Let your light shine before men

He said to them, 'Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.' (Mar 4:21–23)

Luke's Gospel helps us to understand what Jesus was saying.

'No-one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.' (Luk 8:16)

The first theme

Theme study—choosing a biblical subject and tracing its development through Scripture—is a fascinating and rewarding method of Bible study. It shows the student, apart from anything else, that even though the Bible is a compilation of many books written by many authors it is, in reality, one book written by One author.

The conflict and contrast between light and darkness is the first theme to be revealed in Scripture and its revelation begins in the first verses of Genesis. The first thing we are told is that God created the heavens and the earth. The next thing we are told is that darkness was over the surface of the deep (Gen 1:1–2).

Then God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. He saw that the light was good and separated the light from the darkness. And there was evening and morning—the first day (Gen 1:3–5).

Why did God separate the light from the darkness? He did that because light can have no fellowship with darkness (2Co 6:14).

The Bible is not only a historical book that tells us what has happened in the past, it's also a spiritual book that teaches spiritual truths; and it does that from the beginning.

The earth gets its physical light from the sun, the moon and the stars, but they weren't created until the fourth day (Gen 1:14–19), so where did the light come from on the first day? Have you ever thought about that?

Jesus is the light of the world

The word 'light' in the Bible is used to represent four things:

So what was the light that appeared in Gen 1:3 and where did it come from? It was spiritual light and it came from Jesus Christ who is the light of the world (Joh 8:12). Note that God didn't say the darkness was good, but only the light.

But why is spiritual light mentioned in the Bible before physical light? It's mentioned before physical light because it's more important than physical light: we are not saved through the sun, but through the Son. Spiritual light wasn't created in Gen 1:3—it's not a physical thing. Spiritual light comes from God and is eternal, even as God is eternal.

What we see at the beginning of the Bible is a prophetic picture of what was going to happen through Jesus Christ. Not only did Jesus create the world (Col 1:16; Joh 1:3,10), he was going to bring spiritual light into the world.

The apostle John wrote:

The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. (Joh 1:9)

Not the sun, the moon or the stars… but the Son of God! The proclamation made at the dawn of creation—'let there be light'—was about to be fulfilled (2Co 4:6).

When Jesus began his ministry, Matthew wrote:

'…the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.' (Mat 4:16)

That great light (Jesus Christ) came into the world to shine spiritual light into our spiritual darkness so we may know God and live (Joh 1:4).

We are the light of the world

Jesus said:

'While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.' (Joh 9:5)

While Jesus was in the world he was the source of spiritual light in the world; but he's now in heaven. Does that mean the world is without spiritual light? No.

Jesus said to his disciples:

'You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. (Mat 5:14–15)

Lamps are lit for one purpose: to provide light for people. We, the disciples of Jesus Christ, are now the light of the world. Jesus has lit us up so we can be the source of spiritual light on his behalf.

'In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds….' (Mat 5:16)

We must not hide our light: Jesus wants our light to be seen. How do we shine our light? By allowing people to see our good deeds. Christians shine their light on earth by the things they do and the way they live. We testify to our relationship with Jesus Christ not only by what we say, but also by what we do.

The fruit of the light

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light… (Eph 5:8)

Before we knew Jesus Christ we lived in spiritual darkness. We were ignorant of God and under the dominion (Greek: authority) of darkness (Col 1:13), performing deeds of darkness (Rom 13:12); but now we are light in the Lord. No one can be a source of spiritual light unless they are in Christ.

…for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth… (Eph 5:9)

The fruit we now bear from walking in the light is goodness, righteousness and truth.

The Bible talks about the fruit of the light and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23). What is the difference? There is no difference. God is light (1Jo 1:5) and God is spirit (Joh 4:24). The fruit of the light and the fruit of the Spirit are aspects of God's character manifested in the life of the believer, by his Spirit.

Living to please God

…and find out what pleases the Lord. (Eph 5:10)

How does a Christian find out what pleases the Lord? By reading the Bible. God's Word tells us how to live so we can please him with our lives. The Bible says that God's Word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path (Psa 119:105): it shows us how to walk in this spiritually dark world.

Isa 66:2b says:

'This is the one I esteem [Hebrew: regard with favour]: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.'

God looks with favour on those who are humble, who feel sorry for their sins, and who treat his Word with the respect it deserves.

Exposing darkness

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. (Eph 5:11–14)

Christians should have nothing to do with deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. How do we expose them? By being the light of the world and shining our light on those dark deeds.

The Word says that light makes everything visible. If we live uncompromisingly righteous lives in Christ we will expose people's sin; we will be holding a plumb line to their lives by the way that we live.

If we live righteous lives some people will be drawn to us because of our light (Mat 5:16); others will dislike us because we expose their shortcomings.

2Ti 3:12 says that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. We won't be persecuted by everyone, but we will by some because our lives will expose their sin. Nevertheless, each of us is called to live such a life.

Silent witness

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. (1Pe 3:1–2)

Unsaved husbands can be brought to the Lord purely by observing the righteous lives of their wives. That means that a Christian's actions can speak louder than their words.

Is that true only in respect to wives and husbands? Surely not. The principle is true for all people we meet because the way we live shows the world that Christ is in us. Living a righteous life is a powerful evangelistic tool.

There are many spiritual weapons available to the Body of Christ; we need to avail ourselves of them all if we're to bring the whole of God's harvest in for him. Letting our light shine before men is one of the ways we can bring people to Jesus.

Michael Graham
September 2003
Revised July 2010

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®. NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

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