Bible reading: 1 John 1 : 5 – 7
Introduction: summary of 1 John 1 vers 1-4
- One of the most essential, fundamental characteristics of a Christian is: joy. It is a lasting, basic delight that is not optional but essential.
- The reason for this joy is not psychological or emotional. It is not a question of character, or attitude. It is not about good ideas, or some recommendations, about scientific solutions, or a certain therapy. It is the proclamation of Life.
- The authority and power of such a message is not based on an experience of an individual person, somebody who has see the ‘inner light’, as I think that Mohammed has claimed, or Joseph Smith, the ‘father’ of the Mormoms, or Rudolf Steiner (founder of Anthroposophy). The authority is based in the common witness of the apostles who were the eye- and ear witnesses. Multiple witness is always important in history (to certify historical facts) and in jurisdiction. The judge makes his conclusion at the basis of as many indications (witnesses) as possible. By the witness of the church -that began with the apostolic witnesses- we are involved in this wonderful and fundamental message: that God who is the life and the light came to this world.
- By the apostolic witness the truth of God is revealed to us. When we accept and believe this fundamental truth, our life will be changed. ‘All who accepted Him, those who believed in His name, He gave them the right to become children of God (John 1:13). We don’t have fellowship with the apostles only, we may have fellowship with the living God. This brings a lasting, fundamental joy that influences all aspects of our life: our work, family relationships, how we look at nature and how we see the future of the world.
In chapter 1 verses 5 – 10 John deals with several obstacles, reasons by which this lasting joy can be threatened or taken away. That’s why we clearly need to understand:
(1) the character of God – He is pure light, vs. 5.
(2) The practical implications: if we belong to God, how we then should walk in the light, vs 6 and 7.
(3) the character and consequences of sin (vs. 8 – 10) .
Now we concentrate on the two fist points (vs. 5- 10). This last point will be dealt with in the next sermon.
God is Light
In verse 5 the apostle summarizes the message of Jesus about God. Remarkable: not ‘love’ or ‘peace’, or ‘justice’, no: ‘Light’. Why this?
Think about Old Testament references. In Genesis 1 light is the earliest expression of the nature and will of the Creator. He begins with light. Light exposes everything what is in the dark. Light and darkness exclude one another. The only way to remove darkness is to bring light. Light is so essential, without light there is no life.
In the book of Psalms we notice a twofold use of the word ‘light’ when it is ascribed to God.
1. The rescuing light that takes away fear and confusion, and shows the way (E.g. in Ps. 27:1, Ps. 119:105). We recognize it. Darkness is full of threat. Darkness frustrates us to attain our goal. The meaning of light we simply experience when we are in a car on a silent land road in the night and the light all of a sudden falls away.
2. The light of God’s holiness and purity. (E.g. Ps. 90:8, Ps. 104:2.) Compare also with 1 Tim. 6: 16: God who lives in unapproachable light. Or Hebr. 12:29 ‘Our God is a consuming fire’.
In the context of this letter we have to explain 1 John. 1:5 in the second meaning: the eternal and immense holiness and purity of God. Verse 6 also mentions truth. God’s light certainly includes his truth. God is the source and measure of all that is true. But the text doesn’t say ‘God is truth’, it says: ‘God is light’. Nothing is truly understood, until it is understood in the light of God. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge’ (Prov. 1:7). There cannot be any darkness in God. God is not a dark truth, or hidden truth, like the ‘little letters’ when you buy something. When you book for a flight and you think it is cheap…new truths pop up…you pay for you luggage, for your seat, administration costs. So in the end you pay a lot more than you thought. When you read Greek mythology, you may be sure that the gods are like this. You never can be sure of them. They have their good sides and bad sides. Here gods are an extrapolation of human characters against the screen of eternity. But the apostle John says: God is Light. No ‘little letters’, no ‘hidden truths’ are in him.
If you have fellowship with God you cannot live in darkness
In verses 6 & 7 the apostle mentions two practical implications to this (verse 6): ‘If we claim to have fellowship with God yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.’
To understand the phrase ‘walking in the darkness’ compare it with 1 John 2: 8-11. You walk in darkness when you are controlled by desires for yourself and this world instead of the desires for God. And one of the visible aspects is that you despise his neighbour. The text says: hate. It is a strong word. At least it indicates that you put yourself in the first and the other in the second place.
The known Baptist preacher John Piper compares it with somebody who is in the dark and touches something soft and nice with his one hand. With his other hand he touches something very sharp and hard. He likes the soft and wants to attach to it. But as soon as he is in the light he sees: it is the underbelly of a man-eating monster and the other item is the sword of Christ. Many people in the dark cling to the soft underbelly of their prestige and career or their little desires and they don’t realize that they can consumed by it…
When the light of God shines into this world, it exposes the darkness. It reveals what is a lie, what is unreal, what is injustice and unloving. It all becomes very clear in the light of God. When I was a student before I really came to the Lord, I was fond a certain pop music, not in the last place the Beatles, when I turned to the Lord I began to understand the nature of it. Songs like ‘Yellow Submarine’, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ actually were hidden recommendations to soft and hard drugs. I threw the disks away…but the light of God revealed more. It was as if the light of God gradually entered more rooms in the house of my life: that I was so self-centred in my career, my daily longings. It was the darkness of egoism, considering oneself as the biggest god. C.S. Lewis said: ‘How do you see that the sun is risen? Not because you look at the sun, but because you see everything in the light!’ Fellowship with God means that you begin to see things the way God sees it. Walking in the light means that God is the bright pathway to the fulfilment of our deepest longings. That He is the great Desire. It is by the renewal of our life, by rebirth that we receive eyes to see the light of God and the beauty of God.
Christian fellowship: important sign of walking in the light
There is another important implication of walking in the light (verse 7): ‘But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son purifies us from all sin.’
The fellowship with one another as brothers and sisters is essential. We are not walking alone. We walk in company. We need to help of our brothers and sisters to stay in the light. When somebody is distracted, when prayer is less, darkness begins to creep in. It raises the concern of the whole fellowship. We are members of one body. We pray for one another, we care for one another and help one another to keep the right pathway. We play together as a team, work for the same goal. If you only play for your own, you will end up in darkness.
The apostle adds to that: ‘The blood of Jesus, his Son purifies us from all sin.’ It is as if he says: ‘Don’t think that you are without sin’ (see also verses 8 and 10). There is a lot in our Christian life and in the Christian fellowship that is an obstacle to the fellowship with God and the fellowship with one another. Our joy can be taken easily and the light of God be darkened by all kinds of sis and problems. But don’t give up and don’t be afraid. Come back to Jesus and again and again put your trust in Him, because He has given his blood to open the way to the Father, once and for all. In next sermon we will deal with that more in depth. What actually is sin? What does God with it, and what have we to do with it?
- Let this passage bring us -by the help of the Holy Spirit- to a new understanding of God. That He is Light and that no darkness can be found in him. Let us confess our limited understanding of his holiness, purity and truth. Let us praise him again for who He is and that He has revealed the darkness in this world and in our life.
- Let us thank God that he has called us out of a life of self-centred darkness into a life of fellowship: with Him, the living God and with brothers and sisters, who are given as fellow travellers and helpers when we struggle or fall and when we are tested by all kind of powers that want to take away our joy.
Rev. Niek Tramper, 9 Febr. 2014