WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XLIX) 09/20/21

3:9 The person who has been born into God’s family does not make a practice of sinning because now God’s life is in them; so, they can’t keep on sinning, for this new life controls them – they have been born again.

David Legge (1969) tells us that a habitual sinful lifestyle displays the lack of the Holy Spirit’s control and guidance. It is lawlessness, a denial of the Anointed One’s character and His cross; it betrays an absence of His presence in our lives and proves our true spiritual parentage. Now, there’s great debate over what “his seed remains in him” means. Some people view it as the new nature imparted to us at salvation, others trust it is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and some interpret it to mean the seed of God’s Word – we’re not born-again by corruptible seed, but by incorruptible, the Word.[1] It signifies all of those, but it essentially implies the new life we have in the Anointed One, the seed of God’s life in us. Thus, it should read, “His seed remains in them.” For Legge, John says: if God put that in us, it will remain. Finally, there’s the verse for people who believe you can be saved one moment and lost the next. They argue that if you say it will remain permanently, then that is a license to “go out and live as you please.” No, it’s not! For John declares that the evidence that God’s life and seed remain in us is a life of holiness and not a life of unholiness.[2]

Douglas Sean O’Donnell (1972) agrees that we will become like Jesus when we meet Him on resurrection day. However, between His first and second appearances, we remain in the Anointed One and resemble Him, so we can look more like Jesus. He is the Righteous One who produces righteous ones – those who practice righteousness, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning.”[3] Those to whom God gives spiritual birth He does not abandon. Why? Two reasons – “for God’s seed abides in them,” and“they cannot keep on sinning because they have been born of God.” The Spirit keeps those baptized into union with the Anointed One clean, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians.[4] [5]

3:10 So, we can easily see who God’s children are and those who are part of the devil’s brood: Those who do not do what is right, and those who do not love their brothers and sisters are not God’s children.

EXPOSITION

This call to love our spiritual brothers and sisters was not new to the Apostle John’s theology. He heard the Master say that we should love one another. But our Lord went beyond that by telling them to love their enemies and do good to them. Lend to people without expecting to be repaid. If they do this, they will have a great reward. They will be children of the Most-High God. Yes, because God is good even to the people who are full of sin and not thankful.[6]

But that is not the only thing we can do to show that we are God’s beloved children. Since the Roman believers were having trouble loving each other, especially the Jewish and Gentile members, we also have the indwelling Spirit speaking to our spirits, ensuring that we are God’s children.[7] And as God’s children, we are to follow God’s example of loving those who don’t love us; we show that we are willing to do everything we can to imitate our heavenly Father.[8] So while it may be hard for some people to differentiate between real wheat and imitation wheat,[9] they will not be confused by those who are true sons and daughters of the Almighty and those who are not. That’s because the person who belongs to God will always accept whatever He says, while those who are not His children find joy in disobeying His Word.[10] And Paul adds that such a commandment can only come from a pure heart, clear conscience, and genuine faith.[11]

Therefore, the question whether the words “in this” (KJV) in verse ten refers to what precedes or to what follows are not essential to our understanding. Both are similar in meaning, and “in this” may apply to both. First, the children of God do what is right and do not sin; and second, the devil’s brood sin because they do nothing right. But, of course, moral parentage is the focus in both cases. Nothing here lends any credibility to viewing the Apostle John as a dualist who teaches that two principles coexist – being part of God and the devil. All, whether good or bad, are God’s creatures.[12] However, while all are His offspring by creation, some become His children spiritually while others remain members of Satan’s viper nest.

John’s teaching about the devil’s activity is not at all agreeable to those who dwell exclusively on the sunny aspects of the world and life and shut their eyes to what is dark and terrible. Such people feel assured when they hear of a great divine being who is all-gracious and loving. But, when they are informed about a wicked one who is the enemy of all that is gracious and loving, it shocks them. They suppose this was the thinking of uncivilized people until they learned more about God. Then, such thoughts disappeared as the population gained more knowledge of the Holy One.

Furthermore, the expression “the devil’s brood[13] must not be confounded with the Hebrew expressions: “children of darkness,”[14] As he does so often, John not only restates the case in a new form but adds a new thought to it – those who do not love their brother or sister. It forms the link with the next section in this chapter, on love in the family of God. It is the most conspicuous of all believers’ failures in doing what’s right – failing to love other Christians. The answer is the same as the one Jesus gave to the question, “who is my neighbor?”[15] – humanity at large. Consequently, we cannot limit the meaning of neighbor just to the children of God. Even verses fourteen and sixteen do not exclude unbelievers. 

This is confirmed by the fact that the opposing case in verse thirteen where the children of the world hate Christians. So, the true opposite of Christians loving Christians would be the children of the world hating one another. And by the example of the Anointed One in verse sixteen, who died for us when we were aliens from God. So, of course, if Christians must love all mankind, a fortiori, [16] they must love other Christians for sure.

After all, God’s children have the seed of divine nature at the core of their being. This nature directs their orientation to life. The non-Christian displays their true nature through sin and manufactured righteousness, but the believer cannot. The follower of the Anointed One cannot sin from the source of their divine nature because sin and God are mutually exclusive. It then leads to the principle that its fruit identifies a tree.

Such truth can only be applied when we have fellowship with the Lord and manifest the reality of Christianity to a lost and dying world. If we have hatred toward others or resent them, we cannot display the infilling of the Spirit. The world cannot see the power of God in us because our sin blinds their minds to the reality of God’s work in our lives. There is no difference between our behavior pattern and that of unbelievers in this case. Religious non-Christians behave morally. The Christian’s life is an open letter that God writes for the world to read. Fellowship with God is meant for nothing less than to display itself to the world. God does not write this letter using the authority of dead words of the law, but the power of the Spirit.[17]

As such, we find only two classes of people in the world – the children of God and those hatched by the devil. John distinguishes between God’s children and the devil’s offspring. There is an apparent distinction between them. All non-Christians are followers of the devil. Unbelievers are controlled by their capacity to sin. They do not possess a divine ability, so they cannot produce anything from God. The one thing that believers have that distinguishes them from non-Christians is their divine nature, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. However, the indwelling in itself is not enough; they must also allow the Holy Spirit to control and motivate them. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in a Christian at the moment of salvation. God never commands them to let the Spirit come in. However, God does command the true believer to be filled with the Spirit.[18]

Therefore, the thrust of verse ten is to show how to distinguish between absolutes. Christians can imitate the devil’s brood of vipers, or they can produce the character of the Anointed One. The personality of the unbeliever is one thing, and the temperament of God’s child is another. Always keep in mind, the Christian and the non-Christian have two different natures that produce two different results.


[1] 1 Peter 1:23

[2] Legge, David: Preach the Word, 1,2,3, John, op. cit., loc. cit., Part 9

[3] 1 John 3:9

[4] 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

[5] O’Donnell, Douglas Sean, 1-3 John (Reformed Expository Commentaries), op cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition.

[6] Luke 6:35

[7] Romans 8:16

[8] Ephesians 5:1

[9] Matthew 13:38

[10] John 8:47

[11] 1 Timothy 1:5

[12] John 1:3

[13] Matthew 12:34

[14] Isaiah 50:10-11

[15] Luke 10:29

[16] A fortiori: Latin for “an even stronger argument.

[17] See 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

[18] Ephesians 5:18

About drbob76

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