God Has Nothing To Hide
Mr. Carbon W. Truax of Columbia, S.C., a lawyer, is active in the assembly in that city.
This is his first article in FOCUS.
To John was given the revelation to write three great truths about God. God is spirit. God is light. God is love.
He does not argue. He declares and we read what he declares and know, almost unconsciously, that what he has written is truth … self-evident truth … truth which is beyond proof but which we know to be truth because the alternative is unthinkable.
To refute those who later became Gnostics, John declares, “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).
That I believe, is the key verse of this short epistle.
John builds up to that revelation in the first four verses, declares his message in verse five, and then presents the practical application throughout the rest of the letter.
Without exception, I think, expositors have spiritualized the words “light” and “darkness” in verse five.
“By this he means that God is absolutely holy, absolutely righteous, absolutely pure. God cannot look with favor on any form of sin,” (The Epistle of John, William McDonald, 1953), is an example of this. They say that the statement, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” means God is righteous, the giver of life, etc. But, as far as I have been able to determine, not one of them has drawn attention to the most logical reason for describing God in these terms.
The most evident attribute of light is that it makes visible, it reveals. The most evident attribute of darkness is that it hides.
“God is light.”
We accept this as basic truth. It has the simplicity of most profound truth.
Yes, but what does this cryptic statement mean?
Light is like spirit. It is intangible. You cannot hold it in your hand. Though light reveals all things, it is itself invisible. Light is inaudible. Light is pure, even light which is generated from the burning of the dung heap is pure light. It cannot be contaminated.
Scientists have yet to define light. So God cannot be apprehended by the senses. He cannot be measured. “The world by wisdom knew not God” (1 Cor. 1:21).
Light penetrates. Light cleanses. Light warms or burns. Light heals. Light makes life possible. Light reveals. In all these things light is like the Holy Spirit and all speak of God.
Light must shine as God must love. In like manner, unshining light is a contradiction in terms.
Universally, light is a symbol of understanding, joy and purity, and darkness is a symbol of ignorance, sorrow and sin. But efforts to symbolize “light” and “darkness” in verse five miss the major point of verses one through four.
The major characteristic of light is that it illuminates. It makes visible that which darkness has hidden.
Verse five may be paraphrased, “God is made manifest and has nothing to hide.” Since the book is addressed again and again to “beloved children,” we may expand it to say, “God has nothing to hide from His dear children.”
God has shared Himself with you. He is being totally honest. He poured Himself out into this world in the Person of Jesus Christ.
There are four reasons to believe this to be the meaning of this verse and the message of 1 John: First, the context; second the heresy; third, the key words of the book; and fourth, the verse itself. What is the emphasis of verses 1-4? We heard Him. We saw Him. We touched Him.
Seven times in three verses he emphasized “that which was from the beginning” can be known and we can have fellowship with “the Word of Life,” and words have one major function: to make known.
John heaps phrase upon phrase to emphasize the tremendous truth that the apostles actually knew God in the flesh and were making Him known in the same way to other believers. In Christ Jesus all was revealed. This is the message.
The Gnostics believed that only the initiated could know the deep things of God and a priestly caste, that had been specifically enlightened and instructed, was ordained to interpret God to Monday morning saints. The Gnostics taught that Jesus and Christ were not one and the same, but that Deity came to the man Jesus at the time of His baptism and left Him at the time of His death.
John is responding to this false teaching by saying, “The God we saw and heard and handled is light, and has nothing to hide from you either.” “You know all things” (1 John 2:20).
Gnostics were also wrong because “God was in Christ reconciling the world (not the initiated) unto Himself’ (2 Cor. 5:19).
What was it they heard with their ears and saw with their eyes and handled with their hands? It was “That which was from the beginning,” and “In the beginning God” (Gen. 1:1). It was “the Word of Life.” It was not man made God but “the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us.”
Next, that God has nothing to hide may be the key concept of First John because of two key words, “know” and “love,” in this book. The words “know,” “manifest,” “perceive,” or other words which indicate understanding appear 38 times in five short chapters. God wants us to understand.
The rest of the book is the practical application of the things we can know because of this amazing manifestation of God in Christ. And the practical application is the other key word, “love,” which appears 28 times in five chapters. Love is the shining of that light; the self-giving of God.
The practical application is simply stated: “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” (1 John 1:7).
The sun is the source of all earthly light. It shines. Every 24 hours the earth in its rotation exposes all its surface to that pure light. God is light. We walk in Him as the earth orbits in the light of the sun. If we live honestly before God, hiding nothing, confessing all, then we are walking in the light.
Since He has been honest with us, He expects us to be honest with Him. Since he hides nothing from us, we must hide nothing from Him.
Finally, “God is light and has nothing to hide” appears to be the theme of the letter because of what verse five says, “This is the message,” John declares, “God is light.”