Darkness

by Mike Ratliff

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. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10 ESV)

God is sovereign. He is Holy, Righteous, and Just. As John states in 1 John 1:5 (above), He is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.

Here is v5 from the NA27: Καὶ ἔστιν αὕτη ἡ ἀγγελία ἣν ἀκηκόαμεν ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀναγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν, ὅτι ὁ θεὸς φῶς ἐστιν καὶ σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία.

Here is my personal translation: “And this is the message which we have heard from Him and we declare to you, that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.”

The word “light” translates the Greek word φῶς, which we looked at in last night’s post, Light and Darkness, while the word “darkness” translates σκοτία or skotia, which means “darkness,” however except for John 6:17; 20:1, in the New Testament, where this word refers to the actual darkness of night or early morning, σκοτία is always used metaphorically. Jesus uses it to describe time of private teaching with the Twelve, away from the crowds (Matthew 10”27). He also warns against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, saying that everything spoken in “darkness” will be revealed (Luke 12:3). Jesus is light (John 12:35), and He invites people to walk in His light instead of their darkness (John 8:12; 12:46). Those who have hatred in their hearts may think they are in the light, but they are deceived and even blinded (1 John 2:9, 11). This lost sinful world, characterized by σκοτία, cannot understand the light that has come to illuminate it (John 1:5). Darkness is not a power that is equal to God, for God dispels it. Light and darkness are used to contrast the purity and holiness of God and the wickedness and sinfulness of this world (1 John 1:5). 

For some to teach that these analogies are the teachings from the Apostle John to believers about fellow believers out of fellowship with the church because of their sin is foreign to the context. However there is another related New Testament Greek word that is translated as “darkness” that, in the original language, actually means “the physical state of ‘darkness’” rather than the darkness itself. Let’s look at it.

These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. (2 Peter 2:17 ESV)

οὗτοί εἰσιν πηγαὶ ἄνυδροι καὶ ὁμίχλαι ὑπὸ λαίλαπος ἐλαυνόμεναι, οἷς ὁ ζόφος τοῦ σκότους τετήρηται. (2 Peter 2:17 NA27)

These are waterless springs and mists driven having been driven by a storm, for whom the gloom of the dark has been kept. (a personal translation from the NA27 text of 2 Peter 2:17)

The ESV’s rendering of ‘darkness’ translates σκότους the Genitive, Singular form of σκότος or skotos, which denotes the physical state of “darkness” (as in the absence of light). The only use of this word for actual darkness is the darkness that occurred during Jesus’ crucifixion (Mark 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44). For the most part σκότος is used in a metaphorical way as referring to “darkness of the mind or spirit.” This metaphorical sense of σκότος is clearly negative. People live in darkness (Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16) and cannot avoid the darkness of death (Luke 1:79), All too often, people “love darkness instead of light because their deeds are evil” (John 3:19).

However, σκότος is not a power equal to God. God now causes light to shine in human hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6). He “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness” (Colossians 1:13). He has sent His Son to call people out of the “darkness” and into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). Once we were darkness, says Paul, but we are “light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). Consequently, we should have nothing to do with “darkness” (5:11); instead, we should wage war against the powers of “darkness” (6:12). For those who give in to sin, “the blackest darkness “ is reserved (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13). You see 2 Peter 2:17 is the passage I exegeted at the beginning of this section of the post. Jude 13 says something almost identical with more detail in the preceding verses. I suggest you go read it.

To those of you who are being attacked via the false teachings of some who are attempting to deceive you into believing that the Apostle John, in 1 John, was actually teaching about fellowship amongst believers rather than the division between true and false believers and teachers, please be encouraged in this. The Bible interprets itself. I deliberately did not focus on 1 John in these two studies of Light and Darkness because I wanted you to see that the New Testament is actually very consistent in the analogy of Light and Darkness in how they are used to refer to God and Man, truth and error, the true believers and false believers, et cetera. When I see you struggle with these things I always look at the motive of those who teach against what I have shared here and in all my teachings on this. Their motive is to remove God’s Sovereign control from our salvation and place it within the Free Will of man, but when they do that, they enter into a morass of doctrinal inconsistencies that those who adhere to the doctrines rooted in the Sovereignty of God over all things do not have, nor will ever have.

My faith is centered in my Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for me. He is my advocate, my Saviour, my redeemer and I am in Him because of what God has done, not because of anything I have merited or done. I remain in Him and walk in the light instead of darkness for the same reason. Yes, my part is to walk in obedience in my sanctification, but the Grace of God upholds me. He keeps me standing firm regardless of my circumstances. Yes, I have ups and downs just like everyone else, but as I submit in obedience to the Lordship of Christ in all things, I rejoice in my sufferings and walk in the light rather than darkness. I pray this helps light the path for some of you struggling with these things.

Soli Deo Gloria!

6 thoughts on “Darkness

  1. Mike,

    Very good post! I enjoy your blog very much!

    Small typo: ‘we should wage ware against the powers of “darkness”’

  2. Mike,

    Thank you very much for breaking this topic down with such clarity, simplicty and especially from a scriptural position. Understanding darkness, light, fellowship in the context of 1 John when compared with other scripture (and the overall theme of scripture) makes perfect sense. I cannot understand how one can twist this to imply that a true believer can walk/live in sin/darkness/outside of fellowship and remain a Christian. The only way this approach ‘works’ is if one accepts that there are two types of Christians:
    Carnal Christians and those who are in fellowship w/God.

    In the end, it comes down to our view of many things including; God’s sovereignty and grace. If we ‘get’ those wrong, we get the rest wrong.

    ~ktf~
    John

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