“God Is Light”
1 John 1:5-10
The difference between being light and being in light is so basic that we probably don’t think about it too much. After all, no matter how bright the sun may be on a given day, and no matter how much time we spend in it, we never really think of ourselves as actually shining. True, we are illuminated because of our relationship with the light, but that is a comment on the light source, not the lighted object.
John writes to us, “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Light, of course, being a Biblical metaphor for righteousness, we learn here that God is goodness and holiness incarnate. His spiritual status is not a result of a certain behavior pattern; in fact, it is the other way around — He engages in righteous behavior because of who He is, as a reflection of His nature. He cannot choose to sin any more than you or I can choose to breathe water.
Christians are God’s spiritual children, and therefore partakers of His nature. (2 Peter 1:4). Of course, that does not mean that we become completely separated from sin, as He is. However, it does mean that we learn how to “walk in the light as He Himself is in the light” (1 John 1:6). We choose a pattern of behavior that mimics His nature; as He is always “in the light”, we strive to walk in that same light.
Choosing this walk carries with it two very important benefits, as John describes in verse 7. First, he says this walk puts us in a relationship with others who have chosen the same walk. This relationship is what he calls “fellowship”. Despite the carnalization of the concept, the true meaning of fellowship is evident. It depicts a sharing, a cooperation, a communion — and as with other passages that discuss the subject, this “fellowship” is of a purely spiritual nature, with no reference to purely social interaction and certainly no references to “fellowship halls”. True fellowship is the spiritual connection we share with all believers who have chosen to walk with Christ as we have. And not only does it bind us together with brethren of our own local body, but it also connects us to all the saints of all the ages, including the apostles and even our Lord Himself (1 John 1:3).
But it also brings a second benefit — “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (v.7). This may seem incongruous at first — after all, John has just told us in the same verse that we are to “walk in the light”, and now he is telling us about provisions that have been made for when we sin. But our “walk in light” depicts a general pattern of behavior, not every single isolated step of that walk. I may be going to Houston and yet take some steps (detours, errors in judgment, etc.) that do not necessarily further the greater goal; but when I keep the goal in mind, I make necessary course corrections along the way and remain generally focused on my final destination.
Likewise, our “walk in light” will be marred by occasional steps in darkness; in fact, John writes in verse 8, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Although God does not excuse our sin, He does anticipate it and account for it. We are told in verse 9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God is righteous when He forgives in that He has atoned for sin with the death of His Son; the price that must be paid for sin (Romans 6:33) has been paid (Hebrews 9:22-26). And He is faithful in that He fulfils His promise to us that we will be saved when we call upon Jesus’ name (Romans 10:13); no amount of sin on our part can interfere with that as long as we continue to repent and confess.
But there is a difference between a sinless state and a forgiven state. We must not make the mistake of assuming that, since God has promised to forgive our sins, then sin is not a problem in our lives. Many people, content in a perceived relationship with God, live their lives in total abandon, oblivious to any violation of God’s will for their lives. He writes in verse 10, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” We can become so self-sufficient in our righteousness that we forget how much we need Jesus. But to refuse to turn to Him for continued forgiveness is to say we have no further need of Him in our lives. He tells us exactly the opposite. If we have truly accepted Jesus as our Savior, we have done so by taking His word into our hearts and accepting it as the agent of our salvation (James 1:21). We must be prepared on an ongoing basis to use it to make necessary “course corrections” and keep us in His light — or as the case may be, get us out of Satan’s darkness as quickly as possible.
By Hal Hammons
From Expository Files 17.2; February 2010