WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XCVI) 11/24/21

3:21-22 But, dearly loved friends, if our consciences are clear, we can come to the Lord with perfect assurance and trustand get whatever we ask for because we obey Him and do the things that please Him.

Now we come to the second benefit of a confident heart. We have the confidence to ask things from God in prayer. The idea here is continually asking day after day. John qualifies this phrase by the following conditions. God grants answers to prayers that comply with His will. Firstly, the prayer must follow the principles of the Word, and secondly, the prayer must seek to please Him. The believer in fellowship wants to please the Lord. They do not demand from the Lord. Their prayers are according to God’s will, so God answers them as the fulfillment of His will. The principle here is that obedience to God’s will and desire to please Him is the conditions, but not the merit for answered prayer.

In fact, the conditions for answered prayer rest on six principles:

  • The prayer must be offered in Jesus’ name (John 16:23-24)
  • The prayer must be for God’s glory (James 4:2-3)
  • The prayer must not be for sinful purposes (Psalm 66:18)
  • The prayer must be from a forgiven soul (Mark 11:25)
  • The prayer must be asked by faith (Matthew 21:22)
  • The prayer must result in doing God’s will (1 John 3:21)

There are some things that we do not give our children because it would be indulging them.[1] That is the prerogative of the parent. It is for their good that we do not provide them with everything they request. God cannot afford to give some of us success because it might corrupt our Christian witness. Therefore, God answers every prayer that has to do with a believer’s development or spirituality, prayed in harmony with His will.

The key to all this is because we follow His commandments. What parent would reward a disobedient child for not obeying? The word “because” in verse twenty-two gives the reasons God answers prayer. We can have confidence that God answers prayer according to two conditions: 1) we “keep His commandments” and 2) we “do those things pleasing in His sight.”  God’s commandments are His principles for living the Christian life.

The believer who applies the principles of God’s Word to what they know receives answers to their prayers. But, does this mean that God answers prayers for a quid pro quo?[2] “If I give something to God, He will give something to me.” That is, does God give us according to how much we offer Him? He does not provide as an exchange of favors. Therefore, we can make no bargains with God. No, God answers prayer because they are according to His will. The more we fellowship with Him, the more we know His will. God does not grant answered prayer and give us certain benefits because we think we measure up to His expectations but because we meet His conditions for prayer. God never promises that we will receive anything we ask. We would be making God’s decisions for Him. Thus, God would have to rearrange the infinite universe to answer a finite prayer. Therefore, what we do off our knees is essential to what we say on our knees.

Some people pray regularly, but they do not receive answers to prayer because they do not know the principles of the Word. We cannot pray effectively without knowing the Word. We cannot pray effectively without walking in the Spirit. Furthermore, we need to “pray in the Spirit.[3] God does not answer the prayer of someone who is a Christian in name only.[4] How we live has a direct bearing on answered prayer. This is not to imply that God’s answer to our prayer is conditional on obedience. God answers prayer because we formulate our asking according to His will. God always answers prayer according to His will. We know His will by what His Word reveals.[5]

The praying believer desires nothing but to follow God’s principles and to please Him. Doing what is “pleasing in His sight” goes beyond applying the specific directions of the Word. These are spontaneous acts and services born out of a spirit of reverence or desire to please God. It goes way beyond a mere sense of duty or responsibility.

The words “in His sight” in verse twenty-two are different from “before Him” in verse nineteen. “Before Him” emphasizes pleasing the Anointed One as obedient and loving servants as He looks on us. Whereas the phrase “in His sight” emphasizes our confident attitude as we look to Him. In other words, the spiritually alive Christian lives to make the Lord smile. Many of us make Him frown. Our ambition is to please the Lord. Our passion is to please Him because He began our relationship with Him. All prayer should come from the motivation of pleasing the Lord, not acquiring selfish things for ourselves.[6]

David Legge (1969) wants us to take a good look at this confident Christian that we find beginning here in verse twenty-one. Suppose your heart condemns your conscience, bring your heart and mind to God, and believe the Bible truth of the Gospel that the precious blood of the Lamb can cleanse you from all sin. In that case, you confess your sin, and you seek, as the Apostle Paul said, “I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people.”[7] If you do that, take it to Calvary, confess it, repent of it, and desire to have a conscience void of offense toward God and others: you will develop God-given confidence in your Christian life.

Where in that progression of things have you gone wrong, asks Legge? Where have you stalled? When did you stop? Many people cease at the moment of salvation – after kneeling at the Cross and being washed in the blood of the Lamb, they don’t proceed any further. They’re not interested in practicing the fruit of the reborn spirit in their lives. So, these tests often go by without any notice. They don’t recognize them, maybe because they’re not reading the Word of God. But this confidence does not come when you visit the cross, confess your sins and repent of them, but when you seek by the Spirit’s power to live a life before God that is pleasing to Him and conduct before others that do not unnecessarily offend them.[8]

COMMENTARY

Theophylact of Ohrid (1050-1108) makes an insightful comment on whether we will always receive what we ask God to give us? The Apostle John puts it plainly: If we obey God’s commands, then our obedience will bear fruit, for we will receive whatever we request from Him.[9] In other words, if God were to give us everything and anything we ask for whether we submit to His will or not, then there would be no need to seek God’s approval by obeying Him. Thus, compliance produces fruit, and one of those fruit is answers to prayer.

On the subject of prayer and how it can be a continuous exercise of faith with daily benefits, John Calvin (1560-1609) recognizes that sometimes what we want does not match what we need. The Apostle James teaches this distinction: “Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.”[10] Therefore, common sense itself dictates that when we become spiritually lazy, God must stimulate us to pray earnestly whenever the occasion requires.

One of the requisites of legitimate prayer is repentance, says Calvin. The Scriptures declare that God does not listen to the wicked; “They burn incense and love their worthless idols. They choose their ways, and they love their terrible idols.”[11] God had already told them that when they raise their arms to pray to, He will refuse to look at them. They will say more and more prayers, but He will refuse to listen because their hands are covered with the blood of idol sacrifices.[12] The prophet Jeremiah also had a similar message, “Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.”[13]

Hence, says Calvin, the words of James, “When you ask, you don’t receive anything because the reason you ask is wrong. You only want to use it for your enjoyment.”[14] Indeed, faithful and obedient believers do not always trust that the words they use to tell God what they want are sufficient. They take what John says here in verse twenty-two seriously. Ulterior motives shut heaven’s door. We must agree that not all sincere worshipers of God pray perfect prayers. That is why everyone who prepares to pray without being honest with God cannot do so without repentance.[15]


[1] Indulge is used here to signify “giving in, giving way to, yielding to,” a child’s begging when it isn’t to their benefit.

[2] Quid pro quo is a Latin term that means something that is given to you or done for you in return for something you have given to or done for someone else.

[3] Ephesians 6:18

[4] Psalm 66:18; James 4:2-3; 1 Peter 3:7

[5] See John 5:14; 14:14; 15:7;

[6] Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Colossians 1:10

[7] Acts of the Apostles 24:16

[8] Legge, David: Preach the Word, 1,2 and 3 John, op. cit., “Confident Christianity” Part 11, loc. cit.

[9] Theophylact of Ohrid, Bray, G. (Ed.), James, 1-3 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, op. cit., p. 205

[10] James 5:13

[11] Isaiah 66:3

[12] Ibid. 1:15

[13] Jeremiah 11:11

[14] James 4:3

[15] John Calvin: Institutes, Bk. 3, Ch. 20, p. 892

About drbob76

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