WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XCII) 11/18/21

3:20 But if we have a bad conscience and feel that we have done wrong, the Lord will sense it even more, for He knows everything we do.

Although we do not know “all things,” God does. We often unjustly criticize ourselves, but God knows our motives because He is the infallible Mediator. There is a big difference between conscience and omniscience. God is the most excellent witness to our soul’s activities. If we condemn ourselves, we must remember that there is a superior Jurist, and He will always be fair with us. So, believers must accept God’s perfect judgment on them rather than stick to their unproven findings.

Furthermore, God knows that self-sacrificing love is not an everyday thing. Therefore, it is abnormal for people having their reputations undermined to respond with love or return good for evil; that is a dynamic of spirituality. A spiritual person forgives and moves on because of their new life in the Anointed One. However, we all know that this is contrary to human nature.

So, since God knows all about us and loves us anyway, why can’t we accept ourselves as God sees us? It does not mean that we rationalize our sins away, but that we acknowledge the person God sees in us after dealing with them. We cannot base fellowship with God on our feelings; we must build it on objective revelation in His Word. God offers forgiveness if we confess and deal with our sins.[1]  Our heavenly Father links His omniscience with mercy. Although He knows every secret of our hearts, yet He understands them all. Don’t forget; it is the work of our enemy to accuse us.[2]  Satan will take our sensitive conscience and use it against us. Our confidence comes from the promises of God, not from our open behavior patterns. It is not God’s will that we constantly live in a state of condemning ourselves. He does not want us to get stuck in guilt mud.

For example, aviation technicians put an airplane in an air tunnel to determine whether it is worthy of flying. However, they do not leave the plane in the air tunnel. At some point, they test it in the skies.  After the test flight, they do not continue to prove the airplane’s flight worthiness without end. Instead, they get on with the business of transporting people to their destinations. Christians who live in constant self-examination do not live vibrant spiritual lives. Some people constantly raise the question of whether they are genuine Christians.  Other Christians never arrive at the point of confidence with God.  They live in a state of self-condemnation, “Have I served the Lord enough; am I spiritual enough; have I given what God expects of me?”

There is a point where we must face ourselves and deal with our objective guilt, but there is also a point where we move on. My heart is not the Supreme Court; God sits in the seat of the Chief Justice. I must accept His judgments on things. His verdict is final. My judgment is not absolute, but God’s judgment is ultimate. My subjective guilt is not God’s norm for fellowship with Him or His children.

It is also a distortion in our soul if we splash around in subjective guilt. Objective guilt is one thing, but personal guilt is another. Constantly looking within produces spiritual naval gazing. It puts the Christian into spiritual self-centeredness. Factual guilt is a norm for Christian living. How do we reassure our hearts if we find something genuinely inappropriate in our souls? It is a distortion of immense proportion if we cannot face our spiritual condition. We want to avoid deceiving ourselves or living in deception that we are in fellowship with God when we are not.

A Christian who wants to walk with God desires proof of the evidence against them. They want to know what breaks fellowship with the Almighty. They understand that they tend to sweet-talk their spirituality and thus fool themselves. It is spiritual self-delusion. They prefer not to wait for others to inform them. Their friends may not have the courage to tell them what they need to know. 

COMMENTARY

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) found himself confronted with whether the rewards assigned to the beatitudes refer to this life? It would seem that these blessings do not refer to this life; they are happy because they hope for a prize. So, now the object of hope is future happiness. Therefore, these rewards refer to the life to come.

Furthermore, they continue, specific punishments are ordered in opposition to the beatitudes, as we read: “How bad it will be for you people who are full now because you will be hungry. How bad it will be for you people who are laughing now.”[3] Now, these punishments do not refer to this life because frequently, people receive no punishment in this life; according to Job, “They spend their days in prosperity, then go down to the grave in peace.”[4] Therefore neither do the rewards of the beatitudes refer to this life.

But they are not finished. In addition, the questioner says, the kingdom of heaven rewards poverty to guarantee happiness in heaven, as Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) says, “We are saved, so we are made happy by hope. And as we do not as yet possess at present, but look for future salvation, so is it with our happiness, and this patiently.”[5] Thus, the doubters claim, according to the Psalmist, “You make me know the path of life; in Your presence is unbounded joy, in Your right-hand eternal delight.”[6] So again, it is only in our future that we will see God, and our Divine kinship will be made manifest, according to the Apostle John.[7] Therefore these rewards refer to the future life.

On the contrary, notes Aquinas, Augustine also says: “These promises can be fulfilled in this life. For no words can express that complete change into the likeness even of an angel, which is promised to us after this life. For that all-embracing change into the angelic form, which is promised after this life, cannot be explained in any words.[8] [9]

But, says Aquinas, love is something between the lover and the loved. Therefore, when we ask if we can have perfect love for God, there are three options. First, the Greek adjective holotelēs (“wholly”)[10] meaning, “completely or perfectly,” can refer to the thing loved. Thus, God should receive our unconditional love. Secondly, it may understand holotelēs as a quality of the person loving: God ought to be wholly loved since humankind should love God with all their might and credit all they have to God’s love. Thirdly, we can compare the one loving to the thing loved so that the one loving is equal to the manner of the one loved. But this is impossible: since a thing is lovable in proportion to its goodness. Therefore, having endless love for God is impossible, since His goodness is boundless. So, no creature can have unlimited love for God because the ability of all-natural creatures is finite.[11]

John Calvin writes on repentance as explained in what he calls the “illogical jargon of the Roman Catholic professors,” which is widely different from the purity required by the Gospel, of confession and satisfaction.[12] Calvin is especially disturbed by the definition of repentance given by these lecturers who express the nature of repentance as asking forgiveness for past sins and the pledge of not doing them again. It is more like regret, remorse, sorrow, and grief that they committed such sins. As Chrysostom said, Repentance is a medicine for the cure of sin, a gift bestowed from above, an admirable virtue, a grace surpassing the power of laws.”[13]

However, Calvin says that all these things could not heal the wound any more than moldy bread smeared with honey. At first, it might taste good, but the poison will still penetrate the vital organs before its bitterness is detected. Sinners heard the alarming voice calling out from the scriptures, “Confess all your sins,”[14] but the dread of being punished cannot be alleviated even after being consoled. The Apostle John answers that God is greater than our feelings even if we feel guilty since He knows everything.[15]

John Bunyan (1628-1688) envisions the judgment of the wicked. He sees the Apostle John’s presentation in a court of law, with everyone seated in their proper place. His honor is on His throne with the attorneys, and the prisoners are ushered in to stand trial. Immediately, a mighty firestorm blazes out from the throne and encircles His Honor with protection to keep the prisoners a safe distance from His heavenly Majesty.[16]  Everything has come to order, and the Justice, along with His attendants as well as the prisoners, all stand with frightening fear of what is about to happen.[17] Finally, the books are opened, and their status is examined by what was written inside.[18]


[1] 1 John 1:9

[2] Revelation 12:10

[3] Luke 6:25

[4] Job 21:13

[5] Augustine: The City of God, op. cit., Bk. 19, Ch. 4:12

[6] Psalm 16:11- Complete Jewish Bible

[7] 1 John 3:2

[8] Augustine, The Sermon on the Mount, Bk. 1, Ch. 1:12

[9] Aquinas, Thomas: Summa Theologica, op. cit., P(2a)-Q(69)-A(2);P(2a)-Q(69)-A(2)-O(1-3)

[10] Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23

[11] Aquinas, Thomas: Summa Theologica, Vol. 3, pp. 353-354

[12] The Catholic Dictionary explains satisfaction consists in the penitent’s willingness to accept the penance imposed and its actual fulfillment. The effect of these two elements is to remove more or less the temporal punishment due to the sins confessed.

[13] Chrysostom, John: Homily 8, On Repentance and Almsgiving

[14] 1 John 1:9

[15] Calvin, John: Institutes, Bk. 3, Ch. 4, p. 667

[16] See Psalm 50:3

[17] See Daniel 7:9-10

[18] Revelation 20:11-12

About drbob76

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