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 FOUR (Introduction) January 15, 2022

ATTENTION TO ALL MY READERS

Since we will be commencing our study of 1 John on Monday, January 17, 2022, let’s look at the essence of chapter four.

Chapter Four includes two significant ideas. The first is that believers ought to “test the spirits” to see whether they are from God. The second theme is that the “God within us is love,” leading believers to love one another.

John advises that not all teachers are true to the faith in the first major section. Christians are never instructed to believe “just because” of a person’s reputation or educational status. In fact, we are often warned to consider carefully before we trust any particular message.[1] John was concerned that false preachers and false teachings would deceive his readers. So John gives us a test for spirits that actually come from God. These are those that acknowledge Jesus the Anointed One’s real incarnation.

Then John adds that believers overcome the powers in this world because of God’s Spirit within them. The “world” refers to godless humanity. A worldly attitude listens to unbelievers and ungodly spirits and ignores God.

The second major section returns to the idea that “God is love.” John teaches that biblical love is a sign of God’s birth and knowing God. He states emphatically that believers are to show their love for God by loving one another. Love not only demonstrates God’s presence in our lives, but it also serves as evidence to the rest of the world. Love is how the world is meant to “see” God, even though they cannot do so physically.

Therefore, anyone who claims to love God must prove it by loving their brother and sister. John’s teaching repeatedly emphasizes the fact that a person cannot claim to love God yet hate others. As chapter 3 made clear, hate is always from a demonic source. Those who hate are not “abiding” in the Anointed One. Believers are children of God and brothers and sisters of one another. As a family, they are to love one another according to the commandment of God.

John then offers an essential perspective on the relationship between love and fear. Namely, that godly love and worldly fear are incompatible. God’s perfect love drives out fear of being accepted by Him. Other places in Scripture speak of “fearing” God in the sense of awe, respect, or reverence before Him. Here, however, John’s focus is on anxiety over whether or not God will truly love and forgive us. Believers who follow God’s example of love have no reason to fear that God will not accept them. His perfect love removes the need for this fear. God is love, shows ideal love, and places love in the hearts of those who believe.

So, here in this chapter, we are given a chance to test our tendencies to believe without testing the message. We also have the opportunity to see if the God we claim to have in our hearts is the God who is love. It’s pretty simple, how do we score on loving others when compared to how we love God. Let’s see who’s willing to be tested and who may be afraid. I assure you, no matter the outcome, you will be better off than if you didn’t try at all.


[1] See Acts of the Apostles 17:11; Colossians 2:8-10

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

THE BURDEN OF PROSPERITY

French Archbishop François Fénelon (1651-1725) saw how people who went through times of having very little food, clothing, shelter, and safety, went on a binge of hoarding those things once they became prosperous. It was their way of calming their anxiety of going without such necessities again. But some did so to increase their social status and gain respect in the community. So, the good Archbishop had some words of caution for them.

He told them that gold chains were chains, nevertheless, like iron. And while those who wear them are objects of envy, they are worthy of compassion. Their captivity is no better than someone jailed with no charges against them. The only real comfort is that only God can deprive them of liberty, and this is the same comfort by which an innocent prisoner is able to survive. Therefore, they have more than the person who is an illusion of splendor, giving them no real advantage but exposing them to the risk of being dazzled and deceived.

But, after all, the comfort of knowing that we are God’s by His choice is quite inexhaustible. As long as we have that, nothing else will matter. It transforms the iron chains, says Fénelon, not necessarily to gold – since we agree that golden chains are still chains – but into freedom and happiness.

So, what is good about being so envious of exercising our free will? It sets us free only to follow our unruly inclinations even in lawful things, indulge our pride, and presume we are free to do so and carry out our will, which is the worst thing that can happen to us. It is better when God cuts off our intentions, so we can follow His will. But those bound by their greedy passions are equally as miserable as the others are blessed.

You see, those who are so bound cannot please themselves. They do what God would have them do from morning to night, not what they want. That makes it a lot better! Since God has bound them, so to speak, hand and foot by His will, He never leaves them to themselves for one moment. He is jealous of that tyrannous “I” that wants everything its way. God’s Spirit leads them from one sacrifice to another, from one trouble to another, and trains them to fulfill His noblest plans amidst commonplace annoyances, frivolous society, and trivialities of which they feel ashamed. He urges the faithful soul till it scarcely has time to draw breath: No sooner has one interruption ceased than God sends another to continue His work in them.

The soul would like to be free to think about God from its perspective. But, all the while, it is far more closely united to Him by yielding to the cross He has them carry than by indulging their glowing, tender emotions. This soul would like to be more its owner than surrendered to God! It forgets that one never belongs to God so little as when “self” asserts such a claim. By the “self” allowing the freedom to pretend it can unite to God, it puts a wider gulf between Him and us, which is only superficial. There is a venom in “self” that does not exist in common amusement.

Of course, we should use all available moments to pause and secure certain hours and refresh our body and mind by reflection. As to the rest of the day, however, the stream carries us away despite ourselves; we must yield without regret. Thus, we learn to find God amid the stream of distractions, since it is not a self-chosen path.

Some He enlightens by guiding them through hardships. In others, He seems to lead by blessing them with prosperity. But, on the other hand, He makes their situation challenging by using those very things outsiders imagine to be the perfect way to enjoy life! And so, He carries on two good works in them – He teaches them by experience and causes them to die to “self” by the very things that foster evil and wickedness in many people.

They are like King Midas, whose hands turned whatever he touched into gold, bringing him nothing but misery. But you can turn your worldly prosperity into a blessing by leaving everything to God, not even seeking to find Him except where and when He chooses to reveal Himself to you.

Therefore, you must not wait for freedom and retirement to learn to let go. The prospect of such a time is very visionary – it may never come. We must all be ready, should it please God, to die while carrying our cross. If He foresees our retirement plans, we are not our own, and He will require of us only what it is in our power to give. The Israelites by the waters of Babylon longed tor Jerusalem, yet how many were there among them who never saw their beloved country again but ended their lives in Babylon! How great would their delusion have been if they had postponed service to God until they could once more sec their native land! It may be that our inheritance will be like that of those Israelites.

Sometimes we may think we are missing God, but it is “self” we really miss. The most trying side of this exciting life of self-sacrifice is that we are never free to do what “self” wants to do. The lingering spirit of “self” would like a quieter state of things to enjoy its intellectual pursuits and gifts. The “self” would like to show all its good qualities in the company of a chosen few who would feed its self-satisfaction. Or, perhaps, the spirit of “self” makes us wish to enjoy the comforts of religion in peace, just at the time when God wills to send nothing but troubles and trials to mold us to His will.[1]

The Bible often speaks of what it means to surrender ourselves to God’s will. Jesus told His followers that if any wanted to be His follower, they must stop thinking about themselves and what they want. They must be willing to carry the cross that is given to them in order to follow Him.[2] When His disciples asked Jesus if He was hungry, He told them, “My food is to do what the One who sent me wants me to do. My food is to finish the work that He gave me to do.”[3]

When the Apostle James was asked what to do when the world’s temptations become stronger and stronger, he told them to give themselves more and more to God. Stand against the devil, and he will run away from them.[4]

And later the Apostle Paul had this to say, it is God who is working in you. He helps you want to do what pleases Him, and gives you the power to do it.[5] And in another letter, Paul has this message, God is strong, and He wants you strong. So, take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use, so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no weekend war that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.[6]


[1] Fénelon, François: Paraclete Giants, The Complete Fénelon, Translated and Edited by Robert J. Edmonson, Paraclete Press, Brewster, Massachusetts, 2008, pp. 36-38; Vocabulary and grammar redacted by Dr. Robert R Seyda

[2] Matthew 16:24

[3] John 4:24

[4] James 4:7

[5] Philippians 2:13

[6] Ephesians 6:10-18 – The Message

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson CVII) 12/09/21

3:24 Those who do what God says live with God and He with them. We know this is true because the Holy Spirit He gave us tells us so.

It was not a new ritual or ceremony Jesus was instituting. It was the ordinary custom that when visitors came to see you, they left their sandals at the door, allowing the servants to wash the dust and dirt off their feet after such a long journey. In this case, Jesus was saying that we should all be willing to become servants to help one another out in trying or destitute times. It might also imply that you are ready to serve that person to help meet their needs. Jesus taught this spiritual principle when telling His followers, “Your attitude must be like mine, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many.”[1]

I recall back in the 1940s and 50s when many denominations practiced “foot washing.” I remember as an adult when I attended my first foot washing service. The men were all seated face to face back in a Sunday Schoolroom, where a basin filled with water was provided and several towels. Then, after a song or two, each man would wash the feet of the brother facing him and vice versa. As we washed each other’s feet, we believed we were expressing how being servants was a sign of humility for us and an honor we bestowed on them. Then, when the foot-washing was over, we all went out into the sanctuary, sang some songs, and gave testimonies before going home. As we washed each other’s feet, had we asked our brother if there was anything we could do for him or help him out in any way, then the spiritual principle could have made an impact.

It rapidly dawned on me that I had just participated in a “humbling ceremony” that was supposed to make us feel more holy when we walked out than when we walked in. Therefore, the practical aspect had been fulfilled, but the spiritual principle was seemingly lost. So, when the Apostle John tells us how we should treat each other and some of the things we must do to show that God’s love is living in us, let us look for the spiritual principle rather than insisting on the practical details.

Furthermore, in Jesus’ day, people did not eat at a table. Instead, they sat on the floor around a cloth spread out for the meal. In some cultures, they sat with legs crossed, in what we would call a “yoga” position. In others, they reclined on their sides, either on the floor or couches. Thus, you can see that Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of the Last Supper is misconstrued. So, when John says that Jesus stood up or arose, He did so from the floor, not a chair. Thank God, churches today who serve communion do not require everyone to sit on one side of a long table in the sanctuary. But at the same time, they do not remove all the pews or chairs and lay out a rug on the floor with everyone to sit around the carpet.

Since this is impractical, what then is the spiritual principle involved? Jesus used the bread (yeast-free flatbread [matzoh]) to represent His body and the wine to symbolize His blood. Should we attempt to follow this as closely as possible in order to authenticate our communion service? No, that is not practical. And here’s one reason why. Jesus was not inventing a new meal, preparing for the Passover. Instead, he followed the Jewish custom of the Passover Seder meal. This meal required three pieces of Matzah bread stacked on top of one another and five sides of various leafy vegetables, fruits and nuts, bitter herbs, wine, lamb shank, and hard-boiled eggs.

According to the Jewish Passover Haggadah, the host would take the middle piece of flatbread and break it in two. They would then pass one half around for everyone to snap off a bit, and hid the other half until later. Thus, there was not just one cup of wine, but four. The first was called the “Cup of Sanctification,” the second was the “Cup of Redemption,” the third was the “Cup of Grace,” and the fourth was the “Cup of Salvation.”[2] Trying to duplicate this every Communion Sunday would not be impossible but improbable.

So, what is the spiritual principle here that we should emphasize? Jesus explains it very well; the bread represents His body and the wine His blood. Concerning His body, the prophet Isaiah said, “He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten, so we could be made whole, and He was whipped, so we could be morally healed.”[3] Regarding His blood, Moses put it this way, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given you the blood to sprinkle upon the altar as an atonement for your souls; it is the blood that makes atonement because it is the life.”[4]

Dozens of examples on how the almost unattainable practical fulfillment of the Jewish commandments and instructions of Biblical days is inadvisable. So, the spiritual principle is what we need to highlight. Let me add this: When the Apostle Paul itemized the sinful tendencies that a true believer must totally and perpetually reject,[5] he gave the practical aspects involved by listing the spiritual principles a Christian must follow.[6] Thank the Lord; he did not say “how” we are to do it. That would have led to even more ceremonial rites, rituals, and ceremonies. If when you were a teenager, your mother put out some bread, peanut butter, and jelly so you could make yourself a sandwich, but then took the knife from you and said, here’s how you do it, no doubt you would have felt as though she was treating you like a little child. Likewise, the Apostle Paul put out the fruit of the reborn spirit and said to us, “use these to live a sanctified life.” That is the difference between reasonable opinion and spiritual principle.

END OF CHAPTER THREE

SCHEDULE FOR CHAPTER FOUR

At this point, we will take our Christmas and New Year’s break before we launch into the challenging and instructive chapter four on remaining steadfast in God and His love. It’s all about testing our faith against the strong winds of false doctrines.

We will start posting chapter four on January 3, 2022. MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR!! And may God bless you richly and spiritually in the coming year.


[1] Matthew 20:28 – Living Bible

[2] The Passover Haggadah, Ed. Nahum N. Glatzer, Schocken Books, New York, 1953, pp. 19-24; 25-67; 68-77; 81-92

[3] Isaiah 53:5

[4] Leviticus 17:11

[5] Galatians 5:19-21

[6] Ibid. 5:22-25

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson CVI) 12/08/21

3:24 Those who do what God says live with God and He with them. We know this is true because the Holy Spirit He gave us tells us so.

Ken Johnson (1965) gives us an enlightening chart to follow through this third chapter, providing us comparisons between God’s Children and the Devil’s Brood.[1] Here is my redacted version:

God’s ChildrenDevil’s Brood
Understand God’s Love. (1 John 3: 1)Know neither believers nor God. (1 John 3:1)
Will see Jesus in the flesh (1 John 3:2)Do not believe Jesus will return in the flesh (2 John 1:7)
Will have a resurrected body as Jesus has. (1 John 3:2)Will not obtain a glorified body. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
Purify ourselves by looking forward to the Rapture. (1 John 3:3)Do not anticipate the Rapture (1 John 3:2-3)
Believe Jesus is sinless (1 John 3:5)Believes Jesus has a sinful nature like all other humans. (Mark 2:13-17)
Cannot habitually practice sin (1 John 3:6, 9)Feel no guilt from practicing sin and breaking the Law. (Luke 13:1-9)
Practice righteousness and meet the needs of our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:7)Practice unrighteousness (1 John 3:7-8, 17)
Belong to God, our Father (1 John 3:1-)Belong to the Devil, their father (1 John 3:10)
Do what is right (1 John 3:10)Do what is wrong. (Romans 7:14-25)
They are hated by the world. (1 John 3:10)Are loved by the world (1 John 3:15)
Love people and witness to them (1 John 3:10, 14)Hate their brothers and are, therefore, murders (1 John 3:15
Have eternal life (1 John 3:14)Do not have eternal life (1 John 3:15)
Have a clear conscience before God, and receive the things they ask of Him. 1 John 3:20-21)Have a seared conscience and do not receive answers to prayer. (1 Timothy 4:2)
Believe Jesus is the only begotten Son of God and the only Anointed One. (Daniel 9)Deny Jesus is the only Son of God or He is the Anointed One. (1 John 3:23)
Obey His commandment. (1 John 3:24)Do not obey His commands. (2 Timothy 3:1-7)

There is an old French proverb that says, “tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner” (“to understand everything is to forgive everything.”) God judges us by the deep emotions of the heart; and, if in our heart there is love, then, however feeble and imperfect that love may be, we can with confidence enter into His presence. The perfect knowledge which belongs to God, to God alone, is not our horror but our hope.

Peter Pett (1966) says we must be careful not to take the promise here in verse twenty-four too literally or out of context. It is not true that God will give us whatever we ask. We will not receive anything from this world contrary to God’s will, rather than what is necessary for living; the promise is given only to those who keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight, for they will ask for what is right. Their prayers will be for the extension of God’s Kingly Rule, in addition to things necessary for His service, not for themselves. It is in line indeed with what Jesus taught the disciples.[2] The point here is that they can be bold to seek His help in bringing about the extension of His Kingdom and pushing back at the false prophets. Compare the promises given to the Apostles in the light of their coming ministry.[3] In one of these formulations, Jesus[4] uses almost identical terminology to the present verse in John’s epistle.

Pett tells us that John is saying it is not enough just to believe in God. The test of a genuine faith towards God is that we worship the Anointed One as God’s only Son, His only begotten Son, Jesus, the Anointed One, with all that it involves.[5] Also, we accept that to be acquainted with God’s Son is to know the Father.[6] Furthermore, we agree that everything the Father has is ours through the Anointed One, so each believer can call it “Mine.”[7] Not only that, but acknowledge that all decision-making has been assigned to the Anointed One.[8]

In addition, we recognize that the Anointed One can make alive whom He desires in cooperation with the Father.[9] Added to this is we approve that He is equally deserving of honor as the Father.[10] That we admit He is the great eternal “I AM.”[11] Moreover, we welcome the fact that the Holy Spirit of God does His bidding.[12] And besides that, we defend the concept that He and the Father make their dwelling place in us.[13] To which is added, we certify that the Father glorified Him with the glory they shared before creation.[14] And finally, we uphold that as the Word, He is God and the Creator of all things.[15] Accepting all this made the Apostle Thomas cry out, “My Lord and my God.”[16] [17]

David Legge (1969) says we now have confidence as we abide in the Anointed One, and His living in us. So, as the Apostle John says here in verse twenty-four, as we continue to keep His commands, we live deeply and surely in Him, and He lives in us. And this is how we experience His deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit He gave us. So, says Legge, underline what I’m going to tell you: When your conscience is right with God, it’s because it has been washed and sprinkled by the precious blood of the Lamb. You’ve confessed your sins to God and to others, and He has forgiven you. You’ve come to your fellow believer and been reconciled and put all things right, and there exists confidence that your heart that is clean and pure, your conscience is clear, permitting the Anointed One to live in you and you in Him, and it is the presence of the Holy Spirit![18]

Douglas Sean O’Donnell (1972) sees the Apostle John in verses twenty-three and twenty-four, tying together his flow of thought with a Trinitarian conclusion. Moving from our confession and commitment to Jesus, John concludes that the Father (“God”), Son (Jesus, the Anointed One), and Spirit (His Holy Spirit) abide in us.[19]

ADDENDUM

At this point, I want to share with you what, I believe, is a good way to interpret all the guidelines and procedures that the Apostle John gives us in his epistle as instructions on how to fulfill his teaching on Christian ethics and conduct. But, first, we must consider the practical aspects of those directives and the spiritual elements that apply. In other words, if we want to follow what John says in ways that come the closest to the way it was practiced in his day, we have to look at the pragmatism of such an endeavor.

The reason for this is that in the 1st Century AD, the customs and manners relative to dress, mode of transportation, societal norms, expected behavior, working conditions, cuisine, the prevalence of idolatry, standard ethics, and virtues, etc., need an examination to determine if it is at all possible to do them in the way they did back then. If none of these things are still part of our society and church customs, then we must look for the spiritual principles behind John’s appeal for compliance.

For instance, Jesus said that if anyone compels you to carry their heavy load one mile, go two.[20] In Jesus’ day, the standard mode of transportation was to walk. So, it would seem somewhat odd for your construction boss to order you to walk with him carrying some heavy materials for a mile to the building site. But you must comply without complaining when you find out it also involves additional building supplies for a construction site a mile beyond that. Since this is not reasonable, we are obligated to look for the spiritual principle involved and forget the practical application, especially if we want our modern congregation to understand the purpose.

This contrast between practical and principle is necessary to explain better why the Apostle John gave these teachings and instructions in the first place. Thus, we see the need to reduce any insistence on doing things the way they did back then and look for the applicable spiritual principle in the teaching. As an example, John tells us that during the Last Supper, while some of the disciples were still eating, Jesus stood up, took off His robe, wrapped a towel around His waist, and poured water into a basin. Then He began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel He had around Him.[21] Unfortunately, some modern translations insert “got up from the supper table[22] when the word “table” is not in the original Greek text.


[1] Johnson, Ken. Ancient Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., p. 76

[2] Matthew 6:7-15

[3] Cf. John 14:13-16; 15:7, 16; 16:23-26

[4] John 16:23-24

[5] Ibid. 1:14-18

[6] Ibid. 14:9; 8:18

[7] Ibid. 16:15

[8] Ibid. 5:22, 26

[9] Ibid. 5:21

[10] Ibid. 5:23

[11] Ibid. 8:58

[12] Ibid. 15:26

[13] Ibid. 16:7

[14] Ibid. 17:5

[15] Ibid. 1:1-3

[16] Ibid. 20:28

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

[18] Legge, David: Preach the Word, 1,2,3, John, op. cit., Part 11

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

[20] Matthew 5:41

[21] John 13:4-5

[22] See New Living Translation

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY  

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson CV) 12/07/21

3:24 Those who do what God says live with God and He with them. We know this is true because the Holy Spirit He gave us tells us so.

Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945) points out that if the love of God dwells in the hearts of His children, it must be demonstrated in a practical way. We must express such Love in deed and truth, which is true faith’s fruit. If the believer does this, they will know that they are of the truth. Sad to say, it is lacking those who are empty professing believers. But if we know that we are of the truth, by bearing such fruit of faith, we can assure our hearts before Him, and we can draw near with confidence. As our hearts do not condemn us, knowing that we are of the truth, we have confidence toward God, and whatsoever we ask, we receive from Him because we keep His commandment and do those things pleasing in His sight. It is the same blessed truth our Lord spoke in connection with the parable of the vine. “Stay in union with me, and follow My teachings. If you do this, you can ask for anything you want, and I will give it to you.”[1] [2]

Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965) states that this last paragraph contains comfort of a particular kind, since it reassures believers against themselves. A believer should want nothing to do with hypocrisy; instead, to be a child of the truth, a follower of the truth concerning loving others. The love shown to God’s children is evidence and proof of their new spiritual life. As the Christian grows in sanctification, they will often find that their heart is dissatisfied with the progress made, and therefore proceeds to accuse them of being unloving. It is true, of course, that, as in all matters related to righteousness, so is the case with brotherly love in which we are far from perfection.

Kretzmann explains that we can reassure ourselves before the inner tribunal despite the condemnation of the heart’s criticism. For God is a more superb, more reliable Judge than our heart. He has assured us in His Word that the Savior’s perfect righteousness, credited to us by faith, compensates for our shortcomings. He who knows all things also knows that, despite our faults and weaknesses, we are His children by faith in the Anointed One, Jesus, and that our imperfections are not due to any lack of spiritual willingness or hypocrisy. This way, we defend ourselves against the condemnations of our hearts.[3]

William Neil (1909-1979) says that loving one another is the very heart of the Gospel, the proof that we have passed on from living under the powers of hate and death – like Cain. However, like the Anointed One, living by the strength of love and life is to be empowered by the One who showed His love by offering His life for us. He is our pattern of self-sacrifice, whether it be in great things or in small. In these cases, good deeds count; good words don’t. When helping our neighbors, we can be sure that we are right with God. Even if we think we are not doing enough, let God be the judge, but if we know that we are doing all we can, we are in the right relationship with Him, and His Spirit is ever with us.[4]

Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) states that the Apostle concludes this section that began at verse nineteen, granting the readers blessed assurance in the light of the command to love each other. John relates themes touched on earlier in a slightly new way. He transitions to the Spirit in chapter four. He refers first to keeping the Anointed One’s command of abiding in Him and with other obedient believers. “Abiding” was earlier tied to loving others, [5] doing God’s will,[6] honoring the message heard from the beginning,[7] and receiving God’s anointing.[8] Now it is enforced with commandment-keeping.

Yarbrough explains that the commandment John has in mind is likely believing in the Anointed One and loving one another. It is a fitting summary of this last section to confirm readers of exercising true Christian love. The concept of Belief and Love working together is the same for John as for the Apostle Paul, [9] resulting in the abiding that John (like Jesus) is a fruit of the acknowledging that God is in the Anointed One.

John concludes, says Yarbrough, by stating that those who obey God’s commands remain in fellowship with Him and He with them. And we know He dwells in us because the Spirit He gave also lives in us. However, an important question arises. Does the phrase “by this” (which occurs thirteen times in 1 John)[10] point to the Spirit? In this case, we can understand the Spirit as proof that the believer abides in God. Presumably, the Spirit confirms that commandment-keeping is adequate to assure that the believer dwells in union with the Anointed One. Therefore, we can remain assured that keeping the love-commandment means having the Spirit residing in us.[11]

Colin G. Kruse (1950) suggests that the main point of these last fourteen verses can be summed up in the words: “Those who obey His commands live in Him and He in them. Those who believe in God’s Son and love one another as He commanded them are those who truly live in God and God in them.” Thus, the Apostle John comes back to his primary purpose in this part of his letter. He wants to enable his readers to distinguish between those who claim to live in God but do not (the secessionists) and those who do (those like John and his readers) remain faithful to the message they heard from the beginning.

It is not easy to define what it means to live in God, observes Kruse. Nevertheless, we find this concept in ten places in John’s letter,[12] including here in verse twenty-four as part of a broader concept: the mutual indwelling of believers in God and God in believers. In two of the four places where John mentions this spiritual cohabitation, [13] he says that believers can be assured of it because of the Spirit whom God has given to them. It suggests that when John speaks about believers living in God and God living in believers, it involves something more than just keeping God’s commandments. It is the new and authentic spiritual existence that believers enjoy, which is effective through the agency of the Holy Spirit.[14]

Bruce B. Barton (1954) mentions that this is the first reference in this epistle to the mutual indwelling of the Anointed One and the believer. Jesus’ last discourse in the Gospel of John contains this central theme.[15]Mutual indwelling” means that Christians abide in God and He in them. God and the believers live in one another. The presence of the Spirit in each believer’s life makes this possible. The Christian lives in the Spirit, and the Spirit lives in the Christian.[16] So, what does this mean? When the Spirit guides us, the posture of our heart is oriented toward and harmonizing with God.[17] We aren’t so concerned with what the world thinks of us – we care about pressing on toward our goal to develop God’s characteristics. The only way this can happen is if the Spirit resides in us. A good analogy is a human being’s relationship to air. People must live “in” air so that air can sustain life in them. Likewise, the indwelling Spirit provides believers with the presence of the Anointed One. Thus, the Spirit living in people means the Anointed One lives in them.[18] Once the Anointed One gave His Spirit, He now lives in them.[19]

Daniel L. Akin (1957) notes the Apostle John addresses our keeping the command of God for the fourth time in verses twenty-two to twenty-four, but now he adds a blessing that flows from our obedience. Working backward and paraphrasing the verse helps us clarify what John teaches us. “By the Holy Spirit, whom God has given us as a grace gift, we know that God abides in us, and we abide in God. And, as a habit of this new life in the Anointed One, the person who stays in God continually keeps His commands.” Therefore, John’s point is that keeping God’s command and abiding in God always go together. Having the Spirit of God and living or remaining in God always go together. John’s emphasis on remaining in God is evident in that 54 of the 102 occurrences of this Greek verb menō appear in John’s writings. John wants us to understand that the Spirit – the true Spirit who stands in crystal clear contrast to the false spirits of antichrist[20] – comes as a gift, not as something God is obliged to give us. He is given to us as a grace-gift; He is not something we can earn or merit.

In saying the Spirit was given to us, John looks to the past, to our conversion, the moment we first believed the Gospel and repented of our sins. That’s when we received the Spirit. Verse twenty-four is the first direct mention of the Holy Spirit in John Epistle. This Third Person of the triune God is essential to God’s abiding in our union with Him. He is crucial to helping us discern the false spirits – the spirits of error – that do not confess that Jesus is from God.[21] [22]


[1] John 15:7

[2] Gaebelein, Arno C: The Annotated Bible, op. cit., loc. cit.

[3] Kretzmann, Paul E., Popular Commentary, 1 John, op. cit., pp. 570-571

[4] Neil, William: Harper’s Bible Commentary, op. cit., pp. 528-529

[5] 1 John 2:10

[6] Ibid. 2:17

[7] Ibid. 2:24

[8] Ibid. 2:27

[9] See 1 Corinthians 13:2, 13; Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 1:15; Colossians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 3;6; 5:8; 1 Timothy 1:14; 2:15; 6:11; 2 Timothy 1:13

[10] John 4:20, 21, 27. 37; 5:38; 9:30; 10:3; 12:25; 13:24, 35; 15:8; 16:30; 20:30

[11] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 215-216

[12] See 1 John 2:5, 6, 27, 28; 3:6, 24; 4:13,15,16; 5:20

[13] Ibid. 3:24; 4:13

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

[15] John 14:20; 15:5; 17:21-26

[16] Barton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., p. 80

[17] Galatians 5:16

[18] Romans 8:9-11

[19] John 14:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

[20] Cf. 1 John 4:1-6

[21] Cf. Ibid. 4:3

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

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson CIV) 12/06/21

3:24 Those who do what God says live with God and He with them. We know this is true because the Holy Spirit He gave us tells us so.

Nevertheless, as long as believers have faith and walk with the Spirit’s guidance, neither God nor their hearts will condemn them.[1] Wesley’s error may have caused minor damage because there is little chance any in his audience knew of this distinction in the Greek words translated in English as “condemnation.”

Thomas Scott (1747-1821) states that when we do not experience God’s deep and abiding presence in us, it brings about disruption and neglect of prayer – to our unspeakable disadvantage! However, our hearts will not condemn us[2] when we run into expected roadblocks in our Christian duties. On the contrary, we are like children conscious of having done right and sure of their loving parents’ approval, rejoice when running to meet them.

In the same way, says Scott, we have confidence in God so that “Whatever we ask, we receive from Him.” But this will only manifest itself if we have repented and believed by “keeping His commandment, and doing those things, which are well-pleasing ‘in His sight.’”[3] Thus, salvation by grace and obedience to love’s command is as inseparably connected as God’s command “to believe in His Son Jesus the Anointed One” is to sinners, [4] as well as to love one another “for Jesus’ sake.”[5] This obedience, however, is insufficient for our justification for “in the Anointed One we become the righteousness of God.”[6] This righteousness proves that “We know that we live in God, and God lives in us.[7] Hence, the sanctifying Spirit, which He has given us, forms and maintains the sacred union and “stamps us as God’s children,”[8] which provides us with a foretaste of His eternal contentment.[9]

Augustus Neander (1789-1850) emphasizes that faith in Him proves itself by keeping the two-in-one commandment of the Anointed One. This same truth applies to abiding in fellowship with Him. Thus, by obedience to the two-in-one commandment of the Anointed One, we confirm our voluntary abiding in one accord with the Anointed One. It is the necessary condition on our part to continue to enjoy our communion with the Anointed One and that He may abide in union with us. We must accept this mutual exchange, as proof that keeping the Anointed One’s two-in-one commandment depends on continual sharing fellowship.[10] [11]

William Graham (1810-1883) points to this twenty-fourth verse as uniting the remarkable principles of doctrine, duty, faith, and fulfillment. What the Apostle John says here teaches that a holy life in keeping the commandment of God is the evidence of our mystical union with God in the person of Jesus, the Mediator, and Redeemer. The two-in-one commandment mentioned here refers to faith and love, which seem to be taken by John as a summary of Christianity. In obeying these, says the Apostle, we abide in God, and God in us. For this indwelling of God in the believing soul, consult what John says elsewhere.[12]

The language of these and similar passages is undoubtedly figurative, which should cause us to inquire how the great Yahweh, whom the heavens cannot contain, dwells in the hearts of His people. However, it does not imply that this indwelling involves God’s omnipresence in creation, including humanity. In that case, it would be a reality for everyone and not a privilege for God’s children. Otherwise, all the passages that speak of our being in God, the Anointed One, and their indwelling in us would have no meaning.[13]

Edward Garbett (1817-1887), an important religious figure and writer of the 19th century in England, talks about the abiding witness of God’s ownership of us as His children. He says that some persons crave God’s pledge because they are worried about what it requires. They seem to regard it as something over and above a believer’s ability to comply. But, in fact, the assurance of faith is simply an elevated and established belief. We find this spoken of in a well-known Gospel song sung of years ago called “Higher Ground.[14] This maturing faith rests on the promises that are the foundation of all faith. But, on the other hand, some shrink from naming anything “blessed assurance” and reject it as though it is arrogant and presumptuous thinking. If our salvation were our work, or if it were half our work and half God’s work; if our wisdom, strength, or righteousness had anything to do with the praiseworthy foundation for our justification, our misgivings would be warranted. But the work is altogether God’s work. Hence, to question the full completion of the work is to doubt God, not ourselves.[15]

Brooke Westcott (1825-1901) sees the Apostle John dividing these last twelve verses into three sections: Hatred and Love (verses 13-15); Manifestation of Love (verses 16-18); and Fruit of Love (verses 19-24). With hatred being a characteristic of the world’s spirit, love is a vital sign of the presence of new life through the Anointed One in Christians. The world’s hatred is modeled after Satan’s greed, while love is patterned after the sacrifice of the Anointed One. John chooses Cain and Abel to illustrate this division. When it comes to the manifestation of love, this extends to every action during the Christian’s life. But it must be more than just words; it must be put into action and proven genuine. As such, love demonstrates its fruit in the believer’s confident sense of truth’s Light in the darkness of condemnation.[16]

Robert Cameron (1839-1904) says that according to what the Apostle John has said so far, we are looking up to God in confidence now, as we await the appearance of the Anointed One. Thus, we can assure our hearts of our Lord’s joyful acceptance. We have the freedom to speak to God in prayer, and we know that He hears us, for we are desirous to keep His commandment. This commandment is simple; the essence is that we receive His love into our hearts and share it with His children to receive in unhindered fullness and freeness and let it flow out to one another in the same wholeness and warmth. We must realize that the complete essence of the Christian life is to celebrate in the love of God. We should be overwhelmed with it, to be full of it, to be molded by it, and then to let the sweetness of that love go out to those redeemed by the blood of the Anointed One.[17]

F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) offers an honest assessment of the Apostle John’s message concerning love for our fellow believers. Says Meyer, Love to our brothers and sisters is a sign that we have been born into God’s family. We may not like them all, yet we can love all of them. If we love, live, and learn in the most profound sense, we can cherish them; that is, we put others first, and our care for them brushed with the crimson tint of sacrifice. It means that Love is not measured by lip service or affection of the heart, but by the extent to which we do or suffer. Believers should never be too sure about themselves; as humans, we are still unsure and changeable; but God understands us and helps us become what we would have us be.[18]

In his arguments for the attainability of sanctification, A. M. Hills (1848-1931) points out how the Apostle Paul was so “assured” and “calm” during all the trials that he endured. He had the witness within him and knew that his “life was hidden with the Anointed One in God[19] and that a sanctifying Savior was living in him.[20] It was what enabled the Apostle John, in another instance of sanctification, to says here in verse twenty-four: “Those who obey God’s commandment remain in fellowship with Him and He with them. And we know He lives in us because the Spirit He gave us lives in us.[21]

George G. Findlay (1849-1919) comments on the phrase, “in this we know that we are of the truth.” There is no more excellent example of this phrase, says Findlay, than the declaration of Jesus before Pilate: “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.[22] In other words, “The true heart knows its King when He speaks.” Something lay hidden in Pilate’s heart that a person might doubt could be harbored in a person so cold-hearted and unreceptive. There are two tests of true-heartedness – John’s test and his Master’s; to love our fellow believers and honor the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. Such love found can only be found in the circle of those obedient to the Anointed One. Behind both stands, the truth: the Father who sent His Son to win our faith and give us the Spirit by whom souls are born into the love of God and mankind.[23]


[1] Wesley, John, Works of: Vol. 5, Sermons on Several Occasions, Sermon 8, p. 154

[2] 1 John 3:20

[3] Ibid. 3:22

[4] Ibid. 3:23

[5] See John 13:34

[6] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[7] 1 John 4:13

[8] 2 Corinthians 1:22

[9] Scott, Thomas: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 496

[10] John 15:7-8

[11] Neander, Augustus: The First Epistle of John, Practically Explained, op. cit., pp. 231–232

[12] John 17:21-24, 6:56; 1 John 4:15, 16

[13] Graham, W. (1857). The Spirit of Love, op. cit., pp. 237-238

[14] I’m Pressing on the Upward Way, by Johnson Oatman Jr., (1856-1922) 

[15] Garbett, Edward: The Biblical Illustrator, Vol. 22, First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 292-293

[16] Westcott, Brooke: Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 111-115

[17] Cameron, Robert: The First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 157-158

[18] Meyer, F. B. Through the Bible, op. cit., pp. 161-162

[19] Colossians 3:3

[20] Galatians 2:20

[21] Hills, A. M. Holiness and Power, Ch. 9, p. 126

[22] John 18:37

[23] Findlay, G. G. (1909). Fellowship in the Life Eternal: An Exposition of the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 294

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

SEEKING CHRISTIAN PERFECTION

French Archbishop François Fénelon (1651-1725) has been dealing with those who took advantage of their recent experience during the war and migration to either feel sorry for themselves or try to get ahead of others who are struggling. But now he notices that some in his diocese have become weary of well doing.[1] They want to prove themselves holy, but the path to holiness is full of quicksand and thorn bushes. In other words, they’ve had enough of this Via Dolorosa and want to get back to everyday living. So, the Archbishop has a message for them on their search for Christian perfection.

Consequently, Fénelon tells them that Christian perfection is not the strict, tiresome, forced devotion as many suppose. It requires us to give ourselves to God with our whole heart, and as soon as we accomplish this, whatever we are called upon to do for God becomes easy. Those dedicated to God’s calling are always satisfied. They only desire what He will’s and are ready to do whatever He asks of them. They are prepared to strip themselves of needless things and are sure to find a hundred times as much joy in such openness.

This hundredfold happiness that the true children of God possess amid all the troubles of this world consists in a peaceful conscience, freedom of spirit, and a welcome surrender of everything to God. It brings a joyful sense of His light ever-growing stronger within their heart, and a thorough deliverance from all domineering fears and longings after worldly things. The sacrifices they make are for Him whom they love best. They suffer willingly, realizing such suffering is better than any earthly joy. Their body may be diseased, mentally weak, and shrinking, but their will is steadfast, and they can say a hearty Amen to every challenge.

What God requires is an undivided will – a yielding will, only desiring what He desires for them, rejecting what He rejects, and doing both unreservedly. Where such a mindset exists, everything becomes positive, and they enjoy helping others. Such people are happy indeed. They are delivered from all their desire to judge others, from unkindness, slaves to unproven maxims and cold, heartless ridicule. They feel liberated from the troubles of what the world calls “getting rich,” from the betrayal or forgetfulness of friends, from the opponent’s traps, from their weakness, and worrying how long they might live.

Furthermore, they no longer fear the terror of dying without God, from the bitter remorse that follows sin, and from the eternal condemnation of God. From all these endless torments, Christians are set free. They have resigned their will to God and accept nothing other than God’s will for their lives. As a result, faith and hope are their comforts amid all possible sorrows.

Is it a critical mistake to be afraid of giving oneself to God and be committed to such a blessed state of existence? No! Blessed are they who throw themselves headlong and blindfolded into the arms of “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.’’[2] Nothing remains for them except to know God better and better.[3] Their only fear is that they may not be quick enough to see what He requires; immediately upon discovering any fresh enlightenment from His Word, they “rejoice as one who finds a hidden treasure.”[4] Whatever may happen to true Christians, all is well to their minds. They seek only to love God more, and the further they learn to walk in the way of holiness, the lighter they feel Jesus’s yoke.

Can you not see the foolishness of being afraid to give yourself entirely to God? It may mean we are scared of being too happy. Or perhaps accepting His will in all things with enthusiasm, coping bravely with inevitable trials, finding too much comfort in His love, or letting go of the worldly desires that make us miserable? Therefore, let us do our best to despise all that is of the world so that we may be completely surrender to God’s Word and Will.

Listen, you should not feel obligated to cut yourself off from all earthly involvement in trying to lead an excellent self-disciplined lifestyle. All that is needed is for the motivating power to become that of God’s love. You would then continue living an honest, moral life as you do now. God does not arbitrarily modify the ministry He assigned to each of us or the duties of that calling. The alteration would be this: Right now, you fulfill your responsibilities to your satisfaction and that of the world. You must change to doing whatever you do with your whole being for the Lord and not for yourself or others.[5]

However, instead of being eaten up by pride or passion and living in bondage to the world’s distasteful criticism, we can act freely and bravely in the fullness of our hope in God’s salvation. Being full of trust and looking forward to God’s eternal blessings would comfort us in place of the earthly happiness that seems to have slipped from under our feet. God’s love would give wings to our feet in treading His paths and lifting us beyond all our unnecessary anxiety. Listen to what the Psalmist David had to say, “Give the Lord a chance to show you how good He is.”[6]

Hear what the Son of God says to Christians without exception, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your way, take up your cross, and follow me.”[7] Jesus also said, “Broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”[8] He was clear when He stated that the “Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it.”[9] Furthermore, Jesus advised those listening to Him, “The truth is, you must change your thinking and become like little children. If you don’t do this, you will never enter God’s kingdom.”[10] Jesus also taught that “Great blessings belong to those who are sad now over what they have lost. God will comfort them.”[11] And finally, here is what the Apostle John had to say, “People who believe in God’s Son are not judged guilty. But people who do not believe are already judged because they have not believed in God’s only Son.”[12]

These truths may frighten many because they only see what their religion requires, without realizing what it offers or the loving spirit that makes every burden light. They do not understand that such belief leads to the highest perfection by filling us with a loving peace that lightens the impact of every hardship. Those who give themselves wholeheartedly to God are always content. They realize that the yoke of Jesus Christ is light and easy to carry, and that in Him they do indeed find rest, and that He lightens the load of all that are weary and heavy-laden, [13] as He promised.

But what can be more heart-wrenching than those hesitating, careless souls that remain divided between God and the world’s temptations? They will be torn apart by their sinful tendencies and remorse at their indulgence or are afraid of God’s judgments and, at the same time, those of worldly people. They are frightened about doing what’s wrong yet ashamed of undertaking what’s right yet having all the trials of doing good but without its comfort. If they only dared to despise idle talk, petty ridicule, and the rash judgments of others, what peace and rest they might enjoy in the arms of God!

Nothing is more hazardous to your salvation, more unworthy of God, or more hurtful to your ordinary happiness than being content to remain as you are. Our whole life is given us with the object of going boldly on toward our heavenly home. The world slips away like a deceitful shadow, and eternity draws near. Why delay to push forward? While it is yet time, your merciful Father lights up your path, so make haste and seek His kingdom![14]

I agree with Archbishop Fénelon that it remains a mystery why so many Christians deny themselves of all the promises and blessings God gives to those who do not give Him His fair share of their time. Yet, we can so easily accomplish on a regular basis or daily through worship, prayer, singing, reading and sharing His Word with others, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.


[1] Galatians 6:9

[2] 2 Corinthians 1:3

[3] Philippians 3:10

[4] Psalm 119:162

[5] Colossians 3:23

[6] Psalm 34:8 – The Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

[7] Matthew 16:24

[8] Ibid. 7:13

[9] Ibid. 11:12

[10] Ibid. 18:3

[11] Ibid. 5:4

[12] John 3:18

[13] Matthew 11:28

[14] Fénelon, François: Paraclete Giants, The Complete Fénelon, Translated and Edited by Robert J. Edmonson, Paraclete Press, Brewster, Massachusetts, 2008, pp. 33-36; Vocabulary and grammer redacted by Dr. Robert R Seyda

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson CIII) 12/03/21

3:24 Those who do what God says – they are living with God and He with them. We know this is true because the Holy Spirit He gave us tells us so.

Therefore, spirituality is the essence where all attitudes and actions find their source. God inherently connects spirituality to everlasting life because eternal life is God’s life. When Christians receive life unlimited, God enlivens them with a new, more abundant life.[1] Likewise, when believers walk with God in fellowship, eternal life manifests itself in them. Sometimes a believer violates the will of their new nature in the Anointed One. When they do this, they disrupt the very stimulating principle of their spiritual being. As soon as that happens, believers constantly have a war between their divine and sinful natures.[2] 

COMMENTARY

On this same subject of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the believer, Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) emphatically states that any venial[3] sin that the Church cannot forgive must be forgiven by the Spirit, by whom the Church is joined as one. In fact, if some unrepentant sinner outside the Church’s fellowship does not repent of a sin that alienated them from God, what does repentance for venial sin profit them? Especially if they grieved the Holy Spirit, alienating themselves from Church fellowship when only the Holy Spirit can forgive remission of sins? The truth is, such remission of sin, though it is the work of the Whole Trinity, is accredited to the Holy Spirit.

For He is the Spirit of the adoption of sons, “in whom we cry Abba, Father,”[4] notes Augustine, so that we may be able to say to Him, “Forgive us our debts.”[5] And, “by this we know” as the Apostle John says, “that the Anointed One dwells in us, by His Spirit given to us.”[6]The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”[7] For to Him belongs the fellowship, by which we are made the one body of the One and only Son of God.[8] [9]

What Augustine means is that all sins committed as a child of God, except the sin against the Holy Spirit, can be forgiven to the repentant soul who seeks to maintain fellowship with God. That is reassured when the same Holy Spirit living in the believer cries out for forgiveness by calling on Abba Father. But it is futile for the Church to forgive a venial sin to someone who is not born again and in union with the Anointed One.

John Calvin (1509-1564) writes on the benefits of the Anointed One made available to us by the invisible operation of the Holy Spirit. But, first, says Calvin, we must see in what way we become possessed of the blessings God bestowed on His only-begotten Son, not for private use, but to enrich the poor and needy. And the first thing we must consider is that as long as we are without the Anointed One and separated from Him, nothing He suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us. Therefore, to communicate the blessings, He received from the Father, we must become His for Him to dwell in us.

Calvin continues. But in order to have a clearer view of these most important subjects: remember that the Anointed One prayed for the Father to send the Holy Spirit in a peculiar manner, namely, that He might separate us from the world and unite us in the hope of an eternal inheritance. Therefore, observing the Scripture’s titles bestowed on the Spirit when it enacts our salvation would be appropriate. Hence, He is called the “Spirit of adoption[10] because He brings assurance to us that by grace through His well-beloved Son, we are now in union with the Father. That allows us to cry out boldly to Him with “Abba, Father.”

Calvin then tells us that the Apostle Paul communicated the same to the Ephesians, “When you believed in the Anointed One, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit.”[11] Thus, this shows that He is the internal teacher, the agent of the promise of salvation. Otherwise, the Gospel would only go into our ears but not penetrate our minds. Paul also says to the Thessalonians, “God chose you to be some of the first people to be saved. You are saved by the Spirit making you holy and by your faith in the truth.”[12] This passage briefly reminds us faith is produced only by the Spirit. This John explains more distinctly, “We know that we live in God and God lives in us. We know this because He gave us His Spirit.”[13] Thus the Apostle John confirms this, “How do we know that God lives in us? We know because of the Spirit He gave us.” [14] [15]

John Owen (1616-1883), speaking about the urgent effort on God’s part, who gives the Holy Spirit, and on the believer’s part, who receive Him, says that the crucial role for the believer is that they get acquainted with the Spirit. It begins with love for God. Then, their acceptance of the Spirit makes known to them their favor in God’s sight – that He is their heavenly Father and will deal with them as with children; and consequently, the promised inheritance will be theirs. Finally, as the Apostle Paul says, He sends His Spirit into their hearts, crying, “Abba, Father.”[16]

So, asks Owen, what should we conclude is the believer’s task from here on? First, the Apostle Paul makes it clear, “Now, you are not slaves anymore. You are God’s children, and you will receive everything He promised His children.”[17] But Paul has more to say, “If we are God’s children, we will get the blessings God has for His people.” Upon being persuaded by the Spirit that we are God’s children, it means, “He will give us all that He has given the Anointed One.”[18] We have, then, a right to an inheritance and the faith it is ours. It is the reason; then, we have the Spirit, persuading us of our kinship and acceptance by God our Father.[19]

In His sermon on verse twenty-four, John Flavel (1627-1691) speaks of the Spirit indwelling the believer. He sees the Apostle John’s effort here as showing how differently the Holy Spirit works on the soul of the uncommitted believer and how He is active in the heart of the committed believer. John’s inquiry is not into the things individuals profess or the duties they perform, but about the character of their hearts and the principles that govern their faith.

According to this test, says Flavel, John challenges believers to examine their hearts. He then calls on them to reflect on the operations the Spirit of God wrought within their souls, assuring them that these gracious effects and fruit of the reborn spirit in their hearts will be solid evidence of their union with Jesus the Anointed One. This amounts to more than a hypothetical hope, under which may lurk a dangerous and fatal mistake. Nevertheless, the gracious effects of the Spirit of God within them are a foundation upon which they can build the certainty of their union with the Anointed One: Now we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.[20]

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) provides observations on various places in Scripture, principally in the Final Covenant, proving; the Doctrine of Original Sin. First, he points to the meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus when the Lord told the head Pharisee: “Humans can reproduce human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.[21] He mentions that the Apostle Paul, often uses the term flesh instead of spirit – that Paul expressly calls “sinful flesh.”[22] It is obvious that by “sinful flesh,” Paul means the same thing spoken of in all contexts: especially when it is said, “the Anointed One was made in the likeness of sinful flesh.” The expression harmonizes with those that speak of the Anointed One sent in a human body like ours to destroy sin’s control over us.”[23]

In his sermon on the fruit of spiritual life, John Wesley (1703-1791) proposes to show “There is now no condemnation for those who belong to the Anointed One, Jesus,” because they “belong to Him because the power of the life-giving Spirit freed them from sin’s power that leads to spiritual death.”[24] Unfortunately, Wesley seems to use the word “condemnation” in the sense of “moral deficiency” (Greek katakrisis)[25] instead of “sin’s sentence to everlasting punishment”(Greek katakrima.)[26] Wesley even says they feel no sense of guilt or dread of the wrath of God. Even though sometimes they may lose sight of God’s mercy and darkness of remorse falls on them, and so far as this is lost, they may, for a time, become the object of censure. He goes on to note that this is not the case of them who are now “in the Anointed One, Jesus,” who believe in His name.


[1] John 10:10

[2] 1 John 3:6-10

[3] In Roman Catholicism a venial sin is a relatively slight wrongdoing that does not entail damnation of the soul.

[4] Romans 8:15

[5] Matthew 6:12

[6] 1 John 2:20

[7] Romans 8:16

[8] 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

[9] Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD): Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Bk. 4, Vol. 6, Sermon 21, p. 693

[10] Romans 8:15

[11] Ephesians 1:13

[12] 2 Thessalonians 2:13

[13] 1 John 4:13

[14] Ibid. 3:24

[15] John Calvin: Institutes, Bk. 3, Ch. 1, p. 568

[16] Galatians 4:6

[17] Ibid. 4:7

[18] Romans 8:17

[19] Owen, John: On Communion with God, p. 325

[20] Flavel, John: The Method of Grace, p. 339

[21] John 3:6

[22] Ibid. 8:3

[23] Edwards, Jonathan, Works of: Vol. 2, The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended, Part 2, Ch. 3, Sect. 1, pp. 594-595

[24] Romans 8:1

[25] 2 Corinthians 3:9; 7:3; See also Galatians 2:11; 1 John 3:20

[26] Romans 5:16, 18; 8:1

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson CII) 12/02/21

3:23 And this is what God says we must do: Believe in the Name of His Son Jesus the Anointed One and love one another.

Peter Pett (1966) sees John sum up this section by indicating the close relationship between “keeping His commandment” and “abiding in Him.” Those who keep (receive, meditate on, keep in mind and carry through in life) His commandment, having believed on His Son Jesus, the Anointed One, do abide in Him, for their response proves their love of Him. It demonstrates they are walking in the Light. And the result is that He stays in them. They are indwelt by God and dwell in God. And the sure positive final evidence of His abiding in us is the Spirit which He gave us, the Spirit Who is. Therefore, God (the anointing) testifies to the truth about Jesus, the Anointed One, as trustworthy.[1]

David Legge (1969) states that the Apostle John offers a test to prove the Anointed One is dwelling in the believer. He will manifest His presence in fulfilling the four tests we’ve seen throughout this epistle, and will do so in the remaining chapters. First, the doctrinal test: “we should believe in the Name of His Son, Jesus the Anointed One.” Then, if the Spirit of God dwells in us because we have confidence toward God through our good conscience, we will believe what is right about Jesus the Anointed One, confess it about Him, and stand for Him. And then the moral test, “we will keep His commandment.”

Then comes the ethical test. Are we obedient to God’s commands? How could the Spirit of God dwell in you and you not be compliant if given complete control over your decisions? Then there’s the social test: you will love one another. If they are abiding, the Spirit of God, [2] the Anointed One, they manifest these fruit. Hear what the Apostle Paul says to the Romans.[3] Looking at it this way in appreciation of the Anointed One, a holy life and love for our brothers and sisters are poured out in our hearts. The Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God – and that ought to bring us more confidence![4]

3:24 Those who obey God’s commandment remain in union with Him and He with them. And we know that because of His indwelling Spirit, He lives in us.

EXPOSITION

The Apostle John is not speaking unprepared; he repeats what he heard the Master say, that love and obedience to Him and the Father means they will come to them and make their home in their lives.[5] So, it did not come as a surprise when Jesus told them later about how their union with Him will result in much spiritual fruit to the glory of the Father.[6] At His last supper with His disciples, Jesus illustrated this union with communion.[7] Therefore, we must have union in our communion with Him. Not just once a month, but every day of our lives.

Jesus felt this was so critical that He even prayed to the Father to help Him and His followers remain in close communion and fellowship.[8] No wonder that the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that they were God’s temple and that His Spirit was living in them.[9] Therefore, worldly idols and worship of the rich and famous have no place in God’s human temple.[10] That’s why we need to protect the truth given to us. Not by ourselves, but thanks to the indwelling Holy Spirit.[11] That is the only way to take control over any sinful tendencies that still lurk in our flesh.[12] Remember, God did this so that He could buy the freedom of those who were under the Law. God’s purpose was to make us His children. Since we are now God’s children, He sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. That’s why the Spirit Himself cries out, “Abba, Father.”[13]

Again, we are in doubt whether “Him” and “He” in verse twenty-four refer to God the Father or His Son, the Anointed One. The former seems better based on what John says in verse twenty-two.[14] Compare the conclusion of the first central division.[15] “By this” probably refers to what follows. John has combined two constructions: “By this, we know…in that.[16]  and “By this, we know…from,[17] His Spirit He gave us. “He” is probably the Father.[18] Until now, John only mentioned the Father and the Son. Now, he introduces the Spirit[19] by name as a witness and test of the truth. The sentence forms the transition to the subject of the next section, [20] which is a sort of parenthesis, after having brought up the issue of love in verse seven.

The idea of “abides” here is “live in union with.” The believer who applies principles of God’s Word to experience lives in fellowship with the Lord.[21] The word “keeps” is a synonym for “applying truth to experience.” It means that the believer who is habitually applying the principles of the Word to knowledge abides harmoniously in union with the Lord.  Abiding is subjective, depending on being filled with the Spirit. Fellowship involves mutual exchange. God lives in one accord with us when we apply truth to experience.  We share the most intimate communion with God, a state that God desires. When God inseparably couples together fellowship with Him and uses His Word’s principles to experience, it characterizes fellowship with God.

Therefore, God’s dwelling in us has the necessary counterpart of our abiding in Him. There is an interchange of relationship and fellowship. The initial cause is always God’s responsibility because, without Him, we can do nothing. Our action is a simple response to God’s action. That is why we can do nothing in our power. All we do is a product of God’s power except the decision to do so. As God’s dwelling in us is His choice, so our abiding in Him is our response to His initiative. This abiding conveys the idea of permanent fellowship.[22]

Here are some things that are active in the believer, which we see here in John’s First Epistle:

  • The Word of God, 2:14
  • The Anointing, 2:27
  • The seed, 3:9
  • The love of God, 3:17
  • God Himself, 3:24; 4:12,13,15
  • The Anointed One (implied in 3:24).[23]
  • The fourth evidence of the new life in the believer is the Spirit-filled life.
  • Keeping God’s commandment, 2:3,4
  • Doing what is right, 2:29
  • Loving in deed as well as word, 3:14,18
  • Filling of the Spirit, 3:24

By this, we know that He is living in us. Hence, applying truth to experience is proof of our fellowship with the Lord. Application of the principles of God’s Word to experience is not the cause but the effect of fellowship with God. Therefore, it is evidence of being in union with Him.

We come to know experientially [Greek verb ginōskō for “to understand,” “to perceive”] that we are in fellowship with the Lord if we apply truth to experience. His abiding in us is just as necessary as our abiding in Him. The Lord is eager to convey to us His pleasure to have fellowship with us by the Spirit He has given us.

Consequently, the Holy Spirit working in us is further evidence of fellowship with the Lord.[24] The true fellowship of life with God is the core of John’s argument in this epistle. Apart from the Holy Spirit, God has given us supernaturally, sending information about our fellowship with the Lord makes it possible to know about God’s viewpoint on fellowship with us. The perfect tense Greek verb didōmi (“has given”) means “permanently.” God gave the Holy Spirit to be with us forever at the point of salvation.[25] The main principle revealed here is that ultimately, assurance of fellowship with the Lord comes from the Lord, not us.

The result of fellowship is an assurance of God’s work in us and power in prayer. The Spirit-filled life is a prerequisite for answered prayer and the capacity to love Christians.[26] The source of assurance of God’s fellowship with us is the abiding Holy Spirit within us. In the final analysis, proof of connection comes from God. The Holy Spirit initiates belief, and He assures us of confidence. He empowers us to love Christians. He affects our wills so that we want to do His will.


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

[2] Romans 5:5

[3] Ibid. 8:16

[4] Legge, David: Preach the Word, 1.2.3. John, op. cit., Part 11

[5] John 14:21, 23

[6] Ibid. 17:7-10

[7] Ibid. 6:54-56

[8] Ibid. 17:21

[9] 1 Corinthians 3:16; cf. 6:19

[10] 2 Corinthians 6:16

[11] 2 Timothy 1:14

[12] Romans 8:9-17

[13] Galatians 4:5-6

[14] Cf. John 14:15; 15:5

[15] Ibid. 2:24-28

[16] 1 John 3:16

[17] Ibid. 4:6

[18] See John 14:16-17

[19] 1 John 2:20, 27

[20] Ibid. 4:1-6

[21] Ibid. 3:22

[22] John 15:4-5

[23] Cf. John 6:56; 15:5

[24] Romans 5:5; 8:14-16

[25] 1 Corinthians 12:13

[26] Romans 5:5

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson CI) 12/01/21

3:23 And this is what God says we must do: Believe in the name of His Son Jesus the Anointed One and love one another.

Charles Simeon (1759-1836) notes that some Christians, in their mistaken zeal to interpret the Gospel, are ready to associate the idea of “legality” with the very mention of the term “commandment.” They forget that the two-in-one commandment, if obeyed from love, is the very essence of the Gospel. Furthermore, it is the fruit, desired end, and highest glory of the Gospel. The Apostle John had a passionate love for the Gospel and was zealous of its honor. Therefore, the Apostle John lays great emphasis on obedience here in verse twenty-three.[1]

Frederick Maurice (1805-1872) tells us that where the Apostle John says, “We know what real love is,” that the words “of God” are added before John goes on to say, “We also ought to give up our preferences for our brothers and sisters.[2] So we see that John has been tracing the operation of the Law of Love and the transgression of this Law in earlier ages. He defends the First Covenant against those who say that this Law of Love is not one Moses and the prophets recommend. But John agrees with those who exalted the Final Covenant above the First, to this extent: that love was involved as a hidden principle in every true life’s response to harmful acts in the past.

Although it had not yet been fully revealed, says Maurice, it was seen in Joseph’s tender response to his brothers who sold him into slavery. We also notice it in Moses’ care for the people ready to stone him for being faithful to God’s directives. Furthermore, it comes alive in the burning patriotism of every prophet when their countrymen put them in chains or prison or condemned to die. Although, during those times, no one could confidently say, “I know this love,” they longed to know it. They looked forward to a time when it would be known. The time, says John, has come. The blessing is ours. The Son of God “laid down His life for us.” By this, we know Love. It is the Divine interpretation that comes in acts, not words. We might call it Divine Interaction.[3]

In his sermon on Sunday morning, September 20, 1863, Charles Spurgeon chose verse twenty-three here in the third chapter of John’s Epistle as his text. He points out that on that Sunday, they sang a hymn that goes: “My soul, no more attempts to draw Thy life and comfort from the law,”[4] to emphasize that the Law only brings misery and not comfort. To convince and to condemn is all the Law can do, exclaims Spurgeon. When will all professors, especially all professed ministers of the Anointed One, learn the difference between the Law and Gospel? Most of them mangle God’s Word and serve deadly potions to the people, often containing but one ounce of Gospel to a pound of Law. Knowing that a grain of Law is enough to spoil the whole loaf, it must be pure Gospel. Spurgeon then says, “If it is of grace, it is not of works; otherwise, grace is no more grace; and if it is of works, then it is not of grace, otherwise work is no more work.”[5]

William Barclay (1907-1978) points out that the Apostle John speaks of the two things that are well-pleasing in God’s sight; the two-in-one commandment includes obedience, on which our relationship to God depends. These two commandments-in-one is as follows:

  • We must believe in the Name of His Son, Jesus the Anointed One. Here, we have the word “name,” which is peculiar to biblical writers. It does not mean simply the name by which we call a person. Instead, it means the whole nature character of that person as far as it is known to us. So, the psalmist writes: “Our help is in the name of the Lord.”[6]
  • We must love one another, even as He loved us.[7] This commandment says that we are to love each other with that same selfless, sacrificial, forgiving love with which Jesus the Anointed One loved us. We cannot begin the Christian life until we accept Jesus the Anointed One     for what He is, and we have not received Him in any real sense of the term until our attitude to others is the same as His attitude of love.[8]

Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) brings up a subject not touched on since 1 John 2:8. It is a theme that John now expands on here in verses twenty-three and twenty-four. Previously, “commandment” has been associated with knowing God, loving others, and answered prayer. Now John enlarges the boundaries of commandment in keeping with a two-part statement. The effect will be to assure readers of the confidence of which he has been speaking. First, “His commandment” – whether the Anointed One’s or God’s is unclear – is “that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus the Anointed One.” Now, while John presents the height, depth, and width of salvation’s message throughout his epistle, this is the first time he refers to believing in particular. The call to believe is an ethical imperative. John’s Gospel also focuses on having faith as a moral expectation: “The work God wants you to do is this: to believe in the One He sent.”[9] The act of believing is at the heart of righteous compliance before God.[10]

Colin G. Kruse (1950) points out that in verses nineteen to twenty-two, the Apostle John warned his readers against yielding to any meanness of heart and encouraged them to practice generosity when faced with fellow believers’ material needs. When they did this, John said, they would be obeying God’s command and doing what pleases Him. That is why here in verse twenty-three, John makes it obvious what God’s command is: “To believe in the Name of God’s Son, Jesus the Anointed One, and to love one another as He commanded us.” To believe in the name is the same as believing in the person. To believe in the Name of Jesus the Anointed One involves total commitment and obedience to Him as a person, [11] which always consists in doing what He commanded, “to love one another.” As such, there can be no obedience to God’s commands if there is no love for one another. Also, there can be no love for one another if people close their hearts to those in need. It means there can be no confidence when approaching God in prayer.[12]

Bruce B. Barton (1954) notes that the Apostle John has been openly expressing what Jesus said about loving each other.[13] It was also His commandment – which is one commandment expressed in two parts. There are not two separate commands, but one, since faith and love cannot be separated. Believers must believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus the Anointed One, and love one another. They cannot love each other without having faith in the Anointed One, or honestly believe in Him without having love for other believers. Barton says, “To believe in the Name of Jesus as the Anointed One[14] means to believe in His person – in His essential nature and in what He represents. Those who claim to be Christians must believe in Jesus as the Anointed One, the Son of God, both human and divine, who came to die on the cross for sin. They must be careful to believe in Him, not according to their concepts, but according to the biblical presentation of His person. Today some believe in Jesus as a great teacher, a great moralist, a great humanitarian, but not as the unique Messiah, God’s Son.[15]

Daniel L. Akin (1957) says that verses twenty-three and twenty-four are quietly but clearly Trinitarian, and it provides a grand and glorious summary of the Bible. It is interesting how John packages these verses. Fundamentally, there is one comprehensive command expressed in two parts. First, there must be an explicit belief in the Son, Jesus the Anointed One. It is John’s doctrinal test. Second, there must be an active love for one another. It is John’s moral test. God’s command is “that we believe in the Name of His Son, Jesus the Anointed One.”

Every word in this command is significant, says Akin. Here is the first of nine occurrences of the word “believe” in John’s epistle.[16] It means “to trust or rely on.” Jesus’ “Name” conveys His person and work and all that He is and accomplishes. That Jesus is God’s “Son” emphasizes His eternal deity and unique relationship to the Father. So, “Jesus” is His human name, equivalent to the Hebrew name Joshua. It means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.” And “Christ” means “Anointed One,” God’s Messiah.[17]


[1] Simeon, Charles: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 459

[2] 1 John 3:16

[3] Maurice, F. D., The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 205-206

[4] Written by Isaac Watts, 1709 Watts wrote this to distinguish between the Law and the Gospel.

[5] Spurgeon, Charles, The Spurgeon Sermon Collection: Vol. 2, Sermon 531, p. 356

[6] Psalm 124:8

[7] John 13:34

[8] Barclay, William: The New Daily Study Bible, op. cit., The Letters of John, pp. 98-99

[9] John 6:29

[10] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., p. 214

[11] Cf. John 8:31; Matthew 7:2; Luke 6:46

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

[13] John 13:34

[14] The use of “name” can also denote a person’s reputation or authority. For instance, when a police officer yells, “Open the door in the name of the Law,” it means authority. Or when someone says you can trust in the name of a manufacturer of some product, it implies that company’s reputation. However, for Jesus the Anointed One, it means both authority and reputation.

[15] Barton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., pp. 79-80

[16] Cf. 1 John 4:1,16; 5:1,5,10x3, 13x2

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

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