Light is connected to the creative power of God. As the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters “God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1.3-4).
Light suggests revelation as well. When Jesus Christ appeared, he abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Timothy 2.10). God will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the reality within each of our hearts (1 Corinthians 4.5).
Light communicates the idea of delight and endearment: “The LORD is my light and my salvation” (Psalm 27:1). Those who know the joyful sound walk in the light of God’s countenance (Psalm 89.15). Evil men love darkness rather than light (John 3.19). Darkness is not just the absence of light; it is the enemy of light (1 John 1.5).
Light and life are closely connected. Living organisms depend upon light for life. Our perception of color and context exists because of light. The absence of light means death. This death may be physical and/or spiritual death.
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.
John writes, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1.5). 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 that are important and focus our understanding of light to mean God’s moral purity in this verse.
- 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 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But this is a promise not a claim to self-delusion.
1 John 1.5 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.
The context of the passage makes it clear that John is addressing himself and other believers. If we lose sight of this, we will not understand this letter. It is we who are able to 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 (1 John 1.7).
John saw with his eyes and felt with his hands the Word of Life. He testified and declared to the church that eternal life was with the Father and manifested to him by the Son. In turn he declares to us and broadens the sphere of fellowship.
What is the message that Jesus revealed to John? John heard from Jesus that message and declared it to us. This is foundational apostolic teaching from Jesus Himself. John and the other apostles form a link to Jesus and the truth He left for us. When John writes, “We have heard from Jesus and declare to you” (1 John 1.5), he uses 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. Instead, the truth once presented still stands to this day. As a matter of fact, this good news is declared to you this day!
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 (see 1 John 2.28 – 3.3). When John speaks of walking in the light or walking in darkness, he means that we either walk in purity or 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. Our position as children of light is not being properly reflected in our condition.
1 John 1.5 is about the purity of light and the darkness of 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 lurks in each of us.
So how are we who are incapable of absolute moral purity fellowship with God who is absolutely morally pure? John is going to address this. He is going to talk about how sinful people can have fellowship with a holy God. He brings Christians to understand that we must confess our sins and God promises to cleanse them so that we may fellowship with Him. Our relationship may never be severed; our fellowship may be. This is the choice we make the moment we reach for some counterfeit form of light and life.
John teaches us that God is holy. He uses light as an illustration of His holiness. No sinful man may enter the presence of God or fellowship with Him. The priest could never sit down in the Jewish temple. He constantly offered sacrifices. And the Israelite came fact to face with the daily demand to be holy because God is holy (Leviticus 11.45).
The absolute standard from God is perfection. Jesus met that standard. That is why the Person and substitutionary work of Jesus is so instrumental to us as believers.
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 to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 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.