Many of us have been taught something very wrong about 1 John 4:8 – “Walk in the light as he is in the light and you’ll have fellowship one with another.” We’ve been told that if our brother is not walking in the light (as we obviously ARE…LOL), then we can’t have fellowship with him, according this verse. And walking in the light, of course, means keeping all the commands that make us so righteous, right? Wrong!
So what does it mean to walk in the light? Does that mean following all his “commands” perfectly? Let’s take a look at what the writer John says in his own words.
- John 5:39-42 – You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. “I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts
- John 13:1 – It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
- John 15:13 – Greater love has no one than this; that he lay down his life for his friends.
- John 17:26 – I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
- 1 John 3:1 – How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
- 1 John 3:16-18 – This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
- 1 John 4:7-11 – Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
- 1 John 4:19 – We love because he first loved us.
- 1 John 4:20 – If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.
- John 14:15 – If you love me, you will obey what I command.
- John 14:21 – Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
- John 14:23-24 – Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
- John 15:9 – “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
- John 15:10 – If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
- 1 John 2:5 – But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him.
- 1 John 5:2-3 – This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.
- John 13:34-35 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Note that this is recorded in the Gospel of John when the command to love was indeed new.)
- John 15:12 – My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
- John 15:17 – This is my command: Love each other.
- 1 John 3:11 – This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. (Note that he’s referring back to “the beginning” early in his apostleship when he first taught that the “new command” was to love each other.)
- 1 John 3:23 – And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. (He now reaffirms that this is Jesus’s command.)
- 1 John 4:12 – No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
- 1 John 4:16-17 – And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.
- 1 John 4:21 – And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
- 2 John 1:5-6 – And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
- 1 John 1:5-7 – This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
- 1 John 2:7-11 – Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.Â Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.
Pretty powerful stuff. John uses the phrase “walk in the light” then goes on to define what he means by that: “whoever loves his brother lives in the light” and “whoever hates his brother is in the darkness.” So how do we have fellowship one with another? By walking in love. Isn’t it so simple and yet so powerful?
An interesting side note…many of us have sung the old hymn “The Love of God” (266 in Sacred Selections, 122 in Songs of Faith and Praise) for many years without realizing the truth of this subject: “While His love burns true and bright, we are walking in the light…” I’ve shared with many people that I’m actually a bit jealous that the author of that song figured out the secret of love before I did…way back in 1916.
The meaning has probably been obscured somewhat by the editor of Songs of Faith and Praise when he quoted 1 John 5:3 under the title: “This is love for God: To obey His commands.” But as we can see from the above scriptures, without the important context of chapter 1 John 3:23, it leaves the impression that his commands are a long laundry list of doctrines and inferences. Instead, John kept it very simple for his readers: “And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.”