Scripture: 1 John 1:5
There are two important aspects of this verse: (a) the message, and (b) God is light. Let us begin with the words per se. The Greek root for the word message in Strong’s concordance is epaggelia; which is further rooted in another Greek word epaggellomai. To simply put, the meaning of the message in this verse can be reduced to: (1) an announcement of a promise, (2) that elicits an act, (3) that the promise finesses the skill to act upon. Now let us put this into the perspective of the scripture.
In the preceding verses (1 John 1:1-4) we find, the Apostle John revisiting the gospel. The message here is the same that the Apostle Paul (Gal 1:8), and others vehemently pressed believers to believe, obey, and guard it as true doctrine. And John here, keeping true to his words re-asserts that Christ is indeed – YHWH. And just as in his account of the Gospel, he re-emphasis that Christ is the LOGOS – the sole principle of life (John 1:1). Christ is He, God himself, incarnated as man to absolve our sins and unite us to the Father. And the promise is this: He is true. And in Him is life.
[Note: We will discuss the act and the skill aspect of the message in the succeeding verses.]
Proceeding to the second aspect of this verse – God is light, the word light, i.e. phōs is used here in both literal and metaphorical sense. Here, phōs is ascribed to God as a noun – He is the light. He is not a light, or of light, but simply, God is light. God is spoken here in the most literal sense, as to say, the apple is red. Metaphorically, phōs here means, the truth; again – not a truth, or of truth – but, the truth. Meaning, God is light means God is truth. This is in perfect alignment with all the earlier revelation of YHWH’s identity in the Bible. And this is also, the exact introduction of Christ that John himself gave in his account of the Gospel.
God is truth means, there is no duality in Him. God is not like yin and yang. Meaning, YHWH is pure. There is no blemish, or error, or any kind of falsehood in Him. It also means, He is not the origin of sin and suffering. It further means, He is Holy. Therefore, what YHWH has revealed about Himself, Christ, and the Holy Spirit in the scripture is true. What YWHW says about sin and salvation is true. The fact that John emphasizes God is light is to remind us that the message is true, and it should be taken without any further speculation. Because YHWH does not lie, because He is the truth.
As mentioned in the introduction, the audience of this epistle had swayed into the realm of speculation, and false doctrine. They had departed from believing the gospel as a spiritual fact. Religion was dominated by speculations influenced by culture, education, society, social quo, struggle for dominance-leadership, et cetera. This error in religion is not unique to John’s audience, it is one quite common to believers. We are often led into a speculative understanding of God, and His decrees. Because this is the same pattern Satan has been deceiving us with from the very beginning. To Eve, he asked, did God really tell you you’ll die if you eat the fruit, subtly raising speculation in God’s commandments. (Gen 3:1) To Jesus himself, he asked, won’t God send His angels to save you if you were to throw yourself off the height. (Mt 4:6) In short, it is known throughout the scripture that Satan has a way of leading people to speculate on God by playing on their will.
John hereby reminds his readers that God is light, and in Him is no darkness. He focuses on light as to both literally and metaphorically, to remind us that God is Holy and there is no duality in Him. He is who He says He is. There is no darkness in Him, no sin and evil. He does not speak in the language of secret or hidden meanings. Therefore, there is no room for speculation in Him or about Him or in His Word. God leaves nothing to the realm of human intelligence. He has revealed everything. The revelation of His identity is the True Doctrine. Therefore, those who are in Him know Him for who He is – they take the message of His Gospel as it is – the exact way it is revealed in the scripture. And so, those who are in Him believe Him for who He is; and they do not stumble in the darkness of speculation or confusion. They grow in purity and truth, because the God who leads them is able, because the God who leads them is YHWH who Himself is Holy and true; He is the God that John here repeatedly calls to remind us – God is light.
Series Index: (1) Introduction
Further Reading: Below is a brief comparison of light vs darkness as seen in the scripture.
LIGHT VS. DARKNESS
In many places in Scripture, the realm of God and the realm of evil are contrasted by the differences between light and darkness:
|Despairing condition||Hopeful condition||Isaiah 9:2|
|Inability to recognize the light||Ability to enlighten the world||John 1:4-5, 9|
|The Power of Satan||The Power of God||Acts 26:18|
|Evil Deeds||Good Deeds||Romans 13:12-14|
|Natural Heart Condition||Condition of a Born – Again Heart||2 Cor 4:6|
|Fruitless works||Source of all that is good||Eph 5:8-11|
|Spiritual forces of evil||Armour of God||Eph 6:12-13|
|Powerful Captivity, enslaved to sin, sinful living||Free from the power of sin, redeemed, forgiven||Col 1:12-14|
|Inability to exist in God’s presence||Fellowship with God||1 John 1:5, 7|
|Transient nature||Permanent nature||1 John 2:8-11|
 Bruce B. Barton, Philip W. Comfort, Linda Chafee Taylor, David R. Veerman, Len Woods, “1 John 1:1-2:11” in Life Application Bible Commentary: 1, 2 & 3 John (USA, Tyndale Publications, 1998), page 20
Feature Image: The Transfiguration of Christ (Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai) Copyright: Public Domain