"God Is Light"

1 John 1:5.

The two passages which we meet in 1 John — "God is Light" — "God is Love," are, what I judge, we may call parent truths. Following the divine revelation from beginning to end, they will be found to form the whole of it — the two lines by which the texture of the divine counsels has been woven. To effect the results of combined "light" and "love," that is, of perfect parity and perfect goodness, is the secret that quickens and fills the scene throughout. All is light and love, for all is serving the display of God Himself, and "God is light," and "God is love" — perfect in purity and perfect in goodness.

I would now, for a little, trace the expressions of the truth, "GOD IS LIGHT," as they show themselves along the current of the divine revelations, desiring to have the soul humbled, and yet also raised and gladdened by such meditations.

At the beginning we get the strongest expression of the holiness and righteousness of God — "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Here the Lord attaches to the first commission of evil nothing less than complete separation from Himself; for He is the living God. As such He had just shown Himself; He had just become the source of all that in that moment was surrounding Him in earth, air, and seas; He was the living and life-giving God, and, therefore, a state of death was a state of separation from Him. And this state is announced to be the sure and immediate doom of the creature on the moment of his commission of evil. What a strong assertion, thus, at the very outset, of the purity of God, of the great truth that "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all;" the creature that becomes a child of evil, a child of darkness, must at once be an exile from Him — "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

Thus does the blessed One at once display Himself. And every thing afterwards is but a brightening of this; a sealing afresh of the first impression, that "God is light." We may, see also, and fully grant it, that "love" will have its way — that is true and necessary also — but "light" will not give way. In all revealed counsels, in all places and dispensations, it asserts its equal place.

When sin enters, we see this. We read it as distinctly in the promise made for man in guilt, as we real it before in the threat made to man in innocency. Whatever shape the word takes from the altered condition of its object, still it clearly comes forth from Him, who is equally, and perfectly, both "light" and "love." "It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel," is now said by the Lord God to the serpent about the woman's seed. That is, God will provide a way whereby He can be "just," and yet the "Justifier" of sinners. All the claims of "light" or righteousness shall be honoured, and all the desires of "love" shall be gratified. Such is the interpretation of this first promise of God after sin had entered. Clearly indeed does it announce, in a way of excellent wisdom, which surely passes all thought, that He is both "light" and "love," and that each must be glorified! Man shall be redeemed, the serpent's head shall be bruised, because "God is love;" but the penalty of sin shall be endured, or the heel of the woman's seed shall be bruised because "God is light."

This is surely a full and blessed expression of God! And just for the same reason (because "God is light") from henceforth we see Him a stranger in the place which sin or death has entered. Man's habitation has become defiled. The ground is cursed because of sin, and God cannot be at home here; He becomes a stranger in His own creation. He visits the earth for the comfort and guidance of His people, because He is "love." "The Lord went His way as soon as He had left communing with Abraham." (Gen. 18.) Quite according to this sanctity of the divine feet, which could not rest on a soiled footstool, we find, in process of time (or rather in the progress of His dispensations), when He is about to assume Canaan for His dwelling-place. The sword of Joshua, the servant of God, who is "light," rids it of its old corrupters. Cities are made a curse to the Lord. The fruit of cattle, fields, and trees, are all circumcised, as it were, or purified by various ordinances. Israel themselves coming into their inheritance a redeemed people. All, after its manner, is thus cleansed, ere the Lord can dwell there; for the voice still is, "What communion has light with darkness?" — "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all."

So, when all is settled in the land, it is sanctity that is marked still — "holiness to the Lord" is read everywhere. Approach to God is by a path most jealously consecrated. He is Himself withdrawn into that place which is called "the holiest of all," and the whole way into that sanctuary is marked by testimonies to the jealous unmitigated holiness of the Lord. All tells of "love" in providing a way at all — but the character of the way equally tells us of "light." The, banished ones can return, but they learn that iniquity cannot enter with there. The least stain must be removed; the touch of a grave, or even a bone (symptoms of death, and therefore of sin), though by accident, had to send the worshippers to the purifying water ere they could approach the Lord. (Num. 19.) "Love" provided this water, but "light" required that it should be used. And so, the place, the ordinances that furnished and animated it, the worshipper who used it — all still told with one consent, and that too clear, full, and unbroken, that "God is light."

I speak not more particularly here of all this service in Israel of old; it is well-known to bear this witness. I would now observe that the law or covenant, which was established at the same time, bore the like testimony. For if man, in the confidence of his heart, will approach God by the law, and not by "the shadows of good things to come," or the witnesses of grace, he must still learn that "God is light;" and, therefore, "cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." The Lord is perfect in righteousness and holiness, and cannot abate one ray of His glory to accommodate it to man's injured and abated capacities. If man will stand before Him in himself, as on Mount Sinai, and not at the door of the sanctuary, he must bring with him that "light" of righteousness and holiness which alone is worthy of the divine presence; he must continue in all things written in that law, which was "holy, just, and good." Nothing less could answer the requisition of Him who is "light."

This is the strong witness of the law to that great truth we are following through the Scriptures, as before we listened to the same from the services which accompanied the law. The voice of the words from the top of Sinai, and the voice of the sanctuary at the foot of it, equally, though differently, uttered this truth — "God is light." And still we shall find that as the blessed One advances in dispensing the knowledge of Himself and of His counsels, whether by His hand or by His Spirit, that is, whether by His providence or by His word, it is all the same.

Israel's captivity becomes the witness in its day. The people had not continued in the "all things" of the law. They had not reflected the "light," as they had bound themselves to do, and they were therefore removed from the divine presence. The dispersion of the tribes tells us that "God is light," as the exile of Adam from Eden had told it before. "Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away?" says Jehovah to Israel, "or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away." "What communion has light with darkness?" we may again ask. Iniquity and transgressions must estrange from God. If Israel walk in the darkness of corrupted nature, they must walk outside the presence of God.

Such is the testimony of the divine hand in the scattering of Israel. Such was the testimony of all the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, against a disobedient people. And such again, the witness of the Baptist, in due time, after this captivity and scattering. All is harmony. The ministry of the Baptist addresses Israel with this truth, that "God is light;" for it finds them in evil, and summons them to repent, or never to count on taking the place of "children unto Abraham," that is, of the people of God.

All this testimony is complete. Whatever witness speaks, it is still to the same purpose, it tells that "God is light." The threat in Eden, the promise after sin, the ordinances, the law, the settlement at first, and then the dispersion of Israel, the ministry of the prophets and of the Baptist, all tell this, and with equal clearness, though, of course, in different style.

But we now reach the testimony of another witness (the most affecting of all), the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.

All He did was a reflection of God; and all, too, was "light" and "love." They were mingling their beams, and forming that perfect element in which He lived and moved on this earth of ours. He was "God manifest in the flesh." The divine glory shone in His face. Here dwelt "the fulness of the Godhead bodily," and all that emanated was either "light" or "love." The Son of God acted on the principles of the first promise, which I have already considered. He consented to be bruised in His own heel, because of righteousness, because "God is light;" but He undertook to bruise the enemy's head, because of grace, because "God is love." This was declared in His death more particularly; but generally, too, in all His previous life. All told of "light" and of "love," or reflected "righteousness and peace," "mercy and truth" in mingled rays. He vindicated light, and dispensed love. In all that He did this was traced; and His death was the eminent and meritorious assertion of it. For need I say how gloriously the cross of Christ publishes the truth, that "God is light," and that "God is love." It was, indeed, the precious, wondrous witness of this. To understand the cross is, in other words, to understand that it does bear this witness to us as sinners. But in His teaching the Lord bore the same testimony. If we look at His life, or His ministry, whether we listen to the voice of His ways or His words, we may say, as the apostle does say of it all, "This then is the message which we have heard of Him — that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all."

Such was the life and the doctrine of the Son. And when His witness to "light" and "love" was over, the Holy Ghost held up exactly the same, though in a different form. His teachings by the apostles in their epistles unfold new mysteries, but all assert these truths. "Love" is dispensed, but "light" is still vindicated also. The thought of "the doctrine of Christ" admitting any darkness or evil was a stranger to the mind of the Spirit; the apostle, who spake as from Him, stands amazed at the conception of it. "Know ye not," says he, "that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? — that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Rom. 6) And in another place the same apostle assumes that if any have "learnt Christ," if any have "heard Him," and "been taught by Him," they must have learnt to put off the former conversation corrupted by lusts. (Eph. 4) So also he interprets the grace that brings salvation, as that which teaches the denial of ungodliness and worldly lasts, and the living soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. (Titus 2) And thus, though it be now grace of salvation, and not law, that is published, it is with equal sureness and distinction, a witness that "God is light."

"The apostles teach us that our "Saviour" is also our "Lord," a doctrine which secures the honour of the same indestructible truth. The hand which has rescued is ever asserting its dominion over us, and we know that it is a clean and a holy hand.

But we must not multiply testimonies to this most plain fact from the words of the Spirit in the apostles. I would only add that the epistle from whence we take the words "God is light" and "God is love" makes it its business, as it were, to weave those two truths together. All the thoughts of the Holy Ghost seem to pass and repass between them. They are the great tests of saintly standing and character, as the chewing of the cud and the cleaving of the hoof were the notes of cleanness in animals under the law. Consequently it is there written, "Whosoever does not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loves not his brother." And why so? Because "God is light" and "God is love," therefore he who does not righteousness cannot be of Him who is "light," neither can he who loves not his brother be of Him who is "love." So it is also there written. These are the constant thoughts of the Spirit in this epistle; that "God is light" and that "God is love," quickens and fills the pen of the ready writer throughout.

Such, then, is the teaching of the Holy Ghost. He sustains unbroken the testimony that "God is light." But as the Son, not only by His teaching, but in His life and person, as we were observing, bore witness to this truth, so does the Holy Ghost in the same twofold way. His teaching through the Apostles does this, as we have now seen, and so does His indwelling in the saints. The saints are His temples now. But He dwells in those temples as a "Holy Spirit," grieved by any contradiction, any practical contradiction, of the truth that "God is light." (Eph. 4:30.)

How perfect all this is. The Son, and the Holy Ghost, each in the day of His manifestation, maintains the same blessed testimony, both by deed and word. And we have only to add, that the glory, by and by, will keep up the same. The glory which is to close and crown all, will tell the same most precious and excellent truth — that "God is light," and that "God is love," striking that note with such a hand as shall cause it to vibrate forever. The sabbath, or the rest itself of all who have trusted in Jesus, will tell, "God is love:" the entrance into that rest, and the element that surrounds it, that "God is light." For the earth, which will be the footstool in the age of the glory, must be purged of its corrupters ere the glory can return and dwell there; as we saw of old, that Canaan and all that belonged to it was cleansed ere the Lord of the tribes would make it His inheritance. And when it is thus purged it will be kept clean. "I will early destroy all the wicked of the land," says the Lord of the earth in the days of its glory, "that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord." And so as to the upper house, or the throne, or heavenly glory, nothing can be allowed even to approach, that can in any way defile. "They shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations to it." "Without are dogs," etc. Beyond the sphere which the glory fills must recede all that is unclean, all that is the contradiction of "light." For the darkness will then be outer darkness.

Thus indeed, from the garden of Eden up to the glory, we get the constant witness, in all the ways of His hand, and in all the revelations of His mind, that "GOD IS LIGHT, and in Him there is no darkness at all."