WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson VIII) 07/21/21

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.

Michelle Murray (Contemporary) notes that in contrast to the Apostle John’s Gospel, his First Epistle does not reflect a controversial attitude toward Jews. Here John states: “I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning.”[1] Then, in verse eight, he asserts: “Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in Him and you.” John explains that loving one’s Christian brothers and sisters is more consistent with “living” in the Light of love than “languishing” in the darkness of hate.[2]

The reference here to “a new commandment,” says Murray, likely refers to the “new commandment” introduced by Jesus: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you.”[3] It is not a reference to a new set of precepts that would replace Torah. Indeed, the idea of loving one’s brothers and sisters and neighbors is one of the central tenets of Judaism expressed in the Hebrew Bible[4] and later in the Jewish Talmud and Mishnah. Rabbi Hillel Hazaken, one of Judaism’s most distinguished first-century teachers, expounds on a version of this “golden rule.” Responding to a request from a non-Jew to teach him the whole Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel’s reply was, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. All the rest is commentary; go and learn.”[5]

Also, the well-known Rabbi Akiva ben Yosef, who lived approximately one hundred years after Jesus, is said to have declared, “Love your neighbor as yourself – this is the general rule of Torah.”[6] Other Jewish documents dated to around this time likewise reflect the importance of loving one’s neighbor in connection with loving God.[7] If there is anything “new” about the commandment to love one another in the Gospel of John or First John, it might be the last part of the statement from the Gospel: “Just as I have loved you.”[8] John’s use of images of Light and Darkness in his Epistle, [9] which reflects the influence of John’s Gospel, [10] appears as well in Jewish writings from late antiquity.[11] The Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, has a section of the Community Rule known as the “Instruction on the Two Spirits” and gives a fascinating description of these two human groups, the chosen and the unchosen. It mentions the “sons of darkness,” ruled by an “Angel of Darkness,” while identifying their supporters as “sons of light,” governed by the “Prince of Light.”[12]

3:2a Dear friends, now we are already children of God, and it has not yet been made clear what we will be in the future. But we know that we will be like Him when the Anointed One comes again because we will see Him as He really is.

EXPOSITION

Could it be that the words of Isaiah came to the Apostle John’s mind, where the prophet said, “I will give them – in my house, within my walls – a name far greater than the honor they would receive from having sons and daughters?” For the name that I will give them is an everlasting one; it will never disappear.[13]

Also, the Apostle Paul shares the same insight about what John the Apostle says here concerning the return of the Anointed One. He told the Colossians, “The Anointed One is now your life, and when He comes again, you will share in His glory.”[14] And Paul also told the believers in Rome, “From the very beginning God decided that those who came to Him – and all along He knew who would – should become like His Son so that His Son would be the first role model for many more to come.”[15] Paul also told the Romans is that one of the characteristics we share with the Anointed One is that God’s Spirit leads us.[16] That assures us that when He returns, He will not find us cringing in fear as slaves to the Law. Instead, we, with a blood-stamped seal on our hearts, show that we were adopted into the family of God. That’s why we call Him “Our Father, who is in heaven,” because we are joint-heirs with the Anointed to all the treasures, He has stored up for us. So, don’t be discouraged by the troubles we must go through now because they will be totally eclipsed by the future glory God will bestow on us.[17] And God will have no trouble spotting us because we were baptized into union with the Anointed One, so when you see us, you see Him.[18] Not only that, but as soon as we see Him, the Spirit within us will give us the right to call Him “Dearest Dad.”[19]

This idea that God has blessings stored up to give them to His children who reverence and trust Him is not something the Apostle John thought up. Instead, we find where Scripture says: “How great is your goodness that you have stored up for those who reverence you, that you have given to those who trust you. You do this for all to see.”[20] It appears that the Christians in Rome were not being treated with dignity and perhaps were wondering if all this harassment was worth it. So, Paul tells them that he was sure that the things they were enduring now cannot be compared to the shining-greatness that He will give them.[21]

And for the Corinthians, some of whom were beginning to regret all they gave up to follow Jesus, Paul has a word of hope. He tells them that what God has prepared for them in the future cannot even be imagined.[22] He admonishes them for having any doubts because although things may be hazy now, one day, they will fully understand why God planned their life as He did.[23] His encouragement was this: We have minor troubles now, but these troubles are helping us achieve eternal glory. That heavenly splendor is much greater than our earthly struggles.[24] So, John was not wrong in saying what he did about the future of all faithful believers.

Then, in announcing what would take place when Jesus returns, the Apostle John may have been reminded of what the prophet Malachi said about our Lord’s second coming.[25] Not only were John’s readers concerned about standing before God one, day, but so were the Colossians. But the Apostle Paul told them: Since the Anointed One is He who gave you your spiritual life, you will share in all His glory when He comes again.

It was important for believers to know. In His first coming, you see that He dealt with sin and offered Himself the redeeming sacrifice. But when He comes again, it will have nothing to do with sin. A great battle was fought on Calvary and in the Tomb. It was there that Jesus won salvation for all who believe in His work on the cross. So, His coming again is to deliver that salvation to those who are eagerly and patiently await His return.[26]

Not only that, but as of now, we only know Him by faith and feeling through His indwelling Spirit. But when He comes again, we will see Him as He is in His spiritual state. Furthermore, says John, we will be just like Him. Were such hopes and expectations new to John’s generation? Not according to what the Psalmist said about finally seeing the Lord when he is awakened out of his peaceful rest in God’s presence and see what He looks like face to face and be fully satisfied.[27] Paul explained it this way to the Corinthian believers: Down here, we were made like every earthly human, but we will be made like that of the heavenly He-Man up there.[28] That will happen because, through His power of creation, He will take our human bodies and transfigure them into celestial bodies.[29] And the Apostle Peter says a great, big “Amen” to that.[30]


[1] 1 John 2:7

[2] See 1 John 3:9-11

[3] John 13:34

[4] Leviticus 19:18

[5] Babylonian Talmud, Seder Mo’ed, Shabbath, folio 31a, ⁋3

[6] Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Nedarim 9:4

[7] Jewish Tisha B’av (“Ninth of the month of Av” [July]), reading for that year. Tisha B’Av, also known as the Jewish Fast of Av, is a period of fasting, lamentation and prayer to remember the destruction of the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem. The Jewish people still continued the fast day even after they rebuilt the First Temple after the Babylonians destroyed it in 586 BC. The Romans destroyed the Second Temple by burning it in 70 AD and this marked the start of a long exile period for Jewish people. These are two of five sad events or calamities that occurred on the ninth day of the month of Av.

[8] John 13:34; cf. 15:12

[9] 1 John 1:5-7; 2:9-11

[10] John 8:12; 12:46

[11] Murray, Michelle: The Jewish Annotated New Testament, op. cit., pp. 448-449

[12] The Dead Sea Scrolls, Translated by Geza Vermes, 1QS III-13-IV:1

[13] Isaiah 56:5

[14] Colossians 3:4

[15] Romans 8:29

[16] Cf. Matthew 4:1

[17] Romans 8:14-18

[18] Galatians 3:26

[19] Ibid. 4:6

[20] Psalm 31:19

[21] Romans 8:18

[22] 1 Corinthians 2:9

[23] Ibid. 13:12

[24] 2 Corinthians 4:17

[25] Malachi 3:2

[26] Hebrews 9:28

[27] Psalm 17:15

[28] 1 Corinthians 15:49; cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18

[29] Philippians 3:21

[30] 2 Peter 1:4

About drbob76

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