Let me begin by saying that I appreciate the input thus far and I have only read those who have posted, I have not taken the time yet to read the articles, but I intend to do so.
Also let me say that I believe the entirety of this letter is to believers, not unbelievers or a mixed group of both unbelievers and believers – I believe this to be the obvious truth of all the letters from all the apostles. That is NOT to say that they were unaware of unbelievers being among them for we know they were aware, but that the letters were written for the edification and further instruction of true saints, to me is not even a subject worth debating, since all of scripture was always addressed to God’s covenant people in both testaments, I see no reason to support a departure in this one book or chapter alone.
Fellowship seems to be a central theme in that it is mentioned in prominence 3 times in this first chapter. Given that fellowship means – to have joint-participation with someone else in things possessed in common by both, it changes the entire tone of this chapter in my view and immediately connects with everything else taught throughout the New Testament concerning sin in the believer’s life – especially the words of Paul and Christ Himself. Perhaps the most clear statement of which being in 1Corintians 5, where Paul tells the church to not keep company with a believer who is living in sin. In his second letter to them he talks about the inability to have joint-participation with those who walk in darkness.
SIDENOTE: Here Paul recognizes sin which to me is a problem for those who believe all sin is immediately forgiven the believer as soon as they are born again. If it is forgiven – then to take action based upon the sin rather than the forgiveness is sin itself. If However, payment for sin is what has happened securing forgiveness for all who desire it, then these words are not a problem at all.
Let me say that it is my belief that in no way is John calling into question the security of one’s sonship. This seems to be a pivotal concern and one which I believe began the “calling into question” the veracity of this verse’s connection to the believer in the first place. Nowhere in this 1st chapter is righteousness of “being” offered nor even mentioned so far as I can tell.*
As many have pointed out here, verse 7 is important and I agree for many reasons two of which are….
1)Sin is in the singular
2) The word fellowship is used which I defined above.
John offers no further proofs of his audience being in union with God, than their actions. John of course knew, that actions alone do not save. In fact, all actions can do is affirm a current reality of being born again – it cannot create that state!
His statement to them was as follows…(definitions added)
If you walk (or conduct yourselves) in the light (revealed truth) as He is in the light, we (John and those he was writing to) have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
I have chosen to take this verse as it is written, realizing that in the 6 verses prior to this statement, there is no invitation to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus and enter into relationship with the Father through Him. This SEEMS to point to the idea that those to whom John was writing, were already in a position to have fellowship (joint-participation with and were already those who held those things in common), so long as they were not walking in disobedience to the light.
Considerably different than Ted, my problem was always with verse 7 not verse 9. To me it made no sense at all. It seemed like an empty promise.
It was like saying – so long as you don’t get dirty I’ll keep you clean.
If one is walking in the light – they are not committing sin so far as I can tell – so what exactly is it that Christ’s blood is cleansing them from?
This required more study. In the end I came to the same conclusion as did Wuest even before reading his commentary of the verse,
Wuest says that the word sin here is NOT referring to “known sins”, but sins of omission, which makes perfect sense given the context. He also shows what I believed to be true as well – and that is that the fellowship mentioned is between God and us not between each other.
“Walk” is again present subjunctive, stressing habitual action. It is the habitual actions of a person that are an index to his character. This is a Christian, for only Christians are able to walk in the light that God is and in which He dwells. If we Christians order our behavior within the sphere of the light, John says, “we have fellowship one with another” (A.V.). Now, to whom does the pronoun “we” refer? Does John mean here that we Christians have fellowship with one another, or is it that the Christian and God have fellowship with one another? The theme of the epistle and the immediate context must decide. The theme of First John is “The Saint’s Fellowship with God.” In verse six, John tells his readers who does not have fellowship with God. In verse seven he tells them who does have fellowship with God. While it is true that when saints order their behavior within the sphere of the light they do have fellowship with one another, yet John is not teaching that here. He is concerned with the heresy of Antinomianism and its relation to the Christian in the latter’s relation to God. Thus, those referred to by the pronoun “we” are God and the believer.
The words “one with another” are the translation of a preposition and a reciprocal pronoun in the Greek text. A reciprocal pronoun shows reciprocity. Wonder of wonders, not only do we have fellowship with God, but He reciprocates in having fellowship with us! This fellowship is not a one-sided affair like that of a couple, only one of which is in love with the other.
While we are having this fellowship with Him, the blood of Jesus, His Son, keeps constantly cleansing us from sins of omission, sins of ignorance, sins we know nothing about in our lives and for the reason that we have not grown in grace enough to see that they are sin. These would prevent our fellowship, with God if this divine provision of the constant cleansing away of the defilement of sin in our lives was not taken care of by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. So holy is the God with whom we have fellowship.
This is in agreement with Paul who says to the Corinthian believers,
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” ~ 2 Cor 7:1
This idea of our fellowship with God being linked to our continual “walking in the light” also agrees with another statement Paul made to the Corinthian believers,
2 Cor. 6:11-18,
(11) We have spoken frankly to you, Corinthians. Our hearts are wide open.
(12) We have not cut you off, but you have cut off your own feelings toward us.
(13) Do us a favor-I ask you as my children-and open wide your hearts.
(14) Stop becoming unevenly yoked with unbelievers. What partnership can
righteousness have with lawlessness? What fellowship can light have with darkness?
(15) What harmony exists between Christ and Belial, or what do a believer and an unbeliever have in common?
(16) What agreement can a temple of God make with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said: “I will live and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
(17) Therefore, “Get away from them and separate yourselves from them,” declares the Lord, “and don’t touch anything unclean. Then I will welcome you.
(18) I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters,” declares the Lord Almighty.
It is clear that Paul sees the Corinthians as genuine believers and that an “uneven yoke” for them would be to commune with unbelievers. If in fact light can have no fellowship with darkness, and those mentioned in 1 Jn. 1:7 were not even born again, how could simple external alignment with the teaching of God (walking in the light) cause the genuine fellowship John promises his readers?
The word “fellowship” used in verses 3,6 & 7 and though I’ve said it before the meaning is IMO SO pivotal to the understanding of John’s point that I’ll repeat it. It means “to have joint-participation with someone else in things possessed in common by both,”. It means partnership with, participation, communion…fellowship. According to the New Testament this is NOT even possible for a person so long as they are a non-believer.
If read in the context of fellowship this verse makes perfect sense, and it shows a provision of our salvation which is a stunning display of God’s foresight and careful concern regarding us
So in verse 8 we are encouraged to not hide from an awareness of sin in our lives but to acknowledge its presence and never to deny it exists or we will be calling God a liar with the already established result of temporarily failing to walk in agreement with Him and thus, not jointly-participating in our union with Him. How can two walk together unless they agree? Failure to acknowledge sin does NOT sever relationship, but it DOES compromise joint-partnership. Though estranged lovers at that moment we may be, lovers still we are!
So in 1 Jn. 1:9, it seems to me that John is talking to the believer. Not about WHO they are, NOR about their righteousness of BEING, but of their allegiances and fellowships with darkness. If we will make it a habit of life to continue to run TOO God in agreement with Him in regards to our sins –
– that they are ungodly
– that they are actions of broken union
– that they are acts of independence from the One with Whom we are One
– and if we agree with the sacrifice of Christ as payment for that treason – God will bathe us in that blood and cleanse us from all external defilements we gained in our temporary ”affair” with darkness.
Notice that the verse does NOT say – he will make you righteous but that He will cleanse us from unrighteousness. I think the only English word that could be added which might offer more clarity is “acts” of unrighteousness.
This seems to me to be the condition of a child who has willfully played in the mud with his dress cloths on. The garments are dirty as is the external visage of the child – but the mud did not become ONE with the child – it is still external to him. This I believe is the meaning behind the words Christ used at the last supper regarding the cleansing of Christ on the believer.
“One who has bathed,” Jesus told him, “doesn’t need to wash anything except his feet, but he is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you.” ~ John 13:8-10
I believe 1 Jn. 1:9 is not a legal forgiveness as was our initial pardon from the law in coming to Christ. I believe this forgiveness is WITHIN the context of relationship with Him and regards our joint-participation with Him in His reign and his kingdom, which is why Paul so often referenced the kingdom in reference to sin in the life of a believer.
If a stranger is caught in your home stealing – it is a legal issue – BECAUSE he is a stranger. He has no “part” in our homes. If a son or a daughter were caught doing the same it is not a legal issue, it is a familial one. We do not call the police to haul off our children and bring them before the magistrate to demand civil justice over a statutory law that was broken. We DO however, bring them before the family and address it as the internal issue that it is – NOT for the purpose of isolating and shaming, but to restore to proper joint-participation within the home. They DO have a stock in the home and a place there, but their willful act of independence from the good of the entire family and acting outside of union with them HAS to be addressed or there can be no co-partnership. They are still in the family, but if the infraction (sin) is not confessed – or if they do not say the same thing about that sin as does the entire family – there can be no agreement and therefore there can be no co-participation in the union of that family until agreement has been reached. Once confession is made with genuine contrition, the ability to walk in union is restored as well – and in fact was the point all along.
Jesus said as much to Peter just before washing his feet. Christ told him that if he would not allow Christ to clean him – he would have no part with Christ. The word part is complimentary in meaning to the idea of fellowship. It means he has no stake in, nor participation in Christ. But once initially cleansed he does, but needs to keep his feet clean. So the child has a part and stake in the family, though he acted unilaterally and selfishly – he is still a son, and God weeps over him as David did Absalom.
This all adds up to me in a very clear way in which the power of the cross is not minimized, the completeness of redemption is glorified and the participation of our union is magnified.
I wonder what your thoughts are on this.