1 John 1
The great purpose of God, in all His dealings in grace, is to bring us—and to bring us individually too—into fellowship with Himself. “Truly our fellowship is with the Father.” Thus we have the full knowledge of God, as far as it can be known by men, and that in full communion with Himself: not in the way of creation—that is, not merely as creatures, but in “union”; and we are made partakers of the Holy Ghost that there may be power; “we dwell in him and he in us.” There cannot be anything more intimate.
It is not knowledge or science that has anything to do with this; for if it be but the human mind working on the things of God, it is but that “high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God.” Babes in Christ have possession of these things, they have not to seek for them, they are in possession of them, though of course they have to ripen in acquaintance with them. Knowledge itself, mere knowledge, puffs up; but, being brought low, the Spirit of God can act upon the soul and give knowledge in communion with God.
Although the Epistle of John is very abstract, yet it is abstract about things that the very feeblest saint knows in Christ. God is brought down to our nature, for God can come down to us in our weakness in Christ. The difference between the writings of Paul and John is this, that Paul unfolds to us the counsels of God in creation—the counsels of God towards the Jews (there are various developments of Christ’s Person, as in Hebrews and Colossians); but John may be called more abstract, because he speaks of the nature of God Himself. The purpose and object of God is to bring us into full fellowship with Himself.
There are three things I would here notice. First, the work of God by which we can stand in His presence perfectly free from any question of sin, so that we can enjoy all that God is. Second, justification by faith and acceptance in the Beloved—the perfect cleansing of the conscience, knowing we are accepted so as to be able to be before Him in perfect peace. Thud, the new birth, commonly called regeneration. There must be a new nature capable of affections towards God. An orphan who never knew a father has the affections of a child, is capable of loving a father, and is often very unhappy because without the object towards whom those affections would naturally flow. So the capacity to love God is that which we get by, being partakers of the divine nature. The Holy Ghost is that which gives us competency to enjoy these things. We have an unction from the Holy One given to us, to enable us to enjoy what God has given to us. There must be our standing in the presence of God without our conscience being at work at all; a nature capable of enjoying God—a new nature; and power to walk in that new nature, which is by the Holy Ghost dwelling in us.
The thing brought especially before us is what that is we are to enjoy: the nature of the thing brought down to the understanding of a poor sinner; and that tries the conscience, just as it moves the affections. God is light, and if I am brought into the blessedness of what God is, it must put the conscience to the test; and I ask, am I standing in it? If I am capable of it, then I enjoy all the blessedness of standing in the light, and am in a position to test all that pretends to possess this character. “God is light.” He is bringing this home to the hearts of the saints. And this must be by presenting Christ Himself. There was, at the time this Epistle was written, a great deal made of development, and He wants to bring them back to the truth. Science, so called, had got in. The character of apostolic teaching was to bring them back “earnestly to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.” “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned.” “That which was from the beginning.” My soul ought to know Christ better every day. The moment I get “God manifest in the flesh,” I cannot know anything out of Him, but that which is false. The question of knowledge is to give place to Christ. If I get there, nothing can shake me. I am in Christ. “These things write we unto you that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” Do you believe on the Son? Then rest there.
Verse I. First, it was from the beginning; second, it was a real substantial Person they had known familiarly, not a doctrine; that is the blessed secret of all. If they have Christ, then they have all that the Father has, all that is revealed of Him: and they cannot go from that without being wrong. They have got eternal life, the perfect revelation of God—the power of life in Christ. This is what is presented to us as the full enjoyment and the safeguard of the saint. It is ours, though that which was with the Father, yet was so near to us; not union, but so near to us that nothing could be so near as Christ Himself. Instead of wanting anything between myself and Christ, it is revealed to me, so that nothing could be so near to me as Christ Himself. This is the eternal life that was with the Father.
And it is as we study the Lord Jesus Christ that we shall have affections established towards Him, which nothing can break. The poor woman who was a sinner had such confidence in Him that she had come to Him, and loved Him; but the secret of our joy is to know the love of Christ to us; and then we have confidence in Him, understanding that God has come so near as to reveal Himself, and inspire confidence. The more we go out and study Christ—the more we penetrate into His ways—the more we learn the depth of all these riches in Him, the more is His divine fulness revealed to us. If it is His taking little children up in His arms, I see in it what God’s character is. “He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father.” Having truth thus revealed in a Person, I get it for the humblest, lowest, poorest, sinner, because it is a personal act of our Lord Jesus Christ. “That which was from the beginning.” And now, mark, this “Word of life,” while it shews what God was in Christ, shews it communicated to us; and everything, true or false, is tested by this. So he asks, “Is there love? “No. Then it is not of God. “He that loveth not knoweth not God.” This is now what John teaches, he brings me up to the object—what God was. “That which we have seen with our eyes”; “God is light”; “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanseth us from all sin”; the communication of life to the Christian; the height of the source of the life communicated to us. But in the Gospel of John you will find, “of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace,” “which thing is true in him and in you.” “An old commandment which was from the beginning”; now a new commandment, become true in Him and in you. He called it a new commandment, though an old one—a simple truth that Christ Himself is become our life, “that the life of Jesus might be manifest in our mortal bodies.” If a poor sinner is converted, he has the life communicated from Jesus up there, which comes down to the lowest need in us; and yet how high it rises!
This Gospel begins before creation. Genesis begins with creation, and gives the scene in which all is to be acted; but John gives Him who created, and states the pre-existence of God. “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth,” “thou art the same”—we get Christ before the creation, and then in creation. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” and became the source of life; and we receive our life from Him who existed, before all worlds, from everlasting. We receive our new nature from Him, and are united to Him who was before the world, and who created the world. This has a double effect (if right with God), lifting our hearts up in ten thousand thousand thanks, while it manifests the life of Jesus. The least thing manifests the life of Jesus. Whatever does not manifest Him is of the world; whatever is not the manifestation of the life of Christ in our souls, it is sin. And do not think that a hardship. No; rejoice in it. I would have your hearts enlarged; as the apostle says, “be ye also enlarged.” Oh to have Christ so before the eye as to be able to judge everything in His light! Do not think it is great learning; no, there may be the lust of the mind as well as the lust of the flesh; but if in communion with God, we discern all things.
I call your minds back to see the way we received the life; it was in the humblest and simplest way. He who came into the world to save sinners, He has made us vessels of His fulness. Thus we have fellowship with the Father and with the Son, and display it. “Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” The effect is, we have the Father and the Son, and we have nothing more to seek. I have the Father and the Son. Can I get truth outside the Father and the Son? I may have more to learn. If a man is on the ocean, there may be a great deal he has to discover of it, but he has not to get there; he says, I am there. So I am in the truth. I have got a great deal to learn; but I am in the Father and the Son, and I am in the truth. I do not want to seek it if I am in it. I have the very eternal God in whom I dwell—I have come to the Father. When there is a consciousness of this, O what comfort and what peace! It not only guards us from evils without, but it gives spiritual rest within. If I am striving to get something, I have no communion. If I want to get to the sovereign, when I am in His presence already, I have no communion; and if I am not brought up there, I cannot have the sense of what the conscience ought to be in God’s presence. The joy is, that our fellowship is with the Father, and not that of getting there.
“These things write we unto you that your joy may be full.” There is where God brings the saint if there is humbleness. And if there is not humbleness, we shall slip. When we lose the sense of God’s presence, the sense of it, I say (because we are always in His presence in truth), we are at the point to sin. My natural character or flesh will shew itself if I am out of His presence. There is such a thing as the saint’s dwelling in the conscious presence of God without fear. If there is anything between me and God, my conscience will be at work; but when the Spirit is not grieved, the soul is in the presence of God for joy; learning holiness, it is true, but in joy, because occupied in communion instead of in detection; and that is a great thing. There is such a thing as being in His presence without the conscience having to be exercised, and in perfect joy. “My peace I give unto you.” What was that peace? There were no vagabond affections— there could not be, and so there was full peace of heart with God. Christ was divinely perfect—all His affections always in tune with God. Now, through the grace and power of God, we may be brought to that, Christ having been revealed to the soul, the world is cast out, and Christ is everything, and there is perfect joy. This is often what our experience is after conversion, but afterwards the love to Christ grows less fervent—the world creeps in little by little, and we have less joy.
There are three things which characterise a Christian. First, “he is in the light as God is in the light.” Now God had said to Israel, “I will dwell in the thick darkness”; and at Sinai told them to keep off; “for if so much as a beast touch the mountain it shall be stoned.” There was a great deal of good there, but He was in His pavilion of darkness, not seen. God acted towards Israel, but did not shew Himself. Now the veil is rent from top to bottom, and all is light. It is the very nature of the truth we are in, that God is now manifestly revealed, and he that is come in through the veil stands in the light of God’s holiness, perfect purity in itself, and it shews everything that is not so. Second, “Fellowship one with another.” We are there together, and all have fellowship by the same Holy Ghost dwelling in all. Third, We can be there because “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.” The more thoroughly in the light, the more it is seen that there is no spot on us through that blood. This could not be said of a Jew; but now the righteousness of God is set forth, and we are brought into the light as He is in the light. Is this a thing that makes you unhappy, or gives you joy of heart? If we are true of heart, we shall be glad of the light to detect the darkness in us. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” We do not want to escape from the light, but to be searched by it—not with a pretension that we have no sin, but the consciousness that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin. For the effect of being in the light is, that we confess our sins. “In whose spirit there is no guile.” There are two things there, the confession and the love.
Verses 1-4 are that there may be no deception. Then in verse 5, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” Now that is the test when Christ is known in the presence of God: there is no question about sin. How came I there? I came through the blood—then I have got peace. If I am reasoning about God, this is another thing; but if we have got there, we got there through the blood, and this gives peace, a peace which is never lost. There is a peace which may be lost: happy at first, while fresh from conversion, and all is easy and smooth with us, our hearts attracted by the grace of Christ; but if failure comes in, conscience is awakened, sin alarms, and we lose our peace, so that we do not know where we are. Until we have apprehended that we are brought to God—where we never could be brought if there remained a spot of sin upon us—we cannot know settled peace in our souls, as spoken of in Hebrews, “no more conscience of sin”; and that is enduring peace. The power of the affections of the new nature forms a link of fellowship with God; and only as we keep in the light, shall we know the practical enjoyment of it. We must be in the light that evil thoughts may be shut out, so that we may have fellowship with God. In how many things, in our intercourse with one another or with the world, self comes in and is not judged by us! There is a practical consciousness in the Christian that he cannot go on without God, and he judges, waits, and confesses, trusting in God, and thus his heart is kept calm and in peace.
There are two things. First, The manifestation of the eternal life—for it has been manifested to us. Second, We are partakers of it, I have fellowship with the Father and the Son. He has communicated to us that nature, so that we can delight in His fellowship.
The Lord give us to keep ourselves in the love of God—in His presence, in the light, detecting everything that is not of Him, judging it, and thus to be in the enjoyment of His love.
If our hearts were as simple as the word of God, our perception of its truths would be as simple and as easy. But it is not so. In a certain sense it could not be so; nor ought it to be so, till our hearts and thoughts are brought into subjection to God’s thoughts. There will be no simplicity till the conscience is purged; because, till the soul is brought to God, all is confusion and darkness on account of sin. In partial and dimmer light there is often terror, because everything is confused. So when the conscience is at work, until we are brought to set to our seal that God is true, and learn that all our thoughts perish, all our ways are foolishness, terror and confusion reign in the soul. But when brought to this, our hearts become as simple as the word. It is a great matter to have the heart exercised. God would have, and will have, the mind and conscience exercised. But till our thoughts are brought into subjection to God’s thoughts—our own thoughts utterly set aside—we cannot have blessed and happy thoughts of God. When our thoughts flow in the current of God’s thoughts—when His thoughts become ours—it is blessed in every sense. The conscience is blessed, the heart is blessed; and you go on cheerfully. Not so when God speaks, and we begin to reason; setting up our thoughts against, or mingling them with, God’s revelation. That is not simplicity. Till the soul is bowed to receive God’s thoughts you cannot, and ought not, to have perfect peace. I have sin in me; how then can I have peace? Here is the difficulty. For, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” If the revelation of God in Christ shines into me, I cannot say, “I have no sin.” What follows? “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father.” Here, then, I find how I can have fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. Christ the Advocate with the Father, maintains us in the communion we are apt to lose. This is the great secret which breaks down human pride—entire subjection to God’s thoughts. If God has given a revelation, and I am not subject to it, it is unbelief and rebellion. God says, “the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” If I say, “I have done this or that, and God cannot forget; He knows all, and He must remember”; I am found reasoning, and not submitting to God’s thoughts. I am concluding what God must be, from what I find in myself, consequent on the light which has shined in.
How then can I have peace? God does not mean us to take up things lightly, without exercise of soul. When the light of God shines into the conscience, sin is felt, and seen too, where it never was seen before. God shines in, and I find darkness. God cannot have to do with darkness. I find that in me which God cannot accept. How can God accept me?
I am always glad to see a conscience exercised thus. It is all useful to convict of sin. It is good for the light to probe to the bottom of the heart. It is awful to think what the human heart is—I do not mean in the gross forms of evil. There is something in the selfishness, the cold calculating reasoning of man’s heart, worse than all the sins one could enumerate— yes, even of the decent man who keeps his character! Is there one single motive which governs your heart, decent and sober as you are, which governed Christ? Is there one feeling in your breast which was in Christ? Not one. What governs men? Selfishness. Not so Christ. There was no selfishness in Christ. In Him all was love. Love it was that brought Him down. Love gave Him energy when hungry and weary at the well. Love carried Him on, one constant unfailing stream of love. Never was He betrayed into anything contrary to it. Deserted, abandoned, betrayed, still there was one unwearying action of love. Selfishness can feel love. It is even lovely to man’s mind, though he is the very opposite of it. Yet some are amiable and beautiful characters. But how do they use their amiability? To attract to self! self governs man. Selfishness need not be put into him; it is there. All is sin from beginning to end—all self. Whatever be the form it takes, ii is vanity. Is it not true of every one that will read this, that some personal gratification, perhaps some little bit of dress, has more power to occupy the thoughts, than the agony of Christ? Not that He would have us always occupied with that; He would have us occupied with His Person and glory.
When I want to prove, then, is that we cannot think badly enough of what our hearts are. It is well that we should know it, for we cannot have the truth without in some measure judging the root and principle of evil within. But then have we any power to remedy the evil? No, none. But when brought to God, happily we get miserable about it. When there are desires after truth, I hope, because I see some goodness in God; but hope is dashed by seeing some evil in myself. That is not simplicity. It is judging God by some sort of knowledge of what I am. It may be true and righteous; but it is law. The principle of law is, that God is towards man according to what man is towards God. It is the principle which conscience always will act on; for according to conscience it is right. The evil is not in this, but in the fact that I am not brought to total despair. The light has not yet broken down the will, so as to make me cry out, “I am vile, and abhor myself in dust and ashes.”
Beloved friends, if I take the ground of expecting anything from God, in virtue of what I am towards Him, all is over! there is nothing but condemnation. God is holy, and I am not. God is righteous, and I am a sinner. The end of all these exercises of soul is to make you cry out, “I am vile,” and that is all. God is holy, and I am not. He is holy, and must be holy, and ought to be holy. Would you have Him lower Himself down to what you are? No, never. I may tremble before Him when I think of it, but I would not have it otherwise. No person quickened into the divine nature could deliberately wish God to come down from His holiness, to spare one sin; because he has learnt by that same nature to hate sin. My heart has tasted a little of love in God Himself; for He cannot reveal Himself without revealing love. The law shews man what he ought to be, but does not shew what God is. It says, love God, and it shews me that I ought to love, but does not tell me who or what the God is I am to love. Job said, if I could but find Him! However distracted and broken to pieces under the hand of God, he felt that if he could only find Him, he would love Him. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him!” Flesh is always under the law. Realising by faith the precious truth that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin, then all is easy, all is peace. Flesh comes in and troubles, and the soul is down; and it is up and down; and the evil is that the soul gets habituated to such alternations, and not to walking in communion with God.
To think that God is going to condemn me is not fellowship with His thoughts. What is fellowship? Common thoughts together; common feelings, affections, objects; one heart, one mind. Thus we have fellowship with God! How wonderful! Fellowship with the Father and the Son. How so? Why; what have I received, if I have not received God’s thoughts? Does not the Father delight in the Son? and do not I delight in that there is all beauty and perfectness in Him? Do not I delight in a soul being converted? Is it not your delight that Christ should be perfectly honoured and glorified? and is it not God’s too? If God’s thoughts are the spring of our thoughts, can we wonder that our joy should be full? The Holy Ghost gives thoughts, and our hearts are too narrow to take them in in all their fulness and power; but our joy is full, nay so full that it runs over. It is not that we are not inconsistent to the end. The peace and rest that we get is, that there is no modification, no change, in God Himself.
If we say there is this or that inconsistency in me, and how can such as I look to God, and begin questioning, we get back to law—to judging by my own good-for-nothing heart of what God is. Would I have you indifferent to sins? No! but I would you had so settled and constant a judgment of the flesh, as vile and cannot please God, as to give yourself entirely up. Many of us have to learn this by detail—by failing, and failing, and failing. It is better to learn it by a ray of light shot from God’s credited word—to believe, from His report that, from the first shoot it puts forth from the earth to the last fruit it bears, it is the old tree, and will never bring forth anything but wild grapes. A hard lesson this, but a true one. Are your hearts brought to say, in God’s presence, I know that “I am carnal, sold under sin?” Have you come to this point, to accept the entire judgment of God against yourself? Terrible! But you must get there to know more full blessedness. Have you ever sat down satisfied to know that the self that is sitting there cannot please God? When it comes to that I give up all thoughts of judging God by what lam; for then He could only cast me out of His presence! I am not looking to gain eternal life. I cannot; I have failed. Where then shall I find that which I so desperately want? Why in this was manifested the love of God (v. 2). Himself is manifested.
The life you want is come by another. “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” You are just the opposite to Jesus. How did you find that out? Jesus is manifested, the eternal life which came down from the Father, to you, because you could never have got your heart up to it. If Christ is not my life, where is it? Is Christ my life? Yes! and what a life I have. It makes me see sin in me—true. But if I have the sin, have I an imperfect life? A life which, perhaps, God cannot be pleased with? No; it is given from God, because I am mere sin. God sent His Son that I might live through Him. It is God’s free gift. Where is responsibility then? As regards getting, there is none. It is in the using! Do I weaken responsibility? Nay, I give it all its force. If you are under the law, you are either weakening its authority (for if I say God is merciful and will give a reprieve, I destroy the law), or you established the law, proving its utter condemnation, and that you are dead through it—a lost sinner—alive by the life of Christ.
“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (v. 5). God comes in as light. Sin is darkness. Light has no fellowship with darkness. Light being come in, we must so stand in the presence of God that, in the full light of His holiness, no spot at all is seen in us. Do you walk thus in the light? It is a real thing. The walk is what a man really is. Can you stand in the light, as God is in it without a veil between, walking, not according to the light, but in the light? Have you ever walked in such sort, knowing, without an effort in your conscience, that you are in the presence of God? If not, how have you been walking—going on for a few brief years? Whither you know not—in the awful folly of the human heart—in a constant state of moral madness! Have you ever had it all told out in your conscience, alone with God, all that you ever did? A long tale!” That is what you have done, that is what you have thought, and I saw it all! Would you like thus to be told out, alone with God, the things that perhaps were not done before men, just proving that you thought more of man than of God? Is it all going to sink into oblivion? Have you thus been manifested to God, as the apostle speaks?
Here is a message—mark who brings it! A message by Christ. To bring me to Christ—to God—to judge? No! But to bring me to One who has come to put away all that He has made manifest! I breathe again: what a comfort! I can desire now that everything should be known, everything I have even thought of, because it is to Him who came to put it all away—not to hide, nor excuse, but to put it all away. The Son of God has died for it all. It is God putting my sin away, instead of putting me away. I am in the light, but the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all sin. I get the witness of God Himself, God who is light. If He does not shew a spot in me, who will? Do I say, there is no spot in my nature? No. But it does not depend on what I am; it depends on God, in whose light I am. The God who manifests me tells me that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all sin! God has loved me perfectly. How do I know that? Because of what I am? No: I know it from what God is, and from what He has done; and my soul rests in constant, perfect, undisturbed peace; for God has revealed Himself to be what He is, and has revealed what He has done, in that Christ died; and what He has done never can change—He never changes. It is in the power of an accomplished salvation that the soul rests, and not on anything that is yet to be done; so that there can be no change. The blood of Christ alone blots out my sin. If Christ did not do it perfectly, when will it be done? But He has done it. “By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” When faith, by divine teaching, has laid hold on this, faith does not change either. “The worshippers once purged have no more conscience of sins.”
One word at the close on that which is important to us all— communion or fellowship. Is communion never interrupted? Yes! But God’s love is not interrupted, nor my confidence, though my communion may often be; for God cannot have communion with a single sin—with an idle trifling thought— so that, when such come into the mind, we cannot have communion. What is the resource then? The answer is given in chapter 2:1, “My little children, these things write I unto you that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” It is not here the Mediator with God, but the Advocate with the Father. Communion with the Father has been interrupted. Advocacy is founded on two points: that He, the righteous One is in God’s presence, and that He has made propitiation for us. We have fellowship with the Father and the Son, and we lose it through sin or folly. Christ comes in as the Advocate, and the Spirit of Christ works according to advocacy, and restores communion, brings us back to fellowship with the Father and the Son. Here is the remedy for daily failure. Our position is fellowship with the Father and the Son.
“That our joy may be full.” Have you been brought to this? He has made peace. Have you got it? Take no rest till you have it. Tolerate no sin; but see that God has put it all away by the blood of the cross. God forbid there should be any levity about sin. Nothing is so impossible as that God can brook sin. But He can put it away. Have you, by faith, attained this rest, rest in that eternal life which came by the shed blood, never to be shed again? Beloved friends, only be sure of this, that God is love; that in all His ways with you, He is love, and He would have you happy. You cannot be happy in evil. Because He is love, He would bring us to know this love and find therein our rest. Aye, and He would have us reckon on Him as regards our failures. I have sin in me, and I have no strength save in Him. If I cannot, or do not, go to Him when there is sin and failure, where am I to go for strength? Moses said, Exodus 34:9, “If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.” Could you go up with the stiffneckedness you have without God? “Go with us,” says Moses, “because it is a stiffnecked people.” You will never get the victory over sin, nor indeed properly judge it, unless you have God with you. Christ can give us to hate the sin and strengthen us against the thing we hate. God is love. I know it in Christ, and I have Him against the evil that would hinder me—the thing I feared would be too much for me. “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
It is a great mercy that God has not left us in the dark as to our state before Him. Now men, by nature, have a notion of judgment. Even the heathen have this; and much of the Christianity of the present day is little more. Men try to conduct themselves in such sort as to stand in judgment, tempered perhaps by mercy. They confound what is never confounded in the word of God—judgment and mercy.
Now Christ did not come to leave men there; He did not die to leave men there. He came to put men in a totally different condition. If the Son of man came into the world and died, it must have been for some great purpose. He brought down into this world the whole light of grace and truth—all that was needed to change the whole relation of a man to God; He came with it.
In verse 3 we get the object of writing this scripture, that we may have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. It speaks of such an entire putting away of sin, and such a knowledge of God’s thoughts about the Father and the Son as that we may have fellowship with them. What a wonderful thing! Not a mere natural thought of judgment, but companionship of heart with the Father and the Son. Does this leave any uncertainty as to our state at the great day? No. He is not to have fellowship and intimate friendship with us and then condemn us. No. There is such a cleansing as that all that could hinder this fellowship is for ever put away.
Mark how far a man’s thought is from that naturally. He says, I have not this fellowship, this joy: God is in heaven and I on the earth. Well, if it is so, you have not got the good of the gospel. If you have not fellowship with the Father, you are not thinking about Him at all, or else you are dreading Him. You have not fellowship, you cannot have fellowship, if you feel criminal before Him. It is anything but fellowship. The will is not broken down when there is dread. But how is this? Why! is not your heart given to pleasure, to money? Are you not after the flesh, after things which are quite contrary to God, and contrary to fellowship with God? “The carnal mind is enmity to God.” This is our state naturally, and what the word of God calls darkness; not merely being in the dark, but darkness itself, just as God is light. It is in you that the evil is. There is the insensibility of a drunkard; but besides this, there is the fact that he loves to gratify a vile lust. “Ye were sometimes darkness.”
And what is this darkness? Corruption of nature. Compare yourself with Christ. He is the pattern of what is good. Are you not just the very opposite? How came you to be so? All the objects for which you are living are just the opposite of that for which Christ was living. You are living for pleasure, for money, for fame, and for a thousand other things, while He was ever living unto God. I am not speaking of your outward life, but of your motives. All that is governing your life is the opposite of what governed Christ. Suppose a person brought up in filth from his youth; he does not know that it is filth. He has got accustomed to it; and why? Because his heart is as filthy as his clothes or his house.
Now we are so accustomed to sin that we do not see it to be sin. What does that prove? Just that we love it. “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” The rejection of Jesus is the proof of it. You may say that, if you had lived then, you would not have done as they did, you would not reject Him. Are you sure of that? What are you doing now? Do you see any beauty in Him? Do you see one bit of darkness in yourself? When He is brought in testimony before you, you do not see beauty in Him. That is darkness. We love our lusts, and we do not love the Lord Jesus Christ. That is our state. Christ is not the thing that governs and possesses our hearts day by day. If so, how can we have fellowship? “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” But you are darkness, and how can you have fellowship with Him? You are darkness in your conduct, in your will, and in your judgment; for your judgment is governed by your will, your motives, desires, etc. He is holiness itself, “light,” which is pure and which manifests everything. But if He manifests everything in you, how then can you have fellowship with Him?
Now this is a message of what God is, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” He cannot give up His light, He cannot have fellowship with darkness; and it would not be a blessing if He did. But it is a message brought down here. It is not in heaven, but here that we have the message, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” If you call yourself a Christian, you are saying that you have fellowship with Him; but if you are walking in darkness you are deceiving yourself. This is a fearful thing. God is so totally out of men’s minds, that they have not the sense that they have got away from Him. God is light. There cannot be the slightest communion with darkness. God cannot undo Himself, and destroy His own holiness to have fellowship with darkness. You are deceiving yourself.
Now there is another thing; “If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another; and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” God will not leave you away from Himself. If He makes you happy, it is in Himself. Now this is what natural conscience dreads—to be in God’s presence. God, as He is, without modifying one bit of His holiness, puts us there in the light. Then I am in the light as God is in the light. This was in Christ. What do we see in Christ? Holiness in every thought. Israel undertook to obey God under terror, Christ in love. Men undertake this as Israel did, under terror of judgment. Men do undertake to do God’s will in view of judgment. Now Christ said, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.” That is what Israel undertook, and we know how they failed. That is what men are doing—undertaking to have to do with God in prospect of judgment. God dealt with Israel so to prove that they could not do it. But that is what Christ did in grace. So when He came on earth He was all obedience and love. Christ comes, and what do we find in all His ways? Separation from evil. He kept evil outside of Him in passing through it. He touched the leper and was undefiled. He was love; He never did anything but love. He was the living expression of the holiness and love of God in the midst of sin.
When the truth of that is brought into the conscience, when I see that I have slighted the Christ, and preferred idle vanities to Him, how it shews me what I am! When I see the love of Christ, does not that come and say, “O you are a wretch to prefer a bit of dress to Christ, to take anything when Christ is disliked for it! “And when thus brought into the light, in the presence of God, we judge ourselves. I judge rightly what I am, and what I have been doing, all the while I have been in darkness. I must, of course, see the light; therefore it is by faith. Not that I may realise all, but yet I judge all in God’s presence and hate myself. And it is just when we begin to think that God does not hate us that we begin to hate ourselves. When the spirituality of the law comes, we hate sin, but dread the consequences; but when the light of Christ comes, we hate sin through and through, and there is humbleness. I hate sin and abhor myself. Now, there is a real moral change. I am brought into the true light. O what a difference when a man is brought to God; not in terror which makes him run away, nor in full peace, but yet to a God who, in love, has brought me into His presence to shew me what I am. Then, I repeat, it is getting into the light. There is distress at first, but so much the better, for the heart is set right.
“The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Here is something more than hating sin. We are in the light. God will not enfeeble that light so as to allow one shade of darkness. He loves us so much as not to dim one ray of His glory, but He is doing that which will make us happy in it. Instead of allowing sin, He cleanses it away.
If walking in the light as He is in the light, how do I get there? Not in Christ’s life merely, for I need His death. There the light was more shewn than in His life. There God is shewn to be intolerant of all sin. God Himself has marked there, in the cross, that He cannot tolerate sin. And if Christ was holiness Himself, it shews more clearly the fearfulness of sin put upon Him. If God and Christ are to settle the question of sin between them, they must do it according to the perfection of their own knowledge of it. There light and sin met. Light is turned into judgment against sin. Light did meet the sin, and in judgment. Where are we to get the fruit of this? Now take the cross; there He was giving Himself up, all that He was for us. There never was a time in which Light and love came out so as on the cross—the perfection of Light, because of obedience; of love, because of giving up of self. Never was there such obedience as when Christ was made sin. All is brought to the same focus, that I may see Light and love in Christ. Why all this? That the blood of Jesus Christ His Son may cleanse us from all sin.
Now that I am brought into the Light, what do I see? Sin on me? No, I see it was laid on Christ. I see Light dealing with sin on Him. When I learn the extent of sin, then I learn the extent of love. When brought into the Light as God is— in the cross, I see that Christ has put my sins away; and my being in the Light it is that enables me to see it. When I come to see sin in its fulness, I see that it is on Christ. And now there is not merely the cleansing of my conscience, but peace with God. It is in the Light. I am in the Light, as God is in the Light; and the very thing that brings me to see sin, brings me to see sin put away. I know too that God is love, and here I have peace. Then we get truth in the inward parts. If I confess sin—own all sin as such, that is truth in the inward parts. See Psalm 32. So we are brought in the consciousness of forgiveness into the presence of God; and there I know I am cleansed according to God’s mind. Then I learn God’s love. In Isaiah 43 God says, “Thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.” What then? “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own name’s sake.”
Now this is the message that “God is light.” He cannot change; you must. The place where this takes place is the cross. The message is God’s perfect love. God, in love to your souls, has not waited till judgment to tell you what sin is, but has told it out in Christ as in His sight, and He has done so in putting it away. Hence the fearful guilt of despising such grace.
The special point in what we have before us here, as I may say in all the writings of John, is such a manifestation of the Father in the Son as should bring us into fellowship and association with both. We have difficulties: there is the holy nature and character of God, and our state. He first puts this blessed thought and purpose of God, giving us fellowship with the Father and the Son, and then goes on to shew where the difficulty lies.
As Christians we have a new nature and capacity of enjoying God, as born of God, a divine nature— “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit”; and we have the power of the Holy Ghost. Evil nature has some special delight; and so the divine nature in us delights in divine things. If this were simply so, all would be very simple; but the flesh is there. Yet it is true for all that, that we should never have had the same kind of fellowship with the Father and the Son if we had not these exercises with other things that are not the Father and the Son. We have to go through temptation; but all this brings out the love and thoughtfulness of God about us that we never should have learned if we were not what we are. Man in Eden would be in innocence, thanking God and enjoying himself; but we have had Christ, that is, God revealing Himself fully in grace above all the sin. It was natural to God, if I may so speak, to love creation, but something more than natural, when God in sovereign grace commends His love to us when we are sinners. There I find what rises above all my thoughts of simple goodness; One absolutely holy, not merely good, but a perfectly holy nature dealing with one that is evil. That is infinite goodness, and yet it brings us in this increased knowledge of what God is to where there has been no evil at all.
This revelation makes us know God as we never could have known Him otherwise. The angels delight to look into it, but it applies to the affections of our hearts as applied to ourselves; for He does not take hold of angels but of the seed of Abraham. I get then the Lord Jesus Christ becoming a man, shewing His holiness where sin was—not where sin never could enter—and then the patience and the goodness of the love, the perfect revelation of the Father. He could say, “Have I been so long time with you and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Even if we take the highest character of this, we have the Father’s delight in the Son Himself revealed to us, and we are brought into it in Christ, the very thing that should occupy us. He puts us, by the love that sought us while sinners, into this love; we have fellowship with the Father and with His Son; it is there that we are and thus so blessedly brought in.
I see a Man (one who is God over all, but still a man) the object of the Father’s delight, and the One who had His delight in the Father. “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you.” And “I have declared unto them thy name and will declare it, that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them.” It is all sovereign grace towards me, it is true, but redemption has brought us thus (Christ having become our life) into the apprehension of all these delights; so that, while we are brought to the dust as to ourselves, it brings us to full joy. And when God revealed Himself thus, He does not say “this is my beloved Son, you ought to love Him,” but “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”— “I love Him.” He reveals His own affections to the Son. When we come to the death of the Lord Jesus, “now is the Son of man glorified and God is glorified in him.” I see the sinless One, in the very place of sin where He was made sin, perfect in love to His Father and perfect in obedience. I say, was there ever anything like it? This perfect One, perfect in dependence when as a victim forsaken of God, perfect in His love, perfect in obedience: everything was tested to the uttermost— “the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” When I see all this, my soul as taught of God adoringly delights in it, humbled to the dust as to ourselves, still looking at the perfectness of this wondrous One. I suppose the soul has had peace, sin all gone; then Christ is the blessed object of my soul, and I learn the kind of feelings I never should have otherwise known. He could say “therefore doth my Father love me because I lay down my life,” and I say therefore do I love Him. I have got the thought of the Father about Him. It is not merely that my sins are put away; but by the Father thus revealing all His thoughts and ways in Christ as He has, my soul in looking at Christ sees all this perfectness, enough to draw out the affections of the Father because of His perfectness of love to Him and obedience. He has set Him at His own right hand in glory; I sit down to gaze at Him, and see infinite perfectness. The Father could not but delight in, and love Him; and as taught of God I have fellowship with the Father in the very most blessed objects of His affections, the closest fullest object of His love. He has centred all my affections; as it is said in the Epistle to the Ephesians, “that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us in Christ Jesus” —even to angels and principalities and powers in the heavens.
It is there where a soul is brought, when there is peace of heart—not merely of conscience—but peace of heart through the Holy Ghost, when peace of conscience has nothing to do with it. If my affections are concentrated on the object of the Father’s whole delight, I know the infiniteness of the object, and this gives peace of heart. Through sovereign grace I have my delight in Him. My affections are feeble and weak; but still if they are centred on this object, I am at the infiniteness of the source of delight. He is the Father’s constant delight. His delight was to do His Father’s will—His meat and drink to do the will of Him that sent Him. With Him I have all things i the object is there; with Him I know the Father. I have His Father my Father, His God my God. I have the Spirit of adoption whereby I cry, Abba Father. The affections flow out according to the new nature and the Spirit of Christ. It is not supposing that our affections are adequate: they never are even in human things, but they can be concentrated—not let out to other things. We are finite: the object is infinite; confidence grows in the apprehension of it.
We are brought then in this new nature and the power of the Holy Ghost—the Father has brought me—into the very same place and title and name that Christ is in. “Behold what mariner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God. Beloved, now are we. the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” The soul goes on in fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. It cannot be otherwise if you merely take the truth, because it is the Holy Ghost that is the spring of the affections and thoughts, and He cannot give us different ones from those of the Father and the Son. For though the Holy Ghost is down here and working in us, He brings down the things that belong there and communicates them to us.
When I speak of my need as a sinner, it is not fellowship; I must come as a sinner to the cross, wanting to be cleansed, and justified. This brings me into that; but I must come as a sinner, I must come by my conscience, though my heart may be attracted by the Lord Jesus; if my conscience is not reached, nothing is done. His holy love, not mine, attracts me; but if I come into God’s presence, He is light, and my conscience is reached. If I anon with joy receive the gospel, there is no root, though there may be sincerity at the moment; where love works, it always brings light, because God is love as well as light, and the love gives me confidence to come into the light when I find I am a sinner.
You will always find these two things where a soul has to do with God: you cannot have confidence without finding out both. Why did the woman that was a sinner come into the Pharisee’s house? Because the love of Christ was in her heart. It is the same with every soul. God is both light and love. He has really revealed Christ to us, and I have confidence. The righteousness of God against sin is revealed and love to the sinner. We walk in the light as God is in the light. It is the only way we can go to God; I cannot come but through the cross of Christ. Then, when I am come, I find in passing through the veil, there is not a morsel of sin left on me in the sight of God. I am fit for the light, and then I come to enjoy God’s way in it. I have this side in coming to God, I want the cross; but then when I pass through, I am reconciled to God, and begin to learn His thoughts—to look on the cross from God’s side. I come to Him, and there I see all the wondrous blessedness of what God is, and therefore my heart can adore, being in peace. Having come, I have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
First is brought out simply and absolutely that as such he that is born of God cannot sin. Christ is his life: sin cannot touch it— “he that is born of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” But it gives us what our portion, our place is. If I only get a mixed condition, I cannot have God’s complacency in it. It is in complacency and fellowship: our proper life is proper fellowship, and that in divine complacency. Our proper divine life is fellowship with the Father and with the Son. It is not a question of being able to stand before God in righteousness; that is the claim of His holiness and righteousness, not fellowship. If it be a question of righteousness, He is estimating in a judicial way what is before Him. And, Christ being before Him, it is all settled. But here it is the full joy that should be ours in this fellowship, and that by the perfect blessed revelation of the eternal life which was with the Father.
“For the life was manifested and we have seen it, and bear witness and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested unto us: that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you that ye also may have fellowship with us.” We have seen all that is in the Father’s heart close to ourselves in a man (v. i). “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father”—He was constantly before us, and we looking on Him.
Here I get this blessed object before me, this eternal life come down to me in which the Father has been perfectly revealed, revealed in Him so that that which is my life reveals the Father. It is a wonderful blessedness, a truly blessed joy. That which perfectly reveals the Father and represents Him has come down here in my nature. Therefore the apostle so insists on it—we have heard Him, we have seen Him with our eyes, we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life. There is what he first presents; “these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”
Now comes the other side, the grace having been all brought out. This is that which was from the beginning (mark the word); now what does he reveal? He has a message, “that God is light,” which is, that He is absolute purity, and reveals everything. This is what light does, it makes all things manifest. “God is light and in him is no darkness at all”—no mixture. “If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth.” It is the nature of God in its purity, applied as a test of communion. This is the message that Christ has brought, that God is light. And we walk in the light—that is, in the thorough knowledge of God. Darkness is no knowledge of God at all. If I take the world, the light shines in darkness, and the darkness comprehends it not. That is, man’s heart was the very opposite of God’s. “Ye were sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.” “If we walk in the light”—here it is not merely according to the light, but “in the light,” that is, the full revelation of God, though of course we ought to walk accordingly.
Now mark another point of importance. It is an entirely new thing that is given to us; it is that which was “from the beginning.” It is not as in the Gospel— “in the beginning”; because the Word is before the creation. In the beginning God created; but before this Christ was there and had no beginning: when nothing was created He was—that is where the Gospel begins. But here we have got a question of associating man with God in a new standing, that is, in grace, and this is what was “from the beginning.” The old man is set aside; it is a new start-point, God’s Son, still a man. He is the First-born, the man of God’s delight and God’s counsels; others are brought into the place by grace. But the cross has come in and closed the history of man as a lost sinner, and begun the history of the accepted man—that is, of Christ. “Let that therefore abide in you which ye have heard from the beginning”—it is Christ. The law and the prophets were before Him, but are all entirely set aside for faith; and, Christ taking the place of everything, I have got that which was from the beginning. “Jehovah possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old; it was then I was by him as one brought up with him, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” Therefore the angels say “glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good pleasure in men,” Luke 2.
Now, dealing in detail as to this fellowship with God, God is light; where therefore there is growth, if there is a thing in which the flesh is active, this comes to the light. The Person with whom I have fellowship is light; the light detects if my conscience is right. I cannot have fellowship really without my conscience being brought into the Light. He unfolds this both as to the nature, and as to the acting of it. We have to walk in the light as God is in the light. We could not have got it in Adam, blessed and happy and peaceful as he was; but here I have got it. Christ is the revelation of God in light; and if I am made partaker of the divine nature, it is in the last Adam. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” Darkness does not comprehend light, but Light that is of the same nature does.
“But if we walk in the light”; for mark here that it is not now the law. Do not call the law light. In the law I get the measure of what man ought to be, and therefore God says, “I dwell in the thick darkness.” Christ meets it for us; but when I have got this new nature, this Light that comes down from heaven, it is not what a man ought to be, but what is fit to be in the Light as God is. Thus you cannot go back to innocence. Here I am, a lost sinner, and now I have found God revealed in Christ, the light of the world. This brings me in through the rent veil, and I must be fit for God’s presence in glory.
Thus it is in John 13. In the chapter before “the hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified.” It is the third character in which He is presented in these chapters—as Son of man. The Greeks come up, and He says, “except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone.” Then in chapter 13, “He riseth from supper and laid aside his garment and took a towel and girded himself.” What was the meaning of that? “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me”—I cannot sit with you as your companion: I cannot go on; I am going to my Father, and I must have you fit to be there. You are going through the world and will pick up dirt, and I cannot have it. He is shewing this, that it is not now any return to a condition of man, responsible as man, but to walk in the light, even as God is in the light. If I am not fit for that, I cannot be with God at all. There is where the difficulties come in. It is not the question—can I answer to God? No, I cannot. The veil is rent now: the question is, Have you got such a new condition and standing that you can be in the light with God, where the flesh cannot be? There is where He puts us.
“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another.” There is no selfishness there. Suppose I enjoy the love of God, do you think bringing another in makes it less? No; you enjoy the light, and it is not a bit the less for others. In human things, if I have a loaf and another comes in to share it, there is only half a loaf left for me. In divine things we have fellowship one with another, and there is no diminution.
Then I come to the third point. Here I am in the light as God is, in this blessed fellowship, “and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” It is not ‘has cleansed’ or ‘will cleanse,’ but very simply an abstract statement; just as when I say ‘ that medicine cures the ague,’ I am talking of its nature. I have to do with God in the light as He is in the light. I have got this blessed knowledge, that the light has come out through the cross, and I am as white as snow. The thing that let out the light made me fit for it. Thus there are these three great elements of my condition— in the light as God is, the fellowship of the Spirit, and the blood of Jesus that cleanses from all sin.
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” I cannot say the flesh is not there (it is not sinning), but the existence of sin in the flesh does not give a bad conscience. My conscience is bad (I mean practically) if I let the sin, the flesh, act. The old man in its nature is always there. In the cross of Christ I have what meets the case—our old man is crucified with Him, and I have to reckon it dead; but still there it is in itself too truly.
Then I get the next step. Suppose it does act— “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It is not “if we confess our sin” —I have nothing to do with confessing sin. People will confess their sin, not their sins; for the heart is deceitful enough to excuse the sins by admitting sin in the flesh. I admit the flesh is there; but why did not you keep it down in the power of Christ so as not to let it act? Therefore it is we have to confess our sins: and mark, we have to walk with that. When he speaks of sin (v. 8), it is the present tense; I never can say I have no sin: but when of sins it is, “if we say that we have not sinned” (v. 10). I ought not to be sinning; I may be thinking of the blessedness of Christ. If so, I am not sinning; my mind may be occupied with Him. But if I say that I have not sinned, I make God a liar, because He declares all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Here I get the distinction.
It is surprising that people do not see the difference between ‘sin’ and ‘sins.’ Peter speaks of sinning, that is, of the lust that comes when the flesh is active; but when I come to Paul and John, they speak of the nature of the flesh, of sin in the flesh. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us: if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Observe in the Epistle to the Hebrews, it is not communion exactly which is the main object of the teaching there. Here it is, and therefore I get the Father and the Son, the highest expression of it. In Hebrews I enter into the holiest. It is a question of whether I can approach God who is holy and righteous, and does not give up His holiness and righteousness because He is love; and there I get this, that I am perfected for ever (the words “for ever” meamng not merely for eternity, but what is uninterrupted). As Christ is always at the right hand of God, so we are uninterruptedly before God. There is never a moment that the believer is not the righteousness of God as standing in Christ. Therefore priesthood in the Epistle to the Hebrews does not apply to sins. What it does apply to is this:—I am perfected for ever and He who is my righteousness, by whom I am perfected for ever, has sat down at the right hand of God. But I am here walking in this world, where I cannot take a step without mercy and grace to help. I have difficulties and trials; I go to the throne of God and get help in time of need. The thing in Hebrews is whether I can go as a mere sinner into God’s presence. Yes, the veil is rent, and the Person that put away my sins is sitting there. He is my witness that I am perfect— “for by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified”—a perfection that never changes, for He is sitting there for me, “expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.” He is sitting there because He has nothing more to do. There are these two points in the Epistle: having by Himself purged our sins, *He sat down; and, being perfected for ever, I am walking on this earth with temptation, but He is always getting grace to help me through this world of difficulty and contradiction of sinners. There is a daily dependence on grace to help me to walk a holy life, without a question of my being perfect before God, and the constant supply of grace through Christ who is there.
Now here the question is raised of how I can have fellowship with the light, where, if I have for a moment a thought not spiritual or charitable, it is sin. The instant I come to fellowship or cornmunion, if I let my own thoughts come in, it is gone. The smallest thing interrupts communion; even supposing I recollect myself, yet for the moment it is gone. The holy God cannot have communion with that which is unholy. Now I get what Christ is as the Advocate: “if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins.” What is the ground of it? Jesus Christ the righteous. The righteous One is there, my righteousness is always there (as in the Hebrews). Thus not a question of imputation arises, but of communion. I cannot bear the thought that I should grieve the Spirit of God and turn Him into a reprover, instead of communicating the joy of God to me, the One that gives me fellowship with the Father. The moment that is all settled, Jesus Christ the righteous One is there, and He is the propitiation for my sins, I must not have one thought that is inconsistent with the place. But what makes me find it out? My Advocate has been there about it to bring my soul back into fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, which had been entirely interrupted: but the righteousness has not been interrupted. Therefore he says “an Advocate with the Father,” and does not talk about God in that sense, because it is a question of communion with the Father, not of righteousness.
Thus I have got grace acting, not the law; no question of imputation, but no allowance of sin at all as a matter of holiness. It does not put me back to the law, nor its righteousness; but Christ being Advocate for me there, and the Spirit of God in me to act in my conscience, it brings me into utter humiliation before God, and restores the communion of my soul. Some chastening or other comes. But there is not the smallest allowance of anything that hinders communion, nor the smallest imputation of sins. It is the maintenance of communion practically, or the restoration of it when broken, with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ; while the righteousness and propitiation remain, so that it is advocacy, not imputation.
We must walk in the light as God is in the light. Nothing unfit for God is tolerated. There is propitiation, there is provision of grace if we sin. As to imputation, all is settled, perfected for ever. But we are to walk worthily of God who has called us unto His kingdom and glory, to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called. Now let me ask, do we really believe we are called to fellowship of that kind? How is it in our hearts? I am sure there is growth in this fellowship with the Father and with the Son. Is this where our souls live? It is what we are called to. It is not saying we have no sin. The sin is there, but in the power of Christ dwelling in us we are called into this fellowship. The power is there, so that I have no excuse for letting in anything that will interrupt communion. We do, when careless about prayer or something of the sort; but there is no excuse for it. Our place is to walk in fellowship with the Father and the Son always. If we do fail, we have the Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and, as with poor Peter, He restores us. Do you suppose that the work of Christ has not put you in the light as God is, that there is not the perfecting us for ever? There is grace for you to walk aright. It is not saying I am weak: if we always said that, we should get the strength we wanted.
The Lord give us to have the blessed consciousness, that we have been reconciled to God as revealed in Christ, loved as Christ is loved, and called to walk in the sense of this, so that there is the constant dependence on Christ, the constant supply of grace to depend on, the constant testimony to the One we are dependent on.
It is not saying, I am perfected and that is all about it. You have to go through a world of temptation. When Israel was redeemed, they had to go through the wilderness: there is where all the “ifs” come in. If I am in Christ, there is no “if” at all. But I am walking through the wilderness with that which keeps me constantly dependent. I have the revelation of Christ’s power. We are kept by the power of God, and we are kept because we want to be kept; I need this power every moment, there is all necessity for it.
I know this power, and there ought to be this blessed dependence on God. He does not raise the question of righteousness in it, but puts me in this place, and then leaves me to go through the world to have the senses exercised to discern both good and evil. If I do fail, there is my Advocate with the Father, to restore my soul. Unceasing grace and unceasing dependence are the true ground.
The Lord give us the distinct and full sense that the work of Christ has perfected us for ever, and then that you are brought by it into the presence of God in light, and know every instant dependence on the grace of Christ, and constant grace to be dependent on.