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
John used the theme of light and darkness repeatedly. In his gospel, referring to Jesus, he wrote, “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” (John 1:4-5 ESV). “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:9-11 ESV). The imagery of darkness and light was a common one among the Jews of John’s day. Darkness was associated with evil. Even in the creation account recorded by Moses in the book of Genesis, it describes the state of the universe by using the imagery of light and darkness. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2 ESV). Darkness was the prevailing state. It permeated everything. But God did something. He was not content to leave things as they were. And Moses records, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:3-4 ESV). In his letter, John describes God as light. Light is not just an expression of God’s power, it is the essence of His being. It speaks of His holiness and righteousness. It describes His penetrating, permeating nature. Darkness is the absence of light. Darkness and light cannot coexist. At the beginning of creation, darkness prevailed. But God penetrated the darkness with His very being. His presence changed the condition of the world. He created physical light to eliminate the darkness. He separated one from the other. And this is the very same thing God did when He sent His Son into the world. The apostle Paul tells us, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV). The state of affairs when Jesus arrived on the scene was marked by spiritual darkness. So God penetrated that darkness with His presence once again. But John records, “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:19-21 ESV). Jesus came into the world as the very light of God. He came to expose sin by expressing the holiness of God. He lived without sin (Hebrews 4:15) in order to demonstrate the kind of righteousness God’s holiness required. He lived the kind of life that God demanded. And His example exposed the darkness that was so prevalent at the time – even among the people of God. But Jesus didn’t come simply to expose darkness. He came to deliver men from it. He said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46 ESV). Darkness was not intended to be the norm. The presence of darkness is evidence of the absence of light. Jesus came to change all that. And John makes it clear that because God is light, He cannot tolerate darkness. “In him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5 ESV).
Yet in John’s day, there were those who claimed to have a relationship with God, but who were living in darkness – in sin. John said that to say one thing and do another was to “not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6 ESV). There was a disconnect between their expressed beliefs and their behavior. They claimed to be in the light, but lived lives characterized by darkness. These same individuals were even claiming to be without sin. They were denying any darkness in their lives. And John said there were self-deceived and void of the truth in their lives. Light exposes darkness. The closer we get to the light, the more flaws get revealed. Increasing intimacy with God makes our sin all the more evident. But John reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV). Jesus came to pay for our sins. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2 ESV). Our sins have been paid for. But we must still acknowledge them. We must allow the light of God to penetrate our lives and expose them. We are to confess them and turn from them. Our lives are to be marked by light rather than darkness. Our behavior is to reflect our beliefs and our fellowship with God and His Son. The apostle Paul would remind us, “Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them” (Ephesians 5:11 ESV). “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5 ESV). “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12 ESV). “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true) and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-10 ESV).