WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXVII) 10/14/21

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 spiritually dead.

Finally, it is eternal death, when an unbeliever’s opportunity to fellowship with God is taken away forever. This death occurs when God casts the unbeliever into the lake of fire.[1] Remember, a Christian does not receive eternal life in the future. They received it at some point in the past. Eternal life began for them at the moment of redemption. That was a permanent event. It will never change. They received eternal life, which is not temporal life. But keep in mind, in the parable that Jesus told there were ten bridesmaids invited to a wedding, but only five carried enough oil to last them for their whole journey. As a result, those who ran out of oil were denied entry to the wedding.[2]

Here we see that John’s argument orbits around the fact that love for fellow Christians verifies that we passed into the sphere of eternal life at the point of deliverance.[3] However, the opposite message is also clear, anyone who does not love their fellow believer is still dead spiritually. We do not earn eternal life by love, but we show that it is ours by loving one another. Thus, part and parcel of spiritual deadness is lack of love.[4] Love, on the other hand, indicates that the reality of spiritual life abides in the believer.

How is this applied to our lives? First, we have come to know the Anointed One if we love other Christians. Second, it is also apparent that God gave us the capacity to love. Third, it is convincing, conclusive evidence of having passed into eternal life. When we fall in love with the Son of God, we automatically fall in love with the children of God.[5]

We also know that criticism from non-Christians is easier to take than disapproval from saints. God’s people are supposed to love us, and when they don’t, it is a big disappointment. It takes a diamond to cut a diamond. True love begins at conversion because we love with the love of God. This kind of love is a sign of new birth and divine nature. God’s very nature is love.[6] This love enables us to love the unlovely, to love those who irritate us. We can love those who mistreat us. It is the mark of the new nature in the Anointed One. 

As strange as it may sound, some Christians dislike other Christians. They resent and are bitter toward people in their church. They may even hate people in their families; apparently, they are Christians in name only. Such believers are out of fellowship with the Lord and walk in darkness, which is a form of death.[7] It is the death described in the writings of the Apostles.[8] That is also the kind of death that the prodigal son experienced when he wandered away from his father. His father said, “my son was dead, but he is alive again.”[9]

So, the Apostle John adds critical evidence that a person has moved from the empire of Satan to the kingdom of God. John and his readers loved one another. The Greek root word translated here as “love” is agape. The term implies a selfless, self-sacrificing love focused on other people. Those who exhibit this kind of love give strong evidence to support that they are true believers.

In contrast, John taught that a lack of love signifies being dead spiritually. Also, the concept of “abiding” is essential, since the intended readers of this letter are Christians. Hatred, according to Jesus, is the spiritual equivalent of murder.[10] Christians are certainly capable of feeling hate, but such feelings are never the product of fellowship with the Anointed One. As John’s words announce, anyone who hates “remains spiritual deadness.” At the very least, this is a severe sin. It is also possible that the individual has never had a personal relationship with the Anointed One.

COMMENTARY

Someone asked Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) whether being loving is created in the soul? For them, it would seem that loving is not something, as some say, developed in the soul. Therefore, charity is not something created in the soul but is God’s Spirit with God’s love. Further, God is the soul’s spiritual life, just as the soul is the life of the body.[11] Therefore, God makes the soul come alive through love.[12] So, in that case, God is love itself.

Aquinas comments, however, that love is not something created in the soul but is the Holy Spirit dwelling in one’s mind. However, the Apostle John says that the Spirit initiates this movement with no involvement on the believer’s part. In contrast, the reborn spirit inspired by the Holy Spirit produces fruit on the Love Vine’s branches.[13] For instance, faith or hope, or some other virtues depend on the excellence of love.[14]

Aquinas then goes on to address another factor in what John says here in verse fourteen. That is the attempt of any believer to reach perfection in their effort to love their spiritual brothers and sisters. Some contend that Christian maturity does not consist chiefly in loving. For the Apostle Paul says, “In evil, be like infants; but in your thinking, be an adult.”[15] But love does not pay attention to the senses but the affections. Therefore, it would seem that the perfection of the Christian life does not chiefly consist in love.

His questioner’s offered that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians and told them to use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing. But to accomplish this, you will need the strong belt of truth and the breastplate of God’s approval. Wear shoes that can speed you on your way as you preach the Good News of peace with God. In every battle, you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows of persecution aimed at you by Satan.”[16] Therefore, Christian adulthood consists not only in love but also in other virtues.

To this, says Aquinas, “I beg to differ.” The Apostle Paul stated that above all else, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together with all the other virtues in perfect union.[17]  A thing is said to be in harmony so far as it attains its proper end, which is the ultimate perfection in God. So, it is love that unites us to God. He has the last say since “God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God, and God is living in them.”[18] Therefore the perfection of the Christian life consists radically in love.[19]

John Flavel (1627-1691) asks in what respect are souls made a new union with the Anointed One? John says here in verse fourteen, they are renewed in their status, for they passed from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive through justification. They once were condemned by the Law, but have been freed by grace through the Anointed One’s redemption. At one time, they were under the curse of the first covenant; now they are under the blessing of the final covenant: they were once far away but now made near to God: once a stranger, now a member of God’s household.[20] O what a blessed change, says Flavel, from a hapless to a happy condition.[21]

Matthew Poole (1664-1679) states that those who passed from being dead spiritually to becoming eternally alive along with the best of humanity are more than the number of the worst of mankind. First, the commandment to love your neighbor as you would want to be loved was not intended initially only for the Jews, but all humankind. As such, it includes even our enemies.[22] Secondly, in a spiritual sense, those who are our brothers and sisters in God’s family by regeneration.

Now, says Poole, God is the first goodness and object of love. Hence, we are to love other people or things in proportion to what Divine characteristics of excellence we find embedded in them. Moreover, human nature has resemblances of love in its moral and intelligent nature. Therefore, it allows people to love their fellow human beings by not letting what is bad blind them and searching for what is good. Consequently, when God’s love flows into and integrates with mankind’s nature, the image of Him who is love is renewed.

Unfortunately, at this noble point, the devil, who went around deceiving souls with his hatred and hostility, sought out those found with the most excellent kind of goodness, devotion, and holiness to corrupt. But because of the renovation of God’s image in us, we were able as His children to love others for His sake and those with God-like virtues dwelling in them.[23] However, those who do not have this Divine ethic do not love their Christian brothers or sisters.[24]


[1] Matthew 13:42; Revelation 20:15

[2] Ibid. 25:11-12

[3] Ibid. 13:35

[4] Ephesians 2:1

[5] Ibid. 5:1-2

[6] 1 John 4:8

[7] Ibid. 1:5-7

[8] Romans 8:6, 13; Ephesians 5:14; 1 Timothy 5:6; James 1:15; Revelation 3:1

[9] Luke 15:24

[10] Matthew 5:21-22

[11] Deuteronomy 30:20

[12] 1 John 3:14

[13] John 15:5

[14] Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica, Vol. 3, pp. 258-259

[15] 1 Corinthians 14:20

[16] Ephesians 6:13-16

[17] Colossians 3:14

[18] 1 John 4:16

[19] Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica, Vol. 4, pp. 597-598

[20] Ephesians 2:12

[21] John Flavel: The Method of Grace, p. 360

[22] See Matthew 5:43, 44

[23] Matthew 5:45; Ephesians 2:1

[24] Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, op. cit., Kindle Location 880

About drbob76

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