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© Rosemary Bardsley 2022

John wrote: ‘This is the message we heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all’ (1John 1:5).

The apostles’ message was focused on Jesus Christ and life (1John 1:1 – 3). They proclaimed Jesus Christ as ‘the Word of life’, ‘the life’ and ‘the eternal life’. John now gives us additional information: that the message they heard from Jesus Christ was that ‘God is light’. This is not a contradiction, but an acknowledgement that ‘life’ and ‘light’ go together. Jesus Christ is both life and light. And he revealed God the Father as both life and light.
It is on this aspect of ‘light’ that John now focuses.

A. 1JOHN 1:5
The association of God with ‘light’ has its roots in the Old Testament. There we find:

That when God appeared to humans, this appearance was sometimes accompanied by physical light or brilliance.

That God himself is identified as ‘light’.

That to walk with God is the opposite of walking in darkness.

Check these verses. What do they reveal about these three concepts?
Exodus 13:21, 22:

Psalm 4:6

Psalm 18:28

Psalm 27:1

Psalm 89:15

Isaiah 2:5

Isaiah 50:10

Ezekiel 1:25 - 28

Daniel 7:9

A.1 ‘God is light’
In these words John is telling us that Jesus Christ revealed the nature of God as light. To know God by knowing Jesus Christ is to be removed from the darkness of spiritual ignorance and error into the spiritual light of knowing the true God.

Here John expresses the same truth that we find in his introduction to his gospel.

Read these verses from John 1. What connection does John make between Jesus Christ and spiritual light?




Jesus affirmed this connection between himself and ‘light’.

What do these statements of Jesus from John’s gospel reveal about the connection between himself and light?



12:45, 46

This association of ‘light’ with Jesus Christ is also affirmed by other biblical writers.

In the verses below, underline the words and phrases that make this connection:

Isaiah, recording God’s word about the promised Saviour:

‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to the tribes of Jacob ... I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth’ (Isaiah 49:6).

Matthew, reporting on Jesus’ ministry, quoted from Isaiah 9:2:

‘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 4:16).

Luke, reporting what Simeon said as he held the baby Jesus in his arms:

‘my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel’ (Luke 2:30 – 32).

Paul, recalling the commission given to him by Jesus Christ:

‘I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God ...’ (Acts 26:17, 18).

Paul, summarizing the message of Moses and the prophets:

‘that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles’ (Acts 26:23).

Paul, on the reversal of darkness that happens when a person believes in Christ:

‘The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God ... 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’ (2Corinthians 4:4, 6).

John concludes his first letter with a statement that affirms this truth that the true God is known by knowing Jesus Christ. To know Jesus Christ is to know the true God. To walk with Jesus is to be in the light. It is to walk in the light. Because it is to walk with God. Any other position, any other ‘god’ concept, is outlawed:

‘We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols’ (1John 5:19 – 21).

Some of the above verses, as well as associating Jesus Christ and light, also teach us that Jesus Christ came to earth to rescue us from ‘darkness’, so that, as he himself said, we will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life (John 8:12). This is in fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy:

‘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 9:2).

A.2 ‘in him there is no darkness at all’
What is this ‘darkness’? What is it of which there is none at all in God? What is this darkness from which Jesus delivers us? We could suggest:

The darkness of deception and untruth.
The darkness of ignorance of God.
The darkness of sin and evil.
The darkness of death.
The darkness of guilt and condemnation.
The darkness of fear in the presence of God.
The darkness of separation from God and from each other.

In his first letter, John draws our attention to our deliverance from each of these aspects of darkness. This deliverance from darkness is directly connected to Jesus Christ, who has reconnected us to God.



Simply put, to ‘walk in the light’ is to ‘follow’ Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus himself said: ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12).

John’s letters were written because at the time there were people in the churches who were promoting a diminished and twisted perception of Jesus Christ. This false teaching interfered with how people understood both the real deity and the real humanity of Jesus Christ. In doing so it also interfered with their understanding of the salvation they had in Christ. In doing so it also interfered with the moral standards they embraced. It erred, therefore, in three areas:

The truth about God.
Salvation (our relationship with God).
Moral choices.

These three important aspects of the Christian faith – what we believe, how we relate to God, and how we live – go hand in hand. If, for example, we say that we believe in Jesus Christ, but still relate to God on the basis of our own merit or demerit, it is obvious that we do not really believe that he is our Saviour. If, for example, we say we believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, but our lives demonstrate no submission to him, then our lives deny our words, making it evident that we do not really acknowledge him as Lord.

Because of the presence of false teaching, scattered throughout John’s first letter are quite a lot of statements that refer to this connection between faith and life, between words and actions. Some of these statements can seem to be quite unsettling; they seem to infer that salvation can be lost. But that is not John’s intention. He wants to make sure that his readers believe in the real Jesus, not the Jesus of the false teaching. His intention was to get them to examine the integrity of their claim to believe in Jesus Christ by looking at what they believed, how they related to God, and how they lived their lives. His question is: Do our words and our actions reflect the true truth about Jesus? If they don’t, then we do not really believe in the real Jesus, and, therefore, cannot rightly be identified as his followers.

The first of these unsettling statements is in 1:6:

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

And its opposite in 1:7:

‘But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another ...’
‘if we walk in the light, as he is in the light ... the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.’

These statements follow directly after John’s summary of the message that the apostles received from Jesus Christ and declared to others: ‘God is light; in him there is no darkness at all’ (1:5).

There are things that go together, and things that don’t go together:

On the one hand there are:

Walking in the light/living by the truth.
The blood of Jesus cleansing from sin.
Having fellowship with God/having fellowship with each other.

And on the other hand there are:

Walking in the darkness/not living by the truth.
No cleansing from sin.
No fellowship with God and with each other.

There is a clear cut distinction. The reality of the first group and the reality of the second group cannot be mixed, because the various elements in each group are intra-dependent. If we do not have the truth about God, we cannot live in the light of that truth, and we cannot have fellowship with him, because we simply do not know him. If we do not know him then the blood of Jesus does not cleanse us from sin.

B.1 Walking in the light = having fellowship to God = living by the truth
In verse 6 John states: ‘If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.’

As we saw previously, if we know Jesus Christ, we have seen, and we know, the truth about who God is. We are no longer in the darkness; we are no longer spiritually ignorant or deceived. We do not know everything about God, but we do know him.

No longer do we run here and there trying to find ‘god’.
No longer do we limit God to any human definition or perception of ‘god’.
No longer do we run after the latest fad ideology, or after a mystical personal experience of ‘god’.

In knowing Christ we know the truth about God; in knowing Christ we know God.

In coming to know God through knowing Christ we have turned our back on all the diluted and distorted ‘god’ concepts that humans have embraced since believing Satan’s lies in Genesis 3. In Christ, God has come to us and said: Here I am. This is who I am. Believe in me. Follow me. And when you do, you will never again walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. When you do, your separation from God is reversed.

It is important to note that both the ‘walk in the darkness’ in verse 6 and the ‘walk in the light’ in verse 7 are in the present tense, referring to our present and continuing way of living – the underlying attitudes and characteristics of the way we live, that are observable in our day to day lives, that regularly demonstrate either ‘darkness’ or ‘light’. John is not demanding perfection. He is not excluding us on the basis of specific individual failures or sins. He is challenging us to examine and assess the basic orientation of our lives. Is it ‘darkness’? Does ‘darkness’ still dominate and direct our beliefs, our attitudes, our actions? Or is it the light and truth brought to us by Jesus Christ?

B.2 Walking in the light = having fellowship with each other
In Christ, light and truth have come to us. In knowing Christ, we again know the one true God. All who believe in Jesus Christ have fellowship with the same God. We all acknowledge and worship the one God revealed by Jesus Christ. This automatically connects us with each other in a fellowship of truth, a fellowship of light. The light we follow, the truth we believe, unite those who acknowledge Jesus Christ with God and with each other.

In the New Testament Christian unity is always unity on the basis of truth, not unity at the expense of truth. Paul made this clear in Ephesians 4:11 – 16, where he teaches us that the goal of proclaiming and teaching the truth is that ‘we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God ...’

As we have seen previously, John, in this first letter, was very concerned that people calling themselves followers of Jesus Christ were believing in and teaching a diminished Jesus. That diminished concept of Jesus brought ‘darkness’ into the church, and it broke the fellowship between believers. The truth, the light, revealed in and by Jesus was the basis, the reason, for the fellowship. Once that truth is corrupted or jettisoned, the ground of the fellowship has been removed, and the fellowship shattered.

Read these verses. How do they express similar concepts, but in different words?
2Corinthians 6:14, 15


2Corinthians 11:3, 4


Galatians 1:6 – 9


Think about these questions:
What is the understanding of ‘fellowship’ in your church or Christian community?


What do people understand as the basis of that ‘fellowship’?


How is that ‘fellowship’ expressed?


How is it similar to or different from the ‘fellowship’ John is talking about in 1:6, 7?


B.3 Walking in the light = being purified from all sin by the blood of Jesus, God’s Son
There is a second element in the ‘fellowship with one another’ that John is talking about. Not only are we walking in the light, basing our lives on the truth about God revealed by Jesus Christ, so that we share a common truth. But also, we share a common salvation: the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all sin.

It is this truth that makes it possible for us to have ‘fellowship with him’.
It is also this truth that makes it possible for us to have ‘fellowship with each other.’

We have already seen that the entry of sin in Genesis 3 caused an immediate and on-going separation from God and from each other. For those who have received/acknowledged Jesus Christ, his blood has dealt with our sin, undoing and reversing the spiritual aspects of Genesis 3.

B.3.1 Restoration to fellowship with God
Check these verses. How do they describe the impact of Christ’s death for our sin?
Romans 4:8

Galatians 3:10, 13

Colossians 2:13 – 15

Hebrews 9:26, 27

1Peter 3:18

For those who are united to him by faith, the death of Christ has dealt with sin/sins in a decisive, comprehensive and final way. Sin is never again held against those who believe in him. Legally, the death of Christ has fully met, on our behalf, the just penalty for all of our sins. This comprehensive and complete satisfaction of God’s justice, of the just demands of God’s law, has resulted in what Paul referred to as ‘a righteousness from God’ apart from law, apart from works, being freely granted to those who believe in Jesus Christ. This ‘righteousness’, this ‘justification’, means that we are ‘justified’ – that is, acquitted, legally declared ‘innocent’, with no charges ever to be brought against us again. The legal record of our sin and guilt has been permanently removed. Our record has been wiped clean. This is what John is talking about when he says that Jesus’ blood ‘purifies’ us from all sin. [Verses 8 and 10 make it clear that he is not talking about sinless perfection. See the next study.]

Check these verses. How do they refer to this purification/cleansing from sin?
2Corinthians 5:19

2Corinthains 5:21

Colossians 1:12

Colossians 1:22

Hebrews 10:10

Hebrews 10:14


When Jesus Christ came into the world he did two things:

He came as light so that we can know the true God.
He came to die for our sins, so that we can be restored to fellowship with the true God.

Both are essential. The first without the second would be devastatingly cruel, for we would see and know God, but be banned from him forever. The second without the first would be meaningless, because we would not know who the true God is, and therefore would not be able to come to him.
Together, they comprise the ultimate in blessedness: to actually see and know God and to be reunited to him forever.

B.3.3 Restoration of fellowship with each other
The same blood of Jesus that has removed the sin-barrier between God and us, also powerfully addresses the divisions between humans.

The gospel of Jesus Christ – our reconciliation with God, forgiveness and justification through his blood – communicates two powerful truths about us and our fellow-believers:

[1] There is no difference – we are all equally sinners.
[2] There is no difference – we are all equally reconciled, forgiven, acquitted, by the same blood of Jesus.

It also tells us that ‘we are all one in Christ Jesus’.

Check these verses. How do they express this unity, this common identity?
Romans 3:22 – 24

Galatians 3:26 – 69

Ephesians 2:14 – 16

If we are walking in the light of the Gospel – the truth about who Jesus is and what he has done – then we are living with the sure and certain knowledge that Jesus has not only broken down the barriers between us and God; he has also broken down the barriers between us and our fellow-believers. By his blood he has outlawed disunity.

Read John 17:13 – 26. Answer these questions:
What do believers have in common, which the ‘world’ does not have? (vs. 14, 25).


How does Jesus refer to the unity/fellowship of those who believe in him? (vs. 21, 23).


What is the basis of Christian love for each other? (v.26).


Unity with the Father and with the Son, are expressed in unity with each other. This is both a blessing and a responsibility. As we will see as we move through John’s letter, a disturbing lack of unity and lack of love was threatening his readers, and that lack of fellowship was because the pure truth of the Gospel was being compromised by the false teaching. The truth tells us that by the blood of Jesus God has dealt with our sin, that God no longer holds our sin against us. Who then, are we, to hold our fellow-believers’ sin against them? Who are we, to not love our fellow-believers, when God has so powerfully demonstrated his love towards us? (John will address this repeatedly in his letter.)