WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson L) 09/21/21

3:10 So now we can tell who is a child of God and who belongs to Satan. Whoever lives a sinful life and doesn’t love their brother or sister shows that they are not part of God’s family.

Earlier in the chapter, John said, “it does not appear what we shall be,”[1] yet in this passage, he says that the children of God are “manifest.”  Thus, it is already abundantly clear what a Christian in fellowship with God is. They stand in stark contrast to what the world believes. Not all the devil’s brood sin crudely. Some sin in sophisticated ways.  Not all of them are violent or openly immoral. Some are very religious and ethical. The devil’s spokesmen are “ministers of self-righteousness.”[2] They come draped in religious robes of culture and high morality. Jesus said to some of the most religious people of His day that they were of their father, the devil.[3] Jesus told one Jewish religious leader that he needed to be “born again.[4]

This is not meant to project the idea that “the children of God” are better than non-Christians.  Our tendency to sin is just as bad as any non-Christian. We are far from perfect except for our judicial perfection in the Anointed One – justification. A follower of the devil might pray regularly and attend church every Sunday. They can clean up the exterior of their lives so that they appear to be right in God’s eyes. They have a form of righteousness but not the righteousness of God.[5] The devil goes around sowing his seed among God’s people. That is why we have weeds with the wheat. It is essential to distinguish between genuine believers and false adherents.[6]

Look at your life. If you hate someone, are bitter toward them, or resent them, you are definitely out of step with God’s Word. When our capacity to sin controls us, we appear no different from the non-Christian. We may say all the right things and look pious or spiritual, but we are out of fellowship with God and other believers. We might give generously and witness continuously, but we are not in union with the Anointed One. Again, we are no different from the non-Christian except that we possess eternal life, which must be displayed. The word “manifest” means open to sight, visible, evident. The evidence is plain to see. It is obvious to all.  It should be easy for anyone who wants to examine the evidence to see it clearly in view. The presence or absence of sin makes it apparent under to whose rule they live.

The Christian living under the influence of sinful tendencies manifests their actual master – themselves, even though they try to conceal the fact that their old nature is in control. But, on the other hand, the Christian in fellowship with God manifests a unique mindset, a proper way of thinking that produces love for their fellow believers. So likewise, a member of the devil’s brood reveals their true sinful nature, a spiritless religion, and a code of situation ethics. We can identify their genuine relationship by this: they live and walk according to the satanic worldview.[7] The principle involved here is that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the one manifestation of fellowship with God and others.

Let’s look at it this way; humans are like containers. They cannot produce divine life within themselves. They need God to fill that vessel with His divine nature, giving them the capacity to fellowship with Him. As Augustine of Hippo (354-430) AD said, “Man is restless until he finds his rest in You.”[8]  God made man for Himself. French philosopher and theologian Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) said, “He [Man] in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.[9] In modern terms, it means you have a hole in your life that only God can fill.

So, we see that unbelievers produce not only sins but also self-righteousness with their capacity to sin. It is difficult to distinguish between a non-Christian who adheres to human morality and a believer out of fellowship with God manufacturing moral righteousness. So, what makes a Spirit-filled believer different from a non-Christian when it comes to what moral code they are using?  If non-Christians have righteous behavior patterns, what makes God’s child different?  It isn’t a new smile on their faces, although that might be a minimum effect.

Only one thing makes a difference: the Christian has the indwelling Holy Spirit who manifests Himself by controlling their behavior. If the Spirit does not influence their lives, no one will know if He is there or not. But, on the other hand, when the Holy Spirit is in control, He reproduces the character of the Anointed One that hinges on divine, self-sacrificing love.[10]

Righteousness involves a right relationship with God. Fellowship with God rests on what God sees as being right. God’s children bear characteristic marks that disclose their true nature. Anyone who does not manifest any standards for living right covers up their spiritual nature. Thus, a believer in fellowship with God produces the very character of the Anointed One.

The word righteousness is sometimes too vague, so John specifies righteousness as meaning – loving a fellow believer. Love is the appropriate manifestation of divine nature. The absence of any expression of knowing what is right indicates a person is not walking in fellowship with God. A loveless believer cannot commune with God, who in His very essence is love. Therefore, not loving our brother and sister is a specific case of not exhibiting divine righteousness. Likewise, the lack of love for fellow Christians indicates the absence of fellowship with God. An important manifestation of fellowship with God is the love of fellow Christians.[11] Thus, we can distinguish between a Christian and a non-Christian by whether they have genuine communion with God.

So, how do we apply this to our lives? There is a method for determining whether we operate out of our tendency to sin or our divine ability to resist sinning. The inner nature of the godly “seed” will manifest itself in “doing what’s right” and “love.” Thus, the essence of righteousness [fellowship with God] manifests itself in love. Love is the distinct badge of being a believer. It is what decisively distinguishes a believer from an unbeliever.[12]

It means that while you love Christians who love you, you also love Christians who do not love you. You love the Christians who are friendly and easy to get along with and those who frustrate you time and time again. You love those who communicate with you, and those won’t talk to you at all. If we love our fellow Christians, we take care of how we treat them. If someone says that they love their fellow Christian at church but avoids them in public, it is apparent that they do not love their fellow believer. There is a correspondence between what we say about love and what we do with love.[13]

We can know that a person walks with God by their love for fellow Christians. Only God can give us true righteousness and love. He fills the container called the believer with the dynamics of who He is. Therefore, sin does not appeal to the Christian like it once did. They now have a sin allergy. They develop irritation anytime they are around sin. Furthermore, they want to avoid grieving the Holy Spirit.[14]  Peace flees their soul when they step out of fellowship with God. They cannot leave it unresolved. They must confess their sin immediately.[15]

The non-Christian has no desire or capability to do what is right in God’s eyes because they do not possess a divine nature. They may do good in a relative sense, according to how society measures goodness. A genuine believer always does what’s right that is acceptable to God’s standard of righteousness. They act according to God’s character, attributed to them. It is God-produced righteousness, not manufactured righteousness. After God imputes His righteousness to the believer, He can exercise that new nature to produce His personality according to His norms. God’s love will deliver love through His child when that child walks in fellowship with God’s Son. A person without God is essentially selfish. Unselfish love manifests God’s self-sacrificing love. Generous love proves that a believer is in fellowship with God.

Certain historic Christian moral convictions have become increasingly unpopular in recent years. In some places, people now consider traditional religious views to be wrongheaded, intolerant, and unloving. Therefore, Christians need to know how they are perceived, not because they hold fast to God’s truth that people disagree with, but because they are uncaring, snobbish, and cold-hearted. 


[1] 1 John 3:2

[2] 2 Corinthians 11:14

[3] John 8:39-47

[4] Ibid. 3:3, 7

[5] 2 Timothy 3:5

[6] Matthew 13:36-39

[7] See Matthew 23:15; Acts of the Apostles 13:10; Ephesians 2:1-3

[8] Augustine, Confessions, Bk. 1. Chap. 1. ⁋1

[9] Pascal, Blaise: Pensées, E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., New York, 1958, p. 113

[10] Romans 5:5

[11] Galatians 5:14-15

[12] John 13:34-35

[13] 1 John 2:9

[14] Ephesians 4:30

[15] 1 John 1:9

About drbob76

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