WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXXIV) 10/25/21

3:16 So now we can tell who is a child of God and who belongs to Satan. Whoever is living a life of sin and doesn’t love his brother shows that he is not in God’s family;

EXPOSITION

It is no coincidence that John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16 bear a close resemblance to each other. What Jesus said to Nicodemus was what inspired John to write about the peace God’s love brings that surpasses all human understanding.[1] And what a moment it must have been when John heard the Master say that He did not come as a Prince to be served, but as a servant for others and give His life as a ransom for the world.[2] And after Jesus returned to heaven, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to help us be like shepherds, guiding and watching over His flock – the Church. After all, they were the ones He ransomed from sin’s slave market that cost Him His life.[3]

The Apostle Paul took this as God’s way of showing His love for us, even while still living in sin.[4] He reminded the Ephesians of how the Anointed One lived a life full of love, and we should do the same in His honor. And just as the priest offered sweet-smelling incenses on the altar in the Temple’s Holy Place, so we can do the same by offering our talents, gifts, and spiritual abilities to help others to the glory of God the Father.[5] And the best way to begin is in our homes among our families.[6] Furthermore, we should do so because we know that soon time will run out for us and, eventually, the whole Church.[7]

And the Apostle Peter points to one of the great motivators who inspires us to live as a giver, not a getter. God paid a ransom that was worth more than silver or gold.[8] Not only that, but the cost of our redemption involved God’s Son willingly carrying our sins to the cross and suffering the punishment we deserved on our behalf, and by whose stripes and wounds we are spiritually and morally healed.[9] In fact, we could say that He was murdered to keep us from going to hell.[10]

But, if we must all suffer, some more, some less, it is easy to see who among them do so for the sake of others. Such heroes are those who, although they could have avoided such hardships by running away, chose to remain faithful than abandon others to whom they are a spiritual lifeline. By such conduct, the love recommended by the Apostle John proved to be valid. In John’s words, “The Anointed One laid down His life for us: and we ought to willingly lay down our lives for the brethren.”[11] But if those who abandoned their posts had willingly endured suffering on their fellow believers’ behalf, they would have unquestionably done the same.[12]

By this, we have come to know (have acquired and possess the knowledge of) love (what love is), in that Jesus laid down His life to redeem us.[13] When we look at this in the case of Cain and Abel, Cain’s deed symbolizes hate. He took his brother’s life to benefit himself. In contrast, the Anointed One laid down His life to benefit those who hated Him.[14] We must be ready to imitate our Lord’s idea of love, prepare to sacrifice, even our lives, for the good of others. The abuse of another’s rights, and perhaps existence for one’s sake, is the essence of hatred. However, the willingness to abandon one’s rights for another’s sake is the essence of love. The Anointed One died for those who hated Him.[15] Likewise, Christians must deal with the world’s hatred with love, ready to die for their haters.

Now we come to the perfect example of true love – the Lord Jesus the Anointed One.  Instead of taking a life as Cain did, He came to give life. That is the way we know it was love. The Greek text here in verse sixteen provides this idea with the words: “By this [what I am about to state] we have come to know love.” We came to experience genuine love through the greatest act of love, a Savior who willingly died that we might have eternal life. The primary characteristic of the Anointed One’s love is sacrifice. Love was the motivation for His coming to earth. He demonstrated that love in sacrificing Himself for others.[16]

Where the text reads, “He laid down His life,” the pronoun “He” carries a heavy emphasis. It is because John puts prominence on the One who paid the debt for our sins. He is, unlike any other, an exceptional, one-of-a-kind personality. Jesus chose to die; no one forced Him to give up His life. Instead, He deliberated, planned, and intentionally died to buy forgiveness for our sins.

So, how can we apply this to our Christian lifestyle? We start by proving that our love is genuine. For instance, the way a husband can show love for his wife is not in words only, but by how much he gives himself to her. After all, God gave her to him, so it is his responsibility to protect, provide, and promote her goodwill for his and God’s sake. Just as the Apostle John says that we prove our love for God by loving others, so it is, the husband demonstrates his love for God by loving his wife. Jesus the Anointed One showed us through His crucifixion that Christian love requires sacrifice and service to others. Our Lord’s love sought the welfare of others, not Himself. It puts a moral obligation on believers. Jesus did it to save; we do it to serve.[17]

Therefore, Christians live under a divine imperative; they have an obligation to God. The Apostle John said we “ought to lay down our lives,” which means to owe, be under obligation, or debt. It is a financial term for the responsibility to pay a debt.[18]  The Greeks used the verb opheilō for an “inner moral obligation.” As such, Strong, in his Greek Concordance, says opheilō carries the idea of an ethical obligation instead of a logical necessity. Love is activated when we put it into action. The English word “ought” is a contraction of two words: “owes it.”  We owe it to the Lord to love others as He loved us. Members of the devil’s viper brood care only about themselves, but Jesus laid down His life for His enemies. Therefore, no one can have greater love than to give their lives for their friends.[19]

Thus, it becomes the Christian’s moral obligation to love as Jesus loved. So, if we have a moral duty to do what Jesus did, why don’t we? God may never call on us to give our lives physically for others, but He calls us to sacrifice for others. That may come in the form of material goods or money. We owe something to needy Christians because we owe everything to the Anointed One.[20]

It is also interesting that the Greek verb tithēmi (“lay down”) means to divest oneself of something.  Thus, love deprives itself in order to give to others. As Strong says, “to carry no longer.”[21] Spiritually speaking, Christians must follow the example of their Lord in ridding themselves of selfishness to meet the requests of others about their needs. They seek the highest good in others. It may be inconvenient for them to do this, but convenience is not their core value. This love gets involved with helping underprivileged people.

In summary, just as hatred can result in murder, so love leads to life. True love is willing to give its all for another; it is the capacity to deny self in the interest of others. Jesus laid out this imperative in His farewell address to the disciples: “I’m giving you a new commandment: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see how you love each other. The very best way to show your love is by putting your life at risk for your friends.”[22] Even the Apostle Paul sensed an obligation to the Greeks and barbarians.[23]  He owed the Gospel due them, so he was bound and determined to give them the Good News about the Anointed One. It leaves us no room for excuses.


[1] Philippians 4:7

[2] Matthew 20:28; See Isaiah 53:12; John 11:49-50

[3] Acts of the Apostles 20:28

[4] Romans 5:8

[5] Ephesians 5:2

[6] Ibid. 5:25

[7] Titus 2:13

[8] 1 Peter 1:18

[9] Ibid. 2:24

[10] Ibid. 3:18; cf. Revelation 1:5

[11] 1 John 3:16

[12] The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, The Confessions and Letters of Augustine of Hippo (354-430) AD, With a Sketch of His Life and Work, Letters of S. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) AD, Letter 228 (428 or 429 AD) p. 1161

[13] Cf. 1 John 3:10; see 2:3

[14] John 10:12

[15] Romans 5:8

[16] Cf. Matthew 20:28; John 10:11, 15, 17-18

[17] Cf. Mark 10:45

[18] Matthew 18:32

[19] Ibid. 15:13

[20] Cf. Romans 13:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:3

[21] Cf. John 15:12-14

[22] John 13:34-35; 15:12-13

[23] Romans 15:27

About drbob76

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