The apostles were privileged to have heard the gracious words the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to all kinds of people, including some who were the outcasts of society. They had watched Him and observed Him in many and varied circumstances. They had touched Him (1 Jn 1.1) and John, the beloved disciple, had leaned upon His breast (Jn 21.20). The Lord was God incarnate (Jn 1.1,2,14); "God with us" (Mt 1.23); "God manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim 3.16). He was the eternal Son of the eternal God. He never ceased to be God and yet He was a man, possessed of holy, sinless humanity. The Lord is the "Word of life" (1 Jn 1.1). We use words to convey to others what we want them to know, and the Lord Jesus is the Word (Logos) by whom God has expressed and revealed Himself to mankind (Jn 14.9). He is the "image of the invisible God" (Col 1.15). During His incarnation, when He walked on the earth He had created, He was still "in the bosom of the Father" and declared God in His motivations and in all He thought, did and said (Jn 1.18).
The Lord Jesus Christ is the source of all life, physical and spiritual, and He is referred to as "that eternal life, which was with the Father" (1 Jn 1.2). Before anything had been created, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit existed in eternal union, communion, love and fellowship. Fellowship means being in close, harmonious association with others, sharing, having things in common and having the same intents and purposes. The glorious truth is that sinners saved by grace (Eph 2.8) can have fellowship with God, with His Son and with other believers (1 Jn 1.3). John wrote, concerning this fellowship, that our "joy may be full" (1 Jn 1.4). That joy comes from God and is independent of the circumstances which prevail in this chaotic, sinful world.
Walking in the light
A believer is saved eternally, but the fellowship he can enjoy with God, who is holy, and with other believers will be interrupted if the believer sins. The message to believers in 1 John is a message he had "heard of him" (1 Jn 1.5). It is a message that John and the other apostles had received from the Lord. John states truths in verses 5,7, and 9, followed in verses 6,8, and 10 by false statements which may be made in relation to those truths.
John states that "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (v.5). Darkness in the natural world could be defined as the absence of light. Light is associated with God and with the Lord Jesus. At creation, God said, "Let there be light: and there was light" (Gen 1.3). The Lord said that He was "the light of the world" (Jn 8.12; 9.5). He said, "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness" (Jn 12.46). Darkness is often associated with sin and evil in the Scriptures (Is 9.2; Jn 3.19; 1 Pet 2.9). The statement, "God is light", is a declaration of Gods absolute, eternal holiness, purity and righteousness, and of the fact that there is no darkness or sin in Him.
Johns first epistle was written to believers (2.12-14,21,27), and we must remember this as we read and meditate on its contents. It is said of believers, "ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light" (Eph 5.8). A believer cannot claim that he is enjoying fellowship with God if there are sins in his life which have not been confessed, repented of and forsaken. John used the pronoun "we" in 1 John 1.6, showing that this truth applied to apostles and also to all believers at all times. The early believers "continued stedfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship" (Acts 2.42). Continuing fellowship with God and other believers must be based on sound doctrine, a resulting sensitivity to sin, and repentance and forsaking of sins. If anyone is walking in sin and claims to be enjoying fellowship with God and other believers he is lying, for he is not walking in accordance with the truths and teachings found in the Word of God (1 Jn 1.6). If a person continually walks in sin this is evidence that he has never been saved.
"God is light" and "if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another" (1 Jn 1.7). If we are walking in the light God gives to us in His Word, our sins will be revealed to us so that we might repent, confess and forsake those sins. The sins we commit will interrupt fellowship with God. In this situation, a believer will feel uneasy among other believers, his prayers and. study of the Scriptures will become a formality, and his service for the Lord will be adversely affected. Walking in the light does not imply that we do not commit sins, but when we sin the light reveals that sin, "and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (v.7). The moment we were saved we were saved eternally (Jn 3.36; 10.28-29), and the precious, shed blood of the Lord Jesus constantly avails to cleanse us.
If we confess our sins
When we were saved we were given a new sinless nature, but we still have the old sinful nature dwelling within. This old nature will be with us until we are taken to be with the Lord. We do commit sins, and if we deny this "we deceive ourselves" (1 Jn 1.8). The light reveals our spiritual condition. The Word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path (Ps 119.105). It shows us our spiritual condition and the way to walk in this evil world. As we "walk in the light" our sins are revealed to us, and "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn 1.9). We can never, in this life, honestly say that we do not commit sins. We must identify, confess and forsake those sins. The nearer we are to God, the more sensitive and responsive we will be to what the light reveals (Eph 5.13).
It may be thought that 1 John 1.9 cannot apply to those who are believers because all a believers sins, past, present and future, are forgiven the moment he is saved. When a person is saved, his sins are forgiven judicially (1 Jn 2.2): he is saved eternally from the penalty of his sins. He has a righteous standing before God (Rom 3.21-26), and has "peace with God" (Rom 5.1). However, he will not enjoy the "peace of God" (Phil 4.7) if he allows unconfessed sin in his life. The fact that a believer is eternally saved does not mean that unbroken enjoyment of fellowship with God can be experienced irrespective of whether or not there is unconfessed sin in the life. By the grace of God, we have been made to "sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2.6), but in the "here and now" sins can still enter in and spoil our ongoing fellowship with God and other believers.
Confession and repentance must take place before that fellowship can be restored, for then God will forgive us and "cleanse us from all unrighteousness". "He is faithful and just", and He can do these things justly and righteously because of the eternal efficacy of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ who is our "advocate with the Father" (1 Jn 2.1). We must "keep short accounts with God", examining ourselves frequently in the light He provides so that we might see and confess our sins.
When sins in our lives are revealed to us by God, who is light, we may deny the truth He reveals and say, "we have not sinned" (1 Jn 1.10). We are saying, in effect, that God, who cannot lie (Titus 1.2), is a liar. We may attempt all sorts of false logic, spurious argument, rationalising and self-deception but the plain fact is that to deny that we commit sins shows that "his word is not in us" (1 Jn 1.10). God is light, and the fellowship we enjoy with Him and with other believers can be maintained only by confessing and forsaking those sins that enter our lives and are revealed as we walk in the light He provides.