Main point summary
God's holiness demonstrates our need to be cleansed in order to live in fellowship with him.
1 John 1:5-10
1 John 1:5
1 John 1:6
1 John 1:7
1 John 1:8
1 John 1:9
1 John 1:10
Notice the difference in associated verbs: God is perpetually in the light, whereas we walk in it .
Notice the shift in focus of the having of fellowship: Claim to fellowship with Jesus, yet when we do walk in the light, our fellowship is with one another. Why the shift?
How is this ινα clause functioning?
Who is the referent? God the Father? The Son?
5:The referent of ἀπ᾿ αὐτοῦ in verse 5 is a bit ambiguous, either the Father or his son. By proximity, it is likely Jesus, the son of God from verse 3. The ινα clause in verse 9 seems a bit unusual as it would be harder to take this as a purpose clause "he is faithful and just for the purpose of cleansing our sins..." BDAG calls this an 'ecbatic' use, meaning a "marker serving as substitute for the infinitive of result" (BDAG s.v. ινα, 3). The reason for this is described as follows: "[this indicates] that the result is considered probable, but not actual. But this distinction is not always strictly observed... In many cases purpose and result cannot be clearly differentiated, and hence ἵνα is used for the result that follows according to the purpose of the subjunctive or of God. As in Semitic and Gr-Rom. thought, purpose and result are identical in declarations of the divine will." BDF 391.5: "Jewish teleology in general has contributed to the blurring of the distinction between purpose and result." The result is that God's response to confession is left in his divine control: He may forgive. Yet the nature of God is to forgive! And his purpose to forgive will result in forgiveness! I think John renders this statement this way to both preserve God's sovereignty (we cannot force God's hand) and yet highlight our responsibility to act towards the result of God's forgiveness (cf Joel 2:12-14; Amos 5:14-15; Jonah 3:9).
Text Critical Notes
There are a number of very strong textual variants noted in the NA28: 7a : εαν could be followed by a δε. This might simply indicate an emphasis on the contrast between the two forms of walking. Interestingly, the SBL/NA 27/ Tyndale takes it to be the original reading. 8c : The word order is possibly changed to ἐν ἡμῖν οὐκ ἔστιν. There doesn't seem to be any major change in meaning because of this.
1 John 1:5-10
Καὶ ἔστιν αὕτη ἡ ἀγγελία ἣν ἀκηκόαμεν ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀναγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν,
And this (the message we hope fills our our mutual joy) is the message which we heard from him and proclaim to you:
ὅτι ὁ θεὸς φῶς ἐστιν
it is: God is light.
καὶ σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία.
And in him is no darkness whatsoever.
Ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι κοινωνίαν ἔχομεν μετʼ αὐτοῦ
If we say that we have fellowship with him
καὶ ἐν τῷ σκότει περιπατῶμεν,
And (yet) walk in darkness
ψευδόμεθα καὶ οὐ ποιοῦμεν τὴν ἀλήθειαν•
Then we lie and we are not made up of the truth.
ἐὰν ἐν τῷ φωτὶ περιπατῶμεν
If we walk in the light
ὡς αὐτός ἐστιν ἐν τῷ φωτί,
Similar to how he is in the light,
κοινωνίαν ἔχομεν μετʼ ἀλλήλων
Then we have fellowship with one another.
καὶ τὸ αἷμα Ἰησοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ καθαρίζει ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἁμαρτίας.
And the blood of Jesus, his son, cleanses us from all sin.
ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἔχομεν,
If we say that we do not have sin.
We lead ourselves astray
καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν.
And the truth is not in us.
ἐὰν ὁμολογῶμεν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν,
If we confess our sins
πιστός ἐστιν καὶ δίκαιος,
Then he is faithful and just
ἵνα ἀφῇ ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας
( purposed for the sure result ) he forgives us from all sins.
καὶ καθαρίσῃ ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ πάσης ἀδικίας.
and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
ἐὰν εἴπωμεν ὅτι οὐχ ἡμαρτήκαμεν,
If we say that we have not sinned,
ψεύστην ποιοῦμεν αὐτὸν
We make him out to be a liar
καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν ἡμῖν.
And his word is not in us.
The gospel, which the apostles have witnessed with their physical senses in Jesus, both in the deeds he did ("we saw") and the message he proclaimed ("and heard"), this they too proclaim (verses 1-4). And what is their message? "God is light and in him is no darkness whatsoever!" This seems like an unusual place to start his gospel message. Yet John seems to see the gospel grounded most basically from this fundamental truth. Why does he ground it so simply in a statement about the nature of God? By way of explanation, he gives us a series of alternative statements. The first set: If we claim fellowship, yet walk contrary to the light of God, we lie . On the other hand, if we walk in light as he is in the light , then: We have fellowship with one another And we are cleansed from sin on the basis of the blood of Christ. First , note that while we strive to walk in the light, it is compared to God being perpetually in the light. He is restating his main gospel point: God does not simply walk in light as we do, straying in and out of it, he is in fact, the light. Our being in the light is being in him. Second , he is stating the problem at hand, which develops why he grounds the gospel message with God's light: some are not in the light! Third , it seems strange to interject fellowship with one another rather than with God as the result of walking in the light. The previous clause seems to lead us to expect that: "if we claim fellowship with God..." Therefore, we understand two things: This clarifies what it is to walk in the light—what it looks like. We cannot spurn our brothers and expect to be counted among those walking in the light. Our behavior towards others is a window into our relationship with God. It is an effect of it. John has already stated that their (the witnesses of Christ) fellowship is with the Father and his son. Therefore fellowship with one another includes fellowship with God. The second set is a triplet: a positive example sandwiched by two negative examples. If we say we don't sin , we lead ourselves astray and don't possess truth. If we confess the sin we do have , he is faithful and just and will forgive an d cleanse us . If we say we haven't sinned , we make him a liar and we don't possess his word . This is a restatement of the same problem. John cements it: We are all sinners. Claiming to be without sin only widens the breach. Moreover, by this he helps clarify again what it is to walk in the light: confess your sin! Paul gives wonderful color to this thought in Eph 5:11–14: Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” The message of hope is that Christ has made it possible to be cleansed from the darkness of sin and enabled us to walk with God in the light! Confession of sin is the pathway to this, through which we are made to walk in fellowship with God and with one another.