Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the June 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
Application: “This Little Light of Yours,” by David Faust
Lesson Aim: Love your brother and live in the light.
By Mark Scott
More than one person has overlaid Paul’s triad of Christian virtues (faith, hope, and love) on the writings of John in the New Testament. If the Gospel of John is about faith and Revelation is about hope, then the Epistles of John are about love. And genuine Christian love always operates in the light of God—never in the darkness.
John has his own triad of virtues for the Christian life. In 1 John they are belief, righteousness, and love. These become tests of life. Flying under the radar of these themes are the upside-down beliefs of the false teachers (2:18-27; 4:1-6, 20, 21). Believing in the right person, doing the right things, and loving all people always undercut falsehood.
Walk in Light | 1 John 1:5-10
John loves contrasts—for example, physical water and spiritual water (John 4), physical bread and spiritual bread (John 6), earthly fathers and a heavenly father (John 8). In the lesson text today we see the stark contrasts between light and darkness (each mentioned several times), love and hate, and truth and deception (lies). After affirming the physicality of Jesus in the prologue (1:1-4), which addressed one false teaching of John’s opponents, John made this big, incredible claim: “God is light.” Christianity is not unique in using light as a metaphor in faith, but the Bible uses it in terms of knowledge, understanding, and moral excellence—all of which God is and has.
So it follows if God is light, then those who follow him should live in that light. The verses that follow have an alternating pattern. Verse 6 parallels with verses 8 and 10, and verse 7 parallels verse 9. The negative emphasis precedes the positive emphasis.
Claiming to be in fellowship (of a common mind) with God and walking in darkness is living a lie (cf. 1 Corinthians 5) and not “doing” truth. Claiming not to sin is to dupe oneself. Claiming not to have sin makes God out to be a liar (Romans 3:23) and shows that the word is not in us. On the other hand, walking in the light ensures our sins have been “purified” (cleansed) and our fellowship with other believers is effectual. Confessing sin allows us to lean into the forgiveness and cleansing of Christ.
Walk in Forgiveness | 1 John 2:1, 2
Walking in forgiveness is not exactly stated in these two verses, but it is implied by virtue of Christ’s salvific act. As much as it breaks God’s heart for us to sin after believing in Jesus, God has provided for our forgiveness. Obeying Scripture guards us from sin; but given the weakness of our flesh and given the conditions all around us in this fallen world, we still might sin. In such times we have an advocate (comforter or one who walks alongside of us and speaks on our behalf like a defense attorney). In the Gospel of John, the advocate is the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). Here the advocate is Jesus himself, who, by virtue of his righteousness, is the atoning sacrifice (i.e., the one who satisfies God’s standards or requirements) for our sins as well as those of the whole world. For the believer, forgiveness is just a confession away.
Walk Like Christ | 1 John 2:3-11
Verse 6 offers a nice summary of the Christian life, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” It does not get more succinct than that. If we walk as Jesus walked, we embrace obedience (3-6). Keeping the commands of God is love, not legalism (John 14:15). One cannot claim to know God and then disobey his commands. This duplicity makes it impossible to be made complete in Christ.
If we walk as Jesus walked, we embrace love. Much of 1 John is about loving others. The command to love others is as old as the Code of Holiness (Leviticus 19:18), and it is as fresh as Jesus’ example (John 13:34, 35). In light of the incarnation of Jesus, darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. The light of God shines best when God’s people love others.
Once again, the distance between what is claimed and what is lived is the test of life. Claiming light and hating others is really a life lived in darkness (and 1 John says it is equal to sin). Loving others is living in the light and ensures there will be no stumbling. Few things are as attractive to unbelievers as seeing people who love others and live morally excellent lives.
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.