WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XXVIII) 08/20/21

3:5 And you know that he became a man so that he could take away our sins, and that there is no sin in him, no missing of God’s will at any time in any way.

COMMENTARY

English pastor George Fisk (1833-1910) addresses John’s claim about those called “children of the devil.” He says that the unregenerate sinner, living with the habitual practice of sinning, is under Satanic control because they want to harmonize with what the devil wants them to do. Therefore, it follows that all the powers and abilities they possess, influential as they are upon their associates, become instrumental to the working out of the dictates of Satan’s will rather than God’s will. Such people may be members of a free society, but their heart, intellect, and body are united in being submissive to Satan. They must, if unclaimed by sovereign grace, share in Satan’s final destiny. If they are of the devil in sinning, they must join the devil in suffering.[1]

In Dwight L. Moody’s (1837-1899) writings, he mentions that we should know a number of things. First, it was the Apostle John who wrote this first epistle. The second is what John says here in verse five: “You know that the Son of God became a man so that He could take away our sins, and that there is no sin in Him, no missing of God’s will at any time in any way.” So, it’s not what WE have done, but what HE has done. Has He failed in His mission? Can He not do what He came to do? Did any heaven-sent messenger ever fail? And could God’s own Son fail? No! That’s why He came in the first place, to take away our faults and failures.[2]

Eric Haupt (1841-1926) comments on what John says here about how our Lord Jesus dealt with immorality. Haupt writes that “take away our sins” has three meanings: either that the Anointed One now carries our misdeeds, that He took them upon Himself, or that He has removed them completely. It is plain to see that these three interpretations are substantially very similar. If Jesus took our transgressions upon Himself, that could be only in order to carry them; and if He did this, it was, however, for the sake of taking them away. On the other hand, if the term signifies that He transported them away, other Scriptures offer ample reasons that He accomplished this by removing them. Nevertheless, the decision on this point is not a matter of insignificance, for John must have had expressly stated these elements one way or the other. Therefore, we must give up on making the word “carrying” so important. Moreover, John never elsewhere uses the Greek airo (“to lift and carry along or away” [to transport]) in this way. Consequently, it would be necessary to resort to it only if the ordinary meaning was not sufficient.[3] It is not so much that He took our misdeeds upon Himself as it is that He took it upon Himself to carry our guilt to the cross.[4]

William Sinclair (1850-1917) also focuses on the words “To take away.”[5] (For the use of the phrase “‘take away,” compare John 11:48; 15:2; 17:15; 19:31, 38.) The idea of sacrificial substitution was very significant back in verse two. But here, it is “sanctification.” Yet, the other meaning is still valid. The two are always connected in the Apostle John’s mind.[6] The purpose of the Anointed One’s coming was not to teach a new doctrine, but to produce a new life; the first idea was the means to the second.[7]

G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945), in his writing on the purpose of the incarnation, references verse five here and says that in this context, we get nearer to an understanding of the purpose of the Incarnation as it touches our human need. First, the all-inclusive and straightforward theme suggests that the purpose of the Incarnation was to take away sins. Secondly, the process of accomplishment is that of the Incarnation.[8]

Daniel Snaddon (1915-2009) says that this fifth verse tells us why the Anointed One came into this world “to take away our sin.” For a Christian to continue indulging in sin would be a denial of the purpose for which the Anointed One came. Furthermore, Christians cannot live in sin because it would deny the one whose name they bear because “In Him was no sin.” The Apostle Peter tells us that “He did no sin.[9] And the Apostle Paul states, “He knew no sin.”[10] Our Lord was sinless. And similar to when God sent manna to the Israelites who were in the Sinai desert, it came down on the dew.[11] So, for anyone to call themselves a believer without sanctification and continue in the same old ways of sinful living is just dew drops with no manna.[12]

Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) feels that what the Apostle John wants his readers to “know,” that the revealing of the Anointed One “had already taken place.” This epistle has the seventh of nine occurrences of the Greek verb phaneroō (“to appear”).[13] It can mean simply to be evident or manifest, as in 2:19.[14] However, most often, it suggests the activity of divine revelation. Without that, the truth would not be relevant in redemption and perhaps not even seen. Things “revealed” in this Epistle include eternal life, [15] God’s Love in His Son, [16] and to speak of the incarnation.[17]

Readers not only know that but why the Anointed One came, says Yarbrough: they also see that purity marked His character. Jesus asked His detractors, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?”[18] The unspoken answer is “No,” at least from John’s point of view. In contrast to humans, who will “die in their sins . . . if they do not believe that” the Anointed One is who He claimed to be.[19] Jesus lived without sin so that He could destroy it. To put this in modern terms, Jesus was a disinfectant for sin’s contamination. This same conviction of Jesus’s purposeful sinlessness underlies what the Apostle John says here in verse five, “there is no sin in Him.[20] As the sacrificial lamb must be unblemished, so must the Lamb of God be as well. Sinlessness was the necessary precondition of His atonement’s effectiveness. A prophecy of Isaiah hints at this in speaking of the Suffering Servant as one who “He never did anything wrong and had never deceived anyone.”[21] [22]

Colin G. Kruse (1950) notes that the Apostle John shifts his attention from the one who commits violations of God’s law and the One who came to erase them. John uses “sins” in the plural, indicating that he is thinking of the Anointed One’s appearance to deal with the consequences of the sinful acts of all people. For John, it is always Jesus the Anointed One, God’s Son, who dealt with human errors by His appearance and death. God sent Him to be the atoning sacrifice for our evil deeds, [23] and it is His “blood” that cleanses us from all sin.[24] To “take away sins” is understood here as making forgiveness available by offering Himself to pay the penalty for those offenses. Thus, John can say that God, in the light of Jesus’ shedding His blood, is faithful and just when He forgives our transgressions.[25] Therefore, our wrongdoings are forgiven “in the name of Jesus our Savior.”[26] John can also say to his readers that “you know” these things because they stand at the heart of the Gospel message you heard from the beginning.[27]

Bruce B. Barton (1954) says that sin is rebellion against God. Therefore, Christians should not sin because Jesus came to take sin away. To know of His martyrdom and then keep sinning denigrates His unselfish surrender. Under the First Covenant sacrifice system, Jews offered a lamb without any imperfection as a sacrifice for sin. Jesus is “the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.[28] Because Jesus lived a perfect life and sacrificed Himself to pay the penalty for sin, people who confess and repent receive complete forgiveness.[29] He suffered for their sake, bearing their sins to make them acceptable to God. Only He could bridge the gap between the sinless God and sinful people. Jesus died on the cross on our behalf, taking all our wrongdoing upon Himself, saving us from the ultimate consequences of our sin – eternal separation from God.[30]

Daniel L. Akin (1957) observes a universal truth the Apostle John sets before us: “Everyone who sins also breaks the law.” Sin is lawlessness, rebellion, a defiant disregard, and rejection of God’s rightful rule as Lord over our lives. In our sinful practices, we rebel against our rightful King as a way of saying, “I hate Your law.” Sin is nothing less than personal treason against the Sovereign of the universe. And sin is not a one-time offense. It is the habitual and settled disposition of our heart and life that makes us what we are. As we have mentioned before, “an outlaw against God.


[1] Fisk, George: Biblical Illustrator, First Epistle of John, op. cit., p.20

[2] Moody, Dwight L. Way to God, Ch. 8, p. 83

[3] See 1 Peter 2:24; cf. Isaiah 53:4

[4] Haupt, E., The First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 175

[5] See John 1:29

[6] Cf. 1 John 1:7; 4:9, 10, 11

[7] Sinclair, William: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 483

[8] The Fundamentals: R. A. Torrey, Editor, Vol. 3, Ch. 25, p. 291

[9] 1 Peter 2:22

[10] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[11] Numbers 11:9

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

[13] Cf. 1 John 1:2, 19, 28; 3:2, 5, 8; 4:9

[14] Cf. John 3:21; 7:4

[15] 1 John 1:2

[16] Ibid. 4:9

[17] Ibid. 3:5, 8

[18] John 8:46

[19] Ibid. 8:24

[20] See Matthew 3:14; Acts of the Apostles 2:27; 3:14; 4:30; 7:52; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 1:19; 2:22

[21] Isaiah 53:9

[22] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 185-186)

[23] 1 John 2:2; 4:10

[24] Ibid.  1:7

[25] Ibid. 1:9

[26] Ibid. 2:12

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

[28] John 1:29

[29] 1 John 2:2

[30] Barton, Bruce B.,1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., pp. 65-66

About drbob76

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