A Biblical Theology of Light: Darkness

lightFrom childhood we learn to associate evil with darkness. The monsters under the bed only come out when the lights go out, and the bad guys on our cartoons wear black – making it easy to discern their villainous nature. In the Bible darkness is associated with sin, a certain kind of moral and personal evil within us all. This language of darkness helps us to see more clearly the blinding power of sin.

The Scriptures depict those who apart from God as those who love darkness. So the apostle John writes:

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:19-20)

Men rejected Christ, John says, because they loved darkness. They loved darkness, he adds, because their deeds were wicked. Sin is a love of the darkness. But the New Testament says more than just sin is loving darkness.

Living in sin is walking in darkness.1 John 1:6 and 2:9-11 communicate this clearly. We read:

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1 John 1:6)

 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9-11)

We could look also at passages like John 12:40 and even Isaiah 6:9-10 in the Old Testament. To live in sin is to walk in darkness. 1 John 2:9-11 highlights a related point about walking in darkness, the reality of blindness.

You probably know the experience of walking in the dark. Groping for some tangible landmark to indicate where you are in your living room. Often that landmark comes in the form of a LEGO, underfoot. Walking in darkness is to be functionally blind, unable to see your hand in front of your face, unable to navigate your way clearly. Sin blinds us. The apostle Paul speaks of it even more pointedly when he says the “god of this world has blinded the minds” of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4). We are so blinded apart from God that we cannot see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Sin is darkness. Living in sin is walking spiritually blind.

Such news ought to unsettle us. The Biblical theological picture of sin is one that challenges our notions of self-illumination. We cannot make ourselves to see. We cannot change our darkness to light. Many of us know the blinding power of sin by experience. We have ourselves experienced how a “love of the darkness” makes us to do stupid things, to harm others, to wreck plans, to do that which we would not want to do. In the words of my pastor, “sin makes people stupid.” What we know to be wrong is what we choose to do. Though we often know the truth, however, we refuse to submit to it (Rom. 1:18). We cannot change our state on our own. Instead the Scriptures teach that it is God who must make His light to shine upon us; and that is what happens in the narrative of Scripture (Isa. 60:1-2; Psalm 118:27). The prophet Isaiah declared that light would come from beyond God’s people to awaken them from their darkness. He says:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isa. 9:2)

We cannot find the light apart from God, but thanks be to God that He has not left us to grope in darkness. Light has dawned in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Justin Holcomb beautifully summarizes this point when he writes:

The light of the world has entered into our world’s darkness in order to punch holes in it and bring those who dwell in darkness into the dawn of his grace and truth. None of this would be possible apart from Christ’s incarnation. (On the Grace of God, 67)

The incarnation of the Son of God was a strike at the darkness, a blow to its rule and dominion over the cursed world. Jesus is the light of the world and He has shown on those who once walked in darkness to bring them into the light. Jesus is light, apart from Him we all walk in darkness.

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