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
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
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.
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
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
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
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 but your
conduct also reflects the glory of his being.
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.