By Rev. Martyn McGeown. Previous article in the series: Fellowshipping in the Light (1): Wonder of Fellowship
Not all those who claim to enjoy fellowship with God speak the truth. Fellowship with God and with other believers occurs in a certain sphere. Fellowship is compatible with a certain kind of life. Fellowship, writes John, is in the light, and only in the light. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). A man who claims fellowship with God while he walks in darkness is a liar, writes John. If we say that, we are liars. Contrariwise, “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another” (v. 7). A man who walks in the light enjoys fellowship. He does not lie; he speaks, and he lives the truth. If we walk in the light, we enjoy fellowship: first, with God in Jesus Christ; and second, with other believers, who also walk in the light. Light is the sphere of blessedness, of communion, of fellowship, and of affinity. In the light God shares his life with us; in the light we delight in him; in the light we taste and see that he is good; in the light we experience his favor.
But we do not know these things in the darkness, only in the light. In the darkness God does not share his life with us; in the darkness we do not delight in him; in the darkness we do not taste and see that he is good; and in the darkness we do not experience his favor.
To explain this the apostle John sets forth two possible scenarios in the church. He does this with two conditional sentences beginning with “if”: “If we say” and “if we walk.” There are different kinds of conditional sentences in the Bible. Essentially, a conditional sentence expresses the idea that something is likely to happen, but there is uncertainty about it. It will happen only in the event of the other thing happening. “If we say”—we do not know if we will say, but if we do say, and if we do walk in darkness, then something else follows: namely, we do not the truth. “If we walk”—it is not certain that we will walk, but if we do walk, then something else follows: “If we walk in darkness, we lie;” “If we walk in the light, we have fellowship.”
That’s the basic idea of conditional sentences. John is not saying that fellowship depends upon our walking in the light (a condition proper), but he is saying that if “we walk in the light” (which is by no means certain), then “fellowship” necessarily follows. Contrariwise, if we say (which again is by no means certain) that we have fellowship with God, while we walk in darkness, then we necessarily are proved to be liars. The implied warning is, “Do not walk in darkness, and do not be a liar!”
In fact, such conditional sentences beginning with “if we say” appear frequently in 1 John: “If we say that we have fellowship” (1:6); “If we say that we have no sin” (1:8); “If we say that we have not sinned” (1:10); “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother” (4:20).
Let’s look at the two possibilities as the apostle presents them.
There is a possibility that someone might say “I have fellowship with God,” and it is possible that the person walks in darkness. Nevertheless, it is impossible for his claim to be true. He lies, and he does not do the truth. It is also possible that someone might say nothing, but might simply walk in the light. That person certainly has fellowship with God and with other believers. That is not difficult to understand. To explain the text further, we must look at three very simple words. Even the children understand these words. They are light, darkness, and walk.
The first word we must explain is light. Light, of course, is a figure. John does not refer to literal light, as if we only enjoy fellowship with God on a bright, sunny day. Unbelievers enjoy summer walks, but they do not have fellowship with God.
In the Bible light is a beautiful figure.
Light is, first, purity or holiness. Light is, second, warmth, joy, gladness, or comfort. Light is, third, life and vitality. Light is, fourth, truth or clarity. Light is, fifth, glory. Light is very wonderful. It shines and pervades every corner. It reveals what is hidden. Yet when light comes into contact with objects, they do not sully it, or defile it, or tarnish the light. If light shines upon filth, it exposes the filth, but the light does not become filthy. The same is not true with respect to water. For example, pour pure water upon filth, and the water becomes polluted. Shine pure light upon filth, and the light remains pure.
The main idea that John aims to communicate by the word “light” is holiness. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (v. 5). God is pure, bright, unsullied, perfect light. God shines with the glory of his perfections. God is perfection. God also is “in the light” (v. 7): “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light.” God dwells in perfect, brilliant, dazzling light. About God Paul writes, “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto” (1 Tim. 6:16).
Since God dwells in holiness, he does not fellowship with the unholy person. Since God is holy, he does not fellowship with wickedness. God will not lower his standards and say, “I will meet you halfway; you come toward the light a little bit, and I will come into the darkness a little bit, and we can fellowship in the middle.” God does not become darkness in order to fellowship with darkness. Instead, God brings us out of the darkness into the light, in which sphere God fellowships with us. The Bible tells us that in multiple places. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Paul writes, “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12). “Ye are all the children of the light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (1 Thess. 5:5).
The good news is that God makes us holy. He brings us into the light.
To be continued.