KNOWING CHRIST - KNOWING GOD

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2003

STUDY TWO: SHATTERING THE DARKNESS - IN CHRIST WE SEE GOD

[This Study relates to Knowing Christ - Knowing God Worksheet 2 designed for use in group study situations. Some of the suggestions in the Study Tasks are specific for group study leaders; these can be adapted for personal study.]

INTRODUCTION: IDENTIFYING THE DARKNESS

In the first study we saw the lostness and alienation of man - a darkness of mind and soul so deep that there is frequently no hope that there is any light to be found; a darkness so ignorant of light that it thinks that it is itself light; a spiritual darkness so deep that there is sometimes no concept that any such thing as spiritual light exists.

What is the core meaning of this spiritual darkness? What is it that makes this darkness 'darkness'? The Bible identifies this darkness in a number of ways:

Darkness expressed as sinful actions

Proverbs 2:13

' ... who leave the straight paths and walk in dark ways'

Romans 13:12

' ... put aside the deeds of darkness ... '

Ephesians 5:11

'have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness ... '

Darkness as God's judgement

Deut 28:28,29

'The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind. At midday you will grope about like a blind man in the dark. ... '

Psalm 88:6,7

'You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily upon me ... '

Psalm 105:28

'He sent darkness and made the land dark - for had they not rebelled against his words?'

Proverbs 20:20

'if a man curses his father or mother, his lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.'

Isaiah 13:9,10

'the day of the Lord is coming - a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger - ... the stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.' [see also Ezekiel 32:7,8; Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24; Revelation 8:12]

Jeremiah 13:16

'Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings the darkness, before your feet stumble on the darkening hills. You hope for light, but he will turn it to thick darkness and change it to deep gloom.'

Joel 3:15

'The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine.' [see also 2:10; Amos 8:9]

Amos 5:18,20

'That day will be darkness, not light. ... Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light - pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?'

Zeph 1:15,17

'That day will be ... a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness ... they will walk like blind men because they have sinned against the Lord.'

Matthew 25:30

'throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' [See also Matthew 8:12; 22:13]

2 Peter 2:17

' ... blackest darkness is reserved for them'

Jude 13

'men ... for whom the blackest darkness has been reserved forever'

Darkness as Satan's realm of authority

John 8:42-27

[ in which Jesus indicates that the failure of the Jews to recognize and believe the truth indicated that they belonged to the devil ]

Acts 26:18

' ... to ... turn them from ... the power of Satan to God'

Ephesians 6:13

' our struggle is ... against ... the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.'

Colossians 1:13

' ... the dominion of darkness'

Darkness as [1] the realm of separation from God, and [2] the characteristic quality of this life without God

Psalm 107:10,11

'Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High.'

Proverbs 4:19

'the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.'

Eccles. 5:17

'all his days he eats in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger.'

John 3:19

' ... men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.'

2 Cor 6:14

' ... what fellowship can light have with darkness?'

Ephesians 5:8

' ... you were once darkness ... '

1 Peter 2:9

' ... called you out of darkness ... '

1 John 1:6

'If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.'

1 John 2:11

'Whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.'

Darkness as death

Job 10:21,22

' ... before I return to the place of no return, to the land of gloom and deep shadow, to the land of deepest night, of deep shadow and disorder, where even the light is like darkness.'

Psalm 88:12

'Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?'

Darkness as ignorance of God

Job 23:17

'I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face.'

Isaiah 56:10

'Israel's watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge ... '

Isaiah 59:9,10

' ... We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadow. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.'

Jeremiah 13:16

'Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings the darkness, before your feet stumble on the darkening hills. You hope for light, but he will turn it to thick darkness and change it to deep gloom.'

Micah 3:6

'Therefore night will cover over you, without visions, and darkness, without divination. The sun will set for the prophets, and the day will go dark for them ... They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God.'

Matthew 6:23

'if the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!'

Matthew 15:14

' ... they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.' [Mt 23:16,17,19, 24,26]

Luke 11:35

'See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.'

John 1:5

'The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.'

John 9:39-41

'"For judgement I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?" Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains."'

John 12:40

'He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts ... '

Acts 26:18

'to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light ... '

Romans 1:21

' ... their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened'

Romans 2:19

' ... if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark ... '

2 Cor 4:4

'The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of Christ, who is the image of God.'

Ephesians 4:18

'They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.'

Revelation 3:17

'You say "I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing." But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.'

Task #1: Get the group to read and discuss the verses listed in Worksheet #2 and to identify how the Bible presents 'darkness'. Perhaps verses could be allocated to individuals or pairs to read, then share their conclusion. It may be necessary to leave some for personal study. If so, make sure that you select verses for group discussion that will cover all the aspects of darkness. Be aware that many people will automatically think that the Bible generally identifies 'darkness' as 'sin'. The evidence above does not permit such a minimization and generalization. Indeed, the overwhelming focus of darkness in the Bible is on ignorance of God, God's judgement on rejection of him, and the resultant characteristic of life without him.

A. EXPLAINING THE DARKNESS

A study of Romans 1:18-32 gives us a 'flow chart' for spiritual darkness:

There is knowledge of God:

­ the truth is there - 18

­ revealed in creation - 19,20

­ they knew God - 21

­ they claimed to be wise - 22

­ the glory of God was there - 23

­ the truth of God was there - 25

­ the knowledge of God was there - 28

­ they know God's righteous decree - 32

This knowledge of God is rejected:

­ the truth is suppressed - 18

­ God was not thanked nor glorified -21

­ the knowledge and glory of God is exchanged for man made images - 23

­ they worshipped and served created things - 25

­ they did not think it worth retaining the knowledge of God - 28

­ they approve those disobeying God -32

God's judgement falls:

­ he gave them up to do as they please:verses 24,26,28

 

Men live in the darkness of godlessness - ignorant of God and displaying the characteristic 'darkness' quality of life without God

­verses 24-32

This flow chart of darkness shows us that individual sinful actions are not the cause of the problem of darkness: they are the expression of the darkness. The fundamental problem is the rejection of the knowledge of God - which is the rejection of God as he really is - a rejection that began in Genesis 3, where Satan projected a distorted concept of God to Adam and Eve, and where Adam and Eve, only too happy to buy into this distortion, rejected God as he really is - the rightful, powerful and loving Sovereign Lord of all, including them.

This foundational rejection of God as he really is means that the human race lives in the darkness of ignorance of the one true God, and the consequent darkness of life that accompanies that ignorance and that separation from God. This darkness also constitutes God's present and future judgement.

What the world supposes is knowledge of God is so corrupted and distorted that it is ignorance ('light' that is actually 'darkness', 'sight' that is actually 'blindness'). Left to ourselves it is impossible for us to escape from this darkness of ignorance of God. Even the Jews, to whom was given not only the revelation in creation which is accessible to the whole world, but also revelation of God in historical events, and the written revelation in the Law, the Writings and the Prophets, - even the Jews did not know God: Jesus rebuked their failure to recognize him as indicating their failure to know God [John 5:37-47; 7:28,29; 8:19, 42,47,54-56]

It is easy to see how each aspect of darkness listed in the introduction all hang together. The rejection of God, that is, ignorance of God - the foundational darkness - is also automatically at the same time the darkness of judgement, life in the arena of darkness, life characterised by darkness and life in the arena where Satan, the prince of darkness, reigns. It is also, at the most basic level, the darkness of death - for life cut off from God is nothing other than spiritual death.

Task #2A: Have the group read Romans 1:18-32 to identify the darkness flowchart.
Task #2B: Have the group read Genesis 3:1-6 and identify verses which display corrupted knowledge of God.

B. SHATTERING THE DARKNESS

To shatter the darkness, to disperse the darkness God moved to undo it first of all at its source - that of ignorance of himself: of the rejection and loss of knowledge of God. Into this darkness of ignorance of and rejection of God, God himself came, in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, and revealed himself to us. With the coming of Jesus Christ no one need ever again ask the question: What is God like? No one ever again can say 'Who is God?' God has come to us and said: Here I am!

Some of the references below are prophetic of Christ, some are from the testimony of Christ himself, and some from the apostolic witness to him. [Note: some of these verses are also relevant in later studies.]

Isaiah 9:2

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

Isaiah 29:18

In that day ... out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. [See also 35:5]

Isaiah 40:5

The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.

Isaiah 40:9

You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!"

Isaiah 42:6,7

I ... will make you ... a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind ... to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

Isaiah 49:6,9

I will make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth ... to say to those in darkness, "Be free!'

Matthew 4:16

... the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

Matthew 11:27

No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Luke 1:78,79

... because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.

Luke 9:29,32

As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning ... they saw his glory.

John 1:9

The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

John 1:14

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:18

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only who is at the Father's side, has made him known.

John 3:19

... Light has come into the world

John 5:19

... what the Father does the Son also does

John 8:12

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

John 9:5

While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

John 10:30

I and the Father are one.

John 10:38

... the Father is in me, and I in the Father.

John 12:35-36

You are going to have the light just a little while longer. ... put you trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.

John 12:35

You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. ... Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.

John 12:44-46

When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

John 13:20

... whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.

John 13:31

Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.

John 14:7

If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him. ... Any one who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father?" Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?

John 17:6

I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world.

John 17:25,26

... though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known ...

Acts 9:3-5

... suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him ... "who are you Lord," Saul asked. "I am Jesus ... "

2 Cor 3:14,16,18

... only in Christ (the veil) is taken away ... whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away ... we ... with unveiled faces all contemplate the Lord's glory ...

2 Corinthians 4:6

For God who said "Let light shine out of darkness" made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Ephesians 5:8

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.

Colossians 1:15

He is the image of the invisible God

Colossians 2:2,3

... that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Hebrews 1:2,3

... in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son ... the Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being ...

1 Peter 2:9

... called you out of darkness into his wonderful light

1 John 1:1-2,

That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you: the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.

1 John 1:5

This is the message we have heard from him ... God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 2:8

... the truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

Revelation 1:12-17

... white as snow ... like blazing fire ... like bronze glowing in a furnace ... his face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance ...

In the above verses there is ample material to demonstrate that in seeing Jesus Christ we see God. Here, in a final and ultimate way, God reveals himself. Here there is no darkness. Here it becomes very obvious what God is like and what 'God' actually is.

Task #3: Use the material above and below as the group works through Task #3. The significance of this truth for evangelism is twofold: [1] the people we evangelise are ignorant about God: it is necessary to define 'God' by presenting Jesus Christ as God. [2] if people refuse to accept 'God' as defined and identified by Jesus Christ then his cross cannot help them because they have neither believed in nor received the one true God.

C. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS' CLAIM TO BE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

Jesus' statement 'I am the light of the world' is rich with Old Testament images:

[1] In the exodus from Egypt the Israelites are accompanied by a pillar of fire and cloud, encompassing them with physical light, and symbolizing the presence of the Lord (Exodus 13ff).

[2] During the Feast of the Tabernacles, which was probably just finishing when Jesus made this statement, the Temple was illuminated, drawing attention to its significance as the earthly 'dwelling place' of God.

[3] In the Psalms light is associated with God:

  • Psalm 27:1: 'The Lord is my light and salvation'
  • Psalm 36:9: 'for with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light'
  • Psalm 43:3: 'send forth your light ... '
  • Psalm 56:13b: 'that I may walk before God in the light of life'
  • Psalm 118:27: 'the Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us' (this psalm is filled with joyous anticipation of the coming Christ).

[4] Isaiah identifies God as the 'Light of Israel' (10:17) and identifies the coming Servant of the Lord as 'a light for the Gentiles' (42:6); and in 60:1-3,19,20 looks ahead to a glorious time of salvation when the light of the Lord will enlighten and draw to himself people from all nations.

As Jesus stood in the Temple, where the brilliant lights of the Feast of the Tabernacles had recently been extinguished, claiming 'I am the light of the world' all of this richness of meaning pulsated through his words. By these words he identifies himself, not only as the prophesied Messiah/Suffering Servant, but also as God. The symbolic, prophetic lights have gone, but he whom they both symbolised and prophesied is here. They need no more that brilliant illumination of the Temple. What purpose is there in a mere symbol when he whom it symbolises is here? What purpose in rejoicing in a prophetic hope when the subject of the prophecy has arrived?

There is thus no more darkness for those who recognise and believe what Jesus is claiming when he says 'I am the light of the world'; those who believe in him, those who follow him both see and know God: 'Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.' No longer is God hidden in inscrutable darkness (Exodus 20:21): he has come to us in this man, Jesus. Here in this man we see God. 'If you knew me,' Jesus said, 'you would know my father also' (John 8:19) but those to whom he spoke neither knew him nor his Father.

We must not lose the profound, far-reaching significance of Jesus' simple words. Knowledge of God is inseparably bound to knowledge of Jesus Christ. Jesus made it unquestionably clear that it is impossible to know God apart from knowing who Jesus really is. He is the light of the world. All other supposed lights are not true lights at all; they are either inadequate, or inaccurate, or false. No matter how enlightened they may suppose themselves to be, Jesus makes it clear that those who do not follow him walk in darkness.

The New Testament teaches that those who do not know God by knowing Jesus simply do not and cannot know God. Only in him is the darkness of ignorance of God shattered.

Homework: Task #4: Is [1] the completion of any task not finished during the study; and [2] a personal impact statement.