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 TWO (Lesson XXI) 04/21/21

2:5 But when we obey God’s teaching, His love is truly working in us. This is how we know that we are living in Him.

In fact, the wise young writer of Psalm 119 states that great blessings belong to those who follow God’s rules because they seek Him with all their heart, don’t do wrong, and follow His guidelines. Lord, you gave us your instructions and told us always to obey them.[1] Being in union with God is the only way to accomplish things that please Him and bring joy to others. And King Solomon agrees with Wisdom, who said that “So now, O my children, listen to me, for happy are they who follow my instructions.[2] On the other hand, says Solomon, an intelligent child, conducts themselves with modesty, but a child who spends time with worthless people brings shame to their parents.[3] Solomon then goes on to say that people who do what God has instructed them to do and know the right time and place to do it will end up doing what is correct at the right moment.[4]

And for those who are worried about doing something wrong or harmful, God had a remedy that He gave to the prophet Ezekiel that says, “I will put my Spirit inside you and change you so that you will obey my laws. You will carefully obey my commands.”[5] But even more so, this same principle was announced by Jesus the Anointed One Himself.[6] And it was confirmed to John in his revelation where the angel said that God’s holy people must be patient while keeping His teachings, so they remain faithful to Jesus to the very end.[7]

So, continuing to stay in union with God and His Son was also a point that the Apostle James said that even Abraham was able to see both his faith and actions succeed by working together. It then is what made Abraham’s faith complete. No wonder the Apostle Paul declared to the Romans that those in union with the Anointed One would not be judged guilty. And in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul expounded more on this by telling them it is God who has made you part of the Anointed One, Jesus. And the Anointed One has become for us wisdom from God. He is the reason we are right with God and pure enough to be in His presence.[8] So, we should never forget that the Anointed One is not only God-like but was God in human flesh. So, when you are in union with the Anointed One, you are complete.[9]

COMMENTARY

Didymus the Blind (313-398 AD) raises a very interesting point. He notes that the person who loves God keeps His commandments and, by so doing, realizes that they know the love of God. Obedience results in His love.[10] You don’t have to be a Christian to be familiar with this principle. As children, we all learned that when we did what our parents told us to do, they showed their love for our obedience. When we did it independently without them having to explain or ask us, it made them even happier. Not only did they smile and compliment us, but they also hugged us. Didymus is telling us the same is true with God. He loves us when we follow His commands, but when we do it without Him having to say anything to us, that brings a smile and a hug.

James Macknight (1721-1800) says that to “be in union with the Anointed One” is to be a member of that fellowship of which the Anointed One is the head, and to enjoy all the blessings peculiar to that fellowship; and in particular, to be the object of the Anointed One’s love.[11] In other words, we are not in union with the Anointed One, just on our own. Now maybe, you are isolated from other brothers and sisters in the Lord, but you are still a member of His body. You have something to give to God, and He can use you as part of His body where you are.

Samuel E. Pierce (1746-1829) says that the Apostle John speaks of the internal and external evidence that proves our being born of God. It’s a matter of remembering His Word: walk in harmony with the Gospel. All this proceeds from inward and spiritual principles. As such, they carry evidence with them proving such and such belongs to the Lord. External behavior that differs from internal beliefs shows if our walk is within or without the Anointed One.[12]

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) feels that John emphasizes keeping the Savior’s commandments as the valid token to establish that a person who says they belong to Him is telling the truth. By obeying His Word, a person shows they are admitting their need for lasting loyalty. Only by being connected to Him can anyone find God’s will for their lives to be what He wants them to be. It takes total surrender to His will. Let’s put it this way; the only way to prove that an electric lamp is connected to the power source is to turn it on. If the bulb is new, the lamp is fully functional; if the bulb does not come on, then, it’s obvious that the cord is not plugged in. It’s the same way with those who claim to be in union with Jesus the Anointed One. They are called to be a light in this world, but they are not connected with the Lord’s spiritual power if that light does not go on.[13]

Robert Candlish (1806-1873) tells us that there were those in John’s day who pretended to know God very profoundly and intimately, in a very subtle and inspirational way. They put tremendous stress on being well-informed about God personally, so much so that they earned the label of the “know-it-alls” or Gnostics. They claim to know all about the essence of God or His mysterious manner of being. Furthermore, they know all His attributes and inward properties and outward presence. They claimed familiarity with all His thoughts choices from His beginning to the point of offering insight into everything God did and said, even giving it a name.”[14] Candlish went on to list what they professed to know about heaven and hell, the galaxies, the stars, the universe, and His role.

English Baptist minister John Stock (1817-1884) tells us that obedience is the proof of saving faith. A fruitless faith is Satanic. The devils believe and tremble. But the saints of God, who are His formation – believe and love. We are His work. He has made us to belong to the Anointed One, Jesus, so that we can work for Him. He planned that we should do this.[15] In love, they follow the Anointed One and keep His word, or commandments, as our Lord expressly says: “If a person loves Me, they will keep My instructions.”[16] Obedience is a choice, as foretold by the prophet, who said: “Your people will join you on your day of battle.” This keeping of God’s word or commandment, observing it practically, and seeking to keep it as written, is not a faultless performance. There is not a mistake-free person on earth who only does good and does not break the law.[17] That blessedness will be found only in heaven when to sin will be an impossibility; for then, resemblance to God will become a reality. So, the blessedness issuing from it. To be holy is to be happy. The Anointed One’s yoke is easy,[18] and His burden is light, and wisdom’s ways, which are His, are ways of pleasantness, and all His paths are peace.[19] [20]

Daniel Steele (1824-1914) admits that we may not be sure of the meaning of this equivocal phrase, “the love of God is perfected,” whether it is His love for us or our love toward Him. But when we attribute perfection to the love of God, it seems to imply that it relates to our love toward God since our desire is capable of imperfection. At the same time, His is always perfect, and it seems to be a truism to assert its perfection and a paradox to say that it is “perfected.” Our love is indeed kindled by His passion as a spark dropped from the skies. God is said to give His love to us when by His Spirit, He announces our adoption. Then love’s response to that of our great Benefactor springs up in our hearts as the first beat of spiritual life. In a sense, it is God’s love throbbing in our bosoms because He originates it. But in an important sense, it is human because it is the activity of our spiritual susceptibilities unfolding according to the laws of mind, as gratitude toward a benefactor.[21]

Ernst Drylander (1843-1922) tells us that the Apostle John, first, bids us take note of how serious is this demand of obedience to the Father. To him, it is the one and infallible sign of our fellowship with God. Nothing can take the place of this one indispensable condition; no confession, however faithful; no “Lord, Lord,” however earnest; no church-going, however regular; no calling, however high. Nothing can take the place of obedience to the Father. Not to sin is, in other words, to obey the commandments of God. Look at it this way, if you drive under the speed limit, turn your blinker on at every turn, stop at every red light or red stop sign, stay on your side of the road, drive with your seatbelt on, do not text while driving, and never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you need not fear of being ticketed.


[1] Ibid. 119:2-4; See Psalm 146

[2] Proverbs 8:32

[3] Ibid. 28:7

[4] Ecclesiastes 8:5

[5] Ezekiel 36:27

[6] John 14:21, 23

[7] Revelation 14:12

[8] 1 Corinthians 1:30; See 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21

[9] Colossians 2:9

[10] Didymus the Blind, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., 1-3 John, p. 179

[11] Macknight, James: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 42

[12] Pierce, S. E., An Exposition of the First Epistle General of John, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 127

[13] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., August 1890, p. 260

[14] Candlish, R. S., The First Epistle of John Expounded in a Series of Lectures, op. cit., pp. 79-80

[15] Ephesians 2:10

[16] John 14:23

[17] Psalm 110:3

[18] Matthew 11:30

[19] Proverbs 3:17

[20] Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, op. cit., pp. 81–82

[21] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hours with John, op. cit., p. 34

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XX) 04/20/21

2:4 If we say we know God but do not obey His commands, we are lying. The truth is not in us.

This same attitude seems to be prevalent today when you hear ministers saying that God not only loves you, but He is in love with you. So, no matter who you are or what you may have done or are doing, God will not withhold His mercy and forgiveness if we just tell Him, “Come into my heart and make me Your child.” The Word “repentance” is seldom used in such “sinner’s prayers.” It was rightly called “cheap grace” by the great German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.[1] Often people are asked if they want to be saved, but saved from what? They are often asked if they desire to go to heaven, but never if they want to stay out of hell. Consequently, they get the idea that they can sin anytime because God is more than willing to forgive. Fortunately, God looks at the heart and can tell if the person praying is sincere whether they use the right words or not.

Thomas Scott (1749-1821) views both sides of this story concerning what the Anointed One endured to pay the ransom price for our freedom. As Scott sees it, what words can express the praises of the love of God, in causing “manifestation of Life,” even “eternal Life,” which was with the Father, so that we, justly condemned rebels, who were dead in sin, might live by Him! It appears the more admirable when we consider the deep shame and the agonizing sufferings, to which this manifestation exposed the “Incarnate Word,” the “Son of God.” Furthermore, how his very humiliation endured for humankind, to rob Him of His glory, to deny His Deity, and to speak of Him whom “all angels worship,” as if He were one of them![2]

John James Lias (1834-1923) explains that although this letter is written in Greek, John begins this verse with what James calls a popular expression in Hebrew, that is, “the person who goes around saying” – a Hebrew way of expressing an act taking place at the present moment. In other words, while John was dictating this letter, these things were going on in the congregations to whom he was writing. John never imagined that just anybody could say they are intimately acquainted with God, but in fact, they were saying it. So, John had this challenge for them: Prove that you have such a relationship by obeying His commandments. The truth was, they were not keeping His commandments. Therefore, says Lias, to brag that “we have no sin”[3] is proof that the truth is not in us, even if we do so in ignorance. We are only “deceiving ourselves.”[4]

Alan E. Brooke (1863-1939) explains that “knowledge” is never a purely mental process in the Johannine system. It takes all the exercise of our faculties of intellect, heart, and will to acquire it. Fellowship and acquaintance are their related ideas. It develops in the growing experience of interaction. This concept, which dominates the whole First Covenant, of “knowing God” and of God “knowing men,”[5] is similarly developed in the Apostle Paul’s “knowing God,” or rather “being known by Him.”[6] The stress laid in the Johannine writings on the fundamental knowledge of God has certainly connected with the necessity which the author felt in combating certain stages of Gnosticism in his day.[7] [8]

Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) asks, “What, then, does it mean ‘to know God?’” He says that John explains that knowledge of God is not theoretical or speculative knowledge but a relationship to God, in which knowing Him begins with His existence. By that, it means being in union with Him through the Spirit to “walk” with Him as our Light – understanding everything that He is. Anyone who claims to know Him but does not walk in union with Him is lying.[9] To claim memorization of Bible verses, attending worship services once a week, and life-long membership in a Church is not enough. God must be a daily part of us, and we are part of Him. That’s why He put His Spirit in us as His constant abiding presence.

Not only that, but Bultmann points out that relationship is not founded solely on acceptance of Him as our Lord and Savior by faith but must operate based on Love for Him and each other. These are not exclusive to one another, nor are they options from which to choose. In fact, we cannot have one without the other because it takes both to prove that “we are what we claim to be,” children of the Most-High God.[10]

Bruce Vawter (1921-1986) says through one’s knowledge of God – an understanding that has nothing to do with merely intellectual attainments. We prove we know Him if we keep His commandments: This practical knowledge of God, which means a life lived following His revealed moral will, echoes the teaching of the First Covenant prophets.[11] The Apostle John is protesting a “Gnostic” approach to religion that would attempt to divorce ethical conduct from intellectual commitment: whoever keeps His word, the love of God has become perfected in them:[12]

Edward J. Malatesta (1932-1998) accepts John’s affirmation that the observance of the Father’s commandments is a principle in gaining knowledge of Him. The text does not say that observing the commandments gains knowledge or leads to obeying the commandments. It does prove that knowledge and observance are correlated. Neither one is more important than the other. So, the whole theme of verses three through eleven is that you cannot live on one or the other. They must work in tandem.[13]

Zane C. Hodges (1932-2008) notes that the Apostle John does not hesitate to declare that the person who says, “I know Him” but does not do what He commands is a liar. Someone may profess a fellowship with God, which their lives show they do not possess.[14] John was not afraid to call this kind of claim what it is: a lie. Furthermore, we can say of the same person that the truth is not in them. In such a person, the truth is not a dynamic, controlling influence. They are seriously out of touch with spiritual reality.[15]

A current faculty member at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Gary M. Burge, points out that Truth is the principle of spiritual integrity that should accompany all worship that God’s Spirit empowers.[16] Therefore, John is not merely saying that someone who fails to obey has missed the point; instead, such people have disconnected themselves from God. On the other hand, the profile of true Christians is quite the opposite: They keep God’s word. John offers two crucial points. Throughout these verses, he employs the Greek verb tereo (“to keep”) to describe obedience. Burge says that Raymond Brown argues convincingly that this verb means more than observance.[17]

It’s use in the Septuagint (LXX) and elsewhere, says Burge, and implies duration and perseverance: to observe diligently, to guard carefully, to realize a truth suddenly – and to protect it.[18] In other words, “to keep God’s word” goes far beyond mere conformity to law. It expresses an enthusiastic desire to adhere to God’s will. On the other hand, in verses three and four, John used “commands” to describe God’s will, and now in verse five, it is changed to “Word.” John is well-known for his variations in expressing the same thing. However, no difference in meaning exists here.[19]

2:5a But those who obey God’s word truly show how their love has completely connected with His love. By this, people know they are living in union with Him.

EXPOSITION

John further points out how vital their obedience-love connection with God is to their benefit in proving they are in union with Him. This concept had long been a part of Jewish theology. Did not the Psalmist remind Israel to remember this! God led His people out of Egypt, singing for joy; His chosen people marched, singing their hearts out! He made them a gift of the country they entered, helped them seize the nation’s wealth, so they could do everything. He told them that by so doing, they could follow His instructions to the letter. Hallelujah![20] Not only that but there is great joy in doing things the right way for the right reasons because of God’s love.[21]


[1] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich: The Cost of Discipleship, Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1959, p. 45

[2] Scott, Thomas: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 485

[3] See verse 8

[4] Lias, J. J., The First Epistle of John with Exposition, pp. 67–68

[5] Cf. Amos 3:2

[6] Galatians 4:9

[7] Gnosticism was a prominent heretical movement of the 2nd-century Christian Church, partly of pre-Christian origin. Gnostic doctrine taught that the world was created and ruled by a lesser divinity, the Démiurge, an artisan-like figure responsible for fashioning and maintaining the physical universe, and that the Anointed One was an emissary of a remote supreme divine being whose special knowledge enabled the redemption of the human spirit.

[8] Brooke, Alan E. The International Critical Commentary, the Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p.29

[9] Bultmann, Rudolf: The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 25

[10] Ibid. p. 26

[11] Hosea 4:1-3; 6:4-7; Jeremiah 2:8; cf. also John 13:35; 14:21-24

[12] Vawter, Bruce, First John, The Jerome Biblical Commentary, (Vol. 2) Brown, R. E., Fitzmyer, J. A., & Murphy, R. E. Editors, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 1996, p. 407

[13] Malatesta, Edward J., Interior and Covenant, op. cit., pp. 121-122

[14] See 1 John 1:6

[15] Hodges, Zane C., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Vol. 2, op. cit., p. 888

[16] See 1 John 4:24

[17] Brown, Raymond, The Epistles of John, p. 252

[18] Cf. the use of the verb to describe Jesus’ watchful care over his disciples in John 17:12

[19] Burge, Gary M., The Letters of John (The NIV Application Commentary), op. cit., p. 98

[20] Psalm 105:44-45

[21] Ibid. 106:3

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XIX) 04/19/21

 2:3 If we obey what God has told us to do, then we are sure that we know Him.

Edward J. Malatesta (1932-1998) points out that the original Christian Gospel proclaims not only that Jesus died for the sins of us all, but that He did so precisely as the “righteous for the unrighteous.”[1] He also died as a “lamb without blemish or scar;”[2] “He never sinned, He spoke no deceptive words;”[3] as our high priest who is “holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”[4]

Therefore, John reminds his readers that the Gospel declared that Jesus came to do away with our sins. That’s why the titles of Advocate[5] and “Holy One[6] designate the perfection of Jesus as one who fulfilled all the commandments of the Law and privileged to live in constant communion with God.[7] The key here is that while the Anointed One was from the beginning with God and was God, even after going through all He did to pay the ransom for our sins as a human, never lost that divine status with the Father. The ultimate purpose was that we, who were first and foremost human, might be allowed to be transformed into His likeness before the Father.

James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) makes a great point here in John’s first test for a Christian’s salvation assurance. He does not say, “And by this, we may know that we are born again,” or “By this, we may know that we are Christians.” Instead, the idea behind this assurance is knowledge. That’s why John says, “We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands.”[8] So, a person may repeat the “sinner’s prayer,” join the church, become a member of the praise and worship group, or even teach a Sunday school class. But only until they are comfortable obeying God’s Word will they truly know that they are an authentic child of God. This John makes clear in verses five and six.

Daniel L. Akin (1957) points to a well-known hymn sung in most Churches in recent decades. The opening verse and refrain read as follows:

            When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,

            What a glory He sheds on our way!

            While we do His good will, He abides with us still,

            And with all who will trust and obey.

            Trust and obey, for there’s no other way

            To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Akin believes that the Apostle John would have liked this song. I’m sure he would have agreed with its message. To trust Him, you must first come to know Him – know Him as the One whom God sent from the beginning. You must also know Him as the One who is the Word of Life and the Eternal Life; to know Him as the Son of the Father in whom there is no darkness at all; to know Him as the cleanser and forgiver of sins, and to know Him as our Advocate and Atonement. And when you do, you will experience joy in Jesus that will indeed be the glory He sheds on your pathway.[9]

2:4a If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living a truthful life.

EXPOSITION

The Apostle James agrees with John’s assessment here and expounds as follows: “My brothers and sisters, some people claim to have faith but do nothing. As a result, their faith is worth nothing.” That kind of faith cannot save anyone from punishment. Suppose a brother or sister in the Lord comes to you in need of clothes or something to eat, and you say to them, Shalom, stay warm and get plenty to eat without bothering to give them some food to eat or clothes to wear, your words are worthless.[10]

How closely this echoes the thought found in Hosea where ELOHIM says: “Now Israel pleads with me, ‘Help us, for you, are our God!’ But it is too late. The people of Israel have rejected what is good, and now their enemies will chase after them.”[11] In other words, those who refuse to help others out of their goods that exceed more than they need will find out their faith is of no value, and then they will cry out to God for help. The question is, should God help them when they didn’t help others? The Apostle Paul’s answer: “They claim to know God, but their actions show they don’t even listen to Him. They are disgusting people, they refuse to obey, and they are useless for doing anything good.”[12]

COMMENTARY

In his letter to Presbyter George and Deacon Theodore of the Church in Constantinople, Pope Gregory the Great (540-604 AD) shared what he heard from his deacons. They were saying that “When our Almighty Lord and Savior Jesus the Anointed One descended into hell, He saved all who acknowledged Him as God and delivered them from the painful punishment due to them.”[13] Pope Gregory asked them to reconsider. For, when the Anointed One descended into hell, through His grace, He rescued only those who both believed that He would come and find His Word in their hearts.

For it is evident, says Gregory, that after the incarnation of the Lord, even of those who hold His faith, who live by faith but do nothing by faith, can be saved. Furthermore, in verse four, John says the same about that those who boast of knowing Him but do not obey His words. James also, the brother of the Lord, writes, Faith without works is useless.[14] If salvation does not come without good deeds, how were unbelieving and godless people saved from hell by our Lord without good works? Therefore, sinners who never saw the incarnation of the Lord are better off than those born after the mystery of His embodiment in the flesh.[15] As we can see, salvation by works rather than by faith was taught in the Roman Church. I would love to have asked Pope Gregory, what about the thief on the cross, the woman caught in adultery, the woman at the well in Samaria?

Catholic scholar Thomas Aquinas says that in the exercise of moral virtues, the rougher the battle, the more magnificent the victory. Now there are certain kinds of objectives that a person may deny themselves for God’s sake. Fulfilling the want of things is the least significant; the body’s desires are in second place, the needs of the soul are still higher, and the matters of the will are on top. It is by a person’s will that they make use of all these other things.

Therefore, says Aquinas, the virtue of obedience, whereby we subject our will to God’s will for His sake, is more praiseworthy than the other moral virtues. That’s why any other acts of virtue are meritorious before God through being performed out of obedience to God’s will. If out of compliance to His Word, we were to suffer martyrdom or give all we have to the poor, unless it’s aimed at fulfilling God’s will for our life, none of it is praiseworthy. The same goes for charitable works, which cannot be valid unless prompted by obedience to God’s will.[16]

Daniel Whitby (1638-1726) has an insightful observation about verse four as it applies to the Jews. Many of them had a somewhat anxious hope that their knowledge and belief of the true God would be sufficient for their justification and acceptance with Him. That’s why they appear as glorying in God and understanding His will.[17] As a result, they anticipated that justification would be theirs based on their belief in One true God.[18] It might have caused the Apostle John, then, to be diligent in teaching them that the fundamental knowledge of God consisted in doing what He commanded us to do.[19]

James Macknight (1721-1800) makes an observation that applies to the Church today. He says that the Apostle John is dealing with the influence of the Nicolaitans and the Gnostics, who affirmed that the only thing necessary to eternal life was the knowledge of the true God. It led to their constant living in the most immoral sensual indulgences while boasting that they were the objects of God’s love and sure of obtaining eternal life merely because they possess the knowledge of the true God and of His mercy in forgiving people’s sins. With such boasting, John declares them as liars, either because they spoke what they knew to be false, or at least, what was in itself primarily wrong.[20]


[1] See 1 Peter 3:18

[2] Ibid 1:19

[3] Ibid. 1:22

[4] Hebrews 8:26

[5] 1 Jn 2:1; cf. 3:7

[6] Ibid. 2::20; cf. 3:3

[7] Malatesta, Edward J., Analecta Biblica Investigations Scientificae in Res Biblicas, Interiority and Covenant Romae, E Pontificio Instituto Biblico, Italy, 1978

[8] Boice, James Montgomery, Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 45

[9] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John, op. cit., Kindle Locations 654-658

[10] James 2:14-16

[11] Hosea 8:2-3

[12] Titus 1:16

[13] In the New Testament in 1 Peter 4:6, it states that the “good tidings were proclaimed to the dead.” The Catholic Catechism interprets Ephesians 4:9, which states that “[Christ] descended into the lower parts of the earth,” as also supporting this interpretation.

[14] James 2:20

[15] Register of the Epistles of Gregory the Great, Bk. 7, Epistle 15, p. 919

[16] Aquinas, Thomas: Summa Theologica, Vol. 3, p. 1182

[17] Romans 2:17-18

[18] James 2:19

[19] Whitby, Daniel: On First General Epistle of John, op. cit., p 459

[20] Macknight, James: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 42


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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XVIII) 04/16/21

2:3 If we obey what God has told us to do, then we are sure that we know Him.

John Stock (1817-1888) has an appealing thought that he shares here by saying that Religion is our task, not our choice; and the good Lord can say of us, as He did to those taught by Rabbi Gamaliel in his school, “I know you, you have no love of God in you.”[1] Not to know the Anointed One experimentally, and to go on in the darkness, is to be foolish, no matter how fancifully wise you are. John connects knowledge which brings salvation, with obedience; not in frames and feelings, which are as flexible as temperament; not in fanaticism, with its fervor and despondencies; not in partisanship, nor in bold assertions unsupported by suitable acts; but in soberly and continuously keeping the commandments of God.

John tells us in verse four that false claims about knowing God will make liars out of us. Instead, we should repent of our lack of knowledge, foolish indifference to learning, and the sins resulting from such neglect. These things don’t go away. As long as we live here on earth trying to follow the Anointed One, we must avail ourselves of His Word and receive the invaluable benefit of what He did for us on the cross. As such, we must take up our cross of self-denial, hating lying, fraud, pride, all unholiness, and every sinful tendency to try to live in holiness in reverence to God as our Father.[2]

Those that serve the Anointed One are approved by those whose approval is worth having and acceptable to God.[3] They are branches engrafted by the Father on the Anointed One, the living vine, and bearing fruit to glorify God. The more abundant the fruit, the more we identify ourselves as being numbered with the Anointed One’s disciples.[4] Those who worship the Anointed One are either proven followers or impostors. They follow, being drawn by Him. They come up from the wilderness of this barren and dry world, where no water of life is to be found, leaning on Him the beloved of their souls, and actuated by His Spirit.[5] [6]

William B. Pope 1822-1903) says that knowing God only comes from keeping all His rules outlined in the Gospel. It is another indication that we are entirely sanctified to God and thereby experience spiritual things. It gives us proof that we know Him. Likewise, it also points back to the fellowship we have with both the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and our fellow believers. But it also leads to the friendship we have in His suffering and the future resurrection. That’s why Jesus came in the flesh so that we can learn of this unity through the Gospel that He brought.[7]

John James Lias (1834-1921) says that the Apostle, in this and the following three verses, teaches that the result of propitiation and reconciliation should produce obedience to God’s law. It will expand and enhance the clue he presented in verse one. And now, in verse three, he wants believers to be sure that we know Him if we obey His commandments.[8] To put it in layperson’s terms, as a result of God’s demands for (propitiation) the punishment of sin being satisfied in the Anointed One, we were brought into a union (reconciliation) with Him through the Anointed One to be obedient to His Word and His will for eternal life. Lias goes on to say that some Christians have devised other tests of true conversion. But this is the only test recognized by Jesus the Anointed One.[9]

Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901) admits that sin cleaves to all God’s children. How, then, can their fellowship with God be maintained? To deny the wrongdoing would be madness: To say we have no sin not only results in deceiving ourselves, and proves that the truth is not in us, but calling God a liar. That also means that His word is absent from our hearts. Our fellowship with Him, then, is maintained only by virtue of the fact that He is always ready to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The blood of God’s Lamb sustains us in fellowship. Not only that, but the loving Anointed One also advocates on our behalf after having paid the ransom price for our sins. With this in mind, we can trust our Advocate with the Father, the Anointed One, Jesus, holy and righteous.[10] For the Apostle John, you cannot be obedient to God’s will for your life unless you are in fellowship with Him, and that is not possible until the ransom price paid for your sins is applied.

David Smith (1866-1932) acknowledges that the principle is that it is not enough to understand the theory; we must put it into practice. For example, what makes an artist? Not merely learning the rules of perspective and mixture of colors, but putting one’s hand to brush and canvas. First attempts may be unsuccessful, but skill comes by patient practice. Rembrandt’s advice to his pupil Hoogstraten: “Try to put well in practice what you already know, and in doing so, you will, in good time, discover the hidden things which you inquire about.” To know about the Anointed One, to understand His person’s doctrine and work is mere theory; we get to know Him and know that we know Him by practicing His precepts.[11]

Priestly L. Greville (1891-1976) makes an interesting point at this juncture. He uses the pronouns “Him” and His” but does not suggest whether he is talking about God or the Anointed One. It may be a case that for John, the only way to know God is through the Anointed One. Yet, in the following three verses, the Apostle speaks of “God.” That seems to be one of John’s major themes in his Gospel and here in this Epistle, but if there is any doubt as to the role of the Anointed One, in verse six, John points out that to really “know” God, you must live your life as Jesus did. That’s who John was pointing to in verse one. So, for the Apostle, to obey the Anointed One’s teachings is to know God because He is God. No wonder John was so upset with the heretics who claimed they knew God but kept none of His commandments. That’s why he called them “liars.” If they were liars then, they are liars now.[12]

Paul W. Hoon (1910-2000) explains that the Greek noun entolē, translated in English as “commandment,” means “the moral expression of God’s nature of which eternal life is the experience.” Unfortunately, under the First Covenant, the Law did not have the power to save. Therefore, eternal life was not given to those who obeyed perfectly it, which no one ever did. Only when the Anointed One came did keep God’s Word promise eternal life. We must not forget, says Hoon, that these are “God’s,” not human decrees. They are not tied historically to the Ten Commandments of Moses. Instead, they have been there from the beginning. That’s why it took someone from the beginning to bring them to life. They are an expression of God’s will in a person’s life, which Jesus the Anointed One displayed to perfection. That’s why the Scripture challenges us to be more like Him.[13]

Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002) points out that the Greek conjunction kai (“and” (KJV)) that begins verse three is not an extension of the previous verses. On the contrary, says Schnackenburg, changing it to “now” puts all the emphasis on the criterion for distinguishing between false and true knowledge seekers. It all boils down to whether or not they are practicing what they preach. Are they just reading God’s commandments, or are they obeying them? It emphasizes how those John addressed in this epistle felt threatened by the false teachers’ self-promoting, misleading slogans. These catchphrases by the heretical prophets show how much depends on such identifying marks.[14] Not only must we know God, but we must also recognize our detractors and their division which causes taking sides. It is especially true because of what John says here in verses four and five.

While the KJV renders this opening as “…we do know that we know Him,” and the NIV as “We know that we have come to know Him,” Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) feels that the best rendition would be “…we know that we have known Him.” So, knowing Him is not in the past tense or present tense, but it is ongoing and never ends in the imperfect tense. In other words, what John is going to say about obeying His commandments is not something new but something we’ve known all along. That means the believers have no excuses. Not only that, but anyone claiming to have known God for a long time but ignores His Word is living a lie.[15]

Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) notes that John introduces us to three claims made by any believer. First, in verse four, “I know Him.” Second in verse six, “I abide in Him.” And third in verse nine, “I am living in union with Him.” To these claims, the Apostle says: To know Him is to obey Him. To abide in Him is to live as He lived. And to walk in the Light is to love one another. If you don’t meet these conditions, your claim is false. Or, as John says, you are lying.[16]


[1] John 5:42; 1 John 1:7

[2] 2 Corinthians 7:1

[3] Romans 14:18

[4] John 15ff

[5] Song of Solomon 8:5

[6] Stock, John: An Exposition of the First General of St. John, op. cit., pp. 73–74

[7] John 17:21

[8] Lias, J. J. The First Epistle of John with Exposition, op. cit., p. 62

[9] Ibid. The First Epistle of John with Homiletical Treatment, op. cit., p. 70

[10] Cocke, A. R. (1895), Studies in the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 28-29

[11] Smith, David: Expositor’s Greek Testament, op. cit., p. 174

[12] Greville, Priestly L. The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 39

[13] Hoon, Paul W., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., Vol. XII, p. 230

[14] Schnackenburg, Rudolf, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 95

[15] Brown, Raymond E., The Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 251-252

[16] Smalley, Stephen S., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, p. 46

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XVII) 04/15/21

Listen to what Thomas Shepard (1605-1649) said when he asks us to look at John, the Anointed One’s beloved disciple, and close companion! He received the anointing to have personal knowledge of Him that is true and knew that he knew Him to be true. But how did John know that? Was he deceived? What is his proof? Elementary, by keeping His commandments.[1] It’s like someone claiming to have the code in opening a safe full of all kinds of treasure. Questions and doubts will come. The best way to prove the doubters wrong is to use the code and have the safe open. John says the only way to know if God is true to His word and promises is to use the code given in His commandments.

Matthew Poole (1624-1679) says that the term “faith” in the Holy Scriptures often signifies knowledge.[2] It is an appropriate, transformative knowledge by which we are owned and accepted by God through the Anointed One[3] and changed into His likeness.[4] The meaning then is: That we perceive or discern ourselves to be sincere believers, and consequently that the Anointed One is both our Propitiation and Advocate when we routinely obey His commandments.[5]

Hugh Binning (1627-1653) has a unique way of talking about a believer’s friendship with God. He says that since we know God, we also have a revelation that many are sure about and some unsure of its reality. He applies it to two types of those who call themselves believers. One group includes those whose relationship with God is in the past as part of their memory, and the other group consists of those whose friendship with God is present in their minds. Faith in God includes personal reverence and passionate affection. But for some, that is not part of their memory and misery. That’s because their relationship with God has not gone beyond the repetition of ceremonies and creeds. There is more to learn of and grow in, but they lack the interest to grasp its depth and relevancy.[6]

Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) speaks about Christian practices as providing the best evidence of professors’ and possessors’ sincerity of the true Christian faith to others. Edwards then goes on to say that the Scripture also speaks of Christian behavior as distinguishing and sure evidence of grace to persons’ conscience. Our conscience’s testimony speaks concerning our good deeds as that which may assure us of our godliness. As John said, “My children, we should love people not only with words and talk but by our actions and true caring.”[7] [8]

It is exceeding apparent, continues Edwards, that knowing God, being of God, and in God, having this hope in Him, etc., mean something besides our Christian profession, principles, and privileges. As a result of this, do we know that we know Him if we keep His commandments? Whoever keeps His word, God’s love reaches perfection in them. That way, we know that we are in Him.[9] How many people do you know who ordered a self-construction kit and experienced nothing but misery trying to put the pieces together? When they ask for help, this solution is clear: “Follow the instructions.” The same is true of being in God’s will.

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) says that John does not accept the notion that a person can know the Anointed One, be in union with Him, or have the right idea and conception of Him without believing in and loving Him. Behind this is the fact that anyone wanting to know Him is welcome to come and learn of Him, so they can put their faith and trust in Him for salvation. Any person who claims that they love Jesus but do not serve and obey Him is not telling the truth.[10] Somebody convinced them that all they had to do was pray a prayer inviting Him into their heart but without any thought of actually serving Him and being obedient to the Gospel.[11]

Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) says that when the Apostle John says that we should keep God’s commandments, it’s another way of saying, “stop sinning.” Start walking in the Light. There is no fundamental knowledge of God, no fellowship with Him, without being formed to obey His will. To ignore God’s will is to divorce holiness from living. Says Plummer, John insists no less than Greek Philosopher Aristotle, who said that knowledge of morals without practice is worthless.[12] Mere knowledge will not do, nor will a touch of emotion. It is possible to know and admire, and in some small way to love, and yet live and act as if we knew nothing of God’s will versus man’s will.[13]

Samuel E. Pierce (1746-1829) states that the knowledge of Christ is wholly and altogether spiritual and supernatural. It is beyond all that nature can attain. No unregenerate mind can have the slightest conception of it. All the knowledge of all contained in the whole circle of sciences cannot convey to the smartest the least spiritual understanding of the Lord Jesus the Anointed One. No, the Bible itself, which is complete information on the Anointed One, the Gospel itself, which is the revelation of the Anointed One. By His illumination and revelation, the Holy Spirit can bring knowledge of the Anointed One, which is life eternal conveyed to our minds.[14]

Karl G. Braune (1810-1868) asks some crucial questions concerning whether we know God or not. It begins with self-examination. Braune then asks: What is to be investigated? Whether you know God? Whether the knowledge of God is possible without fellowship with God? The question is not whether a person knows God, or have they heard and learned some truths regarding Him? The real question is, are they in union with Him as He dwells in them? You are intimate only with those between whom there is a habitual fellowship. Otherwise, you have only a more distant and superficial acquaintance, but never any personal communication.

Braune then asks: Why should it be investigated? Without God, you are in darkness; without Him, you walk in darkness, you become more and more comfortable in the dark. You run to ruin and eventually will die in the darkness of condemnation. You reach the point that you hate and are hated, hateful and abominable.[15] But with and in God, you are in the Light, you live in the Light, and the Light and truth and love are in you; you become more and more filled with Light. Loving truth grows more and more mature, taking away all thoughts of disobedience from you.

Then Braune inquires: How should it be investigated? Start with examining your compliance with God’s commandments. Especially in light of the old and new commandment on loving a fellow believer. See if whether you are living in line with the teachings of the Lord Jesus. Those keeping the commandments of God in acts, thoughts, and words protect themselves. They who obey the commandments of God preserve themselves.[16] [17]

William Graham (1810-1883) points out that you need to get to know Him since it is impossible to keep all the commandments. Knowledge, which leads to holiness, starts with being personally acquainted with God. As the Psalmist said, “Those who know Your reputation will put their trust in You.[18]  John recorded these words of Jesus, “This is life that lasts forever. It is to know You, the only true God, and to know Jesus the Anointed One Whom You sent.”[19] God’s knowledge is practical: it is not like natural science, which leaves the heart and the affections unmoved. God is such a glorious, holy, and adorable Being that to know Him is to love Him and delight in all His ways.

His character is so perfect, says Graham, His works so full of divine wisdom, His love is such an overflowing ocean of goodness, that our heart, our understanding, our affections, our reasoning and will become enraptured by His glories. Our lawgiver’s character ensures our keeping of His law. Love for Him lays its gentle hand upon our will, and our affections allow us to yield our willing heart to obey His every word.

But, says Graham, we must distinguish between the type of knowledge that puffs up our pride and knowledge of God that causes us to humble ourselves for receiving such wisdom. True love for God edifies. If we truly know God, we may be sure that our hearts must be continuously inclined to keep His commandments.[20] In other words, we start each day looking to be submissive to His will and desirous to please Him above all others, not thinking how can I do this or that and get by with it. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “Mankind’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”[21]


[1] The Works of Thomas Shepard, Vol. II, Doctrinal Tract and Book Society, Boston, 1853, p. 210

[2] Isaiah 53:11; John 17:3

[3] Ephesians 1:17; Colossians 2:2

[4] 2 Corinthians 3:18.

[5] Poole, Matthew: Commentary on the Holy Bible – Book of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John (Annotated) (Kindle Location 400)

[6] Binning, Hugh: On First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 487

[7] 1 John 3:18-19

[8] Jonathan Edwards: A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, Part 3, pp. 1015-1016

[9] Edwards, Jonathan, The Works of: Vol. 6, Ch. 4, p. 303

[10] Cf. verse 4

[11] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., August 1890, p. 260

[12] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 5.3, The Starting Point for Practical Reasoning, “Those who are defective in character may have the rational skill needed to achieve their ends—the skill Aristotle calls cleverness (1144a23-8) but often the ends they seek are worthless.”

[13] Plummer, Alfred: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 90

[14] Pierce, S. E., An Exposition of the First Epistle General of John, op.cit., Vol. 1, pp. 111–112.

[15] See verses 9 & 11

[16] Braune, Karl G. Homiletic, First Epistle of John, Ed. Johann P. Lange, p. 56

[17] Pope, William B. Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., pp. 298-299

[18] Psalm 9:10

[19] John 17:3

[20] Graham, William: (1857)., The Spirit of Love, op. cit., p. 89

[21] The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1., Answer, p. 107

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XVI) 04/14/21

Michael Eaton (1942-2017) points to five encouraging aspects of John’s teaching here in verses one and two:

            …if anyone sins

            …we have an advocate

            …with the Father

            Jesus Christ the righteous

            …the propitiation for our sins

It is encouraging, says Eaton, that God is realistic about our continuing tendency to fail. So, there is no reason for us to pretend to be other than we are. God sees the best and worst in us, yet He accepts us as His children.[1]

William R. Loader (1944) says that John may be using the imagery of atoning sacrifice without specific allusion to the First Covenant, especially the theories about how offerings achieve their intended effects. From the time of Abel and Cain’s sacrifices resulted in a favorable and unfavorable response from God. It was the same as feeding an angry god or appeasing an offended deity to offset their possible punishment or wrath. Unfortunately, the same mindset was in Judaism, carried on until sacrifices became nothing more than a business.[2] [3] And today, instead of sacrifices on an altar, some view holy Communion, and holy Mass, as a necessary thing to do to show God they are good Christians. That way, He will not punish them for the sins they committed. But that’s not why Jesus died. He makes this clear at the Last Supper.[4]

David Guzik (1984) tells us that “propitiation” has the idea of presenting a gift to the gods to turn away their displeasure. The Greeks thought of this in the sense of man essentially bribing the gods into doing favors for them. But in the Christian idea of propitiation, God presents Himself (in Jesus the Anointed One) to turn away His righteous wrath against our sin. As a result, propitiation implies that the Anointed One has, as our sin-offering, reconciled God and us by nothing else but His voluntary death as a sacrifice, and thereby averted God’s wrath away from us.[5]

I want to add here to what Clement Bailhache said earlier, and David Guzik says above, and John W. (Jack) Carter writes here about “propitiation.” Many misunderstand this verse, notes Carter, simply because the Greek noun hilasmos rendered “propitiation” is unfamiliar to many.  To reconcile is merely to gain the favor of another by doing something that pleases them. This term is often confused with expiation, which is to pay reparations for having committed a crime.  Consequently, we find both terms used to describe the atoning act of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary. When we understand expiation in this context, the word refers to the nature of Jesus the Anointed One and His work of advocacy performed for those who have faith and trust in God.

As Jesus, the human incarnation of YaH (“I AM”) WeH (that “I AM”), says Carter, the Son of God, He found favor with the Father with whom He is in a family relationship. As the One who is entirely man and fully God, Jesus serves as a form of intermediary between God and mankind. By His willing submission to death on the Cross of Calvary, Jesus took upon Himself our punishment for sin. Consequently, for all who place their faith in God, He now serves as our High priest making expiation (reparations) before the throne of God’s grace. That takes away the condemnation for sin, freeing a people who love the Lord. His work as our Advocate allows God to refer to His people as His “delight.”[6] [7]

Ben Witherington III addresses the Anointed One as a propitiation to God on our behalf. He tells us to notice that it does not merely say that He provides this, but instead that He is this. Of course, the big question is how to translate this term as “propitiation” or “expiation,” or should we choose a more specific term such as “atoning sacrifice?” A propitiation is an act that appeases God’s wrath against sin or some offense offered by a human being. Expiation, by contrast, is not something of which God is the recipient or object, but rather the believer, referring to the divine act of removing the contamination of or cleansing someone from sin or covering or protecting someone from the consequences of sin.

In part, we can probably determine the meaning here by the preposition used: peri (“for”) rather than hyper, says Witherington. The preposition peri means “with respect to” rather than hyperon behalf of.”[8] It suggests that propitiation is at least one of the things in mind here. If so, then the picture would be similar to what we find in Hebrews, where we learn of Jesus, the High priest in heaven offering intercession, indeed, presenting himself as a sacrifice to God, His death doing the pleading for sinners. On the other hand, in 1 John 1:7, the idea seems to be of expiation, of the sinner being cleansed of sin by God through the Anointed One. Here, however, in 1 John 2:1-2, we are talking about offering God something, and so propitiation is more likely in view. Some have resorted to translating this term as “atonement” or “atoning sacrifice.”[9]

2:3a If we obey what God has told us to do, then we can be sure that we are best friends with Him.

EXPOSITION

Here John echoes the word given to Isaiah that the Anointed One will be satisfied after all is said and done. And because of His experiencing pain and sacrifice, God’s righteous Servant will make many righteous; it is for their sins He will suffer such agony.[10] And for the Apostle Paul, what the Anointed One did on our behalf was like what happened when God said, “Let there be light in the darkness.” So, He made this light of the Gospel shine in our hearts, so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus the Anointed One.[11]

But this is also contingent upon our obedience to what the light shows us. It is in line with the intelligent young writer of the longest Psalm who said, “Then I will never feel ashamed when I look closely at Your Word.” Furthermore, he also pledged: “I will follow the way presented in Your Word, for You, will give me a willing heart to obey.”[12] And the Apostle Paul was not hesitant to tell the Thessalonians that they too should live in such a way that God is pleased with them. They didn’t have to guess what to do; they were already taught by the authority of the Lord Jesus.[13]

After all, our obedience is not too much to ask when we consider, as the writer of Hebrews states, that because our Lord’s willingness was perfect, God was able to offer eternal salvation to all who obey Him.[14] And in his revelation, John heard these words: “How blessed are those who wash their robes. As such, they will be allowed to enter through the gates of New Jerusalem to eat from Life’s Tree.”[15] Not only that, but the subject of having robes washed white reminds us of what John said in his Revelation.[16]

COMMENTARY

Clement of Alexandria (150-216 AD) makes an interesting point about the Gnostics who said they knew about God but did not know Him personally. It’s much like a person saying they know all about a particular science but are not scientists themselves.[17] Not much has changed since then. People today can tell you they know about God but cannot tell you anything about Him.

In another place, Clement states that the one who understands will also do the works which pertain to the duty involved. But someone who does the job is not necessarily among those who know the effect of their work, for they may understand the difference between right and wrong but who does not know the divine doctrines. Furthermore, knowing that some people do the right thing out of fear of punishment or for some reward, John teaches that a person with a clear understanding does these things out of love. [18]

Early church writer Didymus the Blind (313-398 AD) mentions that often in the Scriptures, the word “know” means not just being aware of something but having personal experience of it. Jesus did not “know” sin, not because He was unaware of what it is but because he never committed it Himself. In other words, Jesus would not be able to keep from sinning if He didn’t know what sin was. For although He is like us in every other way, He never sinned. Given this meaning of the word know, it is clear that anyone who says that they know God must also keep the commandments, for the two things go together.[19]


[1] Eaton, Michael, 1, 2, 3 John, op cit., pp. 45-46

[2] See Matthew 21:12-13

[3] Loader, William R., The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 14-15

[4] Matthew 26:26-30

[5] Guzik, David: Enduring Word, op. cit., loc. cit.

[6] Deuteronomy 30:9; Psalm 16:3; 149:4; Jeremiah 9:24

[7] Carter, Dr. John W. (Jack). 1,2,3, John & Jude, op. cit., pp. 34-35

[8] See 1 John 3:16 (“for us”)

[9] Ben Witherington III. Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, op. cit., (Kindle Locations 6146-6156)

[10] Isaiah 53:11; See John 17:3

[11] 2 Corinthians 4:6

[12] Psalm 119:6, 32; See John 14:15, 21-24; 15:10, 14

[13] 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2

[14] Hebrews 5:9

[15] Revelation 22:14

[16] Revelation 6:11; 7:9, 13-14.

[17] Clement of Alexandria: Comments on the First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 1162

[18] Clement of Alexandria Bray G. (Ed.) 1-3 John, Adumbrations, Adumbrations, p. 178.

[19] Didymus the Blind, Bray, G. (Ed.).  1-3 John, p. 178

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XV) 04/13/21

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) discussed earlier about those who show no interest in theology or doctrine in understanding how to live as a good Christian in this world. He notes that the Apostle John showed no fear of this attitude and begins his first chapter by saying that God is Light and those who wish to walk in the Light must be in union with Him and His Son. Now, John is not hesitant to proclaim, “Yet, if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus, the Anointed One, the one truly righteous One. He is the sacrifice given to pay the ransom price for our sins – and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” Not only does John introduce the Advocate, but he also alerts the believers that no matter how holy they think they are, they can still sin.[1]

Paul W. Hoon (1910-2000) says, in his exposition, that the atonement of Jesus is universally sufficient because the sins it exposes and cleanses are ancient and universal. In other words, humans in every generation and every location sin are the same sins that brought Jesus to His death on the cross. Prejudice today is the same prejudice of the first century. We spot it easily in Jewish Pharisees, German Protestants, Italian Roman Catholics, and American Pentecostals. But Jesus died for all of these sins that He might then appeal to the Father as our Advocate in securing our forgiveness so that His blood can wash away every stain.[2]

Donald W. Burdick (1917-1996) calls what John says here in verses one and two the foundation stones upon which the practice of confession rests – the Anointed One’s intercessory work and His intervention work. It allows Him to be both Savior and Advocate. But John’s insistence that they try to keep from committing even one sin is a recognition that our sanctification is not yet complete. In other words, what John says in these first six verses concerns our ongoing sanctification. Walking in the Light does not guarantee sinless perfection. If the shadow of sin darkens our Light, we immediately confess and have our Savior plead with the Father for our forgiveness, based on the effectiveness of His blood to wash us clean. However, this is not something that should become a habit.[3]

John Stott (1921-2011) notes that John now unfolds God’s provision for the sinning Christian. It is to be found in Him who is described first as one who speaks to the Father in our defense (in most English versions “Advocate with the Father”), secondly as Jesus, the righteous Anointed One, and thirdly (in verse two) as “the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” So, not only does He abide in us, but He serves as our Mediator, Intercessor, and Helper. That’s because He has both human nature and divine nature. He consistently looks for what is proper for us. And as our atoning sacrifice, it qualifies Him for the position. As our Advocate, He does not plead that we are innocent or offer extenuating circumstances. He acknowledges our guilt and presents His mediated work as the ground for our acquittal. The Anointed One’s intercession is the continual application of His death to our salvation.[4]

D. Edmond Hiebert (1921-1995) writes about the awful possibility of a believer sinning. As dreadful as it may seem, the Apostle John wanted his readers to be made aware of this sad fact. The conjunction “and” implies that John also tried to make them aware of this unpleasant fact. He was fully aware of human frailty and the seductive power of sin and Satan. Because the conjunction “and” joins two antithetical clauses, (the NIV rendering “but” seems better here). He does so in the sense that the act of disobedience went contrary to the believer’s conscience. Such a sudden fall into sin does not destroy their membership in the family of God, but it will disrupt fellowship between the Father and His child. God’s holiness demands it must be dealt with and not swept under the rug.

Hiebert then goes on to say that John fully believed that the only way a person can get to know God is by keeping His commandments. The term “knowing” is synonymous with having fellowship with Him. This fellowship brings with it the assurance that a person has entered into an intimate state of being better acquainted with Him. That’s because we gain this awareness through experience and instruction.[5]

Raymond E. Brown (1918-1998) reminds us that in Jewish writings, we find that Rabbis were discussing where Torah says, “Sin crouches at the door.”[6] So, someone asked, “But what about Satan?” Rabbi Judah answered: Satan has no permission to act as an accuser of Israel’s children on the Day of Atonement. Here we find the Apostle John tells us that Jesus stands before the Father both as Intercessor and defending advocate. He is not there to plead for sinners but God’s children. That’s because Satan has no place in heaven to accuse God’s sons and daughters. The triumphant Messiah, says Brown, established His Advocate position before a heavenly court and our High Priest in a celestial temple.[7]

Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) shares a story that can help us and others deal with the thought that they may still sin after they are born again. A pastor counseled a lady who tried to live up to the Christian standards proposed by the Church and failed to turn her life over entirely to the Lord. “I would like to become a Christian,” she said to the pastor, “but I’m afraid I can’t hold out. I’m sure to sin again!” Turning to the Apostle John’s first epistle, the pastor said, “No doubt you will sin again because God says, ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.’” But if you do sin, God will forgive you if you will confess your sin to Him.[8]

Therefore, says the Pastor, Christians don’t need to sin. As we walk in fellowship with God and obey His Word, He gives us the ability to resist and have victory over temptation. Then the pastor remembered that the woman had gone through surgery some months before. “When you had your surgery,” he asked, “Was there a possibility of complications or problems afterward?” “Oh, yes,” she replied. “But whenever I had a problem, I went to see the doctor, and he took care of it.” Then the truth hit her! “I see it!” she exclaimed. “Christ is always available to keep me out of sin or to forgive my sin.” Real life is a life of victory, says Wiersbe. In this letter, John tells us how to draw on our divine resources to experience victory over temptation and sin.[9]

Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) looks at the Greek noun hilasmos (“propitiation”) from a neutral position. It means to appease, to make atonement. Therefore, His actions are directed toward God, not toward us.[10] The appeasement or atonement was to satisfy God’s demand that all who sin must die for their sins. The Anointed One’s sacrifice alleviated this curse on the cross for our sake and God’s sake. By doing it that way, Jesus allowed reconciliation between His Father, reuniting the Father with His family through Him.

Theologian John Painter (1935) says we must understand God’s love for the world, both in John’s Gospel and Epistle, in the context of His mission to save the world.[11] It may pose problems for those who think that such a frame of mind betrays an attitude of superiority.  When they offer such criticism, the Johannine Gospel author and Epistles is more than willing to accept it. Such an approach, they declare, is well-intentioned. Actually, it grows out of concern for the well-being of a lost and dying world.

Professor Painter goes on to say that the forbidden love for the world is the kind of love that wishes to possess the world for what it is. But in this way, the world owns the person and takes control. This kind of possessive love is made clear by reference to “the things in the world.”[12] But here in verse two, it has an entirely different sense. The word “world” means choosing worldly possessions so that they become life-determining. That’s the world for which the Anointed One offered His atoning sacrifice. Jesus had a clear warning about trying to serve two masters.[13] [14] James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) gives us some needed insight into John calling Jesus “righteous.” That does not mean the judicial righteousness applied to believers – becoming right with God according to the Anointed One’s work on the cross.[15] Instead, it is what our Lord does right as our Advocate with the Father.[16] He does not bargain with us, saying, “If you do this for Me, I’ll do that for you.” Nor does he put us on parole so that if we ever sin, the punishment we initially deserved will come back to haunt us. He hears our earnest plea and simply shows the Father the nail prints in His hands and the scar on His side and says, “Father, forgive them for My’ sake.”


[1] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn, Life in Christ, op. cit., pp. 173-173

[2] Hoon, Paul W., The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII, op. cit., p. 228

[3] Burdick, Donald W. The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 27

[4] Stott, John. The Letters of John (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), op. cit., pp. 85-86

[5] Hiebert, David E: 1 John, Bibliotheca Sacra, op. cit., pp. 338-340

[6] Genesis 4:7

[7] Brown, Raymond E., The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 217

[8] See verse eight

[9] Wiersbe, Warren W., Be Real (1 John), op. cit., p. 28.

[10] Smalley, Stephen, S., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, op. cit., p. 39

[11] See John 3:16; 4:42; 17:20-26; 20:21; 1 John 2:2; 4:14

[12] 1 John 2:15; See John 3:16; 1 John 4:11

[13] Matthew 6:24

[14] Painter, John. Sacra Pagina: Vol. 18, op. cit., (Kindle Locations 4601-4605, 4884-4887)

[15] Cf. Romans 10:4

[16] Boice, James Montgomery, Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 38-39

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XIV) 04/12/21

George G. Findlay (1849-1920) looks at some possible contradictions in what John says here. He believes the Apostle John admits that a truly cleansed and saved person may lapse into sin, and yet he writes later on in chapter 3:6, 9: “Anyone who continues to live in Him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who He is. Those born into God’s family do not make a sinning practice because God’s life is in them. So, they can’t keep on sinning because they are children of God.” These contrary implications are not easily aligned with each other says Findlay. The idea of sin in Christian believers has something monstrous about it.

We can ease the contradiction by observing that the verbs of 3:6, 9 relating to sin in the present tense of the Greek verb menō, which denotes “to continue to be present.” In our text, sin is seen as a single occurrence and may include no more than a trivial act of sin, committed once and repented, such as Peter’s memorable fall. Indeed, when Jesus the Anointed One appears in the following clause as Advocate, this presupposes the wrongdoer’s confession, and a petition is for mercy. Now, the Paraclete is called for someone in need and danger. The Anointed One is no Advocate for the persistent sinner but for the wayward believer who renounces their trespass and laments their having fallen.[1]

Charles Gore (1853-1932) reminds us that in an earlier church document called “the Didache,”[2] we learn that mutual confession of sins before the Eucharist was the practice of the Church, “Having first confessed your sins, that your sacrifice might be pure.”[3] We must acknowledge, says Gore, that Jesus’ divine commission given to the Apostles to forgive or retain sins only applies to individual Christians judged by Church ministers to be guilty.[4] It is on this apostolic practice of requiring the confession of disgraceful sins in the congregation and encouraging the confession of sins in general, and on the divine authority of absolving and retaining such errors that the repentant discipline of the Church stands, which has significantly varied in different times and places.[5]

The eldest son of English Baptist minister Clement Bailhache is named Sir Clement Meacher Bailhache (1856-1924). This British commercial lawyer and judge employs his legal knowledge to explain the Greek noun hilasmos, translated as “propitiation (KJV)” and used in verse two by the Apostle John. It means to turn away anger. To bring about reconciliation for some wrongdoing. This word is only used here and later in chapter four, verse ten. That means, says Sir Bailhache, that the need for soothing was necessary because we were all in line to receive punishing wrath from God. It merely implies that God was more than feeling sorry or showing displeasure. He was angry. And since no one can go to God, God came to them. Therefore, forgiveness must be legal. He is sovereign; sin is a rejection of His law; rebellion against His majesty. God wants to reconcile with them, but first, His wrath must be alleviated so that His love and mercy can flow freely to them.[6]

Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901) tells us to cheer up; we have a mediator with the Father in heaven. This Mediator or Advocate is none less than Jesus the Anointed One, the righteous, the Holy One. Therefore, do not brood over sin, do not be driven to despair, but turn in confidence to our eternal advocate, Jesus the Anointed One, the Righteous One. We not only have the blood of the Lamb of God but the living Anointed One Himself. He is our Advocate with the Father. He settles everything between the soul and God; however, any believer grieves their heavenly Father by becoming an erring child.[7]

Robert Law (1860-1919) states that at this point, the paragraph the Apostle John started in 1:7 concludes after having outlined three relevant propositions concerning sin and its effects. A sin is an act for which the perpetrator is primarily responsible. Whether their actions contain more or less of the sinful elements of wrongdoing — rejection of Light, treason to God, their neighbor, or themselves – their sinful tendencies will be the direct cause of the sin existing. And if they say that it’s not their fault, they are the victim; their error is worse than ignorance – they led themselves astray into darkness.

Without any doubt, says Law, the Apostle has in view the doctrine of those who say that they are “spiritual,” therefore, they are free from sin because sin only applies to the flesh. But this heresy appears in various forms even today. For the modern materialist, like the ancient Manichee,[8] sin is a question of physiology; moral depravity is only a manifestation of a bodily disorder. Or the evil in the world is due to the social environment, which results from inadequate education and corrupt institutions. Against all such theories, John raises a single word – sin. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.”[9]

Louis Berkhof (1873-1957) speaks about the objection to the doctrine of limited atonement. We find that there are passages that also teach that the Anointed One died for the whole world.[10] Any complaints to these passages used as doctrine proceed on the unwarranted assumption that the word “world” means “the entire human race.” But it is perfectly evident from Scripture that the term “world” has a variety of meanings, as reading of many passages will prove.[11]

When applied to people, it also appears that it does not always include all individuals;[12] in some of these passages, it cannot possibly denote all people. If it had that meaning in John 6:33, 51, and here in verse two, it would follow that the Anointed One gives life to all humanity, that is, saves them all. Even those raising objections would not believe that.[13] Berkhof says that Jesus died so that anyone in the world can come to Him for salvation, not that He will save everyone regardless of their actions. In John’s Gospel, it is clear “that whoever believes in Him.”[14]

Like Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976), some theologians have trouble with John’s statement in verse one that God forgave our sins because Jesus the Anointed One is our Advocate. They point to verse two, where it says He removed our sins by His sacrifice and the shedding of His blood. They conclude that this is foreign to John’s Gospel and is part of pastoral theology, as well as the phrase, “for the whole world.”[15] There seems to be a disconnect in their minds between Jesus’ ministry here on earth and in heaven. John is saying that we have someone to plead our case for the forgiveness of sin before God based on what He did while on earth. He is both our Redeemer and Advocate.

Rev. Priestly L. Greville (1891-1976) says that by the Apostle John using the term “world,” he is stressing the fact that God’s plan of salvation does not include an “Operation Select” plan but an “Operation Humanity” strategy. There is no such thing as limited redemption restricted to particular groups or types of sinners. He points to John Calvin as one who promoted this idea through predestination.[16] John Wesley vigorously opposed this “dreadful dogma” and showed that the Gospels and the whole of the Final Covenant are against it.[17] Wesley did not reject predestination outright. He was against the doctrine that God elected specific individuals for salvation and others for damnation. He understood that Christian orthodoxy insisted that salvation was only possible by the sovereign grace of God. Greville quotes the lyrics from one of Charles Wesley’s hymns:

O for a trumpet voice,

One all the world to call,

To bid their hearts rejoice

In Him who died for all!

For all my Lord was crucified,

For all, for all my Savior died.[18]

Amos N. Wilder (1895-1993) mentions that following the early church era down to the third century, they had no images, only signs. That’s why the drawings in the Roman catacombs are not a cultural language but sketches. They point to redemption rather than symbolizing it. However, these drawings and paintings became beatified into icons, leading to further representations of the Anointed One, the Cross, the Disciples, and others into sacred images. Before long, the illustrations of redemption faded from the scene, and everything focused on these images.[19]


[1] Findlay, G. G. (1909), Fellowship in the Life Eternal: An Exposition of the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 114-115.

[2] The Didache meaning “Teaching” is the short name of a Christian manual compiled circa 90 AD. The full title is The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. Some Christians thought Didache was the inspired Word of God, but the church rejected it when making the final decision which books to include in the New Testament.

[3] Didache, 4:14,14:1

[4] Matthew 18:18

[5] Gore, C. (1920). The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 82

[6] Bailhache, Clement Meacher: The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., p. 257

[7] Cocke, A. R. (1895). Studies in the Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 25

[8] A Manichee is a follower of the dualistic religious system of Manes, (A Babylonian prophet born in 216 AD and died in 274 AD) and the founder of Manichaeism) a combination of Gnostic Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and various other elements, with a basic doctrine of a conflict between light and dark, matter being regarded as dark and evil.

[9] Law, Robert (1909). The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 131

[10] John 1:29; 3:16; 6:33,51; Romans 11:12,15; 2 Corinthians 5:19

[11] Luke 2:1; John 1:10; Acts of the Apostles 11:28; 19: 27; 24: 5; Romans 1:8; Colossians 1:6

[12] John 7:4; 12:19; 14:22; 18:20; Romans 11:12, 15

[13] Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology p. 333

[14] John 3:15

[15] Bultmann, Rudolf: The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 23

[16] Calvin, John: Institutes, op. cit., Ch. 21, Sect. 5

[17] Wesley, John, Predestination Calmly Considered, ⁋88

[18] Wesley, Charles, “Let earth and heaven agree, Angels and men be joined,” 1742

[19] Wilder, Amos N, Early Christian Rhetoric, op. cit., p. 117

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XIII) 04/09/21

Albert Barnes explains that the proper meaning of the Greek verb hilaskomai also occurs in the Gospel of Luke, “God be merciful to me a sinner,”[1] and in Hebrews, “to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”[2] The idea expressed by these words is reconciling, appeasing, turning away anger, rendering promising or favorable. The idea is that if there is anger or rage or that something offended someone, it is needful to avoid their irritation by appeasing them. It may be done by way of a sacrifice, by songs, by services rendered. The word is often so used this way in Greek poet Homer’s works, [3] says German Franz Passow (1786-1833), an expert in the Greek language.

We have similar terms in everyday use, as when we advise someone who has been the offender and needs to do something to keep them from retaliating. We most often do this by urging them to make restitution or by acknowledging their wrongdoing. Furthermore, lower the tension by yielding on points they insist on in any controversy or expressing regret if we offended them and promise never to do it again in the future. We cannot apply this idea to God in a literal sense, says Barnes, nor should it be discarded as a possibility.[4]

Matthew Henry has unique comments about the Roman Church professors who try in vain to distinguish between an Advocate of redemption and a Mediator of intercession. The Mediator of intercession is our Advocate of redemption, who paid the ransom for our sins. It is because of His work on the cross that He pleads for us. Some might conclude that His blood loses its value and effectiveness if no mention was made of it in heaven since its shedding on the cross. But now we see it is of high esteem by the great advocate’s intercession (the attorney-general) for God’s Church. He lives on to make intercession for those that come to God through Him.

Neither is it confined to one nation, says Henry, and in particular to ancient Israel. He is our divine Reconciler with God because of our sins. Not only for past or present believers but all future sinners who come to God through Him. The extent and intent of the Mediator’s death apply to all tribes, nations, and countries. Not only is He the sole provider, but He is the universal atonement and reconciler for all that are saved and brought home to God’s favor and forgiveness.[5]

Augustus Neander says that when John speaks of the reconciler for our sins, he feels the necessity to guard against limiting His work of redemption to any single period, or nation, or race, or ethnicity, or language. He remembers the words of the Anointed One concerning His followers being of one-fold with one Shepherd.[6] It was John’s vision to embrace all humanity, both those who believe and those who are yet to believe in Jesus as the Anointed One, their Savior. Those of the kingdom of this world He invites to become part of the kingdom of God. If there is to be one Shepherd, they can only be one flock.[7]

Robert Candlish points out that God is not only our Judge, and His Son the Anointed One, our advocate to the Judge. His advocacy has respect not only to the Judge’s court but to the Father’s house. Our elder brother’s advocacy is what brought us home to His Father and our Father. It is a home of love and light, a house of love because it is a home of light. It is not a home in which we can allow ourselves to sin. There is no darkness to hide our sin, no room to conceal any lie. Our elder Brother has suffered enough for our sins to make them unacceptable and hated.

Therefore, says Candlish, we must sever any connections we still have with old haunts or habits. That way, we can be placed at once in the best and likeliest position for them not to entice us. The Son agrees with the Father that we are immediately embraced as His children, given a robe and ring of honor, and welcomed to the children’s table. There is no bullying, no intimidation, no word or look about what we were in the past. Our elder Brother has taken care of all that for us. There are to be no more nightmares about past doubts, suspicions, or fears. All is well with our souls, as we live in the Light and Love of the One who died for us. That’s why we pledge there will be no more sin.[8]

Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885) points out that Jesus the Anointed One satisfied the Law’s demands by acquiring forgiveness for our sins. There is no need to repeat His death; the effectiveness of His once-and-for-all sacrifice never ceases.[9] Wordsworth noted that even the learned Dutch Roman Catholic expositor, Willem Hessels van Est (1542-1613) – known as “Estius,”[10] does not hesitate to agree that the Anointed One’s one-time death on the cross continues to meet the Law’s demands. His sacrifice is sufficient to remove the sins of those who come to Him for pardon.

John Stock (1817-1884) lets us know that just as water quenches fire, so the very thought of doing wrong, which is sin,[11] if consented to, and allowed to happen, instead of being shaken off, as the Apostle Paul did the viper at Melita,[12] quenches the spirit. That’s why the Scriptures tell us to keep our hearts pure with all carefulness, for that’s the source of abundant life.[13] That we are to live a fruitful and meaningful experience to the glory of God that we may be reborn in the divine image of the Creator who made us, at the beginning,[14] which serves as a revelation of God.[15] God did His part; now it’s up to us to do our part for sin to be quenched, not the spirit.[16]

Augustus Strong makes an interesting comparison between the Anointed One being our Mediator and the Holy Spirit as our Advocate. The Holy Spirit’s role is that of plea-bargainer with God on behalf of our needs for wisdom, strength, comfort, etc. It places God in a Caretaker’s role; the Anointed One’s position in being our Attorney with God is on behalf of forgiveness, cleansing, sanctification, etc.  It puts God in the role of being a Judge.[17]

In another place, Strong points to the constant Scriptural representations of the infinite value of the Anointed One’s atonement and the union of people with God. It is possible only when we regard the Anointed One as simultaneously human and divine but existing with these two natures united in one. Whatever Jesus performed, He did as coming from both characters. It verifies that the general Christian awareness recognizes in the Anointed One a single and undivided personality and expresses this recognition in its services of song and prayer.[18]

Robert Cameron (1839-1904) has an interesting way of explaining what the Apostle John says about having no sin and yet sinning. He notes that the obedience of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One was both inward and outward. There was no sin in Him; there was not even a tendency to sin. He was inwardly pure holiness. He also resisted all temptations from without, coming to Him through the devil. His whole life was one continued act of obedience to the will of His Father.

However, we say Cameron is inwardly sinful, and our inner nature is opposed to God. This condition of our innermost being is sin-prone, and to neutralize this sinful tendency, we have the blood of the Anointed One. Outwardly also we may allow our bodies to commit sins even after we are born again. To be free from a righteous judgment, we must make our confession to God, who is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. The blood cleanses from all sins of the past. Once those sins are gone, any other sins require an honest confession to receive forgiveness, reconciliation and to remain in union with the Holy One.

Cameron continues by looking at John’s words, “If we deny that we have sin in us, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us.” Not only that, but we make God out to be untruthful, which further exposes the fact that His word is not in us. In any case, we prove ourselves to be liars because neither His truth nor Word is in us. The truth within would reveal the sin within; the Word coming from without would convict us of those sins. John recorded these things to keep us from sinning in the first place.[19]


[1] Luke 18:3

[2] Hebrews 2:17

[3] Homer, Iliad, Translated by Alexander Pope, 1899, Bk. I, p. 4; “reconciled by address of Vulcan.” Also see p. 28, fn. #67; p. 186, fn. #166 Bk. XIX, p. 349; Concluding Note p. 453

Also, in the Odyssey, translated by Alexander Pope, Bk. V, p. 284, “for mercy pleaded.”; Bk. XIII, pp. 356, 381, Bk. XVIII, pp. 466, 471-472; Bk. XXII, pp. 558, 569, 571

[4] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., p. 4808

[5] Henry, Matthew: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 837

[6] John 10:16

[7] Neander, Augustus: The First Epistle of John, Practically Explained, op. cit., p. 59

[8] Candlish, R. S., The First Epistle of John Expounded in a Series of Lectures, op. cit., pp. 68–69

[9] See Hebrews 10:12

[10] Estius (1542-1613) was a famous Dutch commentator on the Pauline epistles. In 1580 he received his Th. D.

[11] Proverbs 24:9

[12] Acts of the Apostles 28:5

[13] Ibid 4:23

[14] Genesis 1:26

[15] Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle general of St. John, op. cit., p. 65

[16] 1 Thessalonians 5:19

[17] Strong, Augustus H. Systematic Theology, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 586

[18] Ibid. Vol. 2. Pp. 558-559

[19] Cameron, R., The First Epi8stle of John, or, God Revealed in Life, Light, and Love, op. cit., pp. 38–39

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XII) 04/08/21

English Presbyterian puritan minister John Flavel (1627-1691) preached on Jesus in His ministry as our High-Priest. Here he asked some questions: First, what it means for the Anointed One to be an intercessor? Secondly, how does He perform that work in heaven? Thirdly, what is the source of the power and prevalence of His intercession? Fourthly, and lastly, how He lives forever to make intercession for us. In answer to question one, not only is He a mediator between humankind and the Father, but He’s the only One who qualifies to do so.

As far as question two is concerned, He pleads on our behalf since we cannot defend ourselves, both as an Advocate and High Priest. And when it comes to question number three, no one dare apply. The thorn-crown scars on His brow, the whip lashes on His back, the bruises on His cheeks, the nail prints in His hands and feet, and the wound marks on His side, He does not need to say a word. Flavel then answers question four by saying that the whole purpose of His resurrection was to continue being our intercessor until He returns to be our king.[1]

John Bunyan (1628-1688) wants his readers to learn that God could still love His creation and do justice no wrong.[2] Justice demands penalty for breaking the law, but God had His justice satisfied in the blood, and righteousness, and death of His Son Jesus the Anointed One for the sins of poor sinners, He can now save them that come to Him, no matter how great a sinner they are and do His justice no wrong; because it has full and complete satisfaction given it by that blood of the Lamb of God.[3]

In verse two, William Burkitt (1662-1703) observes what he sees here as a cautionary warning: “keep from sinning.” So, John encourages every person who sins due to inattention, lack of strength, temptation, or a trap set by the tempter; they have an Advocate, a Mediator, and an Intercessor in heaven. While they may have sinned as believers, our Advocate is sinless. He is Jesus the righteous Anointed One. The proper office of an advocate is not to deny the fact or disown the guilt but to offer something to the judge, whereby the law may be satisfied and upon which the judge may, without doing anything out of order, discharge the accused.[4] So, the point is clear, there may be many sins, but there is only one Savior.

Charles Finney (1792-1875), in his lecture on the Anointed One, our Advocate, points out that the Bible is full of similarities that we find in courts and governments. The Scriptures’ designed then for our spiritual education. The role of the Advocate is to see that justice is applied correctly and fairly. It is also His job to defend the accused.[5] In the case of a Christian, to plead guilty and rest His argument on the mercy of Heaven’s court. He is not looking for a pardon for His client received that earlier through justification. He is asking for reinstatement to the assembly of obedient saints. The great Judge does not hesitate to grant forgiveness since the Law of the Anointed One assigns grace to those who repent.

Paton J. Gloag (1823-1906) explains that the death of the Anointed one was a settling of the Law’s curse for the sins, not only of the Jews but for the whole world. That’s why theologians who distinguish between Jewish and Gentile Christians must concede that they are both reconciled to the same God by the same Savior.[6] What a shame that here some 2,000 years later, there is such an emphasis between Messianic Jews and non-Jewish Christians. God never intended it to be that way. Nor would John approve of the distinction made between denominations, black churches, Hispanic churches, white churches, etc. We are one big family. That’s what the world should see in us – unity in our Christian community.

Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) discusses the various thoughts on the degrees of rewards and punishments awaiting those who believe or do not believe the Gospel. He responds to critics who question heaven and hell; the resurrection, everlasting punishment, etc. He says, every discourse supporting these heresies relies on the argument that the words in our English Version, which mean endless duration, represent words in the original text which have no significance. To reject our English version is to discard the original Greek manuscripts from which their translation came.

The Greek language has no other terminology to express these thoughts, says Anderson. And yet, it is by exchanging sound arguments for ad captandum.[7] Such opinions stand on prejudices and biases, which naturally excite people with partial or exaggerated truthful statements. That’s why these heresies gain an audience. We might say that ad captandum is the definition of political speech. It is one way of diverting attention from unsurmountable difficulties they cannot handle and from the facts that show their lack of ability to perform the job given to do.”[8] This same type of false teaching spread throughout Galatia and now among the Apostle John’s constituents. Unfortunately, it continues to creep into sanctuaries and pulpits today. As Sir Anderson said earlier, go to the original text of God’s Word to see if it passes or fails the test of authenticity.

These thoughts were not new to the Apostle John. Medieval Rabbi Rashi commented on Isaiah’s words concerning “the chastisement of our welfare was upon Him.”[9] The latest Complete Jewish Bible has “the disciplining that makes us whole fell on Him.”[10] Says Rashi, the chastisement or discipline of our wellbeing (health, happiness, and fortune) was His to bear: He offered the ransom price needed for the contentment that we enjoy. The attacks on Him were so that there is peace for the entire world.[11] It is essential to know that Rashi was speaking about the Messiah. As John says here, our present and future well-being depends upon what the Anointed One did for us on the cross and rising from the grave.

Centuries earlier, Rabbi Yohanan discussed miscellaneous thoughts on the grave and the bottomless pit and asked how do we know when someone who doubts death and the pit of fire and brimstone is considered pure as far as preparing the Passover offering is concerned? Then, what about a whole community that entertains the same doubts? Let me ask, says the Rabbi, does the high priest’s frontlet[12] make atonement for those with uncertain cleanliness to participate? Does the frontlet have the effect of obtaining atonement for a community, so they can eat the Passover Lamb?

In Moses’s day, some were undecided about the future of disbelievers in Torah and Prophets’ words.[13] The same Rabbi Yohanan said elsewhere that idolaters should be aware that they are the losers, even though they don’t know what they have lost – speaking of the Temple’s destruction. When the Temple existed, the altar atoned for them, but now who will atone for them since the altar is no more?[14]

When it comes to fellow Christians expressing doubts about what is being taught by the true Church, it appears that this was also prevalent in Judaism’s early days. Rabbi Yohanan also complained that some were occupied only with reading Torah and think that this is exemplary behavior. Even those spending time studying the Mishnah[15] are doing a worthy deed and rewarded for it with the Gemara.[16] They are preoccupied with trying to impress God in reading what literature says about Him without knowing or understanding who He is or what He said.

What the Rabbi says applies today to those who listen to the scripture text read but ignore the preaching. For him, it conflicts with the Scripture that says, “Show my people their transgressing, and the house of Jacob their sins.[17] He is disturbed by Jewish scholars who are supposed to show the people their sins, just read Torah instead of explaining it. It seems to be an unintentional error but is an intentional fault.[18] Not only that, but the Rabbis read the scriptures and then offer their interpretation and begin to spread it before they consult what other scholars have to say about it. This same attitude is alive today only backwards. Preachers tend to start speaking without reading any Bible text and add it later as a garnish on their sermon.

I like what Rabbi Ashi, an expert in interpreting the Talmud, says when he points out that we all should take the conclusions we reach after reading the Scriptures as a “general conclusion.”[19] We can then take our impressions, do further research by reading commentaries and lexicons, etc., to make sure we have a clear understanding before declaring our interpretation as the truth.


[1] John Flavel: The Fountain of Life, Sermon 13, Of the Intercession of Christs our High-Priest, pp. 155-156

[2] See Romans 3:24-26

[3] John Bunyan: Bunyan’s Practical Works, Vol 1, p. 199

[4] William Burkitt: On First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. p. 757

[5] The Finney Sermon Collection, Vol. 3, Sermons on Gospel Themes, Christ our Advocate, p. 1280

[6] Gloag, Paton James: Introduction to the Johannine Writings, op. cit., pp. 241-242

[7] Anderson uses a Latin phrase employed in rhetoric, ad captandum. It means, capturing the gullible and naïve among the listeners or readers. It is an unsound, misleading argument designed to appeal to the emotions rather than to the mind.

[8] Sir Robert Anderson, The Fundamentals: (R. A. Torrey, A. C. Dixon, et. al., (Eds.), Vol. 3, Ch. 3, p. 41-43

[9] From the translation in Rashi’s commentary from the Complete Jewish Bible.

[10] Isaiah 53:5 – Complete Jewish Bible

[11] Rashi: The Complete Jewish Bible with Commentary, Isaiah 53:5

[12] A Frontlet was a crown or golden plate worn by the high priest on their tiara whenever he ministered in the Temple on the day of Atonement. See Exodus 39:30

[13] Jerusalem Talmud, A Translation and Commentary by Jacob Neusner, Nazir, Ch. 9:2

[14] Babylonian Talmud, Seder Mo’ed, Tractate Sukkah, folio 55b

[15] Mishnah: a collection of exegetical material embodying the oral tradition of the Jewish Torah 

[16] Gemara is comments by the Rabbis on the Mishnah

[17] Isaiah 56:5

[18] Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nezikin, Tractate Baba Metzi’s, folio 33a-b

[19] Ibid. Seder Mo’ed, Tractate Megillah, folio 22b

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