Walking in the Light

by Perry Hall

What does walking in the light mean? On one side proponents claim walking in darkness happens when the Christian commits even one sin; "sin is darkness, after all." The opposing side counters, walking in light describes a life-style, not each punctiliar action - "its a walk, not one step."

Contextually, "walking in light" is defined and restricted by "if we confess our sins" (I John 1:9). Likewise walking in darkness simply and only means if we say that we have not sinned (I John 1:10).

Therefore, contextually, walking in light is accomplished, not because we habitually walk with God, obeying Him; but we walk in the light when we admit Christians sin - when we admit all our actions are not in the light. Ironic, isn't it?

Similarly, contextually, walking in darkness is accomplished, not because we habitually/continuously/periodically/singularly (you choose your position) sin, but we walk in the darkness when we confess Christians do not sin -- when we claim none of our actions are in the dark.

Again, note the irony.

Contextually (there's that word again), walking in the light means we admit we sin. Walking in darkness means we believe we do not sin - or at least that our sinful actions do not soil our soul making us sinless.

Instead of connecting light with perfection, and darkness with imperfection, John ironically proves light is confessing imperfections and darkness is teaching perfection. Why? Because light is truth and the truth is we sin. God is truth, God is light therefore God confesses we sin (I John 1:10).

Why the ironic approach, or dare we say, sarcasm?

John is dealing with a particular heresy, Gnosticism. According to this false doctrine, "salvation comes as illumination (light- PDH) dispelling ignorance, triumphing over the material (fleshly sin - PDH) The church becomes the club of the illuminated (those walking in light - PDH) not the society of the redeemed (those who confess their sins - PDH)." [Zondervan's, vol. 2, p. 738.]

The Gnostics thought they were walking the light (i.e. illuminated) because they triumphed over the material (i.e. sin). Their "enlightened" view only produced darkness. the denial of the truth that even God confessed (i.e. we are sinners.) Where did they arrive at such a concept of sin?

"Heathen authors say very little about sin. and classic paganism had little or no conception of sin in the Gospel sense. The nearest approach to it was by Plato, from whose works a tolerably complete doctrinal statement might be gathered of the origin, nature. and effects of sin. The fundamental idea of hamartia (sin) among the Greeks is physical: the missing of a mark (see on Matthew 1:21; 6:14) from which it develops into a metaphysical meaning, to wonder in the understanding. This assumes knowledge as the basis of goodness: and sin, therefore, is, primarily, ignorance. In the Platonic conception of sin, intellectual error is the prominent element." [Vincent, v. 2, p. 318.]

Therefore, we walk in the light when we confess our sins (i.e. that we are sinners); we walk in the darkness when we believe we do not sin (i.e. that we are not sinners.) Ironic, yet simple.

Since this text has been subjected to not a few syllogisms, let me add to the mountainous terrain while fearfully aware of the precipitous perils of human reasoning -- or should I appropriately say, human gnosis?

  • God is light (I John 1:5).
  • Light is truth (I John 1:6).
  • God is truth.
  • Walking in light is walking in truth (I John 1:6).
  • Truth is we sin (I John 1:8-9).
  • Walking in truth is confessing our sins (I John 1:7-9).
  • Therefore walking in light is confessing our sins (i.e. that we sin).


  • God is not darkness (I John 1:5).
  • Darkness is nontruth (I John 1:6).
  • God is not nontruth.
  • Walking in darkness is walking in nontruth (I John 1:6)
  • Nontruth is we do not sin (I John 1:8).
  • Walking in nontruth is saying we do not sin (I John 1:8).
  • Therefore walking in darkness is denying we sin.


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