WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XLI) 11/30/20

As Ben Witherington III (1951-) points out, not only did God say, “Let there be light,” but He IS light.[1] It means that He is complete in His glory (the physical connotation of light), in His truth (the intellectual), and His holiness (the moral).[2] In other words, God does not need to borrow these virtues from any other outside source. They are not only “in” Him, but they “are” Him. Perhaps we can see the favorable implication of these qualities by knowing that He, who is all of these things, lives in us through His Spirit. Along with Witherington, Karen H. Jobes (1968-) explains that Light is an appropriate metaphor for God. It is the first fundamental property of the universe created by God; it allows and sustains all life; it makes life far more pleasant and safer than living in the dark, revealing what is hidden.[3]

Pastor’s wife, founder, and editor of “The Ladies’ Companion Magazine,” Valorie Quesenberry, comments on verse five here by saying that God’s divine nature has not faded. He is completely pure – not shadows, no stains, no discolorations, no blots. The Holy Spirit’s indwelling us gives us the power to choose what is right by running to the light, both in our inward thoughts, goals, and desires and in our interactions with others. Paul told the Philippians to fix their thoughts on real, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable things. To think about subjects that are excellent and worthy of praise.[4] These are the things of Light, says Quesenberry, the upright-virtues. That means they are Godly things. Outward godliness begins from within. The light within shines outward. We must cherish godliness as our core motivation for focusing on these matters.[5]  

Current Christian writer Ken Johnson tells us that some Gnostics, like Cerdo,[6] taught the most-supreme god was a duality, much like the Chinese idea of yin and yang. He said there were two gods: one good god and the opposite evil god, both equal in power. The good god is light, and the evil god is darkness. This belief is not Christian doctrine. Using Gnostic terminology to make sure everyone would understand clearly, John said God is the only Light. God is good and all-powerful. Some cults today, like the ancient Gnostics, believe in multiple gods. Mormonism is just one example.[7]

David Jackman notices how carefully John introduces this first critical statement – God is Light. John didn’t discover something as a result of his philosophical explorations, but a message he received. The Apostle heard it from HIM – Jesus the Anointed One. Now he compares what he and the other apostles heard from the Word Himself and what others said about God’s Light. Says John, what we heard goes back to the beginning of time and brought to us by the Word Himself in His incarnation as Logos. It is John’s way of stressing the divine source of what he’s is about to declare. The authority for his teaching lies in what he has heard in the historical revelation of God in Jesus the Anointed One.[8] It is something we preachers and teachers can keep in mind. We know where our outline or manuscript came from, but what about the message it contains? Is it from our mind or God’s?

John Phillips references how in 1666 AD, Isaac Newton discovered that light consisted of tiny particles and traveled straight. Then in 1678 AD, Christiaan Huyghens (1629-1695)[9] declared that light traveled in waves. Finally, the two theories merged and found that white light is composed of seven colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. It was made visible by refraction. However, without being refracted, light travels in a straight line at 186,282 miles per second. Then Albert Einstein (1879-1955) discovered that the speed of light is constant. Even in a vacuum, the speed of light never changes, regardless of its source’s motion. So, when John said that God is Light, His words are straight to the point and never changes. That’s why it is important to keep walking straight in the Light of God’s Word.

Phillips then says that another magnificent property of light cannot be defiled. Even when it passes through muddy water, it is not tainted. Instead, it helps reveal contamination. As we know, even plants and trees and flowers turn toward the light. That’s why since Jesus came as the Light, we should always keep our eyes on Him.[10] He is forever the same. Our Lord is immaculate and beyond the reach of darkness. He reveals Himself to us in all the diverse beauties of His character and being. Therefore, in His light, we take root, grow, and flourish.[11]

1:6a:    So, if we say that we enjoy a close fellowship with God, but we continue living in darkness, we are untruthful people…

EXPOSITION

Although John’s metaphor of light and darkness not existing together is simple, there is more to it than that. Having a close fellowship with God means continually living in the Light. But “light” here does not mean illumination by a lantern or a light bulb or even sunshine, Light is emblematic of understanding the truth. Meanwhile, “darkness” does not mean all light being extinguished or living in a cave or hidden bunker. Darkness is symbolic of ignorance of the truth. So, if a person claims they live their lives following the truth they’ve received through the Gospel, yet still conduct themselves while living in sin without any concept of God, they are not telling you the truth.

Our Lord gives us an example of this.[12] And the Apostle James spells it out quite clearly: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has nothing to show for it? Can such faith save them? If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.[13] But in John’s revelation, the assembly of believers in Laodicea received a stern warning: I know everything you do. You are neither hot nor cold; I wish that you were either hot or cold! But you are only half-warm. So, like half-warm water, I am ready to spit you out of my mouth.[14]

So, there are some questions to ask: How can you say you have fellowship with a warm-hearted Father when your heart is so cold? Do you think you have communion with God Almighty when you are so spiritually weak and lethargic? How can you claim to have fellowship with the Light of the World when you wander around in darkness? In other words, is it possible to keep company with the Holy Comforter the Father sent when you are full of doubt and despair?

The Psalmist David expressed his faith and confidence in having daily fellowship with Adonai when he sang: “Every morning, O Lord, I lay my gifts on the altar before you and look expectantly to you for help. And every morning, you hear my prayers, O God, because you don’t want people with bad intentions anywhere near you. They cannot stay in your presence. People who do not follow Your Will and Wise counsel cannot come near You. You despise all those who are continually planning to do what’s wrong.”[15] And the Apostle Paul joins John, his brother in the Lord, by asking the Corinthians how anyone could claim to be the Temple of the Holy Spirit participate in pagan rites, rituals, and celebrations of lifeless gods?[16] We may be in the world, but we are not of the world.[17]

Don’t you know, says John, when you align yourselves with the gods of this world, you have turned your destiny over to fate and coincidence? Listen to what Asaph the Psalmist says about the leaders in society and fashion trendsetters of the world. They think of themselves as “little gods,” but they don’t know what is happening. They don’t understand! They don’t know what they are doing! Can’t they see their world is falling apart all around them?[18]

And King Solomon warns his people that they should have enough sense to stay away from sinful-minded people who want them to be their partners in wrongdoing – people who turn from God’s ways to walk down dark and dangerous paths.[19] That because those who have fellowship with God walk on a path illuminated like the early morning light. It gets brighter and brighter until the full light of day. But the course of those who seek to do wrong, their path is like moving around in the night. They trip and fall over what they cannot see.[20]


[1] Cf. Psalms 104:2 to Psalms 27:1; 36:9 and Isaiah 49:6

[2] Witherington III, Ben: Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John (Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians Series) (Kindle Location 5973). Kindle Edition.

[3] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John, op. cit., p. 63

[4] Philippians 4:8

[5] Revivalist Magazine, Vol. 131, No. 6, September 2019, p. 6

[6] Cerdo, a Gnostic teacher of the first half of the 2nd century. He came to Rome from Syria. Cerdo taught that the God preached by the law and the prophets was not the Father of our Lord Jesus. His first two principles were that there are two gods, one good, the other evil, and it was the evil god who created the world.

[7] Johnson, Ken. Ancient Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., p. 54

[8] Jackman, David: op. cit., p. 27

[9] Dutch mathematician, astronomer, and physicist, who founded the “wave theory” of light, discovered the true shape of the rings of Saturn, and made original contributions to the science of dynamics—the study of the action of forces on bodies.

[10] Hebrews 12:2

[11] Phillips, John: The John Phillips Commentary Series, Exploring the Epistles of John, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 2003, pp. 31-32

[12] Matthew 7:22

[13] James 2:14, 16, 18

[14] Revelation 3:15-16

[15] Psalm 5:3-5

[16] 2 Corinthians 6:14-16

[17] Cf. John 15:19

[18] Cf. Psalm 82:5

[19] Proverbs 2:11-13

[20] Cf. Ibid 4:18-19; See John 11:10

About drbob76

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