WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson VI) 07/19/21

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.

What unspeakable, unfathomable majesty is ours, says Kretzmann! With this assurance in our hearts, we welcome what the Apostle John tells us. The children of this world will not know, will not acknowledge us, will not consider us worthy of their attention just because we claim to be the children of the Most-High God and all such a relationship implies. The world did not recognize, God as the Lord, did not accept Him in faith, and, therefore, it cannot possibly enter into friendly relations with us. Unbelievers refuse to accept the new, spiritual, divine character which the Christians project.[1]

William Barclay (1907-1976) notes that the Apostle John demands that his readers remember their privileges. For one thing, it is an honor to be called God’s children. There is something special in that title. Second, Christians are privileged in being called God’s children. Don’t we count it an honor to have attended a great school, belong to a great military unit, be a great church member, or descendant of a historical family? Third, it is an inspiration in life to carry the name of the family of God. It’s something to put our feet on the right path and to keep us going.[2]

William Neil (1909-1979) says that living an Anointed One-like life is unquestionable proof that we have been made new through Him. Out of His boundless love, God called us to be His children. We did not just wander into the kingdom of God off the street, nor did someone discard us as an unwanted child at His door. He came looking for us. Yet, we do not fully comprehend what that means. But when we see God face to face, we will be like Him – not in looks, but character. Let us not blur the distinction between right and wrong. People who are in the wrong are doing what the devil wants them to do. However, if we accomplish what’s right, we do what God wants us to do. Our lives are genuinely in union with God; there is no backdoor for sin to enter.[3]

Daniel Snaddon (1915-2009) feels that the thought of being born of God grips the Apostle John with wonder, so he calls upon his readers to consider the incredible Love that brought them into God’s family. Our heavenly Father could have rescued us from sin’s trash heap without making us His children. He could have treated us like foster children, helping us learn how to live independently, and then let us go to find our way into the world. But the quality of God’s Love is seen in that He brought us into His family as children. Abba – Father. It is the difference between being a child or a son. The emphasis is on being born into the family. A child can be adopted or born. We should consider the kind of love, the unique quality of the Father’s Love by which He made us His children. The world does not recognize us as such. They do not understand our actions at times. John says this is what we must expect because they did not understand the Lord Jesus when He was on the earth. He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him;He came to His Jewish people, and even they rejected Him.[4] Since the true child of God has the same characteristics, we cannot expect the world to understand us either.[5]

Peter S. Ruckman (1921-2010) Now, this passage is what we call “transparent.” You can see right through it without glasses, a microscope, a telescope, a magnifying glass, or bifocals. Ruckman also suggests that this Love lavished on us could include the Rapture of the Church, of which the Apostle Paul spoke.[6] It could also have a double application, for there is a snatching away of the Tribulation saints.[7] This ascension of Tribulation saints is the one that causes all modern apostate Laodiceans to teach that Christians “go through the Tribulation.” They teach that because they are stupid and lazy and intend to stay that way. The expression “sons of God[8] certainly would include all Gentiles in this age saved by grace, for all of them “received” Jesus the Anointed One. The Apostle Paul expresses it well in Romans 8:14 [children of God], 17 [co-heirs with the Anointed One] and Galatians 3:26 [God’s children through faith], 4:6 [Thus we call Him our Father]. The only thing the commentators miss – all of them – is the fantastic way that other verses are tied together. There are four great truths carefully concealed in these “original English autographs” [that no Greek scholar could find in the “Greek text,”] etc., since the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.[9] Somehow, Ruckman finds this as part of the Father’s great Love that He lavished on us.

Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) tells how the United States Treasury Department has a particular group of employees whose job is to track down counterfeiters. Naturally, these men need to know a counterfeit bill when they see it. How do they learn to identify fake dollar bills? Oddly enough, they are not trained by spending hours examining counterfeit money. Instead, they study the real thing. They become so familiar with authentic dollar bills that they can spot a counterfeit by simply looking at it or, often, by feeling it. The approach in 1 John 3 warns us that there are counterfeit Christians in today’s world – “children of the devil.”[10] But instead of listing the evil characteristics of Satan’s children, the Scripture gives us a clear description of God’s children. The contrast between the two is obvious.[11]

Bishop Muncia Walls (1937) points out that the Greek adjective potapos expressed as “What manner of love” has an interesting definition. Some Greek writers used it to denote “from what region, country, nation or tribe.[12] But other Greek writers employed it as the equivalent to “of what sort or quality?” It is the way the Apostle John uses it in the Final Covenant.[13] So, instead of being thought of as referring to some unknown or forgiven type of love, it is, more or less, saying that “out of all the kinds of love that exist, what is so special or different about this Love?”

Current writer John W. (Jack) Carter (1947) focuses on the first word in this opening verse. “Behold” translates the Greek verb eidō, which means “to pay attention.” Although some translations omit it, John uses it as an instructive term. It became a very emphatic imperative that separates the two passages in the text.  It carries the idea that one can marvel at what is about to be said given what has just been said.  Though the word is highly overused, in the modern vernacular, one might say, “That’s awesome!”[14]

Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) says that in the context of other biblical writers, we see the Apostle John’s preoccupation with the divine Love by using ἀγάπη (agapē, love) and ἀγαπάω (agapaō, to love). Final Covenant uses these two words to show their frequency is highest in John’s Gospel and Epistles than in other Gospels. On another reading, his penchant for these words is evidence of ongoing wonder and joy. The high frequency of love language in John’s writings can be depicted graphically and numerically.

The status of being God’s children enables John to address a question that may have been nagging at his readers. Given God’s great love and the resultant joy and fellowship within his community, [15] why has there been such division?[16] Why does “the world” seem sinister and hostile in some respects?[17] The answer, John says, lies in the alienation that results from saying we belong to God as our heavenly Father. It is “because of this,” which here in verse one most likely points backward – that “the world does not acknowledge” John and his readers as who they are. It does not see them in the same light in which they see themselves. This flawed perception is, in turn, a function of ignorance of the Father or perhaps the Son. That they “did not recognize Him” likely refers to the world’s rejection of the Father via its rejection of the Anointed One: “He was in the world, and although it was through Him the world was made, they did not recognize Him.”[18] Even when Yeshua was present, Yahweh’s representative presence in Him was unrecognized: “They did not comprehend that He was telling them about His Father.[19] It is not surprising that Jesus’s servant John diagnoses the same malady still at work.[20]

Colin G. Kruse (1950) notes that the Apostle John includes himself with his readers among those (“we”) who are called the children of God. He begins by urging his readers to recognize the greatness of God’s Love: How great is the love the Father has lavished on us! In other words, look at the sort of Love the Father has given us! The author has in mind the exact expression of the Love of God: that we should be called His children. God calls us His children, out of Love. To be called God’s children is an immense privilege because it means that God personally chose us to be in His family. We find the best commentary on what it means to be children of God in John’s Gospel: “To all who believed in Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become God’s children. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.”


[1] Kretzmann, Paul E., Popular Commentary, Vo. II, op. cit., p. 566

[2] Barclay, William: New Daily Bible Study, op. cit., p. 82

[3] Neil, William: Harper’s Bible Commentary, op. cit., p. 528

[4] John 1:10-11

[5] Snaddon, Daniel C., Plymouth Brethren Writings, op. cit., 1 John 3

[6] 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Philippians 3:20; 1 Corinthians 15:49-55

[7] See Revelation 11:12; Psalm 50; Job 37; Isaiah 26:20; Matthew 24:31; Revelation 14:16

[8] John 1:12

[9] Ruckman, Dr. Peter S., General Epistles Vol. 2 (1-2-3 John, Jude Commentary) (The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series). Kindle Edition

[10] 1 John 3:10

[11] Wiersbe, Warren W., Be Real (1 John): Turning from Hypocrisy to Truth (The BE Series Commentary), op. cit., p. 105

[12] Walls, Muncia. Epistles of John & Jude, op., cit. (Kindle Locations 895-896)

[13] See Matthew 8:27; Mark 13:1; Luke 1:29; 7:39; 22:42; 23:34; John 14:2; 2 Peter 3:11; 1 John 3:1; 4:2

[14] Carter, John W. (Jack), 1,2,3, John & Jude, op. cit., p. 72

[15] 1 John 1:3-4

[16] Ibid. 2:19

[17] Ibid. 2:15-17

[18] John 1:10

[19] Ibid. 8:27; cf. 16:3

[20] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., p. 176

About drbob76

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