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 cleanses us from all sin. – 1 John 1:7 ESV
It is evident from John’s first letter to the church that Christians must “walk in the light” if they are to have fellowship with other Christians and to be cleansed of all sin by Christ’s blood. A misunderstanding of John’s epistle has lead many down a path of certain despair, as millions attempt to walk in the light by employing various forms of Christian-flavored asceticism, only to discover that sin is ever present, always there dashing any hope of truly “walking in the light.” How can a man have ANY assurance of salvation when the holy standard is described as light itself, the purity displayed truly and fully in Christ’s own perfection?
There is no way anything wrought by our works can ever cause Christ’s blood to cleanse us from sin. On the face of it, to interpret walking in the light as referring to some work rendered by man betrays a tragic misunderstanding of the Gospel of Grace. We are not walking in the light in order to be cleansed from sin. That’s just works religion by another name. So, how are we forgiven in the first place? Consider 1 John 2:12: “ I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.” Forgiveness comes only through the work of another, Christ Jesus. What about our works offered up as righteousness? In his own letters, Paul deals directly with works-righteousness:
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” – Galatians 3:10
Now then, do you “abide by all things written in the book of the law?” So enough spouting off about how this or that person “walks in the light” by “tasting not, touching not” or in keeping some limited aspect of the law here-and-there. All attempts at works-righteousness are self-righteous lies wrapped up in nice-sounding Christian lingo, be it called “progressive sanctification” or “personal holiness,” there is only one who is altogether lovely, altogether satisfying in the sight of God. He is Christ Jesus, the very satisfaction of God’s wrath:
He is the propitation for our sins, and not for ours only but also the sins of the whole world. – 1 John 2:2
So if Christ alone satisfies God’s wrath on behalf of believing sinners through His own blood, to “walk in the light” must mean to believe this blessed truth concerning Christ, the true light who came into the world. While those in darkness continue to hate the light, God’s people, convicted by the truth of the Gospel, given the gift of faith, gladly walk in the light of life that is the person and work of Christ Jesus, the light of the world. This is the present reality of each and every believer: abiding in the truth of the Gospel, walking in the finished work of Christ, walking in the light!
The author of the Epistle of John had much to say about Christ being “the light.” Consider these blessed truths from the introduction of John’s own Gospel:
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:5;10-13
So if you ever find yourself fretting over whether or not you are “walking in the light,” don’t start bean counting your pitiful attempts at perfectly keeping God’s law (you’ve already failed on every point). John even tells us as much in his epistles:
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. – 1 John 1:8-10
Ask yourself these questions: Has the Holy Spirit made me to believe the true and saving Gospel of God’s Sovereign Grace in Christ? Am I a saved child of God, born not of my own will but of God’s will in Christ? Do you know the light of life in the full pardon of your sins apart from the deeds of the law? Do you believe Christ put your sins away by His perfect sacrifice on Calvary’s cross? Do you trust Christ alone for all righteousness before Almighty God?
To truly know Christ and the power of His resurrection is to walk in the light of life that is Christ Jesus. And so it is that every truly born again Christian “walks in the light as He is in the light,” having fellowship with one another and possessing the wondrous joy that comes from the knowledge that all sins are under the blood of Jesus Christ.
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? – 1 John 5:4,5
Jason Boothe serves as Pastor of Horizons Baptist Church of Piketon, Ohio. To learn more about the Gospel of God’s Free and Sovereign Grace in Christ or to contact the church, please visit our church website http://www.horizonsbaptist.org.