WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson V) 07/16/21

3:1a See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for He allows us to be called His children – think of it – and we are! But since most people don’t know God, naturally, they don’t recognize that we are His children.

John Stock (1817-1884) has a great way of introducing this chapter. He writes that the Apostle John has every reason to demand our admiration and wonder over the elevation of the faithful to the dignity of being adopted into God’s family; to their being called the very children of God! God’s bountiful goodness is unlimited. He furnished us with an indescribable gift by giving His only human-born Son to be our Savior, for His sake, and to freely gives us all things. The one blessing of His Son comes with many other gifts and surpasses all others. And it is only by His mercy that we receive the privilege to possess all He plans to share. “Behold,” says the Apostle John, “wake up to the realization of such marvelous grace, and the free favor involved in this transfer of everlasting honor to us, who are born corrupted,[1] who have been rebellious, who have sinned, and so, like Esau, have forfeited the birthright inheritance of the firstborn; who have been hostile to God by immoral living; that we should be called ‘children of God!’”[2]

Brooke Westcott (1825-1901) points out that the children of the devil who run this world do not “recognize” the children of God. It isn’t because they don’t know their names, occupation, or claims of being a follower of Jesus the Anointed, but because they don’t understand why we live, act, talk, and worship the way we do. For worldly people, their future is the time remaining between their present status and the grave. But for Christians, their future begins after they die and are laid to rest to await the resurrection. What puzzles the world is that the believer’s future is still to be revealed when they are transfigured to meet the Anointed One and see God.[3]

Andrew Maclaren (1826-1910) mentions that what the Apostle John says here is an example of shared love. John bids us “observe what type of love.” If we turn to the cross, we will see a Love that does not shrink from sacrifice. It is a Love not aroused by any lovableness on our part, but comes from the depth of God’s Infinite Being. He loves because He must; He is God. It is a love that yearns for acceptance, which desires nothing from us. The kind of Love that our sinfulness and shortcomings will not cancel. In like manner, we have to think, can we estimate the value of this “kind” of Love, that through and with great sacrifice of Jesus the Anointed One, it offers us the gift of a Divine life like His own? We may gain another measure of this Love’s greatness if we emphasize one word, “gave,” and think of such Love freely provided to pitiful creatures like ourselves.[4]

In one of his many sermons, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) preached on being God’s children. The question is, how could anyone claim to be a child of God before He gave them the power to become His children and believed in His reputation as a Savior? True spiritual children of God are not born by human effort; they did not become God’s children by mere creation.[5]If any text can be more conclusive than this against universal sonship,” says Spurgeon. “I must confess I know of none.” And unless these words turn out to mean nothing at all, we rightly believe we are God’s children and His alone. Listen to the Word of the Lord in what the Apostle John says here in verse one; this shows how much He loved us. We are called children of God, and we indeed are. But worldly people don’t understand that we are God’s children because they know nothing about Him.[6]

There is a story involving Danish missionaries who went to India. There, they appointed some converts to translate a catechism for teaching young believers. When they came to where it mentions Christians being called God’s children, one of the translators was so startled at such bold teaching that he told the missionaries, “This is too much! Let me render it, ‘They will be permitted to kiss His feet.’”[7] Oh, God! That Christians would feel the same way today when they sing, “Who You say I am, I am a Child of God.”[8]

John James Eastmead (1822-1868) says that God’s spiritual family is called upon to take a look at “what type of love the Father placed upon us.” He goes on to suggest that God’s Love can be sorted into six types: 1. It is Covenant Love; 2. Unchanging Love; 3. Incarnate Love; 4. Redeeming Love; 5. Pardoning Love; and 6. Restoring Love.[9] With this multifaceted aspect of God’s Love, we can see how it helps us grow in understanding of God’s affection for us when applied to our lives.

Harry John Wilmot-Buxton (1843-1911) declares that we must be brave and loyal as Christians. We must never forget whose children we are and be courageous in our faith. Someone might say, “Since the Anointed One made the Christian course an exercise in warfare, of all living believers, a coward is the most unfit to be called God’s child.” Yet what miserable cowards some so-called Christians are, smiling while the prosperity sun shines, but when the clouds of persecution and trial arise against the Gospel, their smile turns into a frown. When the struggle involves one’s duty to God against satisfying oneself, between what we like and what is right, many, like the children of Ephraim, turn around and flee on the day of battle.[10] When the fighting comes, the Cross beckons, the shadows of Gethsemane and Calvary darken around us. Yet, too many forsake Jesus and do not follow Him anymore. We must be willing to give our all for one another because we are one Family, the children of God. Some say that pity, sorrow, and sympathy are sensitive like love. At most, condolences are a lukewarm expression of love. Only the outward and visible sign of the inward grace of God is love.[11]

William Sinclair (1850-1917) sees passing before the Apostle John’s mind the oddness that the stream of the world’s thought, the tide of the world’s history, should go on as if the Anointed One never came. No matter how insignificant the old Apostle was in the metropolis of Ephesus, or elsewhere, in the eyes of the wise, influential, or famous philosophers everywhere else. Why was this? Because what God manifested in the Anointed One was incomprehensible to the world. Therefore, if it did make sense to them, it only caused them more resentment. And since believers were like their heavenly Father, their characteristics became incompatible with the features that make up the character of the world. As far as the “world” exists at all in the moral meaning of the word, it is a mixture of qualities and tendencies that may or may not be like each other, but which all agree in being opposed to true righteousness.[12]

Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945) shows the development between the Apostle John’s ministry and later that of the Apostle Paul, and how the “sons of God[13] using the Greek noun yhois, changed to the Greek noun teknon, “children of God.”[14]  John never speaks of yhoissons of God” in his message. In the Apostle Paul’s writings, the Holy Spirit speaks of believers as “sons and heirs.” But John unfolds the truth that believers are in the family of God by the new birth, hence the use of the word “children” to denote the community’s nature as born of God. As God’s children, we are partakers of His divine spiritual nature. It is by our heavenly Father’s that it was conferred on all who believe. And, finally, the Spirit of God assures us of this through the pen of John: “Now we are the children of God.” There can be no doubt about it; our present and known position is because having believed in Him, we are born again and possess eternal life.[15]

Harry A Ironside (1876-1951) comments on what beautiful words are written to believers here in the opening chapter three. He notes that this is something different from the universal love expressed in John’s Gospel.[16] That is infinite Love to lost people everywhere. If you are not a believer, be assured of this: the Love of God goes out to you, and He extended His Love to you when you were a sinner and the Anointed One died for you. However, there is a love sweeter and more precious than that, but it is not for you until you trust in the Anointed One. But if you have already trusted in Him, then you can enter into the Father’s Love. God’s children are addressed here as the beneficiaries of the Love that comes from being added to His family.[17]

Paul Edward Kretzmann (1883-1965) says it was the believer’s righteousness and conduct which the Apostle John urged. Now, he introduces another motive for such behavior. The Christians should use the eyes of both body and mind to see; they should concentrate their attention upon that miracle, upon that mystery, that we should be honored with the name, children of God. After all, the penalty of eternal damnation was removed and replaced by an intimate fellowship with God only available by the new birth through the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. “Children of God,” that is what we are by faith in the Anointed One, Jesus, [18] sons, and daughters of God, led by the Spirit of God, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with the Anointed One.[19] The image of God, lost by Adam’s Fall, is renewed in us with the restoration of the Anointed One.[20]


[1] Psalm 51:5

[2] Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, op. cit., p. 228

[3] Westcott, Brooke: Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 95

[4] Maclaren, Andrew: The Biblical Illustrator: New Testament, op. cit., pp. 52283-52284, Kindle Edition.

[5] John 1:13

[6] Spurgeon, Charles: The Spurgeon Sermon Collection: Vol 2, Sermon 339, The Sons of God, p. 177

[7] The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., p. 308

[8] By Hillsong

[9] Eastmead, James John: Biblical Illustrator, First Epistle of John, op. cit., p.

[10] Psalm 78:9-10

[11] Wilmot-Buxton, Harry John: Notes of Sermons for the Year, part 1, p. 94

[12] Sinclair, William: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 482

[13] Romans 8:14, 19; Philippians 2:15

[14] John 11:52; 1 John 3:10; 5:2

[15] Gaebelein, Arno, C: The Annotated Bible, op. cit., loc. cit.

[16] John 3:16

[17] Ironside, H. A., Addresses on the Epistles of John (Ironside Commentary Series Book 43), op. cit., p. 26

[18] Galatians 3:26

[19] Romans 8:14, 17

[20] Galatians 4:19

About drbob76

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