Sunday, January 07, 2007

Reflections from the Epistle of 1 John

1 John 1:6-7a

"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 (1 Jn 1:5-7)."

In the following paragraphs, I would like to take myself through verses 6 and 7a of 1 John chapter one.

As Christians, we are in general agreement that God is light, and Satan is the prince of darkness. To obey God is to walk in the light, and to disobey Him is to walk in darkness. As Akin has commented, "What, then, do the metaphors "light" and (absence of) "darkness" tell us about God's nature? Many scholars hold that the primary, if not exclusive sense, is ethical. God is morally good is the idea." Perhaps the concept of absolute truth is closely associated with God's absolute righteousness, and this is the light in which we are to walk.

In verse 6, John identifies the first group of "liars" - those who lie about their fellowship with God. There are those who call themselves Christians, and claim to be in communion with the Heavenly Father, yet they remain in the moral and ethical depravity of pagan darkness. Here John firmly declares that these professors cannot be in fellowship with God who is light, and who is infinitely holy and good. The Lord has commanded, "Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy (Lev. 19:2; cf. 1 Pet. 1:16)." It is not that we can only be in fellowship with the Father when we have achieved sinless perfection. But true believers are aware of their obligations to be holy as God is holy; they are consciously striving to walk according to the laws of righteousness, and are deeply penitent when they fail their Christian testimony. This is the evidence of the Spirit's work of sanctification in the believers' lives. Walking in the light becomes the "lifestyle" of Christians, while "liars" continue their life in darkness.

We must never even begin to consider that sin does not matter, no matter how small we perceive it to be. As believers in the Gospel of Christ, we must remember our responsibilities as children of the covenant of God's grace. One of our chief responsibilities is to walk in the light, so as to be a light to the world which is in darkness. How can we ever be a light when we ourselves are still dwelling in the darkness of habitual, secret sins? Can we, indeed, be a testimony to our neighbors when we ourselves are living exactly like they do?

The closer the believer comes to God, the more appalling and ugly sin becomes. In fact, the believer who is in close communion with the Father will be intensely abhorrent of offending Him with any impure thoughts, words or actions. Can a believer, for example, delight in entertaining himself with imageries of adultery, murder, fornication, and every kind of pagan lusts? These things the youths and even adults do with each and every movie going session and by watching several television programs broadcasted daily over the channels of the goggle box. Even the New Age concepts communicated by the so-called innocent cartoons of Hollywood are offensive to the thrice holy God.

Marvin Vincent once commented that, "Fellowship with God exhibits and proves itself by fellowship with Christians." And I believe Vincent is correct in his observations. The believer who is walking in the light will find his greatest delight and joy when he is in fellowship with his fellow brethren-in-Christ. But one is perplexed by some who proclaim Christ, and continue to distance himself from the Church and other believers. Instead, they enjoy wallowing in activities with their unbelieving friends. There are even those who chose to remain free from the obligations of church membership, and insist that the worship of God can be accomplished apart from the local church. Sadly, these brethren do not wish to submit themselves to the rule of the elders, and prefer to move from church to church, tasting sermons and desiring to settle down only when the characteristics and teachings of the church suit their taste. Without the leading of God-ordained pastors and teachers, it is of little wonder that some have fallen into temptations and bad company, while others have succumbed to false doctrines and heresies.

Barclay, in The Letters of John and Jude, noted that, "There were those who claimed to be specially intellectually and spiritually advanced, but whose lives showed no sign of it. They claimed to have advanced so far along the road of knowledge and of spirituality that for them sin had ceased to matter and the laws had ceased to exist. Napoleon once said that laws were made for ordinary people, but were never meant for the like of him. So these heretics claimed to be so far on that, even if they did sin, it was of no importance whatsoever. In later days Clement of Alexandria tells us that there were heretics who said that it made no difference how a man lived. Irenaeus tells us that they declared that a truly spiritual man was quite incapable of ever incurring any pollution, no matter what kind of deeds he did."

It is amazing that such heresies continue to be taught in certain seminaries and churches. There are certainly those who claim that "it made no difference how a man lived." These misled Christians are taught that since they are saved by grace, and that all their sins are now forgiven them, they have the freedom to live in any manner they like. Grace, they say, is free. And being freed from the bondage of the law, any attempt at following the law of God would be "legalistic." According to them, a Christian can be saved simply by believing in Jesus, without any need of repentance or turning from the sins and darkness they were in. To repent, they say, is work. Since salvation is by grace through faith alone, we are not obligated to repent or to do anything to warrant God's grace and mercy. But John says, "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." These misled brethren fall into John's first category of "liars."

Truth is never solely intellectual; it is also moral in its applications. Truth is never simply abstract concepts; it is concrete living. Truth can never remain an intellectual exercise, but pervades the entire being with respect to personality, actions, and thoughts. Truth is to be obeyed and followed. And he who believes the Truth must also obey the Truth. This is the teaching of the Apostle John that we must "walk in the light." "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 (1 Jn 1:7)." The only sure way to know whether we are the children of light or the children of darkness is to ask ourselves this question, "Do we walk in the light or in the dark?"

So, dear friend, which path are you walking on right now?

2 comments:

Jenson's Blog said...

The letter 1 John is described by someone to show the "test of life". Very timely post, esp. with what is going on.

Mike Messerli said...

Vincent,

good post. well written! it's hard to get the christian world to take these words seriously, they have been so influenced by the world system. but there is a remnant, a few who love God and want to please him. I am challenged by Jesus' words in Matthew, "when the son of man comes will he find faith on the earth?" wow! what a question, but I can see now why that question would need to be asked.

thanks for your thoughts. I enjoy reading your blog.