We are commanded to be a light in darkness. It’s a simple instruction to reveal Christ in us by stepping back and becoming a vessel for His divine light.
I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness (John 12:46).
There is so much to the symbolism and practical reality of light and darkness that it’s a worthwhile study all of its own. But it’s comforting to know that Jesus came to be our light in darkness. There’s more to this, though – He still continues to be so through His spiritual presence. No human being should ever have to be in darkness ever again. From the moment He was born into this world as the Son of Man, an eternal light entered the world which cannot be snuffed out, neither by the world nor the powers of darkness. It’s a light that is both self-sustaining and self-multiplying. It knows no borders, is subject to no worldly or spiritual authority but to God alone, and has no favourites. The supernatural power it contains is the resurrection power of God Himself, giving it the ability to restore and transform.
Light in darkness is God’s first command.
Right from the very beginning, God defined the critical relevance of light. His ever first act in creation is to create light in darkness. Then God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good, and God divided the light from the darkness (Genesis 1:3-4). Only when the light was in place and divided from the darkness did He continue with the work of creation. From a purely practical point of view, it makes sense. We simply get so much more done, and more accurately, when we can see what we’re doing. Why stumble around in darkness when we can simply turn on the light? It’s a pretty vivid picture of God powering up and hitting the supernatural light switch. The full relevance, though, is that He teaches us a fundamental truth. Before anything else happens there must first be light.
But along with this is a deep spiritual truth we cannot afford to miss. Light in darkness must always be separate from the darkness. It is never part of it. The two an antithetical and have no shared commonalities. They represent the opposite ends of the scale. No matter how weak or a feeble a light may be, it is still light. Whether it flickers or sputters doesn’t change that. A tiny candle or a massive, costly chandelier are both light. Their size is irrelevant – all it does is define how well it shines in the darkness. Light is light and it is separate from the darkness, an absolute command from the most high God. This spiritual truth is very important for us to understand Christ’s role as the light of the world and our role in fulfilling His ministry. He puts it right at the beginning to emphasise this.
The Old Testament and light in darkness.
From Genesis onwards, the critical motif of light in darkness is woven through until the New Testament. In particular, there are many allusions to the motif of salvation that often go hand in hand with light. For Jesus to then say that He has come as light in the darkness would immediately resonate with His audience. They would understand implicitly all the meanings woven so powerfully into this description. A powerful example would be the pillar of fire with which God led them in the wilderness as a light which they could follow. In Psalms, we hear phrases like ‘a lamp unto my feet, a light on my path’ or ‘the light of my salvation,’ all of which build powerfully towards the coming of Jesus. The Old Testament prophets used powerful images to further explain this truth as they prophesied of the coming Messiah.
A common thread in all Old Testament references is that of light as salvation or deliverance. It always carries a connotation of out of one and into another. The reality that light in the darkness is separate from the darkness continues and prepares for the coming of Him who would be the light of God Himself. Believers who largely avoid the Old Testament deny themselves a rich foundation in understanding the many things fulfilled in the New. Everything God did for and with His people in the Old Testament was preparation for the New. Yes, much of it concerns Israel alone, but the spiritual principles are as powerful for Christians as they are for the Jews. Our full understanding of light includes studying its occurrences in the entire Bible. Jesus came to fulfil the law, not do away with it, and this includes His ministry as light to the world.
Understanding the opposites in light in darkness.
To fully understand light, we need to also understand darkness. Firstly, darkness is always associated with ignorance. It is a place of not knowing the real truth. The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130). To be ignorant of God and His Word is to abide – live – in darkness. Secondly, light is protective. The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1). From this we see that darkness is dangerous, a threat to us, and something we need to be protected and rescued from. This particular character of darkness is in some ways the sum of all the others. We need to be protected from darkness because of all the other things it contains which work together to make it a place of danger.
Thirdly, in darkness, we lose our way, but light guides. Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path (Psalm 119:105). Fourthly, darkness is death but light is life. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned (Matthew 4:16). Fifthly, darkness is sin and light is righteousness. to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me (Acts 26:18). Finally, darkness is separation from God but light is restoration to God in sonship. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:5).
We are to be a light in darkness.
The previous verses are simply a surface look at the relationship between light and darkness. There are countless wonderful examples if we only take time to look for them. In the same way, the New Testament provides many Scriptures which command and exhort us to be light in the darkness. This isn’t a recommendation or a suggestion. It’s a direct instruction from God. The importance of it cannot be over-emphasised. We need only remember that nothing else happened in creation before the light was put in place and separated from the darkness. The reason for this command is simple. We now have Christ in us. His life and truth is manifest through the life of every believer and we are called to continue His earthly ministry. We now have the light – Christ – and are the light as the vessels of His light. He must now shine through us.
We’re also told to place our light on a hill where all can see it. That can be a real challenge sometimes when it’s so much easier or more comfortable to cloak our light in acceptable darkness so we don’t stand out. But when we hide our light, we hide Christ. When we turn it down, we turn down Jesus. He has ascended into heaven and now uses us to bring truth to overturn ignorance. His light in us guides those in darkness. We shine with His righteousness so we and others can turn from sin. His light is the source of life for those in spiritual death. When we shine Jesus, we’re a beacon of protection for those in spiritual danger. To live in Christ and Christ in me means to be the light in the darkness. There simply is no other option.
Jesus remains our light in darkness.
This is the joyful truth that sustains us and empowers us. Once we’ve ‘seen the light,’ it’s an ongoing journey in the light. His light is eternal and we can never be separated from it. He is a part of us, and that includes His light. We need never again fear the things of darkness because they are revealed by the supernatural light of Christ which constantly shines in the darkness. Also, it takes so much of the stress out of ‘shining our light’ as commanded. When Jesus shines in us, He also shines through us. We simply become the vessel through which He becomes light in darkness. The other wonderfully liberating truth is that it is light that creates the separation, not darkness. Prior to the coming of light there is no separation. The light that is the Word in Jesus created the separation, not us.
We truly can rejoice when we realise that Jesus has done and continues to do it all. Our willingness is all He needs to daily enforce His victory over darkness in this world we live in. When we really see the light, we’ll never ever look back.
Thank You, Jesus, for the reminder that light and darkness are separate and that we are no longer bound by sin and ignorance. Thank You for our protection, salvation, and liberty. Help us to desire to shine Your light always, to be willing vessels for Your light to illuminate the darkness of this wicked world.