WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXXVI) 10/27/21

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;

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) enlightens us that the words “of God” are not in the original Greek text, which reads literally: “in to this we have known the love that for of us the soul of Him He laid down,” and should not have been introduced into the English translation. Barnes feels it would read better this way: “By this, we know love because He laid down His life for us.” However, we find “of God” in the Latin Vulgate, Genevan versions, and one Greek manuscript. They would naturally convey the idea that God laid down His life for us.

Of course, the One who gave His life for us was Jesus the Anointed One, who is also God. Nevertheless, the original Greek is much more expressive and emphatic because we now know what true love is; we see a most affecting and striking illustration of its nature. Love’s fundamental nature, power, sacrifices, and influences are seen in its highest form when the Son of God willingly offered Himself to die for us on a cross.[1]

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) strikes the same note as Thomas Scott above in that the love spoken of here by the Apostle John does not specify it as God’s nor the Anointed One’s love for us, but love itself. Love that is genuine and perfect brotherly love. To show us how deep, wide, and endless our love should be for each other, John uses what the Anointed One did for us out of love. In such self-sacrifice, the full effect of His love for us brings a clear understanding to our minds. It shows us that the concept of love in all its purity and greatness has not grown up in the natural heart of mankind; we owe it to the divine revelation in the Anointed One.[2]

Robert L. Dabney (1820-1898) says we may illustrate the value of the Anointed One’s example in the following details: It verifies that God displayed the original concept of holiness. First, however, that concept needs assurance. Fortunately, we see it embodied in the “Image of the invisible God,” who is “the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person,[3] the Son of God.

Next, says Dabney, the Anointed One illustrated the duties for believers of all ages and accomplishments; for the divine wisdom collected in His brief life from infancy to adulthood, make Him a friend, teacher, ruler, King, hero, and martyr by sanctification and kind deeds. So again, the Anointed One teaches us everyday duties are exalted when performed with a selfless motive. So, our Lord provided for His Church’s infinite blessedness and for His Father’s eternal glory by simply fulfilling the humble tasks of a carpenter or traveling evangelist. Finally, in His death especially, He illustrated those duties essential because they pertain to the most critical emergencies of our being, the responsibilities of forgiveness while suffering, patient courage under anguish, and faith with bravery in the hour of death.[4] [5]

George G. Findlay (1849-1919) feels that The Authorized Version (KJV) mistranslated verse sixteen, “Hereby know we the love of God.” That is the Apostle John’s point later on.[6] What John says is, “Herein we got to know love;” we have learned what love is – its reach and capability, discovered in Jesus the Anointed One. Other notions of love and attainments in the way of love are meager compared to this and hardly deserve the name – love.

Robert Browning (1812-1899), an English poet and playwright, speaks of the present life as man’s “one chance of learning love.”[7] That chance came to the Apostle John and his fellow disciples in getting to know Jesus the Anointed One, and they seized on it. They found the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the thing for which “If someone gave all their wealth for love, they would only gain utter contempt.”[8] Love’s mystery, sent from the bosom of the eternal Father, lay open for all to see in the life and death of Him who said, “You cannot find any love greater than this, that a friend lays down their life for their friends.”[9] [10]

Dr. James Denny (1856-1917) wrote this stirring piece: “If I were sitting on the end of the pier, on a summer day, enjoying the sunshine and the air, and someone came along and jumped into the water to prove their love for me, I would find it quite incomprehensible. I might be much in need of love, but an act like this that has no relationship to anything I need, and such an act would prove nothing. But had I fallen off the pier and were drowning, and someone sprang into the water, risking their life for my sake, then I should say, ‘Greater love hath no man than this.’”[11]

C. H. Dodd (1884-1973) says that the Apostle John’s language here in verse sixteen is similar to what he said in his Gospel.[12] So it is confirmed in every part of the Final Covenant.[13] It is part of the central core of the original apostles’ proclamation. But most critical, says Dodd, is that it is the most significant part of what the early apostles heard from the One they saw and touched.[14]

Greville P. Lewis (1891-1976) says that the Apostle John gives the Greek noun agape (“love”) an entirely new content. First through our Lord’s incarnation and sacrifice on the cross, and then in His indwelling in our bodies. It reveals the real essence of “true love.” Lewis tells us that in the “Acts of John,” a Gnostic interpretation of Christian doctrine, written around 160 AD. It represents the Anointed One as a divine Being quite incapable of suffering and death. That makes the scene on the cross an illusion and the resurrection a fantasy.[15] John called on us to imitate the Anointed One, [16] which we are all willing to do, except for what they did to Him before He went to Calvary, and His suffering and death on the cross.[17]

Amos N. Wilder (1895-1993) has quite a bit to say about this sixteenth verse. Wilder begins by saying that the “love” used here is complete. He also rejects the addition “of God” as found in the KJV. Finally, Wilder notes that the Apostle John looks back to the revelation that Jesus laid down His life on our behalf. In other words, don’t wait for Jesus or the Holy Spirit to give you an example of what love means; our Savior did those numerous times.[18]

Paul W. Hoon (1910-2000) says that the love expressed here by the Apostle John is not optional; it is an obligation. That’s what Jesus did; He denied Himself – forfeited His life. That means He voluntarily decided not to hold on to something He would have liked to keep for other people’s benefit. So, to be like Jesus, we too must certainly deny ourselves of anything we might have enjoyed so that someone else could have joy with what we supplied them.[19]

As a pastor, I once asked my congregation to deny themselves certain things they loved so that those in foreign lands could rejoice in salvation. I suggested that they give up one cup of coffee or piece of pie they always had at the local café, a trip to the lake, or some family entertainment park, and give that money to mission work. My suggestion echoed that beautiful hymn by Isaac Watts, “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, demands my Soul, my Life, my All,[20] where we see what real self-denial means.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) says that the Apostle John now turns from the doctrinal to the practical side of applying what he’s already said about loving one another. So, he provides an illustration so that his readers won’t mistakenly interpret and be deceived by what he will say from verse nineteen onward. It affects our prayer life and our ultimate meeting with God on Judgment Day. It is also essential to give a testimony about the Anointed One to a doubting world from our viewpoint. There are no excuses or alibis for why we are not adding practice to our preaching. It involves more than doctrine; it includes doing what we’re telling others to do.

Lloyd-Jones continues by saying that we need to distinguish between “loving” and “liking.” God did not call us to “like” our fellow believers, but to “love” them. They are essentially dissimilar. For instance, “liking” is instinctive, not the result of effort or decision-making. We like it or don’t care for it based on the sensing organ (sight, hearing, tasting, feeling) we employ. That makes it physical and not controlled by intelligence. Like the animal world, it is “instinctive.” We must understand “loving” in terms of God’s Love. Such Love is not innate; it is an act of the will.[21] When I realized that I instinctively did not enjoy certain foods, I used my will to overcome natural impulses and developed an acquired taste. If we can do that with food, we can do the same with people. That makes “love” a part of high intelligence. It was not a part of our original nature. Thank God, He introduced it to humanity. Otherwise, this would be a more miserable world.


[1] Barnes, Albert: New Testament Notes, op. cit., p. 4851

[2] Rothe, Richard, The Expository Times, op. cit., June 1893, p. 410

[3] Hebrews 1:3

[4] Romans 15:3; Philippians 2:5; Hebrews 7:2, 3; 1 John 3:16; Ephesians 4:13; John 13:15; 1 Corinthians 11:1

[5] Dabney, Robert L., Systematic Theology, op. cit., (Kindle Location 10699), Kindle Edition

[6] 1 John 4:7-14

[7] Browning, Robert: A Death in the Desert, “And hope and fear, – believe the aged friend, – Is just our chance o’ the prize of learning love.”

[8] Song of Solomon 8:7 – Complete Jewish Bible

[9] John 15:13

[10] Findlay, G. G. (1909), Fellowship in the Life Eternal: An Exposition of the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 279

[11] Denny, James: The Death of Christ, A. C. Armstrong and Son, New York, 1903, p. 177

[12] John 10:11-18; 15:13

[13] See Mark10:45; Galatians 1:4; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 108010; 1Peter 3:18

[14] Dodd, C. H., New Testament Commentary – Moffatt, op. cit., p. 84

[15] The Acts of John, §98-100

[16] 1 John 2:6

[17] Lewis, Greville P., The Johannine Epistles – Epworth, op. cit., pp. 85-86

[18] Wilder, Amos N., The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 12, op. cit., pp. 263-264

[19] Hoon, Paul W., Ibid. pp. 263-264

[20]When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” was written by Isaac Watts, and published in Hymns and Spiritual Songs in 1707, Fifth Stanza

[21] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn, Life in Christ, op. cit., pp. 357-360

About drbob76

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