WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson CIII) 12/03/21

3:24 Those who do what God says – they are living with God and He with them. We know this is true because the Holy Spirit He gave us tells us so.

Therefore, spirituality is the essence where all attitudes and actions find their source. God inherently connects spirituality to everlasting life because eternal life is God’s life. When Christians receive life unlimited, God enlivens them with a new, more abundant life.[1] Likewise, when believers walk with God in fellowship, eternal life manifests itself in them. Sometimes a believer violates the will of their new nature in the Anointed One. When they do this, they disrupt the very stimulating principle of their spiritual being. As soon as that happens, believers constantly have a war between their divine and sinful natures.[2] 

COMMENTARY

On this same subject of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the believer, Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) emphatically states that any venial[3] sin that the Church cannot forgive must be forgiven by the Spirit, by whom the Church is joined as one. In fact, if some unrepentant sinner outside the Church’s fellowship does not repent of a sin that alienated them from God, what does repentance for venial sin profit them? Especially if they grieved the Holy Spirit, alienating themselves from Church fellowship when only the Holy Spirit can forgive remission of sins? The truth is, such remission of sin, though it is the work of the Whole Trinity, is accredited to the Holy Spirit.

For He is the Spirit of the adoption of sons, “in whom we cry Abba, Father,”[4] notes Augustine, so that we may be able to say to Him, “Forgive us our debts.”[5] And, “by this we know” as the Apostle John says, “that the Anointed One dwells in us, by His Spirit given to us.”[6]The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”[7] For to Him belongs the fellowship, by which we are made the one body of the One and only Son of God.[8] [9]

What Augustine means is that all sins committed as a child of God, except the sin against the Holy Spirit, can be forgiven to the repentant soul who seeks to maintain fellowship with God. That is reassured when the same Holy Spirit living in the believer cries out for forgiveness by calling on Abba Father. But it is futile for the Church to forgive a venial sin to someone who is not born again and in union with the Anointed One.

John Calvin (1509-1564) writes on the benefits of the Anointed One made available to us by the invisible operation of the Holy Spirit. But, first, says Calvin, we must see in what way we become possessed of the blessings God bestowed on His only-begotten Son, not for private use, but to enrich the poor and needy. And the first thing we must consider is that as long as we are without the Anointed One and separated from Him, nothing He suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us. Therefore, to communicate the blessings, He received from the Father, we must become His for Him to dwell in us.

Calvin continues. But in order to have a clearer view of these most important subjects: remember that the Anointed One prayed for the Father to send the Holy Spirit in a peculiar manner, namely, that He might separate us from the world and unite us in the hope of an eternal inheritance. Therefore, observing the Scripture’s titles bestowed on the Spirit when it enacts our salvation would be appropriate. Hence, He is called the “Spirit of adoption[10] because He brings assurance to us that by grace through His well-beloved Son, we are now in union with the Father. That allows us to cry out boldly to Him with “Abba, Father.”

Calvin then tells us that the Apostle Paul communicated the same to the Ephesians, “When you believed in the Anointed One, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit.”[11] Thus, this shows that He is the internal teacher, the agent of the promise of salvation. Otherwise, the Gospel would only go into our ears but not penetrate our minds. Paul also says to the Thessalonians, “God chose you to be some of the first people to be saved. You are saved by the Spirit making you holy and by your faith in the truth.”[12] This passage briefly reminds us faith is produced only by the Spirit. This John explains more distinctly, “We know that we live in God and God lives in us. We know this because He gave us His Spirit.”[13] Thus the Apostle John confirms this, “How do we know that God lives in us? We know because of the Spirit He gave us.” [14] [15]

John Owen (1616-1883), speaking about the urgent effort on God’s part, who gives the Holy Spirit, and on the believer’s part, who receive Him, says that the crucial role for the believer is that they get acquainted with the Spirit. It begins with love for God. Then, their acceptance of the Spirit makes known to them their favor in God’s sight – that He is their heavenly Father and will deal with them as with children; and consequently, the promised inheritance will be theirs. Finally, as the Apostle Paul says, He sends His Spirit into their hearts, crying, “Abba, Father.”[16]

So, asks Owen, what should we conclude is the believer’s task from here on? First, the Apostle Paul makes it clear, “Now, you are not slaves anymore. You are God’s children, and you will receive everything He promised His children.”[17] But Paul has more to say, “If we are God’s children, we will get the blessings God has for His people.” Upon being persuaded by the Spirit that we are God’s children, it means, “He will give us all that He has given the Anointed One.”[18] We have, then, a right to an inheritance and the faith it is ours. It is the reason; then, we have the Spirit, persuading us of our kinship and acceptance by God our Father.[19]

In His sermon on verse twenty-four, John Flavel (1627-1691) speaks of the Spirit indwelling the believer. He sees the Apostle John’s effort here as showing how differently the Holy Spirit works on the soul of the uncommitted believer and how He is active in the heart of the committed believer. John’s inquiry is not into the things individuals profess or the duties they perform, but about the character of their hearts and the principles that govern their faith.

According to this test, says Flavel, John challenges believers to examine their hearts. He then calls on them to reflect on the operations the Spirit of God wrought within their souls, assuring them that these gracious effects and fruit of the reborn spirit in their hearts will be solid evidence of their union with Jesus the Anointed One. This amounts to more than a hypothetical hope, under which may lurk a dangerous and fatal mistake. Nevertheless, the gracious effects of the Spirit of God within them are a foundation upon which they can build the certainty of their union with the Anointed One: Now we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.[20]

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) provides observations on various places in Scripture, principally in the Final Covenant, proving; the Doctrine of Original Sin. First, he points to the meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus when the Lord told the head Pharisee: “Humans can reproduce human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.[21] He mentions that the Apostle Paul, often uses the term flesh instead of spirit – that Paul expressly calls “sinful flesh.”[22] It is obvious that by “sinful flesh,” Paul means the same thing spoken of in all contexts: especially when it is said, “the Anointed One was made in the likeness of sinful flesh.” The expression harmonizes with those that speak of the Anointed One sent in a human body like ours to destroy sin’s control over us.”[23]

In his sermon on the fruit of spiritual life, John Wesley (1703-1791) proposes to show “There is now no condemnation for those who belong to the Anointed One, Jesus,” because they “belong to Him because the power of the life-giving Spirit freed them from sin’s power that leads to spiritual death.”[24] Unfortunately, Wesley seems to use the word “condemnation” in the sense of “moral deficiency” (Greek katakrisis)[25] instead of “sin’s sentence to everlasting punishment”(Greek katakrima.)[26] Wesley even says they feel no sense of guilt or dread of the wrath of God. Even though sometimes they may lose sight of God’s mercy and darkness of remorse falls on them, and so far as this is lost, they may, for a time, become the object of censure. He goes on to note that this is not the case of them who are now “in the Anointed One, Jesus,” who believe in His name.


[1] John 10:10

[2] 1 John 3:6-10

[3] In Roman Catholicism a venial sin is a relatively slight wrongdoing that does not entail damnation of the soul.

[4] Romans 8:15

[5] Matthew 6:12

[6] 1 John 2:20

[7] Romans 8:16

[8] 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

[9] Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD): Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Bk. 4, Vol. 6, Sermon 21, p. 693

[10] Romans 8:15

[11] Ephesians 1:13

[12] 2 Thessalonians 2:13

[13] 1 John 4:13

[14] Ibid. 3:24

[15] John Calvin: Institutes, Bk. 3, Ch. 1, p. 568

[16] Galatians 4:6

[17] Ibid. 4:7

[18] Romans 8:17

[19] Owen, John: On Communion with God, p. 325

[20] Flavel, John: The Method of Grace, p. 339

[21] John 3:6

[22] Ibid. 8:3

[23] Edwards, Jonathan, Works of: Vol. 2, The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended, Part 2, Ch. 3, Sect. 1, pp. 594-595

[24] Romans 8:1

[25] 2 Corinthians 3:9; 7:3; See also Galatians 2:11; 1 John 3:20

[26] Romans 5:16, 18; 8:1

About drbob76

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