There is much confusion and differing ideas regarding what it means to “walk” from a Christian standpoint. It is often said that we are to “walk worthy of our high calling in Christ”, and this is generally thought of to mean that we should guard against sinful acts in order to prove our worthiness. But is this what the Bible actually means when it speaks of our walk in Christ? Are we really supposed to prove our worthiness by our performance or behavior?
In this study today, we will be examining this question in the light of the finished work of Jesus Christ, because there is no other light by which things can be clearly seen. Everything will either stand or fall by Jesus Christ. 1st Corinthians 3:11-13 makes it clear that anything built on Christ will stand firm, but anything built on another foundation will be burned-up. So we will see if this idea of proving our worthiness by our performance stands up by Jesus.
So let’s begin our study today by reading John 8:10-15:
“When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said to her, Woman, where are those your accusers? has no man condemned you?
She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more.
Then spoke Jesus again to them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
The Pharisees therefore said to him, You bore record of yourself; your record is not true.
Jesus answered and said to them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know from where I came, and where I go; but you cannot tell from where I come, and where I go.
You judge after the flesh; I judge no man.”
The verses begin with the end of the account of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus had just finished writing on the ground and the Pharisees who were accusing her and trying to trap Jesus being convicted and leaving the scene. Jesus then asks the woman “Where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” Then, she replies “No man, Lord.”
The woman calls Jesus, Lord. This is an important detail, because the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, did not regard Jesus as Lord. If you look at verse 4, you will see in the King James version that they call Jesus Master, but the Greek word used there actually means simply teacher. They regard Jesus on the same level as themselves. But this woman, after having received forgiveness, after having received Grace, calls Jesus Lord.
Then in verse 11, Jesus says to her “Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more.”
You see, Jesus’ gift of no condemnation was absolute. He did not tell her as many churches do today “Sin no more, then I won’t condemn you.” – that’s actually backwards. He gave her the gift of no condemnation first, then He told her “go, and sin no more”. But if it just ended there, it would still be very confusing, and unfortunately verse 11 is where most people stop reading, however Jesus did not stop speaking at verse 11 – if He had done so, everyone would be left with the impression that He just told the woman to live perfect (which no one can do except for Jesus).
How about you? Since receiving Jesus, have you actually been able to go and sin no more? Even receiving the grace of Christ, have you honestly “sinned no more”? Do you know anyone who has honestly fulfilled Jesus’ words in verse 11 as we have come to commonly interpret them?
On the surface, it appears as if Jesus gave the woman an impossible task. And some theologians have attempted to explain this away by saying “Oh, Jesus just meant ‘try your best not to sin’”, but nowhere in scripture does it ever say that trying gets us anything. In-fact the New Testament is very clear in stating that our own efforts and the best of our trying is actually counted as nothing and of no worth. (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 9:16, Ephesians 2:8) So let’s continue reading with verse 12, and let Jesus finish explaining what He said to the woman.
In verse 12, Jesus says: I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. Jesus says that He is the light of the world. He is the source of illumination, He is the way in which things are clearly seen. Without Him, everything is in darkness. Then He continues by saying that whoever follows Him, shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
Now the Greek word for “follow” that Jesus used in this verse, actually means to side with, or join as a union. It is not merely speaking of following in His footsteps, because He even said where He is going no-one can follow (John 8:21), He lived a perfectly sinless life and died as a sin sacrifice for all of mankind. But when Jesus says to follow Him, He is saying “join with Me, unify with Me.” – and it is something only possible to do through Him.
Jesus then says that the result of joining with Him is that you shall not walk in darkness, the Greek words for “shall not” used here is ou me, which is a double negation: certainly not! Never! Now again, if this “walking in darkness” was referring to works, then it would mean that we are all doomed and none of us are joined with Christ, because by performance standards we all fall short of God’s perfection. But here Jesus says that for those of us who are joined with Him, we will certainly not and never walk in darkness. So what is He saying then? Have we all been deceived? Are none of us actually with Christ?
The only way to be absolutely sure and to quench all doubt is to allow the Bible be our standard here and allow the scriptures to define what this walking is. Jesus in verse 15 makes a distinction between the way the Pharisees judge compared to Himself. He says: you judge after the flesh. You judge according to outward behavior and appearance, but Jesus judges no man. For He has not come to judge, but to save. He will one day return as a judge, but that is not His purpose for coming now.
So let’s allow the Bible to define walking in darkness for us by reading 1st John 1: 5-7:
“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
But 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 cleans us from all sin.”
Now remember that 1st John chapter 1 was not written to believers, but was written to the Gnostics (who believe that they are in the light already and without sin) and it was also written to denounce Docetism (which is the belief that Jesus did not come in the flesh). It isn’t until chapter 2 that John shifts his focus to believers when he writes “My little children”. Never-the-less, all scripture, whether it was originally written to believers or not, is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction (2nd Timothy 3:16) That being said, let’s see what these verses have to say:
John begins in verse 5 by saying that this is the message which we have heard from Him, and declare to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.
So right here we can already see that John is addressing unbelievers. John is declaring the message of Christ to a group. Now this continues in verse 6: If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth.
This is exactly what the Gnostic Jews were doing. They claimed fellowship with God, but yet they were still “walking in darkness” they were lying and not practicing the truth. But wait… the Gnostic Jews had many good works, yet they were still considered to be walking in darkness… because it is not about how you are walking in terms of performance, but in what place you are walking. This is expounded on further in verse 7:
But 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 cleans us from all sin.
Do you see the tiny word “in” used in this verse? (…if we walk in the light…) it is the Greek word en which simply means “in” as expected, but this can also tell us an important detail about the meaning of the phrase “walking in”, because many people try to change this to be about behavior when in-fact it has absolutely nothing to do with behavior, but it has everything to do with belief on Jesus Christ.
Often times we have this idea that light is information, and that we must walk (behave) according to the light (information) that we receive, and either we are walking according to the light by behaving rightly, or we are walking according to the darkness by behaving wrongly. That is our limited human idea of these verses, but our idea in this case is very wrong. These verses are not talking about behavior at all! Preachers who preach this way end-up teaching a doctrine of fear where you can constantly be shifting back-and-forth between light and darkness by your behavior – so basically you can be fellow-shipping with Christ in the light one moment, and then be out of fellowship and in the darkness the next moment because of your behavior – and that my friends is bad doctrine plain and simple!
If you simply look at the next part walk in the light, as He is in the light. The word “as” there, denotes just as God is. If this were talking about works, we would all be lost – every one of us, because we are not perfect in our behavior and works just as God is. Those are impossibly big shoes to fill!
So since we know that this is not talking about works, what then is this talking about? As I stated before, it is talking about The place you are walking; the place where you are as a believer in Jesus Christ today. Recall what we have read earlier in John 8:12, when Jesus said that He is the light of the world, and whoever follows Him will certainly not, never walk in darkness, but have the light of life. The place of no condemnation in Christ is the place of the light of life in Christ Jesus.
Why is this such an important truth? Because many believers live their entire life under the weight of uncertainty, wondering whether they are only saved until their next sin, or whether they have lost fellowship with God because of a wrong behavior. This kind of a life, is not the abundant life of Christ, it is a life of secret torment, never being able to have intimacy with God because you are never sure of your status. I used to live that way, constantly scrutinizing my behavior, always wondering if I had crossed-the-line from light back into darkness because of some way which I had just messed-up. Constantly confessing my sins every second because if I put it off until later I might forget and then I would be lost, because 1st John 1:9 says that the condition is only if we confess our sins is He faithful and just to forgive… and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, which also implies that I had become unrighteous again. So I used to live under that weight, and there are many believers who have not yet come to the realization of the truth which I am sharing with you today. When you accept Jesus Christ and you believe on Him and receive His gift of no condemnation, He places you squarely and securely in the light, and you can not, never walk in darkness anymore! You are not merely saved until your next sin; you are not merely righteous until your next stumbling; you are cleansed completely!
Look at verse 7 again, see that word “cleanse”? It is in the Greek present-active-indicative. It is a continual cleansing. I assume you have taken a shower at some point, and you get all clean and freshened, and then afterward you spend some time in dirty areas on your job, or get sweaty and dirty and then you need another shower. And the cycle repeats day after day.
Well, many believers think that their spiritual life is the same way. They get washed in the fountain of Jesus’ blood, and then through daily living they get spiritually “dirty” and need to be washed again. But let me ask you a question: What would happen if you were continually and eternally under the shower? If the water was perpetually washing over you, then you would be perpetually clean, correct?
Now what would happen if you were perpetually washed in the fountain of Jesus’ blood? Because that’s exactly what the Greek word for “cleanses” states. My friend, you are not ever dirty in the sight of God anymore. You are perpetually washed in the fountain of the blood of Jesus Christ (Zechariah 13:1). You are safe and secure in the light of Christ, never to walk in darkness again! This is the gift of no condemnation that Jesus has paid for you to have! Embrace it, rejoice in it, and let it empower you. You do not have to worry about your status anymore as I once did. You are safe and secure forever in Christ. And as this truth is received, it will set you free from fear, and it will give rise to genuine praise for what Jesus has done for you.