Light is indispensable to human experience. It is difficult to imagine existence separated from the light that allows us to comprehend the world around us. Even those who are born blind, and thus without access to light from their earliest days, live largely dependent on others who can see and help them. Our dependence on light is so pervasive that it serves as a suitable metaphor for knowledge itself. We say that a person has “seen the light” when we want to convey that they have finally gained understanding. “Light” is a virtual synonym for knowledge, meaning, and understanding. To live without those things is to live in darkness.
The motif of “light” is used consistently in Scripture to describe the person and work of God. In 1 John 1:5 the Apostle identifies God with light. God’s first creative act in Genesis 1:3 is to produce light and to separate it from the darkness. In Exodus, God proceeds his people in a burning cloud that provides lights to the Israelites but casts a foreboding shadow of darkness on the pursuing Egyptians [Exodus 10]. When Moses encounters God on Mt. Sinai his face begins to glow [Exodus 33]. When Christ is transfigured in Matthew 17 his garments shine with the glory of God. In John 1 Jesus is called “the light of men." When Paul encounters Christ on the Road to Damascus it is through a light brighter than the noonday sun. The New Heavens and the New Earth in Revelation 21 do not need a sun or a moon because God’s glory gives them light and Jesus is the lamp.
In 1944 C.S. Lewis wrote his essay “Is Theology Poetry?” in which he sought to answer the question of whether Christians believed in Christianity not because it was true, but only because they found the story of the Gospel to be a pleasant fantasy. It is an important question. How do we know that Christianity isn’t just a myth that we enjoy reading about, hearing about, and pretending is true? Lewis answers the question with his famous quote: "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Most apologists might defend the truth of Christianity by pointing to the manifold evidence of its historicity, by providing rational arguments for theism, or by pointing to Christianity’s amazing influence on the world. They might try to dazzle with a vision of the sun itself. Lewis shrewdly beckons us to look not only at the lofty sun in the sky but also to all that it illuminates. On Lewis’ analogy we can look at Christianity and see the historical and rational arguments for it, but Christianity’s true gift is that it illuminates the rest of reality. It lifts the darkness from this world and helps us to see God’s purpose and meaning for our lives and for all of history. It makes sense of the world. We know Christianity is true in part because it allows us to see the truth in everything else. It is not just a pleasant fiction that we abandon when confronted with the real world.
When a person comes to understand and believe the Gospel, it changes everything. Before the Gospel, the world was covered in darkness. But when the Gospel is declared it sheds light on everything. As the Psalmist says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” [Psalm 119:105]. Without the Gospel, men grope around in the dark doing what feels right but without any knowledge about where they are actually going; to their destruction. But the Gospel illuminates the path. There is no more need for groping. The Gospel shows us the way we should go. The Gospel shows us the way to life.
The Book of 1st John is written to spread the light of the Gospel. John begins the book by confirming that he has seen with his own eyes and touched with his own hands the risen Christ [1 John 1:1-2]. To return to C.S. Lewis’ analogy, John has looked directly into the Sun and he knows it is there. Then John turns to the implications. He tells us how the world looks in the light of the Gospel. How should we then live as we walk in the light?
John’s message is clear. He says: “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” [1 John 1:6] Those who continue to walk in darkness after they have heard the Gospel have not understood and believed no matter how much claim otherwise. Christians are not perfect. Even those who walk in the light of day occasionally stumble. But the persistent stumbling of those who have no light is avoided. John continues in chapter 2: “Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” [1 John 2:4-6].
Disciples walk in the light of the Gospel. It changes their lives. They live out the implications of the Gospel daily. For disciples, the Gospel helps them to put the entire world into perspective. It guides their paths. But what does that mean? What does it mean to walk in the light? How are we to walk in the same way as Jesus? In five glorious chapters, John begins to unfold what the Christian life should look like. It is a life fixed on the same love that Christ showed to us through the Cross. Join us as we study 1 John together and begin to walk in the light of the Gospel and reflect that light to a world filled with darkness.