WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LIV) 02/18/21

Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi gives us this insight: “For uncleanness that affects the Temple and its Holy Things through immorality, atonement is made by the goat whose blood is sprinkled within [the Holy of Holies] and by the Day of Atonement; for all other transgressions spoken of in the Law, venial or grave, immoral or unwitting, conscious or unconscious, sins of omission or commission, sins punishable by ex-communication or by death at the hands of the court, the scapegoat makes atonement.”[1] In like manner, John says that the blood of the sacrificial Lamb of God covers all sins regardless of their nature or seriousness.

Then, in response to what the Apostle John says here, Augustus Neander (1789-1850) writes that if every believer John addressed in this letter were already perfect and their fellowship with God unbreakable, and if their life’s course led them to walk in the Light free from the darkness of any kind, then John would have no reason to add anything more to what he’s already said at this point.

But John was well aware that even in believers, notes Neander, although their life is in its determining tendency a walking in the Light, yet the dark, the sinful, still mingle with it their disturbing influence. Their former stand-point of darkness and sin, from which redemption has set them free, remains in effect. Hence, this “walking in the light” must be developed in a continuous conflict with the former darkness; the whole life must be gradually transformed into the light from the Light already received. And hence, in reference to that sinfulness which still cleaves to the believer and opposes itself to the light, he says, that where that walking in the light exists as the determining tendency, the mark of fellowship with God, there the blood of Jesus the Anointed One will make known its purifying efficacy, its power to cleanse from all still struggling with sin.[2]

William Lincoln (1825-1888) emphasizes that light and darkness cannot coexist uniquely. He says, but now it is seen that fellowship must be in perfect light if God has a friendship with us. God cannot love our murky circumstances. I do not say He cannot come into our darkness. He has done that, but if He comes into our unlit condition, it is not that He may stay there, nor will He be content in going back to His Light by Himself. He wants to bring us to His light.[3] He tells us, for instance, that “God has called us to His eternal glory by the Anointed One Jesus.” First, God came to humanity’s home; but now He will bring humankind to His house. God visited Adam and Eve in paradise, but now the Anointed One promises, “Those that overcome will eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”[4]

Andrew Maclaren (1826-1910) sees John as the Apostle of love, but he was also a “son of thunder.” His intense moral earnestness and very 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 in God is unmingled, perfect purity. That being so, it is clear that no man can be in sympathy or hold communion with Him unless he, too, in his measure, is light.[5]

Marvin Vincent (1834-1921) points out an essential factor in verse seven by explaining that the phrase, the blood of Jesus His Son, is chosen with profound insight. Though Ignatius uses the phrase blood, yet the word blood is inappropriate to the Son as God conceived in His divine nature. The word Jesus brings out His human nature, in which He assumed a real body of flesh and blood, which blood was shed for us.[6] The human name, Jesus, shows that His blood is available for man. The divine name, His Son, shows that it is incredibly effective.

Augustus H. Strong (1836-1921) tells us about a meeting years ago at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. The delegates advocated their various ideas about human life. Still, no religion except Christianity attempted to show that there “was any intellect given to humans to make sense of these ideals.” When Joseph Cook challenged ancient religious priests to answer Lady Macbeth’s question: “How do I cleanse this bloody right hand?” the priests were silent. But Christianity declares that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Says Ezekiel Gilman Robinson (1815-1893): Christianity differs from all other religions in being:

            (1) A historical religion;

            (2) in turning abstract law into a person to be loved;

            (3) in furnishing a demonstration of God’s love in the Anointed One;

            (4) in providing atonement for sin and forgiveness for the sinner;

            (5) in giving the power to fulfill the law and sanctify life.[7]

Ernst Drylander (1843-1922) makes a point that the thought that ‘God is Light’ was not in itself new or never heard before. Dr. Drylander says that when Ezekiel saw the glory of God, it appeared to him as “a great storm coming from the north, driving before it a huge cloud that flashed with lightning and shone with brilliant light. There was a fire inside the cloud, and in the middle of the fire glowed something like gleaming amber.”[8] The Psalmist also recognized God’s power and glory in Nature by exclaiming, “You wear Light like a robe. You stretch out heaven like a starry curtain.”[9] Therefore, God in His essential being is Light free from the darkness, which overshadows us. He is without the cloud of error’s gloom, untouched by the blemishes of sin, and He, Himself, is Truth, Holiness, and Salvation. It is what the prophets of the First Covenant realized.[10]

Furthermore, Drylander asks, what does walk in the Light, as He is in the Light, mean? How can it be done? Foremost, let us remember that the Apostle John makes no impossible demand when he speaks of our “walking in the light.” He does not require that we be perfect in the sense in which God is perfect, but he does demand that we should, in all sincerity, place ourselves under the influence of the Light which is in God and streams forth from Him. He does not ask for perfected holiness, as God is holy, but he demands focused zeal. Nothing should hinder the Light of truth and holiness from permeating our life. When John bids us “walk in the Light,” he means that our whole lives should be influenced by sanctifying and transfiguring Light, which comes from God and which illuminates us in the Anointed One Jesus. That way, our thoughts and acts, the outer as well as the inner person, our lives are to be enlightened.[11]

F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) states that some are apt to say that they have fellowship with the Anointed One and yet continue to walk in darkness. —It sometimes arises from their desire to stand well with their fellows or because they do not realize how much darkness is still in their lives. But whichever be the case, they lie and “do not the truth.” It is better by far to walk quietly in the Light, so far as we have it. Thus, we shall secure His blessed fellowship, and His blood will be continually cleansing us from sin, removing all hindrance to the Anointed One’s desire to having free communication with His choicest gifts.[12]

James Morgan (1859-1942) says, let us consider the seasonable and encouraging direction the Apostle John gives to those who would enjoy real fellowship. We find it in the seventh verse. The Apostle’s approach corresponds precisely with the prophet Isaiah’s invitation, “Come, people of Jacob. Let us walk in the Light of the Lord.”[13] The encouragement of another prophet proceeds on the same principle, “Oh that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know Him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”[14] The Apostle Paul expresses the same sentiment, in the form of an appeal and a counsel, “At one time you lived in darkness. Now you are living in the Light that comes from the Lord. Live as children who have the Light of the Lord in them.”[15] Keeping these Scriptural passages as guidelines will make it worthwhile to investigate what is implied by “walking in the Light” to attain the enjoyment of fellowship? That leaves us with this question: What should we do that we may have so high a privilege?[16] The answer is clear: we should attempt nothing through the Holy Spirit on our own but let the Holy Spirit do it all in and through us.

Morgan continues by saying it is essential that we keep in mind that a priest must sprinkle the sacrifice’s blood before it is effective. Under the law, the blood removed all things. The book, the people, the tabernacle, and the ministry vessels were sprinkled with blood. It must be the same with our souls. It will not suffice that the Anointed One’s blood is available. It is not enough that it is of infinite value. It is not enough that it is sufficient to cleanse from all sin. It must be applied. It was not enough that the helpless sufferers lay at the pool of Bethesda mourning over their diseases; they must go into the healing waters when troubled by the descending angel. Whoever did so was made whole of whatever diseases they had. We must go into the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness in like manner. We must go at first with all our sins, original and actual. We must continue to go as long as we live and contract fresh defilement. Let us not neglect to do so. Our salvation is dependent upon it. Wash and be clean, as did the leprous Naaman. You shall then prove by experience that “the blood of Jesus the Anointed One cleanses us from all sin.”[17]


[1] Mishnah, Fourth Division: Nezikin, Tractate Shabuoth, 1:6, p. 410

[2] Neander, Augustus: The First Epistle of John, Practically Explained, op. cit., pp. 33–34

[3] See 1 Peter 2:9

[4] Lincoln, William: Lectures on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 26–27

[5] MacLaren, Alexander. Commentary (Expositions of Holy Scripture), op. cit., (Kindle Location 167555-167559)

[6] Vincent, Marvin: Word Studies on the NT, op. cit., pp. 315, 317

[7] Strong, Augustus A: Systematic Theology, op. cit., Vol. 1, pp.328-329

[8] Ezekiel 1:4

[9] Psalm 104:2

[10] Drylander, E. A Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John in the Form of Addresses, op. cit., pp. 16–17

[11] Ibid. pp. 23–24

[12] Meyer, F. B., Our Daily Homily, op. cit., Vol. 5, Fleming H. Revell Co., New York, 1899, p. 231

[13] Isaiah 2:5

[14] Hosea 6:3

[15] Ephesians 5:8

[16] Morgan, James, An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 38–39

[17] Ibid., p. 50

About drbob76

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