Well, let's turn together to John, the first epistle of John, and we're still in the first chapter of course - I think we'll be there for a week or two yet! Maybe this is your first week, I don't know. I'm glad that some of you have been here on previous weeks, it's good to have you back, we hope that you're going to continue coming. Perhaps this is your first week with us, and it would be a help to you I'm sure if you got some of the recordings either on CD or on audio cassette of previous studies, just to put everything into place. We spent some time in our first study looking at the context of this book, and we're not going to repeat and go over that ground again and again every week, so if you want to get the context of all that we're going to say in this book, why not get the first tape, and then it wouldn't do any harm getting the last study which comprised of verses 1 through to 4 of chapter 1, where we looked at the subject of 'Authentic Christianity'. This week we're looking specifically at verses 5 to 7 of chapter 1 under the title 'The Gospel According To Christ'.
We'll begin our reading at verse 1, just to get the flow of what John the apostle is saying to us: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 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" - and we'll end our reading at verse 7.
Now in the day and age in which we live, you could ask a Protestant or a Roman Catholic clergyman the question: 'What is the Gospel?', and you may get a plethora of different and even contradicting answers. Often the answer that is given is a nebulous one, an unspecific one. Sometimes the answer is given that the Gospel is simply the body of the record concerning the life and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, but it doesn't go any further than that and specify what the Gospel is in exact terms. Often you don't get any more out of a specific answer than just: 'Well, it's to love God and to love your neighbour as yourself' - and I don't know how many sermons and funeral homilies I've heard broadcast over the radio and over the television where a priest or a Protestant clergyman is saying just that, that the Gospel is to love, to love God, to love your neighbour.
I would have to say, in this day and age in which we live, modern evangelicals aren't much different in their understanding of what the Gospel is. I dare you to take this experiment, and set someone down - and beware because they might do the same to you, be prepared for it! - and ask them: 'What is the Gospel?'. Recently I took a series of meetings in Portrush with the CPA on conversions in the Acts of the Apostles, and one of the reasons I said I was doing it was because I'm a bit perturbed at how little understanding there is, especially among young people today in Christian circles, regarding what true conversion is. Sometimes the answer that comes back, even from evangelical folk is: 'Well, it's to know God, it's to know Christ, it's to have a relationship with God'. But if you leave it there in that sort of airy-fairy mamby-pamby undefined language, we are in real trouble! Surely there's nothing more important than what the Gospel is? Therefore we must be certain what it is, because the Gospel is a life or death matter, in fact eternity - your eternal soul and its destiny - depends on the Gospel.
Indeed, that's what the apostle Paul said, wasn't it, to the Galatians in chapter 1 of his epistle, verse 8: 'But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed'. If you preach or believe a false gospel, the inevitable outcome is: you will be damned, you will be cursed! So it's important that the believers who John was writing to in the church at Ephesus, and in the other churches that were being affected by false teachers, would be certain about what the true Gospel was. They had become uncertain because a new Gospel had been introduced into these churches by these false teachers. We saw that they were called Docetists, they were forerunners to the early Gnostics, but basically they were teaching that God had come to them as the chosen few and revealed a new revelation to them that was different and had additions to the original Gospel that was given by Jesus to the apostles.
Now if ever you were looking for the certainty of what the true Gospel is, well 1 John is a good book to go to, because it's a book that is filled with certainties. What better could the apostle John do to stop all the debate of what the Gospel is, than by telling them the Gospel according to Christ. That's exactly what he does here in verses 5 to 7, what he's saying is: 'We', speaking of the apostles, 'We are only communicating to you what Christ told us from God. The message we declare to you, Christ gave to us, and we are only relaying what He told us'. In John chapter 8, of course, the Saviour said: 'I speak that which I have seen with my Father'. So there is this chain of communication: God the Father communicates to Christ what He wants men to know; Christ comes and instructs the twelve, and the twelve are instructed to go into all the world and preach this Gospel; and now John comes and refutes any false gospel claims by saying, 'All that we are giving to you is the Gospel according to Christ'.
Of course, John is not the only apostle that concurs with that view. In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, if you care to turn to it with me, in the first four verses Paul the apostle says exactly the same thing. He's going to go into an exposition of the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ and our subsequent prospective resurrection - incidentally, the backdrop of heresy was quite similar to the Docetists and the Gnostics of 1 John. In 1 Corinthians 15, look at the first four verses: 'Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved' - this is the message which I preached first of all, it's the message that was effective to you and saved your soul, 'keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures'.
Paul put it another way in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, that he would have nothing known among them save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. That was the Gospel they heard from His lips, they saw through His death, they witnessed in His resurrection, and they were instructed by Him to preach. You see, what he has been telling us in the first four verses of 1 John is that the authentic Christian message is that of the historical Christ, who came in the flesh, who they saw, who they touched, who they heard, and from whom they received this great Gospel message, passed to them as apostles, and now they have passed it on to us, the church, through the apostles' doctrine which is the holy Scriptures. You hear what John is saying, hear it loud and clear: the Gospel, the message that we declare unto you, is the Gospel according to Jesus Christ. What is that message? Well, we're going to see tonight: it's a simple message, how sinful men can have fellowship with God through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now let me ask you, just before we launch into an understanding of this Gospel according to Christ: why would you ever need an additional revelation, an apocryphal writing, a new prophet, when you have a Gospel like this one from the very lips of Christ? We don't need Joseph Smith, we don't need Mary Baker Eddy, we don't need Brigham Young, we don't need any of these new prophets, we don't need any of their holy - so-called - writings; for God hath, in these last days, spoken unto us by His Son. The reason why Christ is able to save to the uttermost all who believe in Him is because He ever lives to make intercession, He has an unchangeable priesthood, Hebrews 7 says. That word 'unchangeable' means literally 'a nontransferable priesthood' - there's no one qualified like Him! There's no one who has satisfied the justice and the righteousness, judicious wrath of a holy God for mankind like Christ. The message of His death, His burial, and His resurrection is, as Jude says in verse 3, 'the faith once and for all delivered to the saints' - full stop, no addition, no subtraction.
How, after such a declaration like that, could you possibly add extra-biblical accounts, or claim to have secret knowledge other than what has been revealed through the Lord Jesus? The whole of the New Testament declares that as an utter impossibility. Romans 1 and verse 1, if ever there was an understanding of the Gospel needed today it's in the exposition of the book of Romans, right there at the very beginning Paul declares that he's going to expound the Gospel of God. Of course, he tells us that it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. Indeed in Galatians 1, where we've read from already, Paul says: 'I neither received this message from man, neither was I taught it by a man, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ' - God has revealed Himself in His Son, and you can't improve on that!
Christians, you need to beware, because through the 'God Channel' and through cheap Christian paperbacks today there is a false doctrine of revelation coming into the church that is deceiving many. It would almost need that we double up, or triple, or quadruple the pages of this book to have all the new revelations that men are having revealed to them today! A lot of it, all of it in fact, if it adds to and contradicts Scripture, is false! We have a perfect revelation in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we can't improve on Him. That's what we have, can I ask you tonight: Do you have it? Maybe you're here and you belong to a cult, or you belong to a false religion, and maybe you think I'm being far-fetched saying that - but we have from time to time folk who do frequent the building who belong to Jehovah's Witnesses or to Mormons or to other sects. I'm asking you this evening: is this the message that you have had declared unto you? Christ and Christ alone! Christ who is the Son of God, Christ who is the substitute for sinners; and if you embrace Him by faith alone you shall be saved.
Well, to be certain whether or not you do have this message, and that the Ephesians had this message, John gives an outline of what this message was that was declared to the apostles by Christ. Like every good evangelical preacher he has three points! I don't always have three, but I'm not always good! So I'm going to share the three with you this evening, and the first - very simply divided out through this chapter - first of all he tells us: God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. Now, as a Christian, you're going to learn this evening the nuggets, the tenets of fundamental truth in the Gospel. If you're a preacher this will be a good exercise for you, because right away what the apostle John is telling us is that the Gospel must always start with God. Genesis 1 verse 1 starts with God. John, in his gospel, starts with God. Now he's telling us: 'That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life', the One who was with the Father before the world was - we are preaching the message of the Godhead in the Gospel. The Gospel starts with God.
But of course, the big question today in our world is: who is God? What is God? The fourth question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks the same question: What is God? I'm not going to test any of you good Presbyterians here tonight to see if you know the answer, but that is a question that our century and every century has been puzzled with. Men have stretched their intellect to know 'Who is God? What is He? What is He like?'. Today in our individualistic and relativistic age, people are saying: 'Well, God, for me, is this... and God, for you, can be that...' - and there's such a confusion over who and what God is. It's as if God is a chameleon character, who just morphs into a myriad of people's individual preferences. God can be what you like Him to be, and what I like Him to be at the same time - that is an utter reasonable and rational impossibility!
The Shorter Catechism does say, very prolifically and profoundly: 'God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth' - and we can say 'Amen' to that. But what John is talking about here is not knowing about God, he speaks to us about experience, and he's telling us that it's not all about knowing about Him, it's about knowing Him personally and intimately. This is what he experienced, the message that he had declared to him was experiential through an actual personal encounter with Jesus Christ. No other writer tells us as much about God as John does. He tells us 'God is spirit' in John 4:24, that is in his gospel. In chapter 1 verse 5 here we see 'God is light'; chapter 4 of this epistle and verse 8 'God is love'. But please beware, because John is not wanting to just give us knowledge concerning the Almighty, but he is wanting the goal of fellowship for all. Look at verse 3 of chapter 1: 'That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ'. It's an intimate, personal, experiential knowledge that John desires for us.
But let us not miss the point: how is it that God chooses to reveal Himself initially through the message that He has given to mankind, with the goal of fellowship in mind, but how does He come to men first and foremost? Please note: He does not come as a God of love. While He is a God of love, and that is one of His dearest attributes to all sinners who have been saved by grace, that is not how He reveals Himself to man initially. Rather, He shows Himself as light. You can go back to John's gospel in chapter 1, and the theme is the same there. In fact, even in the beginning in Genesis chapter 1, God speaks and there is light. Here in 1 John chapter 1 and verse 5 there is this declaration before love is mentioned: God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. That word 'darkness' is in the emphatic double negative, which means there is no darkness whatsoever in Him.
Now I am not going to even attempt to expound what it means for God to be light. One scholar has put it well in a one line definition that sums it all up for us. He says: 'Light physically represents glory. Intellectually it represents truth. Morally it represents holiness'. So physically, if we can talk about God even in those terms, for God to be light speaks of His glory, His blinding majesty. Then to speak of light intellectually speaks of His truth, His wisdom, His precepts, His counsel, His word. To speak of light morally speaks of His holiness, His purity. Job could say that even the heavens were unclean to the Lord. Even the lips of the prophet Isaiah were unclean to the Lord. Even His own people are unclean. Habakkuk 1 and verse 13 says that the Lord is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, He cannot look upon sin. Paul said to Timothy that God, who is the only one with immortality, dwells in light which no man can approach unto.
'In light inaccessible, hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days'
So the first theme of Christ's message, the message that the apostles received from Christ, the message that they passed down to the early church, the message that we ought to receive today is first of all: the message of the holiness of God, and therefore man's separation from God because of his sinfulness. Now let me sum that all up in this statement: the first theme of his message is that man lacks fellowship with the holy God of heaven. Now, if we need anything in these days, we need a fresh vision of the holiness of God. F. W. Faber is a hymn writer and poet whom I love greatly, and one of his greatest hymns I believe is: 'My God How Wonderful Thou Art'. Listen to two of the verses:
'My God, how wonderful Thou art,
Thy majesty how bright,
How beautiful Thy mercy seat,
In depths of burning light!
How wonderful, how beautiful,
The sight of Thee must be,
Thine endless wisdom, boundless power,
And aweful purity!'
Oh, that we would get a vision of the Almighty like that, in all of His light, in His glory, in His moral perfections, in His holiness and purity! But of course, Genesis 3 tells us that man is out of fellowship with God, man has been cut off by original sin - our father and mother in the Garden of Eden - and even practically today, as Isaiah 59 tells us, it is our sins and our iniquities that separate between us and our God. Our sins have hid His face from us, like a cloud coming between earth and the sun, it's blocking the light - the light is not getting in!
So what we are seeing here is that John is telling us that an understanding of the separation that sin has caused between humanity and God is intrinsic to the preaching of the true gospel. 'Why?', you say, 'Why can't you just come in there right away and tell them that God loves them?'. Now you must do that, but if you don't talk to them of God's holiness, if you don't speak to them of sin and how men personally have broken God's law - do you know what you do? You cheapen the love of God! 'How is that so?', you say. Simply because you cannot understand the greatness of God's love until you understand both His holiness, His awesome holiness, and the magnitude of your personal iniquity. If you go to a jewellers and you look through the front window, and you see there beautiful diamond rings. But you know those diamond rings are being offset by a black backdrop of black velvet, black as the coal that the diamonds came from. It is that black backdrop that offsets the diamond, that causes the light to shine through it, to see its splendour, to see its glory - it's exactly the same with the love of God. You can never appreciate Calvary love until you appreciate the awesome holiness of God and your awful sinfulness!
Do you know what that means? A message that ignores the holiness of God, and a message that fails to preach against sin and declare God's judgemental wrath because of the broken law of His holiness, is not the message that Christ gave to the early disciples: God is light, in Him is no darkness at all. In some pulpits in our land you dare not even mention sin, judgment, or hell - it's unfashionable, it's not trendy! Well, it's not the message of Christ if you don't preach it!
Well, John's first point is: the message that we declare to you that we received of Him, is that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. Let's look at his second point, for his second point is found in verse 6: 'If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth'. John's second point is simply: fellowship with God cannot be known if we walk in darkness. Because God is light, we must walk in the light, but we cannot claim to walk with God and have fellowship with God if we walk in darkness. Now what you have here in this verse in the 'If we say...' is the first of three denials. The first is found, as we said, in verse 6; the second is found in verse 8: 'If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us'. The third is found in verse 10: 'If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us'.
Now there are three more 'If we say's', but just concentrating on the three in chapter 1 - verse 6 is the suggestion that fellowship can be enjoyed while walking in darkness. There were those false teachers, and maybe some Christians who were starting to believe it in Ephesus, that you could walk in spiritual, moral darkness and still have fellowship with God. John answers this, and he says: 'If you say that and believe that, you're lying, and you're not doing the truth'. Now, it takes on another form a step further in verse 8, because in verse 8 there is the allegation that we have no sin in ourselves - it is the theological assertion that we have no sinful nature, that we are not fallen creatures, that we are essentially good as human beings. In verse 10 there is a further allegation, an assertion that not only are we not sinners by nature, but we have not sinned - we are not sinners by practice. There's a group of people actually claiming here that they never sinned against man or against God! John answers them: 'You're liars, you're not doing the truth, you're deceiving yourselves, the truth isn't in you. You're making God a liar! God's word does not dwell in your heart'.
Now we're only going to deal with the suggestion in verse 6, that fellowship can be enjoyed while walking in darkness. John concludes to them that they are lying, and they are committing untruth. Let me show you how this was witnessed in John's day and in ours in two practical ways. The first is theologically. Theologically what John was trying to bring to their attention was this: that if they walk in darkness, and claim to have light from God, they are potentially opening themselves up to fellowship with others outside the grounds of the Gospel. That's exactly what was happening here. They were following a false Christ, they were imbibing the Greek philosophy of the day that was fashionable intellectually and socially. What Paul said to the Corinthians could be said to some of these Ephesians: 'What fellowship hath light with darkness, and Belial with the Living God? What fellowship hath Christ with temple idols?'.
My friend, here is a lesson for us today theologically: the only grounds on which we can have fellowship with another man or woman in humanity, as brothers and sisters in Christ, is on the foundation of the Gospel. If they deny the fundamentals of the Gospel, they cannot be considered authentically Christian, and they're not proclaiming or declaring the Gospel according to Christ, and we cannot have fellowship with them. Theologically they had to learn that in Ephesus, we need to learn it today. The other side of the coin regarding that truth is that in the one regard we must always fellowship on the grounds of the Gospel, we must never add to it anything else other than the gospel. What was happening here in Ephesus was there was an elitism - it could have been charismatic in the sense that these false teachers were coming along and saying they had a personal privileged knowledge of God greater than the rest. They were making the other believers second-class citizens. They were believing themselves to be above those Christians, that those Christians were not worthy of their fellowship, so they split off in schism. We have exactly the same thing today: you have people who believe they have come into charismatic gifts, and they're leaving churches and forming other ones, and causing a split in the body of Christ. But equally so, there are those who are so tight that they squeak when they move, and they won't have fellowship with any other believer even though they name the name of Christ, and stand upon the fundamental tenets of the Gospel. We must never fall into either of those errors, because that is walking in darkness.
Secondly this has a practical implication, not just theologically but it was practically seen and evidenced in John's day and in ours. Here is the first way it was seen: people were living in sin and claiming that they had the life of God. Living practically in a lifestyle of habitual sin, yet claiming that they were in fellowship with God. This has been given a theological name: antinomianism. Now don't switch off when you hear these big names, you might learn a thing or two! Deuteronomy is the second giving of the law, 'nomy' means 'law' really. What you have in antinomianism is 'anti-lawism', Christians - so-called - who were saying, 'We can trust Christ and have the life of God, be in fellowship with the brethren and in fellowship with the Father through Christ, yet live a life that is against the law of God, and even in contradiction of it'. That's what was written of in Romans 6 when Paul asked the rhetorical question, hypothetically: 'Should we continue in sin that grace may abound?'. Of course he said: 'God forbid' - but what was coming into vogue here was this dualism of the Gnostics, the Docetists. Now don't get confused, remember they were saying that everything spiritual is pure, and everything physical is evil - so therefore they believed that the body would be burned up in the judgment, and it didn't matter what you did with the body as long as you had eternal life in your soul. So they were committing all sorts of sins through the body.
But John says: 'You cannot have fellowship with God and walk in darkness'. I shared this with you a number of Sunday nights ago, the story of J. P. Mehaffey who was a famous scholar and man of the world from Trinity College in Dublin. When he was asked if he was a Christian, he answered: 'Yes, but not offensively so'. What he meant by that statement was, he didn't let his Christianity interfere with his social life. That is exactly what John's preaching against: you cannot claim to have the life of God and walk in darkness, and live habitually in sin. Indeed, many cults fall into this trap because of their intrinsic fundamental error. In the 1960s, during the sexual revolution, there was a group called the 'Children of God' cult, and they actually taught that people could be won for Christ through sinful means. You may find that staggering, but that is exactly what happened in John the apostle's day - so much so that they declared that you could be a 'hooker' that was a Christian, a Christian hooker and win men for Jesus! That was almost 40-odd years ago, and there's a mentality about today that is quite similar. American gangster Mickey Cohen reputedly had converted to Christ, and then later declared that he wanted to be a 'Christian gangster' - if he had come to me, I could have introduced him to quite a few of them! He might have learned a thing or two! But nevertheless there was this idea that you could live the life of God, yet live a life of sin - and it is impossible. In fact, what John is saying is: if you claim that, the life of God is not in you!
You listen to that carefully tonight, my friend. I don't know where you're living, but what we're talking about here is not just falling into sin now and again - we all do that, and we all try with the Spirit's help not to - but what John's talking about is a lifestyle of habitual sin that marks you out as an habitual sinner, addicted to sin. If you live in sin, you cannot claim the life of God in your soul - that's the Gospel, and we need to herald it out today, because there's an easy-believism that says: 'Come as you are'. That's the Gospel alright, but it lacks repentance - to come as you are, but be willing to give up your sin, and Christ will enable you to give up your sin. In fact, people are coming to Christ with the one hand, and keeping their sin with the other - and that's not salvation! I hope you haven't believed that one.
Then practically this was manifest in those who were actually claiming perfection and living a lie. They were saying that they had not sinned, that they hadn't within them a sinful nature. John says 'Look, if you're claiming that, if you're actually denying that men are sinners, that they're born sinners, you do not have the truth. You're living a lie'. Now what relevance has this to us today? Well, this is a popular Western philosophy in contemporary thought, largely influenced by Freudian psychology which denies any objective basis for guilt. You shouldn't make people feel guilty from the pulpit, they just learn little things as children - they didn't have a rattle when they were in the pram, so they go out and they joy-ride, or they take drugs, or they rape people. You shouldn't make people guilty, and counsellors and psychologists are all trying to free people from guilt - but they don't realise that the source of guilt is sin! They're denying sin, and by denying sin they're deceiving themselves, and they're making liars of all of us.
So, what John is saying is: a message that preaches that you can be forgiven and live a godless life is not the Gospel of Christ, it's not the one that Christ preached to the apostles. 'Who preaches that today?', you might say. Nominal Christianity preaches it. You can go to mass, you can go to communion, you can think you're saved because you're baptised and you go through the sacraments, and that is the same thing. You live a life that is devoid of the power of God, and the transformation that the salvation of Christ brings in the new birth, and think that you're on your way to heaven - well you're not! You need to be converted! You need to have the life of God in your soul! I'll tell you, evangelicals often live like that. They think because of a profession at an early age, that they can ask Jesus into their heart: 'Come into my heart, come into my heart, come into my heart Lord Jesus, come in today, come in to stay' - do you think He's going to come in to stay, and you'll just say that prayer and live like a reprobate through your teenage years and the rest of your life, and think God's going to open the door of heaven for you? That is a lie! That is not the Gospel that Christ preached. Once you're saved, you're saved forever, but to be saved in the first place there must be that initial repentance.
Are you in darkness tonight, my friend? You cannot walk in darkness and claim to be in fellowship with God! Roy Hession speaks even to Christians in his little book 'The Calvary Road' on this verse, and he says: 'Sin always involves us in being unreal, pretending, duplicity, windowdressing, excusing ourselves and blaming others' - do you know what that means? Staying in the darkness! Trying to hide our sins from God! Could you ever think of anything more idiotic? But maybe it's not just hiding sins from God, maybe it's hiding sins from our brother. In Genesis 3 what you have is the relationship broken down with God and man, but then in Genesis 4 we have the relationship subsequently breaking down between man and his brother, Cain and Abel. It all comes together. Are you hiding something from your brother that you're doing? Something from your wife that you're doing? Something against your children that you're doing? No one knows about it - but God knows, my friend! You cannot claim to walk in the light if you're hiding in the darkness. You might as well, as one man has said, live in a coal pit and claim that you're developing a suntan. It's not possible. 'Be not deceived, the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God', and the gospel that preaches that men are not sinners is not a gospel!
'God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all' is his first point. Secondly, fellowship with God cannot be known if we walk in darkness. Thirdly, in verse 7 we see that fellowship with God, and indeed each other as believers, can only be known if we walk in the light. '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'. Now it follows, logically, that if God is light you cannot have fellowship and hide in sin. Spurgeon said: 'To walk in the light is the willingness to know and be known'. To know what you are as a sinner, to know how you are in the sight of God, and be willing to be known as such, and to humble yourself at the cross. To say, 'Lord', just as Amos 3:3 says, 'Can two walk together except they be agreed? So I agree that I am what I am, and You are what You are, and I confess my sins to You'. Walking in the light is just agreeing with what Jesus says about you, and walking with Him in it. I can't put it any simpler than that. He said in John chapter 8: 'I am the light of the world, he that walks after me, follows me, shall not walk in darkness shall have the light of life'. Do you know what He's saying? 'Follow me! Follow me! Come out of the darkness, come into the light - and when you come into the light, your sin will all be shown up, and I'll put my finger on them. When I pinpoint them, if you admit them and put them under the blood by faith, I'll deliver you from them' - bring it into the light!
Is that what Christ is saying to you tonight, believer? You're dabbling in something that is ungodly and is profane, and is an abomination in God's sight, and you know that's why the blessing of God is not upon you, nor your marriage, nor your church. It's time, Christ says, to bring it into the light. If you want to be delivered, if you want the light of God to flood your soul, bring it out of the darkness into the light! 'How can I do that?'. Practically, how do you do it? Psalm 119 says: 'Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path'. If you take the torchlight of God's word and shine it on your soul, God will start showing you those things that are not right. As He shows you them, if you plead the blood of Jesus Christ and confess your sin before Him, He will cleanse you. You see, this is the whole point of what John is saying: God is light, and if you're going to have fellowship with God you've got to walk in the light and live in the light - but that's impossible for a sinner, and you're a liar if you say you're anything but a sinner, but - Hallelujah! - the blood of Jesus Christ God's Son cleanseth us from all sin.
Now you listen to this carefully. Remember the context of 1 John, what he's saying is this - against the Docetists, against the Gnostics - Christ wasn't a ghost, Christ wasn't Jesus upon whom the Christ spirit came at His baptism, but Christ the Son of God came in flesh and blood, and died in flesh and blood, and was buried, and shed His blood for sinners and rose again victorious over the grave, over death and hell. Why? That you should live in the light. I'll tell you, if He didn't come in flesh and blood like they were claiming, you're damned and so am I - but He did! He partook of flesh, just as children do, so that He could die the death of every sinner and defeat him who has the power over death, even the devil.
As we walk in the light, here is the thought, if you seek God's light and seek the Lamb who is the light, the blood will constantly avail for you. It's not really thinking about trying to do a post-mortem of all your sins, because there are some sins that you're ignorant of just at the minute. There are sins that you're unconscious of, sins of omission - and I'm not suggesting you don't look out sins and confess them, but what this is actually saying is this: even the sins that we don't yet know about, if we seek to walk in the light, Christ will cleanse them in His precious blood. That word 'cleanse' is in the present tense, which means 'continuous' - if we seek to walk in the light, He will continuously cleanse us constantly from our sin, Hallelujah! It's not only the guilt of sin that is atoned for in the precious blood of the Saviour, but this is the thought - and I want you to grasp this tonight, you who are bound with some kind of habitual sin and not converted: in His blood the power of sin is broken! Maybe you haven't got that, but I'll tell you: that's what available in His precious shed blood. The sinner is not only justified, but the sinner potentially is sanctified also. The believer is given a new nature through Christ's blood, a new status, a new direction. Holiness is demanded by a holy God, He wants us to reciprocate what's in His nature. He made us in His image, He wants us to be like Him, but that's only possible through the blood - but, hallelujah, it is possible! Holiness is provided in Christ!
Do you see this? Oh, Thomas Binney put it well in his hymn summing up this whole first seven verses:
'The sons of ignorance and night,
May dwell in the eternal Light,
Through the eternal Love'
Is there someone here, and you've never availed of the blood of Calvary? Maybe you're a backslider, and there's sin between you and your God. Or maybe you feel you're walking in the light, but you're really walking in darkness - there's things you're hiding from God, things you're hiding from a brother or a sister. God calls you a liar if you don't feel, this evening, your need of the precious blood - because either you're denying a sin, or you're denying that there is efficacy in that blood! There's only one thing that can hinder your fellowship with God, my friend, and that is sin. You can't get it more simple than that. But there's only one thing that can restore your fellowship with God, and that is the precious blood. By the power of the blood peace has been made between God and men, by the power of the blood there is forgiveness of sins, there is the gift of eternal life, Satan is overcome by the power of the blood, says the book of the Revelation. There is continual cleansing from all sin - and the Greek word for 'all' there in verse 7 literally means 'every sin'. There's not a sin deep-dyed that the precious crimson blood cannot cleanse. You can be set free from the tyranny of an evil conscience. You can serve the living God, win freedom and peace of mind and heart. By the infinite power of the precious sinless blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, you can be brought into the immediate holy of holies presence of the living God to live there all the day long, every day of your life. Hallelujah!
'How can I experience the power of this precious blood?', you say. Look to the Lamb, 'Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world'. 'What do I need to do?' - what's the Lamb of God doing? He's bowing His head, isn't He? He's bowing His head for you, under the load of your sin. Do you know what you need to do, my friend? You need to bow your head. You need to bow that stiff-necked 'I', say 'Lord, help me to bow the head and die, beholding Him on Calvary who bowed His head for me'. Oh, you can pray all you like to be cleansed from some sin. You can pray for the peace of God to be restored to your heart. But you see, unless you're willing to be broken on the point in question, the very sin that you love more than Christ, it will never happen. Take it out of the darkness, bring it into the light, and Christ will plunge it under His blood!
Old Martin Luther on one occasion dreamt that his accuser, Satan, had set before him on a great scroll afresh all of his sins and manifold iniquities. Luther didn't argue with the devil, he just admitted them all without denying any of them. He didn't seek to justify himself before the wicked one, but do you know what he scrawled across that list? First John 1:7: 'The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin' - Hallelujah!
'I may my great accuser face
And tell him Thou hast died!
I hear my great accuser roar
Of ills that I have done.
I know them all and thousands more,
Jehovah findeth none!'
Are you still in your sin tonight? Backslider, are you like the pig that is wallowing in the mire, you've gone back like a dog to the vomit? Can I tell you tonight: the blood of Jesus, oh that precious flow, will make you white as snow. No other fount you can know, nothing but the blood of Jesus, that fountain that is open for sin and uncleanness, to cleanse you now and to cleanse you continually. Will you come tonight?
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the third recording in his '1, 2 and 3 John' series, entitled "The Gospel According To Christ" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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