WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXIX) 10/18/21

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.

Robert L. Dabney (1820-1898) makes the point that we should recall the passages in Scripture that urge self–examination for professed believers, not only regarding the respectability of their lives but whether their standing in grace is genuine. Marks or signs are presented, by which one may try to see if they or others are practicing true or counterfeit faith. The Apostle John tells his distractors that he wrote this epistle to enable every believer to know eternal life was theirs. John argues that just in case they are not sure that grace and salvation are an essential part of their faith, they should gladly accept John’s urging to inspect and settle the question. The simple fact that it needed their attention shows that John suspected they were not believers in the first place.[1]

William Alexander (1824-1911) says that after passing from being spiritually dead to alive in the Anointed One, such a nature, however full of good intentions, will not tolerate prejudice or taking sides out of weakness. It knows the value of truth and unity. It feels the sweetness of a calm conscience and a simple belief in the effectiveness of prayer. Over every such life – despite all the grief and temptation that comes – is the purifying hope of a great Advent, the exalting assurance of a perfect victory, the knowledge that if we continue faithful to the principle of our new birth, we are safe. And our security is not that we go it alone, says Alexander, but that we support others in God’s family that are as tender as love and firm as a rock.[2]

David James Vaughan (1825-1866) says that we should thank God that He gave the Apostle John basic principles in this epistle to guide us. But, of course, there are many other passages in the Bible used as spiritual tests. For instance, “If anyone is in union with the Anointed One, they are a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all things are new.”[3] But, like many other readings, it shifts the obligation of knowing whether one is a “new creation,” and “old things passed away,” and “all things became new,” so one can determine whether they are born again.

But the text here has to do with an external object – a duty relative to living. Therefore, it is easier for many people to say whether they love their fellow believers, whom they can see, than God, whom they cannot see. As a matter of fact, they may not be able to figure it out themselves; therefore, they must trust God to help solve the most significant event to a person’s mind and say with confidence, “I know that I have passed from spiritual deadness into life everlasting because by loving my brothers and sisters I prove that I love God and am one of His children.”[4]

John J. Lias (1834-1923) recalls that we know for sure when we have passed from being spiritually dead to alive in the Anointed One because of our love for fellow believers. The Apostle John has taught us the necessity of walking in the Light of truth and not in the darkness of ignorance.[5] He also shared the duty of keeping God’s commandments.[6] Therefore, abiding in the Light implies the love of one’s brothers and sisters.[7] Furthermore, we discover that we must not be fascinated by worldly things.[8] In addition, that everyone who does what’s right has been born of God, [9] and whoever does not live right and love their brother or sister is not of God.[10] Consequently, John calls on us to see if the love for God’s family exists in our hearts, as a sign that we who love this way have passed from spiritual deadness to living in union with the Anointed One.

The new life is presented to us here more distinctly than it has yet been, says Lias, as a state of deliverance from a condition in which the rest of the world still exists. Nor should we fail to notice that the circumstances have changed. We’ve had light and darkness presented to us as emblems of these two conditions. Now they are represented to us under the symbols of spiritual life and death. It shows that living spiritually involves life and death, which is the necessary result of the presence or absence of love. Thus, having passed from a state of spiritual unresponsiveness through God’s quickening grace we received by faith from Jesus the Anointed One,[11] we regard love’s existence in our lives as evidence of such trust. In other words, “faith works because of love.”[12]

Lias declares that any act, which negates all ideas of our continued sinning, promotes Godly conduct as a result. We know that this change has taken place in us because we are devoted to, instead of opposing, the practice of loving others. By steadily resisting all the assaults of the world, we remain in the position in which we now find ourselves, namely, that of manifesting Divine life in our lives, which is a life of love. And yet, it is equally clear that no one is filled with as much love as they ought to be. Nevertheless, if we desire to grow in love, we may venture to claim this promise for ourselves. According to this passage, the whole world remains spiritually dead except those rescued by Jesus the Anointed One and translated into a life of love. But this cannot mean the absolute cessation of existence. Even a degenerate person has physical life. But to the higher spiritual life of love, they are utter strangers. So, just as “faith without works is dead,” so, “an unloving heart is spiritually dead.”[13]

Lias goes on to teach that we can only know the heavenly life by its fruit. It comes from God above, with whom no hate exists except hatred of sin. And if this is its source, it must provide evidence of its presence through conduct in keeping with it its character. In other words, it must have a life lived with love. And until love is the motto of our being, until we are untiring in our labors for our fellow believers, we cannot say “we have passed from spiritual deadness to eternal life.” We may be harnessing the sinful tendencies that have so much power over us. Yet, as long as one unkind or unloving thought remains against those who bear God’s image, our transition from a dead state to an alive condition is incomplete.[14]

Lyman Abbott (1835-1922), an American Congregationalist theologian, mentions that someone told him about geysers flowing with boiling water. The ice and snow melt from the mountain tops and run down through underground channels, and in some place unknown to humanity, they are heated and come bubbling to the surface again. We know they are heated, but we know not how.[15] And we do not need to wait until we find out before we believe they are hot. So likewise, hearts that are cold and sensual and proud and selfish are warmed whenever they come into contact with God’s heart through the Lord Jesus the Anointed One. They are touched by Him and become different individuals. As such, a civilization can become a distinct culture, thus transforming nations into religious societies. A Hindu’s character is not Christian in virtues. It is not African or Oriental. It is a distinctive Christian mindset, warm with love because it has become warm in the secret place of the Most-High.[16] [17]

In this third chapter, says Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899), the Apostle John has touched on five things worth knowing. First, we need to be aware of what John says here in verse five about knowing our sins have been removed from us and crucified on the cross with the Anointed One. So, it is not what we have done, but what HE did on Calvary. Jesus did not fail in His mission! He was able to do what He came to do! So, if no heaven-sent person could be unsuccessful, how could God’s Son fail?

The second thing in verse nineteen worth knowing is that we can understand that we are of the Truth. As Jesus said, “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”[18] The third helpful thing comes in verse fourteen: we have passed out of being spiritually dead to being alive in the Anointed One because of our love for each other. When a person’s natural self does not like godly people, nor does it care to be in their company, such individuals are not spiritually alive.

In verse twenty-four, the fourth thing worth remembering is that we abide in Him, and He lives in us through His Spirit. Now we can tell what kind of Spirit we have if we possess the Spirit of the Anointed One. Not necessarily to the same degree, but of the same kind. If I am meek, gentle, and forgiving; if I am spirit-filled with peace and joy; if I am long-suffering and gentle, like the Son of God, in that way I can tell whether I have eternal life or not.

The fifth thing worth understanding, and the best; of all, is that we are NOW God’s children. It does not say that we become His children at our moment of death; we are already His. Furthermore, we will see Him as He is and will know how we really look. But what if some say, “Well, I believed everything I heard, but since becoming a Christian, I sinned.” Is there a man or a woman on the face of the earth who has not sinned since becoming a Christian, asks Moody? Not one. There has never been, and never will be, a soul on this earth who has not sinned, or who will not sin, at some point in their Christian experience. But God has made provision for believers’ sins.[19] We are not to make provision for them; God has done so already.[20]


[1] Dabney, Robert L., Systematic Theology, op. cit., Ch. 27, p. 482

[2] Alexander, William, Epistles of John – Expositor’s Bible, Discourse IV, op. cit., p. 68

[3] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[4] Vaughan, James: The Church Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., Vol. 12, p. 275

[5] 1 John 1:6

[6] Ibid. 2:4

[7] Ibid. 2:10

[8] Ibid. 2:15

[9] Ibid. 2:29

[10] Ibid. 3:10

[11] John 5:24

[12] Galatians 5:6

[13] Lias, John J., The First Epistle of St. John with Exposition, op. cit., pp. 257-261

[14] Ibid. The First Epistle of St. John with Homiletical Treatment, op. cit., p. 259

[15] Today, scientists believe that geysers are heated by molten lava under the service of earth’s crust.

[16] Psalm 95

[17] Abbott, Lyman: The Biblical Illustrator, Vol. 22, First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp.258-259

[18] John 8:36

[19] 1 John 1:9

[20] Moody, Dwight: Way to God, Ch. 8, pp. 83-84

About drbob76

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