WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson LXVIII) 03/10/21

Furthermore, says Strong, forgiveness is beyond merely taking away penalties. When a person does not suffer the consequences of their crime, does that mean the community has no right to be outraged? There is a distinction between financial and disciplinary satisfaction. Monetary achievement has respect only to what must yet be paid; disciplinary gratification looks out for the offender’s legal and civil rights. Therefore, if a pardon is a matter of justice in God’s government, it is so only respecting the kindness of the Anointed One. To the recipient, it is only mercy. “Faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins,” says John here in verse nine. It emphasizes God’s faithfulness to His promises and doing what is right for the Anointed One’s sake. Neither the atonement nor the promise gives the offender any personal claim for its success.[1]

Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) also addresses the promise we find here in verse nine about forgiveness. Moody acknowledges that this principle is recognized in courts of justice. A case came up in a country’s courts, says Moody, I won’t reveal any personal information about the man who had trouble with his wife, but he forgave her but still brought her into court. When it became known that he had forgiven her, the judge said that the case was settled. The judge recognized the principle’s soundness that if after sin is forgiven, that’s the end of it. And do you think the Judge of all the earth will forgive you and me and open the question again? Our sins are gone for time and eternity if God forgives, and what we have to do is confess and forsake our sins.[2]

Anglican Bishop of Oxford Charles Gore (1853-1932) states that when John speaks of “the blood of Jesus” as “cleansing us from all sin,” we are bound to think of this in his Gospel – the blood that prepares us to receive eternal life, which is “spirit and life.”[3] The root idea of sacrificial blood is that the victim’s life is in it: therefore, it is the sacrificed life of the Anointed One, as communicated to us by His Spirit, which is to renew us inwardly, in the fellowship of His manhood, into eternal life. We find this teaching in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel and the figure of the vine in chapter nine. It also goes along with the teaching about the Holy Spirit. It is the Apostle Paul’s doctrine as well.

Furthermore, says Gore, this is embodied in partaking of Holy Communion. But there is something to precede this communication of life. That is the restoration of our standing before God – it is a case of regaining favor with God (“propitiation”). Of the moral necessity for this appeasement, Paul gives us some explanation; John simply assumes it. We cannot stand before God based on our merits alone. Our sinfulness prevents this. But another is standing with us. He is our brother man, but sinless. He offered the perfect sacrifice of a human in which God is well-pleased. Furthermore, he is our propitiation; we ask God to look at Him, not at us. He is our advocate; we ask God to listen to Him, not to us.

Gore goes on to say that we can only ask God to do this because we belong to Him. In a sense, everyone belongs to Him. He’s everywhere for humanity, “the whole world.” But our power to claim His advocacy and plead His propitiation depends on our belonging to Him. It is the privilege illustrated in our baptism, which is a symbol of our new birth. But John is not thinking of this. Baptism is relatively ineffective morally without moral identification, without the will to obey, which John emphasizes.  We cannot accept God’s gift of forgiveness wholly on our merit; it is only in the name and by the work of the Anointed One on the cross, but solely if we belong to Him or “know Him.” And to know Him means that we are in union with Him and keep His commandments while we walk as He walked.[4]

J. B. Chapman (1884-1947) was speaking about the second coming of the Anointed One. He said it is folly for us to talk of the second coming of the Anointed One as our hope and prospect unless we gladly and fully accept the full benefits provided for us in His first appearing in the world. And in that first appearance, including His life, ministry, death, and resurrection, He provided a complete solution for the sin problem and a full cure for the disease of sin. “You will give Him the name Jesus because He will save His people from the punishment of their sins.”That is why Jesus suffered and died outside the city, where his blood washed our sins away.”[5]And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”[6] So, we can see why John could give us the guarantee of forgiveness here in verse nine. What more could He promise? What additional benefits could He add? The blood was shed, and it is available now! If it cannot end sinning, it can never do that. We must be ready to admit that neither death nor purgatory or some other real or imaginary thing can assist God in doing the difficult task of ridding His people of sin.[7]

Aaron Merritt Hills (1848-1935) comments on how sanctification is the cure for depravity. The first three definitions of the usual Greek word for sin are “error, offense, sin,” but the following three descriptions are, “The sinning principle of sin; a sinning predisposition for sin; and a sinning proneness to sin.” These two sets of definitions of a Greek noun in an unbiased dictionary prove that this double use of the word sin in the Final Covenant is no fanciful notion of the author but the actual Bible usage. The Apostle John used the Greek noun hamartia (meaning “to miss the mark”) in the first sense when he put it here in verse nine: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins.” In the second sense, he used hamartia when he wrote: “All unrighteousness is sin.”[8] In this second sense, Paul used hamartia when he wrote of “the sin that dwells in me.”[9] [10]

Hills goes on to say that the Anointed One Jesus “was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness [“justification” in the Greek] and sanctification and redemption.” Professor Henry Cowles (1803-1881), an American theological scholar and Yale College graduate, says that these supreme moral blessings are found in the Anointed One alone.[11] And what more does a Christian need? Here is wisdom to guide him; righteousness for his acceptance with God; sanctification to fit him for heaven; and redemption to buy him from the curse of the law and the slavery of sin. How wonderfully is the Anointed One who did everything for us, and that, too, by God himself! No wonder Paul should say: “For in the Anointed One lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So, you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.”[12] Again: He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, says Hill. And for what? “To cleanse us from all unrighteousness” This defines sanctification.[13]

Greville P. Lewis (1891-1976) tells us that confession includes revelation, repentance, and repudiation. The sinner acknowledges their sins to themselves, no longer excusing themselves but admitting their responsibility. Then in the presence of God, they repent of their sins and pledge themselves before God to do them no more.[14] They take ownership and responsibility as the ones who committed them. It is both a painful experience and blessed relief. Now they can look the Anointed One in the face and say, “At last, Lord, I now think about myself as You think about me.” They no longer avert their eyes when they pass by His cross.[15] Instead, they cry out –

Upon the cross of Jesus

 mine eye at times can see

 the very dying form of One

 who suffered there for me:

and from my stricken heart with tears

 two wonders I confess,
the wonders of redeeming love

 and my unworthiness.”[16]

Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) says that the heretics who claimed they were without sin represented the idea that sin in a believer’s life is not a permanent power controlling their actions. That’s why they could say that there was no sin in them since it was not sticking around long enough to contaminate their soul.[17] They forgot that John said either you are walking in the Light or you were in darkness. Sin is not an object that blocks out the Light creating a momentary shadow. Sinning begins in the mind, overrides the conscience, rebels against the indwelling Spirit of God, and allows the flesh to have its way. While the injury caused by sin may heal, the scar is still there to haunt the believer for a long time. That’s why it takes the blood of Jesus to wash away sin along with its stain.

[1] Ibid. Vol. 2, pp 663-664, 704

[2] Moody, Dwight L. Way to God, Ch. 8, p. 85

[3] John 6:52–63

[4] Gore, Charles, The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 86-88

[5] Hebrews 13:12

[6] Romans 8:2

[7] Chapman, J. B. Holiness, The Heart of Christian Experience, Ch. 11, p. 36

[8] 1 John 5:17

[9] Romans 7:17

[11] Cowles, Henry: The Longer Epistles of Paul, D. Appleton & Company, New York, 1880, p. 5

[10] Hills, Aaron M. Holiness and Power, Part II, The Remedy, Ch. 4, p. 70 

[12] Colossians 2:9, 10

[13] Ibid. Ch. 5, p. 90 

[14] Ibid. 5:3-4

[15] Lewis, Greville P., The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 28

[17] Smalley, Stephen, S., 1, 2, 3 John, op. cit., p. 33

[16]Beneath the Cross of Jesus,” by Scottish songwriter Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1868


About drbob76

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