1 John 1:5 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. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
These 3 verses from the first Epistle of John, follow the preamble of verses 1 through 4. They set forth the importance of having a proper relationship with God that leads to fellowship with the Father and with his Son.
Starting in verse 5, John introduces God as “light” and that there is no darkness in Him at all. John is setting the table so to speak; in order to have fellowship with God, there are prerequisites.
In verses 6-7, we are introduced to “if, then” statements that John uses to demonstrate how the believer is to have fellowship with God or conversely, how to walk in darkness without fellowship with Him. John places the believers fellowship with God, Jesus Christ his own son, and fellow Christians as making his own decision to walk in darkness or walk in the light.
Verse number 6 concerns the Christian who says he has fellowship with God and yet he does not obey the commandments or following the truth of his teachings. John says, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth.” In other words, a person who declares that they have fellowship with God and yet denies His teachings is a liar! The “if, then” statement of this verse is simply: IF we say we have fellowship with God and yet walk in darkness, THEN we lie.
The antithesis of verse 6 is found in the following verse. “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.” John boldly announced to his readers that IF one is walking in the light THEN he is having fellowship with God and THEN he is being cleansed from all sin. As we have seen, “if, then” statements are conditional. In this case the condition is that the “cleansing from all sin” is conditional upon “walking in the light.”
Man, is not perfect, nor will he be perfect on this earth. There is nothing that man can do that will make him good enough to walk in the light. However, John makes it very clear that Christians are “walking in the light”, not due to anything they have accomplished, rather, it is what Jesus accomplished on the cross. The Christian does walk in the light and his sins are being cleansed not by any works that he could accomplish but rather by the work that Jesus did for mankind as he shed his blood on the cross. The continual process of a Christian’s “cleansing of sin”, is part of Sanctification and Justification.
In this discussion, and throughout the context of 1st John, the writer makes it very clear that he is not speaking about “positional sanctification”, which takes place at the moment of salvation. Rather, he is speaking about “progressive sanctification” which is a lifelong, continual process. Taking this one step further, John is not talking about cleansing from sin as it deals with salvation, instead, he is speaking about cleansing of sin for the purpose of having fellowship with God and with the brethren. For a Christian to have fellowship with God and other Christians, he must repent and confess his sins (progressive sanctification). The Christian must be willing to abide in communion with God by following all His commandments.
The significance of this teaching, is that God will not force his fellowship upon man just as he will not force salvation upon man. Man, is a free will agent and is responsible for all his own decisions. Man must choose salvation, he must choose to believe in God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Consequently, in order for man to have fellowship with God and his son Jesus Christ, he must choose obedience.