“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.” (1 John 1:5)
Light represents the power and presence of God in creation. God said, “Let there be light!” There was light, God saw it, and proclaimed it good (see Genesis 1-2). Light also communicates the idea of delight and endearment. The husband loving says to his wife, “You are the light of my life!”
All living organisms depend upon light for life. Our perception of color and context exists because of light. Light is the epitome of discovery and development. Intellectually, light represents knowledge, truth, and revelation. It connotes wisdom and comprehension: “The lightbulb finally went on!” We speak of the light at the end of the tunnel as a euphemism for hope and help.
While all these things are true, John emphasizes something altogether different in this verse. John writes, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” That is, God is morally pure and holy; He is Light. He is right, good, and truthful. There are three claims made in the context of 1 John 1 which are important and focus our understanding of light to mean God’s moral purity.
- If we say that we have fellowship with God, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1.6).
- If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1.8).
- If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and His word is not in us (1.10).
Some may say a fourth claim exists in v. 9: If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But this claim is a claim to a promise not a claim to self-delusion. It is the remedy not the problem.
Notice John uses the pronoun we throughout the passage. It is possible for the Apostle John, the other apostles, and all first century Christians to make the claims above. John is capable of wrong thinking as well as right thinking. He is able to make self-delusive claims as well as claim the promise of cleansing. All Christians are potentially able to do the same.
I believe this verse is John’s declaration concerning the moral character of God. If we are to rightly relate with God, we must know that He is light. There is absolutely no darkness in Him. But we cannot make such a claim about ourselves. There is darkness in all of us. So we certainly have a common problem.
This is the Message
John saw with his eyes and handled with his hands the Word of Life (1.1-4). He testified and declared to the church that eternal life was with the Father and manifested to him and the other apostles. In turn he declares to the Asia Minor churches (perhaps beginning at Ephesus) and broadens the sphere of fellowship.
What is the message that Jesus revealed to John? It is that which he heard from Jesus and declares to us. This is foundational apostolic doctrine from Jesus Himself. John and the other apostles are our link to Jesus and the truth He left for us.
When John writes, “We have heard from Jesus and declare to you” (v. 5), he use a perfect tense verb. He is showing us that what was heard was heard at a point in time in the past while he was with Jesus, but it is not heard in the same way today. But the truth once presented still stands to this day. As a matter of fact, this good news is declared to you this day as you read!
God is Light
God is light in the sense that He is absolutely pure and holy. There is absolutely no hint of darkness in God. He is absolutely pure. John writes later…
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2–3:3)
When John speaks of walking in the light or walking in darkness, he means that we either walk in purity or walk in immorality. This is why John communicates the need for believers to confess and seek cleansing at the hands of a faithful, just, and righteous God. As believers, walking in darkness does not negate spiritual life, but God’s moral nature is not being expressed through our lives when we walk in that darkness.
1 John 1.5 is about purity and sin. God is light; therefore, we must be characterized by light. That means we should be sincere, truthful, righteous, and loving. We fail to reflect the glory of God’s light when we express ourselves with deception, rebellion, and hatred of one another. It is imperative that we understand the potential for this hatred in each of us.
Do you understand that our lack of holiness makes it impossible for us to grasp the moral purity of God? This drives us to Christ seeking mercy. We are dependent upon God to make us pure enough to relate to Him and He with us.
We pray many things, but God hears nothing when we regard iniquity in our hearts. God demands holiness from each of us because He is holy.
God Sees Me
“And there is no creature hidden from [God’s] sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13) God knows me and by Him my actions are weighed and found wanting (1 Samuel 2.3). He sees the adulterer covertly managing his life to hide sin from his spouse and children. God sees the thief rifling through his father’s wallet left on the dresser. God is aware of the cheat who charges people for services not rendered. But more than that, God sees the heart. “Hell and Destruction are before the Lord; so how much more the hearts of the sons of men.” (Proverbs 15:11)
The Scriptures point out that God hates all workers of iniquity (Psalm 5.5). He is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness” (Habakkuk 1.13a). God abhors the darkness. There is absolutely no darkness in Him. We must walk in the light as He is in the light. That light comes through truth and manifests itself in our hearts purifying us.
Fellowship and Acceptance
God provides fellowship and acceptance as we conform to His holiness. Many look at the glory and pursuit of holiness as something to be avoided …something that removes joy from life. Yet holiness is the gateway to fellowship with our Maker. Our dependence, diligence, and obedience please God because we are in Christ and behaving like Christ. God makes Himself known to us in a way that He does not make Himself known to the world. His love is shed abroad in our hearts. We are privileged to call God our Dearest Father.
Holiness also provides acceptance before God. We are no longer like the unsaved sinner. Our sins are gone! The blood of Christ continuously cleanses us from all sin (1.7). His blood cleanses us 24-7 so that we may serve God acceptably. That blood is able to keep you from falling away from God. It will present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24). When we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship and acceptance.
Faith and Works
Some strive for holiness through their works and disregard the finished work of Jesus Christ. Others believe that faith will save them but then that faith never produces holiness. Both of these are deceptive tools of the devil. We cannot be holy unless we confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that God has raised Jesus from the dead. But faith without the work of holiness is dead. The devils believe and shriek back in unholy fear at the name of Christ. Faith will always produce holiness in the believer. Holiness is evidence that our faith is genuine. Thereby, we walk in the light as He is in the light.
Duty and Delight
We carry out our duties as believers not with drudgery but delight. We shouldn’t expect the world to think that the pursuit of the glory and holiness of God would bring delight. They find delight in the darkness of sin. Delight in life is found for us in our fellowship with God. And yet fellowship cannot be without conformity to His holiness. That’s why delight does not rest in a full bank account or a clean bill of health for us. We delight even in the face of death. We do so knowing that our pursuit of holiness will finally be perfected when we draw celestial air into our glorified lungs!
God has qualified us as believers to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light (Colossians 1.12). We long for the glory of our inheritance in Heaven, but that’s not true for unbelievers. Unregenerate people would not be happy in Heaven. They love the darkness and there is only light in Heaven. They hate God and God’s people; we love God and God’s people. They would clamor to tear God away from His glorious throne if at all possible. But we stand amazed in worship before that throne and will forever.
Unbelievers don’t want God to exist and feel great relief when they mistakenly prove to themselves that He doesn’t. But we revel in the God who is. This is the message! There is no other.
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9–10)
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8)
“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” (Romans 13:11–14)