WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XLI) 09/08/21

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.

Mrs. Lewis continues: We must face the fact that the Scriptures declare these things to be true concerning all humanity, be they high or low, rich or poor, cultured or ignorant. There is no space given for neutral ground. “But the Scriptures say that sin controls everyone so that God’s promises will be for anyone who has faith in Jesus the Anointed One,[1] and the Law says, “stop anyone from making excuses and let God show that the whole world is guilty.”[2] The Divine Life, which comes from God, and implanted in the child of God, does not sin, for healthy trees bear good fruit. However, the fallen life will also produce its sinful products. To a greater or lesser degree, sin is still sinning; that’s why God calls all lawbreaking “sin.” We are children of the One by whose life we live. Remember, with His life imparted to us; we are God’s children. But if we live under the control of sin, we are the children of the devil.[3]

G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945) continues his dissertation on the purposes of the incarnation of the Anointed One. The Apostle John says that destroying the enemy’s works was not a decision made after the Anointed One arrived, but before He left heaven. The enemy is described here by John as the devil. These are his schemes: He is a murderer. It consists fundamentally in the destruction of life on its highest level, which is spiritual. Alienation from God is the devil’s goal. It also hardens the conscience. Any vision which fails to include God is practical blindness. On the physical plane, all disease and pain are ultimately results of sin. These things all lie within the realm of Satan’s tricks as a murderer, destroyer of human life. Yet, he is even more. He is the liar, and he is the cause for extinguishing the light of truth so that people blunder along their way. All ignorance, despair, and wandering over the trackless deserts of life are due to this extinction of spiritual light in mankind’s mind. All lack of knowledge about God is the result of the devil clouding the human’s spiritual vision.[4]

William Barclay (1907-1978) points out that the Apostle John begins by insisting that no one is above moral law. No one can say that it is quite safe to indulge in certain things, although they may be dangerous for others. That’s why John spends time explaining what sin is all about:

  • He tells us what sin is: It involves the deliberate breaking of the divine laws people are well aware of. Sin is to obey oneself rather than to obey God,
  • He tells us what sin does: It undoes the work of the Anointed One, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.[5] To sin is to bring back what Jesus came into the world to abolish.
  • He tells us why sin is: It comes from the failure to abide in the Anointed One. We need not think that this is a truth only for advanced believers. It simply means this: as long as we remember the continual presence of Jesus, we will not sin; but when we forget that sin is always present, we break God’s law of love.
  • He tells us where sin comes from: It comes from the one who sins, as it were, on principle. That is probably the meaning of the phrase from the beginning of verse eight. We sin for the pleasure that we think it will bring to us; the devil sins as a matter of principle. The Final Covenant does not try to explain the devil and his origin, but it is quite convinced – and it is a fact of universal experience – that there is a power hostile to God in the world, and to sin is to obey that power instead of God.
  • He tells us how sin is conquered: We overcome sin because Jesus the Anointed One destroyed the devil’s works. The Final Covenant often dwells on the Anointed One who faced and eliminated evil’s authority.[6] He has broken the power of wrongdoing, and with His help, that same victory can be ours.[7]

Daniel C. Snaddon (1915-2009) points out that the Gnostics made extraordinary claims about their knowledge, but were careless about remembering their sinful habits. There should be no confusion on this point. A person cannot have a spiritual life and go on living as a sinner. But, on the other hand, a believer can only live a spiritual life because they have the ethical nature of the Anointed One empowering them.[8]

Stanley L. Derickson (1940), in addressing the incarnation of the Anointed One, says that in so doing, God set up Jesus’ victory over Satan. Trying to get even with someone is a human trait and troubling to many Christians. They want to lash out when someone does something mean or says something nasty. It is not the case in God’s dealings with the devil. He was not looking to pay back Satan for his actions in the garden of Eden, nor telling Satan to make things right for the multiplied millions of things that he has done wrong throughout time. God was simply preparing the way for the removal of all fallen angelic beings. God has scheduled their judgment according to Revelation 19 and 20, and their end will be in the Lake of Fire. Yet, God has postponed the execution of that judgment for a time. In the end, when the Anointed One brings together all those He wants to collect, He will deliver Satan to his final, eternal damnation. The devil had to be conquered on his turf. He is the god of this world and needed to be met in mankind’s world. As a result, the Anointed One was victorious![9]

Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) notes that the Apostle John’s affection for his readers softens his harsh appeal. Nevertheless, he issues this imperative: “let no one deceive you.” Each of his imperatives needs looking at, since there are only ten of them.[10] The one in verse eight is essential because it is understood in connection with similar language in 2:26 about deceivers. Thus, it confirms that throughout this section thus far, stretching back to the mention of antichrists and the divisions they caused.[11] John has had in mind the threat to his readers posed by those of unorthodox faith or ethics.[12] He battles a spirit of deceit[13] that works within “many deceivers” who “have gone out into the world.[14]” The subversion of God’s people by idolatry[15] or evil angelic beings is a recurrent theme of both the First Covenant and later Jewish literature.[16] The Testament of Levi, in warning of end-time transgression, uses a word related to John’s phrase, “lead astray.[17] John is warning of missteps that could have consequences of prophetic proportions.[18]

Colin G. Kruse (1950) believes that the Apostle John wants to reinforce his appeal to the readers not to allow themselves to be led astray by those who advocated breaking the connection between doing what is right and being righteous. This is the devil’s idea. To put it in other words, a person can know God while continuing in sinful behavior. Once again, the present tense of the verb “to do” [what is sinful] indicates that John continues to present it as an ongoing action. Therefore, he says that those involved in persistent sinning are being devilish.

It is the reason, says Kruse, the Son of God appeared in the flesh to destroy the devil’s work. Satan’s efforts are essentially trying to undo God’s work by turning people aside from doing God’s will, that is, causing them to sin. The Apostle John does not say how Jesus destroyed the work of the devil, only that He did so. He says elsewhere that the Anointed One appeared to take away sins, [19] something He accomplished by offering Himself as an atoning sacrifice.[20] He also says that Jesus’ blood (sacrifice) cleanses His people from all their sins.[21] Thus, we can safely infer that through His atoning death, Jesus dealt with the problem of humanity’s sin and, in so doing, destroyed the devil’s schemes. In light of all this, John urges his readers not to be led astray by those who claim that sinful behavior doesn’t matter because it won’t keep you out of heaven. But it must matter, for the Son of God appeared to destroy the devil’s tricks and temptation, leading people into ungodly living.[22]

Bruce B. Barton (1954) recalls that the devil, in the form of the serpent, was the first recorded liar and rebel against God.[23] As Satan, he is the founder of the lawless rebellion against God. Therefore, when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil. The wicked serpent cannot create or produce children, but people become part of his brood by imitating him. The devil has been sinning from the beginning – even before the creation of the world. Since then, as the prince of this world, he has been lying and causing people to sin. The false teachers who spoke lies and sinned without remorse showed that they belonged to this wicked one.[24] Those who followed these teachers were aligning themselves with Satan and thus fighting against the Anointed One.


[1] Galatians 3:22

[2] Romans 3:19; cf. 1 John 3:8

[3] Penn-Lewis, Mrs. Jessie: Fundamentals Torrey Satan & His Kingdom, Vol. 4, Ch. 13, p. 163

[4] Torrey, R. A. The Fundamentals: Editor, Vol. 3, Ch. 25, p. 296

[5] John 1:29

[6] Matthew I2:25-29; Luke 10:18; Colossians 2:15; 1 Peter 3:22; John    12:31

[7] Barclay, William: The New Daily Study Bible, op. cit., pp. 86-87

[8] Snaddon, Daniel C., Plymouth Brethren Writings, 1 John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[9] Stanley L. Derickson: Notes on Theology, p. 349

[10] Cf. imperatives at 1 John 2:24, 27, 28; 3:1

[11] 1 John 2:18-19

[12] Ibid. 2:22; 3:4-6

[13] Ibid. 4:6

[14] Cf. 2 John 1:7

[15] Cf. Deuternomy 13:6; 2 Kings 21:9

[16] See 1 Enoch 6-10; Jubilees 5:1-10

[17] Testament of Levi, 10:2; 16:1

[18] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 186-189

[19] 1 John 3:5

[20] Ibid. 2:2; 4:10

[21] Ibid. 1:7, 9

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

[23] See Genesis 3:1

[24] See 1 John 2:22

About drbob76

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