John says there are two results for the one who walks in the light (1:7). First, we will have fellowship with one another. John does not say we have fellowship with God when we walk in the light. Those who are “walking in the light” have fellowship, they live out their relationship with God in a mutually supportive community. Perhaps John has in mind those who have left his community. They are not walking in the light and are therefore not in a state of fellowship with John and his churches.
The second result of walking in the light is that the “blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Does John say we are saved only after we are walking in the light? (1:7b) Maybe, but it is better to read this in the context of a Jewish writer in the first century.
Purification refers to making someone or something acceptable to God for worship. The verb καθαρίζω can be used in the context of healing a person from a disease which rendered them ceremonially unclean (Lev 14:7; BDAG). In Leviticus, the verb is used for cleansing of food to make it clean (Lev 13:6, 23). The noun καθαρισμός refers to the state of cleanliness required by the Law for worship, so in Mk 1:44 and Luke 5:14 Jesus tells a man healed of leprosy to go to the Temple and do the cleansing ritual required by Moses.
Josephus described the need for purification in Contra Apion:
Josephus, Contra Apion 1.282-283 If any one of their diseases be healed, and he recover his natural constitution again, he appointed them certain purifications, and washings with spring water, and the shaving off all their hair, and enjoins that they shall offer many sacrifices, and those of several kinds, and then at length, to be admitted into the holy city, (283) although it were to be expected that, on the contrary, if he had been under the same calamity, he should have taken care of such persons beforehand, and have had them treated after a kinder manner, as affected with a concern for those that were to be under the like misfortunes with himself.
In the context of Second Temple period Judaism, one needed to be purified before ascending to the Temple Mount to worship. For example, Psalm 24:3-4 asks “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?” The answer is the one who has clean hands and pure heart. Although the washing was largely symbolic, it represented the worshiper’s repentance and purification before going up to the Temple courts to worship.
Purification therefore has a nuance of being prepared to worship God in his presence. The blood of Jesus purifies the one who is walking in the light so that they are prepared to enter into fellowship with God in genuine worship. The one who is not walking in the light has not been purified, their worship is not honoring to the Lord. This is exactly what said about Israel’s worship in Amos 5:21-24, The Lord hates Israel’s worship, their songs are just noise and their offerings are unacceptable. God will have no regard for their worship because they do not practice justice and righteousness.
The application of purification in worship is difficult for the contemporary worshiper since we do not participate in a physical ritual before entering into worship. But if we are walking in the light, John assures us we have been purified and we can have genuine fellowship in worship. Is there some way to incorporate purification into contemporary worship? Although I am not advocating for a real washing ritual before going to church, there must be some way a person clears their heart in prayer before they enter into genuine worship.
7 thoughts on “1 John 1:7 – The Blood of Jesus His Son Cleanses Us”
I think there is a way to be purified in contemporary worship. I believe that prayer is such a big part of purification due to the vulnerability that you have with the Father. It is a moment to lay everything you have been holding in your heart, on your mind to just give it to Christ and let it go. That is when we are most vulnerable and accepting of Christ to come and cleanse us. That is one way I believe we could incorporate purification during worship. Offering ourselves daily to the Lord is also a way to be purified Psalm 139: 23-24 says “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” This is a prayer that would be helpful to use during contemporary worship reminding ourselves that it is not about us, it is about ultimately him and the way he would want us to go, his will.
I agree when John says that we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus from our sins. If we are cleansed, we walk in the light and John says walking in light is having fellowship. This fellowship among each other leads to fellowship with God. It is through fellowship with other and loving other defines us as living in the light. He also says in 1 John 4:20 that how can one say they love God who they haven’t seen but hate a brother the see. This verse encourages fellowship and togetherness.
I think also we can be cleansed through prayer too. Psalms 51 shows a prayer that David prayed after he had sinned. David prays to God to cleanse him from his sin, he asks God to create a clean heart, to cleanse him of all impurities. David is still referred to as a man after God’s heart.
Prayer is one way that we can welcome God to cleanse us.
1 John 1:7 says that when we “walk in the light” we will have fellowship with others. This reminds me of how as believers we are called to live in harmony and community with others. Many Christians of today like to do church from home and neglect that God has given us the church and the people there to fellowship with and be challenged by them. It is interesting that John uses the analogy of being cleansed by the blood of Christ because it would have struck home with the Jewish Christians of the time as they would have been familiar with the sacrifices. You discuss that the purification here is making something acceptable to God, Christ’s blood cleanses us so that we may be blameless in front of God. This idea also comes up in Hebrews where Jobes and many others describe Christ as our Great High Priest, the person who allows us access to God and makes us blameless in front of Him. I think that it is very difficult to find a way to bring the purification process into contemporary church, especially because church is becoming a lot more relaxed. I think that one way that many churches may incorporate a purification process into weekly services is in communion. Whenever we take communion we remember the blood of Christ purifying us and that can take us into the service. But often when people take communion it is in the setting of the service and done as a group. It would be something interesting to research what other churches may do as “purification” before their services.
To walk in the light is to reflect God’s perfection as humanly as possible … walking in the light is a result of deep divine human fellowship (Yarbrough, 2008). I think the contemporary equivalent of participation of purification in physical ritual worship would be the heart posture and aspect of worship. I think we can come into worship with different attitudes and expectations; an attitude of bitterness or anger toward someone that has not been confessed, or an expectation to get something out the worship for ourselves. I have witnessed groups that go into a time of worship and put big expectations on the Spirit to move or for God to do something radical, where the worship turns into a hype concert like event. We can cleanse ourselves before heading into worship in a way that puts bitterness and unforgiveness aside, and prepares our hearts to be in union with Jesus.
The cleansing blood of Jesus and the fellowship of believers is possible only by walking in the light. Throughout the New Testament we see that the metaphor of light and darkness is used quite often. Jesus himself says that he is the light of the world in John 8:12, and later calls believers to shine and be the light to others in Matthew 5:16. Because Jesus is the true and brightest light, we are able to share Jesus’ light to others. This is Jesus’ call for sinners; to break free from the darkness and enter the holy, cleansing power of his righteous blood. The prophecy from Isiah 9:2 fits perfectly with what the apostle John is trying to explain by saying, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (Isiah 9:2). Jesus is that light and through his light, we have found cleansing power through his blood because holy light has no place in the sinful darkness.