WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LXVII) 03/09/21

Bishop Alexander Penrose Forbes (1817-1875) says that the effect of this mighty outpouring of the life of God is real. It cleanses us from all sin, nor is it mere remission. Neither is it is not an ordinary act of averting the punishment. Nor is it a simple case of pronouncing someone justified when they are, in fact, unjust. Furthermore, is all this and more. By cleansing, we mean making that pure which before was foul, and this is what we attribute to the blood of the Anointed One. We believe that there is sufficient virtue to transform humanity’s sinful nature into the imperfect but real image of the holiness of God in His blood. Not only that, but before its might, all that is filthy and unclean fades away. Like the chemist’s potent vaccine, it transmutes the vile elements that come into contact with a new and more perfect substance.

Again, says Forbes, the Anointed One’s blood suggests to us the same kind of cleansing that comes from washing. That fountain of blood flowing from the Savior’s veins forms a pool wherein our souls are washed from all the soils with which the indulgence of sin defiles them. No harbored guilt, no vain delight, no personal immorality can withstand the rushing flood of grace that pours into the soul. God will not save us without ourselves, and, therefore, the effectiveness of all that God has done for us depends, in one sense, upon ourselves.[1]

William Lincoln (1825-1888) says we read: “The blood of Jesus the Anointed One His Son cleanses us from all sin,” and not only cleanses us but keeps us clean. Christians are so prone to stop at that passage that they forget something besides the blood. The divisions into chapters are human; they are uninspired, and they are unfortunate. The living Anointed One arose from the dead. We do not glory in His death only – we do not trumpet a dead Savior; in fact, there is no such person as a deceased Anointed One. The Jews and Romans killed a champion, but He lives, and He is living in the resurrection power of that life.

Former President Abraham Lincoln often quoted Romans 5:10, especially in prayer. “For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” We see the same thing, says William Lincoln (1825-1888), in the death and Living One out of death. As the writer of Hebrews wrote, “And so, dear brothers, now we may walk right into the very Holy of Holies, where God is, because of the blood of Jesus. It is the fresh, new, life-giving way that the Anointed One opened up for us by tearing the curtain – His human body – to let us into the holy presence of God.”[2]

Here is precisely the same double thought in our chapter notes English preacher Lincoln. The blood cleanses; that is, it keeps us clean. It does not mean that it washes us clean again every time. In other words, that would mean that every time you sin, you must be washed again and again. By doing so, you bring the blood of the Anointed One down to the level of the First Covenant sacrifices. The idea is that the blood puts me there and keeps me there, and nothing can tarnish that blood, and then there is that Living One to take possession of me one day and actually lift me to where He is.[3]

Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) tells us that the consequences of sins already committed puts the sinner’s need in a clear light. Unless sin is removed, “it remains;”[4] its effects fall under three main heads. Sinners incur a debt; they fall into bondage, and they become estranged from God. God’s particular act calls for a proportionate compensation, the debtor’s moral discipline coinciding with the satisfaction due to the broken law; the wrong-doing impairs the doer’s powers. It also places a barrier between them and God. We recognize the notion of debt[5] in “remission of sins.[6] We see the idea of bondage finds a most emphatic exposition in words, “the love of the Father.” His love is incompatible with the love of the world, out of which sin springs.[7]

Westcott says that that’s why people need repentance, redemption, and reconciliation. For forgiveness to be complete, it necessitates the remission of the sinful deed’s penalty and the removal of the act’s direct results on the doer. As long debtors see that the Anointed One’s ransom payment covers their debt, no charges will be brought. However, forgiveness is not yet complete. The exercise of such a power of forgiveness corresponds with a new creation. Thus, when the Lord claims as Son of man the power of the forgiveness of sins, He offers as a sign of it a creative act.[8] And so, John appeals to the divine promise assured to the penitent to “forgive their sins and cleanse them from all unrighteousness.”[9] [10] Let’s put it in modern terms. You may spray a disinfectant on a countertop, but it is still not clean until you wipe the disinfectant and the germs away.

Hannah Smith (1834-1892) states: The fact is, that the same moment which brings the consciousness of having sinned ought to also bring the awareness of being forgiven. It is especially essential to an unwavering walk on the highway of holiness, for no separation from God can be tolerated here for an instant. We can only walk in this path by looking continually toward Jesus, moment by moment, and if our eyes are taken off of Him to look upon our sin and our weakness, we shall leave the path at once. Therefore, the believers who have, as they trust, entered upon this highway, if they find themselves ambushed by sin, must flee instantly to the Lord. They must act on what John says here in verse nine. They must not conceal their sin and seek to hide it from view with the lotion of excuses, nor to push it out of their memory by the lapse of time.

But they must do as the children of Israel did, says Smith: Rise “early in the morning,” and “run” to the place where their idol is hidden, take it out of its hiding-place, and lay it “out before the Lord.”[11] They must confess their sin. And then they must smash it with stones and burn it with fire, and utterly put it away from them, and raise over it a great heap of stones to forever hide it from their sight. And they must believe, then and there, that God is, according to His word, faithful and just to forgive them their sins, and that He does do it, and further, that He also cleanses them from all unrighteousness. By faith, they must claim immediate forgiveness and instant cleansing and must go on trusting firmer and more absolutely than ever.[12]

In Marvin Vincent’s (1834-1921) word studies, he believes it is essential for us to know that the Greek verb aphiēmi (“forgive”) means to send away, dismiss. For sin, it means to cancel as a debt. “Cleansing” when contemplating the personal character of the sinner. With “remission,” removing the punishment for their ‘acts.’”[13] And toforgive” – literally “may forgive.” On John’s use of the Greek subordinating conjunction hina (“just to”) or “so that,” see John’s Gospel.[14] So it is clear that the sentence could read: “We must confess our sins so that He, who is faithful and just, can dismiss our sins.” Forgiveness answers to the essential purpose of His faithful and righteous being.[15]

Augustus H. Strong (1836-1921) tells us that the virtue of God’s faithfulness that He fulfills all His promises to His people, whether expressed in words or implied in the constitution He has given them. In His loyalty, we have the sure ground of confidence that He will perform what His love has led Him to promise to those who obey the Gospel. Since His promises are based not upon what we are or have done but upon what the Anointed One is and has done, our defects and errors do not invalidate them, so long as we are truly penitent and believing.[16]

Strong also points to John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress story and says that it is more accurate to describe the Christian experience than is the Governmental theory.[17] The sinner finds peace, not by coming to God with an observer’s respect for the Anointed One but by coming directly to the “Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.”[18] The Anointed One’s words to every conscious sinner are: “Come unto me.[19] Upon the ground of what the Anointed One has done, salvation is a matter of debt to the believer. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins” — faithful to His promise and righteous to the Anointed One. The Jewish legal, religious theory, on the other hand, tends to discourage the sinner’s direct access to the Anointed One and to render the way to conscious acceptance with God more indirect and less certain.

[1] Forbes, A. P. Biblical Illustrator, First Epistle of John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[2] Hebrews 11:19-21

[3] Lincoln, William: Lectures on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 19–20

[4] John 9:41

[5] Matthew 6:12

[6] Cf. 1 John 1:9; John 20:23

[7] 1 John 2:15ff.; cf. Ephesians 4:18; Colossians 1:21

[8] Matthew 9:5ff.; cf. John 5:14

[9] 1 John 1:9

[10] Westcott, Brooke F. Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 39

[11] Cf. Deuteronomy 12:2-3

[12] Smith, Hannah Whitall: The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life, Christian Witness Co., pp. 96-97

[13] See Matthew 6:12; James 5:15

[14] John 14:31; 15:13

[15] Vincent, Marvin: Word Studies in the NT, op. cit., p. 322

[16] Strong, Augustus H. Systematic Theology, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 523

[17] Governmental Theory holds that the Anointed One’s suffering was a real and meaningful substitute for the punishment humans deserve, but it did not consist of the Anointed One receiving the exact punishment due to sinful people. Instead, God publicly demonstrated His displeasure with sin through the suffering of His own sinless and obedient Son for our redemption. The Anointed One’s suffering and death served as a substitute for the punishment humans might have received. On this basis, God is able to extend forgiveness while maintaining divine order, having demonstrated the seriousness of sin and allowing His wrath to “pass over.” It is traditionally taught in Arminian circles that draw primarily from the works of Hugo Grotius.

[18] John 1:29

[19] Matthew 11:28


About drbob76

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