WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XLVII) 05/27/21

2:16 This is all there is in the world: wanting to please our sinful selves, wanting the evil things we see, and being too proud of what we have. But none of these comes from the Father. They come from the world.

James Arminius (1560-1609) discusses the reconciliation of the differences of religious opinion that causes contention among Christians. It starts with the sources of such disagreements. It begins with Satan, who promotes disputes over doctrines among believers. Then it is compounded by believers continuing such unsubstantiated teachings. Unfortunately, minds unguarded by the Holy Spirit leave the door open to the devil to exploit the weakness of faith and commitment to the truth. It allows Satan to promote the love of glory, riches, and pleasures such as the world offers. As the Apostle John says in verse sixteen, these appeal to the sinful tendencies of the flesh, greediness of the eyes, and unbridled pride. It is this human egotism that hates divine truth the most.[1]

John Flavel says that if those who claim union with the Anointed One have crucified their sinful tendencies to prove their entitlement, they should do all they can to keep their sinful tendencies on the cross. It is the way a devout believer goes forward. Since this is the main accomplishment of spiritual living and greeted with joy in heaven, says Flavel, we should be motivated to keep this going because our safety in the hour of temptation depends on how successful we are by refusing to get involved. Keep this in mind; Satan will do anything he can to wrestle away your crown of eternal life.[2]

Charles Finney notes that the Bible informs us that God did not aim at producing sin-inducing factors in creation. In other words, He did not purposely bring sin into existence, designed to promote His kingdom. Meaning, He hid sinful tendencies in our fleshly composition[3] so that His kingdom is the only one where we can find safety from His punishment when we do sin. In other words, sin is not the object of an intended purpose carried out by God.[4]

John Bunyan (1628-1688) recounts how pilgrim Faith came to the foot of Difficulty Hill in Pilgrim’s Progress. There he met with an older man, who asked him who he was and where he was going. Pilgrim Christian told the aged man that he was on his way to the Celestial City. Then said the old man, “You look like an honest fellow; would you be willing to work for me for the wages I would pay?” Then Pilgrim Christian asked him his name and where he lived. He said his name was First Adam and that he lived in the town of Deceit.[5]

Then, continues Bunyan, Pilgrim asks him, what was the work he wanted him to do, and what were the wages? He told Christian that his work was many delights and his wages were that he would be his heir. Then Christian asked how this senior citizen managed his estate and what other servants did he have. So, he told Christian that he provided all his guests with all the delicacies in the world. His servants were his children. He said that he only had three daughters: The Lust of the Flesh, The Lust of the Eyes, and The Pride of Life, and that I could marry them all. Then Christian asked how long this gentleman wanted him for him? He told Christian, as long as you live.[6] Paul had it right; the wages of sin are death.

William Law (1686-1761) notes that God will have no place at His hospitality table for the rich and wealthy to come and feast with Him in the supper of the Lamb.[7] Jesus said, “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet, don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. They will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the disabled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”[8] God will not waste any money on gold-plated roofs or expensive furniture: He will not provide costly amusement and entertainment. The Apostle Paul tells us that this is what the world offers, tempting us to do things their way. It is not the way our Father in heaven does things.[9]

Law goes on to say, granted, the land where he lives professes to be a Christian nation. But will anyone claim that this Christian society is of the Spirit of the Anointed One? Are their attitudes the same as Jesus’? Are their passions of sensuality, self-love, pride, covetousness, ambition, and vain-glory less contrary to the spirit of the Gospel now that they have Christians living among them? Or will you say that the way they used to think, act, and feel is long gone?[10] It’s the age-old question, has the Church has gone out into the world or has the world come into the Church?

Jonathan Edwards points out that whatever god they choose, it will set their minds on what that god says. For example, the gods, which unregenerate people worship, instead of the God that made them, are themselves of the world. They have withdrawn their esteem and honor from God and proudly exalt themselves. As Satan was not willing to subject himself to God in heaven and rebelled to establish his reign as king of the earth, [11] so the ungodly with egotistical thoughts set themselves upon God’s throne. They give their hearts to the world, riches, pleasures, worldly honors: they have the possession of what belongs to God. The Apostle John sums this up as a form of idol worship in showing their love of the world. And the Apostle James observes that a person will automatically be an enemy of the true God if they become best friends with the world.[12]

William Alexander (1824-1911) observes that our Lord’s three temptations in the wilderness answer to this division. First, the “lust of the flesh” is the rebellion of the lower appetites against higher principles. It leads to the corruption of character in producing the “pride of life,” which forbids total surrender to God’s will.[13] People with this attitude are not only enemies of the Church but more dangerous than the evil one – Satan, who rules the world.[14]

Let’s look at it this way: When Jesus came in the flesh, it was so that He could call His followers “out of the world.” Jesus said since He picked us to live on God’s terms and no longer under the world’s conditions, the world is going to hate us.[15] So, since a Christian is no longer part of the world that hates them, why should they go on loving the world?

William Sinclair (1850-1917) gives us a clear understanding of what the Apostle John calls the “pride of life.” He points out that John and the Apostle James alone uses the Greek noun alazoneia.[16] The phrase means a “boastful, flamboyant attitude regarding the good things of this life allotted by God for His service.” It does not mean living up to a supposed social position instead of as the responsible steward of God’s undeserved blessings. As far as John is concerned, nothing can replace living and using our talents and abilities to the honor and glory of God.[17]

Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901) defines the three essential elements in this ethical view of the world: First, particular appetites serve a sinful purpose, even if they appear in innocent forms when overdone. Secondly, whatever becomes attractive as an object of sensual pleasure through the eye. Thirdly, all the pomp, vanity, pretension, splendor, and worldly practices and possessions show. These cause the heart to swell with pride and vainglory. The Father’s Spirit never inspires these; they are all the world’s spirit.[18]

Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002) notes that the three evil desires of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life filling the world are not the only ones to fear. These represent the three fountains, out of which flow a significant number of desires opposed to God by their very nature.[19] So, they are not a catalog of vices; they expose the evil disease that infects humans, all of which came from Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s Word.

As three genitive cases, says Schnackenburg, they speak of our bodily passions and the greed of our eyes. The Greek noun epithymia (“lust” KJV) meaning (“to desire what is forbidden,”) used in verses sixteen and seventeen, and the Greek alazoneia (“pride” KJV) meaning (“hollow bragging, empty assurances, or blank presumptions”) used in verse sixteen. Both refer to earthly things to bring power and satisfaction. Schnackenburg offers that these in their basic form are unharmful as forms of motivation. They only become evil and objectionable when they excite ungodly impulses that go against God’s Word.[20]


[1] Orations of James Arminius: Oration 5, Delivered on Wednesday, February 8, 1606, when Arminius resigned the Annual office of Rector of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, p. 141

[2] Flavel, John: The Method of Grace, op. cit., Ch. 28, p. 397

[3] See Romans 7:7

[4] Finney, Charles: Systematic Theology, Lecture 46, p. 646-647

[5] Ephesians 4:22

[6] Bunyan, John: Pilgrim’s Progress, Vol 9, p. 112

[7] Revelation 19:6-9

[8] Luke 14:12-14

[9] Law, William: A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, Ch. 2, pp. 21-22

[10] William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, p. 210

[11] Cf. Isaiah 14:12-15; Luke 10:18; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 12:9

[12] Edwards, Jonathan, The Works of, Vol. 4, Miscellaneous Discourses, pp. 1015-1016

[13] Alexander, William: Expositor’s Bible, op. cit., pp. 141-142

[14] Ibid, p. 149

[15] John 15:18-19

[16] James 4:16

[17] Sinclair, William, First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 480

[18] Cocke, A. R. (1895), Studies in the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 51–52

[19] Cf. Galatians 5:19-21

[20] Schnackenburg, Rudolf, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 120

About drbob76

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