WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXI) 11/02/20

John Owen (1616-1683) speaks of the Word’s manifestation and condition of the Jews at the time of Jesus’ appearance. They were very mean and contemptible – their leaders being called the filth of this world and full of nonsense. For the Anointed One to invite outsiders into holy Israel’s partnership to participate in their riches from the LORD was contrary to reasoning and objectionable. The Jewish leaders asked, “What benefit is it to us to have communion with them?” This same attitude bled over into the Jerusalem congregation and caused the Apostle Paul much grief.

It is nothing more than Jewish converts becoming spreaders of troubles, reproaches, scorns, and all manner of evils, says Owen. To prevent or remove these and other concerns, John informs everyone that the Jews and Gentiles can get along in harmony despite all the disadvantages. The world needs to see this in action, so it would be considered a very honorable, glorious, and desirable thing. For “truly,” says John, “our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus the Anointed One.”[1]

Owen continues this theme, expounding on the fact that the Anointed One’s presence is promised and will continue with the celebration of the gifts He supplies to those appointed for His service. For He told his Apostles to “Teach them to observe all things whatsoever I told you to do, don’t worry, I am with you always, even to the furthest stretches of the globe.”[2] That’s because, says Owen, the tabernacle of God dwells within them and among His people.[3] After all, the Anointed One made His promise clear: “Where two or three gather in His Name, He is there in their midst.”[4] And this promised presence of the Anointed One consists of giving them intimate communion with Himself. By all these things, John gives a particular meaning to special reverence and regard for faith, whereby the Apostle’s reputation is yet farther made respectable.[5]

Nathaniel Hardy (1618-1670) reveals that in his day, there was a generation of men in the Roman Catholic Church who claim to be the Society of Jesus. They accepted this as their peculiar idea, mentioned by John here in verse three, that the friendship we have with the Father we also have with His Son Jesus the Anointed One. In fact, rather than their being branches of the true vine, they are Antichrist branches. One day, says Hardy, Jesus will give them little thanks for this arrogant assumption of His name while they stand in opposition to His truth. The real privilege of having an alliance with Jesus the Anointed One is not limited to one believers’ order but applicable to every Christian.

Scriptures describe this teamwork we have with the Anointed One in various ways, says Hardy. We read of the Head and the bodily members and their participation with each other, thereby receiving sense and motion. We note the branches and Root, which contributes its sap and nutrition. Then come the building and the Foundation which sustains it. Furthermore, we see Husband and wife, bride and Groom, who are ready to be united forever. These represent Christians in union with the Anointed One, who shared Himself with all His values and virtues. Indeed, as the Apostle tells us: It pleased the Father, to be in Jesus in all His fullness, not just for our Lord, but for us, that we, as the John the Evangelist declared, we receive His grace and more grace to the fullest.[6]

After what William Burkitt (1662-1703) said about John’s words back in verse one, he now follows up with what he hears John saying here: We declare to you those things of the Anointed One which we saw and heard, and what we know by sight and listening you are to receive from our testimony; and our design and purpose are sincerely this, that you may have fellowship, and be united in communion with us, and not with false teachers, and by your togetherness with us may partake of the same faith and grace, and all spiritual benefits and privileges which the Anointed One purchased for us; and you will have no reason to repent of your coming into our association and companionship. Therefore, all who sincerely embraced the Gospel’s doctrine have friendship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus the Anointed One, and with each other.[7] We draw strength, courage, and comfort from our solidarity with the Father and His Son, and each other. It forms a triune relationship.

George Swinnock (1627-1673), a fiery Puritan preacher and nonconformist writer, tells us that next to closeness with God, there is no harmony like being of one mind and one accord. The world ignorantly refers to their mob of drunken, swearing, and riotous pitiful gangs as “good fellows.” The prince of darkness is the head of their league, but the unity of saints is togetherness with God; He is the foundation of their union. That’s John’s main point here in verse three. What form of familiarity can in any respect compare with theirs who have companionship, not only with fellow Christians but even with God himself, the fountain and ocean of all honor and excellence! Oh, how happy is that company which has His constant presence.[8]

Then Swinnock goes on to say that John both desired and endeavored that others might be not almost, but altogether as he is. None are more spiritually covetous to make proselytes than the true Israelites. As the wall which receives heat from the sun reflects it on those who pass by, so he wishes that they were partakers of the same grace, that they may be intimately acquainted with the Father, and Jesus the Anointed One His Son. Like a bee, to spread the Good News, they go from Scriptural flower to flower, then carry all the spiritual sweet pollen home to their spiritual hive, so the resulting honey can be offered to every unbeliever they meet.  

Contrast this with contentiousness of sin – “a little leaven permeates the whole lump.”[9] Some say that those who have the plague of sinful tendencies are very desirous of infecting others. On the other hand – so is grace, like oil spreading, the gracious desire to go to a countless company of angels with a numerous company of saints.[10] [11]

John Flavel (1628-1691), an English Presbyterian clergyman, Puritan, and author, warns not to be misled into thinking that where it says: “He was made flesh,” there was a mutation of the Godhead into human flesh. Instead, it came about, “not by changing what He was, but by assuming what He was not.” As Augustine well expresses it: When the scripture says, “He was made sin,”[12] and “made a curse,[13] it did not turn Him into sin, or into a curse; no more should we think here the Godhead was turned into human flesh and lost its being and nature just because it says He was made flesh. It is the sum of the declaration. That claim is [“that the Word was made flesh,”] is strongly confirmed. He “dwelt among us,” and we saw His glory. It was no illusion, but a very real and unquestionable fact. John clearly says, “pitched His tent” or “set up His Tabernacle” within us. And we are eyewitnesses of it.[14]

Flavel goes on to say we are to win souls to the Anointed One, and through love, to bring them to faith. Practical holiness is a very lovely, attractive, and considerate thing. Pagans called moral virtue a bouquet that can change the heart to win influence with humanity’s souls. How much more we could say, that if it were visible to the human eye, for all to see and adore it, and fall in love with it; how much more we can say of true holiness, made visible in the lives of saints! It makes the souls of humankind cling to the persons in whom it is prophesied of the Jews when they will be called (which will be a time of great holiness), “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you because we have heard that God is with you.’”[15]

So much of God already appears in humankind, drawing out excellence. And this is the Apostle’s argument about having kinship with each other. What is there about a person’s idea of God’s family that caused them to invite men and women to join them in communion with God? Truly, our closeness is with the Father and with His Son, the Anointed One Jesus. Who would choose anything else but to keep company with those who maintain fellowship with God every day? Visible holiness effectively influences other people’s respect for a believer, either as a combination of things working in acquaintance with the Word or as a single instrument.[16]      

In commenting on verse three, Flavel says in another writing, it signifies an alliance or being copartners with people who have a mutual interest in the same enjoyment, being partakers of the Anointed One.[17] As such, the saints are called the companions, consorts, and colleagues of the Anointed One.[18] It is not only in respect to His undertaking of our mortality, investing us with immortality but with special reference and respect to the anointing and fruit of the Holy Spirit. These are things believers are partakers of with Him and through Him.


[1] Owen, John: Of Communion with God, Vol 3, Part 1, Ch. 1, p. 9

[2] Matthew 28:20

[3] Revelation 21:3

[4] Matthew 18:19-20

[5] Owen, John: Introduction to the Worship of God, Vol. 4, Question 8, p. 29

[6] Hardy, Nathaniel: On First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 95

[7] Burkitt, William: On First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 754

[8] Swinnock, George: The Christian Man’s Calling, Vol. 2, Part. III, Sec. I, pp. 341-342

[9] 1 Corinthians 5:6

[10] Swinnock, George: op. cit., Vol. 3, Heaven and Hell Epitomized, Ch. 5, p. 264

[11] Ibid., Ch. 19, p. 374

[12] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[13] Galatians 3:13

[14] Flavel, John: op. cit., The Fountain of Life, Sermon 5, Our Christ’s Wonderful Person, p. 63

[15] Zechariah 8:23

[16] Flavel, John: The Fountain of Life, Sermon 42, Christ’s Advent to Judgment, p. 544

[17] Hebrews 3:14

[18] Psalm 45:7

About drbob76

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