WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XXXVI) 11/23/20

And this splendor of His appearing presents itself gently and softly to the frail and weak eyes of mortals, says Origen, it gradually trains them, as it were, to bear the brightness of His divine glory. They have put away every hindrance and obstacle to vision, according to the Lord’s precept, “Get rid of the pole in your eye.”[1] It renders them capable of enduring the splendor of the Light, being made a mediator between men and the Light. Origen sees John’s statement that God is Light, and  the Son of God, therefore, is the brightness of that Light. That’s why the two are inseparable, just as brightness cannot exist apart from light. First, He lit up the whole world, and now He lights up our world and provides illumination for all creation.[2]

Early church writer Augustine (354-430 AD) sees John’s comment on Jesus being the Light asks the question, “Who would dare say that there is darkness in God?” It does not pertain to what we see with our eyes. God is light. Even though the sun sends light, and the moon reflects light, and a candle gives light, something far greater exists than these. It is far more excellent and far more surpassing, especially when considering how much distance there is between the Creator and His creation. Also, the Word is superior to that which was made by the Word, says Augustine. It simply indicates how bright that Light must be.  Besides, how much nearer we will be to that Light once we get to know this Light personally and apply ourselves to it that we are enlightened; because we will live darkness without Him. Not only that but when the Light enlightens us, we become a light to the world.[3] [4]

Andreas (600-700) makes an interesting point here in His Cantena. He asks, what is this message John brings? It is that eternal life has appeared to us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son,” and this is what we proclaim to you – that the Word of God who has come into the world and become a man is both God and light.[5] That means we do not have to wait until we die to receive eternal life. God’s Son IS eternal life. So, having the Son of God dwelling in you indicates that you already have eternal life because you have the Son. Symeon, the New Theologian (949-1022 AD), agrees by saying, let no one deceive you. God is Light to those who in union with Him. He imparted of His brightness to the extent that they are purified.[6]

Augustinian monk Walter Hilton (1340-1396) says that the Scriptures tell us that God is Light. We must not mistake it as mere candlelight, but understand it as God’s Light of truth, for truth is spiritual Light. Therefore, those who know this truth can know God more assuredly. However, we can liken it to sunlight for this reason: Just as sunlight enters our eye, giving sight to see those things around us, so the truth of God illuminates the reason for the soul’s existence. It also explains other spiritual matters that are needed to understand our soul’s purpose and destiny. As the Psalmist said: “For with you is the fountain of life; by your light, we see the light.”[7] That is, we will see You, who is Truth Yourself.[8]

English Anglican Bible commentator John Trapp (1601-1669) feels that the Apostle John may be referring to someone in his day when writing that God is Light. Such was a devilish sarcasm of the Manichaeans[9] that God (till He created light) dwelt in darkness as if God were not eternal light, an unapproachable light.[10] Trapp also notes that the Carpocratian heretics were madmen,[11] who taught (even in John’s days, as Epiphanius testified) that men must sin and do the will of the devils; otherwise, they could not enter into heaven! These might well be some of those Antichrists he complained of in chapter four, and the liberals and liars, against whom he argues.[12] John seems to indicate some acquaintance with these groups in verse six.

For John Bunyan (1628-1688), many things related to our lives give our Accuser Satan many occasions to second-guess our salvation. Besides our daily sinful tendencies, sometimes there are pitiful sins and many horrible backslidings in our lives. We often integrate many offensive biases and dishonest opinions into our minds; of all which Satan accuses us before the judgment-seat of God and pleads hard that we may be sent to hell forever because of them. Unfortunately, people commit these things after receiving the Gospel Light. These things violate convictions, wound consciences, and destroy promises.

These are crying sins, says Bunyan; they have a loud voice in themselves against us and give to Satan great advantage and boldness to sue for our destruction before the bar of God. Nor does the devil want us to become less skillful in doing those things that result in our failure to abide in God’s love. Namely, we did it without any cause or reason, and when we had many things to help us against such sins, we only had the grace to use them, keeping us pure and upright. There is also “a sin unto death,”[13] and Satan can assure us by argument and deceptive speech how we can still transgress without crossing the line. However, he then turns this around to enforce his objection against our salvation.[14]

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) also looks at John’s proclamation that God is Light and that God is Love.[15] And the light of His glory is substantially sweet because it is the light of love, and especially appears so in the person of our Redeemer, who is beyond doubt the most beautiful example of love ever witnessed. All of the Godhead’s perfections produce their highest manifestation in the work of redemption, vastly more than in the work of creation. We see Him indirectly in other parts of creation, but here, we see His face’s immediate glory.[16] As to His other areas of involvement, we view Him at a distance. But in this, we come near and behold the immeasurable treasures of his heart.[17]

Edwards notes that when light and heat are united in a minister of the Gospel, it shows that each is genuine, and of the right kind and divine. Divine light always brings heat, and so it is that holy light is accompanied by holy heat. In the sun, such a bright and glorious light and such a powerful, refreshing, revitalizing heat come in every ray.

When there is light in a minister, consisting only of human learning, excellent theoretical knowledge, and the wisdom of this world, without any spiritual warmth and enthusiasm in his heart, or a holy zeal in his ministries, his light is like the light of an ignis fatuus.[18] Certain kinds of rotting carcasses shine in the dark. However, they are of a stinking smell. And if, on the other hand, a minister has warmth and zeal, his heat has nothing beneficial in it without light. Instead, we must reject such rubbish. It is like the heat of a volcano, where, although the fire is intense, it does not qualify as light. To be hot in this manner, and not illuminating, is like an angel of darkness.

By having light and heat united in them, ministers will be like the angels of light, which for their light and brightness are called morning stars. “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”[19] And because of that holy ardor of divine love and zeal with which they burn, they are compared to a flaming fire. “Who makes His angels’ spirits, and His ministers a flaming fire.”[20] The Hebrews called them seraphs, a word derived from a root word that signifies “to burn.”[21]

So, by ministers of the Gospel being burning and shining lights, the churches’ messengers will become like the angels of heaven. Those stars held in the right hand of the Anointed One here below, will be like those morning stars above, and which is much more, as a result of this ministers will be like their glorious Lord and Master; who is not only the Master of ministers of the Gospel, but is the Head and Lord of the glorious angels, whom they adore, and who communicates to them the brightness in which they shine, and the flame with which they burn, and is the glorious luminary and sun of the heavenly world, from whence all the inhabitants of that world have their light and life, and all their glory.[22]


[1] Matthew 7:5

[2] Origen: On First Principles, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Bk. 1, Ch. 2, Para., 7, p. 248; Also, Origen: On First Epistle of John, Bray, G. (Ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, p. 170

[3] Matthew 5:14-16

[4] Augustine, op. cit., John 1:5

[5] Andreas: Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., 1-3 John, p. 170

[6] Symeon the New Theologian: Discourses 15.3., Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., p. 170

[7] Psalm 36:9

[8] Hilton, Walter: The Scale of Perfection, Part 3, pp. 177-178

[9] Manichaeism was founded by an Iranian prophet named Mani. He taught an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil material world of darkness.

[10] 1 Timothy 6:16

[11] Carpocrates lived in Alexandria, Egypt in the first half of the second century AD. His “greatest blasphemy,” one of the prominent heresies leveled against Carpocrates, was his scandalous teaching that wives should be held in common (i.e., shared communally for the purposes of procreation). The Carpocratians taught that wives should be shared because members of the community shunned private property based on their understanding of the righteousness of God. Epiphanes, the son of Carpocrates, identified God’s righteousness as “a kind of communion together with equality.

[12] Trapp, John: On First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 725

[13] 1 John 5:16

[14] Bunyan, John, Practical Works, AGES Digital Library Collections, Vol. 6, The Work of Jesus Christ as an Advocate, Explained, Ch. 6, p. 181

[15] 1 John 4:8

[16] 2 Corinthians 3:18

[17] Edwards, Jonathan: Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1, Ch. 20, p. 393

[18] Ignis fatuus is a light that sometimes appears in the night over marshy ground and is often attributable to the combustion of gas from decomposed organic matter.

[19] Job 28:7

[20] Psalm 104:4

[21] Seraph is also thought of as a “flying fiery dragon.” They had six wings. See Isaiah 14:29; 30:6

[22] Edwards, Jonathan, The Works of: Vol. 6, Seventeen Occasional Sermons, Sermon 15, The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister, pp. 1656-1657

About drbob76

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