“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).
Some Christians think love is God’s only or primary attribute. For them, “God is love” (1 John 4:8) is a definition: “God equals love; love equals God,” and this excludes all other attributes or definitions. However, the Bible uses the phrase “God is” with other adjectives: God is holy, God is merciful, etc. The statement that “God is love” must be balanced with other definitions like “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).
Eighteenth-century theologian William Law (1686-1761) was fond of the image that “God is light” and described it as one of His essential attributes, if not the most essential one. His writings are often mystical and complex, so one should read the following quote with that in mind. Also, it is part of an extended discussion of the nature of God. Before reading false teachings into this passage, I would urge you to read The Spirit of Love in its entirety:
“Light as it is in itself is only in the supernatural Deity; and that is the reason why no man or any created being can approach to it, or have any sensibility to it, as it is in itself. And yet no light can come into this world but that in which God dwelt before any world was created. No light can be in time but that which was the light of eternity. If, therefore, the supernatural light is to manifest something of its incomprehensible glory, and make itself, in some degree, sensible and visible to the creature, this supernatural light must enter into nature, it must put on materiality” (William Law, The Spirit of Love).
The following two quotes, from some of Law’s other books, expand on this idea about light:
“This is the state of all creatures, whether men or angels; as they make not themselves, so they enjoy nothing from themselves; if they are great, it must be only as great receivers of the gifts of God; their power can only be so much of the divine power acting in them; their wisdom can be only so much of the divine wisdom shining within them; and their light and glory, only so much of the light and glory of God shining upon them” (William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life).
“All that is sweet, delightful, and amiable in this world, in the serenity of the air, the fineness of seasons, the joy of light, the melody of sounds, the beauty of colors, the fragrancy of smells, the splendor of precious stones, is nothing else but Heaven breaking through the veil of this world” (William Law, An Appeal to All That Doubt, or Disbelieve the Truths of the Gospel).
God is love. God is holy. God is light. These are all attributes of God, along with other qualities we have discussed over the last couple of years. While no one quality is a complete definition of God, Scripture shows us that each of these qualities finds its fullest definition in Him. God is more than love, but to truly understand love, we must know what His love is like. God is more than holy, but we only understand holiness by knowing Him. Likewise, God is more than light, yet perhaps we need to understand God to truly understand light. There may be a spiritual reality about light that physics, with its discussion of waves and photons, cannot explain. At the very least, any spiritual or symbolic description of light must in some way draw its meaning from God Himself.
The next post will look at the light of God in creation and the life of Christ.
I would like to hear from you. What do you think the Bible means when it says that “God is light”? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.
Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.
One response to “God Is Love, God Is Light. I. Light as an Attribute of God”
[…] The previous post introduced some of the thoughts of William Law (1686-1761), a British theologian who shared some interesting insights into the idea that “God is Light.” While many modern Christians emphasize the idea that “God is love,” Scripture identifies several other divine attributes: God is light, God is holy, our God is a consuming fire, etc. […]
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