Summary: To correct erroneous teachings, John contradicts them by setting forth the truth of Scripture and by laying down the true conditions for fellowship with God.
FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD
In the last section we observed that one of John’s purposes for this letter is that Christians may have fellowship with God and with each other. "Fellowship" is from the word "koinonia" which means “communion, fellowship, sharing in common." The word "communion" is from the same word. In verses 6, 8, and 10, John points out three bogus claims that the false teachers had been making. Each of these claims begins with the phrase, “If we say….”
• Verse 6: “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” The sad truth is that there are professing Christians in every church who walk in darkness. They claim to have fellowship with God but their manner of living reveals otherwise. In other words, they lie to others.
• Verse 8: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Such people are lying to themselves.
• Verse 10: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (v. 10). This is the tendency to lie about God. God says, “You need a Savior.” When we deny that we are sinners, we are calling God a liar.
To correct these erroneous teachings, John contradicts them by setting forth the truth of Scripture and by laying down the true conditions for fellowship with God.
The first condition for fellowship with God is walking in the light (1:5-7). “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. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 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.” John declares, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” John Stott (The Letters of John, Tyndall, 1964, 1988, p. 76) points out that light and darkness are familiar metaphors in Scripture. Intellectually light speaks of truth and darkness speaks of error. Morally, light speaks of holiness but darkness speaks of evil.”
The word “light” is used for truth. “God is light.” The Bible reveals God as the God of truth as well. Jesus called himself, "the way, and the truth, and the life." Moreover, God’s word is true. The Bible declares, "Thou art God and Thy words are truth." The Bible is “a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.” God is absolutely holy and separate from evil. "Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil." (Hab. 1:13).
We must walk in the light just as He is in the light. We must follow the example of our Lord. Yet there are people who claim to be Christians and to have fellowship with God who continue to walk in darkness. If we claim to have fellowship with God and yet continue living in darkness, the Word of God says, "We lie and do not live by the truth." If a person persistently walks in darkness, the Bible reveals that person is not saved. Only those who "walk in the light" are cleansed from their sin by the blood of Christ. We are not saved because we walk in the light. We walk in the light because we are saved.
God’s children share his nature. The Amplified Bible reads, “But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken]fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses(removes)us from all sin and guile [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations]. If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude and lead ourselves astray, and the Truth [which the Gospel presents] is not in us [does not dwell in our hearts]” (1:7-8).
The second condition of fellowship with God is confession of sin. We have to deal with the problem of indwelling sin. The closer we get to Jesus the more aware we are of our sinfulness. What can we do with our sin?
We can try to cover up our sin. Some people refuse to admit that they are sinners. For example, a lady once told my wife, “I have never thought of myself as a sinner. I’ve always been a good person.” The Bible says clearly, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1:8). According to this verse, those who refuse to admit their sinfulness are self-deceived. The Bible declares that all are sinners. There are no exceptions. Moreover, if we deny our sin we defame God by making Him out to be a liar (1:10). It does no good to cover up our sins.