What Does it Mean to “Walk in the Light”?
Scripture: 1 John 1:7
“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 cleanses us from all sin”
In the opening verses of his First Epistle, John speaks of the privilege and joy of fellowship with God the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3). He derives the conditions for fellowship from the nature of God. He writes: “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” (1 John 1:5).
In this sermon, I wish to explore the application of John’s premise that God is light to our lives as Christians. He says, “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 cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
But what does it mean to “walk in the light”?
To give structure to our thoughts, please observe that 1 John 1:7 can be divided into these three parts:
- the condition to be fulfilled (“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light”);
- the communion to be enjoyed (“we have fellowship one with another”); and
- the cleansing that is promised (“and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin”).
I. The Condition to be Fulfilled: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light…”
The first thing we must do as we think about the meaning of walking in the light is to seek to establish a Biblical definition of light. In order to do this we need to look at some key biblical statements that describe the nature and function of light.
A. Descriptions of light
1. God is light.
The first descriptive statement about God in John’s First Epistle is this statement: “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” (1 John 1:5). John employs an emphatic double negative with darkness.
There is no darkness whatever in God; He is all light. To say that God is light and not darkness is to use a contrasting metaphor to describe a specific aspect of God’s character. As light, God is completely pure and righteous.
There is nothing impure or unrighteous (“darkness”) about Him. John further says that the person who claims to have fellowship with God while walking in darkness is lying and not practicing the truth (1 John 1:6). To walk in darkness means a person does not wish to practice the righteous and pure lifestyle of God (as seen in Jesus Christ) but prefers the darkness of his own way.
To “walk in the light” requires that one receive God’s message (the “light”) and that one practice the truth. In other words, the truth of God’s Word must not only be received and believed, but that truth must be lived out in the lives of His servants.
2. Jesus is light.
- “Then spoke Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12; 12:35).
When the people asked Jesus who the Son of Man was, He spoke of Himself as the light of the world. The believer is to walk while he has the light lest darkness overtake him.
In this context light refers to Jesus, who is the truth and who provides information for His followers. His followers must act on the information He gives them (“light”). If they do not, they will end up in darkness, and the one who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.
3. Truth and light are closely related.
- “O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles” (Psalm 43:3).
4. God’s Word is light.
- “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).
- “The entrance of thy words gives light; it gives understanding unto the simple” (Psalm 119:130).
- “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Proverbs 6:23).
- “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalm 119:130).
The primary way a person receives light is through God’s Word.
5. Christians are called light.
- “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).
- “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (1 Thess. 5:5).
Christians are light in the sense that as we share the character of Him who is light, our lives serve as light to a world immersed in darkness.
6. Light is a revealer of right and wrong.
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved [exposed]. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:19-21).
B. A definition of what It means To “walk in the light”
God is the source of all light. To walk in light is to share His character—to walk in righteousness and purity. God has no “darkness” in His character at all—no unrighteousness or sin. People who walk in the light are people who have no deliberate or conscious unrighteousness or sin in their lives.
The Word of God, a source of light, reveals who we are (Eph. 5:13), what we should be, and how we can change to become more like Jesus. To walk in the light means that we daily bring our thoughts and actions under the scrutiny of God’s Word and respond in obedience to its guiding influence.
Further, it means we refuse to react against the revealing light of God’s truth by clinging to our own ways, no matter how comfortable they may be or how many other Christians share them. As one walks in the light, he receives more light (Psalm 36:9).
C. A Decision must be made if one is to “walk in the light”
Our text began with the conditional phrase, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light….” (1 John 1:7). The conditional particle “if” implies that we have a choice whether or not we shall walk in the light. The tense of the verb “walk” is a present tense which indicates the need for continuous action.
We could better translate it, “If we continually walk in the light.” The comparison, “as He is in the light,” contextually must refer to God who is light. To walk in the light as He is in the light means to share His life and learn His ways.
Thus we choose, by His enabling grace, to live righteously moment-by-moment. This means that we fully obey all the truth He has given us.
II. The Communion to be Enjoyed: “…we have fellowship one with another…”
The grammar here is ambiguous, but the context suggests that “one with another” means we who walk in the light have fellowship with God and with His Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).*
John has not yet introduced the believer’s relationship with other people. His focus is on the privilege of fellowship with the Godhead.
However, John will later teach in this letter that fellowship with God is the basis for fellowship with other believers. Being loved by God—and in return, loving God—requires that the believer also love his brother.
“He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abides in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goes, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:9-11).
John’s evidences of fellowship are not proofs of whether a believer is right with God, but they are proofs of whether one is saved at all! Fellowship here refers to being born again.
III. The Cleansing that is Promised: “…and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
There are three aspects to the cleansing that is promised that we should consider.
A. The power for cleansing: “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son”
All God’s forgiveness is based on the blood of His Son that was shed at Calvary. That blood provided God with a righteous basis on which He can forgive sins; and, as we sing, “the blood will never lose its power.” It has lasting efficacy to cleanse us. Of course, believers must confess before they can receive forgiveness, but John deals with that in verse nine.
B. The nature of the cleansing: “cleanses us”
The verb “cleanses” is a present indicative which indicates in the strongest way possible the factual, actual, continual cleansing that is provided to the one who chooses continually to walk in the light.
C. The completeness of the cleansing: “from all sin”
The phrase “from all sin” can also be translated “from every sin.” Either way, the promise is of a complete cleansing.
There are great blessings and benefits promised to the person who walks in the light. One of the greatest of these is fellowship with the Triune God, as we learn to share and model His character.
However, to enjoy this fellowship, a Christian must walk continually in the light. Failure to walk in the light brings darkness and loss of spiritual understanding. Jesus said, “Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness” (Luke 11:35). The devil seeks either to blind people to the light (2 Cor. 4:4) or to give them “false” light. “And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor.11:14).
However, the person who walks in the light has the spiritual protection of the “armor of light” (Rom. 13:12). He is forgiven, cleansed, and unencumbered by the powers of evil. Is this your testimony? Is your conscience clear? Are you walking in all the light God has given you?
* The tense of the verb “we have” is a present tense which indicates the continual possession, and the mood is the indicative which assures the reader of the factual reality of actually having continual fellowship with God.
Dr. Allan P. Brown teaches such courses as Christian Beliefs, Doctrine of Holiness, Wisdom Literature, Hebrew, Preaching Holiness, Romans and Galatians, and Letters to the Hebrews.
He has been on faculty at GBSC since 1996 and is the author of several books and articles.
Dr. Brown also speaks at churches, camp meetings, revivals and more.