Summary: How do we live "in the light"? We live in the light by renouncing sin as our way of life; by confessing our sin to God; and by believing and trusting our God who is faithful and just.
LIGHT AND DARK - A STUDY OF CONTRAST
Do you know what’s significant about tomorrow? No. It’s not my birthday. Tomorrow is the winter solstice. Tomorrow is the day that has the least number of hours of daylight of any day this year! It’s enough to make you want to stay in bed.
When you stop and think about it we make a great deal of use of this idea of light as compared to dark:
- Winston Churchill once stated that England was in its darkest hour. Not because it was night-time and a new moon, but because there was fear and uncertainty about the future.
- One of Murphy’s law’s states that "the light at the end of the tunnel is the headlamp of an oncoming train".
- The Bible also makes extensive use of this symbolism - this contrast between light and dark. It is used in three slightly different ways.
Firstly, John chapter 3 says "Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." The way the contrast is used here is in connection with morality. Light is used to indicate purity or holiness, whilst darkness signifies evil.
This symbolism is also used to describe the intellect. Psalm 119 puts it this way "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Light here means truth.
And light is also used to portray a sense of the glory of God. Matthew records the events of the Transfiguration of Jesus in chapter 17 of his Gospel. He states: "After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John (the brother of James), and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light."
This image of God as light is something John’s readers would recognise and understand because in the Old Testament, God is often described as light - "The Lord is my light and my salvation." In the same way, God often chose to reveal Himself through fire. Moses and Elijah would certainly testify to that!
The passage we are looking at today - the first letter of John Chapter 1, takes up this theme of light contrasted against darkness. The passage is 1 John 1:1 - 2:2.
A VIEW OF 1 JOHN - BACKGROUND
This letter was written by John - who was one of the original disciples of Jesus. He wrote it some time after 85 AD and so by this time, he was an old man. But his advanced years haven’t dimmed his faith, his wisdom, or his concern for younger Christians.
Each of these qualities shine through in this letter. It is generally accepted that, although the letter is not specifically addressed, the recipients were the churches of Asia Minor around Ephesus.
At the time of writing, these churches were being attacked - not so much by people as by ideas.
Lies were being spread about the nature of Jesus and the nature of us. But John proceeds to dispel these lies and to tell us the truth about God and the truth about us.
John, the man of great faith and great wisdom, shares with his readers what he has learnt over the last 50 years, but he doesn’t use his knowledge and authority to beat them over the head for he calls them "dear children" on a number of occasions. The letter is full of grace and compassion - of exhortation and encouragement.
And as we read this chapter, John’s testimony is very convincing. He begins with "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life."
He has heard Jesus, he has seen Jesus, he has watched Him, and touched Him. Here is a man who knows what he’s talking about. John knows his apples.
But more than that, he’s a man who knows the truth - and because of that, he can recognise false teaching a mile off.
REASON FOR WRITING - FELLOWSHIP THROUGH FORGIVENESS
But why is John writing to these Christians? We read in verses 3 and 4 that "We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete." He also says in chapter 2 verse 1 "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin."
He is writing for apparently 3 different reasons:
1. So that his readers may have fellowship with him.