WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LXI) 03/01/21

Charles Hodge (1797-1878), in his discourse on universal sin, says that this dogma is drawn from the fact that all humans are sinners. It is an undeniable doctrine of the Scriptures. It was asserted in the First Covenant and the Final Covenant,[1] but especially here in the first chapter of John’s first epistle beginning with verse eight, again in verse ten, and even in 5:19. But in the second place, this startling fact is continuously assumed in God’s Word. The Bible everywhere addresses people as sinners. The religion which it reveals is a religion for sinners. All the institutions we find under the First Covenant, and all the doctrines of the Final Covenant, take it for granted that humanity is universally under the power and condemnation of sin.

When the Scriptures use the term “the world,” says Hodge, it designates mass humanity as distinguished from the regenerated chosen who are part of the Body of the Anointed One. This difference is attributed to the idea of the constant presence of sin. Jesus told His disciples that the world would hate them, not because of who they are, but because of whose they are. They can’t understand why He chose certain people out of the world and left others behind. Yet, despite these differences, the Scriptures indiscriminately calls for all humanity to repent. Therefore, says Hodge, the express declaration of Scripture that all humans are sinners does not mean that everyone is guilty of sin but that all have lawbreaking tendencies. That’s why John is adamant about no one saying, “we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” When they do that, the truth is not in them. The truth is not in us, says the Apostle in the present tense, if we say we have no sin, for example, that we are unpolluted by sin.

In the context of this narrative, John presents the Anointed One, the “Word of Life,” as being Life itself. It makes Him the only source of eternal life. By having fellowship with Him, we have fellowship with God. And God is Light, that is, pure, holy, and blessed. Therefore, if we are not in the Light, we walk in darkness, namely, ignorance and sin. It eliminates any fellowship we might have with Him. But if we walk in the Light, as He is in the Light, the blood of Jesus the Anointed One cleanses us from all sin. However, if we insist that we need no such cleansing, even as believers, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.[2] All that Hodge says raises an obvious question: Why do some believers insist on saying they do not need to fear sin, so there’s no need for repentance? All that does is give lawbreaking tendencies a license to lead a person back into darkness.

Johann Huther (1807-1880) says that purification from sin presupposes the existence of sin even in believers; the denial of this is self-deception — as in verse six; thereby is meant not merely what’s in one’s heart, but the actual expression and assertion. Huther says that this is only possible when two elements are present in the believer. First, believers’ fellowship with one another and God and His Son. Second, the purifying efficiency of the blood of Jesus is an essential element in this divine participation of regeneration and sanctification.[3]

Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885) tells us that if we say we are without sin, whether we claim it by denying we have done wrong or affirming that by declaring we’ve never done anything wrong, we are not merely mistaken or deceived, but we are also our deceivers. We are the deceived and deceivers at the same time. Who can say there is no truth in us? Everyone has some truth. But the divine truth of pure fellowship with God through the Anointed One is not in us, and this is the only truth by which we are considered children of God.[4]

Reverend William Salter (1821-1910) gives us an illustration that also helps us understand the relationship between the believer and the Light of God. He notes that never in history have astronomers seen the earth come between the planet Venus and the sun, thereby causing a total eclipse of Venus. So, when we compare this to Christians, they should never allow the world to come between them and the Light of God – His Son. If this happens, total darkness envelopes the erring believer, and with it goes love, joy, peace, and other fruit of the spirit. Our hearts grow cold and indifferent to the Light of God’s Word. That is why the Apostle John tells us to “walk in the light.” That is where the Anointed One is because He is the Light.[5]

Daniel Steele (1824-1914) explains cleansing from unrighteousness this way. After past sins are forgiven, the purification of the believer’s character is a definite momentary act in God’s mind. The cleansing in its completion is also a definite work instantaneously wrought by the believer’s Holy Spirit. We must note that both “forgive” and “cleanse” denote a continuous, decisive, single act. Alford says that where verse nine reads, “to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” we must distinguish it from “to forgive us our sins” as an ongoing process. In a word, sanctification is distinct from justification. The two verbs are aorists[6] because the purpose of the faithfulness and justice of God is part of one great complex act – to justify and to sanctify wholly and entirely. He says, “to do,” not both, but “each” as one great act. It is what Wesley discovered in 1737 “that people are justified before they are sanctified.” Again, justification is work done on us, and sanctification is work performed in us.[7]

Marvin Vincent (1834-1921) points out that pagan authors say very little about sin, and classic paganism had little or no concept of sin in the Gospel sense. The nearest approach to it was by Plato, from whose works we might gather a tolerably complete doctrinal statement of the origin, nature, and effects of sin. The fundamental idea of sin among the Greeks is physical, “the missing of a mark,”[8] from which it develops into a metaphysical meaning, “to wander in the understanding.” It assumes knowledge as the basis of goodness, and sin, therefore, primarily, ignorance. In the Platonic conception of sin, intellectual error is the prominent element. What is the result of all this? According to Plato, knowledge and wisdom are good, ignorance and folly are evil?[9] [10]

Augustus Strong points out the Apostle John’s saying if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” In his Life of John Sterling, Carlyle says of Samuel Coleridge[11] that whenever natural obligation or voluntary undertaking made it his duty to do something, the fact seemed a sufficient reason for his not doing anything.[12] A regular, advancing sanctification is marked, on the other hand, by a growing habit of instant and joyful obedience. The intermittent spring depends upon the mountain cave’s reservoir; only when the rain fills the latter full does the spring begin to flow. So, to secure unbroken Christian activity, there must be constant reception of the word and Spirit of God.[13]

Baptist preacher Adonriam J. Gordon (1836-1895) writes that the Anointed One was to impart power to His Church through the Paraclete.[14] The same is true of righteousness we find in heaven in which He was both to introduce and impart. “And when He, the Comforter, is come, He will convince the world of righteousness; of righteousness because I go to my Father, and you will see Me no more.”[15] We may honestly say that the Anointed One’s righteousness was not finished and authenticated till He sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high. By His death, He perfectly satisfied the claims of a violated law, but this fact was not attested until the grave gave back the certificate of discharge in His released and risen body. The Apostle Paul declares: by His resurrection, “He was declared to be the Son of God in power, according to the Spirit of holiness.”[16]

To emphasize this more, had Jesus lived and died on the cross, only to be buried in a borrowed tomb, there would be no justification for standing right before God. Not only that but after He was raised from the dead, if He had settled down in Capernaum and lived out the rest of His life as a teacher of a large synagogue, justification and righteousness would have never been granted to those who believed in Him. As Augustus Strong puts it, until He who was made a curse for us was crowned with glory and honor, we could not be assured of our acceptance with the Father. How deep the current of thought flows through this narrow statement – “Because I go to the Father.”[17]


[1] See Romans 3:19, 22, 23; Galatians 3:22; James 3:2

[2] Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology: The Complete Three Volumes (Kindle Locations 16191-29526). GLH Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[3] Huther, Johann: Handbook on Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 290

[4] Whedon, Daniel D. Commentary on NT, op. cit., pp. 255-256

[5] Sinclair, William M. The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., p. 247

[6] Aorist verbs are in the past tense without any reference to duration or completion in action. In other words, “ongoing.”

[7] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hours with John, op. cit., p. 16

[8] See Matthew 1:21; 6:14

[9] Plato: Euthydemus, Great Books Collection, Volume 2 (Kindle Locations 190074-190075). H&H Books. Kindle Edition.

[10] Vincent, Marvin: Word Studies in the NT, op. cit., p. 318

[11] Thomas Carlyle, The Life of John Sterling, Part I, Chapter 8

[12] Samuel Taylor Coleridge, (21 October 1772 – 25 July 1834) was an English poet, literary critic, philosopher and theologian who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets.

[13] Strong, Augustus H: Systematic Theology, op. cit., Vol. 3, p. 179

[14] The Greek name for the Holy Spirit translated as “Comforter.”

[15] John 16:8-10

[16] Romans 1:4

[17] Strong, Augustus H: Vol. 3, op. cit., p. 156

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