WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XVIII) 08/05/21

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

In his treatise on Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) states that we find our spiritual fruit and agape-Love in a Christian’s lifestyle. By that, I mean, says Edwards, they have influence and power upon those subject to such interaction. As a result, they cause the universal conformity to Christian rules in holy living to be part of any practice or business of a believer’s life. Therefore, believer’s everywhere must be obedient to living a sanctified life.[1] We know Jesus the Anointed One manifested Himself in the flesh to help us combat sin. Being in union with Him, who did not sin, helps everyone successfully resist their sinful tendencies. By doing so, we remain right in God’s eyes because the devil controls those who go on sinning.[2]  Jesus did say, “You are my friends if you do what I tell you to do.”[3] [4]

But Edwards has more to say about John’s text here in verse three. In his sermon on how hypocrites are deficient in the duty of prayer. He points to the words of Job[5] and the Psalmists[6] on neglecting prayer, and asks us to consider how living with such negligence is consistent with leading a holy life. The Scriptures tell us more than once that true Christians lead a holy life, for, without holiness, you’ll never see the Lord.[7] It is why John tells us here in verse three to maintain as free from sin’s contamination as the Anointed One did. Wise king Solomon tells us that good people try to avoid evil. They watch what they do and protect themselves.[8] And the prophet Isaiah joins in by telling us there will be a road there. This highway will be called “The Holy Road.” Evil people will not be allowed to walk on that road. No deniers of God will walk on it. Only good people will walk there. John sees this as talking about those redeemed persons mentioned in the preceding verses. The Apostle Paul also speaks of it.[9] [10]

Then, Edwards makes another comment about keeping ourselves pure in expectation of the Lord’s return. Finally, he focuses on hope by saying that we must be ready to humbly and reverently give a reason for the hope in us, providing a reason or explanation for our belief. So, hope seems to be used for faith by the Apostle John.[11] In the Final Covenant, hope is often spoken of as a great Christian grace and virtue. It is one of the main things that distinguish a true Christian. Otherwise, it would be difficult to understand or account for if our hope meant no more than thinking well of one’s current situation or wishing oneself luck in the future state.[12]

John Wesley (1703-1791), preaching on Christian perfection, states that anyone who lives in true holiness has “purified their hearts by faith,” to the degree that everyone in union with the Anointed One has the hope of glory because they, “eliminated sin even as He was sinless.”[13] Believers are cleansed from pride, for the Anointed One was lowly of heart.[14] He was pure from self-will or desire, for the Anointed One desired only to do His Father’s will[15] and finish His work.[16] Followers of Jesus must also guard against angry outbursts in the ordinary meaning of the word. It is what the Apostle Paul urged believers to do.[17] I say “anger,” in the everyday sense of the word, for all anger is not evil.

The following Greek term sullupoumenos, meaning “being jointly grieved,” notes Wesley, shows that when Jesus looked at the people, He was angry but felt sorrowful because they were so stubborn.[18] So likewise, the Master was displeased at the offense, but sorry for the offenders. So, with righteous indignation, He glared at the situation but was heartbroken for the sinners. And just like He told the young lawyer, the Messiah expects us to go and do the same.[19] So, when you are angry, don’t let that anger make you sin, and don’t stay upset all day. Furthermore, don’t become despondent over every offense you see done against God. Instead, express only love and tender compassion to the offender.[20] After all, if you came upon a terrible accident caused by a drunken driver who hit a tree or light pole, would you run to the car, see the bleeding individual unable to free themselves because the automobile was on fire, and then just turn and walk away? For many of us, Jesus found us with wrecked lives, but didn’t walk away either.

Samuel E. Pierce (1746-1829) says some ministers preached too much about what a person should experience or feel inwardly. Today it is called “motivational preaching.” Or, they emphasize what changes they must make to feel right in their hearts; otherwise, they will continue feeling bad about themselves. Call it what you will, but this is not preaching the Anointed One to a sinner: and there cannot be any spiritual life in the soul before He lives there. The only way they can have the Anointed One in them is to preach Jesus and the cross.

Another mistake, declares Pierce: is to lead people to find another way for peace in their hearts, encourage them in it, and motivate them instead of leading and building them up in the Anointed One. Another is insisting on their self-production of the fruit of faith. In doing so, they neglect to present the Person, work, worthiness, righteousness of the Anointed One, and His fountain of blood. But, finally, it is a fantastic way to go by marks and signs and point out a man’s interest in the Anointed One.[21]

Adam Clarke (1762-1832) gives what the Apostle John says here in verse three the feel and sense of some great, exciting coming attraction never seen before. All who have the hope of seeing the Anointed One as He is; that is, of enjoying Him in His glory; purifies themselves – abstain from all evil, and keep them from all that is in the world, that is, the lusts of the flesh, of the eye, and the pride of life.[22] Once God purifies a heart, it is the individual’s business to keep themselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One for eternal life. The Apostle John does not speak here of anyone self-purifying their heart because it is impossible. Instead, they must persevere in the state of purity into which the Lord brought them.[23]

Augustus Neander (1789-1850) tells us that the world’s relation to the children of God may exhibit itself under two forms. First, those raised in Christian homes who work in a Christian environment and live in a “Christian” country may be conscious of the source of superiority that distinguishes them from all who belong to pagan nations. Secondly, they may unconsciously absorb this influence as an element once introduced into the national culture without acknowledging Christianity as its source.[24] In either case, believers themselves bear the responsibility to retain and maintain that unique character and virtue exhibited by genuinely born-again Christians, whether they are recognized as children of God or not.

In his sermon on the Christian’s hope, Charles Finney (1792-1875) uses verse three as his text. He says that this passage shows what its meaning must be. The Apostle John calls our attention to that love placed on us by the Father by calling us His children with admiring wonder.[25] It is a present blessing, not something that is going to happen down the road. The thing known and current in our family relationship with God is that we are His children. Any future item not yet known pertains to what we will be. It will come to light when the Anointed One appears again; then, seeing the Anointed One as He is will certainly, by common sense, and in accordance with the divine plan, be like Him. It is the thing we hope for. Furthermore, it is the foundation of a Christian’s hope – that they will see the Anointed One as He is and is like Him for eternity.[26]

Alfred Jenour (1797-1868), Curate of Seaton, and Harringworth, Northamptonshire, England asks, “Is it possible for any man to purify himself? Is it not the Spirit of God that must work in us ‘both to will and work for His good pleasure?’” To this, I answer, says Jenour, that we must identify the twofold work of purification: the part that God does and the part we must do to maintain it.

But, notes Jenour, admitting that a person may purify themselves in a sense the Apostle John mentions here in verse three, can they do it to that degree equal with the purity of the Anointed One? Jenour then answers that the term “even as” – KJV (“just as” – NIV) implies equivalent to, not equally. It means those who hope to share the Anointed One’s glory must get their hearts purified of any sinful tendencies with the same kind of holiness that they see in the Anointed One, even though they never reach or measure up to the same perfection. As a result, they acquire the same humility, spiritual mindedness, and love on the same spiritual level; that is, the same kind.[27]


[1] 1 John 3:3

[2] Ibid. 5:18

[3] John 15:14

[4] Edwards, Jonathan, The Words of: Vol. 2, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, Part 3, p. 986

[5] Job 15:4

[6] Psalm 36:1

[7] Hebrews 12:14

[8] Proverbs 16:17

[9] Romans 8:1

[10] Works of Jonathan Edwards: Vol. 4., Fifteen Sermons on Various Subjects, Sermon 8, p. 804

[11] 1 John 3:3

[12] Works of Jonathan Edwards: Vol. 6, Notes on the Bible, p. 1164

[13] 1 John 3:3

[14] Matthew 11:29

[15] Mark 14:36; Luke 42:22

[16] John 17:4

[17] Ephesians 4:2

[18] Cf. Mark 3:5

[19] Luke 10:37

[20] Works of John Wesley: Vol. 6, Sermon 40, p. 25

[21] Pierce, S. E., An Exposition of the First Epistle General of John, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 346

[22] 1 John 2:16

[23] Adam Clarke: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 381

[24] Neander, Augustus: The First Epistle of John: Practically Explained, op. cit., p. 173

[25] 1 John 3:1

[26] The Charles Finney Sermon Collection: Vol. 2, The Christian’s Hope, p. 974

[27] Jenour, Alfred: Biblical Illustrator, First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 89

About drbob76

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