, and even the thoughts of the Christian are to be in the realm of light, governed by the word (Eph. 4: 29; 5: 15; Phili. 4: 8). The word of God must not be altered by adding to it or taking away from it (cp. Rev. 22: 18, 19). To present a different gospel is to incur the curse of God (Gal. 1: 6-9). Those teaching the typical ecumenical concept of unity are not "walking in the light." I say this because unity is predicated upon and the result of mutual acceptance and practice of the truth (cp. Eph. 4: 3-6).
The Christian is a law-keeper (I John 2: 3 ff.). Love motivates one to "keep his commandments" (I John 5: 3). Sin is the opposite of keeping God's commandments (I John 3: 4). The Christian must ever search his heart and life and seek to be purged of all sin (cp. Ps. 19: 12). The Christian contemplated by John is one who maintains an attitude of submission and ever seeks to be right with God, making whatever adjustments are required, this is what is meant by, "walk in the light" (Phili. 3: 15, see context). As "walk in the light" does not involve the perfect keeping of law for justification, "walk in the light" as a requirement to both fellowship with God and fellow Christians does not nullify salvation by grace (Eph. 2: 8-10). The provision of confessing sin and Jesus’ cleansing blood are indicative of salvation by grace (I John 1: 9).
Addendum 1: The use of the neuter relative pronouns such as "that which" indicate a more comprehensive thought than just the person of Jesus being considered. It appears that John used such grammar to stress that there is more to be believed and practiced than just the teaching "about Jesus," there is the teaching "from Jesus" (see 2 John 9-11). For instance, when the vocabulary of John is examined, one sees that in the setting of salvation John stressed the keeping of "commandments" and brotherly love, just to note a few matters (I John 2: 3; 3: 7-15). All these matters or the lack thereof, as well as others, can cause one to fail to have fellowship with God and fellow Christians.
Addendum 2: Many Greek grammarians understand the "fellowship one with another" (koinonian echomen met allelon) of I John 1: 7 as referring to fellowship between Christians. However, since the apostles had fellowship with the Father and the Son and in view of the stated fact that Christians may conditionally enjoy fellowship with the apostles (I John 1: 3), you have established both fellowship between Christians and between Christians and God. I stress this truth because some through the years have taught that man (all are guilty of sin, at best, I John 1: 8-10) cannot even conditionally enjoy fellowship with such a high Being as God, One in whom there is not even a hint of darkness.
Addendum 3: There is a technical difference between "Fellowship" (koinonia) and "unity" (henotes). Fellowship is describing the reciprocal action, if you will, characteristic of Christians, mutually viewed. They jointly participate in spiritual acts and truths and accept and approve of one another. Unity is a term used to describe the singularity of their action. Since they are all of the same family and believe and practice the same essential doctrine, they are one (cp. I Cor. 1: 10). Hence, for all practical purposes, "fellowship" and "unity" are connoting the same general state.