WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LXV) 03/05/21

William Perkins (1558-1602) declares that no evil may be done or not done without it being a sin. That means, they are and can do either evil or good based on the circumstances. And here we must remember to discern between convenience, and inconvenience, which happens when a person does not take things seriously. Convenience is when a thing or action is so fitted to the circumstances, and the event is just right, that makes certain sins is a convenient thing to do. On the other side, Inconvenience occurs when something or some action is done in unfamiliar circumstances. It might bring pain or loss to the individual’s life. So, when we do act decently, it makes that Inconvenient. And by this, we can discern when an action is good, evil because of indifferent, convenient, or inconvenient according to the sin’s nature. And here we must initially start a search, what is Sin properly, and what is appropriately a Sinner. In its true nature, as the Apostle John says, sin is an irregularity contrary to conformity.[1] [2]

Hugh Binning (1627-1653 AD) offers a very appropriate illustration of how sin seems to run concurrently in a believer’s life along with the Fountain of Living Water. It’s like the contaminants we find in natural springs, wells, streams, and rivers. These lawbreaking tendencies are produced by the remaining carnal nature elements that our bodies contain even though the Anointed One lives within us, as does His Holy Spirit. Without the Anointed One and the Holy Spirit’s help, the streams would be running at flood level in believers as they do in unbelievers. With the Savior and the Spirit’s help, we can slow the current so that we can deal with such pollution and defilement.[3] It is the essence of Sanctification.

John Flavel (1627-1691) states that if the Anointed One by dying completely satisfied God’s demand for the sinner’s punishment, God is not in error by pardoning the greatest sinners that believe in Jesus. Consequently, His justice cannot bar anyone from justification and salvation. So it is only fair for Him to forgive us our sins.[4] It is an excellent argument for a poor believer to plead with God for forgiveness. Lord, if You save me by Jesus the Anointed One, Your justice will be fully satisfied in one payment. Yet, if You condemn me and require satisfaction at my hands, it will never get done. I will be making incomplete payments. Not only will I end up in hell for eternity, but I will still be behind in my indebtedness to You.

Is it not more for you to receive your glory from the Anointed One’s hand, says Flavel, than to require it from your own? One drop of His blood is worth more than all our contaminated blood. O how satisfying it is to the conscience of a poor sinner in the face of multiple charges and accusations involving their sins, piling up against the possibility of their ever being pardoned! Can such a sinner be forgiven? Yes, if you believe in Jesus, you may. God will lose nothing in pardoning the greatest transgressors: “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For there is loving-kindness with the Lord, with Him, we are surely saved.”[5] [6]

John Bunyan (1628-1688) agrees that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive; yes, to this, is connected the promise, “If you confess and reject them, you will receive mercy.”[7] It made David, as it were, lay claim to the mercy of God — “Wash me inside and out from my wrong-doing and make me clean from my sin. For I know my wrong-doing, and my sin is always in front of me.”[8] Although you may blush, says Bunyan, own up to law-breaking and immorality, do not hide them — “People who conceal their sins will not be successful.”[9] Don’t pass them off as unimportant; don’t confess them to God in a dismissive way. “Acknowledge your guilt. Admit that you rebelled against the Lord your God and committed adultery against him by worshiping idols under every green tree. Confess that you refused to listen to my voice. I, the Lord, have spoken!”[10] [11]    

Bunyan goes on to talk about how grace is free and unchangeable. The discovery of this freshness and faithfulness of God’s Covenant of Grace is presented to us this way: First, anyone who has received the grace of God has a gift of God through the Anointed One, Jesus the Mediator of this covenant. Even if they are hostile to Him, including the Anointed One as the foundation-stone, or faith, they will not be shunned as an object of His love. Second, it appears to be unchangeable in this – to be in union with Him.[12] Once satisfied, justice is not misused to call for the debt to be paid again. No, never let a sinner who comes to Jesus the Anointed One be treated this way. Instead of speaking against the salvation of that sinner, He will say, I am just and faithful to forgive them their sins. When justice itself is pleased with a person and speaks on their behalf, we will proclaim, “Who will condemn?” rather than cry out against them.[13]

Jonathan Edwards comments on John’s talk about confessing and receiving forgiveness of our sins. He says, the word righteousness is often used in Scripture for God’s covenant faithfulness; as in Nehemiah, “You found his heart faithful to You and made an agreement with him.”[14] So we are often asked to understand righteousness and covenant mercy for the same things; “He will receive what is good from the Lord, and what is right and good from the God Who saves him.”[15] “Keep on giving Your loving-kindness to those who know You. Keep on being right and good to the pure in heart.”[16] “Save me from the guilt of blood, O God cries the Psalmist. You are the God Who saves me. Then my tongue will sing with joy about how right and good You are.”[17] “Because of all your faithful mercies, Lord, please turn your furious anger away.”[18] We find this same sentiment in innumerable other places in the Scriptures.[19]

John Wesley (1703-1791) asks what type of pardoning does the Priest grant upon confession? The absolution is not only declarative but judicial, and the sentence pronounced by the Priest is as if pronounced by the Eternal Judge Himself. When examining the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), we find the following instructions: “Anyone who says, that the sacramental absolution of the priest is not a judicial act, but a simple ministry of pronouncing and declaring sins to be forgiven them who confesses provided they believe themselves to be pardoned, or (even though) the priest does not forgive them in earnest, is a joke. Anyone who says that the confession of the repentant sinner is not required so that the priest may absolve them; let them be cursed.”[20]

Wesley goes on to say that this is an attempt to perfect what God started. In fact, in the Roman Catholic Catechism, we find the following: “The power to ‘bind and loose’ connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles.”[21] So, says Wesley, to pardon sin, and absolve the sinner judicially, so a person’s conscience can be clear, is a power reserved by God to Himself. Therefore, the Priest’s authority is only ministerial, declarative, and conditional.

In fact says Wesley, one of the early church fathers, Ambrose, made this statement: “Let us now see whether the Spirit forgives sins. But on this point, there can be no doubt, since the Lord Himself said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whoever sins you forgive, they will be forgiven.”  See that sins are forgiven through the Holy Spirit. When priests use their ministry for the forgiveness of sins; they do not exercise the right of any power of their own. They do not forgive sins in their name but in that of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. They ask the Godhead gives. Man provides the service, but the gift is of the Power from on high.”[22] It is quite clear where Wesley stands on this subject.[23]

[1] 1 John 4:4

[2] William Perkins: The Whole Treatise of the Cases of Conscience, Ch. 2, Sec. 2, p. 9

[3] Hugh Binning: On First John, op. cit., p. 435

[4] 1 John 1:9

[5] Psalm 130:7

[6] John Flavel: The Fountain of Life, Sermon 14, p. 174

[7] Proverbs 28:13

[8] Psalm 51:2-3

[9] Proverbs 28:13

[10] Jeremiah 3:13

[11] John Bunyan’s Practical Works, op. cit., Vol. 7, Justification by an Imputed Righteousness, Ch. 7, p. 144

[12] Romans 5:8, 9; Colossians 1:21, 22

[13] John Bunyan’s Practical Works, op. cit., Vol. 7, Ch. 8, p. 281

[14] Nehemiah 9:8

[15] Psalm 24:5

[16] Ibid. 36:10

[17] Ibid. 51:14

[18] Daniel 9:16

[19] The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 4, A History of the Work of Redemption, p. 3

[20] Council of Trent (1545), Ed. and Trans. By J. Waterworth, Published by Doman, London, 1848, Session 14, Ch. 3, p. 109

[21] Roman Catholic Church Catechism: Part One, The Profession of Faith, Section Two, The Creeds, Ch. Two, Article 3, §553

[22] Ambrose: Bishop of Milan, On the Holy Spirit, Bk. III, Ch. XVIII, §137

[23] The Works of John Wesley, Vol. 10, Letters, Essays, Dialogs, and Addresses, Popery Calmly Considered, A Roman [Catholic] Catechism, Section 3, Of Divine Worship, p. 132


About drbob76

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