WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson XCVII) 11/25/21

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

John Bunyan (1628-1688) talks about the judgment of the wicked and sees the Book of Life produced as evidence that will decide the prisoner’s fate. So, the first thing to consider is whether their name appears in this book. If so, it will show their conversion and faith in the Savior. Also, there will be a record of their service to Him, along with the things He was able to do through them with the help of His Spirit. They will also see the work of a broken and contrite spirit and walking with God, as living stones, [1] in this world.

But unfortunately, notes Bunyan, unrepentant sinners will see that these things are missing in their record, but it’s too late for repentance. It will be like the remorseful criminal with the rope around their neck when the trap door beneath their feet suddenly opens. It will be a tragedy that the glory of heavenly things will appear to them too late. They will see the Anointed One and the true nature of faith and grace, but it will occur when the gate to salvation is locked, and the fountain of mercy stops flowing. They will pray and repent most earnestly, but it will be as they sink in the great flood of eternal wrath when they cannot run to Him.[2]

Well then, says Bunyan, tell me, sinner, if the Anointed One were to come now to judge the world, would you survive a trial by the Book of Life? Are you confident that your claim of conversion, faith, and all other graces you think you possess are made of gold, silver, and precious stones? Look out! He comes as a refiner’s fire[3] and as fuller’s soap.[4] Could you endure the melting pot or the cleaner’s scrubbing? Look at yourself ahead of time, declares Bunyan, for “Anyone who follows the true way comes into the light. Then the light will show that whatever they have done was done through God.”[5] [6]

John Gill (1697-1771) draws a line when it comes to whatever we ask of God expecting an answer. He says that the answer will come only when what we ask for is in accordance with His promise.[7] That is to say, that you who believe in God’s Son will know without a doubt that you have eternal life. And how bold and free you become in His presence, freely asking according to His will, sure that He’s listening every time you call on His Name. That way, by faith, you’ll know that whatever He gives you will be in harmony with His will.[8] [9]

In showing the characteristics of gracious and holy affections, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) states that it is plain to see that the Anointed One gave rules to all Christians on what to look for when distinguishing between born-again sheep and those masquerading as sheep led by the Great Shepherd, Jesus. And, says Edwards, whereas the Apostle Paul says, the Spirit bears witness with our reborn spirits;[10] the word “spirit” here means our “conscience,” which is called the spirit of mankind.[11] Elsewhere we read, “I can say with a clear conscience that it is true.”[12] And the Apostle of John says here, “Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. So, we can come to God with bold confidence without feeling guilty.”[13] [14]

In speaking about what the Apostle John says here about how our actions will show that we belong to the truth, which will help when we stand before God, John uses the illustration of Cain and Abel and their sacrifices to God. As we know, Abel’s sacrifice was accepted, while Cain’s was not. Abel offered his sacrifice in faith, while Cain gave his out of convenience. Abel’s sacrifice cost the life of a lamb, while Cain’s fruit of the ground was expendable without any animated life taken.

Then, Edwards quotes God’s message to Cain, “If you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you.”[15] Not at Cain’s door, but God’s door. As Edwards sees it, Cain’s wicked ways lay, as it were, at the entrance of God’s temple, to prevent Cain’s admittance and reconciliation with God: they stood as a partition wall between God and Him. So likewise, humanity’s evil sins are a cloud through which their prayers cannot pass and hinder their offerings from being brought into the holy place: they are a thick veil before the opening of the Holy of Holies, to block access to God.[16] [17]

Charles Finney (1792-1875) says that there has never been, and there can never be, sin without condemnation.[18] God will not repeal the law because He did not enact it based on a random thought. It is as unchangeable and cannot be annulled as is His divine nature. God can never revoke nor alter it. He can for the Anointed One’s sake dispense with the execution of the penalty when the subject has returned to complete obedience to the law, but in no other case, and upon no other possible conditions. To affirm that He can prove that God can alter the immutable and eternal principles of moral law and moral government, which is impossible even for God.[19]

On the subject of how an approving heart has confidence in prayer, Finney uses verses twenty-one and twenty-two here in this chapter. Finney writes that if our heart does not condemn us, it is because we are conscious of being conformed to all the light we have and of doing the whole will of God as far as we know it. While in this state, it is impossible to conceive Him as condemning us for not having the correct view of His character. Our intelligence rejects the supposition that He does or can blame us for our present condition. Nevertheless, we may be deeply conscious that we have done wrong and feel guilty, knowing that God would disapprove of our past sins even now. However, the pardoning blood of the Anointed One intervened, pardoning us for past sins through His redeeming blood. And about the present, the apparent truth is that if our conscience fully approves of our state, and we are aware of having acted according to the best understanding we have, it contradicts all our ideas of God condemning instead of loving us. He is a father, and He cannot but smile on His obedient and trusting children.[20]

 Alexander L. R. Foote (1805-1878), Minister of the Free Church, Brechin, Scotland, talked about the connection between faith and the state of the heart. He tells us that there is a particular blessing or privilege here spoken of, “then have we confidence toward God.” Confidence is expressive speech. It is one of the principal ways confidence displays itself; the heart is bold, the mouth opened, and the whole soul pours out its feelings without restraint and disguise. It is a very remarkable part of our nature, especially when we are motivated to persuade those we love and in whom we confide the sacred treasures of our heart from God’s Word.

Consequently, says Foote, as confidence grows, hesitation disappears like winter’s frost in the warm rays of spring’s sunshine. And just like man-to-man communication, so is man-to-God communion. The degree to which we are willing to reveal all our sins, wants, and sorrows to Him will depend on our confidence in Him. It is a most blessed state of mind a believer can have and experience. There is a firm foundation laid for it in the Gospel; the atonement realized by faith will produce this in the soul as nothing else can.[21]

Robert Candlish (1806-1873) tells us that the Apostle John presents us with the highest possible model or ideal to imitate. “This is how we know what real love is: Jesus freely gave His life for us. So, we should be willing to give our lives for each other as brothers and sisters.”[22] Then immediately, by way of contrast, John offers a way to energize one of the most uncomplicated and familiar ways to exercise human compassion. He questions: “If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion – how can God’s love be in that person?”[23]

It looks a lot like irony or sarcasm, says Candlish. Unconditional love for fellow believers should be capable of being unselfish enough to give everything, including one’s life, for them. Yes! And it would, if that were necessary, to save them for sure destruction. So, you might say or think, what happens if someone has a comfortable lifestyle, sees a brother or sister in need, and decides to shut the door of compassion to them? John makes it clear that God’s love has no place in their heart? That is not the way God loves.[24]


[1] See 1 Peter 2:4-5

[2] See 1 Timothy 6:15; Matthew 25:10, 11; Psalm 32:6

[3] Cf. Proverbs 17:3; Isaiah 48:10; Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:3; 1 Peter 1:7

[4] See Malachi 3:2; cf. Proverbs 25:20; Jeremiah 2:22; Note: the Hebrew verb kāḇas means “to wash.” The “fuller” was usually the dyer, since, before the woven cloth could be properly dyed, it must be freed from the oily and gummy substances naturally found on the raw fiber.

[5] John 3:21 – Easy to Read Version (ERV)

[6] Bunyan’s Practical Works: Vol. 1, The Resurrection of the Dead, pp. 332-336

[7] Matthew 7:7

[8] Cf. 1 John 5:13-15

[9] John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible (Kindle Location 341100)

[10] Romans 8:16

[11] Proverbs 20:17

[12] 2 Corinthians 1:12

[13] 1 John 3:19-21

[14] Works of Jonathan Edwards: Vol. 2, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, Part 3, p. 857

[15] Genesis 4:7

[16] 1 John 3:21-22

[17] Ibid. Vol. 6, Notes on the Bible, Miscellaneous Observations, p. 776

[18] 1 John 3:20-21

[19] Finney, Charles: Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, Lecture 10, p. 152

[20] Finney, Charles Sermon Collection: Vol 3, An Approving Heart; Confidence in Prayer, p. 1532

[21] Foote, Alexander L. R. The Biblical Illustrator, Vol. 22, First Epistle of John, pp. 268-269

[22] 1 John 3:16

[23] Ibid. 3:17

[24] Candlish, R. S., The First Epistle of John Expounded in a Series of Lectures, op. cit., pp. 316-317

About drbob76

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