WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER THREE (Lesson CVI) 12/08/21

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.

Ken Johnson (1965) gives us an enlightening chart to follow through this third chapter, providing us comparisons between God’s Children and the Devil’s Brood.[1] Here is my redacted version:

God’s ChildrenDevil’s Brood
Understand God’s Love. (1 John 3: 1)Know neither believers nor God. (1 John 3:1)
Will see Jesus in the flesh (1 John 3:2)Do not believe Jesus will return in the flesh (2 John 1:7)
Will have a resurrected body as Jesus has. (1 John 3:2)Will not obtain a glorified body. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
Purify ourselves by looking forward to the Rapture. (1 John 3:3)Do not anticipate the Rapture (1 John 3:2-3)
Believe Jesus is sinless (1 John 3:5)Believes Jesus has a sinful nature like all other humans. (Mark 2:13-17)
Cannot habitually practice sin (1 John 3:6, 9)Feel no guilt from practicing sin and breaking the Law. (Luke 13:1-9)
Practice righteousness and meet the needs of our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:7)Practice unrighteousness (1 John 3:7-8, 17)
Belong to God, our Father (1 John 3:1-)Belong to the Devil, their father (1 John 3:10)
Do what is right (1 John 3:10)Do what is wrong. (Romans 7:14-25)
They are hated by the world. (1 John 3:10)Are loved by the world (1 John 3:15)
Love people and witness to them (1 John 3:10, 14)Hate their brothers and are, therefore, murders (1 John 3:15
Have eternal life (1 John 3:14)Do not have eternal life (1 John 3:15)
Have a clear conscience before God, and receive the things they ask of Him. 1 John 3:20-21)Have a seared conscience and do not receive answers to prayer. (1 Timothy 4:2)
Believe Jesus is the only begotten Son of God and the only Anointed One. (Daniel 9)Deny Jesus is the only Son of God or He is the Anointed One. (1 John 3:23)
Obey His commandment. (1 John 3:24)Do not obey His commands. (2 Timothy 3:1-7)

There is an old French proverb that says, “tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner” (“to understand everything is to forgive everything.”) God judges us by the deep emotions of the heart; and, if in our heart there is love, then, however feeble and imperfect that love may be, we can with confidence enter into His presence. The perfect knowledge which belongs to God, to God alone, is not our horror but our hope.

Peter Pett (1966) says we must be careful not to take the promise here in verse twenty-four too literally or out of context. It is not true that God will give us whatever we ask. We will not receive anything from this world contrary to God’s will, rather than what is necessary for living; the promise is given only to those who keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight, for they will ask for what is right. Their prayers will be for the extension of God’s Kingly Rule, in addition to things necessary for His service, not for themselves. It is in line indeed with what Jesus taught the disciples.[2] The point here is that they can be bold to seek His help in bringing about the extension of His Kingdom and pushing back at the false prophets. Compare the promises given to the Apostles in the light of their coming ministry.[3] In one of these formulations, Jesus[4] uses almost identical terminology to the present verse in John’s epistle.

Pett tells us that John is saying it is not enough just to believe in God. The test of a genuine faith towards God is that we worship the Anointed One as God’s only Son, His only begotten Son, Jesus, the Anointed One, with all that it involves.[5] Also, we accept that to be acquainted with God’s Son is to know the Father.[6] Furthermore, we agree that everything the Father has is ours through the Anointed One, so each believer can call it “Mine.”[7] Not only that, but acknowledge that all decision-making has been assigned to the Anointed One.[8]

In addition, we recognize that the Anointed One can make alive whom He desires in cooperation with the Father.[9] Added to this is we approve that He is equally deserving of honor as the Father.[10] That we admit He is the great eternal “I AM.”[11] Moreover, we welcome the fact that the Holy Spirit of God does His bidding.[12] And besides that, we defend the concept that He and the Father make their dwelling place in us.[13] To which is added, we certify that the Father glorified Him with the glory they shared before creation.[14] And finally, we uphold that as the Word, He is God and the Creator of all things.[15] Accepting all this made the Apostle Thomas cry out, “My Lord and my God.”[16] [17]

David Legge (1969) says we now have confidence as we abide in the Anointed One, and His living in us. So, as the Apostle John says here in verse twenty-four, as we continue to keep His commands, we live deeply and surely in Him, and He lives in us. And this is how we experience His deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit He gave us. So, says Legge, underline what I’m going to tell you: When your conscience is right with God, it’s because it has been washed and sprinkled by the precious blood of the Lamb. You’ve confessed your sins to God and to others, and He has forgiven you. You’ve come to your fellow believer and been reconciled and put all things right, and there exists confidence that your heart that is clean and pure, your conscience is clear, permitting the Anointed One to live in you and you in Him, and it is the presence of the Holy Spirit![18]

Douglas Sean O’Donnell (1972) sees the Apostle John in verses twenty-three and twenty-four, tying together his flow of thought with a Trinitarian conclusion. Moving from our confession and commitment to Jesus, John concludes that the Father (“God”), Son (Jesus, the Anointed One), and Spirit (His Holy Spirit) abide in us.[19]

ADDENDUM

At this point, I want to share with you what, I believe, is a good way to interpret all the guidelines and procedures that the Apostle John gives us in his epistle as instructions on how to fulfill his teaching on Christian ethics and conduct. But, first, we must consider the practical aspects of those directives and the spiritual elements that apply. In other words, if we want to follow what John says in ways that come the closest to the way it was practiced in his day, we have to look at the pragmatism of such an endeavor.

The reason for this is that in the 1st Century AD, the customs and manners relative to dress, mode of transportation, societal norms, expected behavior, working conditions, cuisine, the prevalence of idolatry, standard ethics, and virtues, etc., need an examination to determine if it is at all possible to do them in the way they did back then. If none of these things are still part of our society and church customs, then we must look for the spiritual principles behind John’s appeal for compliance.

For instance, Jesus said that if anyone compels you to carry their heavy load one mile, go two.[20] In Jesus’ day, the standard mode of transportation was to walk. So, it would seem somewhat odd for your construction boss to order you to walk with him carrying some heavy materials for a mile to the building site. But you must comply without complaining when you find out it also involves additional building supplies for a construction site a mile beyond that. Since this is not reasonable, we are obligated to look for the spiritual principle involved and forget the practical application, especially if we want our modern congregation to understand the purpose.

This contrast between practical and principle is necessary to explain better why the Apostle John gave these teachings and instructions in the first place. Thus, we see the need to reduce any insistence on doing things the way they did back then and look for the applicable spiritual principle in the teaching. As an example, John tells us that during the Last Supper, while some of the disciples were still eating, Jesus stood up, took off His robe, wrapped a towel around His waist, and poured water into a basin. Then He began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel He had around Him.[21] Unfortunately, some modern translations insert “got up from the supper table[22] when the word “table” is not in the original Greek text.


[1] Johnson, Ken. Ancient Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., p. 76

[2] Matthew 6:7-15

[3] Cf. John 14:13-16; 15:7, 16; 16:23-26

[4] John 16:23-24

[5] Ibid. 1:14-18

[6] Ibid. 14:9; 8:18

[7] Ibid. 16:15

[8] Ibid. 5:22, 26

[9] Ibid. 5:21

[10] Ibid. 5:23

[11] Ibid. 8:58

[12] Ibid. 15:26

[13] Ibid. 16:7

[14] Ibid. 17:5

[15] Ibid. 1:1-3

[16] Ibid. 20:28

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

[18] Legge, David: Preach the Word, 1,2,3, John, op. cit., Part 11

[19] O’Donnell, Douglas Sean, 1–3 John (Reformed Expository Commentaries), op. cit., Kindle Edition.

[20] Matthew 5:41

[21] John 13:4-5

[22] See New Living Translation

About drbob76

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