Category Archives: I John

The Old is New

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. I John 2:7-8

The “old commandment” here, is of course the Great Commandment found in Deuteronomy 6:5, and was later quoted by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39. We are commanded to “love the Lord, thy God, will all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might”.

We are not being given a brand-new commandment, but rather a new expansion of the old. Christ perfectly fulfilled the old commandment, something that was impossible for us to do in the strength of our flesh. God knew this and that is why the law is described in Galatians as a “schoolmaster” to bring us to grace. Isn’t it interesting that the first fruit of the Spirit is love? Our love for God is a response to the grace and love of God.

Jesus completely fulfilled this law in His life and work. John saw this demonstration of divine love and realized that via fellowship with Christ, we now have the ability to fulfill this commandment to a degree that is acceptable to God.

This commandment was not new in its substance, but in the expectation and manner of its fulfillment. The bottom line is that love of the brethren is not optional for Christians, it is both feasible and expected.

We demonstrate our love for God in our love for the brethren. How much of God’s love is seen in your life?

Obedience Builds Assurance

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know that we are in him. I John 2:3-5

These verses reveal to us a test that can give us assurance that we are saved. This test is not given so that we may judge others. Neither is it given so that we can become puffed up with spiritual pride, but so that we may have confidence in our fellowship with Christ.

I am convinced that one of Satan’s favorite weapons against the children of God is doubt. Doubt debilitates, discourages and defeats more Christians than any other tactic the enemy might use.

God has given us a way to show ourselves that we truly do know the Lord and that way is obedience to His commandments. This is not to say that we will be perfect in following these commands, but the more our knowledge of Christ increases, the more our obedience will increase as well.

There are different stages of our knowledge of Christ:

  1. Knowing about Him, Mark 5:27
  2. Meeting Him personally, (salvation) Mark 5:33
  3. Learning His doctrine, Mark 5:34
  4. Allowing His doctrine to remain in us, John 15:7,11
  5. Allowing His love to continue in and through us to others, John 15:12

Progression through these levels is an indication of growth in both faith and love. This frees us from having to wear ourselves out in attempts to convince others and ourselves that we are saved. Instead, we can focus on developing our relationship with Christ (first phase of koinonia) and allowing love for others to be the fruit of that relationship. Thus we will be able to love others in the way that Christ loves us. This is far beyond our own capacity to love.

This further defines the light of Chapter 1 as obedience to the commandments of Christ. Again, this is in the sphere of fellowship with Christ. If we are not obeying His commandments, we are not allowing His truth to remain in us and are therefore immature believers.

When we obey His Word, however, we find that we make room for the love of God to be perfected in us. Here is the crux of this text: MY OBEDIENCE TO THE COMMANDMENTS OF CHRIST DIRECTLY AFFECTS MY ABILITY TO LOVE OTHERS. My ability to love others with the love of God gives me assurance that I am indeed walking in the light with Him.

Christ the Advocate

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. I John 2:1-2

John, in a fatherly manner, explains that he has written about fellowship, light and confession so that we will not sin. God has never intended for His grace to become a license to sin, but it instead gives us liberty from having to sin. We should never take sin lightly, because God doesn’t take it lightly. One need only look at what Jesus endured on Calvary to see God’s hatred for sin.

God knows, however, that we are still dealing with the ongoing tension between flesh and spirit. Daily we face the struggle and must constantly make the choice to walk in the Spirit (light) rather than the flesh (darkness). In those times when we fail to make the right choice, God has made provision for us to be forgiven if we are willing to confess our sins.

Jesus Christ is our advocate. These two verses are an explanation of verse 9 of the previous chapter, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

As an advocate, Christ has two functions. In the first, He speaks to God on our behalf. In response to our confession, He stands before the Father, presenting Himself as the covering (propitiation) for us. As the Father looks at us, He does not see the offense, but the righteousness of Jesus instead. When Christ was on the cross, He literally interposed Himself between us and the judgment of God. Now, when a believer confesses a sin before God, Christ presents His perfect sacrifice as payment for that sin and forgiveness is extended. This has nothing to do with our merit, but it is because the blood of a righteous advocate satisfies the justice of a righteous judge.

His second function is to speak to us on behalf of the Father. As mercy is extemded from the throne of God, Christ, by His Spirit, speaks peace to our soul, assuring us that all is forgiven and our fellowship with God is restored.

Don’t let unconfessed sin hinder your fellowship with God. Confess that sin and by faith receive the forgiveness that God has promised. Keep short accounts with God and enjoy the sweet communion that God desires to have with you.

Responding To the Light

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. I John 1:8-10.

When I was a boy, I was at the home of a friend’s grandmother. My friend and I along with some others thought it would be fun to play hide-and-seek outside in the dark. Everything was going along just fine until I started running across the yard. The lady who owned the house had taken a cast-iron washpot, filled it with dirt, and was using it for a planter. Needless to say, I found it in the darkness, striking it with my shin and doing a somersault in the air before landing. I knew that my leg hurt, but didn’t think much of it since I could still walk on it. It was only when I went back inside that I could see that my pants leg was soaked in blood. The washpot had gashed my leg open and I had to go to the emergency room to get stitches.

One inevitable result of coming out of the darkness into the light is revelation. Often this revelation is positive in that we learn more of the doctrine of Christ. At times, though, the light reveals to us the stains of the transgressions we committed in the darkness.

How do we respond when our fellowship with Christ reveals our sins?

The verses I quoted describe two choices: we can either deny that we have sinned, or we can confess the sin and be cleansed.

Denial has its problems, however, as it causes us to deceive ourselves. We certainly aren’t fooling God when it comes to our sin, but when we try to rationalize, excuse, or otherwise justify our wrongs it only causes us to look foolish.

An additional downside to denial is that it forces us to call God a liar. If it is God who illuminates us and points out our sin, to say that we haven’t sinned is arguing with God and making Him out to be deceitful. We certainly aren’t standing on the foundation of the Word of God when we argue from this position.

Honest and full confession is the only way to find cleansing from sin. Confession is simply to call sin what God calls it. When we confess in this way, there are no excuses or mitigating circumstances. In the words of David, “Against thee, thee only have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight.”

We will find that God gives us full cleansing in response to our confession. Not only does He remove the stain of our sin, He also removes the cause of the offense, causing the fellowship which was hindered to be restored.

How will you respond when God turns on the light?

Walking in the Light

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. I John 1:6-7

Are we walking in the light with Him? Walking with Jesus is not something that we should approach casually or intermittently. “Walk” comes from the Greek peripateo, which means to “walk around”. It is a reference to our entire lifestyle. Literally, everywhere we go and everything we do should be done in the light of the presence of Jesus.

Our fellowship is defined by light.
There are times when we may wish we could determine the terms of our fellowship with Christ. We must, however, “walk in the light as He is in the light”. We cannot expect Jesus to follow after us for the sake of fellowship. While He pursues us in terms of relationship, maintaining fellowship is our responsibility.

Neither is it appropriate for us to see how closely we can walk to the darkness and still be considered to be in the light. Our pathway in the light must be in the footsteps of Christ. This is revealed through the truth of God’s Word. David declared, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

Our fellowship is demonstrated by love.
Notice how our fellowship with Christ translates into fellowship with others. This would indicate that there are vertical and horizontal aspects of fellowship. For the horizontal fellowship with other believers to be right, our vertical fellowship with Christ must be right. Continued trouble in our fellowship with other believers is usually an indication that something is out of line in our walk with God.

We will find that when our fellowship with Christ is correctly aligned, it puts within us a capacity to love others to a degree that is beyond our inherent ability. We know this to be true as love is the firstfruit of the Spirit. Paul described this also in Rom. 5:5, “…the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

Our fellowship is developed in liberation.
The only thing that hinders our fellowship with Christ is sin. Sin is characteristic of the darkness and will cause us to veer from the light if we do not confess it. As we walk in the light, we may indeed stumble, but the blood of Jesus Christ is at work, continually cleansing us from that which defiles.

The cleansing that is done here is not a superficial washing, but is cathartic in its nature. Jesus continually purifies us from the inside out, removing from our spirit the stains that the sins of the flesh have left. The more He cleans us, the more He liberates us from the effects of sin in our lives, thus enhancing the sweetness of the fellowship we can share with Him.

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep, as do other; but let us watch and be sober. I Thess. 5:5-6

The Effects of Light

In the last post on I John, we looked at the essence of light. In the comments, Beverly mentioned one of the benefits of light. I would like to explore that a little further. As we look at these effects of light, I hope you will see the parallel between what light produces and what God produces in our life through His light.

Light Gives Illumination
I know this is the obvious effect of light, but bear with me while I elaborate a little. Illumination reveals, identifies and clarifies. There are times in life when it is unsafe, if not virtually impossible, to move without light. So also is the light of God. He reveals truth in the person of Christ as shown in the Bible. As we learn of Him, it enables us to identify truth and error. In fact, a very strong correlation is drawn in Scripture between truth and light. Knowledge of Christ also helps us to clarify what we believe. So often we compound doctrine unnecessarily by failing to keep Christ as the centerpiece and foundation of our faith. Focusing on Christ brings a measure of clarity to the confusion of life.

Light Brings Security
If light brings clarity, darkness brings uncertainty. This can be intimidating and even frightening. God’s truth makes us secure and confident. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” In the darkest hours of life, let us look for God’s light.

Light Yields Definition
Light is often used to define a path, runway, road or other avenue of traffic. David said, “Thy word is a light unto my feet and a light unto my path.” As we will see in the next post in this series, our koinonia is defined by light. If we are going to walk with Jesus, we must walk in the light. Consider your Bible as God’s lighthouse of truth for your lifepath. Follow the light and God will give you more light. Stray from the light and you will find yourself in moral darkness.

Is your life being lived in the light?

The Essence of Light

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. I John 1:5

God is light. This is one of the most revealing statements about God in all the Bible. It goes beyond saying what God does and focuses upon what He is.It is interesting to think that the very first thing God created was light. He spoke and the stamp of His glory was indelibly placed upon the cosmos. His word is an extension of His nature. The more we immerse ourselves in His word, the more light we will have in our lives.

When we think about the physical qualities of light, we can see some wonderful parallels with the nature of God. The first of these is that light is unchanging in its nature. In its fundamental nature, it cannot be altered. God also is unchanging.Light can neither be defiled nor contaminated. As light shines through transparent objects, the only effect they may have on light is to limit its brightness by their own defilement or opaqueness, but they cannot contaminate the essence of the light. As believers, we are to let God shine through our lives. The only things that hinder that light are either contamination of sin in our life which dims the light, or unbelief that blocks it altogether. The more transparent (clean) we are, the more of God’s light will be seen through us.

Light is only visible when it interacts with matter. As light touches various objects, their pigmentation causes us to see the effects of the light. While we cannot see God in His spirit nature, we can certainly see why John described Jesus as the Light. Through the Word of God, we can see the results of God interacting with man. With John, we can say, “We beheld His glory.”

Light can be experienced through three qualities:

Luminiferous–Seen but not felt
Calorific–Felt but not seen
Actinic–Felt and seen

We can see how this compares with each member of the Godhead:

God the Father–Seen but not felt
God the Spirit–Felt but not seen
God the Son–Felt and seen

Colossians 2:9 tells us that God has invested the fullness of the Godhead in the person of Jesus Christ. For those who might have doubted the divinity of Christ, John is saying, “Jesus is the light of God. He is real, I have both felt and seen Him. Believe!”

Not only is God light, but there is no darkness in Him at all. This darkness refers to moral or spiritual darkness. God is completely light. He is holy perfection. There is no capacity for moral corruption in God. This means that Jesus could not have sinned. Because God is sinless, everything He does is just.

Have you experienced God’s light?

Why Fellowship?

And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. I John 1:4

Why should we fellowship? As one commentor stated, fellowship is often hard work. A person must be willing to “extend the right hand of Christian fellowship” to those who often have no hunger for it.

John continues the train of thought on fellowship by stating that the truth of what he is writing will produce fulness of joy.

Could it be that God has created us with a need for koinonia? From the very beginning, man was created in the image of God, thus making him compatible for fellowship with God. It stands to reason that we have a basic need that can only be fulfilled by the blessing of intimate, spiritual fellowship with God and other believers.

People often comment about “sourpuss Christians” who go around looking as if the hogs ate their little brother. Perhaps these believers are running low on fellowship.

I cannot help but believe that there is a special measure of joy and grace that can only be found in the level of fellowship that we have been discussing in the previous two posts. If we fail to participate in that kind of fellowship, we will miss one of the sweetest blessings that God has prepared for us in this life.

Is your joy tank full? If not, check up on your fellowship.

Fellowship Expands

Fellowship begins with God. In I John 1:3, John refers to His previous experiences with Christ. He states that his message in this epistle was based upon the time he had spent with Jesus.

Notice what John did NOT do. He did not let time spent with Jesus cause him to become proud or hyper-spiritual. Sitting at the feet of Jesus should always produce genuine humility in us. Neither did John allow himself to become isolated from others for the sake of “following Christ”. While there are times when we need to be alone with Christ, we are never commanded to avoid the company of others on a continual basis so that we can be alone with the Lord.

John wanted us to know the same things about Christ that he knew. He wanted us to be able to share the same experiences with Jesus that he had. Why? He wanted to lead us to fellowship with other believers with the Father and the Son simultaneously. It is possible to enjoy fellowship with Christ in the company of believers.

Notice a progression in this text.

1. Worship–time spent with Jesus

2. Fellowship–time spent with Jesus and other believers

3. Discipleship–bringing other believers into closer fellowship with God

We know we are experiencing koinonia when our fellowship is driven by the worship of Jesus, and believers are being drawn into a closer relationship with God as a result of it. If we are not personally growing in our relationship with Christ, we will never be able to draw others closer to Him through the blessing of fellowship.

Is your fellowship expanding? Time spent with Jesus should never cause us to shun others, but to seek to draw them closer to Him as well. When this occurs, we can enjoy what Adrian Rogers called, “The sweetest fellowship this side of heaven”.

The Basis of Fellowship

(I had originally posted this several months ago, but as I am attempting to work my way through I John, and this verse was next in the series, I am going to repost it.)

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ.I John 1:3

Through the writings of John in his first epistle, we can see his desire for believers to enjoy the unity that fellowship in the spirit of Christ can produce. Philosophy, methodology and personal ambition within the body of Christ will almost always be divisive, but true worship of the person of Christ will bring believers to a common point of focus and will draw our attention away from those things that would divide us.

John testified in the verses preceding this one, of what he had seen and heard as he experienced Christ. Fellowship with Christ should always cause us to reach out for fellowship with others. We can experience Christ through the revelation fo His written word and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The doctrine of Christ becomes the central basis for fellowship with both God and other believers. If there is not agreement on the doctrine of Christ, there is no basis for the type of fellowship that is described here.

There is a progression of fellowship. We begin with our own fellowship with Christ. Then we relate what we have learned of Christ with other believers. This ultimately leads to simultaneous fellowship with Christ and believers. Anytime believers are together, focused upon Christ, this level of fellowship can take place, Matthew 18:20. This presence of God is via the indwelling Holy Spirit. As believers, our fellowship should always manifest the presence of God. The Greek word koinonia describes this fellowship as literally being communion with God.

Personal fellowship with other believers happens on three levels: 1) the idle, shallow chit-chat that characterizes so much of our discussion of the inconsequential. 2) An intermediate level where things of common interest are discussed. 3) A deeper level of fellowship that is based upon a discussion of the things of God. This is fellowship that is focused upon worshipping God through His Word. It is at this level that koinonia occurs. Sadly, many believers spend very little time at this level of fellowship. It seems that most of the time we are bogged down in the first two.

This fellowship is never negative. Interaction between believers that includes gossip, criticism, ungodliness, deceit, or immorality does not fit the biblical description of koinonia. If it is not koinonia, then Christ is not a part of it.

We should always remember that grace is the basis of our fellowship with the Father. The work that Jesus did on Calvary was to bring us to a place of unity with the Father. We should let that same grace of God extend through our hearts to others by the Holy Spirit.