WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XXXVII) 05/13/21

2:12 I write to you, dear children because it was the Anointed One who forgave your sins.

Rev. William Jones (1726-1800), British clergyman and author, points out that the Greek word teknion, which means “a little child,”[1] used here for “children,” is not the same as the Greek paidion, which means “a little boy or girl[2] in the next verse. So, it appears the Apostle John is not including all his readers. It’s only those who were spiritual children in their experience with the Anointed One. We know that one of the first indications of a child’s intelligence is its recognition of its Dad. Very early in life, the heart of the child knows who father is. Not as the result of teaching or reasoning, but in the natural unfolding of its powers, it makes the recognition. And those who are children in the Christian life know God as their Father.

It is not by physical evidence or arguments, but by the trust and love of their heart, awakened through the Anointed One. They know Him as their Father, not only because they are His creatures, but by the gracious, loving, tender relations by which He raises to them and by the existence and exercise of the family spirit in themselves. They received the “Spirit of adoption,”[3] by which they cry “Abba Father.” It seems that “little children” in many cases apprehend and realize the Divine Fatherhood more clearly and fully than Christians of mature age;[4] and that they do so because their faith in Him is simpler and stronger.[5]

John James Lias (1834-1923) says that the Apostle John establishes the broad and deep foundation that love and hate are the practical embodiment of light and darkness. It represents the conditions of being in or out of union with the Anointed One by the fulfillment or non-fulfillment of God’s commandments. It appeals to those under His charge to avoid that which constitutes the most dangerous snare in the believer’s path. That snare is the world. You cannot have one foot in the world and claim the other foot is in the Anointed One. But that seems evident in the introduction here of the urging believers not to love the world. You are either with Him or against Him. If He is not Lord of all, then He is not Lord at all.[6]

Lias goes on to say that as we advance in life, the temptations of the world grow more refined and harder to discern. We need more watchfulness than ever in dealing with them. A person’s tendencies tend to focus on their surroundings. We are bound, as life advances, by ties of ever-increasing complications to our fellowman, such as family ties, outside interests, personal business, and the like. We rely less and less on our love for God because of the influence, persuasion, and power of others over us. And yet, such conduct, whatever our religious profession may be, is the result of darkness, not light. In whatever shape it may take possession of us, the love of the world is the opposite of the love of the Father.

A believer must never forget that forgiven believers are not carrying all their sins around, weighing them down. They need no longer to remember those things that are behind.[7] They must forget those sins that were washed away by the blood of the Anointed One because of their faith and repentance. They must feel great confidence that He who forgave them their past mistakes will pardon them in the future. All they need to do is prepare themselves to fight the battle with the Lord’s persistent energy. Such strength comes from that which persistence and experience alone can provide.[8]

Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) agrees that the redemption of our souls is a fact to us because we believe the record God has given of His Son. No less so is the redemption of our bodies, but it is because we trust in God. As the Apostle Paul writes to Timothy, “We trust in the having God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those that believe.” Trust springs from confidence in the person trusted, and that again depends on the person’s knowledge of the individual confided in. In this sense, faith may be large or little, weak or strong. That’s why the Apostle John wrote this epistle.

Here is a testimony and a fact: The state of our soul may depend on the realization and enjoyment of it, but this faith cannot admit fluctuations. However, trust in God has as many degrees as there are saints on earth. Some believers could not trust Him for a single meal; others can look to Him without misgivings, feed a thousand hungry mouths, or convert a thousand godless sinners. Our faith, in this sense, depends entirely on knowing God and on communion with Him. Increased confidence in the Gospel comes by hearing Him.[9]

Philip Mauro (1859-1952) writes that those who believe every word of God survive on every word of God. We will never neglect any part of the Bible without loss and to our detriment. In the Bible, let us observe that there is a variety of spiritual nutrients analogous to the array of natural foods that God has provided for the needs of physical human beings. The milk of God’s word is available for spiritual babies and healthy food for those who are mature.[10]

And there is the penalty of arrested growth, says Mauro, paid by those who remain content with the relatively bland diet suitable for infants. All they know, John tells them, is that their sins were forgiven but not that the continued nutrients of the Word are necessary for growth. It leaves them the baby food of the Scriptures and leaves them unskilled in the instructions for holy living. Infants can do nothing for themselves, much less prepare food or render service to others.[11] As a pastor, I learned that there were members who belonged to the church for years yet felt unqualified to teach a children’s Sunday school class. I have close friends who taught catechism in the Roman Catholic Church but have no familiarity with the Bible.

John Painter (1935) notes that in this verse, the Apostle John appeals to God as a Father and to Jesus as His Son through whom, our Brother, God forgives us of our sins.[12] In John’s third epistle, we read that when the Church sent out missionaries, they were commissioned on behalf of the Lord Jesus. It troubled the heretics because it made Jesus equally divine to God the Father. We know the Father only forgives sins through faith in the work of His Son. And to some, this made the Father subordinate to the Son. They seem to have forgotten Jesus’ words when He said, “The Father and I are one.”[13]

And Jesus was able to make this claim because the Jews believed it when repeating the Shema: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord [Yahweh], our God [Elohim], is one Lord [Yahweh]!”[14] This reference to God’s secret and sacred name [Yahweh] in such a context, says Painter, complicates it for some because of the linkage of [Yahweh] to the name of Jesus.[15] Translators render the Hebrew Yahweh in Greek as kurios (“Lord”), and in the Final Covenant, the Apostle Paul ties it to Jesus.[16]

James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) makes a point on why the Apostle John chose to address those in the congregation as “fathers,” “young men,” and “children.” He says that most of us have had the experience of making remarks to a crowd that seemed to have had a different meaning to various individuals in the group. Remember, each person who hears what a speaker says applies it to themselves. So, John took the time to speak to the older generation, the middle age, and the youth.[17] Of course, even within these segments, there will be individual interpretations, but they will be easier to deal with because of the age group.

In the Jewish Mishnah Tract Avot, we find these stages of development in a boy: At five years of age listening to the reading of Scripture; at ten the study of the Mishnah; at thirteen becomes subject to the commandments; at fifteen begins the application of Talmud; at eighteen can sit under the bridal canopy; at twenty pursuing their livelihood; at thirty the peak of strength; at forty wisdom; at fifty able to give counsel; at sixty, entering old age; at seventy fullness of years; at eighty the era of “strength;” at ninety a limp body; at one hundred, as good as dead and entirely out of touch with the world.[18]

Judith Lieu (1951) points out that historian Philo of Alexandria also lists the seven stages of a boy’s development.[19] Even William Shakespeare catalogs seven steps in human growth.[20] But Lieu does not feel that the Apostle John spoke of these in his three stages of the believer. He was targeting those just starting in the Christian union with the Anointed One. John included those practicing their faith for a reasonable amount of time. And, finally, those nearing the end of life’s course.[21] Now, just because John did not address women as a group did not mean they weren’t there and very involved.[22] The congregation was a community, and you cannot have an adhesive church community without men, women, and children.[23]


[1] Teknion is used in the Final Covenant as a teacher would address their young pupils.

[2] Paidion is used in the Final Covenant as a term for infants.

[3] Romans 8:15

[4] Matthew 19:14

[5] Jones, William: Pulpit Commentary, Homiletics, op. cit., Vol. 22, p. 56

[6] Lias, J. J., The First Epistle of John with Exposition, op. cit., pp. 100-101

[7] Philippians 3:13

[8] Lias, J. J., op. cit., pp. 104-106

[9] Anderson, Sir. Robert: The Gospel and its Ministry, Faith, Ch. 4, p. 29

[10] Hebrews 5:13-14

[11] Philip Mauro, The Fundamentals: op. cit., Vol. 2, Ch. 7, p. 170

[12] See 1 John 3:23; 5:13; 3 John 1:7

[13] John 10:30; cf. Mark 2:10

[14] Deuteronomy 6:4

[15] Painter, John. Sacra Pagina: Vol. 18 (Kindle Locations 4737-4738)

[16] Philippians 2:10-11

[17] Boice, James Montgomery, The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 57

[18] Pirkei Avot, 5:22

[19] Philo of Alexandria, On the Creation of the World, Ch. 35 (103)

[20] Shakespeare, William, The Seven Stages of Man, Act 2, Scene 7

[21] 2 Timothy 4:7

[22] Colossians 3:18-22

[23] Lieu, Judith, I, II, III John, op. cit., p. 87

About drbob76

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