WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XX) 08/09/21

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

In his sermon on our being sons and daughters of God, Mr. Beverly Carradine (1848-1931) uses verses two and three here as his text and tells us: This passage of Scripture teaches three great truths. The first is evident at a mere glance: “If we are children of God, then there must have been a spiritual birth.” The second is taught but not as quickly seen” “If children of God, there should be a family resemblance.” The third lies buried yet is the most important of the three: “If they are children of God, they should love the rest of the family.” If you seem surprised, our heavenly Father would do things this way, why? The God of Grace and Nature is the same. He who hides certain ores under the earth’s surface and buries gold, silver, and gems farther down, acts consistently in the spiritual kingdom, when He conceals precious truths under the meaning of the word, and still more sacred mysteries still deeper.[1]

Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901) says that the Apostle John’s statement that “everyone” indicates every born again child of God. They have this “hope in Him.” It should read “hope on Him” to carry the correct meaning; it is leaning on Him as their pillar of hope, the Promiser of eternal life and glory. The moral consequence of such a hope is, they “purify themselves of sin, even as He is sinless.” If there is something in God’s child which should not be there, this hope removes it and cleanses the soul.[2] The standard of this cleansing is the Anointed One, “even as He is pure.” He did not need to purge Himself. He came untainted from heaven and remained that way. But we must, and it is accomplished according to the spotless and sinless character of Jesus as He is now in heaven. Having the same lifestyle as the Anointed One in glory, we resemble His divine holiness through the motivation of hope. The Anointed One is the ray of light shot from the heart of God into this dark world, and here untainted and untarnished, He radiated that glory. We should seek to be like Him, as one day we will be.[3]

Philip Mauro (1859-1952), a Christian attorney-at-law in New York, wrote about “Life in the Word.” Here the truth concerning our likeness with the Son of God is broadly stated. Other passages declare specific features included in this general likeness. Thus, the Apostle John states, “Those who are God’s children do not continue to sin because the new life God gave them stays in them. They cannot keep sinning because they have become children of God.”[4] John’s view is that of an ideal Christian – something rarely attained. Nevertheless, the new nature received the characteristics necessary to keep sinful tendencies under full control. Therefore, when this unique nature begins to manifest itself in the spiritually awakened spirit, there is an immediate struggle between human desires and those of their spirit.[5] Everyone who God has birthed knows from experience what this struggle means. Again, the Apostle John states that presently, we believers are children of God, though we appear so little like it.[6] What we know, upon the clear testimony of Scripture, is that “when He appears, we will be like Him; for we will see Him as He is.”[7]

Alan E. Brooke (1863-1939) reminds us concerning the Greek verb hagnizō (Translated as “purifieth” KJV)[8] here in verse three that those who appeared before God at the Jewish feasts were required first to purify themselves from all Levitical and ceremonial uncleanness. Thus, the hope of appearing before God and of seeing the Anointed One inspires its possessors to put away every defilement which clouds their vision of God. The Anointed One’s human nature was perfected through discipline and suffering while here on earth. But now He stands exalted in the presence of the Father.[9] The same will be true of us.

Paul Kretzmann (1883-1965) now introduces another motive for Christian conduct. Look at the great love our Father gave to us that makes us His children now. Christians should carefully examine this truth. They should use their physical and spiritual eyes and concentrate their attention upon that miracle, upon that mystery, that we should be honored with the name “children of God.” We’ve been removed from the state of judgment and damnation and placed into fellowship with God. It resulted from being born again through the power of His Spirit in the Word. It is the experience we had, making us God’s children, making us what we are by faith in the Anointed One, Jesus.[10] We are now children of God, led by His Spirit, heirs, and joint-heirs with the Anointed One.[11] The image of God, lost by Adam’s fall, is awakened in us. As a result, we are forming the Anointed One in us.[12] [13]

Daniel Snaddon (1915-2009) hears the Apostle John saying that all who hope to see the Anointed One and to be like Him do all they can to remain sin-free, even as the Anointed One is pure. The hope of seeing Him brings into focus the rapture. If we live our lives as if the Anointed One was crucified yesterday and coming tomorrow, we would be continually purifying ourselves. Therefore, the imminence of the rapture should have a sanctifying effect on every believer.[14]

Dwight Pentecost (1915-2014) points out that the Apostle Paul said, “all who eagerly look forward to His appearing.[15] Some people take this position to show that the rapture must be a partial one. However, the subject of translation is not a factor in this passage, but the question of reward. God intended the second advent to be a purifying hope.[16] Such cleansing produces a new lifestyle because of the expectancy of the Lord’s return. Therefore, those who truly “yearn for His appearing” will experience a new kind of holy living that will bring an eternal reward.[17]

D. Edmond Hiebert (1928-1995) sees the Apostle John insisting that every individual who eagerly awaits the Lord’s second coming exercises ongoing purification from sinful habits. The only other place where John uses the Greek verb hagnizō (“purify”) refers to physical ceremonial purification.[18] Here, in verse three, the term denotes spiritual moral purification. The present tense points to this being a repeated experience. And by John saying that this is done by the person themselves implies their conscious need for such purification. Because of a believer’s hope, they cannot live comfortably with sin. John earlier stated that the blood of the Anointed One cleanses, [19] while here he wrote of self-purification. Both are true and necessary. Just as a dirty coal miner must apply soap and water to be clean, the believer must use the God-given means of sanctification to cleanse themselves from any moral defilement.[20]

Ian Howard Marshall (1934-2015) tells us that the importance of this section is that it draws attention to the reality and unfinished work of the Christian experience. Christians who doubt their standing before God need to be reassured that those who do what is right have been born of God and belong to Him. They have all the privileges of God’s children. At the same time, however, they need to be warned against thinking they’ve done all that’s necessary to be a complete, sanctified Christian. To believe this is to ignore the dimension of hope. It suggests that God has already done all He can do and that His work in us is finished.[21] Worse still, it is to accept the world’s present sorry sinful state and live our lives in unending darkness. Instead, we must remind ourselves of the hope of a future transformation and let our light shine until that great event.[22]

Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) notes that verse three does not contain anything needing immediate attention, but it sounds like it. It is a clear statement with irresistible force. To have the hope of which verse two speaks is to have a zeal for moral living. It is valid for “everyone,” that is, every child of God, not just some among John’s readers. Closely related is the Apostle Paul’s appeal to the Corinthians in the light of God’s promises.[23] Both John and Paul’s mention of future events are a reason to pay close attention to personal holiness here and now. We find the same conviction in the writings of James[24] and Peter.[25] John leaves no place for a dreamy heavenly-mindedness that does believers no earthly good. But what is the nature of the hope of which John speaks? Translations like “everyone who has this hope in them[26] may give the impression of a hope that is resident within the believer[27] and “everyone who entertains this hope.[28] Other translations render it “Everyone who has this hope in Christ,”[29] proves this point.


[1] Carradine, Beverly: Revival Sermons, Sonship, Ch. 4, p. 48

[2] Cf. “Living to God’s glory on earth is the gate to living in God’s glory in heaven,” Andrew Murray (1828-1917): Like Christ, Thoughts on the Blessed Life of Conformity to the Son of God, Willard Tract Depository, Toronto, Canada, 1886, p. 242

[3] Cocke, A. R. (1895), Studies in the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 72-73

[4] 1 John 3:9

[5] Galatians 5:17

[6] 1 John 3:2-3

[7] Mauro, Philip: The Fundamentals – a Testimony to the Truth: Edited by R. A. Torrey: Vol. 2, Ch. 7, p. 163

[8] Cf. Exodus 19:10ff; Numbers cf. 6:3, 8:17; Joshua 7:13; 1 Esdras 7:10; and John 11:55

[9] Brooke, Alan E. International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 84

[10] Galatians 3:26

[11] Romans 8:14, 17

[12] Galatians 4:19

[13] Kretzmann, Paul E., Popular Commentary, 1 John, op. cit., pp. 566-567

[14] Snaddon, Daniel: Plymouth Brethren Writings, 1 John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[15] 2 Timothy 4:8

[16] 1 John 3:3

[17] Pentecost, J. Dwight. Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology, Kindle Locations 3053-3057

[18] John 11:55

[19] 1 John 1:7

[20] Hiebert, D. Edmond: 1 John, Bibliotheca Sacra, op. cit., p. 207

[21] Cf. Philippians 1:6

[22] Marshall, Ian Howard. The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 174 

[23] 2 Corinthians 7:1

[24] James 5:8

[25] 1 Peter 1:13

[26] New International Version and Today’s New International Version

[27] Cf. 1 Peter 3:15 – New American Standard Bible

[28] The Jerusalem Bible Translation

[29] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 179-180

About drbob76

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