A Study of 1 Jn.1:5—2:14

The first requirement for fellowship is to walk in the Light <1 Jn.1:5-7>. The message that John received and was directed to pass on is that: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” <1 Jn.1:5 (NIV)>; and the issue is our response to “the light”. In the darkness of our sinful ways, we have degraded God to a representation to which we bow down and worship, and this can encompass many different forms as we consider all that we acclaim as more important than our worship to God: our job, our pursuits and anything else that replaces God in our life <cf Rom.1:21-23; 1 Cor.10:7, 20>; these may not be an actual sculpture but becomes the symbol, and God is shut out of our life. “Light” as used here signifies God’s truth, goodness, and joy, as opposed to what “darkness” is – falsehood, evil, jeopardy, death. Therefore, the first condition for fellowship with God is to walk in “the light”. “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” <1 Jn.1:6 (NIV)>

 The second requirement for fellowship is confession of sin <1 Jn.1:8—2:2>. The character of God determines the condition of our fellowship with Him, and since the Scriptures declare that He is “light”, the next condition that we face is our attitude towards sin. We must understand that our salvation is in three “stages”. First, we are saved from the penalty of sin <see Rom.6:23>; secondly, we are saved from the power of sin <Rom.6:14; 8:2>; third, we will be saved from the presence of sin <Jn.14:2-3; Phil.3:20; 1 Thess.4:17; Rev.21:27>. So, as believers we should understand that in this present life our fellowship with God depends upon our attitude towards sin and what God requires of us: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” <1 Jn.1:7 (NIV)>. We must also understand that in this life we are still under the influence of sin, and that it is possible for us to sin by our thoughts, our words and our deeds: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us……If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” <1 Jn.1:8, 10 (NIV)>; therefore, this perception must always guide our life.

The Old Testament taught the meaning and reasons for the sacrifices offered, and one was for the sin offering; it was mandatory for specific unintentional sin, confession of sin, forgiveness of sin and cleansing from defilement <see Lev.4:13, 22, 27>. This offering was necessary to restore fellowship between the Lord and the worshiper, and taught that sin must be dealt with before any other form of worship was acceptable to God. In the New Testament we see this explained by Christ <Jn.13:10>. Christ explained that the feet needed to be washed since they had become dirty by the person walking from one place to another. We see this in our daily living as we too can become contaminated by sin as we interact with other people, influencing our thoughts our words and our actions; and although this may be unintentional, in God’s view we are guilty and are required to seek God’s forgiveness; not from our original sinful state for our salvation is eternal, but from the contamination of our daily living. So, John instructs us as to how we deal with this: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” <1Jn.1:9 (NIV)>. He concludes by reminding us how our forgiveness and cleansing is possible; “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” <1Jn.2:1-2 (NIV)>. So, we must be sensitive to The Holy Spirit’s guidance and seek to be obedient, acknowledging what The Spirit desires in our life <see Rom.8:5b>. Confession of sin is therefore necessary for our fellowship with God.

The third requirement for fellowship is obedience to His commandments <1 Jn.2:3-6>. The life of a true believer is characterized by obedience to The Word (The Lord Jesus Christ); “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.” <1 Jn.2:3 (NIV)>, and this is confirmed to each individual believer by The Holy Spirit <cf Jn.16:13-14>. In contrast to the individual who may say “I know him (Christ) but does not do what he (Christ) commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” <1 Jn.2:4 (NIV)>. Obedience to Christ’s commands then, is the distinctive mark of discipleship and “God’s love is truly made complete in him” <1 Jn.2:5 (NIV)>; that is, God’s love moves the individual to full obedience <cf 1 Jn.3:18-19>. This is the confirmation that we belong to Him; “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” <1 Jn.2:6 (NIV)>, meaning that the life of Christ must be reflected in the character of the individual believer <cf Eph.4:1>.

The fourth requirement for fellowship is love for each other <1 Jn.2:7-14>. Just prior to His trial and crucifixion, our Lord Jesus demonstrated what humility really meant, He performed the act of a servant (slave) and washed the feet of His disciples; even though He knew that one would betray Him and the others would disown Him. It was at this time that He expressed what He expected of all His disciples: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” <Jn.13:34-35 (NIV); see also 14:15>. It is very likely that John was referring to this occasion in his letter stating that he was not writing a new command but an old one <1 Jn.2:7>, one that his readers had from the beginning. This new command was demonstrated by Christ in His love to us that He expressed in His death for us on the cross, and that he expects His disciples to grow in this love as they express their love to each other, for that was what He taught the disciples <see Matt.5:43-48>.

So, here John expands on this teaching to show why it is important for us to demonstrate love for each other: “Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.” <1 Jn.2:8-10 (NIV); cf Jn.8:12; 12:46>. Our love for each other demonstrates that we are living in the Light (Christ), and where that love is not expressed, shows that such a person is not living in the Light. So often we have seen this in our society where people are despised because of the colour of their skin, their ethnicity, their place in social circles; and unfortunately, this happens in our churches; and John is expressing here that this should not happen; it is NOT LIKE CHRIST! Where this occurs “believers” (if they really are) are not living according to our Lord’s command, they are still in the “darkness of sin” and need to confess as he has already taught <1 Jn.1:8-9>. But it should be noted that John is not condemning his readers, for he addresses them as “fathers”, “children” and “young men”, who have known “him who is from the beginning… and have overcome the evil one” <1Jn.2:12-14>.

Therefore, as we walk in God’s Light, meaning that we are controlled by The Spirit of God; as we are quick to confess our sins that have contaminated us during our daily living; by our obedience to God’s Word; and by our love expressed to each other; our fellowship with God is evident and that overflows to others as we live our daily life.


Justification is an ongoing effort for every human being since no individual wants to be guilty of some words expressed or action done. There comes the necessity to excuse oneself by making a superficial apology and to walk away from the situation. Self-justification is another way of addressing our guilt but unfortunately our perceptions are distorted, and causes the individual to believe that what was said or done was the best response; unfortunately, the individual is not interested in the truth, only in self-preservation. We see the need for justification in every aspect of life today; in the workplace, on the roads and highways, on the sports fields, it is always someone else’s fault never our own. What then is true justification? Justification is an act of justifying (Justify: to show or prove to be right; to declare innocent or guiltless). It is necessary because we are all guilty of committing some unrighteous act against someone else, but most important, against God, which is the basis of all our unrighteous acts.

Biblically, it is the act of God whereby humankind is absolved of guilt or sin. Justification is not a pardon; in Biblical terms it means to be declared righteous or guiltless; it is the act of God that forgives an individual of the guilt of sin. In the redemption of mankind God must justify the sinner without condoning or justifying the individual’s sin, for God cannot compromise in judgment and deal with sin frivolously since His Law demands the death of the sinful individual; “The soul who sins is the one who will die” <Ezek.18:4 (NIV)>; “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.” <Ezek.19:20 (NIV)>.

Since God’s Law demanded the death of the sinner, God cannot and will not justify the guilty, nor can He justify those who pervert His Law <see Ex.23:7; Isa.5:22-23>; nor can He justify those who attempt to justify themselves <Lk.16:15>. It is recorded that those who obey and do what the Law requires will be justified <see Rom.2:13>, but the difficulty we face is that no person can adhere to the law of God perfectly <Jas.2:10> for we all acquire the sinful nature from birth <Psa.51:5; Rom.3:23>. The solution then is by the Infinite Wisdom and the Grace of God, and His solution is that Jesus Christ volunteered to become a human being, live a perfect life according to the Law, and give the righteousness of God as a gift to those individuals who will accept it by faith <see Acts 4:12; 16:31>.

By definition, Justification is being declared righteous before God: the sinner is clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and God sees the sinner perfect in the righteousness of Christ <see Rom.4:3, 5>. Justification is the forgiveness of all our sins, our guilt and punishment being removed: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”  <Mic.7:18-19 (NIV)>; “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.” <Acts 13:38-39 (NIV); see Heb.8:12; Jer.31:31-34>. So, we find that God ascribes (imputes) Christ’s righteousness to the sinner, for this is the only way that God can justify the sinner <see 1 Pet.2:24; 2 Cor.5:21>. In so doing the sinner is then adopted into God’s family, although not being worthy but made worthy through Christ <see Eph.2:13, 19>.

The requirement for the sinner to receive God’ righteousness so as to be justified, is by faith in Christ only; for the scriptures teach that Justification is by Faith; believing in and accepting Christ’s finished work on Calvary’s Cross; “know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” <Gal.2:16 (NIV); Rom.3:25-26; 4:5>. So then, Justification is a judicial act performed by God, and He is the only one who can justify the sinner <Rom.8:33>; Justification is granted to the sinner by God’s grace, the source of our Justification <Rom.3:24; Titus 3:7>; by Christ’s shed blood <Rom.5:9>; and by the resurrection of Christ <Rom.4:25>. The scriptures also teach that Justification will be evidenced by “good acts”, and the process should be carefully comprehended. Good works will not justify the sinner, but after justification is granted, the individual should exhibit good works whatever these may be <see Jas.2:21-24>. There are two other results of Justification that are worth consideration. Justification by faith brings about peace with God; no longer is the sinner fearful of God as when living in rebellion against God but now has a clear conscience, a heart of love for God and others, and a mind that is controlled by The Holy Spirit <see Rom.5:1>. Justification also grants access into God’s presence for worship, praise and petitions <see Rom.5:2; Heb.10:19-22>. There is also the trial that faith in God produces and Christ reminded His disciples of this <see Jn.15:18-21; Rom.5:3; 2 Tim.3:12>.

In the significance of all that has been said, where do you stand as far as your Justification is concerned? Are you concerned about thoughts, words expressed or actions in your life that brings about conviction? Do you desire for peace with God and others? Have you been Justified judicially by God, and by Christ? <see Rom.8:33; Isa.53:11> Remember that Biblical Justification is only attainable by Faith in Christ <Rom.5:1>.