WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXVIII) 11/25/20

Ezekiel describes a figure that looked like fire, like a man’s body. From the waist down, he was like fire. From the waist up, he was bright and glowing like hot metal in a fire.[1] And to Habakkuk, this divine person’s brightness was like a dazzling light.[2] Jesus, the Anointed One, called the sons of God children of the light.[3] He also announced that He was the Light of the World.[4] He’s the only one who refracts the rays of the Father’s glory, “the express image of His person.”[5] Then Jesus leaves no doubt by declaring, “I am the light of the World.”[6] Then James said, the Almighty was the Father of all lights,[7] to Paul, He dwells “in the light that no man can approach unto,”[8] and to Peter, the Christian state is an admission “into His marvelous light.”[9]

These ideas, John comprehends: God is Light. Light physical, because (1a) it was He who called everything first out of darkness, and (2a) from whom proceeds all health and perfection; light intellectual, because (1b) He is the source of all wisdom and knowledge, and (2b) in His mind exist the ideals after which all things strive; light moral, because (3a) His perfection shows that the difference between good and evil is not merely a question of degree, but fundamental and final, and (3b)) the life of the Anointed One had exhibited that contrast sharply: once for all. Thus, this declaration depends on the whole doctrine of sin: sin is not merely imperfection; it is enmity to God. There can be no shades of progression, uniting righteousness and evil: in Him is no darkness at all. Good and evil may be mixed in an individual: in themselves, they are contrary.[10]

Wesleyan Methodist minister William Arthur (1819-1901) then illustrates verses five through seven. He says, Suppose the case of a disabled person who had spent his life in a room where he never saw the sun. This individual heard of its existence and believed. Indeed, saw enough of its light to form ideas of its glory. Wishing to see the sun, he asked for someone to take him out at night into the streets of an illuminated city. At first, he is delighted and bedazzled; but after having time to reflect, he finds darkness spread amid the lights, and he asks, “Is this the sun?” He is captivated when taken out under the starry sky, but on reflection finds that night covers the earth, and again asks, “Is this the sun?” He is carried out some bright day at noon, and no sooner does his eye open to the sky than all questions end. There is but one light as bright as the sun. His vision is content: it has seen the ultimate light source and feels nothing more brilliant exists. So, when it comes to light, says Arthur, the human soul enjoys enlightenment. Still, among all those lights of art and nature, yet the soul inquires if there isn’t something greater?

Arthur says the Spirit leads the soul into reconciling with the Anointed One in the presence of the Father, the light of God’s countenance shine upon it, all thoughts of anything more significant disappears. As there is but one sun, so there is but one God. The soul which once discerns and knows Him feels that nothing is more brilliant or brighter, and the only possibility of ever beholding more glory is by drawing nearer.[11]

William G. T. Shedd (1820-1894) says that figuratively speaking, in Jesus’ day, people understood light as a symbol of understanding. That’s why they use “enlightenment” as a synonym. Darkness was a symbol of ignorance. So, what is it about this light that is so advantageous? First and foremost, it helps us see and comprehend. So, what is it that this light allows us to see and learn? It helps us see and apprehend the truth in God’s Word. Today, many people are looking for enlightenment, seeking to understand why they are here and for what purpose.

John says you can find it in the light of what Jesus said. Dawn’s light is a generated force, and darkness is its passive absence. The devil did not create night in which sinners live. When he left the glory above, he was condemned to a realm here below without light. That is why he is called the “Prince of darkness.” Therefore, those who are unregenerated are living in the dark where the devil has full reign. It would be easier to find darkness inside a lit light bulb than to see twilight where God dwells. So, if He lives in us, then the aura of His light shines out into the dark world around us. That’s why Jesus said we are a light in this world.

This concept of combining God with light was not foreign to Jews. It was usual for the Cabalistic Jews to call the supreme being “light,” concerning His nature, glory, and majesty.[12] In the Jewish book called Kuzari,[13] we read: “Just as a stone is too inferior to be brought into connection with learning or ignorance, thus the essence of God is too superior to have anything to do with life or death, nor can the terms light or darkness be applied to it. Were we asked whether this essence is light or darkness, we should say light by way of metaphor, for fear, one might conclude that that which is not light must be darkness.”[14]  So when Paul says that in Him, there is no darkness, it means that with His eternal light, there can be no darkness.

But too often, believers put shades over their lights.  Yes, there is still light inside, but it does not shine out where others can see it.  We are given such light to illuminate what is being preached.  What amazes me is how some believers shine like a 200-watt light bulb in church, but outside and at work, they barely flicker.  That creates a problem if you want to be a witness for the Anointed One.  When you come into the sanctuary and the presence of God and other believers, your light is indistinguishable because His light is like the sun.  It’s when we are walking through this dark world that God wants those in darkness to see our light. W. G. T. Shedd points this out in the words of John, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all;”[15] and Solomon’s words, “God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.”[16] [17]

William B. Pope (1822-1903) wants us to be sure we take notice that the Apostle John does not say that he was sharing the message he heard of Him, or about Him, but heard from Him. And because John heard it from Him, that signified the existing fellowship he had with the Father and the Son. Therefore, John wants his readers to know that they can have that same fellowship. It is also for this reason that Jesus the Anointed One was “manifested” in the flesh so that He may personally guarantee that if we are in union with Him, we are simultaneously in union with His Father.[18]

Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) 17). For the most part the Apostle John, like the other writers of the Bible, leaves John’s readers to form their conception of God from what is recorded of His action, but in three phrases he has laid down once for all the great outlines within which our thoughts on the Divine Nature must be confined. The first sentence is in his narrative of the Lord’s words: “God is Spirit;”[19] the two others are in his first Epistle: “God is light,”[20] and “God is love.”[21] [22]

Marvin Vincent (1834-1921) says that by calling God Light, John is stating the absolute nature of God. Not a light, nor the light, with reference to created beings, as light for humanity and light of the world. The Apostle declares simply, but absolutely, God is light, it’s His core nature. The expression is not a metaphor. As German theologian, Johannes H. A. Ebrard (1818-1888) said, “All that we are accustomed to term light in the domain of the creature, whether with physical or metaphysical meaning, is only a reflection of that one and only original Light which appears in the nature of God.[23]  Light is not made of earthly substance; it is diffusive, pure, and glorious. It is the condition of life.

Physically, it represents – glory, intellectually – truth, morally – holiness. As non-material, it corresponds to God as spirit, as diffusive, God as love, as the condition of life, God as life, as pure and illuminating, God as holiness and truth. In the First Covenant, light is often the medium of God’s visible revelations to men. It was the first manifestation of God in creation. The burning lamp passed between the pieces of the parted victim in God’s covenant with Abraham. God went before Israel in a pillar of fire, descended in fire upon Sinai, and appeared in the luminous cloud, which rested on the mercy-seat in the most-holy place.


[1] Ezekiel 8:2

[2] Habakkuk 3:4

[3] John 12:36

[4] Ibid. 8:12

[5] John 9:5

[6] Hebrews 1:3

[7] James 1:17

[8] 1 Timothy 6:16

[9] 1 Peter 2:9

[10] Ellicott, Charles J., First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 475

[11] Arthur, William: Biblical Illustrator, First Epistle of John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[12] Cabalist Lexicon, pp. 63-64

[13] The Kuzari’s full title is: “Book of Refutation and Proof on Behalf of the Despised Religion” It was written in Arabic by medieval Spanish Jewish philosopher and poet Judah Halevi around 1140 AD. The despised religion was Judaism as Islamist saw it.

[14] HaLevi, Judah: Kitab al Khazari, Part 2, Sec. 2

[15] 1 John 1:5

[16] Ecclesiastes 7:29

[17] Shedd, W. G. T. Dogmatic Theology (Kindle Locations 5234-5235). Titus Books. Kindle Edition

[18] Pope, William B: Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., p. 298

[19] John 4:24

[20] 1 John 1:5

[21] Ibid. 4:8, 16

[22] Brooke F. Westcott: op. cit., p. 167

[23] Ebrard, Johannes H. A. Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, Clarke’s Foreign Theological Library, Vol. VIII, 1 John, T. & T. Clark, Dublin, 1860, p. 80

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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