THOUGHTS FROM JOHN’S LETTERS

WALKING IN THE LIGHT – 3

John’s words in 1John 1:5 – 7 challenge us with the question: Are we actually living every day in the light of the Gospel? Are we living every day aware of the changed reality that the gospel has brought about? Do our lives (our thoughts, our words, our actions) reflect the truth revealed by Jesus Christ?

If we are walking in the light, if we have been reunited to God through knowing Jesus Christ, we ‘have fellowship’ with God (verse 3). This walking in the light, this fellowship with God and with Jesus Christ, means that there is a now radical contrast with how we used to think and to live before we knew Jesus Christ. So significant is this contrast that John says that if there is no contrast – if we are still walking in the darkness – ‘we lie’: our claim to know Jesus Christ is false, and ‘we do not live by the truth’ (verse 6).

John’s first letter has several statements about this counter-cultural life that should characterize those who know Jesus Christ. At this point John gives us two ways in which walking in the light is evident:

We have fellowship with one another.
The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

It is important to note that every verb in verse seven is present tense:

‘walk in the light’ is present tense; it is a reference to our on-going, day-to-day, practice.

‘have fellowship’ is present tense; it refers to our on-going, present relationship with others.

‘purifies us from all sin’ is present tense; it refers to the on-going effectiveness of the blood of Jesus.

It is obvious from the last (present cleansing from sin) that the first (walking in the light) does not mean Christians are sinless. If we were sinless we would not need present cleansing, we would not need the blood of Jesus today. Indeed walking in the light includes not only living in the light of the truth about God, but also living in the light of the grace-based salvation purchased for us by the death of Jesus Christ. Walking in the light means never again relating to God on the basis of our own religious credentials, but always and only on the basis of the blood of Jesus, his Son.

To walk in the darkness is to live with the heavy necessity of meriting God’s acceptance by our good deeds, our own personal righteousness. It means to always be striving to gain or maintain God’s favour, but never being sure we have succeeded. It is living with a great cloud of fear and guilt hovering over us, threatening us with God’s judgement and wrath.

To walk in the light is to live with the peace, joy and assurance of knowing that we are forgiven, accepted, acquitted, reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus Christ. It means that we understand that we are saved entirely by grace, and not even the smallest bit by our own efforts. It is living with the knowledge that in Christ God has freely given to us a full and complete salvation that is guaranteed, and in which we have been forever removed from the threat of condemnation, judgement and wrath.

Walking in the light is knowing that the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all sin.

But what about the other thing that accompanies walking in the light? What about ‘we have fellowship with one another’?

Let us cast our minds back to Genesis 3. That is where separation between humans and God began. It is also where separation between humans and each other began.

Genesis 3 brought shame in the presence of the other (verse 7, compare Genesis 2:25).

Genesis 3 brought blame-shifting, the attempt to justify, defend, preserve oneself, even at the expense of the other (verse 12).

Genesis 3, in separating humans from God, brought in a human dominion and a human desire which were different from relationships in the original creation (verse 16).

Each of these, if we think deeply about them, arose out of individual alienation from God.

But now, because we walk in the light, because we have been restored to fellowship with God, this alienation from each other has been overcome:

We no longer need to bear our personal shame: Christ has borne our shame. We are each hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). That is also how we are to view ourselves and each other.

We no longer need to justify, defend or preserve ourselves: the righteousness of Christ has been credited equally to each of us; God has freely acquitted (justified) us; all charges against each of us have been fully paid by Christ; God does not count our sin against us’(Romans 3:21 – 24; 4:5, 8). That is also how we are to relate to each other.

Jesus Christ by re-establishing our relationship with God, has also re-established God’s dominion/authority in our lives, and re-united us with him who alone can truly satisfy our human longings. We should not expect of each other that which only God can provide.

By the blood of Jesus Christ Genesis 3 has been undone, and continues to be undone. As we live in the light of this great reversal, as we live in the freedom of this redemption, we realise that it is not just true of ‘me’ but also true of every believer. What God has done for me in Christ, he has also done for them in Christ.

This fellowship, this common salvation, this common liberation from having to save ourselves, this common identity in Christ, determines the way we live with each other: if we walk in this light, we walk in such a way that reflects this fellowship with one another that is grounded in our common salvation – the blood of Jesus.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2021