This week, I want to take a brief look at 1:5-2:2.
There are noticeably 6 big “if” statements in this section:
v. 6- “If we say we have fellowship with him but walk in darkness…”
v. 7- “If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light…”
v. 8- “If we say we do not have sin…”
v. 9- “If we say that we haven’t sinned…”
v. 10- “If we say that we have not sinned…”
2:1- “If anyone sins…”
What can we see from comparing these? Well, a few things:
1) Talk is cheap.
Notice that all 3 conditions that John ends up critiquing involve our “saying” something. (v. 6, 9, 10) The danger John sees is not in underestimating our spiritual reality, but in saying more than is actually true of ourselves. Talking big about a non-existent relationship with the Father, talking up our current sinlessness, or denying our past sins. John does not believe in some weird kind of “spoken” spiritual magic. What we choose to say about ourselves does not actually create spiritual reality (sorry, televangelists of today). Heretics that John will deal with later in the letter apparently are known by how much talking they do.
2) “Walking in the light” is not sinlessness, but “needy authenticity.”
This one requires a little logic, but notice how the only spiritual perfection here is found in the misguided statements that John condemns. Which means that what John must mean by “walking in the light” can’t simply be “not sinning.” The three “positive” conditions together are “walk in the light”, “confess our sin” and even “sinning” itself. John wants us to make sure to see that true spirituality, walking in relationship with the Father, is not characterized by our greatness but by our neediness. Walking in the light means our sin is followed by confession; walking in darkness is hiding our sin. John is by no means declaring that the more we sin the more spiritual we are. But he is saying that more we confess our sin, the closer our walk with the Father in the light really is.
3) There are beautiful rewards for needy authenticity.
-fellowship with one another. -every sin cleansed from us by the blood of Jesus his Son. -we experience the faithfulness and righteousness of God. -sins forgiven, cleansed from all unrighteousness. -We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. -we have propitiation for our sins.
4) Inauthentic, proud spirituality is condemned in the strongest of terms.
-we are lying. -we are not practicing the truth. -we deceive ourselves. -the truth is not in us. -we make God a liar. -God’s Word is not in us.
John is encouraging these faithful Christians by reminding them that the neediness they feel after being deserted by the false teachers and the others who left their fellowship is not a bad thing, but is actually what is required for true spirituality, a relationship with God the Father. What is not good is the proud talk of those who have claimed sudden spiritual superstardom.