WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XXX) 05/04/21

2:8 But what I write is also a new commandment. It is a true one; you can see its truth in Jesus and yourselves. The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.

Kenneth Wuest (1893-1961) paraphrases verses seven and eight this way: “Divinely loved ones, I am writing you an old commandment now new in quality, which you have had constantly from the beginning. The old commandment is the Word that you’ve heard before. Again, I am writing you a commandment new in quality, which fact is true in the Anointed One and you because it causes the darkness to fade away, leaving the Light, the true Light shining.”[1]

John Owen discusses obedience to the Anointed One by looking at its nature and what causes it. He says there is a peculiar kind of respect for Him as Mediator and supreme authority over the church. He has confirmed all the moral law’s commands, giving them new characteristics in that he calls them “His commandments.” So, when He says, “It is my command that you love one another,” – the old law, then adds, “You must love your neighbor as you love yourself,” – the new law, John, then calls it a combination of old and new.[2]

Daniel Whitby reminds us that those who participate in fulfilling the ceremonial laws and not like those who are wandering in darkness. Sometimes they are referred to as walking in the shadows since most Jewish ceremonies and Feasts were foreshadowing the real thing. So, believers, such as the Galatians, still stuck in the past, are not eternally lost;[3] they have just lost their way.[4]

In a compilation of older interpretations and explanations of Biblical passages in Torah called the “Yalkut Shimoni” (“gathering of Simon”), John Gill tells us that it is a compilation of older interpretations and illustrations between the eleventh and fourteenth Centuries. We find that the Jews expected “a new law” to be given them by the hands of the Messiah, and the new one He will be giving contains a new commandment on love, which is the fulfilling of the law.[5] So, either the compilers of the Yalkut Shimoni considered the Apostle John as one of their seers, or else it was some unwritten oral tradition known by the Apostle John.[6]

Samuel E. Pierce (1746-1829) exclaims that where the light of the knowledge of the glory of God manifests itself, it shines on the mind and into the heart, in the Person of the God-Man, Jesus the Anointed One. There is personal and most blessed communion enjoyed with the Lord. There, the commandment which the Anointed One gave will be engraved on the heart; it will be remembered and practiced; which may also be a part of the beloved John’s meaning: loving one another for the Anointed One’s sake. It is true of Him and us. His light on this command shines within us: we are under the sweet influence of the same: we most cheerfully practice it because the darkness of sin and error passed from us.[7]

Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) preached that light in all languages is the symbol of knowledge, joy, and purity. It is the source of life. Its very nature is to send out rays into and conquer darkness. Its splendor dazzles every eye; all things rejoice in its beams. Darkness is the type of ignorance, sorrow, and sin, while various revelations that enrich knowledge, purity and self-communication are the predominant ideas here.

John felt honored to give the world three great revelations, says Maclaren, “God is Spirit,” “God is Light,” and “God is Love.” And this profound knowledge includes all of them. Since light, which to the popular mind is apart from matter, may well stand for the emblem of spirit. Since to radiate is its inseparable quality, it represents light, which is the heart of God’s declaration is love. If then, we grasp these thoughts of absolute purity and self-impartation as the very nature and property of God, John tells us that we understand the core of the Gospel.[8]

Maclaren goes on to say that Christian progress consists not in getting away from the fundamental facts, the elements of the Gospel. Instead, it consists of penetrating more deeply into these and feeling more of their power and grasp. Just as Greek mathematician Euclid of Alexandria’s[9] influence is in the definitions of axioms and postulates of mathematics from the beginning, we write all our books using the letters of the alphabet. Therefore, progress consists not in advancing beyond the fundamental elements but sinking deeper into their certainty. We must do the same with the basic truth that “God was in the Anointed One reconciling the world unto Himself.”[10]

James Morgan (1859-1942) defines the darkness that disappears when the light starts shining. He says that for Christians, the uncertainty of Judaism is in the past; it served its purpose. But as the moon and stars disappear when the sun rises, so did Judaism’s influence on salvation when the Son of righteousness appeared on the horizon. Also, the darkness of heathenism is long gone. The call of the prophet is made for us. “Rise up and shine, for your light has come. The shining-greatness of the Lord has risen upon you.”[11]

Furthermore, the darkness of unaided and perverted human reasoning is part of the past, says Morgan. “For God in His wisdom saw to it that the world would never find God through human brilliance, and then He stepped in and saved all those who believed His message, which the world calls foolish and silly.”[12] But for others, “The darkness in our lives disappears, and the new light of life in the Anointed One shines in.”[13] That’s because “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”[14] Therefore, “We Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him.”[15] So for everyone to know, “The people who sat in darkness saw a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shone.”[16] Consequently, “While you have the Light, put your trust in the Light. Then you will be the sons of the Light.”[17] [18]

Albert Barnes (1872-1951) notes that verse seven begins with: “Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you.” And then verse eight starts with: “Again, a new commandment I write unto you.” To the casual reader, this may seem like a contradiction. That is, what I am now instructing is not new. It is the same doctrine that you’ve always heard with a contemporary twist.

Barnes also reveals there are varying views on what John referred to by the word commandment, whether it is the injunction in the previous verse to live as the Anointed One lived, or whether it is what he refers to in the following verses, the duty of brotherly love. Perhaps neither of these is precisely the Apostle’s idea, but he may mean in this verse to put in a general disclaimer against the charge that what he urged was new.

In respect to all that John taught, says Barnes, the views of truth he held, the duties he advised, the course of life he prescribed as proper for a Christian to live, he meant to say that it was not at all new. He originated nothing; it was the same system of doctrines they received since becoming believers. He might have felt persuaded to say this because he was apprehensive that some of those he had in view and whose principles he seemed to oppose might say that this was all new. The Christians the Apostle John wrote to clearly understood the nature of their faith as laid down by the Savior. In a somewhat different sense, he admits that there was a commandment to be considered for the Savior called it “new.[19]

John Stock (1817-1884) advises us that “truth” is both new and old. The revised version corresponds with the original. The commandment to love God and each other was first in the heart of God. The moral law is but the reflection of God, who is holy, just, and understanding.[20] He sees it as a resemblance to Himself, which is our reason to rejoice. The giving of the Law on Mount Sinai was not its birth. When He created our first parents, love for God was written on the fleshly tablets of their hearts, and it was their delight to love their beneficent Creator and each other as themselves. Christianity is God’s grand scheme to restore all things. And where the Anointed One is believed in and obeyed, through the power of the vital union to Him by faith, love follows, and faith works by it; affection, not constraint, choice, not compulsion, leading disciples into the paths of righteousness. “On that day of Your power, Your people will come to you willingly.”[21] It verifies the surrender of the sons of God of their souls and bodies to the Son of God.[22]


[1] Wuest, Kenneth S. (1961)., The New Testament an Expanded Translation, op. cit., which I have redacted to make it more understandable in today’s English.

[2] Owen, John: Christologia, Vol. 2, Ch. 11, p. 183

[3] See 2:11

[4] Whitby, Daniel: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 460

[5] Gill, John: Exposition of the Entire Bible (Kindle Location 340269)

[6] Cf. Jeremiah 31:33

[7] Pierce, S. E., An Exposition of the First Epistle General of John, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 147

[8] Maclaren, Alexander: Sermons on First John, op. cit., The Message and its Practical Results.

[9] Euclid was a Greek mathematician best known for his treatise on geometry: The Elements. This has influenced the development of Western mathematics for over 2,345 years.

[10] Maclaren, Alexander: Commentary (Expositions of Holy Scripture), op. cit., (Kindle Locations 167732-167736)

[11] Isaiah 60:1

[12] 1 Corinthians 1:21

[13] 1 John 1:8

[14] Psalm 119:105

[15] 2 Corinthians 3:18

[16] Matthew 4:16

[17] John 12:36

[18] Morgan, James (1865)., An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 88

[19] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., 4812

[20] Romans 7:17

[21] Psalm 110:3

[22] Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle Genera of St. John, op. cit., p. 91

About drbob76

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