1 John 1:7
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.
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1 John


1 John 1:7.

John was the Apostle of love, but he was also a ‘son of thunder.’ His intense moral earnestness and his very love made him hate evil, and sternly condemn it; and his words flash and roll as no other words in Scripture, except the words of the Lord of love. In the immediate context he has been laying down what is to him the very heart of his message, that ‘God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.’ There are spots in the sun, great tracts of blackness on its radiant disc; but in God is unmingled, perfect purity. That being so, it is clear that no man can be in sympathy or hold communion with Him, unless he, too, in his measure, is light.

So, with fiery indignation, John turns to the people, of whom there were some, even in the primitive Church, who made claims to a lofty spirituality and communion with God, and all the while were manifestly living in the darkness of sin. He will not mince matters with them. He roundly says that they are lying, and the worst sort of lie--an acted lie: ‘They do not the truth.’ Then, with a quick turn, he opposes to these pretenders the men who really are in fellowship with God, and in my text lays down the principle that walking in the light is essential to fellowship with God. Only, in his usual fashion, he turns the antithesis into a somewhat different form, so as to suggest another aspect of the truth, and instead of saying, as we might expect for the verbal accuracy of the contrast, ‘If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with God,’ he says, ‘we have fellowship one with another.’ Then he adds a still further result of that walk, ‘the blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin.’

Now there are three things: walking in the light, which is the only Christian walk; the companions of those who walk in the light; and the progressive cleansing which is given.

I. Note this ‘Walking in the light,’ which is the only Christian walk.

In all languages, light is the natural symbol for three things: knowledge, joy, purity. The one ray is broken into its three constituent parts. But just as there are some surfaces which are sensitive to the violet rays, say, of the spectrum, and not to the others, so John’s intense moral earnestness makes him mainly sensitive to the symbolism which makes light the expression, not so much of knowledge or of joy, as of moral purity. And although that is not exclusively his use of the emblem, it is predominately so, and it is so here. To ‘walk in the light’ then, is, speaking generally, to have purity, righteousness, goodness, as the very element and atmosphere in which our progressive and changeful life is carried on.

Note, too, before I go further, that very significant antithesis: we ‘walk’; He is--God is in the light essentially, changelessly, undisturbedly, eternally; and the light in which He is, His ‘own calm home, His habitation from eternity,’ is light which has flowed out from Himself as a halo round the midnight moon. It is all one in substance to say God is in light, or, as the Psalmist has it, ‘He covered Himself with light as with a garment,’ and to say, ‘God is light.’

But, side by side with that changeless abiding in the perfect purity, which is inaccessible, the Apostle ventures to put, not in contrast only, but in parallel {as He is}, our changing, effortful, active, progressive life in the light {God is}; we walk.

So, then, the essential of a Christian character is that the light of purity and moral goodness shall be as the very orb, in the midst of which it stands and advances. That implies effort, and it implies activity, and it implies progress. And we are only Christians in the measure in which the conscious activities of our daily lives, and the deepest energies of our inward being, are bathed and saturated with this love of, and effort after, righteousness. It is vain, says John, to talk about fellowship with God, unless the fellowship is rooted in sympathy with Him in that which is the very heart of his Being, the perfect light of perfect holiness. Test your Christianity by that.

Then, still further, there is implied in this great requirement of walking in the light, not only activity and effort, and progress and purity, but also that the whole of the life shall be brought into relation with, and shall be moulded after, the pattern of the God in whom we profess to believe. Religion, in its deepest meaning, is the aspiration after likeness to the god. You see it in heathenism. Men make their gods after their own image, and then the god makes the worshippers after his image. Mars is the god of the soldier, and Venus goddess of the profligate, and Apollo god of the musical and the wise, etc., and in Christianity the deepest thing in it is aspiration and effort after likeness to God. Love is imitation; admiration, especially when it is raised to the highest degree and becomes adoration, is imitation. And the man that lies before God, like a mirror in the sunshine, receives on the still surface of his soul--but not, like the mirror, on the surface only, but down into its deepest depths--the reflected image of Him on Whom he gazes. ‘We all with unveiled face, mirroring glory, are changed into the same image.’ So to walk in the light is only possible when we are drawn into it, and our feeble feet made fit to tread upon the radiant glory, by the thought that He is in the light. To imitate Him is to be righteous. So do not let us forget that a correct creed, and devout emotions, ay! and a morality which has no connection with Him, are all imperfect, and that the end of all our religion, our orthodox creed and our sweet emotions and inward feelings of acceptance and favour and fellowship, are meant to converge on, and to produce this--a life and a character which lives and moves and has its being in a great orb of light and purity.

But another thing is included in this grand metaphor of my text. Not only does it enjoin upon us effort and activity and progress in the light and the linking of all our purity with God, but also, it bids us shroud no part of our conduct or our character either from ourselves or from Him. Bring it all out into the light. And although with a penitent heart, and a face suffused with blushes, we have sometimes to say, ‘See, Father, what I have done!’ it is far better that the revealing light should shine down upon us, and like the sunshine on wet linen, melt away the foulness which it touches, than that we should huddle the ugly thing up in a corner, to be one day revealed and transfixed by the flash of the light turned into lightning. ‘He that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest.’

II. So much, then, for my first point; the second is: The companions of the men that walk in the light.

I have already pointed out that the accurate, perhaps pedantically accurate, form of the antithesis would have been: ‘If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with God.’ But John says, first, ‘we have fellowship one with another.’ Underlying that, as I shall have to say in a moment, there is the other thought: ‘We have fellowship with God.’ But he deals with the other side of the truth first. That just comes to this, that the only cement that perfectly knits men to each other is their common possession of that light, and the consequent fellowship with God. There are plenty of other bonds that draw us to one another; but these, if they are not strengthened by this deepest of all bonds, the affinity of souls, that are moving together in the realm of light and purity, are precarious, and apt to snap. Sin separates men quite as much as it separates each man from God. It is the wedge driven into the tree that rends it apart. Human society with its various bonds is like the iron hoop that may be put around the barrel staves, giving them a quasi-unity. The one thing that builds men together into a whole is that each shall be, as it were, embedded in the rock which is the foundation, and the building will rise into a holy temple in the Lord. Sin separates; as the prophet confessed, ‘All we like sheep have gone astray, every one to his own way,’ and the flock is broken up into a multitude of scattered sheep. Social enthusiasts may learn the lesson that the only way by which brotherhood among men can become anything else than a name, and probably end, as it did in the great French Revolution, in ‘brothers’ making the catacombs of their brethren under the guillotine, is that it shall be the corollary from the Fatherhood of God. If we walk in the light, not otherwise, we have ‘fellowship one with another.’

Then, still further, in this fellowship one with another, John presupposes the fellowship with God for each, which makes the possibility and the certainty of all being drawn into one family. He does not think it necessary to state, what is so plain and obvious, viz., that unless we are in sympathy with God, in our aspiration and effort after the light which is His home and ours, we have no real communion with Him. I said that sin separated man from man, and disrupted all the sweet bonds of amity, so that if men come into contact, being themselves in the darkness, they come into collision rather than into communion. A company of travellers in the night are isolated individuals. When the sun rises on their paths they are a company again. And in like manner, sin separates us from God, and if our hearts are turned towards, and denizens of, the darkness of impurity, then we have no communion with Him. He cannot come to us if we love the darkness. He

‘Can but listen at the gate,

And hear the household jar within.’

The tide of the Atlantic feels along the base of iron-bound cliffs on our western shores, and there is not a crevice into which it can come. So God moves about us, but is without us, so long as we walk in darkness. So let us remember that no union with Him is possible, except there be this common dwelling in the light. Two grains of quicksilver laid upon a polished surface will never unite if their surfaces be dusted over with minute impurities, or if the surface of one of them be. Clean away the motes, and they will coalesce and be one. A film of sin separates men from God. And if the film be removed the man dwells in God, and God in him.

III. That brings me to my last point: The progressive cleansing of those who dwell in the light.

‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.’ Now if you will notice the whole context, and eminently the words a couple of verses after my text, you will see that the cleansing here meant is not the cleansing of forgiveness, but the cleansing of purifying. For the two things are articulately distinguished in the ninth verse: ‘He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ So, to use theological terms, it is not justification, but sanctification that is meant here.

Then there is another thing to be noticed, and that is that when the Apostle speaks here about the blood of Christ, he is not thinking of that blood as shed on the Cross, the atoning sacrifice, but of that blood as transfused into the veins, the source there of our new life. The Old Testament says that ‘the blood is the life.’ Never mind about the statement being scientifically correct; it conveys the idea of the time, which underlies a great deal of Old and New Testament teaching. And when John says the blood of Jesus cleanses from ‘all sin,’ he says just the same thing as his brother Paul said, ‘the law of the spirit of life in Jesus Christ makes me free from the law of sin and death.’ That is to say, a growing cleansing from the dominion and the power of sin is granted to us, if we have the life of Jesus Christ breathed into our lives. The metaphor is a very strong one. They tell us--I know nothing about the truth of it--that sometimes it has been possible to revive a moribund man by transfusing into his veins blood from another. That is a picture of the only way by which you and I can become free from the tyranny that dominates us. We must have the life of Christ as the animating principle of our lives, the spirit of Jesus emancipating us from the power of sin and death.

So you see, there are two aspects of Christ’s great work set before us under that one metaphor of the blood in its two-fold form, first, as shed for us sinners on the Cross; second, as poured into our veins day by day. That works progressive cleansing. It covers the whole ground of all possible iniquity. Pardon is much, purifying is more. The sacrifice on the Cross is the basis of everything, but that sacrifice does not exhaust what Christ does for us. He died for our sins, and lives for our sanctifying. He died for us, He lives in us. Because He died, we are forgiven; because He lives, we are made pure. Only remember John’s ‘if.’ The ‘blood of Jesus will progressively cleanse us until it has cleansed us from all sin,’ on condition that we ‘walk in the light,’ not otherwise. If the main direction of our lives is towards the light; if we seek, by aspiration and by effort, and by deliberate choice, to live in holiness, then, and not else, will the power of the life of Jesus Christ deliver us from the power of sin and death.

Now, my text presupposes that the people to whom it is addressed, and whom it concerns, have already passed from darkness into light, if not wholly, yet in germ. But for those who have not so passed, there is something to be said before my text. And John says it immediately; here it is, ‘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 our sins only, but for the whole world.’ So we have to begin with the blood shed for us, the means of our pardon, and then we have the advance of the blood sprinkled on us, the means of our cleansing. If by humble faith we take the dying Lord for our Saviour, and the channel of our forgiveness, we shall have the pardon of our sins. If we listen to the voice that says, ‘Ye were sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light,’ we shall have fellowship with the living Lord, and daily know more and more of the power of His cleansing blood, making us ‘meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.’

1:5-10 A message from the Lord Jesus, the Word of life, the eternal Word, we should all gladly receive. The great God should be represented to this dark world, as pure and perfect light. As this is the nature of God, his doctrines and precepts must be such. And as his perfect happiness cannot be separated from his perfect holiness, so our happiness will be in proportion to our being made holy. To walk in darkness, is to live and act against religion. God holds no heavenly fellowship or intercourse with unholy souls. There is no truth in their profession; their practice shows its folly and falsehood. The eternal Life, the eternal Son, put on flesh and blood, and died to wash us from our sins in his own blood, and procures for us the sacred influences by which sin is to be subdued more and more, till it is quite done away. While the necessity of a holy walk is insisted upon, as the effect and evidence of the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus, the opposite error of self-righteous pride is guarded against with equal care. All who walk near to God, in holiness and righteousness, are sensible that their best days and duties are mixed with sin. God has given testimony to the sinfulness of the world, by providing a sufficient, effectual Sacrifice for sin, needed in all ages; and the sinfulness of believers themselves is shown, by requiring them continually to confess their sins, and to apply by faith to the blood of that Sacrifice. Let us plead guilty before God, be humble, and willing to know the worst of our case. Let us honestly confess all our sins in their full extent, relying wholly on his mercy and truth through the righteousness of Christ, for a free and full forgiveness, and our deliverance from the power and practice of sin.But if we walk in the light - Compare the notes at 1 John 1:5. Walking in the light may include the three following things:

(1) Leading lives of holiness and purity; that is, the Christian must be characteristically a holy man, a light in the world, by his example.

(2) walking in the truth; that is, embracing the truth in opposition to all error of paganism and infidelity, and having clear, spiritual views of truth, such as the unrenewed never have. See 2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 2:9-15; Ephesians 1:18.

(3) enjoying the comforts of religion; that is, having the joy which religion is fitted to impart, and which it does impart to its true friends, Psalm 94:19; Isaiah 57:8; 2 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 13:11. Compare the notes at John 12:35.

As he is in the light - In the same kind of light that he has. The measure of light which we may have is not the same in degree, but it is of the same kind. The true Christian in his character and feelings resembles God.

We have fellowship one with another - As we all partake of his feelings and views, we shall resemble each other. Loving the same God, embracing the same views of religion, and living for the same ends, we shall of course have much that is common to us all, and thus shall have fellowship with each other.

And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin - See the sentiment here expressed fully explained in the notes at Hebrews 9:14. When it is said that his blood cleanses us from all sin, the expression must mean one of two things - either that it is through that blood that all past sin is forgiven, or that that blood will ultimately purify us from all transgression, and make us perfectly holy. The general meaning is plain, that in regard to any and every sin of which we may be conscious, there is efficacy in that blood to remove it, and to make us wholly pure. There is no stain made by sin so deep that the blood of Christ cannot take it entirely away from the soul. The connection here, or the reason why this is introduced here, seems to be this: The apostle is stating the substance of the message which he had received, 1 John 1:5. The first or leading part of it was, that God is light, and in him is no darkness, and that his religion requires that all his friends should resemble him by their walking in the light. Another, and a material part of the same message was, that provision was made in his religion for cleansing the soul from sin, and making it like God. No system of religion intended for man could be adapted to his condition which did not contain this provision, and this did contain it in the most full and ample manner. Of course, however, it is meant that that blood cleanses from all sin only on the conditions on which its efficacy can be made available to man - by repentance for the past, and by a cordial reception of the Saviour through faith.

7. Compare Eph 5:8, 11-14. "We walk"; "God is (essentially in His very nature as 'the light,' 1Jo 1:5) in the light." Walking in the light, the element in which God Himself is, constitutes the test of fellowship with Him. Christ, like us, walked in the light (1Jo 2:6). Alford notices, Walking in the light as He is in the light, is no mere imitation of God, but an identity in the essential element of our daily walk with the essential element of God's eternal being.

we have fellowship one with another—and of course with God (to be understood from 1Jo 1:6). Without having fellowship with God there can be no true and Christian fellowship one with another (compare 1Jo 1:3).

and—as the result of "walking in the light, as He is in the light."

the blood of Jesus … cleanseth us from all sin—daily contracted through the sinful weakness of the flesh, and the power of Satan and the world. He is speaking not of justification through His blood once for all, but of the present sanctification ("cleanseth" is present tense) which the believer, walking in the light and having fellowship with God and the saints, enjoys as His privilege. Compare Joh 13:10, Greek, "He that has been bathed, needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit." Compare 1Jo 1:9, "cleanse us from all unrighteousness," a further step besides "forgiving us our sins." Christ's blood is the cleansing mean, whereby gradually, being already justified and in fellowship with God, we become clean from all sin which would mar our fellowship with God. Faith applies the cleansing, purifying blood. Some oldest manuscripts omit "Christ"; others retain it.

But if we walk; which is a continued and progressive motion, i.e. do persevere and improve in holiness.

In the light; being transformed into the holy image and likeness of God, and showing themselves the children of light, as he is light, and the Father of lights. We have fellowship one with another; have fellowship with him, met autou, as one copy reads: however, we must comprehend God, and this the contexture of discourse shows.

And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin; kayarizei lest our purity and holiness should be thought to have deserved such a privilege, it is cautiously added,

and the blood, & c. is that which alone expiates, or makes atonement for our sins (the proper notion of cleansing here). Our former sinfulness and present imperfect holiness render it impossible God should admit us to communion with him for our own sakes, or without such an intervening sacrifice; kayarmata usually signifying expiations. And if we further extend the notion of cleansing, so as to comprehend internal subjective purification, (which also the word may admit), the further meaning is, that even that purifying influence, whereby we are qualified for present holy walking with God, and for final blessedness in him, we owe to the merit and procurement of the Redeemer’s blood.

But if we walk in the light,.... Are persons enlightened by the Spirit of God, so as to have a true sight and sense of sin, to know Christ, and the way of salvation by him; and are children of the light, and are going on and increasing in spiritual light and knowledge; walk on in Christ, the light, by faith, and in the light and truth of the Gospel, and as becomes it, and as children of light; and as such who are called out of darkness into marvellous light:

as he is in the light; according to the light which he has given, who is light itself, is in it, and dwells in it. This "as" denotes not equality, but likeness: when this is the case, then it is a clear point, that

we have fellowship one with another; not with the saints, with the apostles, and other Christians, but with God: "we have mutual communion", as the Arabic version renders it; God with us, and we with him. Some copies read, "with him", as in 1 John 1:6; and such a reading the sense requires; and agreeably to this the Ethiopic version renders it, "and we are partakers among ourselves with him"; that is, we all jointly and mutually appear to be like him, and partake of his nature, and have communion with him; and not only so, but with his Son Jesus Christ, as appears from our having a share in the cleansing efficacy of his blood:

and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin: there is a pollution on human nature, which is original, natural, universal, and internal, and is such that nothing can remove but the blood of Christ; not ceremonial ablutions and sacrifices, nor moral duties, nor evangelical performances, or submission to Gospel ordinances, and particularly baptism, which is not the putting away the faith of the flesh; nor even the graces of the Spirit, no, not faith, no otherwise than as it has to do with this blood; for this cleansing is not to be understood of sanctification, for that more properly belongs to the Spirit of God, and besides, does not cleanse from all sin; for notwithstanding this, sin is in the saints: but either of the atonement of sin, by the sacrifice of Christ, and so of a complete justification from it by his blood, which is put for both his active and passive obedience, the one being finished in the other; or rather of the pardon of sin, procured by the blood of Christ, and the application of that blood to the conscience, which purges it from dead works, and which has a continued virtue in it for that purpose. Christ's blood, being applied by the Spirit of God, has been always cleansing from sin; it had this virtue in it, and was of this use, even before it was actually shed, to the Old Testament saints; whence Christ is said to be the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; and it has the same efficacy now as when first shed, and will have to the end of the world; and being sprinkled upon the conscience, by the Spirit of God, it takes away the sins of believers, and cleanses from them, as fast as the corruption of nature rises, or sins appear; and removes them out of their sight, and speaks peace to their souls; and which is owing, as to the dignity of Christ's person and the value of his sacrifice, so to his continual intercession, advocacy, and mediation; and which reaches to all sin, original and actual, secret and open sins; sins of heart, thought, lip, and life; sins of omission and commission, greater or lesser sins, committed against light and knowledge, grace and mercy, law and Gospel, all but the sin against the Holy Ghost; and in this Christ was the antitype of the scape goat, of which the Jews say (g), that

"it atoned for all the transgressions of the law, whether small or great, sins of presumption, or of ignorance, known, or not known, which were against an affirmative or negative command, which deserved cutting off (by the hand of God), or death by the sanhedrim.''

The Arabic and Ethiopic versions render it, "from all our sins"; and this must be ascribed to the greatness of his person, as the Son of God; wherefore the emphasis lies on these words, "his Son": the Son of God, who is equal with God, and is truly and properly God: as it must be the blood of man that must, according to the law, be shed, to atone for and expiate sin, and cleanse from it, and that of an innocent man, who is holy, harmless, and without sin; so it must not be the blood of a mere man, though ever so holy, but the blood of one that is God as well as man; see Acts 20:28. The divine nature of the Son of God, being in union with the human nature, put virtue into his blood to produce such an effect, which still continues, and will, as long as there is any occlusion for it.

(g) Misn. Shebuot, c. 1. sect. 6.

But if we walk in the {d} light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, {4} and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

(d) God is said to be light by his own nature, and to be in light, that is to say, in that everlasting infinite blessedness: and we are said to walk in light in that the beams of that light shine to us in the Word.

(4) A digression the matter at hand, to the remission of sins: for this our sanctification who walk in the light, is a testimony of our joining and knitting together with Christ: but because this our light is very dark, we must obtain another benefit in Christ, that is, that our sins may be forgiven us being sprinkled with his blood: and this in conclusion is the support and anchor of our salvation.

1 John 1:7. This verse does not merely repeat in its antithetical form the preceding thought, but contains also—as is peculiar to John’s lively fertility of ideas—an expansion of it.

ἐὰν δὲ ἐν τῷ φωτὶ περιπατῶμεν] is contrasted not only with the preceding (ἐὰν) ἐν τῷ σκότει περιπατῶμεν, but also with ἐὰν εἴπωμεν, ὅτι κοιν. ἐχ. μετʼ αὐτοῦ (so also Ebrard), thus: “if we do not merely say that we have fellowship with God, and yet at the same time walk in darkness, but if we really walk ἐν τῷ φωτί.”

ἐν τῷ φωτὶ περιπατεῖν is not “to strive after likeness to God” (Lücke), but so to walk that the light (by which, however, we are not, with Weiss, to understand only knowledge) is the element in which our light moves; this, however, is a life which does not consist in striving after likeness to God, but which has this already as its own, or which is an ἔχειν κοινωνίαν μετʼ αὐτοῦ with Him who is light. This unity between walking in the light and fellowship with God is even more clearly brought out by the following words: ὡς αὐτός ἐστιν ἐν τῷ φωτί] ὡς, because it is the same element in which the true Christian walks and in which God “lives and works” (Düsterdieck, Brückner), inasmuch as the Christian has become θείας κοινωνὸς φύσεως (2 Peter 1:4).

αὐτός refers back to αὐτοῦ, 1 John 1:6, and is put for Θεός. The idea “that God is in the light” is the same as this “that God is light;” that which is the nature of God is also the element of His life; the expression used here is occasioned by the preceding ἐν τῷ φωτὶ περιπατεῖν; Ebrard incorrectly explains: “God has chosen for His habitation the spheres of the sinless, holy, and pure life of the angels and those made perfect;” there is not the slightest hint at such a conception in the context. As Weiss denies to the expression φῶς an ethical reference, and explains ἐν τῷ φωτὶ περιπατεῖν = “to walk in a state of right knowledge,” the clause ὡς αὐτός ἐστιν ἐν τῷ φωτί necessarily causes him a difficulty, which he can only solve by the supposition “that an idea similar to that in 1 Timothy 6:16 was before the apostle’s mind, and that he institutes a parallel between the walk of the Christian in the light of true knowledge, and the dwelling of God in the brightness of His glory,” in which it is plainly ignored that the second ἐν τῷ φωτί must necessarily have the same meaning as the first ἐν τῷ φωτί.

ἐστι is contrasted with περιπατῶμεν; the former is peculiar to God, the latter to men; the former (being) to Him who is eternal, the latter (walking) to him who is temporal.

κοινωνίαν ἔχομεν μετʼ ἀλλήλων] Several commentators wrongly deviate from the statement of the apostle, by interpreting as if “μετʼ αὐτοῦ” were used instead of μετʼ ἀλλήλων, as indeed the reading of some is (see the critical notes); or by understanding—quite unsuitably

ἀλλήλων of God and men; so Calvin: quod dicit, societatem esse nobis mutuam, non simpliciter ad homines refertur, sed Deum in una parte, nos autem in altera; the same interpretation in Augustin, Beza, Socinus, Hornejus, Lange, Spener, Russmeyer, Ewald, etc. De Wette, it is true, interprets ἀλλήλων correctly, but supplies “μετὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ,” thus: “we have fellowship one with another, namely with God;” against this explanation are: first, that then John would not have mentioned the very leading thought; and, secondly, that a tautological idea results from it (Lücke), for a περιπατεῖν ἐν τῷ φωτί is only possible through the κοινωνία μετὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ, nay, even is the necessary proof of it. The subject here is much rather the fellowship of Christians with one another (Bede, Lyranus, Grotius, Wolf, Bengel, Semler, Lücke, Baumgarten-Crusius, Neander, Sander, Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Braune, Brückner, etc.), and indeed quite generally, not, as Bengel considers, so that the apostle and his readers (nos et vos) would be regarded as the two parts bound together. The brotherly fellowship of Christians with one another ἐν ἀγάπῃ presupposes therefore the walking in light, or in fellowship with God, of which it is the necessary consequence.

With such a walk a second element is, however, united, namely: καὶ τὸ αἷμα Ἰησοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ καθαρίζει ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἁμαρτίας.

τὸ αἶμα Ἰησοῦ] is not a metonymical expression for “the consideration of His death” (Socinus, Episcopius, Grotius, etc.),[55] but: the blood which Jesus (thus spoken of here as incarnate) shed as an offering at His death; or: the bloody sacrificial death of the Lord (Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Braune).[56]

ΤΟῦ ΥἹΟῦ ΑὐΤΟῦ] is “not merely added as a name of honour,” but also not “to indicate the close connection between the cause of God and Christ,” as Baumgarten-Crusius says, but in order to bring out the identity of the crucified One with the Son of God (so also the incarnation of the Son of God); compare chap. 1 John 5:6; at the same time, however, there lies in it an indication how the blood of Jesus can have the effect which the apostle attributes to it (so also Ebrard).

ΚΑΘΑΡΊΖΕΙ ἩΜᾶς ἈΠῸ ΠΆΣΗς ἉΜΑΡΤΊΑς] may mean either the cleansing from guilt, i.e. the forgiveness of sins (Bede, Socinus, a Lapide, Calov, Lange, Baumgarten-Crusius, Erdmann, Weiss, etc.), or cleansing from sin itself, its eradication (Lücke, Frommann, “Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Myrberg, Braune, Ewald, etc.), or, finally, both together (Spener, Hornejus, Bengel, de Wette, Brückner). According to 1 John 1:9, where ἀφιέναι τὰς ἁμαρτίας and ΚΑΘΑΡΊΖΕΙΝ ἈΠῸ ΠΆΣΗς ἈΔΙΚΊΑς are placed together and thus distinguished from one another, the second view must be regarded as the correct one,[57] as indeed the context also demands; for, as the fact that even the believer has still continually sin is in opposition to the exhortation to περιπατεῖν ἐν τῷ φωτί, the apostle had to point out that sin is ever disappearing more and more, and how, so that the walk which is troubled by it may still be considered as a walk in light, and that in spite of sin there may exist a fellowship with God, who is light. As ΠΕΡΙΠΑΤΕῖΝ ἘΝ Τῷ ΦΩΤΊ is given as the condition (not as the means, which the blood of Christ is) of ΚΑΘΑΡΊΖΕΣΘΑΙ, and as the subject here therefore is not the change, wrought by the blood of Christ, of man from a child of darkness into a child of light, but the growing transformation of him who has already become a child of light, the present καθαρίζει is not to be turned into the preterite, but is to be retained as the present; Spener: “He purifies us ever more and more until the final perfect purity.” Comp. Gospel of John 15:2.[58]

ἀπὸ πάσης ἉΜΑΡΤΊΑς, “from every sin;” sins are regarded as the single dark spots which still continually trouble the Christian’s walk in light. The καί which connects the two parts of the subordinate clause is explained by Oecumenius, Theophylact, Beza, Lange, Semler, etc. = nam. Sander recognises the grammatical incorrectness of this interpretation, but is of opinion that the second clause is to be taken as causal, as the basis and condition of the first; but even this is arbitrary. According to de Wette, “καί connects directly with the idea of fellowship the progressive and highest perfection of it;” but this view is founded on the incorrect assumption that the subject of the first clause is fellowship with God. Ebrard thinks that John in these two clauses together expresses the idea of ΚΟΙΝΩΝΊΑ with God, while he “analyzes it forthwith into its two elements: the fellowship of believers with one another, and the fellowship and participation in the divine vital power;” but it is in the first place incorrect to describe the ΚΟΙΝΩΝΊΑ ΜΕΤʼ ἈΛΛΉΛΩΝ as an clement of the κοινωνία μετὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ, and in the second place the purifying efficacy of the blood of Jesus can much less be regarded as an element of it; besides, Ebrard has clearly been induced to add the word “participation,” through the perception that the idea of fellowship is quite unsuitable to the second clause. While the ΚΟΙΝΩΝΊΑ ΜΕΤᾺ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ is manifestly presupposed before the ΠΕΡΙΠΑΤΕῖΝ ἘΝ Τῷ ΦΩΤΊ, these two clauses express rather the “double fruit of our walk in light, of our living fellowship with God, who is light” (Düsterdieck); but when John puts ΚΟΙΝΩΝΊΑ ΜΕΤʼ ἈΛΛΉΛΩΝ first, he thereby indicates that it is the sphere within which the purifying power of the blood of Christ operates on each individual (Brückner, Braune). Besides, it may be observed that the second clause is intended to point out the progressive growth of Christian life, and cannot therefore suitably precede the first clause.

[55] That the operation of the blood of Jesus on us is to be regarded as conditioned by faith is evident; but there is no justification in this for paraphrasing τὸ αἶμα by “faith in the blood.”

[56] It is unjustifiable for Myrberg to say: quum hic sanguis nominatur, de toto opere Christi Mediatoris, immo de toto Christo Deum nobis et nos Deo reconciliante ac opus divinum in nobis operante cogitare debemus.

[57] Against Erdmann’s assertion: “Quum notio αἴματος J. Christi in s. seriptis aeque ac mors ejus semper vim expiandi habeat atque idem quod ἱλασμός signifleet (1 John 2:2), etiam h. l. expiatio ab apostolo designatur, qua sola fieri potest, ut peccata nobis condonentur,” it is to be observed that in scripture the vis expiandi only is by no means ascribed to the blood of Christ; comp. 1 Peter 1:18. In opposition to the assertion of Weiss, that “we cannot imagine how the blood of Christ should effect a deliverance from sin,” it may be stated that a forgiveness of sin which produces no deliverance from sin, is no true forgiveness; comp. Titus 2:14. Forgiveness is here to be associated with the thought only in so far as it is the necessary presupposition of that deliverance.

[58] In what this purifying efficacy of the αἶμα Ἰησοῦ is founded, John does not here say; but from the fact that in ver. 9 the ἀφιέναι τὰς ἁμαρτίας is put before the καθαρίζειν, and Christ in chap. 1 John 2:2 is described as ἱλασμός, it follows, that according to John the purifying power is associated with the blood of Christ in so far as it is the blood of atonement. Ebrard improperly separates the two elements from one another, ascribing to the death of Christ “the power of purifying our hearts from sin, because in Christ’s death sin is condemned;” and, on the other hand, “the power of making atonement and obtaining forgiveness, because in Christ’s death the debt was paid and mercy procured.”—When Frommann says: “The power that purifies from sin does not exactly lie in the blood of Christ itself, but in the love of God, of which Christ in His bloody death is the most speaking token, and of the existence of which He supplies the most unquestionable evidence,” this is clearly an inadmissible twisting of the apostle’s words.

7. A further inference from the first principle laid down in 1 John 1:5 : walking in the light involves not only fellowship with God but fellowship with the brethren. This verse takes the opposite hypothesis to that just considered and expands it. We often find (comp. 1 John 1:9) that S. John while seeming to go back or repeat, really progresses and gives us something fresh. It would have enforced 1 John 1:6, but it would have told us nothing fresh, to say ‘if we walk in the light, and say that we have fellowship with Him, we speak the truth, and do not lie’. And it is interesting to find that the craving to make this verse the exact antithesis of the preceding one has generated another reading, ‘we have fellowship with Him’, instead of ‘with one another’. This reading is as old as the second century, for Tertullian (De Pud. XIX.) quotes, ‘si vero’, inquit, ‘in lumine incedamus, communionem cum eo habebimus, et sanguis &c.’ Clement of Alexandria also seems to have known of this reading. This is evidence of the early date of our Epistle; for by the end of the second century important differences of reading had already arisen and become widely diffused.

as He is in the light] We walk, God is: we move through space and time; He is in eternity. Of Him who is everywhere, and knows no change, we can only say, ‘He is’. Comp. the similar thought of S. Paul; ‘Who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable’ (1 Timothy 6:16). That which is light must ever be in light. We then must make our spiritual atmosphere similar to His, that our thoughts and conduct may reflect Him.

fellowship one with another] This certainly refers to the mutual fellowship of Christians among themselves, as is clear from 1 John 3:23, 1 John 4:7; 1 John 4:12; 2 John 1:5. It does not refer to fellowship between God and man, as S. Augustine and others, desiring to make this verse parallel to 1 John 1:6, have interpreted. S. John would scarcely express the relation between God and man by such a phrase as ‘we have fellowship with one another’ (μετ' ἀλλήλων). Contrast ‘I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’ (John 20:17). In that ‘thick darkness’, which prevailed ‘in all the land of Egypt three days, they saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days’ (Exodus 10:22-23): i.e. there was an absolute cessation of fellowship. Society could not continue in the dark: but when the light returned, society was restored. So also in the spiritual world: when the light comes, individuals have that communion one with another which in darkness is impossible. In a similar spirit Cicero declares that real friendship is impossible without virtue (De Amic. vi. 20).

and the blood of Jesus Christ] Omit ‘Christ’ with all the oldest authorities: so also Wiclif and Tyndale’s first edition. The ‘and’ shews that this is a further consequence of walking in the light. “For this is the virtue of the Lord’s blood, that such as it has already purified from sin, and thenceforward has set in the light, it renders thenceforward pure, if they continue steadfastly walking in the light” (Tertull. De Mod. XIX.). One who walks in spiritual darkness cannot appropriate that cleansing from sin, which is wrought by the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross as a propitiation for sin.

His Son] Not redundant: (1) it is a passing contradiction of Cerinthus, who taught that Jesus was a mere man when His blood was shed, for the Divine element in His nature left Him when He was arrested in the garden; and of the Ebionites, who taught that He was a mere man from His birth to His death; (2) it explains how this blood can have such virtue: it is the blood of One who is the Son of God.

cleanseth] Note the present tense of what goes on continually; that constant cleansing which even the holiest Christians need (see on John 13:10). One who lives in the light knows his own frailty and is continually availing himself of the purifying power of Christ’s sacrificial death. “This passage shews that the gratuitous pardon of sins is given us not once only, but that it is a benefit perpetually residing in the Church, and daily offered to the faithful” (Calvin). Note also the ‘all’; there is no limit to its cleansing power: even grievous sinners can be restored to the likeness of God, in whom is no darkness at all. This refutes by anticipation the error of the Novatians, who denied pardon to mortal sins after baptism. Comp. ‘How much more shall the blood of Christ … cleanse your conscience’ (Hebrews 9:14), and ‘These are they which come out of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’ (Revelation 7:14).

1 John 1:7. Ὡς, as) Imitation of God is the test of fellowship with Him.—αὐτὸς, He Himself) God. So the Hebrews often say, הוא, He, that is, God. So αὐτὸς, 1Ma 3:22.—ἔστιν, is) This word is more inward, and more worthy of God, than to walk.—κοινωνίαν ἔχομεν, we have fellowship) that is, Then we truly say, that we have fellowship: for walking in the light certainly and immediately follows this.—μετ ̓ ἀλλήλων) mutual, between us and you: 1 John 1:3 : for ἀλλήλων, reciprocally, does not appear an appropriate expression respecting God and men: comp. John 20:17. It is however an abbreviated expression: in 1 John 1:6, with Him, understand from 1 John 1:7, and among ourselves [and one with another]: in 1 John 1:7, among us [one with another], understand from 1 John 1:6, with Him. Comp. John 14:10, note.—καὶ τὸ αἷμα, and the blood) Fellowship with the Son of God is described. Respecting the blood, comp. ch. 1 John 5:6; John 6:53-56; Revelation 1:5.—καθαρίζει ἡμᾶς, cleanseth us) by remission and taking away: comp. 1 John 1:9.—πάσης, all) original and actual.

Verse 7. - The contrary hypothesis is now stated, and the thought is carried a stage further (cf. verse 9). He again speaks conditionally ἐάν, and does so until 1 John 2:3; after which the participial substantive ὁ λέγων ὀ ἀαπῶν ὁ μισῶν represents the conditional clause. The change of verbs is significant: we walk, God is, in the light. We move through time; he is in eternity. Our activity involves change; his does not. Like the sun, he both is Light and dwells in the light; and if we walk in the light, which is his atmosphere, we have fellowship one with another. Darkness is an unsocial condition, and this the light expels. From verse 6 we might have expected, "we have fellowship with him;" and some inferior authorities read μετ αὐτοῦ. But St. John's repetitions are not mere repetitions: the thought is always recur or reset to carry us a step further (cf. verses 3, 4). Having fellowship with one another is a sure result of that fellowship with God which is involved in walking in the light. "Here is a reply to those who would restrain Catholic communion to their own sect" (Wordsworth). Another result of walking in the light is that the blood of Jesus (his sacrificial death) cleanses us day by day continually (present tense) from our frequent sins of frailty. This cleansing is not the same as forgiveness of sins (verse 9). The latter is the case of ὁ λελουμένος, the man that is bathed (John 13:10); the former is the frequent washing of the feet (cf. Revelation 7:14; Revelation 22:14). The expression, the blood of Jesus, in Christian theology, "is dogma with pathos.... It implies, as no other word could do, the reality

(1) of the human body of Jesus,

(2) of his sufferings,

(3) of his sacrifice."

By his blood new life-blood is infused into human nature. 1 John 1:7We walk in the light (ἐν τῷ φωτὶ περιπατῶμεν)

The phrase occurs only in the First Epistle. Walk, as above. In the light, having our life in God, who is light.

He is in the light

God is forever and unchangeable in perfect light. Compare Psalm 104:2; 1 Timothy 6:16. We walk, advancing in the light and by means of the light to more light. "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18).

One with another (μετ' ἀλλήλων)

Not, we with God and God with us, but with our brethren. Fellowship with God exhibits and proves itself by fellowship with Christians. See 1 John 4:7, 1 John 4:12; 1 John 3:11, 1 John 3:23.

Of Jesus Christ His Son

Omit Christ. The human name, Jesus, shows that His blood is available for man. The divine name, His Son, shows that it is efficacious. I shall be rendering a service to students of John's Epistles by giving, in a condensed form, Canon Westcott's note, classifying the several names of our Lord and their uses in the Epistles.

The name in John, as in the Bible elsewhere, has two distinct, but closely connected meanings.

1. The Revelation of the Divine Being by a special title.

2. The whole sum of the manifold revelations gathered up so as to form one supreme revelation.

The latter sense is illustrated in 3 John 1:7, where "the name" absolutely includes the essential elements of the Christian creed, the complete revelation of Christ's work in relation to God and man. Compare John 20:31; Acts 5:41.

In 1 John 2:12, the term is more limited, referring to Christ as He lived on earth and gave Himself for "the brethren." In 1 John 3:23; 1 John 5:13, the exact sense is defined by what follows.

Actual Names Used.


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