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1st John (2011)

Walking in the Light

1 John  1:5-10

Lesson audio

The apostle John is the most philosophical of the writers of the New Testament. But nowhere is his writing more philosophical than in this chapter, as we shall see.

1 John 1:5-10 NIV  This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  (6)  If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.  (7)  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  (8)  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  (9)  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  (10)  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

God Is Light

The Bible gives many references for the light which is given by God. But verse five in this passage is the only instance in which we are told that God is light. This brings us to the subject of metaphor.

Metaphor: God Given Light

We begin with the nature of a metaphor. The definitions vary in the dictionaries, but the prominent idea of a metaphor is that by using something not really associated with what you're talking about, you might come up with a really good illustration. One of the most frequent is the use of light to represent the wisdom God gives. We say that someone is "in the dark." It means they don't have a clue. But it's very much parallel to be in the dark stumbling around. The metaphor used here is so powerful that it becomes a frequent description of God's wisdom as given to man.

The reason for this is in the nature of physical light. We say that darkness is the opposite of light; this is not true. Darkness is the absence of light. Metaphorically speaking, this is also true: those who do not have the light of God's word stumble around a lot. They do dumb things. And like its metaphorical parallel, evil is not the opposite of good or of wisdom. It is the twisting of wisdom. In other words, just as you cannot have physical darkness without the existence of light, you cannot have moral darkness if there was no moral light. It's a very easy metaphor, and the Bible uses it frequently.

Aquinas and John

To understand the statement, "God is light" we must delve into philosophy just a bit. Aquinas taught that all things can possibly have three different categories:

·         The most prominent category is that of essence. This is what really defines a person; for example, deductive logic is the essence of Sherlock Holmes. So then, what is God's essence? His existence. He is the necessary being, and he is the only necessary being. He must exist, or all those things that derive existence from someplace else cannot.

·         The next category is that of attributes. As God's essence is his existence, it is said that he is his attributes. He is truth, he is love, and as John informs us here he is light. This is undoubtedly the metaphorical version of light — not a large collection of photons.

·         Then there are accidents – things that a person might have which really don't divine him or her at all. God the father has no accidents; Jesus the son does. For example, Jesus had a shoe size.

Interestingly, this is yet another proof that Christ did claim to be God. When was that? When he said, "I am the light of the world."

God As Creator

The connection between "God is light" and God giving light stems from the fact that God is the creator God. In God there is no moral darkness, therefore God creates light that cannot be sullied by the darkness. The creation reflects the creator. This brings us to two questions:

·         Is it good to have the light?

·         If so, how do we get it?

Walking in the Dark

We might begin by exploring the opposite question: how does one go about walking in the dark? After all, most of us would say we are walking in the light — even if we think it's normal to bump into things.

Claiming Fellowship

It is a sad fact that in every reasonably sized church there are those who claim to be in fellowship with Christians who are plainly misled or lying. Often enough, there is a tacit conspiracy between those in the pulpit and those in the pew to allow this to happen. Here are some of the ways this might work:

·         One way is to say nothing about sin. If the concept of sin is not preached from the pulpit that it is reasonable for the person in the pew to assume that it is unnecessary to know anything about it for salvation. If your doctrine is (explicitly or implicitly) that everyone goes to heaven, why would those walking in the dark see the light?

·         In some churches, the assumption is that membership equals fellowship. If your name is on the rolls, and you are a good contributor, the church will speak up for you and tell God that you are a good Christian. The effectiveness of this method is somewhat in doubt — at least for those who believe what the Scriptures say.

·         For some, it's a matter of social skills and smiles. Those who know how to get along and go along often can deceive people for quite some time — especially themselves.

Claiming to Be without Sin

At first glance this would seem to be somewhat absurd. But it really does make some sense — if what you have is the claim that you are forgiven. Indeed, most real Christians claim to be forgiven. There are two instances in which we might think this is not the case:

·         First, what if there is no confession of sin? The Scripture is clear: forgiveness requires confession. If there is no confession, how can we expect forgiveness?

·         In other instances, the individual thinks that if he waits long enough the offense of sin is eroded away by the waves of time. There is no evidence that this is the case. God is eternal.

Claiming We Have Not Sinned

This is a bit more difficult. It seems impossible that anyone who would call himself a Christian would ever say that he has not sinned. But consider these possibilities:

·         Does sin even exist? In many variations of the emerging church, the concept of sin is held to be invalid. They say that sin just doesn't exist; or more commonly they fail to proclaim that it does exist. If sin does not exist, you can't have committed one.

·         Does God count that sin? In some emerging church pews, God takes no account of sin. After all, that would imply that there is some absolute standard by which one can sin. The emerging church is a postmodern phenomenon, which holds that absolute truth cannot possibly exist. Therefore, by what possible standard would one say that I have sinned?

·         What might be the most curious argument of all is this: sin is an obsolete concept. It is old-fashioned. We now call those things mistakes — and certainly we know that mistakes do not have any moral importance to them. Do understand the underlying fallacy in the argument: that truth can become obsolete.

Walk in the Light

We have evidently defined the ways of walking in the dark. Let's take a look at the other side.

As He Is in the Light

The first principle of walking in the light is simply this: the imitation of Christ. Thomas a Kempis put it this way:

“By these words of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ.”

If you do this, you not only are blessed[1] but your conduct also reflects the glory of his being[2].


There is a solid, unfortunate fact of life:

Proverbs 28:13 NIV  He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

When you're imitation of Christ fails, it is necessary to confess and renounce your sin. Every one of us fails in the imitation of Christ at one time or another. It is therefore wise to get used to the idea that confession is a normal part of the Christian life.

It's particularly important that you realize that confession is what releases the power of the blood of Christ. That blood which cleanses us from all sin is applied upon our confession of that sin.


John points out three things that happened when you are walking in the light:

·         The first is fellowship with one another. This makes a great deal of sense, really. If I sin against you, we are divided. If you forgive me, we are reunited. So the result of walking in the light is in fact fellowship with one another. If we all do it right, we are all on the same page.

·         The second result is that his word is in our lives. The simplest meaning of this is that the Scripture comes alive. When you are walking in the light, the study of the Scriptures is never a problem or pain. Sometimes there are difficulties in understanding (which was really knows what revelation truly means?) But there is always the light, and God will give you knowledge of that which is necessary for your Christian walk.

·         Finally, you will live by the truth. If you do it God's way, it works. Nothing else does.

[1] Psalm 89:15

[2] 1st Timothy 6:13-16

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