(To see "Part II: JESUS" click here.)
To summarize the first two parts of this lesson, the light came from God the Father—who IS light—and then was brought directly to God’s people through Jesus Christ. This had to be done because, even though the people should have recognized God’s light and should have lived in it by following the Law of Moses, they rejected it. The Jews described in the New Testament had the same problem. In Romans 1:18-21 we read:
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Even though they should have known it, Jesus had to come to reveal God’s nature to the people. He did this by the things he did here on the earth, especially by his death on the cross. However, before and after Jesus’ death, there have been those whom God has used as lights to reveal Jesus’ light—which reveals God’s light.
The Light Spread to God’s Servants
Before Jesus’ death, John the Baptist was described in John 5:35 as “a lamp that burned and gave light.” Similar to the light that shone on the face of Moses after he was in the light of God’s presence to receive God’s commandments, John’s light served to direct people to Jesus, the true light. John 1:7-8 says, “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.”
In the Old Testament, the primary group to which God tried to give light through His law was the Israelites. In the New Testament, their descendants, the Jews, were also the first to have access to God’s grace. The central location of major events like Jesus’ death and the start of the Church was the Jews’ capital city Jerusalem. However, through the Apostles, God spread his light of truth from the Jews in Jerusalem to the rest of the world, even to the Gentiles. We read in Acts chapter 9 that Jesus revealed himself to Saul through a bright light, and Saul became the Apostle Paul who was a light to the Gentiles. In Acts 13:46-48, Paul spoke to the Jews about himself:
“Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: ‘We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’’
“When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”
Many of the books in the New Testament are letters written by Paul to strengthen, encourage, and guide the early Church, which was made up of both Jews and Gentiles. Paul was a light for them, but the Church was intended to be a light for the whole world.
We Reflect God’s Light to the World
Sadly, many in the world are spiritually blind. They don’t understand who God is because their eyes are closed to the truth of the gospel of Christ. However, those of us who do believe in Christ have God’s light which gives us understanding. We read in 2 Corinthians 4:4-6:
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”
The Law of Moses was supposed to bring light and life to God’s people, but because of the people’s broken nature, it only brought death. But, thanks to Jesus, now we are in a new covenant with God that does bring us light and life. 2 Corinthians 3 talks about this truth in verses 7-18:
“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
“Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
As Christians, we are supposed to show the world who God is. Our actions are like a mirror that reflects His glory. We have the light of God in our hearts, and it is our responsibility and privilege to share it with others. Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16:
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
We Need to Walk in the Light
Again, our actions are like a mirror that reflects God’s glory to the world. Unfortunately, our actions still send a message about God to the world even when our deeds are evil. For this reason, it is so important to make sure that in our lives we are remaining in God’s light. Paul sets a good example in 2 Corinthians 4:1-3:
“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.”
Romans 13:12-14 gives us some more specific examples of what we should do:
“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”
All of this is not to make us feel guilty for the sinful things we do. Jesus has already taken care of the sin of those of us who have chosen him. The fact is that being God’s people is a great honor which gives us the ability and the right to be his representatives to the world, as we see in 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Living in the light is just a part of who we are in our new relationship with God. If we remain in the light we get to enjoy not only the glory of His presence inside of us but also a connection with everyone else who has been brought into the light, as we read in 1 John 1:5-7:
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out 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, purifies us from all sin.”
As people who get to experience this great fellowship, we should want to do everything we can to bring everyone into the light with us. Really, the thing that we are experiencing through God’s light in our lives is LOVE because God IS love. We are able to understand what real love is because we see it in the life and death of Jesus, who reflects God’s love to us. Others can understand this same love when we reflect God’s light to them by loving them and by loving each other. John 13:34-35 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
To really be in the light, it is not enough only to appear righteous. In fact, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” If we want to reflect to the world who God really is, we need to do more than only to follow a set of rules, like the Israelites tried to do only to find death. We need truly to live lives of love.
We Will Live in the Light Forever
As I explained in the first part of this lesson, the light talked about in the Bible follows a story. It originated with God, who was and IS HIMSELF the light. However, He didn’t keep His light to himself but put it into its physical state where it was able to benefit man. God used His control over the physical light to help His people and to serve as a metaphor for His spiritual light, which represents things like majesty, comfort, guidance, truth, and life. We know from what is written about it in Old Testament that God’s people sometimes recognized his light, even though at that time God’s presence was separate from man. However, the people were incapable of remaining in His light forever. Through Moses, God had given laws to his people that brought them light when they followed them, but because of their broken nature, the people remained in the darkness. Because of this, it was necessary for God to come down to the people Himself and bring His light to them in the form of His Son Jesus. While Jesus was physically on the earth, he displayed the light of God’s glory in everything that he did, especially through his death on the cross to save us from our sins. In the light of Jesus, we see the most important truth that God is love. We also see that if we love others, God’s light shines through us as well.
I will leave you with one final thought. If we do live lives of love here on the earth, being careful to stay in God light, we will be rewarded with dwelling in the light forever. Revelation 21:23-25 says:
“The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.”
Also, we see in Revelation 22:3-5:
“No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”