NUGGETS OF WISDOM

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BELIEVING WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE

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

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

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

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XLV) 12/04/20

As a result, says Stock, we can join our Lord in calling Satan a liar and a murderer from the beginning.[1] False prophets, despite all their pretensions to holiness, and presumptuous confidence, are called liars.[2] So, the Apostle does not hesitate to say of those who walk in darkness willingly, continuously, and progressively, and yet affirm that they have fellowship with God – that both they and we if we do the same, lie, and do not the truth. English churchman Dr. Edward Goulburn says that any person who pretends to love God in the absence of loving their neighbor is a delusion. Goulburn concludes, for some, loving their neighbor is not as hard as loving God since it is easier to walk by sight than by faith.[3]

Dr. Stock then reminds us that a mixed multitude accompanied Israel out of Egypt,[4] and out of this intermixed band, arose the murmurings which disgraced and troubled the chosen of God. Tares grow with the wheat[5] and in the East resemble it so closely that they are somewhat difficult to distinguish one from the other. Among the ten virgins, five were foolish.[6] All possessed the same thing; all went forth to meet the bridegroom, and all took lamps with them; a kind of kindred brilliancy adorned them all, and to external casual observation, one bridesmaid looked the same as the others.

Unfortunately, laments Stock, this same exists among Churches where false and true believers co-exist. It allows false claims to boast based on pretension. In doing so, they brag about their being equal with Diotrephes.[7] They claim to be part of the Body of the Anointed One but belong to the church of Satan.[8] They are offensive to God and contrary to all Christians, hindering truth by their unrighteousness.[9] [10]

The Apostle Jude vehemently denounces such; saying, “When these people join you at the love feasts of the church, they are flies on a piece of meat, laughing and carrying on, gorging and stuffing themselves with anything they can get their hands on. They are like big puffs of smoke blowing over dry land without giving rain, promising much, but producing nothing. They are like trees without stripped clean of fruit. They are not only dead, but doubly dead, for they have been pulled out, roots and all, to be burned. All they leave behind them is shame and disgrace like the dirty foam left along the beach by the wild waves. They wander around like lost stars in outer space on their way to a crunching black hole!”[11]

Richard H. Tuck (1817-1868) sees the Apostle John as telling his readers to be true to themselves. That means a person should take care to keep their profession and conduct in complete harmony. If they say that they are in union with the Anointed One, they must walk in cooperation with the Anointed One. No Christian should live their lives for their sake, but the Savior’s sake. Since our Lord honored us by saving our souls, we should praise and glorify our Lord by not losing our souls. If we conduct our lives in righteous living for other people’s sake, they may not understand the saving and sanctifying power behind our motives. In so doing, we risk misrepresenting our Lord and Master. That is why there must be consistency between our profession and our possession of being a new creation in the Anointed One. If we fail to do so, we cannot be true to ourselves but are traitors to ourselves. That can only lead to becoming slaves to our sinful nature instead of being servants to our spiritual nature.[12]

Daniel Steele (1824-1914) mentions that if a person makes a genuine case of confession followed by walking in the light, then that person walking in the Light should declare this fact to benefit those still stumbling around in the dark. They need to know that their so-called “victorious soul” is deceived and the truth is not in them. They must also verify that while the Apostle John penned these words, he could not truthfully say that he always walked in the light and never did anything about which to feel guilty. What John is talking about does not apply to sinners, but to Christians trying to live our spiritual lives in an immoral world. Otherwise, it would make John the most self-contradictory writer found in the whole range of secular and sacred literature. For he declares the purpose of his writing to be “that you sin not,” “that those born of God should not sin.” Then he is inspired to write that all who obey God’s prohibition and, by grace, never sin should be branded as deluded or lying.

But Steele is not finished. He focuses on the erroneous interpretation of “Walk in darkness.” When we allow ourselves to be encompassed in darkness or sin by our own choice, it is an effort to hide those acts which our conscience, fellow believers, and God condemn.[13] Religious fanatics of all eras have endeavored to combine loose morals with the possession of genuine Christian faith. It seems that John found such persons among the Gnostics in the church at Ephesus. He says that they lie and live not the truth. They affirm what they know to be positively false when they profess communion with the holy God and are willfully choosing darkness and sin.[14] Such a choice is fatal to fellowship with God.[15]

John J. Lias (1834-1923) looks at the necessity of holiness and warns that we may deceive ourselves concerning our relationship with the Anointed One because He warned us of this danger.[16] Also, His Apostles warned us.[17] Many deceive themselves still, resting in outward observances, in membership of a particular society, belief in certain doctrines, or certain feelings or experiences in the present or past. Such grounds of acceptance, in the absence of the one necessary characteristic, are simple deceptions.

The only test of present acceptance is the “walking in the Light.” Nothing can be more evident than the Apostle John’s statement of this truth. Not only does he say “we lie,” if we claim fellowship with the Anointed One and walk in darkness, but we “live not the truth,” that is, we do not merely make a misstatement, but we act out the lie we speak. We deny the Eternal Principles and behave as though they were not in existence. Our lives are perpetual defiance of God and His Son Jesus the Anointed One.

Lias goes on to say that all this about not living the truth is Gospel. It rests on the Anointed One’s indwelling in the believer, which John talks about here, and we find elsewhere in the Final Covenant. So, our Lord teaches[18] the expression, continually used throughout the Final Covenant, signifying the presence of inner life.[19]  Paul limits freedom from condemnation to those walking in union with the Spirit,[20] thus fulfilling the righteousness of the law. What it is to walk in darkness and light.

Lias then makes these important points: To walk in the Light is to (a) acknowledge the truth revealed in Jesus the Anointed One; (b) this revelation makes known to us God’s will, and primarily – the point we are at present considering – in what true holiness consists; (c) true holiness consists, as we have just seen, in fulfilling the righteousness of the law, by virtue of the illumination we have received, which enables us to distinguish right from wrong, to set up before us a higher standard of purity and perfection. To “walk” in the light is to press daily forward towards the realization of this ideal. The enlightened soul perceives this, as well as all the steps which lead to it. To walk in darkness is, of course, the exact opposite of all this.[21]

Erich Haupt (1841-1910) writes that only when a person who opens themselves to the Light and has entered into the domain of Light can experience in themselves the effects of the Light. Only when the memory of his father’s house swayed all the thoughts of the prodigal son, and he came back to this sphere of his home, does the father reach out to meet him with the announcement of forgiveness. The kingdom of God, and its interests, its views, and its measure of all things are to the natural man altogether sealed up and strange.

When a person obtains an eye and a heart for reconciliation, says Haupt, they enter the sphere of Light. In that Light begins at once its ethical influence upon and in them. Therefore, a person’s ethical conduct is a consequence of their walk in the sphere of Light. The same goes for those who walk in darkness. By shining, the light reveals what the night is hiding. There is also the immediate result of walking in the Light. The person perceives why and where the darkness occurred and recognizes it as the absence of light.[22]


[1] John 8:44

[2] Revelation 2:2

[3] Goulburn, Edward Meyrick: The Pursuit of Holiness, D. Appleton Company, New York, 1870, Ch XX, p. 209

[4] Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4

[5] Matthew 13:25

[6] Ibid. 25:1

[7] Diotrephes is mentioned in 3 John 1:9-10. Diotrephes was a self-seeking troublemaker in an unnamed local church in the first century. We know nothing of his background, other than he was probably a Gentile (his name means “nurtured by Jupiter”).

[8] Revelation 3:9

[9] 1 Thessalonians 2:15

[10] Stock, John: On First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 29-31

[11] Jude 1:12-13 – Paraphrase by RRS.

[12] Richard H. Tuck: Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., p. 238

[13] See John 3:19, 20

[14] See James 3:14

[15] Steele, Daniel: op. cit., p. 10–11

[16] Matthew 7:22, 23; 25:44

[17] Revelation 3:17; 1 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 6:7, 8; Philippians 3:18, 19

[18] Matthew 7:16

[19] John 15:1-8

[20] Romans 8:1

[21] Lias, John J., The First Epistle of St. John with Homiletical Treatment, James Nisbet & Co., London: 1887, pp. 38–43

[22] Haupt, E., The First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., pp. 36–37

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XLIV) 12/03/20

Another current Bible Scholar, James Rosscup, feels that the Church needed to hear John’s message on fellowship because some interpreted the Gospel in unacceptable ways. They went so far that their sermons could no longer be called the Word of Life. Those who do not adhere to the Word of Life cannot have true fellowship with those who do. Ultimately, the communion that believers share is not merely that of an accidental accumulation of people with some things in common. Instead, what believers in the Anointed One have in common is unity with God. Those who know and love God are joined to each other as well.[1]

H. P. Mansfield makes the point that the Bible uses Light as a symbol for several divine things. The character of the Church is like the moon, which has no light of itself but reflects the light of the sun. The symbol of the Anointed One, God manifested, is that of the Son of Righteousness with healing in His beams.[2] The coming age of glory appears as “Light of the morning when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds.”[3] That Son of Righteousness, whose illuminating, penetrating, purifying rays will flood the political, religious, and social world with light to the glory of Yahweh and the wellbeing of humanity. Then on all sides, they will acknowledge the truth that God is Light.[4]

1:6b:  John finishes the sentence by stipulating that he refers to such people as liars because their living shows they are the type …who don’t do what the truth says. 

EXPOSITION

How can you claim Jesus is Lord of your life when you do not treat Him and obey Him as your Master?  How can you say you love Jesus when there is nothing you can show that exemplifies such love?  Remember, just saying it doesn’t make it so.  Love only exists when put into action.  How can you say that you love God’s Word when you rarely, if ever, read it?  Jesus did not mince words, nor does John.  If you claim to be a follower of the Anointed One and living in the light of God’s Word, but your life does not show it, and your actions do not confirm it, then you cannot claim God who sent His Son into the world to turn on the light as your heavenly Father.  Here is what Jesus tells such people, “Your father is the devil. You belong to him. You want to do what he wants. He was a murderer from the beginning. He was always against the truth. There is no truth in him. He is like the lies he tells. Yes, the devil is a liar. He is the father of lies.  I am telling you the truth, and that’s why you don’t believe me.[5]

COMMENTARY

John Bunyan (1628-1688) says those that devoutly speak the name of the Anointed One should depart from immorality; otherwise, their profession of Him is a mockery. It is the message we hear from the Apostle John here in verse six. Furthermore, to “walk in darkness;” is to live in wickedness. In other words, they still behave in accordance with the morals of this world. “Anyone who does not keep His commandments but still say, I know Him, are liars, and the truth is not in them.”[6] 

Bunyan goes on to say that the truth that they profess to know and the experience they claim to have is not evident in their way of living. Every person who names the Anointed One’s name is not, therefore, a child of God, nor is everything a person says the truth, although they profess of that worthy name, Christian.[7] The truth is in those whose mouth and life agree.[8] People may say they are apostles and be lying: they may say they are Jews, and be liars, or be Christians, and lie when they do so. Therefore, it is the highest form of deception and will bring about the saddest sort of effects. Thus, the best these people can do is tell lies. They may say, “I know Him,” and “I have fellowship with Him,” but their lifestyle proves them wrong, and everyone they know calls them liars.[9] It is tough-talk by Bunyan, but we must remember when and the age in which he lived. There were no politically correct police. We might not express it the same way today, but we cannot deny the truth principle.

Samuel E. Pierce (1746-1829) says that our being in the Anointed God-man is the fruit of God the Father’s everlasting love to us. We being in Him is our solid foundation. On this, we stand firmly fixed. From the Anointed One, God-Man, as our Head, all the Holy Trinity’s shareable blessings flow forth in the way of communication to us. Nothing can put a stop to this. When we mentally absorb this by faith and fully believe this, we have the real enjoyment of such blessed assurance. When we live to ourselves in any instance, we drop our holy fellowship with the Lord. With Him being Light, there can be no fellowship with Him by those in darkness. When we at any time think, speak or act on things done only in the darkness of sin, we betray ourselves. When we, in any instance, be it in thought, word, or deed, act, or walk in the darkness of sin, or receive, entertain, and maintain anything contrary to sound doctrine, of the glorious Gospel of the blessed God we make fools of ourselves.

It does not apply, says Pierce, to those who have not received the Lord Jesus the Anointed One, into their minds, hearts, consciences, and affections. For such individuals to profess or preach otherwise is to declare a lie. They are trying to prove by demonstration something contrary to the truth. That’s why John says they “do not the truth.” Today we would say they are “not living the truth.” How can they claim to agree with the truth when they say, “We have fellowship with Him,” but they still live in the darkness of sin? They are lying, says Pierce, and “do not the truth.”

May the Lord seal and settle this as truth in our hearts, prays Pierce, so as that at all times we may act under the influence thereof: to be kept from everything which may mar and interrupt our communion with the Lord, and from acting, or saying that which is contradictory to His Truth, and so be chargeable with a lie, and not acting according to the truth. [10]

Frederick D. Maurice (1805-1872) sums up verses six to ten as explicit yet straightforward. Its truth is that a person who throws off the burden of their sins by confessing them that they may admit to God because they know that God cares for them, that he is right, hates falsehood, and can understand the difference between them. It is simple on the surface. It is oh so infinitely deep, as we will discover once we try it! When we confess, “Against You O Lord have I sinned,” we dare to lay our sin bare; this is asking to be made real in the inward parts – what power, what victory, what peace lies in that!

And thus, says Maurice, we begin to understand the Apostle’s last words, which at first may sound very like a commonplace intensely expressed: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” If we do not confess the evil in us, we attribute that evil to Him. We make Him answerable for that against which He is testifying in our consciences. We thrust away that Word, which is shedding abroad His light in us; we bury ourselves in our darkness. It is the effect of trying to make out a good case for ourselves, when it is our interest, our privilege, our blessedness, to justify God and to condemn ourselves, to say to God, “You have been true, and we have been liars. Deliver us from our lies! Help us to walk in Your truth.”[11]

In his commentary, Karl Gottlob Braune (1810-1877) states that everything depends on the reply you give to the question of whether sin rules you or only remains in you. If sin reigns over you, you belong to the darkness, but if its tendencies remain in you, you belong to the children of Light. It is not with pride but with gratitude to God that a Christian contemplates their being in the Light. Love of God and the brethren is the power of sanctification, which is the life of love. It is just the sanctified who see even the smallest sins with painfulness and perceive that they require cleansing through the blood of Jesus the Anointed One. If sin’s tendencies trouble a person into their deepest emotions, just remember that there is the cross, a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins for cleansing and consolation. It is not sufficient that a person is a Christian upon whom God’s Light is shone, but must become an enlightened Christian who becomes a light to a world in darkness.[12]

John Stock (1817-1884) says that when the sun shines with brilliancy, the shades are marked distinctly; when clouds obscure the sky, we do not see shades. So, when the truth comes out like the sun, errors are revealed. When doubtful disagreements arise and spread false gospels, then sin is concealed and diminished as harmful. People then begin to call evil good and good evil; exchange darkness for light, light for darkness; replace sweet for bitter, and bitter for sweet,[13] and there are confusion and chaos.[14] The blessed Apostle John was full of light, and so, in his writings, as in all those of his fellow inspired Apostles, an error is pointed out in plain language.


[1] James Rosscup: InterVarsity New Testament Commentary, 1 John, loc. cit.

[2] Malachi 4:1-2

[3] 2 Samuel 23:4; Isaiah 60:1

[4] H. P. Mansfield: The Test of True Love, Verse by verse Exposition of the Epistles of John, Logos Publications, West Beach, Australia, Church

[5] John 8:44-45

[6] 1 John 2:4

[7] 1 Kings 17:24

[8] Revelation 2:2, 9; 3:9

[9] John Bunyan’s Practical Works, Vol. 4, A Holy Life: The Beauty of Christianity, Reason Why All Christian Professors Should be Holy, Ch. 4, p. 112

[10] Pierce, S. E. , An Exposition of the First Epistle General of John, op. cit., Vol. 1, pp. 57–58

[11] Maurice, Frederick D., The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., Lecture III, pp. 51-52

[12] Karl Gottlob Braune: Homiletic, Firsts Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 34-35

[13] Isaiah 5:20

[14] James 3:16

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XLIII) 12/02/20

Therefore, it must be saints that John is referring to, says Pierce, or such as were connected with them in church communion, and by a Gospel profession, whom Paul must have his eye on, and design for, when he says that God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all. So, how can they profess to know the Anointed One – His eternity, His incarnation, His manifestation as the Light, His being the Essential Word, and of His being Divine? That Eternal Life was with the Father, and they are still ignorant of this truth? They also professed they received the knowledge of Him and that they had communion with Him. The outward visible church of the Anointed One, is often constituted both by persons who are born again of God, and those who are not. The former are partakers of the Anointed One: the latter is not. Yet what they seemed to be with the Lord. However, they did not know themselves until it was manifested by outward conduct; or by defection and a departure from the truth.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, notes Pierce, and yet walk in darkness, we lie and “do not the truth.”[1] John might have designed this to prevent real saints from being careless and negligent. He wants to stir up their minds, reach their hearts, and express the best for them. Furthermore, they need to watch their hearts, be careful with their behavior, avoid sinful tendencies in themselves and others because it would interrupt their holding, and maintaining communion with their heavenly Father.

With His being Light, Purity, and Holiness, Pierce says, there could be no communion with God if the mind is impure. No. Holiness becomes the house and worshippers of the Lord forever. Also, in the second place, to declare that such persons who were under the influence of their sins, and corruptions, could not, so long as this was the case, no matter what they say, have fellowship with the Lord. Are we, the apostles of the Anointed One, to be found wandering around in darkness, and at the same time, say we have fellowship with God the Father, who is Light, and in Him, there is no darkness at all? If so, we prove ourselves liars and do not follow the truth.[2]

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) points out that from what John has said so far, he draws the inevitable conclusion that the absolute condition of man’s fellowship with God is “walking in the Light,” and, therefore, walking in darkness along with fellowship with God is impossible. John stands opposed to a so-called “lip-service Christianity,” the indecision in which confession and communion stand in contradiction. Why speak about having fellowship with God when it is not real? There is a wide gap between what we profess and what we possess when it comes to fellowship with God in His Light – holiness.[3]

Richard Holmes Tuck (1817-1868) says John was enjoying the “fellowship of the Father and the Son.” That fellowship, he wanted the disciples to enjoy as fully as he did. He would, therefore, have them explore its privileges and understand what it takes to keep it holy. And since he has in mind the particular character of the spiteful influences to which the disciples were then exposed, his instructions exclusively bear relation to their correction. It was then freely taught that all conduct is morally of little value to the spiritual person – nothing they do, in the bodily and material spheres, is regarded as a sin. Nothing breaks up their fellowship with God. It is clear, such teaching strikes at the very root of Christianity, virtually the recovery of humanity to righteousness. It is not sentimental or mystical holiness, but a real, present, practical way of living right, which must include knowing how to “possess the vessel of the body in sanctification and honor.”[4]

Marvin Vincent (1834-1922) helps us see that the Apostle John is contrasting “being in the Light” with “walking in darkness, and “Lying” with “telling the truth.” These are a combination of positive and negative statements.[5] The phrase to do the truth occurs only in John’s Gospel and First Epistle.[6] Walking in darkness keeps one from doing what is right. “Right action is true thought realized,” says Vincent. “Every fragment of right done is so much truth made visible.”[7]

John James Lias (1834-1923) believes that John was more concerned with the Life manifested in Jesus than with His person. Earlier in his Gospel, the Apostle spoke of His Person in its fulness.[8] He also spends little time repeating what he said about the Logos. Here it was the Life the Anointed One who came to deliver to all who would believe.[9] Lias points out that nothing can be more evident than John’s statement of this truth about lying. John says, “we lie,” if we claim fellowship with the Anointed One, “do not the truth.” It is more than making a misstatement; we act out the lie we speak. We deny the Eternal Principles and act as though they don’t exist. Our lives are continuous defiance of God’s Word and His Son Jesus the Anointed One as the Light. The Gospel doctrine rests on the indwelling of the Anointed One in the believer. Our Lord’s teaching is continually used throughout the Final Covenant,[10] signifying the presence of inner life.[11]

Lias says that freedom from the Law’s condemnation belongs only to those walking with the Spirit[12] and, therefore, fulfilling the righteousness of the Law. What is it to walk in the darkness or the Light? To walk in the Light is to acknowledge the truth revealed in Jesus the Anointed One. This revelation makes known to us God’s will, and primarily as the essence of holiness; true holiness consists in fulfilling the righteousness of the Law, by the illumination we received, which enables us to distinguish right from wrong, to set up before us a higher standard of purity and perfection. “Walking” in the light is to press daily forward towards realizing this idea of completion. The illumined soul perceives this, as well as all the steps which lead to it. To walk in darkness is, of course, the exact opposite of all this.[13]

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) lets us know that these opening words show us that the Gospel is a declaration, a manifestation, and a showing. It is being declared by those who heard, saw, and touched the Anointed One, the Son of God, who came to deliver the Good News. The Anointed One manifested this by coming in human form to walk among the people and let them hear Him, see Him, and touch Him. And it was shown by the life He lived, the miracles He performed, and rising from the dead. Lloyd-Jones goes on to say that the Gospel is also an announcement. It is more than speculation and far more significant than a human idea or philosophy.[14] Scriptures declared that the One prophesied in the First Covenant will be in the present. He is the author of a Final Covenant, decided on the cross, confirmed by His resurrection, and sealed with His blood. There is nothing else like it, and there never will be.

Ronald Ralph Williams (1906-1970) wonders what was there from the beginning? It is not an easy question to answer, he says. He points to the New English Bible (NEB) and notes that they made verse one look more straightforward than it is in the original Greek. The NEB reads: “IT WAS THERE from the beginning, we have heard it; we have seen it with our own eyes; we looked upon it, and felt it with our own hands, and it is of this we tell. Our theme is the word of life.” When compared to the original Greek, we read: “The thing that was there from the start, the thing that we have heard, seen with our eyes, gazed at, that our hands felt, concerning the message of life – and life was made visible.”[15] As Williams sees it, the NEB makes it old news while the Greek makes it more contemporary.

Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002) sees hearing and proclamation coordinated. That’s because the “we” are the mediators and what was heard to the “you” who should accept it precisely in the same way as the “we” received it themselves. It is more than John passing along a mere message. Instead, as the experience and mediation of higher reality. That’s why John makes a fresh start after he says, “we have heard.”[16] What would you think about someone sharing what a ride on a roller coaster feels like if they never experienced it themselves? The same goes for anyone trying to describe a real encounter with Jesus the Anointed One, have never had one themselves?

Bruce B. Barton (1954- shares that in many Scriptures, they contrast God and evil’s realm by the differences between light and darkness. Here is a chart that helps us see this very clearly:

DARKNESSLIGHTREFERENCE
Despairing conditionHopeful conditionIsaiah 9:2
Inability to recognize the LightAbility to enlighten the worldJohn 1:4-6, 9
The power of SatanThe power of GodActs 26:18
Evil deedsGood deedsRomans 13:12-14
Natural sinful heart conditionGift from God2 Corinthians 4:6
Fruitless worksSource of all that is goodEphesians 5:8-11
Spiritual forces of evilArm of GodEphesians 6:12-13
Powerful captivityKingdom of the SonColossians 1:12-14
Inability to exist in God’s presenceGod is omnipresent1 John 1:5, 7
Transient naturePermanent nature1 John 2:8-11

[1]Do not the truth” is another way of saying someone is not sticking with the truth.

[2] Pierce, S. E., An Exposition of the First Epistle General of John, op. ci., Vol. 1, pp. 50–53.

[3] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., February 1890, p. 117

[4] Richard Holmes Tuck: Homiletic Commentary, I John, op. cit., p. 236

[5] See verse 5

[6] See John 3:21

[7] Vincent, Marvin: Word Studies on NT, op. cit., pp. 314-315

[8] See John 1:1-18

[9] Lias, John James: An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, Inc., Minneapolis, 1982 Reprint of 1887, p. 11

[10] Matthew 7:16

[11] John 15:1-8

[12] Romans 8:1

[13] Lias, J. J. First Epistle of John Homiletical, op. cit., pp. 39–43

[14] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn: Life in Christ, Studies in 1 John, Five Volumes in One, Crossway, Wheaton, IL, 2002, p. 41

[15] Williams, Robert Ralph: The Letters of John and James, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1965, p. 17

[16] Schnackenburg, Rudolf: The Johannine Epistles, Crossroad, New York, 1992, p. 49

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XLII) 12/01/20

Did John come up with this idea of light and darkness on his own? No! He heard what his Master said about it. Jesus told him and others that He came as a Light to shine in this dark world so that all who put their trust in Him will no longer wander around in the darkness.[1] That’s another way of saying, accept the truth instead of continuing to live with the lies you’ve heard. I’m sure that John remembered what his Lord said about those aligned with the worldly side of life. He told them their father is the devil. They belong to him. They want to do what he wants. He was a murderer from the beginning. He was always against the truth. There is no truth in him. He is like the lies he tells. Yes, the devil is a liar. He is the father of lies. But then Jesus says, I am telling them the truth, and that’s why they don’t believe me.[2] So when someone turns down an invitation to invite Jesus into their heart and lives, it’s because they don’t want to know the truth.

So, John is not mincing any words here. Jesus came to bring us light – the understanding of who God is, as opposed to darkness – not knowing who God is, in addition to His plan of salvation and the gift of eternal life. It is what John wanted to pass on to those who read this Epistle. But if we claim to have this Light and live with the aid of this Light, but we are dwelling in spiritual darkness, it means we are trying to fool someone. John recorded the words of Jesus, where He said: “We judge unbelievers by this fact: The Light came into the world. But they did not want Light. They wanted darkness because they were doing evil things. Everyone who does evil hates the Light. They will not come to the Light because the Light will show all the bad things they have done.”[3]  

Therefore, John says here, if you are one of those who still prefer the darkness while claiming to be living in the Light, you are lying.  John gives us the reason, “But anyone who follows the true way comes to the Light. Then the Light will show that whatever they have done was done through God.[4]  In other words, if you are truly living in the Light, you won’t have to say a thing, the Light shining through you will tell it all.  Not only that, but Jesus clearly explains: “Whoever walks in daylight will not stumble and fall because they can see with the light from the sun.  But whoever walks at night will stumble because there is no light.[5]  So, there’s more than one way to tell if a person is lying about walking in the Light.  Jesus knew His time here on earth was limited, so He cautioned the people listening to Him that they had better start following the Light while it was still available.[6]

COMMENTARY

What Benedictine monk Bede (672-735) shared with us back in verse three, he now expands on here by saying that John calls sin heresies and hatred darkness. Therefore, the mere confession of one’s faith is not enough for salvation if there is no sign of good works confirming that faith. Simultaneously, the goodness of deeds is of no value if not done in the simplicity of faith and love. Anyone who is in any way surrounded by darkness is unable to have fellowship with the One in whom there is no sign of wickedness at all.[7]

When taken at face value, what Bede the Venerable says here might make us wonder how Jesus lived a sinless life when surrounded by doubting Jews and pagan Gentiles the whole time He was here on earth. So, by John saying here in verse eight that we should be more like Jesus, it might be less effective than we are asked to believe. But Symeon, the New Theologian, has no doubts. He says, see to it, brothers, that while we seem to be in God and think that we have communion with Him, we will find ourselves excluded and separated from Him unless we can see His Light.[8]

John Owen (1616-1683) states, then, if these things are so, “what type of people we should be, in all manner of holy behavior?” Even “our God is a consuming fire.” What communion is there between light and darkness? Shall sin and lust dwell in those thoughts which receive in and carry out love from and to the Father? Holiness fits His presence forever; an unclean spirit cannot draw close to Him. A godless heart cannot live with Him. A lustful person will not desire to hold fellowship with an upright person, and will a person with worthless and foolish imaginations have communion and dwell with the most-holy God? No!

There is no consideration given love, says Owen, but it is a powerful motive producing holiness. Did not Ephraim say, “What have I to do any more with idols?” when in God, I find salvation. Communion with the Father is wholly inconsistent with loose behavior. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk around in the darkness, we lie and do not do what is true.” “The one who says, “I know Him” (I have communion with Him), “and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in them.”[9] The most groundless or glorious pretense made to an acquaintance with the Father, without holiness and obedience to His commandments, serves only to prove the pretenders to be liars. Love of the world and love of the Father do not fellowship together.[10]

Matthew Poole (1624-1679) tells us that Light and darkness are frequently contrasted with holiness and wickedness.[11] Poole sums it up, this way: If any person pretends to enjoy friendship with God or to receive holy and gracious gifts from Him and continue to live sinful lives, they are practical liars, guilty of doing wrong, and makes their profession of faith false and insincere.[12]

Poole does not forget to mention that we all have sinful tendencies, which the Apostle Paul admitted.[13] When that happens, John states that if we confess our sins, He will be fair with us and forgive our sins.[14] The sin John is referencing is out and out disobedience to God’s Word and Will and because they only have a formal relationship with Him, not a justified relationship.

George Swinnock (1627-1673) says that a person’s life is often spoken of in the Word of God as a walk.[15] Look at it this way: The womb is where they set out at the dawning of their life. As they go, their actions are the steps they take as they begin their walk toward their journey’s end, at an inn or resort. Thus, we call a Christian’s life “walking in the light[16] or “walking in the law.”[17] That’s because their motion is regular and progressive. They must possess a divine word for all their works and a precept from God for all their practices. Scripture is the compass by which they chose their direction and the square ruler by which they build. That’s why they are said to “walk with God” because they proceed according to His Word and Will. They do not walk independently or without purpose,[18] but according to God’s design and destiny. Furthermore, the holy life of a saint is similar to an orderly walk in these two respects.[19]

Swinnock says that the comfort of your life now consists of communion with God, but those who say they have fellowship with God and walk in darkness are lying. Your God hates to taste those waters which run out of such moldy vessels; much less will He put up with any contamination from rotten hearts, and smelly breaths, to draw near to Him in heaven, “Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God?”[20] [21]

Jonathan Edwards: (1703-1758) points out the scope of the Apostle’s message and the connection of his discourse, plainly show that the Apostle means to assert that all moral good is from God. In the preceding verses, the Apostle John warns those he writes not to blame God for their sins or pride or lusts. Instead, know that every blessing is a gift from God. He does not pass out evil deeds. God is the Father of Light and only Light. And because He is Light, there is no darkness around Him, not even a shadow. What He says is parallel to what the Apostle John says when signifying God’s perfect holiness without any sin.[22]

Samuel Eyles Pierce (1746-1829) declares that we have no fellowship with God while living in sin. If we say that we commune with Him and still walk in darkness, we lie because we are not telling the truth. It is wholly incompatible with the grace of God to have fellowship with God while wallowing in sin. And our Lord the Anointed One Himself expressed the impossibility of it, when He said to Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”[23] I believe it does not, says Pierce, nor is it designed to say that a sinner can be in union with God while they live in an unrenewed and unregenerated condition. Still, it may be the case that some unbelievers profess to have faith in the Anointed One and boast of having communion with the Holy Trinity.


[1] John 12:46

[2] Ibid. 8:44-45

[3] John 3:19-20

[4] Ibid. 3:21

[5] Ibid. 11:10

[6] Ibid. 12:35-36, 46

[7] Bede the Venerable: On 1 John, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., p. 171

[8] Symeon the New Theologian: Discourses 33.2, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., p. 171

[9] 1 John 2:4

[10] John Owen: Of Communion with God, Part 1, Ch. 4, pp. 51-52

[11] Luke 16:8; Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5

[12] Poole, Matthew. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible – Book of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John (Annotated) (Kindle Location 313). Grace Works Multimedia. Kindle Edition

[13] Romans 7:15-20

[14] 1 John 1:9

[15] Psalm 39

[16] 1 John 1:6

[17] Psalm 110:9

[18] 1 Corinthians 3:3

[19] George Swinnock: Nichol’s Series of Standard Divines: Puritan Period, Vol. 2, 1968, p. 185

[20] 1 Corinthians 6:9

[21] Ibid. p. 227

[22] Edwards, Jonathan, The Works of: Vol. 6, Remarks on Important Theological Controversies, Ch. 4, p. 325

[23] John 3:3

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XLI) 11/30/20

As Ben Witherington III (1951-) points out, not only did God say, “Let there be light,” but He IS light.[1] It means that He is complete in His glory (the physical connotation of light), in His truth (the intellectual), and His holiness (the moral).[2] In other words, God does not need to borrow these virtues from any other outside source. They are not only “in” Him, but they “are” Him. Perhaps we can see the favorable implication of these qualities by knowing that He, who is all of these things, lives in us through His Spirit. Along with Witherington, Karen H. Jobes (1968-) explains that Light is an appropriate metaphor for God. It is the first fundamental property of the universe created by God; it allows and sustains all life; it makes life far more pleasant and safer than living in the dark, revealing what is hidden.[3]

Pastor’s wife, founder, and editor of “The Ladies’ Companion Magazine,” Valorie Quesenberry, comments on verse five here by saying that God’s divine nature has not faded. He is completely pure – not shadows, no stains, no discolorations, no blots. The Holy Spirit’s indwelling us gives us the power to choose what is right by running to the light, both in our inward thoughts, goals, and desires and in our interactions with others. Paul told the Philippians to fix their thoughts on real, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable things. To think about subjects that are excellent and worthy of praise.[4] These are the things of Light, says Quesenberry, the upright-virtues. That means they are Godly things. Outward godliness begins from within. The light within shines outward. We must cherish godliness as our core motivation for focusing on these matters.[5]  

Current Christian writer Ken Johnson tells us that some Gnostics, like Cerdo,[6] taught the most-supreme god was a duality, much like the Chinese idea of yin and yang. He said there were two gods: one good god and the opposite evil god, both equal in power. The good god is light, and the evil god is darkness. This belief is not Christian doctrine. Using Gnostic terminology to make sure everyone would understand clearly, John said God is the only Light. God is good and all-powerful. Some cults today, like the ancient Gnostics, believe in multiple gods. Mormonism is just one example.[7]

David Jackman notices how carefully John introduces this first critical statement – God is Light. John didn’t discover something as a result of his philosophical explorations, but a message he received. The Apostle heard it from HIM – Jesus the Anointed One. Now he compares what he and the other apostles heard from the Word Himself and what others said about God’s Light. Says John, what we heard goes back to the beginning of time and brought to us by the Word Himself in His incarnation as Logos. It is John’s way of stressing the divine source of what he’s is about to declare. The authority for his teaching lies in what he has heard in the historical revelation of God in Jesus the Anointed One.[8] It is something we preachers and teachers can keep in mind. We know where our outline or manuscript came from, but what about the message it contains? Is it from our mind or God’s?

John Phillips references how in 1666 AD, Isaac Newton discovered that light consisted of tiny particles and traveled straight. Then in 1678 AD, Christiaan Huyghens (1629-1695)[9] declared that light traveled in waves. Finally, the two theories merged and found that white light is composed of seven colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. It was made visible by refraction. However, without being refracted, light travels in a straight line at 186,282 miles per second. Then Albert Einstein (1879-1955) discovered that the speed of light is constant. Even in a vacuum, the speed of light never changes, regardless of its source’s motion. So, when John said that God is Light, His words are straight to the point and never changes. That’s why it is important to keep walking straight in the Light of God’s Word.

Phillips then says that another magnificent property of light cannot be defiled. Even when it passes through muddy water, it is not tainted. Instead, it helps reveal contamination. As we know, even plants and trees and flowers turn toward the light. That’s why since Jesus came as the Light, we should always keep our eyes on Him.[10] He is forever the same. Our Lord is immaculate and beyond the reach of darkness. He reveals Himself to us in all the diverse beauties of His character and being. Therefore, in His light, we take root, grow, and flourish.[11]

1:6a:    So, if we say that we enjoy a close fellowship with God, but we continue living in darkness, we are untruthful people…

EXPOSITION

Although John’s metaphor of light and darkness not existing together is simple, there is more to it than that. Having a close fellowship with God means continually living in the Light. But “light” here does not mean illumination by a lantern or a light bulb or even sunshine, Light is emblematic of understanding the truth. Meanwhile, “darkness” does not mean all light being extinguished or living in a cave or hidden bunker. Darkness is symbolic of ignorance of the truth. So, if a person claims they live their lives following the truth they’ve received through the Gospel, yet still conduct themselves while living in sin without any concept of God, they are not telling you the truth.

Our Lord gives us an example of this.[12] And the Apostle James spells it out quite clearly: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has nothing to show for it? Can such faith save them? If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.[13] But in John’s revelation, the assembly of believers in Laodicea received a stern warning: I know everything you do. You are neither hot nor cold; I wish that you were either hot or cold! But you are only half-warm. So, like half-warm water, I am ready to spit you out of my mouth.[14]

So, there are some questions to ask: How can you say you have fellowship with a warm-hearted Father when your heart is so cold? Do you think you have communion with God Almighty when you are so spiritually weak and lethargic? How can you claim to have fellowship with the Light of the World when you wander around in darkness? In other words, is it possible to keep company with the Holy Comforter the Father sent when you are full of doubt and despair?

The Psalmist David expressed his faith and confidence in having daily fellowship with Adonai when he sang: “Every morning, O Lord, I lay my gifts on the altar before you and look expectantly to you for help. And every morning, you hear my prayers, O God, because you don’t want people with bad intentions anywhere near you. They cannot stay in your presence. People who do not follow Your Will and Wise counsel cannot come near You. You despise all those who are continually planning to do what’s wrong.”[15] And the Apostle Paul joins John, his brother in the Lord, by asking the Corinthians how anyone could claim to be the Temple of the Holy Spirit participate in pagan rites, rituals, and celebrations of lifeless gods?[16] We may be in the world, but we are not of the world.[17]

Don’t you know, says John, when you align yourselves with the gods of this world, you have turned your destiny over to fate and coincidence? Listen to what Asaph the Psalmist says about the leaders in society and fashion trendsetters of the world. They think of themselves as “little gods,” but they don’t know what is happening. They don’t understand! They don’t know what they are doing! Can’t they see their world is falling apart all around them?[18]

And King Solomon warns his people that they should have enough sense to stay away from sinful-minded people who want them to be their partners in wrongdoing – people who turn from God’s ways to walk down dark and dangerous paths.[19] That because those who have fellowship with God walk on a path illuminated like the early morning light. It gets brighter and brighter until the full light of day. But the course of those who seek to do wrong, their path is like moving around in the night. They trip and fall over what they cannot see.[20]


[1] Cf. Psalms 104:2 to Psalms 27:1; 36:9 and Isaiah 49:6

[2] Witherington III, Ben: Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John (Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians Series) (Kindle Location 5973). Kindle Edition.

[3] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John, op. cit., p. 63

[4] Philippians 4:8

[5] Revivalist Magazine, Vol. 131, No. 6, September 2019, p. 6

[6] Cerdo, a Gnostic teacher of the first half of the 2nd century. He came to Rome from Syria. Cerdo taught that the God preached by the law and the prophets was not the Father of our Lord Jesus. His first two principles were that there are two gods, one good, the other evil, and it was the evil god who created the world.

[7] Johnson, Ken. Ancient Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., p. 54

[8] Jackman, David: op. cit., p. 27

[9] Dutch mathematician, astronomer, and physicist, who founded the “wave theory” of light, discovered the true shape of the rings of Saturn, and made original contributions to the science of dynamics—the study of the action of forces on bodies.

[10] Hebrews 12:2

[11] Phillips, John: The John Phillips Commentary Series, Exploring the Epistles of John, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 2003, pp. 31-32

[12] Matthew 7:22

[13] James 2:14, 16, 18

[14] Revelation 3:15-16

[15] Psalm 5:3-5

[16] 2 Corinthians 6:14-16

[17] Cf. John 15:19

[18] Cf. Psalm 82:5

[19] Proverbs 2:11-13

[20] Cf. Ibid 4:18-19; See John 11:10

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POINTS TO PONDER

The following words, “There’s the wonder of sunset at evening, the wonder as sunrise I see; but the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul is the wonder that God loves me,[1] were the opening verse to one of Christian music’s most famous and adored baritones, George Beverly Shea. But the word Wonder is used as a noun as admiration or surprise and as a verb for curiosity or doubt. For instance, looking up at the Eiffel Tower in Paris and saying, “One of the wonders of the world.” And then seeing someone trying to climb it and say, “I wonder if they know what they are doing?”

So, the real question may be, not that you don’t understand the word Wonder, but are not sure of how you use it in dealing with life’s successes and failures. For instance, in Plato’s Theaetetus, Socrates presents the young Theaetetus with several difficult contradictions.

Soc: I believe that you follow me, Theaetetus, for I suspect that you have thought of these questions before now.

Thea: Yes, Socrates, and I am amazed when I think of them; by the Gods I am! And I want to know what on earth they mean, and there are times when my head quite swims with the contemplation of them.

Soc: I see, my dear Theaetetus, that Theodorus [of Cyrene] had a true insight into your nature when he said that you were a philosopher, for Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in Wonder. He was not a bad genealogist who said that Iris (the messenger of heaven) is the child of Thaumas (wonders of the sea).

Psychiatrist Neel Burton tells us that in his Advancement of Learning, Sir Francis Bacon called wonder ‘broken knowledge,’ and there is undoubtedly a sense in which Wonder, which may be related to the German Wunde [wound], “openings” or “exposes” us. This opening requires filling or repairing, not only by philosophy but also by science, religion, and art, giving rise to a third and even more holy kind of Wonder, which is the Wonder of insight and creation.

Culture does not state but nourishes Wonder. Scientific theories and discoveries such as the Big Bang theory and the periodic table of the elements are often more wondrous than the perplexities needing solving. Religious buildings and rituals make us feel small and insignificant while at the same time, elevating and inspiring us. Wonder begets culture, which produces yet more Wonder, and the end of Wonder is wisdom, which is the state of perpetual Wonder.

Sadly, many people do not open themselves to wonder for fear that it may distract them or upset their equilibrium. After all, Wonder is wounding, and the Greek name thauma is only one letter removed from “trauma.” To wonder is also to wander, to stray from society and its norms and constructs, to be alone, to be free—which is, of course, deeply subversive, and why even organized religions need to tread a fine line with Wonder. They often dismissed Wonder as a childish and self-indulgent emotion that is to be grown out of rather than encouraged or nurtured to rationalize the fear of it.

So much is true that children brim with Wonder before it is sucked out of them by need and neurosis. Today, most young people who go to university do so for the sake, not of marveling or even learning, but of gaining a piece of paper. They believe it will advance their career prospects – entirely bypassing the Wonder and wisdom that might have rescued them from needing a career in the first place.

According to Matthew, Jesus said, “Allow little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Later Jesus may have said to Himself, “I wonder what in the world they were thinking?”

Psychologist Thomas Hills tells us that his son recently asked me if we could live on a speck of dust in a much larger universe.  He had just heard that the earth is like a speck of dust in the universe. I’m always eager to promote the impossible, said I don’t see why not.  And he walked about blissfully, wondering about the possibilities.

Dr. Karin Arndt reminds us that pioneering conservationist Rachel Carson, who sparked the modern environmental movement with her 1962 book Silent Spring, wrote a little-known essay a few years earlier called “The Sense of Wonder.”  The piece describes her attempts to help foster and preserve her young nephew, Roger’s, sense of Wonder and awe in the face of the natural world.  She understood the necessity of protecting Wonder – a way of being toward the world that tends to get stamped out of consciousness by the time we hit adulthood.  Sixty years later, in the middle of our hyper-technoscientific culture, it seems all the more urgent that we remember what’s too often lost, and the price we pay for this loss – Wonder.

Jesse Prinz, professor of philosophy at the City University of New York, writes that Wonder is sometimes said to be a childish emotion, out of which we must grow. But that is surely wrong. As adults, we might experience it when staring at the Grand Canyon. We also experience Wonder when we discover extraordinary facts. Think of this, when arranged in a straight line, the neurons in a human brain would stretch the 700 miles from London to Berlin. But why? What purpose could this wide-eyed, jaw-dropping feeling serve? It’s difficult to determine the biological function of any affect, but whatever it evolved for, Wonder might be humanity’s most important emotion.

18th-century Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith, better known for first articulating the tenets of capitalism, has a fascinating Wonder definition. He wrote that Wonder arises ‘when something quite new and singular is presented… [and] memory cannot, from all its stores, cast up any image that nearly resembles this strange appearance.’ Smith associated this quality of experience with a distinctive bodily feeling — ‘that staring, and sometimes that rolling of the eyes, that suspension of the breath, and that swelling of the heart’.

These bodily symptoms point to three dimensions that might be essential components of Wonder. The first is sensory: wondrous things engage our senses — we stare and widen our eyes. The second is cognitive: such things are perplexing because we cannot rely on experience to comprehend them. It leads to a suspension of breath, akin to the freezing response that kicks in when we are startled: we gasp and say ‘Wow!’ The third, Wonder has a dimension that can be described as spiritual: we look upwards in veneration; hence Smith’s invocation of the swelling heart.

And Canadian clinical psychologist and professor Paul T. P. Wong shares this perspective: Life could change for the better when living it on a higher plane. Visualize yourself at the bottom of a grimy pit. If you look down, all you can see is muddy ground. But the moment you lift your eyes towards the sky, your world suddenly opens up and brightens with new possibilities. A perspective shift can dramatically transform your view of life. Life is almost totally consumed by mundane concerns and endless struggles to stay alive at the earthly level.

For instance, a single mom, torn between a crying baby and a pile of dirty dishes. A waitress tries to survive her shift without collapsing. A wife cares for her husband with Alzheimer’s disease 24/7. An office worker tries to get his work done while coping with vicious office politics. So many hardworking, decent people are being harassed and oppressed by forces beyond their control. For most people, life is a daily battle with no end in sight. In a broken world, things have a way of falling apart despite our best intentions and efforts. How can one stuck in a tar pit enjoy the thrills of peak experiences? Is it possible to discover Wonder and awe when drowning in a raging sea of anxiety and depression? But in a higher realm, far above the wreckage of human strife, even a life filled with suffering, shame, and guilt can take on a mystical glow. Consider existing at the God-forsaken Nazi death camps –the barren and bleak campground, the blackened chimneys from hell, the menacing presence of SS soldiers, and the stench of death. Even amid such unimaginable horrors and degradation, Jewish survivor Viktor Frankl (1984) was able to catch a glimpse of Heaven.

Yes, life could be beautiful, only if we learn how to capture and multiply Awe and Wonder’s magic moments. What is fleeting and transitory can be stored in an everlasting river. We may never step into the same river twice, but we can relive the same joy over and over again.

But does God’s Word have anything to say about Wonder?

Moses shared these majestic words in his song: “Who among the godsis like you, Lord? Who is like you majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?”[2] And when Moses received instructions to build the Ark of the Covent, he turned to the children of Israel and told them: “The Lord is your God. He is the God of gods and the Lord of lords. He is the great God. He is a wonderful and powerful fighter. To Him everyone is the same.”[3]

And the Psalmist David declared: “Everyone on earth should fear and respect the Lord. All the people in the world should stand in Wonder of Him.”[4]

Also, to the last prophet Malachi, God gave these words: “I made that agreement with Levi. I promised to give him life and peace—and I gave him those things. Levi respected me and stand in awe and Wonder of my name.”[5]

And after Jesus healed the paralyzed man let down through the roof, Luke tells us: “And they were all filled with wonder, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen extraordinary things today.’”[6]

Finally, the writer of Hebrews gives us these words of advice, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and wonder.”[7]

Let us hope that none of God’s children have reached the place where they gaze out at a beautiful sunrise and not be filled with Wonder. Or look up at the moon and stars at Night and not see the Wonder of it all. Or the flowers blossoming in the spring, the forests filled with trees, the crops growing and cattle feeding, natural springs that never stop and do not do so in Wonder.

But even more, see a picture of the cross, a crown of thorns, a wounded side, nailed scarred hands, and the agony of death on His face, and not wonder why He did it all for you and me. Yet, imagine Him walking out of the grave, ascending to on high to be with the Father where He is building a place for us that when the life is over, we can be with Him forevermore and not be amazed and in awe and Wonder that He did so much for those who’ve done so little for Him. – Dr. Robert R Seyda


[1] Words and music by George Beverly Shea (February 1, 1909 – April 16, 2013) in 1957

[2] Exodus 15:11

[3] Deuteronmy 10:17

[4] Psalm 33:8

[5] Malachi 2:5

[6] Luke 5:26

[7] Hebrews 12:28

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

HAVE A PEACEFULLY PLEASANT YEAR

Are you a happy person? Do you have pleasure, enjoyment, or contentment with your life today? The Hebrew noun ‘esher also means “blessed.” So, when you are happy, you are also blessed.

If you’d like to increase your happiness, then this serendipity lights up eight Bible verses about what God says it takes for a person to be happy.

Use these Bible verses as a checklist. Meditate on each one and ensure that you are practicing these principles.

Since you only go around in this life once, then why not do what you can to make it a happy one? Notice that none of these principles are dependent upon your outward circumstances, but on your inward decision of the heart daily.

1. Proverbs 3:13 – “Those who find wisdom are fortunate; they will be happy when they gain understanding.”

According to Proverbs 9:10, “Respect for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” We can define the fear of the Lord as honoring, reverencing, and respecting the Lord enough to first pay attention to what He has to say and then to do what He says!

Imagine that you have authority over someone. If that person disobeyed your instructions constantly, would you say that person honored and respected you?

In the Lord’s case, His desire is to work all things together for your good. If you really believed that God’s intentions toward you are good, then why deprive yourself of that good? Obedience is good, even if that obedience may feel uncomfortable to your flesh in the short-term.

The other specification for happiness is knowledge of the Holy One. As you walk with God in your daily life, your relationship with Him deepens. You grow in knowledge of His character, not just His acts. Growing in the knowledge of God is the essence of eternal life that Jesus died to give us.

It always amazes me that the same God who created the Earth, the moon, stars, and mountains wants me and you to know Him personally!

2. Deuteronomy 33:29 – “Israel, you should be happy. No other nation is like you. The Lord saved you. He is like a strong shield protecting you. He is like a powerful weapon. Your enemies will be afraid of you, and you will walk all over them!”

You become happier when you meditate upon your identity in God and through Jesus the Anointed One. You have been saved from the wages of sin, which is death. You are no longer a slave to sin.

Sin does not have dominion over you for you are not under law but under God’s grace (see Romans 6:14). God’s grace gives you power to overcome. Hallelujah! Once you believe that you have all power over the enemy through Jesus according to God’s word, then you have power to tear down any “high places” in your life.

In the Bible, the high places were those places used to worship idols. Today, think of the “high places” as mental strongholds comprised of any thoughts that you have failed to take captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. Think also of high places as anything in your life that you put before God.

Even something good, like food, can become a high place if you find yourself running to it for safety and comfort rather than running to God.

It is hard to be happy when you feel out of control in any area. But the good news is through the Holy Spirit, you have the fruit of self-control. But like any muscle, you need to exercise self-control to make it stronger. You can’t just wish for it; you need to work for it. Your recipe for ultimate success is to start with something small and then build upon that.

3. Psalm 146:5 – “People are happy to know that the God of Jacob is there to help them, that they depend on the Lord as their God!”

Genesis 32:22-32 records the story of how Jacob wrestled with God and said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” Today, we don’t have to wrestle a blessing out of God. God’s blessings are bundled in His word, in His promises.

You are happier when you acknowledge God as the source of your blessing and your help. So you seek God first through effective prayer whenever you experience fear and distress in your life. And you have strong confidence that He will respond to your faith.

4. Proverbs 3:18 – “Wisdom is like a life-giving tree to those who hold on to her; those who hold her close will be happy.”

The “she” in this scripture is talking about is wisdom. Are you sensing a theme here? Scripture says that wisdom is a tree of life. It is ironic that the enemy told Eve in the Garden of Eden that eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil would make her wise. But the truth was, she already had the source of wisdom available to her – God!

All Eve had to do was ask Him and He would have given it to her, for James 1:5 promises: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

In the natural, wisdom is the ability to select between two or more choices and then take the best course of action. You don’t consider just what you think is good now; you are able to consider the future at the moment of decision.

If you are making unwise choices in any area of your life and you know that, then you cannot be happy. Ask God for wisdom through prayer and He will teach you wisdom.

 5. Proverbs 14:21 – “It is wrong to say bad things about your neighbors. Be kind to those who underprivileged, and you will be happy.”

God commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. In addition, 1 John 4:20 challenges us with a critical question:

If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”

So again, if you have hated in your heart towards anyone, then you are disqualified from being a happy person.

This scripture says that you can be happier through having mercy on the poor. If you see a person in need and have the resources to help that person, through prayer and/or supplying their material needs, then your care and generosity to them can increase your own happiness.

6. Proverbs 16:20 – “Good things happen to those who learn from their experiences, and the Lord makes happy those who trust Him.”

Because the Lord magnifies His word above His name (Psalm 138:2), then I believe the highest respect you can give the Lord is to honor and obey His word. Jesus Himself is the Living Word, so you honor Jesus when you abide with Him through hearing and doing the Word.

That is why it is critical that you take time each day to study God’s word, meditate upon it, and do it until it becomes part of you. You are called to renew your inward man day by day and you only do that by renewing your mind through God’s word.

God’s intent for His people is that we bring glory to Him through reflecting His character to others. It is a high calling indeed! Deuteronomy 4:6 says this about God’s word:

Therefore, be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”

Evidence of trusting in the Lord is obeying the Lord. As Pastor Charles Stanley says, “Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.”

7. Proverbs 28:14 – People who respect others will be happy, but hardheaded people will have plenty of troubles.”

Reverence is a sense of deep respect for the Lord. It is recognizing with humility that you serve One who is greater than yourself. In the old days in which a person entered the presence of the King, they would bow before Him and address Him as “Your Grace.”

Someone once defined humility this way: “Humility is bowing low enough to allow the Lord to work on you.” Specifically, the area God wants to work on is your heart. Scripture says that every issue we have originates in the heart.

Most people don’t want that. They want God to fix their outward circumstances and get them out of pain, while leaving their hearts untouched. Why? Because sometimes God’s heart surgery can hurt!

But that is the very thing you need if you want God to heal your life. Sometimes you can resist doing the thing that you need to do the most!

If you harden your heart to God’s word and refuse to receive from Him, then your destiny is calamity not happiness.

8. Proverbs 29:18 – “If a nation is not guided by God, the people will lose self-control, but the nation that obeys God’s law will be happy.”

With revelation comes illumination. You need God’s viewpoint on situations because without it, you are left to your own understanding. Your own understanding will most often lead you to acting without any self-control, just doing what feels good to you at the moment regardless of future consequences.

So, it is wise to ask God for revelation if you lack restraint in any area.

Finally, scripture says that you are happy when you keep God’s commandments. Jesus fulfilled every requirement under the old covenant. But Romans 13:10 tells us what we do to keep the law in the new covenant: “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

You are happier when you love people. Again, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. So, you can only love your neighbor to the degree that you love yourself. And you can only love yourself when you can receive God’s love for you and believe the truth of your identity in Him.

In summary, you can see the pattern for God’s way to happiness. Again, none of these are dependent upon your outward circumstances, but on your inward decision of the heart daily.

To summarize:

Gain wisdom and understanding, found in honoring, reverencing, and respecting God

Find your identity in God and trust in Him as your source

Tear down high places in your life (those things you are putting before God)

Exercise natural wisdom and self-control

Love your neighbor as yourself and show mercy to others

Heed God’s word and obey God’s word

Attend to these principles each day consistently and greater happiness will be yours!

Be happy in Health, Healing, and Hardiness

I gladly share this with compliments from Christian Counselor, Kimberly Taylor. Think of these eight jewels from God’s Word as spiritual nutrients. They will help keep you happy and avoid all those “feeling down” days that come without warning. It’s little things like this who cause you to float to the top where you can see God’s Sonshine again. So, stay on the sunny side of the street in victory lane and enjoy your daily journey with the Lord. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XL) 11/27/20

Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965) states that light is the symbol of purity, goodness, and perfection, so, on the other hand, darkness symbolizes ignorance, sinfulness, misery, corruption. Upon this fact, the Apostle bases a conclusion regarding the Christians’ moral conduct and spiritual lifestyle. If we say that we have fellowship with God and walk in darkness, we are liars and are not practicing the truth – that we have fellowship with God as our heavenly Father by faith, as the Apostle just stated. But if now, we who profess to be Christians and thus united with God in the most intimate union, live and behave ourselves as though we were still in darkness, addicted to sin, serving sin and corruption, then our entire life is one big lie. We may be self-deceived, under some circumstances, but the lie is there nevertheless.  According to our heavenly Father’s will, we are not doing, practicing, living the truth, which demands that we observe a pure and holy life. To walk and live in sins while professing to be children of God is to brand ourselves as liars and hypocrites.[1]

Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) points out that this section’s construction is very similar to 1 John 2:25, 3:11, and 5:11 (cf. John 1:19). Now John highlights the message after he spotlighted the Messenger. John says that what they heard is that Jesus called Himself, “Light.”[2] That by itself makes it clear that there is no darkness in Him. Bultmann says that this defines God’s nature as He is in Himself, as does “God is love.” For Bultmann, this “Light” is for the illumination that humanity needs to find their way in daily life and their spiritual life. That society can see more clearly with this light is God’s eternal life for all who believe in His Son.[3]

Greville P. Lewis (1891-1976) says that the next three verses pose a question: “Are you living a life of fellowship with God?” The answer is in John’s words. Some of his readers may not have understood the essence of God. John did not discover this all by himself; he heard it, saw it, and touched it. Now he’s ready to announce it. In essence, it is the message John’s and the other apostles heard from the Anointed One and are passing on: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in Him.[4] So it makes sense that if His light illuminates us as He is the Light, our fellowship with Him and our fellow believers will remain unbroken.

Amos N. Wilder (1895-1993) talks about poetry in the Scriptures and notes that the verse pattern in John’s epistle is peculiar in that, although being a Jew, it does not resemble the Hebraic-style of their poetry in parallelisms as we find in the First Covenant, especially the Psalms and Proverbs. Instead, it represents a Greek type of expression, as here in verse five:

                                                            God is light

                                                            And in Him, there is no darkness at all.

The point is that by using such stark contrasting parallelisms, the message comes through loud and clear. For John, this is enough evidence that this letter rests on a poetic source that it continually cites, and to which the writer adds his comments and applications.[5] Look at it this way, when you read a novel, the grammar is constructed to tell a story. But when you read the lyrics of a poem, they often have the cadence meant for singing. In John’s case, he put it in a form meant for preaching.

William Barclay (1907-1978) tells us that a person’s character determines the charisma of the gods they worship. Therefore, John begins by laying down God’s nature, the Father of Jesus the Anointed One Christians worship. God, he says, is Light, and there is no darkness in Him. What does this statement tell us about God? First, it tells us that He is splendid in His glory. There is nothing so glorious as a blazing light piercing the darkness. To say that God is light tells us of his sheer splendor. Secondly, it tells us that God is self-revealing. Human thinking did not reveal God; God manifested Himself. Above all things, light can be seen and dispels the darkness round about it. To say that God is light is to say that there is nothing secretive or sneaky about Him. He wishes to be seen and to be known by all humanity.

Barclay goes on to point out that thirdly, it tells us of God’s purity and holiness. There is none of the darkness which hides hidden evil in God. He is light speaks to us of His crystal and stainless holiness. Fourthly, it tells us of the guidance of God. It is one of the great functions of light to show the way. Hence, the Chrisitan road lit and the right road. To say that God is Light is to say that He offers His guidance for believers’ footsteps. And, fifthly, it tells us of the revealing quality in the presence of God. Light is the great revealer. Hidden flaws and stains in the shade are apparent in the Light. Light reveals invisible imperfections in any piece of artistry or material. So, then, we can see the shortcomings of life in the presence of God.[6] And there is no more revealing light than that which comes from God’s Word. So, to say clean and pure, we must continuously let the Light of the Gospel penetrate our lives.

Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002) notes that the statement “God is Light” represents the core and keynote all through Part One of the Epistle. He is the revelation in the message, a point that does not have to be proven. John imparts an inner attraction and warmth to the theme of fellowship with God. There is nothing, says Schnackenburg, that fires up the religious yearnings of the good old days. Before “Life and Light” were part of Christianity, they existed in mysticism and cultism. But those lights cannot compare to the Light that came into the world through God’s Son. Those false religions made a significant distinction between humanity and God, but Christianity narrows that distance. Not only does God become closer, but He dwells within us.[7]

Daniel C. Snaddon (1915-2009) says that after having stated the foundation of all true fellowship, John tells us that there are certain conditions to be met before we can enjoy this fellowship. Initially, John reveals the character of God. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. So, to the believers, one tiny iota of darkness or sin in our life breaks our fellowship with God.[8] Since God is Light, we can illustrate this by saying that our connection with God is like an electric wire. If a fuse blows in that connection, our light goes out. The only way to get the light back on is to confess that sin and have Him restore the current by replacing the Grace-fuse (see verse seven).

John Stott (1921-2011) brings up the point that the terms “light” and “darkness” are used metaphorically as the universal language of religious symbolism. Intellectually, light is truth, and darkness is ignorance or error. Morally, light is purity and darkness evil.[9] That’s why we read about God’s Word is a lamp and light.[10] So when it says we are the Light of the World, it means that we bring with us the message of Salvation as delivered to us by the Light Himself.[11] That’s why Jesus told us to “Let our light shine,”[12] it doesn’t mean to carry a lamp around with us all the time. Instead, let the effects of the Light in God’s Word illuminate our lives, actions, and speech.

Rudolph M. Smith (1931-2016) makes sure we understand that the term “God is Light” means that God is freedom from darkness or death. To say that the Gospel – Good News – of God’s salvation is the proclamation of “God is Light” evokes the statement in John’s Gospel prologue that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”[13] It is also a clear allusion to the coming of Jesus as the Light and Life of humankind. The reader of the Gospel, ancient or modern, will know this – or learn it. Otherwise, the message is that God is Light and without any darkness sounds strangely abstract, but it is a proposition to which many people in the ancient world, pagan or Jewish, could readily have agreed. John’s point is that in Jesus, the light has shone in such a way as really to illumine human life.[14]

Michael Eaton (1942-2017) summarizes the message John and his fellow Apostles heard from Jesus. It is: “God is light.” To walk in darkness is to walk in sin. In other words, to continue in sinful behavior means you behave like a sinner. “Light” is the opposite of sin’s filthiness; it is the holiness of God, the sin-loathing purity of God. “Light” includes the revelation of God that shows His character and all that He stands for. This illumination helps clarify the human situation and makes God’s will clear.[15] As the Apostle Paul described it to the Ephesians, we reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of the Anointed One.[16]


[1] Kretzmann, Paul E., Popular Commentary, First Epistle of John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[2] John 8:12

[3] Bultmann, Rudolf: First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 15-16

[4] Lewis, Greville P. Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 20

[5] Wilder, Amos N. Early Christian Rhetoric, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1971

[6] Barclay, William: The Letters of John and Jude, Revised Edition, Daily Study Bible, op. cit., pp. 28-29

[7] Schnackenburg, Rudolf, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 73-74

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

[9] Stott, John. The Letters of John (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), p. 75, InterVarsity Press

[10] Proverbs 6:23; Psalms 119:105; 130; 2 Peter 1:19

[11] Cf. Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; Acts of the Apostles 13:46-47; 26:18, 23

[12] Matthew 5:16

[13] John 1:5

[14] Smith, Dwight M., First, Second, and Third John, op. cit., pp. 42-43

[15] Eaton, Michael, op. cit., p. 37

[16] Ephesians 4:13

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXIX) 11/26/20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

[2] Eurípides, Electra [870], p. 1043

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

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

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

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

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

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

[9] 1 John 3:3

[10] John 12:36

[11] Hebrews 1:3

[12] James 1:17

[13] 1 Timothy 6:16

[14] 1 Peter 2:9

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

[16] 1 John 1:5-9

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

[18] Ephesians 4:18

[19] Romans 1:21

[20] Revelation 8:12

[21] Ibid. 9:2

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

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WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXVIII) 11/25/20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


[1] Ezekiel 8:2

[2] Habakkuk 3:4

[3] John 12:36

[4] Ibid. 8:12

[5] John 9:5

[6] Hebrews 1:3

[7] James 1:17

[8] 1 Timothy 6:16

[9] 1 Peter 2:9

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

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

[12] Cabalist Lexicon, pp. 63-64

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

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

[15] 1 John 1:5

[16] Ecclesiastes 7:29

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

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

[19] John 4:24

[20] 1 John 1:5

[21] Ibid. 4:8, 16

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

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

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