Keep Walking in Divine Light
During congregational study of this article and the two that follow it, the conductor should have the cited portions of First John read as time permits
“God is light.”—1 JOHN 1:5.
1, 2. When and where was First John written, and to whom does it apply?
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES are grateful for divine light and intend to keep walking in it. Doing so is not easy, however, for even early disciples of Jesus Christ were faced with apostasy. But Jesus’ loyal apostles restrained its spread, and one who ‘acted as a restraint’ was the apostle John. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12) As a very old man living in or near Ephesus about 98 C.E., he wrote his first divinely inspired letter. Its counsel helped first-century Christians to keep walking in divine light. But what about us?
2 John’s words are just as helpful to 20th-century Christians. So during private study of this article and the two that follow it, be sure to read all cited portions of his first inspired letter as they are being considered. In the apostle’s letter and our remarks thereon, such pronouns as “we” and “us” refer chiefly to Jesus’ anointed followers. But basic principles relating to righteousness, love, faith, and the like, also apply to Christians with earthly hopes.
Sharing That Brings Joy
3. What evidence is there that God’s Son lived, suffered, and died as a human, and why is he called “the word of life”?
3 John first speaks about a joyful “sharing.” (Read 1 John 1:1-4.) Jesus, “the word of life,” was with Jehovah “from the beginning” as God’s first creation, by means of whom “all other things were created.” (Colossians 1:15, 16) Certain first-century apostates claimed to be sinless and denied Christ’s rightful place in the divine arrangement. But Jesus’ apostles heard him speak, viewed him attentively, and touched him. They knew that God’s power operated through him. So there was eyewitness evidence that he was God’s Son who had lived, suffered, and died as a human. He is “the word of life” because “life [eternal] was made manifest” through Jesus, by means of whom God has provided the ransom.—Romans 6:23; 2 Timothy 1:9, 10.
4. What is denoted by the “sharing” that anointed ones have?
4 By what the apostles said and wrote, they ‘bore witness’ about the sinless human Jesus Christ. John ‘reported’ such matters so that anointed ones might have “a sharing,” or fellowship, with other Kingdom heirs, with the Father, and with His Son. This “sharing” denotes unity and causes great joy. (Psalm 133:1-3; John 17:20, 21) Apostates who hate former associates in Jehovah’s service no longer have such fellowship with God and Christ.
“God Is Light”
5. What “message” did the apostles receive from Jesus, and how does it affect the conduct of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
5 Stated next is a “message” the apostles received from Jesus. (Read 1 John 1:5-7.) It is this: “God is light and there is no darkness at all [nothing unholy, immoral, untrue, or wicked] in union with him.” So Jehovah’s Witnesses shun all sinful practices associated with darkness. (Job 24:14-16; John 3:19-21; Romans 13:11-14; 2 Corinthians 6:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:6-9) Since certain apostates did not believe that there are sinful works, they were in spiritual darkness. They claimed to have secret knowledge, but God is light, not dark secrecy. He gives spiritual light only to his faithful witnesses.—Matthew 5:14-16; 1 Peter 2:9.
6. If we ‘practice the truth,’ what blessing is ours?
6 If we say we have “a sharing” with God but “go on walking in the darkness,” leading a sinful life, we “are lying and are not practicing the truth,” or living in harmony with it. But if we pursue a course harmonizing with the truth, we are in the light, even as God is. We have “a sharing” with fellow Christians, all of whom are unified in doctrine, spiritual outlook, disciple-making work, and other aspects of pure worship.
7. Why can Jesus’ blood ‘cleanse us from all sin’?
7 Unlike certain early apostates, we who ‘walk in the light’ acknowledge that sin is unclean. Jesus’ blood “cleanses us from all sin” because we are not willful sinners. (Matthew 12:31, 32) Grateful we are, indeed, that God shows mercy even to erring but repentant Christians.—Psalm 103:8-14; Micah 7:18, 19.
Basis for Propitiation
8, 9. (a) On what basis will Jehovah forgive us? (b) As regards sin, what were certain apostates saying, and why were they wrong?
8 John next cites the basis for cleansing from sin. (Read 1 John 1:8–2:2.) If we say, “We have no sin,” we deny the fact that all imperfect humans are sinful, and “the truth is not in us.” (Romans 5:12) But God is “faithful” and forgives us “if we confess our sins” to him with a repentant attitude that moves us to abandon wrongdoing. (Proverbs 28:13) God said of those in the new covenant: “Their sin I shall remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:7-12) In forgiving them, he is faithful to that promise.
9 Furthermore, God is “righteous,” always adhering to his standards of righteousness. He has satisfied justice through the ransom and can ‘forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness’ if we confess our sinfulness with faith in Jesus’ sacrifice. (Hebrews 9:11-15) By his death the Messiah carried sins away, even as the sin-laden goat was sent into the wilderness on Atonement Day. (Leviticus 16:20-22; Isaiah 53:5, 8, 11, 12; 1 Peter 2:24) Certain apostates said, “We have not sinned,” thus ‘making Jehovah a liar.’ But “God . . . cannot lie,” and his Word shows that all imperfect humans are sinful. (Titus 1:2; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23) Why, saying that “we have not sinned” would mean that God’s word is not “in us,” is not in our hearts!—Compare Hebrews 8:10.
10. In what way is Jesus “a propitiatory sacrifice”?
10 John writes “these things” about sin, forgiveness, and cleansing so that we may not practice sin. His words should move us to strive earnestly not to sin. (1 Corinthians 15:34) But if we do commit “a sin” and are repentant, we have “a helper with the Father”—“Jesus Christ, a righteous one,” who pleads our cause with God. (Hebrews 7:26; compare John 17:9, 15, 20.) Jesus is “a propitiatory sacrifice.” His death satisfied justice and made it possible for God to extend mercy and remove the charge of sin in the case of spiritual Israelites and ‘the whole world,’ including the “great crowd.” (Romans 6:23; Galatians 6:16; Revelation 7:4-14) How we appreciate that sacrifice!
Obey God and Show Love
11. By what evidence do we know we are “in union with” God?
11 To keep walking in divine light, we must obey Jehovah. (Read 1 John 2:3-6.) We realize that we “have come to know” God, understanding him and his qualities, if “we continue observing his commandments.” Anyone claiming to know Jehovah but failing to obey him “is a liar.” Conversely, “the love of God has been made perfect,” or complete, if we observe his word. “By this” evidence of obeying and loving God, we know we are “in union with him.” And we are obliged to walk as his Son did, in the disciple-making work, in our relationships with others, and so forth.
12. What “old commandment” do Christians have, and how is it also “new”?
12 Brotherly love is also vital. (Read 1 John 2:7, 8.) John is writing “an old commandment” that the faithful have had “from the beginning” of their lives as Christians. It is “old” because Jesus gave it years earlier when he told his followers to ‘love one another just as he loved them.’ (John 13:34) Yet it is also “new” because it goes beyond the neighbor love required by the Law and calls for willingness to surrender one’s soul in behalf of fellow believers. (Leviticus 19:18; John 15:12, 13) Since our self-sacrificing love proves that compliance with this “new commandment” is ‘true both in Christ’s case and in ours, the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining’ among us.
13. According to 1 John 2:9-11, who is “in the light” and who is not?
13 Yet, who really is “in the light”? (Read 1 John 2:9-11.) Well, “he that says he is in the light and yet hates his brother” is in spiritual darkness “up to right now.” But “he that loves his brother remains in the light,” and in his case there is no “cause for stumbling.” Here the Greek word suggests a baited animal trap and denotes something that can bring about a fall into sin. Actually, a professing Christian who hates his brother “does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (Matthew 13:13-15) Will this warning move you to avoid spiritual darkness by refusing to let personal differences, the lies of apostates, or anything else destroy your brotherly love?
Basis for Confidence
14. Who are the “little children” and the “fathers” addressed by John?
14 John next expresses confidence in the “little [young] children,” apparently meaning the whole congregation. (Read 1 John 2:12-14.) Our sins have been forgiven ‘for the sake of Christ’s name,’ for only through him has God made salvation possible. (Acts 4:12) Anointed ones “know the Father” because he has begotten them by his spirit. Some are “fathers”—likely older, more experienced, and spiritually advanced believers. They know Jesus, who existed “from the beginning” in that God created him before all other things.
15. (a) Who are the “young men” John addresses, and how have they “conquered the wicked one”? (b) Give an example of how we might ‘conquer’ Satan today.
15 The “young men” John addresses may be younger, less experienced Christians. They “have conquered the wicked one,” Satan, by not succumbing to his “designs.” (2 Corinthians 2:11) For example, today this would include avoiding unclean entertainment, sensual music, and pornography, which can erode Christian principles and result in a fall into sexual immorality. The “young men” are victorious over Satan because they are spiritually “strong” and “the word of God” remains in them. May we be like them in accepting God’s spiritual provisions, rejecting apostasy, and continuing to walk in divine light.
A Love We Must Not Have
16. What love must we not have, but what would be true of us if we had worldly views and aspirations?
16 Whether we are younger or older Christians, there is a love we must not have. (Read 1 John 2:15-17.) We must ‘not love the world or anything in it.’ Rather, we need to keep from becoming spotted by the corruption of unrighteous human society and must not breathe in its “spirit,” or be motivated by its sinful dominant attitude. (Ephesians 2:1, 2; James 1:27) If we were to have worldly views and aspirations, “the love of the Father” would not be in us. (James 4:4) That really is food for prayerful thought, is it not?
17. Christians must not satisfy what worldly desires?
17 “Everything in the world” does not originate with God. This includes “the desire of the flesh,” the satisfying of which means gratifying such sinful yearnings as immoral sexual desires. (1 Corinthians 6:15-20; Galatians 5:19-21) Also to be avoided is yielding to “the desire of the eyes.” The visually desirable forbidden fruit enticed Eve, and David’s viewing of Bath-sheba while she was bathing led to gross sin. (Genesis 3:6; 2 Samuel 11:2-17) To keep walking in divine light, then, we must avoid debased entertainment and other things that appeal to sinful desires and corrupt the heart.—Proverbs 2:10-22; 4:20-27.
18. Why is “the showy display of one’s means of life” pointless, and what does it fail to bring?
18 Also originating with the world is “the showy display of one’s means of life.” A proud person may boast about his wealth, his wardrobe, and the like, all of which can be lost. His “showy display” may impress some people and bring fleeting praise but not divine blessing.—Matthew 6:2, 5, 16, 19-21; James 4:16.
19. What will happen to this world, and how should this fact affect us?
19 Remember that “the world is passing away” and will be destroyed. (2 Peter 3:6) Its desires and hopes will perish with it, as will individuals loving it. “But,” says John, “he that does the will of God remains forever.” So let us keep eternal life in view by ‘repudiating worldly desires’ and continuing to walk in divine light.—Titus 2:11-14.
Guard Against Apostasy
20. Those ‘against Christ’ were called what, and their appearance proved that what had arrived?
20 John now warns against antichrists. (Read 1 John 2:18, 19.) He reminds fellow believers that from the apostles they “heard that antichrist is coming.” The appearance of “many antichrists” proved that it was the “last hour,” the final part of the apostolic period. Although those ‘against Christ’ formed a composite “antichrist,” many individual antichrists pretended to worship God but “were not of our sort” and abandoned true Christianity. We are glad that the departure or expulsion of such ones today prevents corruption of the congregation.
21. Why do spirit-begotten Christians “have knowledge,” and what “truth” do they know?
21 Apostate views are rejected by loyal spirit-begotten Christians. Since “an anointing from the holy one,” Jehovah, helps them to understand his Word, ‘all of them have knowledge.’ (Read 1 John 2:20, 21.) They surely know “the truth” as it relates to Jesus Christ, whereas the apostates have erroneous ideas about him. Since “no lie originates with the truth,” all lovers of Jehovah reject such false views and those advocating them.
22. What did C. T. Russell do when one of his early associates denied the ransom?
22 After all, “who is the liar if it is not the one that denies that Jesus is the Christ,” God’s Anointed One? (Read 1 John 2:22-25.) Why, ‘the one that denies the Father and the Son is the antichrist’! Interestingly, when an early associate of Bible student Charles T. Russell denied the ransom, Russell withdrew from fellowship with him and began publishing this journal, which has always declared the truth about Christ’s origin, Messianic role, and loving service as the “propitiatory sacrifice.”
23. How does ‘confessing the Son’ affect our relationship with God, and our prospects?
23 Apostates who deny Christ do not have Jehovah as their Friend. (John 5:23) But we who publicly ‘confess the Son have the Father,’ being in an approved relationship with God. (Matthew 10:32, 33) Jesus’ loyal early followers clung to what they had heard about God’s Son “from the beginning” of their lives as Christians. And if the same truth is in our hearts, we will “abide in union” with both God and Christ and will receive “the promised thing,” everlasting life.—John 17:3.
Taught by Jehovah God
24. Who have an “anointing” by holy spirit, and why do they “not need anyone to be teaching” them?
24 To walk in divine light and not be misled by apostates, we need proper spiritual instruction. (Read 1 John 2:26-29.) Spirit-begotten ones have an “anointing” by holy spirit, have come to know God and his Son, and “do not need anyone [an apostate] to be teaching” them. By his anointing spirit, God “is teaching” spiritual Israelites “about all things” needed in order to worship him acceptably. (John 4:23, 24; 6:45) We are delighted that as Jehovah’s Witnesses we receive such spiritual instruction from God through “the faithful and discreet slave.”—Matthew 24:45-47.
25, 26. (a) Why can anointed ones have “freeness of speech”? (b) What does it mean to ‘practice righteousness’?
25 John urges well-instructed anointed ones to “remain in union with” God. Those “in union with” Jehovah are similarly at unity with his Son. (John 14:19-21) Such unity is urged so that “when he [Christ] is made manifest we may have freeness of speech and not be shamed away from him at his presence,” that is, during his Parousia.
26 Since we are now living during Jesus’ “presence,” how can we make sure that we have nothing to be ashamed of and are really walking in divine light? By ‘practicing righteousness.’ ‘If we know that God is righteous,’ John reasons, ‘we are aware that everyone practicing righteousness has been born from him.’ ‘Practicing righteousness’ means obeying God’s commandments, avoiding unrighteousness, and engaging in such fine works as making disciples and assisting fellow believers. (Mark 13:10; Philippians 4:14-19; 1 Timothy 6:17, 18) Being “born from” God means being “born again” as his spiritual children.—John 3:3-8.
27. What will the apostle John show us next?
27 So John has shown how to keep walking in divine light. Next he shows how to live as God’s children. What does this require?
What Are Your Answers?
□ What evidence does John give that God’s Son lived, suffered, and died as a man?
□ In what way is Jesus Christ “a propitiatory sacrifice”?
□ What command do Christians have that is both “old” and “new”?
□ What will happen to this world, and how should this fact affect us as Christians?
□ How can anointed ones be sure that they are walking in divine light?
[Blurb on page 12]
Are you showing appreciation for Jesus’ sacrifice?