WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson LI) 06/02/21

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

William Barclay (1907-1945) tells us that it was characteristic of ancient thought to observe the world in terms of two conflicting principles. We see this very vividly in Zoroastrianism, [1] the religion of the Persians that is entered on the scrolls of history starting in the 5th century BC, even though many scholars believe it started long before then. It is the religion the Jews made contact with and which left an imprint on their thinking.

Zoroastrianism saw the world as the battleground between the opposing forces of Enlightenment (Light) and Ignorance (Darkness). The god of enlightenment was Ahura-Mazda, [2] the god of ignorance was Angra-Mainyu, [3] and the great decision in life was which side to serve. Every person had to decide to ally themselves either with the light or the darkness. It was a conception with which the Jews were well acquainted.[4] No doubt, the Apostle John was aware of this religion too, but while he walked with Jesus, the Master gave him and the other disciples the truth when He said, “I am the Light of the world.”[5]

F. F. Bruce (1910-1990) notes that the word “world” (Greek kosmos) has a wide range of meanings in the Johannine writings. The context determines, from one place to another, how it is to be understood. On the one hand, God made the world through the agency of His “Word.[6] It was the object of God’s love;[7] the subject of God’s saving purpose.[8] The Anointed One is the Light of the world;[9] the Savior of the world, [10] the sacrifice for the whole world, [11]the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”[12]

On the other hand, says Bruce, the world at present lies in the grip of “the evil one.”[13] It is, therefore, orientated against God. Accordingly, when He who is the Word and the Light came into the world, the world failed to recognize Him, [14] and similarly, it does not recognize His followers.[15] Indeed, it hates them, [16] just as it hated Him.[17] So, what changed? After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God made numerous attempts through Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others to get the “world” to reconcile with Him. But it failed. So, He sent His Son as the last emissary from heaven to earth. Those who refuse this offer of grace are lost forever.[18]

Bruce Vawter (1921-1986) offers this warning about other spirits claiming to have a secretive relationship with God: it is only through the Son that the Father has ultimately revealed Himself.[19] The safeguard of the true Christian who would avoid the dire consequences of this false teaching is to hold firmly to the instruction received through the apostolic preaching, what you heard from the beginning. By remaining steadfast in fundamental faith, one may be sure of receiving “the promise of eternal life.”[20]

John Stott (1921-2011) makes an interesting comment by pointing out that in the Final Covenant, the Greek noun kosmos denotes the whole material order, the universe, the planet earth, and the totality of its human inhabitants. But in John’s Gospel and Epistles, it continually refers to fallen humanity, hostile to God. Yet, this sinful “world,” ruled by Satan, is nevertheless the object of God’s love and saving grace. Not that He condones its materialism and sin, but His compassion embraces the poor creatures the devil made captive.[21]

D. Edmond Hiebert (1928-1995) makes an excellent point on what the Apostle John says here in the second half of verse seventeen. The conjunction “But” (KJV) points to a contrasting reality: “anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”[22] This assurance is for those determined to be obedient to God’s will rather than pursuing the fleeting lusts of the world.[23]

J. L. Houlden (1929-1977) remarks, “The ‘mystical’ supernatural gift of God’s love certainly needed to be received to keep from loving the world. The test of God’s love in our hearts was more than spiritual ‘feeling;’ it was doing God’s will. It was keeping His commandments, particularly the command to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord.[24] I have always maintained that “love” is an act of the will. Saying you possessed love is not enough; you must put it into action. Just singing, “I love you, Lord,” won’t convince Him or anyone. As Jesus said so succinctly, “a person cannot show love any greater than to give their lives for a friend.”[25] That’s why God loved the world so much that He had His Son give His life for us.[26]

James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) offers a concise conclusion to this portion of John’s letter. If we are to love the Lord our God with all that is within us, we must turn away from everything that would keep us from such love and service. When Jesus called His disciples, He challenged them with the words “Follow Me!” It meant they had to leave their fishing nets or money tables or whatever else had been occupying their attention and leave it all behind. Similarly, when the Spirit calls us to embrace the truth of the Gospel, we must lay aside all we’ve learned about God, the Church, grace, and salvation and examine them through the teachings of Jesus and the inspired words of the Apostles’ writings.[27] When we see those things taught to us measuring up to what we are learning as born-again believers, we can keep them because we understand them better. But those things that conflict or disagree with God’s Word must be thrown away. They couldn’t get us to heaven before, and they won’t be able to do it now.

2:18a Dear children, the end is getting nearer. You have heard that the enemy of the Anointed One is coming. The truth is, many such antichrists have already appeared. That’s how we know that the hour of His coming is also near.

EXPOSITION

Now John warns that an evil counterforce to the Anointed One – the antichrist, will spread its influence worldwide. No doubt that’s why the Apostle Paul warned Timothy that in the last days, there would be trying and terrible times.[28] That’s why God spoke to us through His Son, who owns all things because He was involved in making them.[29] So, nothing that He owns can be taken from Him, especially His children bought with the price of His blood. That’s because God’s power protects us through our faith until the day of final salvation in the end times.[30] But we must be on guard because the people of this world will laugh at us. After all, we are so careful to maintain a holy life while they freely go about enjoying all the pleasures that meet their desires.[31]

John also wants to make sure that no one is surprised or caught unawares when the antichrist starts exerting his power. He heard Jesus say that many will come claiming that they did many miracles in His name.[32] The Apostle Paul even warned the Ephesians about such false prophets who claim to be part of the true church.[33] And to the Thessalonians who were so worried that some of them might die before Jesus returned and miss out on the resurrection and rapture, that they should not let anyone fool them. They were to be exceptionally watchful for the Man of Evil, who will operate by the power of Satan to do many miracles, signs, and wonders. It will be God’s way of testing those who are truly in union with Him and help them survive to the end.[34]


[1] Zoroastrianism is arguably the world’s oldest one-God religion. It centers on the words of the prophet Zarathustra, and focuses worship upon Ahura Mazda, the Lord of Wisdom. It also acknowledges two competing principles representing good and evil: Spenta Mainyu (“Bounteous Spirit”) and Angra Mainyu (“Destructive Spirit”). Humans are intimately involved in this struggle, holding off chaos and destruction through active “Good thoughts,” “Good Words,” and “Good Deeds.”

[2] The literal meaning of the word Ahuralord,” and that of Mazda is “wisdom.”

[3] The literal meaning of the word Angraevil,” and that of Mainyu is “spirit.”

[4] Barclay, William: The Letters of John and Jude, Revised Edition, Daily Study Bible, op. cit., p. 62

[5] John 8:12

[6] Ibid 1:10

[7] Ibid. 3:16

[8] Ibid. 3:17

[9] Ibid. 1:9; 8:12; 9:5

[10] Ibid. 4:42; 1 John 4:14

[11] 1 John 2:2

[12] John 1:29

[13] 1 John 5:19

[14] John 1:10

[15] Ibid. 3:1

[16] John 15:18ff; 17:14; 1 John 3:13

[17] Ibid 7:7; 15:18, 23-25

[18] Bruce, F. F., The Epistles of John, op. cit., (Kindle Locations 1061-1069)

[19] Cf. John 1:18; 5:23; 10:30; 14:6-9; 15:23-25

[20] Vawter, Bruce, First Epistle of John, Jerome Biblical Commentary, op. cit., p. 408

[21] Stott, John. The Letters of John (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), op. cit. pp. 105-106

[22] 1 John 2:17

[23] Hiebert, D. Edmond, 1 John, op. cit., p. 435

[24] Houlden, J. L., A Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, Harper’s New Testament commentaries, 1974, p. 75

[25] John 15:13

[26] 1 Timothy 2:5-6

[27] Boice, James Montgomery, The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 65

[28] 2 Timothy 3:1

[29] Hebrews 1:2

[30] 1 Peter 1:5, 20

[31] 2 Peter 3:3; cf. Jude 1:18

[32] Matthew 24:5, 11, 24

[33] Acts of the Apostles 20:29-30

[34] 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12

About drbob76

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