WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XIII) 10/21/20

John Stock (1817-1884) makes a curious statement that we are indebted to skeptics, who unintentionally do good to the truth by provoking examining the facts. The academic skills they employ reveal false assertions of poorly-taught people, professing themselves to be wise, have brought to light things that might otherwise have remained hidden. It’s like iron striking against iron that produces bright sparks. So, the assaults against the authenticity of the Gospel by nonbelievers only serve to make the principles more visible and revelation more conspicuous.

In the kind foresight of God says Stock, the error was allowed to show itself. It demonstrates how the mystery of ungodliness infiltrated the congregations in the Apostles’ time. Later, from the Church in the middle ages arose many misguided ideas as dangerous wolves entered the Anointed Shepherd’s flock to rob and steal.[1] Therefore, the Apostles’ inspired truth preached and written might help arm the Church and save it from backsliding.

It happened when the Ebionites,[2] Cerinthus,[3] and others, called Docetæ,[4] began to attack the Apostles’ traditions after the Romans banished the Apostle John to the Isle of Patmos. When he returned, the congregation requested that He write this Epistle to breathe the truthfulness about the Anointed One once again. These revelations exist for our sanctification and preservation from people worse than wolves. By these same certainties, under God, we are saved from Arians[5] who positioned themselves against the Anointed One’s deity. Also, from the Apollinarians[6] who maimed and misinterpreted that which belongs to His human nature. And from the Nestorians[7] who tore the Anointed One apart and divided Him into two persons, and from the followers of Eutyches[8] who put down those things that need emphasizing His distinguished divine and human characteristics.[9]

Paton J. Gloag (1823-1906) declares truth can’t be of greater magnitude than that the Eternal God took upon Himself human nature and appear in the Person of Jesus the Anointed One, is a declaration of astounding importance and must fill our minds with amazement and awe. There can hardly be any doubt that John believed in and taught the divinity of Jesus the Anointed One, that He was the Son of God in a peculiar, mysterious manner, the partaker of the divine nature, the sharer in the divine attributes with the Father. John repeatedly asserts the preexistence of the Anointed One. Our Lord Himself declares that He existed before Abraham and that He shared in the glory of the Father before the world began.[10] [11]

The Bishop of the Church of Ireland’s Diocese Derry and Raphoe, William Alexander (1824-1911), has an appealing comment when discussing the Anointed One described by John as “the Word.” In his mind, this certainly does not mean the word, written or preached, whose subject is spiritual and eternal life. It is the “Personal Word,” the Logos, whose attribute is that He is also the Life. Therefore, He is at once both the Word and the Life.[12] So it seems rather logical that since He is both Word and Life, and that He became flesh, then the Word gives life to the flesh. So, by seeing Him, hearing Him, and touching Him, they could perceive the Word and Life in human form. So again, does this imply that the Word of Life means the preaching of eternal life? John’s words that follow refer, not to the doctrine of Life, but the manifestation of the Life.[13]

Speaking about creation, Augustus Strong (1836-1921) says we must distinguish between idea & plan, plan & execution. Much of God’s plan is not yet fully implemented. The beginning of its implementation is as easy to conceive as it is still being carried out. But the beginning of the enforcement of God’s plan is creation. Active will is an element in creation. God’s will is not always active. He waited for “the fullness of the time[14] before He sent down His Son. As we trace back the Anointed One’s earthly life to a beginning, so we can trace back the life of the universe to its origin.

Those who date creation interpret, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,”[15] as meaning eternity. They also apply the same interpretation to “In the beginning was the Word.”[16] However, neither of these texts has this meaning, says Strong. In each case, it carries us back to the beginning of creation and asserts that God was its author and that the Word already existed.[17] In my estimation, what Strong is trying to say is that we can date creation to “from the beginning,” but we must date the Word “before the beginning.”

J. A. McClymont (1848-1931) offers another thought on what the Apostle John says here about hearing, seeing, and touching Jesus the Anointed One in the flesh. He suggests that if that is not enough, then go to Thomas, the doubting disciple. What was it that convinced him that the Lord is risen from the grave? Yes, he, too, heard Him, saw Him, but was allowed to touch Him in an unusual way. The Lord told Thomas to touch the nail prints in His hand and the wound on His side. Stop doubting and believe![18] Instead of “doubting,” McClymont hears the Master telling Thomas, and the other disciples, not to be faithless but believing.[19]

George G. Findlay (1849-1919), head of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, compares the Greek philosopher’s concept of God and John’s knowledge of God. He says that these philosophers conceived of the Divine nature as exalted above human aspiration and infirmity. But the conceptions of Plato or Plutarch were too speculative and idealistic to affect the ordinary mind; they were powerless to move the heart, to possess the imagination and will. These enlightened men scarcely attempted to overthrow the public’s idols, and their teaching offered a feeble and slight resistance to the tide of moral corruption. False religions can be destroyed only by that which is real. The concrete and actual are displaced by the more exact, never by random thoughts.

Findlay continues: It was faith in a true and living God, in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One as the supreme deity of the universe, the enthroned Almighty’s all-holy will to bless and save humanity that struck down idols. It also transformed society and reversed the stream of history. It’s not belief in some “Divine entity” as the highest category of thought, nor the unseen substance behind the phenomena of creation. He is more than an unknown and unknowable source of the collective powers of nature. Such ideas, at best, shed but a cold, flickering light on the path of daily labor and suffering; they proved themselves composed yet frightened, all too faint to encounter the shock of passion for mastering the turbulence of human nature. Neither in the name of Pythagoras or Plato did the Greeks find salvation.[20]

The Revised Version (1885) translators point out an essential fact in verse one we should consider when interpreting this passage. They note that the English Standard Version (2001)[21] translates “That which,” at the beginning of verses one and three, as a compound relative,[22] and in the intermediate instance in verse two as a simple relative.[23]


[1] Matthew 7:15

[2] The Ebionites were largely Jewish and remained attached to Jerusalem while the mainstream church spread throughout the Roman Empire. Irenaeus, the exiled bishop of Lyons and leading polemicist against heresies in the second century, wrote about them that they understood the scriptures “in a peculiar way: they practice circumcision, continue to observe the customs commanded by the law, and in their Jewish way of life even venerate Jerusalem as the house of God.”

[3] Cerinthus was probably born a Jew in Egypt. Little is known of his life save that he was a teacher and founded a short-lived sect of Jewish Christians with Gnostic tendencies. He apparently taught that the world was created by angels, from one of whom the Jews received their imperfect Law. The only New Testament writing that Cerinthus accepted was the Gospel of Matthew. Cerinthus taught that Jesus, the offspring of Joseph and Mary, received Christ at his baptism as a divine power revealing the unknown Father. This Christ left Jesus before the Passion and the Resurrection. Cerinthus admitted circumcision and the sabbath and held a form of millenarianism.

[4] Docetæ were heretics who held that Christo’s body was merely a phantom, an apparition.

[5] Arianism, concerning the doctrine of Christ taught that Jesus, as the Son of God, was created by God of a similar or different substance to that of the Father. It was proposed early in the 4th century by the Alexandrian presbyter Arius and was popular throughout much of the Eastern and Western Roman empires, even after it was denounced as a heresy by the Council of Nicaea (325 AD)

[6] Apollinarianism was a concept proposed by Apollinaris, Bishop of Laodicea (died 390 AD) argues that Jesus had a normal human body but a divine mind instead of a regular human soul. It was deemed heretical in 381 AD and virtually died out within the following decades.

[7] Nestorians were a Christian sect that originated in Asia Minor and Syria stressing the independence of the divine and human natures of Christ and, in effect, suggesting that they are two persons loosely united. This off-shoot of the Church formed following the condemnation of Nestorius and his teachings by the ecumenical councils of Ephesus (431 AD) and Chalcedon (451 AD)

[8] Eutyches (born c. 375—died 454 AD), revered head of a monastery in the Eastern Orthodox Church, at Constantinople, who is regarded as the founder of Eutychianism, an extreme form of the dual-personality heresy that emphasizes that in the person of Jesus Christ there is only one nature (wholly divine or only subordinately human), not two in one.

[9] Stock, John, An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, London; Oxford; Cambridge: Rivingtons, 1865, pp. 1–2

[10] John 8:58; 17:5

[11] Gloag, Paton J. Introduction to the Johannine Writings, op. cit., p. 243

[12] Ephesians 4:18

[13] Alexander, William: The Expositor’s Bible, W. Robertson Nicoll, Ed., On Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 303

[14] Galatians 4:4

[15] Genesis 1:1

[16] John 1:1

[17] Strong, Augustus H: Systematic Theology, op. cit., Vol. 2, pp. 32-33

[18] John 20:27

[19] McClymont, J. A., The New Testament and its Writers, Adam & Charles Black, London, 1893, p. 257

[20] Findlay, G. G., Fellowship in the Life Eternal: An Exposition of the Epistles of St. John, Hodder and Stoughton. London; New York; Toronto, 1909, pp. 96–97

[21] The English Standard Version (ESV) is an essentially literal translation of the Bible in contemporary English.

[22] The words whoever, whatever, whichever, however, whenever and wherever are called compound relative pronouns. These are used to mean ‘it doesn’t matter who/what/which etc.’ A compound relative pronoun has a double function. It acts as a subject, object or adverb in its own clause; it also acts as a conjunction joining its clause to the rest of the sentence. For instance, “Whoever comes to the door, ask them to wait.”

[23] A relative pronoun is a pronoun that introduces a relative clause. It is called a “relative” pronoun because it “relates” to the word that its relative clause modifies. Here is an example: The person who phoned me last night is my teacher.

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s