WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson CII) 12/02/21

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.

Peter Pett (1966) sees John sum up this section by indicating the close relationship between “keeping His commandment” and “abiding in Him.” Those who keep (receive, meditate on, keep in mind and carry through in life) His commandment, having believed on His Son Jesus, the Anointed One, do abide in Him, for their response proves their love of Him. It demonstrates they are walking in the Light. And the result is that He stays in them. They are indwelt by God and dwell in God. And the sure positive final evidence of His abiding in us is the Spirit which He gave us, the Spirit Who is. Therefore, God (the anointing) testifies to the truth about Jesus, the Anointed One, as trustworthy.[1]

David Legge (1969) states that the Apostle John offers a test to prove the Anointed One is dwelling in the believer. He will manifest His presence in fulfilling the four tests we’ve seen throughout this epistle, and will do so in the remaining chapters. First, the doctrinal test: “we should believe in the Name of His Son, Jesus the Anointed One.” Then, if the Spirit of God dwells in us because we have confidence toward God through our good conscience, we will believe what is right about Jesus the Anointed One, confess it about Him, and stand for Him. And then the moral test, “we will keep His commandment.”

Then comes the ethical test. Are we obedient to God’s commands? How could the Spirit of God dwell in you and you not be compliant if given complete control over your decisions? Then there’s the social test: you will love one another. If they are abiding, the Spirit of God, [2] the Anointed One, they manifest these fruit. Hear what the Apostle Paul says to the Romans.[3] Looking at it this way in appreciation of the Anointed One, a holy life and love for our brothers and sisters are poured out in our hearts. The Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God – and that ought to bring us more confidence![4]

3:24 Those who obey God’s commandment remain in union with Him and He with them. And we know that because of His indwelling Spirit, He lives in us.

EXPOSITION

The Apostle John is not speaking unprepared; he repeats what he heard the Master say, that love and obedience to Him and the Father means they will come to them and make their home in their lives.[5] So, it did not come as a surprise when Jesus told them later about how their union with Him will result in much spiritual fruit to the glory of the Father.[6] At His last supper with His disciples, Jesus illustrated this union with communion.[7] Therefore, we must have union in our communion with Him. Not just once a month, but every day of our lives.

Jesus felt this was so critical that He even prayed to the Father to help Him and His followers remain in close communion and fellowship.[8] No wonder that the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that they were God’s temple and that His Spirit was living in them.[9] Therefore, worldly idols and worship of the rich and famous have no place in God’s human temple.[10] That’s why we need to protect the truth given to us. Not by ourselves, but thanks to the indwelling Holy Spirit.[11] That is the only way to take control over any sinful tendencies that still lurk in our flesh.[12] Remember, God did this so that He could buy the freedom of those who were under the Law. God’s purpose was to make us His children. Since we are now God’s children, He sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. That’s why the Spirit Himself cries out, “Abba, Father.”[13]

Again, we are in doubt whether “Him” and “He” in verse twenty-four refer to God the Father or His Son, the Anointed One. The former seems better based on what John says in verse twenty-two.[14] Compare the conclusion of the first central division.[15] “By this” probably refers to what follows. John has combined two constructions: “By this, we know…in that.[16]  and “By this, we know…from,[17] His Spirit He gave us. “He” is probably the Father.[18] Until now, John only mentioned the Father and the Son. Now, he introduces the Spirit[19] by name as a witness and test of the truth. The sentence forms the transition to the subject of the next section, [20] which is a sort of parenthesis, after having brought up the issue of love in verse seven.

The idea of “abides” here is “live in union with.” The believer who applies principles of God’s Word to experience lives in fellowship with the Lord.[21] The word “keeps” is a synonym for “applying truth to experience.” It means that the believer who is habitually applying the principles of the Word to knowledge abides harmoniously in union with the Lord.  Abiding is subjective, depending on being filled with the Spirit. Fellowship involves mutual exchange. God lives in one accord with us when we apply truth to experience.  We share the most intimate communion with God, a state that God desires. When God inseparably couples together fellowship with Him and uses His Word’s principles to experience, it characterizes fellowship with God.

Therefore, God’s dwelling in us has the necessary counterpart of our abiding in Him. There is an interchange of relationship and fellowship. The initial cause is always God’s responsibility because, without Him, we can do nothing. Our action is a simple response to God’s action. That is why we can do nothing in our power. All we do is a product of God’s power except the decision to do so. As God’s dwelling in us is His choice, so our abiding in Him is our response to His initiative. This abiding conveys the idea of permanent fellowship.[22]

Here are some things that are active in the believer, which we see here in John’s First Epistle:

  • The Word of God, 2:14
  • The Anointing, 2:27
  • The seed, 3:9
  • The love of God, 3:17
  • God Himself, 3:24; 4:12,13,15
  • The Anointed One (implied in 3:24).[23]
  • The fourth evidence of the new life in the believer is the Spirit-filled life.
  • Keeping God’s commandment, 2:3,4
  • Doing what is right, 2:29
  • Loving in deed as well as word, 3:14,18
  • Filling of the Spirit, 3:24

By this, we know that He is living in us. Hence, applying truth to experience is proof of our fellowship with the Lord. Application of the principles of God’s Word to experience is not the cause but the effect of fellowship with God. Therefore, it is evidence of being in union with Him.

We come to know experientially [Greek verb ginōskō for “to understand,” “to perceive”] that we are in fellowship with the Lord if we apply truth to experience. His abiding in us is just as necessary as our abiding in Him. The Lord is eager to convey to us His pleasure to have fellowship with us by the Spirit He has given us.

Consequently, the Holy Spirit working in us is further evidence of fellowship with the Lord.[24] The true fellowship of life with God is the core of John’s argument in this epistle. Apart from the Holy Spirit, God has given us supernaturally, sending information about our fellowship with the Lord makes it possible to know about God’s viewpoint on fellowship with us. The perfect tense Greek verb didōmi (“has given”) means “permanently.” God gave the Holy Spirit to be with us forever at the point of salvation.[25] The main principle revealed here is that ultimately, assurance of fellowship with the Lord comes from the Lord, not us.

The result of fellowship is an assurance of God’s work in us and power in prayer. The Spirit-filled life is a prerequisite for answered prayer and the capacity to love Christians.[26] The source of assurance of God’s fellowship with us is the abiding Holy Spirit within us. In the final analysis, proof of connection comes from God. The Holy Spirit initiates belief, and He assures us of confidence. He empowers us to love Christians. He affects our wills so that we want to do His will.


[1] Pett, Peter: Truth According to Scripture, op. cit., loc. cit.

[2] Romans 5:5

[3] Ibid. 8:16

[4] Legge, David: Preach the Word, 1.2.3. John, op. cit., Part 11

[5] John 14:21, 23

[6] Ibid. 17:7-10

[7] Ibid. 6:54-56

[8] Ibid. 17:21

[9] 1 Corinthians 3:16; cf. 6:19

[10] 2 Corinthians 6:16

[11] 2 Timothy 1:14

[12] Romans 8:9-17

[13] Galatians 4:5-6

[14] Cf. John 14:15; 15:5

[15] Ibid. 2:24-28

[16] 1 John 3:16

[17] Ibid. 4:6

[18] See John 14:16-17

[19] 1 John 2:20, 27

[20] Ibid. 4:1-6

[21] Ibid. 3:22

[22] John 15:4-5

[23] Cf. John 6:56; 15:5

[24] Romans 5:5; 8:14-16

[25] 1 Corinthians 12:13

[26] Romans 5:5

About drbob76

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