WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XL) 09/07/21

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.

Samuel E. Pierce (1746-1829) says that the Apostle John makes a bold assertion that anyone who sins is working for the devil. It is an eye-opening expression designed by John to deter believers from breaking God’s law. There is undoubtedly enough truth in it to put us all on alert against sin: it is the devil’s work and shows we are in union with him. So, why would anyone who calls the Anointed One, Savior, even think about sinning under any circumstances? It sure does give us something to contemplate about.[1]

I like how Robert Candlish (1806-1873) expresses his understanding of Jesus’ mission to destroy the devil’s works as “the Son of God revealing Himself to undo what the devil had done,” in particular, his instilling in us the germ or seed of insubordination to the authority and law of God.[2]

William Graham (1810-1883) points out that the intention of our Lord in assuming human nature is that He might bring law and order to the chaos caused by Satan.[3] It supports the assertion that the incarnation and Jesus dying were intended to seize the power of death away from the devil. Everything in the form of evil is challenged and neutralized, or nullified, in our Redeemer’s crucifixion. Sin is carried away, the works of Satan are demolished, by the life, and death, and resurrection of the Anointed One: death is reduced to a shadow, deprived it of its sting, yes, abolished, [4] and the author, Satan, destroyed. Look how often, in this epistle, the Apostle John directs our thoughts to the appearance of the incarnate Son of God! John presents this incredible act of unspeakable love for our admiration as the fountainhead of Yahweh’s love, from which the hungry and thirsty creation may draw all needful supplies. He connects our triumphs over sin, our resistance to the devil’s temptations, and our final possession of everlasting life.[5]

Philip Schaff (1819-1893) writes about the development of Catholic theology in conflict with heresy. He tells us that we can find all the essential elements of the later church doctrine of redemption, either expressed or implied, before the close of the second century. The negative part of the doctrine, subjection to the devil, the Monarch of sin and death, was naturally most commented on in the early church era, due to the existing conflict of Christianity with heathenism, regarded as wholly ruled by Satan and demons. In the Final Covenant, the victory over the devil is an integral part of the work of the Anointed One.[6]

Schaff says the early church carried on this view in a very peculiar and, to some extent, mythical way. In this form, Satan’s control continued until the satisfaction theory[7] of philosopher and theologian Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) gave a new twist to the development of the dogma. Satan is supposed to have a legal claim of ownership upon humanity by the disobedience of our first parents and held them bound in the chains of sin and death.[8] The Anointed One came to our rescue. Consequently, the Anointed One’s victory over Satan was now conceived as a legal ransom instead of grace, payable by the Anointed One’s sacrifice as the Lamb of God. It supposedly cheated the devil out of his claim of authority over death, either intentional and deserved, or due to his infatuation.[9]

Aaron M. Hills (1848-1931) is focusing on the evidence that holy living is attainable. Hills says that we may envision the possibility of complete salvation from sin – entire sanctification – from the revealed purpose of the life and death of the Anointed One. The Scriptures declare, “He came to put an end to sin, atone for wickedness, bring in everlasting righteousness, seal up vision and prophecy, and anoint the Most Holy Place;[10] that He might “grant us the privilege of serving God fearlessly, freed from our enemies, and by making us holy and acceptable, ready to stand in His presence forever.”[11] Here is deliverance from all spiritual enemies and sanctification, not at death, nor after death, but “all the days of our life.

Hills goes on to say that Jesus not only saved us by His blood, but also sanctified [12] and purified us with the same blood.[13] Not only that, but He left us an example to follow.[14] All of this was to complete the whole purpose of His incarnation, which was the destruction of the devil’s tactic here in verse eight.  That demonic strategy involved sin and sinning, the corruption of our hearts, and the ruin of our outward lives. Jesus came to rectify all this and make us pure and holy. “The Anointed One carried the burden of our sins. He was nailed to the cross so that we would stop sinning and start living right. By His stripes and wounds, you are morally and spiritually healed.”[15] [16]

James Morgan (1859-1942) offers two passages in the divine Word that furnish all the information needed on sinners being the devil’s property. The first is that “God did not pity the angels that sinned. On the contrary, He had them tied up and thrown into the dark pits of hell until the Day of Judgment.”[17] This irreverent abandonment from God was accomplished before forming the present everyday system and undoubtedly included Satan’s fall as a leading agent in this dire catastrophe. You also know about “the angels who didn’t do their work and left their proper places. God chained them with everlasting chains and is now keeping them in the dark pits until the great day of judgment.”[18] Their first estate, it is clearly implied, was one of holiness and happiness, and in contrast to it, they fell into one of sin and suffering. In this sad reversal of fortune, the devil occupied a glaring position. He became the enemy of God, and in the true spirit of his fatal apostasy, he devoted himself to extend the reign of sin in the creation of God. Thus, looking back to that period and dating from it, it may be said, “The devil has sinned from the beginning.”[19]

William Emery Barnes (1859-1939) talks about the devil’s existence and the origin of evil; – (A) Refute the three theories which contain devil-denying doctrines. [i] The philosophy that two principles, of good and evil, eternally existed and that the devil is only the evil principle personified. [ii] The theory that the devil, specified in the Bible, is the personification of fallen human nature. [iii] The concept that the Bible guards us against sinful actions is of the devil. (B) Explain the origin of evil, and exhibit the actual existence of Satan, as established by reason and revelation.

Robert Law (1860-1919) says that the Apostle John proves the incompatibility of sin with the life of God’s children, first from its nature (verse four). So then, the Anointed One’s character and the purpose of His mission (verses five and six) are reinforced by considering that sin’s source of sin’s nature is sure. And we must recognize the terrific emphasis on the point to which the Apostle brings. Those who tolerate wrongdoing have no kinship with the Anointed One. But are they fatherless?

No! They have a spiritual father – the Devil – who was “sinning from the beginning.” And “to this end,” the Apostle adds, “was the Son of God manifested, that He might destroy the works of the Devil.” Thus, with expectant force, the majestic title “the Son of God” (used for the first time in this Epistle) marks the true character of the works of the Devil. “Judge ye what they are,” the Apostle would say. “It was no other than the Son of God whose task it was to destroy them.” So detestable to God are the works of the Devil that it was worth His involvement. His Holiness and Love necessitated Him to send even His Son into the deadly fight for their complete undoing.[20]

Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis (1861-1927) wrote a treatise on Satan and his plantation. Mrs. Lewis notes that we must draw attention to the difference between counterfeit seeds and genuine seeds planted in worldly fields as Satan’s servants. The fake seeds continue to look like wheat until the time of harvest. Then, as God looks on, He calls for their gathering.[21] So, we have the Lord’s wheat, and the devil’s weeds; the true and the counterfeit; are always found side by side throughout the earth. The rapture and the resurrection will reveal which is which.


[1] Pierce, S. E., An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 375

[2] Candlish, R. S., The First Epistle of John Expounded in a Series of Lectures, op. cit., p. 286

[3] See this use of the word in John 2:19; Ephesians 2:14; 2 Petter 3:10-12

[4] 2 Timothy 1:10

[5] Graham, W. (1857), The Spirit of Love, op. cit., pp. 204-205

[6] See Colossians 2:15, Hebrews 2:14, 1 John 3:8

[7] Anselm’s “satisfaction” theory of atonement proposes that the Anointed One’s death on the cross served as a gift to God the Father on behalf of humanity to restore the order of justice subverted by sin. This theory has been criticized for obscuring God’s grace and mercy.

[8] Cf. Hebrews 2:14-15

[9] Schaff, Philip: History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2, Ch. 12, p. 462

[10] Daniel 9:24

[11] Luke 1:74-75

[12] Hebrews 13:12

[13] Titus 2:14

[14] 1 Peter 2:21, 22

[15] Ibid. 2:24

[16] Hills, A. M. Holiness and Power, Ch. 5, p. 88

[17] 2 Peter 2:4

[18] Jude 1:6

[19] Morgan, James: (1865), An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 193-194

[20] Law, R. (1909), The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., pp. 220-221

[21] Matthew 13:30

About drbob76

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