The Lord Jesus spoke of Himself as “the light of the world”; following Him, a man would “not walk in darkness, but … have the light of life”, John 8. 12. In giving sight to a man “born blind”, He gave a practical demonstration of the truth of His words, for in that context He said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world”, 9. 5; cf. 12. 35, 46. The man “born blind” was not only given sight, but had “the eyes of (his) understanding … enlightened”, in a growing perception of the identity of His Benefactor. From confessing Him to be “a prophet”, 9. 17, and that He was “from God”, vv. 29, 30, 35, he finally confessed Him as “Lord” and “worshipped him’, v. 38.
In the sermon on the mount, the Lord used exactly the same words concerning His disciples as He later used of Himself, “ye are the light of the world”, Matt. 5. 14, not in their own right, but only by derivation as a reflection of Himself. The Lord spoke of John the Baptist as “a burning and a shining light”, using a different word (Greek, luchnos) meaning “lamp”, John 5. 35, from that which He used in John 8. 12 and Matt. 5. 14. (Greek, phos). John had no light in his own right, being only a “lamp” in that he reflected “the true light”, John 1. 9, to which he was but a “witness”, vv. 7, 8. The moon has no light of itself, but only as it reflects the light of the sun. “The greater light to rule the day”, Gen. 1. 16, may be taken as typifying Christ as “the Sun of righteousness”, Mal. 4. 2, and “the lesser light to rule the night” as the Church, reflecting the light of Christ in the world’s night. In Matthew 5. 16, the Lord linked the “light” reflected by the disciples with their “good works”, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father … in heaven’. Such “good works” would be a reflection of the moral characteristics of “the Father of lights”, James 1. 17, undeviating in His goodness; “that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”, 1 Pet. 2. 9 r.v.
Darkness to Light. Christians have been divinely enlightened. Those who “were sometimes darkness, … now are … light in the Lord” and are required to “walk as children of light”, Eph. 5. 8; cf. John 12. 36. Paul wrote, “God … hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”, 2 Cor. 4. 6. In their unconverted state, the Corinthians were “blind” to “the light of the glorious gospel”, v. 4, but had been “turned” from “darkness to light”, Acts 26. 18. Paul’s experience outside Damascus, where “there shined round about him a light from heaven”, 9. 3, caused him to turn “from darkness to light”. Three days later, the “scales” fell from his eyes, v. 18. Every Christian can say,
Lord, I was blind; I could not see In Thy marred visage any grace;
But now the beauty of Thy face In radiant vision dawns on me …
For Thou hast made the blind to see.
That God has “shined in our hearts” constitutes “treasure in earthen vessels”, 2 Cor. 4. 7, so that the light deposited therein might be diffused to others still in darkness and “blinded” by the “god of this world”. For example, Gideon’s three hundred chosen men carried “pitchers” in which “torches” were concealed; at a crucial moment in the camp of Midian, they broke the pitchers and disclosed the light within them, Jud. 7. 16, 19, 20; cf. 2 Cor. 4. 8-11.
A City on a Hill. Paul exhorted the Philippian church, “that ye may be blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world.” Phil. 2. 15 r.v. It would be a derived light; as a miniature of “new Jerusalem” they would reflect some of the light that would mark “the holy city” of Revelation 21. In the same context in which the Lord spoke of His disciples as “the light of the world”, He said, “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid”, Matt. 5. 14. The light shed by our modern cities can often be seen from afar. By reason of its eminence, used on a hill”, and its light, “the light of the world”, the city of God is meant to be seen from afar.
The believer’s light is not to be hidden “under a bushel”, which would defeat its purpose. Rather must it be set “on the stand” where “it shineth unto all that are in the house”, v. 15 r.v. Likewise, “good works” are meant to be seen, v. 16, that others may “glorify your Father … in heaven’. In Revelation, John saw the church as “the holy city … coming down from God out of heaven”, 21. 2. In the millennium it will be resplendent with “the glory of God; and her light was like unto a stone most precious”, v. 11; “the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof, v. 23. It will have “no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it”. It will be glorious in its divinely reflected light. Isaiah seems to foreshadow this in the words, “the Lord will create over the whole habitation of mount Zion … a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory shall be spread a canopy”, 4. 5 r.v. John saw “the holy city, new Jerusalem” as a city where “the nations shall walk amidst the light thereof, Rev. 21. 24 r.v.; cf. Isa. 2. 5; 60. 1, 2.
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