WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XI) 04/07/21

COMMENTARY

Clement of Alexandria (150-216 AD) points out that Jesus did not die only for our sins as believers, “but also for the whole world.” Indeed, says Clement, He did not die to save some, but to redeem all. Then this early church scholar curiously suggests that God converted some of them by punishment. I would take that as God, allowing them to see and suffer what sin was doing to them. He also notes that some follow the Anointed One voluntarily who saved them with the dignity of honor so that every knee will bow to Him.[1] That includes angels, humanity, and souls that departed this life before His advent.[2] I see this part of Clement’s commentary as a reference to those who heard and accepted the call to salvation. In so doing, God honored them to be part of those who will welcome His Son’s return to bring them to their eternal dwelling.

Augustine (354-430) points out that the Word became flesh that He might be heard, seen, and handled. The flesh began in the womb of the Virgin Mary: but the Word was from the beginning.[3] Let’s see whether John’s epistle is harmonizing with his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.”[4] See what follows: “And the Life manifested Himself.”[5] The Anointed One, therefore, is “the Word of life.” Then, says Augustine, since the Life revealed Himself in the flesh, He is not only to be believed in the heart but also seen by the eyes. That’s why John could say we heard and saw Him. Not only that, but we were able to touch Him, who touched us.[6] Our touching Him brought healing, but His touching us brought salvation.

Hilary, bishop of Aries in Southern France, commented on what John says here in verse two that Christ died for the sins of the “whole world,” what he means is that He died for the whole church.[7] However, there are very few Christian scholars who would agree with Bishop Hilary on the surface. The Apostle John was differentiating between the Jews, who believed that they had sole possession of the Messiah, and Gentiles, who they considered to be heathens and unqualified to be saved by the Messiah. On the other hand, He died to build an assembly of those who believe in Him to become His bride.[8] And when He returns, only the Bride will be swept up into heaven with Him.

Bede the Venerable (672-735 A.D.), known for his writings as a theologian, historian, and chronologist, says that in His humanity, the Anointed One pleads on our behalf before the Father. Still, in His divinity, He is the atonement for us with the Father. Furthermore, Jesus did not do this only for those who were alive at the time of His death. He did it for every sinner scattered over the entire compass of the world. It will be valid for everyone, from the first among the elect until the last one born at the end of time.

Therefore, this verse two is a rebuke to those Donatists[9] who thought you could find the true church only in Africa. On the contrary, the Anointed One died for the sins of the whole world. The Church which He bought with the blood exists in every corner of the globe.[10] No doubt, Bede was not ignorant of the fact that the Apostle John wrote this before the Donatists ever formed in Africa. His point is that anyone, whether in the first or fourth century, who imagines that universal faith in the Anointed One is to be found only on one continent or in one location stands rebuked already in an anticipatory way by the text in John’s epistle 

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1275) asked, “Whether anyone can offer sufficient reasons for the ceremonies relating to the holy sacraments?” This question resulted because it seems that no adequate reason for the rituals in the ceremonial law pertains to sacred things. Paul said that “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.”[11] Therefore, was it unfitting that the construction of a tabernacle or temple for the worship of God? Aquinas is firmly in favor of a “No” answer.

Aquinas looks at it this way: The Apostle says, “If He were here on earth, He would not even be a priest since there already are priests who offer the gifts required by the law.”[12] And hear what God told Moses after he was to finish the tabernacle: “See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”[13] But that is reasonable, which presents a likeness to heavenly things. Therefore, the ceremonies relating to holy rites had a reasonable cause.

In an early church creed, there were two questions related to the Anointed One position as an Advocate and Atonement. One question that is asked and answered is: Why is the Son of God called Jesus, our Savior? Answer. Because He saves us, and delivered us from our[14] sins; and likewise because we ought not to seek, neither can find[15] salvation in any other.[16] The next question was: What do you believe concerning “the forgiveness of sins”? The answer: I believe that God, because of Christ’s satisfaction [of God’s demands], will no more remember my sins,[17] nor my sinful nature, against which I have to struggle all my life,[18] but will graciously grant me the righteousness of Christ, that I may never come into condemnation.[19] [20] It is apparent; early church theologians were quick to verify that Jesus was both the Son of God and Son of man. Also, He qualified as our Advocate and Atonement for sins.

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) says John is trying to explain that the reason for the Anointed One being our advocate is that He is the one who provided the compensation for the forgiveness of our sins. He is both Advocate and Atonement. If this were not true, then His being the Advocate would make Him a third party to the solution. It would be like going to a doctor who did not have the authority to prescribe because there is no sure remedy or cure for the disease. Since the Anointed One was sinless, then we can strive to be purer by living in union with Him. Of course, there is always that residue of sin still in our flesh to awaken our sinful tendencies. But as the Apostle Paul said, the temptations in our lives are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than we can stand. When tempted, He will show us a way out so that we can endure.[21] [22]

John Owen (1616-1683) The oblation and intercession of any other would not have saved us. Hence, for the security of our faith, we are minded that “God redeemed the church with His blood:”[23] He did this as God embodied in flesh and blood. His blood alone had the power to clean out our consciences from hoarded dead works. We do so by offering ourselves to God through the eternal Spirit.[24] And when the Apostle John – for our relief against the guilt of sin – calls us to consider Advocacy and Atonement. He reminds us here in verses one and two in particular of the person who performed them. And we may briefly contemplate the order in which these things occur.[25] [26]

Hugh Binning (1627-1653) has a way of putting things as though he is standing before a king giving his report. It involves calling the sacrifice and atonement for our sins. Says Binning, if He would have the eyes of all humanity fixed upon Him, with wonder and admiration, and to this end, He singled Him out from the Multitude by a voice from heaven, which testified concerning Him particularly as being “My well-beloved Son.” Therefore, the Apostle Paul had a reason to say that He died for all in such a noble way that He may serve all.[27] Binning goes on with his oratory by saying He stands in more value in the Court of God than all humanity. All creatures are ciphers,[28] which even when multiplied come to nothing, and amount to beyond nothing, but set Him before them, yes, place the Anointed One ahead on them. He signifies more than they all do together and gives them some estimation in the count. And so, they stand in the Apostle Paul’s calculation, which he makes with very blessed assurance and confidence.[29] But the Anointed One is the only One that has significance and gives significance to other things.[30]


[1] Philippians 2:10-11

[2] Fragments of Clemens Alexandrinus, Adumbrations, p. 1162

[3] I John 1:1

[4] John 1:1

[5] I John 1:2

[6] Augustine, Then Homilies on the First Epistle of John to the Parthians, Homily 1, p. 917

[7] Hilary of Aries, Bray, G. (Ed.)., 1-3 John, op. cit., p. 177

[8] Ephesians 5:25

[9] The Donatists were a Christian group in North Africa that broke away from the Roman Catholics in 312 AD over the election of Cæcilian as bishop of Carthage. Their name is derived from their leader, Donatus. He was censored by Pope Miltiades for rebaptizing clergy who lapsed from the faith and desired to be returned to the church.

[10] Bede: The New Testament, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., Vol XI, First Epistle of John

[11] Acts of the Apostles 17:24

[12] Hebrews 8:4

[13] Exodus 25:40

[14] Matthew 1:21; Hebrews 7:25

[15] Isaiah 43:11; John 15:4, 5; Acts of the Apostles 4:11, 12; 1 Timothy 2:5

[16] Creeds of the Bible: The Heidelberg Catechism (1563), AGES Software, Of Gad the Son, 11. Lord’s Day, Questions 29, p. 28

[17] Psalm 103:3, 4, 10, 12; Micah 7:18, 19; 2 Corinthians 5:18-23; 1 John 1:7; 2:2

[18] Romans 7:21-25

[19] John 3:127, 18; 5:24; Romans 8:1, 2

[20] Ibid. Heidelberg Bible Catechism: Lord’s Day, Question 56, p. 33

[21] 1 Corinthians 10:13

[22] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, June 1890, p. 209

[23] Acts of the Apostles 20:28

[24] Hebrews 9:14

[25] Owen, John: Christologia, Vol 2, Ch. 3, p. 67

[26] Ibid. Ch. 20, p. 343

[27] 2 Corinthians 5:14

[28] Cyphers (ciphers) is an old English term for “zeros” The modern English term is “ciphers.”

[29] Philippines 3:8

[30] Hugh Binning: On First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 479

About drbob76

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