|Vol. 15 No. 4 April 2013||
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:15)
The word used in this verse for “lights” is only used twice in the New Testament. The Greek word comes from the root for “light.” The root word most often references the thing light, not what produces it. However, the word is used of God. In 1 John 1:5, we read that “God is light.” This is not reference to Him being the source of light (which He is) but that He is in a state of light or illumination (there is no darkness in him, 1 John 1:5). That is why in 1 John 1:7 we are told to walk in the light as He is in the light. We are to be in a state of illumination or living in light. Our existence is to be shining as light.
The “lights” in our verse above were used in secular Greek to refer to stars or constellations. This was because they were constantly in a state of light or illumination. From what I have studied, this word was not used for heavenly bodies that reflected light (e.g., asteroids, comets, moons). (There was a word for Star. It referred to the object but not necessarily to the light. Thus, this word could include moons, etc.) This is important in the context of Philippians Chapter Two. As Christians, we do reflect the light of God. In that sense, we are represented by Scripture as being moons reflecting Light. Yet, in our context, we are given the personal responsibility of producing light. We must “work” out our own salvation (verse 12). So, in Philippians Chapter Two, we are self-illuminating lights.
Paul told the Philippians in 2:2 that he wanted them united in love and purpose. They should be living and teaching the same things. They were to all have the mind of Christ (verse 5). This was a personal responsibility, as each person must work out his own salvation, but the world needed to see the church as a united group. While other Scriptures teach that each person is to make his light shine, the context of Philippians Chapter Two points to a plurality of lights working together to present one message – one light.
Just as the physical heavenly lights have the purpose of communicating days, years and seasons, so Christians working together in unity present a message that “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Travelers in ancient times used the stars and constellations to guide them. They knew if they followed the proper constellations that they would arrive in the right place. Those who are spiritually lost need to see our constellations shining in the darkness of their lives. They need the guidance of our light.
It is a fact that the constellation of Christians does communicate the message of salvation; it holds “forth the word of life” (Philippians 2:16). It is necessary for the lights of the constellation to all be illuminating. If some become too dim to be viewed, the constellation cannot be properly found. The message is harmed. If some of the stars decide to form a different message, the proper message is difficult to find.
Make sure you know how to be a part of God’s spiritual constellation. Study your Bible. Learn all you can. Then, obey Him. If you are having trouble understanding these things, ask an adult to help you.
The Book of 1 John was written for several purposes (1:4; 2:1; 5:13a; 5:13b), and in order for John to accomplish these purposes, it was important for him to dismantle a prevailing false doctrine of the time. There were those, often referred to as Gnostics, who insisted that the spirit is good, but the body and all other matter is evil. Like all false doctrines, their acceptance perverts the mind and the consequences are always harmful. In the case of Gnostics, their beliefs led them to a terrible conclusion, namely, the Divine could have no association with “sinful matter,” therefore Deity could not have presented Himself in the flesh. Obviously, the denial of the “man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5) would destroy their fellowship (“joint participation, a sharing with”) with God and, by default, their fellowship with one another (1 John 1:5-2:14). John, in order to prevent such devastation from taking place, provided evidence for the historical Jesus with whom he had a special bond as the “beloved” apostle.
John began by declaring the “Word of life,” who he knew personally, “was from the beginning” (1a). In this statement, John affirmed the eternality of the One “whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (John 1:1; Matthew 1:16). This is consistent with John’s proclamation in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Yet it would not be sufficient for John to establish the eternality of the “Word of life” without connecting the Word of life with the man Christ Jesus. For this reason John provided evidence that the Word of life was manifested in the person Jesus (Matthew 1:25).
John wrote, “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled” (1b). Though the Gnostics claimed Jesus was not God in the flesh, John provided evidence to the contrary. There are two general ways to come to the knowledge of the truth: (1) experience (seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling) and (2) contemplation (conclusions based on facts). John shared his first-hand experience with mankind that we might conclude, by way of contemplation, that Jesus is indeed the “Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).
John did not simply know an acquaintance of Jesus who then provided a description of His looks and words; instead, he had intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ. John, along with others, had heard Jesus speak words that could have only originated from God (John 6:67-68). He had heard Jesus proclaim upon the cross “it is finished” as He gave His life for a sinful people (1 John 1:8). In addition, John had seen the Word manifested in human form with his own eyes. John was present as Jesus performed countless miracles befitting of God (John 3:2) and recorded several that we “might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:30-31). He had not only seen Jesus, he had gazed (“looked upon”) Him. John had not just seen Jesus afar off; rather, he had gazed upon the linens neatly folded in the empty tomb (John 20:5) and beheld the risen Savior (1 Corinthians 15:5-7). John added, “and our hands have handled” Jesus. It was John’s head that lay upon the breast of Christ as Jesus predicted He would be betrayed (John 13:23). It was also John and the other apostles who were given the opportunity to touch the resurrected person, Jesus the Christ (Luke 24:36-39).
For this reason, John was an authority concerning the authenticity of Jesus as a man and as the Son of God. For the Word of life had been manifested in the flesh (John 1:14), and he had seen and touched Him! In only two verses, John had put the Gnostics’ beliefs to shame and restored mankind’s hope for fellowship with God.