WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson X) 04/06/21

Let me explain it this way. Years ago, when asked by a seminary student to explain the Trinity. I started by describing the smallest unit of matter in our universe – the “atom.” The atom is composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Thus, the protons and the neutrons constitute the center of the atom, called the nucleus. These particles rotate around the core in a small cloud.

The electrons carry a negative charge, and the protons emit a positive charge. In a typical (neutral) atom, the number of protons and the number of electrons is equal. If you separate any one of these particles, it ceases to be an atom. If you make one more massive than the others, it will not be a stable atom. And yet, all three together are called an “atom.” They never leave each other; they work together in perfect harmony; by touching the atom, you contact them all. So, no matter where the Father is, the Son and the Spirit are also present. And wherever the Son is, the Father and Spirit are present. And, likewise, wherever the Spirit is, the Father and Son are present. How does all this work? You can ask God someday.

Here’s a story my father used to share at the end of a sermon on Jesus being our advocate with the Father. In 1915, when he was still young, there was a fire in an apartment complex in his city. The fire trucks raced to the scene. But by the time they arrived, the building was engulfed in smoke and flames. As the gathering crowd looked on in horror, they saw a small boy trying to escape the heat and smoke leaning out of a corner window on the fourth floor. None of the fire wagons had a ladder tall enough to reach the window.

Suddenly, a man darted out of the crowd to the corner of the building, where a vitrified[1] clay drainpipe ran down the edge. He grabbed hold of the conduit, only to find out it was scorching hot because of the fire. Nevertheless, he climbed up the pipe, his hands and legs burning all the way. Finally, he reached the window and coaxed the young lad to reach out and take his hand. The tiny lad put out his arm, and the man took hold of him. He pulled him over and told the boy to put his arms around his neck. So, with the lad clinging to the man’s back, he quickly slid down the pipe to the ground. The crowd broke into applause. A few minutes later, the building collapsed to the ground.

Since the young man’s parents perished in the fire, there was no immediate family to claim him. He became eligible for adoption. A judge conducted a hearing where couples came and made their case for having the boy assigned to them. A young couple rose, both teachers, and offered their reasons for taking the boy into their home. Then a banker and his wife made the same plea. Several others, including a local business owner, requested his adoption. Finally, the judge asked if there was anyone else wanting to voice their adoption wishes. Suddenly, a hush settled over the room as the man who saved the boy stood up. He was a local carpenter and did not have any of the means the other couples presented. The judge asked, what do you have to offer as a reason for us to assign him to you and your wife? Without a word, the man pulled up his sleeves and showed his burned hands and arms to the judge.

The hearing recessed for about an hour. Then the judge came out and spoke in a somewhat soft tone. He told them that he was proud as a citizen of his city for all those who came forward to adopt the young lad. He thanked them all for their compassion and generosity. In the end, the judge announced he assigned the boy to the man with the burned hands. For the judge, the man’s action in saving the boy was evidence enough to convince him.

So, is our Advocate with the Father. Some Bible commentators call this Advocate that the Apostle John mentions here a skilled pleader or a trial lawyer capable of employing sharp words to make objections.[2] However, I find it more compelling to believe that when the question is asked, “Why should we be given in adoption to the One who saved us,” Our Savior holds out His nail-scarred hands without uttering a word, and the Father nods His head in agreement.

2:2a He Himself died for sin on our behalf to gain us favor with His heavenly Father, and not only our sins but for the sins of the world.

EXPOSITION

Some Bible scholars believe that it all started with what John was told and heard in his Revelation. There, the angel told him that this great dragon – the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world – was thrown down to the earth with all his angels. (He is that old snake called the devil or Satan, who deceives and fools the whole world.)[3] So, the Anointed One’s death and resurrection was the final blow for Satan and his demons. Now they await their ultimate fate in the bottomless pit of fire and brimstone.

John’s insistence that Jesus died on our behalf is in complete harmony with what Paul wrote to the Romans.[4] Also, the Apostle Peter adds his witness and testimony to this same truth.[5] Peter made it clear that the Anointed One Himself suffered once and for all time when He died for us, and with that one sacrifice, He paid for your sins. And although the Messiah was not guilty, He died for all who were guilty. He did this to bring all of us to God. His body died, but His Spirit lived.[6] John felt it was important that everyone should know that the Anointed One’s death was not for just one individual or even a select group of individuals.[7] As Paul told the Corinthians, God desired to reconcile with all lost humanity through the Anointed One.[8] It may have been what John saw in his vision on the Isle of Patmos.[9]

John was not speaking as a foreigner to the Jews who were reading his letter. He knows that in the sayings of the Jewish fathers’ Rabbi Eliezer, Yaakov’s son would say: He who fulfills one mitzvah (law) acquires for himself one angel-advocate; he who commits one transgression, acquires against himself one angel-accuser. Repentance and good deeds are a shield against retribution. Rabbi Yochanan, the Sandal-Maker, would say: Every gathering that is for Heaven’s sake will endure. If it were not for the sake of Heaven, they would not survive.[10]

Also, in the Talmud, we find where the Rabbis taught: if one falls sick and his life is in danger, Rabbis tell him to admit it, for all sentenced to death must confess. When a man goes out into the street, let him imagine that his arrest will follow; when he suffers a headache, let him visualize wearing chains of iron; when he goes to bed, let him picture that he ascended the scaffold for hanging. Yet, when someone stands before a judge for trial, they will be acquitted if they have an expert advocate.  If, however, they have no advocate, they will not be spared. And these are man’s advocates – repentance and good deeds.[11]

And in another place, we read that Rabbi Eliezer, son of Rabbi Jose, taught: All the charity and deeds of kindness which Israel performs in this world [help to promote] peace and good understanding between them and their Father in heaven, as it says, Thus says the Lord, Enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament, neither bemoan them, for I have taken away my peace from this people…even lovingkindness and tender mercies’ in charity.[12] Rabbis teach, says Rabbi Judah: Being charitable is terrific, in that it brings the redemption nearer, as it says, Thus says the Lord, keep judgment and do what is right, for my salvation and the revelation of my righteousness is near.[13] [14]

When we see how some of the early church fathers adopted this form of salvation by works as taught by Jewish Rabbis, it leaves no room for an Advocate nor the remedy for sin the Messiah came to pay for with His life. In this frame of teaching, the Church replaced Israel, and Church Law superseded Mosaic Law. They substituted charity and good works in place of the work of the Anointed One on the cross. Some critics charge that Eucharist at the altar imitates the altar sacrifices in the Temple. Furthermore, praying to saints for assistance is preferred to pleading with our Advocate to intercede for us at the throne of God.


[1] Vitrified means to change or make into glass or a glassy substance, especially through heat fusion.

[2] Parker, Joseph: The People’s Bible, op. cit., p. 362

[3] Revelation 12:9

[4] Roman 3:25-26

[5] 1 Peter 2:24

[6] Ibid. 3:18

[7] See John 1:29; 4:42; 11:51, 52

[8] 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

[9] Revelation 12:9

[10] Ethics of the Fathers, Ch. 4

[11] Babylonian Talmud, Seder Mo’ed, Masekeht Sabbat, folio 32a

[12] Jeremiah 16:14

[13] Isaiah 56:5

[14] Ibid. Seder Nezikin, Masekeht Baba Bathra, folio 10a

About drbob76

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