WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XLIX) 05/31/21

2:17 If God’s love is made perfect in us, we can be without fear on the day when God judges His people. We will be without fear because, in this world, we act like Jesus.

It also became Paul’s prayer for the Colossians and the blessing of one of their members accompanying Paul on his missionary travels.[1] The Thessalonians learned this principle of unconditional commitment and devotion to God and His will. They gave Him thanks for everything He did to bring them into union with the Anointed One.[2]

So, the message is clear, hold on to what God gave you so that you can receive what He promised.[3] The Apostle Peter emphasized the same idea of commitment and told his readers to strengthen themselves so that they will live their lives here on earth doing what God wants, not the sinful things that people of the world want to do.[4] Because, behind it, all is the fact that worldly promises and guarantees will expire on that day, but the promises and assurances made by God will never be outdated. In fact, the Psalmist said they would be like Mount Zion that will stand until the Messiah returns to set up His kingdom.[5] And King Solomon put it another way: “When the storm passes, the sinful person will be no more, but the person who is right with God will stand firm forever.”[6]

Perhaps John’s mind reflected on what he heard the Savior say at the Temple on the last day of the great Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, “Anyone who drinks the water I give will never be thirsty again. The water I give people will be like a spring flowing inside them. It will bring them eternal life.”[7] But it wasn’t only water that He offered; He also said that He was not like their ancestors’ bread. They ate manna from heaven, but they still died. He was the bread of life that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.[8] And the Apostle Peter adds that this message of the Lord will last for eternity.[9]

COMMENTARY

Bishop Cyprian (200-258 AD) notes that the saying of Jesus, “It is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit,”[10] was literally accepted and instituted. Isn’t it marvelous that it inspired believing men and women to become admired martyrs? And ought not the same texts to be more faithfully accepted in explaining the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures? Language could hardly be more forceful: “It is not you that speak.”[11] We must parse the term “speak” as used here. It does not mean that the preacher or teacher is not speaking, but that the Holy Spirit authors the message they deliver.

Œcumenius (700-800 AD) likens people who skip over John’s warning about the things of this world will soon be gone. Still, those things that fall in line with God’s will are bound for eternity to those who, as in Jesus’ did parables, Augustine uses in his sermon on 1 John 12-17, where the term “abides forever,” appears eight times. He says that God will abide with you if you have overcome the wicked one; three times, he says that God will stay forever with those who do His will and because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you. God will endure forever since He exists eternally. Let no one fool you with those things that bring death because the world cannot provide eternal life. Only He who lives forever can live forever. His accompanying us all begins when we choose to love the Lord instead of loving the world.[12]

John Owen (1616-1683) lists two things needed to complete this self-resignation of the soul. (1) Loving the Anointed One for His excellency, grace, and sufficiency, far above all other favorites one may have, preferring Him in the judgment and mind above them all. In Solomon’s Song, we read, “Why is your love better than all others, O woman of rare beauty? What makes your love so special?”[13] The speaker is pressing this woman to explain why she preferred one lover above all others. She said he was the best of ten thousand.[14] So, says Owen, (2) when it comes to having any love for this world, can it pass the test of being any more attractive and desirable than the Son of God? All others fail in comparison to the majestic Anointed One, says Owen.[15]

In this verse, Samuel E. Pierce (1746-1829) says, the Apostle John reveals the world’s unholy trinity in its unity: which draws believers out of the Anointed One’s embrace to follow them. Pierce writes: the world, the flesh, and the devil, are the three great and powerful prison guards of all those imprisoned in sin’s dungeon. They are their complete and mighty conquerors, an unholy threesome. Therefore, those still under their power must be the most wretched in the world. So, when the Apostle John speaks of “all that is in the world,” he means the pleasures and lifestyle sinners live to please this unholy trio. It is also a way to sum up what the world would offer in place of God’s love.[16]

Thomas Scott (1747-1821) says that when it is genuine “faith that works by love,” even “little children” and “weak believers” may be assured, that “their sins are forgiven them” for the Anointed One’s sake: and though there are different degrees of growth, strength, knowledge, and grace, among the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty and some, have obtained more victories over the wicked one, or arc more fit for active service, or to give wise counsel than others are: yet they are all dear to their heavenly Father. They all have some “knowledge of Him,” and “love for Him;” and, through “His Word abiding in them,” they will lead the young ones in their family to the same victories and train them up to a measure of the same vigor, and maturity, which others have already attained.[17]

Charles Simeon (1759-1836) states that we can look at what John says here as a reference to churches. Their age and stature in exemplifying Christian living identify them as children, young adults, and fathers. So, it doesn’t count how long they’ve been around or their position in the congregation. Here’s what John wants them to hear: No matter if a church is just beginning, is established, or historical, they should receive John’s message as personally addressed to them. Apply it to their age and situation. But this is just the beginning; John has more to say.[18]

Heinrich Meyer (1800-1882) says that the Apostle John adds a new element to what he has said. John’s warning in verse fifteen is strengthened by what he stated in the previous verses. Some commentators see in what Paul told the Corinthians as validation that those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world, as we know it, will soon pass away.[19] Not only that, but present changes will alter the future. So, building on what is popular now may not survive for long. Remember, things in this world are on their way to disappearing because they weren’t meant to last forever.[20]

William Graham (1810-1883) says the Apostle John lists the principles and practices of this world in which we should have no interest. He points out that true believers have their hearts set on another and more noble object. The precious blood of Jesus did not redeem our souls that we might find satisfaction in such fleeting fads. Can you find your pleasure where He found only pain and the bitter cross? We must declare our unity with the children of God and have no more fellowship with the world that persecuted and crucified our Lord. We may have higher hopes and nobler aims that will be tried through persecution and suppression by dictators and in the seductive flatteries of worldly exhibitions, but our language is still the same.[21] Graham adds the lyrics from a song sung in the Church during that time, it goes:

“We’re not of the world that fades away,

We’re not of the night, but children of day:

The chains that once bound us by Jesus are riven,

We’re strangers on earth, and our home is in heaven.”

But I love the fifth stanza that reads:

“And soon shall we enter our own promised land,

Before His bright throne in glory shall stand;

Our song then forever and ever shall be,

All glory and blessing, Lord Jesus, to Thee!”[22]

One anonymous writer penned these words: We can’t afford to play with fire nor tempt a serpent’s bite; We can’t afford to think that sin brings any true delight. That’s why the Apostle John tells them they live under the illusion that by giving the world all they’ve got; they’ll get a reward one day. If the world has nothing to give you for your journey to everlasting life in the first place, how will they be able to give you anything when you finish in last place?


[1] Ibid. 4:12

[2] 1 Thessalonians 4:1-3; 5:18

[3] Hebrews 10:36

[4] 1 Peter 4:2

[5] Psalm 125:1-2

[6] Proverbs 10:25

[7] John 4:14

[8] Ibid. 6:58

[9] 1 Peter 1:25

[10] Matthew 10:20; Mark 13:11

[11] Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol, 5., Elucidations, Cyprian: pp. 862-863

[12] Augustine: Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Homily 2, pp. 932-954

[13] Song of Solomon, 5:9

[14] Ibid. 5:10

[15] Owen, John: Of Communion with God, Vol 3, Ch. 3, p. 76-77

[16] Pierce, S. E., An Exposition of the First Epistle General of John, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 198

[17] Scott, Thomas: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 486

[18] Simeon, Charles First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 398

[19] 1 Corinthians 7:31

[20] Meyer, Heinrich: Critical Commentary, op. cit., loc. cit.

[21] Graham, W. (1857), The Spirit of Love, op. cit., pp. 132-133

[22] We’re Not of the World, written by James George Deck (1802-1884)

About drbob76

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