i] Walking in the lightArgument
In response to his proposition that God is a life-giving light, the revelation of divine love, v5, John now proceeds to present his arguments in support of the proposition: In his first argument he sets out to establish that sin is a constant in the Christian life. He makes two points: First, to walk in the light it is necessary to be cleansed from sin; Second, to walk in the light it is necessary to personally face the reality of sin.
i] Context: See 1:1-5. If we follow the argument of Duane Watson, we now come to the probatio (the central argument) of this first-century example of epideictic rhetoric (rhetoric that seeks to reaffirm values which are already accepted). So, John now expands on his thesis, the partitio:
God is life-giving light, let us walk in the light of his love
John's argument presents as follows:
Sin is a constant in the Christian life, 1:6-10
Christ our advocate, 2:1-6
Love the brethren, 2:7-14
Love not the world, 2:15-17
Warnings against being deceived, 2:18-29
The family of God, 3:1-6
Sin is of the Evil One, 3:7-10
Living the good news, 3:11-24
The test of the incarnation, 4:1-6
The true nature of love, 4:7-12
Begotten of God, 5:1-4a
True faith confirmed, 5:4b-12
ii] Background: See 1:1-5.
iii] Structure: Sin is a constant in the Christian life:
God is life-giving light, let us walk in the light of his love
Argument #1, v6-10:
To walk in the light (live in fellowship with God and one another) it is necessary to be cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ, v6-7.
Although sin will constantly blot our Christian walk, we are assured that confession gains forgiveness and thus, our continued fellowship with God, v8-10.
John himself tells us why he has written this letter in 1:3, 4, and also 2:1 and 5:13. His purpose seems to be to reveal to the members of his associated congregations that the secessionists' claim to a special standing in the sight of God is false. It seems likely that the sectarians have little regard for sin, so John will go on to make the point that sin is a constant in the Christian life. As far as John is concerned. it is his readers, not the secessionists, who know God, have fellowship with him, and have eternal life. John wants to prevent his readers "from being deceived by secessionist teachings", Kruse.
Note how John plays with the ideas of life and light. Jesus, the Word, is like a light shining in the darkness of the world, and that light, the knowledge of God, gives life to those who come to it. In the opening verses John says that he and the other apostles have seen, heard and touched and have therefore come to know and so have been enlivened, and now they proclaim what they have seen, heard and touched so that others may see the light and gain life.
v] Exposition: A simple verse-by-verse exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 1:6
Arguments in support of the proposition # 1 - Sin is a constant in the Christian life: i] A believer walks in the light, v6-7. To live in fellowship with God and one another it is necessary to be cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ. "It is not possible to claim to be in fellowship with the Lord and at the same time knowingly and defiantly live a life marked by unrighteousness as if sin doesn't matter", v6.
ean "if" - Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd class, where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as may be the case, .... then ....." There are five conditional clauses through to v10. The negative clauses are best translated as representing false claims, as above.
eipwmen (legw) aor. subj. "claim" - we say. "If some among you say", TH.
oJti "to" - that [we have fellowship]. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what "we claim."
met (meta) + gen. "with" - with [him]. Expressing association.
kai "and yet" - and. Usually taken as adversative, as NIV.
peripatwmen (peripatew) pres. subj. "walk" - walk about. With reference to lifestyle; "conduct one's life", "live".
en + dat. "in" - in [the darkness]. Here adverbial, modal, expressing manner.
yeudomeqa (yeudomai) pres. "we lie" - we lie. "We live a lie."
ou poioumen (poiew) pres. "do not live by / do not live out" - [and] are not doing, making, practicing. By extension "practice." Here "not doing the truth." The context may give us a hint to the particular elements of God's sovereign will that John has in mind. Verse 7 refers to "fellowship with one another" and so the sin may be a defiant disregard for the needs of our brothers and sisters. There is also a hint in the claim for a right standing with God which ignores right behaviour. This possibly implies a reduction in the demands of the law. Therefore, the sin may be legalism, piety, where the law's demands are reduced so as to claim a state of obedience before God and thus access to his favour. "We do not put the truth into practice."
thn alhqeian (a) acc. "the truth" - the truth. Possibly the truth of the gospel, but more likely God's standard of behaviour. Possibly better generalised in a positive statement; "our words and our lives are a lie", REB, cf. Barclay.
In accord with a God who is light and the Son of God who gives light, those in the light experience joyous fellowship. For them, when sin raises its ugly head, Christ's sacrifice purifies.
de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here to a contrasting point.
ean + subj. "if" - Introducing a conditional clause 3rd. class, as in v6.
en + dat. "in" - [we walk] in [the light]. Again the preposition is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the walk; "in conformity with the light." Brooke suggests that "walking in the light is the conscious and sustained endeavour to live a life of conformity with the revelation of God who is light, especially as that revelation has been exhibited finally and completely in Jesus Christ. And this is the necessary condition of fellowship." Yet, the rather idiomatic statement to walk in the light is not necessarily imaging an ethical conformity, but more likely an authentic conformity lived in relationship with God through Christ. Ethics is part of it, but such a life is fired by faith, a moment-by-moment dependence on God's grace in Christ. Such a life deepens relationships and reinforces assurance of divine mercy.
wJV "as" - as [he is in the light]. Comparative.
met (meta) + gen. "with" - [then we have fellowship] with [one another]. Expressing association. Fellowship with fellow believers is a consequence of having found authentic life in Christ.
to aiJma (a) "the blood" - [and] the blood. Nominative subject of the verb "to cleanse." The redemptive sacrifice of Jesus.
Ihsou (ouV ou) gen. "of Jesus" - The genitive may be taken as adjectival, possessive, or verbal subjective, ie., Jesus' act of a redemptive sacrifice for sin.
tou uiJou autou gen. "his Son" - the son of him. Standing in apposition to "Jesus".
kaqarizei (kaqarizw) pres. "cleanses" - purifies [us from every sin]. The present tense indicates a continuous action. Again, a consequence of authentic life in Christ. In Christ the stain of sin is removed, not just forgiven; "keeps on purifying us from all sin."
ii] To walk in the light it is necessary to face the reality of sin, v8-10. As already indicated, it is difficult to pinpoint the situation John is addressing - perfectionism / antinomianism, or legalism / nomism. The secessionists certainly have a particular view on sin, and whatever it is, John makes three points:
•*Sin, in the sense of sinfulness / possessing the inclination to sin, is a reality for all people, including believers. To deny this fact is to deny the truth, v8.
•*Sin requires forgiveness. It is essential to acknowledge the seriousness of sin (actual sinful deeds) and seek divine forgiveness, v9.
•*Sin is sin. To deny the reality of sin in the Christian life is to deny the truth, v10. Note John's technique of linking the next step in his argument, here, sin and its forgiveness - he starts off in v8 where he ends up in v7.
eav + subj. "if" - Introducing a 3rd. class conditional clause, as in v6.
oJti "to" - [we say] that. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing might say.
ouk ecomen (ecw) pres. "[be] without [sin]" - we do not have sin. "If we refuse to acknowledge that we have an inclination toward sinfulness." Note the difference with v10 which uses the perfect tense, "we have not sinned" = "if we refuse to acknowledge that we have actually sinned."
planwmen (planaw) pres. "we deceive" - then we lead astray, deceive, mislead [ourselves]. Westcott claims the meaning of the word is "in all cases that of straying from the one way (James 5:19f) not of misconception in itself, but of misconduct." A meaning of "deceive" seems best; "we live in a world of illusion", Phillips.
hJ alhqeia (a) "the truth" - [and] the truth. "For John, ..... truth is found in the word of the Father turned to mankind, incarnate in Christ, illuminated through the action of the Spirit", De la Potterie.
en + dat. "in" - [is not] in [us]. Probably expressing association, "with us", although the phrase itself is somewhat idiomatic; "we have rejected the truth", Culy, or more simply, "he is a liar", Kruse. "Truth being a stranger to us", Cassirer.
The necessary acknowledgment of the reality of sins. "Not only do we have to admit the inclination to sin, but we also have to acknowledge the actuality of sins", Wahlde. For John, confession is but a recognition that we stand at the foot of the cross, by grace through faith, and not of works lest anyone should boast.
ean + subj. "if" - Conditional clause, as in v6.
oJmologwmen (oJmologew) pres. subj. "we confess" - we confess, admit, acknowledge [the sins of us]. To declare openly before God that we are in a state of rebellion against him, are in defiance of his will. John "portrays authentic Christian living as involving honest and ongoing acknowledgment of one's sins", Kruse. "If we freely admit that we have sinned", Phillips.
pistoV adj. "faithful" - [then he is] reliable, faithful [and righteous]. Brown says that the word here refers to the faithfulness of God to keep his promises, namely, to forgive those who call on him for mercy.
iJna + subj. "-" - that. Technically introducing a consecutive clause, expressing result; "he is faithful and just ..... and as a consequence, he will forgive us ....." Culy notes that from a semantic point of view iJna introduces a grounds-conclusion construction, ie., "he is faithful and just" substantiates the claim of the hina clause = "if we confess our sins he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness because he is faithful and just." The consequence of God's reliability and his justice entails the keeping of his promise to forgive those who seek his mercy.
hJmin dat. pro. "us" - [he may forgive the sins] to us. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage.
kaqarish/ (kaqarizw) aor. subj. "purify" - [and] may cleanse [us]. Purify in the sense of remove the defilement of sin. This statement reminds us that a believer is not just forgiven, but is holy in the sight of God. A failure to recognise this fact traps a believer in the heresy of sanctification by obedience, namely, that we may be forgiven, but we must work at holiness / sanctification. As John makes clear in this passage, sinfulness resides within us (until the grave) and we will continue to sin / fall short of God's will, but in Christ it is as if we have never sinned; in God's sight we are perfect.
apo + gen. "from" - from [all unrighteousness]. Expressing separation; "away from."
To refuse to acknowledge that we have actually sinned, is to make God out to be a liar. His revealed word clearly states that sin is a constant and requires forgiveness. If we claim that we have not sinned then obviously we imply that God has been somewhat loose with the truth.
ean "if" - if [we say]. Introducing the fifth and final 3rd. class conditional clause in this passage; see v6.
oJti "-" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependant statement of indirect speech expressing what we may say.
ouc hJmarthkamen (aJmartanw) perf. "we have not sinned" - Perfect indicating a past action with ongoing results. "If we claim that we have never actually done anything sinful and consequently are free from the resulting guilt", TH.
yeusthn (hV ou) "a liar" - [then we make him] a liar. Serving as an accusative complement of the direct object auton, "him", and so asserting a fact about the object "him", namely, that he is a liar.
autou gen. pro. "his" - [and the word] of him. The genitive may be classified as adjectival, possessive, or ablative, source / origin, "from him."
ouk estin en hJmin "has no place in our lives / is not in us" - is not in us. An idiomatic sense as with "the truth is not in us", v8. So, something like "we refuse to accept what he says", Culy. The truth of the gospel has not impacted on our lives. "We have no idea what his message means", Barclay.