WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XLV) 12/04/20

As a result, says Stock, we can join our Lord in calling Satan a liar and a murderer from the beginning.[1] False prophets, despite all their pretensions to holiness, and presumptuous confidence, are called liars.[2] So, the Apostle does not hesitate to say of those who walk in darkness willingly, continuously, and progressively, and yet affirm that they have fellowship with God – that both they and we if we do the same, lie, and do not the truth. English churchman Dr. Edward Goulburn says that any person who pretends to love God in the absence of loving their neighbor is a delusion. Goulburn concludes, for some, loving their neighbor is not as hard as loving God since it is easier to walk by sight than by faith.[3]

Dr. Stock then reminds us that a mixed multitude accompanied Israel out of Egypt,[4] and out of this intermixed band, arose the murmurings which disgraced and troubled the chosen of God. Tares grow with the wheat[5] and in the East resemble it so closely that they are somewhat difficult to distinguish one from the other. Among the ten virgins, five were foolish.[6] All possessed the same thing; all went forth to meet the bridegroom, and all took lamps with them; a kind of kindred brilliancy adorned them all, and to external casual observation, one bridesmaid looked the same as the others.

Unfortunately, laments Stock, this same exists among Churches where false and true believers co-exist. It allows false claims to boast based on pretension. In doing so, they brag about their being equal with Diotrephes.[7] They claim to be part of the Body of the Anointed One but belong to the church of Satan.[8] They are offensive to God and contrary to all Christians, hindering truth by their unrighteousness.[9] [10]

The Apostle Jude vehemently denounces such; saying, “When these people join you at the love feasts of the church, they are flies on a piece of meat, laughing and carrying on, gorging and stuffing themselves with anything they can get their hands on. They are like big puffs of smoke blowing over dry land without giving rain, promising much, but producing nothing. They are like trees without stripped clean of fruit. They are not only dead, but doubly dead, for they have been pulled out, roots and all, to be burned. All they leave behind them is shame and disgrace like the dirty foam left along the beach by the wild waves. They wander around like lost stars in outer space on their way to a crunching black hole!”[11]

Richard H. Tuck (1817-1868) sees the Apostle John as telling his readers to be true to themselves. That means a person should take care to keep their profession and conduct in complete harmony. If they say that they are in union with the Anointed One, they must walk in cooperation with the Anointed One. No Christian should live their lives for their sake, but the Savior’s sake. Since our Lord honored us by saving our souls, we should praise and glorify our Lord by not losing our souls. If we conduct our lives in righteous living for other people’s sake, they may not understand the saving and sanctifying power behind our motives. In so doing, we risk misrepresenting our Lord and Master. That is why there must be consistency between our profession and our possession of being a new creation in the Anointed One. If we fail to do so, we cannot be true to ourselves but are traitors to ourselves. That can only lead to becoming slaves to our sinful nature instead of being servants to our spiritual nature.[12]

Daniel Steele (1824-1914) mentions that if a person makes a genuine case of confession followed by walking in the light, then that person walking in the Light should declare this fact to benefit those still stumbling around in the dark. They need to know that their so-called “victorious soul” is deceived and the truth is not in them. They must also verify that while the Apostle John penned these words, he could not truthfully say that he always walked in the light and never did anything about which to feel guilty. What John is talking about does not apply to sinners, but to Christians trying to live our spiritual lives in an immoral world. Otherwise, it would make John the most self-contradictory writer found in the whole range of secular and sacred literature. For he declares the purpose of his writing to be “that you sin not,” “that those born of God should not sin.” Then he is inspired to write that all who obey God’s prohibition and, by grace, never sin should be branded as deluded or lying.

But Steele is not finished. He focuses on the erroneous interpretation of “Walk in darkness.” When we allow ourselves to be encompassed in darkness or sin by our own choice, it is an effort to hide those acts which our conscience, fellow believers, and God condemn.[13] Religious fanatics of all eras have endeavored to combine loose morals with the possession of genuine Christian faith. It seems that John found such persons among the Gnostics in the church at Ephesus. He says that they lie and live not the truth. They affirm what they know to be positively false when they profess communion with the holy God and are willfully choosing darkness and sin.[14] Such a choice is fatal to fellowship with God.[15]

John J. Lias (1834-1923) looks at the necessity of holiness and warns that we may deceive ourselves concerning our relationship with the Anointed One because He warned us of this danger.[16] Also, His Apostles warned us.[17] Many deceive themselves still, resting in outward observances, in membership of a particular society, belief in certain doctrines, or certain feelings or experiences in the present or past. Such grounds of acceptance, in the absence of the one necessary characteristic, are simple deceptions.

The only test of present acceptance is the “walking in the Light.” Nothing can be more evident than the Apostle John’s statement of this truth. Not only does he say “we lie,” if we claim fellowship with the Anointed One and walk in darkness, but we “live not the truth,” that is, we do not merely make a misstatement, but we act out the lie we speak. We deny the Eternal Principles and behave as though they were not in existence. Our lives are perpetual defiance of God and His Son Jesus the Anointed One.

Lias goes on to say that all this about not living the truth is Gospel. It rests on the Anointed One’s indwelling in the believer, which John talks about here, and we find elsewhere in the Final Covenant. So, our Lord teaches[18] the expression, continually used throughout the Final Covenant, signifying the presence of inner life.[19]  Paul limits freedom from condemnation to those walking in union with the Spirit,[20] thus fulfilling the righteousness of the law. What it is to walk in darkness and light.

Lias then makes these important points: To walk in the Light is to (a) acknowledge the truth revealed in Jesus the Anointed One; (b) this revelation makes known to us God’s will, and primarily – the point we are at present considering – in what true holiness consists; (c) true holiness consists, as we have just seen, in fulfilling the righteousness of the law, by virtue of the illumination we have received, which enables us to distinguish right from wrong, to set up before us a higher standard of purity and perfection. To “walk” in the light is to press daily forward towards the realization of this ideal. The enlightened 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.[21]

Erich Haupt (1841-1910) writes that only when a person who opens themselves to the Light and has entered into the domain of Light can experience in themselves the effects of the Light. Only when the memory of his father’s house swayed all the thoughts of the prodigal son, and he came back to this sphere of his home, does the father reach out to meet him with the announcement of forgiveness. The kingdom of God, and its interests, its views, and its measure of all things are to the natural man altogether sealed up and strange.

When a person obtains an eye and a heart for reconciliation, says Haupt, they enter the sphere of Light. In that Light begins at once its ethical influence upon and in them. Therefore, a person’s ethical conduct is a consequence of their walk in the sphere of Light. The same goes for those who walk in darkness. By shining, the light reveals what the night is hiding. There is also the immediate result of walking in the Light. The person perceives why and where the darkness occurred and recognizes it as the absence of light.[22]


[1] John 8:44

[2] Revelation 2:2

[3] Goulburn, Edward Meyrick: The Pursuit of Holiness, D. Appleton Company, New York, 1870, Ch XX, p. 209

[4] Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4

[5] Matthew 13:25

[6] Ibid. 25:1

[7] Diotrephes is mentioned in 3 John 1:9-10. Diotrephes was a self-seeking troublemaker in an unnamed local church in the first century. We know nothing of his background, other than he was probably a Gentile (his name means “nurtured by Jupiter”).

[8] Revelation 3:9

[9] 1 Thessalonians 2:15

[10] Stock, John: On First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 29-31

[11] Jude 1:12-13 – Paraphrase by RRS.

[12] Richard H. Tuck: Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., p. 238

[13] See John 3:19, 20

[14] See James 3:14

[15] Steele, Daniel: op. cit., p. 10–11

[16] Matthew 7:22, 23; 25:44

[17] Revelation 3:17; 1 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 6:7, 8; Philippians 3:18, 19

[18] Matthew 7:16

[19] John 15:1-8

[20] Romans 8:1

[21] Lias, John J., The First Epistle of St. John with Homiletical Treatment, James Nisbet & Co., London: 1887, pp. 38–43

[22] Haupt, E., The First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., pp. 36–37

About drbob76

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