God Is Light
1 John 1:5-9
Key Verse 5
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”
John tells us one of the several things why he has written this letter to the church. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (3) His primary aim is that we believe what he has proclaimed, and by believing, we might have fellowship with God and with each other. It’s faith in what was proclaimed about Christ Jesus that secures for us eternal life and brings us into fellowship with God and consequently with one another as the family of God. Human beings could never have fellowship with God. This kind of communion with God, sharing in his life and enjoying the privileges of intimate relationship with him could never be accomplished by us. No amount of good work or striving for perfection, or seeking immortality or anything done by our own effort could ever bring us into fellowship with God. But God himself extended his gracious hand and offered us fellowship with him through faith in his Son. And once we have come into the fellowship of God, we begin to live as children of God. So, John, in this letter, tells us what God is like and he tells us what it is like to have fellowship with him. He shows us who is in true fellowship with him and who is not, so that we might know the difference and not be deceived by everyone who claims to be a Christian. This section we are looking at today is not intended to keep us guessing whether we are true Christians or not. Some Christians have missed the point and find themselves constantly in doubt about their salvation and walk with God. Rather it is intended to be very encouraging for us. Yet at the same time, it is intended to keep us alert against the devil’s tactics, and humble towards the Lord’s mercies towards us. It is a glorious passage for those whose heart’s desire is to remain in close fellowship with God.
Now John begins to tell us the kind of fellowship we are called into. Read verse 5. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” This is the message the apostles heard from the Lord and have passed on to all of us. What message did they hear from the Lord? This is the message as John testifies to it: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” It is amazing that John summarizes all Jesus’ glorious messages and sermons and teachings as well as his actions which often spoke louder than words, including his suffering, death and resurrection in these few sublime words: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” God is described in many ways in Scripture, but somehow he is always portrayed in relation to light. Why? Because the very nature of God is light. It is nearly impossible to define light in a way that can adequately describe our great God as the true Light. So how do we define light; how do we understand it in such a way that we can begin to somehow understand what it means that God is light. What is light?
First of all, light speaks of God’s glory, his radiance, his beauty, and all his glorious wonders. The sun is a magnificent creation of God, it is a ball of light. It is nearly impossible for us to penetrate to the core of the sun in order to see the seat of its beauteous nature. But we cannot but admit that the sun is more beautiful and glorious than words can describe. How much more God who is hidden in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16)! Another characteristic of light is that light is self-revealing. In other words, light does not depend on something else to reveal it. It reveals itself. At the same time it also reveals all other things. I cannot see that my hands are dirty and need washing unless I turn the light on. Then I can see the dirt and go wash my hands. God’s light is the same. Unless God’s light shine in our hearts, we cannot see all the filth and grime residing there, and we would not know of the extent of the dirt in our hearts. Many people know that their hearts aren’t clean. But they really don’t know the extent of the filth until the light of God shines on their hearts to expose all the dirt. As Ephesians 5:14 says: “It is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: ‘wake up O sleeper rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Another characteristic of light tells us of the purity of God. God is light, he is absolutely pure and uncorrupted in any way. There is no darkness in him at all. Nothing impure is in him. The sun shines on the earth and is a great cleanser to the earth, burning up many elements that are harmful to us humans. God as light is of absolute purity, and when he shines he purifies all things that he touches. Men hide from God when they are living in the darkness of sin because they are uncomfortable to be exposed by the light. That is why they hate the light. They stay hidden away from God, because they know that the moment they are in contact with the light of God, the purity of the light would destroy them. Light has also another glorious characteristic. Light guides men.
Light guides men. God is light. His light guides men. When we think about all the characteristics of light, and the message that John declared that God is light, we can see why our Lord Jesus declared himself to be: “The light of the world.” (John 8:12) John had declared that the true light was coming into the world. (John 1:9) The world was sitting in great darkness. (Matthew 4:16) We were all in great darkness. But God sent Jesus, and his life had been “The light of men.” (John 1:5) All that Jesus said and did shone God’s glorious light in our lives. His life exposed our darkness, and showed us something we could not see unless the true light shone all around us. Then the light also became a guide for men. The light of the Lord Jesus, his life, his purity, his holiness, his perfection, showed us clearly how depraved we are, that nothing good really lives in us. It showed us that our hearts are wicked beyond cure. It showed us that darkness ruled our hearts and souls with an iron grip. When I saw the condition of my soul, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know where to go. I, we needed the light to guide our way. We needed someone to take us by the hand and show us where to go because the world was too dark. Jesus said, “I am the way” and he showed us the way. During his life, he showed us the way of love and humility. He showed us the way of servantship. He taught me and you the way of love. I didn’t care about any one but myself, and my family, and sometimes not even my family, because I came first before the needs of my family. But Jesus in his life taught me to care, to love and to serve all. Then through his death, he showed me that the way to the Father was through his sacrifice, through his blood shed on the cross. Then he showed me through his resurrection the way to eternal life and the kingdom. Jesus is the light of God shining in every way in our lives. He alone can shed light in our darkness and show us the way of life.
God is light is the message we heard regarding our Lord Jesus. But that was not all. The apostle also says, that “In him there is no darkness at all.” In God there is no darkness at all. God is absolutely holy and pure, and therefore, there is no compromise with him at all. God who is light does not tolerate darkness nor does he compromise with the elements of darkness which is sin and evil. All men are in darkness until by faith in Christ they are led out into the light. Paul tells the Ephesians: “You were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light….” (Eph 5:8-) Once we have seen the light, and received the message of light into our hearts through Jesus Christ, what happens? Here is what the Bible says: “You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” (1 Thess. 5:5) As there is no darkness in our God at all, so also we want nothing to do with darkness either. And this had been the agony of John when he wrote this letter. There were those who thought they could mix light with darkness.
Read verse 6. “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” In John’s day there were in the Christian assemblies those who were in genuine fellowship with God and those who were not— those who were born of God and those who were not. How are they to be distinguished one from the other? He starts out with those who claim to be in fellowship with God but are really not at all in fellowship with God. He says that they claim to be Christians but they are in fact still walking in darkness. We know what it is to walk in darkness. We all walked in the darkness of sin before. There was a time when we loved the darkness, and walked in darkness. We lived in sin and in enmity with God. We loved the things of the world, and its darkness appealed to us. We followed its ways and imitated and strove to be one with it because it was all we knew. But when the light shone we escaped the darkness, and we loathed it and we remain fighting against it to keep it at bay. There are many living in darkness right now. They cannot see the true light. The world is their false light. But the truth is that as long as they are living in the world, they are living in darkness and they cannot have fellowship with God. John is warning those who have known the message that God is light, yet still love and walk in darkness. They like the church of God because it is a family of love, yet they cannot abide by the rules and commands of the Lord which is walking in the light. So they end up church goers, but walkers in darkness. They claim to be Christians but their lives and their habits and behavior give them away as children of darkness who have nothing to do with God who is light.
John is gracious in giving us these words. As much as they are written to identify those who are in fellowship with God from those who are not, they are also good for us for many reasons. They remind us of how much we need to watch our own hearts and not take it easy in our lives as God’s children, but be alert against the things that fight against our soul and be watchful against all the tricks of the devil who wants to lure us by the darkness. Our Lord Jesus aptly tells us to remain in him as he remains in us. When we do, we can be sure to avoid the darkness which envelops the who world. Another reason this verses is good for us is to help those who are deceived and deluded by sin’s deceitfulness and by Satan’s deceptive tactics to see their errors and repent of walking in the darkness and be brought back into God’s light. Another reasons we see is that this word is good to shed light on hypocrisy and to expose hypocrites and their lies and to protect the flock of God from their bad influence.
When I claim that I have fellowship with God, I am saying that I have God’s life in me, that I have communion with him, that I am no longer living for myself but living for him, that though I am still a sinner, I really hate my sin and thank God that he washed them away with his blood. That is how I am walking in the light daily conforming to the truth, that we live by his commands, that we cherish his words, that we abhor evil, that we resent sin that lives in us. We are saying that I love God more than the world and am living to serve his will and purpose in my life.
Read verse 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.” Here is what happens when we walk in the light. We have fellowship with God (3) and with one another, and our sins are cleansed. That is the result of walking in the light. Walking in the light is different from walking in the darkness. Walking in the darkness is to continue living in sin with no regard to God’s word. Walking in the light is to live our lives in the word of God. Here is what happens when we walk in the light of God’s word. When you walk in the light of God’s word, the word of God shines its light on your heart and exposes all the darkness in it. Why? So that you can repent and be washed in the blood of Jesus. There are so many people that will not let the word of God shine on their hearts. Sometimes they sit in church for years listening but never hearing even one word nor letting one word shine within. They are like those sitting in a dark cave, comfortable in the darkness because they cannot see what’s there with them in the dark cave. They are afraid that if they let the light in, they will see all the scary monsters in the cave and they will not longer be comfortable in their lives. But when we walk in the light of God’s word, every day is a new day for us. The word of God shines on our hearts. We can see and acknowledge our sins. Then we come to Jesus for cleansing in his blood, and he purifies us from all sin.
Not only that, when we walk in the light of God’s word, the word of God guides us into all truth. We are a family of built on the blood of the Lord and his truth. Our fellowship with one another is not a worldly fellowship based on fickle human principles. It is a heavenly fellowship based on love and trust and faith and hope. We can only have such a fellowship when we are all walking in the light. If one of us is not walking in the light, and has strayed into the darkness in his or her weakness, it is very hard to have fellowship with God or with others. The elements of darkness begin to rear their head one at a time. Where there was peace, tension grows; where there was sweet love, now anger and bitterness, mistrust, and pride rear their ugly heads. Actually there is no reason for such things among the fellowship of believers who love each other and would do anything for one another. But this is what happens when we stray into the darkness. What should we do then? Simply come to Jesus and let him purify you from all sin, so that your fellowship with God and with your fellow family members is restored.
Read verse 8. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” The devil has been deceiving humanity since the beginning of time. His most powerful weapon of assault on humanity is doubt. If you doubt the love of God then the devil is deceiving you big-time. If you doubt that God is in sovereign control over your life and situation you are severely deceived by the devil who has blinded you to the truth. If you doubt that Christ Jesus is the son of God who is the truth and the life and the only way of salvation, you are deceived by the devil. if you doubt that your life is worth more to God than the whole universe such that God paid with the life of his Son to redeem your life, you are deceived by the devil. Indeed Satan’s most powerful weapon of destruction is not Isis or nuclear weapons nor pornography, even though they are powerful instruments he uses to destroy humanity, but doubt. On the other hand Satan’s most effective weapon is deception. He deceived the woman in the garden. The Bible tells us that “He leads the whole world astray” (Revelation 12.9). The greatest deception of all time has been this: That there is no such thing as sin— that sin is relative. That there is no such thing as hell— that hell is relative.
Who else deceives himself? To believe that one is without sin or that sin does not exist is a severe kind of deception. Genuine Christians will not be deceived as such. But even among Christians amazingly there is still this kind of deception. If we think we’re not vulnerable or subject to temptation— if we claim that we’re strong enough to withstand the test of faith— if we claim that we no longer need the help of our brothers and sisters in our Christian walk— if we claim that we can worship God on our own, outside the body of Christ— if we claim that it’s ok to break the laws of God because we’re living in the NT now rather than the OT, that we are living under grace rather than under law— if we’re sinning but our pride has prevented us from repenting and making amends— we deceive ourselves and the truth has eluded us. When we claim such things we reveal how deeply deceived we are. Some people refuse to take the blame for anything. It’s always someone else’s fault. It’s always someone else’s failure. They can’t see any wrong in themselves nor admit to it. They can’t see their problems. They can’t acknowledge their faults and mistakes. In a sense, though they say they are not perfect their behavior makes claim to their perfection as if they were almost without sin. That’s why they have a hard time to repent or to say they are sorry because when things go bad or go wrong, they don’t see themselves as the cause— it’s always the other’s fault. Their actions say that they are without sin. How many marriages have shattered because of such sinless people! How many good relationships have been ruined because of such self-righteous and self-proclaimed sinless people with their nose up in the air all the time! All these people are deceived by the master deceiver. They deceive themselves. Therefore to acknowledge our sins in vital to our spiritual health and to our relationships with God and with one another. That is why Paul says: “Why not rather be wronged? and “You have been completely defeated already.” (1 Cor. 6:7)
Read verse 9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” The word confess is interesting. “homologeo” in Greek. Logeo is “to say”. And “homo” is “the same”. To say the same thing. In a sense then to agree and to repeat what the Bible says. If the Bible says you’re a sinner, that you have sinned, then you confess that it is true. If the Bible says that you have erred and are in the wrong, then you confess, and agree, say the same thing with the Bible that it is true, that you have indeed erred and were in the wrong.
A person must first confess his or her sins initially in order to receive the gift of salvation. That is the Bible truth. There is no way around that. Salvation cannot be granted by any other means. First of all our sins trouble us deeply. The psalmist says “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sins.” (Psalm 38.18) Those who are not troubled by their sins are either dead in their sins or their conscience is dead. But when our sins trouble us, it’s because sin is against God, and the Holy Spirit who is forever working to convict people of sin is working to lead them to God. We know in our hearts that we have transgressed against God. We have offended him and broken his most sacred laws. Most people do not know what to do when their sins trouble them. But then they hear the gospel. They hear that God sacrificed his Son on their behalf. They hear that God’s Son had died on the cross to pay the penalty for their sins. That he had risen to give them a new life. That if they only believe in him they would be forgiven and given eternal life. That’s the initial confession of sin that relieves their burden of sin and brings them into the light and into the family of God. This initial confession not only brings salvation but it’s necessary to bring about fellowship with God and with other Christians (3) This verse is wondrous to bring any non Christian into the family of Christ. But this word is also precious for us who are already believers.
Now that we have come into the faith do we no longer sin anymore? Of course we are still flesh and blood and subject to temptation and sin. So this word is most precious to those who strive to remain in Jesus but at times fall to sin, not because they want to sin but because of human weakness. What do they do at such times? John tells us what to do. He tells us to confess our sins. And he tells us why. There are three reasons to confess our sins. Because God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins. Because confession is the way of cleansing to make us righteous. And because confession is the way to remain in fellowship with God and with other Christians. When sin is un-confessed, it makes us un-righteous before God and we’re in a broken relationship with him. Our hearts are heavy with a burden of shame. Our minds are wracked with guilt. We are not ourselves. We feel alienated from others even though we know there is no reason to feel so. We feel as if we cannot even pray because we feel as if we are hypocrites and that God will not accept our prayers. We feel trapped and soon our hearts begin to harden and when they are thoroughly hardened we find it almost impossible to feel at home with God’s people. We feel as if people are judging us when they are really not. We feel they are avoiding us when they’re really not. We feel as if they’re love is cold when they’re love hasn’t changed. Most of all we feel as if we’re broken off from God and church. That’s broken fellowship. This is because this is the rule of fellowship. Confession is the rule of fellowship. We confess our sins to God and to each other, and fellowship is immediately restored. Why? Because forgiveness is granted and we’re one with all again.
Why is it this way? Because God teaches us two things here. His holiness and his forgiveness, two essential elements of his character. God is holy. So we can’t just sin and think everything is alright and remain in good fellowship with him just because we’re his children. Just because we’re his children doesn’t mean that we have a special privileges to sin and let it be. (1 John 3.6.9) Persistent unrepentant sin is not the mark of a true Christian. Good is holy. He calls us to confess and repent of our sins so that our sins may be cleansed and we are made holy again. God is also a forgiving God. His grace is abounding to those who are his children. His love overflows. He knows we love him. He knows we are weak. And he wants to show his love through his endless forgiveness of our sins. The way he does that is through our confession and his amazing forgiveness and cleansing for all our sins. This teaching is not focused so much on confession than on reconciling with God and being free of the darkness that corrupts our fellowship with him. We must be careful to always be in fellowship with our Father, to be in fellowship with him and with his children. Fellowship with his children keeps us alert and watchful for we keep watch over each other, and in love we admonish each other, and we correct each other. And fellowship with our Father keeps us clean on the inside, purified in his blood and in close communion with him at all times. So we must do whatever it takes to remain in fellowship with God and with one another. Confession is essential therefore to keep our fellowship with God and with one another strong and fruitful.
Read verse 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.” Those who claim that they have not sinned, clearly have no room in their hearts for God’s word because God’s word avers that all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and that God sent his Son to the world to be the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Read our key verse 5. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”