WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LV) 09/28/21

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.

Peter Pett (1966) takes the Apostle John’s word that the children of God will be revealed. They are already exposed by the fact that they love God and obey His teachings, and love their brothers and sisters who are steadfast in the faith. It does not make them God’s children; it results from the fact that they are His children. But those who do not seek to obey God’s will, who are not living right, and who does not love those who are faithful in the faith, reveal who they are – the devil’s brood. It means they behave like the devil in his refusal to listen to God.

It must be noted, remarks Pett; there is no suggestion of being “born of the devil.” The devil gathers followers by deceit and betrayal. He is an intruder. John is contrasting God birthing us with being born as a human. When Satan convinces people whom he has tempted to join him, it is a work of disgrace. It is not the natural order of things. Nevertheless, it is their free choice. They, too, respond because of what they are. They have, by free choice, taken their stand against the will of God.[1]

David Legge (1969) says that this Son of Thunder[2] seems to offer choices in his condemnation of any kind of sin in a Christian’s life. The thought should come to mind that there appears to be an apparent inconsistency in what John is saying here and what he said in 1 John 1:8-10. He is equally dogmatic here in verse ten, but in a different sense. In verse eight, John says, “‘If we say we have no sin,” speaking of our sinful tendencies, “we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Now here he says, “If we say that we have not sinned,” speaking practically of the sins that we commit, “we make God a liar, and His Word is not in us.” Some theologians have concluded that John is contradicting himself. On the one hand, he says believers should not sin, especially if they call themselves a Christian. Otherwise, they are lying. Yet, John calls those liars in whom the truth does not reside, who deny they have a sinful nature and who refuse to believe they have sinned.[3]

Douglas Sean O’Donnell (1972) notes that the Apostle John moves beyond the idea of “wrongdoing” in Genesis[4] and the “lack of faith” in Hebrews[5] and places Cain’s motive at the devil’s doorstep.[6] It is a logical theological association to Genesis 3:1-4. It also fits Jesus’ view of the murder connection (“the devil” has been “a murderer from the beginning.”)[7] John confidently follows his Lord’s lead by equating those who reject other Christians to this same satanic source. John also has the apostate antichrists in mind. Did they depart the Christian community because they were envious of John? Envy or no envy, they hated John, and their poisonous gossip and false gospel were spilling into the church’s ears. They wanted the Christianity of the Apostles dead.[8]

3:11 Here is the teaching you were taught when you were converted: We should love one another.

EXPOSITION

Ancient tradition tells us that as the Apostle John approached his final days, his voice grew so weak that he could no longer preach to the congregation in Ephesus. Yet, each Sunday, as he arrived at the church, he would offer a similar appeal: “Little children, love one another.” When the congregation grew tired of this same sentence, someone finally asked John why he frequently repeated it. He replied, “I say what I say because it is the Lord’s command, and if this is all you do, it is enough.”[9]

Now the Apostle John removes all doubt as to where this truth was revealed to him. No sooner did Jesus call him and his brother, James, to be His followers than Jesus told them about God’s Love for the world and how we should love each other even as God loved us.[10] It is clearly shown in John’s comments after he saw how Jesus dealt with Nicodemus.[11] Once we become a beacon for the Light who dwells within us, the world will easily spot us as one of those “Christians.” And one of the things that will alert them is when they see us having compassion for those in need, even if they hate us.[12] It was the same message Paul sent to the believers in Ephesus.[13]

It appears that the Apostle Paul saw that the saints in Thessalonica were doing quite well when it came to being a light to the world and salt of the earth in their image of being a good Samaritan.[14] And the Apostle Peter gave his readers a commendation on their change of heart and mind when it came to helping their spiritual brothers and sisters with physical, material, and spiritual needs.[15] That is why he encouraged them always to find a way to agree on how to better understand each other, especially as part of the family of God.[16] Doing this will spread and cause others to forgive one another of any hurts because real love is the remedy for disharmony.[17] And the Apostle John used this same principle when writing his second letter.[18]

This Greek entolē (“commandment” – KJV)[19] to love one another, the Apostle John’s readers heard from the beginning. Not merely in the beginning, but from the beginning; it was among the first announcements, and it had never ceased to be in force. In his Commentary on Galatians, Jerome tells us that when John became too infirm to preach, he often used to say no more than this, “Little children, love one another.” Finally, his hearers grew tired of it and asked, “Master, why do you always say this?” “It is the Lord’s command,” John replied, “and if you do only this, it is enough.”[20]

The only other occurrence of the noun “message” in the Final Covenant occurs in 1 John 1:5. That message has to do with “fellowship” with God.  The message here in verse eleven is that we “should love one another,” which is at the center of fellowship.  It is a message to saints who wish to have communion with God on an ongoing basis.

John issues a test of whether a believer is in fellowship with God and others.[21] Then, he views the Christian life as divine citizenship.[22]  He employs love again as a test of a person who is a genuine son. John continues his stark contrast between the family of God and Satan’s vipers in verses eleven and twelve. Cain is typical of Satan’s offspring, and the Anointed One is the firstborn of God’s family.

Also, the Greek conjunction hoti (“for” – KJV) at the beginning of verse eleven explains the basis on which the statement of the previous verse leans. John offers evidence substantiating the declaration, “Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor are they those who love Christian brothers and sisters.”[23] The people of God love God’s people.  This epistle aims to help John’s readers understand the nature of God’s Love.

The message that John was proclaiming was not new; they heard this at the very beginning of their walk with the Lord. It also draws attention to the divine nature of verse nine. The principle of love goes back to a family issue, the family of God.  Love is a reflection of divine nature. Love proves that spiritual life exists. The test of fellowship lies in love, not in religion, church attendance, or remorse. It starts with loving one another.

It should be noted that the words “love one another” occur 5 times in this epistle.[24] Thus, the term “love” in its various forms occurs 46 times. Believers should put their stamp on love. The words “one another” mean another of the same kind. Spiritual birth and divine nature came in the same package; therefore, love is no option for the believer. If God generated Christians into one family, it is reasonable that they would love people like themselves. So, the principle at work here is that the manifestation of love is the outcome of being a member of God’s family.

So, how do we apply this to our lives? Remember, the origin of spiritual life starts at conversion.  Believing and accepting the Gospel puts believers into one household.  It unites them in the Anointed One as members of God’s family.  It should generate family love, the Anointed One’s love within one another.


[1] Pett, Peter: Truth According to Scripture, op. cit., loc. cit.

[2] Mark 3:17

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

[4] Genesis 4:9

[5] Hebrew 11:4

[6] 1 John 3:12

[7] John 8:44

[8] O’Donnell, Douglas Sean, 1-3 John (Reformed Expository Commentaries), op. cit., (Kindle Locations 3196-3198)

[9] From Jerome (Galatians 6.10), cited in Alfred Plummer, The Epistles of St. John, Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1894), xxxv. Cf. Jerome, Commentary on Galatians, trans. Andrew Cain, Ancient Christian Writers 121 (New York: Newman, 2010), p. 260

[10] John 13:34-35; 15:12

[11] John 3:16

[12] Galatians 6:2

[13] Ephesians 5:2

[14] 1 Thessalonians 4:9

[15] 1 Peter 1:22

[16] Ibid. 3:8

[17] Ibid. 4:8

[18] 2 John 1:5; cf. 1 John 2:3-4, 7-8; 3:22-24; 4:21; 5:2-3; see John 13:34

[19] 1 John 3:11

[20] Jerome, Fathers of the Church, Commentary on Galatians, 6:10

[21] 1 John 5:7-11

[22] Ibid. 5:11-24

[23] Ibid. 3:10b

[24] Ibid. 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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1 Response to WALKING IN THE LIGHT

  1. Pingback: WALKING IN THE LIGHT – SHOPPEX NIGERIA

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