As we grow, God reveals more of His perfection to us, and as He reveals His perfection, His light, His truth, we continue to repent. Knowing better what He is, we go to Him for forgiveness of what we are and what we have done, and He continues to cleanse us by the blood of Jesus Christ, washing our imperfections away.
Everything in the Christian life ultimately comes down to our relationship with God. Without the relationship, without the fellowship that is made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ—which bridges the gap between us and God and enables us to have the relationship—no growth will take place. The practice of walking in the light makes perfect. It is not a matter of changing and cleansing ourselves, but rather that fellowship with God has a transforming and perfecting quality.
We know that "evil communication [company, NKJV] corrupts good manners" (I Corinthians 15:33, KJV). The obverse of this is that wonderful, pure, good communication produces good manners. When we are around evil people, we will pick up their habits and their ways. When we choose as our companions people who have the standards of God and fellowship with them, they will likely rub off on us. We cannot fellowship with anyone better than God. That is the whole purpose of the relationship. When we are around Him, we become like Him, unless we consciously decide to cut ourselves off from Him by rejecting His truth.
It is a wonderful system. Everything hinges on the relationship, on the fellowship, and then ultimately on the response to truth. We cannot afford to allow the carnal nature in us (it is still there even after conversion, as Paul said that sin was still in him; Romans 7:14-25) to gain the upper hand and prevent us from working and building on this relationship.
Leviticus 19:2 tells us that we are to be holy because He is holy, and that is what this fellowship is doing, equipping us for holiness on a day-to-day basis. Maintaining that fellowship is not always easy because of the prejudices that we bring with us due to the traditions of our human cultures. We were once helpless before them, having absorbed what our parents taught us until God opened our minds to the truth. Even now, it takes conscious effort for us to respond to the truth, but if we want to be holy, we must maintain the relationship.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 3)
We know what walk means. It implies how we conduct our lives. I John is a letter written to a church congregation, and he is instructing church members that fellowship hinges on walking in the light. This is how we are to have fellowship with one another.
The context of this instruction is quite interesting. Protestantism focuses heavily on the initial forgiveness of sin that takes place upon belief at the beginning of salvation. Thus, their evangelists have altar calls. People come down before the altar and confess their sins and accept Christ as their Savior. Once they do this, these people are considered "saved" and "born again." Their doctrine—that of eternal salvation—continues in this vein, that is, once that occurs, salvation is basically assured. So a great deal of emphasis is put on the initial repentance and forgiveness of sin.
However, notice this verse in its context. John writes, "If we walk in the light. . . ." An individual cannot walk in the light until he is called and converted. This walking occurs after conversion. He continues, "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship. . . ." The fellowship depends on what we do after the initial repentance. Amos writes, "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3). It cannot be done. We do not have fellowship with people that we do not agree with. Agreement is shown by the way that we conduct our lives—by the way that we behave under our belief system.
". . . and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all unrighteousness." This phrase, in context, is the game-breaker. The apostle is teaching that further cleansing, further forgiveness, hinges on our obedience to God after we are converted, for "walking in the light" is synonymous to being obedient or living righteously. Forgiveness after conversion works exactly the same way as the forgiveness we were given before we were converted. It hinged on whether we had repented and had begun obeying God.
Clearly, salvation is a process!
What we must understand here is that forgiveness, cleansing, and even fellowship is not a once-for-all act; but it is a process—even as growing in the grace and knowledge is a process, even as the writing of God's law on our heart is a process. Cleansing is a process. The quality of the fellowship depends upon all of these things. So, if we walk in the light, we have fellowship and His blood cleanses us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 12)
Sin requires some sort of punishment (for example, Deuteronomy 19:11-13, 21; 25:1-3). To avoid punishment—receiving the penalty of the law—action must be taken to remove the guilt. In the Old Testament, offerings were performed to cover the penalty (see Leviticus 4-6), along with restitution in relevant cases. Those who sinned defiantly and neglected the required atoning sacrifice were “cut off,” remaining in their guilt.
Under the New Covenant, guilt is addressed by having sin washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ. Calling for humility, James commands believers to “cleanse your hands” and “purify your hearts” as requirements for entering God's presence (James 4:8-10). “Hands” represents action (i.e., stop doing wrong things), while “heart” signifies thinking (i.e., stop thinking bad thoughts). This cleansing is required for salvation (John 13:8; Titus 3:5). Water baptism symbolizes our redemption, in which our guilt is washed away, and we arise to newness of life (Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-6).
Blood corresponds with the stain of guilt, but it is also the means of atonement for sin. Sprinkling with blood can both cleanse and consecrate (Leviticus 16:18-19; I Peter 1:2). Faith in the blood of Christ is the ultimate remedy for human guilt, bringing full and final atonement to those who believe (Romans 3:23-25).
Martin G. Collins
What Must We Do When We Recognize Our Guilt?
"The light" is the truth. God's Word is truth (John 17:17). We have to walk in the light "as He is in the light." He lives in us, and we in Him. We are in union with Him.
John is telling us how we become clean: We become clean as we apply God's Word. It gets in us and begins to clarify and purify our thinking. But it does not become a real cleansing until it begins to be used. Then, it begins to clean up our bad habits and thinking processes. The thinking processes change according to our action, our behavior. If we keep doing the same things all the time, nothing changes. We are resisting. "Walking" denotes living. If we live as He lived, then we become cleansed. This is what holiness is. If we do that, then we will produce fruit—it is impossible not to!
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 8)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 1 John 1:7: