Text: 1 John 1: 5-12
Proposition: God is light, He reveals all of what He has created and in so doing reveals Himself and as light he intends that darkness be separated from us.
Introduction: Imagine what kind of responses you might get if you began to ask people on the street to describe to you what they thought God is like. They might describe God in all kinds of ways, the big man upstairs, an invisible force, a warm presence, mother nature, a judge who is strict and severe. It’s been said that many times people’s first impression of what God is like is shaped by their experiences of what their Dads were like. If their dad was warm and loving then that is probably what God was like. If their Dad was away, cold or distant to talk to, angry or severe, laughing and easy going, then these were the traits that we began to ascribe to God. The thing is we all have some kind of belief in what God is like, even people who don’t believe in the existence of God when pressed to describe what they thought God would be like if there was a god have this sense of what they think God ought to be.
It was a little like that with the world that John the Apostle lived in, many people with many different ideas of what God is like. A particular group that concerned John were people influenced by Gnosticism. This was a belief that ‘gnosis’ or knowledge was what was important, particularly the secret knowledge that only a few select people have. They believed that the physical was corrupt and that only the spiritual was good. As such they rejected the incarnation of Christ, saw no value in the cross or the resurrection, did not believe in sin nor hell. And then Gnosticism began to influence the church of John’s day. That prompted him to write the brief letter we call 1st John. So John began his letter by describing the eternal self existent nature of Who Jesus Christ is as God with the Father. There was the basic teaching that life, eternal life and physical life, begins with Him, originates in Him. There is a fellowship with God and with others who by faith come to Christ that creates within us a joy that mirrors the very joy that God has. That’s where John takes us in the first four verses of 1st John and then he turns a corner. He says that Jesus, Who knows exactly what the Father is like, has sent us a message that we too would grow in an understanding of Him. Have a look at 1st John 1:5-10.
I. What Does It Mean, “God is Light” ?
Clearly John says that Jesus in all His teaching of the disciples was telling them the truth of Who God is. What were Christ’s credentials for being able to claim that He knew personally the character of what God is like? Certainly it was the ability to do things that were outside the realm of normal, what we would call miracles. There were miracles that showed power over nature, power over death, power over molecular structure, power over spiritual forces and ultimately the power to forgive sin by taking sin upon Himself to death and then raising again from the dead. So when Jesus described Who God is He did so with clarity because He Himself is God with the Father and the Spirit.
So what does John mean when he says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” ? The statement is NOT a theological description of the nature of God as if God were made up of spectrums and waves of electromagnetic energy. Let me take you to Genesis 1: 2-4 to explain this, “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.” If you look on down you’ll see that it wasn’t until Day Four that God created the Sun, Moon and stars.
So what do we learn from this? Well we learn that though God is light, light is not God. God speaks light into existence, later He creates the planetary sources for light. God is the source of all creation, not planetary explosions, not the power of the sun as the Egyptians were wooed into thinking. God created all things and to emphasize that, light is created before the Sun is created. So when John says God is light he is referring to that which God is associated with or characterized by. Just like flame is characterized by light, even more is the presence of God characterized by light. The Mount of Transfiguration taught us that, the accounts before the throne of God in the Book of Revelation point us to that. So what is this telling us about God is light? It’s telling us that there is only one God, it is He Who reveals the reality of the physical world and the spiritual world to us. Light is a term John used to describe the way God opens up to us an understanding of things we could never grasp otherwise. The highest aspect of that is the design of God in the redemption of all mankind and the world from sin.
In Jn 8:12 it records Jesus as saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Paul makes this same connection with light in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
But light also has another connotation, it is distinct from darkness, in fact it pushes the darkness back. So when John says, “God is light and In Him is no darkness at all.”, he is referring also to the separation of God from anything that could be associated with darkness. It is a clear reference to the way we associate sin with darkness.
Do you remember that time when Jesus was speaking with Nicodemus? From that conversation came the amazing truths of John 3:16 but just after that Jesus said this to Nicodemus, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” Darkness is associated with sin and the way we can’t see clearly what is at stake because of sin. So then what is John getting at when he says, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” ? I think it is a clear reference to the absolute sinless nature of God. Did you see how John emphasized that… “in Him is no darkness AT ALL.” Not the capability to sin much less the desire or the actions of sin. That’s tough to wrap your mind around when you think of verses like Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”
So when I ask the question, ‘What is God like?’ , it’s really asking about the sinless personhood of God. Personhood is made up of the very things that make us persons created in His image, we have emotions, intellect and will and in God’s case He expresses all of these without any aspect of sin. He is completely Holy in all of Who He is. John’s point is that God, which also refers to Jesus, was sinless and yet very human. Do you see the way this is meant to correct Gnosticism, a belief that all the physical is corrupt? The whole point of the resurrection of Jesus was that He would be the first fruits, a type and promise of the resurrection of all who have faith in Him. God loves all of who you are, body, soul and spirit and He has eternal purposes in mind for all, both for those in the light and for those in darkness.
Let me close with a couple observations that King David of Israel once made 600 years before Christ was born…
In Psalm 119:130 he writes, “ The entrance of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.” We are acknowledging that very truth here this morning.
Then in Psalm 36:9 he writes, “For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.”
That’s it, that’s how it all began and that’s how it is in each of us as He pushes back the darkness and calls to walk in that light. That’s exactly where we’ll go next week as look at Light Work… Part Two.