WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LIII) 02/17/21

What kind of Gospel are we preaching? asks Octavius Winslow (1808-1878) rhetorically. Isn’t it for poor sinners? “There is not an ill word in it against a poor sinner stripped of his self-righteousness,” says a respected preacher from years ago, It speaks of pardon, acceptance, peace, full redemption here, and unspeakable glory hereafter. Furthermore, the Gospel proclaims a Savior to those drowning in sin, a Redeemer to sin’s captives, a Restorer to ruined lives, a Physician to the sick, a Friend to the needy, and an Advocate for those accused of corruption. It is everything to a self-ruined, sin-accused, law-condemned, justice-threatened, and broken-hearted sinner. It is the “glorious Gospel” our blessed God provides.

Winslow goes on to say that it reveals to the self-ruined sinner the One in whom there is help.[1] And to the sin-accused the One who can wash away all sin.[2] And to the law-condemned the One who saves from all condemnation.[3] To the justice-threatened the One who is a shelter from the wind during the storm.[4] To the broken-hearted, the One who binds and heals.[5] That One is Jesus. O name ever dear, ever sweet, ever precious, ever fragrant, ever-healing to the “poor in spirit!”[6]

Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) discusses the necessity of walking in the light. He says there are three things we must consider. First, to walk (live) in the Light. In many languages, says Maclaren, “light” is the natural symbol for knowledge, joy, and purity. Besides, even light is broken down into various hues and colors in its spectrum, from infrared to ultraviolet. John’s intense moral earnestness leads him to focus on the symbolism, which makes light an expression, not so much our knowledge about joy, but of spiritual-moral purity.

Second, the companions of those who walk in the Light. John points out that if we walk in the Light, we have communion with God. But before that, he said that we have fellowship with one another. The critical factor here for John is the glue that holds believers together, and that is their mutual possession and appreciation for the Light. Even though many other things bond us together in fellowship, nothing strengthens more than the deep affections in the kinship of our souls as we move together into the realm of Light and purity. Sin separates people; sanctification bonds them together in their union with the Anointed One.

Third, the progressive cleansing of those who dwell in the Light. John wants to point out that the blood of the Anointed One not only erases sin from our record, but it also goes on cleansing when any marks of sin appear. We see that clearly expressed in verse nine. In other words, says John, the first is for justification and the second for sanctification. God attempted to impress upon the Hebrews when they came out of Egypt.[7] Besides, says the Apostle, this is not a reference to the blood the Anointed One shed on the cross, but the life-blood transfused into our veins by which we were given a new life. We must have the life of the Anointed One as the animating principle of our lives and the life-force of Jesus keeping us free from the power of sin and death.[8]

Kenneth Wuest (1863-1961) interprets John’s declaration of that which we have seen with discernment in our mind’s eye, and which we heard and presently rings in our ears, we are also reporting to you. This way, you may participate jointly in common with us [in our first-hand knowledge of the life of our Lord]. And the fellowship indeed, which is ours, is with the Father and His Son, Jesus the Anointed One. And these things we are writing so that our joy, having been filled in times past, may persist in that state of fullness through the present time.

This message we bring is good tidings to you that God as to His nature is Light, writes Wuest, and darkness in Him does not exist, not one particle. Suppose we say that the things we have in common with Him are fellowship, but the sphere of darkness is habitually controlling our behavior; we would be lying and not doing the truth. But suppose within Light’s compass, we are habitually ordering our action as He is in the Light. In that case, these things we have in common. Therefore, we [the believer and God] are having fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, keeps continually cleansing us from every sin.[9]

Simon Kistemaker (1930-2017) believes that the words here in verses six and seven were not necessarily meant for the Apostle John’s readers but those spreading false doctrine about the Anointed One’s reality. Apparently, they were not expressing these teachings from some remote location, but were already a part of the church community. That made them doubly dangerous. They were, in fact, wolves in sheep clothing.[10] The main characteristic of true believers is that they live in the Light of God’s truth. They walk in the Light because they walk in union with Him, who is the Light. His radiance reflects on their pathway to show them where to step and what to avoid. And how do they prove that they are walking with and in the Light? Because they have holy fellowship with God and harmonious fellowship with their spiritual brothers and sisters.[11]

As that blessed old hymn written by William Cowper in 1772 so aptly states:

There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains:
Lose all their guilty stains,
Lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

And John knew who this fountain was because he recorded that John the Baptizer was the first to recognize Him the day Jesus went to the Jordan River to be baptized. As he saw Jesus approaching, John the Baptizer lifted his eyes and voice and exclaimed: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.[12] And later in life, in his revelation, John informed the seven assemblies of believers in Asia that this same Jesus would be coming again. Yes, the same Jesus the Anointed One who is the faithful witness to all that John wrote and the first among those raised from death. He is the Leader of the kings of the earth. He is the One that loved us and washed us clean from sin by His blood.[13]

We must remember that when John wrote this epistle, there was no doubt still many messianic Jews and proselyte non-Jews who were part of the church. They were familiar with the Jewish form of sacrificial atonement for sin. In the Jewish Mishnah, we read where the Rabbis discussed the various forms of sacrifice to cover their transgressions. So, someone asked if a sacrifice for one type of sin could be offered at a time appointed for another? When their teacher said, “Yes,” they then said to him, “If so, then those on the Day of Atonement could be offered at the New Moons, but how can those of the New Moons be offered on the Day of Atonement to make atonement which does not pertain to it?” He answered that they were all brought to make atonement for uncleanness that affects the Temple and its Holy things.[14]

It is also evident that John was acquainted with the Hebrew form of poetic structure, such as what we find in the Psalms. They are called “Parallelisms.” One type of such parallelisms was the ABBA called the chiasmus. It is also referred to as a “sandwich” parallelism where the first and last lines are synonymous, and the middles lines are also interchangeable. In this case, the first and last lines are about light, while the middle lines are about darkness. Rewriting these verses makes its organization evident:

                                    A God is Light

                                                B No Darkness in God

                                                B Walking in the Darkness

                                    A Walking in the Light

It is immediately apparent that John’s interest involves determining the meaning of the light/darkness metaphor and applying it ethically to Christian living.[15]


[1] Hosea 13:9

[2] 1 John 1:7

[3] Romans 8:1

[4] Isaiah 32:2

[5] Isaiah 61:1

[6] Winslow, Octavius, The Works of: (Kindle Locations 38056-38063). Monergism Books.

[7] See Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:28

[8] MacLaren, John: Commentary (Expositions of Holy Scripture) 32 Books In 1 Volume: An Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Kindle Location 167553-167651). http://www.DelmarvaPublications.com. Kindle Edition.

[9] Wuest, Kenneth S., The New Testament: An Expanded Translated, (1 Jn 1:3–7). Eerdmans. Grand Rapids, MI: 1961

[10] Matthew 7:15

[11] Simon J. Kistemaker, op. cit., pp. 243-244

[12] John 1:29

[13] Revelation 1:5

[14] Mishnah, Fourth Division: Nezikin, Tractate Shabuoth, Ch. 1:5, p. 410

[15] Burge, Gary M. The Letters of John, op. cit., p. 65

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s