Walking in the Light or Walking in Darkness
1 John 1:5-2:2
Howard Hendricks was speaking at a conference in Dallas, and asked the question of the audience of 2000, “Do you know someone who is perfect?”
He was about to go on, when he noticed a lone hand raised in the back of the auditorium.
Hendricks asked, “Are you perfect, or do you know someone who is?”
The man replied, “Oh, no, I’m not perfect.
But as far as I can tell, my wife’s Father was.”
• We sometimes can get this idea from the way a person talks about someone that they are or were incredible.
• A person can describe their stellar attributes, flawless physical stature, unbelievable character to the point that it is quite unbelievable.
• In fact if the position of God were vacant you might get the impression this person was in the running for it.
• So have you ever met a perfect person?
• I think that all of us would insist that we have not, but what about a sinless person?
• If you were to poll people in this country I bet there would be many that would insist that they did not partake in anything considered a sin by Christian standards.
• This may be a worldly perspective but what about religious circles?
• Did you know that Rev. Moon of the Moonies claims that he is without sin?
• We might say, ‘well okay but they are a cult.’
• Granted they are quite a bit off the evangelical radar but there are Christians who make such a claim.
• There are traditional beliefs within the Seventh Day Adventist church that proclaim that sinless perfection is attainable in this life.
• This kind of thinking is not a new concept, 1 John addresses just such an issue for there were false teachers who claimed that sinlessness was possible.
• So maybe not any of us would have the courage to claim sinlessness, but what about claiming that the Bible was making statements about cirtain behaviors that just did not apply today.
• What was sin for them just doesn’t work today.
• Let’s look together in 1 John to see how he addresses a claim to sinlessness.
John Gives us the Epitome of Light (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.
• John continues his letter to the churches in asia minor by explaining the Gospel.
• He states that he is bringing a message that came from ‘him’ now who is John referring to?
• It could be a reference to God or to Jesus and because the message has been heard from Him the reference is more than likely Christ.
• We would normally expect that John may have shared something that we might present in a tract
• Or he might have shared something similar to his Gospel message in verses such as John 3:16.
• This would be the type of message that would come from Jesus
• But John begins by talking about God as light and his relationship with darkness.
• In order for us to understand fully the meaning of light and dark in the Bible we need to take some time to explore it.
• We could discuss all the aspects in the Bible but we will restrict ourselves to the spiritual significance.
• There are nearly two hundred references to light and dark in the Bible with the first coming in Gen. 1:3-4 with light being the first thing created.
• At the end of the Bible, God as light destroys all traces of darkness in Rev. 22:5.
• In the OT we find the evocative image of “the light of [God’s] countenance” (Ps 4:6; cf.
Isaiah’s vision of the final triumph of goodness includes the assertion that “the Lord will be your everlasting light” (Is 60:19, 20).
James speaks of God as “the Father of lights” (Jas 1:17).
Elsewhere God is simply associated with light as an image of divine glory: he covers himself “with light as with a garment” (Ps 104:2); “his brightness was like the light” (Hab 3:4); “the light dwells with him” (Dan 2:22).
Ezekiel’s vision of the divine chariot (Ezek 1) is a riot of brightness, flashing fire, shining jewels and gleaming metals.
By extension, God who is light inhabits a heaven bathed in light.
Here light becomes the preeminent symbol for transcendence, dear to the mystics’ and poets’ expressions through the ages.
The classic passage is 1 Timothy 6:16, which speaks of God as the one “who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light” (RSV).
Colossians 1:12 speaks of the believer’s being qualified “to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (RSV).
As a symbol for God, light takes the more specific form of representing the Messiah.
Isaiah’s prophecy predicted, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Is 9:2 RSV).
Jesus applied this prophecy to himself (Mt 4:15–16).
The song of Simeon calls Christ “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel” (Lk 2:32 RSV).
John’s great prologue in praise of the incarnate Word repeatedly applies the mystical language of light to Christ (Jn 1:4, 5, 7, 8, 9).
Christ declared himself to be “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12).
Elsewhere he claimed, “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (Jn 12:46 RSV).
• Primitive thinking begins by dividing reality into a dichotomy between light and darkness, viewed as combatants in a perpetual battle for dominance.
When light dawns, chaos is again averted.
We catch the strains of this primitive outlook in the Bible’s creation story, where “God separated the light from the darkness” (Gen 1:4).
It is impossible to understand the biblical imagery of light without seeing it as the great antithesis and conqueror of darkness.
• If light symbolizes understanding, darkness represents ignorance (Ps 82:5), folly (Eccles 2:13–14), a silencing of prophetic revelation (Mic 3:6), the state of the human mind unilluminated by God’s revelation (2 Pet 1:19), falsehood (1 Jn 1:6) and the loss of walking in God’s truth “because the darkness has brought on blindness” (1 Jn 2:11 NRSV).
If light symbolizes good, darkness is the corresponding image for evil people “who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness” (Prov 2:13 NRSV; cf.
In Jesus’ mysterious picture of the eye as “the lamp of the body,” physical blindness becomes a metaphor for the lost state (Mt 6:22–23; Lk 11:34–36).
• Considered in itself darkness is thus a strongly negative image in human experience.
It is physically oppressive; it is the natural environment for a host of evil happenings; and it is associated with death, imprisonment and ultimate evil.
Darkness is in principle associated with evil, opposed to God’s purposes of order and goodness in the universe and in human society.
• With this understanding of the imagery of
light and dark we see that John is stating that God cannot be associated with evil.
• There is no evil in him and he does not have anything to do with evil.
• If the gospel is about establishing a relationship with God then this is the natural starting point; understanding what is required to have a relationship with him.
• There cannot be darkness in us if we want to know God.
John Describes Two Types of Walk (1:6-7)
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.
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.
• At this point John addresses one of the false teachings that had been adopted by the church.
• They had come to believe that one could make claims to a personal relationship with God and yet insist that sin was not an issue.
• He begins with the idea that we saw in vv.
1-4 of having fellowship and if you recall we said that fellowship was a deeply personal interaction with someone else that inferred understanding and intimacy.
• So if we say that we have fellowship with God or if we are of the opinion that we are in an intimate relationship with God but walk in darkness there is a problem.
• The idea of walking in the Scriptures is similar to our own.
• It can describe an action that a person is taking such as going for a walk or using walking as a means of locomotion.
• But spiritually it is used to identify the conduct of your life or how a person behaves or lives.
• It would be insane to think that this verse would be saying that if a person went for a walk in the dark that God has an issue with it.
• It is important also to understand how the word ‘walking’ is used by John- it is more than just that a person is walking but it is that they are doing it intentionally and continually.
• The proper translation should then be “if we say we have an intimate relationship with God and intentionally and continually walk in darkness’
• John very strongly declares that such a person is lying-they are deliberately deceitful in their claims to walking with God.
• For such a person they do not practice the truth.
• The word ‘truth’ has more to do with a relationship with God then it does with obeying a set of things that have been declared right.
• Truth is something that God is-all truth is his and in the context of the gospel and those who claimed that behavior or things in the flesh were inconsequential for the actions of the spirit was what mattered, John clarifies that truth must be practiced.
• Truth here is living or walking in the light-living as God desires and has designed.
• So it is a relationship but it also represents a disassociation with sin.
• To make a claim that one has a relationship with God who is pure light and yet practice those things associated with darkness intentionally means that they are lying about their relationship with God.
• John provides the opposite scene in v. 7
• Again John uses the word walk in such a way that he is saying that this way of living must be a continuous attitude of mind-it is an intentional effort to live obediently to God.
• To John this type of action means that we walk in the light as God is in the light.
• The outcome of such behavior is fellowship with others of the same mindset.
• When two people are of opposite thinking and priority their relationship is extremely hindered.
• A mutual desire to follow Jesus makes people from all over the world have a common link.
• The more significant benefit of living in the light is that our sins are taken away.
• John mentions this because the fellowship that comes with each other has the ability to grow because there was first the fellowship with God by turning to the light.
• This initial fellowship also brings a realization of how far we are from God’s perfection- our sin becomes plain and obvious in the light of God’s holiness.
• When that happens we can despair but John makes it clear that when our sin is revealed we also have Jesus who takes it away.