NUGGETS OF WISDOM

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BELIEVING WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE

David recollected that as a young lad, with long unruly hair and a ruddy complexion, sleeping out in an open pasture under a starry sky after watching his father’s sheep all day long; how he would take his little harp and sing to the God above all gods. Looking up, he saw the sky as a huge tent with the sparkling stars as lights that lit up the night. He may have even tried to count them once or twice. But what really impressed him was that each night every star was in exactly the same place, not one of them was missing. He was so overcome with awe that he penned a hymn to the creator of that starry universe.

O my LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius, as You display Your grandeur all over the heavens for all the world to see. For through these small and tiny dots of light You communicate as a way of countering those who don’t take You seriously; yes, You do this to silence the doubter and unbeliever. When I look up into the sky and see the galaxies Your hands created, the stars and the moon You put into orbit I ask, “What role do humans play in this vast universe; why do You care and fuss over them?” Then I realized, You created them a little short of being angels; endowing them with attributes of honor and dignity; making them the smartest and most influential creatures on earth; putting them in charge to being stewards of Your handiwork, even taking care of the animals, both domestic and wild, including the birds that fill the sky and the fish that fill the sea. O LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius for all the world to see.” Psalm 8:1-9

Reflection: Back in the days of the hippy movement I sat in a coffee house in Stuttgart, Germany talking with a long-haired flower-child about God. The young man was respectful but adamant about his doubts concerning God’s existence because he couldn’t see Him or talk to Him. At that moment the Holy Spirit gave me an inspiration, so I pointed to a picture hanging on the wall beside our table and asked the young man if he believed that picture came into being due to an accidental collision of paint and paper. He laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous; that picture was painted by an artist.” I responded that I wasn’t convinced because I couldn’t see the artist in the picture; how did I know that maybe one day it just appeared on the wall by accident. The young fellow looked at me for a moment and then admitted that even though I couldn’t see the artist in the painting, I had to accept the fact that an artist painted the picture because it just makes sense. I told him that in the same way, one must exercise faith to believe an unseen talented artist created such a beautiful portrait, we can also believe an unseen God created the beauty of the universe. The magnificence of God’s creation shows His responsibility for man’s existence, and man’s responsibility to acknowledge God’s handiwork. The young man smiled somewhat embarrassingly as he bowed his head and said, “Okay, you got me on that one.” I asked him if we could have prayer for him to have faith, but he wasn’t sure. As he went away I asked the Holy Spirit to go with him and open his eyes to the truth.

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LXVI) 03/08/21

The “confession,” which characterizes a truly repentant sinner, is not to be understood by mere acknowledgment, says Simeon. It is an acceptance accompanied by repentance and humble faith in the Lord Jesus. It is important to remember the high-priest made such a confession on the Day of Atonement when he laid his hands on the scapegoat and confessed over him all the sins of the children of Israel. The high-priest said: “Please O Lord, they have done wrong they have transgressed they have sinned before You — Your nation the House of Israel. Please, O Lord, forgive them for their doing wrong, for their transgressions and their sins, as is written in Torah of Moses, Your servant: “For on this day He will effect atonement for you to purify you before the Lord.”[1] [2] The scapegoat will then carry the sins of the people away before the eyes of God. Simeon goes on to say that this confession also implies forsaking the sins that were confessed. As it is said, “He that covers his sins will not succeed; but whosoever confesses and forsakes them will receive mercy.”[3] [4]

Adam Clarke (1774-1849) gives us an important lesson on confessing our sin to receive cleansing from all wrongdoing. He says that corruption exists in the soul in two modes or forms: First, in guilt, which requires forgiveness or pardon. Then second, in pollution, which requires cleansing. Guilt, to be forgiven, must be confessed; and pollution, to be cleansed, must also be confessed.

So, to find mercy, says Clarke, a person must know and feel themselves to be a sinner, that they may fervently come to God for pardon. In order to get a clean heart, a person must know and feel its depravity, acknowledge and confess it before God to be wholly sanctified. Few are pardoned because they do not feel and confess their sins, and few are purified or cleansed from all wrong because they do not feel and confess their sinful infection and the plague of their hearts.

As the blood of Jesus, the Anointed One continues Clarke, the value of His passion and death, applied by faith, purges the conscience from all dead works, so the same cleanses the heart from all unrighteousness. All unrighteousness is lawbreaking so that they who are sanctified from all unrighteousness are cleansed from all sin. Anyone who evades this and insists on continuing to live with a corrupt heart is not only ungrateful but evil and even blasphemous, says Clarke. Such a person who pretends there is no sin in them attempts to make God out to be a liar. God has declared just the opposite throughout His revelation. The point is this; they are claiming that the blood of the Anointed One either cannot or will not cleanse us from all sin in this life. It is evident, the Word of God is not in them.[5] 

German theologian Richard Rothe (1799-1867) says that having thus demanded that Christians acknowledge their sins, John now adds that there is no connection between their case and the torture of despair belonging sinners with this admission. The individual’s sins that still bother them do not hinder their fellowship with God, so long as they don’t deny them but confess and admit they have them. As a Christian, the believer knows what sin is but simultaneously realizes they were redeemed from it; for this very reason, they can quickly look into their sinning problem. So long as we know our sin is not yet forgiven, we shrink back from learning about it to the core cause. Instead, we attempt to minimize it.

This curiosity ceases, says Rothe, as soon as we know our sin is forgiven; yes, it is precisely with this knowledge that we learn to understand divine grace in all its greatness. The Christian experiences deliverance from all bias and prejudice in judging their sin. For this reason and in the interest of thorough repentance, so much depends upon our having our sins forgiven. That comes by believing in the complete, full, unreserved forgiveness of our sins, and that too from pure grace, for only then can we appropriate forgiveness with confidence. It is the assurance of forgiveness that first makes us keenly aware of our sins. To those that have never been born again, this sounds like a contradiction. But the believer knows it from experience, but just knowing about it does not mean they’ve confessed it.[6] It is crucial to understand that if we confess our sin, He is faithful and ready to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all wrongdoing.

James Morgan (1799-1873), an Irish Presbyterian minister, talks about those who have a habitual tendency to sin and how they may claim that they have no sin. This describes the condition of the person who does not feel they are guilty of any present sinfulness. It does so by justifying their past conduct as being highly moral. They need to be convinced of their sinfulness since there is no excuse for their past transgressions. It is often the case for those who feel that they have pleased the Church and, therefore, have pleased God. But a person must have the beginning of the Divine life to maintain it. The one consists of the conviction which brings the sinner to the blood of the Anointed One for salvation—the other consists of the habit of repentance which must accompany them as long as they live. 

Let me encourage you to cultivate this habit, says Morgan. Many important goals are met by it. It will keep us mindful of what we once were and how much we are debtors to Divine grace. It will stimulate us to devote ourselves more unreservedly to God in the future. It will promote watchfulness against temptation. It will strengthen faith. Calling to mind how graciously God dealt with us on other days, we are encouraged to trust Him to the end. It will kindle repentance. Like Ephraim of old, it will lead us to say, “What have I to do anymore with idols?”[7] It will promote holiness. It will urge perseverance.[8]

Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885), professor of Ancient Languages in Wesleyan University in New York, points out that there is a distinction between forgiveness and cleansing that we must always keep in mind. Forgiveness removes guilt and punishment for past sins; sanctification inspires future sinlessness. One looks back, and the other looks forward. One says, “Your sins are forgiven;[9] the other states, “Go, sin no more.”[10] A father may forgive a disobedient son, but the son remains as corrupt as ever. But when our heavenly Father pardons us, He breathes into our hearts a spirit of obedience, which, if we obey, we never need to incur His displeasure.[11]

William Edward Jelf (1811-1875) says that God’s promise, which He pledged to perform, is twofold – forgiveness of sins and sanctification. And as the Gospel is, of course, coexistent with this promise, these two make up the immediate benefits of the Anointed One’s Passion[12] for the true believer. It is important, in the same way as some persons, to confine the benefit of the Passion to forgiveness of sins, and hold that God’s promise is fully realized when this is granted.

John describes the stain of actual sin by using the Greek noun hamartia (sin = “to miss the mark”). This is not merely cleansing sin, says Jelf, but rather from the corruption of indwelling sin. This is made more apparent by observing the use of the Greek noun adikia (unrighteousness = “immoral”) instead. It is not outward sinning that affects our souls, but inward sin, embodying the principle of self-love, which mostly shows itself in injuring or despising others. Adikia also implies neglecting that brotherly love John speaks of so strongly as being the Christian life’s goal. This purification from original sin begun in this life but will not be completed until the next, as seen in the next verse.[13]

John Stock (1817-1884) gives us an excellent illustration from a sinner’s point of view who is under conviction. As King Solomon said, if a person tries to cover up their sin, they will not be successful, but the person who confesses their sin will find mercy.[14] It undoubtedly came from Solomon’s father, King David, who experienced this truth.[15] David admitted he was unwilling to confess his faults or his resentment with King Saul’s constant hounding. Instead, like Adam, he put the blame on others. Yet, when he remained silent about his wrongdoings, he only became weaker and more miserable. Every day it made life harder for him. He became like a desert in the hot summetime.

But then, says David, he decided to confess his sins to the Lord. He stopped hiding his guilt and confessed all his sins to God. And God forgave him of them all. So, says Stock, his sour bondage was turned into sweet liberty. Likewise, the infinite goodness and merciful blessing that comes to the one who confesses is given to them through the Anointed One. Acknowledgment of sin is one of our most humbling experiences, but one that is indispensable to our salvation. Even though these confessions were not made public, the community benefitted because of the joy and peace it brings to the one who is forgiven.[16]

[1] Leviticus 16:30

[2] Jewish Mishnah: Moed, Yoma, Ch. 6:2

[3] Proverbs 28:13

[4] Simeon, Charles: Horæ Homileticæ, op. cit., pp. 366-369

[5] Clarke, Adam: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 367

[6] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., April 1890, p. 160

[7] Hosea 14:8

[8] Morgan, James: Biblical Illustrator, First Epistle of John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[9] Matthew 9:5; Luke 7:48

[10] John 8:11

[11] Whedon, Daniel D. Commentary on NT, op. cit., p. 257

[12] The Passion of Christ refers to the week of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It’s remembering the events of the week beginning with Palm Sunday when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem and culminating in His suffering.

[13] Jelf, William E, A Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John, London: Longmans, Green, and Co. 1877, p. 12

[14] Proverbs 28:18

[16] Stock, John: Exposition of First John, op. cit., pp. 51-52

[15] Psalm 32:8-5


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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LXV) 03/05/21

William Perkins (1558-1602) declares that no evil may be done or not done without it being a sin. That means, they are and can do either evil or good based on the circumstances. And here we must remember to discern between convenience, and inconvenience, which happens when a person does not take things seriously. Convenience is when a thing or action is so fitted to the circumstances, and the event is just right, that makes certain sins is a convenient thing to do. On the other side, Inconvenience occurs when something or some action is done in unfamiliar circumstances. It might bring pain or loss to the individual’s life. So, when we do act decently, it makes that Inconvenient. And by this, we can discern when an action is good, evil because of indifferent, convenient, or inconvenient according to the sin’s nature. And here we must initially start a search, what is Sin properly, and what is appropriately a Sinner. In its true nature, as the Apostle John says, sin is an irregularity contrary to conformity.[1] [2]

Hugh Binning (1627-1653 AD) offers a very appropriate illustration of how sin seems to run concurrently in a believer’s life along with the Fountain of Living Water. It’s like the contaminants we find in natural springs, wells, streams, and rivers. These lawbreaking tendencies are produced by the remaining carnal nature elements that our bodies contain even though the Anointed One lives within us, as does His Holy Spirit. Without the Anointed One and the Holy Spirit’s help, the streams would be running at flood level in believers as they do in unbelievers. With the Savior and the Spirit’s help, we can slow the current so that we can deal with such pollution and defilement.[3] It is the essence of Sanctification.

John Flavel (1627-1691) states that if the Anointed One by dying completely satisfied God’s demand for the sinner’s punishment, God is not in error by pardoning the greatest sinners that believe in Jesus. Consequently, His justice cannot bar anyone from justification and salvation. So it is only fair for Him to forgive us our sins.[4] It is an excellent argument for a poor believer to plead with God for forgiveness. Lord, if You save me by Jesus the Anointed One, Your justice will be fully satisfied in one payment. Yet, if You condemn me and require satisfaction at my hands, it will never get done. I will be making incomplete payments. Not only will I end up in hell for eternity, but I will still be behind in my indebtedness to You.

Is it not more for you to receive your glory from the Anointed One’s hand, says Flavel, than to require it from your own? One drop of His blood is worth more than all our contaminated blood. O how satisfying it is to the conscience of a poor sinner in the face of multiple charges and accusations involving their sins, piling up against the possibility of their ever being pardoned! Can such a sinner be forgiven? Yes, if you believe in Jesus, you may. God will lose nothing in pardoning the greatest transgressors: “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For there is loving-kindness with the Lord, with Him, we are surely saved.”[5] [6]

John Bunyan (1628-1688) agrees that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive; yes, to this, is connected the promise, “If you confess and reject them, you will receive mercy.”[7] It made David, as it were, lay claim to the mercy of God — “Wash me inside and out from my wrong-doing and make me clean from my sin. For I know my wrong-doing, and my sin is always in front of me.”[8] Although you may blush, says Bunyan, own up to law-breaking and immorality, do not hide them — “People who conceal their sins will not be successful.”[9] Don’t pass them off as unimportant; don’t confess them to God in a dismissive way. “Acknowledge your guilt. Admit that you rebelled against the Lord your God and committed adultery against him by worshiping idols under every green tree. Confess that you refused to listen to my voice. I, the Lord, have spoken!”[10] [11]    

Bunyan goes on to talk about how grace is free and unchangeable. The discovery of this freshness and faithfulness of God’s Covenant of Grace is presented to us this way: First, anyone who has received the grace of God has a gift of God through the Anointed One, Jesus the Mediator of this covenant. Even if they are hostile to Him, including the Anointed One as the foundation-stone, or faith, they will not be shunned as an object of His love. Second, it appears to be unchangeable in this – to be in union with Him.[12] Once satisfied, justice is not misused to call for the debt to be paid again. No, never let a sinner who comes to Jesus the Anointed One be treated this way. Instead of speaking against the salvation of that sinner, He will say, I am just and faithful to forgive them their sins. When justice itself is pleased with a person and speaks on their behalf, we will proclaim, “Who will condemn?” rather than cry out against them.[13]

Jonathan Edwards comments on John’s talk about confessing and receiving forgiveness of our sins. He says, the word righteousness is often used in Scripture for God’s covenant faithfulness; as in Nehemiah, “You found his heart faithful to You and made an agreement with him.”[14] So we are often asked to understand righteousness and covenant mercy for the same things; “He will receive what is good from the Lord, and what is right and good from the God Who saves him.”[15] “Keep on giving Your loving-kindness to those who know You. Keep on being right and good to the pure in heart.”[16] “Save me from the guilt of blood, O God cries the Psalmist. You are the God Who saves me. Then my tongue will sing with joy about how right and good You are.”[17] “Because of all your faithful mercies, Lord, please turn your furious anger away.”[18] We find this same sentiment in innumerable other places in the Scriptures.[19]

John Wesley (1703-1791) asks what type of pardoning does the Priest grant upon confession? The absolution is not only declarative but judicial, and the sentence pronounced by the Priest is as if pronounced by the Eternal Judge Himself. When examining the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), we find the following instructions: “Anyone who says, that the sacramental absolution of the priest is not a judicial act, but a simple ministry of pronouncing and declaring sins to be forgiven them who confesses provided they believe themselves to be pardoned, or (even though) the priest does not forgive them in earnest, is a joke. Anyone who says that the confession of the repentant sinner is not required so that the priest may absolve them; let them be cursed.”[20]

Wesley goes on to say that this is an attempt to perfect what God started. In fact, in the Roman Catholic Catechism, we find the following: “The power to ‘bind and loose’ connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles.”[21] So, says Wesley, to pardon sin, and absolve the sinner judicially, so a person’s conscience can be clear, is a power reserved by God to Himself. Therefore, the Priest’s authority is only ministerial, declarative, and conditional.

In fact says Wesley, one of the early church fathers, Ambrose, made this statement: “Let us now see whether the Spirit forgives sins. But on this point, there can be no doubt, since the Lord Himself said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whoever sins you forgive, they will be forgiven.”  See that sins are forgiven through the Holy Spirit. When priests use their ministry for the forgiveness of sins; they do not exercise the right of any power of their own. They do not forgive sins in their name but in that of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. They ask the Godhead gives. Man provides the service, but the gift is of the Power from on high.”[22] It is quite clear where Wesley stands on this subject.[23]

[1] 1 John 4:4

[2] William Perkins: The Whole Treatise of the Cases of Conscience, Ch. 2, Sec. 2, p. 9

[3] Hugh Binning: On First John, op. cit., p. 435

[4] 1 John 1:9

[5] Psalm 130:7

[6] John Flavel: The Fountain of Life, Sermon 14, p. 174

[7] Proverbs 28:13

[8] Psalm 51:2-3

[9] Proverbs 28:13

[10] Jeremiah 3:13

[11] John Bunyan’s Practical Works, op. cit., Vol. 7, Justification by an Imputed Righteousness, Ch. 7, p. 144

[12] Romans 5:8, 9; Colossians 1:21, 22

[13] John Bunyan’s Practical Works, op. cit., Vol. 7, Ch. 8, p. 281

[14] Nehemiah 9:8

[15] Psalm 24:5

[16] Ibid. 36:10

[17] Ibid. 51:14

[18] Daniel 9:16

[19] The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 4, A History of the Work of Redemption, p. 3

[20] Council of Trent (1545), Ed. and Trans. By J. Waterworth, Published by Doman, London, 1848, Session 14, Ch. 3, p. 109

[21] Roman Catholic Church Catechism: Part One, The Profession of Faith, Section Two, The Creeds, Ch. Two, Article 3, §553

[22] Ambrose: Bishop of Milan, On the Holy Spirit, Bk. III, Ch. XVIII, §137

[23] The Works of John Wesley, Vol. 10, Letters, Essays, Dialogs, and Addresses, Popery Calmly Considered, A Roman [Catholic] Catechism, Section 3, Of Divine Worship, p. 132


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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LXIV) 03/04/21

Can we get forgiveness for our sins after we are in the grave has long been a question through the ages. An explanation from Catholic St. Thomas University reads: In Christian tradition, death is the end of individual life on earth, but not the end of personal consciousness, which survives the body’s death as the soul.  Death, then, represents the separation of the soul from its earthly body. Christians have always hoped for the reunification of the soul with a resurrected, transformed body. It implies that the soul will once again have a body to encompass it for all eternity. What this script does not say is that “Yes,” you can get forgiveness of your sins in Purgatory. When you were baptized as an infant, you were sealed for heaven.

The process of death is complicated for most people, they say. Not only does it entail pain, but increased dependence on others. Consequently, many people hope for a quick and painless death. But in the Christian tradition, sudden and unexpected death is not a good death. Christians believe that at death, one comes into the presence of God and, therefore, of judgment. A believer needs to prepare for this moment. That is why Jesus teaches that we must always repent,[1] learn to love one another,[2] and forgive those who have wronged us; otherwise, forgiveness is impossible.[3]

Therefore, they conclude, at the time of one’s death, we must forgive others, say goodbye to loved ones, settle one’s material affairs, and, most importantly, make one’s peace with God. Death is the end of our earthly journey, but it is the beginning of a much longer journey in the afterlife. In Christian teaching, this afterlife journey can be a beautiful and fulfilling experience or traumatic.[4] Having served as a hospital and hospice chaplain, this is what I would call “wishful thinking.” Most patients are in pain at the point of death or anesthetized against pain and do not control their mental faculties. To this, the Apostle Paul would echo what God said through the prophet Isaiah: “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you. Yes indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.”[5]

Matthew Henry (1662-1714) makes an important statement here. He says that the Apostle John instructs believers in the way to obtain continued pardon of their sin. Here’s what he means; It’s our duty to confess our sins. That means repentant confession and acknowledgment of sin are the believer’s business and the means of their deliverance from their guilt. Puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards, agrees by saying that “Confession and repentance of sin are spoken of as duties proper for ALL,” as well as a prayer to God for pardon and forgiveness.[6]

Furthermore, the Apostle John offers encouragement and assurance of a happy outcome. It is the accuracy, righteousness, and forgiveness of God, to whom He makes such confession: He is faithful and unbiased in forgiving them of their sins and cleansing them from all unrighteousness. God is faithful to His covenant and Word, wherein He promised forgiveness to penitent believing confessors. He was unselfish with Himself and His glory by providing a sacrifice by which His righteousness justification for sinners was declared available to all.

He is fair to His Son, not only by sending Him for such service but promised Him that those who come through Him, He would forgive on His account. By His knowledge (by the believing in Him) will my righteous servant justify many.[7] He is kind and gracious also, and so will forgive, to the contrite confessors, all their sins, cleanse them from the guilt of all unrighteousness, and in due time deliver them from the power and practice of wrongdoing.[8]

William Sinclair (1850-1917) states, “He,” from the context, cannot possibly be any other than God. Here another excellent progression of thought meets us. Not merely “we are in the truth,” but are actually and gloriously on God’s side; faithful and just on account of the Anointed One’s sacrifice and our repentance. Sinclair invites us to view the double notion of forgiving and cleansing. Unfortunately, the Vatican interpreters limit the cleansing here to purgatory in a very arbitrary way.[9]

Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) feels John inserted verse nine between verses eight and ten to warn about considering oneself sinless. That’s why he calls for us to confess our sins in order to receive cleansing. Reading verse eight and then verse ten makes the insertion more obvious. John did not want his readers to think that by not admitting they have lawbreaking tendencies that express themselves in sinful acts, they were making God a liar. This confession of sins must correspond to “walking in the Light” in verse seven. For Bultmann, the importance of recognizing that while we are confessing our sins, we have fellowship with God and one another. That is what “walking in the Light” actually means. 

1:9b In one of the most awesome prayers in the First Covenant, Daniel declares his faith in God’s forgiveness.[10] John had the same confidence when he says; We can trust God to do this.  He always does the right thing. He will make us clean from all the wrong things we have done.

COMMENTARY

Œcumenius (circa 700-800 AD) instructs us that when we say that God is faithful, it means that He is reliable. Faithful, as a word, applies to those who believe as well as to those who prove to be reliable. It is in this second sense that it is applied to God. He is also just in that He does not refuse anyone who comes to Him, however seriously they may have sinned.[11] Sometimes when we slight a person, we’re not sure if they will listen to us, even if we say we are sorry. But not God. He is faithful to His word.

John Calvin (1509-1564 AD) advises that the whole matter of sin and confession can be clearly stated. First, define “confession of sin” as explained in the Word of God. Second, announce acceptable forms in doing so – not everything a person or Church can think of, that would be too much for anyone to swallow. But those only which contain honest, repentant confessions to God and the Anointed One. I feel grieved, says Calvin, to mention how frequently the old Latin interpreters rendered the word confessionis as “confess” instead of “praise,” something the most illiterate are notorious for doing. If it were not fitting, says Calvin, to expose their hardheadedness in rewriting what is written in God’s Word concerning praises and translating it as confess. Unless you are a Latin scholar, this may sound foreign to you and leave you wondering why Calvin is so troubled.

The Latin version by Roman Catholics used in Calvin’s day was known as the “Vulgate.”[12] To prove their point that confession has the effect of exhilarating the mind, they misuse a passage in the Psalms that render it: “And I will enter, and go up to the altar of God, to God who enlivens my youthfulness. To you, O God, my God, I will confess upon a stringed instrument.” The Complete Jewish Bible has: “As I enter my feelings well up within me, with sounds of joy and praise from the throngs observing the festival.”[13] In Calvin’s mind and experience, confession to God, in the Catholic doctrine, had little to do with praising God.

Calvin is perturbed and says that anything is valid for them if they can do this. They will be able to make the Bible say anything they want it to say. In speaking of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, Calvin is troubled that they seem to have lost all shame. So, he cautions every true believer to reflect on how God, as the Apostle Paul said, has abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that never should be done.[14]  If we allow ourselves, says Calvin, to give in to such a simple method of plagiarizing of Scripture, there is a danger of our being misled by other such marginalized interpretations on critical doctrines. It was a problem in Luther and Calvin’s day and continuing in the ensuing years up to today. 

One method of confessing is prescribed; since it is the Lord who forgives and wipes away sins, let us confess them, that we may obtain pardon. He is the physician; therefore, let us show our wounds to Him. He is hurt and offended because of our lawbreaking tendencies; let us seek peace with Him. He is the discerner of the heart and knows all one’s thoughts; let us hurry to pour out our hearts before him. It is He who invites sinners; let us not delay in drawing near to him. “I acknowledge my sin to You,” says David, “and I did not hide my immorality from You. I said I would confess my wrongdoings to the Lord, and You forgave the injustice of my sin.”[15]

Another specimen of David’s confessions is as follows: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness.[16] The following is Daniel’s confession: “We have sinned. We have done wrong and have acted in sin. We have turned against You and Your Laws.”[17] Other examples occur in Scripture: their quotation would almost fill a volume. “If we confess our sins,” says John, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,” To whom are we to confess? Surely, it’s to Him – that is, we are to fall before Him with a grieved and humbled heart, and sincerely accusing and condemning ourselves, seek forgiveness of His goodness and mercy.[18]

[1] Mark 1:14

[2] Matthew 22:36-40

[3] Ibid. 6:14-15

[4] Ibid. 5:25, 31-46

[5] 2 Corinthians 6:2

[6] The Works of Jonathan Edwards: Vol. 2, The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended, Part 1, Ch. 1, p. 452

[7] Isaiah 53:11

[8] Matthew Henry: An Exposition with Practical Observations, of the First Epistle General of John, Vol. VI, p.836

[9] Sinclair, William: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 476

[10] See Daniel 9:4-20

[11] Œcumenius: Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., p. 173

[12] Vulgate means, “common day language.” It is the root word for our phrase “vulgar.”

[13] Psalm 42:4

[14] Romans 1:28

[15] Ibid. 32:5

[16] Psalm 51:1

[17] Daniel 9:5

[18] John Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk. 3, Ch. 4, op. cit., pp. 659-660; 893-894


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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LXIII) 03/03/21

Ben Witherington points to these two views of “no sin” or “not sinned” as hypothetical but with danger. When they say “no sin,” this is a claim seen as the ultimate form of self-deception and a clear sign that they do not recognize the truth. They present themselves as perfectionists who, once they were born again, all sin and sinning were canceled and have never been allowed to return. There is no reason to compare them with those who fail over and over, attempting perfect obedience to the Law. That’s because their deception causes them to claim that Grace allows them to always be in Grace. That way, any sins they may commit are automatically deleted from their record.[1] Although Witherington does not mention it here, the same holds true for those who say that since they’ve been born again and sanctified, they have not sinned.

Colin G. Kruse begins where John states that “if a person claims to be without sin…” (lit. ‘If they say that they do not have any sin’), they are making of the claim of sanctification as a completed act.  But what the Apostle John refers to as “being without sin” is presented as an ongoing action. Contrary to what some people proclaim: “If we claim to be without sin…” does not reflect the pretenders’ assertion that they have a sinless nature but are free from the sin principle that operates in other human beings. The expression “to have sin” is found only here in 1 John, but it occurs four times in the Fourth Gospel.[2] In each case, it means to be guilty of sin. Allowing this usage to guide us, we would be saying that what the claimants were asserting was not that they were by nature free from the sin principle but that they were not guilty of committing sins at all. They probably meant they had no unforgiven sins since they came to know God and experienced the anointing.[3]

David Jackman tells how he counseled new believers who became discouraged in the Christian journey with the Anointed One because they now see themselves as more of a sinner than they did before their conversion. But notice what is happening, says Jackman. Their sense of sin is a result of walking in the Light! They see specific actions, words, or attitudes as sin now, which never bothered them before. Their consciences are being educated and sensitized by the Spirit through God’s Word. One of God’s projects in a growing Christian’s life is to peel back more and more layers of our hidden depravity and sinfulness so that we start to see ourselves as we are in God’s Light. But this project of God has a glorious end-purpose. We should become clean deep down. We are not as vulnerable to lawbreaking tendencies as we used to be. Likewise, we do not just walk with the Anointed One; we are progressing with Him toward our goal of irreversible sanctification. Unfortunately, some try to dodge the issue; they look for an escape route, a sure path to the road of darkness.[4]

Simon J. Kistenmaker gives us an essential piece of information in understanding the word “sin.” As a noun, sin describes the cause and the consequence of an act of disobedience to God’s Word. As a verb, it represents the act itself.[5] So in verse eight, it is used as a noun, and verse ten as a verb. We might say that we are not sinning as long as we are only thinking about it. But Jesus had a different opinion. Jesus said, if a man looks at a woman with lust, he has committed adultery in his heart.[6] King David had a similar idea when we prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.[7]

1:9a     That’s why John offers this remedy. But if we confess that we have made mistakes, God will forgive us . . .

EXPOSITION

God laid down this standard with the children of Israel in the Sinai desert when He had Moses tell them that if the people were to confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors, maybe they will admit they turned against Me and sinned against Me. Suppose these disobedient people are sorry for what they did and accept punishment for their sin. In that case, I will remember My covenant with Jacob, My agreement with Isaac, and My promises to Abraham, and I will remember their nation.[8] This truth even followed them into their exile.[9] If you want to read a real sinner’s prayer, look at the prophet Nehemiah’s words.[10]

King David learned this lesson first-hand. He was under so much conviction because of his adultery with Bathsheba, and their first child died. He felt so desperate and despondent that he decided to confess his sins to the Lord. Furthermore, he stopped hiding his guilt and told God about his sins. And God forgave them all! Amen![11] That’s why his son Solomon could say with certainty that whoever hides their sins will not be successful, but whoever confesses their sins and stops doing wrong will receive mercy.[12] Nowhere do we find it said in Scripture to “beg” God for forgiveness, nor does it say we might be successful if we try giving Him gifts or a bribe – Lord, if You do this for me, I’ll do that for You.

No, says John. All it takes is an honest confession, hoping for forgiveness, and the resolve never to do what we did wrong again. Moses assured the people of Israel that the Lord their God is the only God, and you can trust Him! He keeps His agreement. He shows His love and kindness to all people who love Him and obey His commands. Not only that, but he continues to show His love and kindness through a thousand generations. Jeremiah says that God’s faithfulness is great; His loving-kindness begins afresh each day.[13] That’s why the Apostle Paul could tell the Corinthians to put their trust in God. He is the One who chose them to share life with His Son, Jesus the Anointed One, our Lord.[14] And the writer of Hebrews said that we must never lose hope; we should never hesitate to tell people about the truth that you can trust God to do all that He promised to do.[15]

David was not satisfied to just confess his sins and have them forgiven; he even told the LORD to find any sins that might be lurking in his heart along with hidden faults.[16] In other words, he not only wanted a forgiven heart but a clean heart. That’s why Jeremiah was only too happy to inform the children of God that He will cleanse away all their sins against Him and pardon them.[17]

After God used Moses to lead Israel’s children out of Egyptian bondage, they found themselves continually falling back into old habits.  So, Moses told them: “Remember that the Lord your God is the only true God, and you can trust Him!  He keeps His agreement.  He shows His love and kindness to all people who love Him and obey His commands. Not only that, but he continues to show His love and kindness generation after generation.[18]  In other words, God will never revise, edit, or change His way of dealing with those who make errors and are willing to repent. 

David talks about how he kept trying to deal with his sin.  He says: “But then I decided to confess my sins to the Lord.  I stopped hiding my guilt and told Him about my sins.  And He forgave them all![19]  It was true, especially after David’s dark sin with Bathsheba and her husband’s ordered death.  He cried and prayed but couldn’t get it out of his mind, so finally, he calls out, “God, be merciful to me because of Your faithful love.  Because of Your great compassion, erase all the wrongs I have done.  Scrub away my guilt.  Wash me clean from my sin.[20]  David would have never prayed this if he didn’t believe it.  So here, John echoes the words of Solomon: “Whoever hides their sins will not be successful, but whoever confesses their sins and stops doing wrong will receive mercy.”[21]

COMMENTARY

Bede the Venerable (672-735) says that since we cannot live in this world without sin, the first hope we have of salvation is through confession. No one should be so proud as to claim they are already right in the eyes of God. The next step is love, which John often commends to us in this letter because love covers a multitude of sins. Each of these things encourages us to pray for our sins and to ask God’s forgiveness when we do so. It is why John says that God is faithful and will forgive our sins, pointing to the reliability of His promise, for Jesus, who taught us to pray for our sins and trespasses, has also promised the Father’s mercy and the forgiveness which flows from His heart.

Bede then points out that John also says that God is just because He will forgive anyone who honestly confesses their sins. In this life, God forgives the elect’s every day, trivial sins, which we cannot avoid as long as we are here on earth. Now He forgives those who admit their greatest temptations so that they will not overpower them, and He forgives those with the least amount of sins as well so that they will not suffer any harm. So far so good, but then Bede goes on and claims that after we die, He cleanses us from all sin and brings us into that life in which no one wants or can sin so that there will no longer be any sign of wickedness in the eternal kingdom of the blessed.[22]

[1] Witherington III, Ben: Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: op. cit., Kindle Location 6061

[2] John 9:41; 15:22, 24; 19:11

[3] Kruse, Colin G., The Letters of John, op. cit., (Kindle Locations 1402-1410)

[4] Jackman, David, op. cit., p. 34

[5] Kistenmaker, Simon J., op. cit., p. 245

[6] Matthew 5:28

[7] Psalm 139:23-24

[8] Leviticus 26:40, 42

[9] 1 King 8:47; 2 Chronicles 6:37-38

[10] Nehemiah 1:6-7

[11] Psalm 32:6

[12] Proverbs 28:13

[13] Lamentations 3:23

[14] 1 Corinthians 1:9

[15] Hebrews 10:23

[16] Psalm 19:12; 51:2

[17] Jeremiah 33:8

[18] Deuteronomy 7:9

[19] Psalm 32:5; See Psalm 51:2-5

[20] Ibid. 51:1-2

[21] Proverbs 28:13

[22] Bede: Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., pp. 172–173


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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LXII) 03/02/21

The fact that the Messiah completed His mission was verified when God “seated Him at His right hand in heavenly places, far above all principalities, and power, and might, and dominion, and every god that mankind has worshiped.”[1] Now in His consummated glory, He is prepared to be “made wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” to His people. Therefore, He was “manifest in the flesh” so that He might die as a sinner. Now, however, He is “justified in the Spirit” and “received up into glory” to become our righteousness so that we can be right with God through Him. The Anointed One’s coronation, in a word, is an indispensable condition for our justification.[2]

Archdeacon William M. Sinclair (1850-1917), an Anglican priest and author, reflected on what the Apostle John says here in verse eight and addresses what he calls the “lawbreaking tendencies” and “spiritual inclinations” of every believer. Lawbreaking tendencies are a negative force that causes us to fall back into old habits and immoral vices. Spiritual inclinations are a positive force that causes us to spring ahead in search of the spirit’s virtues and fruit. If we do not admit this to ourselves, we are misleading ourselves, and in us, the power and energy of Light, searching every corner of our hearts and minds, will have gone out.[3]

Alan E. Brooke (1863-1939) talks about the false idea that some deny the abiding power of sin as a principle in one who has committed sins. To those who hold such a view, sin ceases to be of any importance. It is merely a passing incident that leaves behind no lasting consequences. The idea rests on self-deception. It can only be maintained by those who shut their eyes to the teaching of experience, in themselves or in others. And they lead themselves astray. The consequences must be fatal unless men acknowledge their mistake and retrace their steps.[4]

Greville P. Lewis (1891-1976) points out something that is still relevant today among some believers. He talks about how people try face-saving techniques to cover their wrongdoings, and they take many forms. For instance, there are Euphemisms.[5] Today we see the same situation when one person is charged with stealing, and someone else has merely misappropriated. When someone cheats, and another innovates. When one is called cowardly, and others discreet; when one is touchy, and others sensitive; when one has a hot temper, and others express righteous indignation.  

Then Lewis says there is rationalization.[6] It is nothing more than self-deception, the unconscious tendency to find good reasons for doing bad things. In the Upper Room, when Jesus announced that there was someone present who would betray Him, even Judas Iscariot asked, “Is it me?”[7] No doubt, Judas didn’t interpret the word “betray” the same way as others. Oh, how easy, laments Lewis, it is for some believers to act under the impulse of undisciplined ambition and then find a respectable reason for doing it.[8]

William Barclay (1907-1978) says that John is writing to counteract a false doctrine spreading among the believers. Some claimed to be especially intellectually and spiritually advanced but whose lives showed no sign of it. They claimed to have progressed so far along the road of knowledge and spirituality that sin had ceased to be a matter for them, and the Law ceased to exist. Napoleon once said that laws were made for ordinary people but not for people like him. So, these heretics claimed to be so advanced that it was of no importance whatsoever even if they did sin. In later days Clement of Alexandria tells us that there were heretics who said that it made no difference how a person lived. Irenaeus tells us that they declared that a genuinely spiritual individual was quite incapable of ever incurring any pollution, no matter what kind of deeds they did.[9]

Peter S. Ruckman Sr. (1921-2010), a staunch supporter of orthodox Christian doctrines found in the Bible, had strong words for a Muslim Imam who visited him in his office to complain about some fellow Muslims who converted to Christianity. When Ruckman got on the subject of a person’s sinful nature and spiritual nature, the man confessed he thought he only had one nature and never recognized there could be two in anyone, as Paul claims in Romans six. This flawed uninformed individual, says Ruckman, thought the sinful nature of fallen Adam alone was able to attain Paradise by works. In fact, it was pointed out to him that there are no new births in the Koran in any edition in any language. Every Muslim who ever lived died in Adam,[10] with the earthly Adamic nature of a sinner “dead in trespasses and sins.”[11] [12]

John Stott (1921-2011) says that this claim by the heretics of not having any sin and not having sinned is worse than asserting that they walk in darkness while in fellowship with the Light – Jesus the Anointed One. That’s because in their first claim, at least they acknowledge that sin does exist in the darkness. But now, they claim sin is not relevant while denying its effect on sinners. Furthermore, just because they say that Jesus blood cleansed them, (how could that be if there is no sin?), they are now living without sinning. The dichotomy they used to make these claims is that while their flesh may have lawbreaking tendencies that cause them to sin every so often, their souls remain pure and clean from any impurities of sin. It is nothing less than egotistical, self-centered righteousness. There again, they make a crucial error. Believers in and of themselves have no right standing before God. All of our righteousness is in the Anointed One who dwells in us.[13] [14]

D. Edmond Hiebert (1928-1995) discusses the denial of human sinfulness by some and states that the clause “If we say that we have no sin” is just another assertion that hinders fellowship. This hypothetical declaration is a denial of the sinfulness of human nature. The expression “have no sin,” peculiar to John in the New Testament, may mean denial of any guilt for a sinful act.[15] But in view of what John says here in verse ten, the expression seems intended as a rebuttal of sin’s inherent nature. It expresses the false teachers’ claim that they have advanced to a stage beyond human sinfulness. It might be the claim of one denying that human nature is sinful.[16]

Zane C. Hodges (1932-2008) acknowledges that when a believer experiences true fellowship with God, it may tempt them to think or say that they are, at that moment, at least, free from sin. John warned against this self-deluding conception. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.[17] If Christians understand the fact that God’s Word teaches about the depravity of the human heart, they know that just because they are not conscious of failure does not mean that they are free from it. If the truth is “in” them as a controlling, motivating influence, this kind of self-deception will not occur. Whether someone claims to be “without sin” for a brief period or claims permanent attainment, such claims are false.[18]

H. P. Mansfield (1932) comments on a person’s possible claim that they have no sin. He says that it is vital to notice that John is referring to the individual who claims that they are not dealing with sin at the moment, not to the one who brags that they have never sinned! The self-deceived declare that they have “no sin,” that is, that they are not struggling with sin in any sense. The word “sin” is in the singular tense and without the definite article in Greek. Grammarians say when this happens in the present tense, it relates to a person’s sinful nature and not specific sins.

When laying two translations side-by-side, notes Mansfield, we have: “If we say we have no sin . . .” and “If we say we have not sinned . . .” John says that either way, a person who says one or the other is deluding themselves by failing to recognize their lawbreaking tendencies. The world does this when it speaks of humanity’s inherent goodness and an inner light that reveals the truth or when claiming that an unenlightened conscience is competent to guide one in matters of conduct or belief. It makes sense to walk in the Light to recognize human nature’s weakness, the mind’s sinful tendencies unenlightened by the Word. Such understanding teaches us to guard against it.[19] [20]

James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) notes that John comes against another false teaching. It is the theory that Jesus eradicated sin on the Cross, and once that is accepted, then a believer can live without worrying about sin. That can either mean there is no such thing as sin anymore and that, therefore, no one is a sinner. It’s not called sin; now, they label it as the “guilt factor.” It all depends on how one was parented and the virtues and moral standards taught to them.

If your conscience doesn’t bother you, then go ahead, participate, they say. Boice says that the first false teaching John addressed was that it is possible to have fellowship with God and continue sinning.[21] Here in this second claim is the additional error that individuals, either through enlightenment or through spiritual development, have ceased to sin at all. But John says this only happens when you confess your sin and allow the blood of Jesus to make you clean again.[22]    

[1] Ephesians 1:20-21

[2] Gordon, A. J., The Ministry of the Spirit, American Baptist Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1894, p. 46

[3] Macdonald, William: The Preacher’s Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., pp. 243-244

[4] Brooke, Alan E. International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 17

[5] Euphemism is the substitution of a pleasant word for one that might be offensive or profane.

[6] Rationalizing is better known as making excuses.

[7] Matthew 26:25

[8] Lewis, Greville P. The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 27-28

[9] Barclay, William. The Letters of John and Jude, Revised Edition, Daily Study Bible, op. cit., p. 32

[10] See 1 Corinthians 15:47

[11] Ephesians 2:1-4

[12] Ruckman, Dr. Peter S., General Epistles Vol. 2 (1 – 2 – 3 John, Jude Commentary), The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series, (Kindle Locations 631-638). BB Bookstore, Pensacola, FL, Kindle Edition.

[13] Philippians 3:9

[14] Stott, John. The Letters of John, op. cit., p. 81

[15] Cf. John 19:11

[16] Hiebert, David E: 1 John, Bibliotheca Sacra, July-September 1988, p. 334

[17] Cf. 1 John 3:6 and 2:4

[20] Mansfield, H. P. Commentary on First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 26

[21] See Jeremiah 31:34

[22] Boice, James Montgomery: Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 32


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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LXI) 03/01/21

Charles Hodge (1797-1878), in his discourse on universal sin, says that this dogma is drawn from the fact that all humans are sinners. It is an undeniable doctrine of the Scriptures. It was asserted in the First Covenant and the Final Covenant,[1] but especially here in the first chapter of John’s first epistle beginning with verse eight, again in verse ten, and even in 5:19. But in the second place, this startling fact is continuously assumed in God’s Word. The Bible everywhere addresses people as sinners. The religion which it reveals is a religion for sinners. All the institutions we find under the First Covenant, and all the doctrines of the Final Covenant, take it for granted that humanity is universally under the power and condemnation of sin.

When the Scriptures use the term “the world,” says Hodge, it designates mass humanity as distinguished from the regenerated chosen who are part of the Body of the Anointed One. This difference is attributed to the idea of the constant presence of sin. Jesus told His disciples that the world would hate them, not because of who they are, but because of whose they are. They can’t understand why He chose certain people out of the world and left others behind. Yet, despite these differences, the Scriptures indiscriminately calls for all humanity to repent. Therefore, says Hodge, the express declaration of Scripture that all humans are sinners does not mean that everyone is guilty of sin but that all have lawbreaking tendencies. That’s why John is adamant about no one saying, “we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” When they do that, the truth is not in them. The truth is not in us, says the Apostle in the present tense, if we say we have no sin, for example, that we are unpolluted by sin.

In the context of this narrative, John presents the Anointed One, the “Word of Life,” as being Life itself. It makes Him the only source of eternal life. By having fellowship with Him, we have fellowship with God. And God is Light, that is, pure, holy, and blessed. Therefore, if we are not in the Light, we walk in darkness, namely, ignorance and sin. It eliminates any fellowship we might have with Him. But if we walk in the Light, as He is in the Light, the blood of Jesus the Anointed One cleanses us from all sin. However, if we insist that we need no such cleansing, even as believers, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.[2] All that Hodge says raises an obvious question: Why do some believers insist on saying they do not need to fear sin, so there’s no need for repentance? All that does is give lawbreaking tendencies a license to lead a person back into darkness.

Johann Huther (1807-1880) says that purification from sin presupposes the existence of sin even in believers; the denial of this is self-deception — as in verse six; thereby is meant not merely what’s in one’s heart, but the actual expression and assertion. Huther says that this is only possible when two elements are present in the believer. First, believers’ fellowship with one another and God and His Son. Second, the purifying efficiency of the blood of Jesus is an essential element in this divine participation of regeneration and sanctification.[3]

Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885) tells us that if we say we are without sin, whether we claim it by denying we have done wrong or affirming that by declaring we’ve never done anything wrong, we are not merely mistaken or deceived, but we are also our deceivers. We are the deceived and deceivers at the same time. Who can say there is no truth in us? Everyone has some truth. But the divine truth of pure fellowship with God through the Anointed One is not in us, and this is the only truth by which we are considered children of God.[4]

Reverend William Salter (1821-1910) gives us an illustration that also helps us understand the relationship between the believer and the Light of God. He notes that never in history have astronomers seen the earth come between the planet Venus and the sun, thereby causing a total eclipse of Venus. So, when we compare this to Christians, they should never allow the world to come between them and the Light of God – His Son. If this happens, total darkness envelopes the erring believer, and with it goes love, joy, peace, and other fruit of the spirit. Our hearts grow cold and indifferent to the Light of God’s Word. That is why the Apostle John tells us to “walk in the light.” That is where the Anointed One is because He is the Light.[5]

Daniel Steele (1824-1914) explains cleansing from unrighteousness this way. After past sins are forgiven, the purification of the believer’s character is a definite momentary act in God’s mind. The cleansing in its completion is also a definite work instantaneously wrought by the believer’s Holy Spirit. We must note that both “forgive” and “cleanse” denote a continuous, decisive, single act. Alford says that where verse nine reads, “to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” we must distinguish it from “to forgive us our sins” as an ongoing process. In a word, sanctification is distinct from justification. The two verbs are aorists[6] because the purpose of the faithfulness and justice of God is part of one great complex act – to justify and to sanctify wholly and entirely. He says, “to do,” not both, but “each” as one great act. It is what Wesley discovered in 1737 “that people are justified before they are sanctified.” Again, justification is work done on us, and sanctification is work performed in us.[7]

Marvin Vincent (1834-1921) points out that pagan authors say very little about sin, and classic paganism had little or no concept of sin in the Gospel sense. The nearest approach to it was by Plato, from whose works we might gather a tolerably complete doctrinal statement of the origin, nature, and effects of sin. The fundamental idea of sin among the Greeks is physical, “the missing of a mark,”[8] from which it develops into a metaphysical meaning, “to wander in the understanding.” It assumes knowledge as the basis of goodness, and sin, therefore, primarily, ignorance. In the Platonic conception of sin, intellectual error is the prominent element. What is the result of all this? According to Plato, knowledge and wisdom are good, ignorance and folly are evil?[9] [10]

Augustus Strong points out the Apostle John’s saying if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” In his Life of John Sterling, Carlyle says of Samuel Coleridge[11] that whenever natural obligation or voluntary undertaking made it his duty to do something, the fact seemed a sufficient reason for his not doing anything.[12] A regular, advancing sanctification is marked, on the other hand, by a growing habit of instant and joyful obedience. The intermittent spring depends upon the mountain cave’s reservoir; only when the rain fills the latter full does the spring begin to flow. So, to secure unbroken Christian activity, there must be constant reception of the word and Spirit of God.[13]

Baptist preacher Adonriam J. Gordon (1836-1895) writes that the Anointed One was to impart power to His Church through the Paraclete.[14] The same is true of righteousness we find in heaven in which He was both to introduce and impart. “And when He, the Comforter, is come, He will convince the world of righteousness; of righteousness because I go to my Father, and you will see Me no more.”[15] We may honestly say that the Anointed One’s righteousness was not finished and authenticated till He sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high. By His death, He perfectly satisfied the claims of a violated law, but this fact was not attested until the grave gave back the certificate of discharge in His released and risen body. The Apostle Paul declares: by His resurrection, “He was declared to be the Son of God in power, according to the Spirit of holiness.”[16]

To emphasize this more, had Jesus lived and died on the cross, only to be buried in a borrowed tomb, there would be no justification for standing right before God. Not only that but after He was raised from the dead, if He had settled down in Capernaum and lived out the rest of His life as a teacher of a large synagogue, justification and righteousness would have never been granted to those who believed in Him. As Augustus Strong puts it, until He who was made a curse for us was crowned with glory and honor, we could not be assured of our acceptance with the Father. How deep the current of thought flows through this narrow statement – “Because I go to the Father.”[17]


[1] See Romans 3:19, 22, 23; Galatians 3:22; James 3:2

[2] Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology: The Complete Three Volumes (Kindle Locations 16191-29526). GLH Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[3] Huther, Johann: Handbook on Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 290

[4] Whedon, Daniel D. Commentary on NT, op. cit., pp. 255-256

[5] Sinclair, William M. The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., p. 247

[6] Aorist verbs are in the past tense without any reference to duration or completion in action. In other words, “ongoing.”

[7] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hours with John, op. cit., p. 16

[8] See Matthew 1:21; 6:14

[9] Plato: Euthydemus, Great Books Collection, Volume 2 (Kindle Locations 190074-190075). H&H Books. Kindle Edition.

[10] Vincent, Marvin: Word Studies in the NT, op. cit., p. 318

[11] Thomas Carlyle, The Life of John Sterling, Part I, Chapter 8

[12] Samuel Taylor Coleridge, (21 October 1772 – 25 July 1834) was an English poet, literary critic, philosopher and theologian who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets.

[13] Strong, Augustus H: Systematic Theology, op. cit., Vol. 3, p. 179

[14] The Greek name for the Holy Spirit translated as “Comforter.”

[15] John 16:8-10

[16] Romans 1:4

[17] Strong, Augustus H: Vol. 3, op. cit., p. 156

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LX) 02/26/21

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) takes “fellowship” with God as “employment.” There is a sphere in which God works alone and in which we can have no cooperation, no collaboration with Him. In the work of creation; in upholding all things; in the government of the universe; in the transmission of light from world to world; in the return of the seasons, the rising and setting of the sun, the storms, the tides, the flight of the comet, we can have no joint agency, no co-operation with Him. There God works alone. But there is also a large sphere in which He admits us graciously into unity with Him, and in which, unless we obey His Word and His Will, He will not be involved.

We see this when the farmer sows his grain, says Barnes; when the surgeon binds up a wound; when we take the medicine which God has appointed as a means of restoration to health. In our efforts to save our souls and the souls of others, God graciously works with us; and unless we do our work, nothing is accomplished. This co-operation is referred to in such passages as these: “We are laborers together (Greek Sunergoi) “with God.”)[1] “The Lord working with them,”[2] “We are then workers together with Him,”[3] “that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth.” Simultaneously, the inspiration is God’s – alike in motivating us to be active and crowning the effort with success – but if we don’t do our part, then the work will not get done. Under these circumstances, God will not get us off the hook with a miracle.[4]

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) says that some assume that even Christians still need cleansing from time to time from their sins. The Apostle justifies that by the assertion of the inadmissibility of saying we are already wholly sanctified. He speaks of his readers’ present condition, not of sins committed by them before their conversion to Christianity. Notwithstanding the forgiveness of sin, the Christian still has lawbreaking tendencies; it is sad that they must still be reminded of that fact. Faith in the Anointed One must, from its very nature, continually awaken the consciousness of sin. We see this in those who live a passive Christian life. By being in fellowship with the Anointed One, our eyes become ever keener and sharper for sin, and most especially, our sins.

Although you may not have been as aware of sin as a sinner, says Rothe, you are more conscious than ever as a Christian. If that is not so, then the truth is not in you. Here, being real is the sense of truth, says Rothe, the accuracy resulting from self-examination and self-knowledge. The condition of inner truthfulness, not only for each Christian but for all people, is the knowledge of sin. The recognition and acknowledgment of it is the fundamental knowledge that depends on us by being objective and subjective to the truth. If a person really understands themselves, they must be sensible that their actual condition is a sinful one. In consequence of this sin, they stand in contradiction with themselves and the whole system of things around them.[5] If, as they say, hindsight provides 20/20 vision. It is no truer than how people viewed themselves as sinners before their conversion and how they see it now as born-again believers.

Henry A. Sawtelle (1832-1913) agrees with John’s method of obtaining the cleansing blood’s full effect. It is by confessing our sins (not our mere sinfulness), voluntarily uncovering them before the eyes of God, which is essentially repentance.[6] Such repentance is not without an element of faith, and the result follows – full salvation. He is faithful and just. He – namely, God, is faithful to His promise of forgiveness upon the condition of repentance since the Anointed One died for our sins.[7] To forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. “He is faithful and just” – righteous – for this very purpose, to this precise end, that He not only forgives the confessed sins but also takes away the guilt. It frees us from sin so that we stand as innocent before Him.[8]

Rev. Aaron M. Hills (1848-1931), Minister and Evangelist in the Congregational Church, comments on what John says in verse eight. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves the truth is not in us. Along with what Paul says to the Romans, this verse advocates the doctrine of continuous sin. Many use this text to keep themselves and drive others away from the hope of holiness. On its face, it does seem to declare that all Christians do sin continually, and if any say they do not, they deceive themselves, and the truth is not in them. But there are fatal consequences to such an interpretation.

It is now plain to see why the holy Apostle John wrote as he did, says Hills. It is irresponsible to take these words and use them against the bride – the Church of the Anointed One – as divine revelation. It forces them to teach that the bride with all the Heavenly Groom’s sanctifying indwelling, and the “cleansing” of the Holy Spirit, cannot stay pure and unblemished. That is why the Apostle Paul told the Philippians to remain committed in their walk toward perfection.[9] [10]

Mr. Beverly Carradine notes what Paul the Apostle said to the Romans, that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory available to them.[11] It is true – no one is prepared to deny it. We believe that every person has sinned in the past. The statement of the verse is regarding the past. We have all sinned in years passed. But that is no reason why we should sin in the days and years ahead. We once transgressed through ignorance and unbelief, but through belief and knowledge of the truth, which makes us clean and free, we can, according to God’s Word, live thoughtfully, righteously, and godly in this present world.

But there is another formidable-looking verse that at first glance seems to call for surrender on the part of the holiness people, adds Carradine. With fixed attention and reading the context, the whole passage becomes clear. In the first place, let the reader remember that John is writing to Christians and that he has said to them in this same Epistle that “whosoever is born of God, does not sin.”[12] He urges this upon them again in these words: “I write these things to you so that you do not sin.” We ask now: How can Christians find excuses for sin in the face of such statements? How can the reader reconcile these verses with a life of sin? The passage advanced by the objectors must refer to something else, or we have established the startling fact that the Word of God contradicts itself. Here we read that we must not sin, yet if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. What is the explanation? There is one, and one that should commend itself to any unprejudiced mind.[13] John is not advocating that we have no sin, but we must be aware that it is always possible. When we deny this truth, we make fools out of ourselves.

Alonzo Rice Cocke (1858-1901) notes that even while walking in the light, the dark and sinful of this world still mingle their evil influence in the believer’s life. Some of the roots and effects of sin remain. Hence, there is a continuous conflict between the Light and the darkness. The Light has come in, and the Light transforms our whole life. Nevertheless, sinfulness still hides in the believer and makes the great sin-remedy a necessary continuous application in some form. Hence, the Apostle points to “the blood of Jesus the Anointed One,” which “cleanses from all sin.” The blood of Jesus is, in a word, the sacrifice made by Jesus in its entirety, sweeping away, due to its infinite effectiveness, the sins of humanity.

Here, Cocke’s critical point is how to sustain fellowship between a sinner and the holy one. This blood is so sufficient that our law-breaking tendencies that yet remain no longer form a hindrance to fellowship with God. These tendencies do not instantly vanish. These still operating sinful elements are disappearing as the days pass by. The Light grows more and more to the dawning of a perfect day. The beautiful rays of dawn, painted by God with His finger, announce the glories of the coming day and give promises of heavenly splendors throughout eternity.[14]

William E. Shepard (1862-1930) laments that the quotation of this text is used so often in an attempt to refute the doctrine of holiness. It is generally quoted: “Those who say they have never sinned are liars, and the truth is not in them.” When quoted very rapidly, one can scarcely catch the words. Perhaps this rapidity is due to its frequent use. “Practice makes perfect,” and repeating such texts adapts quickly in denouncing Christian perfection. What, then, does our text teach?

Shepard goes on to mention that if we walk in the Light, as He is in the Light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus the Anointed One His Son cleanses us from all sin. Suppose a garment was spotted with ink and put through a process that eliminates ink spots; how much ink would remain? Now, if a guarantee was given that no ink would remain, would there be any self-deception in that? On the same principle, then, if “the blood of Jesus the Anointed One cleanses us from all sin,” how much sin is left? If all sin is washed away, where is the self-deception? Of course, we could not advocate self-righteousness nor self-exaltation, but on the contrary. We must always put Jesus first and let everybody know that all we are is through the Anointed One Jesus. Instead of saying, “I am saved” and “I am sanctified,” putting “I” first, we say, “Jesus saves” and “Jesus sanctifies.” Let the people see Jesus and not ourselves. We should not be the main focus but magnify what the Lord has done for us. Give Him all the glory.[15]

[1] 2 Corinthians 6:1

[2] Mark 16:20

[3] 2 Corinthians 6:1

[4] Albert Barnes: New Testament Notes, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1949, p. 4797

[5] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., April 1890, p.159

[6] See Psalm 32:5, 6

[7] Romans 3:26

[8] Sawtelle, Henry A., Commentary on the Epistles of John, Alvah Hovey, Ed., American Baptist Publication Society, Philadelphia: 1888, p. 12

[9] Philippians 3:12-14

[10] A M Hills: Holiness and Power, Ch. 10, pp. 141, 143

[11] Romans 2:23

[12] 1 John 3:9

[13] Carradine, Beverly: The Old Man, Ch. 19, pp. 110-111

[14] Cocke, A. R., Studies in the Epistles of John; or, The Manifested Life, Presbyterian Committee of Publication, Richmond, VA, 1895, pp. 20-21

[15] Shepard, William E., Wrested Scriptures Made Plain, Ch. 1, pp. 5-6


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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LIX) 02/25/21

James Arminius (1560-1609) emphasizes it is not an attribute of a regenerated person to be placed in captivity under the law of sin. Instead, Paul ascribes to them, “Because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”[1] When he formerly lived under the law, Paul was in captivity under sin’s strength and power. One negative response to Paul’s doctrine is that since “the law of the mind” and “the law of the Spirit” is one, they are unskillfully distinguished. Nothing fights against the members’ lawbreaking tendencies except the obedient inclinations and power of the Spirit; therefore, the law of the mind is the law of the Spirit.”

Arminius replies, it has already been proven that the rule of mind, and supremacy of the Spirit, are not the same.  The conscience also wages war against the bodily members’ intentions in those under the Law. Even the regenerated themselves are offended in many things.[2] But it is no secret that not one soul is sinless on earth.[3] The born-again cannot say truthfully “that they have no lawbreaking tendencies.”[4] In many things, the redeemed offends, and the child of God generally gains the victory in the contest against sin. That is when they use the gifts and fruit furnished them by the Holy Spirit. [5]

William Burkitt (1650-1703) remarks what John says here in verse eight about no one being without sin tendencies. He has John stating that if he and the Apostles cannot say they are free from such inclinations, how much less can the proud Gnostics say so, who suppose and assert themselves to be in a state of perfection. If we say we are without lawbreaking tendencies, we deceive ourselves. Still, if we say we’ve never had lawbreaking tendencies, insinuating that Christians were sin-free before as well as after conversion, that would allow people to continue living the way they were before conversion. Perfect freedom from all lawbreaking tendencies is unattainable in this life, not only by ordinary Christians but also by the most eminent saints.

Burkitt goes on to say that the Church of Rome would have us believe this is more about humility. But they say this with false modesty. The Apostle does not say humility is not in us, but the truth is not in us. He does not say we commend ourselves, and there is no humbleness in us; but we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us, no truth of knowledge in our understandings, no real holiness in our hearts. Who can say of themselves they made their heart clean? Neither can we ascribe any purity to our efforts. Any desired personal perfection related to purity should make us yearn for the day of final redemption when neither sin, sorrow, nor sickness afflicts us; when we will be robed with unspotted purity and perfect joy for all eternity.[6]

John Flavel (1628-1691) talks about a believer’s communion with the Anointed One, as John writes about in verse eight. The Apostle cries out: How contented and well pleased should you be with your situation. No matter how circumstances have influenced your place in this world, do not complain. God has dealt bountifully with you: He may have granted good things on the people of this world, but on you, He conferred Himself through the Anointed One.  Now, Flavel offers the following points to consider:

How humble and lowly in spirit should you be under your significant advancement. It is true, God has magnified you greatly by this union, but yet do not boast. You are not the root’s support, but the root supports you.[7] You shine but as a reflection of the Light.

How zealous should you be to honor the Anointed One, who put so much honor on you? Be willing to give glory to the Anointed One, though His glory should rise out of your shame. Never reckon that glory which goes to the Anointed One to be yours: when you kneel at His feet, in the most particular heart-breaking confessions of sin, let this please you, that therein you have given Him glory.

How circumspect (“observant”)should you be in all your ways, remembering whose you are and whom you represent? Can it be said that a member of the Anointed One was convicted of unrighteous and unholy actions? God forbid that we should say we have fellowship with Him and live in darkness; we are lying. The person who says they are in union with Him should walk even as Jesus walked.”[8]

How studious(“serious”)should you be about peace among yourselves which binds us together and thereby made fellow-members of the same body. The heathen world was never acquainted with such an argument as the apostle urges for unity.[9]

How joyfuland comfortable should you be, to whom the Anointed One, with all His treasures and benefits, which He applied so effectively in this blessed union of your souls with Him? It brings Him even closer to you: O how great, how glorious a person who does these weak little arms of your faith embrace![10]

German Protestant theologian Christoph Starke (1684-1744) points out that the Anointed One’s betrayer was one of His most intimate Apostles, so antichrist did not arise among Jews or Turks, but in the very midst of Christendom. The Church does not remain without offenses, not the least of which is among her fold. Teachers arise who hold to false doctrines and backslide from the known truth; the weeds do not grow by themselves but in the middle of the wheat.[11]

Samuel E Pierce (1746-1829) says that according to what the Apostle John has said, we should never lean to our understandings: these are matters of too great importance. To the law and the testimony, we should restore it. We are all prone to self-deception: we should, therefore, give up our judgments to the Word of God to be guided and influenced by the same. To have correct scriptural views of sin, of the law-breaking tendencies to sin still in us, is of vast importance. In God’s way, we fight against and overcome these inclinations, as stated in the everlasting Gospel. It teaches that our spiritual wellness and salvation should be of uttermost importance in our minds. To know this by the Holy Spirit’s inward teachings makes it efficient for us: and by it, we are saved from sinful, guilty fears and innumerable errors.[12]

Catholic scholar George Leo Haydock (1774-1849) shows how, just like the Rabbis in Judaism, they added their thinking to the Apostles’ thoughts. In responding to what John says here in verse eight, we are not to say or pretend we have no sin. In such a case, the truth would not be in us, and we should even make God out to a liar, who declared all humanity guilty of sin. We were all born guilty of original sin; we have fallen, and still, frequently fall into lesser sins and failings.

The only one we can exempt from this number is our Savior, the Anointed One, says Haydock. Even as a man, He never sinned, and His blessed Virgin Mother, by a special privilege, was preserved from all kinds of sin. Augustine says, “that for the honor of our Lord when we speak of the Holy Virgin Mary, He will not have us to mention the word “sin.”[13] Unfortunately, Haydock quotes Augustine out of context. These comments were made despite the fact that the Apostle John makes no mention of the Virgin Mary’s sinlessness. This is no attempt to denigrate the blessed Virgin Mary. As the angel said, she was blessed more than any other woman. But we cannot dismiss that throughout the First and Final Covenants, we are reminded that “all have sinned and come short of God’s expectations.”[14]

Charles Finney (1792-1875) comments on what John says about “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Finney remarks that those who cite this passage in opposition to the sanctification doctrine assume that the Apostle is speaking of sanctification, not justification. An honest examination of the text makes it evident that the Apostle makes no allusion here to sanctification but speaks solely of justification. In other words, all previous sin is taken care of before Justification. Any sins after that are dealt with in Sanctification.

A little attention to the connection in which this verse stands will, I think, render this evident, says Finney. But before I proceed to state what I understand to be the meaning of this passage, let us consider it in the connection in which it stands, in the sense in which they understand it who quote it to oppose the sentiment advocated in these lectures. They understand the Apostle as affirming that if we say we are in a state of entire sanctification and do not sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If this were the Apostle’s meaning, he involves himself, in this connection, in two flat contradictions.[15]


[1] Romans 8:2

[2] James 3:2

[3] 1 Kings 8:46

[4] 1 John 1:8

[5] Works of James Arminius: Vol. 2, op. cit., The Ancient Fathers, pp.306-307

[6] William Burkitt: On First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 756

[7] Romans 11:18

[8] 1 John 2:6

[9] Ephesians 4:3, 4

[10] John Flavel: The Method of Grace: How the Spirit Works, the Believer’s Union with Christ, Ch. 2, pp. 45-46

[11] Christoph Starke: Homiletics in Karl. G. Braune’s First Epistle of John, op. cit.

[12] Pierce, S. E., An Exposition of the First Epistle General on John, The First Epistle General of John, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 75

[13] George Leo Haydock: Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary, Haydock’s Catholic Family Bible and Commentary, printed by Edward Dunigan and Brother, New York, New York, 1859

[14] Cf. Psalm 143:2; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23; 5:12; 1 John 1:8

[15] Charles Finney: Systematic Theology, 1878 Edition, Lecture 40, Sanctification, p. 550

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

 NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LVIII) 02/24/21

We all know how destructive little white lies can be. Consequently, we should all sincerely consider how self-deception will make our perspectives almost irrelevant.  Most often, our self-deception arises from the fact that we are covering up some irrational fear that we’ve afraid to face. John says that if we keep saying I’ve done nothing wrong; we will fall into our own trap.  Such actions will prevent a person from taking the time and effort needed to build a solid foundation to construct a secure and reliable life. As a Christian, that foundation is the Anointed One and His teachings.  Spiritually speaking, we will never be able to reach our highest potential or take advantage of our opportunities for spiritual growth unless we surrender to God’s will instead of our own.  Failure to listen to God will bring more problems on top of those we are already dealing with. 

As such, it becomes a cycle of repetitious behavior. Out of all of this comes a pearl of wisdom. If you do not know what is right, how can you know what is wrong? People, circumstances, news, and claims are often determined to be untrue by those who do not know what is true. How can God’s children decide what are false spirits if they do not know the true Spirit? That’s why God predetermined to send His Spirit to dwell in the believer’s heart. If the true Spirit is not in you, you only guess when you point to other spirits as false.

COMMENTARY

Didymus the Blind (313-398), despite his handicap, exposes the ridiculousness of those who say they are walking in the Light of knowing God while still enveloped in the dark ignorance of sin. Since God is Light and, therefore, darkness cannot be found in Him, He has no fellowship with those in the dark. That’s why for those who live in God’s Light, darkness has no hold over them. Therefore, those who are still in sin’s darkness who claim that they live in God’s Light are lying to themselves and others.[1]

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) knew from personal experience that although we are children of God, we are in a war with death as long as we are bound to this mortal life. And what John says here in verse eight is honestly said of us, “Those that the Spirit of God leads are truly the children of God.” Yet, even as the Spirit of God guides us, and as children of God, we advance toward God, we are also struggling with our human spirit. That’s because we are weighed down by our corruptible bodies and influenced by certain human feelings. That’s why some fall away with their lawbreaking tendencies to sin. But it matters to what degree. Although every crime is a sin, not every sin is a crime. That’s why we can say of the lives of holy men, even while they live in this mortality, that they are not guilty of any crime. “But if we say that we have no sin,” as John says here, “we deceive even ourselves, and the truth is not in us.[2] That means being holy in our eyes or other people’s eyes is not holiness in God’s eyes.

In another place, Augustine makes an interesting point that even while God’s heavily burdened children groan under persecution, they do not wish that He remove their struggles but that they receive the gift that swallows up death in eternal life. In other words, while God’s people know that hardships and sufferings are part of living for the Lord, they don’t beg for Him to take everything away. Nor are they anxious for Him to accelerate their dying to get out of their misery, but extending their life so they can show others mercy. Yes, they do have the first-fruit of the reborn spirit groaning within them as they wait for the redemption of their body. But they know that they are in a battle with lawbreaking tendencies that never seem to let up. And here, the Apostle John says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”[3]

Augustine then raises a critical point when it comes to the Virgin Mary. He writes that he does not wish to raise any questions regarding the holy Virgin Mary on the subject of sins, out of honor to the Lord. If we could assemble all the holy men and women that Christian historian Pelagius lists who lived their lives without sin, except for the Virgin Mary, and asked them whether they lived without sin while they were in this life, what could we expect would be their answer? Would it be according to Pelagius or in the Apostle John’s words? Let’s put it this way, on having such a question submitted to them, no matter how excellent might have been their sanctity in this body, they would exclaim with one voice: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us?

But let us imagine that their answers were more humble than honest! What we call sin may well not have been their idea of sin. Well, Pelagius has already determined, and rightly decided, “not to place the praise of humility on the side of falsehood.” If, therefore, they spoke the truth in giving such an answer, they would have all sinned. Since they humbly acknowledged it, the truth would be in them. However, if they lied in their response, they would still have sinned because the truth would not be in them.[4]

That leaves us with this question: When John, who knew the Virgin Mary better than any of the other disciples, was willing to say that anyone who says they did not sin, they are deceiving themselves, and the truth is not in them, did he include Mary? If he didn’t, he should have said so; otherwise, he wouldn’t be telling the truth. Unfortunately, the medieval church did not explore Augustine’s idea about Mary. They declared her sinless. It seems to contradict what we find in the Book of Acts, where Mary joined the other disciples in praying to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.[5]

Pope Gregory the Great (540-604 AD) says that we all must one day explain how we lived to the coming Judge. So, it’s best to strengthen our cause before Him with tears and good works, that we may be worthy to have blessed assurance given us concerning the things that we have done. Even in the secular world, notes Gregory, a kind judge frequently grants a reprieve for this purpose, that one who did not receive counsel may come prepared to the trial. And what a mistake it would be were we to neglect for the salvation of the soul what we carefully attend to in matters of earthly concern!

According to the Apostle John’s words, no one is without sin. So, says Gregory, let us remind ourselves of things that influenced our thinking. We should not forget the harm we caused by our unbridled tongue and our wrongdoings. Never stop trying to get those stains on our character washed away so that our just and loving Redeemer may not need to give us the punishment we deserve. Instead, according to His mercy, allow us to experience the joy of forgiveness and pardon.[6]

It is here that Bede the Venerable (672-735) shows some real confidence in his understanding of Scripture. He tells us that with this verse eight, the Apostle John refutes Pelagian’s teachings, who say that babies are born without sin and that the elect can make such progress in this life that it becomes possible for them to attain perfection. The Apostle John disagrees. We cannot be born without lawbreaking tendencies since we brought them with us when we came into the world.[7]

Nevertheless, the blood of Jesus can cleanse us from all sin so that our guilt does not leave us in the power of the enemy of our soul – Satan. That’s because the man Jesus the Anointed One, the Mediator between God and man, freely paid the price for redemption on our behalf. He did so even though He owed nothing Himself. He surrendered to die in the flesh, which He did not deserve, to deliver us from the richly deserved death of our souls.[8]

Bible scholar Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) answers whether sorrow is compatible with our moral virtues? Some say that it would seem that sorrow is incompatible with integrity because the virtues are effects of wisdom. A young Jewish writer explains, “If a man loves justice: her labors have great virtues; for she teaches temperance, and prudence, and justice, and fortitude, which are such things as men can have nothing more profitable in life.” Solomon goes on to say, “When I go into my house, I shall repose myself with her: for her conversation hath no bitterness, nor her company any tediousness, but joy and gladness.”[9] Therefore, the questioner says, sorrow is incompatible with virtue. On the contrary, says Aquinas, the Anointed One was perfect in virtue. But there was sorrow in Him, for He said, “My soul is sorrowful even unto death.”[10] Therefore, grief is compatible with goodness.  I answer that, says Aquinas as Augustine says the Stoics held that in the mind of the wise man there are three eupatheiai (feelings of well-being), for example, “three good passions,” in place of the three hurting disturbances: namely, instead of covetousness, “desire”; instead of laughter, “joy”; instead of fear, “caution.”[11] But they denied that anything corresponding to sorrow could be in the mind of a wise man.[12]


[1] Didymus the Blind: Bray, G. (Ed.). op. cit., p. 172

[2] Augustine: Enchiridion: On Faith, Hope, and Love, Ch. 17, p. 56

[3] Ibid. The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 2, City of God, Bk. 20, Ch. 17, pp. 922-923

[4] Ibid. A Treatise on Nature and Grace, Against Pelagius, Addressed to Timasius and Jocobus, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 5, Ch. 42, pp.405-406

[5] Acts of the Apostles 1:14

[6] Gregory the Great (Part II), The Nicene and the Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Vol. 13, Bk. 12, Epistle 1, to Dominicus, Bishop of Carthage, p.192

[7] Psalm 51:5

[8] Bede: On 1 John, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., p. 172

[9] Wisdom of Solomon 8:7, 16

[10] Matthew 26:38

[11] Augustine: City of God, Bk XIV, Chap. 8

[12] Aquinas, Thomas: Summa Theologica, Vol. 2, The First Part of the Second Part, pp. 632-633

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LVII) 02/23/21

Although the following hymn was written in 1876 and is still sung today in many evangelical churches, every time I hear it, I still get tears in my eyes,

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Most people know the first three verses, but few have sung the fourth stanza, which goes like this:

“Now by this, I’ll overcome –

Nothing but the blood of Jesus,

Now by this, I’ll reach my home-

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

Refrain

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

There’s only one way to get there, that is through the blood and with the Light of Jesus the Anointed One, our Lord and Savior.  

1:8a If we claim we have never committed an error against God’s will, we are fooling ourselves and rejecting the real truth.

EXPOSITION

Was the idea of believer’s still having law-breaking tendencies new with the Apostle John? Wise man Job was aware of this built-in tendency to sin and asked why God would expect any person to be pure when they are born impure?[1] And King Solomon introduced this truth in his prayer at the New Temple’s dedication. He asked God to listen to their prayers from His home in heaven and help them. Your people will sin against you. I know this because no person is sinless.[2] King David came to the same conclusion.[3] Later, Solomon included this in his Proverbs, where he asks, can anyone say their heart is pure? Who can say, “I am free from sin?”[4] In fact, Solomon was so convinced of this that he included it in one of his homilies by saying that not a single person on earth is always right and never sins, if they are not doing what God’s word says.[5]

By the time we come to the prophet Isaiah, it was still the same. Said Isaiah, we have all wandered away like sheep. We have all gone our own way. And yet the Lord put all our guilt on Him.[6] And the prophet Jeremiah saw people trying to clean themselves in the baths, so he told them that even if you wash with lye soap, even if you use all the soap you can get your hands on, God can still see that you still have guilty stains.[7] The Apostle Paul agreed with John that all were sinners and are not good enough to share God’s divine greatness.[8] In fact, the Apostle James went a little further and told his readers that while all of us are capable of making many mistakes, a good place to start in seeing that they don’t increase is to learn how to control our tongues.[9]

The real problem here, says John, isn’t that we try to keep others in the dark, but that we end up in the dark ourselves. It is what happened to many false teachers in Paul’s day. They tried to deceive others but ended up deceiving themselves.[10] A lot of it starts, says the Apostle James, when we listen to the Word of God preached, we know what the preacher is saying to us from God’s Word, but is it all listening and no action?[11] So no matter how holy we may try to act, says John, everyone can see that we’re not telling the truth about our real spiritual condition.

John now opens the door to a subject that has been part of Jewish theology for a long time.  But we must understand that it is said to make it possible if the person involved is willing to allow sin, as some have done. To misinterpret this scripture results in the creation of a paradoxical doctrine. When John says, “If WE claim WE have no errors…” he uses the first-person plural pronoun to indicate all humanity, but in particular, believers.  The reason God gave the Law was to identify sin for what it was, disobedience to Him and His Word and will.  Another thing that may help us see why John targeted his Christian readers is that the word used here for “sin” means: “to miss the mark, to come up short, to err, to be mistaken, to take a wrong turn.” 

People who claim such perfection are victims of what I would call “holiness pride.”  There is no reason to be afraid to admit a mistake.  People who refuse to acknowledge their mistakes become experts in finding alibis and excuses for their alleged faults.  When that doesn’t work, they go to Plan B, which is to blame everyone else.  It becomes a case of giving more value and prominence to pride and ego than humility and repentance.  But there is more to look at than this.  In his 1839 Bible Commentary, Joseph Benson said, “There is no one in more danger of falling into the deepest sin than the one God leaves alone to themselves.

When we take this back into the First Covenant, we find that the earliest patriarch, Job, stated, “No one can make something clean from something dirty.”[12] It was shared by his friends who came to comfort him. Eliphaz says to Job: “People cannot really be pure. They cannot exceed God in being righteous!”[13] And Job’s other friend Bildad questioned, “How can anyone claim to be right before God? No human being can actually be pure.  In God’s eyes, even the moon is not pure and bright; even the stars are not pure. People are much less pure.”[14]  By the time David took the throne, this was a well-established belief.  That’s why David says to God, “Don’t judge me, your servant. No one alive could be judged innocent by your standards.”[15]

So, when David’s son Solomon moved the Ark of the Covenant into the new Temple, Solomon confessed, “Your people will sin against You. I know this because everyone sins.”[16] It led Solomon to state: “Can anyone say their heart is pure? Who can say, ‘I am free from sin?’”[17] He continues in another place to say: “Surely there is no one on earth who always does good and never sins.”[18] No wonder then that the prophet Isaiah continued preaching this same truth, “We are all dirty with sin. Even our good works are not pure. They are like bloodstained rags.  We are all like dead leaves in our sins, which causes us to be blown away by the wind.”[19] God confirms this in His word to Jeremiah, “Even if you wash yourself with lye, even if you use much soap, I can still see your guilt.”[20] 

A person may become angry when they are fooled and misled by others, which then causes them to commit other errors or foolish mistakes.  But when people fool themselves, they have no one to blame but themselves. It is also called “self-deception.” One psychologist referred to it as having a “splintered mind.”  People who fall into this trap seldom look at how their actions or mindset fits into the big picture of their future. In many cases, they react to situations from a position of vulnerability without thinking it through.  One way to temper this is to ask oneself what the person I respect most thinks of this.  Perhaps I should talk this over with others. I have confidence in them telling me the truth.  If you do that and their opinions make you angry, upset, or defensive, you are a prime candidate for self-deception.  That’s why John is challenging his readers to check everything out with the giver of truth.


[1] Job 14:4; See 15:14

[2] 2 Chronicles 6:36

[3] Psalm 14:3

[4] Proverbs 20:9

[5] Ecclesiastes 7:20

[6] Isaiah 53:6

[7] Jeremiah 2:22

[8] Romans 3:23

[9] James 3:2

[10] 2 Timothy 3:13

[11] James 1:22

[12] Job 14:4

[13] Ibid. 15:14

[14] Ibid. 25:4-5

[15] Psalm 143:2

[16] 2 Chronicles 6:36

[17] Proverbs 20:9

[18] Ecclesiastes 7:20

[19] Isaiah 64:6

[20] Jeremiah 2:22-23

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