Lessons from 1 John: Salvation Begins with Right Thinking
It appears that John wrote this letter of 1 John in about 85-90 AD. And, he wrote it specifically to Christians. John probably wrote this letter from Ephesus on the topic of salvation begins with right thinking, right before he was exiled to the island of Patmos.
John, who was a bit older at the time of this writing, was thought to be the only serving disciple. And though Christianity had been around for more than a generation, it had faced and survived severe persecution. It had survived the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, though many of the believers at that time had been scattered among the empire.
The main problem confronting the church at that time, much like today, was a declining commitment among Christians. Many of the Christian people were conforming more to the standards of the world. The result was that they were failing to stand up for Christ and were compromising their faith.
This allowed room for many false teachers to rise up within the church. They were leading many churches away from the truth of God’s Word by teaching false doctrine.
Salvation Begins with Right Thinking: John’s Testimony
And so, John opens his letter in 1 John 1:1 by giving his testimony. It was as if John is standing in a court of law. He is raising his right hand and swearing on the word of God that the testimony he is about to give is faithful and true.
John begins by stating the facts or evidences that he and the others had indeed been eyewitnesses to the life and words and actions of Jesus Christ. John is basically saying that he would stake his life on these truths if it came to that, which would happen sometime later.
He states in verse 1 that from the beginning, “we” (referring to the disciples) had the privilege of hearing Jesus, “the Word of life” with their own ears. They had heard Him speak and teach on the things of God. These disciples had also seen Him with their own eyes and touched Him with their own hands. They had been privileged to be near Him daily and share in fellowship and life.
In other words, John is saying Jesus was a real person.
He was the Word of Life that had come down from the Father. And because of His fellowship with the Father (His obedience to come and complete the atoning work of salvation on the cross) and His fellowship with them (Jesus took on flesh and lived a perfect and holy, flawless life), they and others who would place their faith in Him would share in the fellowship of eternal life.
So what John is saying is that the standard of life in God is found in fellowship or by abiding in God, through His Word and through His Son, Jesus Christ. And then that fellowship is strengthened, nurtured, and grown as we fellowship with each other as believers who are a part of the family of God. And we do this daily under the power and the influence of the Holy Spirit.
John even goes on to say in verse 4 that proclaiming this fellowship he and the others had with God and Jesus not only brought him joy, but it made his joy complete as he shared it with them.
God completes our joy as we share our fellowship with Him to others.
John goes on to say in verse 5 that this message he gives is not his own, but rather from Jesus Himself. And the message is this: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”
Light represents what is good, what is pure, what is true, what is holy, and what is reliable. Darkness, being the opposite of light, represents that which is unholy and untrue, that which is evil and thus sinful.
So the statement that, “God is light” means that God is holy and true and perfectly flawless and that He alone can atone for our sin and lead us out of the darkness of evil.
Did you know that if you spell out “EVIL” and turn it around you get the word “LIVE”?
That’s what Jesus did for us! He gave His holy, pure, and perfectly flawless life on the cross so that we as sinners, those who lived under Satan’s evil influence, might be turned around to live in His presence if we chose to do so!
Light is also related to truth. Light exposes whatever exists, whether it’s good or bad. In the dark, good and evil look alike, but in the light, these two things can be easily differentiated. Just as darkness cannot exist in the presence of light, sin cannot exist in the presence of a holy God.
Therefore if we want to have fellowship with God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ, we must put aside our sinful ways of living.
In 1 John 1:6-10, John exposes three false teachings that were being circulated at that time.
He begins in verse 6, by refuting the false claim that living a sinful life as a believer in Jesus Christ didn’t matter. False teachers were suggesting that it was ok to have fellowship with God and yet continue to walk in darkness or habitual sin.
But John says nothing could be further from the truth. He says if we claim to have fellowship with God and continue to walk in our sinful ways, we only deceive ourselves. But if we walk in the light, (living to be holy as He is holy, honest as He is honest, pure and He is pure) then we truly have fellowship with Him and with one another.
You see, Jesus did die on the cross for the remission of our sins. And all who confess (agree with God) that they are indeed sinners and in need of Savior are then rescued from the penalty of that sin. Though we are fallen creatures and will continue to sin while we are in these earthly tents, it does not give us a license to sin.
Sin instead, in the life of a believer, causes us to grieve our fallen humanity and confess our sins before Him. And it means receiving that forgiveness and moving forward in fellowship with Him and others.
Secondly, there were those who were falsely claiming that sin does matter, because we have never done anything wrong or anything bad enough to deserve death. But again John refutes such false claims. Unless we recognize and confess that we are indeed sinners, we make God out to be a liar and therefore His word has no place in our lives.
Because Scripture indeed teaches that all have fallen short of the glory of God. All we have to offer a holy God is nothing more than filthy rags. Therefore, the wages of that sinful nature is death. Not just physical death, but eternal separation from God; that is why He sent His Son.
Therefore, if we weren’t sinners there would have been no need for His Son or the sacrifice of His life on the cross. And yet, if we confess and acknowledge our sins before Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
That means He will forgive us of our past, present, and future sins.
Yet, we must confess our SINS (verse 9), plural instead of singular. We recognize not only who we are but more importantly who He is! He is God! And we are not! We are sinful human beings in need of a Savior and that Savior is found in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone.
Acts 4:12 tells us, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” No name except the name of Jesus Christ!
And lastly, the third false claim is found in verse 10. “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” In fact, if that were true and we have committed no sin, then there would have been no need for God the Father to send His one and only Son to die on the cross at Calvary for the remission of our sins.
These three claims are very serious because they reveal a great misunderstanding of what people are like in the face of a holy God in whom there is no darkness.
And so John writes in 2:1, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.”
That’s the goal–to resist temptation and the individual acts of sin. You see, sin is an outrage to God. Sin harms us and other people. It removes believers from the light, and from fellowship with God. It destroys fellowship between the person sinning and other believers who are living in the light of God’s presence.
There is an eternal consequence of sin, and that is separation from God.
The light of God exposes our sin. And walking in the light of God gives us greater sensitivity to sin. We begin to hate it more and more.
But John goes on to say that if anyone does sin, which is inevitable, the good news is that we have an advocate in Jesus who goes before the Father as our defense attorney. And based on His atoning sacrifice for our sins and for all who come before Him in agreement that they are indeed a sinner in need of a Savior and recognize Jesus Christ as that Savior, these are indeed those who not only walk in the light of His truth, but also walk in the communion of the Holy Spirit and enjoy sweet fellowship with Him and with His people.
To live otherwise is counter to God’s plan and purpose for our lives. It’s like oil and water; they just don’t mix.
Understanding the character of sin–that it is universal and applies to all people–is necessary before we can understand the need for the Savior God has provided. And if we are going to be secure in God’s love and in God’s truth about our salvation in Jesus Christ, we must have right thinking about God and right thinking about sin.
Which leads me to the principle of this lesson:
Assurance of salvation begins with right thinking about God and sin.