WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XXXIX) 05/17/21

2:14 I write to you, children because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know the One who existed from the beginning. I write to you, young people because you are strong. The word of God lives in you, and you have defeated the devil.

EXPOSITION

No doubt, what the Apostle John is saying is also why the Apostle Paul encouraged the Colossians to let the teaching of the Anointed One in all its richness continue living in them. “These make your lives rich and full of wisdom. Keep on teaching and helping each other. Sing the Psalms, hymns, and the songs of heaven with hearts full of thankfulness to God.”[1] Neither John nor Paul were speaking something new. It was the agreement God made with the people of Israel that He would put His teachings in their minds and write them on their hearts. He would be their God, and they will be His people.[2] John will reiterate this in his second letter.[3]

COMMENTARY

Clement of Alexandria (150-216 AD) believes that the Apostle John indicates the stages of advancement and progress of the reborn spirit while confined to the human body in these last three verses. These are those with forgiven sins and children of God. But since many, perhaps, were converted under John’s ministry, now that he is an elder, he sees them as his children. “Fathers” were those first to be saved and knew from the start the Anointed One is the Savior of the lost. Then came the “young people” who not only accepted the Anointed One as their Lord and Savior but have gone in their sanctified pursuit of being holy as He is holy. And finally, there are the children, recent converts who’ve just come out of their dead idol temples to follow Jesus who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.[4] 

In Origen’s (185-254 AD) opinion, if someone is a child inside, they will appear to be a child on the outside as well, no matter how old they are. The same is true of someone who is an overgrown teenager. But it also follows from this that anyone can be an adult and parent on the inside, whatever age they may be.[5]

Thomas Aquinas is discussing whether the Sacrament of Confirmation imparts character. Some say that it seems that Confirmation does not confer character on a believer. A person’s spiritual nature serves as a sign of distinction. A person is not distinguished from unbelievers by Confirmation, this follows Baptism. This sacrament is ordained to prepare one for spiritual combat. The Church urges all the faithful to participate. Therefore, this sacrament does not create spiritual traits.

Aquinas responds by saying: sacraments do imprint character the first time, but not when repeated. Pope Gregory II says about this Sacrament of Confirmation, “For a person wanting to be confirmed a second time by a bishop, repetition of this sacrament must be forbidden.”[6] Therefore, confirmation engraves character. Character is a spiritual power ordained to specific sacred actions. Just as Baptism is a spiritual regeneration unto Christian life, Confirmation is also a form of spiritual growth, bringing them to perfect spirituality. The proper response to a human immediately after birth is different from the appropriate steps needed as they grow older.

And, therefore, says Aquinas, by Confirmation, a person is given spiritual authority. These are different than those received in Baptism. For in Baptism, they obtained the power to do those things which pertain to their salvation, [7] inasmuch as they live to maintain themselves: whereas in Confirmation, they take delivery of power to do those things which relate to spiritual combat with the enemies of the Faith. This is evident from the example of the apostles, who, before they received the fullness of the Holy Spirit, were in the “upper room… persevering… in prayer.”[8] Afterward, they went out in public to testify of their faith, even in the face of the enemies of the Christian Faith. And, therefore, the establishment of character is evident in Confirmation.[9] It appears the Aquinas was suggesting that the energy and incentive behind moving on from spiritual new birth to mature thinking and spiritual growth are attributed to the believer as empowered by the Church. That concept is still around today in many churches.

In his classic work, Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan mentions that he and other pilgrims came to the “By-pass Meadow” road as they proceeded. After going through the gate, Pilgrim Christian continued with his fellow pilgrim Hopeful. It caused them to be taken prisoner by giant Despair and put into Doubting castle. There they sat and consulted each other as to what was the best thing to do. They were very committed and had a great manager in Mr. Great-heart.  The question was should they attempt killing the giant, demolish his castle, and if there were any pilgrims in it, to set them free before they went any further. So, one said, “come on, let’s do this,” and another said, “hold on, let’s do that.”

The question then arose concerning the lawfulness of getting involved in things that were not sacred. One of them said that it wouldn’t hurt as long as they meant good. But Mr. Great-heart said, “Such an assertion cannot be accurate in all cases. Yes, the command is to resist sin and overcome evil but not under every circumstance. When responding to the order to resist sin, to overcome evil, we must first pray and find out what evil is involved. Then, we must fight to fight the good fight.”“So,” asked someone, “wouldn’t that include giant Despair?”

Therefore,” said pilgrim Christian, “I will attempt to end giant Despair’s life and demolish his Doubting castle.” Then Christian asked, “Who will go with me?” Old Honest said, “I will.” And “we will too,” said Christiana’s four sons, Matthew, Samuel, Joseph, and James – for they were young men and spiritually healthy.[10] So they left the women sitting by the road where Mr. Feeble-minded, and Mr. Ready-to-Quit, with his crutches, stood guard for the women until these spiritual warriors came back. Although the palace of giant Despair was close by, as long as they stayed on the road, even a little child could lead them.[11]

John Bunyan is attempting to illustrate that among the pilgrims in any church, you will find those who can strategize the plan for fighting the enemy, those equipped to fight the adversary, and those left in charge of the ones waiting for victory. You do not need a general or a warrior; even a young Christian can often offer encouragement.

Jonathan Edwards notes that the Apostle John clearly establishes that what he wrote was supposed to have remarkable grace since he declares this to be the qualification, he expects in writing to them. He lets them know his intentions because he believes them to be people of character, such as those who know God, have overcome the wicked one, and have their sins forgiven them.[12]

As a pastor, I learned I could not speak to all my members on the same level of understanding God’s Word. The more knowledge they had of the Bible and Church doctrine, the more comfortable it was to use phrases and terms related to theology. I never considered one more intelligent or important than the other; some were more informed than others. It is essential because you don’t want your message of encouragement to help some and handicap others.

Charles Simeon says that God intended His Word for every individual and respects them as part of His creation. On this account, ministers must mark with accuracy the defining features of every character and, by “rightly dividing the word of truth” to “provide everyone their portion in due season.” The Apostle John offers us an excellent example concerning this. He is not content with “separating the priceless from the worthless,” He arranges the saints themselves into distinct ministries, according to their spiritual gifts, and gives them particular signs in distinguishing one from another.[13]

These are not stickers but seals of the Holy Spirit. Those were no doubt known by John, who addressed this Epistle, especially to them. Pastors must identify leaders in their congregation and communicate with them on the needs he sees among the congregants. Instead of seeing this as discrimination against other members, it assists them in becoming reliant workers in the Body of the Anointed One.


[1] Colossians 3:16

[2] Hebrews 8:10

[3] 2 John 1:2; see 3 John 1:3

[4] Clement of Alexandria, Comments on First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 1163

[5] Origen, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., 1-3 John, pp. 182-183

[6] The Letters of Saint Boniface, Columbia University Press, New York, 1940, Pope Gregory II to Boniface, Epistle XVIII, p. 54

[7] Thomas Aquinas was born in a castle in Italy. His father a knight in the service of King Roger. He began his education at age five. He was an ardent reader of philosophy which led him to develop his theological philosophy. His familiarity with the Greek humanities influenced his thinking and writing. That’s why much of Aquinas’ theological writings are more philosophical than exegetical. So, we can see that by 1200s, the doctrine of salvation by works was well established in the Roman Church.

[8] Acts of the Apostles, 1: 13-14

[9] Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica, Vol. 5, pp. 1008-1009

[10] See verses 13-14

[11] Isaiah 11:6

[12] The Works of Jonathan Edwards: Vol. 3, Concerning the Qualifications Part 2, Sec. 7, p. 272

[13] Charles Simeon: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 393

About drbob76

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