“If we claim to have fellowship with him but continue to walk in spiritual darkness, we are lying, both in what we say and how we live” (1 John 1:6-7).
Truth can be stated in clear and simple terms. Complicated expressions and twisted syntax normally serve the interest of deception. When we read the letters of John and his gospel we are aware that he has no desire to impress with a beautiful literary style, but to speak the truth in a way that all can understand. I am sure that Paul had no to impress, but if a new manuscript were unearthed written by one of the two, any scholar could identify the author. John’s “style” gives him away.
When we read today’s verse we immediately see an if-but-then logical sequence.
If we say – we have fellowship
But – walk in darkness
Then – we are lying
John’s states his point with clarity. To say one thing but do something else is a lie. A person is recognized not by what they say but by how they live. It was true then and it continues true today that if we claim to be a Christian (that is, one who has by faith entered a personal relationship with Christ) and continue to live in spiritual darkness, there is only one reasonable conclusion and that is that we are lying. In the long run it is how we live, not what we claim, that puts us in the camp of believers.
John goes on to enlarge on his point by pointing out that “if we live in the light,” we will have fellowship with one another and be purified from every sin. There is so much essential theology expressed in this second verse. First, the atoning death of Christ. His blood was shed on Calvary for the sins of the human race. Second, his death made if possible for us to be purified from every sin. Third, being forgiven and made pure we can now enjoy a rich fellowship not only with him, but with one another. I am amazed at the profundity of John’s presentation and the simplicity with which he presents it. Anyone can understand the truth of his words, even though theologians may spend careers working out its practical implications.
It is painfully clear that if a person’s life is just like that of their unbelieving neighbor, they may try to make everyone believe that they are a follower of Christ, but the truth is that they are lying. It is not possible to maintain a close association with God and that which stands over against him. Can you imagine a soldier of one country in free association with the enemy? As the old adage has it, “If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.” Believers don’t walk, swim, and quack like non-believers.