WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LXIX) 03/11/21

Stanley Lewis Derickson (1940-) says that, in Ephesians, John uses the Holy Spirit’s infilling in contrast with being drunk with wine. We are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit as fully as the person is influenced by drinking excessive wine. We are to be governed by the Holy Spirit at all times. It is the case anytime we confess all of our sins to turn all control over to Him. If we control our lives, He does not, and we remain empty.[1] The idea is not to be out of control but to allow the Holy Spirit to lead, teach, and show His fruit, as Paul tells us in Galatians. Being filled is being under His control.

Derickson then addresses the Holy Spirit’s convicting power: When believers have sin in our lives, we are not in fellowship with God. We will be convicted by the Holy Spirit of that sin so that we will confess it and remove it from our life. It is the same as being convicted in a court of law. We will know when something is hindering our life and walk with God. The Holy Spirit will point out any sin to us as we pray, and we will seek the infilling of the Spirit. John’s message here in verse nine is God’s answer to sin. Confess it, and He will forgive it. “Confess” suggests agreeing with God on what you have done, as well as a decision not to do it again.

Derickson also goes on to point out that when salvation comes on the scene, we are a new creation. How are the Spirit and the soul affected? Are we given a fourth step? A new nature? No. It has to be a transformation of the spirit and soul. Is it a partial change? How could God call us a new creation or new creature if we were only partly new? He can’t! It seems from what we have seen that we, as believers, are in Adam’s prefill state, and we choose to sin as Adam did. It is a decision, or act of the will, not a lost struggle with the old nature. We have one thing that Adam did not have, confession and forgiveness. We can go before the throne of grace to confess our sin and be restored to full union with Him anytime we want.

There is a vast difference between failing the Lord because you couldn’t walk close enough to Him and forsake Him because we decided to turn against Him, says Derickson. The difference is the resulting guilt. If we realize we choose to sin, we recognize how vital John’s message is in verse nine to us. We will also learn that confession relieves us of having to confess the same sin again. On the two-nature side, confessing and forgiving seems to be a crutch for some in life. You sin because you can’t walk close enough to the Lord, which is the way back.

Derickson points out that confessions are, in part, agreeing with God about the sin’s terribleness. If we sin by an act of the will, we are in open rebellion against God. If we sin because we didn’t walk as close to Him as we should, sinning implies we slipped in our walk, and that slip means the Spirit lost control of our life. I see sin as a one nature person in open rebellion and restoration. It is a terrible process to have to go through. We should take John’s promise in verse nine and not lightly look at our problems because we were just a little careless about our walk with the Lord. This prayer won’t work: “Oh, Lord, I forgot my quiet time when I ask you to control me and got a little off track. Sorry. Forgive me. Amen.”

To see law-breaking as rebellion, Derickson confesses that sin is our responsibility, to see evil as God sees it, as filthy unrighteousness. Verse nine describes it as a serious place to find yourself. Forgiveness after salvation should be extraordinary, and we should want to stay clean. Verse nine is not limited. You can use it any time of the day, of the week, and in the year. God provided all that is necessary for us to continue in holiness. All we need to do is to make mental decisions maintaining that provision.[2]

Even while Jeremiah was locked up for preaching and calling out to God, God spoke to him and said, “They sinned against me, but I will wash away that sin. They fought against me, but I will forgive them.[3] So, no wonder John was confident that God was more than willing to forgive. But again, forgiveness is only effective if the person to whom it is extended accepts it as a gift. And the purpose of that gift is to make it possible to continue without making the same mistake twice.

As John Stott (1921-2011) points out, even if a believer does find that their left-over lawbreaking tendencies of the flesh cause them to sin, if they confess that sin, then God is not only ready to forgive them of their sin but rid them of the stains and dirt left by that sin and make them clean and whole again.[4] That’s because we are not being forgiven as sinners but as disobedient children of God. The same blood of the Lamb that cleansed us from past sins is still available to cleanse us from future sins as long as we repent and ask forgiveness.[5]

Daniel L. Akin (1957) John offers a positive and correct theological antidote in verse nine. It is one of the most beloved and memorized verses in the Bible. The following paraphrase of verse nine may help us capture its marvelous truth: “If we are characterized as those who are continually agreeing with God about our sin, both its nature and its acts, God is both faithful and just (true to Himself) to forgive us our sins and to purify us from all our wickedness.” It is as if John were saying, “Look! Some try to cover and conceal their sin – they are lying to themselves. Some who confess and acknowledge and admit their sins – are forgiven. The Scriptures remind us, “The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.”[6] [7]

Tom Thatcher (1973) admits that while John is a dualist, he is not a perfectionist. All people— the world, the Jews, and believers— are guilty of sin. Christians are different from the rest in that they acknowledge this fact and receive forgiveness, but those who deny their guilt are only deceiving themselves. John seems to be thinking here of Christian conversion’s initial experience, when those in the world admit their sin, accept Jesus, and subsequently receive “the right to become children of God.”[8] [9]

I agree with Simon J. Kistenmaker that this verse comes with conditions. We must first acknowledge our sin, and we do so by confessing it to God. You cannot read, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” until you first read, “If we confess our sins.” Unfortunately, I’ve heard too many “sinner’s prayers” repeated where confession and asking forgiveness were never mentioned. It is taking a book out of the old Gnostic manual for salvation. They believe that the knowledge of God alone was equivalent to receiving salvation. We don’t need to defend or justify ourselves. We simply confess our sins to show repentance and our renewal of walking with the Anointed One. John does not tell us where or how to confess, nor does he recommend that it become a daily confession.[10] Martin Luther did this until God revealed the truth to him. Luther confessed, so often he began to believe he was an unforgivable sinner in God’s eyes.

1:10a However, John reiterates, if we say that we have not committed any grave errors …

EXPOSITION

In other words, there is a price to pay if a person is so proud and egotistical that they refuse to admit responsibility and liability.  As someone once said, such people are like a picture puzzle with one or two pieces missing so that when you hold it up, you can see right through them.  We may think that we have no sin in our lives, but the real question is, what does God think?  That’s important because, as the Psalmist said: “Lord, if you punished people for all their sins, no one would be left alive.”[11] We may get so absorbed in what others think we forget about God.

Note that each false claim in 6, 8, and 10 denies the truth that immediately precedes it in verses 5, 7, and 9, respectively. The corrective immediately follows the false claim. Now we come to the third false plea. This claim is a denial of having committed any sin at all. Sin is an ongoing reality in the life of Christians because God is a God of absolute perfection. John is still dealing with the idea that “God is light” (1:5). To deny that fact is to fool ourselves and reject the Word of God.

If we claim that we have not sinned, we make God out to be a liar. We say in effect that what God says about Himself in the Bible about our sin is not right. This claim is entirely inconsistent with God’s character. What an awful thing to make God out to be a liar! God’s Word always confronts our sin. We either admit or deny what the Word says about our sins. If we refuse to believe that we have sin in our lives, we fly in the face of the Word of God. We do not appropriate the principles of the Word properly to our experience.

The word “in us” indicates intimate fellowship. The Word of God does not have a personal connection with those who claim to be free from sin. Complete openness to the integrity of the Word of God is essential for fellowship with a holy God.

[1] See Ephesians 5:18

[2] Derickson’s Notes on Theology, An Overview of the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, pp. 495-503, 844-846, 864-866, 966

[3] Jeremiah 33:8

[4] Cf. Jeremiah 31:34

[5] Stott, John. The Letters of John, op. cit., p. 82

[6] Proverbs 28:13

[7] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John, op. cit., Kindle Locations 415-421

[8] See John 1:12

[9] Thatcher, Tom. 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude, op. cit., (Kindle Locations 5449-5452

[10] Kistenmaker, Simon J. op. cit., p. 246

[11] Psalm 130:3


About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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