WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson LXXXVII) 11/11/21

3:18 Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions.

Douglas Sean O’Donnell (1972) states that first and foremost, Christian love is mainstream. We cannot have the right love toward others unless we also have a proper perspective on Jesus. The second characteristic follows, namely, that Christian love is active. John expressed earlier the necessary transition from “Christian love is available” to “Christian love is active.” Christian love is not just in the head; it also extends through the hands. Needless to say, Christians are to be like Christ, not Cain.[1]

3:19a Our actions will show that we belong to Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, so we will be confident when we stand before God one day.

EXPOSITION

Again, the Apostle John repeats what he heard the Master say while he and the disciples walked and learned from Him.[2] And not only that, but John may have been in the crowd when Jesus stood trial before Pilate. It was there that our Lord said that Pilate was right in saying He was a king. He was born for this: to tell people about the truth. That is why He came into the world. And everyone who belongs to the truth listens to Him.”[3]

In other words, Christians were meant to live in challenging times. Jesus showed no intention of His disciples seeking friendship and acceptance by the world’s immoral society. Even the prophet Isaiah announced that difficult times lay ahead for true believers. But they were to remain faithful until He poured out His Spirit on those who trust and honor Him. And it will be God’s justice and fairness that will bring peace of mind to those who remain faithful.[4] Keep this in mind, God is fair and will recall all the work they did for Him. He will remember that they showed their love to Him by helping His people and continue to help them. So, the call is that we are willing and eager to show such love for the rest of our lives. Then we will be sure to get what we hope for.[5] So let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith because we have been made free from a guilty conscience, and our bodies have been with pure water in baptism.[6]

Remember, it was Abraham who set the standard of faith by believing that God was able to fulfill what He promised.[7] Based on this, the Apostle Paul was convinced enough to declare that nothing in this world or any other world, in life or death, can separate us from God’s Love.[8] Paul was not only able to say that when he was free to travel and preach the Gospel, but when he was imprisoned for his faith, when he was healthy and when he was sick.[9] Also, the Apostle John was inspired, as the other Apostles were, by the example of those in the past who continued living with faith until they died.[10] They did not get all the things God promised His people, but they were happy just to see those promises coming far off in the future. They accepted the fact that they were like visitors and strangers here on earth.[11]

When the Apostle John says, “hereby,” in verse nineteen, it refers to what precedes. The thought is similar to that in verse fourteen. By sincere and active love, we will come to know that we are children of the truth. When we read “the truth,” it echoes the Anointed One’s words to His disciples[12] and what He said to Pilate, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to me.”[13] It should persuade our hearts that in God’s eyes (we are of the truth), and therefore have nothing to fear, even when our hearts condemn us.[14]

Here in verses nineteen to twenty-three, John gives three advantages of exercising a life of love.  The first benefit in verse nineteen is the assurance of salvation. This reference is to the past and offered to calm any misgivings about a person’s salvation. The second benefit in verse twenty deals with the present. Tangible love demonstrates true character and genuine love. The Christian knows with an assurance that they are engaged in the reality of the Christian life when they love sacrificially. And the third benefit in verse twenty-one conveys the future hope. Note the repetition of the word “know.[15] It is the person who knows with confidence that they are in line with God’s plan of salvation. The objective of God is “the truth.” So, the believer has the blessed assurance that they comply with the truth. The basic principle is this: The result of genuine love is an assured heart in relationship to God.

So, how do we apply this to our everyday Christian lifestyle? Sometimes the conscience rightfully censures a believer. At times this censure comes involuntarily. None of us is blameless. This attack on us by our conscience may be valid or invalid depending on whether it is subjective or objective. For example, physical illness can cause personal guilt resulting in ineffective Christian living. It comes from Satan, not God. It is vague and without factual content. Attacks from a strictly emotional mood with no apparent cause are not a message from God.

Furthermore, the conviction that comes from the commission of sin is reasonable guilt. Yielding to an explosion of anger, [16] indulging in greed and selfishness, [17] or wounding the reputation of someone[18] are all valid reasons for feeling convicted. We know these things to be wrong because the Bible explicitly says that they are wrong. Thus, faithful Christians suffer guilty consciences due to these things.

The answer to a guilty conscience is not personal guilt based on negative reflections about oneself in relationship to others because of violating one’s sense of ethics or morals. Thus, no need to just feel bad about our sin but to deal with it biblically. God’s answer to guilt is to accept the benefit of the penalty Jesus paid for our sin. By faith, we believe that Jesus’ suffering covers the punishment for sin. Thus, we confess our sin, acknowledging that the sin violated God’s standard of holiness and that the solution lies in the Anointed One’s death on the cross.[19] But this is not to be done to provide an excuse for the same sin in the future. Remember the words of Jesus to the woman He forgave of adultery, “Go and sin no more.”[20]

Knowing the truth of our relationship with Jesus the Anointed One is the most crucial feature of freedom from a guilty conscience. We need to “know that we are of the truth.” The genuine Christian who receives forgiveness will never face a death sentence from God.[21] But we cannot measure our censuring conscience unless we know the truth.[22] We are aware that we have engaged the reality of who God is by actively and sacrificially loving fellow Christians. By this, we know that the Spirit of God is operating in us. The starting place for confidence in our relationship with God.

Therefore, self-examination may cause us to think about how God sees us. What if you put yourself on trial? Would you be thinking of God’s court? Everyone falls short of God’s expectations. None of us loves God or others as we should. Therefore, our heart’s inner courtroom may condemn us. If we fail to face our problems, we will get into deeper spiritual trouble than if we do not deal with them at all. Thank God that our inner court is not the ultimate court. God will pronounce a final verdict in His higher court. So, cry out as King David did, “Search me, O God, get to know my heart; test me to uncover my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”[23]

If our heart condemns us because we do not love fellow Christians, we will lose the assurance of salvation. Nothing will turn off a Christian more than a reaction to a judgmental spirit. It will sour the soul. It will make the soul wither. Some Christians developed the habit of criticism toward everything going on in the church. They disapprove of everything and everyone. Simply because others do not fit into their preconceived mold of holiness, they are like robots “I am the only one right.” This person takes on the idea that they are infallible in their judgments. Many do not know how to offer constructive criticism. God obligates us to love others even though we disagree with them. Love tempers our attitude and our speech toward fellow Christians.

That’s why God expects us to love each other, no matter who is right or wrong. He expects us to love them, whether we deserve their criticism or not. He wants us to cooperate with them, even if their disapproval is constructive or destructive. Love always tempers what we say, how we say it, and when we say it. Have you ever met anyone who said, “My biggest flaw is that I love too much?” None of us loves the way we should. We all have room to grow in this area.


[1] O’Donnell, Douglas Sean. 1–3 John (Reformed Expository Commentaries). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[2] John 13:35

[3] Ibid. 18:37

[4] Isaiah 32:1-17

[5] Hebrews 6:10-11

[6] Ibid. 10:22

[7] Romans 4:21

[8] Ibid. 8:38

[9] 2 Timothy 1:12

[10] Cf. Hebrews 12:1-2ff

[11] Ibid. 11:13

[12] John 14:6

[13] Ibid. 18:37

[14] Cf. Matthew 28:14; Acts of the Apostles 12:20; 2 Corinthians 5:11

[15] 1 John 3:5, 6, 14, 15, 19

[16] Cf. James 1:19-20

[17] Cf. Luke 12:15; 1 Timothy 6:9-10

[18] Cf. Matthew 7:1-5; Romans 12:14; 17

[19] 1 John 1:9

[20] John 8:11

[21] Romans 8:1

[22] 1 John 3:18

[23] Psalm 139:23-24

About drbob76

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