1 John Lesson Two: 1 John 1:5-2:6 – The Necessity of Obedience

Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light  as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus  His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 

2 My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. 

This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands.  The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” yet doesn’t keep His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Him: The one who says he remains in Him  should walk just as He walked. (HCSB)

I’ll divide this lesson into two parts.

  • Fellowship with God – verses 1:5-2:2.
  • Walking in Obedience – verses 2:3-6.

Fellowship with God

As we begin our study of this passage, I’d like us to consider a theme that John likely implied in his message; the foundation of fellowship is repentance and obedience. Now, let’s take a closer look at this section.

  • God is light. What does John mean when he makes this declaration?
    • First off, John switches his focus from Jesus to the Father in this section.
    • It would seem that verse six holds the key to understanding the connection between the first four verses of the letter and this section.
      • Since God is light, there is no darkness in His character.
      • Only those who walk in the light have fellowship with God.
      • What does it mean to walk in the light?
        • To follow the instructions of God.
        • Although all of us will sin, the prevalent pattern is one of obedience to the Word.
  • What is meant by the use of the metaphors “light” and “dark?”
    • Light. We’ll look at what scholars and theologians believe is meant by the term.
      • It implies life.
      • It means to be ethical.
      • It means to be morally good.
      • There is no place for evil in the light.
      • It contains absolute truth.
      • It contains absolute righteousness.
      • It goes all the way back to Genesis 1:3.
      • It became incarnate in the birth of Jesus as the light of the world.
      • Jesus is the light and the source of life.
    • Darkness.
      • It implies death.
      • It is a picture of falsehood.
      • It signifies ignorance of the truth.
      • It describes a life controlled by sin.
      • Since God is light and only those who walk in the light have fellowship with Him, the idea of walking in darkness would be a barrier to fellowship.
      • Those walking in darkness are in a spiritual state of death since eternal life is only found in fellowship with Jesus.
  • People who say they are followers of Christ yet who habitually walk a path of sin don’t have fellowship with God. These people are false believers and are deceiving themselves.
  • When we do walk in the light, two things occur.
    • We have fellowship with other believers and with God.
    • Our sins are forgiven.
      • It doesn’t mean we are freed from our sinful nature.
      • The verb is in the present tense, meaning forgiveness is a continuous and progressive action.
        • Our sins are continually being removed.
        • We experience a progressive sanctification, a transformation into the likeness of Jesus.
      • All sins are forgiven. Even the most heinous will be forgiven if a person genuinely repents and follows Jesus.
  • In verse eight, John moves to the theme of a false understanding of sin. John may have felt this was necessary because either the recipients of the letter had fallen under the spell of false teachers or they somehow began to believe the idea themselves.
    • Let’s remember there are two kinds of sin.
      • Doing things we shouldn’t be doing.
      • Not doing the things we should be doing.
    • The longer we are a believer, the more likely it is that a believer will turn from sinful behavior and engage in edifying behavior.
    • At the same time, because of our sinful nature, we will never be able always to act as Jesus would act.
      • None of us are capable of perfect love.
      • Because we are incapable of perfect love, we have sin.
  • However, if we acknowledge and confess our sins, Jesus will forgive and cleanse us.
    • This is a key point. Even though we will always struggle with and commit sin, we can live in a state of forgiveness by confessing and repenting, being cleansed through the blood of Jesus.
    • At the same time, we shouldn’t abuse this grace by continuing to commit sin.
    • Scholars have two positions in the interpretation of verse nine.
      • The first one is that it refers to the confession of sins at the time of salvation.
        • This is a once-for-all confession that solves the problem of judgment for sin.
        • This would cover sins we commit after salvation but before we are able to confess them.
      • The second is that a Christian doesn’t have to confess their sins after becoming a Christian since they already have forgiveness in Christ.
        • We don’t have to keep a track record of our sins and confess them.
        • We live with the understanding that our sins are already forgiven, and we have freedom in Christ.
      • The problem with the second position is that Jesus taught His disciples to pray “forgive us our trespasses” in the Disciples’ Prayer.
      • When we think about healthy, loving relationships, the norm is to ask for forgiveness when you offend someone. The same should be true of our relationship with God. We should confess our sins and not just “assume” we are forgiven.
  • As we look at verse ten, we should remember there are numerous verses that tell us we continue to sin after our conversion.
    • Philippians 3:12.
    • James 2:10, 3:2, 3:8, and 4:17.
    • Because Christians do sin after conversion, we shouldn’t deny our sin.
    • When we do that, we are saying that God is a liar.
    • Instead, we confess our sins and receive restoration.
  • As chapter two begins, we see John adopting a tone reserved for people he would have had a fond connection with. The first two verses are a continuation of the end of chapter one, dealing with the theme of sin.
    • John encourages the readers not to sin, but knowing they will sin in some manner, is encouraging them in the knowledge that Jesus is our advocate before the Father.
    • Jesus has already paid the price for our sins and intercedes with the Father on our behalf.
    • We also see the limitless nature of His sacrifice. His atoning blood is sufficient to cover every individual who has ever lived. There are several facts regarding this statement.
      • Scripture is clear that not everyone will be saved – Matthew 7:14, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and Galatians 5:21. However, Scripture is also clear that everyone who desires can be saved – Revelation 22:17.
      • It also means that we, as believers, should be sowing seeds wherever we go. We never know who will respond to the Gospel. Our role isn’t to decide who gets to hear the message. Our role is to share the message whenever and wherever.

Walking in Obedience

In 1 John 2:3, John drives home a critical point all of us should remember, both for ourselves as well as fellow believers we interact with. Following the commands of Jesus and walking in obedience is a key litmus test. John was addressing an issue that was facing Christians in the region of Ephesus. Let’s take a closer look at this.

  • It appears that Gnosticism was the main threat to the faith of the believers around Ephesus.
    • Gnosticism prided itself on knowing God through mystical enlightenment.
    • However, this knowledge didn’t necessarily have an impact on their moral behavior.
    • Gnostics didn’t understand that sin was a barrier to their relationship with God.
  • John was making a direct rebuke to this false belief.
    • At the same time, we need to remember that John didn’t say we would never sin.
    • We may not even have a consistent desire not to sin.
    • But the bottom line is that believers won’t live in complete disregard to God’s commands.
    • The Gnostics weren’t even trying to keep God’s commands.
  • If, as believers, we say we know God but completely disregard His commands, we are lying to ourselves and to others. We are not being truthful. We should also remember the devil is a liar. 
  • However, if we do follow God’s commands, then the love of God is in us.
  • Scholars struggle with the meaning of “the love of God” in verse five.
    • Does it mean the love of God for the Christian?
    • Or does it mean the Christian’s love for God?
    • Actually, either is possible, and both are theologically sound.
  • This section concludes with 5b-6.
    • The understanding is similar to what James wrote; a believer is identified by his works.
    • John is saying we will identify believers by their walk. If they are genuine believers, they will walk as Jesus walked.
    • Works never save us, but they are a badge of identification that someone truly knows and follows Christ.


  • What is your attitude towards sin and confession of sin? Conceivably, we could lie from one end of the spectrum to the other, believing we no longer need to confess our sins to trying to laundry list every little thing we do wrong. One is a flippant attitude towards sin, and the other borders on legalism. The best practice to follow is to try and confess as soon as we commit a sin, especially those we know we committed. However, there may be times when we sin against someone and do not even realize it. I believe Scripture is clear, an example being the disciples’ prayer, that “general confession” will cover those sins we’ve forgotten the specifics of and the sins we are unaware we’ve committed.
  • If you think you don’t sin and are a “good person,” you are deceiving yourself. All of us will stumble at some point, and confessing our sins provides restoration in our relationship with God.
  • If we see a fellow believer clearly not walking in the light, we need to bring it to their attention. We need to do it with a gentle spirit, as in Galatians 6:1. There may be times when we need to ask our Christian friends to evaluate us. This is never an easy or comfortable practice, but it can keep us on the narrow path. Scripture commands us to correct disobedience and to walk alongside our brothers and sister, just as they should walk alongside us. 

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