1 John 1
God doesn’t have a dark side
“We’re writing you . . . because it makes us happy.”1When everything in our world got started, the living Word of God was there to start it. We know it because we have seen him with our own two eyes. We’ve not only looked at him, we’ve heard him and we’ve touched him with our hands.
I’m writing to you about this Word that gives us life. 2This Word that gives life came to us. We saw him. We’re witnesses. So, we’re telling you what we saw and what we learned about life that never ends. It came from the Father and was shown to us.
3We’re telling you what we’ve seen and heard. We want you to get in on this so you can share it with us and become part of our community. I’m talking about God’s community. We’re in this with the Father and his Son, Jesus the Messiah. 4We’re writing you about this because it makes us happy to deliver news like this.
If we’re sin-free, God’s a liar5Here’s what Jesus told us. And I’m telling it to you now. God is light. He doesn’t have a dark side. There’s no darkness in him. 6We’re lying if we say we’re part of God’s community but we live in the shadows to hide what we’re doing.
7If we live in the light, we’re in good company because God’s there. We can enjoy the fellowship of being together. Whatever sins we’ve committed have been erased, washed away by the blood of Jesus. 8Yet if we say we’re sin-free because we haven’t done anything wrong, we’re kidding ourselves. We’re a walking, talking lie.
9Yet if we confess our sins when we commit them, we can count on him to do the right thing. He’ll forgive us for what we did. And he’ll wash away everything that would make us ashamed and unfit to be with him. 10But, folks, if we say we’re sin-free, we’re calling God a liar. And the message he wants us to get hasn’t sunk in yet.
The Gospel of John also begins by describing Jesus as “the living Word of God” (John 1:1), the message of God, delivered in the flesh. The original Greek word is Logos. Greek scholars, such as Heraclitus, said logos was the wisdom behind all of creation. This all-present wisdom created everything and guided creation along the way. For many Jewish scholars then and now, God’s Word pulled the trigger on creation, whether or not that involved pulling the trigger on the big bang. “God said, ‘Lights.’ Lights came on. . . . God said, ‘Land, grow a garden.’. . . The land grew a garden” (Genesis 1:3, 11-12). John doesn’t identify Jesus as the Word until a few paragraphs later, gradually working up to it by describing the Word as the one who “came to this world that belonged to him. But most of the people—his people—wouldn’t have anything to do with him” (John 1:11). Jesus came to earth as a living, breathing expression of God’s message to humanity, summed up in what is perhaps the most famous Bible verse: John 3:16.
Some ancient copies of this letter say John wants to make “them” happy.
Compare this to the Gospel of John’s description of God: “God’s life-giving light shines in the darkness. And darkness can’t do a rotten thing about it” (John 1:5). The Gospel of John may be pointing back to the creation story, when God turned on the lights and “put darkness in its place” (Genesis 1:5). But John’s Gospel, like this letter of 1 John, also seems to be pointing toward Jesus, who is often described as a source of spiritual light. “‘Gentiles of Galilee . . . who live in darkness will see the light—a powerful light. For those people who live in this land, under the shadow of death, it’s dawn, for the light has come’” (Matthew 4:15-16).
Why do you think John introduced Jesus as the “Word of God” (1:1) when it would have been clearer to call him Jesus?
When John says Jesus, the Word of God, “gives us life” (1:1), what do you think his readers thought about that? And how do you think Christians today would explain it?
John might seem to contradict himself. He says “We’re lying if we say we’re part of God’s community, but we live in the shadows to hide what we’re doing” (1:6). Then he says we’re lying “if we say we’re sin-free because we haven’t done anything wrong” (1:8). “Live in the shadows” is a metaphor for “sinning.” Why would this writer expect us not to sin and then accuse us of lying when we say we haven’t sinned?
Some Christian denominations teach that a believer can mature in the faith to such an extent that they become “entirely sanctified,” as they call it. They teach that people can live without committing sin. How do you think they would defend that against 1:8, “If we say we’re sin-free because we haven’t done anything wrong, we’re kidding ourselves. We’re a walking, talking lie.”
How do you think it makes God into a liar “if we say we’re sin-free” (1:10)
LIFE APPLICATION. John was inviting people to “become part of our community. I’m talking about God’s community” (1:3). How have you seen churches or individuals do that?
LIFE APPLICATION. John said he was writing this letter because it makes him “happy to deliver news like this” (1:4). Some ancient copies of the letter say he wanted to make them happy. Either way, happiness was on his mind. When was one of your happiest times talking about God or other spiritual matters?