WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XI) 07/26/21

3:2 Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, right now, and we can’t even imagine what it is going to be like later on. But we do know this, that when He comes, we will be like Him, as a result of seeing Him as He is.

COMMENTARY

On another subject, Calvin employs what Paul says here in verse two about justification by faith. He points to the teachings of Andreas Osiander.[1] Calvin accuses Osiander of introducing a monstrosity termed “essential righteousness.”[2] Although intended not to abolish our being right with God, he shrouds it in darkness, and by that darkness deprives sanctified minds of a profound sense of divine grace. Nevertheless, Calvin argues, as the Apostle Peter says, “Because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the assurance that enables us to share His divine nature and escape the World’s corruption caused by human desires.”[3] As of now, the Gospel promises what we will be at the final advent. The Apostle John reminds us, “when He appears we will be like Him, for we shall see what He really is.”[4] [5]

Calvin also finds another application for Paul’s words here in verse two, “that He will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous.”[6] Yet, the Scripture more frequently describes the resurrection as intended for God’s children only. Thus, properly speaking, the Anointed One did not come to destroy but save the world. But since the foretelling by the prophet that death will be swallowed up in victory, [7] only then will it be completed. Let us always remember that the end of the resurrection is such eternal happiness that not even a thousand tongues can describe one minute of that gladness. Although we’re told that the kingdom of God will be full of light, and delight, and joy, and glory, yet what these things mean will remain a mystery, like a puzzle. Only when that day arrives will they manifested by His glory upon seeing Him face to face.[8] Therefore, since the prophets could not give a verbal description of that spiritual blessedness, they usually described it using emotional senses.[9] [10]

James Arminius (1560-1609) notes that all things are complete in God in his oration on theology. He alone fills the mind and satisfies its disastrous desires, for He is unlimited in wisdom, power, and goodness. He is the chief principle of truth. But the human mind is limited by its formation, and only in this capacity can it fathom something infinite. Thus, despite being able to apprehend, it cannot comprehend God, the Eternal Being, and Chief Truth. King David, therefore, in an exclamation of joyful self-gratulation, openly confesses that he was content with the possession of God alone, who employing knowledge and love is possessed by His creatures.[11]

Arminius then says three things to consider: First, we cannot fully understand an infinite God. Therefore, it necessitates that He be defined according to our mind’s capacity to comprehend. Secondly, it is not proper, in the first moment of revelation, to cram such a considerable amount of knowledge into the human mind. It is only by the process of having the Light of Glory illuminate it, thereby enlarging it to a greater capacity. Therefore, to use the understanding given to us by grace properly, we must proceed higher by doing things God’s way until we reach the level of the spiritual conception of His glory. Just as the Master said, “Whoever has will be given more.”[12] Thirdly, these things are not part of our theology merely to be known but revered.

The Theology of this world below is Practical. However, the Theology belonging to the world above consists of pure and unclouded vision. As the Apostle Paul expressed it, “We walk by faith, and not by sight.” Consequently, this gives greater meaning to the Apostle John’s words: “Then we will be like Him, for we will see what He’s like.”[13] For this reason, we must robe the One our theology points to in such a manner that it will enable us to worship and be fully persuaded to practice what we preach.[14]

John Cotton (1585-1652) makes an interesting comment on what the Apostle John says here in verse two. He notes that our bodies will be changed upon resurrection and also our souls.[15] While we live here, says Cotton, our souls are as if we were still condemned to die in sin.[16] Nor will there be any change in our bodies; they are already ashes and dust. I’m afraid I have to disagree with Cotton on this point. At the resurrection, our dust and ashes will be exchanged for a new covering for the soul. Then, we will not have any combating or striving between the flesh and the spirit. The flesh is gone, and our new temples will be home only to the soul. That’s why the Apostle John heard it said; “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good – tears gone, crying gone, pain gone – all the first order of things gone.”[17]

But I agree with Cotton that now we are full of imperfections, as the duties we perform in the best manner are full of human frailty and weakness. Now our natural affections whirl around us and ofttimes drive us away from performing charitable deeds. Still, we should constantly be involved in doing good for others so our Christian friends and acquaintances can rejoice with us.[18] [19]

John Owen (1616-1683) comments on verse two by saying that this promise to see the Anointed One face-to-face affects our conformity to God’s will because that’s where we discover our eternal blessing, which is vision or sight. Here faith begins what sight will perfect one day while “we walk by faith, and not by sight:”[20] And although the life of faith and vision differ in degrees – or, as some think, in type – yet they both have the same aim and the same function because there is an awareness between them. The thing behind the whole mystery of divine existence and will is its operation in perfect conformity to God.[21] In other words, we become more like Him in our actions and attitude. That’s where we find His blessings.

So, notes Owen, faith has the same ambition and operation in its degree and measure. The great and incomprehensible mysteries of the Divine Being – God’s will and wisdom – are its proper objective and operation regarding conforming us to His likeness. And this it does, in a peculiar manner, in the contemplation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus the Anointed One; and by this, we have our nearest approach to the life of vision and its effects so that we all show the Lord’s glory, and changed to be like Him. Our transformation brings more and more recognition, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit, [22] which makes possible the vision to see glory. The exercise of faith does more to raise and perfect the mind – more disposed to holy, heavenly attitudes and affections – than any other duty.[23]

Later on, Owen notes that the joy of being a child of God is that by grace in His grand design, while we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man.[24] And since He is the pattern of all our graces, He receives all the glory, for He will change our humble bodies and make them like His own glorious body. The Anointed One does this by His power, with which He rules everything.[25] That’s why God placed the fullness of His grace on the Anointed One’s human nature along with His glorious image. It was done that He might be the prototype and example of what the church would become partakers of through Him. This work must continue until we are all joined in what we believe and know about the Son of God. Our goal is to become like an adult – to look just like the Anointed One and have all His perfection.[26] [27]


[1]  Andreas Osiander, original name Andreas Hosemann, (born Wednesday, December 19, 1498, Gunzenhausen, Ansbach – died Monday, October 17, 1552, Königsberg, Prussia. German theologian who helped introduce the Protestant Reformation to Nürnberg. However, one Lutheran faculty and synod after another declared its opposition to Osiander’s deprecation of forensic justification of sinners and his exaggerated stress on the indwelling of Christ Himself as the essential factor in justification.

[2] Andrew Osiander, 1549, began publicly to propound a doctrine in which he abandoned the conception of justification by imputation of the merits of the Anointed One, and returned to the Roman view of justification by infusion of the eternal essential righteousness of the divine nature of the Anointed One. In other words, it is not the work that the Anointed One did on the cross freely given by grace that justifies the sinner before God, but the practice of the Anointed One’s righteousness that leads to justification.

[3] 2 Peter 1:4

[4] 1 John 3:2

[5] John Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk. 3, Ch. 11, p. 763

[6] Acts of the Apostles 24:15

[7] Isaiah 25:8

[8] 1 Corinthians 15:54

[9] John Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk. 3, Ch. 25, p. 1033

[10] Ibid. Bk. 4, Ch. 18, pp. 1453-1454

[11] Psalm 73:25

[12] Matthew 13:12

[13] 1 John 3:2

[14] The Works of James Arminius: Vol. 1, Oration 2, p. 46

[15] 1 Corinthians 13:12

[16] Ezra 9:6

[17] Revelation 21:4

[18] Job 4:10

[19] John Cotton: Commentary on First John, op. cit., p. 335

[20] 2 Corinthians 5:7

[21] Romans 12:1

[22] 2 Corinthians 3:18

[23] Owen, John: Christologia, pp. 65-66

[24] 1 Corinthians 15:49

[25] Philippians 3:21

[26] Ephesians 4:13

[27] Owen, John: Christologia, pp. 229-230

About drbob76

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