By H. Forbes Witherby.
20. Walking in the Light.
What is the light? — who are in the light? — light and life immediately connected — who walks in the light — the ever-cleansing blood.
We must be in the light in order to walk in it. The light is the full revelation of God; christianity; the truth, as now unfolded by the scriptures; and the children of God are before God according to what God is. To be in the light is to be in the Christian position now occupied by the people of God.
God is light; such is His nature. He has fully made Himself known in the person and through the work of His Son; therefore the true light now shines amongst men. As the full revelation of God is light, anything obscuring that revelation is of darkness. Before God had made Himself fully known He dwelt in the thick darkness; and at that time neither His light nor His love could be understood.
The children of God are in the light, being before Him according to the measure of His full revelation of Himself. It is not the measure of our knowledge of God that constitutes the light. What we may see of the sunlight does not determine what it is: the sunlight of the truth of who and what God is, now shines; the night of Judaism, illumined by types and shadows, is passed; our privilege is to walk in this light. In this light every child of God now is; the children of God are the "we" who walk there. There is no other place before God which a believer can occupy in relation to light and darkness save light. Twilight may exist in the souls of christians, who do not fully believe the truth of the gospel, but there is no such existence now as a twilight revelation of God.
That the true light shines, we see declared, for example, in the vail of the temple being rent from top to bottom, from heaven to earth, when our Lord died. God, who had been hidden, was then revealed according to the measure of the fulness and perfection of Christ's completed work of sin-bearing; and from that day to this, the light of His righteousness shines forth in relation to His judgment against sin.
Being perfectly cleansed by the blood of Christ, the holiest of all is the believer's place before God, and it is so simply upon the ground of what the sacrifice of Jesus has effected. It is the Christian's position by virtue of Christ's work. Our dwelling-place is in the light and the holiest of all, not by reason of our subjective condition of soul, but because the Lord has made the place or standing ours by the putting away of our sins by the sacrifice of Himself, and by His bringing us to God: "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh." (Heb. 10:19, 20.)
An unconverted man, one whose sins are not taken away, who is not brought to God, is in the darkness of his nature state, and in ignorance of God; and he is in this position, entirely outside the question of what his conduct may be. He is not in the light, and therefore cannot walk in it. The first question is, where a man walks; the next, how he walks. Is he in the golden palace where the full blaze of the divine light shines, or is he still outside the palace and in the darkness of the world?
A Christian's walk may often be faulty, but just because he is in the light he is responsible to walk as a child of light: "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light." (Eph. 5:8.) Such a spiritual position as that of neither darkness nor light does not exist; there is no intermediate place, either here or hereafter. Divine facts and our apprehension of those facts must not be confounded together. We need faith in the divine truth, not faith in our apprehension of the truth. Many stumble over this stumbling-stone, but faith in what we believe to be true because we believe it, is really faith in our own faith, not faith in God.
Light is immediately connected with eternal life. We have already seen that when the truth of God first reached us it was as light discovering to us our darkness. In a word, it was by grace, the discovery to us of God, who is light. If we bring a candle into a large dark room, the light proves its own presence and discovers the darkness also. The first work of God in the soul is by His word, "Let there be light." The entrance of God's word gives light, teaching who He is; and the effect thereof in the soul, as each child of God can witness, is that in him "God divided the light from the darkness," when by the truth he began to be discovered to himself.
The blaze of the light at the first only makes the awakened soul feel his sinfulness; it is a disturbing and searching word, but its effect is to make the soul forsake his sins and repent; and then the light and the darkness are both known as absolutely different within. The theories and fancies in which we once indulged, concerning our old Adam nature becoming improved or rendered less dense by illumining influences, disappear by reason of the truth having convinced us that the nature of God is light, and that the fallen nature of man is darkness.
When by grace the believer discerns, by the witness of the precious blood of Christ, that God is light, he knows — at least so far as he enters into the truth God's thoughts about sin. He knows those thoughts too, in twofold force; first, the utter and absolute abhorrence the divine nature has of sin; next, the satisfaction the divine nature has in the blood by which sin is put out of God's sight. The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, proclaims to sinners the impossibility, in time or in eternity, of God passing over a sinner's sins, turning aside and not dealing with sin; it also proclaims a mercy-seat for the whole world, upon the sure basis that sin has been dealt with, and answered for, by the sacrifice of the perfect offering — the Lamb of God. If the sinner neglects the mercy-seat, he enters eternity, courting eternal wrath.
The child of God having life, is taken out of darkness and placed in the light. This is his position before God, and is so, we repeat, exclusively by virtue of the Lord's work for him. The truth of the believer occupying this position is entirely distinct from that of his being in the condition of having the window of his soul open to receive the full brightness of the truth, and hence of his being full of light. The condition should agree with the position, but the position is not determined by the condition; such a thought is really placing our walk before Christ's work, and judging of what God is for us, by what we are for Him!
Those who walk in the light are the children of God. Walk according to the light as God is in the light none can, for that standard would be absolute perfection according to the very nature of God Himself. The first consideration is where, the second how we walk.
In nature there are creatures of the day and creatures of the night; each class moves either in the light or in the darkness; some are at home in the one, others in the other. But if we saw a bird of the day roused from her resting-place and fluttering through the darkness, we should not declare, because of her unwonted flight, that night was day, or she of the night. God has made His own children of the day, and His work is perfect. No one can walk as a child unless he be a child.
Alas! that so much of the lives of many christians is taken up with the enquiry, "Am I a child?" We are partakers of the divine nature, and all is of grace. Should not the love and ways of our own children forbid such questionings? they do not continually ask us whether they are really our children. They are in our homes, even as we are in our homes, and their pleasure is to behave according to their parents' wishes.
God has been revealed; and what is the truth concerning Him? "This then is the message which we have heard of [or from] Him [i.e., the Lord], and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5.) The Lord taught His disciples who God. is; and His teaching or message is communicated to us. There had not been a full revelation of God given to men until the lips of Jesus declared Him. Sin cannot be tolerated in His presence. Man in the darkness of his sinful nature cannot dwell in the presence of God. The world, and the wicked one, in whose embrace it lies, cannot approach Him.
The child of God belongs to God, and is before Him according to the measure of the perfection of Christ's work. According to this standing should his walk be; he is in the golden room illumined by the flood of perfect light, and should comport himself according to the place where God has put him.
God knows exactly what we are, He knows every thought, every motive, and nothing is or can be hidden from Him. In this assurance the child of God walks; he knows God is looking into his heart, and sees all things. He does not fear the look of God, who is light; nay, he is glad of it. All that he is in himself, his God knows, and he is aware that he can never take God by surprise by what he does, because God knows what he is, though very often he is a wonder of evil to himself. There is not the thinnest gossamer wail between him and God, nor yet a single step which he can ever take away from the eye of God.
We have eternal life, the life of God; God dwells in us, and we in God; He has given us of His Spirit, so that it is ours — poor, weak, feeble, and, in our own selves, sinful creatures as we are — to be found practically walking as those who are in the light. Scripture never tells any one to exercise activity in that to which he does not belong. It does not bid dead men walk, or children of darkness to do the works of the sons of light; legalism and doing are not consistent with the revelation of God that He is light, but scripture exhorts us to act as what we are — "Ye are all the sons (lit.) of light, and the sons (lit.) of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others." (1 Thess. 5:5, 6.)
Sleeping and walking do not naturally go together. In the reality of divine things the mechanical action of somnambulism is unknown. We do not say that there is not sleepwalking at times amongst the children of God, for, alas, there is a sad amount of formalism, and performance of religious observance, which may well go by such a description; and any religious observance may be turned into formalism. Let us see to it that we are real, and, because we do not belong to the night let us not sleep as do others. Hence also the exhortation, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light" — or shine upon thee — (Eph. 5:14), which exhortation is based upon the believer being light in the Lord, and commences with a "wherefore" in relation to that position.
By these and similar exhortations we see that the invariable and unchangeable position of the christian by virtue of Christ's work for him, and his state consequent upon his spiritual watchfulness, are quite distinct. And we see, that while the believer is in the light, still he may fall into a low state of soul and go to sleep among the dead, i.e., the unconverted: and thus, though he be of the light, yet, by having closed his spiritual eyes and lost his spiritual activity, he may become to all appearance like the dead, he may resemble them as much as is possible for the living to do so he may be asleep among them.
The ever-cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. As the sun ever shines, so does the blood ever cleanse. The light of God's own nature cannot tolerate sin in the ever-present cleansing of the blood, the child of God is maintained before the holy God. There is a continuous efficacy in this precious blood, an ever-abiding value, a constant maintaining power before God. We are before God according to His nature, and in the blood of His Son we have the everlasting equivalent in relation to our every sin. Such is the intrinsic worth of the blood of Jesus Christ.
We need perfect purity before God, as we are brought into fellowship with Him, and thus the light and the blood are connected. The light is our place, and there in that light, where God is unveiled in absolute holiness and in perfect love, the blood of His Son cleanses us.
We do not need to be washed by that blood again and again, for Jesus "hath washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Rev. 1:5); but none the less do we need its ever-cleansing character in His presence, before whom the very heavens are not clean, and who charges His angels with folly. We do not need to be brought to God again by the Lord's work or by Himself, for Christ has "once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18); but being so brought to God, being "perfected for ever" (Heb. 10:14), we do need that cleansing blood which ever maintains us where we are according to God's own purity. The essential worth of the blood of Jesus, its own intrinsic worth, its ever present value, is of all importance for us.
The very holiness of God, the very light itself, is honored by the precious blood. We, in ourselves as black as night, are now whiter than snow. The brighter the noon-day sun shines upon the unstained snow, the whiter and the more glistening does it appear. The brighter the light, the more does it make manifest what the child of God is made in Christ. No trembling of conscience comes in here. The child of God has liberty and joy in the nature of His God.
If there be any doubting, the child of God has not yet fully appreciated that he is IN the light as God is IN the light. No further than this, surely, can our thoughts travel along the road of perfect acceptance. We are before God in Christ according to what God is as the holy God.