What Does 'God Is Light' Mean in 1 John 1:5?

A life touched and guided by the Light of Christ is evident, because of the powerful effect it has on those who truly claim salvation in the Son of God

Meg Bucher
beautiful nature scene with light shining on green field, God is light

“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.” - 1 John 1:5 ESV

Light signifies goodness. It literally brightens up our world, and goodness brightens the countenance of our souls. In Christ, the supernatural power of light compels us to goodness, as well. 

God the Father defeated the power of darkness and death through God the Son, Jesus, when He raised Him from the dead after the crucifixion. A death Jesus willingly took on, to complete the will of His Father. God’s good and perfect will was to save us from darkness and bring us into the light.

What Does it Mean That 'God Is Light' in 1 John 1:5?

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:19-21 ESV

Light symbolizes goodness, and God is good. He cannot operate outside of who He is. John began his Gospel account emphatically stating Jesus came to earth, God the Son. Jesus is Light, and in Him, there is no darkness or sin. The New American Standard Version of 1 John 1:5 reads, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

“Light represents what is good, true and holy,” the NIV Study Bible explains, “while darkness represents what is evil and false.” Satan’s goal was to defeat Jesus, but Light defeated him. The Greek word for Light is Phos, any and every form of light. Metaphorically, God is light because light has an extremely pure, brilliant quality. 

Light can be seen by any and all. Darkness hides, conceals, and covers, while light exposes truth. Light is powerful and far-reaching, able to illuminate everything. When we seek God, we will find Him. He is faithful to illuminate Truth in our daily lives. In Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we walk daily in the light of life.

Christ-followers often speak of walking through life with Christ, but John literally reclined on Him at the Last Supper. “The one whom Jesus loved,” is the way John referred to himself in his Gospel account. And he wasn’t wrong. John was Jesus’ earthly best friend, the closest to him, even out of the close circle of three who witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration. 

In writing the letter of 1 John, the apostle and faithful friend of Jesus separated the appearance and manner of a soulfully following Christ, as opposed to one only speaking the words. John witnessed the true effect of a changed heart after Christ. 

This experience allowed Him to discern wisely and admonish the readers of the letter …and us, today. God is good, and therefore all He does is good and all he makes out of dire situations is good. Moses wrote of God’s goodness and love: “but showing my steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:6 ESV).

How Does the Meaning of the Verse Impact Our View of God?

“to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” Psalm 92:15 ESV

Psalm 92, written for worship on the Sabbath, sings praise for God’s good works. Moses also wrote of God’s unwavering goodness: “‘The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his way are justice. A God of faithfulness without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4, ESV). 

Our limited perspective only allows us to see what is happening in front of us. We have no ability to see what’s coming next. God is sovereign, omnipotent …in control and always good. “One of the greatest blessings we have to look forward to in Christ is the ability to dwell in a new heaven and earth with Him as our light,” Ligonier Ministries teaches,” Having been set apart through His blood, we are even now beginning to walk, however imperfectly, in this light as we love God and neighbor, especially our neighbors with whom we gather to worship the Almighty.”

The impact this verse has on our view of God is to trust Him more! Scripture advises us to seek God in His Word and pray to Him. Additionally, it’s important to listen, and do, what He says in His Word. We do the next right thing in the context of Gods’ good will for our lives, trusting He’s making good out of all things, despite how dark and pressing the world is. 

“In contrast to the evil things brought about by desire,” New Bible Commentary explains,” God will only give a good and perfect gift.” Yet, in our limited ability to perceive and comprehend God, our faith kicks in to carry us onward.

If God Is Light, What Is Dark?

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 ESV

Darkness is sin and evil in the world. We are promised life on earth will be difficult, because of the dark curse of sin. Our enemy seeks to kill, steel and destroy us. He is a deceitful liar, but not creative. We live in a world imploding from false information. How do we know what is true? 

We reconcile what we know with God’s truth. “Light suggests the idea that God is open and honest- that he reveals truth,” NIV Quest Study Bible explains, “Light also represents goodness and purity in a moral sense. There are no shadows or dark sides to God; he is perfect and free of sin.” Darkness symbolizes deceit and death. Every human heart wrestles with sinful strongholds hidden in the darkness. The Light of the Lord exposes, brings forward, and frees us from them. 

A life touched and guided by the Light of Christ is evident, because of the powerful effect it has on those who truly claim salvation in the Son of God. “It means that if you draw near to God, you do not find a dark and foreboding truth,” John Piper teaches, “You find freedom and hope and joy.”

“The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.” Psalm 145:17 ESV

The world is a hard place to embrace Light and believe in God’s goodness. There are falsities surrounding and dark intentions grabbing for us daily. Injustice abounds and isolation looms, but nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

Paul wrote to the Romans not even “death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,” could keep the Light from reaching us. (Romans 8:38-39 NIV) We can always choose to turn to God. 

The truth John wrote in his letter centuries ago remains true. God’s Word is alive and active. He is not still, but always on the move. He doesn’t require rest when the day is done and the sun sets. He is always close to the brokenhearted, always bringing forth good from dark intentions, and always keeping His promise to care for and defend us for generations to come. 

Sources

  • NIV Quest Study Bible, Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2011 by Zondervan.
  • NIV Study Bible, Copyright © 1985, 1995, 2002, 2008, 2011 by Zondervan.
  • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, Copyright © 2016 by Zondervan.
  • New Bible Commentary, Copyright Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, Leicester, England, 1953, 1954, 1970, 1994 All rights reserved. 

Photo credit: © Unsplash/Phil Thep

meg bucher profile pic bioMeg, freelance writer and blogger at Sunny&80, is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” and “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” She writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters, which led her to pursue her passion to write. She has led a Bible Study for Women and serves as a Youth Ministry leader in her community. Meg, a Cleveland native and lifelong Browns fan, lives by the shore of Lake Erie in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters, and golden doodle.


Originally published November 02, 2020.