C. Walk in the light.
John stated that Christians are “walking in the light” (1 Jn 1:7). As he progressed in the book of 1 John, he referred to the will of God with terms as the truth, the light, and finally, the commandments of God. Walking in the light in 1 John 1:7, therefore, is a reference to walking in the realm of God and His will.
New creatures in Christ were once walking in the darkness of sin. But in the new birth, God “has delivered us from the power of darkness and has transferred us unto the kingdom of His dear Son” (Cl 1:13). Sin is darkness because it is a realm of behavior that is outside the sovereign will of God. In the realm of darkness, we “were dead in trespasses and sins” because we were walking “according to the ways of this world …” (Ep 2:1,2). But as new creatures in Christ, this walk was changed.
We were once as the Ephesians about whom Paul wrote, “For you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ep 5:8). We were darkness because our former way of life constituted the darkness of sin in the world. But when we turned to a walk in the light of God, we turned to representing before the world the light of God. Jesus explained: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jn 8:12). When we walk with Jesus, we have His light by which we light up those around us.
Because we are disciples of the One who is the light of the world, our walk in His light is an advertisement of His light. Christians are the reflection of Christ to a world that continues to be in the darkness of sin. Of His disciples, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14). His disciples would be as He was in the world: “As long as I am in the world,” Jesus said of Himself, “I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:5). However, when He left this world, His disciples continued to be His only light in the world as long as they walked in His light. As new creatures in Christ, we have been entrusted with the light of Jesus.
As Paul and Barnabas went from city to city on their first mission journey, they realized the light-bearing responsibility that was laid on their shoulders as disciples of the Light. They rebuked those Jews who rejected them with a statement concerning their God-given responsibility to be the light of Jesus to the world: “For so has the Lord commanded us, ‘I have set you to be a light of the Gentiles so that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (At 13:47). Every disciple of Jesus carries with him the same light-bearing responsibility. In a world of darkness, and as the light of God in the world, the disciples of Jesus offer hope to the world. They are the light of the world as they reflect the light of the One who leads their lives.
D. Walk in the Spirit.
New creatures reveal the light of God through their walk in obedience to the will of their Father. Paul explained:
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Co 4:6).
The knowledge of the glory of God is revealed through the walk of those who walk in the light of God’s will. This would be walking in the knowledge of the Spirit-inspired word of God (2 Tm 3:16). Paul explained this walk to be as one led by the Spirit: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God” (Rm 8:14). “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gl 5:25).
In the context of Jesus’ statement that we let our light shine before the world (Mt 5:16), reference was not to a boastful display of one’s works. Reference was to a behavioral life-style that manifested God before the world by those who have obeyed Him. When we let our light shine, we are manifesting to the world that we are being led by the Spirit of God. And being led by the Spirit means that we are obediently walking according to the Spirit-inspired word of God. Though such a righteous life-style is not empirical evidence that God is working through us, the fact is that if we were not living the righteous life people would not conclude that God is working in us. People know that God is working in us when we do His will.
There are no side roads to the “leading of the Spirit.” In other words, the Spirit does not lead parallel to the road map of His direction through His written word. All objective leading by the Spirit comes to us through the inspired written word of the Spirit (2 Tm 3:16). Following the Spirit through His word is objective, that is, we read and walk. For this reason, one can walk in the light with confidence when led by the Spirit through the inspired word of God.
However, if there is a supposed direct and subjective leading of the Spirit through nudges and intuition that are separate from the written word of God, and is also contrary to the written word, then this leading would be false. If the leading is subjective, then one is left to his own declarations as to what the Spirit is supposedly doing in his life. And if one must personally declare his leading by the Spirit, then one can only give a personal testimony of the Spirit’s work in his life. Such a testimony cannot be used as an evidence to others that the Spirit is working in one’s life. We must keep in mind that many good people who have not obeyed the gospel, give their own testimony that the Spirit is leading them. But the Spirit does not work in the life of those who have not obeyed the gospel, otherwise the promise to “receive the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38 has no special reference to the baptized believer.
The Spirit of God indeed works in the life of God’s new creatures, but His leading is never contrary to what He He has written. And certainly, if one would claim to be led by the Spirit, then we must assume that this person has been born again of the water (baptism) and of the Spirit (Jn 3:5). Any leading by the Spirit is reserved for new creatures in Christ.
It is the word of God that reveals the light of our Father. And it is our obedience to His Holy Spirit-inspired word that manifests the glory of God and the realm of obedience in which God’s children walk. The psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105). Since it is not in us to direct our own ways (Jr 10:23), then our only option for walking with God in confidence is to walk in the light of His word. By our walk in His word, we manifest that we are His sons since we are obedient to Him as our Father.
This explains the meaning of the following prophecy that Paul quoted from Ezekiel that was made in reference to those who would be born into Christ: “I will dwell in them and walk in them. And I will be their God and they will be My people” (See Ez 37:26,27; 2 Co 6:16). John’s commentary of this walk is easy to understand: “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it” (2 Jn 6). This was Gaius’ “walk in truth” (3 Jn 3), and also the apostle John’s greatest joy (3 Jn 4). Christians are those about whom the Spirit wrote,
There is now, therefore, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Rm 8:1; See Ep 2:10).
We objectively walk according to the Spirit when we live according to His directions. We can only know the direction in which we must walk by reading His road map.
E. Walk in obedience.
In reference to the preceding points, the following explanation of our walk with God would be redundant. Nevertheless, when the metaphor “walk” is used in the Bible, all reference is to something that involves obedience. “Walk” can never be metaphorical of some mysterious sensation that might come over us. It can never refer to some supposed inner urge of the Spirit that is not reflected in obedience. “Walk” is an action word, not a justification for spiritualism or an inactive faith. It is an action word that explains something we do, not what the Holy Spirit does. Walking assumes that we have taken ownership of our behavior, and thus, we will give account of our behavior before God (2 Co 5:10).
Paul wrote, “But God be thanked that though you were the bondservants of sin, yet you have obeyed from the heart that form of teaching that was delivered to you” (Rm 6:17). Teaching is inert if it is not put into action. An outline of scriptures on a piece of paper is worthless if there is no walking in life of the teaching of the Scriptures. Before outlines of teaching change lives, the teaching must get from the head to the heart. The Roman disciples had been delivered the outline. However, the teaching was brought to life only when they were obedient to what the Spirit wrote in the book of Romans.
Some fall into a deceptive religiosity in reference to our obedient walk with God. Some believe that they are walking with God as long as they have memorized a code of teaching, but do not necessarily respond by living the teaching. This would be a “faith only” belief in the sense that as long as one has faith in a correct doctrine, then he is saved without any behavioral response to what he knows. The error of this “faith only” religion is that we are not saved by knowledge, but by our walk (See Jn 13:34,35; 2 Co 5:10).
Other “faith only” folks refuse to make any outline of teaching, lest they be constructing some legal form of obedience by which they might be meritoriously justified before God. The error of these “faith only” folks is in the fact that their faith supposedly replaces any obedience from the heart to that which God commands. These are those who believe that obedience to any “form of teaching” is not necessary for one’s salvation.
In both of the above theologies the adherents have difficulty in putting their faith into action. One relies on his knowledge of the truth, while the other relies on his fear of being meritoriously justified by obedience. The non-response of either group to any form of teaching has led them to have difficulty in getting the truth of God into a heart response. Both groups fail to understand that Christianity is a behavior of life that is guided by the word of God.
We would remind any “faith only” people that faith without works is dead (Js 2:17). Those the Holy Spirit used to be examples of faith in the greatest chapter of the Bible on faith, were those who responded with obedience to their faith in God. “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place that he would later receive as an inheritance, obeyed” (Hb 11:8). “By faith Noah … prepared an ark …” (Hb 11:7). “By faith Abel offered …” (Hb 11:4). In view of these heroes of faith, we must conclude that obedience is a manifestation of a faith that is pleasing to God. Those who would eliminate obedience from faith should take their argument to Abraham, Noah and Abel, for it is beside these obedient fathers of the faith that we will all stand in judgment.
New creatures stay new because they walk in the light. In their walk in the light, the blood of Jesus keeps them new. If they would by chance terminate their walking, their cleansing by the blood of Jesus would also terminate. And because we know this, we keep on walking. We keep walking in order to stay new.
[Next lecture: July 22]