The Light of the World (Genesis 1:3)

Genesis 1:3“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”

God created physical light. The Bible also says that God is light in a moral and spiritual sense (1 John 1:5). By God’s design, the physical aspects of creation can serve as vehicles for developing themes about God and his salvation. Jesus is “the light of the world” (John 8:12). (History of Salvation in the Old Testament: Preparing the Way for Christ,” in ESV Study Bible’s, p. 2635)

Let There Be Light

The first thing created in the Bible is “light.” In this God not only communicated his essence to creation; he also ensured that all things would be made under the rule of his light. As it will be in the new creation—a world illumined by the light of the Lamb (Rev 21:23)—so it was in the beginning.

God spoke light into existence and made the physical universe to display his radiant glory. Indeed, as the Bible tells, God’s glory shines in the heavens (Ps 19:1) and is reflected by men and women made in his image (Ps 8). With the Fall, sin dimmed and deranged that reflection—almost to the point of total darkness sometimes—but the light of God remains.

Truly, all creation was made by the Lord of light (John 1:3), and nothing exists that did not come from his light. The Lord of light is the Author of Life (Acts 3:15) and in his light we see light (Ps 36:9). In this way, the world was fashioned in the light; nothing that was made was made from darkness, by darkness, or contained darkness. As Genesis 1:31 states, all of it was “exceedingly good.”

Darkness and Light

Today light remains, but also darkness. Because mankind fell into darkness, God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6:16). Man who was made upright, sought many dark schemes (Ecc 7:20, 29). Tragically, like the moon that receives its light from the sun, when mankind sought to be their own god, they entered a realm of darkness.  By consequence, humanity is ruled by the prince of shade and deception. And the human heart? It is by nature a place of darkness; men do not seek the light.  They live in the shadows.

In Scripture, light and darkness are often employed to speak not only of physical realities, but moral and ethical categories.  When John writes in his first letter that God is light and in him their is no darkness (1 John 1:5), he is not speaking about God’s ontology, so much as he is describing God’s unerring perfection. In all that God does, he is pure, holy, perfect light. By contrast, in his gospel darkness alludes to the evil that resides in the hearts of men. For instance, John makes the off-hand comment that when Judas leaves the presence of Jesus—who happens to be the “light of the world” (John 8:12)—it was night (13:30).

The relationship between physical light and its ethical implications stretch from creation to consummation. Indeed, it is not too much to say that all creation is designed by God to reveal something of his luminescent character. In his light, we see light.

Therefore, God gives marriage to mankind as a universal institution which testifies to the gospel of Christ and the church (Eph 5:22-33). Bread is given to sustain life, but it also provides physical context for reality that Jesus is the “bread of life” (John 6:35, 48). In my yard, trees exist to bear fruit and give shade, but in Scripture their growth,  shape, and shade serve as physical emblems of the kingdom of God. Amazingly, these emblems of the kingdom live because of the sun’s light, but in the light of Scripture, they help us see a greater light. (For an excellent work on reading Scripture with eyes to see how the physical depicts the spiritual, see James Jordan, Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World).

From Creation’s Light to the Light of the World

Back to the beginning. In creation, God spoke light into existence, however this light was not simply the first of many steps that God was testing out in creation. God is no Thomas Edison. Rather, God illuminated the world with his light, so that he might lead all creation to find ultimate meaning in his light. Ephesians 1:10 says that everything in heaven and on earth is being united in Christ. Darkness will one day be swallowed by light.

Wonderfully, the light of God’s Word and God’s world interpret one another—the physical reveals the spiritual, and the spiritual illumines the physical. As a result, the more we understand the physical—i.e., the relationship between the sun and the moon and the oak and the water—the more light we have to understand the spiritual realities that God’s Word defines and declares.

It is a precious and powerful truth to know that the Light of the World formed and fashioned all of creation in such a way that his light could known and enjoined.  Moreover, it is wise and merciful God who deftly describes  salvation with such physical realities as light shining in the heart (2 Cor 4:6), and darkness being eternally extinguished (Rev 22:5).  This is glorious, and it beckons us to consider God as the creator of light and light-giving savior.

May we live in the light of his love, and let all creation point us back to him.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss