WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson IV) 03/29/21

Hugh Binning (1627-1653) tells us that he sees that in the blood and the water of the Lamb of God run intermingled Purity and Pardon. The blood is to cover our sins, and the water is to cleanse us of the stains of sin. But it is not done by one without the other, nor are they interchangeable. It’s a lot like the combination of sodium and chloride. Apart from each other, they are on their own as an element, but together they create a new component called “salt.” Binning says that because the water runs in the same channel as the blood, together, they both cleanse by removal.[1]

John Bunyan (1628-1688) believes that for the Apostle John to obtain due respect from those he wrote, he tells them that he did not receive his message for them from a second or third-hand source but was himself an eye and ear witness. After revealing to them the resource behind his report, he proceeds to inform them about the reason for his message. Namely, he brought the good news of eternal life freely offered to them in the Word. It will undoubtedly usher them in at the gates of the kingdom of heaven, where their reception will be sincere and genuine.

With this now done, says Bunyan, John urges them to shun sin and not consent to its attraction or invitation. These words present us with two great truths. 1. With the belief that believers in union with the Anointed One are still subject to sin. It excludes no one. All of them that the Anointed One redeemed and forgiven are not immune from sin’s poison. 2. Sin is not only a possibility but a probability. There is no person on earth, whether good or bad, who does not have sinful tendencies.[2] [3] But the power of sanctification allows any believer to resist and overcome those tendencies. The best way to neutralize these inclinations is by filling the heart and mind with things of God.[4]

Johann Bengel (1687-1752) says we should emphasize the “not” in the Apostle John’s warning that the believers’ sin not. He does not want them to misinterpret what he said previously about reconciliation and turn it into a license to sin because forgiveness will be so easy to get. In fact, says Bengel, John will follow this up later in Chapter five, verse eighteen. All the Divine precepts, words, and judgments are directed against sin and aim to prevent or remove them. Nevertheless, if a believer loses the courage to ask God for forgiveness, an advocate is standing by who will plead with the Father on their behalf.[5]

The great Bible scholar, John Gill (1697-1771), says that by using the term, “My little children,” the Apostle John perhaps addressed the saints’ character, on account of their regeneration by the Spirit and grace of God, in which they were as newborn babes. Also, based on his being God’s instrument of their conversion, he was thereby their spiritual father. Therefore, he calls them his children. Not only that, but John may have been showing his advanced age.[6]

James Macknight (1721-1800) states that the Apostle John does not use the term “My little children” so much to show their spiritual age but to highlight his parental authority, love, and concern, which is very much a part of the Apostle’s character and demeanor. After establishing this, it now gives what he has to say in the next verse, the impact of a parent when he tells them that he is writing to keep them from sinning. It certainly sounds like a father impressing his children with the proper way to conduct themselves with disciplined behavior. Macknight goes on to say that in the Apostle’s mind was his concern about the false teachers and counterfeit doctrines beginning to float around among the congregations. But also, to remind them that they have an Advocate with the Father if they find themselves ignorantly or haphazardly participating in sins, these instructors are propagating.[7]

Samuel E Pierce (1746-1829) notes that the Anointed One is our advocate in heaven to maintain and plead our cause. But the change that takes place is not in heaven. It is only in the court of our consciences; we face charges or criticisms. The Holy Spirit is our intercessor on earth. He performs this office within us. He effects it by pleading to the person, righteousness, and sacrifice of Jesus the Anointed One, our Lord. Furthermore, He is the only One who can stop the commotions of our conscience and produce the peace of God. In doing so, He drives out the accusations of the devil. According to God’s will, he makes intercession for the saints, which they express in prayer, with groanings too deep to utter. May we have a more increasing spiritual and scriptural light and knowledge of these truths in our souls than we have yet attained.[8]

Adam Clarke (1762-1832) comments on this verse by giving us something positive to think about even if we fall into sin, as the Apostle John says here. If through ignorance, inexperience, the lure of temptation, inattention, etc., we stumble into sin and grieve the Spirit of God, we must not continue in sin. There is no reason to carry around guilt and despair when restoration to the favor of God is available. Even if your case is deplorable, you need not be desperate; there is still hope. Our punishment is already atoned for by the One who rose from the tomb for our justification. He stands beside the throne of God and makes intercession for us. He is the one who gets us right with God again. Think about it. He suffered for the undeserving that He might bring us back to God. Do not, therefore, despair, but immediately call out to God through Him.[9]

Catholic scholar George Haydock (1778-1862) has a thoughtful interpretation of verse one. He says that all remission, all sanctification, is derived from our Redeemer’s merits and ransom payment. Not one angel or one saint in heaven, nor one virtuous person on earth, when they pray to God for us, can be called advocates, mediators, or intercessors. In a different sense and a less compelling manner, not meaning to harm anyone, all honor goes to the Anointed One. When fellow saints pray and ask God’s intervention on our behalf, they do so through faith and hope through the Anointed One and by His merits.[10]

The Scriptures authenticate this. The Apostle John gives us his experience of praying to anyone between himself and God. He says: “I am John. I am the one who heard and saw these things. After I heard and saw them, I bowed down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me. But the angel said to me, “Don’t worship me! I am a servant like you and your brothers, the prophets. I am a servant like all those who obey the words in this book. You should only worship God!”[11] The Apostle Paul also would not accept this doctrine. As he told young Timothy, there is but one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the Man, the Anointed One,  Jesus.[12]

German Protestant theologian Gottfried Lücke (1791-1855) remarks that God is Light and that without continuous sanctification and purification, there can be no communion with Him. The person who is, or ought to be, conscious of every moment of their human weakness and need of redemption must more and more strive to stay free from sin. It is the transition and parenthetical point made here in verse one. Considering that even the most devout Christians can never be wholly liberated from their sinful tendencies while living in this world. John adds in his appeal against all sinning, the consolation, that when despite all their zeal for holiness and sanctification, a person still sins, they, through Christ, will find forgiveness with God.[13]

Charles Hodge (1797-1878) writes that when it says that a person makes intercession, it means they meet, then approach anyone to appeal on someone else’s behalf.[14] This petition may be against or for them.[15] To intercede for that means to act the part of an advocate on behalf of anyone. It is the Anointed One who is said to do for us.[16] But the Anointed One said, “another advocate” would be sent.[17] God assigned this office to the Holy Spirit.[18] In this sense, the present passage is to be understood. We do not know how to pray, but the Spirit teaches us.[19]

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) notes that the Apostle John emphasized in the previous chapter that even Christians must still deal with sin. It implies that John knew some of those in the congregation were sinning. So, why not just accept it? It’s going to happen no matter what. Why not justify the fact that believers are always going to have sin in their lives? Since sinning seems unavoidable, why put so much pressure on believers to live a sinless life? But, says Rothe, John does not accept this conclusion as valid for believers. As Rothe sees it, John made these statements to awaken believers from their moral security. They should always be aware of sin’s temptations and traps to be more diligent in avoiding them at every turn.[20]

[1] Hugh Binning: On First John, op. cit., p. 455

[2] Ecclesiastes 7:20; 1 Kings 8:46

[3] John Bunyan: The Work of Jesus Christ as an Advocate, Explained, Ch. 1, Vol 6, p. 110-111

[4] Philippians 4:6-9

[5] Johann Bengel: First Epistle of John. op. cit., p. 304

[6] John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible (Kindle Location 340089)

[7] John Macknight: First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 38-39

[8] Pierce, S. E., An Exposition of the First Epistle General of John, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 101

[9] Adam Clarke: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 368

[10] George Haydock: First Epistle of John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[11] Revelation 22:8-9

[12] 1 Timothy 2:5-6

[13] Gottfried Lücke: A Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 125–126

[14] Acts of the Apostles 25:24

[15] Romans 11:2, 34; Hebrews 7:25

[16] See Hebrews 9:24

[17] John 14:16

[18] Ibid. 14:26; 15:26, 16:7

[19] Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Published by Alfred Martien, Philadelphia, 1873, pp. 438, 455

[20] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, June 1890, pp. 207-208


About drbob76

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