You Don't Say!

Bible Book: 1 John  1 : 5-10
Subject: Truth; Honesty
Series: Certainty In Uncertain Times - 1 John
[Editor's Note: This message is taken from 1 John 1:5 - 2:2]

As I said last week in the first message in our study of First John, we are living in a time of great cultural, philosophical, moral, and religious uncertainty. In fact, many people in our day have abandoned the idea of absolutes and have chosen to live with no certainty and no conviction about the truth. The politically correct and socially acceptable viewpoint is that everyone’s opinion or idea about the truth is equally valid.

As a result, there is even an emergent movement and mindset among some religious groups that says no one can know for sure what the Bible means. No one can know for sure what God really has to say to mankind. At best, all we can do is approach the Bible with a very open-minded and a very cautious opinion as to its interpretation. But to know what the Bible means with any certainty is not possible.

Well, I want to suggest to you this morning that nothing could be further from the truth. God has revealed the truth about Himself and His will for us quite clearly through His creation, His Word, and His Son. And the Bible is clear that we can know the truth.

For example, listen to how Luke introduces His gospel account. He says: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us (the things of the gospel; the things God accomplished through Jesus), just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:1-4 (NASU)

The gospels have been written by those who were eyewitnesses to the Person and work of Jesus Christ so that we can know the exact truth with certainty.

The apostle Peter also said this: “I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.” 2 Peter 1:12 (NASU)

Peter was simply saying that it is important to be reminded of the truth because the truth of God doesn’t change. The truth of God is absolute and established. The word translated established literally means, “set fast.” It’s like hardened cement that does not move or change. So Peter is literally saying that we have been set fast, we have been cemented, in the truth.

And later in the last chapter of John’s first epistle John wrote: “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13 (HCSB)

I could go on with other examples but I think you get the point. To claim that the Scriptures and the truth of God are unknowable is to contradict the Word of God itself. As one writer says, “It is, in essence, to accuse God of being unable to clearly reveal Himself and His truth to humanity. (And) the inevitable result of such arrogance – for those who embrace it – is the loss of certainty and confidence about the rich and essential doctrinal truths of the Christian faith.”[1]

The fact is, John and all the other writers of Scripture were absolutely certain about what they believed and why they believed it. And under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they wrote the message of God clearly and boldly.

And that is why John begins verse five of this first chapter by saying: “Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him.” 1 John 1:5 (HCSB) Does that sound like someone who is uncertain and cautious about what he is writing? Not at all. He is speaking with concise clarity and complete certainty!

Why could John and the other apostles be so certain about their message? Because it’s a message they heard directly from Jesus, who we learned last week is the eternal Word of Life – He was God in the flesh. He made that truth clear when He said: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” John 14:9 (NIV) So when John and the other apostles heard the message of Jesus they were hearing the message of God.

The message John declares in these first few verses is that God is light. Now what exactly does that mean? Well, in order to get John’s meaning, you have to understand two fundamental principles.

The first principle is that light represents the truth of God as embodied in His Word. In John 17:17 Jesus was praying to the Father and He said, “Your Word is truth!” (NIV) And then in John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The light and the life of God are inherently connected to the truth because the truth is embodied by His Word – both the written word and the living Word – Jesus Christ.

That is exactly what Jesus meant when He described Himself as light in the eighth chapter of John’s gospel: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12 (NIV)

The light of God is bestowed on believers in the form of eternal life through Jesus Christ, who came into the world as the incarnate Son of God. That is why John said in his gospel that Jesus was the true Light who came into the world to give eternal life to those who believed on Him.

The second principle is that light represents a life of virtue and godly conduct. The apostle Paul said it this way in Ephesians 5: “For though once your heart was full of darkness, now it is full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! Because of this light within you, you should do only what is good and right and true. Learn as you go along what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless pleasures of evil and darkness.” Ephesians 5:8-11 (TLB)

In other words, Paul is simply saying that if a person claims to possess the Light and to have eternal life then the way that person lives should show evidence of it by a devotion to the truth and righteousness of God. If truth and righteousness are absent from a person’s life, then no matter what he or she says that person does not possess eternal life.

Those two principles about the Light are vital in understanding John’s epistle and distinguishing genuine faith from a counterfeit, or false, faith. And in the remaining verses of this first chapter and the first two verses of the second chapter, John warns us about three things we should never say. You can easily find them by looking for the phrase, “If we say…”

First of all, John says…

1. Don’t say you are walking in the Light if you are walking in darkness!

Read verse six.

John makes it clear here in verse six that to walk in the light is to practice the truth. So to walk in darkness is to not practice the truth. To walk, of course, is simply a figure of speech that refers to a person’s conduct and behavior and lifestyle. And without mixing any words, John just simply says that if a person says he has fellowship with God but continues to walk in the darkness, that is, continually practices evil deeds, that person is a liar and is actually living in the darkness.

“But” John says in verse seven, “if we walk in the light as He Himself (God) is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

If we walk in the light the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin! Now let me pause here and say that it is important to understand the difference between sin (singular) and sins (plural) because John uses both words in this letter. The word sin (singular) has to do with our sinful condition while sins (plural) have to do with our sinful conduct.

You might think about it this way: We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. In other words, our sinful condition is not the result of our sinful conduct; but our sinful conduct is a result of our sinful condition. An apple tree isn’t an apple tree because it bears apples; an apple tree bears apples because it is an apple tree. Just like that apple tree, we do what we do because of what we are. We commit sins because of our sinful condition.

But John says that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. That simply means when we trust and accept the blood sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness and cleansing of our sin, God forgives us and cleanses us from all sin. He forgives us of our sinful condition and our sinful conduct – past, present, and future.

That leads us to a second thing John warns about:

2. Don’t say you have no sin and deceive yourself.

Read verse eight.

To walk in the light and live the Christian life is not to say that we never sin anymore. In fact, in the seventh chapter of Romans the apostle Paul gave personal testimony to the fact that he still struggled with sin. The only Person who ever lived a perfect and sinless life was Jesus.

The fact is that every Christian is going to yield to temptation sometimes and sin. But what John is saying is that sin should not be a continual lifestyle and practice. In other words, a true Christian is not going to walk in darkness.

But when we do sin, notice what John says in verse nine: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (HCSB)

Notice a couple of important things in this verse. The word confess literally means, “to agree or to say the same thing.” In other words, when we confess our sins to God we are not informing Him of anything. He already knows. We are simply saying the same thing as He says about our sin and agreeing with Him that it is a violation of His will for our life.

The word is also written in a sense that refers to a continual confessing. Unfortunately, some people interpret that to mean that forgiveness of our sins is conditional upon our confession of our sins. But if that were true and we die with unconfessed sins in our life then we will not go to heaven. That’s why some people believe that suicide is the unpardonable sin.

But remember that by the blood sacrifice of Jesus all our sin has been forgiven – past, present, and future. The book of Hebrews says it this way: “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:10 (NIV)

What John is teaching us here in his epistle about confession is that since believers are forgiven, they will regularly confess their sins. Put another way, their forgiveness is not because of their ongoing confession, but their ongoing confession is because of their forgiveness. The more we walk in the light the more adverse we become to the darkness. The more like Jesus we become the more we will hate and avoid sinful conduct because darkness doesn’t penetrate light; light penetrates darkness.

So don’t say you have no sin and deceive yourself; but because you have received forgiveness for your sin through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, continually confess your sins to God.

Third, John says…

3. Don’t say you have never sinned and call God a liar. (1:10 – 2:2)

Read verse ten.

Now those are some strong words! He simply says that if anyone claims to have never sinned they are calling God and His Word a liar. Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All people are sinners! So for anyone to say that they have not sinned is to call God a liar.

But John goes on to say in verse one of chapter two that He is writing these things “so that we may not sin.” Again, John is not saying that as Christian we are not able to sin. We certainly are. But He is saying that through the death and resurrection of Jesus He has given us power and victory over sin. He has given us His Word to guide us. He has given us the power and presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit to walk in the light and not in the darkness.

And just for good measure, John puts the icing on the cake by saying that God has given us something else. “But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the righteous One. He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1b-2 (HCSB)

Let me show you two quick things and I am done. First, the word advocate means, “an intercessor.” John says that when we sin Jesus, the One Who is righteous, stands as my advocate, my intercessor, before the Father. And one day when I stand before God, Jesus will stand with me as my Advocate and say, “Father, he’s with Me. My blood has covered ALL his sins.” And the Father will say, Well done; enter the joy of your Father’s Kingdom.”

That’s why John says that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins. That word simply means atonement. So Jesus is both the atonement for my sins and my Advocate about my sins.

But notice last that John says Jesus is not only the propitiation for our sins, “but also for the sins of the whole world.” I know I don’t have time to open this can of worms today but for anyone who believes that Jesus’ sacrifice and atonement for sin on the cross was for the elect only, how does that line up with what John says here?

Jesus didn’t just die as the atonement for the sins of an elect group of people. He died as the atonement for the sins of the whole world! And if you are here this morning and have never placed your faith and trust in His sacrifice on that cross for your sins, then let me invite you to do that today. He loves you and wants you to be saved.

Don’t say you are walking in the light if you are walking in the darkness. Don’t say you have no sin and deceive yourself. Don’t say that you have never sinned and call God a liar. Humble yourself and confess your sinful condition and your sinful conduct to Him. Ask Him right now to forgive you of all your sin. He will save you and you will have fellowship with Him. And you will no longer walk in darkness but you will walk in the Light!

[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1-3 John (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2007), 14.