This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1 Jn 1:5-7)
I particularly want to look at the last verse of this passage. It ranks high on the list of passages I have heard frequently misinterpreted. To see what the verse does not say we need first to see what it does say.
John first mentions walking in the light. It is possible, perhaps, for different people to have varied ideas about what is involved in walking in the light. All must agree, however, that walking in the light means walking in God’s way. In verse five John has already said that God is light. In verse six he has contrasted fellowship with God and walking in darkness. Now he proposes that we can walk in the light, which is God. To the Gnostic minds John is addressing, walking in the light is the same as being enlightened or in the know. They thought that only a special few could reach this state. Because we have the revealed word of God we can all live as enlightened ones. None of us need to walk in darkness of ignorance.
John closes with the thought that the blood of Jesus continues to cleanse us from sin. That cleansing continues only as we continue to walk in the light. If we begin to walk again in darkness we may not be able to claim the continual cleansing. (But see the article, Once Saved, One Sin for more about that.) Nevertheless, as we continue our walk in the light we continue to have hope of continuing in our walk. The idea of continuing is implied in the word walk. We walk in the light as opposed to merely stopping under a street lamp and then walking back into the darkness.
The part of the verse I have often heard misapplied is the middle phrase, “we have fellowship one with another.” I don’t know how many times I have heard this used to refer to the fellowship in the church between believers. The “one another” here is not you and me!
Go back to the top and reread the entire passage. Who is mentioned? Just we and God. The we is the collective body of believers but considered each, individually. It is like saying, “we must eat or die.” Each of us must eat, but it is a requirement common to everyone. So it is in this passage. The “we” can be substituted with a “me.” The other person in this walk is God. Only two. In verse six it is “we have fellowship with him.” So the fellowship in verse seven is the same as proposed in verse six.
John is not talking about believers having fellowship with each other if they all walk in the light. While we will have such fellowship, John is writing about a greater fellowship. “If we walk in the light as he [God] is in the light, we have fellowship one with another [us and God], and the blood of Jesus Christ his [God’s] son cleanseth us from all sin.”
I love the fellowship I have with believers in Christ. That is one of the joys of the church assembling together. But that fellowship, important as it is, is minor compared with the fellowship I can have with God. After all, fellowship with you may help me avoid sin, but fellowship with God brings forgiveness of sin.