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[a] = summary lessons
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A Mini-Series is a small subset of lessons from a major series which covers a particular subject or book. The class numbers will be in reference to the major series rather than the mini-series.
Sun, Feb 11, 2001

09 - God is Light

1 John 1:5 by Robert Dean
Series:1st John (2000)
Duration:1 hr 6 mins 32 secs

God is Light; 1 John 1:5


1 John 1:5 NASB "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." We have seen that this is talking about a message of life that the apostles proclaim. In verse 3 we saw that the understanding and application of this message is related to having fellowship. This fellowship is an active thing: "have fellowship." We are enjoying fellowship with God; it is a movement thing; it is like walking; it is talking the Word of God and applying it in our lives. We are told that this is the message, and the result of this message is that we going to enjoy this active concept of having fellowship. So we have here the clear statement that there is a message that we have to understand, and what John is saying is that the core of that message is a principle: that God is light.

Verse 5 is controlled by the purpose statement in 2:1, "that we might not sin." So in order to understand the concept of dealing with sin in our lives and getting to a point where we sin less and not more we have to understand the concept of fellowship, and it starts with person of God. Everything starts with the essence of God. What happens in human viewpoint reasoning is we always start with some aspect the creation and start to argue with God. That is always going to cause problems. As a believer you always start with God, and that is the methodology that John has here. So to understand everything else we have to understand what it means that God is light.

First of all we see that this is a metaphor. God is not literally light; it is a comparison, and what we have to understand in any metaphor is what the field of comparison is. Any word defines a field of meaning. It has an inherent logic to it, there are certain things that apply to the concept and certain things that don't. A word by itself is an absolute. So we have the word "God," and then we have the concept of light. There are many things we can say about light. Some things may not apply to God; some things do apply to God. So we have to come to understand what is the overlap in meaning, then that is the point that John is making. How do we understand that? We realise that light as a metaphor for God has a very ancient tradition both in terms of the Bible and in terms of false religion. The dichotomy of light and darkness was popular in Platonic thought, and it became a major doctrine in Gnostic thought and in the dualistic thinking of the Persian Zoroastrianism. To understand what John means by light we have to go back into the Old Testament.

The doctrine of light

1.  Light translates the Hebrew word or and the Greek word phos [fwj], both of which mean, in terms of straight literal meaning, light, brilliance, brightness, illumination. They also can refer to sunlight, torchlight, daylight, fire light, or other forms of light. These words are used metaphorically for a number of different concepts. They are used life: "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men." It is used for justice, righteousness, judgment. The presence of judgment in the Tribulation period is called a time of darkness and the coming of the Lord is referred to in terms of light, the ending of judgment. So light and darkness related to judgment. The glorious God is clothed in light. Light represents truth and divine revelation, that which comes forth from God. So since all these are related by the word "light" there must be connections between those concepts. What is the connection between light and truth? Ultimately in God they are related so there are points of application from this that are going to work themselves out in and unpack what John means by this.

2.  Light is used also as a metaphor fore the kingdom of God and the plan of God in contrast to darkness which is used as a metaphor for the kingdom of Satan, carnality, sin and evil. Proverbs 2:13 NASB "From those who leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness." The paths of uprightness are the instructions of Scripture, the way of wisdom. So to walk opposite to that is to walk according to Satan's plan and procedure, described as the way of darkness. Proverbs 4:19 NASB "The way of the wicked is like darkness… " There it is a simile. "…They do not know over what they stumble." So darkness here is related to knowledge and the lack of knowledge, specifically ignorance. They don't know. Darkness is used here to symbolise the ignorant path of the unbeliever because he is living his life in rejection of doctrine and without paying attention to truth. Acts 26:18 NASB "to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'" That is parallel to Colossians 1:13 NASB "For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son." This is what happens at the point of salvation.

3.  Light is frequently a metaphor for God's essence. Psalm 104:2 NASB "Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak, Stretching out heaven like a {tent} curtain." Light is His garment. His presence is indicated by light when He appears to Moses in Exodus 13:21; Daniel 9:12; 2:22; Habakkuk 3:4; Psalm 4:6; 44:3; 89:15. The essence of God in terms of ten foundational attributes. There are dozens of attributes ascribed to God in the Scriptures—good, wise, loving, etc. But not all of them are foundational attributes. Love is a foundational attribute. Love is a transitive verb (the subject demands an object). If God is eternal and if God is love there had to be an object for His love. God exists as a Trinity. That means that God the Father is eternal, God the Son is eternal, God the Holy Spirit is eternal. God the Father loved God the Son throughout all eternity, so there is a perfect object of love throughout all eternity. This is why Trinitarian monotheism, which is what we believe in, works. If you are a Unitarian this doesn't work because if God is really love, if you believe that God is a loving God like the liberal Unitarian universalists do, then God is dependent on His creatures to be loving. And of God is dependent on anything to be who and what he is then He can't be God anymore. By definition God must be independent. Psalm 4:6 NASB "Many are saying, "Who will show us {any} good?" Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD!" Psalm 44:3 NASB "For by their own sword they did not possess the land, And their own arm did not save them, But Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your presence [illumination of character], For You favored them." Psalm 89:15 NASB "How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! O LORD, they walk in the light of Your countenance."