John writes that “God is light” (1 John 1:5). What a profound statement this is. But what does it mean exactly? And how can we “walk in the light” as John appears to encourage us to do so?. I have several thoughts on this.
As light God is Life.
Firstly the greek word used by John for light is “Phos” and means to shine or make manifest/reveal. We see Jesus addressed as “a light for revelation to the gentiles” in Luke 2:32. This description can be understood as a metaphor for God’s characteristics rather than a literal flash of light that leads non-jews to Christ.
We find Jesus identify himself as “the light of the world” in John’s gospel (John 8:12). Jesus went on to elaborate on this, saying “he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). We also see this connection of God with light and life at the start of John’s gospel where John says that “..in him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Putting these scriptures in context with other verses that proclaim Jesus as “a saviour” (Luke 2:11), the “lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29) and “that who whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16) – it’s clear to me that as light Jesus is the one who reveals and gives eternal life.
This connection of light and life is ofcourse a reality in nature itself as we consider sunlight enabling life on our planet. Unsurprisingly then, God is likewise described as light because he gives us eternal life. And Jesus describes this life as abundant life not boring religious ritualistic and all for show but empty inside life! Rather it’s life that abounds, fulfills, and overflows with the qualities of God because believers are united to him forever (Romans 6:5; 1 Cor 1:30).
As light God gives true revelation
Light illuminates and reveals what actually exists. Likewise God as light does the same in revealing truth. For instance, Jesus is described as “the image of the invisible God” (Cllosians 1:15) who reveals God to us through coming to mankind as a human being. And he revealed the truth of God through his life and teachings. God’s word is also written as having the power to reveal “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). And as Paul writes God’s word is, “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” God reveals truth and this enables us to be competent in doing everything that he wants us to do.
As Light God is Righteous
There is a pure quality to light which separates it from darkness. God is likewise pure and holy (Habbakuk 1:17; James 3:17; Psalm 12:6; Psalm 19:8; Psalm 99:9, Revelation 4:8) and completely removed from sin, which the bible describes metaphorically as darkness. This means he is completely and perfectly good and righteous.
Walking in the Light
This leads us unto John’s exhortation to apply the truth that God is light by “walking in the light” (1 John 1:7) How are we to do this? Well simply put we’re to think, act and speak like Jesus does. And we can only do this well by being in an intimate relationship with him. And like any intimate relationship this involves being genuine, and genuinely interested in the other person, as well as being loving, honouring, and faithful.
As John highlights in his first letter, knowing the light of God and walking in the light enables us to truly enjoy “fellowship with one another”, and “the blood of Jesus his Son” which “cleanses us from all sin.” We can think about it like this – when we’re in agreement with and in enjoyment of God’s salvation/life, truth and righteousness, we’re able to be in harmony with other believers. We also show up as clear recipients of God’s forgiveness because we have an obvious and active faith in him, as we forgive others like him and live like him.
John’s closure of his letter reveals that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10). I don’t know about you, but I find this encouraging. Yes we’re meant to always strive to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). But as Mathew Henry puts it “All who walk near to God, in holiness and righteousness, are sensible that their best days and duties are mixed with sin.” Basically our minds aren’t fully renewed to fully live sinless lives and God know this and fully accepts us, regardless. This ought to humble us and provide us with necessary confidence to 1) Be honest about sin in our lives, 2) To confess our sins and 3) Make much of Christ’s blood that brings forgiveness and cleansing of our sins. There’s no need to wallow in self-pity over sins and mistakes committed. There’s simply liberty when we confess and move on with our lives in light of God’s mercy and grace for us. Such good news for a weary world to rejoice in, don’t you agree?