A Study of John 1:5
“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:5)
Upon review it will be observed that the light of John 1:5 shined in the darkness, not simply on or upon it. For lack of a better way of stating it, I suggest John attributed to this darkness the quality of personification. The darkness must have been moved upon much in the same way, if not altogether, as is found in the following: “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2) The similarities to me are striking. It may be profitable to examine these similarities.
Perhaps it may be asked, “How is this personification of darkness and the original creation similar?” I respond, in countless ways. At present one similarity will be noticed, that of being “without form and void.”
A careful examination of the original condition in the beginning will aptly portray what the “darkness” of man is like: chaotic and void. Darkness abides upon the face of the deep of man’s soul, even his very being. It is darkness that defies description outside of the words of the Bible. “But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23) This I understand to be a false perception of the true light; an evil opinion, such as the scribes and Pharisees entertained of Jesus. The light in them was false light, and O, how dark! “How great is that darkness!” Jude described the final end of those who live and die in darkness thusly: “Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” (Jude 1:13) Could it possibly be painted in grimmer words? The blackness of darkness for ever! Frightful!
All the elect of God were at one time darkness until the Light of life revealed His glorious Self to them. I may add here that revelation of Himself was of pure, free grace. “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5.8) Who can fail to marvel at the grace of God when reading this next text? “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Acts 26:18)
Blessed, blessed grace, to learn the Light of the world would turn us from darkness to Himself.
Another compelling revelation of our deliverance from that black power is thus described: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” (Colossians 1:43)
Another in the same vein is: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (I Peter 2:9)
All these verses manifest the same unmistakable truth: Before the Light of the world shined within, we were not simply in the dark; we were darkness itself. It was absolute darkness in which we were “without form and void” as regards our creative standing.
This is a truth worth stating often: When the light shines to within, there is never a positive response from the darkness. The darkness comprehends it not. In fact, the darkness has no power whatever to respond. There must attend also the divine command, “Let there be light,” such as there was in the original creation. How poorly we discern the magnitude of that light which then shined upon this void earth. Poorer still do we fathom the effulgence emanating from Jesus, the Light of the world. But, may His name be praised, the light does shine to our profit. God never works without a purpose.
The unavoidable question is, “If the light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehends it not, then where will it be seen and comprehended?”
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (II Corinthians 4:6) How opposite are the ways of God to human reasoning. We have learned positively from John 1:5 that the darkness comprehends not the light when shined inward. Poor man! He still thinks that is the way: “If only we could get the light to shine in on a sinner’s dark soul, possibly he would respond.”
Here in the letter to the Corinthians, Paul affirms the ways of our God. The light does not shine in; God commanded the light to shine out of darkness. Marvel of marvels. Where no light existed – where no light could penetrate – God spoke light out of that very darkness. It was a creative act. God commanded. The light shined from within to without. It was Christ formed within and radiating out in newness of life.
The purpose of God in bringing forth light from within the darkness was for the best of all reasons, in fact the only reason worthy of God. It was “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” This knowledge cannot and will not be known except from within one where God commands the light to shine. Furthermore, where this light does spring up, the inevitable result will always be the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus.
Wherein was the glory of God most manifested? In the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The day-star arose. The dawning of a new day burst the bonds of the very belly of darkness. This is the glory of the Light of the world. And it is seen in the face of Jesus to bring the knowledge of it to the soul of those where He as the light shines.
“The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Matthew 4:16). This sitting in darkness is the condition of all sinners until Jesus, the light of the world, is formed within. Previous to that, the soul was the region and shadow of death. Then happy, happy day when the darkness is past and light dawneth.
“Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth 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 goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.” (I John 2.8-11)
Solemn indeed! To be blessed to say the darkness is past; that is a joy that cannot be calculated. It brings forth a love of the brethren, for in the light they all appear in the beautiful garments of the New Jerusalem, the Lamb’s bride. There can be no hate, for that belongs to the outer regions of darkness. Truly, the darkness is past.
I hope a portion of these brief thoughts may hold the same value to some other poor traveler in the dark as their worth has been to me. I am made to marvel that the light could shine in a being so dark as I often feel to be, but that is a portion of so sweet a hope.
May our prayer always correspond with the original command of God, “Let there be Light,” and let it always be proclaimed of us, “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” (Proverbs 4:18) Conversely, let us give praise that it shall not be said of us, “The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.” (Proverbs 4:19)
In hope of light,
James F. Poole – 1999