WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXVI) 10/13/21

3:14 So don’t be surprised, dear friends, if the world hates you.

Bruce B. Barton (1954) says Jesus gave His disciples a similar warning. After telling them to love one another, He reminds them the world will hate them[1] – the world community hostile to God.[2] Jesus wants His followers to be distinct. So, He separated them from the world. He chose and set believers apart to make them holy and help them grow closer to Him. Their very departure, however, arouses unbelievers’ animosity. The world would prefer that Christians be like them, but since believers are different, they feel uncomfortable around them.[3]

When people become Christians, says Barton, their lives change drastically. It was especially true for first-century believers who came out of the morally corrupt pagan world – John wrote this to readers in Ephesus around 80-90 AD. As former pagans, they would have participated in many unethical activities. After becoming believers, however, they no longer wanted to do such things.

So, as Cain did with Abel, notes Barton, unbelievers reacted in hostility, often because they tried to justify their actions or silence their consciences. When a person does not join in particular activities, it causes others to start thinking – which they often dislike. The result? The world feels awkward around believers. Any professing Christian warmly embraced by the world at large should reexamine the reality of their claim to discipleship.[4] [5]

Daniel L. Akin (1957) notes that “murder” in Hebrew includes butcher, slay, or slaughter. It speaks of a violent and brutal killing. And what were Cain’s motives? Moved by his spiritual mentor, “the evil one,” filled his heart with jealously, envy, and resentment. Abel brought a sacrifice to God that was acceptable and “righteous.” Cain brought one that was evil and unacceptable. Cain hated Abel over this and murdered his flesh and blood. To all of this, John says, “Do not be surprised,” or “stop being surprised.” It is natural for the world to hate you because its leader hates you. Do not be surprised or caught off guard when people like Cain despise you. It is their nature. However, don’t imitate Cain. Don’t descend to their level. Resist that primal urge to return hate with hate, murder with murder. The Gospel has changed you, and love is at the heart of the Good News message. Where the Word of God has taken root, love will be the natural fruit.[6]

Douglas Sean O’Donnell (1972) John echoes Jesus’ transition from “These things I command you so that you will love one another” to “If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you.”[7] Again the apostate antichrists are in view. They embody “the world[8] (kosmos occurs twenty-one times in 1 John, and it generally refers to the evil forces opposing God’s rule). Specifically, they are devil-empowered “false prophets[9] who “went back into the world[10] and now “are part of the world.”[11] As Jesus’ disciples, we must recognize that our union with the Anointed One brings persecution. Thus, we should not be surprised that our sacrificial love fosters Cain-like contempt. We often fail to see, as the Apostle Peter reminds us, “the fiery trial” of suffering for the Anointed One is a blessing over which to rejoice. It is a joyful benediction because it confirms our connection and conformity to Christ:[12]

3:14 If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have left the emptiness of death leading us to hell behind and moved onto the fullness of life leading us to heaven. But those who do not have God’s Love are still dead.

EXPOSITION

These words by the Apostle John seem to echo the exclamation in the parable Jesus told about a father welcoming his prodigal son back into his arms, “This son of mine was once dead and has now returned to life. He was once lost, but now he has been found.”[13] And John also personally heard the Master assure anyone who hears what He said and believes in the One who sent Him has eternal life. They will not be judged guilty. They have already left spiritual deadness and have entered into eternal life.[14] And the Apostle Paul reiterated this same message to the Ephesians.[15] As the Psalmist said: “The kind of people I want living next to me are the ones who bring me happiness.”[16]

Such people are those who live by what Jesus said when He announced that what they did for others, they did for Him.[17] It was another way for them to prove to the world that they were believers and followers of the Messiah.[18] Furthermore, we see evidence that the fruit of the spirit are multiplying in their lives to the glory of God.[19] Not only that, but information about their strong faith and faithfulness will spread as inspiration to other congregations,[20] and seldom will they need to be reminded of what it means to love others as God loved them.[21] Believers must never forget that God is fair, and He will remember all their hard work for Him. He will recognize that by showing their love for other believers demonstrated their love for Him. It should be each believer’s desire to willingly and eagerly show such compassion for the rest of their life. Then they will have the blessed assurance that what they are hoping for comes true.[22]

Even the Apostle Peter had a few things to say about this. First, he told his readers, now that their obedience to the truth sanctified their souls, they can have a genuine love for their Christian brothers and sisters. So, love each other deeply with all your heart.[23] It would help them become one big happy family, full of empathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds.[24] Then, they will add to their devotion and kindness toward their brothers and sisters in the Anointed One.[25] It is a cumulative formula, with each virtue making it possible to add another virtue as they grow in grace and into the image of their Lord and Master, Jesus. King Solomon put the capstone on this procedure by saying that “anyone who strays from the way of wise men will come to rest in the company of fools.”[26]

If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from being spiritually dead to becoming alive in spirit through the Anointed One. The phrase “we know” is emphatic; whatever the world may feel about us, we have proven knowledge, not that we simply “know,” but are convinced. The love of fellow believers is the cause, not “having passed,” but of our knowing it. And this test everyone can apply to themselves; “Do I, or do I not, find the love for other believers within me?” A Christian cannot live without love, any more than a plant can live without sunshine and water. Those who do not love remain dead spiritually; they have not yet passed over into a new life in the Anointed One.

We know that Christians transition from being spiritually dead to alive in the Spirit at the point of their salvation. The words “have passed” denote changing location and transferring from one place to another.  That means the believer changed their place of residence from eternal death to eternal life.  The only other occurrence of this term is in John’s Gospel.[27]

The Greek verb metabainō, “we have passed,” [in the perfect tense] means that we permanently passed from being spiritually dead to being alive in spirit at some point, with the results continuing indefinitely. The transfer from eternal death to eternal life occurred in the past; new life began at salvation and continues forever. Thus, Christians abide in a new state of life after their conversion. They no longer are in the condition of being spiritually dead. The principle here is that the believer gains the promise of eternal life at salvation and never loses it. But this guarantee comes with caution; only those who remain faithful to the end will be saved.[28]

Also, we should note there are different kinds of deaths in the Bible. For example, there is physical death, and there is spiritual death. The fundamental idea of death is separation, for when we die physically, our immaterial souls separate from our material bodies. For example, Adam’s spiritual relationship with God died when he sinned and his physical death came later. He was still alive bodily, but he died spiritually. Another death is the “second death.”[29] 


[1] See John 15:18-19

[2] 1 John 2:15

[3] See 1 Peter 4:3-4

[4] See 1 John 2:15-17; 3:1; 4:5-6; 2 Timothy 3:10-12; James 4:4

[5] Barton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., p. 73

[6] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary), op. cit., Kindle Edition.

[7] John 15:17-18

[8] 1 John 3:13

[9] Ibid. 3:1; 4:5; 5:19

[10] Ibid. 4:1

[11] Ibid. 4:5

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

[13] Luke 15:24; see 15:32

[14] John 5:24

[15] Ephesians 2:1, 5

[16] Psalm 16:3

[17] Matthew 25:40

[18] John 13:35

[19] Galatians 5:22

[20] Ephesians 1:15; cf. Colossians 1:4

[21] 1 Thessalonians 4:9

[22] Hebrews 6:10-11

[23] 1 Peter 1:22

[24] Ibid. 3:8

[25] 2 Peter 1:7

[26] Proverbs 21:16

[27] John 5:24

[28] Matthew. 24:13

[29] Revelation 20:14

About drbob76

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