WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XXXIX) 09/06/21

3:8 But when people habitually sin, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.

John Calvin tells us that the only true God is easily distinguished from many fictitious gods by specific features. Since these idols are the subject of Satanic cults, Calvin feels that the one thing which ought to get our attention is to keep our eyes open for the devil, who is everywhere. He is called both our adversary and the enemy of God. If the glory of God is precious to us, as it should be, we ought to struggle with all our might against him who aims to extinguish all that glory. But, on the other hand, if we are motivated with proper zeal to maintain the Kingdom of the Anointed One, we must continuously wage war against him who conspires its ruin.

The devil knows that human minds are prone to errors and trouble, says Calvin; so, he manipulates them to stir up hatred, inflame strife, and war so that he may overthrow the Kingdom of God and confine humanity to the eternal pit of punishment with himself. Hence, it is evident that his whole nature is malicious, mischievous, and malignant. Therefore, there must be extreme corruption in a mind bent on assailing the glory of God and the salvation of humanity. So, the Apostle John hits the nail on the head here in verse eight when he says that Satan is “sinning from the beginning,” thus implying that he is the author, leader, and planner of all malice and mischief.[1]

John Trapp (1601-1669) shares his view on the Messiah’s mission to destroy the devil’s works. Satan tries to establish a desire for his schemes even in the hearts of the chosen, for whose cause the Anointed One came into the world, that He might undo the evil serpent’s works by crushing his head.[2] That is why the Son of man, our Savior, with His triumph over the devil on the cross, stepped on the evil serpent’s head, crushing his first work against humankind. Thus, it also helps us trample him under our feet. In contrast to what Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, said that “He shall bruise your head,”[3] it meant no more than that every descendant of Eve, whenever they encounter a serpent, is to strike it on the head which is full of venom and harmful to humans.[4]

Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) says that the occasional illnesses of believers should not be called “discipline” but “punishment” for sins. To say that the Anointed One provided satisfaction only for eternal punishment is an outrageous lie. Arminius is of the opinion that the Anointed One as our Redeemer and Savior from sin affects both our bodily and spiritual death. In that way, He keeps us not only from eternal death, but delays earthly death through healing. The scriptures expressly declare, “Jesus did this so that, by dying, He could destroy the one who has the power of death – the devil.”[5] We must understand the term “death” as either “the death of the body alone” or “in conjunction with eternal death.” The Apostle John could not have made it more direct than the way he explains in verse eight.[6]

Arminius was a clear proponent of a person’s free will to accept God’s offer of salvation and serve Him out of love because, even as a sinner, they could feel the convicting power of the Holy Spirit drawing them to the cross. So, he was opposed to Predestination as some were teaching it in his day. It is indeed suitable for men and women to say with entire confidence that there can be no redemption so grand and no method of recovery so glorious as that received from the Anointed One. Therefore, for the sake of what one has done wrong, however small, is to be willfully committed to complete renewal, for the Redeemer “was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil.” Therefore, they are to be dedicated so that the Son of God, the Redeemer, might forgive them. That circular form of reasoning: “sins were committed so that God’s Son might destroy them” is entirely contrary to the Scriptures and hostile to the truth, leading many astray.[7]

Matthew Poole (1624-1679) states that what the Apostle John says may be interpreted by some to call believers sinners.[8] Ridiculous; first, he identifies doers of evil, and consequently, workers of injustice as sinners. Second, it does not implicate everyone who commits any single act of sin.[9] Instead, John focuses on those who habitually sin with great skill to their enjoyment. Not only do they sin, but they do so deliberately. Therefore, finding themselves involved with evil deeds is never a surprise; it’s their goal in life. Sadly, says Poole, it prevents them from repenting and turning to God for salvation and delivery from the curse of habitual sinning. Perhaps it’s because they know they then must refrain from returning to sin for any reason. Thus, any wrongdoing is not excusable because of its convenience. These sinful tendencies must be put to death on the cross with the Anointed One. That is how John views sinning and sinners.[10] [11]

On the subject of covenanting,[12] Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) refers to the words of the Psalmist, where he asks those still living in sin why they keep repeating God’s commandments under the covenant when they are not practicing them.[13] He calls them the “wicked.” Edwards explains that “wicked,” as used in the Scriptures, is applied to those who practice ungodly and graceless acts without it bothering their conscience. They are under the reigning power of sin and are the objects of God’s disfavor that exposes them to His eternal punishment. This is made clear by the number of times it is mentioned throughout God’s Word, where they are called “workers of iniquity,” the “children of the wicked one.”[14] All such people are of the devil, says John.[15]

In many places in the Scriptures, notes Edwards, the righteous and the wicked are opposed to each other and distinguished as saints or sinners, holy or unholy, those who reverence the Lord or have no respect for Him at all, those that love Him or those that hate Him. All humanity is divided by these distinctions because the Bible knows of no neutral ground or third sort.[16]

Edwards speaks of God putting all enemies under His feet, so His goodness may triumph over all evil. In Redemption, God’s grand design was to subdue those enemies.[17] He planned to dishearten, confound, and triumph over Satan and that he might be crushed under Jesus’ feet.[18] He promised that Eve’s seed should bruise the serpent’s head. God’s original work design was to destroy the devil’s schemes and bring chaos to all of his plans. The purpose was to defeat sin and the corruptions of humanity and root them out of people’s hearts by conforming them to Himself. He also predestined that His grace should be victorious over mankind’s guilt and sin’s endless condemnation, calculated to conquer over death, the last enemy to be destroyed. Thus, God appears glorious above all evil and victorious over all His enemies by the work of redemption.[19]

John Wesley (1703-1791), in his sermon on the purpose of the Anointed One’s coming, uses 1 John 3:8 as his text to emphasize that the whole purpose for the Son of God coming to earth was not only to deliver but to save by destroying the dominion and stronghold of the devil. One of those idols in Satan’s kingdom was the statue of “Human Morality.” Thus, says Wesley, they did the best job they could in painting the beauty of virtue. But, at the same time, they employed their most exemplary efforts to describe the deformity of vice in the brightest colors.

However, states Wesley, absolute necessity required that should we ever conquer evil or persevere in virtue, we needed something more significant than these feeble attempts. Otherwise, we may see what is right but not attain it because they sought it where it never was and never will be found, namely, in themselves. Nor were they successful when they sought virtue partly from God and partly from themselves, or sought it from those gods who were indeed but devils and so not likely that their devotion would make them better. Thus, says Wesley, the Light remained dim in the wisest of men “until life and immortality were brought to light by the Gospel;” and until “the Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the devil!”[20]

Wesley also answered inquiries about the doctrine of sanctification. First, “What does it mean to be sanctified?” Wesley replied, “to be renewed in the image of God in righteousness and true holiness.” Later on, “How much time should be allowed for those who do not believe in entire sanctification?” and, “is there any clear Scripture that promises that God will save us from all sin?”[21] Furthermore, “is this asserted in the Final Covenant?” Wesley answered: “It does, and explains it in the plainest terms.” Again, listen to the Apostle Paul: “The Anointed One loved the Church and gave His life for it. The Anointed One did this so that He would have a glorious and holy church, without faults or spots or wrinkles or any other flaws.”[22] [23]


[1] Calvin, John: Institutes, Bk. 1, Ch. 14, pp. 190-191

[2] Genesis 3:15

[3] Josephus, Flavius, Antiquities of the Jews, op. cit., Bk. 1, Ch. 1:4

[4] Trapp, John: On Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 729

[5] Hebrews 2:14

[6] Arminius, James, The Works of: Vol. 1, The Apology or Defense of Jacobus Arminius, Article 9, pp. 260-262

[7] Ibid. Vol. 3, An Examination of the Treatise of William Perkins, Part 1, p. 269

[8] Cf. 3 John 1:11

[9] 1 John 3:7; 3 John 1:11

[10] Ibid. 3:6, 9

[11] Poole, Matthew, Commentary on the Holy Bible, op. cit., Kindle Location 762

[12]Covenanting” simply means to enter into a covenant or agreement

[13] Psalm 50:16

[14] Luke 13:27; Matthew 13:38

[15] 1 John 3:8, 10

[16] Edwards, Jonathan, The Works of: Vol. 3, A Humble Inquiry into the Rules of the Word of God Concerning the Qualification Requisite to a Complete Standing and Full Communion in the Visible Christian Church, Part 2, Sec. 3, p. 243

[17] 1 Corinthians 15:25

[18] Genesis 3:15

[19] Edwards, Jonathan, The Works of: Vol. 4, A History of the Work of Redemption, p. 10

[20] Wesley, John, The Works of: Vol. 6, Sermon 62, pp. 287-288

[21] See Psalm 130:8; Ezekiel 36:25, 29; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Deuteronomy 30:6

[22] Ephesians 5:15, 27

[23] Wesley, John, The Works of: Vol. 11, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, pp. 451-454

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s