WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XXI) 08/10/21

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

Colin G. Kruse (1950) notes that the Apostle John concludes his parenthesis by stating that everyone who has this hope in them sanctifies themselves, just as He is pure. In the future, the hope of being like the Anointed One expresses itself by getting rid of sin to be like Him in the present. The verb “to purify” (hagniz) is found only seven times in the Final Covenant. It can have either ceremonial or moral implications. So, in John’s gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, it is used consistently in connection to ceremonial purification.[1] However, the Apostle James says, “purify your hearts, you who are double-minded,”[2] and the Apostle Peter states that believers “purified themselves by obeying the truth.”[3] Here, the word purify denotes moral sanctification, and this is what it means in verse three, where people inwardly cleanse themselves to be sinless as the Anointed One is pure. The moral cleanliness of the Anointed One that John has in mind is confirmed by what says in verse five: the Anointed One appeared to take away our sins, since there is no sin in Him.[4]

Gary M. Burge (1952) notes that the Apostle John’s summary contains his confidence in Christian life in verse three. He knows the Father’s love by witnessing His sanctifying work in us, experiencing the world’s unfriendliness, and sharing renewed faith and joy at the prospect of Jesus’ return. These things build love’s transformation into joy and assurance among Christians who may be struggling. It was undoubtedly the setting for John’s church in Ephesus, with division challenging his leadership and threatened to tear the church in two. However, John’s pastoral purpose here is to reassure his readers’ wavering in their faith. Ultimately, his purpose is ethical. If we set our minds with confidence based on God’s promise, we will feel differently, which will help us renew the way we live. “Purity” only occurs here and refers to the absence of any stain. But John does not have ritual cleansing in mind. A mind singularly focused on meeting Jesus will discover a restored willingness to pursue sanctification so that “when He appears,” our right living will resonate with Him. It recalls the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.[5] [6]

Bruce B. Burton (1954) comments that because Jesus the Anointed One lived without sin, believers who have this hope of seeing Him and being like Him will want to purify themselves. To “purify” means to be morally and ethically free from sinful habits. People can only do this through the Spirit of the Anointed One being in them because, as Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.[7] It is an ongoing cleansing process, beginning at one’s rebirth and continuing until the day Jesus returns. The purer His people become, the clearer their view of Jesus will be. God also purifies Christians, but they must take steps to remain morally fit.[8] [9]

Peter Pett (1966) states that the present and the future are glorious for God’s children, who came to Him through the Anointed One. They are His own. Let them rejoice in that and appreciate what was given to them. But an even more glorious future awaits. What they will be is like a seed; it has not bloomed and blossomed. Indeed, it is so exquisite, no one can appreciate it until it is displayed. For it is so magnificent that we can only experience it when the Anointed One is revealed in all His glory. Then we will know and will be made like Him, for we will see Him as He is.

We all indeed started from lowly beginnings. But, once we are “born from above,” we see the glory of the Anointed One dimly. We are babies. We are little aware of the truth about ourselves. But we begin the journey to Christlikeness, becoming what God purposed for us as He is working in us, helping us to want to do what pleases Him and gives us the motivation to do so.[10] And so, as we grow, we become more and more aware and are transformed from one degree of glory to another.[11] Thus we become more and more like Him until that day that we see Him as He is, which completes everything in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, when we are made like Him. Such a gift has never been conferred on humanity before.[12]

Karen H. Jobes (1968) focuses on what the Apostle John says here about our eternal future. She notes that the Greek noun elpis translated as “hope,” has a more robust sense of certainty than the English word. For example, one might say, “I hope it rains today; we really need rain.” The word “hope” expresses a strong wish or desire in such phrases, which may or may not have any basis on a weather report. Or one might say, “I invest in my retirement account in the hope of a secure future.” In this case, “hope” is more than a wish; we are confident that taking such action is the basis for realizing the desire. But when John speaks of the Christian’s future hope, there is no uncertainty because it is based on what Jesus the Anointed One has already done. Thus, the only reason this attitude is referred to as “hope” is that it is still in the future. It is a confident hope in which a believer waits.[13]

David Legge (1969) asks, what happens upon conversion – or what was supposed to happen? We come to the Anointed One and repent of our sin, and the Bible says that God gives us a new nature to live upright before Him and the world. The “do not” in the Ten Commandments, [14] those things that we were not supposed to do in the flesh, the Apostle Paul tells us because, in the Anointed One, Jesus, the law of the Spirit that brings life made us free. It liberated us from Torah that brings sin and spiritual death.[15] Now we can do our work using the fruit of our renewed spirit and effectively fulfill God’s law of loving Him and others. That way, we can say that the Ten Commandments no longer apply because we do not do the things it forbids. We are not doing these things in our strength; it is the very life of God in us to live a sanctified life. Now, what John is saying is this: it is a true sign that God’s child is living in obedience to the law of God’s love. Thus, as the believer anticipates the second coming of our Lord Jesus, they will be purging themselves of sinful addictions as they gaze at the prospect of the Anointed One’s return.[16]

My father used an illustration in his sermons, in which he told of a wealthy German prince who lived in his castle in southern Bavaria. Each time he went on a trip, he would leave his staff in charge of welcoming visitors and maintaining the grounds. One day, before he left, he told his top servant, “I don’t know when I will return, or at what hour, but if anyone opens this door after I knock once, I will give them a palace as their reward.” Months passed, and time seemed to drag on. Then, one morning at around 2 AM, there was a knock at the door. Within seconds, the door was open. The prince was amazed when he saw his head servant standing there. “I’m surprised you opened the door so soon.” The servant replied, “Each time I heard a knock, I thought it was you.” Will Jesus find us ready to open the door when He knocks again?

3:4a The person who customarily sins is habitually breaking God’s law. So yes, sinning is the same as going against God’s will.

EXPOSITION

To say that sin is lawlessness can be rightly converted into saying that lawlessness is sin. Knowingly to keep sinning against what God says in His Word is the surest way to drive a person further away from God. It was what led to King Saul’s death on the battlefield.[17] King Solomon warned the children of Israel about this in his dedication prayer for the new Temple.[18] We also find out that the Apostle Paul feared the same thing when he planned to visit the believers in Corinth.[19]

Neither is the Apostle James silent on this subject. He told his readers that you are sinning if you treat one person as more important than another. You are guilty of breaking God’s law. You might follow all of God’s law. But if you fail to obey only one command, you are guilty of breaking all the commands in that law.[20] Then James shared the remedy for such failures through spiritual healing.[21]

The Apostle Paul felt the necessity of shining additional light on this subject. So, he told the saints in Rome; you might think I am saying that sin and the law are the same. That’s not true. But the law was the only way anyone could learn what sin means. No one would have ever known it is wrong to want something that is not theirs. But the law said, “You must not want what belongs to someone else.”[22] Sin found a way to use that command and make us want all kinds of things that weren’t ours. So, Paul said, my sinful tendencies rose because of what I was taught not to do. However, without the law, sin has no power.


[1] John 11:55; Acts of the Apostles 21:24, 26; 24:18

[2] James 4:8

[3] 1 Peter 1:22

[4] Kruse, Colin G., The Letters of John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, op. cit., Kindle Edition.

[5] Matthew 5:8

[6] Burge, Gary M., The Letters of John (The NIV Application Commentary), op. cit., p. 147

[7] John 15:5

[8] See 1 Timothy 5:22; James 4:8; 1 Peter 1:22

[9] Burton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., p. 64

[10] Philippians 2:13

[11] 2 Corinthians 3:18

[12] Pett, Peter: Truth According to Scripture Commentary, op. cit., loc. cit.

[13] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3, op. cit., p. 142

[14] Exodus 20:3-17

[15] Romans 8:2

[16] Legge, David: Preach the Word, 1,2,3, John, op. cit., Part 9

[17] 1 Chronicles 10:13

[18] 1 Kings 8:47

[19] 2 Corinthians 12:21

[20] James 2:9-10

[21] Ibid. 5:15

[22] Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21

About drbob76

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