These verses contain six if-clauses. Three of them (vv. 6, 8, 10) are claims that the author views as false deductions to draw from the belief that God is light. These claims may be slogans or summaries of the position of the dissidents who have left the fellowship. Apparently each claim is based on the assumption that if God is perfect light, then those who are God's children are perfect light as well. While the secessionists may echo the author's teaching, they distort it at crucial points.
Although John speaks in the first person plural ("we"), this does not necessarily imply that any of his readers, those who have remained faithful, are actually making such claims. Rather, he is using a rhetorical device to make vivid the danger of adopting this viewpoint: "Now imagine if we were to say. . . ." To each of these false statements, then, John advances a theological counterclaim (1:7, 9; 2:1). Each counterclaim consists of two parts: first, he refutes the secessionists' claim to be with out sin, to be light as God is light; second, he affirms the importance of the atoning work of Christ for the sinner. Indeed, these two are integrally related, for to deny one's sin is ultimately to deny the need for Christ's atonement.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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