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1 John 1:6-7 NASB

6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 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.‭‭

What is the difference between walking in darkness (verse 6) which is not practicing the truth and sinning (verse 7) but being cleansed of that sin because we walk in the light? How do we define “walking in darkness” if not living in sin?

(I understand that there is a similar question already on this SE but I am trying to compare verses 6 and 7, specifically with verse 7 acknowledging that we can walk in Light and still sin but have it cleansed by the blood rather than condemning us).

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    Spiritual darkness seems to favour physical darkness. Sep 1, 2023 at 23:03

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Sin is not the delineating factor between those who walk in the darkness and those who walk in the light. As John himself tells us, we all have sin.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. - 1 Jn 1:8 NKJ

The darkness is therefore not primarily one of sin but of ignorance. The person who walks in darkness is blind to his own sins. Therefore he does not repent. Therefore he cannot avail himself of God’s mercy.

But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. - 1 Jn 2:11

The light is understood to be the spiritual light that allows us to see ourselves and discern the ways in which we fail to follow in Christ’s footsteps. In knowing so as to repent. In repenting so as to receive mercy.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 Jn 1:9

The transformation of the soul is shown to be a process of discernment, repentance, and forgiveness. The passing away of the darkness is therefore not an instantaneous event but a gradual process. The present tense of paragetai in 1 Jn 2:8 (interlinear, biblehub) indicating continued action (“Present Tense: A Closer Look,” ezraproject.com).

The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining - 1 Jn 2:8

To help us gauge whether we are walking in the darkness or in the light, John offers a simple litmus test, one that requires us to examine our relationships to one another.

He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. - 1 Jn 2:9-10

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another - 1 Jn 1:7

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These verses do not say that we can walk in the Light and still sin, but that we can say that we fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness. A person can fellowship with the church as Christ's body and yet sin - still walk in Darkness. But this is not true fellowship with God. If she walks in the Light she will not sin. In that case, as the verse states: "we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.‭‭"

The difficulty is cleared up by understanding that a person may think that they are in "fellowship with Him" because they have been baptized, because they pray or are involved in the church as a community. But that is a different thing (in John's theology) from "walking in the Light." If they sin habitually, they are not walking in the light.

However, walking in the Light is not automatic once one has been baptized. The passage continues with the famous saying that 'If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves.' All have indeed sinned and need God's forgiveness. But once they turn toward God, they can begin to "walk in the Light."

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  • Walking in darkness means completely turning your back on God and going back to all of your old ways. You'll sin and feel no guilt whatsoever. But if you're walking in the light, and stumble and sin, you will, or should, feel guilt and want to repent. Sin is sin, but walking in sin and stumbling in sin while walking in the light are two different things. The key word here would be: stumbling. Many would, and do, "stumble" at the concept of stumbling, occasionally, into sin. It's a huge problem for many people.
    – moron
    Sep 2, 2023 at 6:23
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    No middle ground? Seems to me that a person who completely turned their back on God would not say that they have fellowship with Him. vs 2:11 says "Whoever hates his brother is in darkness." Many of us stumble at least to that extent. Have we completely turned out backs on God. No... we all stray from the path from time to time IMO. Sep 2, 2023 at 15:32
  • Yes, I suppose there is a middle ground, of sorts. There would be three phases in "stumbling": 1) Stumbling while walking in the light, and always being sorry and repenting after stumbling 2) Stumbling which gradually becomes more frequent, producing less sorrow and less repentance with each stumble. 3) Final phase - You're no longer stumbling, you are now wilfully sinning with no regret. In this phase, at least for awhile, you start kidding yourself into thinking that you're only stumbling, or that you're not sinning at all as you begin losing the knowledge of what sin even is.
    – moron
    Sep 3, 2023 at 17:05
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The teaching of 1 John 1:6 & 7 must be viewed in the light of that which follows:

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar, and His word is not in us.

1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate before the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

Before examining V6 & 7, let me summarize 1 John 1:8-2:1 -

  • when we come to Christ, the sinner does not magically stop sinning and become perfect as V8 & 10 makes perfectly clear
  • when a Christian sins, that sinner has an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1) and is cleansed or "purified" as per 1 John 1:7, 9.

καθαρίζω

It is very instructive that the operative verb used in V7 and V9 is the same verb, in both cases, καθαρίζω (katharizó) from which we get our English word "catharsis".

V7: But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

V9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

καθαρίζω means to purify, purge, cleanse. In both cases, the form of the verb, while different, still indicates a continuous, on-going process. Paul describes it this way:

Rom 12:2 - Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

That is, while sinners come to Jesus and walk in the light, sinners will still need:

  • an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1)
  • an on-going process of cleansing and purification until the Lord returns (Heb 9:28)
  • When Jesus does appear the result of this cleansing process (by the Holy Spirit, John 16:1-14) is to make us like Christ, 1 John 3:2, 3.

Now, it is obvious that the "children of darkness" are not party to this divine miracle of cleansing and purification described in 1 John 1:7 & 9 to make us like Christ (see also Eph 4:31, 32, 5:1).

When sinners come to Christ and become "children of the light", sinners come as they are but do not stay as they are, but are party to a divine miracle to make them like Christ.

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  • A 'divine miracle to make them like Christ' . . . Is this a matter of a creative act ? In which case it is a matter of nature, and not of Spirit.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 2, 2023 at 8:57
  • @NigelJ - I am not sure I understand your comment - I was simply saying that the transformation of a sinner by nature to be one like Christ, reflecting the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) is a divine miracle of the Holy Spirit. 2 Cor 5:17 suggests this a creative act as well.
    – Dottard
    Sep 2, 2023 at 11:41
  • Yes, but that 'new creation' is not physical or miraculous : the 'man' that is a new creation is the inner man the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, 1 Peter 3:4. It is spirit not nature, is my query.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 3, 2023 at 8:16
  • @NigelJ Any work of God, in transforming the "inner man" or the old sinful nature to be like like Christ is miraculous. We cannot do it - the leopard cannot change its spots. That is why it is called a new creation.
    – Dottard
    Sep 3, 2023 at 10:40
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While walking in darkness is associated with sin, John referred to where one's fellowship is. In general sin is doing what is wrong while walking in darkness is a lifestyle in intimate friendship with sin and sinners. Walking in darkness is letting sin be your master. For example:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15, ESV)

Compare this with:

Arise, shine, for your light has come, 
  and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 
              For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, 
  and thick darkness the peoples; 
              but the LORD will arise upon you, 
  and his glory will be seen upon you. 
                              (Isa. 60:1–2, ESV)

Note the context of 1 John 1 is fellowship (κοινωνία). John mentions this fellowship as not only with other Christians but also with God.

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3, ESV)

The concept of walking referring to a relationship with others is also present in the Old Testament.

Blessed is the man 
  who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, 
              nor stands in the way of sinners, 
  nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 
              but his delight is in the law of the LORD, 
  and on his law he meditates day and night. 
                 (Psalm 1:1–2, ESV)

        Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, 
  but the companion (רֹעֶ֖ה) of fools will suffer harm. 
                    (Prov. 13:20, ESV)

Walk is equated with companion in the antithetical parallel in Prov. 13:20. This is the participle of רעה to make friends (Psalm 37:3; Prov. 22:24)

רעה ... qal: pt. רֹעֶה. —1. a. with acc. to get oneself involved, mixed up with -- Koehler, L., Baumgartner, W., Richardson, M. E. J., & Stamm, J. J. (1994–2000). In The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 1262). E.J. Brill.

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1Jn 1:5-10 5 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. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 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. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

I think we need to get some definitions according to the context of the verses right before we can put them together to give a contextual interpretation of the texts above.

DARKNESS: It seems to me that the word 'darkness' as used in these texts does not have the same meaning even though they are linked.

  1. "...God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." What does darkness mean in this text in contrast to light? I think John is describing God's nature. The nature of God is light (pure) and he does not have anything that contradicts his pureness (darkness). Hence, 'light' and 'darkness' is a reference to God's person.

  2. "..If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness..." What does 'darkness' mean in this text? It is not referring to 'nature ' as it is clear in comparison with the usage in verse 5. It is a comparison to a relationship. Two people in fellowship are in the same boat or world; they agree to the same thing. Hence, he who is in darkness, in this verse is in another boat but deceives himself that he is in the same world as the one he thinks he has fellowship with. They do not agree that God is only light (pure). The 'extra' belief that God is both light and darkness portends that this person is not saved, that is, not in the kingdom.

Having seen the different definitions or applications of the word 'darkness', we look at the text.

It is my opinion that verse 8 is dealing with doctrine. "If we say that we have no sin..." "If we" is John's way of taking a temporary position or assumption on a matter by 'including' himself. "if we say...we HAVE NO SIN..." to me, seems to be a reference to the doctrine of the original sin of Adam and Eve. If we say there was no fall in the Graden and that the human race is not in sin, it will be obvious that the blood of Jesus is futile. Hence, the shedding of the blood contradicts the belief that man has no sin and does not need atonement. If the original sin of Adam is denied, atonement is denied! Therefore, such a person who believes such is not saved and not in the same boat as Jesus. The atoning blood of Jesus will not be effective on such a person. He is not saved; he is in darkness. Hence, verse 8 is doctrinal.

Verse 9 addresses the contrast, that is, he who understands and agrees to be a sinner. Such a one will receive the atonement. Jesus will be of use to such a person and he will be forgiven and be in fellowship with Jesus.

Verse 10 deals with the result of the doctrine addressed in verse 8. Wrong beliefs will bring the wrong lifestyle. Denial of the Adamic sin will bring about a sinful life. Orthodoxy produces orthopraxy. Verse 10 portends the position of a person who denies Adam's sin on Jesus. How can you deny the doctrine of original sin and still be in fellowship with Jesus? It does not make sense. Hence, John arrives at the fatal result of the earlier assumption that 'if we say we have no sin'.

An example that seem to be in support of my analysis is 1Jn.2:9,11.

“He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” (1Jn 2:9)

The hatred of a brother in the text is predicated on the doctrine of 1Jn.1:8. The text of 1Jn.2:9 is the result of the doctrine. This is further reiterated and its result is further expounded in verse 11.

“But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.” (1Jn 2:11)

Another example given by John is the case of Cain and Abel.

1Jn 3:11-12 11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.

Cain was in darkness while Abel was in the light. Cain hated Abel till he killed him because his works were evil. Cain's works were 'EVIL'. It is clear that Cain was in darkness and had no fellowship with the father!

Abel's faith determined what to sacrifice. Heb. 11:4. Likewise, Cain's doctrine determined his sacrifice because his sacrifice was not of faith. Heb.11:4.

Outside the book of First John, there is a notable scripture concerning Cain. It is called 'The way of Cain'.

“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.” (Jud 1:11)

'The way of Cain' is his doctrine. Certain who crept into the church are described in semblance to the 'way of Cain'. They turned (exchanged) the grace of God into (for) Lasciviousness. The Greek word translated 'turned' is 'metathitemi' meaning 'to exchange' or 'to transpose'.

The term 'Grace of God' is a reference to the core doctrines of Christianity. Atonement is a core doctrine and it is predicated on the fact of the Original Sin. Rom. 5:12. 'Lasciviousness' is the term Jude gave to their doctrine because it leads to a life of lasciviousness. Here, we see orthodoxy turning into orthopraxy.

Hence, Cain and Abel is a worthy example given by John.

These are the words of Adam Clarke concerning 1Jn.1:8:

"It is very likely that the heretics, against whose evil doctrines the apostle writes, denied that they had any sin, or needed any Savior. In deed, the Gnostics even denied that Christ suffered: the Aeon, or Divine Being that dwelt in the man Christ Jesus, according to them, left him when he was taken by the Jews; and he, being but a common man, his sufferings and death had neither merit nor efficacy."

"We deceive ourselves - By supposing that we have no guilt, no sinfulness, and consequently have no need of the blood of Christ as an atoning sacrifice: this is the most dreadful of all deceptions, as it leaves the soul under all the guilt and pollution of sin, exposed to hell, and utterly unfit for heaven."

"The truth is not in us - We have no knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus, the whole of which is founded on this most awful truth - all have sinned, all are guilty, all are unholy, and none can redeem himself. Hence it is as necessary that Jesus Christ should become incarnated, and suffer and die to bring men to God."

Adam Clarke’s commentary on 1Jn.1:8. Electronic version.

This agrees with my opinion that 1Jn.1:8 is a doctrinal issue. The experimental was given in verse 10.

My two pence.

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