God is Light
“We write this to make your joy complete. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:4-5
John has just said, ” We write this to make your joy complete.” So how is it to be full? Well, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare to you, that God is…” What would you have expected there? I suggest that most of us would have expected, “God is love”; but the very notable thing is that he says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” And we may say to John, “You have been saying that we are to be given an amazing joy, and then you confront us with that?”
But that is exactly what he does say. We must not start with the knowledge of God, though that is essential. Nor must we start with God as a source of philosophy. We must not even start with God as love…
We can see at how by putting it like this we give a seeming contradiction to what has been so popular especially since around 1860. The great message that has been preached for a hundred fifty years is, “God is love.” That is the thing that has been emphasized, and we have been told that our forefathers, and especially the Puritans with their preaching about justice and righteousness and repentance and sin and punishment and death, had been entirely contradicting and denying the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been told that God is love–that is what we needed, and there He was to meet us. Yet what a travesty of the gospel that is! This is the message: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
As God’s light is the source of all life, learning and knowledge, both revealed and experienced, it’s easy to see we cannot know what defines love without this light. Without His defining light neither can we know the meaning of joy. If those who say they know Christ but have not His light, they lie to themselves and do not know Him at all. To know Him is to have fellowship with Him. But clearly there is no fellowship with Him outside His light; there is only darkness. If that darkness is mistaken for light, how much greater is that darkness.
In like manner, those who go hither and yon easily throwing about “God is love”, turning a truism into a cliché, but have not His Light, they have not the knowledge of what God’s love means either. In fact the phrase “God is Love” has been so misused and convoluted so as to contradict its true meaning altogether. Does this sound harsh? It’s not my purpose to be harsh. But clarity of the gospel message is paramount.
John tells us here that of all God’s attributes, His Light comes first announcing Who He is, with all other of His attributes (of which there are innumerable) come streaming to us from His Light.
“God is love” remains hidden in its glorious attribute unless “God is light” is where we are positioned. To know God is to be in His light. And then our joy is complete.