WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LI) 02/15/21

Charles Hodge (1797-1878) argues that the consequences attributed to justification are inconsistent with the assumption that it consists either in pardon or in the impartation of righteousness. Those consequences are peace, reconciliation, and eternal life. As the Apostle Paul said, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.”[1] Pardon does not produce peace. In fact, it leaves the conscience unsatisfied. A pardon may remove the penalty for a person’s crime, but it does not take away the fact that they are still criminals. There can be no satisfaction of justice until they are cleared of having committed a crime. What satisfies the justice of God and the conscience of the sinner is the blood of Jesus, the Anointed One, the Lamb of God that cleanses from all unrighteousness. It is done by removing the guilt, thereby producing a peace beyond comprehension.[2] Hodge goes on to say; our sanctification is due to His death since His blood cleanses us from all sin. It cleanses from the guilt of sin by paying the price and secures inward purification by securing the Holy Spirit’s gift.[3]

Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885) says that we must be aware of the significant error of making this wonderful image of being washed and cleansed in Jesus’ blood a literal ceremony. There is no container of actual blood into which our bodies or souls are plunged. This glowing imagery reigns in parts of the Final Covenant, especially in John’s writings, as well as in our sermons and hymns. Unfortunately, many Christians pass their lives without looking through the word pictures in the text to the literal wording, thereby becoming liable to deception and arguments based on a figure-of-speech with no bases in the literal interpretation.

This figurative speech means, says Whedon, that our sins are first, upon our faith, forgiven us on account of the death of the Anointed One; and, second, that the Holy Spirit given as a consequence of that death, does, in the completeness of that work, so strengthen and energize our moral and spiritual powers that we are able to reject temptation and avoid sin; and just in the measure and fulness of that power in exercise is the entireness of our sanctification. When that divinely-bestowed power is complete, the sanctification is thorough. But it is to be noted that while our pardon is immediate from the Anointed One’s blood, our sanctification is mediated through the Spirit purchased by the Anointed One’s blood. We are justified by the Anointed One; we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit.[4]

William Graham (1810-1883) addresses the subject of fellowship with Jesus and our Father in heaven. He notes that the Apostle John, in one passage, says that it dispels the darkness of ignorance so that it is impossible to enjoy sinning while we walk in darkness. If then, you wish a quiet and peaceful walk with God, you must treasure communion with Him: if you desire the Light of truth to shine on your path, you must walk in union with Him who is the Light. There is no way of dispelling this moral darkness except by fellowship with God. In Him, you find light and life and joy. You can have no communication with Him except in the truth, and all those who seek fellowship with God in systems of falsehood and superstition deceive themselves, and the truth is not in them.[5]

Johannes H. A. Ebrard (1819-1893) notes that to have fellowship with God means to have communion with Him who is Light. Such companionship cannot be understood other than a close relationship in life, which John mentioned in verse three, and as his Gospel defines it.[6] Now he says that he stands in such union with God, the Light, as a bodily member with the head. The Greek verb peripateó means “to walk.” But, notes Ebrard, this walk is better understood in the context of the Apostle Paul’s illustration to the Romans[7] and what John says here in his epistle.[8] It supplies the confirmation and external assurance that a person carries in themselves as part of their nature – their moral behavior, so far as it manifests itself before human eyes, and is discernible by others.

From the extent to which a person chooses to let their inner nature be seen, says Ebrard, we may draw a sure conclusion about the character of that internal nature itself. Anyone with the tendency to outwardly serve darkness and claim to have an internal secret nature in fellowship with God is a liar. Such harmony between their inner and outer attitude cannot possibly exist. An internal union with God reveals itself externally to believers through the fruit of sanctification. Yes, the Light which shines inwardly must of necessity have a glow of holy consecration over the whole life that other people’s eyes can see it. Those born of the Light and live in solidarity with God cannot hide the source for their behavior.[9] It would be like setting an oil lamp on the table for everyone to see where the flame gets its fuel.[10]

William Alexander (1824-1911) is struck by how the Apostle John talks about having an Advocate with the Father, Jesus the righteous Anointed One. He is the atonement for the whole world. God loved us and sent His Son to pay the ransom price for our sins. Where the Apostle passes on to deal with the spiritual life, he once more deals with beliefs. He speaks of eternal self-evidence as if in a speech. He waxes elegant when talking about “down from heaven.”[11] Identical propositions, all-inclusive, teachings on the moral and spiritual life, the Trinity, the Incarnation, Atonement, are all strict theological truths.

As a sacred writer in his Epistle, John’s other characteristic, says Alexander, is that he appears to indicate throughout the moral and spiritual conditions necessary for receiving the Gospel God endowed to the Church as the essence of their life. These conditions are three. The first is spirituality. Second, submission to the Spirit’s teaching, that they may know by it the meaning of the words of Jesus. Thirdly, the “anointing” of the Holy Spirit is “teaching all things” that Jesus said.[12]

For Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901), the Anointed One’s blood conception as an energetic power, as a fountain of life, opened by death and still flowing, is clearly marked. It explains John’s stress on the blood and the water from our Lord’s side at the Crucifixion.[13] That which was outwardly, physically, death, was yet reconcilable with life. The Anointed One’s spirit lived even in Death and through Death.[14]

Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) tells us that John was the Apostle of love, but he was also a “son of thunder.”[15] His intense moral earnestness and love made him hate evil, sternly condemn it, and his words flash and roll like no other words in Scripture, except the words of the Lord of love. In the immediate context, he has been laying down what is to him the very heart of his message, that “God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” There are spots in the sun, great tracts of blackness on its radiant disc; but God is unmingled, perfect purity. That being so, it is clear that no person can be in harmony or hold communion with Him unless they, too, are in the Light.

So, with fiery indignation, says Maclaren, John turns to the people, of whom there were some, even in the primitive Church, who laid claims to a lofty spirituality and communion with God, all the while were visibly living in the darkness of sin. He will not mince matters with them. He roundly says that they are lying, and the worst sort of lie — an acted lie: “They do not the truth.” Then, with a quick turn, he offers to these pretenders examples: the people who are in fellowship with God. He does this by laying down the principle that walking in the Light is essential to having an alliance with God. In John’s usual fashion, he turns the opposite into a somewhat different form to suggest another aspect of the truth. Instead of saying, as we might expect, “If we walk in the Light, as He is in the Light, we have fellowship with God,” he says, “we have fellowship with one another.” Then he adds a still further result of that walk, “the blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin.”[16]

In one of his evening devotions, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) points to the word “cleanses” in the text of verse eight. “Cleanses,” says the text – not “will cleanse.” Some people think they may look forward to being pardoned as a dying wish. Oh! How infinitely better to have cleansing now than to depend on the rare possibility of forgiveness at the moment of death. Some imagine that a sense of pardon is attainable after many years as a Christian. But forgiveness of sin is a present thing – a privilege for here and now, a joy for this very hour. The moment a sinner trusts Jesus, they are fully forgiven.

The text, says Spurgeon, being written in the present tense, indicates continuance. It was “cleanses” yesterday; it is “cleanses” today, it will be “cleanses” tomorrow: it will always be with you, until you cross the river; every hour you may come to this fountain, for it still cleanses. Notice, likewise, the completeness of the cleansing, “The blood of Jesus the Anointed One His Son cleanses us from allsin” – not only from sin but “from all sin.”


[1] Romans 5:1

[2] Philippians 4:7

[3] Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology: op. cit., The Complete Three Volumes (Kindle Location 27391-27692). GLH Publishing. Kindle Edition

[4] Daniel D. Whedon: on First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 255

[5] Graham, W., The Spirit of Love, op. cit., p. 38

[6] John 15:1; 17:21

[7] See Romans 6:4; 8:4

[8] 1 John 2:6

[9] Ebrard, John H. A., Biblical Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, in Continuation of the Work of Hermann Olshausen, translated by William Burt Pope, Published by T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1860, pp. 88-89

[10] Cf. Matthew 5:15; Luke 11:33

[11] See John 3:13; 6:33, 38, 41-42, 50-51, 58

[12] William Alexander: The Expositor’s Bible, W. Robertson Nicoll, Ed., op. cit., The Epistles of St. John, p. 59

[13] See John 19:34

[14] Brooke F. Westcott: op. cit., p. 36

[15] Mark 3:17

[16] Alexander Maclaren: Sermons on First Epistle of John, op. cit., Walking in the Light.

About drbob76

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