WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XVI) 08/03/21

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.

David Guzik (1961) says that when we are changed to be more like Jesus, it does not mean that we cease to be ourselves, full of the distinct personality and character God has given us. Heaven will not be like the Buddhist Nirvana[1] of Eastern mysticism, where all personality is dissolved into God like a drop into the ocean. We will still be ourselves, but our character and nature will be perfected into the image of Jesus’ perfection. We will not be “clones” of Jesus in heaven! The Christian should long to be like Jesus, yet remember that God will never force a person to be like Jesus if they don’t want to. And that is what hell is for: people who don’t want to be like Jesus. The sobering, eternal truth is this: God gives His children what they really need. If you yearn to be like Jesus, it will show in your lifestyle now, and it will be a fact in eternity. If you prefer not to be like Jesus, it will also show in your behavior now, and it will also be a fact in eternity.[2]

Douglas Sean O’Donnell (1972) speaks of “non-diluted disciples.” These are believers who are salt to the world. They may experience persecution now, but thankfully, moral perfection later. As the Apostle John says, “When He appears [not before], we will be like Him.”[3] Jesus is coming back to judge and to save. Then we will finally be out of sin’s reach. Right now, we are justified by faith in the Anointed One (thus perfectly right in God’s eyes), but soon we will be just (perfectly righteous like God). Why? Because we will see Him as He is. Does that mean that once we see Jesus, He will transform us from this mortal and immoral body into an immortal and moral one? Yes! We will have glorified resurrected bodies, a clean character, and satisfied souls. Yet what it all looks like and feels like remains a mystery (“what we will be has not yet appeared.”) Whatever our future heavenly existence resembles, we can trust that it will be quite the sight.[4]

3:3a He is pure, and everyone who has this expectation will keep themselves pure of sinful tendencies, just as the Anointed Himself is pure.

EXPOSITION

The Apostle Peter also expressed such expectation of seeing the pure Anointed One. He wrote his readers, “Dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen and for Him to come, try hard to live without sinning; and be at peace with everyone so that He will be pleased with you when He returns.”[5] That’s why Jesus left this message for those who would be waiting for Him to come back, “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never – I promise – regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you must be kind.”[6]

So, there are responsibilities for believers getting and keeping themselves ready for the Lord’s return. And one of the most critical virtues is “patience.” The Apostle Paul explains this to the Romans this way: Showing patience is proof that we are strong. And this evidence gives us hope. And this trust will never disappoint us. We know this because God poured out His love to fill our hearts through the Holy Spirit.[7] And this hope began when they heard the good news preached to them and by faith accepted the work of the Anointed for their salvation.[8] Not only that, but this gift of eternal life was something no one deserved as wretched sinners.[9] It was all due to God’s unchanging and unending grace.[10] And moreover, once God makes a promise, He never cancels it or goes back on His word.[11]

That’s why, what we are encouraged to do out of love, not obligation, is so important. After all, when God made His promise of salvation through His Son, He did not discriminate against anyone depended on race, color, gender, or social status.[12] Therefore, based on the assured promises, we should willingly fight hard against any sinful tendencies that arise from an adverse reaction to the Law’s or the Gospel’s call to live holy lives.[13] But, of course, it is not something we do just on certain occasions but all the time.[14] But we are not to rely upon our strength alone; the Anointed One has given us everything we need to live a holy life in order to serve God according to His will.[15] That means while we wait for His return, we do not get weary in making every day a special day to be at peace with God because we are doing what He asked us to do.[16]

Being spiritually complete was not a new idea. The fact is, Jesus made it part of His message. In the Gospels, He used an Aramaic term translated into Greek as teleios, which basically means to be brought to completeness in integrity and virtue. To put it another way, to arrive at a person’s lifelong goal with everything expected of them undamaged or impaired.[17] But it wasn’t just asked of believers; God asked it of His only Son before installing Him as our new high priest.[18]

Commentators do not all agree on who is being referred to in all the pronouns in this verse. Whether “Him” refers to the Father or Son, and also regarding the “He is pure.” Some think it is best to take “He is” as God and the “hope in Him” as the Anointed One. In verse two, they say that “like Him” agrees with “in Him is no sin” in verse five. So, to make this a little simpler, they say the verse should read this way: “Every person who has this hope in Him – Jesus, should purify themselves just as He – God is pure.”

Now, when we look back to verse one, the Apostle John starts talking about the Father. Then in verse two, he mentions our being God’s children, but by using “He appears,” brings in His Son, that we will be like Him when we see Him as He is. Now, in verse three, John says that as long as we have hope in Him. So, it must be the Son John is speaking about in verse two. And that brings us to the debate of who the He is in “He is in pure.”

But here, in verse three, the Apostle John speaks of this “hope.” Some scholars believe that it refers to the Rapture, when God will make the believer be just like the Lord Jesus. The word “hope” means confident expectation concerning something in the future. Such expectation, in this case, rests “in Him.” Therefore, Jesus’ return is the foundation for our anticipation. We do not find confidence in ourselves. Our aspirations are set on the Anointed One. Therefore, the Rapture is a solid incentive for purity. God transforms the believer with a firm optimism for the Lord’s return. Eager faith will produce a changed life. The word “in” in the phrase “in Him” means “upon.” It is a term of trust or rest. It is a belief set on and resting on the Anointed One.[19] Therefore, hope produces purity.

For instance, the anticipation of company coming for dinner triggers preparation for their arrival. The strong prospect of the Anointed One’s coming makes a difference in how we behave. As the hymn says, “The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”[20] Jesus may come any moment. Do you have anything you need to straighten out before He comes? The person looking for the momentary coming of the Lord keeps no “have to-do list” with God. They do not harbor grudges in their heart against anyone. Search your heart just in case you need to deal with anything before Jesus comes.[21]

Accordingly, John’s purpose in writing is both doctrinal and ethical. True doctrine always affects how we live our lives. The word “purifies” means to remove anything inconsistent with the character of the Anointed One. Believers in fellowship with Him and others must accept the responsibility of keeping themselves clean for His sake. Cleansing does not obtain hope. On the contrary, hope promotes cleansing. Thus, anyone who knows about the imminent possibility of the Anointed One’s return purifies themselves just as He is pure. The word “He” is emphatic – “Just as He is pure.” How pure is Jesus? He is perfect purity. Jesus is free from any contamination of sin. The Anointed One was infinitely and unchangeable, holy within Himself as God, but He maintained freedom from sin in His humanity. Consequently, cleansing of sin is crucial for fellowship with the Lord and growth in the Anointed One.

Most of us could be a good secretary, an employer, or a medical doctor and do an excellent job without being a Christian, but we cannot be good Christians with unloving hearts. “Let every person examine themselves first,” then partake of the Lord’s Supper.[22] If we have hard feelings in our hearts toward anyone when we dial heaven’s prayer line, we will get a busy signal.[23] We cannot afford these things as Christians, for they will tarnish our spiritual personality.


[1] Nirvana is another word for “heaven” in Buddhism

[2] Guzik, David – Enduring Word, op. cit., p. 50

[3] 1 John 3:2

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

[5] 2 Peter 3:14

[6] Luke 6:35-36 – The Message

[7] Romans 5:4-5

[8] Colossians 1:5

[9] 2 Thessalonians 2:16

[10] Titus 3:7

[11] Hebrews 6:18

[12] Acts of the Apostles 15:9

[13] 2 Corinthians 7:1

[14] Hebrews 12:14

[15] 2 Peter 1:3-4

[16] Ibid. 3:14

[17] Matthew 5:48

[18] Hebrews 7:26

[19] Cf. Isaiah 11:10; Romans 15:12; 1 Timothy 4:10; 5:5

[20] From Helen H. Lemmel’s hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” (1922)

[21] Philippians 3:12-14

[22] 1 Corinthians 11:28

[23] Cf. 1 Peter 3:7

About drbob76

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