Light in 1 John

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As members of a fallen race, we want, we desire. What we want is the world, seized by us outside the framework of God’s character. This is what worldliness is. Because we want to be unrighteous in this way, but we also want the reputation of righteousness, the only solution is to deceive ourselves, to lie to ourselves. But however much we lie, we cannot cross the chasm that exists between our death and God’s life. The only way to have that life is to receive it as a gracious gift from God. But we must never forget the character of the one who gives us this life—He is light itself.

The Text

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

Summary of the Text

This passage contains one of the few succinct definitions of God as found in Scripture, where the writer tells us that God is xyz. Jesus tells the woman at the well, for example, that God is Spirit. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

In this passage, we are told that God is light. Because He is light, it follows that in Him there is no darkness at all. This is not a theological triviality; John declares as integral to his message. This is the message we have heard from Him. This is the message we declare to you. God is light. This is crucial, in other words.

But this is no hard, cold, severe light, but we have to distinguish those who encounter it. It is severe to those who reject it. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (John 3:19–20).

But to those who receive the light, God gives them the privilege of being children of God (John 1:12). This light is unmitigated good news. “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9).

John introduced this thought in the previous verse when he said, “these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” God is light, and those who are in fellowship with that light are happy people. Their joy is full and overflowing. To use the apostle Peter’s expression for this, it is “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). This light that is God is the holiness of God, and this holiness—again, to those who are gifted with the reception of it—is the bedrock of all true happiness.

The verse following our text is a verse that emphasizes the problem of lying and self-deception again. Those who claim to have fellowship with the light, while walking in darkness, are lying. They are not doing the truth.

Confession and the Light

Near the end of this short chapter, we are told that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (the ones we confessed), and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). The word for confess is homologeo, which means to “speak the same.” Homo means the same, and logeo is the verb to speak. To confess your sins means therefore to acknowledge your sin, freely and honestly, no spin control. Spin control is actually a vain attempt at sin control.

The consequence of this kind of confession is that God cleanses us (katharizo) from all unrighteousness. But notice that two verses earlier, walking in the light has the same result, the same consequence.

“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 cleanseth us from all sin”

1 John 1:7 (KJV)

If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Christ cleanses us (katharizo) from all sin.

Put This All Together

If you are not walking in the light, you are walking in the darkness. If you are walking in the darkness, you are telling yourself lies (v. 6). If you are in the darkness, you can’t see any of your own sin down in there, right? You can then tell yourself that you have no sin. You convince yourself that this is true, because you can’t see it. But if you do that, then John says that you are deceiving yourself, and the truth is not in you. If you come into the light, if you confess your sin, then you are cleansed. Not only are you cleansed, but you are also now in fellowship with anyone else who has been cleansed (1 John 1:7). That horizontal fellowship is simply a gift.

Now if your automatic reflex is to assume that you are not in fellowship with someone else because they are still walking in darkness, then you have said something that could be true, technically, but probably isn’t. In this sinful world, what is easier than to assume that the dislocations of relationship are always the other person’s fault? But maybe we should sometime try a heart maneuver that couldn’t be duplicated by the devil himself. “Lord, am I the problem?”

So a man is walking in darkness, and his sole comfort in that dark place is something he takes for a teddy bear, his precious, which he strokes as he walks along. But it is not a teddy bear at all, but rather a ten-pound tarantula. You might wonder if such a mistake is possible, but I can assure you that it is. Remember how dark it is in there.

Confession of sin is to flip on the lights, and to walk in that light. You see the sin for what it is, and throw it away from your chest with an anguished gaaa! You want no more to do with your great, oversized domesticated spider. It is either that or a return to the darkness, and the grotesque comforts found in that darkness.

Bring It Down to Relationships

Remember that to walk in the light is to walk in the way that God is. To walk in the light, “as He is in the light,” is to walk in Christ-light. You are abiding in Him. You are dwelling in light that has a personality.

Again, you are not walking in a material impersonal substance. You are not walking in a force. You are walking in a Person. You are abiding in a Person. And what does this light look like? It looks like love, and does not look like malice. It does not taste like that acrid bitter taste in your mouth.

“Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him”

1 John 2:8-10 (KJV)

But as long as you are in the darkness, you can chop definitions lengthwise, and say that you do love her. You can say that you do love him. Then why are you miserable? Why are you unhappy? When you are in the dark, every word you look up in your self-justifying dictionary is pitch black. All the words are black down there.

Christ Light, not Christ Lite

But again, this light is a Person. Arise, O sleeper, and Christ will shine on you (Eph. 5:14).

“For with thee is the fountain of life: In thy light shall we see light.”

Ps. 36:9 (KJV)

But this light . . . this is a light overwhelms all of our senses. It is light you can drink, like it was a cold mountain stream. It is light that fills the house with the aroma of spiritual bread baking, and then it tastes like that same bread, still hot enough to melt the butter. It is light that cascades over your head like an infinite bolt of unrolling invisible silk. It is light that is a breeze off the ocean. It is symphonic light, with an orchestra and choir made up of myriads of angels, and their billions of human understudies.

This is a light that invades all your senses, but particularly the sense of hearing. This is the light that is preached to you now, and so it is light you can hear. This light is the Word. So he who has ears to hear, let him see.

And finally it is the unapproachable light that you cannot see for brightness, and the cool clear light by which you are enabled to see everything else—but especially your brother and sister. If we are walking in the light, we regard no one after the flesh (2 Cor. 5:16). I can assure you that if you can’t see your brother and sister rightly, then what you are using for eyes need to be taken back to the worldview shop.

If you see Christ, then that means you can see all the rest of us . . . rightly. This is the new commandment, and of course, it is not a new commandment at all. The Father has always been this way. Christ is always the same, yesterday, today, and forever. The Holy Spirit ushers us into this palace of light, so that we may live there forever.

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