WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LVI) 02/22/21

William Loader (1944) points out that some readers probably recall the vital link between Light and Glory ideas. They picture God as dwelling in dazzling splendor and unapproachable brilliance.[1] There has always been much speculation about the shapes of that glorious light, from flames enveloping a heavenly throne to a celestial temple built from walls of fire.[2] Visions of the last day included descriptions of resurrected bodies shining like stars in the heavens[3] and a new Jerusalem whose sold radiance was to be God Himself.[4] Perhaps John entertained such hopes, but his notions of light and darkness are also firmly grounded in a human relationship’s concrete reality.[5]

Judith Lieu (1951) says that John uses the Greek verb peripateó for “walk” in the Final Covenant elsewhere. However, when the Seventy Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek (the “Septuagint” [LXX]), they used the Greek verb poreuomai. It means to “to traverse, travel (literally or figuratively; specially to move from one place to another. Also, it implies to depart, go away, make or take a journey or walk.”) In other words, “proceeding.”[6] More specifically, says Lieu, in Jewish literature during the Apostle John’s day, the idea emerged that human beings must choose between two ways to proceed: the path of Light or the trail of darkness.[7]

The Talmud’s version is quite complicated; Lieu used Armand Kaminka of Vienna’s (1866-1950)[8] modern version. It is about King Solomon, who ruled not only over people but also over demons. He was desirous of obtaining the mythical Shamir[9] that, with its help, cut the stones for the building the Temple without using iron tools. So, he ordered Ashmedai, the king of demons, to appear before him. Ashmedai instructed Solomon that it could be done by using the Shamir. The rest of the story is about how they proceeded to find the Shamir. Similarly, says Lieu, is John’s introduction of those same two ways for a Christian to choose from – Light or Darkness. The search is for how to proceed to the point where the blood of Jesus removes any stains of sin on a believer’s heart, soul, or mind.[10]

Another current scholar, Colin G. Kruse, commentator and senior lecturer in New Testament at the Melbourne, Australia School of Theology, gives us an enlightening note on the terms “Light” and “Darkness.” He tells us that “light” and “darkness” are used extensively in metaphorical ways in the Final Covenant, far more often in fact than used literally. The light and darkness metaphors are employed with the following meanings: (i) life and death;[11] (ii) the light of witness;[12] (iii) Jesus, the light of revelation to the world;[13] (iv) good and evil behavior;[14] (v) openness and secrecy;[15] (vi) truth and falsehood;[16] (vii) God’s kingdom and the devil’s kingdom;[17] (viii) the darkness of eternal punishment;[18] and (ix) the Light of the glory of God.[19]

Kruse goes on to say that as German scholar Georg Strecker (1929-1994)[20] notes, God is compared with light in the First Covenant[21] and is the creator of light.[22] In the Dead Sea Scrolls, the children of light and the children of darkness are contrasted,[23] and the opposition of light and darkness is found in Gnostic writings as well.[24] The light and darkness motif in 1 John is dependent on the Fourth Gospel,[25] which in turn owes most to the Final Covenant. In John’s Gospel, we find that the Anointed One, not the Father, is the Light. No doubt because of the emphasis John’s places on the Person of the Anointed One in his Gospel. Over and over again, what the First Covenant assigns to God is accredited to Jesus in the Fourth Gospel. It is there Jesus says, “I am the Light of the world;” “I am the good Shepherd;” before Abraham was born, I AM;” and “I am the resurrection and the life.”[26]

It is vital to notice here in verse seven that the word “but” is not meaningless; it introduces an antithesis to what has been said before. It presents several conditional statements that must be kept in mind when trying to achieve the goal of fellowship with God and His community.[27] Again, it is much like the parallelisms in the Psalms. It provides a progression of thought from one statement to its enhanced meaning with a slight variation to amplify it. The main point is exact: If the first part of the parallelism is not done, then the second will not follow.[28]

Ken Johnson felt that the Apostle John held back any criticism of those who call themselves Christians but neither live nor act like a child of God. That means, if you say you are a Christian but ignore Scripture, you are just lying to yourself. There is no way you could truly be a follower of Jesus the Anointed One if you don’t even know what He teaches because you don’t care enough to make a practice of studying the Bible. It is committing the sin of ungodliness. But if you put into practice His teachings (walk in the Light as He did), you will instantly feel a kinship with other Bible-believing Christians and will automatically be forgiven of sin. The Apostle Paul calls this the “righteousness of faith.”[29]

F. Wayne MacLeod gives us something to consider. As sinners, we can be cleansed by the blood of our Lord Jesus. Notice here, however, that in order to be cleansed, we need to confess our sins. Those who live in darkness are those who have chosen not to recognize and acknowledge their sin. Constant fellowship with God and His children is possible only if we are washed and made clean in the blood of the Anointed One. Only by His blood can all the guilt of our sin be removed. Genuine believers live in an attitude of repentance for their acts of rebellion against God’s holy laws. They are also aware of their forgiveness through the Lord Jesus’s sacrificial death on their behalf.[30] Although he does not use the word, MacLeod seems to be referring to the constant work needed to maintain one’s sanctified life.

In light of John’s statement of how the blood of Jesus can cleanse us from all our sins, John Phillips goes to all the trouble of describing the marvelous substance and incredible complexity of blood. Our body’s oxygen is carried in the bloodstream, chemically combined with hemoglobin to form a solid substance. Human hemoglobin, the red coloring in the blood cells, is an extremely complex molecule, made up of 3,032 atoms of carbon, 812 atoms of hydrogen, 780 atoms of nitrogen, four atoms of iron, 880 atoms of oxygen and 12 atoms of sulfur. Each of these 9520 atoms must be hooked to each other in exactly the right way, or hemoglobin does not result. Antibodies in the blood fight and prevent infection, giving us immunity, and, further, if blood fails to reach the various cells of the body, death takes place in those cells. When the blood ceases to circulate, the body dies.[31] Jesus may not have had blood in mind when He spoke to His disciples about the need for Him to be in them,[32] but the results are the same.

Marianne M. Thompson focuses on John’s statement that walking in the Light makes fellowship with God and each other possible. However, she says we cannot merely mark these things off on a checklist. There is a unifying thread of expectations woven through the pattern of “walking in the Light.” One of those is that it unifies us in understanding God’s character and activity in the Anointed One. It begins with the fact that God is Light. Everything else in the fellowship with Him and each other flows from this statement.[33]


[1] See 1 Timothy 6:16

[2] 1 Enoch 14:10

[3] Daniel 12:3; Matthew 13:43

[4] Revelation 21

[5] Loader, William R. op. cit., p. 10

[6] Cf. Acts of the Apostles 9:31; 2 Peter 3:3; Jude 1:16

[7] Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nashim, Masechet Gittin, folio 68a-b

[8] Kaminka, was born in Berdichev, Russia, studied at the universities of Berlin and Paris as well as at the orthodox Rabbinerseminar in Berlin and the Lehranstalt fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin. 

[9] Shamir is a worm or a substance that had the power to cut through or disintegrate stone, iron and diamond.

[10] Lieu, Judith, op. cit., pp. 53-54

[11] Matthew 4:16; Luke 1:79; John 1:4

[12] Matthew 5:14,16; Luke 8:16; 11:33; John 5:35; Acts of the Apostles 13:47

[13] Luke 2:32; John 1:7-8; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36, 46

[14] Matthew 6:23; Luke 11:35; 22:53; John 1:5; 3:19-21; Romans 13:12; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:8-14; 1 John 1:5-7; 2:8-11

[15] Matthew 10:27; Luke 12:3; 1 Corinthians 4:5

[16] John 1:9; 8:12; 2 Corinthians 11:14; James 1:17

[17] Luke 16:8; Acts of the Apostles 26:18, 23; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 1:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5; 1 Pet 2:17

[18] Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30; Jude 13

[19] 1 Timothy 6:16; Revelations 21:23-34; 22:5

[20] Strecker, Georg, The Johannine Letters, Hermeneia, Philadelphia, Fortress, 1996, pp. 26-28

[21] See Psalms 27:1; 36:9

[22] Genesis 1:3-5; Isaiah 45:5-7

[23] See Dead Sea Scrolls 1QS 1:9-10

[24] See Poimandres 1.1-6; Pistis Sophia 1.32, 2-3, 21

[25] John 1:4-5; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35- 36, 46

[26] Kruse, Colin G: The Letters of John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC) Kindle Location 1385-1399. Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition

[27] See 1 John 1:9; 2:1

[28] Witherington, Ben, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: op. cit., Kindle Location 6030

[29] Johnson, Ken. Ancient Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., p. 55

[30] MacLeod, F. Wayne. The Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., (Kindle Locations 154-158)

[31] Phillips, John, op. cit., p. 36

[32] John 15:1-8; See Romans 5:9; Ephesians 2:13; Hebrews 9:14, 22; 13:12

[33] Thompson, Marianne M. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, 1-3 John, InverVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1992, p. 40

About drbob76

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