5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
After his introduction, John makes a declaration regarding the message that he now proclaims. In these first five verses, John makes reference to the message that he and the other disciples are preaching eleven distinct times.
- we heard
- have seen
- looked upon
- we have seen it
- made manifest to us
- we have seen…
- … and heard
- writing these things
- we have heard
- proclaim to you.
John wants to leave no doubt in the minds of his hearers that what he is sharing with is something that he is convinced of. We have looked at this in the first verse and how faith is built upon by each expression. What makes this verse unique in the opening verses of the letter is that he moves from the person experiences to a clear declaration of what we are talking about.
In verse 5, John explicitly states what he is trying to make known in his writing and preaching. He says that the message he is proclaiming is that “God is light.” This is a definitive affirmation about God and how he is experienced by those who encounter him. This is not hyperbole. This is a theologically significant pronouncement. One that must be investigated and understood.
John’s description conjures up the sensation one has of moving from a dark room into the bright sunlight. Your eyes cannot adjust fast enough and you are left feeling blind, springing back from the brightness produced by the sun. In the same way, those who are not already in his presence will feel a similar effect. The major difference will be that this will happen to our spirit, and not just to our eyes.
If that were all that John had to say that would be enough. But, John does not stop there. He goes on to say something that, at least on the surface, appears to be self-evident. John says that “in him is no darkness at all.”
It is not enough that God is light and that he cannot be looked upon without there being a compulsory reaction. The apostle wants to make sure that we understand that because of this attribute of his nature, there never has been and there never will be a time when God is susceptible to the temptation that comes from exposure to darkness. God will not fail to uphold his responsibility as God because God cannot stop being what he is. God never cedes ground to the darkness of sin because the darkness can never gain ground against him.
This contrast of light and dark is a familiar motif for John. He loves to use the contrast of light and dark; of night and day in his Gospel and epistles to increase our awareness of how different we are from God. And more to the point, how far we are from God. John’s uses the movement from darkness to the day as an illustration of what happens when our hearts are illuminated by the Gospel of Jesus.
By laying this reality of God down as the opening salvo of his epistle, John is making his intentions more clear. It would seem that his hope is to make the light of the Gospel proclaimed by the God who is light shine in the minds and hearts of his readers.
As we travel on this journey of faith, is helps to know that God is there with us to provide guidance and direction. God’s light is both a source of conviction for us when we sin and a promise of love. When we sin, we will become aware of how we have fallen short of God’s standard. However, because nothing is hidden from God and God hides nothing we can know that God will not deal with us unjustly. What we have to learn to do is to trust in the character of God. That He will remain true to who He has always been. Our loving, heavenly Father.