WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XLIII) 05/21/21

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.

John Owen sees believers as having communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that is distinct. For the Father; Faith, love, obedience, etc., are uniquely and distinctly offered up to Him by the saints; and He manifests Himself in unusual heavenly ways towards them. It should draw them out and stir them up responding to Him. John expects us to believe people when they say something is true. But what God says is more important. And what God told was the truth about His Son.[1] Therefore, whoever believes in the Son of God has the truth that God told us. But people who do not believe God make God a liar because they do not believe what God shared with us about His Son.[2] To believe on the Son of God, says Owen, is to receive the Lord, our Anointed One, as God’s Son given to us out of the Father’s love, based on the Father’s testimony; and, therefore, God’s acts immediately on our willingness to become His children.

That’s why, remarks Owen, if you do not believe in God and what He said and what His Son did for you, you are calling God a liar. Did not Jesus tell His disciple, “If you believe in God, you believe in Me?”[3] God is the prima Veritas, [4] founded upon His authority, ultimately resolving all divine faith. Therefore, we must not consider it a “hypothesis,” but as “essential,” comprehending the whole Godhead. John presents the Father as the object of our love, opposing the world, which steals our affections. The Father represents the substance and object, not the efficient cause. And this love of Him as a Father is that which He calls His “honor.[5] [6]

William Burkitt (1662-1703) says that when the Apostle John speaks of overcoming the wicked one, he means not being allied with him. There is no way to agree or compromise or sign a peace treaty on matters with Satan. There is no way to deal with him except by total victory. The Scriptures encourage us to overcome him.[7] And the way to triumph over him is by resisting him so that he will leave us alone.[8] When we yield only once to him on any minor matter, you will find him an overbearing tyrant. But by saying “No” to him on every occasion, you will find him to be a timid coward.[9] [10]

Adam Clarke (1762-1832) examines what the Apostle John said to the Fathers, Young People, and Children. He notes that although these individuals were so well acquainted with godly things and by faith tasted of the powers of things to come, yet they are still vulnerable to be drawn away to frivolous things of this world. That’s why the Holy Spirit found it necessary to inspire John to caution them against becoming involved with or desiring earthly things that will pass away.

Clarke believes that greediness is a debilitating vice of old age. Not greed in the sense of wanting everything, but in not being willing to give up anything. That’s why John tells the fathers not to deny the youth their opportunities for fear they might outdo them. For young people, the things of the world, its profits, pleasures, and honors, have the strongest allurements for youth; therefore, young people, little children, and babes are not to love the things of this world. Let those hearts abide faithful to God, who has taken him for their portion.[11]

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) addresses the Apostle John’s warning about loving the world and the things of the world. He writes that the earth’s inhabitants seem to function without involvement in religion. They are guided by “common knowledge” and “human logic” that apply to political, business, and social life. Therefore, the “things of this world” refer to society’s wants, needs, and pleasures.[12]

William E. Jelf (1811-1875) responds to some interpretations of what the Apostle John says here about “not loving the world or the things in the world.” He points out that the usual sense attached to the “world” by commentators is: (1) The unconverted part of humanity and its practices or the mass human population. (2) The spirit of evil which dwells and works on earth, the evil passions of humanity. (3) The perishing world as opposed to the spiritual world.

Jelf explains that from number (1) of these arises the Christian error of withdrawing from ordinary life. From number (2) is the mistake of supposing that to renounce the world is to reject those things which only evil people enjoy. And from number (3) imagining that to relinquish love for worldly, this is to talk a lot of religion and heaven and avoid ordinary topics of interest. We must consider that the Greek noun kosmos, translated as “world,” embraces all of humanity without excluding any of them and yet looks at them from a heavenly and spiritual view.

Jelf goes on to say that we should not confine worldly things to the immoral sins or meaningless amusements current in today’s society. Nor objects of passing interest or going with the crowd. It signifies the sphere of the unsanctified individual, whatever that sphere may be, or however, the natural-self energizes itself. Business, politics, charitably works, mostly center on “self-interest” and “self-glorification.” It is the worldly way; It is sophisticated living. Therefore, those with thoughts of heaven should not be obsessed with these things, especially when they crowd out the elements on which a spiritual believer should concentrate. Says Jelf, this verse is only an indoctrination of self-denial.[13]

Richard Tuck (1816-1868) expounds on the difference between “sinning” and “loving the world.” Sinning is a response to an inward challenge, while loving the world is an outward choice. Sinning is an “act,” while enjoying the world is an “attitude.” Sin can drive the soul to God; loving the world drives the soul away from God. Sin makes the Father’s love very precious; affection for the world crushes out all love of the Father. Loving the world is a more dangerous thing than sinning against God. Sin can be found even in the most authentic, sincere, and earnest religious life. Loving the world is inconsistent with an honest and heartfelt spiritual life. Unfortunately, we think very little about someone loving this world, but we treat sin as a condemned dreaded act.[14] All we need to do is see what siding with the world did to Peter and Judas Iscariot.

Paton J. Gloag (1823-1906) says John cautions believers against the enticements of the world. We are not to love (Greek verb agapaōmeaning to welcome, entertain, become fond of, be pleased with) the world, neither the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love (Greek noun agapēmeaning divine holy affection for God and spiritual brothers and sisters) is not in them. The world is condemned, doomed, and headed for destruction. God called believers out of the world; when they believe in the Anointed One, they belong no longer to the anti-Christian world; they pass from the domain of death and darkness into the kingdom of Life and Light.[15] So, why would anyone invest their time and energy into a world bound for obliteration rather than God’s everlasting kingdom?

I like how Daniel Steele (1824-1914) defines the “world”[16] John tells us not to love. For Steele, the world is “the secular influences that are hostile to God.” Let me illustrate this with a personal experience. As a child, I was very allergic to poison ivy. I seemed to be infected when no one else would be affected by it. My mother warned me, again and again, do not go into weed patches, especially those alongside the road. “The best way,” she would say, “to keep from getting it is to stay away from it.” Daniel Whedon seems to use the same analogy here when it comes to staying away from the temptations of the world. He says that this self-purification involves a withdrawal of our fellowship from the world in its impure nature. It does not mean stop going out of the house; instead, never going into the dens of immorality.[17]

John Stock (1832-1895) points out that numbers of people live without God in the world.[18] He does not occupy their interests, is not in all their thoughts, but is tossed behind their back.[19] Pharaoh represents the whole class, who said, “Who is the Lord? I know not the Lord, neither will I obey His voice,”[20] as they also who, assume authority, say in the spirit of antichrist, “We will not have this man to reign over us.”[21] The world is ungodly. Service to God, if at all, is humble. The precepts of men have influence,[22] by which they regulate reverence for God, seen as a stern Judge, a demanding deity to deal with, reaping where He had not sown, and requiring what He had not given the capability to perform.[23]


[1] 1 John 5:9

[2] Ibid. 5:10

[3] John 14:1

[4] Prima Veritas is a legal firm that offers services for registration of trademark, copyright, invention and intellectual property.

[5] Malachi 1:6

[6] John Owen: Of Communion with God, Vol 3, Ch. 2, pp. 16-17

[7] Revelation 12:11; See 1 John 5:3-4

[8] James 4:7

[9] Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7

[10] William Burkitt: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 760

[11] Adam Clarke: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 372

[12] Albert Barnes: New Testament Notes, op. cit., pp. 4820-4821

[13] Jelf, W. E., Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., pp. 27-28

[14] Richard Tuck: The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., p. 262

[15] Gloag, Patton J. Introduction to the Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 256

[16] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hours with John, op. cit., p.45

[17] Whedon, Daniel D. Commentary on NT, op. cit., p. 261

[18] Ephesians 2:12

[19] Ezekiel 23:35

[20] Exodus 5:2

[21] Luke 19:14

[22] Psalm 10:4

[23] Isaiah 29:13

About drbob76

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