NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XXXII) 05/06/21
2:9a If anyone claims, “I have the Light of truth living in me,” but hates a fellow Christian brother or sister, that person is still full of the darkness of pretension.
John, no doubt, remembers when Jesus touched on this same theme while the disciples were with Him. And the Apostle Paul went over this subject in his letter to the Romans where he said; You know what God wants you to do and what is important because you learned it in the law. You may think you are a guide for the blind and a light for those in darkness. You might think you can show foolish people what is right and teach those who know nothing. Just because you have the law, you think you know everything and have all truth. You teach others, so why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but you are a temple robber.
John also knew that after many centuries, the Jews were all but unconscious of what the Scriptures said about Jesus when He came and the message He brought. As far back as the Psalm writers, this was already a problem. And the Apostle Peter gave his assessment of how a Christian should respond to getting more light of truth when needed. He told his readers that God’s power gives us everything we need for life and holy living. The Almighty gives it through His tremendous power. As we know Him better, we learn that He called us to share His spectacular glory and excellence. Through these, He gave us exceedingly great and precious promises. With these gifts, you can share in God’s nature, and the world will not ruin you with its corrupt desires.
Peter goes on to say, for this very reason, try your hardest to practice your faith with good intentions. That way, you will gain knowledge and allow you to develop self-control. In so doing, you will also grow more patient in your devotion to God. Such a commitment will lead to doing kind things for your brothers and sisters in the Anointed One. But remember this, to all these things, you must include love. For if you have these qualities and are still growing, they keep you from being barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus the Messiah. But those who don’t increase in these blessings become blind. They cannot see how they benefitted when the Lamb of God shed His blood and washed away all their past sins.
Clement of Alexandria (150-216 A.D.) believes that when John talks about the Light, we should understand it as “truth.” That’s why if a person knows the truth, they will keep God’s commandments. And, in verse five, by knowing the truth, they will love their fellow believer. No wonder Jesus said that if we experience the power of truth, have the Light, the truth, or Light, set us free from the darkness of sin.
Bede the Venerable (672-735 AD) reiterates that the Lord told us to love our enemies, so if someone claims to be a Christian and hates their fellow brother or sister, they are still dead in their sins. It is good that John added the word “still” because everyone is born in the darkness of sin and remains there until enlightened through the Anointed One by the grace of baptism. But the person who comes to be baptized or eat the Lord’s Supper with hatred towards their fellow believer is still in the darkness, even if they think that God has enlightened them, nor can they get rid of the shadows of sin unless they begin to love.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) answers whether hatred of one’s neighbor is always a sin? It would seem, says someone, it does not always have to be labeled a sin. For no sin is commanded or recommended by God. As King Solomon recorded God, saying, “My advice is wholesome. There is nothing devious or crooked in it.” On the other hand, Jesus told His listeners, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes even their own life – such a person cannot be My disciple.” So it is possible for Christians to hate.
Aquinas comes back with this: On the contrary, John says here in verse nine that anyone who hates their fellowman is in darkness. Now spiritual darkness is sin. Therefore, there cannot be hatred of one’s neighbor without sin. So, here’s my answer, says Aquinas; hatred opposes Love. Hatred of something evil is balanced by loving wholesome things. When it comes to our family or neighbor, we can love those things that we share concerning God and law and order. However, we are permitted to hate those things that would keep us from God and be peaceful society members. Therefore, hating one’s father, mother, sister, or brother falls within the realm of their opposition to our following the Anointed One.
Samuel E. Pierce (1746-1829) defines hate as follows: “To hate is to wish the worse on someone; hatred is deep-rooted meanness.” Sometimes, we use hatred as an expression of loving far less passionately than might naturally be expected. The word “hate” does not imply positive hatred. Instead, it is the absence of the love expected from any believer as they exalt and glorify the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. Pierce says that we may conceive hatred as a deep-rooted bitterness expressed from one person to another, bringing them aggravation and exasperation. In this epistle, John chiefly mentions it as an evil venom that brings unpleasant results with debilitating effects.
Richard Rothe (1799-1867) declares that to be a Christian, you must be “in the Light as John sees it.” The Apostle makes it clear that a Christian is one in whom the darkness passed away, and the pure Light is already shining. Being in the Light is made evident by the loved one has for their spiritual brother and sister. Not only, says Rothe, do those in the Light recognize this family love as a commandment any true believer should ignore. Instead, by its quickening brightness, the Light awakens this love as an inner necessity. So, it is not something we do when convenient, but it is something we are always on the lookout to do whenever possible. That’s the difference between claiming to have the new Light and walking in the Light.
Patton J. Gloag (1823-1906) says that the Anointed One saves us from eternal punishment through His sufferings; He forgives us of sin by shedding His blood. But mercy not only flows from the pains of the Anointed One but also purification. There is a cleansing efficiency in His blood, as John says here in verses seven and nine; thereby, the death of the Anointed One redeems us not merely from the guilt of sin, but the pollution of sin.
Gloag continues, sin is lawlessness, separation from the holy law of God. The soul is cut off from God and is in a state of spiritual death. And, just as sin is revolting against God’s law, and love is the sum of this law, any absence of love, whether in the form of selfishness or outright hatred, constitutes the essence of sin. Sin is universal in humanity; it belongs to the flesh. Unfortunately, it also tears down the soul and pollutes the mind, and corrupts the heart.
Marvin Vincent (1834-1922) points to a sensitive issue maintained here in the Anointed One’s words, “They that are not with me are against me.” People fall into two classes, those in fellowship with God and walk in light and love, and those who are not in accord with God and walk in darkness and disrespect of Him. No bridge allows crossing back and forth between the two. Neither can one chose to live in one from time to time and then in the other when convenient. A person must die to one to be alive in the other.
Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) points out that in previous passages, the Apostle John gave us a pair of contrasts: Light versus Darkness, Truth versus Falsehood, and here, Love versus Hate. These are possible inconsistencies between profession and possession, creed, and conduct. And what it all boils down to is whether a brother or sister in the Lord is truly a Christian.
Paul W. Hoon (1910-2000) shares that a loveless person does not know how unloving they are. It forces others to deal with this miserable fault. They have no idea where such an attitude will take them or to what disaster it will lead. In one sense, says Hoon, they walk in darkness because they remain blind to their lack of love; in other words because they continue to walk in darkness. Either they refuse to see the light in their loveless condition, or they cannot see it at all. Such consistent disliking progressively destroys the capacity for liking. As a result, they often cause others to stumble. That’s because bitterness causes them to lash out; their vindictiveness often injures the innocent; always looking for revenge poisons other people’s motives. Such hypocritical Christians, says Hoon, who claim to be in the Light while they despise their spiritual brothers and sisters, shames the Church, repels the earnest seeker, and promotes pessimism.
 John 9:41
 Romans 2:18-21
 Psalms 82:5
 2 Peter 1:3-9
 Clement of Alexandria: Comments on First Epistle of John, op. cit., p.1163
 John 8:32
 Bede the Venerable: Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., 1-3 John, p. 181
 Proverbs 8:8
 Luke 14:26
 Aquinas, Thomas: Summa Theologica, Vol. 3, p. 439
 See Luke 14:26
 Pierce, S. E., An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., Vol 1, p. 154
 Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., August 1891, p. 246
 1 John 3:4
 Ibid. 3:15; 4:20
 Gloag, Patton James: Introduction to the Johannine Writings, op. cit., pp. 247, 249
 Luke 11:23
 Vincent, Marvin: Word Studies in the NT, op. cit., 332
 Plummer, Alfred: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 94
 Hoon, Paul W., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., Vol. XII, p. 234