WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXI) 11/16/20

I begin with this proposition, continues Morgan Dix: The proportion in which religious belief becomes intellectualized and refined, in that same magnitude, loses its power over people and ceases to control the practical order of their lives. It is readily seen by contrasting two types of worldly religion: First, the unrefined worship of idols by one’s emotions. Second, the refined philosophical mind. The former is pointless superstition, the latter a rationalistic theory. However, of these two, idolatry is better than rationality.[1] This concept may be a little hard to understand at first, but in thinking it over, it becomes clear that those who worship idols do so out of cultural ignorance while those who pay homage to what the mind creates a false god.

Presbyterian minister and Word Studies expert Marvin Vincent (1834-1921) says that the word “full” should more correctly be “fulfilled.” John does this frequently in his writings.[2] The peace brought by reconciliation leads to the blessed consciousness of sonship, the happy growth of holiness, and the bright prospect of future completion and glory. Based on their length and breadth, all these simple details are embodied in these two words: “Eternal Life.” Possession of this brings an immediate source of joy. The Anointed One’s joy brings blessings because He is Life and living itself. As Augustine said, “For there is a joy which is not given to the ungodly, but to those who love You for Your own sake, whose joy of which You are the fountain. And this is the happy life, to rejoice in You and because of You.”[3]

Erich Haupt (1841-1926) says that not even this effort to redouble his joy exhausts the apostle John’s design. His aim is not only to establish fellowship with God and the brethren, but this itself is to him again a means to elevate the believer’s joy to its highest stage of life’s purpose and plan, and that is in its most perfect degree with God and each other.

Haupt goes on to say that since John describes The Life as The Light for humanity, it declares that The Life manifested Himself for them in a way that would have been unlikely for the rest of creation. It is self-understood that this Light is not thought of in the physical sense but in its reference to the spiritual realm. By its very existence, light communicates itself to objects capable of receiving it and illuminates them as a result.

We may examine another Scripture that speaks of, says Haupt, “The eye is the light of the body. If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.”[4] The thought expresses itself so clearly: The eye receives the light and thereby becomes enlightened and enlightening. So also, in the prologue of John’s Gospel: all of creation owes its life to The Logos; but only humanity is capable of receiving His Light. Therefore, they alone can accept the nature of the Logos pouring toward them as Light so that they are consciously transformed by it into a new creation.

Haupt goes on to say since humanity has a passive relation to His life, that is, instinctively fulfills His destiny for them, but an active life also.  That means, not only is their conscious ethically and morally placed in order, but they have the capacity not only to receive Life from The Logos but also to have this new Life as their light. It allows them to be able to discern or know Him in His nature, to be able to reflect His image to the world. Now, wherever humanity forgets or ignores this purpose, they close their eyes to what God has given them to be able to receive The Logos as Light. As a result, they wander in the dim domain of darkness.[5]

Charles Gore (1853-1932), Bishop of Oxford, and influential Anglican theologian mentions that some have pointed to a distinctive note of John’s theology due to perceptions of spiritual truth based upon and molded by external experiences or facts. Therefore, it is seen as a corporate and not individual conviction because everyone shares the same view. Or, it can be the conviction of a whole society that gives witness to the facts. Therefore, realizing its true meaning through fellowship in the community. It seems evident that Gore is speaking of those whose faith comes from being part of a Christian community and those whose beliefs come from the Christian Church – the body of the Anointed One.

Thus, Wescott’s citing of the comment of Bede the Venerable is noticeable, says Gore: Bede says that John plainly shows that anyone wanting communion with God must first establish fellowship with the Church. Neither the apostle John or Paul would agree to this latter-day practice of “putting the Church in place of the Anointed One.” With all sadness, we must recognize how the Church has justified its sins and shortcomings – in a word, its worldliness. But, as I say, notes Gore, the Apostles John, and Paul, would be shocked by it. The Church is but human fellowship by which the Spirit of God, the Anointed One, is found in a bodily presence. So, how can you substitute the body in place of the person? Or, how can the fellowship of God be realized except in brother and sisterhood? It is what He appointed as an instrument for spiritual harmony.[6]

James Morgan (1859-1942) encourages all believers to attain the joy that the Gospel yields. We should do so for the sake of our holiness. “When He shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.” We should do so for the credit of Christianity. There is everything in it to commend it to mankind. And it is unworthy of its professors to exhibit a behavior calculated to dishonor it. We should do so for the honor of the Anointed One reflected in us. “You are the epistles of the Anointed One, known and read of all people.”[7] And for the world to witness His glory in us, let us joyfully submit to His justifying righteousness and cheerful obedience to His holy commandments. In so doing, our joy may be full.[8]

Cosmo Gordon Lang (1864-1945), Archbishop of Canterbury, says three questions lie deep in the spirit of humanity, and sooner or later, if they think at all, they must encounter them, and they will ask them for an answer. First, what is the real nature of this unseen, infinite, eternal life that lies behind the things we see, creating, sustaining, controlling them? The second is, what is the life in mankind which can bring to them into harmony with the infinite and eternal life? The third is, how can this life be obtained and kept? Those who are in doubt about the answer to these questions stumble on in darkness. Those who can find a solution have the Light of Life. And it was the Light of Life that the Anointed One brought in His revelation that exposed these significant needs.

Lang explains that the Anointed One answered the first question when He appeared in the flesh for human ears to hear, human eyes to see, and human hands to touch. It was all done out of love that flowed from an eternal relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit.

The Anointed One answered the second question when He brought His Divine Life into human nature. He lived under human conditions, revealing what it was to be a begotten Son of the Most-High God – thereby bringing our humanity into union with Divine Life.

And to the third question, the Anointed One answered by having the Holy Spirit come and dwell in the hearts of humans, leading it to respond to the Divine love and bring all its energies, desires, and affections into union with God.[9]

Robert Law (1860-1919) says the Apostle John intends to give us his conception of God. He says that John presents God under four great affirmations: God is Light (1:5); God is Righteous (2:29); God is Love (4:8); God is Life (5:20). And though, characteristically, John does not endeavor to bring these ideas into a creed or confession, their inter-relationship is sufficiently clear. Righteousness and Love are the primary ethical qualities of the Divine Nature. Life is the essence in which these qualities. That God is Light signifies that the Divine Nature, as Righteousness and Love, reveals itself to become the Truth, the object of faith, and the source of spiritual illumination to every being capable of receiving the revelation.

Wordly thinkers speculated that Divine Nature was mystical, says Law. They defined it as the ultimate spiritual essence eternally separated from all that is material and changeable. These thinkers wanted union with Divine Life solely by the mystic vision of the Light emanating from John’s conception of God. It was primarily a form of ethics. As such, these thinker’s deity was an unreal being that could never awaken the human soul to worship. They showed no reverence for boundlessness or everlastingness.

For the thinkers, Law continues, God is the atoms of moral good since He is not in “the light of the setting sun, and the round ocean, and the living air, and the blue sky.” However, for John, the Eternal Life, the very Life of God, brought into the sphere of humanity in the person of Jesus, the Anointed One who is Righteousness and Love. With his whole soul, John labors to stamp on the human mind the truth that only by Righteousness and Love can they walk in the Light of God and have fellowship in the Life of the Father and His Son Jesus the Anointed One.[10]


[1] Dix, Morgan: First Epistle of John, The Biblical Illustrator: New Testament, Kindle Location 665388-665398

[2] See John 3;29; 7:8; 8:38; 15:11; 2 John 1:12; Revelation 6:11

[3] Vincent, Marvin R: Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. II, First Epistle of John, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1889, p. 811

[4] Matthew 6:22

[5] Haupt, Erich, The First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., pp. 21-22, 24–25.

[6] Gore, Charles, The Epistles of St. John, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1920, pp. 61–63

[7] 2 Corinthians 3:3

[8] Morgan, James, An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 30

[9] Lang, Cosmo Gordon: Church Pulpit Commentary, Arnold, Thomas; Maurice, F.D.; Burgon, John., (12 vol. Now in One) (Kindle Location 92338-92341). http://www.DelmarvaPublications.com. Kindle Edition.

[10] Law, Robert, The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 53, Edinburgh

About drbob76

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