Title: Saying ≠ Being Part 1
Text: I John 1:5-2:2
FCF: We often struggle understanding that who we are is demonstrated by what we do.
Prop: Because how we walk proves if we are actually partnered to God, we must examine our disposition toward darkness.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to I John chapter 1. I really did intend to preach I John 1:5 through 2:2. I set out with that goal this week. It became very apparent that simply could not happen. I am overwhelmed by the depth of John’s teaching and yet how simple he seems to make it. Although I believe that 1:5 through 2:2 does represent one thought of the apostle, I could not hope to squeeze that thought into a single hour. And so, my tentative plan is to preach this thought in 4 parts. 3 parts to discuss the fullness of what John teaches, and 1 to clarify a very difficult verse.
What we have before us is John’s estimation of the gospel of Christ. In less than 200 words, John will describe who God is, who man is in relationship to God and to sin, and how Christ restores us to fellowship with God. At the same time, he is arguing against false teachers and also providing comfort to his worried readers. It is masterfully written, by The Spirit through John’s thoughts and personality.
The essence of what John communicates about the gospel of Jesus Christ is this… that saying you are united to Christ and being united to Christ are not always the same. There are clear differences between a person who only says they are united to Him, and those who are actually united to Him. And those differences primarily relate to our dispositions or relationships with certain elements. Today, John will discuss our relationship toward darkness.
I am in I John 1, I’ll begin reading in verse 5. You can follow along in the pew bible on page 1372 in the version you prefer. If you don’t have a bible take a pew bible home.
As I said, much to discuss, let us focus on light and darkness.
I.) God is of light and not of darkness, so we must carefully examine our relationship to darkness (5)
a. [Slide 2] 5 – Now this is the gospel message we have heard from Him and announce to you: God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
i. Last week, we briefly covered this verse. We will remember what we learned for the sake of the context.
ii. We noted that John sees the beginning of the gospel, not about us or even about God’s love, but rather God’s Holiness.
iii. God being light refers to His wisdom and holiness, which we understand from scripture are inseparably woven together. The wise are holy, and the fool is wicked. God is wisdom and God is Holy.
iv. There is absolutely no darkness in God. He has no shade or hint of faltering wisdom or compromised moral uprightness. God is the very definition of both wisdom and holiness.
v. We understood last week, that this should be where we begin in our gospel presentations. I would like to add to that.
vi. This is not only where we must begin in our gospel presentations, but more fundamentally, this is where our understanding of the gospel must begin.
vii. As we said last week, if we cannot understand God’s holiness… then we cannot understand the sinfulness of our sin. If we cannot understand the sinfulness of our sin, then we cannot possibly understand the depth of God’s love for us.
viii. Truly, God’s holiness, is the beginning of the gospel.
b. [Slide 3] Passage Truth: John establishes this theological truth as the crux of the entire argument that is to come. And it is simply that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. This is at the very core of the gospel message.
c. Passage Application: Even now, without him continuing on, we can begin to see how he will apply this to his readers. If no darkness dwells in God, then being united with God, partakers with God, unified with God through Christ and through the apostles teachings… all this will have significant impact on our relationship to darkness and light. If God has no element of darkness at all in Him – then immediately his readers’ relationship to darkness is called into question.
d. [Slide 4] Broader Biblical Truth: Holistically from a whole bible perspective, John’s words are so general that the truth of them need not be stretched. God is Wisdom and God is Holy. We know He is the source for wisdom and that He is also the source for holiness. That if we are to be creatures of light, that creation can only be made by the One who is the source of light.
e. Broader Biblical Application: And so, as we holistically zoom out to understand how God being light without any shade of darkness may impact us… without spoiling anything from what John is to say next… we must at very least introspectively look at our lives. What is our relationship to darkness? If God is light without darkness, how should we view darkness? How should we view sin, wickedness, folly and the lies of the evil one? If we are truly creatures of light we would perceive the things of darkness as our enemy and to be avoided at all costs. But, if we are of the darkness, we would find comfort in its cold embrace. Already, without directing us to it, John has caused us to come to some difficult questions. What then is your relationship to the darkness? To folly? To sin? Can what is of the light love what is of the dark? What fellowship has light with darkness? Indeed.
[Slide 5(blank)] But John does not leave us guessing. Because his proclamation of the gospel of Christ is not over. John is about to begin 3 rounds of saying vs. being couplets. Lie vs. truth. Illusion vs. reality. These are probably key tenants of the false teaching that has ravaged his church. Perhaps these statements are things they actually claimed. The first of these, which is the only one we will get to today, is highly applicable to our culture. Let’s look.
II.) Walking with darkness proves we have no fellowship with God, so we must examine our disposition toward darkness (6)
a. [Slide 6] 6 – If we say we have fellowship with Him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth.
i. Let’s analyze the words first.
ii. If we say. The tense in Greek does not indicate whether or not this is an ongoing activity. It is simply a point in time. As if we took a camera and took a picture. That action is always true.
iii. So this could be if we have said once or if that statement has continued. Either is in view.
iv. If we say what?
v. That we have fellowship – or that we are partnered to God. If we say we are His. If we say we are His child. If we say we are united to Him. To put it in our vernacular – if we say we are saved.
vi. And yet, having said that, we keep on walking. What does this phrase mean?
vii. It is an idiomatic expression for living. In the 1st century sometimes walking and talking could be referring to lifestyle or practice. And so, here walking is referring to a lifestyle. A practice.
viii. So if we keep on living in the darkness – in foolishness, in untruth, in wickedness… Notice that the phrasing says keep on living, as if that was the state of everyone’s life. That we all walked in darkness.
ix. Then what?
x. We are lying. And this is a middle voice verb. What does that mean? It means that the subject is both the doer of the action and is also somehow affected by the action. It has a rebounding affect. So we are lying, which affects us. Perhaps even, that we are lying to or against ourselves.
xi. Furthermore, not only are we lying to ourselves, but we are not practicing or living the truth.
xii. How could we? What fellowship has light with darkness and righteousness with wickedness?
xiii. And so the practical nature of the gospel beginning with God being holy is apparent. If He is holy – than continuing to walk in sin is evidence that our nature has never changed.
b. [Slide 7] Passage Truth: So John to his readers declares in no uncertainty that the false teachers, even though they may say that they have fellowship with God, have proven themselves to be liars, affecting themselves and others, and that they are not living God’s truth. John’s verdict is that they are liars and are not practicing the truth, and the evidence he presents to substantiate that claim, is that they say they have fellowship with God, but remain unlike Him.
c. Passage Application: And so John’s readers, although still not directly addressed with how they are to respond, suddenly are hit with more layers of possible application. First, to be sure that those false teachers are indeed false. Second, to look to their own claim to fellowship. Do I also claim to have fellowship with God, yet remain in a lifestyle of sin? If God is light, can I truly claim unity with Him if I am a darkness dweller? Surely not.
d. [Slide 8] Broader Biblical Truth: Holistically we understand that there are dire warnings throughout all scripture about false faith. Simon the sorcerer believed, he chose to believe the gospel message, but went back to his idolatry. Christ warned several times in Matthew through various means. Those who would approach him on judgment day calling him Lord but being lawbreakers. Those who were a soil unprepared for the message of God. Those who were rotten fish, unable to be used. And even from the Old Testament we see people of Israel who are not truly part of Israel. They are physically in the line of Abraham, but prove by their deeds that they are no inheritor of the spiritual promises of Abraham. John tells us what the rest of scripture tells us. Genuine relationship with God is manifested in God’s righteousness put on display in that person. God has good works ordained for someone who is in Christ. Not just FOR them, but to DO them. That is the only test of true fellowship with God – a life of victory over sin, and characterized by holiness.
e. Broader Biblical Application: So from the whole bible we see that if you say you have fellowship with God, who is light, and yet you are still in love with darkness, you are a liar. And you do not live the truth. There are many so called Christians today who have desired to appropriate the benefits of Christ’s atonement yet they look no different than they did before they confessed Him. They chose, they believed, but no change has occurred in them. They live in defeat, never victorious over sin, because they do not see sin as seriously as John does. Some even shroud what Jesus did to not only pay for sin, but give license to continue in sin. They twist God’s grace from life giving power for victory over sin, to an infinite credit line to do as you please at the expense of Christ’s precious blood. It is a mockery of the highest order. It is slander. It is scandal. It is blasphemy. Jesus Christ did not die so you could live freely to sin. He died so you could live free from sin. You cannot love sin and have fellowship with God. In His gospel John says that men naturally love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. Friend if you love darkness, it is a sign that you haven’t yet been changed. If your lifestyle is still a lifestyle of sin after choosing to believe, you are lying to yourself. If that terrifies you, then you ought to ask, seek, and knock – you ought to repent and believe begging God for mercy. And see if He may yet grant you true repentance and faith, of the life-giving variety, that leads to life and light. Do not be the ones on judgment day when they ask Jesus why they are not permitted into His Kingdom and He tells them that He never knew them, and to depart, calling them what? Lawless ones. God is light. Those who are of the light, love the light, walk in light and hate the darkness.
[Slide 9(blank)] But how is it possible for us to be holy? To love the light? None are holy are they? Who can have fellowship with God?
III.) Walking in Light proves we have fellowship with God and our sins are being cleansed, so we must examine our disposition toward darkness. (7)
a. [Slide 10] 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.
i. If we walk in the light, so applying our same translation from before we come to this
ii. If we keep living in wisdom and holiness. But who has done this? Who can do this? Let’s save that question for later. For now, let’s make sure we understand the words.
iii. We have fellowship with one another. Again, like we learned in verse 4, there is a fellowship shared with the apostles, and all those who are in Christ. Whereas before, he said if we say we have fellowship with God, now he says we have fellowship with one another. We are united in fellowship, partnered together.
iv. And what else
v. The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us. This word “cleanses” is in a tense that could simply be referring to what his blood does, that by nature it cleanses. Or it could be referring to the ongoing nature of His blood. It continues to cleanse. I would say, that based on context, the ongoing aspect of this word is in view.
vi. The blood of Christ continues to cleanse us.
vii. From what? From all or every sin.
viii. Now, going back to the statement that if we keep walking in holiness… is this saying that we must keep walking in holiness in order to have fellowship with one another and to keep being cleansed by Jesus?
ix. Absolutely not. John is not saying that in order to have fellowship with us and to continue to be cleansed by Jesus’ blood, you must walk in holiness.
x. Instead, John is crafting an interesting argument.
xi. You see in verse 6 he wrote – if your lifestyle proves that you have not changed, then your claim to fellowship is a lie, and you still do not walk in God’s truth. So lifestyle reveals who you are.
xii. In verse 7 it is the same poin – if you live a certain way, it proves what is genuinely true of you.
xiii. In other words, John is saying, that if you keep walking in a lifestyle that is holy, the only way that is possible is if you have fellowship with the others who are in Christ and that Jesus’ blood is cleansing you from all sin.
xiv. And this brings us to what is sure to be a difficult rabbit trail for some of you. I debated whether to include it or not, but extending this section to 4 sermons affords me a little more time to attempt to explain this important teaching.
1. John, and the writers of the New Testament, often word things in this evidentiary way. Why? Because what is spiritually true of our natures is not manifested passively. We don’t have tattoos on our heads or wear a bracelet that says “redeemed” or “reprobate”. All we have is outward evidence of an inward truth. Keep that thought in your head. I am about to talk about something that may seem unrelated but I promise it will come back around.
2. We are told in scripture that those who repent and believe will be saved. It is only those who repent and believe that will be saved. There is no man or woman who can be saved unless they have repented and believed.
3. Furthermore, repentance and faith seems to be an ongoing thing for those who will be saved, since the scriptures craft these in participles. Not those who believe, but those who are believing ones. Those who are repenting ones. It seems that this is their lifestyle.
4. It is clear that although repentance and faith are said to be gifts from God in scripture, there is certainly a man-side element to this repentance and faith. Even though it is sourced in Christ, it is expressed from our lips.
5. So we have established that it is only those who repent and believe and continue to do so who will be saved. But, I have a question for you. Is this the cause of our salvation or the evidence of it? Many would argue that the this decision we make is the cause of our salvation. That upon making that choice, the promise that we will be saved, is secure.
6. But John, here, says that it is only those who walk in light who have fellowship with other believers and are being cleansed of their sin.
7. If we apply the same hermeneutical principles here in I John that we do in these other passages of scripture, we come to the conclusion that it is by walking in holiness that we are cleansed by Christ’s blood.
8. But we quickly realize that John doesn’t speak of a direct or even immediate cause but of an effect or of evidence.
9. Could it be that our repentance and faith, being a gift of God, is not the direct cause of our salvation, but rather the evidence of God’s salvation coming to us?
10. Paul says we are justified by faith, but he also says we are justified by grace. James says we are justified by works. So are we justified by works, faith, or grace? Obviously all three are true. But how?
11. Justification refers to God counting us as righteous. He imputes our sin to Christ on the cross and Christ’s righteousness to us.
12. How is this done by grace?
a. God brings us to life in regeneration. Lydia in Acts 16 shows this to be true. God opens her heart, in order that she could listen to the words of the gospel from Paul’s lips.
b. God supplies the perfect substitute, negatively for our sin’s punishment and positively for righteousness.
c. God supplies our faith through Christ in that Christ is the source of our faith and that faith is a gift.
d. The Old Testament talks about this by saying that God would “write the law on our hearts” or that He would install it into us.
e. Therefore, Justification is by the gracious will of God to those whom He has foreordained and predestined, He will also call and justify.
13. Justification is also by faith
a. As we have said, God supplies our faith to us. The Faith of Christ. He installs it into us.
b. But there is a distinct point at which, having adequately prepared our hearts, and supplied the spiritual conviction within us, the command to believe must be obeyed. At that point, a man cries out in dependence on Christ.
c. That man takes Christ’s faith and expresses it with his own lips.
d. That man does not rest in HIS faith for his salvation. It is not HIS choice that saves him, but rather, Jesus’s blood and righteousness. It is Jesus’ faith.
14. Justification is by works
a. The evidence that justification has taken place is when man exercises repentance and belief. And then continues, by God’s grace, to be empowered to do the will of God.
15. And so Justification is by grace, in that without the favor of God to regenerate us, call us with His word, empower us to believe, it would be impossible.
16. Justification is by faith in that God supplies our faith which we express in perpetual dependence on His provided Son.
17. And Justification is by works in that true and genuine justification is always evidenced by the obedience to the command of repentance and faith and then living in light.
18. So when we talk of salvation, we must understand, that it is not the decision of a man that saves them. Such a view ignores much of scripture. The exact process of salvation, we may never know. But we cannot ignore what we do know.
19. We must be careful that we do not have faith in our faith. Instead, we must have faith in Christ. It is not our choice that saves us, but Christ alone.
20. Our choice then, is an evidence of the Spirit’s work. Just as walking in light is an evidence of fellowship with other believers and of being cleansed with the blood of Christ.
21. I know this is difficult, and no doubt some are having trouble with this. I’d love to continue this conversation with you and show you from the pages of scripture, that this is exactly what the New Testament writers are saying. But time won’t allow any more today.
b. [Slide 11] Passage Truth: So coming back from that rabbit trail, let me remind you what John is talking about. He is telling his readers, that opposed to those who are walking in darkness while claiming to be in fellowship with God, it is only those who walk in light that are providing the evidence that the communal relationship of the family of God is real in their lives.
c. Passage Application: John’s application to his readers though is not that they must walk in light. Because to do so, is not possible unless they are part of the fellowship and being cleansed by Christ’s blood. His application is less active and more introspective. He is telling his readers to examine their own hearts and how they view darkness and subsequently, how they view light. Is darkness to be avoided at all costs? Is holiness where you not only desire to stay, but find yourself abiding? Only those who abide in the light can claim to be in fellowship to a God who is not only light, but is also in the light.
d. [Slide 12] Broader Biblical Truth: Holistically the New Testament screams this truth throughout its pages, and the Old Testament, when it speaks about the New Covenant, also testifies this truth. That those united with Christ are perfectly, permanently, and progressively changed people. Perfectly in respect to its sufficiency in that Christ will change completely. Permanently in that Christ will change them for eternity. And Progressively in that Christ will change them for eternity, starting now. All who are in Christ, and therefore in God, will be made into creatures of light. Not perfectly now, but perfectly soon. Our lives are characterized by the light because we are of the light.
e. Broader Biblical Application: So holistically from the entire bible, we understand that God has changed us to be made new. That comes with a warning to those who are not living in victory, but it also comes with resounding joy to those who are. Look at your life. Do you love God’s law? Do you desire what God desires? Do you hate what God hates? Do you practice holiness? Do you live to glorify God? No one is asking if you are perfect? Because no one is. But are you pursuing God’s perfection? Do you desire to be exactly what God desires? If that is true of you… what is promised? You have fellowship with us and the blood of Jesus His Son continues to cleanse you from all sin. WOW!!!!! Did you catch that? If these changes have been made in you – it evidences that God is right now at work through grace to purify you of every sin in your life! Not only that, but He has graciously supplied to you an entire family that you have been united to, that spans thousands of years, over hundreds of languages, across many seas, in several lands, that all testify to the same life changing truth and are equipped to help you and spur you to every good work. God is light and in Him there is no darkness. And His children, who were once creatures of darkness, have been called out from their darkness into His glorious light, and now they are creatures of His light, walking in victory and power, being refined in this life so that they may inherit the perfection of union with Christ in the life to come. CHRISTIAN! If this is you… this verse should give you immeasurable hope! There is no sin that God has not put on the list to be purified from you by Christ’s blood! He has provided all you need for victory. His grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in our weakness. He alone can destroy those footholds and keep you walking in the light.
[Slide 13] A commentator wrote this:
“… the situation of the Christian is like that of a person walking on a
dark stage in the circle of light cast by a spotlight which is focused on him;
he moves slowly forward so that he can walk in its light without fear of stumbling
and losing his way. To live in the glare of the spotlight involves living a
life that is compatible with being in the light, a life that is free from sin.
To live in the darkness means to live without the benefit of divine
illumination and guidance and so to live in sin. What John is saying is that it
is not possible to have fellowship with God and yet to live in sin because to
have fellowship with God means walking in the light while to live in sin means
to walk in the darkness.”
Marshall, I. Howard (1978). The Epistles of John. In N. Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, G. Fee (Series Eds.), The New International Commentary on the New Testament Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[Slide 14] God has victory for you Christian. He has secured it. He has freed you from sin’s penalty yes… but also from its power. It no longer has a foothold in your life. You are no longer its slave. You should consider yourself dead to sin. IT HAS NO POWER. What then do you need for victory but God’s endless grace? When you go to him in prayer, seeking forgiveness for your sins, you will receive forgiveness, but you can there at that same throne find grace. Grace to help you in your need. Grace to put to death the flesh. Grace to lay aside the weights that easily beset you. All the while looking unto Jesus who is both the source and the completion of our faith. He endured the cross and took the shame so that He could sit down at the right hand of God where He now dwells as our advocate perpetually applying the work of the cross to our lives that we may live in the light.
Friends… Creatures of His light… It is not for you to walk in darkness. If you are not overcoming sin, you must confess your sin, to God and possibly even to another believer, so that you may be healed. If you are of the light, walk in light.