John’s reading today opens with the proclamation that ‘God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all’. This proclamation is the message heard directly from Jesus (or God, vs 2) and now being spread by the disciples. I don’t know about you but my heart thrills when I hear this message. God is righteous, holy, pure, without wrong, without sin, without error – the very antithesis of the imagery of darkness which is juxapositioned here. John spends the next few verses exploring how our relationship with a holy (light) father works out within our sinful (darkness) experience.
John points out 3 errors of understanding ¹
- Stating we have ‘fellowship’ with God does not make it so. Our fellowship with light is demonstrated by walking in light
- We deny truth and deceive ourselves (who else would be fooled?) by claiming we ‘have no sin’. Understanding the sinful condition of our humanity is fundamental to understanding the truth.
- We further demonstrate our separation from God and lack of truthful knowledge by claiming that we have not sinned.
It is important here to pause lest we step into error and begin to equate works with salvation, that is not the intent of John’s words. Rather, as Paul states, we are saved ‘to’ good works, not by them (Eph 2:8-10). In our reading, John pulls no punches in outlining that we are sinful and separated from God and that claiming any other understanding is deluded!… BUT the best news is also laid out plainly,
‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness‘ (1:9)
Not only so, but we have an advocate, Jesus himself! (2:1) Jesus is the propitiation (the turning away of God’s wrath) for our sin. What a marvellous revelation given to us in the word today. Knowing the truth of our sinfulness AND knowing the truth of our forgiveness. In God alone we have true light and in him alone is the remedy for darkness.
Our Deuteronomy reading continues to expand on how the people of God are set apart from the world. Why? Vs 2 ‘you are a people holy to the Lord your God and the Lord has chosen you to be a people of his treasured possession’. While the law provides detail on which foods are fair game and which are off limits, you may also note how God’s people are instructed to also provide and care for others, particularly the marginalised (v21, v28-29). The Israelite nation is to be outward looking.
Perhaps today we can take the time to look both inwards and acknowledge our sin, understand the truth that we are forgiven in Christ and also look outwards to spread the message of grace to our community.
- Adapted from the New Bible Commentary. Morris, L. L. (1994). 1 John. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1401). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.