Rev. Miersma is pastor of Immanuel Protestant Reformed Church of Lacombe, Alberta, Canada.
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. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
The Word of life, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God.
The apostles heard Him with their own ears and saw Him with their own eyes and touched Him with their own hands. They had personal contact with the Savior.
Life, nothing less than eternal life, was manifested in Him. This was more than a revelation, more than an unveiling or uncovering of what formerly was hid. This was a manifestation of power and light, a piercing through which is similar to the sun’s piercing through the clouds.
The purpose of this declaration was “that ye also may have fellowship with us.” As apostles who had been entrusted with the proclamation of the gospel, they were beginning to see the beauty of God’s covenant with His people, that it was a blessed fellowship and communion with the Lord their God. Such a fellowship is rich exactly because it is fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. By implication the apostles were saying that by having fellowship with them one has fellowship with the Father and the Son.
All this results in yet a further fruit, “that your joy may be full.” That is why the apostles come with a specific message, that which they had heard from Jesus Christ Himself, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” This glorious truth is the basis for our fellowship with one another and with God and is, therefore, the fountain of all joy.
To help us understand this truth John uses the figure of the light, that which we see about us each and every day. Physical light is the life of all matter. In the beginning, what God created was characterized as chaos. All was dark and lifeless; thus, there was no movement, revelation, or communication. All was dead. We then read in Genesis 1 that the Spirit brooded over the waters, and this was followed by God’s spoken Word, “Let there be light.” Suddenly there was movement at the rate of 186,000 miles per second. We call it light. It is the life of the universe. With the light there came heat and power and fire, the conditions for all other life. Plants absorb light and heat, and man and animals cannot live without it. Further, light is that which reveals. It is therefore a means of communication. Light strikes an object and is reflected to the eyes; the image is sent to the mind, and we see. This takes place between the creatures themselves as well as between them and the world. Thus there is also communication between God and the world, and between God and man. God saw it, that it was good. What He saw was a reflection of His own glory, and therefore it was the object of His love.
In addition to physical light there is also figurative light, that is, intellectual light. In the back of the eye is the mind, with its understanding. That is why when we come to understand something we often say, “Now I see the light.” In man is the light of God by which he is able to behold the revelation of God. Originally, man was created so he could see and think the thoughts of God and see things in their inner nature. That is why Adam could name the animals when God brought them before him, for he could read creation as a book.
Finally, there is spiritual light. When God created man He created him in His own image, so that man’s life reflected back to God in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness whereby he could love and obey his Maker. This spiritual light of God comes back in man’s own spirit so that in that light he has fellowship with God. In that light he returns to God, walking and talking with God as friend with Friend. Light, then, is love, communion, and friendship. From this it follows that light in the spiritual sense is also revelation, the Word of God, Christ, whereby we know God and His eternal plan of salvation for His people. Light is the source of one’s spiritual life and is his salvation.
God is light. That is the essential message of the gospel and of this epistle. God is absolute, pure light. It is the very nature of His being. Absolute light means absolute knowledge. Thus God knows Himself perfectly. Included in this intellectual light of the mind and wisdom is ethical light. God and all His attributes are essentially good. He is holy, just, and righteous; there is no darkness in Him at all. Searching His depths you will find nothing but light. Darkness hides, but nothing is hid from God.
Therefore, light, all light, whether physical, intellectual, or spiritual, finds its source in God. The physical light God called forth in creation. Intellectual light is of Him, for all knowledge is of God. Also the spiritual is of God, for the Word is His, both the spoken Word and the Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ. No wonder the psalmist in Psalm 27 can sing, “Jehovah is my light and my salvation.”
In this light we are called to walk as God is in the light. That is how God walks, in the light. Because God is light He is in the sphere of light. What is meant by that is that God lives a life that is characterized by light. Compare. God is love and lives a life of love. God is righteous and lives a life of righteousness. And so God lives the life of light that is perfect fellowship within Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three are light, live in the sphere of that light, and therefore live in perfect communion and fellowship.
Now we have fellowship with Him insofar as we walk in the light as He is in the light. That is true, first of all, inwardly, for out of the heart are the issues of life. As instructed by Christ in His summary of the law, our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength must be in the light. All of our inward life, our thoughts, joy, happiness, sorrows, and desires must be in harmony with the light, that is, out of the love of God. By nature we do not do this. By nature our walk is in darkness, in hatred and enmity against God. Lies, darkness, and deceit control our life. To walk in the light means that our heart must be changed, and thus, with it, our inward life. The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 5:8, “Ye were once darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.” We can then see that our walk is first of all a matter of the heart.
As is our inward life, so then will be our outward life, for our outer life is but a manifestation of our inner life, the heart. It can only follow that if our heart is in the light, so will be our outward actions. To seek after holiness with the heart and then outwardly wallow in the mire of sin is impossible. Outward conversion can arise only out of a heart that is filled with the light of the love of God. By walking in that light we have union with God, a union which is possible only in Jesus Christ our Lord. In Christ we have fellowship in Him, for we are in Christ and He is in God.
In contrast, to walk out of the light is to have fellowship with the devil. If we walk in darkness and say that we have fellowship with God, we lie. The Scriptures are quite clear. God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. God is truth; light is truth. The lie is darkness. Therefore, to have fellowship with God one must be in the light. As soon as we walk in iniquity and unrighteousness, we are in darkness. No light, no fellowship, no alternative. The wicked are liars and their sayings are in vain. Not everyone that saith “Lord, Lord” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Outward works may differ from the heart. Faith without works is dead.
This does not mean that we teach some kind of perfectionism. You and I both know that we are not perfect, that we still sin. However, repeated sins are different than walking in sin. When we fall into sin we have remorse and sorrow. We confess to God and ask for forgiveness. This is also doing the truth. We have fellowship with God by His grace through Christ.
Such a walk and life will have the blessed fruit of fellowship with one another. We will fellowship “with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (II Tim. 2:22). Together we “follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace” (same verse). We will be “likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Phil. 2:2). Fellowship is pursuing these graces. Could there be fellowship without peace? Without peace, there is no love, and love is the heart of fellowship. Lacking any of these graces we lack them all, for only the pure of heart have fellowship as children of the light.
This means that we walk in the same light. We will have the same desires, a common aim, the same motivation, all resulting in complete harmony between the saints in our walk. It simply is not true that many ways and walks lead to the same end. It is absolutely impossible to hate the fellow saint with impunity. The spiritual family is characterized by intimate fellowship in love. The longing and striving that we have for ourselves is the same as that which we have for them. With unfailing zeal we want the brother to taste his salvation and to rejoice with us. That manifests itself in ardent prayer on his behalf and in our living in complete accord with him. We rejoice with them that rejoice and weep with them that weep. All of this is based on the fact that the love of God is essentially the love of the neighbor. This fruit is only in the light.
The second fruit, according to our text, is that “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” That, of course, speaks of the forgiveness of sins. It does not mean that, because we walk in the light, God forgives us. No, our sins are already forgiven, already we have been cleansed, all has been accomplished by the shedding of Christ’s blood. It refers rather to the consciousness of that forgiveness. If we walk in the light and have fellowship, there is still sin in us. But walking in the light we seek forgiveness and are assured that our sins have been taken away. Our justification is perfect because Christ died once and for all. This truth becomes conscious in our minds and we experience the joy of fellowship with God in the way of repentance and forgiveness.
The blood of Christ is efficacious. He took away all our sin, past, present, and future, once and for all. We never outgrow our need for that blood. It seals the unbreakable bond that we have to Him. It melts our stubborn hearts. Thus, God’s purpose is attained. In Christ He purposed to save and to cleanse, and unto this He was anointed. This blood is a manifestation of the unchangeable love of God for His elect.
This great comfort God gives us when we walk in the light. This is truly fellowship both with God and with His people. This is manifested by walking in the way of the Word of life, by walking in the love of God which can be done only by His grace through Jesus Christ who cleansed us from all our sins.