By Bill Randles
And this is the message you heard from the beginning, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all - 1 John 1:5
John's first epistle was written to restore the true knowledge of God, to Christians whose faith had been undermined by an early form of Gnosticism. A Gnostic is a person, who claims a special, mystical knowledge of God, that is unique to conventional Christianity. Gnostics re- define what it means to know God, what prayer is, how revelation is received, who God is, what it means to be spiritual, etc. The effect was that so-called “normal” Christians began to doubt their own knowledge and experience of God.
Therefore John tells us,
I write no new thing to you but an old commandment which you heard from the beginning … - 1 John 2:7.
John's task is to take us back to the start, and to restore the true knowledge of the true God:…
This is the true God and eternal life - 1 John 5:20.
His message is startlingly relevant. Our situation is strikingly similar. We too are plagued with the neo Gnostics—the Kenneth Copelands, Rick Joyners, and countless other mystics, who disparage simple faith in Jesus, redefine prayer and spiritual warfare, and hold forth fantastic, experience based spiritualities that can have “normal” Christians wondering why they don't have such a walk with God.
The starting point for John, in taking us back to the beginning, is our knowledge of God, for that is the determining factor in all of our spiritualities. There is nothing more important nor significant than how you see God; it controls all else about you—your morality, teaching, experience, marriage, relationships—everything about you is affected by your perception of who God is. In fact, all of your problems are, at the root, theological problems. Therefore, John seeks to restore the true faith of believers, and to deliver pseudo believers and Gnostics from false faith, by framing his teaching around three simple propositions about the nature of the true God:• …
God is Light and in Him is no darkness at all - 1 John 1: 5.• …
God is Love… 1 John 4: 8.• …
Jesus Christ has come (and remains, lit.) in the flesh - 1 John 4: 2.
God is Light
note that He doesn't say God has light, but that God is Light. He is the source and essence of all true light. Of course this is partly a reference to the splendour, beauty, and glory of God. God dwells in a light which is unapproachable by mortal man. As the old hymn proclaims,Though the eye of sinful man thy Glory may not see…
The statement that God is Light…is also a reference to revelation. God is Light…He discloses Himself; He is the God of the coming “apocalypse” (unveiling); He is bringing all things out into the open. In God's light everything will be seen as it really is. There will be no more pretence or illusion. We can't fathom the revelation of the glory soon to be revealed at the unveiling of Jesus Christ to the world or the consequence of that unveiling (revelation).
This is critical in John's refutation of the Gnostics. Gnostics love to be “in on the secret ”, they pride themselves on uncovering mysteries that most Christians are kept out of by their supposed carnality and ignorance. The Gnostics are the enlightened ones, operating on a higher level of “revelation knowledge” than the rest of the church.In Gnostic thought, there is a mystical hierarchy in the church; there are “thirty fold Christians, sixty fold Christians, and one hundred fold Christians”, there are “outer court Christians, inner court Christians”, and the elite “holy of holies Christians!” All of this of course is nonsense, becauseGod is Light and in Him is no darkness at all – 1 John 1: 5.
In the true God, all is out in the open, up front, there is no privileged secret, elite group, who receive the mysterious “secrets of the kingdom” or what have you - God is Light!
What does light do? It brings things out into the open:for whatever makes manifest is light - Ephesians 5:13.
Because the real “God is light and in him is no darkness at all”, an encounter with God is a coming into the light, which is absolutely unsparing in its moral and spiritual clarity! This is the true God.Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them! - Ephesians 5:11.
Consider the conversion of Isaiah, who actually saw the Lord in the temple, “high and lifted up!” In the light of the Lord, he also saw himself and called woes upon himself in anguish,Woe is me, I am undone, I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips for my eyes have seen the king (in His glory!) the LORD of hosts - Isaiah 6: 5
Have you seen yourself in the light of God and utterly abhorred what you saw? If not, I doubt your salvation! The real God is, Light, and in Him is no darkness at all!
How can you discern if a local church is really of God?
There are many aspects that bear scrutiny such as, do they preach The Word? Do they love people? Does the church have an outreach to the lost? But then also one of the elements of true worship Paul brings out is that in the presence of God, the secrets of the heart are revealed. When an unbeliever comes into the true church,… the secrets of his heart will be revealed and he will fall on his face and worship and say truly God is in you of a truth! - 1 Corinthians 14: 25.
Perhaps this is why many people feel judged and scrutinized when they go to a true church. Often they think that it is the people examining them, but it is the presence of God, exposing to them the very secrets of their heart!
Consider also the conversion of Peter, for we are told in Luke 5, that when Jesus borrowed his boat from which to preach, He was just another preacher to Peter. But when He commanded Peter afterward to go out into the deep for a catch, and Peter pulled in nets so full they were actually breaking, he had an experience very similar to that of Isaiah,
When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down (literally, falling down and looking up) at Jesus knees, saying depart from me, for I am a sinful man Oh Lord - Luke 5: 8.
An encounter with the true God is with the LIGHT. All is exposed and there is an unbearable moral clarity - one sees himself/herself in God's light and trembles.Or as John proclaims, This is the message you heard from the beginning,
that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all
If only people would do what both Peter and Isaiah did, i.e. remain in the light! In the face of the discomfort of being seen as they really were, the shame of total exposure, the unbearable clarity, Isaiah and Peter remained in the light of exposure and found out something blessed about the light of our God, who is LIGHT.I have no doubt every fibre in Isaiah's being wanted to run back out of that temple into the comfort of the darkness again, but he remained where he was, trembling and undone, utterly exposed in the light of the glory of the Thrice Holy One!
Definitely Peter wanted to get away from Jesus, for he saw what Isaiah saw. But when they remained in the light of the holy God, they found out that the same light of God that exposed all things can also purge all things.
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged" - Isaiah 6: 6,7.
This is nothing less than the story of my new life, and of all who have truly met God! For the altar of God is the cross of Jesus, and the coal on the lips is the confession that Jesus is Lord and that God has raised Him from the dead!.