NUGGETS OF WISDOM

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BELIEVING WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE

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

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

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

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXIX) 11/26/20

Greek writers use the noun phōs (“light”) as a metaphor in Greek literature, for delight, deliverance, and victory. They apply it to certain persons as a term of admiring affection. It is a common remark to hear someone say, “You are the light of my life.” On seeing his son, Telemachus, the Greek god Ulysses says, “You have come, Telemachus, sweet light of my eyes.[1] And Electra, greeting her returning brother, Orestes, “O light! O blazing chariot of the sun!”[2] No modern writer has developed God’s idea as light with such power and beauty as Italian Dante Alighieri (1265-1321 AD) expresses in his Divine Comedy “Paradise Lost.” It might truthfully be called a study of light.

Light is the only visible expression of God. Radiating from Him, it disseminates through the universe as the principle of life. We hear this key-note struck at the very opening of Paradise Lost. “The glory of Him who moves everything penetrates the universe and shines more on one part than on the other. I was in heaven, where most of His light radiates. I saw things which only He, the One who descends from above, can reproduce or know.[3] [4] The reason I mention these secular writings is to show that using “light” as enlightenment or glory was not an outdated concept of the Apostle’s John. We even use it today in that fashion.

John James Lias (1834-1923) offers insight into one final characteristic of light that claims our attention. It is one of its essential properties to communicate itself. It cannot remain folded and be effective. So, in the beginning, God began imparting His work of creation. And so forever He gives Himself to His creatures, creating, sustaining them, filling them with Himself. We must never neglect in explaining a passage that, as Dr. Haupt remarks, is intended to convey to us a conception of the Divine Essence.

On the other hand, states Lias, we should not fail to observe that darkness is the precise opposite of all this. It is the absence of warmth, motion, life. It is the blackness of utter nothingness. It is even impossible for misery to exist in its chill embrace; discomfort is the initial symptom of its approach. And therefore, it is utterly incompatible with the Being of Him, who is all joy and warmth, boundless energy, and unceasing love. And once more, darkness is the opposite of light in its communicative property. Darkness cannot communicate itself; it has nothing to display. And so, though evil example has, in a sense, a tendency to spread, yet the children of darkness have in reality nothing to give, or if they had, they would not provide it. A cold, hard, barren selfishness, which frets at another’s good, and rejoices only in their misfortune, is characteristic of the kingdom of evil. It is the incarnation of incarnation. It can be called, not of love, but hate.[5]

Lias also claims that God’s children must announce an obvious truth when declaring the Gospel to others. It does not require any formal training or endorsement. At least we think so theoretically, although many of them fail to realize it. It is because the Church does not accept the idea that every Christian bears this responsibility. In choosing times and places, we ought to seek Holy Spirit’s guidance from on high and within. Don’t let the spirit of pride assume that this calling involves questioning and lecturing everybody on matters of the most profound privacy or the highest moment. That is a form of Pharisaic pride rather than of Gospel humility. Yet, on everyone’s shoulders remains the duty, at the proper time, of handing on to others the message they received. And let it not be forgotten that the most effective way of doing this is by helping with our utmost strength and ability to spread Christianity at home or abroad.[6]

Augustus Strong (1836-1921) indicates God’s character, moral purity as revealed, as producing joy and life, as contrasted with doing evil, lost in darkness, being in a state of moral decay. The universal human conscience is itself a revelation of the holiness of God, and the joining everywhere of suffering from sin is the revelation of God’s justice. The wrath, anger, jealousy of God shows that this reaction of God’s nature is necessary. God’s heart is itself holy, just, and right. Holiness is not replaced by love, as Protestant theologian Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889) holds since there is no acknowledgment without affirmation. Purity does not make demands solely in law but imparts them through the Holy Spirit; Holiness is not a complicated term designating the aggregate of the divine perfections. On the other hand, the notion of holiness is, both in Scripture and in Christian experience, straightforward and entirely distinct from that of other attributes.[7]

William Macdonald Sinclair (1850-1917), Archdeacon of London, states that here is the essence of Christian theology, the truth about the Deity as opposed to all the imperfect conceptions of Him embittered the minds of the wise. All of what John says here sums up what the First Covenant and our Lord said about the Almighty Father. The Light was God’s garment from the Psalms to the prophet Ezekiel.[8] Likewise, we see the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord’s brightness to the prophet Habakkuk.[9] Furthermore, detect His brilliance in the children of the Light whom the Anointed One called the sons of God.[10] And in the book of Hebrews, the Anointed One was the refracted ray of the Father’s glory. “the express image of His person.”[11] To the Apostle James, the Almighty is the Father of all lights.[12] Then, to the Apostle Paul, He dwells “in the light that no man can approach,”[13] and to the Apostle Peter, being a Christian implies an admission “into His marvelous light.”[14]

John comprehends these ideas as showing that God is Light. Natural light – He called everything first out of the darkness and proceeds all health and perfection. Intellectual light – He is the source of all wisdom and knowledge, and in His mind exist the ideals, after which all things strive. Moral light – His perfection shows that the difference between good and evil is not merely a question of degree, but fundamental and final. The life of the Anointed One exhibited that contrast sharply: once and for all. Thus, this declaration depends on the whole doctrine of sin: sin is not mere imperfections. It is hostility to God. There can be no shades of progression, uniting excellent and evil: in Him is no darkness at all. Good and evil may be mixed in an individual: in themselves, they are contrary.[15]

Alan E. Brooke (1863-1934) believes that describing God as “light” is the best. The Greek noun phōs suggests light in some particular relation.[16] Phōs describes His nature as He is; the description is correct so far as it goes, though not complete. The primary idea suggested by the word in this context is ”illumination.” It is of the nature of light and makes visible. God’s heart is such that He must make Himself known, and that knowledge reveals everything else in its true nature. That this thought is present here is suggested by what John says in 2:3ff. That God can be “known,” and by those to whom the author is writing, is one of the leading ideas on which he lays particular stress. But because of the use of the metaphor of light and darkness in the Bible generally, and especially in John, and of the immediate context in this Epistle, it is impossible to exclude the ethical meaning from the word’s significance here. The context shows that this is the idea which John is most anxious to emphasize. The Word – logos must suggest the notes of Holiness and Purity as essential to God’s nature.[17]

Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951) points out that we have darkness presented in four Scriptures: There is the natural darkness, “having the understanding darkened[18] – this is true of all men by nature. No man by nature understands God. No man naturally loves holiness and purity. That’s why they worshipped the creation instead of the Creator.[19]

Have you ever noticed that you do not to teach little children how to tell lies, but you should advise them to tell the truth? You never have to instruct them on how to lose their temper, but you must tutor them on to control it.[20] You never have lecture them to be disobedient, but you do have to train them to be obedient. Why is this? Because men naturally are children of darkness. As we look into babes’ faces, we do not like to think that we find the same sinful tendency in ourselves in their little hearts, but it is there nevertheless. Therefore, there is the necessity of the spiritual light of regeneration: “You must be born again.”[21] [22]


[1] Homer, The Odyssey, Bk. 16, Verse 23

[2] Eurípides, Electra [870], p. 1043

[3] Alighieri, Dante: Divine Comedy – Paradiso, Canto 1

[4] Marvin R. Vincent: Word Studies, op. cit., pp. 312-313

[5] Lias, John J, The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, James Nisbet & Co., London: 1887, pp. 34–35

[6] Lias, J. J. (1887). First Epistle of John Homiletics, op, cit., pp. 34–36

[7] Strong, Augustus H. Systematic Theology, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 488

[8] Psalm 104:2; Ezekiel 1:2

[9] 1 John 3:3

[10] John 12:36

[11] Hebrews 1:3

[12] James 1:17

[13] 1 Timothy 6:16

[14] 1 Peter 2:9

[15] Sinclair, William Macdonald: Epistles of John, New Testament Commentary for English Readers, Charles John Ellicott (Ed.), Vol. III, Published by Cassell Petter & Galpin, London, 1878-1901, p. 475

[16] 1 John 1:5-9

[17] Brooke, Alan E. International Critical Commentary, op. cit., pp. 11-12

[18] Ephesians 4:18

[19] Romans 1:21

[20] Revelation 8:12

[21] Ibid. 9:2

[22] Ironside, H. A. The Epistles of John and Jude (Ironside Expository Commentaries) (Kindle Locations 176-181), Kindle Edition

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXVIII) 11/25/20

Ezekiel describes a figure that looked like fire, like a man’s body. From the waist down, he was like fire. From the waist up, he was bright and glowing like hot metal in a fire.[1] And to Habakkuk, this divine person’s brightness was like a dazzling light.[2] Jesus, the Anointed One, called the sons of God children of the light.[3] He also announced that He was the Light of the World.[4] He’s the only one who refracts the rays of the Father’s glory, “the express image of His person.”[5] Then Jesus leaves no doubt by declaring, “I am the light of the World.”[6] Then James said, the Almighty was the Father of all lights,[7] to Paul, He dwells “in the light that no man can approach unto,”[8] and to Peter, the Christian state is an admission “into His marvelous light.”[9]

These ideas, John comprehends: God is Light. Light physical, because (1a) it was He who called everything first out of darkness, and (2a) from whom proceeds all health and perfection; light intellectual, because (1b) He is the source of all wisdom and knowledge, and (2b) in His mind exist the ideals after which all things strive; light moral, because (3a) His perfection shows that the difference between good and evil is not merely a question of degree, but fundamental and final, and (3b)) the life of the Anointed One had exhibited that contrast sharply: once for all. Thus, this declaration depends on the whole doctrine of sin: sin is not merely imperfection; it is enmity to God. There can be no shades of progression, uniting righteousness and evil: in Him is no darkness at all. Good and evil may be mixed in an individual: in themselves, they are contrary.[10]

Wesleyan Methodist minister William Arthur (1819-1901) then illustrates verses five through seven. He says, Suppose the case of a disabled person who had spent his life in a room where he never saw the sun. This individual heard of its existence and believed. Indeed, saw enough of its light to form ideas of its glory. Wishing to see the sun, he asked for someone to take him out at night into the streets of an illuminated city. At first, he is delighted and bedazzled; but after having time to reflect, he finds darkness spread amid the lights, and he asks, “Is this the sun?” He is captivated when taken out under the starry sky, but on reflection finds that night covers the earth, and again asks, “Is this the sun?” He is carried out some bright day at noon, and no sooner does his eye open to the sky than all questions end. There is but one light as bright as the sun. His vision is content: it has seen the ultimate light source and feels nothing more brilliant exists. So, when it comes to light, says Arthur, the human soul enjoys enlightenment. Still, among all those lights of art and nature, yet the soul inquires if there isn’t something greater?

Arthur says the Spirit leads the soul into reconciling with the Anointed One in the presence of the Father, the light of God’s countenance shine upon it, all thoughts of anything more significant disappears. As there is but one sun, so there is but one God. The soul which once discerns and knows Him feels that nothing is more brilliant or brighter, and the only possibility of ever beholding more glory is by drawing nearer.[11]

William G. T. Shedd (1820-1894) says that figuratively speaking, in Jesus’ day, people understood light as a symbol of understanding. That’s why they use “enlightenment” as a synonym. Darkness was a symbol of ignorance. So, what is it about this light that is so advantageous? First and foremost, it helps us see and comprehend. So, what is it that this light allows us to see and learn? It helps us see and apprehend the truth in God’s Word. Today, many people are looking for enlightenment, seeking to understand why they are here and for what purpose.

John says you can find it in the light of what Jesus said. Dawn’s light is a generated force, and darkness is its passive absence. The devil did not create night in which sinners live. When he left the glory above, he was condemned to a realm here below without light. That is why he is called the “Prince of darkness.” Therefore, those who are unregenerated are living in the dark where the devil has full reign. It would be easier to find darkness inside a lit light bulb than to see twilight where God dwells. So, if He lives in us, then the aura of His light shines out into the dark world around us. That’s why Jesus said we are a light in this world.

This concept of combining God with light was not foreign to Jews. It was usual for the Cabalistic Jews to call the supreme being “light,” concerning His nature, glory, and majesty.[12] In the Jewish book called Kuzari,[13] we read: “Just as a stone is too inferior to be brought into connection with learning or ignorance, thus the essence of God is too superior to have anything to do with life or death, nor can the terms light or darkness be applied to it. Were we asked whether this essence is light or darkness, we should say light by way of metaphor, for fear, one might conclude that that which is not light must be darkness.”[14]  So when Paul says that in Him, there is no darkness, it means that with His eternal light, there can be no darkness.

But too often, believers put shades over their lights.  Yes, there is still light inside, but it does not shine out where others can see it.  We are given such light to illuminate what is being preached.  What amazes me is how some believers shine like a 200-watt light bulb in church, but outside and at work, they barely flicker.  That creates a problem if you want to be a witness for the Anointed One.  When you come into the sanctuary and the presence of God and other believers, your light is indistinguishable because His light is like the sun.  It’s when we are walking through this dark world that God wants those in darkness to see our light. W. G. T. Shedd points this out in the words of John, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all;”[15] and Solomon’s words, “God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.”[16] [17]

William B. Pope (1822-1903) wants us to be sure we take notice that the Apostle John does not say that he was sharing the message he heard of Him, or about Him, but heard from Him. And because John heard it from Him, that signified the existing fellowship he had with the Father and the Son. Therefore, John wants his readers to know that they can have that same fellowship. It is also for this reason that Jesus the Anointed One was “manifested” in the flesh so that He may personally guarantee that if we are in union with Him, we are simultaneously in union with His Father.[18]

Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) 17). For the most part the Apostle John, like the other writers of the Bible, leaves John’s readers to form their conception of God from what is recorded of His action, but in three phrases he has laid down once for all the great outlines within which our thoughts on the Divine Nature must be confined. The first sentence is in his narrative of the Lord’s words: “God is Spirit;”[19] the two others are in his first Epistle: “God is light,”[20] and “God is love.”[21] [22]

Marvin Vincent (1834-1921) says that by calling God Light, John is stating the absolute nature of God. Not a light, nor the light, with reference to created beings, as light for humanity and light of the world. The Apostle declares simply, but absolutely, God is light, it’s His core nature. The expression is not a metaphor. As German theologian, Johannes H. A. Ebrard (1818-1888) said, “All that we are accustomed to term light in the domain of the creature, whether with physical or metaphysical meaning, is only a reflection of that one and only original Light which appears in the nature of God.[23]  Light is not made of earthly substance; it is diffusive, pure, and glorious. It is the condition of life.

Physically, it represents – glory, intellectually – truth, morally – holiness. As non-material, it corresponds to God as spirit, as diffusive, God as love, as the condition of life, God as life, as pure and illuminating, God as holiness and truth. In the First Covenant, light is often the medium of God’s visible revelations to men. It was the first manifestation of God in creation. The burning lamp passed between the pieces of the parted victim in God’s covenant with Abraham. God went before Israel in a pillar of fire, descended in fire upon Sinai, and appeared in the luminous cloud, which rested on the mercy-seat in the most-holy place.


[1] Ezekiel 8:2

[2] Habakkuk 3:4

[3] John 12:36

[4] Ibid. 8:12

[5] John 9:5

[6] Hebrews 1:3

[7] James 1:17

[8] 1 Timothy 6:16

[9] 1 Peter 2:9

[10] Ellicott, Charles J., First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 475

[11] Arthur, William: Biblical Illustrator, First Epistle of John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[12] Cabalist Lexicon, pp. 63-64

[13] The Kuzari’s full title is: “Book of Refutation and Proof on Behalf of the Despised Religion” It was written in Arabic by medieval Spanish Jewish philosopher and poet Judah Halevi around 1140 AD. The despised religion was Judaism as Islamist saw it.

[14] HaLevi, Judah: Kitab al Khazari, Part 2, Sec. 2

[15] 1 John 1:5

[16] Ecclesiastes 7:29

[17] Shedd, W. G. T. Dogmatic Theology (Kindle Locations 5234-5235). Titus Books. Kindle Edition

[18] Pope, William B: Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., p. 298

[19] John 4:24

[20] 1 John 1:5

[21] Ibid. 4:8, 16

[22] Brooke F. Westcott: op. cit., p. 167

[23] Ebrard, Johannes H. A. Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, Clarke’s Foreign Theological Library, Vol. VIII, 1 John, T. & T. Clark, Dublin, 1860, p. 80

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXVII) 11/24/20

Alfred E. Plummer (1746-1829) points out that there are three statements in the Bible which stand alone as revelations of the Nature of God, and they are all in the writings of the Apostle John: “God is spirit;”[1] “God is light;”[2] and “God is love.”[3] In all these momentous statements, the predicate has no article, either definite or indefinite. We do not read that God has a Spirit, or has Light, or has Love. But God is Spirit, Light, and Love. These are the substance of His essence and nature. They are not mere attributes, like mercy and justice: they are Himself. They are probably the nearest approach to a definition of God that the human mind could frame or comprehend: In the history of thought and religion, they are unique. The more we consider them, the more they satisfy us. The most superficial intellect can understand their meaning; the most advanced intelligence cannot measure its height, length, width, or depth.

No philosophy, no religion, not even Jewish theology, has risen to the truth that God is Light. Even Isaiah’s proclamation “The Lord will be to you an everlasting light”[4] falls short of it. But John knows it: and to prevent his message to seem somewhat uninspiring and empty in its inconclusiveness, he conveys to us in his Gospel and Epistle, “God is Spirit,” “God is light,” God is love.”

No figure borrowed from the material world could give the idea of perfection so clearly and fully as light. It suggests brightness, happiness, intelligence, truth, purity, holiness. It offers excellence without limit or flaw; distinct whose nature is to communicate and saturate everything except where entry is blocked. ‘Let there be light’ was the first command of the Creator, and on it all the rest depends. Light is the condition of beauty, life, growth, and activity: and this is as true in the intellectual, moral, and spiritual spheres as in the material universe.[5]

Adam Clarke (1760-1851) writes that God is the source of wisdom, knowledge, holiness, and happiness; and in Him is no darkness at all – no ignorance, no imperfection, no sinfulness, no misery. And from him, wisdom, knowledge, holiness, and happiness are received by every believing soul. It is the grand message of the Gospel, the great principle on which humanity’s happiness depends. Light implies every essential excellence, especially wisdom, holiness, and happiness. Darkness implies all imperfection, and principally ignorance, sinfulness, and misery. Light is the purest, the most understated, the most useful, and the most drawn-out of all God’s creations; it is, therefore, a very proper emblem of the purity, perfection, and goodness of His Divine nature.

God is to the human soul, says Clarke, what the sunlight is to the world; without the latter, all would be dismal and uncomfortable, and terror and death would universally prevail: and without an indwelling God, what is religion? Without His all-penetrating and enduring light, what is the soul of a human being? Religion would be an empty science, says Clarke, a dead letter, an unreliable and insignificant system leaving the soul in a trackless wilderness, a howling waste, full of evil, terror, and dismay. Not only that, but it would become entangled with anticipations of the future, leaving those lost of this world with successive, permanent, substantial, and endless periods of doubt and misery.

No wonder the Apostle lays this down as a first and grand principle, stating it to be the essential message he received from the Anointed One to deliver to the world.[6] Notice how verses seven, eight, and nine begin with “if.” That means that what Paul says next should be considered abnormal for the average believer.

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) points out that John does not say, “God is the Light,” instead, “God is Light. That’s why John does not use the article “the.” The Light without the article attributes to God in an immaterial manner the property of being Light, without stating what kind of light or how far this fact belongs to God exclusively. Rothe also insists that we must inquire into a more precise meaning of “light” and “darkness.” You cannot have light and darkness together. Darkness is the absence of light. As soon as light appears, the darkness is no more. Some believe that “light” refers to knowledge about God, while “darkness” means ignorance about God. It is undoubtedly used that way, but not here. John uses “light” as God’s essence. “Darkness, then, becomes its opposite.

Rothe feels that John is unquestionably thinking here of God’s absolute holiness, in opposition to all sin and all error.[7] That makes “Light” the expression of God’s righteousness. It expresses it as defined by its absolute non-worldliness, as in His absolute purity. He is untouched by material or physical defilement. As the light of pure love, God turns towards His creatures as complete goodness.[8] Hence the Christian God stands in contrast with the heathen gods, in whom there is also a total lack of life, which promotes envy and jealousy in its worshippers.[9]

Karl G. Braune (1810-1877) agrees with John’s claim that God IS Light, which Greek scholar Henry Alford also points out (not as Martin Luther renders it, “a light”).[10] 1) Since when do you know it? 2) What does it mean? 3) Where does it point? So, whatever authentic views you may have of God the Father, you got them from the Anointed One. No matter whether a messenger of salvation is a minister of the Church, your mother, Sunday school teacher, a friend, or Christian hands brought them to you from the Bible, the Holy Spirit etched them in your heart. Nothing gladdens the hearts of men more than light; but how have they abused the Word and deprived it of its best part, and try to make it chime in with unholiness in thought, word, and deed!

William Graham (1810-1883) This remarkable expression may be compared with the assertion  “God is Love,”[11] which two abstract propositions seem to refer to the natural and moral attributes of God. Light and love are the two most comprehensive symbols of the nature of the Deity as the all-knowing and yet all-loving God. The assertion “God is Light” means, no doubt, that God is the pure, holy, eternal Spirit, who created the universe, the fountain of all purity, holiness, knowledge, and fertility in the world.[12]

The world’s light dazzles without illuminating, shines without producing a spring with blossoms or autumn with fruit. – The world’s enlightenment may be useful in building bridges of honor in this life, bringing acclaim to artists and fame to the wise, being in charge of law and order in the land and the streets, and bringing rejoicing to society with a refreshed mind. However, it can also undermine and destroy the salvation of your soul. But it cannot carry the gleam of consolation into life’s night, still less into the darkness of the valley of death; it cannot help the soul find love and a life death cannot destroy. – The world’s light sets like the sun in the sky, but God the Light shines through all the darkness of sin, life, or death. – Try every light, whether God is in it. – If He, the Holy One, is absent, that light is no light worthy of the name, but a false light, a will-o’-the-wisp.[13] Do not look for salvation in any science or civilization insights if it denies the holy light. Fear only the darkness in which God the Father is not present.[14]

Richard Holmes Tuck (1817-1868) says that the first part of this epistle begins here. It is directed against the Gnostic teaching that to an enlightened individual, all conduct is morally uncaring. There have been those who claimed an interest in the Anointed One while living in sin at every age. John does not address sinners generally, but distinctly those who made Christian profession but fell short of it through misunderstandings and self-delusions. It is not merely the absolute fact concerning Him. It is a precise detail that Jesus, the Anointed One, declared to be the first of truths. “We heard of Him.” Divine holiness is Christianity’s foundation. Light is the sensible symbol of integrity, moral purity. So why walk in darkness? People may do so either to hide what they do not wish to be seen or to cover self-indulgent ways that symbolize such darkness. It leads to lying in self-deception or in willfully deceiving others. Plummer says, “Some Gnostics taught, not merely that to the enlightened individual all conduct was alike, but that to reach the highest form of informed people must experience every kind of repulsive behavior, to work themselves free from the powers that rule the world.[15] [16]

Charles J. Ellicott (1819-1904) says that the words, “God is light,” is the essence of Christian theology, the truth about the Deity as opposed to all the imperfect conceptions of Him which had embittered the minds of the wise. To the pagan, Deities represented angry, malicious beings, worshipped by the secrecy of outrageous vice. To the Greeks and Romans, forces of nature transformed into superhuman men and women, powerful and impure; to philosophers, it was a concept, either moral or physical; to Gnostics, it was a small idea involving equal and contending forces of good and evil. It is recognizable only through less and less perfect delegates. All this, John summed up what the First Covenant and our Lord said about the Almighty Father. He sweeps it all away in one simple declaration of truth. 


[1] John 4:24

[2] 1 John 1:5

[3] Ibid. 4:8

[4] Isaiah 60:19-20

[5] Alfred E. Plummer: Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 79

[6] Adam Clarke: Commentary and Critical Notes on the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, Hebrews – Revelation, Vol. 6, p. 365

[7] See James 1:17

[8] See Commentary 1 John 1:7 below

[9] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., February 1890, pp.116-117

[10] Alford, Henry: Greek New Testament, Vol. 4, op. cit., p. 426

[11] 1 John 4:8

[12] Graham, William (1857), The Spirit of Love, op. cit., p. 31

[13] Gases escaping from mud and slime in a marsh or bog

[14] Braune, Karl G. Homiletic: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 30

[15] 2 Corinthians 6:14

[16] Tuck, Richard H.: p. 230

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXVI) 11/23/20

And this splendor of His appearing presents itself gently and softly to the frail and weak eyes of mortals, says Origen, it gradually trains them, as it were, to bear the brightness of His divine glory. They have put away every hindrance and obstacle to vision, according to the Lord’s precept, “Get rid of the pole in your eye.”[1] It renders them capable of enduring the splendor of the Light, being made a mediator between men and the Light. Origen sees John’s statement that God is Light, and  the Son of God, therefore, is the brightness of that Light. That’s why the two are inseparable, just as brightness cannot exist apart from light. First, He lit up the whole world, and now He lights up our world and provides illumination for all creation.[2]

Early church writer Augustine (354-430 AD) sees John’s comment on Jesus being the Light asks the question, “Who would dare say that there is darkness in God?” It does not pertain to what we see with our eyes. God is light. Even though the sun sends light, and the moon reflects light, and a candle gives light, something far greater exists than these. It is far more excellent and far more surpassing, especially when considering how much distance there is between the Creator and His creation. Also, the Word is superior to that which was made by the Word, says Augustine. It simply indicates how bright that Light must be.  Besides, how much nearer we will be to that Light once we get to know this Light personally and apply ourselves to it that we are enlightened; because we will live darkness without Him. Not only that but when the Light enlightens us, we become a light to the world.[3] [4]

Andreas (600-700) makes an interesting point here in His Cantena. He asks, what is this message John brings? It is that eternal life has appeared to us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son,” and this is what we proclaim to you – that the Word of God who has come into the world and become a man is both God and light.[5] That means we do not have to wait until we die to receive eternal life. God’s Son IS eternal life. So, having the Son of God dwelling in you indicates that you already have eternal life because you have the Son. Symeon, the New Theologian (949-1022 AD), agrees by saying, let no one deceive you. God is Light to those who in union with Him. He imparted of His brightness to the extent that they are purified.[6]

Augustinian monk Walter Hilton (1340-1396) says that the Scriptures tell us that God is Light. We must not mistake it as mere candlelight, but understand it as God’s Light of truth, for truth is spiritual Light. Therefore, those who know this truth can know God more assuredly. However, we can liken it to sunlight for this reason: Just as sunlight enters our eye, giving sight to see those things around us, so the truth of God illuminates the reason for the soul’s existence. It also explains other spiritual matters that are needed to understand our soul’s purpose and destiny. As the Psalmist said: “For with you is the fountain of life; by your light, we see the light.”[7] That is, we will see You, who is Truth Yourself.[8]

English Anglican Bible commentator John Trapp (1601-1669) feels that the Apostle John may be referring to someone in his day when writing that God is Light. Such was a devilish sarcasm of the Manichaeans[9] that God (till He created light) dwelt in darkness as if God were not eternal light, an unapproachable light.[10] Trapp also notes that the Carpocratian heretics were madmen,[11] who taught (even in John’s days, as Epiphanius testified) that men must sin and do the will of the devils; otherwise, they could not enter into heaven! These might well be some of those Antichrists he complained of in chapter four, and the liberals and liars, against whom he argues.[12] John seems to indicate some acquaintance with these groups in verse six.

For John Bunyan (1628-1688), many things related to our lives give our Accuser Satan many occasions to second-guess our salvation. Besides our daily sinful tendencies, sometimes there are pitiful sins and many horrible backslidings in our lives. We often integrate many offensive biases and dishonest opinions into our minds; of all which Satan accuses us before the judgment-seat of God and pleads hard that we may be sent to hell forever because of them. Unfortunately, people commit these things after receiving the Gospel Light. These things violate convictions, wound consciences, and destroy promises.

These are crying sins, says Bunyan; they have a loud voice in themselves against us and give to Satan great advantage and boldness to sue for our destruction before the bar of God. Nor does the devil want us to become less skillful in doing those things that result in our failure to abide in God’s love. Namely, we did it without any cause or reason, and when we had many things to help us against such sins, we only had the grace to use them, keeping us pure and upright. There is also “a sin unto death,”[13] and Satan can assure us by argument and deceptive speech how we can still transgress without crossing the line. However, he then turns this around to enforce his objection against our salvation.[14]

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) also looks at John’s proclamation that God is Light and that God is Love.[15] And the light of His glory is substantially sweet because it is the light of love, and especially appears so in the person of our Redeemer, who is beyond doubt the most beautiful example of love ever witnessed. All of the Godhead’s perfections produce their highest manifestation in the work of redemption, vastly more than in the work of creation. We see Him indirectly in other parts of creation, but here, we see His face’s immediate glory.[16] As to His other areas of involvement, we view Him at a distance. But in this, we come near and behold the immeasurable treasures of his heart.[17]

Edwards notes that when light and heat are united in a minister of the Gospel, it shows that each is genuine, and of the right kind and divine. Divine light always brings heat, and so it is that holy light is accompanied by holy heat. In the sun, such a bright and glorious light and such a powerful, refreshing, revitalizing heat come in every ray.

When there is light in a minister, consisting only of human learning, excellent theoretical knowledge, and the wisdom of this world, without any spiritual warmth and enthusiasm in his heart, or a holy zeal in his ministries, his light is like the light of an ignis fatuus.[18] Certain kinds of rotting carcasses shine in the dark. However, they are of a stinking smell. And if, on the other hand, a minister has warmth and zeal, his heat has nothing beneficial in it without light. Instead, we must reject such rubbish. It is like the heat of a volcano, where, although the fire is intense, it does not qualify as light. To be hot in this manner, and not illuminating, is like an angel of darkness.

By having light and heat united in them, ministers will be like the angels of light, which for their light and brightness are called morning stars. “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”[19] And because of that holy ardor of divine love and zeal with which they burn, they are compared to a flaming fire. “Who makes His angels’ spirits, and His ministers a flaming fire.”[20] The Hebrews called them seraphs, a word derived from a root word that signifies “to burn.”[21]

So, by ministers of the Gospel being burning and shining lights, the churches’ messengers will become like the angels of heaven. Those stars held in the right hand of the Anointed One here below, will be like those morning stars above, and which is much more, as a result of this ministers will be like their glorious Lord and Master; who is not only the Master of ministers of the Gospel, but is the Head and Lord of the glorious angels, whom they adore, and who communicates to them the brightness in which they shine, and the flame with which they burn, and is the glorious luminary and sun of the heavenly world, from whence all the inhabitants of that world have their light and life, and all their glory.[22]


[1] Matthew 7:5

[2] Origen: On First Principles, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Bk. 1, Ch. 2, Para., 7, p. 248; Also, Origen: On First Epistle of John, Bray, G. (Ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, p. 170

[3] Matthew 5:14-16

[4] Augustine, op. cit., John 1:5

[5] Andreas: Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., 1-3 John, p. 170

[6] Symeon the New Theologian: Discourses 15.3., Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., p. 170

[7] Psalm 36:9

[8] Hilton, Walter: The Scale of Perfection, Part 3, pp. 177-178

[9] Manichaeism was founded by an Iranian prophet named Mani. He taught an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil material world of darkness.

[10] 1 Timothy 6:16

[11] Carpocrates lived in Alexandria, Egypt in the first half of the second century AD. His “greatest blasphemy,” one of the prominent heresies leveled against Carpocrates, was his scandalous teaching that wives should be held in common (i.e., shared communally for the purposes of procreation). The Carpocratians taught that wives should be shared because members of the community shunned private property based on their understanding of the righteousness of God. Epiphanes, the son of Carpocrates, identified God’s righteousness as “a kind of communion together with equality.

[12] Trapp, John: On First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 725

[13] 1 John 5:16

[14] Bunyan, John, Practical Works, AGES Digital Library Collections, Vol. 6, The Work of Jesus Christ as an Advocate, Explained, Ch. 6, p. 181

[15] 1 John 4:8

[16] 2 Corinthians 3:18

[17] Edwards, Jonathan: Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1, Ch. 20, p. 393

[18] Ignis fatuus is a light that sometimes appears in the night over marshy ground and is often attributable to the combustion of gas from decomposed organic matter.

[19] Job 28:7

[20] Psalm 104:4

[21] Seraph is also thought of as a “flying fiery dragon.” They had six wings. See Isaiah 14:29; 30:6

[22] Edwards, Jonathan, The Works of: Vol. 6, Seventeen Occasional Sermons, Sermon 15, The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister, pp. 1656-1657

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POINTS TO PONDER

How many times have you heard or read, “With a sincere heart?” Perhaps you received a letter that was signed, “Sincerely yours.” But how much do we know about sincerity?  The term “Sincere,” was first recorded in English in the 1530s, from the Latin word sincerus, meaning “clean, pure, sound, etc.,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Then, during the 14th century Renaissance in Spain, Spanish sculptors who made mistakes while carving expensive marble often patched their flaws with cera – “wax.” A statue that had no flaws and required no patching was hailed as a sculpture sin cera or a “sculpture without wax.” The phrase eventually came to mean anything honest or true. The English word sincere evolved from the Spanish sin cera – meaning, “without mixture such as honey without the honey comb.”

But all of this comes with certain attachments, say psychologists. You can certainly be sincere with someone without being impolite. Today we have a saying that illustrates this: “Start running you mouth before putting your brain in gear.” Also, do not attempt to be sincere while sugarcoating the truth. We all have the right to know the truth, but we also have the right to interpret this knowledge. The ideal thing is for us, as adults, to be emotionally strong and accept the discomforts of life. This way, we’ll be able to take action from a fair position.

Being sincere is also an art form.  It implies putting yourself in the other person’s place, knowing if they are ready to receive the truth. Furthermore, using the appropriate verbal and nonverbal tools is key. That’s why psychologists tell us that people need two basic dimensions to be happy: trust and security. Neither of them can be achieved on their own. Our most significant relationships offer us acknowledgement and sincerity.

Nevertheless, some experts on relationships, such as Marianne Dainton from La Salle University in Philadelphia, show us that at times, lies and omissions are necessary in order to maintain the balance within the relationship itself and to protect our loved one. But one thing is certain, not everyone supports this theory.

We must be ready to be sincere on a daily basis, because sincerity requires bravery and people want a relationship to be one of brave souls. People must know that we always tell the truth and follow through on our word. As a result, we can offer a heart that is sincere – without anything mixed in. It is not necessary to tell those around us every thought that crosses our mind, every personal opinion or each reflection we may have. We should all have our own personal and nontransferable space. But the key is to not hide things. We must use sincerity to build, unite and create bonds. To create a project and give strength to the relationship itself.

Sincerity not only makes other people feel good; it also helps us find the inner tranquility that comes with authentic vital commitment. Now, what does a lack of sincerity usually cause in a close relationship? It creates distance. A lack of sincerity can always be sensed sooner or later, and not dealing with it creates a great deal of suffering. Not knowing how to express needs and looking for a way to do so creates blame and sometimes even cause a breakup. Thoughts that are hidden, truths that aren’t said, opinions that are bottled up and feelings that are hid… they are all negative emotions in the long-term that translate to dissatisfaction and frustration. It’s dangerous.

So, do you keep your word? Remember that by not doing so you leave scars of distrust in others, that will be remembered in the future with sadness and sorrow. The longer the wound stays open the more difficult it is to heal. There are very few people that will get tired of loving in this life. But we can become exhausted by having to wait, to listen to promises and false hopes, to assume and listen to apologies. All they’re looking for is someone who is sincere.

There is another thing to keep in mind, sincerity is not substitute for authenticity. The problem is that sincerity is consistent with a wide and restless variation in one’s beliefs, desires, and emotions as far as the person hasn’t deceived themselves about his or her actual states of mind. Some people claim they are being sincere as an opportunist whose only concern is their own pleasure and happiness. While sincerity allows uninhibited expression and enactment, it does not give license to uses negative phrases such as “fool,” “idiot,” “lazy good-for-nothing,” etc. Every time we do it opens us up to hypocrisy. As Jesus once said, “Let those without any faults or failures throw the first stone.”[1]

The Apostle Peter told his readers that since they purified their souls by their obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.[2] And to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul had this motivational thought, “If I’m proud of anything, it’s that my conscience is clear, that I behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.[3] Paul then goes on to say that he was not like some who peddle God’s Word, but as a person of sincerity, as commissioned by God. And with God looking on, he preaches what the Anointed One gave him to share.[4]

Then, in Paul’s letter to the Colossians he advises everyone to be responsible to those over them in the world and in the Lord. But not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.[5]

So, what can we learn from this? Sincerity means being honest and genuine without any pretense, misrepresentation, or deceit. Being a more sincere person can refer to how you interact with others, but ultimately sincerity must begin within yourself, from your heart. Learning to recognize your thoughts and feelings can help you become a more genuine person, which in turn can help you become more sincere in your dealings with others.

Also, when you do something good, don’t expect a reward. Giving is an act of an expression of your genuine concern for others, a sincerity and interest in other people. If you make your opinions and feelings obvious to others, there is a chance to become a sincere person. If you want to remain a sincere person, you should always look for the good in situations, in you and in other people. Put yourself into the other person’s shoes and see where they’re coming from. If negative connotations arise, use your positive affirmations to outweigh the negatives and to find the brighter side of every situation.

Furthermore, always tell the truth but without blaming or bullying. Sincerity is about spontaneity, immediacy, spur-of-the-moment decisions, which well up from your genuine self. If you polish responses whether by letter, e-mail, or speech, you will remove the sincerity and replace it with layers of attempted perfectionism, caution, and even trying to smooth things out. Remember, God reconciled people hostile to Him by being sincere, and with His Spirit living in you, you can do the same. – Dr. Robert R Seyda


[1] John 8:7

[2] 1 Peter 1:22

[3] 2 Corinthians 1:12

[4] Ibid. 2:17

[5] Colossians 3:22

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

MIRACLES WAIT FOR IMPOSSIBLILE MOMENTS

As a cough from early February worsened late into March, David Henry, an Elementary School teacher in Indiana, checked himself into Marion General Hospital – only to be intubated a day later. The previously diagnosed pneumonia was quickly understood to be COVID-19, leading David on a path of severe lung infections, kidney failure and dialysis, and near-death conditions.

His wife, Michele, who serves as pastor to families and children at Brookhaven Wesleyan Church, said, “We figured he’d be in 14 days or so and be out.” Within hours, health professionals grew increasingly wary of David’s condition and issued a transfer request to Lutheran Hospital in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. But the transfer was initially denied by both hospitals, as David would not have survived it. “My health deteriorated so quickly that within a day I was sedated and intubated, and I didn’t wake up for 28 days,” David said.

Recovering just enough for the transfer, David spent the next four weeks at Lutheran Hospital, where he could benefit from a wider range of medical resources. But optimism again waned, as doctors saw no possibility of recovery. “The day following his transfer was the worst for me personally,” Michele said. “It was also physically one of his worst days. The doctors called and told me there was really nothing that could be done for him. “I had to have a conversation with my children that he very well might not make it. And we would have to believe that God is still with us and our faith is still strong, but that he’s going to help us in a different way than what we thought. That was hard.”

Michele and David have 11 children — biological, adopted and foster — and though he was largely unconscious, David sensed the extent of his sickness and pleaded with God to prevent his adopted children from experiencing another loss. “I remember telling the Lord, ‘I feel like the best part of my life is coming into view. And I’d really like to be there when it happens. I want to see my kids marry, and I want to have grandkids,’” David said. “And I didn’t want to let my kids have another loss, because as beautiful as adoption is it doesn’t come without a substantial loss for the child. They have lost and grieved a family, and I was asking the Lord not to make them grieve me.”

Doctors urged Michele to consent to a do-not-resuscitate order, but she could not bring herself to do it. “Why would God go through all that trouble to transfer him, if he was just going to let him go?” Michele’s Facebook updates garnered hundreds of responses and shares as the community and believers across the world prayed for David.

“The growth of support we were receiving was exponential. The whole school and community rallied: people from his corporation, former students, parents, people that just knew who he was, teachers and former teachers, our church family, they surrounded us,” Michele said. “Every time we prayed for something specific, the very next day or even that night, it would happen. It was just incredible to see God begin to work.” One small miracle after another, David’s health began to improve, baffling medical experts. “The doctors couldn’t deny he was getting better, but it didn’t make sense to them as to why because there wasn’t any good reason medically,” Michele said.

On Easter morning, Michele and her kids were able to experience David’s first moments of semi-consciousness, as doctors attempted to wake him up to allow him to try to breathe on his own. The fact that God began to wake up David on Easter, the day Christians celebrate Christ’s resurrection, was not lost on her. “We started to experience very minor improvements, but improvements nonetheless, which they said probably would never happen. So, every little thing was something I was able to cling to that God was working. God was doing something. It was just very, very, very slow,” Michele said.

David recalls few moments from the early stages of his recovery, but he is certain of the interactions and conversations he had with God. “I think there were three separate experiences for me: one my mind had, one my soul had and one my body had,” David said. “There was a point where my spirit was very much present with the Lord. My soul was in this beautiful communion with God. And we had this amazing back and forth conversation and prayer. “And I felt strongly impressed that when I woke, I was to declare, ‘My name is David Henry, and I’m a child of the one true God.’”

In late April, David fully awoke with this declaration on his lips. Met with a parade gathered outside the hospital as he was released, the Henrys were overwhelmed with the number of people who pled with God for David’s health. “People just came out of the woodwork. People that haven’t prayed in a real long time. And God did that,” Michele said. “So, if this was what it took for some people to wake up and realize that God is still active in our lives and he does care and he is God, then, yes, it was hard, but I would do it again.”

The unity of Christ’s body, revealed in the faithful prayers of hundreds and thousands, was what most astounded the Henrys. “All of us, together, were on our knees, together, to the same God, together, and giving him praise, together,” Michele said. She added that as much as they appreciate the dedicated work of the health professionals, “Nobody could say that the doctors healed David. It was so evident, God did that.”

Just like in the case of Lazarus, Jesus told his two sisters, Martha and Mary, the reason He delayed His coming was that He couldn’t raise Lazarus from the dead until he died.[1] Sometimes we pray for victory without realizing that it will take a battle to win. Often times we plead with God for a miracle not knowing that we are requesting to be placed in an impossible situation. It is alright to ask God for what ever you think you need. But keep in mind, Naaman the Syrian General could only be delivered from leprosy if he was willing to go into the muddy Jordan river and immerse himself three times.[2]

So, keep on praying but also keep on planning to go all the way to the point where God takes over. – Dr. Robert R Seyda


[1] John 11:21-45

[2] 2 Kings 5:1-17

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXV) 11/20/20

Tom Thatcher (1973-) says that although most of the Apostle John’s audience have been loyal in the past, the doctrinal crisis presented by the Antichrists and the desertion of leaders such as Diotrephes[1] seems to have left John uncertain of his congregation’s devotions. While John demands that his audience choose to either stay with him or leave, he believes they will remain. Indeed, their fellowship would increase the joy he receives from his friendship with the Father. But it is probably too much to say that “even the author’s fellowship with God is not fully satisfactory without the reader’s incorporation.”

The way John thinks, says Thatcher, “joy” is a gift from God that transcends the difficulties of life in the world because it recognizes God’s continuing love in the face of the world’s endless hatred.[2] Jesus, therefore, prays that His disciples “may have the full measure of My joy within them,” even though He is sending them into a hostile world[3] In this sense, John’s joy will continue, whether or not the audience makes the right decision. Still, their positive response would “fulfill” or “make complete” John’s joy by granting him the satisfaction of success as a witness.[4]

David Jackman (1973-) says that the Apostle John offers a practical incentive in maintaining a living fellowship with God – continually increasing in joy. His reader’s enjoyment becomes John’s delight as they belong to the same union with God. Later, in his third letter, John would tell them that it always brought him great satisfaction when he heard that his little children followed the way of truth. Having the conscious awareness of being one with God and His children everywhere leaves little else that could spark such fullness of joy. Jesus was not bashful about speaking of the thrill that awaited His disciples.[5] But it only came to them through the cross where He gave Himself totally to fulfill His Father’s purposes.[6] [7]

David Guzik (1984-) says that the Christian’s joy is essential and assaulted on many fronts. External circumstances, bad moods, and troubling emotions can often sap our happiness based on this world’s things. But our joy is dependent on other factors: Our relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, including our fellow believers. Too many Christians are passive when their joy fades. They need to realize it is a significant loss and should do everything they can to draw close to God and reclaim that fullness of joy. As the great preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “If you have lost your delight in the Lord, never consider it a small loss.”[8]

Colin G. Kruse agrees that having John say that he was writing this letter so that his delight might be made complete does sound somewhat strange. It would seem more logical that he aimed to complete their joy in the Lord. However, Kruse argues that John recognized that his satisfaction in representing the Anointed One could not be complete if fellow believers for whom John feels some responsibility are in danger of departing from the truth. He did not want them led astray by becoming involved in another gospel, one which he will soon prove to false because it does not involve fellowship with the Father and the Son. John’s gratification comes from knowing that those under his care are continually walking in the light of truth about the Savior of the world, the incarnate Son of God, the Messiah.[9]

1:5a This is the message we heard Him give. Now we pass it on to you. Here it is: God is light, and in Him, darkness does not exist.

EXPOSITION

The first four verses above comprise the introduction and tell us the purpose of the epistle. Now we come to the substance of the apostolic doctrine to be communicated to the believing Church. The great principles of the person and work of the Redeemer are asserted and reiterated by the Apostle. They are the foundation of all true faith and the only basis of the sinner’s hope for time and eternity. Jesus the Anointed One is the eternal revealer of the great Father of the universe, in whom, as in a mirror, the attributes and character of the invisible and unapproachable Yahweh as revealed to the church, angels, and all creation.

God manifested the eternal Logos in human form as the kinsman-Redeemer. He was born of the substance of the Virgin Mary. Except for the absence of sin, He did not differ from His brothers. The divine Word was no mere inspiration or act of wisdom and power by which God created the universe; He was a distinct and independent person who came to redeem the human race. The Apostles, says John, are witnesses, for we saw, heard, and placed our hands on Him. That is why we make known to you the glorious communion which all believers have with the Father and His Son Jesus the Anointed One. Such is the core of the Apostle’s introduction, and now, in the fifth and following verses, we come to the more unique doctrines and duties which the Apostle brings before the mind of the Church.[10]

Listen to the words of David: “The Lord is my light and my salvation – so why should I be afraid? The LORD is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?”[11] Later on, the Psalmist said to Yahweh, “Our light is from Your light.”[12] And again, we read the Psalmist who says: “For ADONAI God is our Light and our Protector. He gives us grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from those who walk along His paths.”[13] Not only that, but the prophet Isaiah received this message from above: “No longer will you need the sun or moon to give you light, for the Lord your God will be your everlasting light, and He will be your glory.”[14] We hear this echoed in John’s revelation when he saw a new earth and stated: “The city needed no sun or moon to light it, for the glory of God and the Lamb illuminate it.”[15]

John continues a theme found in the opening of his Gospel, and that is the importance of spiritual light in a world darkened by sin that fills the sky with pollution. Notice that John does not say that God has light, or that He emits light, but that He is light. God is the very essence and substance, which creates light and all its properties. This premise permeates every attribute of God because wherever He is, there is light.[16]  And the first thing He did when creating the universe was to say, “Let there be light.”[17]  Since John, no doubt, was acquainted with the Scriptures, he shares the same fascination and appreciation for the light of God as David the Psalmist.[18] Jesus Himself was fond of calling His followers “children of light,”[19] as was the Apostle Paul.[20]  So, it is significant that John did not say this is something others say about Jesus; instead, we heard it.[21]  John heard Jesus preach and teach for some three years, and I’m sure our Lord’s references to light stuck in John’s mind.

COMMENTARY

Clement of Alexandria (160-215 AD) notes that John is not expressing the Son of God’s divine essence, but rather, to declare God’s majesty in His human nature. It illuminates what the best and most excellent divine virtues are for humanity to see. For in this same Epistle, John declares that “God is love:”[22] pointing out the excellencies of God, that He is kind and merciful; and because He is Light, allows people to see how they can be right with Him. That then means, “There is no darkness in Him,”[23]that is, no evil tendencies, no wicked thoughts, no desires for sinful pleasures found. Instead, He brings deliverance and cleansing from all these things. Light also signifies the good, not the bad, faith, not obligation, Grace, not salvation by works, God’s Word, not man’s word. Darkness is gone because the Light has come. Not as if there were another way; since there is only one way according to divine principles. For the work of God is unity. Dual lifestyles and all else that is promoted by some comes from perverse thinking.[24]

Origen (184-253 AD) notes that according to John: “God is light.” Therefore, the only-begotten Son is the glory of this Light, proceeding inseparably from (God) Himself, as brightness does from the sun, stars, and burning oil lamps. For, we have already explained, says Origen, how the Son of God is the Way that leads to the Father. He is the Word, interpreting the secrets of wisdom and the mysteries of divine knowledge. He came to make them known to rational creatures and is also the Truth, and the Life, and the Resurrection, – in the same way we ought to understand even the meaning of His being the brightness: for it is by its splendor that we come to know and feel what Light itself is.


[1] Diotrephes was the self-seeking troublemaker John mentions in his third letter.

[2] John 15:11; 16:20–22

[3] Ibid. 17:13

[4] Thatcher, Tom. 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude – Expositor’s Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 277

[5] John 16:20, 22, 24

[6] Hebrews 12:2-3

[7] Jackman, David, The Message of John’s Letters – The Bible Speaks Today, op. cit., pp. 24-25

[8] Guzik, David, Enduring Word Commentary, op. cit., p. 15

[9] Kruse, Colin G. The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Letters of John, William B. Eerdmans Publish Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000, pp. 58-59

[10] Graham, William (1857), The Spirit of Love, op. cit., p. 27

[11] Psalm 27:1

[12] Ibid. 36:9

[13] Ibid. 84:11

[14] Isaiah 60:19

[15] Revelation 21:23

[16] Psalm 139:11-12

[17] Genesis 1:3

[18] Cf. Psalms 4:6; 18:28; 27:1; 36:9; 43:3; 78:14; 89:15; 90:8 & 119:105

[19] Cf. Luke 16:8 & John 12:36

[20] See Ephesians 5:8-9 & 1 Thessalonians 5:5

[21] See verses 1-2

[22] 1 John 4:7

[23] Ibid. 1:5

[24] Clement of Alexandria: On First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 1161

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXIV) 11/19/20

James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) points out that this message received by John and the other Apostles was not only for themselves. It was intended for the whole world, just as Jesus commanded.[1] John intended to present his message in striking contrast with the Gnostics or any other type of exclusive Christian sect of his day and ours. These sects are secessionists who want to establish a fellowship based on intellect and a modified Word of God. The Apostles desired to proclaim the same Gospel to humanity regardless of race, color, or creed. To do this, John uses the word “testify” about what was seen and heard by the Apostles. It was something that would stand up in any court of law.[2]

South African theologian Michael Eaton (1942-2017) highlights an essential factor illustrated in these first four verses about John’s concern over the physical reality of Jesus living in this world. It was in the face of those who, even back then, theorized that the Anointed One was only a phantom or appearing and disappearing spirit. But John’s efforts were to bring everyone who believed in a close fellowship with the Light, the Messiah. For this purpose, he provides the personal witnessing of himself and other Apostles who heard, saw, and touched Him while He was here on earth. If their testimonies are not accepted, and Jesus was nothing more than an apparition, how then could anyone claim to have a genuine personal fellowship with Him? That would also eliminate any connection with the Father because the two are one. And keep in mind, John is not writing to adversaries but those he calls “little children.” It then points out that true fellowship with God is not automatic, even in dedicated disciples’ lives.[3]

Ben Witherington (1951-) of Asbury Theological Seminary, feels that John’s writing in these first four verses resembles a newspaper reporter following the old formula: who, what, where, why, when, and how. It is also interesting that he combines the Anointed One and His message as “Light and Life.” In other words, Jesus was His message. His presentation is similar to writing a speech in which he purposely fills his manuscript with the repetition of various terms, which is common in intellectual rhetoric. However, his words are simple and do not cloud the point he makes in interpreting the mystery of how mere humans can have fellowship with the Trinity. John also uses the Hebrew poets’ “parallelisms.” It then should cause us to consider what audience he is addressing. Is it those who believe and are urged to remain faithful, or those who question the Anointed One’s whole story? No doubt, some of them are secessionists from the faith and the assembly.[4]

John W. (Jack) Carter (1951-) notes that here in verse four, the Apostle John explains one of the many reasons for writing this letter: to fill those who receive it with unspeakable joy. It isn’t that they don’t believe, but because of the cold wind of false teaching blowing through the Church at that time. John’s earnest desire is that his readers will appreciate their faith in God with sincerity, motivated by his knowledge of the tremendous blessing they have in salvation through the Gospel he preached to them.

He is not arguing with the heretics to win a philosophical or theological debate. He is not accusing the dissenters, nor is he pointing out their errors. Again, John is merely presenting the truth of the Gospel so that those who positively responded the first time would continue to enjoy their salvation and receive the abundant blessings that come with it. It is also proper to render the word “full” as “overflowing.”[5]

Bruce B. Burton (1954-) explains that when Jesus was on earth, His divine life illuminated the inner lives of His followers. Everywhere He was present, He gave light. This light penetrated people – exposing their sin and revealing divine truth. No one could come into contact with Jesus without being enlightened. So, it is for the Christian who is indwelt by the Spirit of the Anointed One. In His presence, we see our sin and His glory. Of course, a person can refuse to receive the light and remain in darkness (a term John used to characterize Satan’s realm in the world). But whoever comes to Jesus will see his fascinating moral and spiritual excellence and purity.[6]

Marianne M. Thompson (1954-) believes that Biblical writers continually looked for the day when their joy would come. But the Apostle John urges his readers to delight in their fellowship with God and each other. There is no need to wait any longer – full joy can be ours through Jesus the Anointed One. The thrill the Jews expected when the Messiah came is now ours. Keep in mind; we do not find heavenly bliss in some uplifting spiritual experience; it is part of our earthly life, nor is it a substitute for pain or an escape from sorrow. Our thrill at being a Christian does not depend upon eliminating things that weigh us down or trouble us. Joy comes from our solid trust in knowing that we are always in touch with God while we journey here on earth. Even when death stares us in the face, it cannot rattle our confidence that we will one day be in the very presence of God. Our satisfaction comes from knowing that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are with us and in us now.[7]

Lawrence R. Farley (1954-) points out that when the Apostle John says, “And these things we write,” he uses the plural. He communicates as one of the apostles that “their joy may be fulfilled.” (John probably wrote our joy, not “your joy,” as some manuscripts have it). In writing this epistle and thereby solidifying their connection with the apostolic fellowship, John finds his joy completed. As a true pastor, he would grieve if any of his flock were lost,[8] and finds his joy fulfilled only as those he loves avoid the snares of heresy and deception.[9]

Robert W. Yarbrough (1962) looks at these first four verses from a grammatical view and notes that the Apostle John refers to three temporal junctures. The first juncture is “the beginning” (1:1) – the time of the Anointed One’s incarnate existence,[10] or perhaps even preexistence – leading up to a second juncture: the era when witnesses, like the writer of 1 John, came into physical contact with Him. The third temporal juncture is the time of John’s composing this letter. One could even speak of the fourth moment: the time when this epistle is read and responded to.[11]

Peter Pett (1966-) says that the term “His Son” is correctly connected with the Father on His divine side. Their essential oneness, in essence, is revealed here by the word “Son.” He is “the Son,” the One Who comes out from God and is of the very nature of God. And our union with the Father we are also united with His Son. For here, He is especially “His Son” on God’s side and yet has fellowship with us on our side. And that Son is identified, He is Jesus the Anointed One, the One Who walked on earth as a man among men. He is both God and man. So, from the earthly hearing, and seeing, and handling, from the physical relationship with the Word of Life, we move on into the enjoyment of a heavenly communion with Him in a glorious spiritual kinship such as redeemed believers can have with the Father and with His Son Jesus the Anointed One.[12]

Karen H. Jobes (1968) identifies a problem we all have seen in America in the last forty years. She makes the point that the proclamation of the Gospel as the exclusive truth about Jesus the Anointed One, having fallen out of favor with many who self-identify as “Christians.” The influence of cultural pressures such as rationalism and historical criticism, New Age spirituality, and radical ecumenicalism with non-Christian religions has reduced the Final Covenant to an irrelevant ancient artifact, at worst, or as simply one of the options for modern religion, at best. To preach the Gospels and Epistles as the exclusive truth about Jesus the Anointed One and His mission to reconcile humanity to God is often viewed dimly as an assertion of power and inappropriate behavior in our largely pluralistic modern society.[13]

Pastor and Bible scholar Douglas Sean O’Donnell (1972-) mentions that we learn about apostolic fellowship in John’s first epistle’s prologue. Namely, the unique and eternal connection between the Father and Son manifested in the one-time-for-all-time exclusive event of the incarnation, observed by the Apostles at a particular point in history, has been through them extended to the universal church. Today, when someone becomes a Christian, he or she enters into a timeless, universal fellowship. It is communion springing from the Godhead, coursing through the apostles, and flowing through every genuine believer who has ever been or will ever be. We are now and eternally in living fellowship with the One who was “from the beginning.” That is a koinōnia[14] worth celebrating! It is also a koinōnia worth living out. Let us not grow weary of holding on to the Anointed One through holding on to the apostles and each other and holding out to the world the joyful good news of our Gospel.[15]


[1] Cf. Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Acts of the Apostles 1:8

[2] Montgomery, John Boice: op. cit., p. 25

[3] Eaton, Michael: Focus on the Bible, 1, 2, 3, John, Christian Focus Publications, The Guernsey Press, Co., Ltd., Guernsey, Scotland, 1996, p.

[4] Witherington, Ben III. Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John (Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians Series) (Kindle Location 5827-5863). Kindle Edition.

[5] Carter, Dr. John W. (Jack). 1,2,3, John & Jude, op. cit., pp. 13-14

[6] Bruce B. Burton: Life Application Bible Commentary: 1, 2 &3 John, Livingstone Corporation, 1988, p. 19

[7] Thompson, Marianne M., 1-3 John, op. cit., p. 39

[8] Cf. John 6:39; 17:12

[9] Farley, Lawrence R., Universal Truth, op. cit., loc. cit.

[10] Sloyan, Gerard S., Jesus: Word Made Flesh (Engaging Theology-Catholic Perspectives series), 1995

[11] Yarbrough, Robert W., Baker Exegetical Commentary, op. cit., p. 33

[12] Pitt, Peter: Commentary on the Bible, StudyLight, 1 John, loc. cit.

[13] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John, op. cit., p. 58

[14] koinōnia: Greek noun meaning, “fellowship, association, community, communion, joint-participation,”

[15] O’Donnell, Douglas Sean: 1–3 John, op. cit., pp. 14-15

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXIII) 11/18/20

As a result, Brown gives us his paraphrase, which will enable us to understand the ebb and flow of what John was saying:[1]

1a. What was from the beginning                                          perfect             [unfinished]

1b. what we have heard,                                                        perfect             [completed]

1c. what we have seen with our eyes,                                    perfect             [completed]

1d. what we looked at,                                                           active              [past]

1e. and what our hands felt                                                    active              [past]

1f. about the Word [Logos] of Life [zoe].

2a. and the life was revealed                                                  active              [past]

2b. and we have seen and testify                   perfect & present            [completed/current]

2c. and we proclaim to you                                                    present             [current]

2d. the eternal life

2e. of the sort which was toward [with] the Father                imperfect            [unfinished]

2f. and was revealed to us                                                      active              [past]

3a. what we have seen and heard                                          perfect             [completed]

3b. we proclaim also to you                                                   present             [current]

3c. so that you too many have communion [koinonia] with us

3d. and indeed our communion with the Father

3e. and with His Son, Jesus the Anointed One,

4a. and we ourselves write these things                                 present             [current]

4b. so that our joy may be fulfilled.                                       perfect             [completed]

D. Edmond Hiebert (1928-1885), professor emeritus of New Testament at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, California, gives us a somewhat academic treatment of what Paul says here in verse two. It forms a parenthesis, says Hiebert, following the opening sentence. The conjunctive “and” points to another thought added to what was already said, affirming the historical appearing and eternal nature of “The Life” just mentioned. The clause “and the Life was manifested” then declares the historical fact, comprehensively setting up the Incarnate Life’s appearance here on earth. For John, this Life was not an abstract principle but a real person. The verb “manifested,” common in John’s writings, comprehends the process whereby this Life became visible and tangible.

Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) uses an excellent illustration of imitation Christians. He says, suppose you have a counterfeit bill and think it is genuine. So, you pay for a tank of gas with this fake $20 bill. The gas station manager then uses it to buy supplies, and the supplier pays a grocer for his groceries. The grocer goes to the bank with the phony bill in his deposit. That’s when it comes to light. The bank teller tells the grocer, “I’m sorry, but this bill is counterfeit.” That $20 bill may have done a lot of good while it was in circulation, but the bank exposed it for what it was and pulled it out of circulation. So it is with a counterfeit Christian. They may do many good things in this life, but rejection will be their reward when they face the final judgment.[2]

Karl Marx (1818-1883), one of the founders of Communism, wrote, “The abolition of religion as the people’s illusory happiness is the demand for their real happiness.”[3] But the Apostle John wrote, in effect, “Faith in Jesus the Anointed One gives you a joy that can never be duplicated by the world. I have experienced this joy myself, and I want to share it with you.”[4] What the world calls “joy” is simply happiness based on circumstances. Christians call “joy” based on faith, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.[5]

Amos N. Wilder (1893-1993) points out that Eternal life, Fellowship, and now Joy are all interrelated in John’s message. Therefore, our joy is the same joy of every believer. John’s connection of “fellowship” with joy reminds us of what he wrote in his Gospel.[6] [7] It fits very well with what Ignatius wrote to the Magnesians “Let there be in common one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope in love, in the joy which is without fault.”[8]

Martin Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) shares a personal story on what John says here about wanting those he was writing to experience the fullness of joy. Dr. Lloyd-Jones had a practice of preaching on Sunday mornings to his congregation as though they were all believers. Then on Sunday evening, he preached an evangelistic sermon for those who were not yet Christians. This method was called into question by many who thought that if that becomes the routine in each church, then those who attend on Sunday morning may not bother to attend on Sunday evening.

However, preaching Sunday morning in Toronto, Canada, on one occasion, as he and the pastor were shaking hands, a lady who never came to the evening service stated that she would be back that night. When the surprised pastor asked why the lady said she learned she was not a Christian, she returned to become a true believer.[9] I must confess that I followed that same pattern as a Pastor for many years.[10] But I hoped that if there were sinners present, they would evaluate themselves and come to the same conclusion as this lady in Toronto. That’s why on Sunday mornings, the speaker gives an invitation to anyone who needs to make that decision right away.

Paul W. Hoon (1910-2000) says that eternal life means “Joy.” Joy motivates, informs, and issues from fellowship, but it is holy joy. There is a story about a young Roman officer named Marius who visited some Christian friends one evening. When he entered Cecilia’s villa garden, he heard them singing in what struck him as a new way to express joy. In Marius’ eyes, “It was the expression not altogether of laughter, yet of some wonderful sort of happiness – the carefree expressiveness of a joyful soul in people upon whom some all-subduing experience had wrought heroically, and who still remembered, on this bland afternoon, the hour of a great deliverance.”[11] Those who genuinely behold the Word of Life, says Wilder, are ruled by so great an experience that they must sing about their joy.

Donald W. Burdick (1917-1996) says that John’s primary purpose in continuing his declaration of the incarnation was that his hearers might “have fellowship” with the Apostles. And by saying, “may have,” John was not expecting an immediate conversion to his point of view. Paul’s use of the Greek noun is koinōnia (“fellowship”), comes from the root word koinos, which means (“common”). It is used in secular Greek to refer to things “held in common.” Therefore, fellowship, then, is based on something held in common by two or more persons. Jesus says that all it takes is for two or three to get together to form a fellowship with Him.[12] The context of John’s message, says Burdick, is that what they hold in common is the truth of the incarnation of God’s Son. Without accepting this fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith, there can be no such thing as “fellowship” in the Final Covenant sense.[13]

Rudolph Alan Culpepper (1930-2015) sees John’s opening words in his First Epistle as a prologue to the whole epistle, announcing that “the word of life” has been manifest. Life’s message is grounded in the life of Jesus, God’s Son, who revealed the nature of eternal life, that God’s children now share. As a prologue, says Culpepper, it introduces many of the Epistle’s significant concerns. That includes the reality of Jesus’ incarnation, and the nature of life revealed in Him. It highlights the importance of participation in the community so a person can share in that life.[14] Therefore, eternal life is not something we hope for or await at some distant time, but it is now in our possession. Once you are born again to live for the Anointed One, you are born again to live with Him forever.

Stephen S. Smalley gives us an excellent translation of these first four verses: “What was there from the beginning – which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have observed, and felt with our hands – is our subject; the word of life. That Life was revealed. We have seen it; we are bearing witness and proclaiming to you the eternal life which existed with the Father and has been revealed to us. What we have seen and heard we are declaring to you as well, so that you also may share in our fellowship: a fellowship which we have with the Father, and with His Son Jesus the Anointed One. And we are writing this in order that our joy may be complete![15]


[1] Brown, Raymond E. The Anchor Bible, Epistles of John, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, NY, 1982, p. 152

[2] Wiersbe, Warren W., Be Real (1 John): Turning from Hypocrisy to Truth (The BE Series Commentary), op. cit., p. 24

[3] Marx, Karl: Introduction to a Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Deutsch-Französische Jahrbucher, February, 1844

[4] Wiersbe, Warren W., ibid. p. 27

[5] Hebrews 11:1

[6] John 15:10-11

[7] Wilder, Amos N., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., p. 220

[8] Ignatius: Epistle to the Magnesians, Chapter 7

[9] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn: Life in Christ, op. cit., pp. 23-24

[10] My motivation behind this was that on Sunday morning non-church members would be attending services in their own church, but on Sunday evening when their church did not have an evangelistic service, they were free to come or be invited to our church to hear a salvation message.

[11] Marius the Epicurean, Vol. 2, by Walter Horatio Pater, E. P. Hutton, New York, 1934, “Everyman’s Library,” Part 4, Chap. 21: Two Curious Houses, The Church in Cecilia’s House, p. 196

[12] Matthew 18:20

[13] Burdick, Donald W., The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 21

[14] Culpepper, R. Alan:  Harper’s Bible Commentary, Mays, J. L. (Ed.), Harper & Row. San Francisco: 1988, p. 1291

[15] Smalley, Stephen S. Word biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, 1, 2, 3, John, Word Books, Waco, Texas 1984, p. 3

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXII) 11/17/20

Samuel Logan Brengle (1860-1936) tells us that God wants His people to be full of joy. “I have told you this,” said Jesus, “so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”[1]  And again, He said, “Until now, you have not asked for anything in My name. Ask, and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”[2] “We write this to make our joy complete,” wrote John.[3]The fruit of the reborn spirit is joy,” wrote Paul here in Galatians Five. And again, he writes, “The Kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”[4]  It is an oceanic current that flows unbroken through the holy, believing soul, though surrounded by seas of trouble and encompassed about by hardships and afflictions and sorrows. Some think of Jesus as “the Man of Sorrows,” overlooking His fullness of triumphant joy.[5]  Joy can be cultivated and should be, as is faith or any other fruit of the spirit.[6]

In his Greek word’s studies, William E. Vine (1873-1949) notes that the verb “joy” denotes more than mere appearance in verse four.  The conjunction at the beginning of verse four “and” connects this historical reality with the personal experience and testimony of the Apostles who openly bear witness and proclaim to have seen Eternal Life, in verse three. Again we see that this incarnate Life was the object of clear, abiding sense perception on the Apostles’ part. They perceived His true identity, also viewed as having an ongoing impact. Another “and” further connects their experience with all current activities.

Hiebert D. Edmond (1928-1995) also notes that the first “and” (verse three) emphasizes the “communication of truth,” while the second “and” (verse four) highlights the same communication of truth. With the use of “we” three times in these two verses as the subject of both verbs, John expresses a deep sense of solidarity with the Apostolic testimony. Therefore, more than one person’s memories lay behind the Apostolic testimony. The two present tense verbs convey two aspects of the same activity.[7]                     

Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965) comments that in these first four verses, the Apostle Paul announces the topic, or subject matter, of his letter: Jesus the Anointed One, the eternal Word, became flesh for the salvation of humanity. It shows John’s intimate knowledge of the subject, he writes: What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we inspected, and our hands touched, concerning the Word of Life. The Word of Life is his theme, the eternal, essential, personal Word, which was at the beginning with God and was God; it is Jesus the Anointed One, called the “Word,” because in Him. God has revealed Himself, has made Himself, and His entire counsel of salvation known to mankind. He is the “Word of Life” because He, as the true God, has the fullness of true, everlasting life in Himself, because the Anointed One is the Source and Fountain of all true life, and because He gives eternal life to all those that come to Him in truth.

Of Him, John says that He was from the beginning; He did not come into existence at the beginning, at the creation of the world, at the period when time first began to be reckoned, but He was. He already existed: He is from eternity. The eternal Son of God became man, for John says that he heard Him, that his ears received the doctrine of life from His lips; that he saw Him with his own eyes. John had many opportunities to gaze upon this amazing God-man. He stood near enough on many occasions to inspect Him closely and note everything He did. John’s hands also touched the Anointed One. And as he leaned on Jesus’ breast at the evening Passover meal in the Upper room, it no doubt wasn’t the first time.[8]

Greville P. Lewis (1891-1976) believes that John’s mention of the joy of the apostles being satisfied in the hearts of his readers is a deliberate reference to the words of Jesus on the eve before the crucifixion, “That my joy may be in you, and that you may be complete.”[9] Through all His trials and agonies, Jesus was essentially the Man of Joy, and the secret of His joy was His uninterrupted communion with the Father, His perfect trust in Him, and His sacrificial self-giving to the fulfillment of God’s will. It is the same formula we have available today.[10]

William Barclay (1907-1978) suggests that anyone who sits down to write a letter or gets up to make a speech or preach has some object in view. Their intention and hope are to affect the minds, hearts, and lives of those targeted by this message. Likewise, here in his first epistle, at the very beginning, John sets down his goal for writing this critical warning against Gnosticism.  And what was his object? Barclay says that first, his wish to produce fellowship with the community and communion with God. Second, it was his wish to bring his people joy, which is the essence of Christianity. And thirdly, John aims to set Jesus the Anointed One before them as the one with whom they start their fellowship with each other and communion with the Father.[11]

F. F. Bruce (1910-1990) believes that combining the first two-and-a-half verses, coupled with the parenthesis in verse two with verse four as one block, makes it more intelligible for English readers. Bruce renders it as: “Our theme is that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we beheld and our hands handled. Our theme, in short, concerns the word of Life — that Life which was made manifest. Yes, we have seen, and we bear witness; we make known to you the Eternal Life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us. What we have seen and heard we make known to you also, so that you in your turn may have fellowship with us.”[12]

A German Catholic priest and Final Covenant scholar Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002), emphasizes that another fundamental reason for John’s writing this epistle was to achieve his joy and the joy of his fellow witnesses. No doubt, John picked this up from Jesus, who promised His disciples the same thing in His farewell discourse.[13] John clearly understood God sent His Son to deliver the Good News to those who believed, and now John feels that he is replicating that same act in honor of his Savior and to the glory of the Father.

Furthermore, this joy came through the Anointed One’s communion with the Father and which was His alone to give. Therefore, since John shared fellowship with the Son and connection with the Father, he was authorized to share this joy. It went to those who believed his report about the One he heard, saw, and touched.[14]

Daniel C. Snaddon (1915-2009) believes that the Apostle John may have had the church of Ephesus in mind because of the warning letter written to them by the risen Lord. He told them I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.[15]

Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) points out that one reason the English translation of the first four verses is somewhat complicated is that the original Greek is not very good compared to traditional standards. We know from Acts of the Apostles that John was an uneducated Galilean, which means he could neither read nor write in Aramaic nor in his Galilean dialect. It may have been a complication for his scribe. Or, suggests Brown, his chosen writer may not have been interested in putting it in an excellent Greek rendition. Nevertheless, it has come down to us crystal clear and leaves no doubts that John knew what He was talking about.


[1] John 15;11

[2] Ibid 16:24

[3] 1 John 1:4

[4] Romans 14:17

[5] Luke 10:21; John 15:11

[6] Brengle, Samuel Logan, Lt, Col., : Soul-Winner’s Secret, The Salvation Army Printing and Publishing House, New York, 1920, p.

[7] Hiebert, D. Edmond, An Exposition of 1 John 1:1-4, Bibliotheca Sacra, 145, July, 1988, pp. 205-206

[8] Kretzmann, Paul E., First Epistle of John – Popular Commentary, loc. cit.

[9] John 15:11

[10] Lewis, Greville P., The Johannian Epistles, op. cit., p. 14

[11] Barclay, William: The Letters of John and Jude, Revised Edition, Daily Study Bible op. cit., pp. 23-24

[12] Bruce, F. F. The Epistles of John: A Verse-by-Verse Exposition (Kindle Locations 567-570). Kingsley Books, Inc. Kindle Edition.

[13] John 15:11, 16:20, 22, 24; 17:13

[14] Schnackenburg, Rudolf: The Johannine Epistles, Crossroad, New York, 1992, pp. 62-63

[15] Snaddon, Daniel C., First John, op. cit., loc. cit

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