Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.
The DEEP

Self-Deception

Tricky stuff.

1 John 1:5–10

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. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice 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 Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

To fully understand this passage, we need to be clear on what John means by, “walk in darkness,” as opposed to, “walk in the light as He is in the light.” What exactly is it that John wants us to avoid?

The second paragraph illuminates the first. John doesn’t mean we should be perfect; we’re not, and we mustn’t say that we are. So, what does walk in the light mean?

The standard answer is, “in the open,” and walking in darkness means, “hidden,” or, “in secret.” That fits this passage well. It fits other Bible passages too.

He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, — Daniel 2:22a

“When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” — Luke 22:53 (Jesus says this as He was seized in Gethsemane—before dawn.)

So, walking in the light means not hiding our activities—being the people we claim to be.

John is instructing his readers in the importance of being genuine.


We’re all familiar with the concept of hypocrisy. There’s nothing unusual or rare about people pretending to be better or more righteous than they are. Frankly, we all do it. This is what John means by, “walk in darkness.”

But this passage takes this concept to a more advanced level with the words, “we deceive ourselves.” Notice that it does not say, “If we think that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

No, by merely saying that we have no sin, we have started down the road to self-deception. Soon we will be thinking that we have no sin.

Deceiving others bounces back to us; we start to believe our own lies. We deceive ourselves and we don’t even know that we’re doing it.

When we think we’re fooling others, we’re the real fools.


These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/community

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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