1:7 To walk in the light is to live consistent with God’s commands and character. Fellowship, the shared knowledge of God’s light and love, is one of life’s deepest satisfactions. With the phrase the blood of Jesus, John identified the focal point of Christ’s saving work in the cross.
1:7 Reference to God as light, as in v. 5, is for the purpose of identifying God as the authentic and reliable source of understanding and comprehension. The phrase “But if we walk” is suggestive of a life-style. The verb is in the present tense and denotes continuous action. John has in mind the practice and habit of life which is characterized by constant fellowship with God. The term “blood” (haima, Gk.) points to Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross as God’s offering for sin. Since the Bible affirms that “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (cf. Lev. 17:11), it is reasonable to assume that John’s reference is to the life of Jesus given for mankind. Through the shed blood of Jesus, there is forgiveness and redemption from sin. The word “cleanse” (katharizōg, Gk.) is in the present tense and denotes continuous action. The blood of Jesus “keeps on cleansing” from all sin. The translation “all sin” is better understood “sin of every kind” or “sin in its every form.”
1:7 the blood of Jesus his Son. As Heb. 9:22 indicates, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” The shedding of the blood of Christ was a voluntary substitutionary sacrifice of infinite value for the elect; it paid in full God’s penalty for sin (Heb. 9:27, 28).
1:7 fellowship with one another Relationships based on Jesus must be centered on the presence of God in a person’s life and Jesus’ atoning work; this is the basis for John’s concerns about the Christian community.
cleanses us from all sin Jesus’ death is sacrificial and clears away the sin of those who believe in Him, which makes a relationship with God possible. The concept of atonement, which is derived from the ot (see Lev 16:30), is a common theme throughout the letter (see 1 John 2:2; 4:10).
1:7 Walk in the light means to reflect God’s perfection (see v. 5) in the human sphere and includes both correct doctrine (truth) and moral purity (holiness). The symbolism of light as knowledge (see note on vv. 5–10) also implies that when Christians “walk in the light” their lives will be known, and will not contain hidden sins, falsehoods, or deception. Such walking “in the light” results in deep divine and human fellowship (see v. 3) and progressive cleansing from all sin.
1:7 A genuine Christian walks habitually in the light (truth and holiness), not in darkness (falsehood and sin). See note on 3:9. Their walk also results in cleansing from sin as the Lord continually forgives His own. Since those walking in the light share in the character of God, they will be habitually characterized by His holiness (3Jn 11), indicating their true fellowship with Him (Jas 1:27). A genuine Christian does not walk in darkness but only in the light (2Co 6:14; Eph 5:8; Col 1:12, 13), and cleansing from sin continually occurs (cf. v. 9).
1:7 To walk in the light is to live in such a way that one is enlightened by the truth of who God is. John did not say “according” to the light, which would demand sinless perfection. with one another: When a Christian’s conduct reflects God’s moral character, then real fellowship is possible with other Christians. But it may be that one another refers to fellowship with God rather than fellowship with other believers. Our fellowship with God is dependent on walking in God’s light, where sin is revealed. Such revelation enables us to stay clean before Him. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us from all sin, making it possible for imperfect believers to have fellowship with a holy God.
1:7. Instead of walking in darkness, believers should walk in the light, that is, to live in God’s presence, exposed to what He has revealed about Himself, and to “walk in darkness” (v 6) is to hide from God and to refuse to acknowledge what is known about Him. The believer who wants fellowship with the Lord must maintain an openness to Him and a willingness to be honest in His presence about everything that God shows him.
The result of walking in the light is that believers have fellowship with one another. That is, they have fellowship with God and He has fellowship with them. Though Christians remain sinful people, while we walk in the light the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin so that they can maintain fellowship.
True, all Christians have already been cleansed (cf. 1 Cor 6:11) and have full forgiveness in Christ (cf. Eph 1:7). So too there is an ongoing cleansing based on Christ’s blood that enables imperfect children to have a genuine experience of sharing with a perfectly holy heavenly Father.
1:7 On the other hand, if one walks in the light, then he can have fellowship with the Lord Jesus and with his fellow Christians. As far as John is concerned in this passage, a man is either in the light or in darkness. If he is in the light, he is a member of God’s family. If he is in darkness, he does not have anything in common with God because there is no darkness in God at all. Those who walk in the light, that is, those who are Christians, have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ continually cleanses them from all sin. All God’s forgiveness is based on the blood of His Son that was shed at Calvary. That blood provided God with a righteous basis on which He can forgive sins, and, as we sing, “the blood will never lose its power.” It has lasting efficacy to cleanse us. Of course, believers must confess before they can receive forgiveness, but John deals with that in verse 9.
1:7. There can be only one sphere of real communion with God—the light itself. Thus John insisted that this is where a Christian will find that communion: But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. It is strange that many commentators have understood the expression “with one another” as a reference to fellowship with other Christians. But this is not what the author is discussing here. The Greek pronoun for “one another” (allēlōn) may refer to the two parties (God and the Christian) named in the first part of the statement. John’s point is that if Christians live in the light where God is, then there is mutual fellowship between Himself and them. That is, they have fellowship with Him and He has fellowship with them. The light itself is the fundamental reality which they share. Thus true communion with God is living in the sphere where one’s experience is illumined by the truth of what God is. It is to live open to His revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ. As John soon stated (v. 9), this entails believers’ acknowledging whatever the light reveals is wrong in their lives.
It is significant that John talked of walking in the light, rather than according to the light. To walk according to the light would require sinless perfection and would make fellowship with God impossible for sinful humans. To walk in it, however, suggests instead openness and responsiveness to the light. John did not think of Christians as sinless, even though they are walking in the light, as is made clear in the last part of this verse. For John added that the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from every sin. This statement is grammatically coordinate with the preceding one, “We have fellowship with one another.” The statement of verse 7, in its entirety, affirms that two things are true of believers who walk in the light: (a) they are in fellowship with God and (b) they are being cleansed from every sin. So long as there is true openness to the light of divine truth, Christians’ failures are under the cleansing power of the shed blood of Christ. Indeed, only in virtue of the Savior’s work on the cross can there be any fellowship between imperfect creatures and the infinitely perfect God.
1:7. On the other hand, when we walk in the light (live in light of truth, knowledge, and righteousness), two things happen. First, we have fellowship with one another. Some commentators teach that the fellowship is with other Christians. If so, the sense would be, “If we walk in truth, knowledge, and righteousness, we have full fellowship with other Christians who do the same.” On the other hand, other commentators reject that interpretation for grammatical reasons. The Greek pronoun for “one another” (allelon), they say, would normally refer to the two parties named in the first part of the statement (God and the Christian). If so, the sense would be, “If we walk in truth, knowledge, and righteousness, we have fellowship with God who is light and has no darkness.”
The second thing that happens when we live in the light is that the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. This strengthens the interpretation that the fellowship is between God and the Christian. It seems less connected to suggest that when we walk in the light, we have fellowship with Christians and the blood of Jesus purifies us from sin. It seems more natural to suggest that when we walk in the light, we have fellowship with God and are cleansed by God from every sin. It would certainly also be true that if we are walking in the light, we would have fellowship with other Christians, so no great doctrinal truth is lost regardless of which way this verse is interpreted.
To be “purified from all sin” does not suggest that if a believer does not walk in the light, his sins are not forgiven in the judicial sense. Nor does it mean that all believers are completely freed from all sin. Rather, the verb is in the present tense, suggesting a continuous and progressive action. It might include the forgiveness and purification from all past sin at the moment of salvation. But because of the present tense, it goes further to suggest that those who are walking in the light have sin’s defilement removed and that they experience a progressive sanctification—a progressive character transformation into the image of Jesus.
All sin means every kind of sin and shows there is no limit to the categories of sin that Christ is willing to forgive. His sacrificial death made every type of sin forgivable.
1:7 “but if we walk in the Light” This is another PRESENT TENSE which emphasizes continuing action. “Walk” is a NT metaphor for the Christian life (i.e. Eph. 4:1, 17; 5:2, 15).
Notice how often “walk” and PRESENT TENSE VERBS are related to the Christian life. Truth is something we live, not just something we know! Truth is a key concept in John.
|SPECIAL TOPIC: “TRUTH” IN JOHN’S WRITINGS The Greek term alēthes (true) and alētheia (truth) and their related forms relate to: 1. God the Father a. He is true (John 3:33) b. His word is true (John 17:17) 2. Jesus the Son a. He is full of grace and truth (John 1:14, 17) b. He speaks the truth (John 8:40, 45–46; 16:7; 18:33, 37) c. He is the truth (John 14:6) d. He who knows Him knows the truth (John 3:21; 1 John 1:6) 3. God the Spirit a. He is called “Spirit of Truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 John 4:6; 5:7) b. He will lead into all truth (John 16:13) 4. God’s redeemed children a. they worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23–24) b. they are sanctified in truth (John 17:19) c. they live the truth (1 John 1:6; 2 John 4; 3 John 3, 4) d. they know the truth and do not lie (1 John 2:21; 2 John 2) 5. the unredeemed a. they and their father the devil do not stand in truth (John 8:44) b. they do not have the truth (1 John 1:8) c. they are liars (1 John 2:4) d. the opposite of truth is “the lie” The term (and its related forms) can mean: 1. truthfulness or dependability (ability to perform what is required) 2. truth in word and action (the gospel is both) 3. reality versus mere appearance, that which is true and genuine (true vs. false) It relates to the OT sense of God’s character, revealed in His Son, accepted and lived out by His children. In John’s writings it is synonymous with the gospel. It is embodied in Jesus. It is to be accepted and lived out. It is a person, a message, and a lifestyle!|
© “as He Himself is in the light” Believers are to think and live like God (cf. Matt. 5:48). We are to reflect His character to a lost world. Salvation is the restoration of the image of God in mankind.
© “we have fellowship with one another” The term “fellowship” is the Greek term koinōnia which means a joint participation between two persons. Christianity is based on believers sharing Jesus’ life. If we accept His life in forgiveness, we must accept His ministry of love (cf. 1 John 3:16). Knowing God is not abstract truth, but initiate fellowship and godly living. The goal of Christianity is not only heaven when we die, but Christlikeness now. The gnostic heretics had a tendency toward exclusivism. However, when one is rightly related with God, he will be rightly related to his fellow Christian. Lack of love toward other Christians is a glaring sign of a problem with our relationship with God (cf. 4:20–21 and also Matt. 5:7; 6:14–15; 18:21–35)
© “the blood of Jesus” This refers to the sacrificial death of Christ (cf. Isa. 52:13–53:12; 2 Cor. 5:21). It is very similar to 2:2, “the atoning sacrifice (propitiation) for our sins.” This is the thrust of John the Baptist’s “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (cf. John 1:29). The innocent died on behalf of the guilty!
The early gnostics denied Jesus’ true humanity. John’s use of “blood” reinforce Jesus’ true humanity.
© “cleanses us from all sin” This is a PRESENT ACTIVE INDICATIVE. The term “sin” is SINGULAR with no ARTICLE. This implies every kind of sin. Notice this verse is not focusing on a one-time cleansing (salvation), but an ongoing cleansing (the Christian life). Both are part of the Christian experience (cf. John 13:10).
Ver. 7 But if we walk in the light … we have fellowship one with another.
The Christian life a walk:—1. The first aspect of the Christian life which this figure suggests is that it is a life begun in connection with a public profession. A man who goes out to walk does something in the face of the world. The eye of man can watch your steps, and observe your gait and your whole demeanour. Thus also is it in relation as Christian disciples. From the moment we take the side of Christ the eye of the world is upon us. 2. On the other hand, this figure also reminds us that the Christian life is a life with a definite goal in view. You consider it hardly worthy of you to be seen wandering about aimlessly and listlessly. 3. Not less distinctly, however, does this phrase remind us that the Christian life is to be a life of dauntless spirit and self-girt energy. When a man sets a walk before him, he goes out with the air of one who has a task to accomplish and is determined to carry it through. No other spirit will suffice in the course of the Christian life. (J. P. Lilley, M.A.)
Christian fellowship with God:—It is here explained that a Christian man is enabled to maintain that habitual fellowship with God which is the very life of his spirit. The apostle thus speaks as one who pursues a great end, and seeks to attain it by two specified means.
I. The end—fellowship with God. This is described in the text as “fellowship one with another.” The fellowship of which the apostle speaks is not that between Christian and Christian, but rather that between the individual believer and his God. In the previous verse fellowship with God is the subject of remark, and it is natural to suppose that the subject is the same in the following sentence, which is simply a continuation of the train of thoughts. Then it will be observed that all the parties mentioned in the first clause of the text are Christians who walk in the light, and God who is in the light. It is reasonable to assume that it is of these same parties fellowship is predicated in the second clause of the sentence. Finally, the expression “His Son” in the last clause points to the same conclusion. Were the fellowship spoken of that between Christians, the pronoun “His” would be inappropriate. Instead of “His Son,” it should have read “God’s Son.” The expression “one with another,” used with reference to the Christian’s fellowship with God, conveys the idea that this fellowship is not a one-sided affair, of man with God, but mutual, of man with God and of God with man. To aspire to fellowship with God, therefore, in the fullest sense of the word, is not presumption; it is simply seeking to live up to our privilege as children of the era of grace. The aim set before us here, however, is too high for the taste of many. They are content with a more distant relation. They would have God be only “the high, lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy,” and desire not to know Him as one who dwelleth “with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit.” Such awe-struck reverence, when sincere, is not to be condemned; on the contrary, it may be admitted to be an essential element of Christian piety. But, on the other hand, we must equally be on our guard against ignoring the gracious, social side of the Divine nature. We have to remember that God desireth not to dwell alone in solitude, however august; that He is a Father as well as a King, that He is as gracious as He is mighty, as loving as He is holy. Then shall we trust in and converse with God, as a man trusts in and converses with a fellow-man who is a bosom friend, and be able to say without presumption, “we have fellowship one with another.”
II. The means towards this high end. 1. “If we walk in the light, we have fellowship.” Walking in the light means living holily. Light, in the vocabulary of the apostle John, is the emblem of holiness, and darkness of sin. (1) Obviously, on good grounds, fellowship is based on congeniality of spirit. Righteous beings have fellowship with each other as soon as they understand each other. No being is indifferent to his kind, least of all a good, holy being. Good men are lovers of good men. As good men have fellowship with each other, so have they one and all fellowship with the one absolutely good Being. With God alone is perfect fellowship possible. Why? Becuase God alone is light, without any admixture of darkness. There is perfect moral simplicity and purity in Him. For this reason He can be better known than any brother man can be, and we can be better known by Him. (2) Another important condition of abiding fellowship is satisfaction in each other’s character and company. Fellowship with friends is very refreshing. Yet there is a limit to the joy to be found in human fellowship. The most gifted man’s stock of thought is apt to become exhausted, the most affectionate man’s love may have too great a strain put upon it, and human tempers are often frail. Hut there is One whose mind hath inexhaustible riches whose love can bear the heaviest burden, who knows nothing of moods and tempers and caprices; in whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. That unique Being is God. In Him is no satiety, no disappointment. Yon can ever lift up to Him your soul in meditation, praise, or prayer, and find ever new delight, and a satisfaction to the heart you seek in vain elsewhere. 2. The other means for maintaining fellowship with God is habitual recourse to the blood of Christ. “And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin.” Of no child of light can it be affirmed, as of God, that in him is no darkness at all. It is in truth a part of our holiness (as distinct from that of God) to see and acknowledge our sinfulness. Such owning of darkness is, in its own way, light; it is the light of truthfulness, sincerity, guilelessness. This is always a prominent feature of saintly character, because, though the quantity of sin may be steadily diminishing, the saint sees his sin in its darkness, with ever-increasing clearness, as he advances in the way of light, and hates it with ever-increasing intensity. How, then, is the sin that cleaveth to the Christian, and mars his fellowship with God, to be dealt with so that fellowship may not be disturbed thereby? The answer of the text is, it is to be cleansed away by habitual recourse to the blood of Christ. Consider the tendency of sin, of every single sin we commit. It is to make us plunge again into the darkness. An evil conscience very readily puts a man on one or other of two courses, both fatal—hiding his sin, or hiding himself from God. In the one case he virtually says he has no sin, that he may have boldness before God; in the other he admits his sin, and flees, like Adam, from the presence of God. Christ’s blood, regarded by the eye of faith, keeps a Christian from both these bad courses. It keeps from denying sin by removing the temptation to do so. What tempts man to deny sin is fear. One who keeps his eye ever fixed on the Cross of Christ has no need to fear. Faith in the power of Christ’s death to cancel much guilt keeps his soul free from guile. The same faith preserves the Christian from the other fatal course, that of hiding himself from God, and, so to speak, breaking of all fellowship with Him. There is great danger in this direction. Evil habits are a fruitful source of apostasy and irreligion. The sinner is too honest to deny his guilt, but he makes the acknowledgment in a wrong, ruinous way—by ceasing from faith, prayer, and all profession of piety. The Christian who has sinned does not act thus. Faith enables him to solve a very difficult, delicate problem, that of steering safely between hypocrisy and irreligion; the denial of sin on the one hand and the denial of God on the other. Through faith he can at once confess sin and hope for mercy. Every new application to the merits of Christ makes him more tender in conscience, more anxious to sin no more, were it only to avoid the scandal and disgrace of even seeming to trample under foot the Son of God and to treat the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified as a common thing. 3. These, then, are the appointed means for maintaining a close fellowship with God. The combination is not to be mistaken for legalism. Legalism means the practical abandonment of Christ’s merits as an aid to sanctification, and the substitution in its place of painful ascetic efforts at self-sanctification. Finding himself exposed to new visitations of sinful desire after conversion and initial forgiveness, the young Christian draws the conclusion that while he must depend on Christ for justification he must look to himself for sanctification. It is another by-path leading into darkness, into which earnest souls are strongly tempted to err, after first fervours and joys are past. The very emphatic language used by the apostle in appraising the merits of Christ’s blood supplies a valuable antidote against the delusion. The blood of Jesus Christ, he declares, cleanseth from all sin. He would have everyone hope for forgiveness, for Christ’s sake, of whatever sin or crime he may have been guilty. Then he represents Christ’s blood as possessed of a continuous cleansing power. The fountain is ever open for sin and for uncleanliness. (A. B. Bruce, D.D.)
Walking in the light:—
I. We are to live under the abiding impression of God’s holiness (ver. 8). Other lights than that from God might not show us how spotted we are. Here, then, is the first evidence that we are living, not in the light of our own conceit, but in that which comes from without and above our lives—the God-light we will be very humble and penitent sort of people. But this light of holiness of God, if it really falls upon us, will show itself in another way besides; it will stir us up to a resolution to cease from sin. Read chap. 2:3–5. A man who is contented with any negligence of duty is not in the light. Light is poured through the universe not merely as a luminator, that eyes may see in it; it has also a chemical power. It bleaches some things, it quickens others. Plants that would be but dry stalks are stirred by its touch in their finest atoms, and draw up nourishment from the earth, and shoot out leaves which turn as in gratefulness toward their benefactor, the quickening ray. So the light of God’s holiness quickens the soul morally. It stirs every fibre of conscience. It makes it rejoice in every true, noble, pure aspiration. It hungers and thirsts after righteousness. It lifts itself up toward the light.
II. But the other ray of the Divine character seems to have more impressed the mind of John—viz., that of God’s love and grace, or we may better say His love as shown in His grace. Here is the sublimest light that ever fell out of the heavens upon men. “And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Light is cheering to the eye. Some men are miserable without a flood of it. Professor Clifford, the great scientist, used to draw his table close to the window; his strong, clear eye delighted in the day-radiance almost as the eagle’s does. Augustine tells us that he had the same passionate fondness for it; “This queen of colours, the pure light, bathing all I behold, soothes me.… If absent, it saddens my mind”; and then he longs for the soul-light it signified—the light, he says, “which Isaac saw when his fleshly eyes were heavy, which Jacob, when blind through great age, saw with his illumined heart.… So, O all-creating Lord, I lift mine invisible eyes to Thee.” But both these great men were especially enamoured of the light of the Cross. They knew, what some of us have found out, that the darkest spot on earth is not some dungeon or cavern, but the centre of our moral being where it enwraps the conscience. You can get rays for mental satisfaction by studying the wonders of the world about you; you may light up your loneliness by the beauty of loved faces; but no crack or crevice in the soul lets in cheering light upon the natural man’s sense of sin. Expedients of human invention for the enlightening of this dark spot are as ineffectual as the candles which are put out by the darkness of the cavern into which they are dropped. But sunshine is not put out if its ray drop into a cavern. Having come ninety millions of miles through space, it could gleam on to the very centre of the earth if the opening were straight and facing the sun itself. So the God-light gleaming from the Cross goes to the innermost and darkest spot in a man’s soul if only the soul opens straight towards the Cross. And that opening straight towards the Cross is what is meant by faith; as the Bible expresses it, “whose heart is perfectly toward Him.” Note, by the way, the exact meaning of the word John uses here to express the cleansing of sin. “The blood of Jesus cleanseth”; present tense, is cleansing, not merely has cleansed. We are being cleansed continually. This is just the very ray of light some of you need to see. But note another effect of this grace-light. It, too, like the light of righteousness, is not only an illuminator, but a force, making a change in the heart upon which it falls. It not only reveals God’s love and grace to us, but makes us loving and gracious to others (ch. 2:9, 10). No Christian can be a hard man, a cold and indifferent man, a proud and selfish man, any more than ice can abide in the summer sunshine. Alas for those about whom the darkness of doubts, regrets, remorse, and fears is gathering! And what but darkness does the natural world east about the soul? Some will say with Tennyson’s Rizpah, “The night has crept into my heart, and begun to darken mine eyes.” But think not of the night. The day bursts above you; the heaven is breaking through the sky which shuts down so closely over you. Look up! (J. M. Ludlow, D.D.)
Walking in the light:—1. I have said that the representation of the nature of God as light set Him forth to us as the God of revelation. Hence a leading element of walking in the light must be the subjection of our own spiritual nature to the action of God’s Word. 2. Another feature of the nature of God as light was seen to be His absolute purity. This also, therefore, must be a characteristic of our walk as His children. 3. The last characteristic of the Divine nature suggested by the phrase “God is light” was moral and spiritual glory. To walk in the light, then, must be so to walk as that this glory may be reflected through us in the view of the world. In other terms, every element of the moral glory of God must be seen in our life and conduct. Hence, for instance, we are to walk in wisdom. We have also to walk in righteousness. No less manifestly are we to walk in love. (J. P. Lilley, M.A.)
Walking in the light and washed in the blood:—You perceive in the text that the Christian is spoken of as a man who is in the light; but there is something more said of him than this. He is practically in the light, “if we walk in the light.” He walks in the light of faith, in another path than that which is trodden by men who have nothing but the light of sense. He sees Him who is invisible, and the sight of the invisible God operates upon his soul; he looks into eternity, he marks the dread reward of sin, and the blessed gift of God to those who trust in Jesus, and eternal realities have an effect upon his whole manner and conversation: hence he is a man in the light, walking in that light. There is a very strong description given here—“If we walk in the light as He is in the light.” When a schoolmaster writes the copy at the head of the page, he does not expect that the boy will come up to the copy; but then if the copy be not a perfect one, it is not fit to be imitated by a child; and so our God gives us Himself as the pattern and copy, “Be ye imitators of God as dear children,” for nothing short of Himself would be a worthy model. But what does it mean, that the Christian is to walk in the light as God is in the light? We conceive it to import likeness, but not degree. We are as truly in the light, we are as heartily in the light, we are as sincerely in the light, though we cannot be there in the same degree. Having thus briefly sketched the character of the genuine Christian, observe that he is the possessor of two privileges; the first is, fellowship with God. “We have fellowship one with another”; and the second is, complete cleansing from sin—“and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” The first privilege we will have but a word upon; it is fellowship with God. He opens His heart to us and we open our heart to Him; we become friends; we are bound and knit together, so that being made partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruption which is in the world through lust, we live like Enoch, having our conversation above the skies.
I. The first thing that struck me was the greatness of everything in the text. To what a magnificent scale everything is drawn. 1. Think how great the sin of God’s people is! 2. Then observe the greatness of the atonement offered. It must be no man, merely; it must be the God-man mediator, the fellow of Jehovah, co-equal and co-eternal with Him, who must bear the bitterness of Divine wrath which was due to sin. 3. Think again: we have here great love which provided such a sacrifice.
II. The next thing which sparkles in the text, is its simple solitariness, “We have fellowship one with another”; and then it is added, as a gloriously simple statement, “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1. Observe, here is nothing said about rites and ceremonies or about Christian experience as a means of cleansing. 2. Observe, again, that in the verse there is no hint given of any emotions, feelings, or attainments, as co-operating with the blood to take away sin. The blood is the alone atonement, the blood without any mixture of aught beside, completes and finishes the work, “For ye are complete in Him.”
III. A third brilliant flashes in the light, viz., the completeness of the cleansing. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin”—not from some sin, but “from all sin.”
IV. The next gem that studs the text is the thought of presentness. “Cleanseth,” says the text, not “shall cleanse.” The moment a sinner trusts Jesus, that sinner is as fully forgiven as he will be when the light of the glory of God shall shine upon his resurrection countenance.
V. Now, in the fifth place, the text presents to us very blessedly the thought of certainty. It is not “perhaps the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from sin,” the text speaks of it as a fact not to be disputed—it does do so.
VI. The sixth gem which adorns the text is the Divinity of it. Does it not strike you that the verse is written in a God-like style? God seems to put away His pearls as if they were but common pebbles. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin”—as if it were as much a matter of every-day work as for a man to wash his hands.
VII. In the last place, just a hint upon the wisdom of the text. I cannot see sin pardoned by the substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus, without dedicating myself to the praise and glory of the great God of redeeming love. If God had devised a scheme by which sin could be pardoned, and yet the sinner live to himself, I do not know that the world or the man would be advantaged. Now henceforth at the foot of the Cross the bands which bound our soul to earth are loosened. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The supreme importance of moral purity:—First, that Christianity is based upon the palpable facts in the history of an extraordinary person. The person is here said to be “from the beginning”—“which was with the Father”; is called “the Word of life,” “Eternal life.” Secondly, that these palpable facts were observed by competent witnesses, who have transmitted them to us for moral ends. The apostles were intellectually and morally competent.
I. Moral purity is the essence of the Divine character. “God is light.” Light is mysterious in its essence. “Who, by searching, can find out God?” Light is revealing in its power; through it we see all things. The universe can only be rightly seen through God. Light is felicitating; the animal creation feels it. He is the one “blessed” God. Light is pure, and in this sense God is called light. There are three things which distinguish God’s holiness from that of any creature:—First, it is absolutely perfect. Not only has He never thought an erroneous thought, felt a wrong emotion, performed a wrong act, but He never can. In Him there is no darkness at all. Secondly, it is eternally independent. The holiness of all creatures is derived from without, and depends greatly upon the influences and aids of other beings. But God’s holiness is uncreated. The holiness of creatures is susceptible of change. Thirdly, it is universally felt. Where is it not felt? It is felt in heaven. “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,” is one of the anthems that resound through the upper world. It is felt in hell. All guilty consciences feel its burning flash. It is the consuming fire. It is felt on earth. The compunctions of conscience.
II. That moral purity is the condition of fellowship with God. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him,” &c. Three things are implied here:—First, that fellowship with God is a possible thing. John assumes this as something that need scarcely be argued. 1. That the fellowship of a moral being with its Creator is antecedently probable. God is the Father of all intelligent spirits; and is it not probable that the Father and the child should have intercourse with each other? 2. Man is in possession of means suited to this end. If it be said that God is invisible—that we cannot commune with Him—we may reply by saying that man is invisible, and we do not commune with him. The spirit with which we commune in man we see not. How do we commune with man? Through his works. Through his words. Through memorials. We have something in our possession which belonged to another; given, perhaps, to us as a keepsake. Secondly, that fellowship with God is a desirable thing. John assumes this. Nothing is more desirable for man than this. Thirdly, that this fellowship will ever be characterised by a holy life. Purity is the condition of fellowship.
III. That moral purity is the end of Christ’s mediation. “The blood of Jesus Christ,” &c. (Homilist.)
Children of light:—There are children of light and children of darkness. The latter shun the bright, the pure azure shining sky of truth with all its loving beams. Their world is like the world of insects, and is the world of night. Insects are all light-shunners. Even those which, like the bee, labour during the daytime, prefer the shades of obscurity. The children of light are like the birds. The world of birds is the world of light—of song. Nearly all of them, says Michelet, live in the sun, fill themselves with it, or are inspired by it. Those of the south carry its reflected radiance on their wings; those of our colder climates in their songs; many of them follow it from land to land. (Scientific Illustrations, &c.)
The best life the product of the bestlight:—A manufacturer of carmine, who was aware of the superiority of the French colour, went to Lyons and bargained with the most celebrated manufacturer in that city for the acquisition of his secret, for which he was to pay one thousand pounds. He was shown all the process, and saw a beautiful colour produced; but he found not the least difference in the French mode of fabrication and that which had been constantly adopted by himself. He appealed to his instructor, and insisted that he must have concealed something. The man assured him that he had not, and invited him to see the process a second time. He minutely examined the water and the materials, which were in every respect similar to his own, and then, very much surprised, said, “I have lost my labour and my money, for the air of England does not permit us to make good carmine.” “Stay,” said the Frenchman, “don’t deceive yourself—what kind of weather is it now?” “A bright, sunny day,” replied the Englishman. “And such are the days,” said the Frenchman, “on which I make my colour. Were I to attempt to manufacture it on a dark or cloudy day my results would be the same as yours. Let me advise you always to make carmine on bright, sunny days.”
Interrupted fellowship:—When they were laying the Atlantic cable the engineers found the communication interrupted, and when they had taken it up sufficiently they found the difficulty was occasioned by a small piece of wire, only about twice the length of a pin, which, by some means, had been driven through the covering of the cable, and carried off the electric fluid. So a very small thing will put us out of fellowship with God, and interrupt our communion with heaven, and the only secret of a constant communion is a constant cleansing from all sin. (Fellowship.)
The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.—The evil and its remedy: (with Ezek. 9:9):—I shall have two texts this morning—the evil and its remedy. “The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great”; and “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” I. I begin with the first doctrine, “The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great.” Some men imagine that the gospel was devised, in some way or other, to soften down the harshness of God towards sin. There is no more harsh condemnation of sin anywhere than in the gospel. Moses charges you with sin, and tells you that you are without excuse; but as for the gospel, it rends away from you every shadow of a covering. Nor does the gospel in any way whatever give man a hope that the claims of the law will be in any way loosened. What God hath said to the sinner in the law, He saith to the sinner in the gospel. If He declareth that “the soul that sinneth it shall die,” the testimony of the gospel is not contrary to the testimony of the law. Do you reply to this, that Christ has certainly softened down the law? I reply, that ye know not, then, the mission of Christ. Before Christ came sin seemed unto me to be but little; but when He came sin became exceeding sinful, and all its dread heinousness started out before the light. But, says one, surely the gospel does in some degree remove the greatness of our sin. Does it not soften the punishment of sin? Ah! no. Moses says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” And now comes Jesus Christ, the man of a loving countenance. What other prophet was the author of such dread expressions as these?—“He shall burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire,” or, “Where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched.” The proclamation of Christ to-day is the same as the utterance of Ezekiel, “The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great.” One sin, remember, destroyed the whole human race. Think again what an imprudent and impertinent thing sin is. It is a thing so audacious, so full of pride, that one need not marvel that even a sin in the little eye of man, should, when it is looked upon by the conscience in the light of heaven, appear to be great indeed. But think again, how great does your sin and mine seem, if we will but think of the ingratitude which has marked it. Oh, if we set our secret sins in the light of His mercy, if our transgressions are set side by side with His favours, we must each of us say, our sins indeed are exceeding great! II. “Well,” cries one, “there is very little comfort in that. It is enough to drive one to despair.” Ah! such is the very design of this text. If I may have the pleasure of driving you to a despair of your self-righteousness and a despair of saving your own soul, I shall be thrice happy. We turn, therefore, from that terrible text to the second one, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” There lies the blackness; here stands the Lord Jesus Christ. What will He do with it? He will do a far better thing than make an excuse or pretend in any way to speak lightly of it. He will cleanse it all away. Dwell on the word “all.” Our sins are great; every sin is great; but there are some that in our apprehension seem to be greater than others. There may be some sins of which a man cannot speak, but there is no sin which the blood of Christ cannot wash away. Blasphemy, however profane; lust, however bestial; covetousness, however far it may have gone into theft and rapine; breach of the commandments of God, however much of riot it may have run, all this may be pardoned and washed away through the blood of Jesus Christ. Just take the word “all” in another sense, not only as taking in all sorts of sin, but as comprehending the great aggregate mass of sin. Come here, sinner, thou with the grey head. Couldst thou bear to read thine own diary if thou hadst written there all thy acts? No; for though thou be the purest of mankind, thy thoughts, if they could have been recorded, would now, if thou couldst read them, make thee startle and wonder that thou art demon enough to have had such imaginations within thy soul. But put them all here, and all these sins the blood of Christ can wash away. Yet, once more, in the praise of this blood we must notice one further feature. There be some of you here who are saying, “Ah! that shall be my hope when I come to die, that in the last hour of my extremity the blood of Christ will take my sins away; it is now my comfort to think that the blood of Christ shall wash, and purge, and purify the transgressions of life.” But, mark! my text saith not so; it does not say the blood of Christ shall cleanse—that were a truth—but it says something greater than that—it says, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth”—cleanseth now. Come, soul, this moment come to Him that hung upon the Cross of Calvary! come now and be washed. But what meanest thou by coming? I mean this: come thou and put thy trust in Christ, and thou shalt be saved. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The atonement of Christ:—Let us view the text—
I. As pointing out its value. It declares the way of pardon to be by the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is the blood of Him whose name is Jesus; a name which causeth those who know it to be joyful in Him that bears it. It is the blood of one appointed and commissioned to save His people from the guilt, the power, the practice, and the love of sin. II.
As declaring its continual efficacy. The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin; it has a cleansing quality. Oh! what great reason have we all to lament the polluted state of man. When the apostle says, “The blood of Christ cleanseth,” it evidently implies that His blood is the only means of obtaining pardon. And this efficacy is perpetual. III.
As asserting its universal influence. It cleanseth, not all persons, but from all sin. Since it was the blood of so great a person as the Son of God, it is as powerful to cleanse us from the greatest sin as from the least. It is a universal remedy. (F. Spencer.)
The Passion of our Lord our cleansing:—
I. The instrument of our cleansing is said to be the blood of Jesus Christ. 1. Now the blood is the life thereof, and therefore, in the first place, we obtain the idea that Christ’s life has been given in expiation of our sins, and we get the idea of satisfaction, inasmuch as the life of an innocent person has been taken in atonement for the sins of those of whom that innocent person is a constituent member. 2. But next, the idea of blood especially conveys to us that element of self-immolation and self-sacrifice which so markedly distinguishes the work of Christ. The blood is the most intimate and precious thing which a man can have. 3. Again, the idea of blood conveys to us the notion of priestly lustration and cleansing. It places before us the present office of Christ, who, having entered into the holy place once for all, forever appears before the celestial altar pleading His Passion before the eternal Father, and presenting His perpetual sacrifice.
II. Whose blood it is that cleanseth from all sin. Whose blood? It is the blood of Jesus Christ! The apostle speaks of the Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. God’s own blood! What an awful and wonderful expression! and yet it only enunciates the truth, that God the Son has taken to Himself a human body, not to reign in, but to suffer in; not to be glorified in, but to die in; to suffer that we might rejoice, to die that we might live for ever.
III. The effect of this potent outpouring of the life of God. It cleanseth us from all sin. It is not mere remission. It is not mere averting the punishment. It is not mere pronouncing man just when he is in fact unjust. It is all this and more. By cleansing we mean making that pure which before was foul, and this is what we attribute to the blood of Christ. We believe that in that blood there is such a virtue as to be able to transform the sinful nature of man into an imperfect but real image of the holiness of God; that before its might all that is base and unclean fades away, and that, like the chemist’s potent elexir, it transmutes the baser elements with which it comes into contact into a new and more perfect substance. Again, the blood of Christ suggests to us such cleansing as comes from washing. That sea of blood which flowed from the Saviour’s veins is the laver wherein our souls are washed from all the soils with which the indulgence of sin defiles them. No harboured guilt, no vain delight, no bosom iniquity can withstand the rushing flood of grace that pours into the soul. God will not save us without ourselves, as St. Augustine bears witness; and therefore the efficacy of all that God has done for us depends in one sense upon ourselves. (Bp. A. P. Forbes.)
The efficacy of the Redeemer’s blood:—
I. The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanses us from all sin by making an atonement for all the guilt of sin; by providing for our justification. Pardon is never partial; and for this simple reason—the atoning blood of Christ reaches to one sin as well as to another; it is satisfaction in full, and therefore, when the merit of it is received by faith, all past sin is freely, fully forgiven.
II. The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanseth us from all sin, by procuring for us that measure of the gracious influence of God’s Holy Spirit, which may deliver us from all the power and from all the principle of sin. In other words, it provides for our sanctification. 1. This doctrine of deliverance from all sin contains nothing more than what the nature of sin, if properly understood, makes imperatively necessary. The evangelical covenant does not speak of the expulsion of degrees of sin, but of the expulsion of its principle. 2. The doctrine in question contains nothing beyond what it must be admitted the Divine Spirit is competent to perform. 3. Whatever exception may be taken to this doctrine of deliverance from all the power and principle of sin, the thing itself is indispensably necessary to our happiness. 4. We say nothing but what all orthodox Christians admit must be done sometime. The controversy, therefore, only turns upon the point when this momentous work is to be accomplished. If this work be done at all, it must be either in eternity or in time. If the work cannot take place in eternity, then it must in time. Shall I ask, How long before the spirit quit its tabernacle? Five minutes? an hour? a day? a week? Why then not a year? why then not now? 5. When we insist upon this principle, we insist on nothing but what uniformly appears on the inspired page (Psa. 51:10; Matt. 5:8; Eph. 3:19). (Jas. Bromley.)
Cleansing virtue of Christ’s blood:—It is a short but a full panegyric of the virtue of the blood of Christ. 1. In regard of the effect—cleansing. 2. In regard of the cause of its efficacy. It is the blood of Jesus, a Saviour. The blood of the Son of God, of one in a special relation to the Father. 3. In regard to the extensiveness of it—all sin. No guilt so high but it can master; no stain so deep but it can purge. Doctrine: The blood of Christ hath a perpetual virtue, and doth actually and perfectly cleanse believers from all guilt. This blood is the expiation of our sin and the unlocking our chains, the price of our liberty and of the purity of our souls. The redemption we have through it is expressly called the forgiveness of sin (Eph. 1:7). As the blood of the typical sacrifices purified from ceremonial, so the blood of the Anti-typical Offering purifies from moral uncleanness. The Scripture places remission wholly in this blood of the Redeemer. 1. The blood of Christ is to be considered morally in this act. 2. The cleansing is to be doubly considered. There is a cleansing from guilt and a cleansing from filth—both are the fruits of this blood. The guilt is removed by remission, the filth by purification. Christ doth both. The one upon the account of His merit, the other by His efficacy which He exerts by His Spirit. These both spring up from the death of Christ, yet they belong to two distinct offices of Christ. He justifies us as a surety, a sacrifice by suffering, as a Priest by merit. But He sanctifies us as a King by sending His Spirit to work efficaciously in our hearts. By virtue of His death there is no condemnation for sin (Rom. 8:1–3). By virtue of the grace of His Spirit there is no dominion of sin (Rom. 6:4–14). 3. This cleansing from guilt may be considered as meritorious or applicative. As the blood of Christ was offered to God this purification was meritoriously wrought; as particularly pleaded for a person it is actually wrought; as sprinkled upon the conscience it is sensibly wrought. The first merits the removal of guilt, the second solicits it, the third ensures it. The one was wrought upon the Cross, the other is acted upon His throne, and the third pronounced in the conscience. The first is expressed Rom. 3:25: His blood rendered God propitious. The second, Heb. 9:12: As He is entered into the holy of holies. The third, Heb. 9:14: Christ justifies as a sacrifice in a way of merit, and when this is pleaded God justifies as a Judge in a way of authority. 4. The evidence of this truth well appears. 5. From the credit it had for the expiation and cleansing of guilt before it was actually shed and reliance of believers in all ages on it. The blood of Christ was applied from the foundation of the world, though it was not shed till the fulness of time. We must distinguish the virtue of redemption from the work of redemption. The work was appointed in a certain time, but the virtue was not restrained to a certain time. Several considerations will clear this. (1) The Scripture speaks but of one person designed for this great work (John 1:29). As God is the God of all that died before Christ came, as well as of those that lived after; so Christ is the Mediator of all that died before His coming, as well as of those that saw His day. (2) This one Mediator was set forth ever since the fall of man, as the foundation of pardon and recovery. (3) Though these promises and prophecies of the expiation and cleansing of sin were something obscure to them and though they did not exactly know the method, how it would be accomplished, yet that sin should be pardoned was fully revealed, and something of the method of it might be known unto them. (4) The ancient patriarchs had faith, and were actually pardoned. (5) And this might well be upon the account of the compact between the Father the Judge and the Son the Redeemer. Had he not promised the shedding of His blood, justice had dislodged the sinner from the world. This was the true and sole end of His incarnation and death. All the ends mentioned by the Angel Gabriel to Daniel centre in this and refer to it. “To finish the transgression, make an end of sin, and make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Dan. 9:24), and thereby should all the visions and prophecies concerning the Messiah and His work be fulfilled. (6) This is the fundamental doctrine of the gospel. The apostle, therefore, with a particular emphasis, tells them this is a thing to be known and acknowledged by all that own Christianity (chap. 3:5). (7) There could be no other end of His shedding His blood but this. Since His death is called a sacrifice (Eph. 5:2), a propitiation (chap. 2:2; Rom. 3:25), it can be for no other end but the cleansing of sin. 6. The cleansing sin is wrought solely by His own worth, as He is the Son of God. It is, therefore, said in the text the blood, not only of Jesus Christ but of the Son of God. The blood of Jesus received its value from His Sonship, the eternal relation He stood in to His Father. Since sin is an infinite evil no mere creature can satisfy for it, nor can all the holy works of all the creatures be a compensation for one act of sin, because the vastest heap of all the holy actions of men and angels would never amount to an infinite goodness, which is necessary for the satisfaction of an infinite wrong. 1. Hence it follows that sin is perfectly cleansed by this blood. (1) The blood of Christ doth not perfectly cleanse us here from sin, in regard of the sense of it. Some sparks of the fiery law will sometimes flash in our consciences and the peace of the gospel be put under a veil. Evidences may be blurred and guilt revived. Satan may accuse, and conscience knows not how to answer him. There will be startlings of unbelief, distrusts of God, and misty steams from the miry lake of nature. But it hath laid a perfect foundation, and the top stone of a full sense and comfort will be laid at last. Peace shall be as an illustrious sunshine without a cloud; a sweet calm without any whisper of a blustering tempest. As God’s justice shall read nothing for condemnation, so conscience shall read nothing for accusation. The blood of Christ will be perfect in the effects of it. The soul shall be without fault before the throne of God (Rev. 14:5). (2) The blood of Christ doth not perfectly cleanse us here from sin in regard of the stirrings of it. The Old Serpent will be sometimes stinging us and sometimes foiling us. But this blood shall perfect what it hath begun, and the troubled sea of corruption that sends forth mire and dirt shall be totally removed (Heb. 12:23). (3) But the blood of Christ perfectly cleanseth us from sin here in regard of condemnation and punishment. Thus it blots it out of the book of God’s justice; it is no more to be remembered in a way of legal and judicial sentence against the sinner. Though the nature of sin doth not cease to be sinful, yet the power of sin ceaseth to be condemning. Where the crime is not imputed the punishment ought not to be inflicted. It is inconsistent with the righteousness of God to be an appeased and yet a revenging Judge. When the cause of His anger is removed the effects of His anger are extinguished. Herein doth the pardon of sin properly consist in a remission of punishment. The crime cannot be remitted, but only in regard of punishment merited by it. If God should punish a man that is sprinkled with the blood of Christ it would be contrary both to His justice and mercy. To His justice because He hath accepted of the satisfaction made by Christ who paid the debt. It would be contrary to His mercy, for it would be cruelty to adjudge a person to punishment who is legally discharged. (4) The effect of this blood shall appear perfect at the last in the final sentence. It cleanseth us initially here, completely hereafter. It cleanseth us here in law. Its virtue shall be manifest by a final sentence. There is here a secret grant passed in our consciences; there, a solemn publication of it before men and angels. (5) Hence it cleanseth from all sin universally. He was delivered for our offences (Rom. 4:25)—not for some few offences, but for all; and as He was delivered for them so He is accepted for them. Men have different sins, according to their various dispositions or constitutions. Every man hath his own way. And the iniquity of all those various sins of a different stamp and a contrary nature in regard of the acts and objects God hath made to meet at the Cross of Christ, and laid them all upon Him (Isa. 53:6)—the sins of all believing persons, in all parts, in all ages of the world, from the first moment of man’s sinning to the last sin committed on the earth.
I. How Christ’s blood cleanseth from sin. God the Father doth actually and efficiently justify; Christ’s blood doth meritoriously justify. God the Father is considered as Judge, Christ is considered as Priest and Sacrifice. This is done—1. By taking sin upon Himself. 2. By accounting the righteousness and sufficiency of His sufferings to us. (1) This cleansing of us by imputing this blood to us is by virtue of union and communion with Him. (2) This union is made by faith, and upon this account we are said to be justified by faith.
II. The use. If the blood of Christ hath the only and perpetual virtue and doth actually and perfectly cleanse believers from all sin, then it affords us—1. A use of instruction. (1) Every man uninterested by faith in the blood of Christ is hopeless of a freedom from guilt while he continues in that state. (2) No freedom from the guilt of sin is to be expected from mere mercy. The figure of this was notable in the legal economy. The mercy-seat was not to be approached by the high priest without blood (Deut. 9:7). Christ Himself typified by the high priest expects no mercy for any of His followers but by the merit of His blood. The very title of justification implies not only mercy but justice; and more justice than mercy, for justification is not upon a bare petition but a propitiation. (3) There is no ground for the merits of saints or a cleansing purgatory. (4) No mere creature can cleanse from sin. No finite thing can satisfy an infinite justice; no finite thing can remit or purchase the remission of an injury against an Infinite Being. A creature can no more cleanse a soul than it can frame and govern a world and redeem a captived sinner. (5) There is no righteousness of our own, no services we can do, sufficient for so great a concern. To depend upon any or all of them, or anything in ourselves, is injurious to the value and worth of this blood; it is injurious also to ourselves; it is like the setting up a paper wall to keep off a dreadful fire, even that consuming one of God’s justice. And there is good reason for it. (a) No righteousness of man is perfect, and therefore no righteousness of man is justifying. (b) The design of God was to justify us in such a way as to strip us of all matter of glorying in ourselves, and therefore it is not by any righteousness of our own. (6) We are therefore justified by a righteousness imputed to us. The blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin. It is not physically or corporally applied to us, but juridically, and therefore imputed to us, and that for justification (Rom. 5:9).
III. Use of comfort. The comfort of a believer hath a strong and lasting foundation in the blood of Christ. 1. The title is cheering. The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son. The titles of the blood of God and the righteousness of God are enough to answer all objections, and testify a virtue in it as incomprehensible as that of His Godhead which elevated it to an infinite value. What wounds are so deep that they cannot be healed by the sovereign balsam of so rich a blood? The blood of Christ is as much above the guilt of our sins as the excellency of His person is above the meanness of ours. 2. And who can fathom the comfort that is in the extensiveness of the object? All sin. All transgressions to it are like a grain of sand or the drop of a bucket to the ocean—no more seen or distinguished when it is swallowed up by that mass of waters. It is a plenteous redemption. 3. And doth not the word “cleanse” deserve a particular consideration? What doth that note but—(1) Perfection? It cleanseth their guilt so that it shall not be found (Jer. 50:20). What can justice demand more of us, more of our Saviour, than what hath been already paid? (2) Continuance of justification. The present tense implies a continued act. Hence will follow security at the last judgment. His blood cleanseth from all sin here, and His voice shall absolve from all sin hereafter.
IV. Use of exhortation. Have recourse only to this blood upon all occasions since it only is able to cleanse us from all our guilt. (Bp. Hacket.)
The cleansing blood:—1. The blood of the Cross was royal blood. It is called an honour to have in one’s veins the blood of the house of Stuart, or of the house of Hapsburg. It is nothing when I point you to the outpouring blood of the King of the Universe? It is said that the Unitarians make too much of the humanity of Christ. I respond that we make too little. If some Roman surgeon, standing under the Cross, had caught one drop of the blood on his hand and analysed it, it would have been found to have the same plasma, the same disc, the same fibrine, the same albumen. 2. It was unmistakably human blood. 3. I go still further, and say it was a brother’s blood. If you saw an entire stranger maltreated, and his life oozing away on the pavement, you would feel indignant. But if, coming along the street, you saw a company of villains beating out the life of your own brother the sight of his blood would make you mad. You would bound into the affray. That is your brother, maltreated on the Cross. 4. It was substitutionary blood. Our sins cried to heaven for vengeance. Some one must die. Shall it be us or Christ? “Let it be me,” said Jesus. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
The cleansing blood:—
I. Consider the connection of the text. The blood of Christ and its cleansing efficacy are associated with fellowship. The question is, what is the relation between them to which the apostle adverts? Without it we can have no fellowship with the Father (Heb. 9; 10). The penitent sinner, carrying the blood of Jesus in the hand of faith, and sprinkling the mercy-seat, may have fellowship with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The same law obtains in holding fellowship with the Son also. How impressively this lesson is taught in His own ordinance of the Supper. That ordinance is the outward expression of fellowship with Him, and it thus teaches how that fellowship is to be enjoyed. Nor is there any other basis on which believers can hold fellowship with one another as the followers of Christ. They may truly say, “The cup of blessing which we bless,” &c. The death of Christ is the bond of their union. They are alike sinners, and have no hope but the death of Jesus. It is to be borne in mind also that fellowship in all these views with the Father, and the Son, and believers, as it is begun by the reception of this doctrine, must ever be maintained by the application of it. We can never come to God otherwise, and we may always come to Him by the peace-speaking blood of Jesus.
II. The blessed doctrine itself. The statement expresses both the efficacy of the blood of Christ and the reason of it. 1. Whence does the efficacy of the blood of Christ to cleanse from sin arise? Not merely from Divine appointment, although there was a Divine appointment. That appointment was made because it was seen by the Omniscient mind to be effectual. It constituted at once the “power of God and the wisdom of God.” 2. The efficacy itself—“It cleanseth from all sin.” (1) There is original sin. (2) There is again actual sin. Alas! how mightily does it prevail. (3) There is, farther, the guilt of sin. How fearfully is it accumulated! Which of God’s commandments has not the sinner broken? (4) So also is there the power of sin. It might be supposed this was not to be overcome. (5) Yet again there are the sins of believers. (6) Even the best services of believers, however, are not faultless. Often, while others applaud them, they are ashamed to lift up their faces to the Lord. They can look for acceptance only through the merit and mediation of Jesus Christ. 3. Blood must be sprinkled before it is made effectual. Under the law, all things were purged by blood. The book, the people, the tabernacle, and the vessels of the ministry, were sprinkled with blood. So must it be with our souls. It will not suffice that the blood of Christ has been shed. It must be applied to the conscience. (J. Morgan, D. D.)
Cleanseth from all sin, so that men are made like to God, in whom is no darkness (ver. 5). The thought here is of “sin” and not of “sins”; of the spring, the principle, and not of the separate manifestations. (Bp. Westcott.)
“Cleanseth.” Not a coming to the fountain to be cleansed only, but a remaining in it, so that it may and can go on cleansing; the force of the tense a continuous present, always a present tense, not a present which the next moment becomes a past. (Frances R. Havergal.)
“The blood”:—This word declares more vividly than any other could do three great realities of the Christian belief—the reality of the manhood of Jesus, the reality of His sufferings, the reality of His sacrifice. (Expositor’s Bible.)
7. The error having been refuted, John now affirms a complementary truth. He has shown the consequence of walking in darkness; he now describes what happens if we walk in the light. Any interpretation of this phrase must be consistent both with the symbolic meaning of light and with the following phrase as he is the light. God is eternally and necessarily in the light because he is himself light; we are called to walk in the light. God is in the light because he is always true to himself and his activity is consistent with his nature. ‘He cannot disown himself’ (2 Tim. 2:13). We must walk in the light of his holy self-revelation, and in his presence, without deceit or dishonesty in our mind or consciously tolerated sin in our conduct. ‘Walking in the light’ describes ‘absolute sincerity … to be, so to speak, all of a piece, to have nothing to conceal, and to make no attempt to conceal anything’. Two results of this are given.
First, we have fellowship with one another. Since in verse 6 John has declared that to walk in darkness prevents fellowship with God, one would have expected him in verse 7 to express the opposite truth that if we walk in the light, we enjoy fellowship with God. This is no doubt true, but characteristically he moves one step further, and states that walking in the light leads to that fellowship with each other which, as he has already said in verse 3, is grounded upon our fellowship with the Father and the Son.
The second result of walking in the light is that the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. The verb suggests that God does more than forgive; he erases the stain of sin. And the present tense shows that it is a continuous process. But what sin needs to be cleansed if we walk in the light? Alford, aware of this difficulty, insists that here and in verse 9, cleansing indicates ‘sanctification distinct from justification’. Ebrard also thinks this interpretation ‘conclusively decided by the ninth verse’. But it would be unusual to ascribe this benefit to the blood of Jesus. Law, to whom ‘light’ means revelation rather than holiness, sees nothing inconsistent about the presence of sins in those who ‘walk in the light’. He goes further and writes: ‘to “walk in the light” is, first of all, to confess sin; to walk in the darkness, to ignore or to deny sin’. But if ‘light’ signifies holiness as well as revelation, to walk in it is to live not only in honesty, but, at least to some degree, in purity also. This being so, the reference here must be to cleansing not from deliberate sins but either from ‘every sin’ (niv mg), even those committed unconsciously, or, as may be suggested by the use of the singular sin, from the defilement of our fallen nature. What is clear is that if we walk in the light, God has made provision to purify us from whatever sin would otherwise mar our fellowship with him or each other. This provision is the blood of Jesus, his Son, that is to say, the virtue of his death for our sins. This is the only explicit reference in the letter to the saving power of the death of Jesus Christ, although an allusion is implied when it is written that the Son came ‘to be the Saviour of the world’ (4:14), ‘to be the propitiation for our sins’ (4:10, av; cf. 2:2) and ‘that we might live through him’ (4:9). The efficacy of this death for our sins is due to the unique person of him who died. He was both man (Jesus) and God (his Son). The condition of receiving cleansing through the blood of Christ and of enjoying fellowship with each other is to walk in the light, to be sincere, open, honest, transparent.
7. But if we walk in the light. He now says, that the proof of our union with God is certain, if we are conformable to him; not that purity of life conciliates us to God, as the prior cause; but the Apostle means, that our union with God is made evident by the effect, that is, when his purity shines forth in us. And, doubtless, such is the fact; wherever God comes, all things are so imbued with his holiness, that he washes away all filth; for without him we have nothing but filth and darkness. It is hence evident, that no one leads a holy life, except he is united to God.
In saying, We have fellowship one with another, he does not speak simply of men; but he sets God on one side, and us on the other.
It may, however, be asked, “Who among men can so exhibit the light of God in his life, as that this likeness which John requires should exist; for it would be thus necessary, that he should be wholly pure and free from darkness?” To this I answer, that expressions of this kind are accommodated to the capacities of men: he is therefore said to be like God, who aspires to his likeness, however distant from it he may as yet be. The example ought not to be otherwise applied than according to this passage. He walks in darkness who is not ruled by the fear of God, and who does not, with a pure conscience, devote himself wholly to God, and seek to promote his glory. Then, on the other hand, he who in sincerity of heart spends his life, yea, every part of it, in the fear and service of God, and faithfully worships him, walks in the light, for he keeps the right way, though he may in many things offend and sigh under the burden of the flesh. Then, integrity of conscience is alone that which distinguishes light from darkness.
And the blood of Jesus Christ. After having taught what is the bond of our union with God, he now shews what fruit flows from it, even that our sins are freely remitted. And this is the blessedness which David describes in the thirty-second Psalm, in order that we may know that we are most miserable until, being renewed by God’s Spirit, we serve him with a sincere heart. For who can be imagined more miserable than that man whom God hates and abominates, and over whose head is suspended both the wrath of God and eternal death?
This passage is remarkable; and from it we first learn, that the expiation of Christ, effected by his death, does then properly belong to us, when we, in uprightness of heart, do what is right and just: for Christ is no redeemer except to those who turn from iniquity, and lead a new life. If, then, we desire to have God propitious to us, so as to forgive our sins, we ought not to forgive ourselves. In short, remission of sins cannot be separated from repentance, nor can the peace of God be in those hearts, where the fear God does not prevail.
Secondly, this passage shews that the gratuitous pardon of sins is given us not only once, but that it is a benefit perpetually residing in the Church, and daily offered to the faithful. For the Apostle here addresses the faithful; as doubtless no man has ever been, nor ever will be, who can otherwise please God, since all are guilty before him; for however strong a desire there may be in us of acting rightly, we always go haltingly to God. Yet what is half done obtains no approval with God. In the meantime, by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God. Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God.
By saying, from all sin, he intimates that we are, on many accounts, guilty before God; so that doubtless there is no one who has not many vices. But he shews that no sins prevent the godly, and those who fear God, from obtaining his favour. He also points out the manner of obtaining pardon, and the cause of our cleansing, even because Christ expiated our sins by his blood; but he affirms that all the godly are undoubtedly partakers of this cleansing.
The whole of his doctrine has been wickedly perverted by the sophists; for they imagine that pardon of sins is given us, as it were, in baptism. They maintain that there only the blood of Christ avails; and they teach, that after baptism, God is not otherwise reconciled than by satisfactions. They, indeed, leave some part to the blood of Christ; but when they assign merit to works, even in the least degree, they wholly subvert what John teaches here, as to the way of expiating sins, and of being reconciled to God. For these two things can never harmonize together, to be cleansed by the blood of Christ, and to be cleansed by works: for John assigns not the half, but the whole, to the blood of Christ.
The sum of what is said, then, is, that the faithful know of a certainty, that they are accepted by God, because he has been reconciled to them through the sacrifice of the death of Christ. And sacrifice includes cleansing and satisfaction. Hence the power and efficiency of these belong to the blood of Christ alone.
Hereby is disproved and exposed the sacrilegious invention of the Papists as to indulgences; for as though the blood of Christ were not sufficient, they add, as a subsidy to it, the blood and merits of martyrs. At the same time, this blasphemy advances much further among us; for as they say that their keys, by which they hold as shut up the remission of sins, open a treasure made up partly of the blood and merits of martyrs, and partly of the works of supererogation, by which any sinner may redeem himself, no remission of sins remains for them but what is derogatory to the blood of Christ; for if their doctrine stands, the blood of Christ does not clease us, but comes in, as it were, as a partial aid. Thus consciences are held in suspense, which the Apostle here bids to rely on the blood of Christ.
Ver. 7.—The contrary hypothesis is now stated, and the thought is carried a stage further (of. ver. 9). He again speaks conditionally (ἐάν), and does so until ch. 2:3; after which the participial substantive (ὁ λέγων, ὁ ἀγαπῶν, ὁ μισῶν) represents the conditional clause. The change of verbs is significant: we walk, God is, in the light We move through time; he is in eternity. Our activity involves change; his does not. Like the sun, he both is Light and dwells in the light; and if we walk in the light, which is his atmosphere, we have fellowship one with another. Darkness is an unsocial condition, and this the light expels. From ver. 6 we might have expected, “we have fellowship with him;” and some inferior authorities read μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ. But St. John’s repetitions are not mere repetitions: the thought is always recut or reset to carry us a step further (of. vers. 3, 4). Having fellowship with one another is a sure result of that fellowship with God which is involved in walking in the light. “Here is a reply to those who would restrain Catholic communion to their own sect” (Wordsworth). Another result of walking in the light is that the blood of Jesus (his sacrificial death) cleanses us day by day continually (present tense) from our frequent sins of frailty. This cleansing is not the same as forgiveness of sins (ver. 9). The latter is the case of ὁ λελουμένος, the man that is bathed (John 13:10); the former is the frequent washing of the feet (cf. Rev. 7:14; 22:14). The expression, the blood of Jesus, in Christian theology, “is dogma with pathos.… It implies, as no other word could do, the reality (1) of the human body of Jesus, (2) of his sufferings, (3) of his sacrifice.” By his blood new life-blood is infused into human nature.
1:7 / If the behavior and attitude of the secessionists, described in v. 6, are unacceptable, what is the positive alternative? The Elder says, walk in the light: be continuously thinking and living in God’s sphere of being. Brother Lawrence might have said, “Practice the presence of the God who is Light.”
This is the only conduct consistent with the nature of God (as he is in the light). Rather than claim fellowship with God while walking in the darkness (v. 6), live in ongoing fellowship with God in the light. That is the only authentic alternative. Just as in the Sermon on the Mount God’s character is the pattern and model (Matt. 5:48: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”), and just as Paul told the Philippians, “Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27, rsv), so the Elder holds up a divine standard for human conduct.
Two consequences follow for those who walk in the light. They have fellowship with other true Johannine Christians, and they are purified from all sin. We would have expected the author to say that walking in the light issues in fellowship with God, in order to parallel v. 6. But he assumes that truth and moves on to a new one: it is only those who walk in the light who are truly members of the author’s community, and, by extension, of the Christian community at large. We saw above in v. 3 that part of the author’s purpose was to complete and to strengthen the circle of salvation. Those who broke with the Elder and with the truth and who have left the fellowship are in serious spiritual danger. They are now outside the community of life (vv. 1–3). Therefore, walking in the light keeps one in the community, in fellowship with other faithful believers.
The second result of continuous contact with the light is that the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. The closer one’s fellowship with God and with those who walk with God, the more aware one will be of sin in one’s life. The secessionists fled the light (cf. John 3:19–21), claiming continuous fellowship with God, while their pride, dishonesty, and lack of love belied them. They could not “own up” to their sins. But, the Elder teaches, if we persist in the light (confessing our sins, v. 9), we will discover that God loves us and has sent his Son to be “an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
The blood of Jesus refers to his sacrificial death on the cross. It is the Christian’s agent of purification and cleansing, and it draws its meaning from the Jewish sacrificial system. The Elder emphasizes, contrary to the opponents’ rejection of Jesus’ physicality, that it is the blood of Jesus which is the effective antidote for sin in the believer’s life, not denial of the existence of sin. In fact, this antidote keeps on working: the present tense of the verb katharizō stresses continuous purification.
The term sin or sins (hamartia) occurs seventeen times in the Gospel of John (the verb hamartanō occurs three times) and seventeen times in the much smaller book of the letters (all in 1 John; the verb hamartanō occurs a surprising ten times). Clearly the problem of sin vexed the Elder’s community. Most of the references to sin are in the singular, calling attention to the principle or fact of sin in human life (e.g., 1:8), rather than to individual acts of sin. Certainly, though, from all sin includes both. For the Elder, sin means lawlessness (anomia, 3:4) and unrighteousness (adikia, 5:17) or wrongdoing (niv), any departure from God’s norm or standard of light as revealed in Jesus Christ.
7 Now comes the writer’s contrast. The opposite of living in the darkness is living in the light, i.e. being responsive to the divine revelation of the truth which shows us how we ought to live. To live in the light is to come into the sphere where God himself is to be found, or rather to live in the same way as God himself. The metaphors used are quite plastic, so that there is nothing strange in the writer saying both that God is light and that he is in the light. It follows logically that those who live in the light have fellowship with God, since these two expressions refer to different aspects of the same reality. To live according to God’s light brings a man into the relationship of fellowship with God. But this is not in fact what the writer says. Earlier he had written that his purpose was that his readers might have fellowship with himself and his colleagues; now, using the preacher’s “we,” which includes speaker and congregation or writer and readers, he says that walking in the light brings us into fellowship with one another, i.e. with the whole company of God’s people. This is an interesting surprise. Haas puts the point neatly: “The false teachers whose opinions he is quoting and refuting in these verses boasted of their fellowship and communion with God, but they neglected the fellowship with men. John wants to remind them that they cannot have fellowship with God unless they have fellowship with other Christians.” Persons who cut themselves off from fellowship with other Christians cannot have fellowship with God. But if they are prepared to live by God’s light, they will come into fellowship with them and with God himself.
As soon as a person does this, however, he will become conscious of his sin; the very thing which separates him from God is shown up in the light. What is he to do? He may simply dodge back out of the circle of light into the darkness because he knows that his deeds are evil, and he does not want them to be shown up, nor does he want to be separated from them (Jn. 3:20). Alternatively, he comes, sin and all, into the light, and to his amazement discovers that the dark blemishes disappear. The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses from sin. This thought is essential to what the writer is saying, and scholars who regard it as a secondary addition to the text by a pedantic redactor have misunderstood the situation. “Blood” is a symbolical way of speaking of the death of Jesus. In the Old Testament the “blood” was the result of the death of the sacrificial victim, and its application to the person offering the sacrifice indicated that the effects of the sacrifice applied to him. The effect of the death of Jesus was to purify us from sin. To say that the blood of Jesus purifies us is to say that our sin is removed and forgiven;8 its defiling effects no longer condemn us in the sight of God. Although as Christians who walk in the light we may be conscious of sin, yet this does not prevent our fellowship with God, for God himself removes our sin.
 Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., 1 Jn 1:7). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1828). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Jn 1:7). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2310). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Walvoord, J. F., & Zuck, R. B., Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 885). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
 Utley, R. J. (1999). The Beloved Disciple’s Memoirs and Letters: The Gospel of John, I, II, and III John (Vol. Volume 4, pp. 198–199). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.
 Stott, J. R. W. (1988). The Letters of John: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 19, pp. 79–81). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.