Light and Life vs Darkness and Death

by Mike Ratliff

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.
9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he *said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am A voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”
24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. 27 It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
29 The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ 31 I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” 32 John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” John 1:1-34 (NASB) 

The New Testament book of John is profound. The thirty-four opening verses (above) set the stage for us by making sure we understand whom Jesus Christ really is. Who is He? He is God! He is the Word, the Logos, who preexisted creation. Notice also, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” This is an analogy. “Life” translates ζωὴ or zōē, which is speaking of spiritual life or eternal life (John 3:15; John 17:3; Ephesians 2:5) and John calls it what? It is “the Light of men…” which translates the Greek phrase, “τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων.” “Light” translates the word φῶς or phōs and it refers to biblical truth, therefore, what do we have? In Christ, we have eternal life that also bears the fruit within us of God’s truth, which is Biblical truth. Of course, the opposite is true as well. Outside of Christ is spiritual death and those outside of Him are in darkness, which means they are in error or falsehood. Morally, this light refers to holiness and purity (1 John 1:5) while darkness refers to sin or wrongdoing (John 3:19; John 12:35, 46; Romans 13:11-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-7; 1 John 1:6; 1 John 2:8-11).

Darkness has special significance in relation to Satan along with his demonic cohorts in his rule of the present spiritually dark world (1 John 5:19) as the “prince of the power of the air” promoting spiritual darkness and rebellion against God (Ephesians 2:2). John uses the term darkness fourteen times (eight in the Gospel of John and six in 1 John) out of its seventeen occurrences in the New Testament, making it almost an exclusive Johannine word. In John, “light” and “life” have their special significance in relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word (John 1:9; John 9:5; 1 John 1:5-7; 1 John 5:12, 20).

John 1:9 from the NASB (above) reads, “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. The NASB gets it close to being right. I prefer this translation; “The true Light coming into the world gives light to every man.” God is sovereign. Even when I confront the most ardent anti-Calvinist with that truth, they pause and admit that He is. Through God’s sovereign power, every person has enough light to be responsible. God has planted His knowledge in man through general revelation in creation and conscience. The result of general revelation, however, does not produce salvation but either leads to complete light of Jesus Christ or produces condemnation in those who reject such “light.” Our Lord’s advent was the fulfillment and embodiment of the light that God had placed inside the heart of man.

Some people have just enough Biblical knowledge to be dangerous. Some of these people are wolves in sheep’s clothing for they teach error and cause harm to the body of Christ leading the sheep astray and causing doubt, et cetera. This is why God gives us discernment and wisdom so we can know the Truth, His Truth, and then are able to spot false teachings and those who are teaching them so we can do two things. The first is to warn the body of Christ about them and the second is to confront the false teacher with the truth and the opportunity to repent. If they do not repent then we proceed with the warnings and Biblically turn from them warning the Church about their false teachings.

In our time, however, there has been a decay in certain areas of doctrine that have been allowed to be overrun by false teachers for as long as I can remember. It probably goes back to the beginnings of the church, but has only become much more apparent in our time. I have actually confronted it many times from many different positions in this ministry and will continue to do so. There are those who hold to a form of “salvation” that is geared to what the person does as some act of the will like walking an aisle, saying a prayer, joining a church, et cetera. From that point on, that person is considered a Christian even if he goes totally apostate. That is the “Once Saved Always Saved Fallacy” that is based not on God’s Grace and Election, and Justification by Faith, but on a salvation by some act of the human will.

These same people who hold to this false doctrine will also attack the very doctrinal truths I shared above about light, life, darkness, and death. Their position is to say that John is not talking about salvation in 1 John when using that terminology in 1 John 1& 2, but only about Christians who are only out of fellowship, living in darkness. To be honest, when I read how those who support this sort of teaching use their Greek word studies I can only come up with one word to describe it, Eisegesis. Context determines how these words are to be defined. For instance, one teacher is saying that to say that the definitions of light and darkness (as I used them above) in John and 1 John are references to being saved or being lost is not Biblically correct. Why? Because that is not how those words are used elsewhere in the Bible. John wrote both books and he was consistent in his usage through both of them. Remember, that is part of our context, therefore, it is Biblically correct and exegetically correct to teach as I did above. Also, nowhere in the New Testament does it teach that a real Christian is able to walk away from the faith and live in darkness. Yes, Christians sin, but they will repent and come back to the faith. John’s examples are not referring to that at all, but to contrasting believers with unbelievers.

Soli Deo Gloria!

7 thoughts on “Light and Life vs Darkness and Death

  1. Hello Mr. Ratliff,
    While I understand the easy-believism/decisional evangelism model you mentioned (and disagree with it vehemently); I don’t understand your comment attached to it, the “Once Saved Always Saved Fallacy.” Are you saying a person can lose their salvation, and thus lose it-gain it back-lose it-gain it back, etc.?


  2. Bob, no, I am saying the Once Saved Always Saved Fallacy has no backbone. Instead, those of us who conform to Reformation Theology understand the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints. We are saved by God and kept by God. The OSAS fallacy allows those who make a profession of faith to become apostate and yet they still proclaim them to be Christians. Reformation Theology says that those who go apostate do so because they were never part of the elect to begin with.


  3. Mr. Ratliff, I do hold to the Perseverance of the Saints; and I do believe there is no such thing as a “former Christian.” If one leaves the faith, they weren’t saved in the first place. Nor do I believe in “backsliding” or “carnal Christians” as many define these terms; as being Christians who are living in persistent, habitual, unrepentant sin (and I have been called a lot of names for believing this!). I have just always viewed the Perseverance of the Saints as OSAS. Isn’t that what it really is? I have heard others make the same comparison. I came to Christ late in life (April 2014), but I have gone to church for many years. I was one of the “religious lost” for many years. In looking back over my “religious” experiences, in many different churches, I have found that Southern Baptist churches practice the “decisional evangelism” model, which results in an antinomian view of OSAS, such as you describe in your article.


  4. At first glance OSAS appears to be the same as Perseverance of the Saints, but when you look at the doctrine of a Church that proclaims it, such as a Southern Baptist Church, they would say that yes God is Sovereign, but that God sovereignly elected to put man’s free will in charge of salvation. On the other hand, they for some odd reason then proclaim that those who make that profession of faith by their own free will are Once saved always saved, even if that profession of faith is comes by the means of easy believism, church membership, etc. That person can go off and become apostate yet family and church members that know that person will stubbornly cling to the fact that that person is still a Christian. That person may even say he or she is a Christian. On the other hand, Perseverance of the Saints is grounded in the Sovereignty of God and His decrees. He chose His elect before the foundation of the world. All of them will be justified. All of them! All of them will be held in Christ for ever by God and He will lose none of them. That means they will not go apostate, they will not leave the church and attack it, etc. Now, if a professing Calvinist does go Apostate that person was, all along, simply a religious person, not a genuine Christian at all. That’s the difference.


  5. Yeah, several years ago I did the same thing. It took awhile and the leadership of some older believers to show me the difference. – You are very welcome Bob!


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