WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXVIII) 10/15/21

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 dead.

John Bunyan (1628-1688) writes about the effects of fearing God. He is not speaking of dread in the sense of being afraid, but in awe. In other words, reverence for God. The Psalmist called it “godly fear.”[1] Such godly fear – reverence – makes the believer very concerned about others.[2] It, in turn, causes believers to share the best way to progress in faith and holiness.[3] From these flow deep respect for His majesty and the joy of doing His will.[4] The outcome of such dedication leads to abstaining from anything that interferes with living a holy life.[5] To accomplish this, a believer must focus on being obedient to God’s will.[6]

A believer with this kind of commitment and dedication, says Bunyan, will become more compassionate to the needs of their spiritual brothers and sisters. God gives us an example of such compassion.[7] That will require a more vibrant and constant prayer life for the believer under one’s care.[8] It will make us ready and willing to answer God’s call without delay. Abraham showed us the attitude of putting God first in everything.[9] But there is no reason to boast or feel proud of such dedication because it results from the venom of spiritual pride.[10] In return, this will result in more contentment in having pleased God, not people or oneself.[11] So, it is apparent that this Godly fear – reverence and respect – brings joy and peace to the believer’s heart, as John says here in verse fourteen.[12]

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), writing on how our love for each other proves that we have passed from being spiritually dead in sin to spiritually alive in the Anointed One, makes it evident that holiness is the principal confirmation. It is something we ought to use in judging both our and others’ sincerity. After all, this evidence is insisted on above all others in the Scriptures. Indeed, in many of these places, love for others is spoken of as a sign of godliness. There is no one virtue or disposition expressed so often as a sign of true grace, as having love for one another: but then the Scriptures explain themselves to intend chiefly this love as exercised and expressed in practice, or deeds of love. So, the Apostle John, who, above all others, insists on loving one another as a sign of godliness.[13]

John Wesley (1703-1791), preaching about our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, focuses on those blessed believers who are pure in heart and persecuted because of their sanctified lifestyle.[14] In order to understand this thoroughly, says Wesley, let us inquire, “Who are they that are persecuted?” This we may quickly learn from the Apostle Paul: “Just as the child born according to the flesh [Ishmael] persecuted the one born according to the Spirit [Isaac], it’s still the same.”[15] Not only that, but “All those who want to live a godly life in the Anointed One Jesus will also be persecuted,”[16] says Paul. The same is taught here in verse one by the Apostle John.

It’s as if John said, “Brothers and sisters, I’m telling you that Christians can only love Christians.” But what our Lord Jesus said is even more direct, “If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and not by the world’s stipulations, the world is going to hate you.”[17] [18]

Thomas Scott (1747-1821) noted that with the Apostle John speaking here of passing from spiritually dead to eternally alive, we could better understand what the Apostle Paul went through. When he was meditating on the Divine Savior, recalling all His merits, atonement, and being our Mediator, that’s when God’s great salvation suddenly appeared glorious in Paul’s eyes and precious to his heart. He saw the wisdom and felt the power and glory of the Cross. Before that, the cross was nothing more than foolish thinking.

As a result, Paul counted everything else a lost cause in order to gain a more excellent knowledge of the Anointed One. In so doing, he learned to love Him, admire the brilliance of His character, value His favor, and desire communion with Him more than anything else. Also, be thankful for His unspeakable love and priceless benefits; be zealous for His honor and devoted to His cause. Furthermore, to love fellow believers for His sake, and neighbors and enemies after His example; to exercise self-denial, to endure loss, hardship, and suffering in service to Him.[19]

Scott goes on to say that evangelical principles must influence those who feel motivated to do good for others, especially God’s people, to delight in them and choose them as part of their lifestyle. It is the sure evidence that we “are passed from spiritual deadness to everlasting life.” When we value and take pleasure in the fellowship of those who bear the image of the Anointed One, who also profess His Gospel, and walk in His ways, we find our hearts united with them in love. It gives us a greater desire to build them up, not because they belong to our particular group, but because they belong to the Anointed One.[20]

Yet, Scott has more thoughts on what passing from being dead, spiritually speaking, but having eternal life means to love our fellow believers. He says that since our hearts are purified through the Spirit to express sincere love, it motivates us to love one another because we have been born again by the Word of God. The things the Apostle John told us in this epistle, says Scott, is the sum of what all other sacred writers have written.[21]

Scott ends his comments this way: Indeed, no Christian, acquainted with the human heart, should wonder whether the contempt and hostility of ungodly people against “the children of God” has had any effect. It involves those who’ve passed from “spiritual deadness to alive eternally” and from a “state of condemnation and everlasting separation from God.” It is the condition in which disbelievers find themselves unless they convert. In other words, believers used to be like unbelievers, but now they are called God’s children. What did they do to deserve that? Why can’t nonbelievers be called God’s children? After, God made all of us. So, says Scott, hatred of any human because of their spiritual nature proves that person is a degenerate. Still, the love of Christians is, especially in this respect, the most indisputable proof of regeneration.[22]

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) believes that the Apostle John does not want his readers to be led astray when it comes to loving our fellow believers, especially in an unloving world. It is not just brotherly love, but what we possess by loving each other. It is nothing less than the Life into which we have been translated out of the former condition of spiritual deadness. We know, says Rothe, that through brotherly love, we are given eternal life and cannot allow ourselves to be shaken by the world’s hostility in response. John is so convinced of the critical role of loving our fellow believers that failing to do so means inviting spiritual deadness as our communion with the Anointed One falls silent.[23]

John Buxton Marsden (1803-1870), an evangelical preacher, makes these points: 1) Loving Christians is for the sake of their Christianity; or, to love the Church for the Anointed One’s sake, the Head of the Church. 2) The Apostle John does not speak of any partial affection we may entertain for individuals, or even certain classes of people, within the Church. 3) Nor is it enough that we love, however cordially, all Christians of our Church or sect. 4) The “love” to the brethren, which is sure proof of our salvation, is not merely a universal love to the Church but the Church’s spiritual character.

Marsden then goes on to explain how the love in question becomes the pledge of our salvation. 1) It is, perhaps, the strongest of all proofs that we love God, and it invites us to demonstrate that we do so that it is conclusive evidence to the weakest mind or lack of faith. 2) It demands a constant sacrifice and so constantly displays the strength of that Divine principle of faith which unites us to the Lord; for love is not a mere sentiment of respect and admiration, but a bond of the closest relationship. 3) It exposes us to constant suffering for the sake of the Anointed One; at least this was the case in the apostles’ days, and, in some degree, is still so, or else unbelievers are no longer offended by the Cross.”[24] 


[1] Psalm 89:7

[2] Song of Solomon 3:7

[3] See Malachi 3:16

[4] See Acts of the Apostles 9:31

[5] Nehemiah 5:15

[6] Colossians 3:22

[7] 1 Kings 18:4

[8] Cf. Hebrews 5:7

[9] Hebrews 11:17

[10] 1 Timothy 3:6

[11] See Psalm 147:11

[12] Bunyan’s Practical Works: Vol. 4, The Fear of God, Ch. 4, pp. 214-224

[13] Works of Jonathan Edwards Vol. 2, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, Part 3, Argument 4, p. 1030

[14] See Matthew 5:8-12

[15] Galatians 4:29

[16] 2 Timothy 3:12

[17] John 15:18-19 (the Message)

[18] Works of John Wesley: Vol. 5, Sermons on Several Occasions, Sermon 23, p. 354

[19] Scott, Thomas, The Theological Works of, op. cit., pp. 247-248

[20] Ibid. p. 290

[21] Ibid. p. 414

[22] Scott, Thomas, Commentary on Whole Bible, Vol. 6, op. cit., p. 698

[23] Rothe, Richard, The Expository Times, op. cit., June 1893, pp. 408-409

[24] Marsden, John Buxton: The Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., pp. 194-195

About drbob76

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