WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XXXIV) 05/10/21

2:10 Those who love their brothers and sisters live in the Light, and there is nothing in them that will make them do wrong.

As Adam Clarke (1774-1849) sees it, there is no stumbling block in the path that the Anointed One leads us on. Walking that road, a person neither gives nor receives any misdeeds: love prevents them from offending any of their fellow human beings, and love constrains them from receiving any from their neighbor. It leads them to construct everything properly. Besides, walking in the Light helps them see stumbling blocks in their way and sidestep them. Sadly, a person falls into sin because they do not see the snares on their path because of the dark, and they do not notice the traps because they either have not received or do not live in the light.[1]

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) says that if brotherly love lives in a person, by that very fact, everything has been removed from within them that could make them stumble on their path through life. Pure, perfect brotherly love never crashes. It is such a simple thing that it is not easily entangled with other desires, no matter how many there may be. Brotherly love enhances the spiritual eye and provides sharper vision. It recognizes its duties as acts of love. It is not easily diverted by temptations, especially those meant to draw them away to become involved in meaningless relationships. Through self-denial, a true believer can avoid such collisions. It is a precious gift for every believer in embracing and using it to its fullest capacity.[2]

William E. Jelf (1811-1875) writes that a person’s sinful uncontrolled tendencies, such as ambition, love of money, which have their external objects corresponding to them, and producing or heightening them expose them to temptation. If jealousy or envy comes responding to someone else’s good fortune and prosperity, these are not the same feelings that arise when the love for money becomes the object of greed, pleasure, or lust. These passions, says Jelf, don’t develop at the last moment but have been active in that person’s heart for a long time. All it takes is the right temptation at the right time to cause these sinful desires to take hold of a person’s heart and mind.[3]

William Graham (1810-1883) speaks with a pastor’s heart when he sums up the substance of this verse by saying, “Brotherly love is the test of discipleship.” This holy affection originates when the spirit is reborn by the power of the cross and immediately becomes a compelling power within us. Our love for our Father in heaven came awake through the dying love of the Anointed One here on earth. That caused the fountain of life and love to open by the infusion of divine grace. Then living water began flowing from inside to all those around us.[4]   

Graham continues: at the high priest’s house when Jesus saw and heard Peter denying Him; His look opened the springs of emotions, which caused Peter to weep bitterly. It wasn’t the Lord’s anger but His grace that touched Peter’s heart. Like every noble and heavenly affection, such brotherly love says Graham, dates from converting the soul to God. This love should have no limit. The Greek noun Philadelphia means the love a person has for a brother or sister and includes every Christian man or woman in the world. We make distinctions that the Lord does not recognize, which will evaporate one day like the morning mist when the righteous Lord comes to judge the world and deliver the creation from the bondage of corruption.[5]

Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901) teaches that the character of God is the touchstone of all fellowship with Him. “God is love,” and one cannot know God without love in their heart: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”[6] It is so true that “love is of God,” so “let us love each other because love comes from God. Those who love are God’s children, and they know God.”[7] Love in the soul is evidence that God’s nature is there, as Light in the heart. The very essence of the Anointed One’s life was self-sacrificing love, and fellowship with Him reflects a similar love. Not everyone who claims to be in the Light possess this quality, only those “who love fellow believers is living in the Light.”[8] The Light illuminates their sphere of life.[9]

Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002) feels that John is not concentrating on the false teachers; he only uses them to point out the need for believers to remain firm and steadfast in the commandments of God involving loving one another as a sign that they love Him. And the way to do that is to stay in the Light of God’s Word. It is necessary to keep a brother or sister from stumbling. The person who loves others fulfills the Law and lives as God called them to live through the Anointed One.  

The Final Covenant, notes Schnackenburg, often refers to stumbling, falling, or tripping as representing a spiritual struggle or failure in someone’s life.[10] Even in the First Covenant, we find an ancient perspective on this concept, noting, “Your words have supported those who were stumbling; You encouraged those with shaky knees.”[11] It does not mean there’s nothing in life that the devil can throw at us to cause us to stumble, says Schnackenburg, but we can make sure there is nothing in us that will cause us to slip and fall (see verse eleven).[12]

Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) finds that the Apostle John provides the antithesis to the first claim these pretenders made back in verse four: “Anyone who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not obey His teaching is a liar. There is no [light of] truth in him.” Now, states John: “Whoever loves his brother is in the light. And there will be no reason to sin because of him.” That’s the reason why the first group in verse four is not in fellowship with God or communion with fellow believers. They do not obey His teaching to love one another as a way of proving they love God.[13] The writer of Hebrews has an excellent description of the fellowship of believers: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meetings, as some people do. Let’s encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.”[14]

James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) sees John’s mention of stumbling in both a positive and negative way. First, those in darkness can cause a fellow believer to stumble. That means a weak fellow believer sees how this brother or sister living in the dark seems to get by after all. They enjoy both lives, heavenly and worldly. However, it does not give any good reason not to follow their example? If they can help them see this, why not use the same perception to assist themselves in getting back on the highway of holiness? Those walking in the Light do not cause any fellow believer to stumble. That’s because they see how the Light guides them and helps them avoid anything put in their way by the devil that would make them stumble.[15]

I like the illustration that current Bible scholar F. Wayne MacLeod uses to depict the effect of light on our spiritual lives. He asks us to imagine the Christian life as a person walking through the woods on a dark and rainy evening. They are unable to see the path clearly as they make their way to a friend’s home on the other side of the forest. As they walk, they stumble over an old tree root and fall into the mud. They pick themselves up, brush off the dirt, and continue on their way. Soon they see their friend’s porch light shining through the trees at a distance.

As they approach the light, says MacLeod, they look at their clothes. That’s when they become aware of how dirty they are. Several minutes pass, and they are even closer to the light of their friend’s house. They look at themselves again and see dirt that they did not see before. It seems that the closer they get to the light, the more filth they see. Is this not how it is in our relationship with the Lord? The closer we get to the light of His holiness, the dirtier and more sinful we appear.[16] So, no matter how often we dust ourselves off with the brush of moral and charitable good deeds, nothing can remove all the stains like the blood of the Lamb.

Have you ever heard a person give their testimony about what it was like when they were born again? Sometimes they bring up and admit to things they did that even their families didn’t know. Often it relates to inward sinful thoughts and tendencies more than to anything they did on the outside. You can take a water hose and wash the outside of a car or house or any dirty and stained object, but it is still unclean until you cleanse the inside.[17]


[1] Adam Clarke: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 370

[2] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op. cit., November 1890, p. 45

[3] Jelf, W. E., Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 23

[4] John 7:37-39

[5] Graham, W. (1857)., The Spirit of Love, op. cit., p. 113

[6] 1 John 4:8

[7] Ibid. 4:7

[8] 1 John 2:10

[9] Cocke, A. R. (1895)., Studies in the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 38–39

[10] Romans 9:32, 33; 11:9; 14:13; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 8:9; 1 Peter 2:8; Jude 1:24

[11] Job 4:4

[12] Schnackenburg, Rudolf, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 108

[13] Brown, Raymond E., The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 273

[14] Hebrews 10:24-25

[15] Boice, James Montgomery, The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 54

[16] Mac Leod, F. Wayne. The Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., (Kindle Locations 550-556)

[17] Cf. Matthew 23:27-28

About drbob76

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