WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson LXXIV) 07/05/21

2:28 And now, my little children, stay in happy fellowship with the Lord so that when He comes, you will be sure that all is well and will not have to be ashamed and shrink back from meeting Him.

Rudolf Schnackenburg (1914-2002) agrees with other scholars that say verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine belong to verses one through six in the first section of chapter three. It is a new beginning, built on all that John said from the beginning of the Epistle. The Apostle is preparing for what is yet to come. At this point, he focuses on the present reality of salvation.

Says Schnackenburg, our Christian preaching is not merely ethical admonition with a religious theme, but proceeds from God’s saving action toward humanity. That is the source of its obligations and motives for spiritual, ethical, and moral activity, considering the pressure between present salvation and its final realization.[1]

D. Edmond Hiebert (1928-1995) mentions the conflict between the advocates of antichrist theories and adherents of God’s revelation of His Son as the Messiah. It puts God’s children into direct opposition with the children of the devil. Thus, we may identify one group as the “redeemed” led by God’s Holy Spirit and the others as the “unredeemed” pushed by the evil spirit of the devil. It’s better than just calling them “Godly” and “ungodly.”

The two classes are rigidly distinct in origin and practice, says Hiebert. John presented true believers as children of God, characterized by their right living and loving as the bond that holds the family members together. As the Apostle says here in verse twenty-nine, “Since we know that Christ is righteous, we also know that all who do what is right are God’s children.” Then John continues, “But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil.”[2] Furthermore, “Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning.”[3] It means, “Now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil.”[4] [5]

David Guzik (1984) sees verse twenty-eight as a challenging image by the Apostle John. When Jesus returns, some people will be afraid because they never accepted Him as their Lord and Savior. However, some who claim to be one of His own will be ashamed when they hear He is coming because they know they live unfruitful lives in the world. They thought they had more time, but not it seems too late to get ready, like one of the bridesmaids in Jesus’ parable who ran out of oil.[6] Guzik says every believer must carefully consider these matters to be sure and unashamed at His return. So, don’t hope you will end up being one of those who are “barely saved” or “saved by the skin of your teeth.”[7] [8]

2:29 Since You know that the Anointed One always does what was right, you also know that all those who do what is right are God’s children.

EXPOSITION

John concludes this portion of his letter by saying that doing what’s right, in other words, doing what God desires most, will ensure that we will not be mistaken for anything other than His children. Even the prophet Zechariah saw that day coming when all God’s beloved will rejoice because they heard the words, “The King is coming!”[9] Even so, in the last days, there will still be some who will want to pretend to be part of the righteous. But the prophet Jeremiah has a wake-up call for them.[10] When He returns to gather His own, they will not come from one country or continent, but from around the world.[11]

It was part of the Apostle Paul’s message to Titus. He reminded him that we have all been taught not to disobey God and do the sinful things the world’s people are doing. Both the young and old learned to live on earth wisely and appropriately – a way that shows true devotion to God. We should live like that while we are waiting for the coming of our great God and Savior Jesus, the Anointed One. He is our great hope, and He will come with glory. He gave Himself for us. Not only that, but He died to free us from all evil. He gave His life to make us pure – people who belong only to Him and who always want to do good for others.[12]

Meeting God’s standard for His children does not occur naturally. It is not the product of a self-help program. Being born again is only done by God through the Spirit.[13] As the Apostle James made it clear, this was all God’s decision.[14] And the Apostle Peter joins in praising God the Father of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One. God showed His great mercy, and because of His mercy, He gave us a new life. This new life brings us a living hope through Jesus the Anointed One’s resurrection from death.[15] And by this, He gave us the very marvelous and precious gifts that He promised us. With these gifts, you can share in being like God. And so, you will escape the ruin that comes to people in the world because of the evil things they want.[16]

COMMENTARY

You may be sure, says Bede (672-735 AD), that our righteous living is based exclusively on faith. However, perfect righteousness exists only in the angels and not by trust but loyalty. Living an ideal life is potentially possible, but not probable. The Bible says that all have sinned and miss the mark God set for them.[17] Nevertheless, according to the Apostle John, perfect righteousness is when we remain faithful to the Word of God, accept no other lord other than the One who created us, and love our fellow believers as God loved us.[18]

Puritan John Bunyan (1628-1688) pointed out that the Pharisees were ignorant that they must be right with God before doing anything right for God. Moral living by a worldly person, God indeed calls righteousness; but it must be understood, as spoken in the street language of the world, or concerning social matters. The world indeed calls it ethics, and it is harmless as long as it applies to secular standards. Therefore, society calls those who live right and do what is right morally correct. Nevertheless, it still required the Anointed One’s death to provide grace for them as sinners.[19]

In discussing this type of righteousness, says Bunyan, we speak of right living under the Law, not in the “Gospel-sense.” That’s why we need to examine this a little closer. Righteous living under the Law involves a person’s first birth. Living right in the “Gospel-sense” concerns the new birth. As John says here in verse twenty-nine, you will recognize that all who practice holy living are God’s genuine children. Their ability to live righteously is not due to their actions but by virtue of the work on the cross of the Anointed One once applied to the soul; the principle of living, activities, and deeds produces holiness.[20]

Alfred Plummer (1746-1829) says that there is no break in the narrative from here in verse twenty-eight to verse twelve in chapter five, all of which form a summary. The keyword is “love,” distributed very evenly over the whole Epistle from 3:1 to 5:3. The children of Love are also the children of Light, and one cannot exist without the other. That’s because God is Love and His Son is Light, and we cannot have one of them without the other.[21] That kind of thinking would have a hen to lay an egg without a yolk or lay a yolk without the egg.

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) believes that verse twenty-nine should be the opening verse in chapter three. It is a new line of thought from which the rest of chapter three flows. Think of our Lord’s return with excitement and joy; don’t feel ashamed or shrink back from the idea. He is coming to acknowledge us because we confessed Him before the world. It’s another way of saying that once you stand convinced that He is the right one from God and does what is right, you’ll recognize that all who live upright with holy lives are God’s true children. Remember the time of testifying that He is your Lord and Savior is now, not after He returns. By then, it will be too late, and He will say He never knew you.[22] [23]


[1] Schnackenburg, Rudolf, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., p. 151

[2] 1 John 3:8a

[3] Ibid. 3:9a

[4] Ibid. 3:10a

[5] Hiebert, D. Edmond, 1 John, Bibliotheca Sacra, April-June 1989, p. 198

[6] Matthew 25:8-12

[7] See 1 Corinthians 3:15

[8] Guzik, David, 1, 2 & 3 John & Jude, op. cit., p. 44

[9] Zechariah 9:9

[10] Jeremiah 13:23

[11] Acts of the Apostles 10:35

[12] Titus 2:12-14

[13] John 1:13; 3:3-5

[14] James 1:18

[15] 1 Peter 1:3

[16] 2 Peter 1:4

[17] Romans 3:23

[18] Bede the Venerable, Bray, G. (Ed.). op. cit., 1-3 John, pp. 191-192

[19] Romans 5:7-8

[20] Bunyan, John: Vol. 5, Of Communion with God, A Discourse Upon the Pharisee and Publican, Ch. 7, p. 234

[21] Plummer, Alfred: The Epistles of S. John, op. cit., pp. 118-119

[22] Matthew 7:21-23

[23] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, op, cit., September 1892, pp. 553-554

About drbob76

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