Church denominations have done a lousy job at helping believers in Christ to understand their identity in Him. There are few Christians sitting among the Sunday pews who have been taught they have become the righteousness of God. Instead they identify themselves as sinners. They have failed to understand the new nature which has been gifted in exchange for the old.
If believers could just begin living from the awareness that they have been made into a new creation and are already identified as saints who have favor with God and are spiritually alive, holy, perfected, justified, sanctified, cleansed, anointed, reconciled … if only we could see this truth within ourselves—victorious living would be abundantly manifested. These attributes are not earned through our efforts, they came through the blood of Jesus and were born of God within us. Sadly, well-meaning wolves have taken the good news gospel and turned it into the Christian religion—a self-improvement program they call “repentance.”
However, there are several seemingly positive identifiers religion will cloak upon Christians … but unfortunately, they are taken out of context and it leaves believers in a state of confusion or misunderstanding. While a works-based religion will ignore the identity of God’s righteousness mentioned above, one of the false ID’s they use to describe believers is that we are “the light of the world.” I’ve even heard a very popular teacher of grace make this statement.
I’m not sure why it seems so easy to turn the Scriptures inside out and to get many of these things a bit backwards, but some of it has to do with missing the context of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant inside all of those Bible books, chapters and verses. The only time the Bible refers to people as being the “light of the world” is when Jesus used the phrase during the Sermon on the Mount:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV).
During this entire sermon in chapters 5-7 from the book of Matthew, Jesus was speaking to Jewish people who were under the law of Moses … not to future Christians who would have no relationship with the Mosaic law. There are many references in the books of the Law about lamps, lights and lampstands. Since the Old Covenant began, Israel had been a light in a world of darkness, but it was more like a lighthouse in a far-off distance that the rest of the world (Gentiles) were not invited into (see Ephesians 2:11-13).
As Jesus stated, that light was based upon their works—not upon the work of Christ and His grace. It was a light that could easily be hidden even within their own house (the house of Israel). The Jews under the law were also identified as the salt of the earth (through what was known as a “covenant of salt”), but the salt lost its taste and could not be restored because the people failed the covenant by their inability to keep the works of the law. It would have to be thrown out—the covenant … not the people.
The bottom line:
Nowhere else in New Covenant writings are we identified as the light of the world. That’s because Jesus wasn’t speaking about you and me when He made the statement … and that’s because the light of the world is Jesus Christ Himself. This is communicated over and over in the New Testament and you can view the list of just a few passages below for your own study. You and I abide in the light of Christ, we are sons of light, and we are light “in the Lord.” We may reflect the light, but He is identified as the light—not us. There is no pressure on you to work at shining “your” light. Thank God, Jesus is the light of the world. Reflect His light as the Spirit of God works in and through you.
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Shedding light on the light of the world:
John 1:4-5: Jesus is the light.
John 1:6-9: John the Baptist was not identified as the light (nor are we).
John 8:12 & 9:5: Jesus declared He was the light of the world.
John 12:35-36 & 12:46: Jesus is the light.
Ephesians 5:8: We are light in the Lord (it’s His light, we’re in Him).
Colossians 1:12: Inheritance as saints in Light.
1 Thessalonians 5:5: Sons of light.
1 Peter 2:9: Called from darkness into His marvelous light.
1 John 2:10: We abide in the light (of Christ).
Psalm 27:1: The Lord is our light and our salvation.