1 John 1:5-2:6 God is Light

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1 1 John 1:5-2:6 God is Light In the passages that begin 1 John, it seems pretty clear that John s main priority is to give his readers an understanding of God s character and His nature. John wants his readers to clearly understand what God is like, and what it means to know Him and walk with Him. As a result, we see a mix of heavy theology and practical instruction on the life of a Christian. This particular passage is built specifically on one metaphor; namely, that God is light. In the verses between 1:5 and 2:6, there are many different awesome directions you can go with a lesson. The commentary I give below will not be comprehensive for all of the things that you might choose to teach. With that disclaimer out of the way, I would probably divide this lesson into 3 major points: 1. God is light 2. Walking in darkness leads us away from fellowship with God 3. Walking in light leads us to community with God and others Big Point #1: God is Light The Bible uses the imagery of light and darkness often to describe fundamental realities of living in our universe. In Genesis 1, when everything is formless and void, God says let there be light and separates the light and the darkness. In the gospel of John (chapter 8), Jesus tells His listeners I am the light of the world. Why does Scripture use this imagery so much? I would argue that this is because light is one of the best physical metaphors we have to illustrate God s character and His glory. In terms of physics, light is actually a pretty complicated entity. For example, light is the first thing in observable universe that humans discovered to have the qualities of both a particle and a wave. Beyond that, light travels faster than anything else in the universe (299,792,458 meters per second), and Einstein s theory of relativity tells us that if an object approaches the speed of light, its mass grows larger and larger to 1

2 the point where time slows down for that object. If you were perpetually travelling the speed of light, then time would effectively stop for you. I m not going to pretend to fully understand what that all means, I only point it out to explain that light is a complicated (and in many ways an inexplicable) thing. Yet, one of the first things that we come to understand when we are children is the difference between light and darkness. Small children (and many adults; admit it, you are afraid of the dark, too) are afraid of darkness, and drawn to light. Why is that? In its very nature, light illuminates, it reveals, and it lets us see things as they truly are. You can be in a room with the most beautiful furniture and artwork in the world, but unless you have light, it would be very difficult to fully understand or appreciate these things, because you couldn t see them. Light affects and changes everything it touches. On the other hand, darkness is simply an absence of light. Darkness is not an entity in itself it is just a lack of light. For that reason, the beginning of this passage makes a great deal of sense. 1:5 Now this is the gospel message we have heard from Him and announce to you: God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. It is interesting that John would phrase things in such a way. God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. By using such direct language, John implies that light is a perfect metaphor for God s character. Just as light illuminates and reveals things, so does God s existence. God in His very nature is creative and life giving. God brings life and light to all things. In addition to this, there is no absence or need in God s character; in Him, there is no darkness at all. Darkness hides things, it keeps things from clearly being seen or understood. God acts opposite to the darkness, in that He reveals things as they truly are, with no need to hide or conceal anything. When exposed to God s light, everything in the created universe beings to make sense. Experiencing an encounter with God illuminates everything for those who know Him. It leads us to understand the world around us, and more importantly, it leads us to see the reality of sin in our own lives. 2

3 When we read the description of the New Heavens and the New Earth in Revelation, it features all kinds of precious gems, stones, and metals from the Earth. The implication is that all of these things are there to reflect the light emanating from God. His light makes all good things brighter, more visible, and more beautiful. The same can be true of God s moral character. He is completely faithful, completely wise, supremely compassionate, righteous, and holy. Big Point #2: Walking in darkness leads us away from fellowship with God 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with Him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. 2:4 The one who says I have come to know God and yet does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person. If God is light, and His character is completely pure, illuminating everything it touches, then it makes sense that those who know Him should walk in the light as well. John wants his readers to know that God s character is light, but he also wants to illuminate the fact that some of those who claim to know God may in fact be walking in darkness. What exactly does John mean when He says walking in darkness? John makes this answer very clear in chapter 2 when he says that those who are walking in darkness are those who do not keep God s commandments. In the entire breadth of Scripture, God gives commandments and instruction on how to live to those who follow Him. We see it in the stories of God interacting with people in Genesis, in the Law given in Exodus through Deuteronomy, in the challenges of the prophets, and in the pinnacle of God s revelation to mankind, Jesus Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus hammers home the point that you will know a tree by its fruit. You know what kind of person someone is based on the fruit of their decisions, their relationships, their words--the total aggregate of his of her life. John hits on this same point in these verses: If your words do not match the fruit of your actions, then you are lying to yourself and others. 3

4 Walking in darkness leads us away from fellowship with God. Disclaimer: this does not necessarily indicate that someone going through a season of life where they walk in darkness cannot be a Christian. The existence of sin in your life does not mean you are a nonbeliever, it just means that you are still broken by sin and have not yet become fully formed into the person God created you to be. Certainly, there have been many Christians who have gone through seasons where sin breeds great destruction in their lives. However, I do think these verses suggest that if someone goes through long seasons of walking in darkness, disobeying God s clear commands while feeling no conviction of these actions, then it could be evidence that this person is lying about knowing and loving God. In addition to this, it might be worth pointing out in your lesson that allowing sin and darkness to fester in our lives will lead us away from fellowship with God. Habitual sin makes it more difficult to hear God speak to us, and hinders us from doing all the things that God calls us to do. Big Point #3: Walking in the light leads us to community with God and others 1:7-2:1 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. 8 If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. 1 (My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.) But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One. 2:3;5-6 3 Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments...5 But whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him. 6 The one who says he resides in God ought himself to walk just as Jesus walked. 4

5 The adverse of those who walk in darkness is obviously those who walk in the light. Here is what these passages explain to us: walking in the light leads us to fellowship and community with God and with others. If you want to experience the fullest and most vibrant relationships with others, then you must walk in the light. If you want to grow closer with God, learning to trust Him and follow His direction for your life, then you must walk in the light. So what does it mean to walk in the light? The answer (in these verses) has 2 parts. 1. Walking in the light means keeping God s commandments. More specifically, it means walking just as Jesus walked (2:6). If you want to know what it looks like to walk in the light, then look at the life of Jesus. Treating people with compassion, loving people who no one else around you seems to love, loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you, radically investing and shaping those who are closest to you, having a deep and intimate prayer life, having extreme confidence in what the Father is calling you to do--these are the marks of someone walking in the light, because that is how Jesus lived. How are you doing in those areas? 2. According to these verses, walking in the light also means confessing our sins and experiencing God s forgiveness through Christ. Christians are called to emulate Christ with our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit, but we still struggle with sin in our lives. Christ lived sinlessly and in perfect harmony with the will of the Father, but I think it is safe to assume that the rest of us aren t quite there yet. That is why John makes a huge point that all Christians need to understand: when sin is exposed in our lives, we need to confess that sin, allowing God to forgive us, and repent. Christ died to free us from the curse of sin. Those who are in Christ have forgiveness and freedom from sin available to us at any moment. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. This is incredible news, and if we want to walk in the light and experience closeness with God and others, then this is how we ought to live. Letting sin and darkness fester 5

6 in our hearts will only lead to pain and destruction for us and those around us. Learning to confess our sins and repent can drastically improve the effectiveness of our lives as well as our impact on the world. 6

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