Walk in the Light (1 John 1:1-2:17)

Publié le 1 novembre 2020 dans Traductions

Pastor Vincent BOURREL


The three epistles of John were probably one package delivered together: the main written sermon (1 John), a cover letter to the congregation (2 John), a cover letter to the pastor (3 John).

The first letter of John is not signed but the following ones are with this term « the old » which suggests the advanced age of the author and an incontestable authority recognized by the church to the point that he does not doesn’t even need to identify himself. He is one of the 12 apostles as shown in v.1. Only John, the last living apostle, enjoyed such authority. The tone of the epistle is that of a father addressing his children in tender and intimate conversation, it is warm and filled with love.

It is a letter written at the end of the 1st century, when Christianity had been known for over a generation and survived harsh persecution. Now so-called teachers are influencing the church; John calls them “false prophets” (4.1), who mislead believers (2.26), antichrist (2.18) who deny the divinity of Christ (2.22), and his incarnation (4.2). John therefore writes to refute their serious errors and to reassure believers.

The purpose of the letter: v.3 “so that you may be in communion (in harmony, in agreement) with us, and therefore with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ”, v.4 there is nothing that may please him more. The question that is implied for us: are we in communion with God, Jesus Christ and other believers? Which is to say are we saved, at peace with God and with our brothers?

Lately you may have been feeling a little feverish, have a stuffy nose, be tired and have a little headache … you wondered if you had not caught the Coronavirus … How do you know? Get tested!

In the spiritual realm, it’s a bit the same: you believe in the existence of a God, that Jesus was certainly the best man who ever lived, that it is better to love people than to hate them, that there is certainly an eternal life… But in the end, where are you? Are you a true Christian? forgiven? Saved?…

Frankly these questions are of the utmost importance. If you do not make the correct diagnosis you will lose your soul. John therefore writes so that each of us can test ourselves.

The test of attitude towards sin v. 1.5-2.2

When he says in verse 5 « The message that we announce to you is that God is light and that there is no darkness in him » he affirms that God is truth and holiness. There is no error, lie or sin in Him.

So as darkness cannot exist in the presence of light, sin cannot exist in the presence of a holy God. If we want to live in fellowship with God, we must renounce the sin of lying.

John denounces 3 misconceptions about sin that were probably spread by false teachers. They are introduced by « If we say » v.6, 8, 10

• v.6 “I sin and have fellowship with God”, I walk in darkness and yet I have fellowship with God. The false teachers of the day said that what is physical is worthless. What matters is the mind. It’s a thought that is coming back in force these days. People have an extra marital relationship and they justify their attitude by saying you know it’s purely physical, it has no value, you don’t have to feel betrayed, there were no feelings. I love you. => we lie v.6b. We can’t do that with God.

• v.8 « I have no sin (not of a sinful nature) ». This discourse is also widespread nowadays: If I do bad things it is not because of my sinful nature but it is impulses, psychological mechanisms, physiological reactions, or sociological ones. => we are fooling ourselves. The death of Christ, therefore, is of little use to them.

• v.10 “I do not sin”. I have a sinful nature and indeed I believe that sin interferes with fellowship with God but I am done with sin, I am completely delivered from the power of sin. To claim that we have not sinned is not simply a deliberate lie, but is to accuse God of lying, since the Word repeatedly declares that sin is universal (cf. Ec 7.20 “No, there is no righteous man on earth who does good and who never sins ”)

But John presents the reality in verses 7 and 9.

The righteous attitude of a Christian towards sin is not to deny it, but to recognize it and to receive divine forgiveness. Forgiveness made possible because the penalty for sin was paid by Jesus Christ on the cross. This forgiveness and purification are linked to the confession of our sins (v. 9). It is not just a matter of recognizing our sinful nature in a general manner, but our specific sins … and forsaking them. Pr 28.13 « Whoever hides his faults will not prosper; whoever confesses them and forsakes them obtains mercy »

He sums up this truth in verses 1 and 2 of chapter 2. There is a tension here not to minimize sin and also not to despair because of sin and hide it. The cross keeps us from these two ends. We cannot minimize sin because Jesus Christ suffered on the cross so that we may be forgiven. The purpose of the epistle John says is to keep us from sin (2.1). Sin is very serious. But we can’t despair because of sin because Jesus Christ suffered the cross for us. We do not have to hide it, but to recognize it. His sacrifice perfectly satisfied the righteousness of God. The proof of which is that he is risen and seated at the right hand of God and he is our advocate. Our lawyer does not plead our innocence and does not bring forward extenuating circumstances. He acknowledges our guilt and presents his death as substitute for our acquittal.

John declares that concrete sins are possible and even inevitable for the Christian, but he opposes the idea of ​​complacency in sin. He severely denounces « The practice of sin » (3: 6, 8, 9; 5.18).

So, if you live in sin and say you have fellowship with God you are missing the test. God is light. If, on the other hand, you have sinned, you confess your sin, abandon it and find full forgiveness in Jesus Christ, this is living in communion with the God who is light.

And if you live the Christian life without ever asking forgiveness from God and those you have offended you are probably not a true believer.

=> The true Gospel pushes us to confess and abandon sin, injustice.

The test of obedience v. 2.3-11

How can we be sure that we belong to Christ? Jean gives us 2 clues: we do what he tells us and we live as he asks us to.

We do what he tells us.

« We know by this » v.3 and v.5 (and not we hope, think, would like) it is a certainty « that we have known him » (v.3) = « that we are his » (v.5) = that we have believed in Jesus Christ for salvation = that we are saved. How? If we keep his commandments (v.3), his word (v.5). It is not my obedience that saves me, but that of Christ, but because I am saved, I obey.

We can know that we know him if we keep his commandments. One cannot distinguish love for God from love for his commands. If I say love my wife but not do what she loves, what pleases her and is right. => I am a liar. It is about keeping the commandments of God and wanting to shape your life in obedience to God.

v.5 he reaffirms the same principle positively. The love we have for God (as BDS translates it) is manifested in our obedience and it is proof that we are « in him ». “In him” which we find in v. 6, is an expression that the apostle John cherishes (cf Jn 15, abide in him, the vine and the branches) if we are in him we will bear fruits in conformity with his nature.

We live as he asks us or the test of love

In the following verses (è-11) he develops what obedience is and he sums up in 3.23

«  And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. « 

He has just said that the true Christian has chosen to obey the commandments of God, he follows his master, he submits his will to that of God. It does not explicitly reveal the nature of this “old” (v.7) and “new” (v.8) commandment, but since the subject of v.9-11 is love and the new commandment given by Jesus is to “love one another as Christ loved us” (Jn 15.12) we must walk as Christ himself walked, in brotherly love. Jesus’ love was shown to people who were not loveable.

Christian love is not a feeling but a choice, a commandment (this is why it is in the test of obedience).

If you only love those who love you, if you only greet people who look like you (same color, same age …) if you are only interested in those who bring you something … that does not prove that you are a Christian– all men do this.

What proves that you are a Christian, is the love you show for brothers to whom you are not naturally drawn. Is there a brother or sister that you dislike, that you hate? You failed the v.9-11 test

You don’t love God. 4.20-21. You fail the test.

To obey the command is therefore to love your brother. AND to love your brother is also to obey the command of God. You love your brothers by keeping away from sin and the world, by obeying his word. We do not live for ourselves alone. My sin harms the church, my brothers. It’s blatantly seen in the lack of thanksgiving, of joy, in bitterness, backbiting and jealousy, it always infects others. My bad example influences others, especially those close to me. I fail the test of obedience and love.

The Test of Eternity v. 12-17

After discussing the tests by which false teachers will be exposed, he hastens to reassure believers.

“I am writing to you” (x6) “little children” because your sins are forgiven, because you know him who is from the beginning, because you have conquered evil.

He uses 3 expressions to address them: little children, fathers and young people. But the first is general and brings together all the readers. “Little children” = all believers (cf. 2.1, 18, 28 and again 3.7, 18; 4.4; 5.21).

Your sins are forgiven: because you have confessed and forsaken them, and you have believed in Jesus.

You have known the Father (v.13c): you are the people who walk with God in the light, who obey his Word and practice love.

He distinguishes 2 groups: young people and fathers and here it looks like he is talking about the young and the less young.

The fathers: you know the one who is from the beginning (cf 1.1) Jesus.

Young men: you don’t get carried away by lies, because the Word of God abides in you. You remain attached to the word and you reject the error, the lie.

He reassured them, even congratulated them. Now he encourages them in their walk « don’t love the world » because it is going to disappear. By ordering us not to love the world, he also shows that we are naturally inclined to it. We must resist its appeal.

In fact, what defines the value of a person of the world is what they have: a good job, a good salary, a good look, a good notoriety, good possessions and all the pride that they have in life comes from those things.

All of this is what the world gives. And we’re tempted to want to possess it all. But John reminds us of the passing of this world and its lust too, but he who does the will of God remains eternally.

The 3rd test we are subjected to is that of eternity, to live for the things that are valuable, the things that should be pursued, the things that identify us as a Christian. These are the eternal things = the will of God.

If we walk in the light eternal things matter to us.

D. Carson: “Christians are invited to evaluate all things in the light of eternity (v. 17). Woe to him who bases his personal identity and his hope on fleeting things! Billions of years from now, the car you drive today, the amount in your bank account, the position you hold, the accolades you have received, it will all seem like a pittance. And the pride that you will have displayed in these things will strike you as an enormous folly. Whether or not you have obtained an academic or professional award will then be infinitely less important than the loyalty you have shown to your spouse. Whether or not you have been a famous athlete will count infinitely less than the generosity you have shown.


What do you love? The things, the honors, the comfort, and the glory that this world offers or the will of God?


If God is light, let us walk in the light. Have a righteous attitude towards sin, obey the word, and love one another, and, finally, live with an eternal perspective.

We have all passed tests that we have failed. Nobody likes it. And yet it is a crucial moment. We know where we are.

If I have failed thus far I can now come to the light and confess what is wrong with my life: my attitude towards sin, my resistance to God, my lack of love, my heart that lives only for this world which will pass.

Jesus died for this. He forgives, he reconciles us to God.