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Sabbath School Lessons on 1, 2 & 3 John
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 39 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 3: Walking in the Light: Turning Away From Sin *
Introduction: "What's wrong with it?" Have you ever asked yourself that question when you wanted to
do something debatable? Have your children asked you that question when they wanted to do something
you had forbidden? The Bible teaches that there is a range of decisions that do not involve sin. Christians
can reasonably disagree on whether some action is sin, and each side can be right. (See Romans 14.) At
the same time, John teaches us about the importance of all of our decisions. He compares life to taking a
walk. Does every decision in life takes us closer to righteousness or closer to sin? Let's jump right into
our study and find out! We can decide whether "What's wrong with it?" is the right question or not.
- Light = God
- Read 1 John 1:5. Last week we discussed why Jesus is described as "the Word of Life."
Now in 1 John 1:5 we have a new term for Jesus, "Light." Why do you think God is
described as "Light?" Why is this word relevant or a proper description of God?
- What comes to mind when you think of light? (Power. Ability to see. Activity.
- Jesus says, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in
darkness." John 8:12. What does this suggest about the nature of God's "light?"
(That it helps us to understand right from wrong.)
- Last week we discussed that one reason why "Word" was an appropriate description for
Jesus is that He created the universe by just speaking, by a "word." Thinking back to
creation again, what was created first? (God spoke "light" into existence. Gen. 1:3)
- Do you see a connection between Jesus' first act of creation and what He is
called? (Light defines God. He created us in His image. Therefore it is natural
that when He began "speaking" creation into existence He started with light.)
- Look again at 1 John 1:5. John says that there is no darkness at all in God. Why is this
important? Why add this note? (Three reasons: First, the gods that existed at the time
had a "dark side." You had to be careful how you dealt with them because you could
trigger an angry, unjust reaction. Second, we need to know the nature of our fellowship
with Jesus. We are now associating with "someone" who is completely light --
completely good. Third, evil does not proceed from God.)
- The Choice
- Read 1 John 1:6-7. Imagine that you are walking through the woods and you come to a
fork in the trail. You have to choose which trail to follow. In these two verses John
describes a fork in life's trail. What are the two options according to John? (We can
choose light or we can choose darkness.)
- How else does John describe these options? (The end of verse 6 refers to "truth."
Thus, we have a "true/false" option.)
- What are some other terms you would use to describe these two options? (How
about "good/evil," "right/wrong," "just/unjust," righteous/unrighteous?")
- Look again at 1 John 1:5. According to John, who is the author of this idea of having
two options on the road of life? (John puts in a little note in verse 5 about the source of
his message. He says, "This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you."
Who is this "Him?" The Word of Life - Jesus!)
- If God says there are two options in life, and God is exclusively on the "light trail,"
doesn't that logically mean that every decision is a clear-cut right or wrong choice?
- Testing Your "Trail."
- Let's review. John started out his book ( 1 John 1:1-4) by saying that he wanted us to
have fellowship with God. Next, he told us that life was like a trail in the woods: you
have the option to go left or right. Only one trail leads us to fellowship with God. Re-read 1 John 1:6. How can we know whether we are on the right trail? (John suggests a
- What is this "test?" (Walking in darkness. If you walk in darkness, you are not
on the right trail and you will not have fellowship with God.)
- Wait a minute. Asking me whether I walk in "darkness" is not very
helpful. What does John say to help us understand what it means to walk
in darkness? (John explains that some falsely claim to walk in the light.
You test this by determining whether they live by the truth.)
- Read 1 John 1:8 & 10. What is this test of whether we are on the right trail (If we claim
to be without sin we are on the wrong trail.)
- Is this a test of our actions, like in 1 John 1:6? (No. This is a test of our attitude,
our thinking. Instead of using the word "claim," lets use the word "think" to
make it more personal.)
- Do you think you are without sin?
- If you flunk this test, what is the result? (We are not telling the truth.
This places us on the wrong trail - on the darkness trail.)
- Do you think these people know they are on the darkness trail? If
someone claims to be without sin, you would think these would be
"good" people. (Notice again the wording of 1 John 1:8. We "deceive
ourselves." These people apparently are self-deceived about their
- Under what circumstances could a person think or say they were without sin?
(Someone who claimed perfection. I once heard a lady who claimed to be a
modern prophet and also claimed to have lived the last six months without sin.
Those who claim that we can reach perfection in our actions need to carefully
consider this verse.)
- Is there any other circumstance in which a person could think they were without
sin? (The opposite extreme from perfectionism is to claim that sin is no longer
sin for the righteous. This is the idea that we can do what we want, because sin is
no longer relevant for Christians. Sin does not matter because it is somehow
transformed into righteousness. John says that sin is sin and we need to
- Look again at 1 John 1:10. Has God been talking about us? What does John mean when
he says that claims about the innate goodness of humans "Make [God] out to be a liar?"
(God has clearly revealed to us the natural state of our hearts. In Genesis 8:21 He tells us
that every "inclination of [our] heart is evil from childhood." In Jeremiah 17:9 He says
"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?")
- Re-read 1 John 1:8. Don't we have another problem? How can those who are on the right
path, the "light" path, be sinners, have the wrong inclination and be evil from
- If there is no darkness in God at all, and we are supposed to be on God's path,
how can we have sin in us?
- Remember my question earlier about whether all decisions in life were clear
"right/wrong" issues? How can we be on the right path and still choose sin? Isn't
this the "test" of whether we are on the right path - living by the truth ( 1 John 1:6)?
- The Nature of Walking
- To solve this last problem, let's consider more carefully the word "walk." John's contrast
is between walking in the light and walking in the darkness. What do you think is meant
by "walking" in light or darkness? (Taking a walk means to move. Vines teaches us that
while this word means a physical walk in many places in the New Testament, it never
means a physical walk in John's epistles. Vincent's adds that John is talking about "the
habitual course of the life." From this I understand John to say "our custom" is to do evil
or do right.)
- Does this solve the logical problem about how we can be on the light path yet
still have sin in our life? (Yes. Sin is a deviation from the path, but our goal is to
have the general direction, our custom in life, to live by the truth.)
- What does this suggest about sin and every decision that we make? (A decision
may not involve sin, but it is likely leading us towards or away from sin. This is
the idea of "walking.")
- Today a major problem is calling darkness light. How serious is this problem in view of
John's teachings? (We cannot know we are on the wrong trail, we cannot head toward
the road to reform, unless we admit that sin is sin. If we call sin righteousness, we will
always continue on the wrong trail until it kills us.)
- Trail Qualified
- Read 1 John 1:9. How can sinners continue on the light trail? If God is without darkness,
how can mere sinful humans be qualified to walk on the light trail? (God will forgive our
confessed sins. Jesus qualifies us for the light trail!)
- Are those who walk in the light keenly aware of their sins? (Yes. This explains John's
discussion about those who claim (falsely) that they have no sin. Praise God there is a
solution! We are on the trail to fellowship even if we have sin. The fact that you have
sin in your life does not disqualify you from being on the "correct" trail. But, remember
that if you are walking in darkness, you are not on the right trail. The direction of your
- How is it with you friend? Do you readily confess your sins? Or do you claim to be
without sin? Are you on the trail to fellowship with God or on the trail to everlasting
- Next week: Walking in the Light: Keeping His Commandments.
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.