WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XXXI) 08/25/21

3:6 So if we stay close to Him, obedient to Him, we won’t be sinning either; but as for those who keep on sinning, they should realize this: They sin because they have never really met Him or become His.

James Macknight (1721-1800), Scottish minister and theological author, serving at St. Giles Cathedral of Edinburgh, holds the same opinion as other Bible scholars on the Apostle John’s saying that any person in union with the Anointed One does not sin. That means they are not habitual sinners.[1] That’s why, says Thomas Scott (1747-1821), We can never sufficiently admire the love, which the “Father has placed on us” or rejoice too much in our contentment if indeed we are numbered among the “children of God.” Who and what were we, or what had we done, that the infinite Lord should condescend from heaven to notice and make us unique! “What kind of love is this,” that He would redeem, regenerate, adopt, and bless such worthless worms, such guilty, polluted rebels? Doubtless, it is way beyond human comprehension and incapable of being illustrated by any comparison. May we then be, says Macknight, obedient to Him as His dear children; and in that way show our appreciation for His unspeakable mercy, and express that thankful, grateful, and humble attitude, which is so appropriate for those who are so highly favored and distinguished.[2]

In this commentary, Joseph Benson (1749-1821) employs the same phraseology that I use related to scriptures that talk about our being “in” the Anointed One. He says, “Whosoever abides in union and fellowship with Him in loving faith and does not sin. That means they do not try to remain Christians while living in sin.” If they constantly break any known law of God, they have never met Him, neither gotten to know Him. Their views and knowledge of Him have been so superficial that they don’t deserve to be called Christians. They have not conquered their love of sin and the frequency of it to be brought into holiness.

Furthermore, says Benson, they have not reached or retained a spiritual level of communion with God. Certainly, when a person sins and violates any known law of God, the loving eye of their soul is not fixed upon Jesus;[3] neither do they know Him on a personal basis. Macknight feels that it is possible some of the heretical teachers, condemned by the Apostle John in this epistle, tried to make their disciples believe that their opinions were derived personally from the Anointed One. They boasted about seeing and conversing with Him during His ministry on earth, consequently that they knew His doctrine perfectly. But the apostle assured his children that if these teachers, who admittedly continued in sin, ever saw or conversed with the Anointed One, they were utterly mistaken about His character and His doctrine because John knew what he was talking about.[4]

Jewish convert Augustus Neander (1789-1850) talks about what he calls “promoters of externalized and formal Christianity.” He says that this proceeded chiefly from the Jews with their superficial and outward tendencies in religion. Such belief rested in a mere faith by works, public profession, and physical fulfillment of the law. These are the empty words against which the Apostle Paul warns his Ephesian brethren.[5] With such a superficial conception of the Law, the rich young man in the Gospel supposed he had fulfilled all its requirements from his youth.[6] Sadly, the Church has reproduced this concept with the uniform effect of making obedience to the Law easy, of lowering the essentials of Christianity in each one’s life, thus enabling a person to soothe their conscience. John was urging Christians to strive for holiness by shunning all that is sinful. Some were very outspoken about this adverse influence. It was necessary because it lessened their moral earnestness and relaxed moral judgment in the church. Therefore, John is warning his brethren against certain seducers.[7]

Albert Barnes (1798-1890) says that some scholars are of the opinion that what the Apostle John says here teaches the “doctrine of perfection” or that Christians may live entirely without sin. Some accused John of introducing this as a characteristic of the faithful Christian.[8] But if we look closer at what John said, you can see what he is really saying. John simply implies that anyone truly born of God does not sin, that is, has no intention of sinning, no desire to sin, and does not live to sin. So, it appears that the Apostle is sure that any true believer has no plans of wandering away from God or intentionally breaking His Law. John repeats this same argument in verse nine below.

Robert Smith Candlish (1806-1873) sees four arguments against committing a sin or breaking the law. These are all connected to those whose essential purity is to be a model in purifying ourselves: I. The end or design of His appearing – “to take away our sins.” II. His sinlessness – “in Him is no sin.” III. Our oneness with Him – “whoever abides in Him does not sin.” IV. The incompatibility of sin with any real acquaintance with Him – “whoever sins have not met Him, neither gotten to know Him.” These four may be reduced to two: the first and second being, as it were, doctrinal; the third and fourth experimental: the former turning on what He is to us, as our Savior; the latter, on that, we are in union with Him as His saved ones.[9]

Henry Alford (1810-1871) does a thorough job of deciphering the above verses. And in one instance, as here in verse six, he focuses on the Greek verb menō, which the KJV translates as “abideth.” (“lives in” – NIV). Other translations of this verb include “remain,[10]dwell,[11]continue,[12]tarry,[13] and “endures.[14] In his Greek Lexicon, Thayer says that this verb is equivalent to “not to depart, not to leave, to continue to be present.” So today, we would see this as one’s permanent position. So, to take what John says here and paraphrase as “he who permanently stays” in Him (the Anointed One), “does not go on sinning.”[15]

Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901) sees a connection between what the Apostle John says here with what he said in chapter one, verse six. It describes a characteristic – a prevailing habit, not primarily an act.[16] Each sinful act interrupts fellowship, both with God and with fellow believers. Yet, as much as it may be foreign to a person’s character and not their normal behavior, it still leaves them with a changed personality.[17] Since sin comes from hostile feelings toward God, its effect violates one’s love for God. That is the essence of a Christian’s character – to love God and each other.[18]

Joseph Agar Beet (1840-1924) speaks about Christian purity. However, this deliverance does not imply the annihilation of the tendency to sin so that we no longer find it in us as a hostile force against which we have to watch and contend. For, if the Anointed One, by His presence and power in our hearts, gives us complete and constant victory over sinful tendencies within us, so that it no longer consciously molds our acts, words, or thoughts. God saved us from the polluting power of sin. A tendency to do evil is every moment stomped on, will cause us no spiritual shame.

Beet illustrates this exposition by an analogy found in outer space. If the moving force in any planet were to stop, it could carry the planet from its orbit deeper into the universe to oblivion. But, on the other hand, the planet could also fall into the sun with the inherent force removed, thus losing its existence. But under the combined influence of these two forces, each exerting its full influence every moment, moves the planet on its appointed orbit, preserving its individuality, yet subordinate to a body immensely greater than itself. So, we move in absolute devotion to Him, from whom we receive Light and Life and all things.

Similarly, says Beet, we carry in our bodies chemical forces which would destroy us were they not neutralized by the presence of life.[19] Yet, despite these forces, the body may be in perfect health, for the neutralizing power is sufficient to preserve us. Just so the presence of Christ in our hearts holds back our inborn tendencies to evil, aggravated as they are by personal sin, and keeps us from all corruption. Thus, does He save His people from their sins.


[1] James Macknight: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 69

[2] Thomas Scott: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 494

[3] Hebrews 12:2

[4] Benson, Joseph: Firsts Epistle of John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[5] Ephesians 5:6

[6] Matthew 17:19

[7] Neander, Augustus: The First Epistle of John, Practically Explained, op. cit., pp. 184-185

[8] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., p. 4843

[9] Candlish, R. S., The First Epistle of John Expounded in a Series of Lectures, op. cit., p. 251

[10] 1 John 2:24

[11] Ibid. 4:13

[12] John 2:12

[13] Matthew 26:38

[14] John 6:27

[15] Alford, Henry: Greek NT, op. cit., p. 165

[16] Cf. Titus 3:11; Hebrews 10:26

[17] See 1 John 2:1

[18] Westcott, Brooke: Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 104

[19] So why does the stoppage of respiration and blood flow start the process of decomposition? The answer is all chemistry. Immediately after the heart stops, blood stops flowing through the veins and arteries and begins to pool and spread to the lowest lying areas of the body. This gives the skin a “bruised” appearance. Investigators can use this post mortem (after death) “bruising” to make determinations about the position of the body at the time of death. This process of blood seeping into the peripheral tissues of the body is called livor mortis. Between 3 and 6 hours after the heart stops, a chemical in the body called ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) runs out. ATP requires the intake of oxygen to be produced, so its production ceases with death. This is an important chemical since it is responsible for the flexing of muscle: When ATP is no longer available, the chemical myosin becomes irreversibly locked onto the muscle tissue and the muscle “locks” into place. This is called rigor mortis. The same is true when a person severs their life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit, and their heart no longer beats with love and enthusiasm, and the blood of Jesus no longer washing as their sins, they too will become motionless with no spiritual life.

About drbob76

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