WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XXVI) 08/18/21

3:4 But those who keep on sinning are against God, for every sin is contrary to God’s will.

Fr. Lawrence R. Farley (1958) asks, “Have you ever seen someone who is having trouble fixing something, mending something, hooking up something, and they seem frustrated, so you asked them, ‘Do you know what you are doing?’” Farley tells us that before we ask such a question, it is helpful to look carefully at the Apostle John’s words. He sometimes uses the Greek, verb amartano (“to sin”), but also the Greek phrase amartian (“doing the sin”).[1] This phrase is parallel to other terms such as “doing the truth,”[2]doing the righteousness,”[3]doing the lawlessness,”[4]doing the things pleasing before Him.”[5] In his Gospel, John speaks of “doing the truth,”[6] which seems to be paired with its opposite, “practicing evil things;” (Greek prasson phaula). By using the word “doing” (Greek poieo), John seems to have in mind something habitual, parallel with “practicing” (Greek prasso).[7] It confirms John’s statement: Christians do not live sinful lives, as worldlings do because it is contrary to their new nature in union with the Anointed One and His presence in them. However, it does not mean that they cannot sin on occasions. Throughout this chapter, John is contrasting the lifestyles of the Christian Church with worldly society.[8]

David Legge (1969) sees the flow of the Apostle John’s argument this way: to live a sinful life is to live lawlessly. To pursue a life filled with sin is anarchy. John makes that clear in verse four, all who indulge in sinful living are outlaws, for sin is a significant departure from God’s ordinances. The King James Version says, “sin transgresseth also the law.” It would be better translated as “sin is lawlessness.” The Apostle John says that to live a sinful lifestyle is the behavior of an outlaw. Of course, he’s taking us back to Exodus chapter twenty, where God’s law, the ten commandments, were given, and God was showing mankind the standard that He required of them. But don’t fall into making the mistake that many do in our world today, even religious people, thinking that God gave the ten commandments as a ladder of rules up which we must climb to reach heaven by ethical and moral standards.

3:5 You know that the Anointed One came to take away people’s sins. There is no sin in the Anointed One.

EXPOSITION

Almost without notice, the Apostle John inserts an essential factor in understanding what he says here. Twice, we see a reference to the Anointed One. He did this, perhaps because when speaking of Jesus, the audience might be thinking of Him as a man. And to say that He was sinless, how impossible that sounds. But John is not talking about just anyone; he’s referring to the Son of God. Once they realize that, then it makes more sense.

The Apostle Peter had no problem with that. When Jesus asked who the disciples thought He was, Peter immediately said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”[9] Also, when the Apostle Philip told the Ethiopian he was riding, he would baptize him if he believed with all his heart what Philip told him about Jesus. The Ethiopian replied, “I believe that Jesus the Anointed One is the Son of God.” [10]

It seemed to be a typical response before baptizing anyone. The Apostle Paul used a similar phrase in his letter to the Roman believers, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”[11]  Paul did this to remind them that to be saved, you must believe in your heart that you are made right with God and openly declare it as your faith.

And then the Apostle James points out the reason for this, in that it was a happy day for God when He gave us our new lives through the truth of His Word, and we became, as it were, the first children in His new spiritual family.[12]

And the Apostle Peter preached the same message. He told his readers that all honor belongs to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One, for it is His boundless mercy that gave us the privilege of being born again so that we are now members of God’s family. Now we live in the hope of eternal life because the Anointed One rose again from the dead.[13] Peter goes on to say that we make ourselves pure by obeying the truth. Now we can have a genuine love for our brothers and sisters. So, love each other deeply – with all your heart. You have been born again. This new life did not come from something that dies. It came from something that cannot die. You were born again through God’s life-giving message that lasts forever.[14]

There are two additional reasons for the absolute separation of the children of God from sin. (1) They knew well that the Son of God was manifested in the flesh to take away the sins of the world.[15] But some say not for occasional “sins,” one here and one there, but the “sins,” meaning whatever sins existed. However, though strongly supported, it is probably not genuine. The Greek verb airō in itself does imply that the Anointed One took them upon Himself, but He “took them away.” That expresses the elimination rather than the manner of removal. It is similar to the Hebrew word sûr, which combines the two meanings.[16] (2) The Son of God was separated from sin.

There were two reasons for the Anointed One to come into this world. To take away sins[17] and to destroy the works of the devil.[18] Undoubtedly John’s readers knew something about the purpose of the Anointed One’s coming; they did not assume it.  The Greek verb eidō implies that they came to “a settled knowledge of this.” There is no room for speculation about the subject of salvation. John appeals to something that his readers understood – the historical fact of the incarnation. The phrase “He was manifested” refers to the arrival of Jesus into the world from eternity. Jesus’ coming assumes His preexistence. He came from the glory He had with the Father.[19]

The principle involved is that any sin Christians commit is unwarranted because of the wonderful work of the Anointed One on the cross. So, how do we apply this to our lives? Many Christians do not appreciate the price Jesus paid for their sin. The commission and mission of the Anointed One were for the removal of our sin.  He paid the price of death as a sinless sacrifice on the cross, so we could have a personal relationship with God. By the Anointed One’s work on Mt. Calvary, He saved us from the penalty of sin.  Later, by His work as the ascended and seated Son of God on the Throne in heaven, He saves us from the power of sin.[20]  Finally, by His return, He will save us from the very presence of sin. Any exercise of sin by the Christian is unwarranted in light of the great price that Jesus paid. Our lives should correspond to the purpose of His work and manifest in our character. It’s because of the magnitude of His wonderful work on Golgotha.[21]

Furthermore, the motive behind all this is that His mission in coming was to remove any power sin had over us. The words “take away” mean to lift, carry, take up or away, eradicate. Jesus paid the price for our guilt. He took away the penalty for our sins – which is spiritual death. Thus, His coming into the world has a purpose. Jesus came into the world manifested as a man with the commission to eliminate sinful passions as a threat to our spiritual lives.[22]

What qualified Him to do that? It was because there were no sinful tendencies in Him. Jesus the Anointed One is our sinless Redeemer. He did not possess a sinful nature. Sin is incompatible with a relationship with Him. He and He alone was able to pay for our sins due to His sinless life. No one ever found one speck of evil in the Son of God. He is a sinless, spotless, stainless Savior.[23] The driving force behind His assault on sin and its power is that He never intended to sin. Thus, the same can be true of a Christian. Sin brings guilt. So, He not only takes away the sin that held us in its power, but our guilt as well.

So, what does that mean to us today? Jesus took our sins so far away that we will never face them again. Jesus removed all the findings of guilt from us. All liability is gone. Our record is spotless before God. Sins should never haunt us or hound us again.[24] 


[1] 1 John 3:4, 8, 9

[2] Ibid. 1:6

[3] Ibid. 2:29; 3:7, 10

[4] Ibid. 3:4

[5] Ibid. 3:22

[6] John 3:21

[7] Ibid. 3:20

[8] Farley, Lawrence R., Universal Truth: The Catholic Epistles of James, Peter, Jude, and John, op. cit., (Kindle Locations 2706-2713)

[9] Matthew 16:16

[10] Acts of the Apostles, 8:37

[11] Romans 10:9

[12] James 1:18

[13] 1 Peter 1:3

[14] Ibid. 1:22-23

[15] John 1:29

[16] See Leviticus 10:17; 24:15; Isaiah 53:12

[17] 1 John 3:4-6

[18] Ibid. 3:7-8

[19] John 3:17; cf. 5:37; 8:18; 1 John 4:10

[20] Hebrews 7:24

[21] 2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 9:26

[22] John 1:29; Hebrews 10:12

[23] John 8:46-47; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:19; 2:22

[24] Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 44:22; Micah 7:19; Acts of the Apostles 13:38-39; Galatians 1:3-5; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 1:3; 10:17; 9:27-28; 1 Peter 2:24

About drbob76

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