WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson I) 07/12/21

3:1a Notice the unique way[1] in which our heavenly Father loves us,[2] for He allows us to be called us His children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they have never known Him as we do.

EXPOSITION

When reading these encouraging words by the Apostle John, it would be easy to hear the Psalmist who wrote: “Forever and ever I will sing about the tender kindness of the Lord! Young and old shall hear about your blessings. Your love and kindness are forever; your truth is as enduring as the heavens.”[3] We can see why the Apostle Paul was inspired to tell the Ephesians, “I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the ability to understand the greatness of the Anointed One’s love – its width, its length, its height, and its depth of that love. The Anointed One’s love is greater than anyone can imagine, but I pray that you will be able to experience that love. Then you can be filled with everything God has waiting for you.[4]

No wonder the Apostle John was so astounded that even in Jesus’ homeland and among His people, the Jews did not greet Him with open arms. Only a few welcomed and receive Him as the Messiah. But to all who did acknowledge Him, He gave the right to become God’s children. All they needed to do was trust Him to save them.[5] The same is true today. Yet, I can imagine the shock on the faces of those who did believe in Him as the Savior of the world when He then told them, if the world hates you, remember that they hated Me first. If you stayed in the world, they would love you for that, like, they love everyone else in their lost condition. But that’s why I chose you to be different from those in the world. So, you don’t belong to the world anymore, and that is why the world doesn’t like you.[6] Something they continued to do until now.

In the second chapter, we saw the kingdom of the world and the Kingdom of God brought together and their distinctive principles and practices enunciated. The one that hates and they that love are compared and contrasted. The followers of the world and the followers of God are clearly and eternally distinguished. The Apostle John identified the antichrist movement as attempting to dissolve the Anointed One into a chosen human to be the Messiah, who then claimed to know the real Son of God. The spirit that pervades the previous chapter is pure and holy love, which seeks to separate from the evil out of love to the evil-doer.

These are some of the glorious truths discussed in the last chapter, and now we come to the third, which is peculiarly rich and full of the spirit of the beloved disciple John. May the Spirit enable us to understand it fully and expound it faithfully! Therefore, we may sum up the substance of the first verse in these words: Our heavenly Father’s love.[7]

He begins it with Jesus, the Advocate with the Father, and ends it with Jesus, the Righteous One, from whom, as the second Adam, the new and regenerated life must flow, so that the Alpha and the Omega of the chapter is Jesus, the Son of God. In Him alone, the apostle sees all the fullness of mercy and eternal life for our ruined race; in Him the only power that can conquer the principles of the world and the flesh, and finally lift the redeemed and believing church to the glory of the skies. He is one with the Father in such a way that the Father can never be honored, loved, and adored if He is despised and rejected. He sacrificed Himself for our sins on the cross of Calvary to become our Advocate and Mediator with the Father in heaven. We see that in the Anointed One, the new commandment of love was verified. As a result, the Holy Spirit conveys that unction to the believer through our Lord’s mediation.

John is not attributing any virtue to God for which He has never been known to have. The Psalmist knew of God’s loving-kindness a long time ago.[8] In fact, the Psalms tell us that God was adored because of His precious and unfailing love.[9] As Ethan the Ezrahite sang, “I will always sing about the LORD’S love and loyalty.”[10] And the Apostle Paul expressed it this way, “God showed his great love for us in this way: the Anointed died for us while we were still sinners.”[11] And to prove that love, He did not spare His only Son, but gave Him up to die in our place on a cross.[12] That’s how high and deep God’s grace and mercy flows.[13] But the real question is, do all of God’s people understand the power of His endless love?[14]

This thought by John of how wonderful it was to call his readers children of God came from the heart of God, who used Jeremiah to tell the people of Israel how much he desired for them to be His children, so He could treat them with tender loving care.[15] In fact, God not only wanted Israelites to be called His children, but the Gentiles as well.[16] That’s why Paul felt he had the authority from God to call Gentiles who converted to the Anointed One; they too could be His children if they would only allow the Holy Spirit to lead them.[17] No wonder, Paul quotes the prophets Samuel and Isaiah to prove his point.[18] Not only that, but there are no restrictions on race, skin color, gender, or social status.[19] And as John saw in his revelation, this father-child relationship will last for all eternity.[20]

This idea of the world not having ever known God the way His children do was also in the words of Jesus Himself.[21] Even in His prayer, Jesus said, “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me.”[22] That’s why the Apostle Paul told the Colossians that even though they were once among those called “the world” as far as that unconverted sinful society is concerned, they died to the world long ago when they were born in union with the Anointed One, God’s only Son.[23]

But we must be cautious of supposing that everyone who fails to recognize “our form” of Christianity is necessarily of the world. The Apostle John invariably speaks of believers as the “children of God.[24] The Apostle Paul generally called them “sons of God.”[25] The latter expression can apply to adopted sons; the former, strictly speaking, implies actual parentage. In saying John, “we might be called” appeals to the conscious nobility of Christians: we have this magnificent title with its corresponding dignity.

Also, John wants his readers to take special note of something. The word “behold” is a command to focus on the subject at hand. This dramatic word conveys an idea similar to someone pulling a cord that unveils a statue in a public meeting. He says in effect, “Take note of the astonishing, unadulterated, undying love of God for us.” The principle involved is that God wants us to take special note of His unique love for us. He wants us to concentrate on the nature of His love. John calls attention to the beautiful exhibition of God’s love for us. This way, we can better see His love. We’ll find self-sacrificing love, one-way love that relates to us because of the sacrifice of His Son for our sins. Furthermore, we’ll discover that His love is unconditional, unadulterated, undiminished, undying, unstoppable, and unrelenting. We can never “out-sin” His love for us. His passion is more significant than anything we can do or say.

More than God’s love is at issue here, more than that He loved us; but how He loved us. The words “what manner” connote quality. Note the quality of the Father’s love. His love is perfect and unconditional. He wraps His love in the sacrificial gift of Jesus Christ. The word “love” is not primarily emotional; instead, it describes an attitude where the mind and will are the overriding idea. God loves sinful people not because they are loveable, but even though they are not loveable. God always seeks our highest good. His love never wavers toward us.


[1] Behold what exotic [foreign to the human heart] love the Father has permanently bestowed upon us.

[2] Wuest, K. S. (1961), The New Testament: an Expanded Translation, op. cit., (1 John 3:1)

[3] Psalm 89:1-2

[4] Ephesians 3:18-19

[5] John 1:11-12

[6] John 15:18-19

[7] Graham, W. (1857), The Spirit of Love, op. cit., p. 182

[8] Psalm 31:19

[9] Ibid. 36:7-9

[10] Ibid. 89:1-2

[11] Romans 5:8

[12] Ibid. 8:32

[13] Ephesians 2:4-5

[14] Ibid. 3:18-19

[15] Jeremiah 3:19

[16] Hosea 1:10; See Romans 9:25-26

[17] Romans 8:14-17

[18] See 2 Samuel 7:14; Isaiah 43:6

[19] Galatians 3:28-29; 4:5-6

[20] Revelation 21:7

[21] John 16:3

[22] Ibid. 17:25 – The Living Bible

[23] Colossians 3:3

[24] Cf. Revelation 21:7

[25] Galatians 4:6

About drbob76

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