WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XVII) 08/04/21

3:3 And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure.

No one on earth is important enough to hate. If we carry hate in our hearts, joy will depart from our souls. The thrill of the Christian living will depart from us. Do you have your spiritual life balanced in this area before you meet the Lord face to face? Your enemy does not have to like you. They may never come to the place where they deal with their problem of sin. They may never dance to your tune. Leave them with God. Their problems are none of your affairs. Do not let them ruin your Christian experience. Your main concern is pleasing the Lord and meeting Him with a clear conscience. We want to be a blessing, not a curse, to people.[1]

The crisis of salvation triggers a life-long process of conformity to the Anointed One. Salvation sets in motion a process of progressively becoming more like Jesus. It is the unfinished work of the Anointed One in us. We are not now as our Lord Jesus, so we need to grow in grace.[2] God preordained that we would eventually become just like our Lord Jesus the Anointed One. That goal will culminate in death or the Rapture.

COMMENTARY

Bede the Venerable (673-735) comments that there are many who say they have faith in the Anointed One, but somehow seem to forget about the “staying pure” aspect. It is clear that anyone who has absolute confidence in their salvation will demonstrate that fact by living a life of helping others by rejecting ungodliness and worldly desires and imitating the Anointed One’s dedicated, righteous and godly lifestyle. Some say we are commanded to imitate the purity of God’s holiness to the extent that we can do so, just as we learn to hope for the glory of the divine likeness according to our capacity for receiving it all.[3]

If such hope as this can bring a person to heaven, says Bede, then the saving hope of God’s elect by grace is not correctly described to us in the Scriptures. “Hope,” says God’s Word, is the effect of regeneration.[4] And purity of heart is the effect of that hope. But, I tell you, the very nature of heaven is mistakenly described in the Bible if such thinking qualifies a person for its enjoyment; for assimilation or the conformity of the soul to God in holiness, it is a principal ingredient in the Scripture account blessedness. Therefore, most people’s hopes are worthless by all these things and will never bring them to heaven.

Theophylact of Ohrid (1050-1108) notes that John uses the present tense when he talks about purifying ourselves. The practice of virtue is an ongoing thing and has its inner dynamic. If we stop living this way or put it off until some future time, there is nothing virtuous about that at all.[5]

John Calvin (1509-1564) echoed this sentiment when he remarked that there is some rudeness in the language used by the Apostle John. That’s because he prefers to speak openly rather than express what was necessary in politically correct speech. In short, it means that the more abundantly God manifests His goodness towards us, the greater our obligations are to serve Him.  According to the teaching of the Apostle Paul, he implored the Romans by the mercies of God to present themselves as pure sacrifices to Him.[6] At the same time, we learn that our adoption into God’s family is by grace and does not depend on any good works.[7]

John Flavel (1627-1691) says that although this life is a great mystery, so far as it is known to us, the new creature is the loveliest God ever made, for the beauty of the Lord reflects in them. God created the new believer in His image.[8] Similar to a portrait, the Holy Spirit paints God’s likeness on the Christian’s soul. Holiness is the beauty of God’s glory.[9] In this sense, the person who is not born again becomes pure, not essentially divine, as God is, nor yet efficiently perfect, for the regenerated soul can neither make itself nor others faultless. But the life of the new creature resembles the life of God in this, that as God lives to himself, so the new creature lives to God; as God loves holiness, so does the new creature; it is in these things formed after the image of God that created it.[10]

Flavel also notes that the kind of life John explains here is not the way sinners live. Hence, it follows that people are generally on a direct route to eternal ruin; whatever their unsound confidence is based on, they cannot be saved. Narrow is the way, and strait is the gate that leads to life, and few, if any, find it on their own.[11] Hear me, says Flavel, all you who live this dangerous life of emotional security, whatever your persuasions and confidences are, unless you give them up and get a better foundation on which to build your hope, salvation will not come. Such hopes are directly contradictory to the Gospel, which requires repentance,[12] faith,[13]  and spiritually rebirth in all the redeemed. If an individual is unsaved, it means they must make null and void all the Scriptures that go against their idea of being born again because God’s Word stands in opposition to such worthless hope.[14] They must make up new conditions to all God’s promises, for there is no special guarantee found that gives any unrepentant person such leniency. So, compare your hearts with these scriptures.[15] [16]

Flavel gives a word of counsel. Is it the dying believer’s right to commend their souls into the hands of God? Then, as ever, you hope for comfort or peace in your fading hours, see that your souls are ready, making them fit to be placed into the hands of a sacred and just God: See that they are sanctified souls; God will never accept them if they are not holy and satisfactory.[17] Everyone who has this hope to see God purifies themselves from all sin. All endeavors of holiness are inseparably connected with expectations of blessedness. Will you put an unclean, filthy, defiled thing into the pure hands of the holiest God? Please ensure you are clean and acceptable to our beloved Savior when you leave these earthly bodies you live in now. A grateful soul may confidently say, then, Lord Jesus! Into Your hands, I entrust my spirit. O let all that can say so then, now say, thanks be to God for Jesus the Anointed One.[18]

John Bunyan (1628-1688) reports on why the Christian profession is so widely disgraced. It involves some believers who call the Anointed One their Lord and Savior, but do not depart from their sinful ways. First, some profess Him yet do not possess Him. Secondly, they have not repented to receive His saving grace. Thirdly, they do not have the Love of God working in them because the Holy Spirit is not dwelling in them. And fourthly, they have no prospects for the world-to-come.

Furthermore, Bunyan says that Hope is another tremendous and primary grace, which the Holy Spirit places in the heart. Without this expectancy, no one, no matter how high in their profession or how openly they call the Anointed One their Savior, can keep on habitually sinning; as was spoken before about Faith, we now say about Hope.[19] It contributes to holiness; it helps a person make the Lord Jesus their example and Savior. Such purification takes place in the soul, the body, the spirit, the life, and conversation. Being confident of eternal life through the Anointed One makes people purify themselves in obeying the truth through the Spirit. Anticipation of being with the Anointed One in the hereafter will cause one to desire to be like Him down here. The aspirations of fellowshipping with angels up there will make a person strive to live like an angel down here.[20]

William Law (1686-1761) shares his thoughts on our becoming part of God’s family. He says there is a second way God births spiritual infants, which is by regeneration. The Apostle John already made this clear.[21] It constitutes an actual birth. When God does for His offspring to be born again, He does what no one else can do. Anyone can add a minor to the household, but such a youngster is not your biological child. God does not adopt them. Instead, through the Anointed One’s resurrection and the Holy Spirit abiding in them, He can impute His nature and life. “Well,” you say, “does not Scripture speak about our being selected this way?” Does it not say: “We receive the adoption as children?” I answer, “Yes;” I am sorry to say that we do. It is a very poor English translation of the Greek noun hulothesia.[22] We can render this compound word as “son-placing” – “that we receive a son’s place.[23] The fact is, when a person puts another into a son’s place, it may either be by picking out a toddler to take home, or, as God does it, by the impartation of one’s nature and life to them. That doesn’t happen in being awarded custody. [24]


[1] 2 Corinthians 7:1

[2] 2 Peter 3:18

[3] Bede the Venerable, Ancient Christian Commentary, Vol. XI, Bray, G. (Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, p. 196

[4] 1 Peter 1:3

[5] Theophylact of Ohrid, Ancient Christian Commentary, Bray, G. (Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, op. cit., p. 196

[6] Romans 12:1

[7] Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles – Enhanced Version (Calvin’s Commentaries Book 45) (Kindle Locations 3512-3517). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition.

[8] Ephesians 4:24.

[9] Colossians 3:10

[10] Flavel, John: The Method of Grace, pp.362-363

[11] Matthew 7:14

[12] Acts of the Apostles 5:31

[13] Ibid. 13:39

[14] Mark 16:16; John 3:16; Romans 3:8, 9

[15] Matthew 5:3-6; Psalm 24:4; 84:11; Genesis 17:1

[16] Flavel, John: The Method of Grace, pp. 302-303

[17] Romans 12:1; Hebrews 12:24.

[18] Flavel, John: The Fountain of Life, p. 444

[19] 1 John 3:3

[20] Bunyan, John: Practical Works: Vol. 4, Ch. 3, pp. 90-94

[21] 1 John 2:29

[22] Romans 8:15, 23

[23] The Greek noun hulothesia is a compound word which literally means: “son-place,” or “placing of a son.” It is used figuratively as adoption.

[24] Lincoln, William: Lectures on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 78-79

About drbob76

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