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 THREE (Lesson LXXVII) 10/28/21

3:16 So now we can tell who is a child of God and who belongs to Satan. Whoever is living a life of sin and doesn’t love his brother shows that he is not in God’s family;

Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002) puts it this way: “After this horrifying glimpse into the abyss of hatred, the Apostle John proceeds to give us his positive assessment of the nature of love and how it operates.”  And all we need to do is look at the Son of God for an example of love put to the test. His willingness to surrender His life on our behalf provides the best illustration of the essence of genuine love. Pure love is expressed by ordinary means as well as in extraordinary ways. Love, sometimes, requires selflessness and, at other times, sacrifice. But for this demonstration of love to be far-reaching, it must begin in the House of God among the children of God.[1]

Donald J. Burdick (1917-1996) also emphasizes that the original Greek text does not read: “Hereby we perceive the love (of God).” The definite article “the” before the noun “love” identifies the particular kind of love of which the Apostle John is speaking. It is the love John has been describing that we know as agapē, whether expressed by God to us or from us to others. So, when you say that you love a brother or sister, it is not romantic infatuation or physical attraction, but love from God’s heart instilled in us.[2]

John Phillips (1927-2010) points to what the Apostle John means by saying, “This is how we perceive Love.” The Greek verb John uses is ginōskō, which can mean: “learn to know,” “come to understand,” “become acquainted with.” I remember living in Switzerland and showing a guest from the United States around the countryside. I wanted to show him a flowery green alpine meadow with a sparkling lake. It was very foggy as we drove up the mountainside, and I was becoming fearful that the higher we went, the foggier it would get.  So, as we entered the tunnel to get into the center where the valley lay, it meant he would not get to see the enchanting scene in all its beauty. However, when we exited the tunnel, it was sunny and bright, and the valley and lake looked as fantastic as ever. I came to understand that the fog on the outside did not jump over the alp to the inside. In the same way, John implies that despite all we’ve seen and heard about the foggy hatred in this world, we’ve come to understand the ripeness and sunshine of Love. Which love? God’s Love![3]

Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) reminds us that the Apostle John says we must not be like Cain, who joined the devil’s brood and killed his brother. And why did Cain kill him? Because he was personally involved in the practice of evil, while the acts of his brother were righteous. So, don’t be surprised, friends, when the world hates you. It has been going on for a long time. We know about our transfer from spiritual death to eternal life, that we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who doesn’t love is spiritually dead. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know very well that eternal life and murder don’t go together.[4] But now, John leaves the negative for the positive. Now that you know, this will help you understand real love. In this case, instead of the world (Cain) killing Jesus (Abel) to usher in death, our Lord brought in eternal life. So, while hatred leads to murder, love guides to everlasting life.[5]

Simon J. Kistemaker (1930-2017) says that we can paraphrase what the Apostle John says here about getting to understand Love by stating, “We have learned our lesson and know it well.” Kistemaker reminds us that Jesus’ death on the cross is not a passive death, comparable to the sacrificial death of an animal. On the contrary, Jesus died actively and purposefully. They did not take His life from Him; He gave it freely to them. Kistemaker recalls an old sacred hymn that expresses this sacrificial love so beautifully:

I gave My life for thee,
My precious blood I shed,
That thou might ransomed be,
And raised up from the dead;
I gave, I gave My life for thee,
What hast thou given for Me?
I gave, I gave My life for thee,
What hast thou given for Me?[6]

When John says we “ought” to lay down our lives, he imposes a moral obligation. It also calls for action instead of just words. [7]

Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) says that the Apostle John continues developing the theme of obedience as a condition of living as a child of God by studying the pattern of loyalty in fulfilling the love command of the Anointed One. John focuses on the exemplification of obedient love, supremely found in Jesus. Love is something that has to be proven, not just verbally expressed. A husband can say to his wife, “I love you,” a dozen times during the day, and it will be taken as a promise. But only when he does some kind, loving, and caring deed for her will it resonate in her heart as real. Love must be presented as a concrete act, not just an abstract thought.

That’s why John uses Jesus as an example at the beginning of this verse, says Smalley. So, it is not so much that we say we love, but how we display our love to our fellow believers and God.[8] And when it comes to acts of love, there is a difference between sharing and sacrificing. Sharing means you take something you have in abundance and pass it around to others. Sacrifice denotes taking something of which you only have one and giving it away. Jesus only had one life, and He gave it away on our behalf. In using this illustration, John sets up the next verse as an example.[9]

Edward Malatesta (1932-1998) says that John purposely proposes the positive example of the Anointed One who gave His life so that others might live. Similarly, Christians should give their lives so that their brothers and sisters might live.[10] Not only does this prove that we can live by example, but we can also live by following a righteous pattern. At the same time, we cannot be an example unless we have a representative to follow.

John Painter (1935) sees in these texts God’s Love in giving His Son, who in love laid down His life for us to define what love is and create the obligation (Gk. opheilōmen) for us to love one another the same way. It implies that our responsibility is in the form of a debt, which is the commandment’s ingredient. Then Painter says that we can link the failure to live by the commandment to an unwillingness to confess that Jesus the Anointed One came in the flesh. It is not surprising in the light of what he says here in verse sixteen. Here the love command is grounded and defined by Jesus’ loving action in giving Himself for us. We will see that love is described in terms of action responding to those in need in following these two verses.[11]

David Jackman (1945) says that since love is what drew us to the Anointed One, then certainly that same love should attract us to each other, and even bring sinners to hear the message of salvation. Sometimes expressing that love is easy because it fills our hearts like a fountain, but at other times it may require sacrifice, which can cost us dearly. But instead of seeing such surrender as a fatal act, look at it as an investment in someone else’s life. It may not pay off, or it may pay back moderately or even awesomely.[12] In either case, that is the risk we run every day with other commitments in our life.[13]

Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) tells us that the first half of verse fifteen makes the point that everyone who hates their Christian brother or sister is a killer. In the linguistic style of his epistle, John says not to love is hate, [14] and to hate is to be a murderer. It is not very satisfactory as a strictly logical argument. In fact, there seems to be a whole spectrum of options available between the interpersonal relationship of love and hate. Similarly, it is not true that if we do not love someone, we have murdered them in the same sense that Cain murdered Abel. John, however, is not marshaling a strictly logical and literal argument. Instead, he uses the either/or imagery found in the Sermon on the Mount.[15] There, Jesus says to be angry is murder, just as lusting mentally is to commit adultery.[16] Most Bible scholars agree that the Anointed One was speaking hyperbolically. John is likewise using overstatement to clinch his point here in verse fifteen.


[1] Schnackenburg, Rudolf, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 182

[2] Burdick, Donald J., The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 60

[3] Phillips, John, Exploring the Epistles of John, op. cit., 109-112

[4] See verses 12-15

[5] Brown, Raymond E., The Epistles of John – Anchor Bible, op. cit., pp. 473-474

[6] I gave my Life for Thee, Frances R. Havergal, 1858

[7] Kistemaker, Simon, James and I-III John – NT Commentary, op. cit., p. 310

[8] Cf. Matthew 22:37

[9] Smalley, Stephen S., 1,2,3 John – Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, op. cit., pp. 192-195

[10] Malatesta, Edward, Interiority and Covenant, op. cit., p. 266

[11] Painter, John. Sacra Pagina: 1, 2, and 3 John: Vol. 18, op. cit., (Kindle Location 8702)

[12] See Matthew 13:1-8

[13] Jackman, David, The Message of John’s Letters, op. cit., pp. 100-101

[14] 1 John 2:10-11

[15] Matthew 5:21-22

[16] Ibid. 5:28

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXXVI) 10/27/21

3:16 So now we can tell who is a child of God and who belongs to Satan. Whoever is living a life of sin and doesn’t love his brother shows that he is not in God’s family;

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) enlightens us that the words “of God” are not in the original Greek text, which reads literally: “in to this we have known the love that for of us the soul of Him He laid down,” and should not have been introduced into the English translation. Barnes feels it would read better this way: “By this, we know love because He laid down His life for us.” However, we find “of God” in the Latin Vulgate, Genevan versions, and one Greek manuscript. They would naturally convey the idea that God laid down His life for us.

Of course, the One who gave His life for us was Jesus the Anointed One, who is also God. Nevertheless, the original Greek is much more expressive and emphatic because we now know what true love is; we see a most affecting and striking illustration of its nature. Love’s fundamental nature, power, sacrifices, and influences are seen in its highest form when the Son of God willingly offered Himself to die for us on a cross.[1]

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) strikes the same note as Thomas Scott above in that the love spoken of here by the Apostle John does not specify it as God’s nor the Anointed One’s love for us, but love itself. Love that is genuine and perfect brotherly love. To show us how deep, wide, and endless our love should be for each other, John uses what the Anointed One did for us out of love. In such self-sacrifice, the full effect of His love for us brings a clear understanding to our minds. It shows us that the concept of love in all its purity and greatness has not grown up in the natural heart of mankind; we owe it to the divine revelation in the Anointed One.[2]

Robert L. Dabney (1820-1898) says we may illustrate the value of the Anointed One’s example in the following details: It verifies that God displayed the original concept of holiness. First, however, that concept needs assurance. Fortunately, we see it embodied in the “Image of the invisible God,” who is “the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person,[3] the Son of God.

Next, says Dabney, the Anointed One illustrated the duties for believers of all ages and accomplishments; for the divine wisdom collected in His brief life from infancy to adulthood, make Him a friend, teacher, ruler, King, hero, and martyr by sanctification and kind deeds. So again, the Anointed One teaches us everyday duties are exalted when performed with a selfless motive. So, our Lord provided for His Church’s infinite blessedness and for His Father’s eternal glory by simply fulfilling the humble tasks of a carpenter or traveling evangelist. Finally, in His death especially, He illustrated those duties essential because they pertain to the most critical emergencies of our being, the responsibilities of forgiveness while suffering, patient courage under anguish, and faith with bravery in the hour of death.[4] [5]

George G. Findlay (1849-1919) feels that The Authorized Version (KJV) mistranslated verse sixteen, “Hereby know we the love of God.” That is the Apostle John’s point later on.[6] What John says is, “Herein we got to know love;” we have learned what love is – its reach and capability, discovered in Jesus the Anointed One. Other notions of love and attainments in the way of love are meager compared to this and hardly deserve the name – love.

Robert Browning (1812-1899), an English poet and playwright, speaks of the present life as man’s “one chance of learning love.”[7] That chance came to the Apostle John and his fellow disciples in getting to know Jesus the Anointed One, and they seized on it. They found the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the thing for which “If someone gave all their wealth for love, they would only gain utter contempt.”[8] Love’s mystery, sent from the bosom of the eternal Father, lay open for all to see in the life and death of Him who said, “You cannot find any love greater than this, that a friend lays down their life for their friends.”[9] [10]

Dr. James Denny (1856-1917) wrote this stirring piece: “If I were sitting on the end of the pier, on a summer day, enjoying the sunshine and the air, and someone came along and jumped into the water to prove their love for me, I would find it quite incomprehensible. I might be much in need of love, but an act like this that has no relationship to anything I need, and such an act would prove nothing. But had I fallen off the pier and were drowning, and someone sprang into the water, risking their life for my sake, then I should say, ‘Greater love hath no man than this.’”[11]

C. H. Dodd (1884-1973) says that the Apostle John’s language here in verse sixteen is similar to what he said in his Gospel.[12] So it is confirmed in every part of the Final Covenant.[13] It is part of the central core of the original apostles’ proclamation. But most critical, says Dodd, is that it is the most significant part of what the early apostles heard from the One they saw and touched.[14]

Greville P. Lewis (1891-1976) says that the Apostle John gives the Greek noun agape (“love”) an entirely new content. First through our Lord’s incarnation and sacrifice on the cross, and then in His indwelling in our bodies. It reveals the real essence of “true love.” Lewis tells us that in the “Acts of John,” a Gnostic interpretation of Christian doctrine, written around 160 AD. It represents the Anointed One as a divine Being quite incapable of suffering and death. That makes the scene on the cross an illusion and the resurrection a fantasy.[15] John called on us to imitate the Anointed One, [16] which we are all willing to do, except for what they did to Him before He went to Calvary, and His suffering and death on the cross.[17]

Amos N. Wilder (1895-1993) has quite a bit to say about this sixteenth verse. Wilder begins by saying that the “love” used here is complete. He also rejects the addition “of God” as found in the KJV. Finally, Wilder notes that the Apostle John looks back to the revelation that Jesus laid down His life on our behalf. In other words, don’t wait for Jesus or the Holy Spirit to give you an example of what love means; our Savior did those numerous times.[18]

Paul W. Hoon (1910-2000) says that the love expressed here by the Apostle John is not optional; it is an obligation. That’s what Jesus did; He denied Himself – forfeited His life. That means He voluntarily decided not to hold on to something He would have liked to keep for other people’s benefit. So, to be like Jesus, we too must certainly deny ourselves of anything we might have enjoyed so that someone else could have joy with what we supplied them.[19]

As a pastor, I once asked my congregation to deny themselves certain things they loved so that those in foreign lands could rejoice in salvation. I suggested that they give up one cup of coffee or piece of pie they always had at the local café, a trip to the lake, or some family entertainment park, and give that money to mission work. My suggestion echoed that beautiful hymn by Isaac Watts, “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, demands my Soul, my Life, my All,[20] where we see what real self-denial means.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) says that the Apostle John now turns from the doctrinal to the practical side of applying what he’s already said about loving one another. So, he provides an illustration so that his readers won’t mistakenly interpret and be deceived by what he will say from verse nineteen onward. It affects our prayer life and our ultimate meeting with God on Judgment Day. It is also essential to give a testimony about the Anointed One to a doubting world from our viewpoint. There are no excuses or alibis for why we are not adding practice to our preaching. It involves more than doctrine; it includes doing what we’re telling others to do.

Lloyd-Jones continues by saying that we need to distinguish between “loving” and “liking.” God did not call us to “like” our fellow believers, but to “love” them. They are essentially dissimilar. For instance, “liking” is instinctive, not the result of effort or decision-making. We like it or don’t care for it based on the sensing organ (sight, hearing, tasting, feeling) we employ. That makes it physical and not controlled by intelligence. Like the animal world, it is “instinctive.” We must understand “loving” in terms of God’s Love. Such Love is not innate; it is an act of the will.[21] When I realized that I instinctively did not enjoy certain foods, I used my will to overcome natural impulses and developed an acquired taste. If we can do that with food, we can do the same with people. That makes “love” a part of high intelligence. It was not a part of our original nature. Thank God, He introduced it to humanity. Otherwise, this would be a more miserable world.


[1] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., p. 4851

[2] Rothe, Richard, The Expository Times, op. cit., June 1893, p. 410

[3] Hebrews 1:3

[4] Romans 15:3; Philippians 2:5; Hebrews 7:2, 3; 1 John 3:16; Ephesians 4:13; John 13:15; 1 Corinthians 11:1

[5] Dabney, Robert L., Systematic Theology, op. cit., (Kindle Location 10699), Kindle Edition

[6] 1 John 4:7-14

[7] Browning, Robert: A Death in the Desert, “And hope and fear, – believe the aged friend, – Is just our chance o’ the prize of learning love.”

[8] Song of Solomon 8:7 – Complete Jewish Bible

[9] John 15:13

[10] Findlay, G. G. (1909), Fellowship in the Life Eternal: An Exposition of the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 279

[11] Denny, James: The Death of Christ, A. C. Armstrong and Son, New York, 1903, p. 177

[12] John 10:11-18; 15:13

[13] See Mark10:45; Galatians 1:4; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 108010; 1Peter 3:18

[14] Dodd, C. H., New Testament Commentary – Moffatt, op. cit., p. 84

[15] The Acts of John, §98-100

[16] 1 John 2:6

[17] Lewis, Greville P., The Johannine Epistles – Epworth, op. cit., pp. 85-86

[18] Wilder, Amos N., The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 12, op. cit., pp. 263-264

[19] Hoon, Paul W., Ibid. pp. 263-264

[20]When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” was written by Isaac Watts, and published in Hymns and Spiritual Songs in 1707, Fifth Stanza

[21] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn, Life in Christ, op. cit., pp. 357-360

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXXV) 10/26/21

3:16 So now we can tell who is a child of God and who belongs to Satan. Whoever is living a life of sin and doesn’t love his brother shows that he is not in God’s family;

COMMENTARY

Ambrosiaster (circa 300-400 AD), in his writing about what Paul said to the Ephesians, notes that the apostle wants everyone to duplicate God the Father’s kindheartedness and mercy, so they can replicate His Son’s love. That way, just as He loved us and gave Himself for us, we might also give our lives for one another. This is echoed by what the Apostle John says here in verse sixteen. In other words, when we give our lives for our fellow believers, we do so following the Anointed One as an example.[1]

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) says we may speak of a righteous act in two ways.  To begin with, the type of activity, as compared to the integrity prompting it. In this way, martyrdom cannot be the most perfect of virtuous acts. Any endurance of death is not praiseworthy in itself, but only in so far by directing it toward some good cause. It includes faith or love for God so that, in the end, one’s intentions make things better for others.[2]

John Calvin (1509-1564) teaches how two natures constitute the character of the Anointed One as our Mediator. Calvin mentions that when the Word became flesh and blood, we must not understand it as if God changed from a spirit into a human being or His divinity became diluted by His humanity. It is clear that the Anointed One chose the Virgin’s womb as a temporary temple where He was clothed with flesh. Nevertheless, people sometimes attribute divine qualities (Son of God) to His humanity and human attributes (son of man) to His divinity. In other words, God cannot die, but humans must. In other words, when the son of Mary died on the cross, the Son of God stayed alive. After His resurrection, these two elements were joined again, and that was His essence He took back to heaven with Him. Sometimes qualities that embrace both natures do not apply to either one in particular. Such a combination of His God/man nature is expressed in such a way that He appears to be talking about Himself.[3]

According to Calvin, we place little dependence on these statements unless proven by numerous passages throughout sacred scriptures that men did not make them up. What the Anointed One said about Himself[4] was very foreign to His humanity. There is a communication in God-language when the Apostle Paul says that God purchased the Church “with His blood[5] and that the Jews crucified the Lord of glory.[6] In like manner, John says, that the Word of God was “handled.” God certainly has no blood, does not suffer, and cannot be touched with hands. But since the Anointed One, who was truly God and truly man, shed His blood on the cross for us, the kind acts He performed as a human also included His miracles.

Calvin then points out a similar example where John says here in verse sixteen that God laid down His life for us. Hence, we see a property of His humanity communicated with His divinity. But, on the other hand, when the Anointed One was still living on earth, said, “The only one who has ever gone up to heaven is the one who came down from heaven – the Son of Man.”[7] Therefore, although regarded as a human being, which He willingly put on, He was not at that moment in heaven. However, since He was both Divine and human, the union of His twofold nature attributed what belonged to one belonged to the other.[8]

In his commentary on verse sixteen, John Owen (1616-1683) says that God willingly and voluntarily became the Anointed One to make atonement for us out of His abundant goodness and love. And accordingly, we find this undertaking ascribed to that love He exercised in doing so.[9]  Moreover, He clothed Himself with human nature to be like us, and we had nothing to do with it. We did not elect or appoint Him to that role, yet He took responsibility for doing what He came to do. He did it as though we asked Him to do it. For that reason, regardless of what He and the Father agreed to, He volunteered to be our Redeemer.[10] He could do so by becoming one of us, which was the formal reason for His installation in that office.[11] [12]

Owen then has more to say about the Anointed One giving up the same kind of life we have to save ours. He became human when He “came in the flesh.”[13] These are just some passages where the person of the Anointed One is revealed to our faith that we may believe in Him as the Son of God and have eternal life. There is no need to counter the objections of our adversaries against this divine revelation, nor do we need to defend ourselves against their strange antichrist concepts.[14] The day will come when they are proven wrong, and we are confirmed to be right.     

John Flavel (1627-1691) discusses the implications of truth proven by the fact that Jesus the Anointed One devoted Himself to the work of a mediator for our sake. One of those is the pattern of love for the saints. That is, calling all those in union with the Anointed One to imitate Him to the point of giving up self-service to the service of others, as the Anointed One did. We cannot duplicate what He did but can do what we are capable of. So, you see how His heart was affected by us that He would offer Himself as a redeeming sacrifice on our behalf.[15]

In his sermon on the Anointed One being an example for ministers, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) refers to what the Lord said on giving them an example to follow: “do as I have done to you.”[16] The Apostle John insists on following this great example the Anointed One gave us. In the discourse the Anointed One had with His disciples, this same night, He said: “And so I am giving a new commandment to you now – love each other just as much as I love you.[17] Later, during the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples, “I demand that you love each other as much as I love you. And here is how to measure it – the greatest love is shown when a person lays down their life for their friends.”[18] And so here in verse sixteen, we observe the love of God because God laid down His life for us; and we ought to be ready to do the same for our brothers and sisters.”[19]

Thomas Scott (1747-1821) states that a Christian may grow more knowledgeable of our love for God and others when our selfish passions subside. As heavenly love increases, pride and anger become less apparent. Then believers can manifest love that is patient, kind, not envious, bragging, or puffed up, thinks no evil, rejoices over the truth about good and evil.[20] In other words, love, when shown in both word and deed, will flourish when heavenly wisdom and deep humility make a Christian ashamed of pretending to love.[21]

Scott also says that genuine love’s efforts toward our fellow believers are required. We might understand this by considering “God’s love” for sinners. The reality and vastness of His love were apparent, especially in that He, the Anointed One, was also called Emmanuel – God is with us. He laid down His “life” for His people to compensate for their sins and ransom their souls.

Scott then points out that in the Authorized Version (KJV), the first line of verse sixteen reads: “the love of God.” By putting “of God” in italics, they show it is missing in many Greek manuscripts. However, it is implied because Jesus, who is God, laid down His life for us. Therefore, our love for Him should make us willing to lay down our lives for Him and our brothers and sisters when the situation is urgent; we gain something honorable by doing it. So, if we are willing to give up our life for God and others, how much more for less costly and meaningful things. Therefore, beware of anyone who claims they would die for their Lord but is unwilling to give up a coat, shoes, or a meal for a needy fellow believer.[22]

Charles Simeon (1759-1836) gives a profound meaning to the Apostle John’s statement in verse sixteen. In contemplating Christianity as a system, the apostle states that we scarcely know how to admire more, the depth of its mysteries or the height of its requirements. Of all the secrets specified in verse sixteen, the death of our incarnate God for the sins of mankind is beyond comprehension. Yet, on the other hand, of all comparisons that require greatness, there is none so demanding as having the willingness to lay down our lives for any fellow believer. The two taken together portray Christianity in a most endearing way and exhibit it as motivation to the spiritual perfection of our nature and the completion of our joy.[23]


[1] Ambrosiaster: Ancient Christian Texts, op. cit., p. 54

[2] Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica, Vol. 4, pp. 27-30

[3] Cf. Mark 2:5-7; 10:17-18; John 6:38-39; 8:31, 48; 10:30-33, 36-39; 14:6

[4] John 13:58

[5] Acts of the Apostles 20:28

[6] 1 Corinthians 2:8

[7] John 3:13

[8] John Calvin: Institutes, Bk. 2, Ch. 14, p. 506

[9] Galatians 2:20; 1 John 3:16; Revelation 1:5

[10] Luke 22:42

[11] John Owen: Doctrine of Justification by Faith, p. 269

[12] John Owen: Of Communion with God, p. 88

[13] 1 John 4:2-3

[14] John Owen: The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Person and Satisfaction of Christ, p. 69; See also: A Vindication of Some Passages in a Discourse Concerning on Communion with God, p. 66

[15] John Flavel: The Fountain of Life, p. 93

[16] John 13:15

[17] Ibid. 13:34

[18] Ibid. 15:12-13

[19] Edwards, Jonathan, Works of, Vol. 6, Seventeen Occasional Sermons, Sermon 16, p. 1666

[20] See 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

[21] Scott, Thomas, Theological Works, op. cit., p. 115

[22] Ibid. Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., p. 699

[23] Simeon, Charles: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 445

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXXIV) 10/25/21

3:16 So now we can tell who is a child of God and who belongs to Satan. Whoever is living a life of sin and doesn’t love his brother shows that he is not in God’s family;

EXPOSITION

It is no coincidence that John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16 bear a close resemblance to each other. What Jesus said to Nicodemus was what inspired John to write about the peace God’s love brings that surpasses all human understanding.[1] And what a moment it must have been when John heard the Master say that He did not come as a Prince to be served, but as a servant for others and give His life as a ransom for the world.[2] And after Jesus returned to heaven, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to help us be like shepherds, guiding and watching over His flock – the Church. After all, they were the ones He ransomed from sin’s slave market that cost Him His life.[3]

The Apostle Paul took this as God’s way of showing His love for us, even while still living in sin.[4] He reminded the Ephesians of how the Anointed One lived a life full of love, and we should do the same in His honor. And just as the priest offered sweet-smelling incenses on the altar in the Temple’s Holy Place, so we can do the same by offering our talents, gifts, and spiritual abilities to help others to the glory of God the Father.[5] And the best way to begin is in our homes among our families.[6] Furthermore, we should do so because we know that soon time will run out for us and, eventually, the whole Church.[7]

And the Apostle Peter points to one of the great motivators who inspires us to live as a giver, not a getter. God paid a ransom that was worth more than silver or gold.[8] Not only that, but the cost of our redemption involved God’s Son willingly carrying our sins to the cross and suffering the punishment we deserved on our behalf, and by whose stripes and wounds we are spiritually and morally healed.[9] In fact, we could say that He was murdered to keep us from going to hell.[10]

But, if we must all suffer, some more, some less, it is easy to see who among them do so for the sake of others. Such heroes are those who, although they could have avoided such hardships by running away, chose to remain faithful than abandon others to whom they are a spiritual lifeline. By such conduct, the love recommended by the Apostle John proved to be valid. In John’s words, “The Anointed One laid down His life for us: and we ought to willingly lay down our lives for the brethren.”[11] But if those who abandoned their posts had willingly endured suffering on their fellow believers’ behalf, they would have unquestionably done the same.[12]

By this, we have come to know (have acquired and possess the knowledge of) love (what love is), in that Jesus laid down His life to redeem us.[13] When we look at this in the case of Cain and Abel, Cain’s deed symbolizes hate. He took his brother’s life to benefit himself. In contrast, the Anointed One laid down His life to benefit those who hated Him.[14] We must be ready to imitate our Lord’s idea of love, prepare to sacrifice, even our lives, for the good of others. The abuse of another’s rights, and perhaps existence for one’s sake, is the essence of hatred. However, the willingness to abandon one’s rights for another’s sake is the essence of love. The Anointed One died for those who hated Him.[15] Likewise, Christians must deal with the world’s hatred with love, ready to die for their haters.

Now we come to the perfect example of true love – the Lord Jesus the Anointed One.  Instead of taking a life as Cain did, He came to give life. That is the way we know it was love. The Greek text here in verse sixteen provides this idea with the words: “By this [what I am about to state] we have come to know love.” We came to experience genuine love through the greatest act of love, a Savior who willingly died that we might have eternal life. The primary characteristic of the Anointed One’s love is sacrifice. Love was the motivation for His coming to earth. He demonstrated that love in sacrificing Himself for others.[16]

Where the text reads, “He laid down His life,” the pronoun “He” carries a heavy emphasis. It is because John puts prominence on the One who paid the debt for our sins. He is, unlike any other, an exceptional, one-of-a-kind personality. Jesus chose to die; no one forced Him to give up His life. Instead, He deliberated, planned, and intentionally died to buy forgiveness for our sins.

So, how can we apply this to our Christian lifestyle? We start by proving that our love is genuine. For instance, the way a husband can show love for his wife is not in words only, but by how much he gives himself to her. After all, God gave her to him, so it is his responsibility to protect, provide, and promote her goodwill for his and God’s sake. Just as the Apostle John says that we prove our love for God by loving others, so it is, the husband demonstrates his love for God by loving his wife. Jesus the Anointed One showed us through His crucifixion that Christian love requires sacrifice and service to others. Our Lord’s love sought the welfare of others, not Himself. It puts a moral obligation on believers. Jesus did it to save; we do it to serve.[17]

Therefore, Christians live under a divine imperative; they have an obligation to God. The Apostle John said we “ought to lay down our lives,” which means to owe, be under obligation, or debt. It is a financial term for the responsibility to pay a debt.[18]  The Greeks used the verb opheilō for an “inner moral obligation.” As such, Strong, in his Greek Concordance, says opheilō carries the idea of an ethical obligation instead of a logical necessity. Love is activated when we put it into action. The English word “ought” is a contraction of two words: “owes it.”  We owe it to the Lord to love others as He loved us. Members of the devil’s viper brood care only about themselves, but Jesus laid down His life for His enemies. Therefore, no one can have greater love than to give their lives for their friends.[19]

Thus, it becomes the Christian’s moral obligation to love as Jesus loved. So, if we have a moral duty to do what Jesus did, why don’t we? God may never call on us to give our lives physically for others, but He calls us to sacrifice for others. That may come in the form of material goods or money. We owe something to needy Christians because we owe everything to the Anointed One.[20]

It is also interesting that the Greek verb tithēmi (“lay down”) means to divest oneself of something.  Thus, love deprives itself in order to give to others. As Strong says, “to carry no longer.”[21] Spiritually speaking, Christians must follow the example of their Lord in ridding themselves of selfishness to meet the requests of others about their needs. They seek the highest good in others. It may be inconvenient for them to do this, but convenience is not their core value. This love gets involved with helping underprivileged people.

In summary, just as hatred can result in murder, so love leads to life. True love is willing to give its all for another; it is the capacity to deny self in the interest of others. Jesus laid out this imperative in His farewell address to the disciples: “I’m giving you a new commandment: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see how you love each other. The very best way to show your love is by putting your life at risk for your friends.”[22] Even the Apostle Paul sensed an obligation to the Greeks and barbarians.[23]  He owed the Gospel due them, so he was bound and determined to give them the Good News about the Anointed One. It leaves us no room for excuses.


[1] Philippians 4:7

[2] Matthew 20:28; See Isaiah 53:12; John 11:49-50

[3] Acts of the Apostles 20:28

[4] Romans 5:8

[5] Ephesians 5:2

[6] Ibid. 5:25

[7] Titus 2:13

[8] 1 Peter 1:18

[9] Ibid. 2:24

[10] Ibid. 3:18; cf. Revelation 1:5

[11] 1 John 3:16

[12] The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, The Confessions and Letters of Augustine of Hippo (354-430) AD, With a Sketch of His Life and Work, Letters of S. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) AD, Letter 228 (428 or 429 AD) p. 1161

[13] Cf. 1 John 3:10; see 2:3

[14] John 10:12

[15] Romans 5:8

[16] Cf. Matthew 20:28; John 10:11, 15, 17-18

[17] Cf. Mark 10:45

[18] Matthew 18:32

[19] Ibid. 15:13

[20] Cf. Romans 13:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:3

[21] Cf. John 15:12-14

[22] John 13:34-35; 15:12-13

[23] Romans 15:27

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

THE NEED FOR CALMING ANXIETY

Archbishop François Fénelon (1651-1725) felt that although the war was over and people had gone back to living a peaceful life, because of what happened and its debilitating effect, there were still many who became anxious at the slightest sign of stress caused by their fear of the unknown. So, the good Bishop offered the following advice:

Do not let your natural anxiety consume you because of minor, annoying, imaginary problems all around you. You cannot pray too much when trying to calm your fears. When you frequently seek God for help, the more you will feel His presence throughout the day. A Christian growing anxious over things that have not yet happened will awaken to the sense of God’s presence amid such a crisis.  They are like a child whose mother sees them suddenly lose their temper because they didn’t get their way. When reality hits them, they feel embarrassed that they acted that way.

We should be more concerned about not inventing troubles that don’t exist and concentrate on peacefully fulfilling all our duties and obligations as well as we can. Let your inward fears and anxiety be absorbed by the One who lives in you. Jesus is the only one worthy of our attention. Whenever we become conscious of the impulse to worry over something we don’t know whether it is real or imagined, we must throw them aside so that His grace may possess us completely. It is well to stop when we find our tendency for becoming anxious getting the upper hand. Such faithfulness to grace is beneficial to the body as well as the soul! We are not guilty of neglect of duty; we’ve done our best.  Yet, like Martha when Jesus visited her and Mary after Lazarus’ death, she was more worried about preparing a meal than dealing with her grief.[1] [2]

The Apostle Paul said it very well: Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have. And because you belong to Christ Jesus, God’s peace will stand guard over all your thoughts and feelings. His peace can do this far better than our human minds.[3] And the Apostle Peter believed the same way when he said, “Give all your anxiety to Him because He cares for you.”[4] So, it’s your choice; you can be like Martha, all worried over something unattached to her situation, or like her sister Mary, who knew that taking time with Jesus would help her cope with her fears, worries, and anxiety.


[1] John 11:3-27

[2] Fénelon, François: Paraclete Giants, The Complete Fénelon, Translated and Edited by Robert J. Edmonson, Paraclete Press, Brewster, Massachusetts, 2008, p. 27; Vocabulary redacted by Dr. Robert R Seyda.

[3] Philippians 4:6-7

[4] 1 Peter 5:7

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXXIII) 10/22/21

3:15 Anyone who hates his Christian brother or sister is a murderer at heart; you know that no one wanting to murder has eternal life within.

Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) points to the quality of spiritual life available to the believer through the Anointed One. No wonder, everlasting life is synonymous with Jesus. Therefore, hatred means “refusing to accept the Anointed One as the conclusive revelation of God’s Love.”[1] It indicates that no believer has everlasting life without the Anointed One dwelling in them. So, a hater loses their access to eternal life because they reject Jesus, who is everlasting life.[2]

Michael Eaton (1942-2017) says that hatred begins to develop in the heart of a believer when they start to tolerate their hatred. That’s why the Apostle Paul cautioned believers, not to let a day end without taking care of any anger that tends toward retaliation.[3] If that happens, then, says Eaton, their relationship with the Anointed One, who is their everlasting life, ceases to have any effect. That means any progress in the direction of perfection is halted in readying them for His return. Spiritual liveliness comes from being in union with God. Therefore, the Christian who hates finds themselves powerless, joyless, and unable to resist the temptation to hate.[4]

Colin G. Kruse (1950) notes that by the Apostle John saying that anyone who hates their fellow believer is a murderer may be pointing to Cain killing Abel, something he mentioned earlier.[5] Alternatively, John may be alluding to the teaching of Jesus that those who are angry with their fellow believers will be subject to judgment in the same way as those who commit murder.[6] John then continues by reminding his readers that no murderer has eternal life in them.

The purpose of this whole verse, says Kruse, appears to give greater impact to what John said in verse fourteen that anyone who does not love others is spiritually dead. Such a person is like a murderer, and those consumed with murderous intents have no spiritual life in them. When describing those who do not love and those who hate, [7] John uses present tense verbs. It indicates an ongoing failure to love or constant hatred that he believes marks those who remain spiritually dead and do not have eternal life.[8]

Judith M. Lieu (1951) refers to the subjects of love and hate and their ties to the concept of “justice.” As the Apostle John sees it, hatred is an injustice, therefore, a sin. In that sense, Cain was unjust in killing his brother Abel. In fact, other than for sin and Satan, the Scriptures do not allow hatred. It should be no surprise then that Satan promotes hatred because he was Cain’s murder of Abel. That’s why those who hate are called the devil’s viper brood.[9]

Bruce B. Barton (1954) says that the Apostle John indicates that hate fills the void if a heart is empty of love.[10] There is no middle ground between love and hate, light and darkness, spiritual life and death. Where a person has one, it deprives the other. If a person hates someone, it is like wishing that the other were dead, and the Lord sees the inner desire as equal to the outward act it would bring.[11] Therefore, anyone who hates another brother or sister is a murderer at heart. The loveless believer has given up abiding in light but chooses to live in darkness.[12] They rebel against God and join the devil’s brood.[13] John describes love as the outward test that a person has passed from spiritual death (degenerate condition) to spiritual life (regenerate state).[14]

Daniel L. Akin (1957) tells us that loving others has numerous positive benefits and blessings. One is that we know we are born again and have eternal life. In fact, John says we have an abiding and settled knowledge “that we have passed from [spiritual] death to eternal [spiritual] life because we are loving [continually] our brothers and sisters.” In contrast, John says here in verse fourteen that the one who does not love is spiritually dead.”

Interestingly, says Akin, the word “brother” or “brethren” occurs 14 times in this letter and almost always has in view the family of God. John, no doubt, would affirm our love for all mankind and women in general, but here he calls for us to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord in particular. Paul says something similar to the Galatians, “That’s why whenever we are able, we should always be kind to everyone, and especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.”[15] Those whose lives are characterized by hatred have never been born again, or they are “spiritually dead.”[16] Further, not only do they live in a world of spiritual deadness, they are murderers in God’s eyes. John is explicit: an attitude of hate in your heart is equivalent to murder in your hands. John is again drawing from words he heard from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.[17] [18]

Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) emphasizes that the person who does not love does more than simply hate. Haters are character assassins eager to take away the other person’s joy and livelihood. So, we can see how monstrous it is for a “so-called” believer to hate another. In doing so, they reveal themselves possessed by the same spirit as the devil’s viper brood.[19] As Christians, we are to mirror the image of the Anointed One in our words, deeds, and behavior. Who can imagine a hater believing that others can still see the image of the Anointed One in them?[20]

David Guzik (1961) admits that many people trying to select the options for living a holy life offered in the Scriptures answer, “none of the above.” They consider themselves Christians because they are not Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or atheist. Claiming to be a believer is more than saying, “I am a Christian.” There are, in fact, some sinners claiming to be saints. How can we know if we are one of these? The Apostle John has been constant and straightforward. There are three tests to measure the proof of genuine Christianity: The Truth Test, [21] the Love Test, [22] and the Moral Test.[23] If we believe what the Bible teaches is valid, meaning we show the love of Jesus to others because our behavior has changed, becoming more like Jesus, then it proves our claim of being a Christian is valid.[24]

Peter Pett (1966) sees Cain as representative of the world’s rebellion against God’s will. So, we should not be surprised if we, as faithful Christians, seek the will of God, and the world hates us for it. And yet, they dislike being reminded of the fact. On the contrary, they want congratulations for thinking it is fine for earthlings to believe there is nothing wrong with their immoral living and behavior. Consequently, if anyone dares to do otherwise, they will find themselves hated. Furthermore, the world belittled them if they spoke out. Thus, the world becomes irritated by them.

Pett points out that the Bible calls them murderers. That is, like Cain, rebelling against God’s will and word. But hate here in this verse is not a consuming hatred (although it can become that); it is to have a dislike, in this case, for the truth. As a result, they cannot have eternal life dwelling in them, for they have the murder virus within their hearts. Not only that, but those who continue to think this way reveal that they insist on living contrary to God’s will. As a result, they remain lost in the darkness of self-deception.[25]

David Legge (1969) supposes that’s why Christians don’t take hatred as seriously as murder, but God does. Answer this: “Since you call yourself a Christian, do you have a grudge against another brother or sister?” Don’t misunderstand; it’s not saying that if you get angry with somebody at some time, or you’ve stopped talking to each other, you’re on your way to hell. We all get angry from time to time, especially when they follow us too closely on the highway or cut in line at the bank. The Apostle John is talking about those who pursue a habitual lifestyle of breaking the law.

Therefore, notes Legge, the Apostle John, says that anyone who continues to hold on to resentment against some brother or sister in the Lord needs a wake-up call. Unwillingness to let go of an unsettled grievance is hateful; you need to be careful – why? Because, just as the Lord Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “If you do not forgive people their wrongdoings, your Father will not forgive your misconduct.”[26] Oh, we quickly skip over that one! We’re all for free grace; grace is free! I know it’s free, but not at any price – forgive your brother or sister, or God will have no interest in pardoning you.[27]


[1] See 1 John 5:20

[2] Smalley, Stephen S., 1,2,3, John – Word Vol. 51, op. cit., pp. 191-192

[3] Ephesians 4:26

[4] Eaton, Michael, 1.2.3 John, Focus on the Bible, op. cit., p. 112

[5] 1 John 3:11

[6] Cf. Matthew 5:21

[7] 1 John 3:14-15

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

[9] Lieu, Judith M., I, II, & III John – NT Library, op. cit., pp. 148-149

[10] 1 John 3:14

[11] See Matthew 5:21-22

[12] 1 John 2:11

[13] 1 John 3:8

[14] Barton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., pp. 74-75

[15] Galatians 6:10

[16] Cf. Ephesians 2:1-3

[17] Matthew 5:21-22

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

[19] See John 8:44

[20] Schuchard, Bruce G., 1-3 John – Concordia, op. cit., pp. 379-381

[21] Truth Test: Do we meet the requirements of Scripture for being born again?

[22] Love Test: Are we genuinely practicing loving God and loving His children equally?

[23] Moral Test: Is our behavior that of a saint or a sinner?

[24] Guzik, David – Enduring Word, op. cit., p. 59-60

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

[26] Matthew 5:15

[27] Legge, David: Preach the Word, 1,2,3, John, op. cit., Sermon 10

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXXII) 10/21/21

3:15 Anyone who hates his Christian brother or sister is a murderer at heart; you know that no one wanting to murder has eternal life within.

Also, the Greek verb eidō (“know”) means to “perceive, notice, discern, discover” something instinctively as self-evident. We know spontaneously that murder is incompatible with a believer’s eternal life in the Anointed One. Therefore, we can make a sweeping declaration that murder is fundamentally against one’s nature as a Christian. Everyone knows that as a generally accepted principle, murder is wrong; the same applies for hatred. So, it goes without explanation; God does not fellowship with Christians who commit mental murder.

Therefore, we must constantly remind ourselves that simply suppressing such evil thoughts will not solve the problem. Just because we bury it in one place, it will pop up somewhere else. The only way to honestly deal with this is to tell it like it is – our sinful tendencies are still at work. We must acknowledge that hatred of others violates our fellowship with God.  So, confess it and pray for the Spirit’s help in never doing it again. We dare not justify ourselves by rationalizing hate away. Keep in mind; if you understood why, you hate someone, you would better understand your animosity. Even if we can fool other Christians, we cannot fool the Lord. If we do not love our brother or sister, then we detest Him who is in them. Evil hostility not only hurts the person being disliked, but it also hurts the person who hates. It is self-induced misery. It will put the hater ultimately into sinful bondage.

COMMENTARY

Regarding the effects of hating instead of loving our spiritual brothers and sisters, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) is asked whether hatred of a neighbor is the most grievous sin against them? Some think that it would seem that being hostile to a neighbor is the most grievous sin because of what the Apostle John says here in verse fifteen. And since it makes murder the most unfortunate of sins against a neighbor, so is hatred. We all know that “worst” is opposed to “best.” The “best” thing we can give our neighbors is everything ascribed to love. Therefore, hatred is the “worst.”

But Aquinas disagrees. We call something evil because it hurts, he says. There are sins by which a person harms their neighbor more than by hatred, such as theft, murder, and adultery. Therefore, hatred is not the most grievous sin. On the other hand, the commandments of the Anointed One include not being angry[1] or desiring what is not yours.[2] Obedience brings excellent rewards, while being angry and greedy are but minor transgressions. Now hatred is an internal movement like anger and desire. Therefore, hatred of one’s brother or sister is less grievous than murder.[3]

In expounding on the Ten Commandments (Hebrew: Ten Words), John Calvin focuses on the sixth, “You must not murder.”[4] Calvin finds this commandment significant since the Lord tied humanity together with the rope of unity. Consequently, we must consider everyone’s safety as entrusted to each of us. As such, all violence and injustice done to a neighbor are prohibited.

This commandment, notes Calvin, also forbids murderous ideas in our hearts and requires a sincere desire to preserve our brother and sister’s lives. The hand, indeed, commits the murder, but the mind, influenced by rage and hatred, conceives it. How can you be angry with your brother or sister without passionately longing to do them harm? If you must not be mad at them, neither must you hate them; hatred is nothing but untreated chronic anger.

So, regardless of how you may disguise the fact or try to escape from it by empty excuses, says Calvin, where either anger or hatred is, there is an inclination to harm. Therefore, if you persist in constantly evading any immediate action or clear explanation, the Spirit declared through the Apostle John that whoever hates their brother or sister is a murderer.[5] So also, our Savior told us that anyone with a lot of anger in their hearts against a brother or sister is guilty of murder. And carelessly calling a brother an “idiot!” might result in the authorities hauling you into court. Or, if you thoughtlessly yell “stupid!” at a sister, and you are on the ledge above hell’s fire.[6] The simple moral fact is that words can kill.[7]

While there is only one living and true God, says Charles Hodge (1797-1878), yet as there are three persons in the Godhead, and as these three are the same in substance, it follows that where the Father is, there the Son is, and where the Son is, there is the Spirit. Hence, our Lord says, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and We will come and make our home with each of them.”[8]  And the Apostle John states, “Anyone who hates another brother or sister is a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have any chance of eternal life.”[9] [10]

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) suggests that the Apostle John implies here that the person who hates their brother or sister has the spirit of a murderer; they have that which, if acted upon, would lead them to do bodily harm, as Cain did to Abel. Their hidden spitefulness, secret grudges, and the envy they cherish in their hearts are murderous in their tendency. So, if it were not for the outward restraints of human laws and the dread of punishment, it would often lead to the act of murder.

The Apostle John does not say, notes Barnes, that those who hate their fellow believers do not commit homicide. However, although they don’t kill anyone, they are just as guilty as if they did. John means that the spirit that would lead to murder is active, and God will hold them responsible for it. Nothing is lacking but the removal of outward restraints, which would lead to committing this awful deed. That’s why God judges’ people by what He sees in their hearts.[11]

William Graham (1810-1883) feels it is far more important to observe the Apostle John’s intention than his form of expression. He assures us that no murderer has eternal life in them. They are not Christian and can have no claim on the promises of life and immortality. They have not passed from being spiritually dead to being alive in the Anointed One. Furthermore, they have never tasted that the Lord is gracious, nor that the power of the Holy Spirit has renewed their heart. Brotherly love, therefore, is the test of discipleship, and we should stimulate our reborn spirits in daily fellowship with God’s children. Do we genuinely love them? Can we say we love all of them? Is our love them because they are part of us? No! We love them simply and solely because they belong to the Anointed One? In that case, we may confidently say, “If anyone says ‘I love God,’ but keeps hating their brother or sister, is a liar; for if they don’t love their brother and sister who is right there in front of them, how can they love God whom they have never seen?” Thus, the evidence of whom they belong to is in the open and provides all the proof necessary.[12]

Charles Moinet (1842-1913) says that sin is measured by one’s temperament, not by the act. Some may say the following words are a form of double-talk. “I hate this person, it is true, but I would not harm them for anything in the world.” So, we can agree, there is a big difference between the feeling of resentment or even a long-running quarrel, such as the one between Cain and Abel that ended up costing Abel his life.

As for the essence of the words here in verse fourteen, says Moinet, it is enough to say that they proceed from the Apostle of Love and that, if genuine, we should share them with everyone. In addition, if you find fault with John, you must find the same fault with yourself. Have you considered what having an unforgiving and unloving attitude really means? These reflect selfish and impure desires. They are like tall weeds that show which way the wind is blowing. They also serve as symptoms of a fatal spiritual disorder. As such, we cannot dismiss them simply by changing our mood or our manner of worship? Be assured, there is only one thing that can save a person, and that is the grace of God through the Anointed One. We have the promise that where sin is prevalent, grace is more predominant. It provides forgiveness when we come to God, and He cleanses us from all wrongdoing. So, with God’s love in us, we fulfill the requirements of the law.[13]

Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002) notes that the Apostle John says hatred is one of the most dreadful sins, since it is equivalent to murder. Look at what happened to Abel. It has been a longstanding rule that a person must pay for taking another’s life with their life. The same is true with a Christian who assassinates another brother or sister’s character or reputation; they lose their spiritual life. However, to be a hateful person does not mean there is no divine life left in them. Thus, they are not in danger of losing their eternal life, since it wasn’t theirs in the first place.[14]


[1] Matthew 5:22

[2] Luke 12:15

[3] Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica, Vol. 3, pp. 440-441; 836-838

[4] Exodus 20:13 – New Living Translation (NLT)

[5] 1 John 3:15

[6] Matthew 5:22

[7] John Calvin: Institutes, Bk. 2, Ch. 8, p. 425

[8] John 14:23

[9] 1 John 3:15

[10] Charles Hodge: Commentary on Romans, op. cit., p. 406

[11] Albert Barnes: New Testament Notes, op. cit., p. 4850

[12] Graham, W. (1857). The Spirit of Love, op. cit., pp. 223-224

[13] Moinet, Charles: The Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., pp. 198, 204

[14] Schnackenburg, Rudolf, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit. p. 181

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXXI) 10/20/21

3:14 If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have left behind the emptiness of spiritual death leading us to hell and moved onto the fullness of life leading us to heaven. But those who do not have God’s Love are still spiritually dead.

Bruce B. Barton (1954) makes it clear that while the world may hate Christians, Christians must express love for one another. Love for fellow believers proves that a believer has passed from the realm of being spiritually dead to the sphere of being alive with eternal life.[1] The word “Passed” is a perfect-tense verb indicating that something experienced in the past continues to have lasting results. We know that Christians experience the permanent passage from being spiritually dead to becoming spiritually alive at the time of regeneration. Their love does not earn them eternal life; instead, their love proves that they already have eternal life.[2] Christians must know they have this love. If they do, they can be sure that they have eternal life and that this will reveal itself when the Anointed One returns. On the other hand, a person who has no love remains dead spiritually. It is everybody’s nature to be that way. A person who does not have love shows that they have not “passed from spiritual death to spiritual life.”[3]

Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) hints that this passing from spiritual death to spiritual life illustrates the faithful versus the unfaithful in the congregation. It also shows the dividing line between belief and unbelief in God’s Word and Jesus the Anointed One as the world’s only Savior. These are all manifested in whether a person loves or hates their fellow man. The one who fails to stay in union with the Anointed One will forget to love, and the one who forgets to love will fail to live spiritually. In the Apostle John’s eyes, those who remained in the congregation passed the test of loving God, while those who abandoned their fellow believers fell short of being counted as lovers of God.[4]

David Legge (1969) sees here, in the first part of verse fourteen, a second application on how we can know we are a spiritually alive child of God. It is in knowing we have passed from being spiritually dead to being alive in the Anointed One when we love our brothers and your sisters in Him. First, from the beginning of verse fourteen, it says we can “know,” which contradicts those who say you cannot know and be sure of your salvation. That’s what this epistle is all about, and here the Apostle John is repeating it. Loving each other is easy to discern in people who call themselves Christians. Yet, you may think that someone you know has eternal life, but it’s hard to determine if they love their brothers and sisters. These are those who only profess Christianity. John speaks here of this lack of brotherly love that proves an absence of eternal life. The truth is, if you don’t love your brothers and sisters, you’re spiritually dead![5]

Douglas Sean O’Donnell (1972) says that structurally speaking, the term “we know” follows the phrase “by this.[6] in all but one occurrence. Thus, that verse is critical, not merely because it differs grammatically but also because it summarizes this text’s theme. At issue in verses, eleven to twenty-four is Christian assurance. So, how can we know that we are Christians? One answer is: that we demonstrate Christlike love for other Christians.[7]

3:15 Anyone who hates his Christian brother is a murderer at heart; you know that no one wanting to commit murder has eternal life within.

EXPOSITION

The Apostle John does not mince words here. He calls anyone who destroys the faith and belief in another believer’s heart a murderer. The Greek adjective here is anthropoktonos, which means literally “man-[anthro] slayer [poktonos].” It is not something new to John; he heard it from the Savior.[8] We also find the sinful origins of this shameful thought back in the time of Jacob and Esau. Furthermore, you don’t need to commit such an awful deed to be a murderer. Spreading lies and false rumors about someone can put their livelihood in danger, and if they end up losing their lives, you can be charged as an accessory to the murder.[9] This is what happened to King David when he ordered that Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, be placed on front-line facing fire on the battlefield,[10] and Absalom, David’s son when he had some assassins kill Amon for raping his sister.[11] No doubt that’s why King Solomon advised everyone to be cautious of what other people are thinking about you because they may be smiling on the outside with kind words but grinning on the inside with evil thoughts.[12]

Then Jesus gave a more precise definition of how murder by the mind is as wrong as murder by the hand.[13] It certainly is going on in the mind of Herodias, the wife of Herod, about John the Baptizer.[14] And the Apostle Paul was under a similar threat. So, even though only one in the gang of forty may have carried out their plan to kill Paul, they would all be guilty of murder before God’s eyes.[15] And the Apostle James asked everyone if they knew where fights, arguments, and disputes originated? They come from the selfish desires that make war inside you. You want things, but you don’t get them. So, you kill and are jealous of others.[16] The killing mentioned here by John may involve the ending or ruin of another person’s reputation, business, career, marriage, livelihood, spirituality, etc. I used to hear this idiom, “If looks could kill you, I would be dead right now.”

Such people, says John, do not have the source of eternal life that springs up within a person who is in union with Jesus the Anointed One.[17] People with these kinds of ideas, intentions, and immoral desires have no place in the kingdom of God.[18] They belong to the eternal Lake of Fire, from which there is no redemption or escape.[19] A person must be born again to have a new life to follow God’s pathway to holiness.[20]

The Apostle John passes from not loving to hating, treating the two as equivalent.[21] He does not mention the neutral ground of “I couldn’t care less.” The person who is not for their fellow believers is against them. Being indifferent is inactive hatred, there being nothing to provoke it. Love is the only security against animosity. And as everyone who does not love is potentially a hater, every hater is potentially a murderer. A murderer is a cynic who expresses their hatred in the most emphatic way. The antagonist who does not murder abstains for various reasons from this extreme way of expressing their hostility.

However, the temper of the enemy and murderer is the same; it is evident that every murderer is incapable of possessing eternal life. Therefore, the lethal temper, not the act of homicide, excludes eternal life. The Apostle John, of course, does not mean that murder is an unpardonable sin; but he shows that resentment and death go together, as love and life, and that the two pairs are mutually exclusive. How can life and the desire to extinguish life be compatible? Therefore, it is a forced interpret of the Greek adjective anthrōpoktonos (“manslayer”) as either “destroyer of one’s soul” or “destroyer of the hated person’s soul,” by provoking them to return hatred with hate.

When the Apostle John says, “whoever,” he is not painting everyone using the same color. John is pointing to Christians in particular. He is not talking about earnest believers, but those who profess but do not possess eternal life. But that doesn’t let believing Christians off the hook. According to this verse, even a Christian can murder a fellow Christian. Note what the Apostle Peter says about such people: “Don’t let me hear of your suffering for murder or stealing or making trouble or being a busybody and prying into other people’s affairs.”[22] Doing this makes a Christian who hates their brother or sister commit a form of mental murder. In this case, they would participate in character assassination [murder] and push someone out of the way to take their spot [stealing].

Some Christians feel that if they refrain from physically murdering people they want to kill in their minds, they’ll do just fine. However, the biblical view is that you are in the same class as a murderer if you want to kill mentally.[23] I wonder how many murderers will sit in your church this Sunday. People in church look lovely on the outside, but they may not look so wonderful if we could read their minds. However, God reads our minds. There has never been a thought that God did not read or unspoken words He did not hear, yet He loves us with unchanging love.  Amazingly, God loves us after knowing everything about what we do and think. God does not love us because we tried to impress Him; He loves us because it’s His character.  God does not love us because we give to the church or because we share our faith. It is not what I do; it is what Jesus helped me to do that makes an impression on God.


[1] John 5:24

[2] See 1 John 2:10

[3] Barton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., pp. 73-74

[4] Schuchard, Bruce G., 1-3 John – Concordia, op. cit., pp. 376-379

[5] Legge, David: Preach the Word, 1,2,3, John, op. cit., Sermon 10

[6] This is true except in one occurrence, 1 John 3:14

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

[8] John 8:44

[9] Leviticus 19:16-18

[10] 2 Samuel 11:14-24

[11] Ibid. 13:22-28

[12] Proverbs 26:24-26

[13] Matthew 5:21-22

[14] Mark 6:10

[15] Acts of the Apostles 23:12-14

[16] James 4:1-2a

[17] John 4:14

[18] Galatians 5:21

[19] Revelation 21:8

[20] 1 Peter 1:23

[21] Cf. 1 John 4:20

[22] 1 Peter 4:15

[23] Cf. Matthew 5:28

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXX) 10/19/21

3:14 If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have left the emptiness of death leading us to hell behind and moved onto the fullness of life leading us to heaven. But those who do not have God’s Love are still dead.

Ernst Dryander (1843-1829) believes there is something to which the Apostle John would point to if he were with us today. Christians have become more worldly in their thinking. It has checked and softened the world’s dislike. Therefore, one can fully understand why a flexible, submissive Christianity, which hurts nobody and makes its peace with everybody, will neither provoke the world nor challenge its opposition. In such a religion, the world recognizes its spiritual mediocrity, something they love about themselves.

Perhaps you have never experienced the bitterness of the world, says Dryander because the world now sees you as one of its own. They saw that you preferred the darkness of being uninformed instead of seeking the Light of truth. It is this type of self-deception, to which all of us so quickly become victims, the Apostle John desires to tear away. It is no doubt the reason why he ignores all halfway steps. He recognizes it’s one or the other of the following: either remain in the world and of the world, and, therefore, remain spiritually dead, or, be in the world yet not part of the world, and consequently alive in the Anointed One. So, it’s either the darkness, corruption, and godless environment of hate or in the bright, pure, and holy atmosphere of love.[1]

I like the way David Smith (1866-1932) paraphrases verses thirteen and fourteen: “Wonder not, brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have migrated out of the domain of [spiritual] death into the domain of [spiritual] life because we love the brethren. He that loves not abides in the domain of [spiritual] death.”[2] It brings to mind how the children of Israel migrated out of Egypt into the Promised Land. But once in the Land of milk and honey, they went back to their old ways under the heathen Egyptians. So, it seems that some who left the slave camp of sin, into free union with the Anointed One, were acting like sin’s slaves again.

C. H. Dodd (1884-1947) comments that this pagan world reveals itself as an empire of hatred and spiritual deadness. On the other hand, Christians live in a realm of life, whose distinguishing mark is the ethical principles for the “religious experience,” upon which the Apostle John insists, again and again, is made quite precise and grounded firmly in fundamental beliefs found in the Gospel. Love is the cornerstone. The decisive test for all claims to such love lies in our attitude toward fellow believers, and this test is one that we can all apply with less risk of self-deception than any other. Those who fail to show brotherly love remain spiritually dead.[3]

Greville P. Lewis (1891-1976) links having passed from spiritual death into spiritual life by leaving the world and joining the family of God. We no longer are prisoners of Satan and practice his sinful suggestions and give in to his temptations. Instead, we left that loveless world for the fullness of God’s love and His family. That’s why Jesus said that if we believe in Him, He will give us more than a normal lifestyle; it will be abundant and joyful. Unfortunately, not all of God’s family members are that loving. Some are quick-tempered or quarrelsome, ambitious for positions of power, or intolerant of other people’s points of view because of prejudice and bias. But we do not let their immaturity or resentment bother us. At the same time, we find others in the family of God who are far saintlier than we are, but we are not irritated by their spiritual superiority; instead, we are challenged by it. We find a way to love them all, but not in our strength alone. By being born into God’s family, we have received from Him a divine life and a supernatural power to love all mankind.[4]

Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002) notes this verse contrasts a world alienated from God and a people aligned with God, who reveal the Christian’s love and the world’s hate. One is the result of living the sinful life, while the other by living a sanctified life. Hatred is a characteristic of the devil’s brood, while love is a virtue of children belonging to God. Those part of the devil’s empire are bound for eternal spiritual death; citizens of God’s kingdom are destined for eternal life in the spirit. Furthermore, sin’s curse remains on those of the old world, but the blessings of salvation are poured out on those of the new world.[5]

Simon J. Kistemaker (1930-2017) sees the Apostle John’s passing from spiritually dead to spiritually alive seems contrary to nature: all living things pass from life to death, not death to life. Yet, John does not hesitate to use the phrase, “we know.” He includes his readers in saying this because they did know by hearing the preaching of the Gospel.[6] It might be appropriate to note that “life” and “death” here do not refer to the physical world. Instead, John says that some are unresponsive in the spiritual atmosphere of communion with God because their spirit is not responsive. At the same time, for those born again, their spirit is alive in union with God through the Anointed One. But it even extends beyond that. Those who remain indifferent to God’s Spirit will one day die physically, and their souls will be forever out-of-touch with God. Yet, those who have accepted the invitation of God’s Spirit for redemption and salvation will one day die physically but resurrected to everlasting life with God.

Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) tells us that the Apostle John does not cite at this point why he thinks they ought not be upset by the world’s opposition.[7] He merely underscores the certainty of the hostility they face in the world. In verse thirteen, the term “World” denotes the realm of the devil’s influence and human opposition to God; it is not defamation of all God’s creation. Jesus taught his disciples they would be hated by the devil’s brood.[8] He explained that the world’s rejection of His followers resulted from His selection of them and their association with Him.[9] Jesus was hated because He pointed out people’s evil deeds.[10] Even before He passed from the earthly scene, our Lord warned His followers that they would be hated by “the world.[11] Jesus believed that knowing contempt would come on them just as it came on Him would help fortify His followers face it as bravely as He did.[12]

We also see that the words in verse fourteen, “We have passed,” translates a form of the Greek verb metabainō, as “to go, pass over.” Generally, in the Final Covenant, this word is used in a straightforward and literal sense: Jesus “went on from there to teach;”[13] But in its three other occurrences, all in John’s Gospel, [14] it is used figuratively of transferring from the present age or world to the next. In fact, Jesus’s words in John 5:24 are most reminiscent of 1 John 3:14 (NIV).[15] In verse fourteen, John’s affirmation verifies the view that Jesus was John’s teacher.[16]

Colin G. Kruse (1950) points out that following the brief detour in verse thirteen with its warning that the readers will be the objects of the world’s hatred. Here in verse fourteen, the Apostle John returns to his central theme, [17] that is, mutual love as a mark of true children of God. But now, this motto is expressed differently: “We know that we have passed from being spiritually dead to being alive in the Anointed One because we love our brothers and sisters.” The “identifying mark” is the same, the love of fellow believers, but describes the status of those who love otherwise. Now, John pictures them as those who “have passed from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive.”

In John’s Gospel, we see that he defines eternal life as “knowing God,”[18] who is both the source of life and the giver of life to those who come to Him through Jesus the Anointed One. Thus, we find the similarity of expressions and relationships between John’s First Epistle[19] and his Gospel.[20] They support interpreting John’s statement that love for one’s fellow believers is the mark of those who have escaped condemnation because they have come to know God through Jesus the Anointed One.[21]

Judith M. Lieu (1951) points out that we see the Apostle John’s words about life and love as the central bond that holds Christians together – their love for God and mankind. But, hatred from the world does nothing but united them even closer. What seems odd to John is that his readers might be oblivious to this hostile attitude in the world, so he tells them not to be surprised when it’s directed towards them.[22] The same is true today. Numerous believers mingle with people of the world, unaware of their true feelings. However, sinners reveal their dislike when believers bring God, Jesus, salvation, sin, heaven, or hell into the conversation.


[1] Dryander, E. A., A Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John in the Form of addresses, op. cit., pp. 119-121

[2] Smith, David: Expositor’s Greek Testament, op. cit., p. 186

[3] Dodd, C. H., The Moffatt New Testament Commentary, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 82

[4] Lewis, Greville p., The Johannine Epistles – Epworth, op. cit., p. 85

[5] Schnackenburg, Rudolf, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 180-181

[6] Kistemaker, Simon J., James and I-III John, NT Commentary, op. cit., p. 308

[7] Cf. 1 John 5:4

[8] Luke 21:17

[9] John 15:19

[10] Ibid. 7:7

[11] Ibid. 17:14

[12] Ibid. 15:18

[13] Matthew 11:1; cf. 8:34; 12:9; 15:29; 17:20x2; Luke 10:7; John 7:3; Acts of the Apostles 18:7

[14] John 5:24; 7:3; 13:1

[15] Cf. John 13:1

[16] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 199-200

[17] See 1 John 3:11-24

[18] John 17:3

[19] 1 John 5:14

[20] John 5:24

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

[22] Lieu, Judith M., I, II, & III John – NT Library, op. cit., pp. 147-148

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