It has been several months since we looked into John’s first epistle and at that time we focused on verses 3 and 4 of chapter 1 and it has been even longer since we looked at verses 1 and 2. So before we begin the main part of the message today I would like to review for a few minutes what we had previously covered to bring everyone up to speed for those that missed those previous messages. Let’s begin by reading just the first four verses
1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. (1 John 1:1-4)
Here in John’s first epistle, he is writing from personal experience so that we would know that he is writing with great authority. John says that the Word of Life has come to earth incarnate in human flesh, and has brought eternal life to those who believe. It is a message of God’s revelation of Jesus Christ – the true revelation of God in the incarnate and written Word.
From the very first verse, John starts out by saying he is going to write about the Word of Life; the incarnate Word of Life. So, we immediately know that the focus will be on Jesus Christ and the Gospel. As some of you will recall, we highlighted that Jesus Christ has always existed – from the beginning. John reminds readers of their first encounter with Jesus Christ and the gospel He preached. “What was from the beginning” We also discussed that Jesus Christ absolutely proved who He is – God incarnate in human flesh. God used the very senses He created in us to prove that He was physically very real. John first said, he heard, Jesus Christ. John was so obviously amazed at what Jesus spoke for it was with such authority and truth that the truth compelled him to listen. We also discussed that Jesus Christ has revealed who He is – the Word of Life. With all the evidence and convictive assurance that John and the apostles had of Jesus’ presence in this world, we can confidently be assured that Jesus Christ is the Word of Life. The Word of life, the eternal life, has been seen, heard and felt by many and specifically by John.
We then moved into verses 3 & 4 where we discussed one of the reasons John is writing this epistle—to proclaim the gospel. However, the proclamation of the Word of Life is not an end in itself; its immediate purpose is fellowship and the ultimate purpose is joy. The purpose of the proclamation of the gospel is stated in terms not of salvation but of fellowship. Yet, properly understood, this is the meaning of salvation in its widest embrace, including reconciliation to God in Christ, holiness of life, and incorporation into the church. The foundation of all fellowship is our relationship with God. We also discussed how fellowship is about communion, with the key idea being that we possess things in common, which results in common ground for communion.
The body of Christ is composed of many members who are accountable to one another. We are to work in fellowship with each other to maximize the impact that God intended. The health of the church body, its witness, and its testimony are dependent on all members faithfully ministering to one another through fellowship. The church should be the personification of fellowship. The proclamation of the gospel creates a fellowship of believers. This fellowship is made possible by salvation. God planned to bring believers into fellowship with Himself, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and other believers.
So, technically, no Christian is at any time out of fellowship with God, since the relationship between the believer and God is permanent and is totally dependent on God. When a Christian is not behaving as a partner with God should be (by violating some of the fellowship standards), the relationship continues. In Philippians 1:5, Paul refers to the “fellowship in the gospel,” which continues “from the first day [salvation]” until now [the present].
We highlighted our first fellowship is with God and that our fellowship is also with other believers. So, how do we complete/perfect our joy and maintain our fellowship with other believers? After all, we have a responsibility to maintain fellowship by doing specific deeds for other believers. We discussed the need to maintain fellowship has to do with the “one anothers” of the New Testament. These would include confessing sin, forgiving, bearing burdens, loving, encouraging, building up, admonishing and praying, for one another.
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)
Have you ever thought about the brightest light you have ever seen or has ever been recorded? Have you ever thought about the darkest night or the darkest place you have been? On March 20, 2008, the brightest light ever seen peaked at a few hundred million billion times the brightness of our Sun. It occurred in a distant galaxy, but this burst of light was so bright it could have been seen on Earth with the naked eye even though it was 17.5 million light years away. So, just how bright was this light? It was brighter than the equivalent light from all of the stars in five million Milky Way galaxies. Now that is a bright light!
What is the darkest night or place ever recorded? Orbiting only three million miles out from its sun, the Jupiter-size gas giant planet, named TrES-2b, is heated to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. This planet appears to reflect almost none of the light that shines on it, absorbing almost 100% of all light. This is a very dark and hot place; biblically speaking this sounds familiar doesn’t it – a very dark place that is very hot. Well maybe we all can’t appreciate how dark TrES-2b is, but if you have ever been in a cave when they turn the lights out, it is one of the darkest places on earth; almost complete absence of light.
While both the brightest light and the darkest darkness are just simple illustrations, let’s focus on the brilliance of God as the brightest light and sin as the darkest dark. Let’s get right into the message to see what God has for us today.
This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)
The message, preached by John and the other apostles, was what they heard from Him [Jesus] and announced/proclaimed to all readers of the epistles; both the original, current and future generations. This message is that God is Light and in the fullest meaning includes fellowship and ultimately salvation. John received this message from Him—Jesus Christ. As God in human flesh, Jesus Christ is the perfect source of revelation regarding the nature and character of God the Father. Who better to explain our heavenly Father than Jesus Christ His Son?
In the prologue, verses 1–4, John asserts that he was writing about things he had heard, seen, and touched. Here he began with something he had heard. This is the message we have heard from Jesus Christ and announces to you. If there was any question about whom John is talking about, by the words “from Him,” John no doubt meant from the Lord Jesus Christ whose Incarnation he had just referenced in verses 1-2.
The message that John and the other apostles preached came from God, not from men. Paul highlights this fact in Gal 1: 12: “For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” John received this message and he is announcing it to us! God is Light, in Him there is no darkness at all. John is summarizing the Lord’s teaching according to the emphasis he gives to it in his own Gospel. ‘The Word of life,’ which starts John’s gospel, which is his proclamation, can be condensed into the single great affirmation God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. John’s statement is absolute and undeniable and is confirmed throughout Scripture.
In Scripture, light and darkness are very familiar symbols. Intellectually, “light” refers to biblical truth while “darkness” refers to error or falsehood.
For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; And reproofs for discipline are the way of life. (Proverbs 6:23)
I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life. (John 8:12)
Morally, “light” refers to holiness or purity and righteousness while “darkness” refers to sin or wrongdoing or evil in general. Paul says:
11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (Romans 13:11–14)
4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. (1 Thessalonians 5:4-7)
The description of God as light captures the very essence of His nature and is foundational to the rest of John’s first epistle. Of the statements about the essential being of God, none is more comprehensive than God is light. It is his nature to reveal himself, as it is the property of light to shine; and the revelation is of perfect purity and indescribable majesty.
Scripture reveals two fundamental principles that flow from the basic truth that God is light. First, light represents the truth of God, as embodied in His Word. The psalmist wrote these familiar words: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.… The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalms 119:105, 130). The light and life of God are inherently connected to and characterized by truth.
Secondly, Scripture also links light with virtue, moral conduct and righteousness. The apostle Paul instructed the Ephesians (Ephesians 5:8-9), “You were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth.”
Those two essential properties of divine light and life are crucial in distinguishing genuine saving faith from a counterfeit faith. If we profess to possess the light and to dwell in it—to have received eternal life—we will show evidence of spiritual life by our devotion both to truth and to righteousness. We will see the need for a spiritual new life.
However, the effect of the light is not only to make people see, but to enable them to walk. Having right conduct, not just clear vision, is the benefit which light bestows. John 3:19–21, where Jesus is speaking, explicitly highlights the relation between light and purity, darkness and evil.
19 This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. (John 3:19–21)
In this passage the righteous person is described as ‘whoever lives by the truth’. Truth, like light, in Scripture has a moral content. We are not just to know the truth, but to live it, just as we are not only to see the light, but to walk in it. So it is not uncommon for ‘truth’ to be contrasted, not only with ‘error’, but with ‘wickedness’ or unrighteousness.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, (Romans 1:18)
in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. (2 Thessalonians 2:12)
When John says that God is light, he is revealing many facets about the person of God. Although it doesn’t cover the whole spectrum of the attributes of God, it says a great deal about Him. First of all, light speaks of the glory, the radiance, the beauty, and the wonders of God. Let’s get a glimpse of this—have you seen the eastern sky in the early morning when the sun comes up in a blaze of glory? Have you watched God create a new day? All of a sudden the sun peeps over the horizon; then it comes streaming over you in a blaze of glory. That is just a small glimpse of God’s glory as God is light.
Another characteristic of light is that it is self-revealing. Light illuminates the darkness. It is revealing. It lets me see my hands when there is dirt on them so I can see the need to wash them. If it wasn’t for the light, I would not even know that I had dirt on me. Light reveals flaws, defects and impurity. God’s light reveals the dirt on my heart, the darkness of the sin in our life. Light also speaks of the pristine purity of God and the stainless holiness of God. God moves without making a shadow because He is light. He is pure. God provides us with another glimpse of what light can do. Did you know that light from our sun cleanses? If you put a garment out in the sun, it will help to clean it and get the odor out of it. It also has a healing affect. The sun helps to heal cuts and scrapes on our body. Our sun is a great cleansing and healing agent. But more importantly, God’s light cleanses us and heals us from the impurities of sin. Light also guides men. It points out the path. It gives direction. Light on the horizon leads men on to take courage. It gives us courage to keep moving on toward God for we see hope when we see God is light.
Let me go to the other extreme: darkness. Darkness is actually more than a negation of light. It is not just the opposite of light. It is actually hostile to light. The light and holiness of God are in direct conflict with the evil darkness and chaos of the world. Much like the planet that absorbs light, it smolders like a burning ember because of the darkness, thus sin burns within the believer because it is trying to extinguish the light. When John says, “No darkness at all,” he convincingly affirms that God is absolutely perfect, and nothing exists in God’s character that impinges upon His truth, holiness and righteousness. In fact, James 1:17 says, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; (1 John 1:6)
I highlighted this section as “do not be deceived.” If we say we have fellowship, we have accepted God’s perfect gift of salvation, Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins, and therefore we cannot be walking in darkness. Since “God is Light,” it follows that a Christian cannot truly claim communion with Him while living in the darkness.
As John warned, “If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” John knew, as do we, that “Christians” sometimes feign spirituality while engaging in numerous acts of disobedience. In fact, false claims to fellowship with God have been a tragic reality throughout the history of the church. A Christian who says he is in fellowship with God, but who is disobeying Him by walking “in the darkness,” is lying. Ten times John used “darkness” to refer to sin.
False teachers in John’s time, including the Gnostics, claimed to be enlightened and to have fellowship with Christ, but their walking in darkness refuted such claims and demonstrated their lack of genuine salvation. The reference to “lie” in v. 6 refers to the claim of fellowship. They “do not practice,” pointing to their habitual failure regarding the practice of the truth.
False teachers were a great concern then as they are today, but false professors are even more concerning. These consist of those who ignore their sin as if it were not a reality to them. They claim to have fellowship with God, to share common aspects of life with Him, specifically eternal life (as highlighted in John 17:3). However, that claim is meaningless if one walks in the darkness.
When John says, “walk” he is referring to manner of life or conduct, and it is there that genuine salvation is manifest, not in a mere profession that one possesses eternal life. The issue is whether you are walking the walk; not if you are talking the talk. In fact, Jesus indicted the Jews’ for this very behavior in Matthew 6:22-23 focusing on their superficial earthly religion by declaring to them, “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
Think about it, if it is a negative thing to be in the dark physically (meaning blindness), it is much worse to be in spiritual darkness. John in his gospel taught that Jesus was the true light for a sin-darkened world. John 1:4–5 John says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 8:12 Jesus says, “…I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Sinful humanity prefers darkness over light; no one who claims to be a Christian and yet lives in darkness (meaning that they continually practice evil deeds) is actually saved.
This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19–20)
Believers possess God’s life and have the indwelling Holy Spirit. Therefore, they cannot ignore the existence of personal iniquity and walk in darkness. No matter what people claim to be, the genuineness of their faith can always be seen in their life by the love of truth and righteousness. In Colossians 1:12-14 Paul says, “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
A false claim would be the assertion that they have fellowship with God, while at the same time walking (that is, habitually living) in the darkness. For example, Gnostics thought of the body as a mere envelope covering the human spirit and that it could not be contaminated by the deeds of the body. They said they could be righteous without necessarily doing righteousness. We know this to be false because Jesus says in John 3:5-7, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”
Consequently, they believed communion of the spirit with God was independent of the morality of the body. We condemn the Gnostics but, this same belief continues today! People claim fellowship with God who see no requirement to go to the cross of Jesus Christ for cleansing and forgiveness nor do they see a need to thereafter live a consistently holy life. Since God is light, such claims/beliefs are not only ludicrous, but absurd. Religion without morality is an illusion because sin is always a barrier to joy in your fellowship with God. No fellowship exists between light and darkness! In 2 Corinthians 6:14 Paul says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
To profess one thing and live in contradiction to it is to “lie” and “not practice the truth.” Therefore, we not only contradict the truth in our words, but deny it by our inconsistent lives. There are a lot of people “claiming” to have fellowship with God, but in reality are living as they please. When John says “We lie, and do not practice the truth,” do we really understand what John is saying? He is rather blunt, don’t you think? He says that we “lie.” John says that if we say that you have fellowship with God and walk in darkness—we are lying. Let me just say, deception, half-truths, white lies are all lies.
but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
A genuine Christian walks habitually in the light (truth and holiness), not in darkness (falsehood and sin). Since those walking in the light share in the character of God, they will be habitually characterized by His holiness indicating their true fellowship with Him.
Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God. (3 John 1:11)
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27)
There is only one sphere of real communion with God—the light itself. Therefore, John insists that this is where a Christian will find real communion: “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” Although many commentators understood the expression “with one another” as a reference to fellowship with other Christians, I believe John is also referring to the relationship between God and His believers, as I highlighted in my previous messages. I recognize that we are living in a day when moral standards are changing drastically and people rationalize their sinning and try to explain it away, but they cannot bring God down to our level.
If we are habitually living in sin, God has no fellowship with us. If we think otherwise, we are fooling ourselves or using a psychological ploy to justify our actions. When it comes right down to the nitty-gritty, we are talking about hypocrites. We profess one thing, “I’m having fellowship with God,” and at the same time walking in darkness. John says that we are “lying.” We all understand that hypocrisy severely damages the spread of the gospel, the church, our families, and ourselves.
If you are a child of God, and you sin — and you see it in the light of the Word of God, and realize the need to ask for cleansing, you have not lost your salvation. John says, “And the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” That word cleanses is in the present tense—Christ’s blood just keeps on cleansing us from all sin. We haven’t lost salvation, but we may have lost the joy of fellowship and communion with God, and you cannot regain your complete joy with God until you are cleansed. Therefore, we are to continually repent and ask Jesus Christ to forgive us for our sin so that our joy will be made complete.
If truth and righteousness are absent from our lives, no matter what we say, we do not possess eternal life. We cannot belong to God, because in Him there is no darkness at all. Obviously as believers we all fall far short of God’s perfection of being absolutely perfect in truth and holiness, but we should manifest a godlike desire for and continual striving toward heavenly truth and righteousness. We talk about growing and changing all the time around here. So, are we growing in truth and righteousness? That is the question.
Across this land today are multitudes of people who are sitting in churches but are NOT hearing the Word of God. As a result, they are sitting there in darkness, hearing some dissertation on economics or politics or the “good life.” Or maybe even an exhortation on being the best they can be or doing the best they can. And they are comfortable with that. Of course, they are comfortable! There is no conviction! They have either deceived themselves or have been deceived by a false teacher, but the end result is the same—an eternity in hell; complete separation from the light, living in utter darkness, burning but never being consumed. There is no fellowship.
But if they would get into the light of God’s Word, they would see that they are sinners in need of light. John has said that if a person says he has fellowship with God but is living in sin, he is lying. They need to stop lying to themselves and others. Sinners need the light, for that is where great hope is found. Believers need the light as well! We need the light of God shining bright in our lives. We need to walk the walk. Walk in a manner that people see God’s light shining bright through our daily living. Focus on a life that is godly bright.
In these three verses Johns sums up all that he had learned about God through Jesus’ ministry to him and the other apostles. And he puts it as simply and powerfully as he can. “God is light” — vastly brilliant in power, majesty, beauty, glory, holiness, truth and righteousness. Like light, God makes His presence known. Like light, His power shines out. Like light, He rescues those in darkness.
God’s pure character must affect the way we live. Light and darkness can have nothing to do with each other. We cannot walk in the light of God and still indulge in “secret” sins. We must either turn to Him or hide from Him.
For true believers, because Jesus has died for us, and his blood has blotted out our guilt, we are free and capable with the power of the Holy Spirit, to live a holy life. And we can walk in the light of God, in open fellowship with Him and all His forgiven people.
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)
I would leave you today with the challenge of the apostle Paul. He says in Ephesians 5:8: “Now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.”