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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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

THE DANGERS OF UNDESERVED PRAISE

Bishop François Fénelon noticed that some of those in the parish, who were busy going around helping others cope in the aftermath of the recent war, seemed to be doing it so that everyone would see what a fine Christian they were. The problem was, they weren’t paying attention to their need for self-inspection and a harmonious relationship with God. So, the Bishop had these words to share with them:parish,

Showing sorrow for sin and undergoing other humbling circumstances are far more profitable than the constant desire for success. You know that your troubles helped you find out what you never knew before about yourself, and that the recognition, success, and admiration that come your way will make you self-satisfied. However, such self-satisfaction will bring disarray to the best-organized life because it is incompatible with humility. Therefore, being a successful Christian is far less effective than being a significant Christian.

We can be modest only so long as we give attention to all our spiritual weaknesses. Being conscious of this should be foremost in our mind; the soul should feel burdened by them and groan under them, and that groaning should be a perpetual prayer to be set free from “its bondage to decay,” and admitted into the “glorious freedom of the children of God.”[1] Overwhelmed by its faults, the soul should feel it deserves no deliverance by the great mercy of Jesus the Anointed One. Woe to the self-satisfied soul that treats God’s gifts as merits from good works and forgets what is due to God!

Set apart daily seasons for reading, meditation, and prayer. Involve yourself in helping others, when necessary, but be attentive to softening the harshness of your judgment, restraining your temper, and humbling your mind than upholding your opinion even when it is correct. Finally, humble yourself whenever you find that an undue interest in the affairs of others has led you to forget the one all-important matter of yourself: eternity.

Learn from me,” Jesus says, “for 1 am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.[2] Be sure that grace, inward peace, and the blessing of the Holy Spirit will be with you if you maintain an unassuming attitude amid all your external uncertainties.

Written over 450 years ago

Vocabulary redacted by Dr. Robert R Seyda

One Christian lady told her pastor: I’m a middle-aged woman who is generally well-rounded in personality. I have a lot of good qualities. However, I have been trying to understand a basic flaw in my personality that gets me in trouble and that I know is unappealing to others. Despite how I try not to do it, I find myself falling back into a pattern that includes monopolizing conversations, talking about myself, bragging, and seeming to be a know-it-all. I think I would be better able to control this negative behavior if I understood why I do it. I remember bragging excessively as a child. My mother bragged about me too. I want people to be impressed and to like me, but this competitiveness has the opposite effect. I want to find the root cause of this behavior and what I can do to avoid it in the future.

Our Lord faced the same kind of situation in His day. He wanted them to know that the world is not a stage for us to show off how religious we are. Here’s what Jesus said:

“Be especially careful when you try to be a good Christian so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God won’t be applauding. When you do something for someone else, don’t make a big deal out of it to call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure they are artists. They treat prayer and speaking engagements like a performance, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowd. Yes, they get applause, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it even if no one is watching, don’t try to show off. That is the way God, who conceived you in love, is working behind the scenes to help you out.[3]


[1] Romans 8:21

[2] Matthew 11:29

[3] Matthew 6:1-4

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LIII) 09/24/21

3:10 So now we can tell who is a child of God and who belongs to Satan. Whoever lives a sinful life and doesn’t love their brother or sister shows that they are not part of God’s family.

Ronald R. Williams (1906-1970) says that what the Apostle John writes here may cause us to think that we must keep to ourselves with much self-restraint to maintain a holy, sanctified life. However, the Apostle John says that the person genuinely living right according to God’s Word spends most of their time selflessly giving and sharing in love. You have to read John 3:16 and then read 1 John 3:16 to appreciate this principle.[1]

Paul W. Hoon (1910-2000) comments that we can strive for victory by leaning on the Anointed One’s success while here on earth. Then we can enlist in the battle for living right, starting at forgiveness and the renewed power we received to do right, which the grace of God in the Anointed One brought about by faith in the believer’s soul. That means the struggle to live a holy life can only be won by those who, through grace, are in union with the Anointed One.[2]

Rudolf Schnackenburg’s (1914-2002) comments that this allows us to imagine these practical facts: We are not born knowing how to lie, cheat, steal, hate, be prejudiced, or be biased. It is something we acquire. The same is true of righteousness and sinfulness. These differentiating characteristics are apparent when discerning the children of God from the devil’s offspring. Another thing is to note that they are called the devil’s brood because the Scriptures never say, “born of the devil.” Therefore, they are devilish by nature. Since the Anointed One is the truth-teller and the devil a liar, it should be easy to tell who belongs to whom.[3]

There are many questions today about “the seed,” “fundamental beliefs,” “our new spiritual nature,” the “Holy Spirit,” and the “Word of God.” It is a combination of the three, which produces new life. Because these things are in the believer, they cannot sin habitually. Here then are the four distinctions of God’s children and the devil’s brood of vipers.

Those who do not practice righteousness are not of God. There is no in-between, no gray area. None are half in and half out. In contrast, God’s children are known by these spiritual factors. The Apostle John now reverts to the subject of love, which he discussed in chapter two.

Sakae Kubo, who received his PhD in New Testament and Early Christian literature from the University of Chicago, wrote that if we place “No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in them, and they cannot sin because they are born of God,”[4] alongside, “My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus the righteous Anointed One,”[5] we would either have to admit that the first quote from verse nine in chapter three is contradicted by the second quote from verse one in Chapter two, or to understand the first line in the present tense of being a habit, in contrast to the aorist (ongoing) tense of the second line. Thus, “They cannot sin” is not understood absolutely, but in the sense of, “They cannot continue in a habitual life of sin.” However, some have questioned whether such an explanation is entirely satisfactory. To have a more precise distinction of tenses would require further guidance.[6]

John Stott (1921-2011) says that the Apostle John now proceeds to the second part of his elaboration of the moral test, and this time links righteousness with Christ’s past appearing. His argument for the indispensable necessity of holy living is now drawn, not from the expectation of the Lord’s second coming, when we shall see Him and become like Him, but from the purpose of his first coming, which was to remove sins and to destroy the works of the devil. John repeats the argument each time with a different emphasis.[7]

 Verses 4-6Verses 8-9
The introductory phrase:Everyone who sins (4)He who does what is sinful (8)
The theme:The nature of sin is lawlessness (4)The origin of sin is the devil (8)
The purpose of the Anointed One’s appearing:… He appeared soThe reason the Son of God was manifested
 that He might take away our sins (5) was to destroy the devil’s work (8)
The logical conclusion:No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning (6)No one who is born of God will continue to sin (9)

John Phillips (1927-2010) feels that the story of the prodigal son[8] is an excellent example of what the Apostle John is saying here. In the prodigal’s wildest days, his heart was far from his earthly and heavenly fathers. After the prodigal son returns, and his earthly father gave a banquet to commemorate his wayward son’s return while the angels in heaven rejoiced.[9] Then comes the elder brother and complains that his earthly father never gave him so much as a baby goat to celebrate with his friends.[10] That’s when his father admonished him by saying, “Son, you’ve always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.”[11] [12]

Philip W. Comfort (1950) argues that the main tension in the Christian’s life is dealing with sin. Various theological theories have been proposed, from the total eradication of corruption upon the new birth and sanctification on the one hand to the acceptance of evil as a permanent factor on the other. Comfort says that although believers are absolutely and forgiven of sin, the scars are still visible. The Anointed One died to deliver and redeem us from sin’s penalty; now He lives to save the believer from sin’s power.

When we become new creatures in the Anointed One, says Comfort, and have a unique divine principle implanted in us. At the same time, the Holy Spirit is constantly at work purifying and cleansing the old nature’s leftover pollution and contamination of sin that is offensive to the new spiritual nature. By doing so, the believer grows and matures more and more into the image of the Anointed One. It becomes impossible to love and serve God in purity according to God’s Word while we still wade in the cesspool of sin’s impurities.[13]

Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) sees verse ten as a transition from the previous section, in which John set out a proactive condition for living as God’s children by renouncing sin. That leads to the present passage, in which John describes the second condition as naturally optimistic through obedience. It all has to do with to whose family we belong. God’s family is renowned for living by the Word of God and doing His will even when it becomes uncomfortable. At the same time, the devil’s brood pays no attention to the Gospel and feels that being told what they cannot do is a form of divine bullying. So, they go their way instead of God’s way.[14]

Edward Malatesta (1932-1998) says that those who continue sinning are no longer God’s children. They have forgotten all about the Rock who saved them, the God who gave them birth. How can you be a child of God when you reject His only Son? Furthermore, no matter how much you may claim that you are in union with the Anointed One, the fact that you do not love your fellow believer is a sure sign you are one of Satan’s horde. Not only do we live our lives for God and His Son, but we live our lives for each other.[15]

James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) states that the Apostle John is calling for sound thinking. Just like, you cannot be a citizen of any country unless you have a birth certificate showing you were born there. And you cannot get in or out of that country without that country’s passport. So likewise, you cannot claim to be born of God without showing any proof that you love your brothers and sisters more than you love yourself. As they say, this is not a gray area. It is Light or darkness. The children of God and the devil’s brood coexist here on earth; that’s why it is essential to know the difference between the two. So, John says it’s not just saying you love God that identifies you, but that you also love your fellow believers.[16]

I remember my father telling how he brought us back from Germany to the United States in 1952 aboard the ship USS America. The call when out for everyone to come on deck to have their passports and visas checked. When we arrived, there was a line completely around the boat. It looked like this was going to take a long time. But he heard over the loudspeaker, “All those with American Passports, come to the front of the line.” As we walked past hundreds of passengers, they looked at us with envy. When my father presented our passports, the immigration agent went over them and then stamped, “Approved for entry.” We were then able to go back to our cabin and wait for the ship to dock. That’s when American citizens were allowed to disembark first. My dad saw this as an illustration of those on Judgment Day, all wanting to enter heaven. But only those with heavenly passports can get in. And the visa they carry reads: “Has brotherly love. Approved for entry.”


[1] Williams, Ronald R., Letters of James and John, op. cit., p. 38

[2] Hoon, Paul W., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., p. 260

[3] Schnackenburg, Rudolf, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 176-177

[4] 1 John 3:9

[5] Ibid. 2:1

[6] Sakae, Kubo, Ethics in Higher Education, Globethics Library

[7] Stott, John. The Letters of John (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), op. cit., pp. 124-125

[8] Luke 15:25-32

[9] Ibid. 15:10

[10] Ibid. 15:29

[11] Ibid. 15:31

[12] Phillips, John, Exploring the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 103-104

[13] Comfort, Philip W., Cornerstone Biblical Commentary Series, op. cit., pp. 351-352

[14] Smalley, Stephen S., Word Biblical Commentary pp. 179-181

[15] Malatesta, Edward, Interiority and Covenant, op. cit., pp. 259-251

[16] Boice, James Montgomery, Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 90

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LII) 09/23/21

3:10 So now we can tell who is a child of God and who belongs to Satan. Whoever lives a sinful life and doesn’t love their brother or sister shows that they are not part of God’s family.

Charles Hodge (1797-1878) agrees that we are the object of God’s agape-love, for the Anointed One died for us. The gift of the Anointed One to be sacrificed on our behalf is everywhere in Scripture represented as the highest possible or conceivable proof of God’s love for sinners.[1] Therefore, the objection that this Church doctrine means the death of the Anointed One resulted in procuring the love of an unloving God is without foundation or even its shadow.[2]

William Alexander (1824-1911) says that once more, the Apostle John’s Christianity proves to be more than a humanitarian sentiment to encourage cultivation yet is deeply pervaded by a sense of the vital connection of practical human love with God’s agape-love. So, it was the case for most liberal thinkers until they came to the words – “We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love our fellow Christians.” They immediately closed the book, pronouncing that this verse was likely added to disturb the family of God’s peace of mind. Still, John puts humanitarianism in its rightful place as a result of something higher. “We have this commandment from Him, that they who love God love their brother and sister also.” It is almost as if John said, “do not sever the law of social life from the law of supernatural life; do not separate the human fraternity from Divine Fatherhood.”[3]

Brooke Westcott (1825-1901) sees the Apostle John sharply dividing the world into two spiritual classes – the Upper Class and the Lower-Class. The Upper-Class walks in the Light of truth, while the Lower Class wanders around in the darkness of ignorance. But just as important, there is no twilight Middle Class. No one can live with one foot in the Light and the other foot in the darkness. Therefore, one class is justified for everlasting union with God; the other is condemned to eternal separation. This way, all mankind can see what they really are.[4] For that which God kept secret will be revealed before the world’s eyes.[5] [6]

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) chose verses one through ten here in chapter three for exposition. He says when any chapter or verse in Scripture begins with “Behold!” you may read some with a glance if you like, but when you see “Behold,” you must stop there. Place a marker to remind you there is something highly worthy of attention buried beneath these words. So, not only does the Apostle John tell us to behold the Father’s love, but the “manner” in which He expressed that love.

So, says Spurgeon, consider who we were, and who we are now, and what we feel ourselves to be, especially after the power of divine grace transformed us. That is why His beloved are called “the children of God.” Spurgeon heard that when a convert in India was translating this verse, he stopped and said, “No; it cannot be; let it be written ‘Subjects,’ not ‘Sons,’ for it is impossible we should be called ‘the sons of God.’” What a lofty relationship, with extraordinary privileges and special rights, a son enjoys with his father, says Spurgeon! Oh, what obedience the son owes to his father, and what love the father feels towards the son! But all that, and more than that, we now possess through the Anointed One. “Behold!” you angels! Stop, you seraphs! Here is a thing more incredible than heaven, with its walls of jasper. Behold, universe! Open your eyes, O world! When you see the Church, you see God’s family here on earth.[7]

James J. Lias (1834-1923) comments that in so far as we possess the will to become what we will be, we are renewing day by day our covenant with God, with the attitude of self-surrender. It involves our union with the Great Head of the Church regarding what we are hoping for and daily desiring to become. It is what is meant by “justification” in Pauline logic. In this sense, John can say, in agreement with the facts, “We have passed from being morally dead to being spiritually alive.[8]

Lias goes on to say that the Apostle John wrestled with these issues that continually faced believers of being between the Light of truth and the darkness of ignorance. Meanwhile, the Apostle Paul frequently had the same struggle.[9] But, of course, each point of view has its advantages. For example, Paul’s case displays God’s mercy with humanity, which is necessary for dealing with souls. But John’s view has this advantage: it highlights the object at which the Anointed One’s Gospel aims. That object is nothing less than the Spirit’s endeavor to disentangle each soul from the trap of evil habits into the condition of likeness to the Anointed One in His sinlessness, into the “glorious liberty of the children of God.”[10]

George G. Findlay (1849-1919) comments on how simple the Apostle John’s views are of life! For him, the complexities of human nature, the baffling mixtures, and contradictions of character scarcely exist. When the ultimate analysis is reached, people will be separated into two classes and no more – the sheep and the goats – at the judgment seat of the Anointed One.[11] We are the subjects of two warring kingdoms, the offspring of two opposing ancestors; no third category exists. The undecided must and will decide. The soul ends up either in heaven or hell. Right or wrong, love or hate, God or Satan, eternal life or death – these are the alternatives that John never ceases to press upon us. Through the whole Epistle, the duel goes on between these master-powers; at each turn, the Light of God’s Love and the night of Satanic hate confront each other; one chases the other from verse to verse of this paragraph.[12]

C. H. Dodd (1884-1973) explains that to be born of God means to belong to God. It also implies being in union with God, having His Word in us to do what’s right according to His will. All these stands on the one side of a dividing line: there is no alternative. If you are not living right, then you are living wrong. When you don’t belong to God, you are the devil’s property. Unless you act like a child of God, but as an offspring of the devil, you cannot claim to be part of God’s family and ignore the Gospel. It contradicts your claim to be in union with Him. The problem is that while you acknowledge your sin yet, you consciously continue sinning. The Apostle John establishes one fundament point: When we face the facts of personal experience, our pattern in life must complement the design given to us by Jesus the Anointed One. The actual and the ideal way of living for God must coincide. However, while we contemplate this perfect sanctified life, it is best to understand the basis for the truth upon which our actual life is in union with God.[13]

Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) says that in this discourse by the Apostle John on brotherly love, he compares the children of God with the devil’s brood. It is not very complicated, says Bultmann, if you do not live right, that is, according to God’s Word, you are not in union with Him. But John does not stop there; he goes on to say that if you say you love God but do not love your fellow believer, God does not recognize you as one of His children.[14]

Greville P. Lewis (1891-1976) points out that regenerated believers are thereby children of God. Therefore, since degenerated sinners are not children of God, they must be the devil’s offspring. But to make sure his readers understand, the Apostle John offers a practical test to distinguish one group from the other. First, those who do not live right are not children of God. But for John, the words “living right” is too vague, so he follows it up with this: “If you do not love your fellow believers, then God has nothing to do with you.”[15]

Amos N. Wilder (1895-1993) says that verse ten is a second part of the test in verse seven – living right – then equates this with loving our fellow believers, which becomes the theme of the next passage.[16]

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) states that the Final Covenant never calls on us to do anything without first reminding us of who we are. Here is its unchangeable method: Doctrine equals practicing one’s spiritual position to achieve a practical posture. Thus, we have Doctrinal Theology (Romans) and Practical Theology (Galatians). That is what the Apostle John is doing here. In other words, he does not ask people to love one another before he reminds them of the fact that they are God’s children. It’s John’s way of saying, “If you claim to be this, but you act like that, your claim is logically incorrect.” It’s the same as, “You claim you’re telling the truth when all along you know you are lying!”[17]


[1] John 3:16; 1 John 3:16; 4:9-10

[2] Charles Hodge: Commentary on Romans, op. cit., p. 211

[3] Robertson, William, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, op. cit., loc. cit.

[4] Matthew 12:16; Acts of the Apostles 7:13; 1 Corinthians 11:19

[5] Mark 4:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10ff

[6] Westcott, Brooke: Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 108

[7] The Spurgeon Sermon Collection: Vol. 1, Sermon 62E, p. 316

[8] Lias, James J., The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, op. cit., p. 242

[9] Romans 7:7-24

[10] Ibid. The First Epistle of St. John with Homiletical Treatment, op. cit., pp. 242-243

[11] Matthew 25:31-46

[12] Findlay, G. G. (1909). Fellowship in the life Eternal: An Exposition of the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 273-274

[13] Dodd, C. H., The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 81

[14] Bultmann, Rudolf, A Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 53-54

[15] Lewis, Greville P., The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 82

[16] Wilder, Amos N., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., p. 260

[17] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn, Life in Christ, op. cit., p. 336

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LI) 09/22/21

3:10 So now we can tell who is a child of God and who belongs to Satan. Whoever lives a sinful life and doesn’t love their brother or sister shows that they are not part of God’s family.

COMMENTARY

Ignatius of Antioch (108-140 AD) asks us to consider those holding a different opinion with respect to the grace of the Anointed One which has come to us, and how opposed they are to the will of God. They have no regard for love; no care for the widow, or the orphan, or the oppressed, or the prisoner, or the free; the hungry, or the thirsty.[1]

We have a challenging thought expressed by Rabbi Hamnuna-Saba (circa 200-300 AD) when he said that just as the spiritual world of Israel is different from the material world of Israel, so the people of Israel have sometimes left the spiritual world for this world. And when the children of Israel correct their actions, they cause the land of Israel to be filled with God’s Light, and He will build her with His Light and unite with her face-to-face. As a result, the children of Israel of our world will be redeemed and returned to their land.[2]

John Tillotson (1630-1694), archbishop of Canterbury, says that we should consider on what grounds do sinful people place their false hopes that everything is well with their souls. (1) Some rely on the profession of the Christian faith and their baptism. But this is so far from being an exemption for a good life, that requires a sincere obligation. (2) Others trust their external devotion; they frequent the church and constantly pray to Him, hear His Word, and receive the blessed sacrament. But this falls short of making amends for the sinfulness of their lives; it spoils God accepting their so-called devotion. (3) Others are insensible and rebellious, depending on their future repentance, especially if they set times for their obligatory request for forgiveness. There is no doubt, but, that sincere repentance will put a person into a godly condition. However, no repentance is genuine but that which produces a real reformation in a person’s life. (4) Others satisfy themselves by exercising particular virtues such as justice, generosity, and charity. And it is not the case that pitying others will make your life holy while keeping other parts from being cleansed. (5) Some who are very careful of their outward appearance are still conscious of great secret vices that lie within them. And when they can find no comfort from the testimony of their conscience, they are apt to find relief in the reasonable opinions of others on how to excuse these shortcomings. But if we know we are inwardly corrupt, it is not the advice of others that can either alter or better our condition.

Trust nobody, says Tillotson, concerning yourself rather than you because nobody can know you so well as you know yourself. Wishful thinking and admiration by others do little good to a person with a bad attitude. (1) Some are afraid that they are already condemned for eternity and therefore cannot be God’s children. But no one who find the marks of rebellion in themselves has any reason to think of themselves as rejected by God – having an evil heart and impure life, either from eternity or in time. (2) Good people are conscious of many frailties and imperfections; therefore, they are ashamed of their condition. But God’s grace considers this and requires no other obedience to accept them just as they are. He is more concerned about what this state of imperfection is capable of doing to them. (3) They are afraid their obedience is not sincere because it proceeds many times from fear and not always out of pure love for God.

The answer to this is made plain in the Scriptures, notes Tillotson; God is aware of several reasons people are obedient: some out of fear, many in hope, and others with love. God intended they should all work together for their good. (4) Another case is that some believing people doubt their born-again state. It comes from a sense of the inconsistent performance of religious duties and the cooling of their affections towards God. But we can take comfort in the fact that God does not measure a person’s sincerity by the rise and fall of their affection. Instead, by their constant efforts to change and the motives for their actions. (5) Another cause of these doubts is that people expect more than a reasonable assurance of their status with God by some particular revelation, an extraordinary impression upon their minds. God may give this when, and to whom He pleases, but there are no Scriptures that make such a promise. (6) As for sometimes feeling downhearted, it is not a top-priority case. Therefore, it does not fall under any particular rule or guidelines.

Likewise, writes Tillotson, some have feelings about being good but don’t possess the desire to put them into action. The proper counseling that should be given to them to bring peace to their mind is, by all means, to encourage them to go ahead and fulfill their resolutions. They must be more attentive and guard themselves against sin and resist it with all their might.

In conclusion, states Tillotson, first we must learn the great danger of sins of omission as well as commission. Secondly, it is evident from what the Apostle John has said that nothing is more foolish than living in sin and pretending to be God’s child with hopes for eternal life. Thirdly, you can see the great indicator of a person’s good or bad spiritual condition: “Whoever does what is right is of God,” and “whoever does not do what is right is not of God.”

Matthew Henry (1662-1714) helps us understand the vividness of the Apostle John’s words when he says that those who are born of God do not sin. It draws a fine line between probable sinning and possible sinning. Every believer must admit that there may be a possibility under certain circumstances, no matter how remote, they would unknowingly break the law. But never would they count that a probability because they lacked the self-control needed to avoid sinning. Henry goes on to say that once born again, that Light in the believer’s mind helps them see more clearly the evil and malignity of sin. Furthermore, there is a particular bias in their heart that motivates them to despise and hate sin; and there is the essential spiritual principle that breaks the force and fullness of their sinful tendencies.[3]


Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) addresses how God now expects everyone to take notice of His hand in this mighty work of Grace. They should also acknowledge His glory in it and greatly rejoice in it, everyone doing their utmost, in the place where God planted them in, to promote it. But unfortunately, there are many instances the zealous promoters of God’s grace have been rejected. The truth is that when people continue to reject the Anointed One and do not confess their belief in Him, no matter how they were awakened to reality, and however strict, conscientious, and devoted they may be in their religion, God’s wrath and judgment await them.

They are now His enemies, says Edwards, and part of the devil’s seed; (as the Scripture calls all who do not confess and converted.)[4] Therefore, it is uncertain whether they will ever obtain mercy. God is under no obligation to show them mercy, nor will He, even if they fast and pray and beg.  As incredible as it may seem, they are provoking God by standing against His Son and are unwilling to accept Him as their Savior, though they realize how much they need Him. And seeing this is the truth, someone must tell them to awaken them to the reality of their lost condition.[5]

James Macknight (1721-1800) is of the opinion that the Apostle John uses the term “brother” here to include all of humanity, not just Christians. He acknowledges that the word “brother” in verse fourteen signifies fellow Christian believers, but in verses fifteen and sixteen, John does not point to Christians in particular. Therefore, it is evident that we should take the word brother here in the larger context neighbor. It becomes even more apparent in verse seventeen.[6] It would undoubtedly harmonize with what John wrote about in his Gospel.[7]

Thomas Scott (1747-1821) says that we should notice that all who are not “regenerated” children of God are part of the degenerate in the devil’s brood. Actually, they imitate the devil who has been “sinning from the beginning,” and no doubt if they die unchanged, they will join him in his eternal punishment.[8] For the “Son of God” was manifested to tear down the devil’s empire. Yet, there are many in whose hearts the works of the devil are still active.[9] They continue being proud, selfish, sensual, malicious, envious, and remain alienated from the life of devotion, purity, and righteousness.[10] As such, they cannot receive the unique benefit of the Anointed One’s incarnation.[11]

Charles Finney (1792-1875) discusses the evidence of regeneration, whereby saints and sinners are different. The degenerate sinner is overcome by sin, while the regenerated saint overcomes sin. The Apostle John makes that clear here in verses three through ten and again in chapter five, verses one through four. When correctly understanding these passages and interpreting them would teach that all regenerate souls overcome and live without sin, and that sin is impossible. This last circumstance and other parts of scripture forbid us to change this from a guideline into a mandate. But this much must be understood and acknowledged; overcoming sin is the rule for everyone born of God. The regenerated habitually lives without sin and falls into wrongdoing only at intervals. These incidents are so few, and far between that, we can say that sinning was never their intention. Nevertheless, the spirit of these texts does not imply that “sinlessness” should become a mandate.[12]


[1] Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnæans, Ch. 6

[2] The Zohar, Translated by Rav Michael Laitman, Published by Laitman Kabbalah Publishers, Toronto, 2007, The Letters of Rabbi Hamnuna-Saba, the [Hebrew] Letter Peh, p. 157

[3] Henry, Matthew: Commentary on the Whole Bible, First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 846

[4] Matthew 13:38

[5] Works of Jonathan Edwards: Vol. 3, Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England, Section 4, Part 3, p. 83

[6] James Macknight: First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 72-73

[7] John 3:16

[8] Note Mathew 25:41, 46

[9] See Galatians 5:19-21

[10] Ibid. 5:22-25

[11] Thomas Scott: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 495

[12] Charles Finney: Systematic Theology, 1878 Edition, Lecture 30, pp. 387-388

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson L) 09/21/21

3:10 So now we can tell who is a child of God and who belongs to Satan. Whoever lives a sinful life and doesn’t love their brother or sister shows that they are not part of God’s family.

Earlier in the chapter, John said, “it does not appear what we shall be,”[1] yet in this passage, he says that the children of God are “manifest.”  Thus, it is already abundantly clear what a Christian in fellowship with God is. They stand in stark contrast to what the world believes. Not all the devil’s brood sin crudely. Some sin in sophisticated ways.  Not all of them are violent or openly immoral. Some are very religious and ethical. The devil’s spokesmen are “ministers of self-righteousness.”[2] They come draped in religious robes of culture and high morality. Jesus said to some of the most religious people of His day that they were of their father, the devil.[3] Jesus told one Jewish religious leader that he needed to be “born again.[4]

This is not meant to project the idea that “the children of God” are better than non-Christians.  Our tendency to sin is just as bad as any non-Christian. We are far from perfect except for our judicial perfection in the Anointed One – justification. A follower of the devil might pray regularly and attend church every Sunday. They can clean up the exterior of their lives so that they appear to be right in God’s eyes. They have a form of righteousness but not the righteousness of God.[5] The devil goes around sowing his seed among God’s people. That is why we have weeds with the wheat. It is essential to distinguish between genuine believers and false adherents.[6]

Look at your life. If you hate someone, are bitter toward them, or resent them, you are definitely out of step with God’s Word. When our capacity to sin controls us, we appear no different from the non-Christian. We may say all the right things and look pious or spiritual, but we are out of fellowship with God and other believers. We might give generously and witness continuously, but we are not in union with the Anointed One. Again, we are no different from the non-Christian except that we possess eternal life, which must be displayed. The word “manifest” means open to sight, visible, evident. The evidence is plain to see. It is obvious to all.  It should be easy for anyone who wants to examine the evidence to see it clearly in view. The presence or absence of sin makes it apparent under to whose rule they live.

The Christian living under the influence of sinful tendencies manifests their actual master – themselves, even though they try to conceal the fact that their old nature is in control. But, on the other hand, the Christian in fellowship with God manifests a unique mindset, a proper way of thinking that produces love for their fellow believers. So likewise, a member of the devil’s brood reveals their true sinful nature, a spiritless religion, and a code of situation ethics. We can identify their genuine relationship by this: they live and walk according to the satanic worldview.[7] The principle involved here is that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the one manifestation of fellowship with God and others.

Let’s look at it this way; humans are like containers. They cannot produce divine life within themselves. They need God to fill that vessel with His divine nature, giving them the capacity to fellowship with Him. As Augustine of Hippo (354-430) AD said, “Man is restless until he finds his rest in You.”[8]  God made man for Himself. French philosopher and theologian Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) said, “He [Man] in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.[9] In modern terms, it means you have a hole in your life that only God can fill.

So, we see that unbelievers produce not only sins but also self-righteousness with their capacity to sin. It is difficult to distinguish between a non-Christian who adheres to human morality and a believer out of fellowship with God manufacturing moral righteousness. So, what makes a Spirit-filled believer different from a non-Christian when it comes to what moral code they are using?  If non-Christians have righteous behavior patterns, what makes God’s child different?  It isn’t a new smile on their faces, although that might be a minimum effect.

Only one thing makes a difference: the Christian has the indwelling Holy Spirit who manifests Himself by controlling their behavior. If the Spirit does not influence their lives, no one will know if He is there or not. But, on the other hand, when the Holy Spirit is in control, He reproduces the character of the Anointed One that hinges on divine, self-sacrificing love.[10]

Righteousness involves a right relationship with God. Fellowship with God rests on what God sees as being right. God’s children bear characteristic marks that disclose their true nature. Anyone who does not manifest any standards for living right covers up their spiritual nature. Thus, a believer in fellowship with God produces the very character of the Anointed One.

The word righteousness is sometimes too vague, so John specifies righteousness as meaning – loving a fellow believer. Love is the appropriate manifestation of divine nature. The absence of any expression of knowing what is right indicates a person is not walking in fellowship with God. A loveless believer cannot commune with God, who in His very essence is love. Therefore, not loving our brother and sister is a specific case of not exhibiting divine righteousness. Likewise, the lack of love for fellow Christians indicates the absence of fellowship with God. An important manifestation of fellowship with God is the love of fellow Christians.[11] Thus, we can distinguish between a Christian and a non-Christian by whether they have genuine communion with God.

So, how do we apply this to our lives? There is a method for determining whether we operate out of our tendency to sin or our divine ability to resist sinning. The inner nature of the godly “seed” will manifest itself in “doing what’s right” and “love.” Thus, the essence of righteousness [fellowship with God] manifests itself in love. Love is the distinct badge of being a believer. It is what decisively distinguishes a believer from an unbeliever.[12]

It means that while you love Christians who love you, you also love Christians who do not love you. You love the Christians who are friendly and easy to get along with and those who frustrate you time and time again. You love those who communicate with you, and those won’t talk to you at all. If we love our fellow Christians, we take care of how we treat them. If someone says that they love their fellow Christian at church but avoids them in public, it is apparent that they do not love their fellow believer. There is a correspondence between what we say about love and what we do with love.[13]

We can know that a person walks with God by their love for fellow Christians. Only God can give us true righteousness and love. He fills the container called the believer with the dynamics of who He is. Therefore, sin does not appeal to the Christian like it once did. They now have a sin allergy. They develop irritation anytime they are around sin. Furthermore, they want to avoid grieving the Holy Spirit.[14]  Peace flees their soul when they step out of fellowship with God. They cannot leave it unresolved. They must confess their sin immediately.[15]

The non-Christian has no desire or capability to do what is right in God’s eyes because they do not possess a divine nature. They may do good in a relative sense, according to how society measures goodness. A genuine believer always does what’s right that is acceptable to God’s standard of righteousness. They act according to God’s character, attributed to them. It is God-produced righteousness, not manufactured righteousness. After God imputes His righteousness to the believer, He can exercise that new nature to produce His personality according to His norms. God’s love will deliver love through His child when that child walks in fellowship with God’s Son. A person without God is essentially selfish. Unselfish love manifests God’s self-sacrificing love. Generous love proves that a believer is in fellowship with God.

Certain historic Christian moral convictions have become increasingly unpopular in recent years. In some places, people now consider traditional religious views to be wrongheaded, intolerant, and unloving. Therefore, Christians need to know how they are perceived, not because they hold fast to God’s truth that people disagree with, but because they are uncaring, snobbish, and cold-hearted. 


[1] 1 John 3:2

[2] 2 Corinthians 11:14

[3] John 8:39-47

[4] Ibid. 3:3, 7

[5] 2 Timothy 3:5

[6] Matthew 13:36-39

[7] See Matthew 23:15; Acts of the Apostles 13:10; Ephesians 2:1-3

[8] Augustine, Confessions, Bk. 1. Chap. 1. ⁋1

[9] Pascal, Blaise: Pensées, E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., New York, 1958, p. 113

[10] Romans 5:5

[11] Galatians 5:14-15

[12] John 13:34-35

[13] 1 John 2:9

[14] Ephesians 4:30

[15] 1 John 1:9

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XLIX) 09/20/21

3:9 The person who has been born into God’s family does not make a practice of sinning because now God’s life is in them; so, they can’t keep on sinning, for this new life controls them – they have been born again.

David Legge (1969) tells us that a habitual sinful lifestyle displays the lack of the Holy Spirit’s control and guidance. It is lawlessness, a denial of the Anointed One’s character and His cross; it betrays an absence of His presence in our lives and proves our true spiritual parentage. Now, there’s great debate over what “his seed remains in him” means. Some people view it as the new nature imparted to us at salvation, others trust it is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and some interpret it to mean the seed of God’s Word – we’re not born-again by corruptible seed, but by incorruptible, the Word.[1] It signifies all of those, but it essentially implies the new life we have in the Anointed One, the seed of God’s life in us. Thus, it should read, “His seed remains in them.” For Legge, John says: if God put that in us, it will remain. Finally, there’s the verse for people who believe you can be saved one moment and lost the next. They argue that if you say it will remain permanently, then that is a license to “go out and live as you please.” No, it’s not! For John declares that the evidence that God’s life and seed remain in us is a life of holiness and not a life of unholiness.[2]

Douglas Sean O’Donnell (1972) agrees that we will become like Jesus when we meet Him on resurrection day. However, between His first and second appearances, we remain in the Anointed One and resemble Him, so we can look more like Jesus. He is the Righteous One who produces righteous ones – those who practice righteousness, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning.”[3] Those to whom God gives spiritual birth He does not abandon. Why? Two reasons – “for God’s seed abides in them,” and“they cannot keep on sinning because they have been born of God.” The Spirit keeps those baptized into union with the Anointed One clean, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians.[4] [5]

3:10 So, we can easily see who God’s children are and those who are part of the devil’s brood: Those who do not do what is right, and those who do not love their brothers and sisters are not God’s children.

EXPOSITION

This call to love our spiritual brothers and sisters was not new to the Apostle John’s theology. He heard the Master say that we should love one another. But our Lord went beyond that by telling them to love their enemies and do good to them. Lend to people without expecting to be repaid. If they do this, they will have a great reward. They will be children of the Most-High God. Yes, because God is good even to the people who are full of sin and not thankful.[6]

But that is not the only thing we can do to show that we are God’s beloved children. Since the Roman believers were having trouble loving each other, especially the Jewish and Gentile members, we also have the indwelling Spirit speaking to our spirits, ensuring that we are God’s children.[7] And as God’s children, we are to follow God’s example of loving those who don’t love us; we show that we are willing to do everything we can to imitate our heavenly Father.[8] So while it may be hard for some people to differentiate between real wheat and imitation wheat,[9] they will not be confused by those who are true sons and daughters of the Almighty and those who are not. That’s because the person who belongs to God will always accept whatever He says, while those who are not His children find joy in disobeying His Word.[10] And Paul adds that such a commandment can only come from a pure heart, clear conscience, and genuine faith.[11]

Therefore, the question whether the words “in this” (KJV) in verse ten refers to what precedes or to what follows are not essential to our understanding. Both are similar in meaning, and “in this” may apply to both. First, the children of God do what is right and do not sin; and second, the devil’s brood sin because they do nothing right. But, of course, moral parentage is the focus in both cases. Nothing here lends any credibility to viewing the Apostle John as a dualist who teaches that two principles coexist – being part of God and the devil. All, whether good or bad, are God’s creatures.[12] However, while all are His offspring by creation, some become His children spiritually while others remain members of Satan’s viper nest.

John’s teaching about the devil’s activity is not at all agreeable to those who dwell exclusively on the sunny aspects of the world and life and shut their eyes to what is dark and terrible. Such people feel assured when they hear of a great divine being who is all-gracious and loving. But, when they are informed about a wicked one who is the enemy of all that is gracious and loving, it shocks them. They suppose this was the thinking of uncivilized people until they learned more about God. Then, such thoughts disappeared as the population gained more knowledge of the Holy One.

Furthermore, the expression “the devil’s brood[13] must not be confounded with the Hebrew expressions: “children of darkness,”[14] As he does so often, John not only restates the case in a new form but adds a new thought to it – those who do not love their brother or sister. It forms the link with the next section in this chapter, on love in the family of God. It is the most conspicuous of all believers’ failures in doing what’s right – failing to love other Christians. The answer is the same as the one Jesus gave to the question, “who is my neighbor?”[15] – humanity at large. Consequently, we cannot limit the meaning of neighbor just to the children of God. Even verses fourteen and sixteen do not exclude unbelievers. 

This is confirmed by the fact that the opposing case in verse thirteen where the children of the world hate Christians. So, the true opposite of Christians loving Christians would be the children of the world hating one another. And by the example of the Anointed One in verse sixteen, who died for us when we were aliens from God. So, of course, if Christians must love all mankind, a fortiori, [16] they must love other Christians for sure.

After all, God’s children have the seed of divine nature at the core of their being. This nature directs their orientation to life. The non-Christian displays their true nature through sin and manufactured righteousness, but the believer cannot. The follower of the Anointed One cannot sin from the source of their divine nature because sin and God are mutually exclusive. It then leads to the principle that its fruit identifies a tree.

Such truth can only be applied when we have fellowship with the Lord and manifest the reality of Christianity to a lost and dying world. If we have hatred toward others or resent them, we cannot display the infilling of the Spirit. The world cannot see the power of God in us because our sin blinds their minds to the reality of God’s work in our lives. There is no difference between our behavior pattern and that of unbelievers in this case. Religious non-Christians behave morally. The Christian’s life is an open letter that God writes for the world to read. Fellowship with God is meant for nothing less than to display itself to the world. God does not write this letter using the authority of dead words of the law, but the power of the Spirit.[17]

As such, we find only two classes of people in the world – the children of God and those hatched by the devil. John distinguishes between God’s children and the devil’s offspring. There is an apparent distinction between them. All non-Christians are followers of the devil. Unbelievers are controlled by their capacity to sin. They do not possess a divine ability, so they cannot produce anything from God. The one thing that believers have that distinguishes them from non-Christians is their divine nature, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. However, the indwelling in itself is not enough; they must also allow the Holy Spirit to control and motivate them. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in a Christian at the moment of salvation. God never commands them to let the Spirit come in. However, God does command the true believer to be filled with the Spirit.[18]

Therefore, the thrust of verse ten is to show how to distinguish between absolutes. Christians can imitate the devil’s brood of vipers, or they can produce the character of the Anointed One. The personality of the unbeliever is one thing, and the temperament of God’s child is another. Always keep in mind, the Christian and the non-Christian have two different natures that produce two different results.


[1] 1 Peter 1:23

[2] Legge, David: Preach the Word, 1,2,3, John, op. cit., loc. cit., Part 9

[3] 1 John 3:9

[4] 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

[5] O’Donnell, Douglas Sean, 1-3 John (Reformed Expository Commentaries), op cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition.

[6] Luke 6:35

[7] Romans 8:16

[8] Ephesians 5:1

[9] Matthew 13:38

[10] John 8:47

[11] 1 Timothy 1:5

[12] John 1:3

[13] Matthew 12:34

[14] Isaiah 50:10-11

[15] Luke 10:29

[16] A fortiori: Latin for “an even stronger argument.

[17] See 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

[18] Ephesians 5:18

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

THE DANGER’S OF UNDICIPLINED IMAGINATION

French Bishop François Fénelon undoubtedly kept running into parishioners who found it hard to let go of the past and see the present as a stepping stone to the future. What occupied them so much was not something in their hearts or souls, but their minds. It had to do with them imagining things they weren’t sure if that could, perhaps, possibly, or conceivably happen. They ended up getting into a conversation with themselves, which only increased their hesitancy and doubt. So, the Bishop had these words for those dealing with this same kind of indecision and uncertainly. 

He said we should completely abstain from imaginary conversations with ourselves, even though some may tend to spark feelings of devotion. It can become a dangerous routine. People unconsciously move on to other things from such conversations, fostering excitement or encouraging a love for something other than God’s Word and Will. Therefore, it is far better to silence them all. That does not mean to should stop them forcibly – it would be like trying to stop a sudden downpour; it is enough to channel them into the ocean of forgotten thoughts.

When we perceive that our imagination begins to occupy our thinking, be satisfied with turning to God in prayer without directly dealing with these fantasies. Drop them immediately, occupy yourself by doing something helpful for others. If they come at a time of meditation, such idle thoughts should be treated as distractions. Dismiss them and return quietly to God as soon as you are conscious of them, but do so without anxiety, fear, or uneasiness.

If such imaginations trouble you when you are engaged in doing what’s right for others, keep working, and it will help you to resist such castle building. First, it would be good to find another person to talk to or set about to do some more engaging task, breaking the thread of such thoughts, which can become a habit.

It would help if you positively resisted this minor interruption. Treat it as a waste of time, like playing Russian Roulette, thereby voluntarily inviting temptation. Never yield to it willingly. Perhaps, owing to your tendencies, your imagination will still aggravate you with fantasies despite your best try. But in any event, do not yield to them. Try quietly to rid yourself of them when you become aware that they are bubbling up within your mind.

Written over 450 years ago

Vocabulary redacted by Dr. Robert R Seyda

The problem with our imagination is that it does not deal with facts, only with fiction – imaginary thoughts are not proof of anything. As the Apostle Paul put it so succinctly: Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about.[1]


[1] Philippians 4:8

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XLVIII) 09/17/21

3:9 The person who has been born into God’s family does not make a practice of sinning because now God’s life is in them; so, they can’t keep on sinning, for this new life controls them – they have been born again.

Archibald T. Robertson (1863-1934) says that the KJV translation “and he cannot sin” is incorrect. In English, this naturally means “and he cannot commit sin,” as if it were in the active ongoing tense. That is why the Greek verb hamartanō can only mean “and he cannot go on sinning indefinitely,” as is true of its use of hamartia in verses six and eight. A great deal of false theology has grown out of a misunderstanding of the tense of hamartia here in verse nine.

William Barclay (1907-1978) notes that this verse bristles with difficulties, yet it is essential to determine what it means. First, what does John mean by the phrase “because His seed abides in Him?” There are three possibilities. (1) The Bible frequently uses the word seed to mean a man’s family and descendants. (2) It is a human seed that reproduces human life, and children may be said to have their father’s seed in them. (3) There is a much simpler idea. Twice, at least in the Final Covenant, the words “of God” indicate bringing spiritual rebirth to men and women. James puts it this way: “God chose to give birth to us by giving us His living Word. And we, out of all creation, became His prized possession.”[1] Second, this verse presents us with the problem of relating it to certain other things John has already said about sin.[2]

Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) tells us that a Christian Native American explained what he sees the Apostle John is saying here, “I have two dogs living in me – a mean dog and a good dog. They are always fighting. The mean dog wants me to do bad things, and the good dog wants me to do good things. Do you want to know which dog wins? The one I feed the most!”[3] No doubt he was building this illustration on what we find in the Scriptures, referring to the old sinful-self and the new sanctified-self. The one you feed the most will exert the most significant influence over your behavior.

David H. Stern (1935) clarifies that no one who remains in union with the Anointed One and has God as their heavenly Father continues sinning. The Greek verb hamartanō used here in the present tense implies ongoing action. A number of English versions (among them KJV, the New English Bible, and the Jerusalem Bible) confuse readers by seeming to imply that believers are exempt from sin. For example, the Revised Standard Version: “No one who abides in Him sins…. No one born of God commits sin” … and “he cannot sin.” Yochanan (John) is not saying that once a person confesses faith in Yeshua, they will never again sin. John already makes this clear.[4]

On the contrary, says Stern, John’s point is that no believer should ever intend to sin, that they must not become a habitual sinner, that they cannot continue to reserve for themselves an area of their life devoted to sinful practices. Instead of being defensive and self-excusing, they ought to acknowledge their sins and renounce them. They should not exempt any behavioral pattern from continuous self-scrutiny. No one who has God as their Father keeps on sinning because the seed planted by Him remains in them. “The seed planted by God” is, literally, “His seed.” It refers to the seed of the Gospel, [5] the once-for-all spiritual awareness of who God is and what God wants from His human creatures. The context cannot justify interpreting “His seed” as not being God’s seed, but the person’s seed. From this misinterpretation springs pagan-styled heresies demanding celibacy and asceticism.[6]

Colin G. Kruse (1950) states that in this verse, the Apostle John clarifies that those born of God have been cleansed from their sins and can no longer continue to sin. It is the second of ten references to be being born of God in this epistle. Nowhere in this letter does the author describe what is involved in the process of being “born of God.” His interest is more practical. He is interested in the behavior of those born of God: that “they do right,” “do not sin,” “love one another,” “believe that Jesus is the Anointed One,” and “overcome the world.”[7] An understanding of the process of being born of God is best explained in John’s Gospel. There we find that being born of God is equivalent to becoming a child of God, something which ultimately can only be achieved by the will of God.[8] It is also described as being “born from above” or “born of the Spirit.”[9]

Putting these things together and allowing them to inform our understanding of the present verse, says Kruse, we may say that to be born of God here means being brought to new spiritual life by the will of God and through the agency of His Spirit. Of such people, says John, they can’t continue to sin. John uses a present tense form of the verb “to sinhamartan, indicating that sinning is an ongoing action impossible for those born of God.[10]

Bruce B. Barton (1954) At first glance, these words appear to completely contradict what John said earlier: “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves.[11] This passage states that those born into God’s family do not practice sinning. For John, they can’t keep on sinning because they are God’s children. So, do Christians sin, or don’t they? Experience tells those sinful tendencies exert influence on every Christian. For true believers, however, deep inside their spirits, they aspire not to sin. This motivation comes from the life of God within them. When they were “born again,” a new life was born inside.[12] Once Christians have this new life – they are a new creation through Jesus the Anointed One. Therefore, they do not desire to sin and completely renounce such lawbreaking because it is entirely incompatible with their new life. Although, at times, they may give in to temptation, they are continually fighting against it. Wrongdoing is still active, but it no longer has complete control over them. The Holy Spirit works, through the Word of God, to set His people apart from sin – to make them holy and pure, like the Anointed One.[13] [14]

Daniel L. Akin (1957) states that we can’t live like new people without the new birth. Sin will dominate us. Satan will have his way with us. Hate and not love will fill our hearts. However, as a result of the new birth, the Bible says we cannot make “a practice of sinning,” and we “cannot keep on sinning because [we have] been born of God.[15] These are words that should impart both comfort and humility to us. We are comforted to know sin cannot and will not ultimately win in our lives.

We may stumble, says Akin, or even fall on occasions, but we know “the One who is in [us] is greater than the one who is in the world.”[16] Our Lord will pick us up and get us moving again in the right direction. We are destined to be like Jesus![17] Neither sin nor Satan will have the last word. These words also humble us because we would forever be enslaved to Satan and sin if not for the Anointed One’s atonement, advocacy, and ascendancy. Any righteousness we do flows from what the Anointed One poured into our lives through the new birth.[18]

David Guzik (1961) believes we can imagine the heart of God grieving over the destruction the devil has wrought over this earth, and grieving that mankind has allowed the devil to do it all. Jesus came to put a stop to all that by overcoming the devil completely by His life, His suffering, His death, and His resurrection. Note the purpose of Jesus: to destroy the works of the devil. Not to neutralize them, not to alleviate them, or not to limit them. Jesus wants to destroy the works of the devil! Many people are unnecessarily afraid of the devil, fearing what he could do against them. If they only knew that as we walk with Jesus, the devil is afraid of us! As we commune with Jesus, we can see Him destroy the works of the devil.[19]

Peter Pett (1966) says the plain fact is that if God birthed a person, God’s seed is within them. And those implanted with God’s seed have been made a partaker of the divine nature.[20] With the divine light and life active within, they are children of the Light.[21] Thus there is that inside them which rebels against sin and makes them detest the thought of sinning. Such a person does not want to be a sinner. They cannot continue carelessly sinning because they are born of God and have become a new creation.[22] It is against what they are now. Sin has become contrary to what they are as a new person. So, something new within them begins to say “no” to their sinful tendencies.[23]


[1] James 1:18

[2] Barclay, William: The New Daily Study Bible, op. cit., The Letters of John, pp. 90-91

[3] Wiersbe, Warren W., Be Real (1 John): Turning from Hypocrisy to Truth (The BE Series Commentary), op. cit. p. 114

[4] 1 John 1:5-2:2

[5] Matthew 13:1-23

[6] Stern, David H., Jewish New Testament Commentary, op. cit., Kindle Edition.

[7] 1 John 2:29; 3:9x2; 4:7; 5:1x3, 4, 18x2

[8] John 1:11-12

[9] Ibid 3:3, 5-8

[10] Kruse, Colin G., The Letters of John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition.

[11] 1 John 1:8

[12] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[13] 1 John 3:3; See also 5:18

[14] Barton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., pp. 69-70

[15] 1 John 3:9

[16] Ibid. 4:4

[17] Ibid. 3:2; Romans 8:29-30

[18] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary), op. cit., Kindle Edition.

[19] Guzik, David – Enduring Word, op. cit., p. 55

[20] 2 Peter 1:4

[21] John 12:36; Ephesians 5:8

[22] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[23] Pett, Peter: Truth According to Scripture, op. cit., loc. cit.

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XLVII) 09/16/21

3:9 The person who has been born into God’s family does not make a practice of sinning because now God’s life is in them; so they can’t keep on sinning, for this new life controls them – they have been born again.

A. M. Hills (1848-1931) talks about people’s doubts and opposing views concerning the doctrine of sanctification. These need to be reviewed and thoroughly investigated. Hills calls them “soothing syrup” for babies in the Anointed One. Some critics even accuse the Apostle John of writing contradictory statements in which he says in one place, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,[1] then here in verse nine, John states that “whoever is born of God does not sin.”

A clear understanding, notes Hills, comes from the fact that a group of false teachers had come to town who were leading church members astray. They were liars and antichrists. The Apostle Jude tells us they were “using the grace of God to cover lewd conduct,[2] and the Apostle Peter[3] warned, “many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality.” These people professed to have fellowship with God and yet led the most scandalous lives. Satan quickly persuaded them to develop another myth, namely, that their souls, being immaterial, had no sin, whatever their bodies might do, it did not need atonement. Sin could only defile their physical bodies, but could not affect their souls.

Such a philosophy inspired their listeners, says Hills. So, they plunged into all types of beastly excesses – gluttony, drunkenness, and immortality, still insisting that their souls remained untarnished amidst all this sensual sin, like a jewel in a pile of manure. When these people were turned toward the Anointed One and urged to believe, repent, and be saved, they sarcastically replied that they were not sinners – “had no sin” and “had not sinned.” Therefore, they had nothing to repent of, and, besides, the real Anointed One only appeared to be human, and the atonement was an illusion. As such, it was of no use to them. Yet, it was the very reason the Apostle John wrote this epistle, to save the churches from the assault of this seductive and Satanic error.

Hills goes on to say that John makes it clear if we say we have fellowship with Him [God] and “walk in the darkness of untruth” (as these vile seducers and their followers were doing), we cannot be serious.[4]But if we walk in the light – the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”[5] So also, if we say “we have no sin[6] or if we say “we have not sinned” (as these despicable, false teachers are saying while living in their shameless sins), “we deceive ourselves and make him a liar, and His word is not in us.”[7] In other words, John is saying, “We cannot practice injustice and have fellowship with God.” And if we say that we have never sinned and have no need of an atoning Savior and His forgiveness and cleansing, we are only fooling ourselves and imply that God is a liar. But if we humble ourselves in repentance and confess and forsake our sins, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all our wrongdoings.”[8] [9]

Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901) points out that the Apostle John clearly states that those born again by God’s grace do not sin, namely, do not practice sin. He next proceeds to unfold the cause of this fact, which is, “God’s seed remains in them.” The allusion here is not to seed scattered as in farming, but human reproduction. The same suggestion occurs in John’s Gospel: “They are reborn – not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.”[10] The seed of God is the divine life derived from Him and imparted by the Holy Spirit and awakened by the Word of God.

Cocke tells us to listen to what the Apostle Peter had to say: “For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. On the contrary, your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living Word of God.[11]In regeneration, that radical spiritual change in which God brings an individual from a condition of spiritual defeat and death to a renewed state of holiness and life, God’s seed, the life communicated to the dormant spirit, is infused through His Word. This Word is a living document that inspires holiness. So, life, then, not only continues and never dies entirely, but its nature is such that it is ever at war with sin. Sin cannot permanently triumph in the soul in which this living holy seed abides and exercises its sanctifying energies. Born of God, this life is in direct contradiction to sin.[12]

James Morgan (1859-1942) says that the effects that are declared to result from this new life are that a believer “does not sin” because they “cannot sin.” And, just as two illustrations were used to describe the change from human life into divine life, there are two assertions to declare the results. The one is the declaration of a fact, and the other is an argument to explain and confirm it. Thus, we observe here in verse nine what applies to every converted individual. “Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning.” Immediately we wonder how any of this makes any logical sense while simultaneously detecting a blessed truth to be found here.

Morgan agrees that we cannot apply this as a literal or universal reality. It is not true that every converted person never sins. We see people, whose conversion we do not doubt, do sinful things. And no converted individual will say they do not sin. It is of such people the Apostle John says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and are not telling the truth.”[13] But there is an essential sense in which this saying is true of every converted child of God. They want to avoid sinning knowingly, willfully, or habitually. Remember, King David, sinned. The same is true of the Apostles Peter, Paul, and John. Every one of them was ready to admit they sinned, but not one of them lived in sin. It was not their lifestyle. We know that temptation may surprise and overcome the believer, but they will not stay on such an evil course. They will not continue to do what they know to be contrary to God’s will.[14]

Christian lawyer Philip Mauro (1859-1952) taught on “Life in the Word” and says that we all know that it is of the first importance that a baby should have appropriate nourishment to grow. The same is true of spiritual nutrition. Other Scriptures testify with equal clearness to the great and glorious truth that those born of the Spirit, through the incorruptible seed of God’s Word, receive a similar nature to that of the Divine source of their spiritual life.

We find that in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman believers, notes Mauro, there is a section devoted to the “sons of God,” in whom the Spirit dwells.[15] There Paul declares that God predestined them “to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”[16] Here the truth of likeness with the Son of God is broadly stated. Other passages declare specific features included in this general likeness. Thus, the Apostle John states here in verse nine that “everyone born of God does not commit [or practice] sin; for His [God’s] seed remains in them, and they cannot sin because they are born [birthed] of God. We see this manifested in God’s children.”[17]

Robert Law (1860-1919) says that it is quite apparent that the doctrine of sin in the Apostle John’s First Epistle may be summarized as follows: Sin involves the person’s guilt. There are many ways to sin, but they all include breaking God’s Law by deviating from what is right. And all wrong, in its fundamental character, is a repudiation of the supremacy of moral obligation and a revolt against God’s holy will.[18]

William E. Shepard (1862-1930) states that long before the Apostle Paul wrote: “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of His wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?”[19] he repented of his sins. The Anointed One met him on the road to Damascus, struck him down under a mighty load of conviction, and shortly after that, he was a gloriously saved man. Every sin he ever committed was erased, never to be brought up and used against him. Now, the question arises, if he were the chief of sinners[20] at the time he wrote this text, did God give him a license to go back into his dreadful way of living, or did he deliberately take things into his hands and continue sinning? Neither one! He continued on the highway of holiness to its eternal exit.

Now notice, carefully, says Shepard, what the Apostle John says about sin: “No one who lives in Him [the Anointed One] keeps on sinning. Anyone who continues to sin has neither met Him nor gotten to know Him.”[21] If the Apostle Paul was the chief of sinners at the time of that writing, then, according to the Apostle John, he was not abiding in the Anointed One, had not seen Him, nor knew Him. But Paul declares that all these things were in the past. The same is true of us today. What is past has passed, and hopefully, we will never pass that way again.


[1] 1 John 1:8

[2] Jude 1:4

[3] 2 Peter 2:2

[4] 1 John 1:5-6

[5] Ibid. 1:7

[6] Ibid. 1:8

[7] Ibid. 1:10

[8] Ibid. 1:6-7

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

[10] John 1:13

[11] 1 Peter 1:23

[12] Cocke, A. R. (1895), Studies in the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 77-78

[13] 1 John 1:8

[14] Morgan, James (1865), An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 206-207

[15] Romans 8:9-16

[16] Ibid. 8:30

[17] The Fundamentals: R. A. Torrey, Editor, Vol. 2, Ch. 7, p. 163

[18] Law, Robert, The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 135

[19] Romans 6:1-2

[20] 1 Timothy 1:15

[21] 1 John 3:6; cf. 1 John 3:7-9

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XLVI) 09/15/21

3:9 The person who has been born into God’s family does not make a practice of sinning because now God’s life is in them; so, they can’t keep on sinning, for this new life controls them – they have been born again.

And in another work, John Wesley (1703-1791), writing on the life and death of theologian Thomas Halliburton, a Scottish reformation preacher, remarks that this great servant of God at sometimes fell back from the glorious liberty he received into the spirit of fear, sin, and bondage. But why did this happen? Because the hand of the Lord was limited? Certainly not! So, what did happen? Halliburton failed to stay in close union with the Anointed One. It means he did not hold on to the Lord with all his heart, soul, and mind, thus grieving the Holy Spirit that sealed his salvation.

Undoubtedly, some inattentive and unfaithful believers depart from the Anointed One’s guidance, says Wesley, leaving them weak and susceptible to temptation. But it may be said, “The Gospel covenant does not promise entire freedom from sin.” What do you mean by the word “sin?” Those numberless weaknesses and bad decisions are sometimes called “sins of unhealthy living?” But if you mean, “It does not promise entire freedom from sin or from committing sin,” this is by no means accurate unless the Scriptures are misleading. In verse nine, the Apostle John clearly states, “Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning.” That is, unless they are no longer motivated by the Spirit of adoption, not finally, but for a while. It’s what happened to this child of God, Halliburton, “because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning because they have been born of God.”[1] He cannot sin so long as “God’s Son, holds them securely, and the devil cannot get his hands on them.”[2]

Samuel E. Pierce (1746-1829) says that to understand what the Apostle John means by saying that anyone born of God does not sin, we must realize that those born of God do not sin as wicked people do. Furthermore, the forgiveness given to a regenerated person[3] is different from that given to an unregenerate person.[4] Regenerate individuals do not allow themselves to sin. It is accidentally and a surprise if they stumble into it: not out of purpose or determination. Their constant motivation and settled minds do not allow them to sin. When a born-again person sins, however, it is not with their full approval. They do not yield to it willingly. When it happens, they wish it were not so and would have gladly avoided it. What took place? It resulted from a conflict between their reborn spirit and their sinful tendencies. It brings them no joy nor delight. Instead, they grieve over their failure to remain faithful to God’s Word and Will. They end up complaining about it, mourning over it, and repenting of it. One thing is for sure, a true child of God does not continue in it. In fact, they turn away from it as soon as possible.[5]

An 18th-century British preacher named John Seymour (circa 1750-1840) once talked about those in his congregation who owned businesses. Suppose I went to your shop and asked you the price of a particular item. You would say it costs such and such. But, then, if I offer you one-half or two-thirds of what you have said is the price. You’d say, “I cannot take it.” Now, why can’t you take what I would pay you? It is not the lack of freedom in your will to decide on accepting my proposal, nor is it any missing authority to accept my offer. You have both. And yet, you repeat your former statement, “I cannot take it,” and you are telling the truth. You cannot take it because it would be below your cost to produce it. That would lead to bankruptcy and reduce you and your family to a lower standard of living. You cannot take it and be consistent with the market price and your business practices. The same is true of those who are born of God. They cannot afford to sin and remain in harmony with God. It would be outright rebellion against God and bring embarrassment, if not total ruin, upon their soul.[6]

William Lincoln (1788-1844) takes issue with those who say that the Apostle John says that those born of God are unable to become habitual sinners. I believe, says Lincoln, that the meaning seems apparent on the surface. The idea is that if you have the divine nature in you, it is just the same as the Anointed One’s nature, and you cannot sin. Let’s first apply it to the Anointed One Himself. You will admit that the Anointed One was born to Mary by the Spirit of God. Therefore, as God’s Son, He could not sin. It is not merely that He did not sin, but He could not sin.

Now, there is a doctrine drawn from the theology of the Irvingite’s[7] that says, even though the Anointed One did not sin, He could have sinned if He wanted to. I have often thought how Irving flatly contradicted the Scripture that says He “could not” instead of “would not.” It is a fact that you cannot get a ray of light tainted by shining it in a pond of polluted water. The light rays are so dissimilar to the stagnant water in the pond that you could not, however hard you may try, get the light as dirty as the water in the pond. So, likewise, it is impossible to contaminate the nature of God with the filthy nature of sin. So, as the Anointed One had the very divine essence of God. Yes, He was God’s Son, co-equal with the Father, He not only did not sin, but He could not sin. But, of course, we have our holy and unholy natures, and He had only one.[8]

Lincoln continues by saying that we know that there is something in us that is not born of God; of course, it not only sins but cannot do anything else but sin. We can keep it to a minimum, deaden its effect and bury it, for it cannot be mended. As we find out every day, our sinful nature remains bad until we are ultimately delivered at the resurrection. But our divine nature cannot possibly have any collaboration with sin.[9]

So let us take what Lincoln says and what Irving said and put them together. In other words, the nature of the Anointed One in us cannot sin, but the sinful tendencies in the flesh we inherited from Adam can be swayed by temptation to sin. Therefore, if you sin, it is not the Spirit of the Anointed One in you that is sinning; it is your flesh. So, that’s why John said if our flesh sins, and we confess that sin, then God is more than willing to cleanse us of that sin so that the Anointed One’s nature in us can live in freedom without bondage. That’s why the Apostle John urges us to keep ourselves clean and pure[10] so that we are ready when He calls our name in the resurrection. We prefer not to be like the five foolish virgins who ran out of oil for their lamps at the most inconvenient time.[11]

Philip Schaff (1819-1893) writes about the rise and progress of monasticism.[12] He talks about a particular opponent named Jovinian who was against asceticism (self-discipline practiced by monks and nuns in monasteries) in the Roman Catholic Church. He belonged to a group known as being liberal, almost Protestant in their concept of Christian morality, which set itself against the worship of Mary and the saints. However, this form of opposition against living in monasteries existed primarily in isolated cases and was more negative than positive in its character. It lacked the spirit of wisdom and moderation and almost entirely disappeared in the fifth century, only to be revived long after, in a more mature and comprehensive form, when monasticism had fulfilled its mission for the world. Some even compared Jovinian to Martin Luther.

According to Schaff, a priest, confessor, and theologian named Jerome (342-420 AD) had already pointed out four doctrines in Roman Catholic theology: (1) Virgins, widows, and married persons, baptized into the Anointed one, stand equal in Him, with other things in their conduct also being equal. (2) Those, who are full of faith born again by baptism, cannot be overcome by the devil. (3) There is no difference between abstaining from food and enjoying it with thanksgiving. (4) All, who keep the baptismal covenant, will receive an equal reward in heaven.

It was point two on which Jerome focused. It has an apparent affinity with the Augustinian and Calvinistic doctrine of the perseverantia sanctorum.[13] However, he did not refer to God’s eternal and unchangeable counsel, but simply based on what the Apostle John taught[14] and connected it with his concept of opposite moral states. With complete confidence, Jerome limits the possibility of those born again in baptism ever falling back into sin. He also distinguishes between mere water baptism and the baptism of the Spirit, which involves a distinction between the actual and the ideal church.[15]


[1] 1 John 3:9

[2] Works of John Wesley: Vol. 14, List of Works Revised and Abridged from Various Authors, p. 314

[3] John 3:16

[4] 1 John 1:9

[5] Pierce, S. E., An Exposition of the First Epistle General of John, op. cit., Vol. 1, pp. 388-389

[6] Seymour, John: The Biblical Illustrator, Vol. 22, First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 248

[7] The Irvingite’s were a religious sect named after Edward Irving (1792-1834), a deposed Presbyterian minister. The sect arose from certain extraordinary “manifestations of the spirit” — tongues, prophecies, healings, even raising of the dead — which were said to have taken place during Irving’s ministry in London, after his removal.

[8] 1 Peter 1:15-16

[9] Lincoln, William: Lectures on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 92-94

[10] See 1 John 3:3

[11] Matthew 25:8-13

[12] Monasticism is an institutionalized religious practice or movement whose celibate members attempt to live by a rule that requires good works that go beyond those of either the laity or the ordinary spiritual leaders of their religions.

[13] Perseverantia sanctorum (perseverance of the saints), highlighting the New Testament teaching on election, justification, and union with the Anointed One that will make God’s irresistible grace will ensure every genuine believer’s eternal security.

[14] See 1 John 3:9; 5:18

[15] Schaff, Philip: History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, Ch. 4, pp. 187-189

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