I John 2 – Part 1

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” I John 2:1

When the apostle John announced the message he and the other apostolic eyewitnesses heard from the Lord Jesus “that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1:5), he then addressed different responses from Christians to this message about God’s complete holiness. Some believers can lie by claiming to have fellowship or closeness with God while living in darkness or disobedience to Him (1:6). Others may walk in the light as God is in the light by being open and honest to what He reveals to them so they can enjoy fellowship with the Lord because of the all-sufficient cleansing blood of Jesus Christ (1:7).

While experiencing true fellowship with God as they walk in the light with Him, a Christian may deceive himself and claim to “have no sin” (1:8a)which would mean he no longer needs the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. To make such a claim means that God’s “truth is not in us” shaping our thoughts (1:8b). There is never a time in a Christian’s life when he or she does not need the cleansing power of Christ’s shed blood.

When the light of God makes us aware of our sin as we walk in the light, God instructs us to “confess” or agree with His conclusions about those specific sins so He can forgive them and restore our closeness or fellowship with Him (1:9a). Confessing our known sins to God also enables Him “to cleanse us from all” the unknown sins in our lives (1:9b).

But what happens when we discover specific sin in our lives while walking in the light and we claim we have not sinned? The apostle John tells us: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (I John 1:10). We are calling God “a liar, and His word is not in us” as a controlling influence when we deny the specific sins we have committed. We elevate ourselves above God and His Word so that we determine what is and what is not sin. We are telling God that His judgment of us is wrong, and He is therefore “a liar.” 1

For example, God’s Word forbids adultery (cf. Exod. 20:14). Jesus even taught that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5:27-28). But if a believer commits adultery with a woman physically or mentally and justifies it by saying, “Everyone is doing this,“ or “No one will ever know so it won’t hurt anyone,” he is calling God “a liar” and His Word is “not in” him in a controlling way at that point.

No Christian is under the influence of God’s Word when he denies the specific sin God’s Word reveals in his or her life. Since he denies what God’s light shows, he is making God a liar, which demonstrates that he does not have fellowship with God (1:6) Who is Light (1:5). 2

This denial of sin is what causes the burden of guilt in our lives. “Guilt is like the red warning light on the dashboard of a car. You can either stop and deal with the trouble, or you can decide the light is giving a false signal. The latter decision is big trouble.

“… Many a Christian has been stuck on the side of the road with engine failure because of ignoring the warning signal of guilt… When Hymenaeus and Alexander (I Tim. 1:19-20) ignored their consciences, they made a shipwreck of their faiths. It was Leo Tolstoy who said, ‘The antagonism between life and conscience may be removed in two ways: By a change of life or by a change of conscience.’” 3

By ignoring the guilt of sin in our lives, we are desensitizing our consciences to sin and to God. The longer we deny our sin and guilt, the more calloused our consciences become to the Lord and His Word.

The apostle John did not want his readers to think his insistence on the sinfulness of Christians (1:8, 10) or the simplicity of confession and forgiveness (1:9) are encouragements to sin, 4 so he writes: “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (I John 2:1). Notice John’s fatherly love and concern for his readers when he addresses them as “My little children.” The Greek word translated “little children” (teknia) means “little born ones” 5 and is used seven times by the apostle in this epistle (cf. 2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21) and once in his gospel (John 13:33). 6 The word “My” adds a further note of tenderness here compared to John’s “we” statements in chapter 1. This does not require us to conclude John’s readers were his personal converts, but they were very dear to him. 7

All that John wrote in I John 1:5-10 (“these things I write to you”) is meant to have his readers (including us) take sin seriously (“that you may not sin”) and do all they can to avoid it (2:1a). This does not mean he expects them never to ever sin again (cf. 1:8, 10). His intent is not to encourage or excuse sin. The perceptive Christian will allow his sinful tendencies to put him on guard against them, so he does not sin.

John also understood that though we are to vigorously shun sin in our Christian lives, the fact is it can and does take place in the lives of believers. Hence, John writes, “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (2:1b). The word “if” in the phrase “if anyone sins” introduces a condition assumed to take place for the sake of the argument. 8

John does not want us to sin, but he knows none of us is perfect, so he assures us that “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” What does the Lord Jesus do for the sinning Christian? Does He plead to God to keep us saved? This would not be necessary because in John’s gospel Christ guarantees that those who believe in Him for eternal life are secure forever (John 1:12; 3:15-16; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:35-40; 7:37-39; 10:28-29; 11:25-26)! Since Jesus’ promises are true and He is faithful to keep them, the believer is eternally secure and there is therefore no need for Christ to plead with God the Father not to cast sinning believers away. 9

The word “Advocate” (Paraklēton) means “one who gets called to the side of another to help” 10 or “one who appears in another’s behalf, mediator, intercessor, helper.” 11 One possible idea in I John 2:1 is of a defense attorney who takes up the case of his client before a tribunal. 12 We are not to give up on our Christian life when we do sin. Satan accuses us when we sin (Rev. 12:9-10), saying to God, “Give him back. He does not love You anymore.”But Jesus steps in and defends us because He is “righteous” – He will do what is right for us.

Anderson notes that “while the use of the word for a ‘lawyer’ is possible, but ‘mediator’ is more likely. When we sin, we don’t need a lawyer (see Rom. 8:33-34), because no one can lay any charge against God’s elect, but we do need an intercessor, a mediator, a High Priest.” 13

How does the Lord Jesus express His advocacy of us? Luke 22:31-33 illustrates how Jesus intercedes for us right now as He sits next to God the Father in heaven. 14 In the context of this passage, the disciples had been arguing with each other at the Lord’s Supper about which of them was the greatest (22:24). Christ then challenged them not to look at greatness as the world does but to pursue greatness before God which involves faithful servanthood (22:25-30).

Before Jesus tells Peter he will deny knowing Christ three times (22:35), Jesus informs Peter that Satan has asked permission to sift him like wheat (22:31). The process of sifting removes unwanted chaff and pebbles from the wheat. There was something in Peter that God wanted to remove. But what is it?

After Jesus tells Peter how He will pray for him (22:32), Peter exclaims, Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” (22:33). Peter was determined to remain loyal to Christ in his own strength. But God must remove or “sift” this self-reliant attitude from Peter before He can greatly use him. Hence, the Lord allows Satan to sift Peter of the “chaff” or “pebbles” of self-reliance from his life.

Christ does offer encouragement to Peter (and us) when He says, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:32). This verse gives us insight about how Jesus serves as our Advocate when we fail Him. Christ prays three things for Peter (and us):

  • “that your faith should not fail” – Jesus knows Peter is going to fail Him by denying three times that he knows Christ. But Jesus prays that Peter will not be so shattered by his failure that he gives up and leaves Christian service. Jesus is not looking for perfect Christians to serve Him. He is looking for faithful believers who get back up when they fall (22:30; cf. Psalm 37:23-24). Although “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29), the faith that appropriates those gifts is nevertheless subject to failure (2 Tim. 2:18). 15 Jesus intercedes for Christians that this will not happen.
  • and when you have returned to Me” – This means Peter would turn away from the Lord. But Jesus prays for Peter (and us) that we will return both to fellowship with Christ and to Christian service. Satan wanted to sift Peter of his faith, but the Lord wanted to sift him of his self-reliance. Jesus prays for us that our faith will not give out completely. It is also important to recognize that Peter’s leadership was not disqualified because he had weaknesses. God does not disqualify us because we have weaknesses. He sifts us.
  • strengthen your brethren” – Christ prays that when Peter is restored to fellowship and Christian service, he will be able to “strengthen” other believers because Satan will be seeking to knock them down and out of Christian service (cf. I Peter 5:8). This informs us that Jesus prays the sifting process will equip us to strengthen others. It is impossible to strengthen someone else unless you have been sifted yourself. Once we have been through the sifting process, we can offer comfort to others who are being sifted.

If you are a Christian who thinks you have failed the Lord so badly that you are forever disqualified to serve the Lord, Jesus wants you to know He has not given up on you nor has God the Father or God the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Holy Spirit also intercedes for you to help you in your weaknesses: 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom. 8:26-27). When we encounter failure and pain (Rom. 8:18-25), we may not know exactly how to pray to God, so the Holy Spirit helps us by praying on our behalf (“makes intercession for us”) to God the Father, telling Him exactly what is on our hearts (8:26b). The word “groanings” expresses feelings of compassion for our weak condition. The Holy Spirit requests the Father’s help for us with deep compassion (cf. Ephes. 6:18).

Even though we cannot hear the Holy Spirit’s intercession for us, God the Father can hear and understand Him. So not only does the Holy Spirit pray on our behalf, but we have a heavenly Father “who searches” our hearts and “knows what the mind of the Spirit is” (8:27a).The Holy Spirit makes our hearts understandable to the Father. We can be assured that the Holy Spirit’s prayers for us are effective in securing God’s help for us because the Spirit prays on our behalf “according to the will of God” (8:27b).

For example, when our children were infants, my wife would tune in to each child’s wordless cry. She learned to distinguish a cry for food from a cry for attention, an earache cry from a stomachache cry. To me the sounds were identical, but not to their mother who instinctively discerned the meaning of the helpless child’s cry. The Holy Spirit has resources of sensitivity beyond those of the most discerning mother. The Spirit of God can detect needs we cannot articulate. So as the Spirit prays for us, He gives content and expression to our heavenly Father as to the deep things of our hearts. He makes us understandable to the Father. When we do not know what to pray the Holy Spirit fills in the blanks.

During times of failure, we need to know that God understands us. Even if we can’t express ourselves well, our compassionate Father in heaven will understand how we feel and what we need because of the intercessory work of His Son and the Holy Spirit in us. When we feel understood, we really begin to experience hope. Because if God understands our hearts and our needs, then He can do something about them.

But what assurance do we have that God the Father will listen to the advocacy of His Son after we have sinned? John tells us, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (I John 2:2). The word “propitiation” (hilasmos) means “appeasement” or “expiation.” 16 Propitiation refers to the satisfaction God the Father felt when Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins (John 19:30). God’s holy demands were satisfied when He looked at the “Righteous” One’s nail-pierced hands on the cross. Jesus paid the penalty we deserved (“death” – Rom. 6:23b) in full when He took our place on the cross.

Therefore, we do not have to punish ourselves when we do sin because Christ has already taken our full punishment when He died in our place. Some of us may struggle to believe God has forgiven us after we confess our sins to Him (1:9). We may think we have sinned too much for God to pardon us, so guilt feelings persist long after we confess to the Lord. Satan can use such feelings to make believers doubt that their Advocate can secure God’s mercy when they do sin. But John wants us to know and believe that God is fully satisfied no matter how badly or often we have sinned.

Our sympathetic High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16) is seated at the Father’s right hand pointing to His nail-scarred hands and to the mercy seat as He prays for us. It is especially crucial for us to know and believe that the Father is completely satisfied after we have committed sin no matter how often or badly we have sinned. John assures us of this when he writes, “and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (2:2b).

“That’s why John lets us know in no uncertain terms that the death of Christ not only satisfied God’s anger against my sins and the sins of other believers, but also for the sins of the entire world (verses like John 14:19, 27, 30; 15:18; 16:33; and 17:6-26 should make it apparent that the world includes all unbelievers). That means the work of Christ was so great that it not only was sufficient to satisfy God’s anger against the sins of the believers, but also men like Nero, Hitler, Stalin, and Osama bin Laden. If His sacrifice was enough to satisfy God’s justice with regard to their sins, it is certainly enough to take care of mine and yours.” 17

Some erroneously conclude that since Christ’s death was the propitiation or satisfaction not only for the sins of believers but also for the entire world, then all the world (including non-believers) is saved and going to heaven (universalism). But this view fails to understand that verse 2 is only saying the world is savable because Christ died for all people. Only those who believe in Christ and His all-sufficient death on the cross are saved and going to heaven (Acts 16:31; John 3:14-18). 18

“The argument that if Christ paid for all human sin all would be saved is a misconception. The removal of sin as a barrier to God’s saving grace does not automatically bring regeneration and eternal life. The sinner remains dead and ‘alienated from the life of God’ (Eph 4:18). At the final judgment of the lost (Rev 20:11-15), sin as sin is not considered. Instead, men are ‘judged according to their works’ (Rev 20:12) to demonstrate to each that their ‘works’ give them no claim on God’s salvation.” 19

When Christians confess their sins to God, we must not be overwhelmed with our own sin because Jesus’ death on the cross fully satisfied God’s holy demand to punish sin. Christ’s intercession to the Father as our Advocate assures us of this.

Please understand that although Jesus Christ died for all people (I John 2:2; I Tim. 2:5-6), not all people will be saved and go to heaven. We must believe the gospel of Jesus Christ which says Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16b; I Cor. 15:3-6). If you are not sure you have eternal life and a future home in Jesus’ heaven, Christ invites you right now to believe in Him alone for His free gift of eternal life.

To “believe in” (pisteuōn eis) Jesus means to be persuaded that He is speaking the truth and is therefore worthy of your trust. 20 If you are convinced Jesus is telling truth in John 3:16 and is therefore worthy of your trust, then believe or trust Christ alone (not your good life, prayers, or religion) to give you His gift of everlasting life. When you believe in Christ for His free gift of eternal life, you can be just as certain of heaven as the people who are already there. Knowing we are going to heaven is not a guess; it is a guarantee from Jesus Christ (John 14:1-3).

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for making it possible for sinners to have fellowship with a completely holy God. Thank You for being our Advocate before God the Father when we sin in our Christian lives. Your all-sufficient death guarantees our forgiveness when we confess our sins to God no matter how often or badly we have sinned. Thank You for interceding for us when we do fail so our faith does not fail. And as You pray for us, we can return both to fellowship with You and to Christian service so we can strengthen others who go through similar failures. There is always hope of redemption in You Lord Jesus. Please use us to share this everlasting hope with those who need it the most. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 28.

2. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 590.

3. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pp. 60-61.

4. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3553.

5. Ibid., Kindle Location 3558.

6. Ibid.

7. Constable, pg. 30.

8. Ibid. The phrase kai ean tis hamartē is a third-class condition in the Greek text.

9. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 590.

10. Constable, pp. 30-31.

11. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 766.

12. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3566.

13. Anderson, pp. 65-66.

14. Ibid., pp. 66-67; Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3566-3575.

15. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 590.

16. Bauer, pg. 474.

17. Anderson, pp. 67-68.

18. Anderson writes, “Theologians usually distinguish between sufficient and efficient. The death of Christ was sufficient penalty to pay for the sins of the entire world, but only efficient for those who believe in Him. It’s like being given a gift certificate to Baskin Robbins. The gift has been paid for. That which was paid was sufficient to cover whatever the certificate says. But that certificate has no real meaning in your life until you go to Baskin Robbins and appropriate what was paid for you. Only then will you enjoy the gift. Before going to the store, the gift certificate was sufficient, but not efficient.” (Maximum Joy, pp. 68-70).

19. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 590.

20. Bauer, pg. 816.

I John 1 – Part 5

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

A gifted Christian counselor and speaker writes, “I work a lot with brave clients who are struggling with addiction. Even if you don’t deal with addiction all day, you probably know as well as I do that addiction is a cunning and baffling foe. Addiction is the one disease that tells you that you don’t have a disease. It lies and tells you everything is fine and ‘You’ve got this’ and you can go right on ahead and have that drink because ‘You can control it this time.’ 

“Yeah. You so don’t have this. You can’t control it.” 1

Like an addiction, we have a disease called sin that lies to us and tells us everything is fine when it is not fine. Whether we are a non-Christian or Christian, we have the tendency to deceive ourselves. To tell ourselves we are okay when we are not okay.

Each of us has a dark side within us. “Even a religious cynic like Mark Twain said that every man is like the moon; he has a dark side that he doesn’t want anyone to see.” 2

Everything we do is stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6). You may counter, “But a mother nursing her baby is not sin. Nor is sharing the gospel with a neighbor.” While it is true that nursing a baby or sharing the gospel with a neighbor is not sinful, what these statements fail to address is the unknown sins that exist in the nursing mother and person who shares the gospel. Such statements overlook the fact that every person has the same sinful nature as the first man (Adam) who sinned (Romans 5:12-19; cf. 3:9-23). 3

Anderson explains, “Scientists have discovered that the worm does not enter the apple from the outside in, but from the inside out. It’s actually planted there by a huge insect, a little egg in the blossom of the apple. And then as the egg hatches, so to speak, the worm eats away at the apple from the inside out. Satan is like a giant insect. He planted an egg in the flower of humanity, way back there in the Garden of Eden. And it hatched, and the worm of sin has eaten all the way through the human race.” 4

Hence, King David wrote, “In sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5b). He is not referring to being conceived out of wedlock. He is saying that from the time he was conceived, there was sin present. 5 Every human being is conceived with a sin nature.

In his first epistle, the apostle John announced the message he and the other apostolic eyewitnesses heard from the Lord Jesus “that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1:5). He then addressed two different responses from Christians to this message about God’s complete holiness. Some believers can claim to have fellowship or closeness with God while living in darkness or disobedience to Him (1:6a). Such a claim is a “lie” and failure to “practice the truth” about God’s holiness (1:6b). But the believer who walks “in the light as God is in the light” by being open and honest with God about whatever God reveals to him, is able to enjoy “fellowship” or closeness with God because of the all-sufficient cleansing blood of Jesus Christ (1:7). So, notice the contrast between deceit (1:6) and honesty (1:7) before God.

John anticipates that when a Christian is experiencing true fellowship with the Lord by being open and honest with Him (1:7), he or she may be tempted to think they are totally free from sin at least in that moment of fellowship with God. He writes, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (I John 1:8). Again, notice that the apostle John includes himself and the other apostles when he uses the word “we” in this verse. Even the apostles would be deceiving themselves by saying “we have no sin.” Denying that we have a sin nature is self-deception. The “truth” of God’s Word teaches us about our own sinfulness (Romans 3:23; 5:12-19). If we deny we have sin, God’s “truth is not in us” as a controlling factor. 6

Constable writes, “If a Christian claims to be enjoying fellowship with God, he may think that he is temporarily or permanently entirely sinless. Yet our sinfulness exceeds our consciousness of sinfulness. We have only a very limited appreciation of the extent to which we sin. We commit sins of thought as well as deed, sins of omission as well as commission, and sins that spring from our nature as well as from our actions. This verse warns against all forms of the heresy of perfectionism… God’s truth, as Scripture reveals it, does not have a full hold on us—it is not controlling our thinking—if we make this claim [‘I have no sin”]. ‘In us’ suggests not that we have the facts in our mental grasp, but that they have control over us. They are in us like alcohol is in the stomach, rather than like a penny is in a pocket. They influence how we behave.” 7

No one in whom God’s truth is fully at home, can even say for one instant, “I have no sin.” To say such a thing would make oneself without need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. Christians are in constant need of Jesus’ blood to cleanse them because there is never a time during their lives on earth that they have no sin. Even if they are not conscious of any sin in their life, it would be a lie for them to say, “I have no sin.”

Some interpret the phrase “have no sin” (1:8) to refer to the sin nature or sin principle and conclude that was done away with at new birth. 8 They refer to Romans 6:6 where the apostle Paul says, “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” They understand “our old man” is our sin nature or sin principle which refers to all that you were before you became a Christian.

The problem with this understanding is Paul continues to address the believer’s battle with sin in Romans 6-7 (cf. Galatians 5:15-26). For example, he writes, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” (Romans 6:12). If the sin nature or sin principle has been done away with at conversion, how can Paul command his Christian readers not to let sin reign in their mortal bodies? And if our sin nature or sin principle is gone, how can Paul write, 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me… 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” (Romans 7:16, 20)? It is best to understand that all Christians still have sin to deal with after their new birth. 9

The Greek word translated “done away with” (katargeō) in Romans 6:6, means to “put out of business” or “deposed.” “The idea is that the body of sin no longer has any jurisdiction or legitimate authority over the new believer.” 10

Some understand that when we become Christians through faith in Christ alone, we are no longer sinners, but saints. Those holding to this position argue that Satan wants to deceive us into thinking we have not changed at the core of our being at our conversion, so we are more vulnerable to temptation and sin after becoming Christians. While it is true that we become saints (set apart from our sin and guilt) in our position at the moment of conversion (cf. I Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Ephes. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; et al.), we are still sinners by nature.

Near the end of his life, the apostle Paul says of himself, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (I Timothy 1:15). While some would say Paul was referring to his pre-Christian experience in this verse, the present tense (“I am”) of this Greek verb (eimi) does not allow for it. 11 After decades of being a Christian, Paul still speaks of himself as a “sinner.”

Even Jesus’ half-brother James refers to his Christian brothers and sisters 12 as sinners when he writes, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8b).

There may be some of you reading this article who are thinking, “Compared to the terrorists who took down the Word Trade Centers, I have no sin at all.” Or “I am not as bad as him or her.” Both statements of comparison are forms of self-deceit and self-righteousness. God is not comparing our sin natures to the sin natures of other sinners. God compares our sin nature to His only perfect Son Who had no sin nature (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18) and He says we all “fall short of His glory” (Romans 3:23).

For example, Jesus never had a sinful thought, but you and I sin with our thoughts repeatedly throughout the day. Christ never said a sinful word, but you and I sin with our mouths when provoked in heavy traffic. Jesus never hated anyone, but we sometimes can’t stand to be around the people we live with. The bottom line is all of us have a sin nature except Jesus Christ. 13

It would be wise for us to recall the words of G. K. Chesterson when a newspaper editorial asked, “What’s wrong with the world?” Chesterson replied in writing, “I am.” 14

As we grow closer and closer to Jesus Christ (I John 1:1-4), the light of His absolute holiness will expose our lack of holiness (I John 1:5-8). Perhaps this is why the apostle Paul refers to himself as the chief of sinners near the end of his life (I Tim. 1:15). As he grew closer to Jesus, the more Christ’s light of holiness revealed the depths of Paul’s own sinfulness. During this life on earth, there will always be a dark side to our lives that we must face.

While walking in the light as God is in the light, we are exposed to God’s character and Word which by contrast makes us more aware of our own sinfulness (1:7-8). When this happens, John instructs us: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9). As mentioned previously, there are some who understand I John to contain tests to determine if one has eternal life. 15 They think this verse is saying we must confess our sins to go to heaven.

This understanding has several problems. First, it fails to realize John is talking about having fellowship with God and other believers (1:3-4), not salvation. Second, John includes himself and the other apostles with his use of the words “we” and “us” in this context (1:1-8). Surely, no one would conclude that the apostles were not saved at the time John wrote this epistle (cf. John 1:35-2:11). Third, confessing one’s sins to have eternal life is contrary to what John taught in his gospel which emphasized believing in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God to have eternal life (John 20:31). In fact, John uses the word “believe” ninety-nine times in his gospel, 16 but he never says one must confess his or her sins to have eternal life. God’s Word does not contradict Itself. So, I John 1:9 cannot be talking about how to receive eternal life.

First John 1:9 instructs Christians what to do to maintain or restore fellowship with God when they become aware of sin in their lives. We are to “confess” those sins to the Lord. The Greek word translated “confess” (homologeō) is a compound word that literally means “same” (homo) + “to speak” (logeō) or “to speak the same thing” or “to agree.” 17 But with whom are we to agree? In the context the answer is God (cf. 1:5-8). When God reveals unconfessed sin in our lives as we walk in the light, we are to confess or agree with His conclusions. So, when we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with His view of our sins. He hates our sins (Psalms 45:7). Our sins deeply hurt Him (Ephesians 4:30). 18

“We are admitting that what the light exposes is not just a mistake, a bad habit, or a mere product of our upbringing. It’s sin.” 19

It is important to note that the word “our” in the phrases “confess our sins”and “forgive us our sins” (1:9), is not in the Greek text. The Greek text reads “confess the sins” (homologōmen tas hamartias) and “forgive us the sins” (aphē hēmin tas hamartias). The definite article “the” (tas) in the phrase “forgive us the sins” is what grammarians call “the article of previous reference.” 20 What this means is when we honestly confess “the” specific sin or sins God’s light reveals in our lives, “the” specific sins we confess are forgiven.

This tells us that when we become aware of sin in our lives, it is this awareness that breaks our fellowship or closeness with God. So, if we confess the sins of which we are aware, then God is “faithful and just” to forgive those specific sins. The word “forgive” (aphiēmi) can mean to “cancel” a debt that is owed. 21 This is judicial or positional forgiveness whereby God cancels our sin debt to Him the moment we believe in Jesus for His complete forgiveness of all our sins so we can become His forever children (cf. Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14; John 1:12; 6:37). We are declared totally righteous before God in His courtroom at the moment of faith in Christ (Romans 3:21-4:5; 8:33). John is not talking about this kind of forgiveness in I John. In I John the apostle is talking about personal or fellowship forgiveness whereby the barrier that sin creates between a Christian and God is removed so his fellowship or closeness with God is restored. 22

An example of this can be found in Luke 17:3-4 whenJesus said to His disciples, 3 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” Two brothers (permanent relationship) are estranged because one brother has sinned against the other. The sin of that brother does not destroy their relationship, they are still brothers, but it does break their fellowship or closeness with one another. This fellowship cannot be restored until the sinning brother “repents” and comes to the offended brother and seeks his forgiveness (17:3). Jesus says the offended brother is to forgive the sinning brother even if he commits the same sin “seven times in a day.” Why? Because they are brothers and always will be. They have an eternal relationship through Christ. 23

This is one of the reasons our heavenly Father is “faithful” to forgive us when we confess our sins to Him because we have an eternal relationship with Him (John 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 17:3). There may be times when we think that going to God for forgiveness of the same sin with no victory in sight presumes upon His grace and mercy. We may ask ourselves, “How can the Lord forgive me over and over for the same sin?” The simple answer is God is “faithful.” His faithfulness is not based upon ours. He has promised to forgive us when we come to Him on His terms. His forgiveness for our fellowship or closeness with Him is based on His forgiveness for our relationship with Him. 24

For example, when parents decide to have children, they already know their children will commit sins. They are aware that their children will be imperfect. But this does not prevent the parents from choosing to have the children. And when the child is conceived, an eternal relationship begins. Nothing, including death, can change the fact that this child will always be the child of his or her parents. So, in a sense, since this relationship will last forever, the child has positional forgiveness for all his or her future sins. And based on this positional forgiveness, the parents are predisposed to fellowship-forgiveness whenever their child sins against them but also chooses to come back to them and seek their forgiveness. God gave us positional or relationship forgiveness when we became His forever children through belief in Jesus Christ (John 1:12; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). Based on that, He will always be “faithful” to grant us fellowship-forgiveness when we confess our sins to Him (I John 1:9; cf. Matt. 6:12, 14-15) to restore our closeness to Him. 25

You may be thinking that this does not seem right to keep coming over and over again to God asking for forgiveness for the same sin. Isn’t that taking advantage of God’s grace and mercy? It seems contrary to God’s holiness. Oh, but it is right for God to forgive His children when they confess their sins to Him. 26 This forgiveness is not contrary to God’s holiness – He is “just” (I John 1:9). The word for “just” (dikaios) is the same word used as a title to Jesus Christ in I John 2:1 where it is translated “the Righteous One.” When Jesus finished paying the penalty of the sins of the world on the cross (John 19:30; I Cor. 15:3-6), He satisfied God’s holy demand to punish sin (I John 2:1-2). So, God is not compromising His holiness when He forgives the sinning Christian when he or she confesses their sin. This forgiveness is not based on our deservedness or performance. It is based on the atoning sacrifice of Christ. 27 Christ’s shed blood is sufficient for the sinning Christian (1:7; 2:1-2).

I am not suggesting that God takes sin lightly nor should we. God hates sin. He is grieved by our sins. The Lord wants His children to gain victory over that sin. But until a believer is open and honest with God about the sin God reveals to him or her, that believer will not be in fellowship with God. Nor will he or she have access to God’s power while living out of fellowship with the Lord.

There are some Christians who teach that a Christian does not need to confess his sins and ask forgiveness because a believer already has complete forgiveness of all his sins including his future sins (Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). But this conclusion confuses the believer’s positional forgiveness (Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7) with his fellowship forgiveness (I John 1:9). A Christian who does not see his need to seek his heavenly Father’s forgiveness when he disobeys the Lord will not be very sensitive to the multiple ways he grieves God. In addition, the Lord Jesus taught His believing disciples to seek forgiveness of their sins when He taught them how to pray each day (e.g., the expression “give us this day our daily bread” precedes the request “forgive us our debts”Matt. 6:11-12). 28

We have talked about confessing the specific sins in our lives of which we are aware. But what about all the unknown sin in our lives? The last part of I John 1:9 explains that when we confess the specific sins of which we are aware, God is “faithful and just” to not only forgive those specific sins we confessed, but He will also “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This “all unrighteousness” refers to all the other sins in our lives that we are not aware of. It has been estimated that 90% of the decisions we make are unconscious in nature. 29 There are many sinful choices we all make of which we have no conscious knowledge. We all have far more sin in our lives that we do not know about. But God sees all our sins – the sins we consciously choose (“our sins”) and the sins we unconsciously choose (“all unrighteousness”). We do not need to agonize about the sins we are not conscious of because the shed blood of Jesus Christ “cleanses us” from all of them when we confess the specific sins God’s light reveals to us (1:7, 9). Nothing in our lives is left uncleansed.

In conclusion, the apostle John’s primary concern in I John is a believer’s fellowship or intimacy with God. This is emphasized in the first chapter where the word “fellowship” occurs four times (1:3, 6-7). Present and known sin in the life of a Christian breaks his fellowship or closeness with God, but it does not jeopardize his eternal relationship with the Lord. God is described as a gracious and merciful heavenly Father Who wants to help His children grow in their relationship with Him. He wants to help His children get back up when they fall and hurt themselves. He does not wait for them to mess up so He can stomp on them or punish them. Instead, He comes along side of them to help them get back up so they can continue on the right path.

Anderson illustrates this with something extraordinary that happened at the 2,000 Sydney, Australia Olympic games. “The gun went off for the running of the 400-meter final. Not far into the first turn the runner from Great Britain pulled a hamstring muscle and immediately came to a halt, searing pain shooting up and down the back of his leg. Of course, the people watching in the stands felt his pain and expected him to limp dejectedly off the track. To their surprise he did not limp off the track. He had spent years preparing for that race. It was a dream come true to qualify to represent his country in the Olympic Games. He was not prepared to limp off the track. That wasn’t in his mind. That’s not how the script was written. So, he kept moving forward, limping along, staying in his lane so as not to be disqualified from a race he had no hope of winning.

“As he limped/skipped along, the grimace in his face turned to tears. The race had long since finished, but the fans were on their feet cheering, tears streaming down their faces. The other runners, who had finished the race, turned around to see what was happening. The stands were clapping, cheering, and crying all at the same time for they could see the determination in this Afro-Englishman to finish the race.

“Then there was a disturbance barreling its way through the stands and onto the track. It was a big, burley, Afro-Englishman fighting through the security guards, running toward the Olympic runner. He went up to this limping Olympian and put his arm around him. Suddenly, everyone knew what was happening. This was a loving father coming down to help his son off the track, saying, ‘Son, son, you don’t have to finish this race.’ His son said, ‘Dad, I’ve got to finish this race.’ So, his father responded, ‘Then, son, I’m going to finish it with you.’ So together, arm in arm, they went around the track and finished the race with the crowd cheering and stomping their feet.

“What a picture of the love of our heavenly Father for His wayward children and how He longs to come down from heavenly heights to pick us up when we stumble, to put His arm around us, to help us finish the race, even if we have to limp all the way home. All He asks is that we don’t lie or deny the reality of our pulled hamstrings. Limp if we must, but don’t leave the track. Stay in the race. Don’t try to hide your failure from Him. He’s there to help us home. And someday, after a particularly serious fall, you may look back and realize your most intimate moments with Him were when He was there to pick you up when you turned your face toward Him.” 30

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word which instructs us not to deny the sin Your light reveals to us, but to agree with Your point of view – that it is sin, and it is repulsive to You. All You ask is that we be honest with You about our sin. All of us can deceive ourselves into thinking we are not nearly as bad as Your Word points out to us. We can refer to our sin as a bad habit, a mistake, or weakness, when it is an abomination in Your sight. Knowing that You are faithful and just to forgive our sins the moment we confess them to You, invites us to be honest with You instead of hiding in the darkness of broken fellowship. Thank You, Lord God, for putting Your arm around us when we do fall and walking with us through the pain of our own sinful choices. There are still consequences to face, but we do not have to face them alone. For You are with us and You promise never to leave us or forsake us. Thank You heavenly Father for being faithful even when we are faithless. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Jenna Riemersma, Altogether You (Marietta, GA: Pivotal Press, 2020), pp. 42-43.

2. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 49.

3. Adapted from Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3519 to 3523; cf. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 589.

7. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 25.

8. Ibid., pg. cites Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, Word Biblical Commentary series (Waco: Word Books, 1984), pg. 29.

9. Adapted from Ibid., pp. 50-51.

10. Ibid., pg. 52.

11. Ibid., pg. 51 says “the grammar here will not allow for the ‘historical’ present because the “historical’ present is never used with the verb ‘to be,” citing Daniel B. Wallae, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), pg. 529.

12. Throughout the book of James the author refers to his readers as “brethren” (1:1, 16, 19; et al.), as those “brought …forth by the word of truth” (1:18), and as having “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2:1), all of which are terms or phrases used of genuine Christians.

13. Adam’s sin nature is passed down through the father. Since Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and not of a sinful human father (Matthew 1:18, 20), Christ’s human nature is perfect and without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18).

14. Anderson, pg. 52.

15. Anderson, pg. 15 cites cites John MacArthur, Jr., Saved without a Doubt (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 1992), pp. 67-91; Constable, pg. 46 cites James Montgomery Boice, The Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979); Raymond Brown, The Epistles of John, Anchor Bible series(Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1982); F.F. Bruce, The Epistles of John (London: Pickering & Inglis Ltd., 1970; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986); John Calvin, The First Epistle of John, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries series, Translated by T. H. L. Parker. Reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-61); John F. MacArthur Jr., The Gospel according to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988); John R. W. Stott, Basic Introduction to the New Testament, 1st American ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964); Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistles of St. John (1883. Reprint ed. England: Marcham Manor Press, 1966); and Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2 vols. (Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1989).

16. John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36(2); 4:39, 41, 42, 48, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 45, 46, 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64, 69; 7:5, 31, 38(2), 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:25, 26, 27(2), 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:12; 16:9, 27; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:29, 31(2).

17. Constable, pg. 25; Anderson, pg. 53; Zane C. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 590.

18. Anderson, pg. 53.

19. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1719.

20. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3528.

21. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 156.

22. Anderson, pg. 54.

23. Ibid., pp. 54-55.

24. Ibid., pg. 55.

25. Adapted from Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3532 to 3537.

28. Ibid., Kindle Location 3537 to 3545.

29. Ted Roberts, Seven Pillars of Freedom Workbook (Pure Desire Ministries International, 2015), pg. 232.

30. Anderson, pp. 56-58.

How can we respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ? Part 2

“ ‘While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’ ” These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.” John 12:36

In our study of the gospel of John we have come to Jesus’ final words to the public before His death on the Cross. The people to whom He spoke had important decisions to make before Christ left them. In John 12:23, 32-33, Christ said that the “Son of Man” was to be lifted up on the Cross rather than be lifted up as a Ruler over the nations. This confused many of the people of Israel. We are looking at how Jesus responds to them to learn how we can respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ. Last time we learned to challenge them to seek God while there is still time (John 12:34-35). The second way we can respond to them is to COUNSEL THEM TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST ALONE WHILE THERE IS TIME (John 12:36).

Jesus said to the crowd, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:36a). These people needed to “believe in the light,”Jesus Christ, as soon as possible (“while you have the light”), before the Cross. After the Cross, when the Light was no longer with them, it would be more difficult for them to believe. No person is promised tomorrow on earth, so it is important for them to respond in faith to Christ while they still have time.

Notice that Christ says they can become “sons of light” simply by believing or trusting in Him alone for His gift of salvation. This verse does not say they become “sons of light” by going to church, being baptized, confessing their sins, keeping the commandments, or praying. The only condition is to believe in the light which is Jesus Christ.

How often today do you hear a Christian use the word “believe” when inviting a non-Christian to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ? It rarely happens. Search the internet and see how many Christian churches and organizations use the word “believe” or its synonym “trust” in their plan of salvation as the sole condition for obtaining eternal life from Jesus Christ. It is very seldom. Instead they use unclear clichés and phrases such as “accept Jesus, give your life or heart to Jesus, ask Jesus into your heart, repent or turn from your sins, confess Jesus as Lord, or submit to Jesus as your Lord.” Lost people are being told to do everything but believe in the Lord Jesus for eternal life. I am convinced that the greatest need in evangelism today is for Christian workers to return to using the words that God uses most in evangelism – the words believe and faith.

Some people confuse the use of the word “believe” in the Bible with common uses of the English word “believe.” For example, we may hear people say these common phrases in English:

– “I believe it is going to snow today.”

– “I believe I voted for the wrong candidate.”

– “I don’t believe voting makes any difference.”

– “I believe I gave her the wrong directions.”

So when people hear us use the word “believe” in relation to Jesus Christ, they may think it only conveys speculation. But the use of the word “believe” in the Bible communicates absolute certainty. When Christ says, “believe in the light” (John 12:36a), He is inviting people to be convinced that He is God Who is “the light,” and then to trust in Him alone. John writes in his epistle, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (cf. I John 1:5). There was no darkness or sin in Jesus Christ because He is God (I John 5:20; cf. Hebrews 1:8; 4:15). Therefore, only Jesus could give them life that never ends. Jesus does not direct unbelievers to the Father to receive everlasting life. He directs them to Himself for this gift (John 5:21, 40; 6:40, 47). Christ proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6).

Sometimes I will encounter non-Christians who think they must do something in addition to believing or trusting in Christ alone to give them everlasting life. For example, when I ask a person, “What does God say you must do to get to heaven?” He or she responds, “I must believe in Christ and … be baptized or live a godly life or love others or take communion or confess all my sins.” And the list goes on and on and on. But is that what Jesus says?

Christ said to a religious leader named Nicodemus, 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever BELIEVES in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever BELIEVES in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who BELIEVES in Him is not condemned; but he who does not BELIEVE is condemned already, because he has not BELIEVED in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:14-18).

According to John 3:14-16, who has everlasting life? The one who “believes in… the Son of Man,” Jesus Christ, Who was “lifted up” on a Cross (cf. John 8:28; 12:23, 32-33). According to John 3:17, Who is the one Person by which one must be saved? “Through Him,” God’s only begotten “Son,” Jesus Christ. According to John 3:18, what is the basis upon which a person is condemned or not condemned? Belief or unbelief in God’s “only begotten Son,” Jesus Christ.

It does not matter what your religion or denomination or pastor or priest teaches. What matters is what Jesus Christ taught. Repeatedly Jesus teaches that believing in Him alone is the only condition for everlasting life (cf. John 3:14-18; 5:46; 6:29, 35-36, 40, 47; 7;38; 8:24, 45; 9:35; 10:37-38; 11:25-26; 12:36, 46; 13:19; 14:1, 11-12; 16:9; 17:20; et al.).

When Jesus was hanging on the Cross, He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The Greek word translated “finished” is tetelestai. It means “paid in full.” Receipts in New Testament times were stamped with this word which meant that the debt had been paid in full. Christ did not make a down payment for our sin when He died on the Cross so that we must pay the remainder of our sin debt to God. God does not accept us on the basis of our good life, our keeping of His commandments, our water baptism, or the sacraments we have taken. We are accepted by God on the basis of the full payment for our sin debt to God when Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf. God was completely and forever satisfied with Jesus’ full payment for our sin. The verb tetelestai is in the perfect tense. This means Christ made the full payment for our sin debt when He died on the cross and it remains paid in full to the present.

When we communicate the gospel with non-Christians, we must be clear that all people have sinned against God and deserve to die forever in the Lake of Fire (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15). No amount of our good thoughts, words, or actions can change the fact that we are sinners before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). Because Jesus finished paying the penalty for our sins when He died in our place, that means we do not have to work for our salvation (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). All God asks of us is to believe in Jesus alone and His finished work on the Cross as sufficient payment for our sins (John 3:14-15; 19:30). When we do, He gives us everlasting life and forgives all our sins (John 3:16; Acts 10:43).

Those who are trusting in their good works or in Christ plus their good works to get them to heaven, are telling God the Father that Jesus’ death on the cross failed to pay their sin debt in full. However, since God was forever satisfied with His perfect Son’s payment for the sin of the world (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:2), we must also be satisfied with what satisfies God. God cannot accept anything we do as payment for our sins because He has already accepted His Son’s complete payment for all of our sins when He died in our place on the Cross.

Those who “believe in the light [i.e., in Jesus]… become sons of light” (John 12:36; cf. Ephesian 5:8). Every believer in Jesus is defined by the “light” of Jesus Christ instead of by their sin or shame. Christ, Who is Light, lives inside us now (John 8:12). Our sinful hearts have been made new and are good and noble (Luke 8:15). God says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statues, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

We have been given a new identity and a new nature defined by Christ’s light. A passion resides deep inside us that can be stronger than our passion for sin when we yield to the Holy Spirit inside us (Rom. 7:21-25; 8:1-7). It is a passion to love God and walk in His ways, just as Christ did. Because we are defined by the light of Christ, it is important to pay attention to the God-given passion He has given us to live for Him.

When Christ finished speaking He “departed, and was hidden from them” (John 12:36b) supernaturally. He seems to have vanished, reminding us that He is in control. His death will take place in God’s time. This departure of Jesus was an example of what He had just predicted (John 12:35) and should have motivated them to believe in Him while there was still time.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please give me Your clarity and wisdom when communicating Your gospel message to non-Christians. So many people today are confused about what they must do to get to heaven.They are being told to do many different things in addition to believing or trusting in You alone for Your free gift of everlasting life. Satan is such a deceiver. He is not against any religion that leaves out a Christ-alone salvation because he knows it will lead them into an eternal hell. By Your grace, please bring all Christians back to Your basic promise that “whoever believes in Him [Jesus] should not perish but have everlasting life.” The more clearly we communicate Your gospel message, the more people can understand and believe in You alone for Your free gift while there is still time. Thank You, my Lord and my God, for making this message so clear and simple. In Your matchless name I pray. Amen.  

The Light of the World

“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’ ” John 8:12

The setting of John 8:12 is back in chapter 7. It is the Feast of Tabernacles. One of the very special events during this feast was the “Illumination of the Temple.” This ceremony took place each evening in one of the courts of the Temple – the Court of the Women. In the center of this court four giant candelabra were set up (the many-branched candlesticks used by the Jews). Some accounts say that these golden candelabra were as high as seventy-five feet. At night, they were lit and they brought light to the whole temple area and most of Jerusalem. It was spectacular, and people would celebrate all night.

The reason they did this was to remember another wilderness experience. It was the pillar of fire. During the exodus from Egypt, God protected and guided the people of Israel through the wilderness with the pillar of fire. God was with them.

At the end of the feast, the lights were purposely put out. Why? Because the Messiah had not come yet.

It is in the same temple area where the lights were put out the night before that I believe Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12a). It is as though Jesus is saying, “Do you remember the pillar of fire that came between the Israelites and the Egyptians near the Red Sea, the pillar that protected them and led them on their wanderings in the wilderness? That was My presence with them. I was God with them and I am God with you! It was I who protected them. It was I who guided them through the wilderness. I am the light of the WORLD – not just the light for the nation of Israel, but the light for the entire world. I offer hope to every one of every country, culture, and color.” What a statement! Jesus is claiming to be God.

The phrase “I Am” is how God identified Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:13-14). “I Am” is also how Jesus will continue to state His own identity to the people of Israel. Jesus has already stated, “I am the bread of life” (6:35). Later on, He will identify Himself with more “I am” statements: “I am the door” (10:9), “I am the Good Shepherd” (10:14), “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (11:25), “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (14:6), “I am the true Vine” (15:1). Each one of these staggering statements attested to the fact that He was and is God.

Because Jesus is God (cf. I John 5:20), there is no darkness or sin in Him. The Bible says, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (I John 1:5; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15). Since Jesus is “the light of the world,” He can offer hope and life to every person of every country, culture, and color. Christ does not favor one particular culture or color of people over another. He loves every person equally and longs to have a personal relationship with each one.

So much emphasis is placed upon the color of a person’s skin today which leads to much hatred toward those who look differently. This is not from the Lord (cf. I John 2:9-11). God created all people of all colors and we are to praise Him for this. The real problem in the world today is not skin, it is sin. All people of all colors have a problem called sin (Romans 3:23). This is why some people think they are superior to others. This is why some people allow their own prejudices to mistreat others. This is why there is racism in the world. Until we stop focusing on skin and start dealing with our sin, there will be no lasting reconciliation among the different cultures and colors of people in the world today.

God has provided the solution to our sin problem by giving His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as the Savior of the world (John 3:16a; 4:42). Christ loved us so much He died in our place on a cross to pay the full penalty for our sin, and three days later He rose from the dead and He is alive today (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus invites us to believe or trust in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life. When we do, we become “sons of light.” Jesus said, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:36).

Notice that Christ says we can become “sons of light” simply by believing or trusting in Him alone for His gift of salvation. This verse does not say we become “sons of light” by going to church, being baptized, confessing our sins, praying five times a day, living a good life, or by keeping the sacraments. The only condition is to believe in the Light which is Jesus Christ.

After believing in Christ, we are no longer defined by our sin and shame. We are defined by the Light of Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8). How do we live as children of light?

Jesus explains, “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12b). This is such a wonderful promise. There is nothing we need more in this world than light on our path. Many people are walking in the darkness of sins today. They don’t know where they are going. They have no idea of what is ahead; they are running into disaster and they cannot even see it coming. But how does a person break loose from the bondage of sin? How can we come out of the domain of darkness and its influence into the domain of God and the influence of His light and purity? Simple. By following Jesus!  “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” That tells me two things: 

1. Jesus will never lead me into darkness. He will never lead me into sin. So if I will just follow Him like a sheep follows a shepherd, I will not find myself in darkness but in “light” (holiness and hope) and “life” (relationship with God). On the other hand…

2. If I am living in sin, if I am walking in darkness, I must not be following Jesus—because that’s not where He is going. I can never blame Jesus for my sinful lifestyle or hopelessness. Because He is the antithesis of both! If I am letting Him lead me, I will have holiness and hope in my life.

I have had those who are opposed to Christianity try to justify their rejection of Christ by referring to all the horrific things done in the name of Jesus Christ, such as The Crusades or the atrocities of Adolph Hitler. I assure them, that those who have done terrible things in the name of Jesus Christ are not representing biblical Christianity. When people murder or mistreat other people because of their different skin color or religion, they are not following the example of their Leader, Jesus Christ, Who taught us to love our neighbors and our enemies by blessing them, doing good to them, and praying for them (Matthew 5:44; Luke 10:27-37). Jesus Christ is not responsible for those who misuse His name to justify their own sinful choices. Those people will answer to Christ for the wrongs they have done.

Notice how positive the solution is in John 8:12. It is not that I fight off my horrible lust, prejudices, selfishness, and greed so I can follow Jesus. That would be impossible for me to do. But if I will choose to follow Christ and obey His Word, and continue in that choice no matter how imperfect or how weak I may feel my walk with Him is — that choice lived out day by day will take me where I need to go. Can you say with firm conviction, “I have decided to follow Jesus”? Peter didn’t follow Jesus perfectly, but he followed Him as a choice of life. James and John and the other disciples were slow learners like some of us are. But they were followers of Jesus and that journey led them out of darkness into light.

What the world needs today is the Light of the world, Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can transform the sinful human heart so that hatred is replaced with love. Until people find peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ alone (Romans 5:1), they will not be able to live peacefully with themselves or others (Ephesians 2:13-18). Governments and politicians cannot do this for us. Only Jesus Christ can and does when we come to Him on His terms.

I read a story about a grandfather who took his little grandson for a walk in the woods. As they were walking along they stopped for a moment and the grandfather asked, “Do you know where we are?” The little boy said, “No!” The grandfather asked, “Do you know where we’re going?” And the little boy again said, “No!” The grandfather chuckled and said, “Well, I guess you’re lost then.” The boy looked up at his grandfather and said, “No, I’m not lost. I’m with you.” When you are with Jesus, when you are following Him, you will never be lost and you will arrive where you need to be.

Prayer: Father God, as I look at the world today, I see people wandering in the darkness without any lasting hope. They don’t know where they are going. They have no idea of what is ahead; they are running into disaster and they cannot even see it coming. I was once one of those people. But when You removed the blinders from my mind, I was able to see the light of Jesus’ glory so I could believe in Him (2 Corinthians 4:4). And at that moment, You transferred me from the domain of darkness into the marvelous light of Your Son’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13; I Peter 2:9). I am no longer defined by my sin and shame, but by the Light of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:8). I now have a choice. I can choose to follow Jesus, the Light of the world, and no longer abide in the darkness of sin, or I can follow my own sinful flesh and the course of this world which leads to the darkness of sin, hate, and death (John 8:12; 12:35; I John 2:9-11; 3:11-15). Thank You, Lord Jesus, for never leading me into darkness when I follow You. Forgive me for the many times I have blamed You for my own sinful choices. How foolish I was to do such a thing! But even then, You did not stop loving me nor did You give up on me. You still loved me and patiently waited for me to turn back to You. Thank You so much for the hope I have when my eyes are fixed upon You. Please lead me to those who are abiding in darkness that I may share the Light of the world with them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.