WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XII) 04/08/21

English Presbyterian puritan minister John Flavel (1627-1691) preached on Jesus in His ministry as our High-Priest. Here he asked some questions: First, what it means for the Anointed One to be an intercessor? Secondly, how does He perform that work in heaven? Thirdly, what is the source of the power and prevalence of His intercession? Fourthly, and lastly, how He lives forever to make intercession for us. In answer to question one, not only is He a mediator between humankind and the Father, but He’s the only One who qualifies to do so.

As far as question two is concerned, He pleads on our behalf since we cannot defend ourselves, both as an Advocate and High Priest. And when it comes to question number three, no one dare apply. The thorn-crown scars on His brow, the whip lashes on His back, the bruises on His cheeks, the nail prints in His hands and feet, and the wound marks on His side, He does not need to say a word. Flavel then answers question four by saying that the whole purpose of His resurrection was to continue being our intercessor until He returns to be our king.[1]

John Bunyan (1628-1688) wants his readers to learn that God could still love His creation and do justice no wrong.[2] Justice demands penalty for breaking the law, but God had His justice satisfied in the blood, and righteousness, and death of His Son Jesus the Anointed One for the sins of poor sinners, He can now save them that come to Him, no matter how great a sinner they are and do His justice no wrong; because it has full and complete satisfaction given it by that blood of the Lamb of God.[3]

In verse two, William Burkitt (1662-1703) observes what he sees here as a cautionary warning: “keep from sinning.” So, John encourages every person who sins due to inattention, lack of strength, temptation, or a trap set by the tempter; they have an Advocate, a Mediator, and an Intercessor in heaven. While they may have sinned as believers, our Advocate is sinless. He is Jesus the righteous Anointed One. The proper office of an advocate is not to deny the fact or disown the guilt but to offer something to the judge, whereby the law may be satisfied and upon which the judge may, without doing anything out of order, discharge the accused.[4] So, the point is clear, there may be many sins, but there is only one Savior.

Charles Finney (1792-1875), in his lecture on the Anointed One, our Advocate, points out that the Bible is full of similarities that we find in courts and governments. The Scriptures’ designed then for our spiritual education. The role of the Advocate is to see that justice is applied correctly and fairly. It is also His job to defend the accused.[5] In the case of a Christian, to plead guilty and rest His argument on the mercy of Heaven’s court. He is not looking for a pardon for His client received that earlier through justification. He is asking for reinstatement to the assembly of obedient saints. The great Judge does not hesitate to grant forgiveness since the Law of the Anointed One assigns grace to those who repent.

Paton J. Gloag (1823-1906) explains that the death of the Anointed one was a settling of the Law’s curse for the sins, not only of the Jews but for the whole world. That’s why theologians who distinguish between Jewish and Gentile Christians must concede that they are both reconciled to the same God by the same Savior.[6] What a shame that here some 2,000 years later, there is such an emphasis between Messianic Jews and non-Jewish Christians. God never intended it to be that way. Nor would John approve of the distinction made between denominations, black churches, Hispanic churches, white churches, etc. We are one big family. That’s what the world should see in us – unity in our Christian community.

Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) discusses the various thoughts on the degrees of rewards and punishments awaiting those who believe or do not believe the Gospel. He responds to critics who question heaven and hell; the resurrection, everlasting punishment, etc. He says, every discourse supporting these heresies relies on the argument that the words in our English Version, which mean endless duration, represent words in the original text which have no significance. To reject our English version is to discard the original Greek manuscripts from which their translation came.

The Greek language has no other terminology to express these thoughts, says Anderson. And yet, it is by exchanging sound arguments for ad captandum.[7] Such opinions stand on prejudices and biases, which naturally excite people with partial or exaggerated truthful statements. That’s why these heresies gain an audience. We might say that ad captandum is the definition of political speech. It is one way of diverting attention from unsurmountable difficulties they cannot handle and from the facts that show their lack of ability to perform the job given to do.”[8] This same type of false teaching spread throughout Galatia and now among the Apostle John’s constituents. Unfortunately, it continues to creep into sanctuaries and pulpits today. As Sir Anderson said earlier, go to the original text of God’s Word to see if it passes or fails the test of authenticity.

These thoughts were not new to the Apostle John. Medieval Rabbi Rashi commented on Isaiah’s words concerning “the chastisement of our welfare was upon Him.”[9] The latest Complete Jewish Bible has “the disciplining that makes us whole fell on Him.”[10] Says Rashi, the chastisement or discipline of our wellbeing (health, happiness, and fortune) was His to bear: He offered the ransom price needed for the contentment that we enjoy. The attacks on Him were so that there is peace for the entire world.[11] It is essential to know that Rashi was speaking about the Messiah. As John says here, our present and future well-being depends upon what the Anointed One did for us on the cross and rising from the grave.

Centuries earlier, Rabbi Yohanan discussed miscellaneous thoughts on the grave and the bottomless pit and asked how do we know when someone who doubts death and the pit of fire and brimstone is considered pure as far as preparing the Passover offering is concerned? Then, what about a whole community that entertains the same doubts? Let me ask, says the Rabbi, does the high priest’s frontlet[12] make atonement for those with uncertain cleanliness to participate? Does the frontlet have the effect of obtaining atonement for a community, so they can eat the Passover Lamb?

In Moses’s day, some were undecided about the future of disbelievers in Torah and Prophets’ words.[13] The same Rabbi Yohanan said elsewhere that idolaters should be aware that they are the losers, even though they don’t know what they have lost – speaking of the Temple’s destruction. When the Temple existed, the altar atoned for them, but now who will atone for them since the altar is no more?[14]

When it comes to fellow Christians expressing doubts about what is being taught by the true Church, it appears that this was also prevalent in Judaism’s early days. Rabbi Yohanan also complained that some were occupied only with reading Torah and think that this is exemplary behavior. Even those spending time studying the Mishnah[15] are doing a worthy deed and rewarded for it with the Gemara.[16] They are preoccupied with trying to impress God in reading what literature says about Him without knowing or understanding who He is or what He said.

What the Rabbi says applies today to those who listen to the scripture text read but ignore the preaching. For him, it conflicts with the Scripture that says, “Show my people their transgressing, and the house of Jacob their sins.[17] He is disturbed by Jewish scholars who are supposed to show the people their sins, just read Torah instead of explaining it. It seems to be an unintentional error but is an intentional fault.[18] Not only that, but the Rabbis read the scriptures and then offer their interpretation and begin to spread it before they consult what other scholars have to say about it. This same attitude is alive today only backwards. Preachers tend to start speaking without reading any Bible text and add it later as a garnish on their sermon.

I like what Rabbi Ashi, an expert in interpreting the Talmud, says when he points out that we all should take the conclusions we reach after reading the Scriptures as a “general conclusion.”[19] We can then take our impressions, do further research by reading commentaries and lexicons, etc., to make sure we have a clear understanding before declaring our interpretation as the truth.


[1] John Flavel: The Fountain of Life, Sermon 13, Of the Intercession of Christs our High-Priest, pp. 155-156

[2] See Romans 3:24-26

[3] John Bunyan: Bunyan’s Practical Works, Vol 1, p. 199

[4] William Burkitt: On First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. p. 757

[5] The Finney Sermon Collection, Vol. 3, Sermons on Gospel Themes, Christ our Advocate, p. 1280

[6] Gloag, Paton James: Introduction to the Johannine Writings, op. cit., pp. 241-242

[7] Anderson uses a Latin phrase employed in rhetoric, ad captandum. It means, capturing the gullible and naïve among the listeners or readers. It is an unsound, misleading argument designed to appeal to the emotions rather than to the mind.

[8] Sir Robert Anderson, The Fundamentals: (R. A. Torrey, A. C. Dixon, et. al., (Eds.), Vol. 3, Ch. 3, p. 41-43

[9] From the translation in Rashi’s commentary from the Complete Jewish Bible.

[10] Isaiah 53:5 – Complete Jewish Bible

[11] Rashi: The Complete Jewish Bible with Commentary, Isaiah 53:5

[12] A Frontlet was a crown or golden plate worn by the high priest on their tiara whenever he ministered in the Temple on the day of Atonement. See Exodus 39:30

[13] Jerusalem Talmud, A Translation and Commentary by Jacob Neusner, Nazir, Ch. 9:2

[14] Babylonian Talmud, Seder Mo’ed, Tractate Sukkah, folio 55b

[15] Mishnah: a collection of exegetical material embodying the oral tradition of the Jewish Torah 

[16] Gemara is comments by the Rabbis on the Mishnah

[17] Isaiah 56:5

[18] Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nezikin, Tractate Baba Metzi’s, folio 33a-b

[19] Ibid. Seder Mo’ed, Tractate Megillah, folio 22b

About drbob76

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