WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXV) 11/20/20

Tom Thatcher (1973-) says that although most of the Apostle John’s audience have been loyal in the past, the doctrinal crisis presented by the Antichrists and the desertion of leaders such as Diotrephes[1] seems to have left John uncertain of his congregation’s devotions. While John demands that his audience choose to either stay with him or leave, he believes they will remain. Indeed, their fellowship would increase the joy he receives from his friendship with the Father. But it is probably too much to say that “even the author’s fellowship with God is not fully satisfactory without the reader’s incorporation.”

The way John thinks, says Thatcher, “joy” is a gift from God that transcends the difficulties of life in the world because it recognizes God’s continuing love in the face of the world’s endless hatred.[2] Jesus, therefore, prays that His disciples “may have the full measure of My joy within them,” even though He is sending them into a hostile world[3] In this sense, John’s joy will continue, whether or not the audience makes the right decision. Still, their positive response would “fulfill” or “make complete” John’s joy by granting him the satisfaction of success as a witness.[4]

David Jackman (1973-) says that the Apostle John offers a practical incentive in maintaining a living fellowship with God – continually increasing in joy. His reader’s enjoyment becomes John’s delight as they belong to the same union with God. Later, in his third letter, John would tell them that it always brought him great satisfaction when he heard that his little children followed the way of truth. Having the conscious awareness of being one with God and His children everywhere leaves little else that could spark such fullness of joy. Jesus was not bashful about speaking of the thrill that awaited His disciples.[5] But it only came to them through the cross where He gave Himself totally to fulfill His Father’s purposes.[6] [7]

David Guzik (1984-) says that the Christian’s joy is essential and assaulted on many fronts. External circumstances, bad moods, and troubling emotions can often sap our happiness based on this world’s things. But our joy is dependent on other factors: Our relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, including our fellow believers. Too many Christians are passive when their joy fades. They need to realize it is a significant loss and should do everything they can to draw close to God and reclaim that fullness of joy. As the great preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “If you have lost your delight in the Lord, never consider it a small loss.”[8]

Colin G. Kruse agrees that having John say that he was writing this letter so that his delight might be made complete does sound somewhat strange. It would seem more logical that he aimed to complete their joy in the Lord. However, Kruse argues that John recognized that his satisfaction in representing the Anointed One could not be complete if fellow believers for whom John feels some responsibility are in danger of departing from the truth. He did not want them led astray by becoming involved in another gospel, one which he will soon prove to false because it does not involve fellowship with the Father and the Son. John’s gratification comes from knowing that those under his care are continually walking in the light of truth about the Savior of the world, the incarnate Son of God, the Messiah.[9]

1:5a This is the message we heard Him give. Now we pass it on to you. Here it is: God is light, and in Him, darkness does not exist.

EXPOSITION

The first four verses above comprise the introduction and tell us the purpose of the epistle. Now we come to the substance of the apostolic doctrine to be communicated to the believing Church. The great principles of the person and work of the Redeemer are asserted and reiterated by the Apostle. They are the foundation of all true faith and the only basis of the sinner’s hope for time and eternity. Jesus the Anointed One is the eternal revealer of the great Father of the universe, in whom, as in a mirror, the attributes and character of the invisible and unapproachable Yahweh as revealed to the church, angels, and all creation.

God manifested the eternal Logos in human form as the kinsman-Redeemer. He was born of the substance of the Virgin Mary. Except for the absence of sin, He did not differ from His brothers. The divine Word was no mere inspiration or act of wisdom and power by which God created the universe; He was a distinct and independent person who came to redeem the human race. The Apostles, says John, are witnesses, for we saw, heard, and placed our hands on Him. That is why we make known to you the glorious communion which all believers have with the Father and His Son Jesus the Anointed One. Such is the core of the Apostle’s introduction, and now, in the fifth and following verses, we come to the more unique doctrines and duties which the Apostle brings before the mind of the Church.[10]

Listen to the words of David: “The Lord is my light and my salvation – so why should I be afraid? The LORD is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?”[11] Later on, the Psalmist said to Yahweh, “Our light is from Your light.”[12] And again, we read the Psalmist who says: “For ADONAI God is our Light and our Protector. He gives us grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from those who walk along His paths.”[13] Not only that, but the prophet Isaiah received this message from above: “No longer will you need the sun or moon to give you light, for the Lord your God will be your everlasting light, and He will be your glory.”[14] We hear this echoed in John’s revelation when he saw a new earth and stated: “The city needed no sun or moon to light it, for the glory of God and the Lamb illuminate it.”[15]

John continues a theme found in the opening of his Gospel, and that is the importance of spiritual light in a world darkened by sin that fills the sky with pollution. Notice that John does not say that God has light, or that He emits light, but that He is light. God is the very essence and substance, which creates light and all its properties. This premise permeates every attribute of God because wherever He is, there is light.[16]  And the first thing He did when creating the universe was to say, “Let there be light.”[17]  Since John, no doubt, was acquainted with the Scriptures, he shares the same fascination and appreciation for the light of God as David the Psalmist.[18] Jesus Himself was fond of calling His followers “children of light,”[19] as was the Apostle Paul.[20]  So, it is significant that John did not say this is something others say about Jesus; instead, we heard it.[21]  John heard Jesus preach and teach for some three years, and I’m sure our Lord’s references to light stuck in John’s mind.

COMMENTARY

Clement of Alexandria (160-215 AD) notes that John is not expressing the Son of God’s divine essence, but rather, to declare God’s majesty in His human nature. It illuminates what the best and most excellent divine virtues are for humanity to see. For in this same Epistle, John declares that “God is love:”[22] pointing out the excellencies of God, that He is kind and merciful; and because He is Light, allows people to see how they can be right with Him. That then means, “There is no darkness in Him,”[23]that is, no evil tendencies, no wicked thoughts, no desires for sinful pleasures found. Instead, He brings deliverance and cleansing from all these things. Light also signifies the good, not the bad, faith, not obligation, Grace, not salvation by works, God’s Word, not man’s word. Darkness is gone because the Light has come. Not as if there were another way; since there is only one way according to divine principles. For the work of God is unity. Dual lifestyles and all else that is promoted by some comes from perverse thinking.[24]

Origen (184-253 AD) notes that according to John: “God is light.” Therefore, the only-begotten Son is the glory of this Light, proceeding inseparably from (God) Himself, as brightness does from the sun, stars, and burning oil lamps. For, we have already explained, says Origen, how the Son of God is the Way that leads to the Father. He is the Word, interpreting the secrets of wisdom and the mysteries of divine knowledge. He came to make them known to rational creatures and is also the Truth, and the Life, and the Resurrection, – in the same way we ought to understand even the meaning of His being the brightness: for it is by its splendor that we come to know and feel what Light itself is.


[1] Diotrephes was the self-seeking troublemaker John mentions in his third letter.

[2] John 15:11; 16:20–22

[3] Ibid. 17:13

[4] Thatcher, Tom. 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude – Expositor’s Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 277

[5] John 16:20, 22, 24

[6] Hebrews 12:2-3

[7] Jackman, David, The Message of John’s Letters – The Bible Speaks Today, op. cit., pp. 24-25

[8] Guzik, David, Enduring Word Commentary, op. cit., p. 15

[9] Kruse, Colin G. The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Letters of John, William B. Eerdmans Publish Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000, pp. 58-59

[10] Graham, William (1857), The Spirit of Love, op. cit., p. 27

[11] Psalm 27:1

[12] Ibid. 36:9

[13] Ibid. 84:11

[14] Isaiah 60:19

[15] Revelation 21:23

[16] Psalm 139:11-12

[17] Genesis 1:3

[18] Cf. Psalms 4:6; 18:28; 27:1; 36:9; 43:3; 78:14; 89:15; 90:8 & 119:105

[19] Cf. Luke 16:8 & John 12:36

[20] See Ephesians 5:8-9 & 1 Thessalonians 5:5

[21] See verses 1-2

[22] 1 John 4:7

[23] Ibid. 1:5

[24] Clement of Alexandria: On First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 1161

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