WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XX) 10/30/20

COMMENTARY

Caius, Presbyter of Rome (circa 230-296 AD), speaks about how John’s fellow-disciples and bishops pleaded with the Apostle to write a Gospel. So, John said to them, “Fast with me for the space of three days, and let each of us share whatever God brings to our remembrance.” On the same night, the Spirit told the Apostle Andrew that John should narrate everything in his name as they called them to mind. Caius says that no matter what they read in other Gospels; they found no difference in the faith of believers. That’s because everything harmonizes under one majestic Spirit, which concerns the Lord’s nativity, His passion, His resurrection, His conversation with His disciples, and His twofold advent – the first in the humiliation of rejection, which is now past, and the second in the glory of royal power, which is yet in the future.

What struck Caius as marvelous is that John remembers these different things so consistently in his Epistles, saying, “What we have seen with our eyes, and heard with our ears, and our hands have handled, that have we written.” In doing so, he professes not only to be an eye-witness but also the hearer. Besides that, the historian of all the wondrous facts concerning the Lord in their order.[1] And early church scholar Hilary of Arles (401-440 AD) notes that our communion in the unity of our faith here on earth is the start of our eternal fellowship with God in heaven.[2]

Andreas Osiander (600-700) has an interesting perspective on what John says about seeing the Living Word in human flesh. Still, it was not just the Living Word, it was also Eternal Life who appeared to them, so they are witnesses that it existed. We all gain from this proclamation, says Andreas, the right to share this experience with others. The one who joins our community also has a bond with the Father and the Son, Jesus the Anointed One. And since we share in the same companionship down here, we will all rejoice together, in that we are united with God eternally.[3]

Bede the Venerable (672-735), an English Benedictine monk, demonstrates to us what degree interpretation of God’s Work changed from the earlier scholars. He tells us that the Apostle John shows quite clearly that those who want to have fellowship with God must, first of all, be joined to the church and there learn that faith and blessed with its sacraments, which the disciples indeed received during the time of the Anointed One being here on earth. Nor do those who believe the Apostle’s testimony belong any less to the Lord than those who put their trust in Him when they heard Him preaching in the flesh, although there might be some distinction in the quality of the works of faith which they perform.[4]

It is disconcerting that the words “grace,” “faith,” “the Cross,” and “the Anointed One alone” the source of salvation were no longer prominent in medieval preaching. It certainly set the stage for the debacle in the Roman Catholic Church during the ensuing middle-ages. This Gospel message revived in the 1500-1600 AD Protestant Reformation era and continued into the 1700-1800 AD Wesleyan Revival period. Then again, the Pentecostal preachers of the late 1800s and early 1900s focused the spotlight on these critical factors in the message of salvation. Sadly, these doctrines have fallen out of fashion in modern-day preaching. May God, through His Spirit, bring them back to prominence once again to the glory of His Son.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) responds to the question of whether or not the Anointed One should have demonstrated His Resurrection’s truth by proofs other than appearing to the disciples? Some say that it would seem that the Anointed One did not need to verify the validity of His Resurrection by showing Himself to the disciples. So, what is the answer?

Aquinas recalls Ambrose the Bishop of Milan (340-397), said, “Away with arguments, where faith is required.”[5] Faith alone is necessary regarding the Resurrection. Therefore, proofs and testimonies are out of place here. On the contrary, says Aquinas, we are told by Luke that the Anointed One appeared to His disciples “for forty days by many proofs, speaking of the Kingdom of God.”[6]

Aquinas goes on to say that the word “proof” is susceptible to a twofold meaning. Sometimes, it is employed to designate any sort “of reason in confirmation of what is a matter of doubt.” Sometimes, it means a sensible sign used to manifest the truth. Looking at the word “proof” in the first sense, if the Anointed One did demonstrate His resurrection to the disciples by proofs, such argumentative explanations would be grounded on principles. With these principles being unknown by the disciples, what could be demonstrated to them? Nothing can be understood if there is nothing to know.

And if they were aware of such principles, says Aquinas, they would not go beyond human reason. Consequently, it would not be sufficient for establishing faith in the Resurrection, which is beyond human logic. We must assume principles which are relevant to the outcome, according to the Apostle Peter.[7] But it was from the authority of the Sacred Scriptures that He proved to them the truth of His Resurrection, which source is the basis of faith when Jesus said: “All things must be fulfilled concerning Me, written in the Law, the prophets, and the Psalms.[8] [9]

Walter Hilton (1340-1395) says that we are to consistently believe this image John’s words form in our conscience as a witness for the full forsaking of sin and a proper surrendering of our will to holy living through Faith. Paul has these words of encouragement: The unbiassed live by faith.[10] That is, those that are made right with God by faith in the work of the Anointed One on the cross will find it to be sufficient for salvation and also to heavenly peace. As Paul says: Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.[11] We that are made righteous and reformed through faith in the Anointed One have peace and accord made between God and us, notwithstanding our bodies’ sinful tendencies. For though this reforming is internal, and is not visible in this life, nevertheless whosoever steadfastly believes it, and is careful to shape their life accordingly, and does not turn again to deadly sin, surely when the hour of death comes and the soul departs, they will find that what the Scriptures say is true.

How may a person find out whether they have a reformed soul, asks Hilton? If you want to know if your soul is transformed into the image of God or not, you may resolve that by searching your conscience and finding out what your will wants, that will tell you what your main goals in life are. If it turns away from all manner of deadly sin, you will not end up unwittingly or unwilfully breaking God’s commandments. Anything you may have done inappropriately in the past that is contrary to His bidding, you must humbly confess and repent with the full intention of never doing it again. Then, says Hilton, by faith, your soul will be reformed to the likeness of God.[12]

James Arminius (1560-1609) sees here a beneficial promise. For the good of the Church, God placed it in union with the Anointed One. An indwelling of the Spirit is promised, which is not in danger of termination by the restrictions of one’s lifespan but will continue forever. When this short life ends, it will resume in heaven. About this, the Apostle says, “It is my desire to finish this life to one day be with the Anointed One.” the Anointed One says, “Father, I want those You gave me to be with me where I am going to be.”[13] Here is the Gospel’s goal, says John, “That our fellowship may be with the Father and the Son” in which everlasting communion exists. In another place, he gives the same reason in these words, “But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Anointed One: and that, believing, you might have life through His name.”[14] [15]

Arminius goes on to note that it says, “The Son dearest of the Father.”[16] In other words, those made aware of the intimate knowledge of His secrets, John “have declared,” that by openly manifesting the Word existing with the Father, “Has been seen and heard.”[17] But it is irreverent to suppose that these things relate only to being informed. No! “The things which the apostles saw and heard they have declared,” that the Church “might have communion with the Father and the Son.” But excellence is placed in this communion. The wisdom which the apostles received through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, who “searches the deep things of God,” has been declared by them “in words which the same Holy Spirit teaches.”[18] But this wisdom belongs to those who are filled and full of the Holy Spirit.[19]


[1] Fragments of Caius, Canon Muratorianus, Against the Heresy of Artemon: The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5, p. 1219

[2] Hilary of Arles: On 1-3 John, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., p. 168

[3] Andreas: Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., 1-3 John, p. 168

[4] Bede the Venerable: Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., 1-3 John, p. 168

[5] Ambrose, De Fide Ad Gratianum Augustum Libri Quinque, (Exposition of the Christian Faith), Bk. I, Ch. XIII, §84

[6] Acts of the Apostles 1:3

[7] 1 Peter 5:1

[8] Luke 24:44

[9] Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica, Vol. 5, The Treatise on the Incarnation, The Third Part, Question 55, Of the Manifestation of the Resurrection, pp. 746-748

[10] See Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11

[11] Romans 5:1

[12] Hilton, Walter: The Scale of Perfection, op. cit., Part 3, Second Book, pp. 125-126

[13] John 17:24

[14] Ibid. 20:31

[15] Arminius, James: Orations, Vol. 1, op. cit., Oration 3, p. 86

[16] John 1:18

[17] Ibid. 3:32

[18] 1 Corinthians 2:18

[19] Ibid. 2:6-15

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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