WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson CIV) 12/06/21

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

Nevertheless, as long as believers have faith and walk with the Spirit’s guidance, neither God nor their hearts will condemn them.[1] Wesley’s error may have caused minor damage because there is little chance any in his audience knew of this distinction in the Greek words translated in English as “condemnation.”

Thomas Scott (1747-1821) states that when we do not experience God’s deep and abiding presence in us, it brings about disruption and neglect of prayer – to our unspeakable disadvantage! However, our hearts will not condemn us[2] when we run into expected roadblocks in our Christian duties. On the contrary, we are like children conscious of having done right and sure of their loving parents’ approval, rejoice when running to meet them.

In the same way, says Scott, we have confidence in God so that “Whatever we ask, we receive from Him.” But this will only manifest itself if we have repented and believed by “keeping His commandment, and doing those things, which are well-pleasing ‘in His sight.’”[3] Thus, salvation by grace and obedience to love’s command is as inseparably connected as God’s command “to believe in His Son Jesus the Anointed One” is to sinners, [4] as well as to love one another “for Jesus’ sake.”[5] This obedience, however, is insufficient for our justification for “in the Anointed One we become the righteousness of God.”[6] This righteousness proves that “We know that we live in God, and God lives in us.[7] Hence, the sanctifying Spirit, which He has given us, forms and maintains the sacred union and “stamps us as God’s children,”[8] which provides us with a foretaste of His eternal contentment.[9]

Augustus Neander (1789-1850) emphasizes that faith in Him proves itself by keeping the two-in-one commandment of the Anointed One. This same truth applies to abiding in fellowship with Him. Thus, by obedience to the two-in-one commandment of the Anointed One, we confirm our voluntary abiding in one accord with the Anointed One. It is the necessary condition on our part to continue to enjoy our communion with the Anointed One and that He may abide in union with us. We must accept this mutual exchange, as proof that keeping the Anointed One’s two-in-one commandment depends on continual sharing fellowship.[10] [11]

William Graham (1810-1883) points to this twenty-fourth verse as uniting the remarkable principles of doctrine, duty, faith, and fulfillment. What the Apostle John says here teaches that a holy life in keeping the commandment of God is the evidence of our mystical union with God in the person of Jesus, the Mediator, and Redeemer. The two-in-one commandment mentioned here refers to faith and love, which seem to be taken by John as a summary of Christianity. In obeying these, says the Apostle, we abide in God, and God in us. For this indwelling of God in the believing soul, consult what John says elsewhere.[12]

The language of these and similar passages is undoubtedly figurative, which should cause us to inquire how the great Yahweh, whom the heavens cannot contain, dwells in the hearts of His people. However, it does not imply that this indwelling involves God’s omnipresence in creation, including humanity. In that case, it would be a reality for everyone and not a privilege for God’s children. Otherwise, all the passages that speak of our being in God, the Anointed One, and their indwelling in us would have no meaning.[13]

Edward Garbett (1817-1887), an important religious figure and writer of the 19th century in England, talks about the abiding witness of God’s ownership of us as His children. He says that some persons crave God’s pledge because they are worried about what it requires. They seem to regard it as something over and above a believer’s ability to comply. But, in fact, the assurance of faith is simply an elevated and established belief. We find this spoken of in a well-known Gospel song sung of years ago called “Higher Ground.[14] This maturing faith rests on the promises that are the foundation of all faith. But, on the other hand, some shrink from naming anything “blessed assurance” and reject it as though it is arrogant and presumptuous thinking. If our salvation were our work, or if it were half our work and half God’s work; if our wisdom, strength, or righteousness had anything to do with the praiseworthy foundation for our justification, our misgivings would be warranted. But the work is altogether God’s work. Hence, to question the full completion of the work is to doubt God, not ourselves.[15]

Brooke Westcott (1825-1901) sees the Apostle John dividing these last twelve verses into three sections: Hatred and Love (verses 13-15); Manifestation of Love (verses 16-18); and Fruit of Love (verses 19-24). With hatred being a characteristic of the world’s spirit, love is a vital sign of the presence of new life through the Anointed One in Christians. The world’s hatred is modeled after Satan’s greed, while love is patterned after the sacrifice of the Anointed One. John chooses Cain and Abel to illustrate this division. When it comes to the manifestation of love, this extends to every action during the Christian’s life. But it must be more than just words; it must be put into action and proven genuine. As such, love demonstrates its fruit in the believer’s confident sense of truth’s Light in the darkness of condemnation.[16]

Robert Cameron (1839-1904) says that according to what the Apostle John has said so far, we are looking up to God in confidence now, as we await the appearance of the Anointed One. Thus, we can assure our hearts of our Lord’s joyful acceptance. We have the freedom to speak to God in prayer, and we know that He hears us, for we are desirous to keep His commandment. This commandment is simple; the essence is that we receive His love into our hearts and share it with His children to receive in unhindered fullness and freeness and let it flow out to one another in the same wholeness and warmth. We must realize that the complete essence of the Christian life is to celebrate in the love of God. We should be overwhelmed with it, to be full of it, to be molded by it, and then to let the sweetness of that love go out to those redeemed by the blood of the Anointed One.[17]

F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) offers an honest assessment of the Apostle John’s message concerning love for our fellow believers. Says Meyer, Love to our brothers and sisters is a sign that we have been born into God’s family. We may not like them all, yet we can love all of them. If we love, live, and learn in the most profound sense, we can cherish them; that is, we put others first, and our care for them brushed with the crimson tint of sacrifice. It means that Love is not measured by lip service or affection of the heart, but by the extent to which we do or suffer. Believers should never be too sure about themselves; as humans, we are still unsure and changeable; but God understands us and helps us become what we would have us be.[18]

In his arguments for the attainability of sanctification, A. M. Hills (1848-1931) points out how the Apostle Paul was so “assured” and “calm” during all the trials that he endured. He had the witness within him and knew that his “life was hidden with the Anointed One in God[19] and that a sanctifying Savior was living in him.[20] It was what enabled the Apostle John, in another instance of sanctification, to says here in verse twenty-four: “Those who obey God’s commandment remain in fellowship with Him and He with them. And we know He lives in us because the Spirit He gave us lives in us.[21]

George G. Findlay (1849-1919) comments on the phrase, “in this we know that we are of the truth.” There is no more excellent example of this phrase, says Findlay, than the declaration of Jesus before Pilate: “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.[22] In other words, “The true heart knows its King when He speaks.” Something lay hidden in Pilate’s heart that a person might doubt could be harbored in a person so cold-hearted and unreceptive. There are two tests of true-heartedness – John’s test and his Master’s; to love our fellow believers and honor the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. Such love found can only be found in the circle of those obedient to the Anointed One. Behind both stands, the truth: the Father who sent His Son to win our faith and give us the Spirit by whom souls are born into the love of God and mankind.[23]


[1] Wesley, John, Works of: Vol. 5, Sermons on Several Occasions, Sermon 8, p. 154

[2] 1 John 3:20

[3] Ibid. 3:22

[4] Ibid. 3:23

[5] See John 13:34

[6] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[7] 1 John 4:13

[8] 2 Corinthians 1:22

[9] Scott, Thomas: First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 496

[10] John 15:7-8

[11] Neander, Augustus: The First Epistle of John, Practically Explained, op. cit., pp. 231–232

[12] John 17:21-24, 6:56; 1 John 4:15, 16

[13] Graham, W. (1857). The Spirit of Love, op. cit., pp. 237-238

[14] I’m Pressing on the Upward Way, by Johnson Oatman Jr., (1856-1922) 

[15] Garbett, Edward: The Biblical Illustrator, Vol. 22, First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 292-293

[16] Westcott, Brooke: Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 111-115

[17] Cameron, Robert: The First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 157-158

[18] Meyer, F. B. Through the Bible, op. cit., pp. 161-162

[19] Colossians 3:3

[20] Galatians 2:20

[21] Hills, A. M. Holiness and Power, Ch. 9, p. 126

[22] John 18:37

[23] Findlay, G. G. (1909). Fellowship in the Life Eternal: An Exposition of the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 294

About drbob76

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