WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XVII) 04/15/21

Listen to what Thomas Shepard (1605-1649) said when he asks us to look at John, the Anointed One’s beloved disciple, and close companion! He received the anointing to have personal knowledge of Him that is true and knew that he knew Him to be true. But how did John know that? Was he deceived? What is his proof? Elementary, by keeping His commandments.[1] It’s like someone claiming to have the code in opening a safe full of all kinds of treasure. Questions and doubts will come. The best way to prove the doubters wrong is to use the code and have the safe open. John says the only way to know if God is true to His word and promises is to use the code given in His commandments.

Matthew Poole (1624-1679) says that the term “faith” in the Holy Scriptures often signifies knowledge.[2] It is an appropriate, transformative knowledge by which we are owned and accepted by God through the Anointed One[3] and changed into His likeness.[4] The meaning then is: That we perceive or discern ourselves to be sincere believers, and consequently that the Anointed One is both our Propitiation and Advocate when we routinely obey His commandments.[5]

Hugh Binning (1627-1653) has a unique way of talking about a believer’s friendship with God. He says that since we know God, we also have a revelation that many are sure about and some unsure of its reality. He applies it to two types of those who call themselves believers. One group includes those whose relationship with God is in the past as part of their memory, and the other group consists of those whose friendship with God is present in their minds. Faith in God includes personal reverence and passionate affection. But for some, that is not part of their memory and misery. That’s because their relationship with God has not gone beyond the repetition of ceremonies and creeds. There is more to learn of and grow in, but they lack the interest to grasp its depth and relevancy.[6]

Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) speaks about Christian practices as providing the best evidence of professors’ and possessors’ sincerity of the true Christian faith to others. Edwards then goes on to say that the Scripture also speaks of Christian behavior as distinguishing and sure evidence of grace to persons’ conscience. Our conscience’s testimony speaks concerning our good deeds as that which may assure us of our godliness. As John said, “My children, we should love people not only with words and talk but by our actions and true caring.”[7] [8]

It is exceeding apparent, continues Edwards, that knowing God, being of God, and in God, having this hope in Him, etc., mean something besides our Christian profession, principles, and privileges. As a result of this, do we know that we know Him if we keep His commandments? Whoever keeps His word, God’s love reaches perfection in them. That way, we know that we are in Him.[9] How many people do you know who ordered a self-construction kit and experienced nothing but misery trying to put the pieces together? When they ask for help, this solution is clear: “Follow the instructions.” The same is true of being in God’s will.

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) says that John does not accept the notion that a person can know the Anointed One, be in union with Him, or have the right idea and conception of Him without believing in and loving Him. Behind this is the fact that anyone wanting to know Him is welcome to come and learn of Him, so they can put their faith and trust in Him for salvation. Any person who claims that they love Jesus but do not serve and obey Him is not telling the truth.[10] Somebody convinced them that all they had to do was pray a prayer inviting Him into their heart but without any thought of actually serving Him and being obedient to the Gospel.[11]

Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) says that when the Apostle John says that we should keep God’s commandments, it’s another way of saying, “stop sinning.” Start walking in the Light. There is no fundamental knowledge of God, no fellowship with Him, without being formed to obey His will. To ignore God’s will is to divorce holiness from living. Says Plummer, John insists no less than Greek Philosopher Aristotle, who said that knowledge of morals without practice is worthless.[12] Mere knowledge will not do, nor will a touch of emotion. It is possible to know and admire, and in some small way to love, and yet live and act as if we knew nothing of God’s will versus man’s will.[13]

Samuel E. Pierce (1746-1829) states that the knowledge of Christ is wholly and altogether spiritual and supernatural. It is beyond all that nature can attain. No unregenerate mind can have the slightest conception of it. All the knowledge of all contained in the whole circle of sciences cannot convey to the smartest the least spiritual understanding of the Lord Jesus the Anointed One. No, the Bible itself, which is complete information on the Anointed One, the Gospel itself, which is the revelation of the Anointed One. By His illumination and revelation, the Holy Spirit can bring knowledge of the Anointed One, which is life eternal conveyed to our minds.[14]

Karl G. Braune (1810-1868) asks some crucial questions concerning whether we know God or not. It begins with self-examination. Braune then asks: What is to be investigated? Whether you know God? Whether the knowledge of God is possible without fellowship with God? The question is not whether a person knows God, or have they heard and learned some truths regarding Him? The real question is, are they in union with Him as He dwells in them? You are intimate only with those between whom there is a habitual fellowship. Otherwise, you have only a more distant and superficial acquaintance, but never any personal communication.

Braune then asks: Why should it be investigated? Without God, you are in darkness; without Him, you walk in darkness, you become more and more comfortable in the dark. You run to ruin and eventually will die in the darkness of condemnation. You reach the point that you hate and are hated, hateful and abominable.[15] But with and in God, you are in the Light, you live in the Light, and the Light and truth and love are in you; you become more and more filled with Light. Loving truth grows more and more mature, taking away all thoughts of disobedience from you.

Then Braune inquires: How should it be investigated? Start with examining your compliance with God’s commandments. Especially in light of the old and new commandment on loving a fellow believer. See if whether you are living in line with the teachings of the Lord Jesus. Those keeping the commandments of God in acts, thoughts, and words protect themselves. They who obey the commandments of God preserve themselves.[16] [17]

William Graham (1810-1883) points out that you need to get to know Him since it is impossible to keep all the commandments. Knowledge, which leads to holiness, starts with being personally acquainted with God. As the Psalmist said, “Those who know Your reputation will put their trust in You.[18]  John recorded these words of Jesus, “This is life that lasts forever. It is to know You, the only true God, and to know Jesus the Anointed One Whom You sent.”[19] God’s knowledge is practical: it is not like natural science, which leaves the heart and the affections unmoved. God is such a glorious, holy, and adorable Being that to know Him is to love Him and delight in all His ways.

His character is so perfect, says Graham, His works so full of divine wisdom, His love is such an overflowing ocean of goodness, that our heart, our understanding, our affections, our reasoning and will become enraptured by His glories. Our lawgiver’s character ensures our keeping of His law. Love for Him lays its gentle hand upon our will, and our affections allow us to yield our willing heart to obey His every word.

But, says Graham, we must distinguish between the type of knowledge that puffs up our pride and knowledge of God that causes us to humble ourselves for receiving such wisdom. True love for God edifies. If we truly know God, we may be sure that our hearts must be continuously inclined to keep His commandments.[20] In other words, we start each day looking to be submissive to His will and desirous to please Him above all others, not thinking how can I do this or that and get by with it. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “Mankind’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”[21]


[1] The Works of Thomas Shepard, Vol. II, Doctrinal Tract and Book Society, Boston, 1853, p. 210

[2] Isaiah 53:11; John 17:3

[3] Ephesians 1:17; Colossians 2:2

[4] 2 Corinthians 3:18.

[5] Poole, Matthew: Commentary on the Holy Bible – Book of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John (Annotated) (Kindle Location 400)

[6] Binning, Hugh: On First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 487

[7] 1 John 3:18-19

[8] Jonathan Edwards: A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, Part 3, pp. 1015-1016

[9] Edwards, Jonathan, The Works of: Vol. 6, Ch. 4, p. 303

[10] Cf. verse 4

[11] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., August 1890, p. 260

[12] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 5.3, The Starting Point for Practical Reasoning, “Those who are defective in character may have the rational skill needed to achieve their ends—the skill Aristotle calls cleverness (1144a23-8) but often the ends they seek are worthless.”

[13] Plummer, Alfred: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 90

[14] Pierce, S. E., An Exposition of the First Epistle General of John, op.cit., Vol. 1, pp. 111–112.

[15] See verses 9 & 11

[16] Braune, Karl G. Homiletic, First Epistle of John, Ed. Johann P. Lange, p. 56

[17] Pope, William B. Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., pp. 298-299

[18] Psalm 9:10

[19] John 17:3

[20] Graham, William: (1857)., The Spirit of Love, op. cit., p. 89

[21] The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1., Answer, p. 107

About drbob76

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