WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LX) 02/26/21

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) takes “fellowship” with God as “employment.” There is a sphere in which God works alone and in which we can have no cooperation, no collaboration with Him. In the work of creation; in upholding all things; in the government of the universe; in the transmission of light from world to world; in the return of the seasons, the rising and setting of the sun, the storms, the tides, the flight of the comet, we can have no joint agency, no co-operation with Him. There God works alone. But there is also a large sphere in which He admits us graciously into unity with Him, and in which, unless we obey His Word and His Will, He will not be involved.

We see this when the farmer sows his grain, says Barnes; when the surgeon binds up a wound; when we take the medicine which God has appointed as a means of restoration to health. In our efforts to save our souls and the souls of others, God graciously works with us; and unless we do our work, nothing is accomplished. This co-operation is referred to in such passages as these: “We are laborers together (Greek Sunergoi) “with God.”)[1] “The Lord working with them,”[2] “We are then workers together with Him,”[3] “that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth.” Simultaneously, the inspiration is God’s – alike in motivating us to be active and crowning the effort with success – but if we don’t do our part, then the work will not get done. Under these circumstances, God will not get us off the hook with a miracle.[4]

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) says that some assume that even Christians still need cleansing from time to time from their sins. The Apostle justifies that by the assertion of the inadmissibility of saying we are already wholly sanctified. He speaks of his readers’ present condition, not of sins committed by them before their conversion to Christianity. Notwithstanding the forgiveness of sin, the Christian still has lawbreaking tendencies; it is sad that they must still be reminded of that fact. Faith in the Anointed One must, from its very nature, continually awaken the consciousness of sin. We see this in those who live a passive Christian life. By being in fellowship with the Anointed One, our eyes become ever keener and sharper for sin, and most especially, our sins.

Although you may not have been as aware of sin as a sinner, says Rothe, you are more conscious than ever as a Christian. If that is not so, then the truth is not in you. Here, being real is the sense of truth, says Rothe, the accuracy resulting from self-examination and self-knowledge. The condition of inner truthfulness, not only for each Christian but for all people, is the knowledge of sin. The recognition and acknowledgment of it is the fundamental knowledge that depends on us by being objective and subjective to the truth. If a person really understands themselves, they must be sensible that their actual condition is a sinful one. In consequence of this sin, they stand in contradiction with themselves and the whole system of things around them.[5] If, as they say, hindsight provides 20/20 vision. It is no truer than how people viewed themselves as sinners before their conversion and how they see it now as born-again believers.

Henry A. Sawtelle (1832-1913) agrees with John’s method of obtaining the cleansing blood’s full effect. It is by confessing our sins (not our mere sinfulness), voluntarily uncovering them before the eyes of God, which is essentially repentance.[6] Such repentance is not without an element of faith, and the result follows – full salvation. He is faithful and just. He – namely, God, is faithful to His promise of forgiveness upon the condition of repentance since the Anointed One died for our sins.[7] To forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. “He is faithful and just” – righteous – for this very purpose, to this precise end, that He not only forgives the confessed sins but also takes away the guilt. It frees us from sin so that we stand as innocent before Him.[8]

Rev. Aaron M. Hills (1848-1931), Minister and Evangelist in the Congregational Church, comments on what John says in verse eight. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves the truth is not in us. Along with what Paul says to the Romans, this verse advocates the doctrine of continuous sin. Many use this text to keep themselves and drive others away from the hope of holiness. On its face, it does seem to declare that all Christians do sin continually, and if any say they do not, they deceive themselves, and the truth is not in them. But there are fatal consequences to such an interpretation.

It is now plain to see why the holy Apostle John wrote as he did, says Hills. It is irresponsible to take these words and use them against the bride – the Church of the Anointed One – as divine revelation. It forces them to teach that the bride with all the Heavenly Groom’s sanctifying indwelling, and the “cleansing” of the Holy Spirit, cannot stay pure and unblemished. That is why the Apostle Paul told the Philippians to remain committed in their walk toward perfection.[9] [10]

Mr. Beverly Carradine notes what Paul the Apostle said to the Romans, that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory available to them.[11] It is true – no one is prepared to deny it. We believe that every person has sinned in the past. The statement of the verse is regarding the past. We have all sinned in years passed. But that is no reason why we should sin in the days and years ahead. We once transgressed through ignorance and unbelief, but through belief and knowledge of the truth, which makes us clean and free, we can, according to God’s Word, live thoughtfully, righteously, and godly in this present world.

But there is another formidable-looking verse that at first glance seems to call for surrender on the part of the holiness people, adds Carradine. With fixed attention and reading the context, the whole passage becomes clear. In the first place, let the reader remember that John is writing to Christians and that he has said to them in this same Epistle that “whosoever is born of God, does not sin.”[12] He urges this upon them again in these words: “I write these things to you so that you do not sin.” We ask now: How can Christians find excuses for sin in the face of such statements? How can the reader reconcile these verses with a life of sin? The passage advanced by the objectors must refer to something else, or we have established the startling fact that the Word of God contradicts itself. Here we read that we must not sin, yet if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. What is the explanation? There is one, and one that should commend itself to any unprejudiced mind.[13] John is not advocating that we have no sin, but we must be aware that it is always possible. When we deny this truth, we make fools out of ourselves.

Alonzo Rice Cocke (1858-1901) notes that even while walking in the light, the dark and sinful of this world still mingle their evil influence in the believer’s life. Some of the roots and effects of sin remain. Hence, there is a continuous conflict between the Light and the darkness. The Light has come in, and the Light transforms our whole life. Nevertheless, sinfulness still hides in the believer and makes the great sin-remedy a necessary continuous application in some form. Hence, the Apostle points to “the blood of Jesus the Anointed One,” which “cleanses from all sin.” The blood of Jesus is, in a word, the sacrifice made by Jesus in its entirety, sweeping away, due to its infinite effectiveness, the sins of humanity.

Here, Cocke’s critical point is how to sustain fellowship between a sinner and the holy one. This blood is so sufficient that our law-breaking tendencies that yet remain no longer form a hindrance to fellowship with God. These tendencies do not instantly vanish. These still operating sinful elements are disappearing as the days pass by. The Light grows more and more to the dawning of a perfect day. The beautiful rays of dawn, painted by God with His finger, announce the glories of the coming day and give promises of heavenly splendors throughout eternity.[14]

William E. Shepard (1862-1930) laments that the quotation of this text is used so often in an attempt to refute the doctrine of holiness. It is generally quoted: “Those who say they have never sinned are liars, and the truth is not in them.” When quoted very rapidly, one can scarcely catch the words. Perhaps this rapidity is due to its frequent use. “Practice makes perfect,” and repeating such texts adapts quickly in denouncing Christian perfection. What, then, does our text teach?

Shepard goes on to mention that if we walk in the Light, as He is in the Light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus the Anointed One His Son cleanses us from all sin. Suppose a garment was spotted with ink and put through a process that eliminates ink spots; how much ink would remain? Now, if a guarantee was given that no ink would remain, would there be any self-deception in that? On the same principle, then, if “the blood of Jesus the Anointed One cleanses us from all sin,” how much sin is left? If all sin is washed away, where is the self-deception? Of course, we could not advocate self-righteousness nor self-exaltation, but on the contrary. We must always put Jesus first and let everybody know that all we are is through the Anointed One Jesus. Instead of saying, “I am saved” and “I am sanctified,” putting “I” first, we say, “Jesus saves” and “Jesus sanctifies.” Let the people see Jesus and not ourselves. We should not be the main focus but magnify what the Lord has done for us. Give Him all the glory.[15]

[1] 2 Corinthians 6:1

[2] Mark 16:20

[3] 2 Corinthians 6:1

[4] Albert Barnes: New Testament Notes, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1949, p. 4797

[5] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., April 1890, p.159

[6] See Psalm 32:5, 6

[7] Romans 3:26

[8] Sawtelle, Henry A., Commentary on the Epistles of John, Alvah Hovey, Ed., American Baptist Publication Society, Philadelphia: 1888, p. 12

[9] Philippians 3:12-14

[10] A M Hills: Holiness and Power, Ch. 10, pp. 141, 143

[11] Romans 2:23

[12] 1 John 3:9

[13] Carradine, Beverly: The Old Man, Ch. 19, pp. 110-111

[14] Cocke, A. R., Studies in the Epistles of John; or, The Manifested Life, Presbyterian Committee of Publication, Richmond, VA, 1895, pp. 20-21

[15] Shepard, William E., Wrested Scriptures Made Plain, Ch. 1, pp. 5-6


About drbob76

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