WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LVI) 09/29/21

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

Fellowship with God [living right] is inseparable from love. The God of Light is also the God of Love. Knowing this, love, enables us to love beyond human love. Loving some members of the family of God is not easy, but God wants us to love unloving Christians. You may have heard the following jingle that reveals the true state of love among some believers today:

            “To dwell above with saints, we love,

                    Oh, that will be glory.

               But to live below with saints, we know,

                    Well, that’s another story.”

In the comic strip “Peanuts,” the cartoon character, Linus, once said, “I love mankind; it is just people I can’t stand.”[1]  In the face of irritation, loving a fellow Christians is an actual test of love coming from divine nature. Christians should love one another because they have a common origin – the family of God. As British Admiral Nelson drew his ship alongside to battle the Dutch fleet, two English officers quarreled. Nelson flung himself between them and, pointing to the ships of Holland, said, “Gentlemen, there are your enemies!” Never should our fellow Christians become our enemies.   

COMMENTARY

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) says that anyone unwilling to keep God’s commandment, in which God expressed the interest closest to His heart, cannot have genuine fellowship with Him in the heart where love began. Therefore, when we not only love God but are living in harmony with God, it is because we have a divine principle to love implanted in us through love. It is real life in union with God expressed by loving one another as He loved us.[2]

Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie (1802-1870) was an American author, educator, clergyman, French general in Revolutionary France, dramatist, memoirist, historian, and short storyteller. He was once quoted[3] as saying, “I don’t know if it is because I will soon leave this earth, and the rays that are already reaching me from below the horizon have disturbed my sight, but I believe our world is about to begin to realize the true meaning of the words, ‘Love one another,’ without being concerned whether a human or God uttered them.”[4]

It brings to mind the words of poet Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933)

               The worlds in which we live are two

                    The world “I am” and the world “I do.”       

               The worlds in which we live at heart as one,

                    The world “I am,” the fruit of “I have done.”

               And underneath these worlds of flower and fruit,

                    The world “I love” – is the only living root.[5]

Frederick D. Maurice (1805-1872) makes a bold statement here. He states that the Apostle John never says or dreams that believers desire to sin because the devil forced them to do it. The thought of being obliged to sin is not implied in John’s words; in fact, they contradict it. Tempter and Accuser’s names do not indicate such a thing; the word “Sin” excludes it. That must belong to the person. The Apostle says that sin comes from contact or fellowship between an individual’s saintly and sinful spirits. To commit sin is to become Satan’s dependent, his servant. Do you think anyone will take more responsibility for their actions if they throw John’s doctrine overboard? On the contrary, it seems they would be in greater danger of denying their guilt. It might lead them to believe that sin is so much a part of them they can’t get away from it. There, excuses for wrongdoing await our signal under the words, inclination, tendency, and disposition. At the same time, they may give up hope for spiritual reformation. So, the best thing to do is cut themselves off from any communion with their fellow-creatures.

We need to remember, inclinations, tendencies, and dispositions may be more assertive in us than another believer, says Maurice. That means what is strong in us is weak in others. Each person tries to make their case; each pleads that their sinful tendencies are irresistible; each hardly looks at their fellow believer’s struggle, of which they know nothing. It is no myth – we know that it is what we are all continually tempted to do. Thus, it is the secret of narrow-mindedness and wanting everyone to feel sorry for us; it is the undisclosed reason for our hugging our vices until they destroy us.

Maurice continues. We must heartily believe that we have a common enemy plotting against us all, making use of every person’s particular gift or characteristic designed for blessings to bring them spiritual ruin. Satan is busy making accusations against us before our heavenly Father, [[6] then has us condemning every brother or sister for wrongdoing, turning us against each other. It means persuading us that they are not God’s children, that they do not belong to God’s family. The questions are: should we pamper this miserable pettiness that is preying upon our fundamental beliefs? Is it right to be cruel by mocking the spiritual illnesses and instabilities of our fellow believers? Should we not feel that we are in this fight together? That each person who stands their ground firmly is doing something to benefit us all, even if they are wounded?[7]

James J. Lias (1814-1923) notes that while most versions render verse eleven as “For this is the message,” we could translate it as “For the message.” That would make the passage a little more emphatic. And when we look at the phrase “from the beginning,[8] it would mean from when they first heard the Gospel. The message John refers to contains the practical doctrine Jesus preached in His sermon on the mountainside.[9] We also find it formulated in the last discourse of Jesus before His crucifixion.[10]

Lias goes on to say that many try to confine loving one another to the Christian society, no doubt because it is the first and most obvious precept within the Church. The Church was destined to embrace the whole world, since it was prophesied: “the earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the water that fills the seas.[11] It was God’s will that “all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”[12] Therefore, it was proclaimed from the beginning of the Gospel that all believers should love one another.[13]

Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965) says that so much depends upon the genuineness of a Christian’s conduct that the Apostle John warns against every form of deceit: “Little children, let no one deceive you:” they that practice righteousness are living right, just as the Anointed One is righteous; they that commit sin is of the devil, for from the beginning the devil sinned. John intended this clear statement to remove all misunderstandings and prevent every form of deception. The righteous disposition of the heart molds the Christian character by faith and is bound to express itself in holy living. The Anointed One is the type, the example, the pattern of righteousness, and a life of perfect holiness. A spiritual child of God will have His manner; a disciple of the Anointed One will follow the Master.

By contrast, says Kretzmann, a person that deliberately sins is a servant of sin, thereby showing themselves a compliant pupil, a part of the devil’s brood, and Satan’s workshop. He works in the children of disobedience and uses them as his tools for committing every form of wrongdoing. That means the devil was sinning from the beginning. The very first sin recorded was caused by him, and induced people to sin from then on. It makes them his slaves, servants of unrighteousness and damnation. It is a terrible picture that the Apostle John paints, which should cause any Christian to shudder with fear.

And the same test may be applied concerning the practice of brotherly love, notes Kretzmann, for this, is the message the Apostle John’s readers heard from the beginning, that they should love one another. John reverts to this topic time and time again. To John, brotherly love is the very essence and substance of the Christian life. All trees are known by their fruit. So likewise, the faith of the Christian must be revealed in the fruit of love.[14] According to the Word of God and the last instructions of Jesus, love is the outstanding trait and characteristic of the believer.


[1] This line was spoken by Linus Van Pelt in the November 12, 1959 comic strip of Peanuts, written and drawn by Charles Schulz (1950-2000).

[2] Rothe, Richard, The Expository Times, op. cit., May 1893, pp. 354-355

[3] In 1893

[4] Dumas, Alex: The Expositor’s Dictionary of Texts, Vol. 2, 1 John, op. cit.

[5] Van Dyke, Henry: Poem: One World.

[6] Revelation 12:10

[7] Maurice, F. D., The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 188-189

[8] 1 John 2:24

[9] Matthew 5-7

[10] See John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 13; cf. 1 John 2:7

[11] Isaiah 11:9

[12] 1 Timothy 2:4

[13] Lias, James J., The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, pp. 249-251

[14] See Galatians 5:22-23

About drbob76

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