WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XLII) 12/01/20

Did John come up with this idea of light and darkness on his own? No! He heard what his Master said about it. Jesus told him and others that He came as a Light to shine in this dark world so that all who put their trust in Him will no longer wander around in the darkness.[1] That’s another way of saying, accept the truth instead of continuing to live with the lies you’ve heard. I’m sure that John remembered what his Lord said about those aligned with the worldly side of life. He told them their father is the devil. They belong to him. They want to do what he wants. He was a murderer from the beginning. He was always against the truth. There is no truth in him. He is like the lies he tells. Yes, the devil is a liar. He is the father of lies. But then Jesus says, I am telling them the truth, and that’s why they don’t believe me.[2] So when someone turns down an invitation to invite Jesus into their heart and lives, it’s because they don’t want to know the truth.

So, John is not mincing any words here. Jesus came to bring us light – the understanding of who God is, as opposed to darkness – not knowing who God is, in addition to His plan of salvation and the gift of eternal life. It is what John wanted to pass on to those who read this Epistle. But if we claim to have this Light and live with the aid of this Light, but we are dwelling in spiritual darkness, it means we are trying to fool someone. John recorded the words of Jesus, where He said: “We judge unbelievers by this fact: The Light came into the world. But they did not want Light. They wanted darkness because they were doing evil things. Everyone who does evil hates the Light. They will not come to the Light because the Light will show all the bad things they have done.”[3]  

Therefore, John says here, if you are one of those who still prefer the darkness while claiming to be living in the Light, you are lying.  John gives us the reason, “But anyone who follows the true way comes to the Light. Then the Light will show that whatever they have done was done through God.[4]  In other words, if you are truly living in the Light, you won’t have to say a thing, the Light shining through you will tell it all.  Not only that, but Jesus clearly explains: “Whoever walks in daylight will not stumble and fall because they can see with the light from the sun.  But whoever walks at night will stumble because there is no light.[5]  So, there’s more than one way to tell if a person is lying about walking in the Light.  Jesus knew His time here on earth was limited, so He cautioned the people listening to Him that they had better start following the Light while it was still available.[6]

COMMENTARY

What Benedictine monk Bede (672-735) shared with us back in verse three, he now expands on here by saying that John calls sin heresies and hatred darkness. Therefore, the mere confession of one’s faith is not enough for salvation if there is no sign of good works confirming that faith. Simultaneously, the goodness of deeds is of no value if not done in the simplicity of faith and love. Anyone who is in any way surrounded by darkness is unable to have fellowship with the One in whom there is no sign of wickedness at all.[7]

When taken at face value, what Bede the Venerable says here might make us wonder how Jesus lived a sinless life when surrounded by doubting Jews and pagan Gentiles the whole time He was here on earth. So, by John saying here in verse eight that we should be more like Jesus, it might be less effective than we are asked to believe. But Symeon, the New Theologian, has no doubts. He says, see to it, brothers, that while we seem to be in God and think that we have communion with Him, we will find ourselves excluded and separated from Him unless we can see His Light.[8]

John Owen (1616-1683) states, then, if these things are so, “what type of people we should be, in all manner of holy behavior?” Even “our God is a consuming fire.” What communion is there between light and darkness? Shall sin and lust dwell in those thoughts which receive in and carry out love from and to the Father? Holiness fits His presence forever; an unclean spirit cannot draw close to Him. A godless heart cannot live with Him. A lustful person will not desire to hold fellowship with an upright person, and will a person with worthless and foolish imaginations have communion and dwell with the most-holy God? No!

There is no consideration given love, says Owen, but it is a powerful motive producing holiness. Did not Ephraim say, “What have I to do any more with idols?” when in God, I find salvation. Communion with the Father is wholly inconsistent with loose behavior. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk around in the darkness, we lie and do not do what is true.” “The one who says, “I know Him” (I have communion with Him), “and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in them.”[9] The most groundless or glorious pretense made to an acquaintance with the Father, without holiness and obedience to His commandments, serves only to prove the pretenders to be liars. Love of the world and love of the Father do not fellowship together.[10]

Matthew Poole (1624-1679) tells us that Light and darkness are frequently contrasted with holiness and wickedness.[11] Poole sums it up, this way: If any person pretends to enjoy friendship with God or to receive holy and gracious gifts from Him and continue to live sinful lives, they are practical liars, guilty of doing wrong, and makes their profession of faith false and insincere.[12]

Poole does not forget to mention that we all have sinful tendencies, which the Apostle Paul admitted.[13] When that happens, John states that if we confess our sins, He will be fair with us and forgive our sins.[14] The sin John is referencing is out and out disobedience to God’s Word and Will and because they only have a formal relationship with Him, not a justified relationship.

George Swinnock (1627-1673) says that a person’s life is often spoken of in the Word of God as a walk.[15] Look at it this way: The womb is where they set out at the dawning of their life. As they go, their actions are the steps they take as they begin their walk toward their journey’s end, at an inn or resort. Thus, we call a Christian’s life “walking in the light[16] or “walking in the law.”[17] That’s because their motion is regular and progressive. They must possess a divine word for all their works and a precept from God for all their practices. Scripture is the compass by which they chose their direction and the square ruler by which they build. That’s why they are said to “walk with God” because they proceed according to His Word and Will. They do not walk independently or without purpose,[18] but according to God’s design and destiny. Furthermore, the holy life of a saint is similar to an orderly walk in these two respects.[19]

Swinnock says that the comfort of your life now consists of communion with God, but those who say they have fellowship with God and walk in darkness are lying. Your God hates to taste those waters which run out of such moldy vessels; much less will He put up with any contamination from rotten hearts, and smelly breaths, to draw near to Him in heaven, “Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God?”[20] [21]

Jonathan Edwards: (1703-1758) points out the scope of the Apostle’s message and the connection of his discourse, plainly show that the Apostle means to assert that all moral good is from God. In the preceding verses, the Apostle John warns those he writes not to blame God for their sins or pride or lusts. Instead, know that every blessing is a gift from God. He does not pass out evil deeds. God is the Father of Light and only Light. And because He is Light, there is no darkness around Him, not even a shadow. What He says is parallel to what the Apostle John says when signifying God’s perfect holiness without any sin.[22]

Samuel Eyles Pierce (1746-1829) declares that we have no fellowship with God while living in sin. If we say that we commune with Him and still walk in darkness, we lie because we are not telling the truth. It is wholly incompatible with the grace of God to have fellowship with God while wallowing in sin. And our Lord the Anointed One Himself expressed the impossibility of it, when He said to Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”[23] I believe it does not, says Pierce, nor is it designed to say that a sinner can be in union with God while they live in an unrenewed and unregenerated condition. Still, it may be the case that some unbelievers profess to have faith in the Anointed One and boast of having communion with the Holy Trinity.


[1] John 12:46

[2] Ibid. 8:44-45

[3] John 3:19-20

[4] Ibid. 3:21

[5] Ibid. 11:10

[6] Ibid. 12:35-36, 46

[7] Bede the Venerable: On 1 John, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., p. 171

[8] Symeon the New Theologian: Discourses 33.2, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., p. 171

[9] 1 John 2:4

[10] John Owen: Of Communion with God, Part 1, Ch. 4, pp. 51-52

[11] Luke 16:8; Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5

[12] Poole, Matthew. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible – Book of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John (Annotated) (Kindle Location 313). Grace Works Multimedia. Kindle Edition

[13] Romans 7:15-20

[14] 1 John 1:9

[15] Psalm 39

[16] 1 John 1:6

[17] Psalm 110:9

[18] 1 Corinthians 3:3

[19] George Swinnock: Nichol’s Series of Standard Divines: Puritan Period, Vol. 2, 1968, p. 185

[20] 1 Corinthians 6:9

[21] Ibid. p. 227

[22] Edwards, Jonathan, The Works of: Vol. 6, Remarks on Important Theological Controversies, Ch. 4, p. 325

[23] John 3:3

About drbob76

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