1 John 1:7 May Not Mean What you Think it Does

1 John 1:7 is one of the more well known verses in the Bible. It gives us comfort because it helps to answer the questions, “how can I know if I will go to heaven when I die? Could my sins keep me out of heaven, even though I try to be a good Christian?”

When these questions are raised, we remind each other of John’s words: “if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” This verse is thus repeated quite often in the context of questions about the security of the believer, with a focus on the fact that the blood of Jesus cleanses us when we walk in the light.

But in focusing exclusively on this one part of the verse, especially when plucking it from the wider context of 1 John 1, we may have neglected to properly consider another part of the verse. Specifically, we may have misunderstood what John means when he says, “we have fellowship with one another.”

While studying 1 John 1 together this past week, myself and many in the church here discovered that “having fellowship with one another” appears to refer NOT specifically to fellow Christians experiencing unity, but rather to the individual in question having fellowship with GOD HIMSELF. Look at the context even just of verses 5 through 7 and see if you do not agree.

 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

The passage states plainly enough that fellowship with Him (capital H) is impossible in the darkness. Fellowship with Him, therefore, is a benefit of walking in the light because “He Himself” is in the light, and walking in the light is thus walking with Him. Greek scholars tell us that the grammar of the original text supports this reading.

Maybe you have always understood this verse to give this teaching, but many such as myself have come to the verse with preconceived notions for so long that we failed to understand it in this way. This can be a reminder to us of the dangers of “proof-texting” to the exclusion of genuine Bible reading, and the importance of coming to the text with an open mind.

Furthermore, this discovery gives us something new to think about. Fellowship with God Himself! To walk in the light is to walk with God! May we grow in true fellowship with Him.

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An Outline of the Letter to the Ephesians

Ephesians is written primarily to Gentiles.

This becomes apparent gradually through the use of the pronouns “you” and “we” to refer to Gentiles and Jews respectively:

  • “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance… to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance.” (1:11-14)
  • Consider similar instances in 2:11-12 and 3:17-19

The central message of Ephesians is the mystery of Gentile inclusion.

The word “mystery” occurs 6 times, more than any other New Testament book.

  • “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.” (1:9)
  • “By revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ… to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (3:3-4,6)
  • Consider also 3:8-9 

The goal of Paul’s writing is to help the Gentiles grasp the magnificence of God’s gift to them.

  • This is achieved through illustrations:
    • You were dead; God made you alive. (2:1-10)
    • You were strangers; God made you fellow citizens. (2:11-22)

The goal of Paul’s prayers is likewise to help the Gentiles grasp the magnificence of God’s gift to them.

  • “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” (1:18-19)
  • Consider also his prayer in 3:14-21

All glory and thanks be to God for His salvation.

  • It was according to His will.
    • He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” (1:4)
    • He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” (1:5)
    • “According to His kind intention.” (1:9)
    • “Having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” (1:11)
  • He acted for His glory.
    • “To the praise of the glory of His grace.” (1:6)
    • “To the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.” (1:12)
    • “To the praise of His glory.” (1:14)
  • It was His grace, not our goodness.
    “Grace” occurs 12 times, more than any book except Romans.

    • “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” (1:7)
    • “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” (2:4-5)
    • “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (2:8-9)

There is a major shift that pivots on “Therefore” in 4:1.

This is a shift from the theological to the practical, and is emphasized by the word “walk,” which occurs 7 times, more than any other epistle.

  • “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” (4:1)
  • “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind.” (4:17)
  • “For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light” (5:8)
  • “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise.” (5:15)

Walk in unity

  • Attitudes to preserve it. (4:1-3)
  • Truths that establish it. (4:4-6)
  • Leaders who seek to preserve it. (4:7-13)
  • Forces that threaten it. (4:14)
  • An illustration of it. (4:15-16)

Walk in purity (5:1-21)

  • Imitate God.
  • Not in darkness, but in light.
  • Not in: immorality, impurity, greed, filthiness, silly talk, coarse jesting, covetousness, drunkenness.
  • Rather: giving thanks, goodness, righteousness, truth, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Walk uprightly in relationships

  • Wives (5:22)
  • Husbands (5:25)
  • Children (6:1)
  • Fathers (6:4)
  • Slaves (6:5)
  • Masters (6:9)

Having given these moral prescriptions, the letter to the Ephesians now gives encouragement and proper tools for the spiritual battle.

  • Armor of God (6:14-17):
    • “Having girded your loins with truth,”
    • “Having put on the breastplate of righteousness,”
    • “Having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace,”
    • “In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith,”
    • “And take the helmet of salvation,”
    • “And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
  • Prayer: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” (6:18)

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