WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XIX) 08/06/21

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

Horace Bushnell (1802-1876) was an American Congregational minister and theologian and feels that people should stop singing “When we all get to heaven,” just because they are disgusted with the world down here. Why keep praising heaven’s adorable purity in eloquent words as if to excuse or atone for the lack of all purity down here. Let us only say that they are living a glorious life due to the meditation of the Anointed One, surrounded by those who are also celebrating their freedom because of Him. We must sanctify our minds of negative thoughts through pure communication with His Spirit. So then, live anticipating the treasures laid up for us in heaven.[1] It will motivate us to be purified like the Anointed One and the hopes we have in Him.[2]

William Graham (1810-1883) believes that the hope of the Anointed One’s second coming and our likeness to Him is sanctifying in nature and requires no proof. All that our heavenly Father reveals to our faith and hope must make us wiser and better, holier and happier than before. Among the followers who please Him most are the ones who keep an eye on the second advent. The Apostles, who saw Him ascend from Mount Olive to heaven, received from the attending angels the promise, “This Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday He will return in the same way you saw Him go!”[3]  Likewise, the Apostle John’s last words in Revelation are a solemn prayer, “Amen, come, Lord Jesus.”[4] [5]

English Puritan theologian John Howe (1817-1868) talks about the purifying influence of hope. For him, the Apostle John is one of the most mystical teachers in the Final Covenant by insisting on plain morality just as vehemently as his friend the Apostle James could have ever done. His thought is a simple one – If you expect, and by expecting, hope to be like Jesus the Anointed when you meet Him in the air, you will try your very best to be like Him down here.[6]

Daniel Steele (1824-1914) tells us there is a practical lesson to learn about self-purification. Sin weaves a film over the spiritual eye. Sanctification removes that film, and our determination in that faith which retains the indwelling Sanctifier, keeps the coating from returning to darken the soul. Thus, faith requires constant personal effort directed to this definite point, “keep purifying oneself.”[7] It can only be done indirectly by the believer since purification is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is our constantly fulfilling the conditions on which He sanctifies. Before appearing in God’s presence in the temple, [8] the required practice of ceremonial purification explains this form of expression.[9] [10]

Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) discusses the call for believers to purify themselves. Some may ask, “Purify ourselves?” That is not evangelical teaching. Well, let us see. For instance, let’s take two or three verses out of this Epistle that seems contradictory. The first focuses on the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, who purifies us from all sin.[11] Then, secondly, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”[12] Thirdly,  “Anyone who continues to live in union with Him will not sin.”[13] Therefore, every child of God defeats this evil world and achieves victory through faith.[14] [15] Now, that doesn’t sound like doing things to keep sin out of our lives on our own.

Robert Cameron (1839-1904) says that the manner of love the Apostle John calls on us to behold is not simply manifested, but is imparted to us. The love glowing in God’s heart lavished[16] upon His children is also infused into their hearts and becomes the source of spiritual life. This gift of love forms the basis and the justification of the divine title given to us. This great love – the agape-love ends, making us children of the living God. It is not sons, but children. John uses this term undoubtedly to emphasize two facts: that we are all partakers of divine nature, and, there is a possibility of growth in character and privilege afterward.

According to divine grace, says Cameron, Christians have the standing of full-grown sons and daughters, but John does not have that view. He is always speaking of the life imparted to believers, making them children. This life is not yet fully developed, but there is a promise of maturity and glory. Hence, John never but once uses the term “son,” which indicates position and privilege, and that only, when speaking of the inheritance of all things in the new heavens and the new earth, where the growth is complete. Paul speaks of “sons” because of our standing through grace, while John uses “children” because of life through spiritual birth.[17]

Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) feels that this is referring to God. He states that it is possible to take the Greek pronoun ekeinos, in verse three means “that [one],” translated as (“He” – KJV) recalling the person already indicated by the Greek pronoun autos in verse two means “him,” translated as (“Him” – KJV). Otherwise, make both pronouns refer to God. At first sight, this seems to make a better sequence between verses two and three. So, we can render it, “Hereafter we will be like God; therefore, here we must strive to become pure as God is.” However, I’m inclined to interpret the pronouns Him and He as Jesus. In any case, since they are three in one, it doesn’t matter. I’m convinced that when we attribute something to the Son that Scriptures designate as belonging to the Father, He doesn’t get upset.[18]

Erich Haupt (1841-1910) speaks of our Lord’s purity by saying that He reached His present glory through absolute obedience, by virtue of His overcoming all temptations and entirely submitting Himself to obey His Father’s will. So, as a human, what He accomplished through holy living now radiates from His face as our Redeemer. Therefore, the Apostle John views Him in the form and under the aspect of the sacrificed lamb.[19] Nothing of what the Lord possessed upon earth has passed away; everything has become an eternal element of His personality. As with anyone, nothing they experienced would be different through the ages from what they are, the same with the Lord. If, then, we are to become hereafter like Him, the Apostle John says, we must on our part appropriate to ourselves the purity which the Lord exercised here below, in virtue of which He passed into His glory. No word expresses the absolute grace and tenderness of divine ethical habits to the same extent as this.[20]

J. Westby Earnshaw (1846-1931) recalls the story written by Nathan Hawthorne (1804-1864) about “The Old Man and the Mountain.”[21] He says that this is the case with our noblest hopes as Christians. Thus, it is with the grandest of all hopes – one day to see God. All grossness, negligence, selfishness, wretchedness, falsity, scorn, bitterness, and contempt are purged from the heart where such hope lives. Pessimism is the grave of heroism, aspiration, the motivation of noble purpose, and generous enthusiasm. The person who believes the worst will be their worst. The ones who believe the best will be their best. And those who have the hope of seeing the Anointed One and being like Him will purify themselves of sinfulness, even as He is pure.

Earnshaw goes on to say that when we look at our lives here on earth like a tent under which we function, it helps us understand its temporary purpose and that it does not survive all the winds and rain that comes, costing us extra time and effort to stay covered. But when we abide under the love of God most high, we come to realize that although we are still human we’ve reached a higher level by which we are joined and governed by His Spirit. The great question regarding every life is this: “Does it respond to the highest, does it cling to the best?” Our divine Elder Brother, revealed His godly sonship, making possible for us to realize the glory that is coming to pass. He did so by asserting us as part of God’s family, and chose us, so we could live the life God intended for us.[22]


[1] Matthew 6:19-21; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9

[2] Bushnell, Horace: The Expositor’s Dictionary of Texts, Vol. 2, op. cit., p. 401

[3] Acts of the Apostles 1:11

[4] Revelation 22:20

[5] Graham, W. (1857). The Spirit of Love, op. cit., p. 194

[6] Howe, John: The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., p. 293

[7] 1 John 3:3

[8] John 11:55; see Hebrews 10:22

[9] 1 Timothy 5:22; 1 Peter 3:2

[10] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hours with John, op. cit., p. 67

[11] 1 John 1:7

[12] Ibid. 1:9

[13] 1 John 3:6

[14] Ibid. 5:4

[15] MacLaren, Alexander: Expositions of Holy Scripture, op. cit., (Kindle Locations 168656-168661)

[16] The Greek word didōmi translated by Guzik figuratively as “lavished” can be used two ways: as an adjective it means “sumptuously rich, elaborate, or luxurious;” as a verb, it implies “to offer something in generous or extravagant quantities.” John uses it here as a verb.

[17] Cameron, Robert: The First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 110-111

[18] Cf. John 10:30

[19] John 1:29

[20] Haupt, E., The First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., pp. 169-170

[21] This story by Hawthorne highlights a village amidst a towering rock formation at the head of a valley which they called “The Great Stone Face.” One evening, a little boy named Ernest sat in the doorway and told his mother, “I wish the Great Stone Face could talk.” His mother told him about an old wives’ tale that one day everyone will see a man with a face like that. Little Ernest lived daily with that hope of seeing this man. One day news begins to spread throughout the valley that the promised man may have come. His name was Mr. Gathergold. (You’ll have to read the rest of the story to find out what happens.)

[22] Earnshaw, J. W., Biblical Illustrator, 1 John, op. cit., pp. 101-102

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s