John begins by pointing them back to the doctrine of Christ, under which he had sat for the three years of the Saviour’s public ministry.  The Lord Jesus discoursed upon many things pertaining to the kingdom of God, but one thing which rang with unalloyed clarity in the mind of John was this: “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”  Never was there a more faithful advocate of the glory and the righteousness of God than Jesus Christ.  No man ever more uncompromisingly declared the character of God, both His grace towards penitent sinners, and His wrath against the self-righteous unbelievers, than did the Lord Jesus.  Christ often compassionately warned men of the worm that dieth not, and the fire that never shall be quenched.  He proclaimed glad tidings to the broken in heart, telling them that, although God is just, they can be received into His favor by believing the word of the Gospel.  No one more plainly taught than the Lord Jesus that all who would be saved must be holy in heart and conduct.  The Saviour warned that there will be many before His judgment throne who were so involved in religion that they even performed miracles in His Name, and yet they will be cast away, because they were “workers of iniquity,” or “lawless ones.”  Christ often stressed the primacy of God’s law, and emphasized it in its broadest application as the rule of life for His people.  Never for a single moment did Jesus allow any man to think that God had grown soft towards sin, and would overlook it if people would only try hard and be sincere.  Both the abundant mercy of God, and also His stern, unyielding justice, were frequent themes of the ministry of Christ.

The terms “light” and “darkness” here are moral terms, and describe the immaculate character of the God of heaven.  He is the high and holy One that inhabiteth eternity.  This is He before Whom even the sinless angels veil their faces, and cry out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!”  The holiness, the moral purity of God, the perfection of His character, is so great that even the powerful and good angels appear marred and defective when contrasted with Him.  One of the ancients declared that He charged His angels with folly.  Another said “even the heavens are not pure in His sight.”  The holiness, the righteousness, the purity of Jehovah, is so majestic, so far above any possibility of attainment for men or angel, that our minds are overwhelmed when we try to conceive something of His reality.

This precept concerning God’s immaculate holiness, and the utter absence of anything that would defile in the minutest degree, will be critical in the unfolding of John’s epistle.  John’s argument will be that God’s children are to be imitators of their holy Father.  To be sure, just like the angels, we can never in our persons begin to approach to His unattainable majesty.  Nevertheless, every creature in His favor must love what God loves, strive for the good ends towards which God labors, admire the virtues He admires.  The Gospel furnishes us with the righteousness of God’s divine/human Son, which enables us to appear faultless before the presence of His glory.  But even though after regeneration we still live in sinful bodies until death, we will be separated from the filth, the darkness of this world, and consecrated towards the service of this holy God.  This will be the great reality of the Christian life, towards which John will again and again direct the minds of his readers.