WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XVIII) 04/16/21

2:3 If we obey what God has told us to do, then we are sure that we know Him.

John Stock (1817-1888) has an appealing thought that he shares here by saying that Religion is our task, not our choice; and the good Lord can say of us, as He did to those taught by Rabbi Gamaliel in his school, “I know you, you have no love of God in you.”[1] Not to know the Anointed One experimentally, and to go on in the darkness, is to be foolish, no matter how fancifully wise you are. John connects knowledge which brings salvation, with obedience; not in frames and feelings, which are as flexible as temperament; not in fanaticism, with its fervor and despondencies; not in partisanship, nor in bold assertions unsupported by suitable acts; but in soberly and continuously keeping the commandments of God.

John tells us in verse four that false claims about knowing God will make liars out of us. Instead, we should repent of our lack of knowledge, foolish indifference to learning, and the sins resulting from such neglect. These things don’t go away. As long as we live here on earth trying to follow the Anointed One, we must avail ourselves of His Word and receive the invaluable benefit of what He did for us on the cross. As such, we must take up our cross of self-denial, hating lying, fraud, pride, all unholiness, and every sinful tendency to try to live in holiness in reverence to God as our Father.[2]

Those that serve the Anointed One are approved by those whose approval is worth having and acceptable to God.[3] They are branches engrafted by the Father on the Anointed One, the living vine, and bearing fruit to glorify God. The more abundant the fruit, the more we identify ourselves as being numbered with the Anointed One’s disciples.[4] Those who worship the Anointed One are either proven followers or impostors. They follow, being drawn by Him. They come up from the wilderness of this barren and dry world, where no water of life is to be found, leaning on Him the beloved of their souls, and actuated by His Spirit.[5] [6]

William B. Pope 1822-1903) says that knowing God only comes from keeping all His rules outlined in the Gospel. It is another indication that we are entirely sanctified to God and thereby experience spiritual things. It gives us proof that we know Him. Likewise, it also points back to the fellowship we have with both the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and our fellow believers. But it also leads to the friendship we have in His suffering and the future resurrection. That’s why Jesus came in the flesh so that we can learn of this unity through the Gospel that He brought.[7]

John James Lias (1834-1921) says that the Apostle, in this and the following three verses, teaches that the result of propitiation and reconciliation should produce obedience to God’s law. It will expand and enhance the clue he presented in verse one. And now, in verse three, he wants believers to be sure that we know Him if we obey His commandments.[8] To put it in layperson’s terms, as a result of God’s demands for (propitiation) the punishment of sin being satisfied in the Anointed One, we were brought into a union (reconciliation) with Him through the Anointed One to be obedient to His Word and His will for eternal life. Lias goes on to say that some Christians have devised other tests of true conversion. But this is the only test recognized by Jesus the Anointed One.[9]

Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901) admits that sin cleaves to all God’s children. How, then, can their fellowship with God be maintained? To deny the wrongdoing would be madness: To say we have no sin not only results in deceiving ourselves, and proves that the truth is not in us, but calling God a liar. That also means that His word is absent from our hearts. Our fellowship with Him, then, is maintained only by virtue of the fact that He is always ready to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The blood of God’s Lamb sustains us in fellowship. Not only that, but the loving Anointed One also advocates on our behalf after having paid the ransom price for our sins. With this in mind, we can trust our Advocate with the Father, the Anointed One, Jesus, holy and righteous.[10] For the Apostle John, you cannot be obedient to God’s will for your life unless you are in fellowship with Him, and that is not possible until the ransom price paid for your sins is applied.

David Smith (1866-1932) acknowledges that the principle is that it is not enough to understand the theory; we must put it into practice. For example, what makes an artist? Not merely learning the rules of perspective and mixture of colors, but putting one’s hand to brush and canvas. First attempts may be unsuccessful, but skill comes by patient practice. Rembrandt’s advice to his pupil Hoogstraten: “Try to put well in practice what you already know, and in doing so, you will, in good time, discover the hidden things which you inquire about.” To know about the Anointed One, to understand His person’s doctrine and work is mere theory; we get to know Him and know that we know Him by practicing His precepts.[11]

Priestly L. Greville (1891-1976) makes an interesting point at this juncture. He uses the pronouns “Him” and His” but does not suggest whether he is talking about God or the Anointed One. It may be a case that for John, the only way to know God is through the Anointed One. Yet, in the following three verses, the Apostle speaks of “God.” That seems to be one of John’s major themes in his Gospel and here in this Epistle, but if there is any doubt as to the role of the Anointed One, in verse six, John points out that to really “know” God, you must live your life as Jesus did. That’s who John was pointing to in verse one. So, for the Apostle, to obey the Anointed One’s teachings is to know God because He is God. No wonder John was so upset with the heretics who claimed they knew God but kept none of His commandments. That’s why he called them “liars.” If they were liars then, they are liars now.[12]

Paul W. Hoon (1910-2000) explains that the Greek noun entolē, translated in English as “commandment,” means “the moral expression of God’s nature of which eternal life is the experience.” Unfortunately, under the First Covenant, the Law did not have the power to save. Therefore, eternal life was not given to those who obeyed perfectly it, which no one ever did. Only when the Anointed One came did keep God’s Word promise eternal life. We must not forget, says Hoon, that these are “God’s,” not human decrees. They are not tied historically to the Ten Commandments of Moses. Instead, they have been there from the beginning. That’s why it took someone from the beginning to bring them to life. They are an expression of God’s will in a person’s life, which Jesus the Anointed One displayed to perfection. That’s why the Scripture challenges us to be more like Him.[13]

Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002) points out that the Greek conjunction kai (“and” (KJV)) that begins verse three is not an extension of the previous verses. On the contrary, says Schnackenburg, changing it to “now” puts all the emphasis on the criterion for distinguishing between false and true knowledge seekers. It all boils down to whether or not they are practicing what they preach. Are they just reading God’s commandments, or are they obeying them? It emphasizes how those John addressed in this epistle felt threatened by the false teachers’ self-promoting, misleading slogans. These catchphrases by the heretical prophets show how much depends on such identifying marks.[14] Not only must we know God, but we must also recognize our detractors and their division which causes taking sides. It is especially true because of what John says here in verses four and five.

While the KJV renders this opening as “…we do know that we know Him,” and the NIV as “We know that we have come to know Him,” Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) feels that the best rendition would be “…we know that we have known Him.” So, knowing Him is not in the past tense or present tense, but it is ongoing and never ends in the imperfect tense. In other words, what John is going to say about obeying His commandments is not something new but something we’ve known all along. That means the believers have no excuses. Not only that, but anyone claiming to have known God for a long time but ignores His Word is living a lie.[15]

Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) notes that John introduces us to three claims made by any believer. First, in verse four, “I know Him.” Second in verse six, “I abide in Him.” And third in verse nine, “I am living in union with Him.” To these claims, the Apostle says: To know Him is to obey Him. To abide in Him is to live as He lived. And to walk in the Light is to love one another. If you don’t meet these conditions, your claim is false. Or, as John says, you are lying.[16]


[1] John 5:42; 1 John 1:7

[2] 2 Corinthians 7:1

[3] Romans 14:18

[4] John 15ff

[5] Song of Solomon 8:5

[6] Stock, John: An Exposition of the First General of St. John, op. cit., pp. 73–74

[7] John 17:21

[8] Lias, J. J. The First Epistle of John with Exposition, op. cit., p. 62

[9] Ibid. The First Epistle of John with Homiletical Treatment, op. cit., p. 70

[10] Cocke, A. R. (1895), Studies in the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 28-29

[11] Smith, David: Expositor’s Greek Testament, op. cit., p. 174

[12] Greville, Priestly L. The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 39

[13] Hoon, Paul W., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., Vol. XII, p. 230

[14] Schnackenburg, Rudolf, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 95

[15] Brown, Raymond E., The Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 251-252

[16] Smalley, Stephen S., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, p. 46

About drbob76

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