WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson VII) 07/20/21

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.

When looked at from a human point of view, says Kruse, those who “receive” the Anointed One, in the sense of believing in Him, are God’s children. And when we look at it from a divine point of view, His children are those He birthed, or as Jesus puts it, “It is the same with everyone who is born from the Spirit.”[1] Thus, the Apostle John not only says that he and his readers are “called[2] children of God as an outcome of God’s Love lavished[3] upon them, but emphasizes the reality of this status when he adds, and that is what we are! Those who believe in the Word of life are undoubtedly the children of God, but that does not mean they will gain any respect from the world. And lest this should cause the readers any distress, John explains: The reason the world does not know us is that they’ve never met our heavenly Father.[4]

Ben Witherington III (1951) hears the Apostle John asking his readers to consider how lavish is the Love that God poured out on believers. This Love is so great that God calls believers His sons and daughters. It is not, however, merely an honorary title. Instead, John believes that they actually become transformed into such children through God’s Love, by which they are “born of God.”[5] If God’s Love can do that for us, imagine how much we can do for others with that same Love in us. And just as God showed His Love to us, so we must show His Love to others for it to be transforming.

Gary M. Burge (1952) says that again and again, the Apostle John repeats that we are God’s children now. It is a fact that God’s Love is controlling our destiny. John reflects on how this truth will have consequences in the future.[6] If now we have a glimpse of what it means to have the presence of the Father within us when the Anointed One comes, there will be yet more overwhelming experiences for us. When He appears, we will be just like Him, and then we will see Him exactly as He is. At that moment, there will be an unmistakable unity between the Father and us. It is reminiscent of the prophet Isaiah’s message: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no one’s heart has imagined all the things that God has prepared for those who love him.[7] Inherent in this idea is the notion that we will share in the glory of Jesus, the Anointed One.[8] [9]

Bruce B. Barton (1954) points to the Apostle John’s statement at the end of chapter two that caused him to marvel that such Love could mean believers are “born of” God. The Greek word behind the English expression “how great” is potapen; it speaks of something that has come from a place other than the earth – something exotic, something beyond what mankind has previously experienced. The translation could read, “Behold, what unusual Love the Father has poured on us.” Just think, God’s Love came from another world; it seems foreign to humanity. And this Love has been lavished[10] on us, poured out on us, as shown by the fact that God allows us to be called His children. The Greek neuter noun teknon for “children” emphasizes birth rather than infancy. John, here, was calling attention to the remarkable fact, carried over from the last verse, [11] that God has actually “given birth” to believers as His very own children.[12]

For Daniel L. Aiken (1957), new behavior follows the new birth. Being born of God has definite and abiding results (“has been born” is a perfect-tense verb). Therefore, God’s children will grow to look like God their Father. Our conduct is proof of our parentage. The righteous Savior produces saints who live and act right. John carries this argument an additional step here in verse one, and what a step it is! He explains how the Love of God the Father is the source of our privilege to be His children. Calling their attention to this marvelous truth, John exclaims, “Look at how great a Love the Father has given us!” We could paraphrase what John says like this: “The Love of the Father is out of this world, and it is a love that will never be taken away. It is an amazing Love that awes and astonishes, and it has been given for us to enjoy forever and ever and ever.” What we read in Torah is so true: “I will never fail you or abandon you.”[13] [14]

David Guzik (1961) says that when the Apostle John uses the phrase “placed on us,” it says many things. First, it speaks of the measure of God’s Love to us; more literally translated, “lavished[15] on us.” Secondly, it expresses the manner in which God gave such Love; bestowed has the idea of a one-sided giving, instead of a return for something earned. What is it that makes us slow to believe this Love of God? Sometimes it is pride, which demands a person prove themselves worthy of God’s Love before accepting it. Sometimes it is unbelief, which cannot trust God’s love when people see the hurt and pain of life. And often, it just takes time for a person to come to a fuller understanding of the greatness of God’s Love.[16]

Peter Pett (1966) says that just the thought of being born again by the Anointed One’s work on the cross raises the Apostle John to a level of adoration in the face of such a glorious truth. “See,” John says, “what kind of love the Father has lavished[17] on us.” He has not only called us His children, but made us so through the Anointed One. We are indeed His children, created through the Anointed One, produced by God. Such was His Love freely placed on us. And that is why the world does not acknowledge us or know who we are. It comes from the fact that they could not see God and get to know Him through the Anointed One.[18] The following section in this chapter reveals more of why this is. Therefore, the world is lawless and rejects those who are true children of God introduced to the Law of Love.

And note secondly, says Pett, the Father places this Great Love in us. It is ours, not by earning it nor having deserved it by any means, but because of His gracious Love, He placed it in us as a gift. And because of it, we love Him more than we do the world.[19] So, there are two points here; first, we are called God’s children because we are His children. Secondly, being called children involves christening. It is a public demonstration of God’s favor for all to see. The world may not notice, but the angels look on at the naming ceremony in wonder. So, these puny mortals have become the Father’s children? But even more astounding is that it is true.[20]

David Legge (1969) says this particular passage of Scripture has been a dilemma to many theologians and Bible teachers for this one reason: it states that Christians should not sin in a casual reading of the text. But, of course, human beings, in general, and Christians, in particular, are acutely aware of their inherent sinfulness both in their nature and in their behavior. They know that they are sinners and that they do sin. So, we have to make sense of what the Apostle John is saying to us in the crucial verses of this chapter. What does he imply by saying that Christians should not sin? What does he mean by the word sin? John tells us later that if we stay close to God and obey Him, we won’t keep sinning, but as for those who keep on sinning, they should realize this: They sin because they have never really known Him or become His.[21] Then John states that if you keep on sinning, it shows that you belong to Satan, who has been steadily sinning since he began to sin. But the Son of God came to destroy these works of the devil.[22] [23]

Douglas Sean O’Donnell (1972) Another view takes the titles little children (teknia)[24] and children [infants] (paidia)[25] to be essentially synonymous. Those words express Christians in general, not new or immature believers. It is supported elsewhere[26] when John addresses those under his pastoral care as little children.[27] Therefore, by little children and children, John is talking about “God’s children.”[28] Then with the title’s fathers and young men, he subdivides the rest of the Christian community into two age groups – the old and the young. Like the Apostle Paul, John is not setting before us a terrifying perfectionism. Still, he is demanding a life that is constantly on guard against sin, a life in which sin is not the standard accepted way but the odd moment of defeat. To make this point, look carefully at these first two verses and notice that John sees our fallen nature realistically.[29]


[1] John 3:8

[2] The Greek verb kaleō means to bear a name or title: cf. Luke 1:35; 22:25; Acts of the Apostles 8:10  

[3] The Greek word didōmi translated by Guzik figuratively as “lavished” can be used two ways: as an adjective it means “sumptuously rich, elaborate, or luxurious;” as a verb, it implies “to offer something in generous or extravagant quantities.” John uses it here as a verb.

[4] Kruse, Colin G., The Letters of John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, op. cit., Kindle Edition

[5] Ben Witherington III. Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, op. cit., (Kindle Locations 6684-6687)

[6] 1 John 3:2

[7] Isaiah 6:4; cf. 52:12; 1 Corinthians 2:9

[8] See Romans 8:17–19; Philippians 3:21; Colossians 3:4

[9] Burge, Gary M., The Letters of John (The NIV Application Commentary) pp. 146-147

[10] The Greek word didōmi translated by Guzik figuratively as “lavished” can be used two ways: as an adjective it means “sumptuously rich, elaborate, or luxurious;” as a verb, it implies “to offer something in generous or extravagant quantities.” John uses it here as a verb.

[11] 1 John 2:29

[12] Barton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., pp. 61-62

[13] Deuteronomy 31:6; cf. Hebrews 13:5 – Complete Jewish Bible

[14] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary), op. cit., Kindle Edition

[15] The Greek word didōmi translated by Guzik figuratively as “lavished” can be used two ways: as an adjective it means “sumptuously rich, elaborate, or luxurious;” as a verb, it implies “to offer something in generous or extravagant quantities.” John uses it here as a verb.

[16] Guzik, David, Enduring Word, op. cit., p. 47

[17] The Greek word didōmi translated by Guzik figuratively as “lavished” can be used two ways: as an adjective it means “sumptuously rich, elaborate, or luxurious;” as a verb, it implies “to offer something in generous or extravagant quantities.” John uses it here as a verb.

[18] John 1:10-11

[19] 1 John 2:15

[20] Pett, Peter: Truth According to Scripture Commentary, op. cit., loc. cit.

[21] 1 John 3:6

[22] Ibid. 3:8

[23] Legge, David: Preach the Word, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., Part 9

[24] 1 John 2:12

[25] Ibid. 2:13

[26] Ibid. 2:1, 28; 3:4, 18; 4:4; and 5:21

[27] Also note Jesus uses the two terms for His disciples in John 13:33 [teknia] and 21:5 [paidia]

[28] 1 John 3:1, 10; 5:2

[29] O’O’Donnell, Douglas Sean, 1-3 John (Reformed Expository Commentaries), op. cit., Kindle Edition

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s