WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XLIII) 12/02/20

Therefore, it must be saints that John is referring to, says Pierce, or such as were connected with them in church communion, and by a Gospel profession, whom Paul must have his eye on, and design for, when he says that God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all. So, how can they profess to know the Anointed One – His eternity, His incarnation, His manifestation as the Light, His being the Essential Word, and of His being Divine? That Eternal Life was with the Father, and they are still ignorant of this truth? They also professed they received the knowledge of Him and that they had communion with Him. The outward visible church of the Anointed One, is often constituted both by persons who are born again of God, and those who are not. The former are partakers of the Anointed One: the latter is not. Yet what they seemed to be with the Lord. However, they did not know themselves until it was manifested by outward conduct; or by defection and a departure from the truth.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, notes Pierce, and yet walk in darkness, we lie and “do not the truth.”[1] John might have designed this to prevent real saints from being careless and negligent. He wants to stir up their minds, reach their hearts, and express the best for them. Furthermore, they need to watch their hearts, be careful with their behavior, avoid sinful tendencies in themselves and others because it would interrupt their holding, and maintaining communion with their heavenly Father.

With His being Light, Purity, and Holiness, Pierce says, there could be no communion with God if the mind is impure. No. Holiness becomes the house and worshippers of the Lord forever. Also, in the second place, to declare that such persons who were under the influence of their sins, and corruptions, could not, so long as this was the case, no matter what they say, have fellowship with the Lord. Are we, the apostles of the Anointed One, to be found wandering around in darkness, and at the same time, say we have fellowship with God the Father, who is Light, and in Him, there is no darkness at all? If so, we prove ourselves liars and do not follow the truth.[2]

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) points out that from what John has said so far, he draws the inevitable conclusion that the absolute condition of man’s fellowship with God is “walking in the Light,” and, therefore, walking in darkness along with fellowship with God is impossible. John stands opposed to a so-called “lip-service Christianity,” the indecision in which confession and communion stand in contradiction. Why speak about having fellowship with God when it is not real? There is a wide gap between what we profess and what we possess when it comes to fellowship with God in His Light – holiness.[3]

Richard Holmes Tuck (1817-1868) says John was enjoying the “fellowship of the Father and the Son.” That fellowship, he wanted the disciples to enjoy as fully as he did. He would, therefore, have them explore its privileges and understand what it takes to keep it holy. And since he has in mind the particular character of the spiteful influences to which the disciples were then exposed, his instructions exclusively bear relation to their correction. It was then freely taught that all conduct is morally of little value to the spiritual person – nothing they do, in the bodily and material spheres, is regarded as a sin. Nothing breaks up their fellowship with God. It is clear, such teaching strikes at the very root of Christianity, virtually the recovery of humanity to righteousness. It is not sentimental or mystical holiness, but a real, present, practical way of living right, which must include knowing how to “possess the vessel of the body in sanctification and honor.”[4]

Marvin Vincent (1834-1922) helps us see that the Apostle John is contrasting “being in the Light” with “walking in darkness, and “Lying” with “telling the truth.” These are a combination of positive and negative statements.[5] The phrase to do the truth occurs only in John’s Gospel and First Epistle.[6] Walking in darkness keeps one from doing what is right. “Right action is true thought realized,” says Vincent. “Every fragment of right done is so much truth made visible.”[7]

John James Lias (1834-1923) believes that John was more concerned with the Life manifested in Jesus than with His person. Earlier in his Gospel, the Apostle spoke of His Person in its fulness.[8] He also spends little time repeating what he said about the Logos. Here it was the Life the Anointed One who came to deliver to all who would believe.[9] Lias points out that nothing can be more evident than John’s statement of this truth about lying. John says, “we lie,” if we claim fellowship with the Anointed One, “do not the truth.” It is more than making a misstatement; we act out the lie we speak. We deny the Eternal Principles and act as though they don’t exist. Our lives are continuous defiance of God’s Word and His Son Jesus the Anointed One as the Light. The Gospel doctrine rests on the indwelling of the Anointed One in the believer. Our Lord’s teaching is continually used throughout the Final Covenant,[10] signifying the presence of inner life.[11]

Lias says that freedom from the Law’s condemnation belongs only to those walking with the Spirit[12] and, therefore, fulfilling the righteousness of the Law. What is it to walk in the darkness or the Light? To walk in the Light is to acknowledge the truth revealed in Jesus the Anointed One. This revelation makes known to us God’s will, and primarily as the essence of holiness; true holiness consists in fulfilling the righteousness of the Law, by the illumination we received, which enables us to distinguish right from wrong, to set up before us a higher standard of purity and perfection. “Walking” in the light is to press daily forward towards realizing this idea of completion. The illumined soul perceives this, as well as all the steps which lead to it. To walk in darkness is, of course, the exact opposite of all this.[13]

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) lets us know that these opening words show us that the Gospel is a declaration, a manifestation, and a showing. It is being declared by those who heard, saw, and touched the Anointed One, the Son of God, who came to deliver the Good News. The Anointed One manifested this by coming in human form to walk among the people and let them hear Him, see Him, and touch Him. And it was shown by the life He lived, the miracles He performed, and rising from the dead. Lloyd-Jones goes on to say that the Gospel is also an announcement. It is more than speculation and far more significant than a human idea or philosophy.[14] Scriptures declared that the One prophesied in the First Covenant will be in the present. He is the author of a Final Covenant, decided on the cross, confirmed by His resurrection, and sealed with His blood. There is nothing else like it, and there never will be.

Ronald Ralph Williams (1906-1970) wonders what was there from the beginning? It is not an easy question to answer, he says. He points to the New English Bible (NEB) and notes that they made verse one look more straightforward than it is in the original Greek. The NEB reads: “IT WAS THERE from the beginning, we have heard it; we have seen it with our own eyes; we looked upon it, and felt it with our own hands, and it is of this we tell. Our theme is the word of life.” When compared to the original Greek, we read: “The thing that was there from the start, the thing that we have heard, seen with our eyes, gazed at, that our hands felt, concerning the message of life – and life was made visible.”[15] As Williams sees it, the NEB makes it old news while the Greek makes it more contemporary.

Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002) sees hearing and proclamation coordinated. That’s because the “we” are the mediators and what was heard to the “you” who should accept it precisely in the same way as the “we” received it themselves. It is more than John passing along a mere message. Instead, as the experience and mediation of higher reality. That’s why John makes a fresh start after he says, “we have heard.”[16] What would you think about someone sharing what a ride on a roller coaster feels like if they never experienced it themselves? The same goes for anyone trying to describe a real encounter with Jesus the Anointed One, have never had one themselves?

Bruce B. Barton (1954- shares that in many Scriptures, they contrast God and evil’s realm by the differences between light and darkness. Here is a chart that helps us see this very clearly:

DARKNESSLIGHTREFERENCE
Despairing conditionHopeful conditionIsaiah 9:2
Inability to recognize the LightAbility to enlighten the worldJohn 1:4-6, 9
The power of SatanThe power of GodActs 26:18
Evil deedsGood deedsRomans 13:12-14
Natural sinful heart conditionGift from God2 Corinthians 4:6
Fruitless worksSource of all that is goodEphesians 5:8-11
Spiritual forces of evilArm of GodEphesians 6:12-13
Powerful captivityKingdom of the SonColossians 1:12-14
Inability to exist in God’s presenceGod is omnipresent1 John 1:5, 7
Transient naturePermanent nature1 John 2:8-11

[1]Do not the truth” is another way of saying someone is not sticking with the truth.

[2] Pierce, S. E., An Exposition of the First Epistle General of John, op. ci., Vol. 1, pp. 50–53.

[3] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., February 1890, p. 117

[4] Richard Holmes Tuck: Homiletic Commentary, I John, op. cit., p. 236

[5] See verse 5

[6] See John 3:21

[7] Vincent, Marvin: Word Studies on NT, op. cit., pp. 314-315

[8] See John 1:1-18

[9] Lias, John James: An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, Inc., Minneapolis, 1982 Reprint of 1887, p. 11

[10] Matthew 7:16

[11] John 15:1-8

[12] Romans 8:1

[13] Lias, J. J. First Epistle of John Homiletical, op. cit., pp. 39–43

[14] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn: Life in Christ, Studies in 1 John, Five Volumes in One, Crossway, Wheaton, IL, 2002, p. 41

[15] Williams, Robert Ralph: The Letters of John and James, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1965, p. 17

[16] Schnackenburg, Rudolf: The Johannine Epistles, Crossroad, New York, 1992, p. 49

About drbob76

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