"The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." (John 1:5)
This lesson explains the meaning of John 1:5.
Consider. What does this verse (John 1:5) mean to you? How would you explain "The Light shines in the darkness" to an inquisitive believer or to a person who does not know Christ?
Scriptures in this lesson are taken from the 1995 New American Standard Bible (NASB) on the Bible Gateway website (Ref. 1) unless indicated otherwise.
1. The Light shines in the darkness
a. What is "The Light"?
Throughout the New Testament, "light" figuratively denotes truth and knowledge together with spiritual purity (Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Ref. 2). In John 1:5, the "Light" is God's divine illumination to reveal and impart life through Jesus Christ. The Light that shines in the darkness is the life-giving, saving truth embodied in Christ and by his love and effort imparted to mankind (Ref. 2).
b. Was the "Light" only in the past or is it ongoing?
The Light of Christ is perpetual. It always shines, and it never ceases. The life-giving, saving truth of Christ shining in the darkness was an on-going truth for the Apostle John and is an ongoing truth for us today -- not only for us, but also for us to share with others.
The verb "shines" in John 1:5 is in the present tense (Englishman's Concordance, Ref. 3). A Greek verb in the present tense means a present, continued action that is an actual fact (Ref. 4). The Greek verb for "shines" is phainó and means to shed light or appear (Strong's Concordance, Ref. 3). John uses the same word in 1 John 2:8.
c. In John and 1 John, what is the "darkness"?
In John 1:5 the Greek word for "darkness" is skotia (pronounced skot-ee'-ah) (Ref. 5). Skotia [darkness] figuratively means ignorance (lack of knowledge) of divine things, wickedness, and the resultant misery (Ref. 5).
John uses skotia figuratively for "darkness" in John 1:5, John 8:12, John 12:35, John 12:46, 1 John 1:5, as well as 1 John 2:8, 9, and 11. For example, Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life" (John 8:12).
Skotia also has a literal meaning -- dark because of the absence of daylight (John 6:17, John 20:1).
d. How does a person get out of the "darkness"?
Believe in Jesus
Jesus tells us how we (or any person) can get out of spiritual darkness. Jesus said, "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness" (John 12:46). The key for getting out of the darkness and into the light is to believe in Jesus. The Greek word for "believe" in John 12:46 is pisteuó (pronounced pist-yoo'-o). Pisteuó means trust in, have faith in, and put confidence in (Ref. 6). A person who believes in Jesus trusts in, has faith in, and puts their confidence in Jesus.
2. And the darkness did not comprehend it or overcome it
The Greek verb translated as "comprehend" or "overcome" in John 1:5 is katalambanó (pronounced kat-al-am-ban'-o) (HELPS Word-studies, Ref. 7). Katalambanó means:
Let us rejoice! The Light of Jesus Christ is perpetual and is victorious over the darkness. The Light of Christ shining in the darkness gives us hope. As disciples of Christ, let us seek ways we can help provide the Light of Christ to others, to help them "see the Light" so that they will not remain in darkness.
Summary. In John 1:5, the "Light" is God's divine illumination to reveal and impart life through Jesus Christ to mankind. The Light shines perpetually, and it never ceases. Because of ignorance and wickedness, the darkness has not perceived or understood the Light. The darkness has not overcome the Light nor will it ever overcome the Light. As Christ's disciples, we have hope because Christ and his light are victorious over the darkness.
Apply. Think for a moment. In your own words, how would you describe the meaning of "The Light shines in the darkness"? How can you share the Light of Christ with others?
"Jesus is the Light of the World" - John 8:12, John 12:46
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
"Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him." (1 John 5:1)
"The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16)
This lesson is the third lesson in the series, "The Children of God" (Ref. 1, Ref. 2). This lesson is the second of two lessons on the Characteristics of a Child of God (Ref. 2). To learn more about "Becoming a Child of God," please review Ref. 1.
Consider. If someone asked you to describe the characteristics of a child of God, what would you say?
A Child of God Illumines Others with the Light of Christ
Jesus Christ himself is the light of the world (John 1:9, John 8:12). When Jesus said to his disciples, "You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14), Jesus described their (our) role to shine with his light, the light of Christ, upon the world. The light of Christ that we shine enlightens people and leads them to salvation and eternal life. When we are a child of God, we share the light of Christ upon the world effectively because the Holy Spirit indwells us and empowers us (John 14:16-17, Acts 1:8, Ref. 3).
A Child of God Should Have the Proper Motive in Doing Good Works
Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16, italics added). We are to avoid doing good deeds for ostentatious ("look at me") purposes. Jesus criticized people who do good works to bring praise to themselves rather than to God (Matthew 6:1-6). Our motive as a child of God should always be to glorify God, not ourselves.
A Child of God Must Love All People
A child of God must love all people:
The Greek word for love in these verses above is agapaó, which means to have a preference for, wish well to, regard the welfare of (Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Ref. 4).
A Child of God Has the Witness of the Spirit
The Apostle Paul writes, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16). The Greek word for bears witness with is summartureó which means to testify jointly, i.e. corroborate by (concurrent) evidence (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Ref. 5). When we are born of God, the Holy Spirit jointly testifies with our human spirit that God is our heavenly Father and that we are his child (Romans 8:15, Ref. 6 below).
A Child of God Should Be Alert (Watchful) and Sober (Free from Illusion)
The Apostle Paul begins 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 with "Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). Then Paul says, "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day ..." (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5, italics added).
Paul then states a characteristic of children of God, "so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober" (1 Thessalonians 5:6, italics added.) As a child of God:
Apply. In self-examination, consider each of the characteristics of a child of God covered in this lesson.
In the next, and final, lesson in this series, we will discuss the nature and benefits of our adoption as children of God.
"Becoming a Child of God" (John 1:12-13)
"Characteristics of a Child of God - Part 1" (Matthew 7:16)
"Our Adoption as God's Children" (Galatians 4:4-5)
6. Kenneth S. Wuest, "Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament," Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973
"Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, 'I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.' " (John 8:12)
"I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness." (John 12:46)
"Christ is the Light of the world. God is light, and Christ is the image of the invisible God. One sun enlightens the whole world; so does one Christ, and there needs no more." -- Matthew Henry (1662-1714) (Ref. 1, Ref. 2)
This lesson is the first in a series on the "I AM" statements of Christ. This lesson discusses Jesus' statement, "I am the Light of the world" (John 8:12).
Consider. What does it mean to you that Jesus is the Light of the world? Do you have the Light of life?
God is Light
The teaching that God is Light begins in the Old Testament and continues through the New Testament. David wrote, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?" (Psalm 27:1). The prophet Micah said, "Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me" (Micah 7:8). The disciple John, wrote, "God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5).
God's Light Purposely Illumines Mankind
Jesus' Jewish listeners would recall Exodus 13:21 - "The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night." The psalmist wrote, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105). The author of 2 Samuel 22:29 tells us "For You are my lamp, O Lord; And the Lord illumines my darkness."
"I am the Light of the world"
Jesus, the Eternal One, is the Light of the world because:
"He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness"
Let's discuss this phrase in three parts:
a) "He who follows Me" - The Greek word for follow is akoloutheó, which means to join as a disciple (Ref. 5). In John 8:12, Jesus "likens himself to a torch which the disciple follows" (Ref. 5). Jesus frequently spoke about what it means to follow him as a disciple (for example, Luke 14:27).
b) "Will not walk" - The Greek word for walk is peripateó. Peripateó means (in the ethical sense) how I conduct my life (Ref. 6).
c) "In the darkness" - The Greek word for darkness is scotia (Ref. 7). Scotia has a dual meaning. In the literal sense, scotia (darkness) is the absence of daylight (John 6:17). In the figurative sense, scotia (darkness) is the state we are in before we believe in Christ, that is, a state of ignorance, guilt, and sin (Ref. 8).
Putting these three parts together - "He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness" means He who follows Me [Jesus] as a disciple will no longer conduct his life in a state of ignorance, guilt, and sin.
Note that Jesus also said, "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness" (John 12:46, italics added). Being in darkness is our (mankind's) default condition. Jesus has come so that when we believe in him, God the Father transfers us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of the Son of God (Colossians 1:13).
"But will have the Light of life"
Just as sight is a function of physical life, Christ is the Light for our spiritual life. John says, referring to Christ, "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men" (John 1:4). When we believe in Jesus Christ, the divine light of Christ continually shines in us, guiding us to life everlasting (Ref. 9).
Apply. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Light of the world? If not, then pray and put your trust in him today.
Are you a disciple of Christ? Are you following him?
Do you have the Light of life?
(Matthew Poole's Commentary on John 12:46)
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