“Go On Walking as Children of Light”
“You were once darkness, but you are now light in connection with the lord. Go on walking as children of light.”—Eph. 5:8.
1. How does John’s Gospel closely relate life and light, also make the contrast with darkness?
JOHN, the apostle, was certainly one who believed that life and light go hand in hand. Notice how strongly this is emphasized in his Gospel and in his first letter. He opens his Gospel account by introducing “the Word” (that is, Jesus, in his prehuman existence) and tells of the Word’s close relationship with God. John then says that “what has come into existence by means of him [the Word] was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light is shining in the darkness, but the darkness has not overpowered it.” Thus John loses no time in telling of the conflict between light and darkness, making the point that the darkness could not gain the conquest over him who was God’s “Chief Agent” for conveying both life and light to mankind.—John 1:1-5; Acts 3:15.
2. (a) For whom was the true light to be made available? (b) Who did, and who did not, accept the light bearer, Jesus?
2 John then makes some illuminating remarks that will help those who perhaps are uncertain as to what steps to take to escape from the realm of darkness under Satan’s authority. He shows that it is our own attitude and response that is the determining factor in benefiting from the light, rather than our background or past experience or natural temperament. In fact, we might have a most favorable background and yet not accept the light, as John pointed out. Showing first that the light was to be available to all, without discrimination, he said: “The true light that gives light to every sort of man was about to come into the world.” After saying that the world of mankind in general “did not know him,” or recognize Jesus for what he was, John then continued: “He [Jesus] came to his own home, but his own people did not take him in. However, as many as did receive him, to them he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name.”—John 1:9-13.
3. (a) What responsibility rested on that generation of Jews? (b) How were those blessed who received Jesus, and on what basis?
3 What a masterly summary of the situation! Why, of course, that generation of Jews had the best background, and their past experience gave them the best reasons for accepting Jesus as their heaven-sent Messiah, the One to whom the Law pointed. (Rom. 10:4) By his human birth Jesus was one of them, born in their own home so to speak, yet he was rejected by the majority of them. The bad attitude of the majority was further shown up in contrast with the good attitude of those who did receive him, appreciating that “he was full of undeserved kindness and truth.” Note, too, that the responsive ones were given “authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name.” That is, faith in what his name stood for, the One who provided “the release [from condemnation] by ransom through the blood of that one,” and through our exercising “faith in his blood.”—John 1:12, 14; Eph. 1:5-7; Rom. 3:25; Acts 4:12.
4. How did Jesus tell of God’s provision for mankind, and on what condition was it to be had?
4 How does this aid us to take the right steps in fleeing from the darkness into the light and freedom of God’s Messianic kingdom? This can be answered best by looking a little further into John’s Gospel. In quoting Jesus’ words spoken to Nicodemus, at John 3:16-21, we find more information. First we read: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” Ah! yes, not only light, but “everlasting life” was to be available to the world of mankind, at great cost both to God and to his beloved Son. However, one all-important condition had to be met, that of one’s “exercising faith,” one thus manifesting the right attitude and response. Failure or refusal to exercise faith meant one’s coming under, or remaining under, God’s adverse judgment.—John 3:16, 18, 36.
5. What important principle did Jesus state, and how does it operate?
5 Jesus next stated an important principle: “Now this is the basis for judgment, that the light has come into the world but men have loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were wicked.” That “basis for judgment” is as true today as when it was first spoken, and it operates the same way. He that deliberately “practices vile things hates the light and does not come to the light, in order that his works may not be reproved,” as Jesus explained. That is the reason why “his own people did not take him in.” They, and especially their leaders, acting as “blind guides,” did not want to be exposed or disturbed in their preference for tradition and hypocrisy. A similar situation obtains today, especially in Christendom.—John 1:11; 3:19-21; Matt. 15:7-9; 23:16-26.
6. Despite your past life, what steps can and should be taken?
6 Still, you may not see your way clear. Perhaps you say that your past life will not bear inspection. Yes, but what was your response when you learned for the first time of God’s great love for mankind, “his kindness and forbearance and long-suffering”? Instead of manifesting an “unrepentant heart,” perhaps you, like Saul of Tarsus, showed at heart a good attitude. If so, you would honestly and humbly admit your unclean condition, perhaps extremely unclean in some respects. This would cause you to feel sincere regret over your former way of life. Thereby you would act in accord with the fact that the “kindly quality of God is trying to lead you to repentance.” That is the first step—repentance. Paul mentioned the further steps when he said to King Agrippa: “I went bringing the message that they should repent and turn to God by doing works that befit repentance.” In other words, true repentance must be followed by conversion, a turning around in one’s course of action, followed by the step of dedication to do God’s will, turning fully to him in whole-souled devotion. In this way you ‘exercise faith,’ you put it to work.—Rom. 2:4, 5; Acts 26:20.
7. What public evidence is given of dedication, and how did Jesus give encouragement to those becoming his followers?
7 Have you taken these steps? And have you given public evidence of your dedication to God by submitting to water baptism as this is observed by Jehovah’s Christian witnesses? If so, then it can be said with authority that you are a true disciple, a follower of Jesus. Note what he said for your encouragement: “I am the light of the world. He that follows me will by no means walk in darkness, but will possess the light of life.”—John 8:12.
8. How do the Scripture distinguish between those given a heavenly hope and those with an earthly hope during God’s kingdom?
8 From Pentecost of 33 C.E. onward, it is true that Jesus’ immediate followers were given a “new birth to a living hope” of a heavenly inheritance, becoming “sharers in divine nature,” of immortality. These make up the “little flock” who share with Christ Jesus in his heavenly throne. (1 Pet. 1:3, 4; 2 Pet. 1:4; Luke 12:32; 1 Cor. 15:54; Rev. 3:21) However, Jesus said on one occasion: “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, . . . and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” These “other sheep” are given hope of everlasting life on a paradise earth under the heavenly kingdom, and are identified with the sheeplike ones who do good to Christ’s spiritual brothers, mentioned in the parable at Matthew 25:31-46, and being now in course of fulfillment. They are also identified with the “great crowd” mentioned at Revelation 7:9-17, and following the description of the heavenly class, numbering 144,000.—John 10:16.
9. How do Jehovah’s Witnesses today correspond to Jesus’ ‘one flock of sheep’?
9 Jehovah’s Witnesses today, numbering well over two million, are a living testimony to the truthfulness of God’s Word. Among them is a minority, a nucleus, who have the heavenly hope. Closely gathered around these is a large and growing number of those whose hope of life during God’s kingdom is earthly, and they delight to give all possible support to Christ’s “brothers.” (Matt. 25:40) Both groups form “one flock [under] one shepherd,” and concerning his sheep, all of them, Jesus said: “My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them [by name], and they follow me. And I give them everlasting life.” All of them have been restored to a family relationship with God, so as to be called “children of God,” and are rejoicing in the ‘light of life.’—John 10:3, 27, 28; Rom. 8:19-21.
WALK IN THE LIGHT AND AVOID STUMBLING
10. What counsel does John give those desiring to share with God and Christ?
10 Considering now John’s first letter, we find some fine and direct counsel for those who have turned to God in dedication and commenced following in Jesus’ footsteps. As in his Gospel, John starts by writing about Jesus, this time as the “word of life,” and he mentions a sharing, not only with himself, but also “with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” John then says in his customary emphatic style: “God is light and there is no darkness at all in union with him. If we make the statement: ‘We are having a sharing with him,’ and yet we go on walking in the darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.”—1 John 1:1-7.
11. (a) A knowledge of the truth brings what degree of responsibility? (b) How does Proverbs 4:23-27 help us in facing up to our responsibility?
11 As these words indicate, a knowledge of the truth concerning Jehovah and his purpose, besides conveying a rich blessing and enlightenment, brings a responsibility that cannot be sidestepped. It is not simply a question as to whether we have a clear knowledge of the truth. Rather, the more searching question is as to how we are responding to the truth in our hearts, as evidenced by our entire course of action, both in public and in private. It is the heart attitude, the real person we are within, that determines how we view every situation and possibility and the course that we decide to take. As God’s Word says: “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life. . . . As for your eyes, straight ahead they should look. . . . Smooth out the course of your foot, and may all your own ways be firmly established. . . . Remove your foot from what is bad.”—Prov. 4:23-27.
12. (a) How and why is it possible for the “light” in one to become “darkness”? (b) What illustration of this was seen in Jesus’ day?
12 If, however, we seek to use the knowledge of the truth or our standing among Jehovah’s people for selfish ends, with a bad or impure motive, then we would be viewing things in an impure way, and our vision of matters would be a perverted, distorted one. Though we might not realize it, we would not be able to see straight in a spiritual way. As Jesus said: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If, then, your eye is simple [all one way, in focus], your whole body will be bright; but if your eye is wicked, your whole body will be dark. If in reality the light that is in you is darkness, how great that darkness is!” (Matt. 6:22, 23) We could stumble over the very thing which, if taken aright, would result to our advantage, because what the ‘eyes of our heart’ receive would prove to be, not light, but darkness. This was well illustrated in the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Had they accepted him as the “chief cornerstone” in God’s arrangement, how richly they would have been blessed! Instead, they rejected him. They stumbled and fell over him. In fact, their rejection of Jesus was so extreme, even to a murderous hatred of him, that it brought upon them God’s extreme adverse judgment. As Jesus said: “The person falling upon this stone will be shattered. As for anyone upon whom it falls, it will pulverize him.”—Matt. 21:42-44; see also Romans 9:32, 33.
13. Regarding our influence over others, what is it important to keep in mind?
13 It is also important to consider how we may influence others. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “All things are lawful; but not all things build up. Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” He then explained that especially where there is a question of conscience, “not your own, but that of the other person,” we must be careful to “keep from becoming causes for stumbling.” He also counseled the Romans: “Make this your decision, not to put before a brother a stumbling block or a cause for tripping.” Yes, if by your conduct “your brother is being grieved, you are no longer walking in accord with love.”—1 Cor. 10:23-33; Rom. 14:13-15.
14. (a) What two expressions of Jesus stress the importance and danger respecting stumbling? (b) How did John express himself about this?
14 Jesus, too, spoke very strongly about this. He urged that if there was anything about our own selves that we were allowing to stumble us, we should get rid of it. As for other disciples, he said: “Whoever stumbles one of these little ones who put faith in me, it is more beneficial for him to have hung around his neck a millstone . . . and to be sunk in the wide, open sea.” And again: “It is not a desirable thing with my Father who is in heaven for one of these little ones to perish.” (Matt. 18:6-10, 14) If the “eyes of your heart” are indeed enlightened to see how precious each “one of these little ones” is in Jehovah’s eyes, you will appreciate the forceful way that John expressed himself when he said: “He that loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in his case. But he that hates his brother [if only one] is in the darkness and is walking in the darkness, and he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” It was John’s undivided love and loyalty that caused him to write thus. These are good qualities of the heart that govern our attitude and course of action, forming part of “the new personality . . . created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.”—1 John 2:10, 11; Eph. 1:18; 4:24.
15. What warning and appeal did Paul give as to how we should walk?
15 Further, note Paul’s earnest appeal: “That you no longer go on walking just as the nations also walk . . . while they are in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the insensibility of their hearts.” Later, he builds up on the positive side, saying: “Become imitators of God, as beloved children, and go on walking in love. . . . Go on walking as children of light, for the fruitage of the light consists of every sort of goodness and righteousness and truth.” What fine and attractive fruitage! He concludes: “So keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons.”—Eph. 4:17, 18; 5:1, 2, 8-15.
ABSORBING AND REFLECTING THE LIGHT
16. (a) In letting our light shine, is it only a question of conduct? (b) When Jesus faced Pilate, what important issue was discussed?
16 The scriptures that we have discussed thus far have dealt mainly with our personal conduct as children of light, also our responsibility toward others. There is, however, one other aspect that is prominent in God’s Word. Jesus said: “I am the light of the world,” and Paul said that Christ Jesus “was going to publish light.” (John 8:12; Acts 26:23) How were these scriptures fulfilled? Was it just by the good life that Jesus led and his exemplary conduct? That is as far as many who claim to be Christians get in letting their light shine. But was that the reason why Jesus was finally arrested and brought before Pilate—because of his kind and good deeds? Of course not. The issue involved was that of rulership and kingdom authority, centering around Jesus as the pivotal point, as shown by Pilate’s question: “Are you the king of the Jews?” In reply, Jesus readily acknowledged that he had a kingdom and was therefore a king, but Pilate had no reason to be disturbed. As Jesus said: “My kingdom is no part of this world. . . . My kingdom is not from this source.”—John 18:33-36.
17. (a) What was the main theme of all that Jesus taught and proclaimed? (b) In what way did Jesus make this light shine right to the end? (c) What scriptures guided and encouraged Jesus in this respect?
17 That kingdom had indeed been the theme and basis, the central truth, of all of Jesus’ preaching and teaching. Matthew says that, after John the Baptist was arrested: “Jesus commenced preaching and saying: ‘Repent, you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” Interestingly, Matthew points out that at that particular time and place the prophecy was fulfilled: “The people sitting in darkness saw a great light, and as for those sitting in a region of deathly shadow, light rose upon them.” (Matt. 4:12-17; Isa. 9:1, 2) Jesus keenly realized his responsibility to bear witness to that all-important truth, as he said to Pilate: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) Jesus had thoroughly absorbed his Father’s Word, and he appreciated that Jehovah’s purpose was centered in the kingdom of which he was the promised king. As God’s only-begotten Son, he knew that such prophecies as Psalm 2:4-8 and Isaiah 9:6, 7, speaking of a “son,” referred to him and would be fulfilled in him. He also knew that he was the one referred to in the prophecies of Isaiah where Jehovah addresses him as “my servant,” saying that he will give him “as a light of the nations, . . . to open the blind eyes, to bring forth out of the dungeon the prisoner, out of the house of detention those sitting in darkness.” And again: “I [Jehovah] also have given you for a light of the nations, that my salvation may come to be to the extremity of the earth.” (Isa. 42:1, 6, 7; 49:6) In fact, Jesus knew that some of these scriptures had already been quoted as referring to him, as when the angel Gabriel announced his conception to his mother Mary, and by Simeon when Jesus’ parents brought him into the temple as an infant.—Luke 1:31-33; 2:25-32.
18. (a) What vital truths does Jesus’ Model Prayer highlight? (b) How did events turn out when Jesus as light bearer appeared to be completely eliminated?
18 Jesus faithfully reflected all that he had absorbed. This is seen in the first part of his Model Prayer, tying in the Kingdom with the sanctification of God’s name: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 6:9, 10) Though that Kingdom message shone as a shaft of light during all of Jesus’ ministry, the stormy clouds of religious opposition appeared to have blotted it out completely when Jesus was publicly hanging dead on the terrible torture stake. Then what happened? Why, on the fifty-first day thereafter, at Pentecost, there was Peter publicly addressing a big crowd in Jerusalem, explaining that the outpouring of the holy spirit was proof that God had indeed raised his Son from the dead and had exalted him to his right hand, in fulfillment of the Scriptures.—Acts 2:22-36.
19. What record did the early Christian congregation make as to reflecting the true light?
19 From then on, that shaft of light shone with a greater intensity and a broader beam, especially when the Kingdom message was taken to the nations, commencing with Cornelius. (Acts, chapter 10) All who accepted and absorbed that message into their minds and hearts responded by reflecting that light, remembering Jesus’ commission: “You are the light of the world. . . . Let your light shine before men.” (Matt. 5:14-16) The entire record in the book of Acts confirms this, concluding with the incident when Paul was “bearing thorough witness concerning the kingdom of God,” and pointing to a further fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies. (Acts 28:23-28) Peter, too, stressed the primary obligation resting on the Christian congregation when he wrote: “You are ‘ . . . a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”—1 Pet. 2:9.
20. (a) Is there any possibility that Satan or his servants might outshine Jehovah? (b) What does the modern history of Jehovah’s people reveal, as he foretold through Isaiah?
20 After centuries of the so-called Dark Ages, what is the situation today? Granted that Satan’s ministers have been very successful in obscuring the light, “transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness,” but that was no problem to Jehovah. He is always Master of the situation. Indeed, to him, “the darkness might just as well be the light.” (2 Cor. 11:14, 15; Ps. 139:11, 12) The night might seem endless to us, but nothing can delay the dawn. The rising sun first catches the highest hills and mountains and any city or temple built thereon. That is exactly what has happened. The restoration of fundamental truths and related activities from the 1870’s on was like the early morning light. Then, after a brief, stormy testing period from 1914 to 1918, the sunlight of God’s restored favor on his faithful ones burst forth in 1919. Since then their path has truly been “getting lighter and lighter.” (Prov. 4:18) They are experiencing what Jehovah foretold when addressing Zion, his organization, saying: “Arise, O woman, shed forth light, for your light has come and upon you the very glory of Jehovah has shone forth. For, look! darkness itself will cover the earth, and thick gloom the national groups; but upon you Jehovah will shine forth, and upon you his own glory will be seen. And nations will certainly go to your light, and kings to the brightness of your shining forth.”—Isa. 59:20; 60:1-3; 62:1-3; see also Isaiah 2:2, 3.
21. Who comprise Jehovah’s “servant” today, and how do they reflect his glory?
21 Jehovah’s “servant” is now seen to embrace those serving with Christ Jesus as their head, and making up a servant body of “witnesses,” spiritual Israel. To these, Jehovah says: “You are my witnesses . . . even my servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and have faith in me.” (Isa. 43:10-12) These, along with their many sheeplike companions, are sharing in the worldwide kingdom proclamation. They gratefully absorb the ever-increasing light of understanding that shines from the pages of God’s Word. Thus, like Moses, the spiritual Israelites “reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah.” They do so by their personal conduct, also by declaring “this good news of the kingdom . . . in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.”—2 Cor. 3:4-6, 16-18; Matt. 24:14.
22. What is the prayer of Jehovah’s dedicated servants, and how do they live up to it?
22 The remnant of spiritual Israel and their companions gladly press forward in their God-given work of Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making. In line with the foregoing, their prayer to Jehovah, in which they invite others actively to share, is beautifully expressed at Psalm 43:3, 4: “Send out your light and your truth. May these themselves lead me. May they bring me to your holy mountain and to your grand tabernacle. And I will come to the altar of God, to God, my exultant rejoicing. And I will laud you on the harp, O God, my God.”