Posted On October 24, 2012

Self-Deception, Darkness and the Light of Jesus Christ

by | Oct 24, 2012 | The Gospel and the Christian Life


Today we are going to look at 1 John 1:5-10, 3:4-5, and 3:7-10.

1 John 1:5-10

As an apostolic witness to Jesus’ ministry, including his death and resurrection, and as one of the three most intimate associates of the Lord (John, Peter, James), John affirms the physical reality of Jesus Christ’s having come “in the flesh” (4:2-3). In this way, John accentuated the gravity of the false teaching by immediately focusing on a strongly positive affirmation of the historic reality of Jesus’ humanity and the centrality of the gospel. Although the false teachers claimed to believe in Christ, their denial of the true nature of Christ (his humanity) demonstrated their lack of genuine salvation (2:22-23). The affirmation of a proper view of Christ constitutes the first test of genuine fellowship (1:3; 1:5-2:2).

The phrase which was refers to the proclamation of the gospel that centers in Christ’s person, words, and works as contained in the apostolic testimony. Although John’s Gospel uses a similar phrase “from the beginning” meaning eternity past, the phrase here, in the context of 1 John 1:1-14, refers to the beginnings of gospel preaching when the readers first heard about Jesus (2:7, 24). The phrase also emphasizes the stability of the gospel message; its contents do not change but remain stable from the very beginning; it is not subject to change due to the current worldly fads or philosophical thinking.

“We have heard.we have seen…we looked upon…touched with our hands.. points to the vivid recollection of the person of Jesus that John still had even in his old age. For John, even 60 years later, those memories were permanently etched on his mind as if the events just happened. He uses terms that strongly affirm the physical reality of Jesus, for a spirit cannot be heard, gazed at for long periods (“looked upon”), or touched as Jesus was by John during his earthly ministry and even after his resurrection. The word of life refers not only to Jesus Christ but the proclamation of his gospel.

Made manifest.seen testify and proclaim in 1 John 1:2-3 is John dramatic reemphasizing through repetition of these terms in vv.2-3 (v.1) the authority of his own personal experience as an eyewitness of Jesus’ life. Such repetition pointedly reminds his readers that John’s personal testimony refutes the false teachers who boasted arrogantly and wrongly about the Christ they have never seen nor known.

John with the phrase, The eternal life…with the Father..made manifest to us accentuates the eternality of Christ in his preincarnate glory (5:12; John 1:4; 5:26, 40; 11:25; 14:6).  Fellowship does not mean social relations in 1:3 but that his readers were to be partakers or partners with John in possessing eternal life (Phil. 1:5; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 Peter 1:4). John writes not only to affirm the physical reality of Jesus (1 John 1:1-2) but also to produce salvation in the readers. The genuine Christians are never “out of fellowship” is clear, since this verse equates fellowship with salvation.

The main goal for this epistle is to create joy in the readers (thus the phrase “our joy may be complete”). The proclamation of the reality of the gospel (vv.1-2) produces a fellowship in eternal life (v.3), and in turn fellowship in eternal life produces joy (v.4). To counter the false teachers who denied the existence or importance of sin, John affirms the reality of sin in 1 John 1:5-2:2. This affirmation of sins’ reality constitutes the second test of true fellowship (vv.1-4 for test one and 2:3-6 for test three). Those who deny the reality of sin demonstrate their lack of genuine salvation. The ‘we” in 1:6, 8, 10 is not a reference to genuine Christians but a general reference to anyone claiming fellowship, but denying sin. The ‘we’ and “ours” in vv.7,9 and 2:1-2 is a specific reference to genuine Christians.

We have heard from him highlights the message that John and the other apostles preached came from God, not from men (Gal. 1:12). In Scripture, light and darkness are very familiar symbols. Intellectually “light” refers to biblical truth while “darkness” refers to error or falsehood (Ps. 119:105; Prov. 6:23; John 1:4; 8:12). Morally, “light” refers to holiness or purity while “darkness” refers to sin or wrongdoing (rom. 13:11-14; 1 Thess. 5:4-7). The heretics claimed to be the truly enlightened, walking in the real light, but John denied that because they do not recognize their sin. About that basic reality, they were unenlightened. With the phrase no darkness at all John forcefully affirms that God is absolutely perfect and nothing exists in god’s character the impinges upon his truth and holiness (James 1:17).

In spite of their claims to enlightenment and although the false teachers may have claimed fellowship with Christ, their walking in darkness refuted such claims, and consequently, demonstrated their lack of genuine salvation. The reference to “lie” in v.6b refers to the claim of fellowship in v.6a. Do not practice points to their habitual failure regarding the practice of truth.

Genuine Christians walk habitually in the light (truth and holiness), not in darkness (falsehood and sin). Their walk also results in cleansing from sin as the Lord continually forgives his own. Since those walking in the light share in the character of God, they will be habitually characterized by his holiness (3 John 11)., indicating their true fellowship with him (James 1:27). A genuine Christian does not walk in darkness, but only in the light (2 Cor. 6:14; Eph. 5:8; Col. 1:12-13), and cleansing from sin continually occurs (1 John 1:9).

Not only did the false teachers walk in darkness (sin; v.6) but went so far as to deny totally the existence of a sin nature in their lives. If someone never admits to being a sinner, salvation cannot result (Matthew 19:16-22). Not only did the false teachers make claims to fellowship and disregard sin (1 John 1:6), they are also characterized by deceit regarding sinlessness (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Rom. 3:23).

Continual confession of sin is an indication of genuine salvation. While the false teachers would not admit their sin, the genuine Christian admitted and forsake it (Ps. 32:3-5; Prov 28:13). The term “confess” means to say the same thing about sin that God does; to acknowledge his perspective about sin. While 1 John 1:7 is from God’s perspective, v.9 is from the Christian’s perspective. Confession of sin characterizes genuine Christians and God continually cleanses those who are confessing (v.7). Rather than focusing on confession for every single sin as necessary, John has especially in mind here a settled recognition and acknowledgement that one is a sinner in need of cleansing and forgiveness (Eph. 4:23; Col. 2:13). Since God has said that all people are sinners (Psalm 14:3; 51:5; Isa. 53:6; Jer. 17:5-6; Rom. 3:10-19, 23, 6:23), to deny that fact is to blaspheme God with slander that defames his name.

1 John 3:4-5

The verb, “make a practice,” in the Greek conveys the idea of making sin a habitual practice. Although genuine Christians have a sin disposition 91:8), and do commit and need to confess sin (1:9; 2:1) that is not the unbroken pattern of their lives. A genuinely born-again believer has a built-in check or guard against habitual sinning due to a new nature (“born of God”- 3:9; Rom. 6:12). The first reason why Christians cannot practice sin is because sin is incompatible with the law of god, which they love (Ps. 119:34, 77, 97; Rom. 7:12, 22). The term “lawlessness” conveys more than transgressing God’s love. It conveys the ultimate sense of rebellion meaning living as if there was no law or ignoring what law exists (James 4:17).

A second reason why Christians cannot practice sin is because it is incompatible with the work of Christ. Christ died to sanctify (make holy) the believer (2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 5:25-27). To sin is contrary to Christ’s work of breaking the dominion of sin in the believer’s life (Rom. 6:1-15).

1 John 3:7-8

The word deceive in 1st John 3:7 means to lead astray. Since false teachers were attempting to pervert the fundamentals of the faith, the possibility existed that some Christians might be fooled into accepting what they were advocating. To prevent this deception from occurring, John repeatedly emphasized the basics of Christianity, the need for obedience, the need for love and the need for a proper view of Christ. The genuine believer’s habitual lifestyle of righteousness stands in sharp contrast to those false teachers who practiced sin (vv.4, 6). Since Christ died on the cross to transform sinners, those truly born again have replaced the habit of sin with the habit of righteous living (Rom. 6:12-14). Those who are truly born again reflect the divine nature of the Son. They behave like him, manifesting the power of his life in them (Gal. 2:20).

A third reason why Christians cannot practice sin is because Christ came to destroy the works of the arch-sinner Satan. The devil is still operating but he has been defeated and in Christ we escape his tyranny. The day will come when all of Satan’s activity will be sent to hell forever (Rev. 20:10). The works of the devil summarize a variety of the devil’s activities: sin, rebellion, temptation, ruling the world, persecution, and accusation of saints, instigation of false teachers, power od death (Luke 8:12; John 8:44; Acts 5:3; 1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 6:11-12; 1 Thess. 2:18; Heb. 2:14; Rev. 12:10).

1 John 3:9-10

The fourth reason why Christians cannot practice sin is because it is incompatible with the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who has imparted a new nature to the believer (John 3:5-8). John wrote here of the new birth (John 3:7). When people become Christians, God makes them new creatures with new natures (2 Cor. 5:17). Believers have God’s characteristics because they have been born into God’s family. This new nature exhibits the habitual character of righteousness produced by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-24). John repeats this phrase twice for emphasis. The new birth involves the acquisition of a seed, which refers to the principle of life of God imparted to the believer at salivation’s new birth. John uses this image of a planted seed to picture the divine element involved in being born again. The word abide conveys the idea of the permanence of new birth which cannot be reversed, for those who are truly born again are permanently transformed into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 5:15; Eph. 2:10). The phrase “he cannot keep on sinning” once again conveys the idea of habitual sinning (1 John 3:4, 6).

Verse 10 is a summary verse and is the key to vv.4-10. Only two kinds of children exist in the world: children of God and children of Satan. No one can belong to both families simultaneously. Either one belongs to God’s family and exhibits his righteous character or one belongs to Satan’s family and exhibits his sinful nature.


The work of fighting against sin and growing in God’s grace is thoroughly grounded in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Only because of what Jesus has done can the believer now grow in knowledge and understanding of the Word of God. As a result of the ministry of the Holy Spirit convicting, reproving and rebuking- the believer can grow in holiness unto the Lord.

The one who says they have not sinned has deceived themselves and is in the darkness. The one who confesses their dependence upon Christ’s finished work and who allows the Lord to purify and cleanse them of sin is growing in the grace of God. The Lord is interested in your growth in sanctification. The Lord’s purpose in this work of purification and cleansing is so you can be a more effective servant for His glory. Turn away from your sin and to God; do not be deceived by your sin but rather be forgiven of your sin and live in the light of God’s presence and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

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