WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson CI) 12/01/21

3:23 And this is what God says we must do: Believe in the name of His Son Jesus the Anointed One and love one another.

Charles Simeon (1759-1836) notes that some Christians, in their mistaken zeal to interpret the Gospel, are ready to associate the idea of “legality” with the very mention of the term “commandment.” They forget that the two-in-one commandment, if obeyed from love, is the very essence of the Gospel. Furthermore, it is the fruit, desired end, and highest glory of the Gospel. The Apostle John had a passionate love for the Gospel and was zealous of its honor. Therefore, the Apostle John lays great emphasis on obedience here in verse twenty-three.[1]

Frederick Maurice (1805-1872) tells us that where the Apostle John says, “We know what real love is,” that the words “of God” are added before John goes on to say, “We also ought to give up our preferences for our brothers and sisters.[2] So we see that John has been tracing the operation of the Law of Love and the transgression of this Law in earlier ages. He defends the First Covenant against those who say that this Law of Love is not one Moses and the prophets recommend. But John agrees with those who exalted the Final Covenant above the First, to this extent: that love was involved as a hidden principle in every true life’s response to harmful acts in the past.

Although it had not yet been fully revealed, says Maurice, it was seen in Joseph’s tender response to his brothers who sold him into slavery. We also notice it in Moses’ care for the people ready to stone him for being faithful to God’s directives. Furthermore, it comes alive in the burning patriotism of every prophet when their countrymen put them in chains or prison or condemned to die. Although, during those times, no one could confidently say, “I know this love,” they longed to know it. They looked forward to a time when it would be known. The time, says John, has come. The blessing is ours. The Son of God “laid down His life for us.” By this, we know Love. It is the Divine interpretation that comes in acts, not words. We might call it Divine Interaction.[3]

In his sermon on Sunday morning, September 20, 1863, Charles Spurgeon chose verse twenty-three here in the third chapter of John’s Epistle as his text. He points out that on that Sunday, they sang a hymn that goes: “My soul, no more attempts to draw Thy life and comfort from the law,”[4] to emphasize that the Law only brings misery and not comfort. To convince and to condemn is all the Law can do, exclaims Spurgeon. When will all professors, especially all professed ministers of the Anointed One, learn the difference between the Law and Gospel? Most of them mangle God’s Word and serve deadly potions to the people, often containing but one ounce of Gospel to a pound of Law. Knowing that a grain of Law is enough to spoil the whole loaf, it must be pure Gospel. Spurgeon then says, “If it is of grace, it is not of works; otherwise, grace is no more grace; and if it is of works, then it is not of grace, otherwise work is no more work.”[5]

William Barclay (1907-1978) points out that the Apostle John speaks of the two things that are well-pleasing in God’s sight; the two-in-one commandment includes obedience, on which our relationship to God depends. These two commandments-in-one is as follows:

  • We must believe in the Name of His Son, Jesus the Anointed One. Here, we have the word “name,” which is peculiar to biblical writers. It does not mean simply the name by which we call a person. Instead, it means the whole nature character of that person as far as it is known to us. So, the psalmist writes: “Our help is in the name of the Lord.”[6]
  • We must love one another, even as He loved us.[7] This commandment says that we are to love each other with that same selfless, sacrificial, forgiving love with which Jesus the Anointed One loved us. We cannot begin the Christian life until we accept Jesus the Anointed One     for what He is, and we have not received Him in any real sense of the term until our attitude to others is the same as His attitude of love.[8]

Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) brings up a subject not touched on since 1 John 2:8. It is a theme that John now expands on here in verses twenty-three and twenty-four. Previously, “commandment” has been associated with knowing God, loving others, and answered prayer. Now John enlarges the boundaries of commandment in keeping with a two-part statement. The effect will be to assure readers of the confidence of which he has been speaking. First, “His commandment” – whether the Anointed One’s or God’s is unclear – is “that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus the Anointed One.” Now, while John presents the height, depth, and width of salvation’s message throughout his epistle, this is the first time he refers to believing in particular. The call to believe is an ethical imperative. John’s Gospel also focuses on having faith as a moral expectation: “The work God wants you to do is this: to believe in the One He sent.”[9] The act of believing is at the heart of righteous compliance before God.[10]

Colin G. Kruse (1950) points out that in verses nineteen to twenty-two, the Apostle John warned his readers against yielding to any meanness of heart and encouraged them to practice generosity when faced with fellow believers’ material needs. When they did this, John said, they would be obeying God’s command and doing what pleases Him. That is why here in verse twenty-three, John makes it obvious what God’s command is: “To believe in the Name of God’s Son, Jesus the Anointed One, and to love one another as He commanded us.” To believe in the name is the same as believing in the person. To believe in the Name of Jesus the Anointed One involves total commitment and obedience to Him as a person, [11] which always consists in doing what He commanded, “to love one another.” As such, there can be no obedience to God’s commands if there is no love for one another. Also, there can be no love for one another if people close their hearts to those in need. It means there can be no confidence when approaching God in prayer.[12]

Bruce B. Barton (1954) notes that the Apostle John has been openly expressing what Jesus said about loving each other.[13] It was also His commandment – which is one commandment expressed in two parts. There are not two separate commands, but one, since faith and love cannot be separated. Believers must believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus the Anointed One, and love one another. They cannot love each other without having faith in the Anointed One, or honestly believe in Him without having love for other believers. Barton says, “To believe in the Name of Jesus as the Anointed One[14] means to believe in His person – in His essential nature and in what He represents. Those who claim to be Christians must believe in Jesus as the Anointed One, the Son of God, both human and divine, who came to die on the cross for sin. They must be careful to believe in Him, not according to their concepts, but according to the biblical presentation of His person. Today some believe in Jesus as a great teacher, a great moralist, a great humanitarian, but not as the unique Messiah, God’s Son.[15]

Daniel L. Akin (1957) says that verses twenty-three and twenty-four are quietly but clearly Trinitarian, and it provides a grand and glorious summary of the Bible. It is interesting how John packages these verses. Fundamentally, there is one comprehensive command expressed in two parts. First, there must be an explicit belief in the Son, Jesus the Anointed One. It is John’s doctrinal test. Second, there must be an active love for one another. It is John’s moral test. God’s command is “that we believe in the Name of His Son, Jesus the Anointed One.”

Every word in this command is significant, says Akin. Here is the first of nine occurrences of the word “believe” in John’s epistle.[16] It means “to trust or rely on.” Jesus’ “Name” conveys His person and work and all that He is and accomplishes. That Jesus is God’s “Son” emphasizes His eternal deity and unique relationship to the Father. So, “Jesus” is His human name, equivalent to the Hebrew name Joshua. It means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.” And “Christ” means “Anointed One,” God’s Messiah.[17]


[1] Simeon, Charles: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 459

[2] 1 John 3:16

[3] Maurice, F. D., The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 205-206

[4] Written by Isaac Watts, 1709 Watts wrote this to distinguish between the Law and the Gospel.

[5] Spurgeon, Charles, The Spurgeon Sermon Collection: Vol. 2, Sermon 531, p. 356

[6] Psalm 124:8

[7] John 13:34

[8] Barclay, William: The New Daily Study Bible, op. cit., The Letters of John, pp. 98-99

[9] John 6:29

[10] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., p. 214

[11] Cf. John 8:31; Matthew 7:2; Luke 6:46

[12] Kruse, Colin G., The Letters of John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, op. cit., Kindle Edition

[13] John 13:34

[14] The use of “name” can also denote a person’s reputation or authority. For instance, when a police officer yells, “Open the door in the name of the Law,” it means authority. Or when someone says you can trust in the name of a manufacturer of some product, it implies that company’s reputation. However, for Jesus the Anointed One, it means both authority and reputation.

[15] Barton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., pp. 79-80

[16] Cf. 1 John 4:1,16; 5:1,5,10x3, 13x2

[17] Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary), op. cit., Kindle Edition

About drbob76

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