WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson IX) 04/05/21

John Phillips (1927-2010) says that John would not be telling his readers about an Advocate if there was no need for forgiveness. And the truth about forgiveness is that it involves guilt. Not even the Supreme Court could pardon an innocent person. Phillips sees a connection between forgiveness here in John and justification in the writings of Paul. Justification represents a right standing with God as approved in His sight. Forgiveness implies there were sins to be washed away before justification could occur, says Phillips. Forgiveness appeals to the fact that God is merciful and fairminded that God’s mercy is justice. Forgiveness has to do with the fact that God is Love; justification has to do with the fact that God is Light. Besides, forgiveness is conditional, a circumstance revealed in the Lord’s Prayer.[1] Justification is unconditional, absolute, and eternal. Forgiveness relates to what’s wrong; justification relates to what is right. So, we can see why John wants believers to know that if sin reoccurs, there is forgiveness. It is our Advocate who justifies our request because of His work on the cross on our behalf.[2]

Wendell C. Hawley (1930) makes a good point about Jesus pleading our case as an Advocate. In John’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit is called our paraklētos, our comforter, or encourager. Some picture Jesus as standing next to the Father, pleading our case for forgiveness.[3] But it also allows us to imagine Him standing by our side as He implores the Father for us. How can He be in two places at once? While standing beside the Father in His resurrected body, He is also standing next to us through His Spirit.

Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) says that instead of the opening line reading, “My dear children, I write this to you” (NIV), it should be rendered, “My dear children, I am writing this to you.”[4] It allows the writer to appeal to his readers in direct and pastoral terms. I guess that in today’s world, we could say it’s the difference between speaking to someone on the phone or leaving a voice message. John wanted them to know that he was taking this responsibility personally.

Smalley also comments on John’s use of Jesus the Anointed One in identifying this advocate. The name Jesus refers to His humanity and the Anointed One to His divinity. Keeping this in mind is essential because of His relationship to humanity and God. It involves His being both our Advocate and our Remedy for sin’s curse. It proved to be the main sticking point, suggests Smalley, between those staying with John and the congregation and those who forsook it of their own accord.[5]

Philip W. Comfort (1950) says we should look at the whole matter in legal terms. It allows the Anointed One to be our Advocate and Atonement for our sins. God’s Son faced a problem serving as our Advocate by staying in heaven. But as the Apostle Paul said, He did not think it was right for Him to hang onto being equal with God in heaven when He desperately needed to rescue and redeem us on earth. So, He gave up His high heavenly position and humbled Himself to come to earth and take up the lowly life as a human willing to die as a criminal to save a fallen society. It allowed Him then to be our remedy for sin’s lethal curse as a sacrifice on our behalf. It served God in forgiving those who put their faith in Him and also allowed Him in His role as Advocate to plead our case before the Father.[6]

Judith Lieu (1951) confesses that the origins of the term paraklētos (“advocate”) are hard to track. It does not appear in the Septuagint version, although there are related terms that suggest encouragement.[7] Also, associated words that speak of God’s support and consolation.[8] However, Hellenistic/Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, calls for the wayward Jews to return to their ancient beliefs and practices. Still, they will need three advocates to facilitate their reconciliation with God the Father.[9] [10]

Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) points out that the Apostle John informs his readers that his whole point in writing them is to help keep them away from sin. It leaves the door open for two possible false interpretations: First, since no Christian can ever say that they never sinned, why struggle to resist when it’s going to happen anyway? In doing so, they become indifferent and careless. The fight to keep from sinning is far more comfortable than the attempt to get out of sin. Secondly, since sin’s remission is so easy, why worry since you can quickly get forgiveness? It will lead to a false sense of security in wrongdoing and the presumption that forgiveness is available anytime. It may be true in some aspects, but not when life is unexpectedly cut short by a fatal accident or heart attack.[11]

Schuchard goes on to say that in today’s Christian environment and the modern concept of forgiveness of sin, believers can come to accept the fake idea that God makes considerable allowances for our weaknesses and failures. Oh yes, they agree we must not tolerate any deliberate act of clear-cut evil. But they then deny that anything they do against God’s Word does not fall into that category. Some go so far as to believe that a slight error or misstep here and there does not put them in need of repentance and praying for forgiveness. They develop a pick-and-choose attitude of those things they place on this list. So, what if every once in a while, they slip and stumble? That does not make them sinful.[12] [13]

David Jackman (1973) shares that when John Wesley left home, his mother, Susannah, wrote the following in the flyleaf of the Bible he was given as a “going-away” gift: “Sin will keep you from this book, but this book will keep you from sin.” The Apostle John had the same idea. He knew the power of God’s Word to defend his people from the attacks of the enemy and inspire them to holy living. As a matter of fact, John said initially of his writing, “My dear children, I am writing this to you so you will not sin.”[14] John knew that sin was out there; he understood that it was enticing; he was aware that not everybody was rock-solid enough in their faith to be able to resist all temptation. But he did know there was power in the Word of God.[15] And since the Anointed One was the pure Light in the Gospel, he knew they needed to concentrate on Jesus as both the Messiah and Son of God. If that trust and loyalty were ever severed, they were fair game for the evil roaring lion.[16]

A current author, John W. (Jack) Carter, makes an important note here. He offers that John wrote the Revelation during this period, and it was most likely written before the three epistles since his Revelation took place on Patmos. He would have desired to document everything as soon as possible. Ephesus is well-known as one of the seven churches mentioned in the first two chapters of the Book of Revelation as receiving personal messages. Most of them illuminated some of the ways the churches were becoming increasingly unfaithful to the LORD.  The Church in Ephesus is praised for its patience as it works to reject those who practice evil. The LORD reveals, however, that the church at Ephesus had “lost its original love.” It means that their love for the LORD had subsided, compromised by their love of this world.[17]

Bishop Muncia Walls makes an interesting point here about the Greek noun paraklētos. He notes that in John’s Gospel,[18] Jesus talks about sending “another” comforter. While those who advocate the Trinitarian dogma would like for Jesus to be saying that the Comforter, which would come to the disciples, would be a separate, another person, this is not what Jesus was saying. Reading the entire context of this passage will point this out. In verse eighteen, Jesus told His disciples, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”

So, says Bishop Walls, Jesus does not mean a Comforter unrelated to Him or His Father. Instead, “another” because He was leaving them in His resurrected body but would return in His Spirit.[19] Take note Jesus did not say a “different” Comforter. That is why since the Trinity represents “three-in-one,” the Comforter who came could not be separate and independent of the Father and Son.[20] The Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove and landed on Jesus’ shoulder; and the martyr Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. Thus, it makes it hard to eliminate their ministry, done as members of the Trinity.[21]


[1] Matthew 6:12

[2] Phillips, John, Exploring the Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 41

[3] Hawley, Wendell C., Tyndale, op. cit., pp. 335-336

[4] See New Living Translation, New Life Version

[5] Smalley, Stephen, S., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, op. cit., p. 34, 37

[6] Comfort, Philip W., Tyndale, op. cit., p.336

[7] Job 16:2; Zechariah 1:13-

[8] Isaiah 50:1-2; 49:10; 6613; Psalm 22:4

[9] The Politics of Philo Judæus by Erwin R. Goodenough, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1938, p. 31

[10] Lieu, Judith, I, II, III John, op. cit., p. 62

[11] See Ezekiel 3:20; John 8:21, 24

[12] See I. Howard Marshall, Epistles of John, p. 120

[13] Schuchard, Bruce G., 1-3 John, op. cit. pp. 145, 149

[14] Jackman, David, The Message of John’s letters, op. cit., p. 43

[15] Romans 1:16

[16] 1Peter 5:8

[17] Carter, Dr. John W. (Jack). 1,2,3, John & Jude, op. cit., p. 31

[18] John 14:16

[19] Walls, Muncia. Epistles of John & Jude, op. cit., (Kindle Locations 397-401)

[20] Bishop Walls is a minister of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, a “Oneness” or “Jesus Only” denomination, he does give us an opportunity to test ourselves to find out where we stand on the subject of the trinity.

[21] See also Matthew 4:1-11; 28:19; John 3:16; Acts of the Apostles 13:27-30; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 13:14; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 2:22

About drbob76

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