Our study of the General Epistles this year has brought us through several different books of the New Testament, and this has benefited us in two ways. In the first place, we have seen the richness of apostolic teaching in James, Peter, and now John as they applied the Gospel to many different circumstances. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, those who have been reading these epistles carefully will no doubt notice the unity of the biblical message in the midst of such diversity.
Today’s passage is a good example of how the biblical books, though addressed to different audiences, present a unified message. Having told us that “God is light,” John tells us that one way we can be assured of following the Lord is that we walk in the light. As 1 John 1:6–7 tells us, if we walk in darkness we are liars, not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light, we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus and have fellowship one with another. This is just another way of reiterating the need for Christians to live the holy lives we read about in James 2:14–26, 1 Peter 1:14–16, and 2 Peter 1:3–7.
John emphasizes the need to walk in the light because of false teachers who claimed otherwise. These teachers likely were influenced by Gnostic ideas claiming what we do in the body is unimportant as long as we have a higher “spiritual” knowledge of the truth. Such a view is completely foreign to Scripture, which views truth not only as an intellectual exercise but also as that which affects our actions. This of course finds its fullest expression in Jesus who is Himself truth (John 14:6).
Truth is not only that which we believe intellectually, it is also that which we believe practically. That is to say, we are to act truthfully. We do not believe God is light if we do not walk in the light of His holiness. But when we endeavor to live holy lives we are assured that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). Our efforts do not merit this cleansing; rather, they assure us that this cleansing has already taken place and that we belong to the One whose blood cleanses us from all sin.
Tomorrow we will see that walking in the light is not equal to sinless perfection. Rather, as John Calvin explains, “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.” Ask the Lord to make you walk in the light and then practice holiness where you have not done so before.