John 1: 5 - God Is Light And In Him Is No Darkness At All
Our text this morning is 1 John 1:5 – 2:2,
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
Two weeks ago I spoke about the book ‘Pilgrims Progress’. The story opens with a man who is bent over with a great burden upon his back and a book is in his hand.
His burden is his own sin.
The book is a bible. As he read the bible he was made aware of his own sin.
We soon found this man standing in a field. He would look one way and then the other. He desperately wanted to run away from the judgment that was coming upon the sinful land but he did not know where to flee. In that moment, a man named ‘Evangelist’ came to him and told him about the path that he must take to find relief from his burden of sin. I would like to read you a brief section from this story.
“He [Christian] ran till he came at a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below in the bottom, a sepulcher…As the man...came up to the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the sepulcher where it fell in, and he saw it no more.
Then was Christian glad and light-some, and said with a merry heart, ‘He has given me rest, by His sorrow, and life, by His death.’ Then he stood awhile to look and wonder, for it was surprising to him that the sight of the cross should ease him of his burden. He looked therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks.”
Several times in ‘Pilgrims Progress’ Christian finds himself looking in all directions. Christian now finds himself at the cross. It is there his sin falls from his back and it rolls into a sepulcher [a grave].
Immediately Christian becomes glad and he is merry of heart. In that moment he declares, “He has given me rest, by His sorrow, and life, by His death.” It is there that his eyes finally come to rest upon the cross of Christ. Christian is no longer looking in all directions trying to determine where he might go.
He cannot gaze upon his sin any longer because his sins have gone into the sepulcher and ‘he saw them no more’.
He fixes his sight upon the cross. He looked, and looked again, upon it and tears began to roll down his cheeks.
Each of us, has found ourselves looking in all directions and wondering which way we are to go. There are many who wander off in any direction supposing that it will get them where they need to go. They experience no burden of sin, therefore, their decision to choose the right way does not seem all that important to them. Don’t all roads lead to heaven?
Their journey does not bring them to experience fellowship, joy and peace; instead they experience emptiness and futility. They will say, with Captain Kirk, “As for me, things have started to feel, a little episodic. The farther off we go the more I find myself wondering, what it is we are trying to accomplish. If the universe is truly endless, are we not striving for something that is forever out of reach.”
There are many who, having never come to see Christ, so they not see sin correctly. The false teachers that John addresses in this letter are such people. Sin is a little issue to them so they preach simple fixes. Dr. John Hannah says, “If mankind’s greatest needs are not found through the cleansing of the heart, we should find an instructor in moral guidance, a master of behavior modification technique, the merely sincere impetus to think positively, or the promotion of self-esteem. John’s opponents are proclaiming salvation without a substitute, redemption without a cross!”
Christians are not a people who explore the universe in all directions for salvation; Christians have come to realize that the creator of the universe has manifested Himself to us. Christians do not scurry around trying to find life through some special knowledge; rather, they realize that the Eternal Life has come to us in the coming of Jesus Christ. Unlike these false teachers, a Christian knows that he needs redemption through a substitute. Therefore a believer often says, “Jesus has given me rest, by His sorrow, and life, by His death.”.
Dr. Hannah structures the letter of 1 John in this concise way, “After introducing the subject of the life that Christ disclosed (1:1-4), John argues that imperfect people can possess the life of God (1:5-2:2), and can be assured of it (2:3-5:12).”
For the next few weeks, we are going to discuss the fact that ‘imperfect (sinful) people can possess the life of God’. There are two things that are visible in our text.
First, believers need to have a proper view of God if they are to see sin properly.
Secondly, believers are to speak truth in their hearts and to each other concerning sin and their need for forgiveness in Christ. (1 John 1:6-2:2; Psalm 15:1-5)
Today we are just going to look at John 1:5 - “This is the message that we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
Let’s consider two things today,
1.) A proper view of sin and our response to it has been revealed to us through Christ and His Word.
2.) Christ’s message was that God is light and in Him is absolutely no darkness at all.
#1 A proper view of sin has been revealed to us through Christ and His Word.
“This is the message that we have heard from him and proclaim to you…”
I wonder if we realize just how profound these words are?
What darkness we would experience if Jesus had not spoken about these things and if his disciples had not faithfully proclaimed that message to others? (John 1:1-18)
Imagine the chaos and bewilderment that we would be trapped in without Jesus’ instruction.
Imagine the despair, desperation, gloom, misery and sorrow that we would experience without this teaching.
Are you experiencing this gloom or are you experiencing fellowship and joy?
In our ignorance concerning sin and how to respond correctly to it we would be quickly undone before the LORD. And because of our ignorance of these things we fail to experience fellowship, joy, peace and assurance.
We might react like Peter when he began to realize who Jesus was in Luke 5:1-11.
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
One day there was a crowd that was pressing in on Jesus so much that he entered into one of the boats that was sitting on the shore line. He commanded that the boat go a little distance from the shore where Jesus would continue to preach to the crowds.
After preaching he asked Peter to let out the nets. Peter said to Jesus, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” They obeyed Jesus and they caught such a large number of fish that the boats began to sink.
Then we read these words in Luke 5:8, “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
Let me make a five observations about this text.
First, notice that Peter obeys the LORD in everything throughout this story.
Peter stops cleaning the nets and gets in the boat with Jesus.
Peter puts out in the water, he anchors down when he is told to do so.
Peter sets out into the deep when commanded, and he lets down his nets at Jesus’ request.
Yet, none of this obedience is a comfort to him when he realizes who Jesus truly is. When he realizes that Jesus is the Son of God he is only aware of his sin. How easy it would have been for Peter to comfort his conscience in this moment by boasting in his obedience rather than in his great need as a sinner. (I go to church, I tithe, I am a lawful man, etc.)
Secondly, notice that when Peter began to realize who Jesus was that he immediately cried out, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man”. In that moment, Peter begs Jesus to leave. I am so glad that Jesus did not listen to Peter!
Some of you may think that God has abandoned you. He has NOT!
Thirdly, notice how we can quickly forget the steadfast love and faithfulness of God when we see our sin. Jesus had preached and had just done a great miracle before Peter’s eyes. But when Peter realized his sin he quickly forgot about these blessings. In that moment he pleaded with Jesus to depart. We can focus in on our sin and ignore all the graces that have been done for us by God.
Fourthly, notice that Peter still draws near to Christ and falls at his feet. Peter sees Jesus as God, as holy and righteous, and he begs that Jesus will depart from him; yet in faith he came close for mercy! (draw close by reading scripture, prayer, communion, remember your baptism)
When we experience the ‘fear of the LORD’ there are many ways that we may respond; but fear mixed with faith will always dare to draw near to the LORD. Proverbs 16:6, “By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil (and to the LORD).”
Fear without faith will run away from the LORD, it will ignore the sinfulness in our heart, it will be presumptuous and claim to have its own righteousness, it will deny original sin, or such a person may even claim to have not sinned.
Fifthly, Peter confesses his sin in this moment. He does not water his sin down by saying…
that he is mostly good,
or that he tries to be righteous most of the time,
or that he is better than anyone else in the boat.
He is oblivious to anyone else in this moment except for him and the LORD. He is a sinner who needs to be with the Great Physician.
In this letter John addresses how the false teachers have displayed their faithless heart by teaching:
that you can have fellowship with God and walk in darkness (6)
they claimed to have no sin and denied original sin (8)
they claimed that they had not sinned (10)
Are you beginning to see how profound and these words are, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you…”? There are many false views about about sin and sanctification so we need to hear this message from Christ. Peter got to hear Jesus say, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” If we will receive the instruction we will also experience the peace of God. And we, like Peter, will be able to minister to others in need of this comfort (Psalm 51:13 – Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.)
#2 The message is that God is light and in Him is absolutely no darkness at all.
These words are in the indicative form. In other words, there are two facts about God that John wants us to know. First, God is light. Secondly, In Him there is not any darkness at all.
In scripture we find that ‘light’ can speak of several things.
First, it speaks of the fact that God is life. John 1:4, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Psalm 36:9, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.”
Secondly, it can speak of the fact that God is wisdom, truth, glory, revelation, etc. God illuminates and reveals Himself to His creatures.
Thirdly, it speaks of the fact that God is pure, holy, sinless, faultless, etc. This is what John is referring to here in 1 John 1. (darkness is mentioned 2 times, sin is mentioned 5 times, unrighteousness is mentioned once) This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
John says that God light, but he also says that in Him is no darkness at all. In the Greek there is a double negative that would read something like, “And darkness in him – no, none at all.” (Joel Beeke, p.35)
Joel Beeke says, “There is no defect in the character of God. His holiness and purity and righteousness are perfect. Next to this everything else is tarnished and unclean. In God’s sight the very heavens are unclean and the holy angels are charged with folly (Job 4:18).”
When I was a child I can remember driving down the road with my mom at night. Ahead of us were two big spot lights that were shining out into the darkness. In my excitement I traced with my eyes the beam of light that shone brightly up into the darkness. It seemed to penetrate the darkness with a stream of light that went on as far as my eye could see. I had never seen such a thing.
As we came closer to these lights my mom gave me some good instruction. She said, “When we get up to these lights you will not want to look directly at them.” Her instructions could not have been more clear to me but I did not pay attention to her. As we drove past I looked directly into the light. It was so bright on my dilated pupils that it literally hurt me and caused me pain.
Next week, the apostle John, like my mom, is going to give us wise instruction to consider concerning these two facts about God. There are practical implications for disciples about what it means that God is light and in Him is no darkness.
Because God is light, you cannot live in darkness and claim to have fellowship with God.
Because God is light, you will be more aware of sin and you can confess them to God.
Because God is light, you cannot claim to be without sin.
Because God is light, you cannot claim that you do not sin. This light reveals your heart.
Knowing that God is light and that in him is no darkness at all will help to keep us from sinning and aid in our sanctification.
Thomas Watson mentions a story in his book on repentance that I really appreciated. It is a story that reminds us to come quickly to the True Light so that we might be forgiven and saved. He says, “Olaus Magnus observes of the birds of Norway, that they fly faster than the birds of any other country. Not that their wings are swifter than others – but by an instinct of nature they, knowing the days in that climate to be very short, not above three hours long, do therefore make the more haste to their nests. So we, knowing the shortness of our lives and how quickly we may be called to death – should fly so much the faster on the wing of repentance to heaven!”
When Peter became aware of his sin he cried, “Depart from me!” Yet in faith he fell at Jesus’ feet and found peace. Come to Jesus today to find peace and forgiveness of your sin.
Because the Light is shining but the day of repentance may be short, let us heed this exhortation by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 6:11-16, But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.