1 John 1:7

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

 

For me, I don't believe John is trying to make a point about ongoing cleansing of sin for a believer. I believe he is making a distinction between Gnostics who claim that they are in the light (but are actually in darkness because they deny Christ) and true believers who are truly in the light because they confess Christ. The problem with this church and these believers is that they were allowing these Gnostics into the church to have fellowship with them. These were vulnerable believers who were naive, who John felt protective over like little children. He knew if these believers allowed the Gnostics to have fellowship in the church they would corrupt these vulnerable believers. John writes the whole book to help these believers distinguish between a true born again brother and someone who is a false brother and not born again. If you read the whole book in this light you will see that this is the case.

 

So the context of 1 John 1:7 is that only those who walk in Christ (the light) have true fellowship with each other because they are true brother, but anyone who denies Christ you do not have true fellowship with because light can't have fellowship with darkness. Someone who confesses Christ cannot have true fellowship with someone who denies Christ. Of course unbelievers can come into the church but you don't have true spiritual fellowship with them until they receive Christ.

 

The being "cleansed of all sin" part I believe applies to anyone who would come into Christ. As soon as they do they are cleansed of "all" sin. There is no ongoing cleansing. It is a once and for all act that is good enough for all time and eternity. Christ only had to die once. The Old Covenant sacrifices had to be made continually and every time you sinned in order to cleanse people of sins, but Christ's sacrifice was perfect and forever makes us perfect. This is what Hebrews 10:14 is all about.

By the way, the "walk in the light" part is just something that we have made "present continuous" but it actually refers to a state. Someone who walks in light is someone who believes in Jesus. Someone who walks in darkness is someone who denies Jesus.

 

It's the same as in Romans 8:1-9 when it says "who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit". This is not present continuous but is in fact a state a person is in or not in. You are either "in the flesh" (not born again) or "in the Spirit" (born again). Someone who is in the flesh walks after the flesh. Someone who is born again walks after the Spirit. Romans 8:9 clearly shows us this "You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you." Someone who has the Spirit dwelling in them is someone who is in the Spirit and therefore walks after the Spirit. They may do fleshy things at times but it is now impossible for them to be "in the flesh" which is to "walk after the flesh". 1 John 1:7 is the same kind of thing and refers to someone who is either in the light or in darkness. If you have received Jesus then you are in the light which is to walk after the light. If you are someone who denies Christ then you are in darkness which is to walk after darkness. Someone who comes into the light receives two things automatically according to John - they receive cleansing from all sins and they receive spiritual fellowship into the Church of Christ.

 

Context is so important. If we isolate verses and even words outside of their context we will arrive at the wrong interpretation of Scripture. I believe it's context that gives meaning to the words within each verse and even the correct tense those words are meant to be understood as. If we are not careful to put Scripture in context then we will end up abusing Scripture.

 

Search Articles

Grace Resources from New Nature Publications