Sunday: To Be the Light of the World

Read Matthew 5:14-16. What is Jesus saying here to each of us individually and as a church community?

Image © David Sorensen from

Image © David Sorensen from

Throughout the Bible, light is intimately associated with God. The Lord is my light, sang David (Ps. 27:1), and John stated that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5, NKJV). God is the source of light. In fact, the first thing He created was light, because light is indispensable for life.

Given the close connection between light and God, Scripture frequently uses light to symbolize truth, knowledge, and godliness. To walk in light means to have a character like God’s (Eph. 5:8, 1 John 1:7). Light stands for God, darkness for Satan. That’s why it is a grievous sin to put darkness for light, and light for darkness (Isa. 5:20).

Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, is the light of men, . . . the true Light which gives light to every man (John 1:4, 9, NKJV). He alone is the light that can illuminate the darkness of a world enshrouded in sin. Through Him we may have the light of the knowledge of the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:6), that is, His character.

When we accept Christ as our Savior, we become sons of light (John 12:36, 1 Thess. 5:5, NKJV). But we have no light in ourselves. Like the moon, all we can do is reflect the light that shines upon us. When we let Jesus shine through us, we will not do good works to parade our own virtue but to lead people to glorify God.

If Christ is dwelling in the heart, it is impossible to conceal the light of His presence. If those who profess to be followers of Christ . . . have no light to give, it is because they have no connection with the Source of light. — Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 41.

Wouldn’t it be absurd to light a lamp only to put it under a basket or under a bed (Mark 4:21, NKJV)? Then why is it that sometimes we do so with Christ’s light? A concealed disciple is no more useful than a lamp under a bowl on a dark night. Therefore, arise, shine; for your light has come! and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you (Isa. 60:1, NKJV).

Light itself is actually invisible. It has to be reflected off of something; otherwise we cannot see it. What spiritual lesson can we draw from this about how, as believers, our light is to be revealed?



Sunday: To Be the Light of the World — 20 Comments

  1. If God is the source of light and He is inside us (the Holy Spirit) shining forth, is the light reflecting off of us or is it shining forth from inside us out from us?

    • Both "reflecting" and "shining forth from inside" are illustrations. Light being reflected emphasizes the fact that God is the source of truth and righteousness. Light shining from within emphasizes that our characters may be changed to be righteous and true. Both illustrations encourage us to spread His light to others.

    • Donald,
      One may also ask, are we to be passive reflectors or active reflectors?

      While some may see the responsibility of the believer as simply to do good works (sermon in motion) it is possible that the observers may not recognize the source of the light. For there are many who do good works, including humanists and non-Christian religious groups.

      Good works may be done for various reasons. It is the good works which are directly connected to Christ that produces the desired effect of the Gospel. To this end believers are not to be silent witnesses.

      For others to glorify our Father which is in Heaven they need to be directed to our Father. It must be declared in no uncertain terms that He is the source. That we ought to deliberately point to Jesus and the Father is implied in the command to let our light shine.

      If we are not ashamed of the Gospel (Mark 8:38) and do not mind being ridiculed (1 Corinthians 1:18) we will talk of Christ and consciously direct attention to Him, even as good works are performed.

    • Both. Light is only seen as it is reflected. As it reflects from one it has to shine forth so others will see and be drawn to the Christ we reflect. We must shine and only God must be glorified.Holy Spirit shine through me and may my life glorify my Savior Jesus Christ.

  2. This lesson is a interesting one and contains many important concepts which we need to take note of. We are to be the light of the world and to bring the good news of God's love to those living in darkness. To this end Jesus' curriculum statement, as given in yesterday's lesson, is an excellent one and to the point, “I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). I have to say that I am still a poor student in such regard, in that I could not say that I am at all good at fishing for men. I'm probably using the wrong kind of bait.

    Donald poses a very pertinent question which seems to be a little obscured by a portion of the lesson content. I think that it is the idea that we are like the moon and have no light in ourselves that introduces confusion. The final lesson comment (in bold), about light being invisible and needing to be reflected in order to be seen, is as fine a way of muddying the waters as one could find.

    As a scientist let me approach the concept of “invisible light” first. Light is definitely not invisible. Something is invisible when it cannot be seen. Unless we are blind, we see light all the time it is one of the ways that we interact with the world. Light energy is detected when it enters our eyes and is absorbed by the retina. The absorbed energy is converted to neural impulses which are sent to the brain and we “see”. Any light which is reflected by our retina is not sent to the brain, and therefore remains invisible to us. In a rainbow we can clearly see seven colours. There are in fact two additional colours on both ends of the spectrum which we cannot see: Ultra-violet and infra-red. These two colours are invisible to us as our eyes cannot normally detected them.

    I think that the lesson author is probably thinking about a specific circumstance such as an object in a dark place, that cannot of itself produce light – like the moon which is mentioned in the lesson. Normally we would not be able to see the moon, we can only do so when it reflects the light of the sun, or blocks the light from the sun during eclipses. The sun is also in a dark place, but as it is a source of light we can see it.

    When Jesus talked about us being a light of the world he likened us to a lamp (Matthew 5:15). A lamp needs to be lit or ignited, but once lit it will burn until the fuel runs out or it is extinguished . This suggests to me that we too can be sources of light, but we need to be lit and remain fuelled by Jesus, or our light will be extinguished. Jesus provides us with similar imagery when he refers to himself as the vine and us as the branches. The branches of the vine are vital in themselves in that they produce the fruit, but will not do so unless connected to the vine John 15:1-8). While we remain connected to Jesus, we will continue to produce fruit.

    I would say, therefore, that we can be much more then mere reflectors of light, because a perfect reflector is not changed by the light that it reflects. We are changed by Jesus and become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). That new creation that we become is a source of light. Jesus tells us to let our light shine so that others can see it and that the Father can be glorified because of our light (Matthew 5:16). The light is ours and it was ignited by Jesus - what we have comes through him. While we remain fuelled by Jesus, we will please the Father and be rewarded by Him.

  3. It is only as we reflect the Light of Christ that others will see His Light shining through and in us.

  4. lets us be the sons of light by accepting Jesus as our personal saviour by doing so we will make our light to shine and you will not even see darkness in your life ever again. in Revelation 3:20 Jesus is knocking at the door please open the door for him and he will bring you the light that will shine in your life.

  5. Jesus is invisible and therefore when we Let our lights shine not only are we doing good works but we are then a tangible manifestation of the goodness of Jesus himself. It is often said that sometimes we might be the only Jesus that someone might see.

  6. As I understand it light is radiated energy. When a light source radiates light and that light hits an object the object absorbs that energy and in turn radiates part of that energy back out. I think there might be a spiritual lesson in that for us.

    We have to obtain something from the energy source before we are able to radiate anything ourselves. I believe there is a parable that Jesus taught that says the same thing and it is about asking to give:

    And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within and say, `Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you '? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Lk 11:5-10 NKJV)

  7. I do get your point Don, without Christ in our hearts how can He shine out of our hearts?
    I do beleive that God is capable of using us with reflection of His love, and with Christ shining forth from within.
    Here in Revelation 12:1 it says: "And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:"
    Who is the woman? The Church, the church is composed of us. What does the moon do? It reflects the sun. The moon is under our feet representing us reflecting the Son of God.
    A third way to shine Gods love, is to become as clear glass(pure hearts), instead of translucent(muddy hearts), thus He can shine through us without us discombobulating His character with our own selfish opinions.

  8. We as believers do not have a light, we have the reflective light of Jesus, as we see and accept the glory of The Lord we can reflect his light. Therefore, we need to make sure that nothing comes between us and his light.

  9. When we let Jesus shine through us, we will not do good works to parade our own virtue but to lead people to glorify God.

    We will do good works in order to restore the image of God in man.
    In other words, our good works are not an evangelistic tool or an intentional exhibit. I think those are secondary.
    I think the primary motivation when one reflects God's character would be the propagation of God's ways: creating, restoring, healing, mending etc.
    In other words, having God's character means that we'll naturally want to heal and redeem just like He does.

    • Andrew,
      Permit a little support for your very important point that good works are not an evangelistic tool. It is at best awkward when used as an evangelistic strategy as may be seen in so called 'friendship evangelism.'

      When it becomes apparent that the target of our 'goodness' does not intend to accept the Gospel we find ourselves in a position where we have to withdraw from them, and move on to the next target because there are a limited number of meaningful friendships we can sustain at any time. They may feel betrayed. As well there was probably not much in common for a friendship in the first place.

      The real evangelistic strategy was given by Christ and directed by the Comforter. It is found in Matthew 28:19, 20. Teach and baptize and all the support needed will be provided.

      Good works follow obedience in the process of the restoration of God's image in us. They are produced by the love of Christ which recognizes the needs around and move to attend to them, not requiring anything in return, not even conversion. The Savior loves us whether or not we choose salvation.

      • Hugh, I'm sorry that you think so little of "friendship evangelism." It seems to me that it's the main kind of evangelism available to the ordinary member, and if all members engaged in it, we would see 100 conversions, where we now see only one.

        I think you perhaps misunderstand the term. It means to make friends for Jesus. And we don't drop friends when they don't immediately move in the direction we want them to move. We continue to love them as Jesus loves them. It is a matter of practicing loving our neighbors as ourselves and treating others as we would wish to be treated. The emphasis of friendshi evangelism is that the best thing we can do for our friends is to introduce them to Jesus - to tell them the Good News.

        In the end, there's little genuine evangelism that isn't based on making friends first. People don't seriously listen to us unless they are convinced we have their best interests at heart - that we are their friends in the best sense of the word. That's how Jesus "evangelized." He demonstrated an interest in people's welfare, ministered to their felt needs, and only then did He ask them to follow Him. Only His methods will meet with genuine success.

        What you describe sounds more like using fake friendship as a tool to rack up baptism numbers, or something like that. Of course it won't work. It is neither friendship nor evangelism.

  10. An object cannot reflect light unless light is incident on it. In order to reflect light which is the character of God, we need to stay connected with God and be in His presence and share the experience of His wonderful works in your life with others. " To shine forth from within", is to empty ourselves and fill us with the holy spirit which will lead us into the truth(light) which we cannot keep it to ourselves but shine from within by doing good works and spreading the gospel to others. I think reflecting light and shining forth from within serve the same purpose.

  11. As the Christian we should be the light of the world. How can the light appeared to the world and reflected? Our doings can shine so that people can glorify our heavenly Father.
    This light never darkenned by earthly actions is allows constant although the heavy winds blows never shaken. Thats the light from God.

  12. Right on Inge, when it comes to letting our light shine, I do believe we need to set aside our excuses( work phobia), or our indolence in friends forever evangilism, and let our lights shine.

  13. I particularly like the points I read about friendship evangelism...unfortunately for many of us it is presented to us merely as a church-filling tool...but this is not in the order of God. When Jesus fed the 5000 with the 5 loaves and 2 fish, He didn't ask who will accept Him as their Saviour before He fed them, and made no conditions for feeding them, yet He chose His close friends carefully, having 12 close disciples and being closest to Peter, James and John, and John was in particular "the disciple whom Jesus loved"....true friendship evangelism is in the pathfinder pledge to be a servant of God and a friend to man...which Jesus indeed was, and not in targeting people order to "get" them...they will never be our property, and should not be handled as such.

    Friendship evangelism is not bad, but sometimes badly presented and misunderstood


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