- A Sense of God’s Perfections
Here are the apostle John’s signs that spiritual life is in us, the first being found in 1 John 1.5-7—
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
It helps us to see the full force of what is meant by being ‘in the light’ if we think of the recipients’ background. Most of those who received this letter of John would have had pagan backgrounds, believing in multiple, mythical gods, all sinful, full of cruelty, meanness and dishonesty. But conversion brought them to believe with all their hearts that God is light, pure, and holy, without a shadow of sin.
The true God is light, truth and lovingkindness beyond description. In our case, whether vague about God in the past, or militantly atheistic, we would have been accommodating toward sin, excusing ourselves and society at large of all but the worst acts, and would even have harboured such ideas as ‘the essential goodness of man’.
But something profound has happened to us, and we have seen far, far better things about God. We have realised that he is pure and high above us. He is unblemished and wonderful in all his attributes. We have come to believe with gladness that Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, came into this world in amazing sympathy and love to take the punishment due to sinners.
We have grasped that God is unique, and transcendent above all that we see in this fallen world. Yet we do not believe that this realisation indicates that we are saved.
The apostle John contradicts us. You have seen, he reasons, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. Do you not see that this is a sign of salvation? If you really value and believe this, you evidently walk in the light. You may think you are lost and deluded, and that conversion has not taken place, but if you firmly believe these things, then it is by the work of the Holy Spirit. Your mind has been opened. You have become a passionate believer in the true and perfect and wonderful God.
The apostle’s conclusion is that there has been in your heart, in all probability, a work of grace. “If we walk in the light,” says John, “we have fellowship one with another.” You are in the same family as we are, says the apostle, “and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Your belief in him is sincere. You have seen the difference between your pagan gods (or your former atheism) and the true God, and you feel it deeply in your soul. This is only the first word of encouragement that the apostle gives, and he repeats it in the course of the epistle, in chapter 2, verse 27, and in chapter 4, verses 13 and 14.