WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XXXVI) 05/12/21

2:11 But whoever hates their brother or sister is in darkness. They live in darkness. They don’t know where they are going because the darkness has made them blind.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was troubled by the fact that many Christians discuss the teachings and doctrines of the Bible intellectually. They show that they satisfy all the passions of our Lord through prayer, praise and worship, Bible study, baptism, and so on, but they have no real love for one another. What this means, says Lloyd-Jones, is that you and I can only be happy about the fact that we are Christians if we find this loving, forgiving spirit within ourselves and share it. It is little more than small talk to say that God has forgiven us if we do not love and forgive ourselves.[1] People say God’s Word enlightened them but have a grudge and dislike for a fellow believer. They are not in the Light but the darkness of worldly thinking. If God pardoned you despite your dreadful unworthiness, you must do the same to others. We are not to ridicule another believer’s salvation but rejoice with them for God’s saving grace.[2]

William Barclay (1907-1976) says the person who hates their fellow human walks in darkness and does not know where they are going because the darkness has blinded them. That is to say, hatred makes a person blind, and this, too, is something we can all see. When a person has hatred in their heart, it obscures their powers of judgment; they cannot focus on the issues. It is common to see a person opposing a good proposal simply because they dislike, or has quarreled with, the individual who made it. Again, and again progress in church planning or an association is held up because of personal displeasure. No person is fit to give a verdict on anything while they have hatred in their heart, and no person can rightly direct their life when hatred dominates them.[3]

D. Edmond Hiebert (1928-1995) says that the context of the Apostle John writing about Light and darkness emphasize the presence of authentic Light in contrast to the spurious “illumination” of false teachers. Any professed “gospel” that distorts or counterfeits the apostolic teaching only prolongs the operation of the darkness. Hiebert also mentions that fish in the Echo River in Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, living in perpetual darkness, have eye sockets, but their eyes are undeveloped. The continued darkness effectively blinded them. The Greek verb etyphlōsen rendered “has blinded” is in the “effective aorist” sense. That means it records the result without calling attention to the time duration involved. Persistence in hatred and sin inevitably leads to continued moral and spiritual blindness.[4]

John Painter (1935) says that “darkness” is the darkness of hatred, and those who live with hostility reveals that the darkness has blinded their eyes. The night of hatred blocks the daylight from reaching their eyes.[5] Reference to the blinding (etyphlōsen) introduces a verb used only three times in the Final Covenant. Paul tells us that it is the god of this world who has blinded the eyes of the unbelievers.[6] The reference is an explanation of the cause of unbelief. It is also the case in the use of the verb in John 12:40. Here John is quoting from Isaiah 6:10 using his modification of the Hebrew and the Septuagint (LXX).[7] We should note that the rare use of a Greek word in Scripture means the writer was looking for something out of the ordinary to describe his conscious thought. In this case, John expressed the symbolic meaning of “make blind” to describe the “blunting of mental discernment, the darkening of the mind,” not the eyes.

Judith Lieu (1951) notes that the Apostle John does not advise hatred, although later in verse fifteen, he comes close. Here, the Apostle talks about those operating in the sphere of dark ignorance instead of those who live in Light’s truth.[8] Some are on the inside looking out with Christianity, and some are on the outside looking in. They are like workers who come to a city, but they are not from that city. As a matter of fact, in the Dead Sea Scrolls, some separated Jewish believers, called the Essenes, came together to form a community, committing themselves “to love the sons of light and detest the sons of darkness.”[9]

2:12a I am writing to you, God’s children, who are dear to Him because He forgave you of your sins for His name’s sake through the work of Jesus on the cross.

EXPOSITION

Now John returns to what he said earlier in chapter one that he was seeking joy for them and him. King David also expressed great satisfaction when a person receives forgiveness of their sins.[10] It was also emphasized by Paul to the Ephesians when he reminded them that God had already decided to adopt us into His family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus the Anointed One. It is what God wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. So, we praise God for the wonder of the grace He freely poured out on us who belong to His dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and mercy that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins for His name’s sake.[11]

King David knew that God did not want His reputation as a forgiving LORD ruined, so that’s why he prayed: “For the honor of Your name, O Lord, forgive my many, many sins.”[12] That’s why, in another Psalm, David calls on everyone to praise the Lord! “Give thanks to the Lord because He is good! His faithful love will last forever. Because despite the waywardness and stubbornness, he nevertheless saved them for His name’s sake, to make known His mighty power.”[13] The prophet Jeremiah echoed this same thankfulness for God’s willingness to forgive despite Israel’s many backsliding.[14] No wonder the Apostle Paul encouraged the Ephesians to be kind and loving to each other and forgive each other just as God forgave them in the Anointed One.[15]

Œcumenius (700-800 AD) says that John knew that not everyone would receive the Gospel message with the same understanding or commitment. Some would respond like children in need of further instruction, and to them, he expounds the forgiveness of sins through faith in the Anointed One.[16] It would follow then that his message to the young men is that they must be examples for the children and pride for the fathers in their commitment to the ways of the Gospel. And for the Fathers, it’s John’s word of encouragement for them to remain steadfast in the faith for those who follow them into positions of responsibility will have their examples to copy.

COMMENTARY

John Calvin says it is undeniable that Jesus completely fulfilled what God declares by Isaiah “I will defend this city to save it for My sake and My servant David’s sake.[17] Of this, the Apostle John is the best witness when he says, “Your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.[18] For although John does not express the name of the Anointed One in his usual manner, he designates Him by the pronoun “He” (Greek “autos”). In the same sense, our Lord also declares, “I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me.”[19] It corresponds with the passage of Paul, “For you not only received the privilege of trusting in the Anointed One but also the privilege of suffering for Him.”[20] [21]

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) quotes the Apostle John, where he says, “And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure.”[22] He believes it suggests “in proportion” to the degree of a person’s hope. That’s because the Lord is their Father, and their desire for greater sanctification is too essential to give up trying. To do so must be considered unthinkable.  Edwards implies that for believers to doubt their standing in grace, to call it into question for any reason whatever, to destroy it, is outright sinful.[23] In Edwards’ mind, John uses forgiveness of sin as motivation or stimulation, not to love the world.[24]

The Apostle’s reasoning would lose all its force, says Edwards, if it depended on the believer never to doubt that they were not within the bond of the Final Covenant. Being in union with the Anointed One must be a fixed conclusion in the believer’s mind. The appeal to hold on to one’s confidence contains a call to persevere in believing in one’s interest in the Lord and practice it in all seasons.[25] [26]


[1] Matthew 6:12

[2] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn, Life in Christ, op. cit., p. 200

[3] Barclay, William: The Letters of John and Jude, Revised Edition, Daily Study Bible, op. cit., pp. 54-55

[4] Edmond, Hiebert, D., 1 John, Bibliotheca Sacra, op. cit., October-December, 1988, p. 424, 427

[5] Matthew 6:22-23

[6] John 12:40; 1 John 2:11; and 2 Corinthians 4:4

[7] Painter, John. Sacra Pagina: Vol. 18, op. cit., (Kindle Locations 9512-9516)

[8] Lieu, Judith, I, II, III John, op. cit., p. 81

[9] The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls Translated by Florentino Garcia Martinez, E. J. Brill, Leiden, Netherlands, 1994, 1QS I, p. 3

[10] Psalm 32:1-2; See Romans 4:6-7

[11] Ephesians 1:5-7; See Colossians 1:14

[12] Psalm 25:11

[13] Ibid. 106:1, 8

[14] Jeremiah 14:7

[15] Ephesians 4:32

[16] Œcumenius Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., 1-3 John, p. 182

[17] Isaiah 37:35

[18] 1 John 2:12

[19] John 6:57

[20] Philippians 1:29

[21] Calvin, John: Institutes, op. cit., pp. 554-556

[22] 1 John 3:3

[23] Ibid. 2:12, 15

[24] 1 John 2:15

[25] Hebrews 10:35

[26] The Works of Johnathan Edwards: Vol. 1, Ch. 15, Letter from Mr. Gillespie, September 19, 1748, pp. 259-260

About drbob76

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