Walking in the Light
Commentary on 1 John 1:7
The counterpart of walking in darkness—the second half of this first pair of “ifs”—is walking “in the light, as he himself is in the light.” This immediately leads us back to the very nature of God as it was described in 1:5: “God is light.” But this positive “if” is not exactly parallel to its negative counterpart. We would expect John to say that if we walk in light we have fellowship with God. But John surprises us in two ways. First of all, instead of speaking about fellowship with God, he now speaks of “fellowship with one another.” Later, in the second chapter, John will argue that love of God is manifested in loving others. Here he announces that theme by moving from “fellowship with God” in the first “if” to “fellowship with one another” in the second “if.” In so doing, he gives us a hint of how he will later clarify what he means by “walking in the light.” Having fellowship with God cannot be separated from having fellowship with one another.
As John Wesley would put it, there is “no holiness but social holiness.”9 Walking in the light is to have koinonia with one another—and let us not forget what was said above to the effect that koinonia implies partnership, sharing, commonality. This is why in the third century a distinguished leader of the church, Cyprian of Carthage, declared that one cannot have God as Father without having the church as mother.10 By this he was not trying to promote the church as an organization, nor to call believers to obedience to the church, but simply stating what John says here, that fellowship with God and fellowship with one another cannot be separated.