WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XLII) 05/20/21

2:15 Do not love the way worldly people live nor any of the things with which they try to entice you. For when you love the world’s way of living, the love of our heavenly Father will be missing in you.

EXPOSITION

John does not give instructions without adding up the consequences of paying no attention to what God’s Word has to say. We can safely say that John’s inspiration comes from the words of the Master Himself, who said, if you were to belong to the world, the world would love you as its own. But you do not belong to the world. Out of all the people in the world, I picked you; that’s why the world hates you.[1] I would be surprised if the Apostle Paul were not informed about this teaching of Jesus because he wrote a similar sanction to the Romans that they should not change themselves to become like the people of this world, but let God changed them inside a new way of thinking. Then they will be able to understand and accept what God wants them to do. This way, they will know what is delightful and pleasing and what is entirely satisfactory to Him.[2]

As Paul told the Galatians, no one should operate their ministry to please others and get their approval.[3] They should keep in mind that they were once part of the world and spent all their time obeying their sinful tendencies at the urging of the devil. It is something no true believer should ever do, even though some have sold out to the devil.[4] Authentic believers realize that God called them to enjoy a new life by the Anointed One, so keep looking for the good things of heaven where the Anointed One sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Keep your mind thinking about heavenly moral things, not imagining immoral earthly things.[5] It will only make you unfaithful so that you are not loyal to God! You should know that loving the world is the same as hating God. Anyone who wants to be a friend of the world becomes God’s enemy.[6]

COMMENTARY

Rabbi Rashi commented on the Psalms by saying that David believed that he would live forever and not see the grave. He notes that one Jewish scholar understood it as God’s promise to keep David out of the grave: “I will make mortal man dearer than fine gold;”[7]I will go with them with the wrath of withdrawal,[8] namely, He will withhold the ransom for their souls.[9] In other words, it is a comparison between living for God or without Him. God already made His choices. Now, which one do you want, which are you willing to accept? It will determine where you spend eternity.

An early church writer with the pen name, Ambrosiaster (circa 334-384 AD), ties what John says here in verses fifteen and sixteen with what Paul says to the Galatians about the works of the flesh and fruit of the spirit.[10] He says that the Apostle Paul does not mean that love is a “work” of the Spirit, but rather one of its fruit. So, it is that the Spirit bears fruit, which leads to the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven. Paul calls those we are devoted to the Anointed One (namely, the real Christ and pretend christs). These people crucify the flesh, namely, “the world,” when they condemn the things out of which errors arise. That’s why the Apostle John tells us not to have any affection for this “world” or its sinful pleasures.

Ambrosiaster then goes on to tell us that the Apostle Paul uses the “world” to let the Colossians know that this refers to those who live according to the sinful desires of the flesh. And so, it is that the Apostle John tells us here in verse fifteen that we are not to love this evil “world” or the things in it. If we love the “world,” we do not have a love of the Father in us. That is because our desires are for sinful things rather than spiritual things.[11]

Augustine (354-430 A.D.) believes that the sanctified will is, therefore, properly directed love; the corrupt choice is ill-directed love. Love, then, yearning to have what is loved, is desire, and having and enjoying it, is joy; fleeing what is opposed to it is fear, and feeling what is opposed to it, is sadness. Now, these emotions are evil if the desire is evil; good if the yearning is proper.[12] Augustine continues that when the love of God is more significant in saints, the more they will endure for Him whom they love. Sinners who have an active passion for the world, says Augustine, the more they will struggle to get what they are after.

Consequently, notes Augustine, the same source out of which patience flows for the believer is the fountain of God’s love within them. The basis for impatience in the unbeliever is the trash heap of worldly pleasures.[13] It seems to me that there are so many in this world who are “hell-bent,” to use a common phrase, on getting what they want no matter how much it costs or how destructive it is to them, their families, and society. At the same time, there seems to be a lack of a “heaven-sent” desire for the things of God. So, we should not be surprised who is getting the upper hand.

Eucherius (420-449) comments on the “things of the world.” He points to the Apostle John’s warning not to love the things of the world here in verse fifteen. As Eucherius puts it, all these things flatter our gaze with their deceptive show. Let the power of the eyes be focused on the light, not given over to error, and since that power is available for the enjoyment of life, let it not receive what causes death.[14]

Flee the world, says Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022). For what have we got in common with it? Let us run and keep seeking until we lay hold of something permanent and does not pass away, for all things perish and pass away like a dream, and in everything seen, nothing is lasting or certain.[15] By God’s grace, I have been allowed to live long enough to see many of the things I wanted during my youth that, I thought, would make me happy forever are now obsolete and useless. But the things of God that I sought after are still with me, bringing me joy unspeakable and the fullness of glory.

Abbot Theonas (Archbishop of Thessalonica 1541 AD) tells his conference that it should be clear to everyone what sin is, but so few understand it. He says that they cannot tolerate even for a moment the brightness of Divine Glory. Yet, they allow the darkness of carnal thoughts and dangerously corrupt things to blind their soul’s gaze into the Light. So, says Theonas, saints are to scorn all those things which promote worldly living. Yet, it seems impossible for them to keep from being carried away by a brief distraction or thoughts.

Theonas goes on to point out that no person, except our Lord and Savior, could keep His mind fixed on His heavenly Father and never allowed His mind to wander away into loving the things of this world. As the Scripture says: “Even the stars are not clean in His sight,”[16] and again, “He puts no trust in His saints, and finds iniquity in His angels.”[17] A correct translation would be, “Behold among His saints’ none is unchangeable, and the heavens are not pure in His sight.”[18] [19] John Trapp has a great illustration of how the believer can keep the temptations of the world away. He says the traveler uses his cane (which he either keeps or throws away because it hinders his progress). But to hold on to such temptation is fatal because it will lead to neglecting God’s love.[20] I remember here in the United States when they introduced professional football to national broadcasting on television. It was called “Monday Night Football.” It was out of respect for the Church, who had regular services on Sunday night. However, over some time, it finally took the jump to “Sunday Night Football.” That’s when Sunday night services began to disappear. While it was only a tradition, statistics show that more sinners converted on Sunday night than any other time during the week. I can only wonder how many sinners we lost because of this change?


[1] John 15:19

[2] Romans 12:2

[3] Galatians 1:10

[4] Ephesians 2:2

[5] Colossians 3:1-2

[6] James 4:4

[7] Isaiah 13:12

[8] Leviticus 26:21

[9] Rabbi Rashi, Complete Jewish Bible Commentary, Psalm 49:9

[10] Galatians 5:22-23

[11] Ambrosiaster, Ancient Christian Texts, Ed. Gerald L. Bray, IVP Academic, Downers Grove, Illinois, 2009, p. 30, 92

[12] Augustine: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2, The City of God, Bk. 14, Ch. 7, p. 574

[13] Ibid., Vol. 3, Part II, On Patience, p. 963

[14] Eucherius: Bray, G. (Ed.), 1-3 John, op. cit., Exhortation to His Kinsman Valerian, p. 183

[15] Ibid. Discourse 2:14, p. 184

[16] Job 25:5

[17] Ibid. 4:18

[18] Ibid. 15:15

[19] The Third Conference of Abbot Theonas on Sinlessness, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 11, Ch. 8, pp. 1059-1060

[20] Trapp, John, On the Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 727

About drbob76

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