Let Us Apply These Truths to the Doctrine of Fellowship!
(Brother Guy N. Woods was, perhaps, one of the most capable scholars our era has seen. Sometime in the 1980s, brother Woods preached a sermon titled, “The Security of the Believer.” His purpose in this sermon was to show that the Christian who is doing his best to live faithfully to the Lord, can depend upon the mercy and grace of God to forgive his sins of ignorance, weaknesses, and stupidity. A large portion of this sermon is dedicated to expounding 1 John 1:7. We note that this passage not only has reference to forgiveness through the blood, but fellowship of Christians one to another. Below are some excerpts from this sermon. I urge each and every Christian to consider carefully and prayerfully these truths as one studies the biblical doctrine of fellowship. These are excerpts. We have made a diligent effort to keep them in context, but space limits us from reproducing the entire sermon here. We start with the words of brother Woods approximately six minutes into his sermon the audio recording of which is available on the Internet– Kevin Cauley.)
“. . . we read in first John two and one: “My little children, these things write I unto you that you sin not.” Observe that this is an admonition against sin – instruction to us to avoid it to the extent of our ability. But the verse continues, “If any man sin, he has an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” There our Lord is said to be our advocate and an advocate is a pleader, signifying about the same as our English words lawyer or attorney, the function of which is to plead one’s case. This represents our Lord as our heavenly lawyer, there arguing our case not, of course, upon our merit, but upon his. And further, had John here intended to look at the matter as an overall act and as sin continuously, then the verb of the passage would not have been in the aorist tense, but it is in the first John two passage. And what it says in effect is this. “I write to admonish you against a life of sin, but in the event (and I would insert parenthetically that this is not to be intent[ional] or by premeditation, but growing out of ignorance or weakness or stupidity) if one sins he has an advocate.” And sins there suggest a single act. And so what is said here is, that in the event of such for the faithful Christian, then there is the advocate provided.
Take a look with me please at what I regard as the single most wonderful thing for the Christian taught in the Bible. In first John chapter one verse seven, “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.” . . . Look at a simple analysis. “If,”(there is the condition) “we walk” (there is the manner of conduct) “in the light” (that’s the sphere of conduct) “as he is in the light” (that’s the standard of conduct) “we have fellowship one with another” (that’s the result of blessing) “and the blood of Jesus Christ,” (that’s the agent) “cleanses us” (the action contemplated) “from all sin” (the subject under consideration). Let’s examine it a bit closer. “If we walk….” Walking in the Bible is a very common figure for Christianity and a very fitting one because walking suggests an unwearied approach to a goal. And that is exactly what Christianity is; it is a walk from earth to heaven and the goal is eternal life, but that walk is circumscribed, it’s not anywhere, everywhere; it is in the light. Light is a synonym for truth as its opposite darkness symbolizes error. Hence to walk in the light is to live by the truth, of course, the truth of God’s word. For those who so do, the blood cleanses.
Number one, that teaches us that the faithful child of God is not condemned. Did you observe that I said, “Faithful child of God?” You are not to understand these remarks to apply to apostates. You are not to understand me to be talking about one who deliberately pursues a course of sin. I am not. I am talking about people just like us who want to go to heaven, who are trying to go to heaven, but who because of our weaknesses and frailties, imperfections, our ignorance and often times our stupidity, we make mistakes. What is our first proposition? The faithful child of God is not condemned.
Listen. Romans the eight chapter verse one, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” What? There is therefore now no condemnation to everybody everywhere? Oh no. Look at the limiting and restrictive phrases. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” To everybody who that’s in Christ? Not necessarily so, because sometimes people in the body of Christ, the church, deliberately pursue a course of sin and fall. Well, what then? “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” To walk after the Spirit is to walk with the Spirit’s leading. Romans 8:14 “as many as are lead by the Spirit are the sons of God,” but we are lead to live as sons of God by the teaching of the Spirit upon the sacred page. It follows then that to be lead by the Spirit is to be lead by the Spirit’s teaching. So what John says here is that those who walk not after the flesh, which means a carnal fleshly ungodly existence, but who [are] guided and directed with the Spirit, these are those who have the assurance of the passage. What’s the similarity between Paul’s condition and John’s? What was Paul’s condition? “Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” What was John’s condition? “Who walk in the light as Christ is in the light.” What do those statements mean? Exactly the same. One is a commentary on the other. And both of them mean to live as best you can by his word. What results for those who thus do? The blood cleanses. If we walk in the light the blood cleanses. If we keep on walking in the light, the blood keeps on cleansing.
Secondly, the reason the faithful child of God is not condemned, God does not impute to him sin. The word “impute” often appears in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. And it means to charge to account, to put to one’s credit, to chalk up against. That’s why we say that there is a relationship in which a faithful Christian can be with God in which there is not an imputation of sin, we’re simply saying, that to such God does not charge it to their account. Here’s a passage surely every preacher in the audience can quote it and give the reference. But all of you should again ponder it if you haven’t yet memorized it to do so before you retire this evening. It is found in Romans chapter four and verse eight. Romans four and verse eight, and it reads, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord doth not impute sin.” Isn’t that a magnificent utterance? Under consideration here is a person said to be in a happy fortunate state. Why is it that he is so greatly blessed? God does not impute sin to him. What does the word impute mean? To charge to account. Here it is the person whose account God does not place sin. Why? Because he is in a relationship to God where he cancels it out. What is that relationship? As we walk in the light the blood cleanses. If we keep on walking in the light, the blood keeps on cleansing.
A failure to recognize this principle leads people into error touching the relationship of prayer and confession to forgiveness. I don’t remember having heard it in recent days, but I think it hasn’t been but a few months since I heard a preacher suggest the idea that a person must specifically catalog every sin of which he is guilty and make specific mention thereof to God in order to be saved. Why, I’m certain that’s not so. I’m sure that if that were so, none of us would ever get to heaven. For granting that we can and must –and you watch this distinction because it’s a vital one – granting that we can and must catalog those sins with which we are acquainted and our confession must be as public as the sin, a sin known only to God should be confessed only to God and certainly not to a so-called prayer partner. Sin known only to one or a few confessed to the one or the few as the case may be. A public sin confessed before the church. Of course the book so teaches. But what about that vast area of sin – that vast area of sin of which we are all guilty which we don’t even know we did, how can you confess a sin you don’t know you committed? Why for one to know every sin of which he’s guilty, he’d have to know the Bible perfectly. He’d have to know as much as God knows … because if there’s any area of information that he didn’t possess, there might be duties and responsibilities in that area that he’s violating. It is in that area especially that the marvelous truth of this lesson applies.
A failure to recognize this principle leads people to a restricted concept regarding the extent of God’s grace. I recall being in a meeting a few years ago in an Arkansas town, sat in a Bible class on the Lord’s day of the meeting, a brother, not a preacher, but a man of some ability, teaching the lesson to a group of past middle aged people all of whom so far as I know were Christians and he was taking the position that in spite of and despite the fact that they did the best they could, they still might not be able to make it to heaven. And amazingly a number in the class agreed. I regard that as a reflection on the grace of God as an insinuation that He offers us salvation but he puts it up there just a little bit beyond our ability to reach.
Ponder the picture that is so vividly drawn for us in the earlier chapters of the Revelation, [in] four, five, six, seven, are the Ancient of Days, the God of heaven, who sits in inexpressible splendor on the throne of his glory and before Him are the four living creatures, beyond them, the twenty and four elders, beyond them, a hundred and forty and four thousand, and beyond them in vast mighty semi-circle, a multitude which no man can number. How many? A multitude which no man can number. Well, who are they? Are they people who lived perfect lives? No, quite the contrary. Listen to what the text says. “These are those who have come out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.” How we should rejoice friends that there is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins where sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains. That sentiment often expressed in sermon and song finds origin not only in this great passage, but in a remarkable one found in the prophesy of Zechariah chapters twelve, thirteen and fourteen of a fountain open in Jerusalem with a stream flowing to the former and the hinder sea. Imagine if you will a bubbling fountain. See a stream flowing backward from it, one forward. The fountain represents the pouring out of our Lord’s blood at Calvary. The stream backward, the provision made for the saints who died in the triumphs of faith in earlier dispensations. The stream forward, the provision made for us in this the Christian age. Sometimes people postpone obedience to the gospel on the ground they are afraid they can’t live good enough. Why friends, if we could live good enough, we wouldn’t need any plan at all. It is simply because we can’t live good enough we have to have a plan.”