WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXV) 10/12/21

3:13 So don’t be surprised, dear friends, if the world hates you.

A well-loved minister I knew shared this thought at a minister’s conference I attended in Holland decades ago. He said, “I love warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream, but I like it served on a plate, not thrown in my face.” There is a difference between carrying your Bible and waving it in someone’s face. I remember when my wife and I stood in New York’s Times Square, seeing a young man carrying a sandwich-board over his shoulders that read, “Repent! Judgment Day is Coming!” For the amount of time, I was there, I saw absolutely no one walk up to him to ask a question or for advice. Meanwhile, there was a small booth with two ladies sitting behind the counter. Their sign read, “Free Bibles.” I saw several people standing there talking to them. That’s why Dr. Hoon says that “deliberately seeking hostility in the name of love is an indirect form of pride.”[1]

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) says that anyone who has difficulty with this verse has somehow failed to understand the estranged relationships mentioned in the Bible. The difference between Cain and Abel was in Cain, not Abel. Cain (the world) hated Abel (the Christian). Observe Joseph and his brethren, David, and King Saul. Look at the prophets and Jesus. Abel did not hate Cain; Joseph loved his brothers, David was loyal to Saul; Jesus came to save the Jews, not harm them. The world does not hate good people, says Lloyd-Jones, it is only when they do good and give their Lord credit for doing good through them. Jesus made this abundantly clear when He told his disciples, “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first.”[2] What upsets them most is that they cannot come to God for salvation on their terms, only God’s terms. Another thing is that when you do come to Him on your own, He tells you to put serving Him ahead of everything else in your life. Not only that, but be willing to die for Him. They just cannot take that.[3]

Ronald R. Williams (1906-1979) sees another factor influencing the world to despise Christians for their faith. Jesus said that although we are in the world, He chose us out of the world. He also removed us from the devil’s brood and placed us in His family. The world does not like for us to call ourselves the “chosen” people of God.[4] They are used to joining any club or organization they want. There are laws established against discrimination based on race, color, gender, or creed. So, why are they excluded from calling themselves Christians if they want to? When we tell them they must repent, ask God for forgiveness, nail their old nature to the cross, leaving everything behind and follow Him, it’s more than they can take.

Donald W. Burdick (1917-1996) draws our attention to the Greek verb thaumazōmarvel” KJV; “surprised” NIV. It does not mean “to look in awe or astonishment” at the world’s dislike for us, but in wonder and amazement that it’s happening. That’s why the Apostle John says that it should be no mystery; look at Cain, Joseph, David, even our Lord, and how they were treated just for being good. There is nothing more that disturbs godlessness more than Godliness.[5]

John Phillips (1927-2010) says that you might think that the world would have been thrilled that God sent His only begotten and beloved Son to bring them everlasting salvation. And from the time He arrived, He went about healing the sick, cleansing lepers, feeding the multitudes, and raising the dead. So, why did so many hate Him? Because He told the truth, even when it hurt. He saw through their disguises and revealed their hypocrisy. So, says John, why should you be surprised that they hate you when you do the same?[6]

Raymond Brown (1928-1998) notes that we could also use the word “astounded” when the Apostle John told his readers about their astonishment when they discovered the world hated them because of their claims with regard to Jesus.[7] But even more than that was their doctrine of everlasting life for those who put their faith in Jesus the Anointed One. In other words, just because they believe some myth, they don’t have the right to say that while everyone else around them will die, they will live on forever. So, who do they think they are?

Simon J. Kistemaker (1930-2017) reasons that while the believers did not expect the world to love them, they were certainly not ready to be hated. The Apostle John could have said, “Stop being surprised.” After all, a world full of Cain’s followers has their father to blame. So, when John says “if” they hate you, it is the same as saying “they already hate you.”[8]

In reading Stephen S. Smalley’s (1931-2018) comments on this verse, I come away with the impression that one reason the world hates Christians is that they stick together in brotherly and sisterly love. They make no difference between the financially successful and the economically depressed, between male or female, bosses or employees, ethnicity, race, or skin color. Look at how the Pharisees ridiculed Jesus’ disciples for how they ate after picking grain without first sanitizing their hands the proper way. They don’t like how Christians use their free will to follow their Shepherd like sheep, while they believe in using their free will to be rebels without a cause.[9]

John Painter (1935-) notes that the Apostle John does not seem to be speaking of the present hatred of the world. Instead, he appears to be preparing the readers for what is to come. The point of the argument is to encourage the readers to love one another. The statement supports the command that those who love others are born of God. Indeed, they have passed out of the realm of spiritual deadness into the realm of eternal life.[10]

James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) reminds us that Satan, the same serpent that came into the Garden of Eden, is still the same snake that slithers around the world. And just as he did with Eve, he causes people to believe a lie that God only wants to keep them from advancing in knowledge out of fear they may become as powerful as He is.[11]

Colin G. Kruse (1950) notes that after speaking of Cain murdering his brother, the Apostle John reminds his readers that they, too, will be the objects of hatred: “Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you,” says John. He uses the expression “do not be surprised[12] (Greek thaumazete) to introduce significant statements, and here it is used before a serious warning to believers of the world’s hatred. This alert comes as something unexpected, following John’s stress in the previous verses on the mutual love that should exist between believers. Upon first reading, it appears to be out of line with what is expressed in the following verses, mutual love among believers as the sign of their having passed from spiritual deadness to life everlasting.

The way through this dilemma, says Kruse, is to recognize that John now views the secessionists as part of the world. They are the “antichrists” who “went out from us” because none of them “belonged to us.”[13] These are the “false prophets” who “have gone out into the world,” and they manifest “the spirit of antichrist,” which is “even now in the world.”[14] The secessionists are from the world and therefore speak from the world’s point of view, and the world listens to them.[15] But, John assures his readers, “you are from God and have overcome them because greater is the One who is in you [the Spirit of truth] than the one who is in the world [the spirit of antichrist/the spirit of falsehood].”[16] So, John’s warning concerning the hatred of the world is probably best interpreted in terms of the opposition of the secessionists towards those from whom they separated themselves, that is, John’s readers.[17]

Marianne M. Thompson (1954) says that some Christians think this passage hints that more obedience to God’s Word brings greater wrath upon the world, and wondering why it’s not happening.[18] There are two answers: First, they are not as loyal to the Word and the Church as they think they are, and the world finds nothing that offends them. Or, second, that the world has more than one way to express its hatred of God, His Word, and His people. As a result, they try to remove God and His Word from society, beginning in the schools, then the government, and finally the media. Another thing is when the world gets the impression that the Church is unnecessarily trying to influence or outlaw their preferences and lifestyle, such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and denying the family is the building block of society. It may not be long before the world insists that marriage is only for Christians, that divorce no longer needs judicial approval, that children are no longer the parents’ property but the governments.


[1] Ibid.

[2] John 15:18

[3] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn, Life in Christ, op. cit. pp. 353-355

[4] Williams, Ronald R., Letters of James and John – Cambridge, op. cit., pp. 39-40

[5] Burdick, Donald W., The Epistles of John – Everyman’s op. cit., pp. 57-58

[6] Phillips, John, Exploring the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 106-107

[7] Brown, Raymond E., The Epistles of John – Anchor, op. cit., pp. 471-472

[8] Kistemaker, Simon J., James and I-III John – NT Commentary, op. cit., pp.307

[9] Smalley, Stephen S., 1,2,3, John – Word Vol. 51, op. cit., pp.185-187

[10] Painter, John. Sacra Pagina: 1, 2, and 3 John: Vol. 18, op. cit., (Kindle location 10645-10697)

[11] Boice, James Montgomery, The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 93

[12] John 5:28; cf. 1 John 3:7

[13] 1 John 2:18-19

[14] Ibid. 4:1-3

[15] Ibid. 4:5

[16] Ibid. 4:4-6

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

[18] Thompson, Marianne M, 1-3 John – IVP NT Commentary, op. cit., p. 102

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s