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Fellowshipping in the Light (3): The Sphere of Darkness

Fellowshipping in the Light (3): The Sphere of Darkness

By Rev. Martyn McGeown. Previous article in the series: Fellowshipping in the Light (2): The Sphere of Light

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The second word we must explain is darkness. Darkness is also a figure. John does not refer to common darkness, as if we cannot enjoy fellowship with God at night. God blesses us at night, as well as during the day. A persecuted saint in a dark dungeon enjoys fellowship with God. Darkness is a figure. In the Bible darkness is not only the absence of light. We turn off the light, and it becomes dark. Darkness is more than absence. Darkness is the opposite of light, the antithesis of light, and the enemy of light. If light is purity and holiness, darkness is impurity, depravity, and the defilement of sin. If light is warmth, joy, gladness, and comfort, darkness is gloom, misery, and despair. If light is life and vitality, darkness is death. If light is truth and clarity, darkness is obscurity, confusion, and error. If light is glory, darkness is shame. Darkness engulfs, it oppresses, it obscures, it hides, it covers and conceals, and it destroys. 

Darkness is the natural sphere of man. Jesus says, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). Man does not only dwell in darkness, but he also hates the light. He will not come into the light. But the man who lives in darkness and who never comes into the light will be cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth! 

The third word we must explain is walk. “If we...walk in darkness” (v. 6); “If we walk in the light” (v. 7). The Bible uses the word walk to describe a person’s general behavior, the general direction of his life, or the general character of his life. A walk is not a single step. It begins with one step, but it is a series of steps, which becomes a pattern. The Bible uses the verb “walk” and the noun “way” or “path” to describe our life in this world. 

There are only two possible ways of walking. A man might walk in darkness: he lives persistently in sin, he lives immorally, he hates God and his neighbor, he lives in error and falsehood, he lives in bitterness, pride, selfishness, and envy, and he refuses to repent. Such a man walking in darkness shows no sorrow over his sin, but delights in his sins. He might even be outwardly moral, but he has no faith in Jesus Christ, and he does not keep God’s commandments from his heart. Such a man has no fellowship with God or with the saints of God. He is an unbeliever and he acts like an unbeliever, or he is a believer, but he temporarily persists in sin. 

And yet that man is a member of the church. That’s the shocking aspect of the text. He says, “I have fellowship with God.” A professing Christian says that, nevertheless, he lives in wickedness. Perhaps he is unfaithful to his wife. Perhaps he is habitually drunk. Perhaps he lives in bitterness, anger, resentment, or discontentment. Perhaps his sins are not serious enough to warrant Christian discipline, or perhaps his sins are secret: he commits them literally in the darkness, when no one else is looking. Perhaps he abuses his wife or children, and nobody knows, and the people would be shocked to find out. Perhaps he is a secret thief. Perhaps he is persistently disobedient to his parents. Perhaps he is a gossip, a slanderer, or a backbiter. Perhaps he uses social media to spread rumors and to attack the good character of others. Perhaps he neglects his calling and is persistently lazy. Perhaps he never prays, neglects the reading of scripture, and is negligent in church attendance. There are so many possibilities! 

He says, “I have fellowship with God.” He says, “I have fellowship with my fellow Christians.” John’s answer is very sharp: “we lie” (v. 6). We are not merely mistaken, or confused, or in error. We tell lies, enormous, God-dishonoring, blasphemous lies! We utter monstrous falsehoods! We deceive ourselves, and others! We are liars. And “we do not the truth” (v. 6). The truth is that which accords with reality, but truth has no place in the life of a man who walks in darkness, especially if he claims to have fellowship with God. How easily we can be deceived! How easily we think, “If I am theologically orthodox, if I believe or confess the right doctrines, then my life and behavior do not matter. I can live in malice and envy. I can live in unholy activities. I can mistreat my spouse, my children, and my fellow church members. I can still have fellowship with God.” 

Beloved readers, we cannot! When we try, we will find that God will hide his favor from us. We will not be able to pray. We will feel guilty, ashamed, and miserable. We will learn with bitter experience what David describes, “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer” (Ps. 32:3–4). 

Why is that so? Why must that be so? Why does God make the man miserable who walks in darkness? Why does God make his own child miserable when he walks in darkness? It is so because God is light, and he dwells in the light, and therefore the one who enjoys fellowship with God must walk in the light. It is not a matter of occasional steps into the light, while we live mostly in the darkness. We must walk in the light. We must dwell in the light. The light must be our habitat. We must walk nowhere else. 

This is John’s clear statement in verse 7. 

To be continued.

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