17 August 20131 John 1:5-9
“This is the message we heard from him and proclaim to you: that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true” (vv. 5-6)
Unlike the other letters in the Bible 1 John does not start with the standard greeting or finish with a personal conclusion. It is simple and straightforward in style and more like a sermon. It is traditionally thought to have been written by John, the disciple, who also wrote John's Gospel. The identity of the audience isn't given to us, but it seems that the author has a loving relationship with them as they are called "my dear children" and "friends".
John is worried that the people are becoming confused by the mixed messages they are hearing about Jesus. People known as Gnostics rejected that God was incarnate - made fully man - in Jesus. In this letter John disputes the idea that Jesus did not come to earth as a real human person but rather as a spirit. The Gnostics also thought that the physical life was totally separate from the spiritual nature, so they could do whatever they wanted with their bodies.
At the beginning of chapter one John validates his views by explaining that he has witnessed the truth himself - he has seen it, heard it and touched it, and can "testify to it" (v. 2). In the today's passage John says "this is the message we have heard from [Christ]". His direct contact with Jesus as one of the disciples is significant as his friends are being told that Jesus did not exist as a physical person.
Verses 5-8 are where John begins to address the connection between believing in God and behaviour.
Gnostics thought that God was transcendent, so believing in God would make no innate difference to their lifestyle. They thought that wrongdoing was a consequence of ignorance, and so those who did wrong were not really responsible. But John says that as God is light, being with him means being in the light. Choosing to 'live in the light' or 'live in darkness' is, at the same time, choosing whether to have fellowship with God or not.
- John appears to be motivated by a genuine love for the intended audience. Is this an acceptable reason to point out sin in someone else? Why or why not?
- Are people always responsible for their actions? Why or why not?
- To what extent does a relationship with God have an inevitable influence on a person's actions, and to what extend is it down to choice?
- What difference has a relationship with God made to the way you live your life and the choices you make?
- Do you believe that if a person is living in darkness they cannot have fellowship with God? Why or why not?