WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY  

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson CV) 12/07/21

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.

Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945) points out that if the love of God dwells in the hearts of His children, it must be demonstrated in a practical way. We must express such Love in deed and truth, which is true faith’s fruit. If the believer does this, they will know that they are of the truth. Sad to say, it is lacking those who are empty professing believers. But if we know that we are of the truth, by bearing such fruit of faith, we can assure our hearts before Him, and we can draw near with confidence. As our hearts do not condemn us, knowing that we are of the truth, we have confidence toward God, and whatsoever we ask, we receive from Him because we keep His commandment and do those things pleasing in His sight. It is the same blessed truth our Lord spoke in connection with the parable of the vine. “Stay in union with me, and follow My teachings. If you do this, you can ask for anything you want, and I will give it to you.”[1] [2]

Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965) states that this last paragraph contains comfort of a particular kind, since it reassures believers against themselves. A believer should want nothing to do with hypocrisy; instead, to be a child of the truth, a follower of the truth concerning loving others. The love shown to God’s children is evidence and proof of their new spiritual life. As the Christian grows in sanctification, they will often find that their heart is dissatisfied with the progress made, and therefore proceeds to accuse them of being unloving. It is true, of course, that, as in all matters related to righteousness, so is the case with brotherly love in which we are far from perfection.

Kretzmann explains that we can reassure ourselves before the inner tribunal despite the condemnation of the heart’s criticism. For God is a more superb, more reliable Judge than our heart. He has assured us in His Word that the Savior’s perfect righteousness, credited to us by faith, compensates for our shortcomings. He who knows all things also knows that, despite our faults and weaknesses, we are His children by faith in the Anointed One, Jesus, and that our imperfections are not due to any lack of spiritual willingness or hypocrisy. This way, we defend ourselves against the condemnations of our hearts.[3]

William Neil (1909-1979) says that loving one another is the very heart of the Gospel, the proof that we have passed on from living under the powers of hate and death – like Cain. However, like the Anointed One, living by the strength of love and life is to be empowered by the One who showed His love by offering His life for us. He is our pattern of self-sacrifice, whether it be in great things or in small. In these cases, good deeds count; good words don’t. When helping our neighbors, we can be sure that we are right with God. Even if we think we are not doing enough, let God be the judge, but if we know that we are doing all we can, we are in the right relationship with Him, and His Spirit is ever with us.[4]

Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) states that the Apostle concludes this section that began at verse nineteen, granting the readers blessed assurance in the light of the command to love each other. John relates themes touched on earlier in a slightly new way. He transitions to the Spirit in chapter four. He refers first to keeping the Anointed One’s command of abiding in Him and with other obedient believers. “Abiding” was earlier tied to loving others, [5] doing God’s will,[6] honoring the message heard from the beginning,[7] and receiving God’s anointing.[8] Now it is enforced with commandment-keeping.

Yarbrough explains that the commandment John has in mind is likely believing in the Anointed One and loving one another. It is a fitting summary of this last section to confirm readers of exercising true Christian love. The concept of Belief and Love working together is the same for John as for the Apostle Paul, [9] resulting in the abiding that John (like Jesus) is a fruit of the acknowledging that God is in the Anointed One.

John concludes, says Yarbrough, by stating that those who obey God’s commands remain in fellowship with Him and He with them. And we know He dwells in us because the Spirit He gave also lives in us. However, an important question arises. Does the phrase “by this” (which occurs thirteen times in 1 John)[10] point to the Spirit? In this case, we can understand the Spirit as proof that the believer abides in God. Presumably, the Spirit confirms that commandment-keeping is adequate to assure that the believer dwells in union with the Anointed One. Therefore, we can remain assured that keeping the love-commandment means having the Spirit residing in us.[11]

Colin G. Kruse (1950) suggests that the main point of these last fourteen verses can be summed up in the words: “Those who obey His commands live in Him and He in them. Those who believe in God’s Son and love one another as He commanded them are those who truly live in God and God in them.” Thus, the Apostle John comes back to his primary purpose in this part of his letter. He wants to enable his readers to distinguish between those who claim to live in God but do not (the secessionists) and those who do (those like John and his readers) remain faithful to the message they heard from the beginning.

It is not easy to define what it means to live in God, observes Kruse. Nevertheless, we find this concept in ten places in John’s letter,[12] including here in verse twenty-four as part of a broader concept: the mutual indwelling of believers in God and God in believers. In two of the four places where John mentions this spiritual cohabitation, [13] he says that believers can be assured of it because of the Spirit whom God has given to them. It suggests that when John speaks about believers living in God and God living in believers, it involves something more than just keeping God’s commandments. It is the new and authentic spiritual existence that believers enjoy, which is effective through the agency of the Holy Spirit.[14]

Bruce B. Barton (1954) mentions that this is the first reference in this epistle to the mutual indwelling of the Anointed One and the believer. Jesus’ last discourse in the Gospel of John contains this central theme.[15]Mutual indwelling” means that Christians abide in God and He in them. God and the believers live in one another. The presence of the Spirit in each believer’s life makes this possible. The Christian lives in the Spirit, and the Spirit lives in the Christian.[16] So, what does this mean? When the Spirit guides us, the posture of our heart is oriented toward and harmonizing with God.[17] We aren’t so concerned with what the world thinks of us – we care about pressing on toward our goal to develop God’s characteristics. The only way this can happen is if the Spirit resides in us. A good analogy is a human being’s relationship to air. People must live “in” air so that air can sustain life in them. Likewise, the indwelling Spirit provides believers with the presence of the Anointed One. Thus, the Spirit living in people means the Anointed One lives in them.[18] Once the Anointed One gave His Spirit, He now lives in them.[19]

Daniel L. Akin (1957) notes the Apostle John addresses our keeping the command of God for the fourth time in verses twenty-two to twenty-four, but now he adds a blessing that flows from our obedience. Working backward and paraphrasing the verse helps us clarify what John teaches us. “By the Holy Spirit, whom God has given us as a grace gift, we know that God abides in us, and we abide in God. And, as a habit of this new life in the Anointed One, the person who stays in God continually keeps His commands.” Therefore, John’s point is that keeping God’s command and abiding in God always go together. Having the Spirit of God and living or remaining in God always go together. John’s emphasis on remaining in God is evident in that 54 of the 102 occurrences of this Greek verb menō appear in John’s writings. John wants us to understand that the Spirit – the true Spirit who stands in crystal clear contrast to the false spirits of antichrist[20] – comes as a gift, not as something God is obliged to give us. He is given to us as a grace-gift; He is not something we can earn or merit.

In saying the Spirit was given to us, John looks to the past, to our conversion, the moment we first believed the Gospel and repented of our sins. That’s when we received the Spirit. Verse twenty-four is the first direct mention of the Holy Spirit in John Epistle. This Third Person of the triune God is essential to God’s abiding in our union with Him. He is crucial to helping us discern the false spirits – the spirits of error – that do not confess that Jesus is from God.[21] [22]


[1] John 15:7

[2] Gaebelein, Arno C: The Annotated Bible, op. cit., loc. cit.

[3] Kretzmann, Paul E., Popular Commentary, 1 John, op. cit., pp. 570-571

[4] Neil, William: Harper’s Bible Commentary, op. cit., pp. 528-529

[5] 1 John 2:10

[6] Ibid. 2:17

[7] Ibid. 2:24

[8] Ibid. 2:27

[9] See 1 Corinthians 13:2, 13; Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 1:15; Colossians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 3;6; 5:8; 1 Timothy 1:14; 2:15; 6:11; 2 Timothy 1:13

[10] John 4:20, 21, 27. 37; 5:38; 9:30; 10:3; 12:25; 13:24, 35; 15:8; 16:30; 20:30

[11] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., pp. 215-216

[12] See 1 John 2:5, 6, 27, 28; 3:6, 24; 4:13,15,16; 5:20

[13] Ibid. 3:24; 4:13

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

[15] John 14:20; 15:5; 17:21-26

[16] Barton, Bruce B., 1, 2, & 3 John (Life Application Bible Commentary), op. cit., p. 80

[17] Galatians 5:16

[18] Romans 8:9-11

[19] John 14:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

[20] Cf. 1 John 4:1-6

[21] Cf. Ibid. 4:3

[22] 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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