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1 John 1:7 reads (NKJV, emphasis added):

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

I've heard in a sermon recently that to withdraw from someone who leaves the light shouldn't be called "withdrawing fellowship." The point from this verse was that someone outside the light doesn't have fellowship with Christians in the first place.

Does 1 John 1:7 imply that those who don't walk in the light automatically lack fellowship with those who do?

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  • 1
    It seems to me that you have answered your own question. It is a logical conclusion, I would say.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 28, 2023 at 9:19
  • That is a Calvinistic assumption or belief, "he was not in to begin with". We cannot do anything about this, and such highly sectarian viewpoints are hard to explain, as they lean more towards fatalistic determinism. The same topic must have been discussed on all the various topics on apostasy.
    – Michael16
    Nov 28, 2023 at 10:18
  • @Michael16 The person who made this point is very much opposed to Calvinism.
    – The Editor
    Nov 29, 2023 at 16:08

3 Answers 3

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The operative word in 1 John 1:7 is the first word in the Greek, viz, ἐάν (ean) = "if", a conjunction of conditionality. Put as simply as possible, it is used in construction very familiar to English speakers and logicians:

IF A, then B

In 1 John 1:7, the "A" here is "we walk in the light as He is in the light"

And the "B" is, "we have fellowship with one another".

Thus, if we walk in the light (of Jesus) then we will have fellowship.

However, this statement 9speaking only on strict logical grounds) says nothing about with this "if" is general or restrictive. Thus, logically, it says nothing about those who do not walk in the light.

BUT - the normal inference (since this is NOT a logical mathematical statement) is that those who do not walk in the light will not have fellowship, else, there is no point making the statement.

Therefore, in answer to the OP's question, the implied answer is "YES" - those who do not walk in the light (of Jesus) do not have fellowship with one another.

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  • "those who do not walk in the light (of Jesus) do not have fellowship with one another." Wouldn't it be true that they would not have fellowship with those who walk in the light but they would have fellowship with each other - in darkness.
    – David D
    Nov 28, 2023 at 15:03
  • @DavidD - have you seen the state of the wars in numerous places - it appears that those who do not walk in the light do not have fellowship with one another but rather fight each other!
    – Dottard
    Nov 28, 2023 at 20:38
  • They do fight each other. However, 1 Timothy 4:3 "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." They also group together to support one another.
    – David D
    Nov 28, 2023 at 21:19
  • @DavidD - the text is not discussing the generation at the end of time, it is discussing the generation of Jesus' day.
    – Dottard
    Nov 28, 2023 at 21:26
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Of note is how the first chapter in John's first letter starts by speaking about how the Word of God became flesh. He and all the other Christians back then had looked upon, handled, and heard the Word in the person of Jesus Christ. This is not surprising given John's first chapter in his gospel.

John then says in his letter that the declaring of all this, which they personally have experienced, enables all Christians to have fellowship with each other, adding, "and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." (vs. 3)

In verse 5 he then says that "God is light", so that those who say they have fellowship with God, but who walk in darkness, are liars (vs.6). Now comes the verse quoted in the question. Yet all Christians know how John testified to Christ being "the light of the world" so that those who follow him do not walk in darkness but have the light of life (John 8:12). To "walk in the light" while we are in the world is to follow Christ throughout our earthly sojourn. Christ is the light of life. By him we see light. But Jesus warned that "light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." Such ones do not come to the light - they do not come to Jesus, the light of the world. (John 3:19-21) They are the liars of 1 John 1 verse 6.

In heaven, God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim.6:16 James 1:17) but Christ is the exact representation of the Father so that by coming to Christ, the light of the world, we come into fellowship with him, with the Father, and with all believers who follow Christ.

The verse in question deals with more than walking in the light enabling fellowship with other believers. It deals with walking in the light enabling fellowship with God (who is in the light), and according to all else John said about Christ being the light of the world, and how walking with him prevents us walking in darkness, and enables us to come to the Father.

We cannot disengage fellowship with believers who are following Jesus from fellowship with the Father and the Son. This is a tripartite form of fellowship (see my paragraph two). Some fellow-believers might start to veer off a bit, heading for the shadows, yet they do not "automatically lack fellowship with those who do" walk in the light. They could be drawn back into the full light and full fellowship. Those who see clearly because they are fully following Christ will be alert not to be drawn to the side by those wandering off, but - positively - to do as John exhorts in 1 John chapter 3 and in 5:16-21 to help them.

My answer, then, is that walking in the light is required to maintain fellowship with fellow believers, with Christ and with God. Verse 6 shows the distinction between liars who falsely claim to be walking in the light of God and of Christ, and genuine followers of Jesus, even though there may be occasions when lack of diligence in following Christ might get them heading for the shadows.

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Question:

Does fellowship with one another require walking in the light

Summary:
Separating fellowship from walking in the light is like trying to separate water from wet.

Walking in the light is an inseparable part of a right relationship with God.
Walking in the light and fellowship with God are same thing.
If a person is a Christian then by virtue of a Christian's relationship with God that person has fellowship with other Christians.
There is no concept of "withdrawing" fellowship in the passage.
Not only should it not be called "withdrawing fellowship" but fellowship is not ours to withdraw.

Let's look at the whole passage.
John's point is made clear in 1 John 2:1

1 John 1

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 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. 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 a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 John 2 continues the idea of walking

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Here's the logic:
1 John 1
V5 God is light and in him is no darkness
V6 If we walk in darkness and claim fellowship with God we lie
V7 If we walk in the light with God then all who walk in the light have fellowship with each other
V8 If we claim that we are not sinners we are not in the light
V9 If we confess our sins then we will be forgiven
1 John 2
V1-2 John is explaining these things to warn them away from sin and to guide them to forgiveness if they do sin
V3 Keeping God's commandments is linked to walking with God as a result of forgiveness.
V4-6 If someone claims to know God and does not keep God's commandments is a liar. Consistent obedience is the indicator for a perfected love of God.

John is teaching Christians how to discern between three possibilities:

  1. People who are walking in the light, who do have fellowship, and who are obedient.
  2. People who are walking in the light and have sinned. Sin damages their relationship with God (and their fellowship with other Christians) but forgiveness is available.
  3. People who may claim to walk in the light but never have. These people have no fellowship with the people of God and never have had fellowship with God (or other Christians). Forgiveness is available to them to bring them into a right relationship with God.

The concept of "withdrawing" fellowship is not in the passage. You either have fellowship with God (and as a result other Christians) or you don't based on the condition of your relationship with God - not based on any person withdrawing it from another person.

Fellowship with God and other Christians, walking in the light, abiding with God are all an inseparable result of a person's relationship with God.

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