What does it mean to live in the light? The Bible makes it clear that the Christian is to live in this place. But in a sense, the meaning of what is being said eludes many Christians. Does it mean to live with a level of transparency about yourself? Does it mean to live a holy life? Does it mean to do what the Lord tells you? Does it mean to make sure that you are confessing your sin? Does it mean to read the Word since the Bible says it is a light to your path?
In John 1:5-7, John uses a keyword that can help us to understand this portion of Scripture. In this short passage, he uses the word “light” three times. On the other hand, he uses the word “darkness” twice. It seems as though John is seeking to stress the very nature of light and darkness, and it is important for the Christian to understand what each term means.
When John uses the word “light” in the original Greek language, he is using the word “phos.” He is using a word that means to shine or to make something manifest. It has to do with illumination. In other words, it could also mean to give light to something or someone. Light is something that one can see with his eyes. But when the light of God is at stake, it has to do with the reaching of the mind (as in 2 Corinthians 4:6, where Paul tells us that the God commanded the light to shine out the darkness and that this light has shone into the hearts of believers).
As the eye is that which beholds the light, so the eyes of the soul and of the spirit when dead in sin do not perceive the light of God. Man comes into this world blind to spiritual things, and he cannot see the light.
The light that is spoken of by John is the light that Jesus gives to the believer. Through Christ, the eyes of the blind have been opened, and the light of the Gospel has shone. Simply put, now the Christian is able to perceive/see spiritually.
When John speaks of darkness, he uses the word “skotia.” This word has to do with dimness or obscurity. In Matthew 10:27 and Luke 12:3, “skotia” is used to depict secrecy. It is as though in these verses something was attempted to be hidden from others. In other words, because of this “skotia,” people were not able to see or perceive reality. When John uses this word, he has dimness and obscurity in mind. However, this darkness has to do with a depraved and blind state that, in turn, prohibits man from seeing spiritually. It is even closely associated with destruction and unhappiness.
With an understanding of the light and darkness that John speaks of, this article now turns to a better look at 1 John 1:5-7.
Living in the light because God is light
Scripture says, “…God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Here, John speaks in such a way as to convey that God is the revealer of holiness. God is the very essence of light. Everything that is good and right and true comes from God. But much more is at stake. If someone wants to see spiritual matters clearly and move from the darkness into the light, there is no way to do this apart from God.
Living in the light rather than the darkness
As John continues on, he tells us, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). This passage is an interesting one for a couple of reasons. First, it teaches very plainly that those who walk in the darkness cannot actually experience fellowship with God. This makes sense and should be understood without a problem, as God is light.
Since God is light, those who dwell in the darkness will not experience fellowship with God. Where darkness is, God is not. A simple definition of darkness is the absence of light. Therefore, one cannot experience intimacy and fellowship if he continually spends time where God is not present.
Second, John has been using the words “light” and “darkness” to depict God and His illumination or lack thereof. Now John uses two words that expound on the keywords “light” and “darkness.” He does this by saying, “we lie, and do not the truth.” A lie is on par with the darkness here. John uses the word “pseudomai,” which means to utter that which is not true, to utter a falsehood, or to attempt to deceive. Ultimately, it is to deceive by lies. This makes sense because those who walk in darkness are already being deceived by lies.
John also uses the word “truth.” In the original language, the word is “aletheia,” which simply means the truth or truly. Galatians 2:5 talks about “the truth of the Gospel.” This truth is placed up against that which is not true (i.e., a false gospel). The false gospel is not spiritual. In other words, it is darkness. But the true Gospel is light, it is spiritual, and the eyes of believers are made to see its truth. Here, the word truth further defines what it means to walk in the light.
Living in the light with other believers
A Christian can only have fellowship with other believers to the degree in which he walks in the light. Scripture says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another…” (1 John 1:7). Here, the Bible makes it clear that true Christian fellowship is experienced in the light of God’s illumination.
Christian fellowship cannot take place among unbelievers, nor can Christian fellowship take place between a Christian and an unbeliever. Christian fellowship can only take place when two or more Christians have had their spiritual eyes opened to the truth of God’s Word and then walk in it together.
However, Christians can also choose to walk in darkness. When this takes place, they will not be fellowshipping with those around them. Fellowship happens in the light and only in the light.
But what does it mean to have fellowship with others? The word fellowship is “koinonia,” which means participation, partnership, and communion. It has to do with a sharing in common. In Acts 2:42-47, this principle is seen clearly. The first century believers were said to have done the following:
• They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching
• They devoted themselves to fellowship
• They devoted themselves to the breaking of bread
• They devoted themselves to prayers
• Those who believed were together
• They provided for one another’s needs
• They went to the temple together
• They went to each other’s homes
• They were thankful and generous
• They praised God together
All of this was taking place among the first-century believers, and it is said that they had all things in common. They could not have had this Christian commonality about themselves if they walked in darkness. It was only as they walked in the light that they could have a Christian commonality. Therefore, it was only as they walked in the light that they could partake in true Christian fellowship.
Living in the light and being cleansed
Living in the light also brings about cleansing. Scripture says, “But if we walk in the light… the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7). Walking in the light also has a cleansing affect. Initially, there is a total cleansing when one comes into the faith. However, the Christian’s feet still get dirty sometimes. Cleansing is an ongoing act of God (1 John 1:8-9). As the Christian walks in the light, he will continue to be cleansed along his journey.
Father, I thank You for the light that You have given me. I continue to pray that You would shine more light into my life and help me to see clearly that which is important to You. Open my eyes, Lord, and make me see. In Jesus’ name, Amen.