WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XXIX) 02/24/22

4:4 Since you belong to God, my dear children, you have already won a victory over those worldly people because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

Matthew Poole (1624-1679) feels that by the Apostles being born again and enjoying God’s guidelines and strength, they overcame these notions of the heretics that the flesh meant nothing, only the soul. It also gave them the courage to face the persecution that came at them from the antichrist crowd and so-called Christian speakers. That’s because the Holy Spirit was strong in them than the lying, impure spirit of the antichrist in their distractors.[1]

Daniel Whitby (1638-1726) focuses on the word “overcome.” He says the doctrine we preach and confirm by these gifts and distributions of the Holy Spirit has prevailed mightily over all the opposition the unbelieving Jews and false apostles made against it. That’s because the spirit that acts in them can only work through them with counterfeit and lying imitations. In contrast, the Spirit that is in us enables us to confirm the truth with real miracles, signs, and various gift distributions by the Holy Spirit, by which God bears witness to the truth of that doctrine you preach.[2] [3]

William Burkitt (1650-1703) hears the Apostle John telling those he’s writing that they are of a nobler descent, of a more excellent pedigree, and higher offspring when compared to these antichrists and their false teachers. Christians are God’s children, regenerated by God’s Spirit, enlightened by His new birth creation, led by His guidance, motivated by His influences, and animated by His assistance. Thus, they have overcome them and their false doctrines because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. We cannot accomplish this on our own, that’s impossible, but with God’s Spirit living in us.

Thomas Pyle (1674-1756) says that the Apostle John is telling every child of God that the powers of the Holy Spirit displayed by the Anointed One, conferred on His apostles, and residing in many churches, give testimony that their faith is far superior to what these worldly-minded imposters pretend to have with their false doctrines.[4]

John Bunyan (1628-1688) noted that God put hostile feelings between the woman and her seed and the serpent and his seed.[5] This hostility was so embedded that nothing could remove it; it will remain in the world. These two seeds have always had, and will have, that which is essentially opposite to one another, and they are “the spirit of truth and the spirit of error,”[6] sin and righteousness, [7] light and darkness.[8] Hence, says Bunyan, “an ungodly person is a plague to the godly, and those who live right by standing in their way, to shame those who live wrong.”[9]

James Macknight (1721-1800) responds to the Apostle John’s words in verse four by saying that the goal of the divine government will be that truth and virtue will finally be victorious over error and wickedness. That’s because God, the supporter of truth and virtue, possesses far great power and wisdom than the evil spirits who promote heresy and iniquity.[10]

John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) reminds us that we who are born of God as His children have been taught by His Spirit to avoid or withstand or overcome these imposters, exposing their errors by remaining steadfast in our faith, profession, and obedience. We do not defeat them through debates, arguments, or ecumenical cooperation. He who dwells in us is greater than he who dwells in the world both in wisdom and power to the antichrist spirit present in the world under Satan’s control.[11] As I heard one preacher encourage us, “If the devil comes and tries to discourage you because of your past, just remind him of his future.” 

Richard Rothe (1799-1867) believes that if a believer looks at themselves in comparison with the world and the forces in it with the natural eye, they certainly cannot seem to themselves to be greater than they. Also, in their experience, it only too frequently becomes clear to them that they, as the weaker, succumbs to the world. But they should and can believe that indeed they are stronger than the world because the Spirit of God, which is in them, is mightier than the world and its spirit. So, being conscious of their weakness, they keep this fact constantly before them. It would be fatal self-deception if any Christian tried to convince themselves that they are not weak. Instead, clearly distinguish between themselves and Him that dwell in them, and in proportion, as they acknowledge their weakness, they should also recognize the invincible power of their God.

Wherever we are not confronted with those who deny the historical Anointed One, says Rothe, we should not speak of an antichristian tendency, neither should we do so when we meet denial, not of the fact itself, but only of a form in which it has up until now been represented the spirit of Antichrist. This should have no place to dwell in anyone whose interest is remaining true to Jesus the Anointed One in the history of humanity. We should not drive away such a person from us, nor separate ourselves from them, but should rather attempt to come to an understanding with them.[12]

There are two things that Rothe does not mention here. One of them is that when the antichrist spirits confronted Jesus, He never said He didn’t have time for them. And the second one is that attempting to understand such an atheistic individual does not include compromise. It means we find out where they stand and then let them know where we stand and how we both stand in the eyes of God. They will then know they will never persuade you to join them as part of the antichrist crowd, and will also know that they don’t have what you have in your personal relationship with the God and Anointed One they don’t have. Keep this in mind; their war is in the material world; ours is in the spiritual world. The only spirit they may have been that of the antichrist, but the Spirit we have is that of our heavenly Father, and He is greater than the antichrist and their father, the devil.

Robert Young (1822-1888), the famous producer of the “Literal Translation” of the Bible, renders verse four this way: “Ye – of God ye are, little children.” So, it isn’t that the Apostle John calls them his little children but identifies them as God’s little children in the faith. Young continues this format in verse five: “They – of the world they are;” and in verse six: “we – of God we are.[13]

Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) focuses on the term, “he that is in the world,” which implies the ruler of the world, [14] who is the devil, the father of these lying teachers, [15] whose works the Anointed One came to destroy.[16] By saying “them in the world” rather than “the world in them,” the Apostle indicates that they belong to “the world’s system of ethical values and philosophical virtues.” The Apostle John constantly teaches that the Christian’s work in this state of trial is to conquer “the world.” It is, in other words, to fight successfully against that view of life which ignores God, against that complex system of attractive moral evil and suspected intellectual falsehood which is organized and arranged by the great enemy of God, and which permeates and inspires non-Christianized society.[17] If Dr. Plummer were alive today, he might say, regrettable, that many so-called Christians are not only them in the world but the world in them.

Charles Simeon (1759-1836) in one of his sermons on First John stated that considering the opposition made to Christianity in the apostolic age, it is surprising that it gained so rapidly, so extensive, and so permanent a footing in the world. That its establishment resulted from miracles, there is no doubt: but miracles, unless attended with a divine power to the hearts of the beholders, could change no minds. The very raising of Lazarus from the dead served only to embitter the minds of many against Him who caused it to happen. That which gave energy to the Word, and caused it to work effectually for the conversion of souls, was the power of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, after many embraced the Gospel, every possible method Satan could devise was used to turn them from it: but millions maintained their steadfastness, even to the end: for, as the Apostle John informs us, “greater was He that was in them than he that was in the world.”[18]

Rev. William Basil Jones (1822-1897) points to the Apostle John saying that He that was in the Christians is God; he that was in the world is Satan, “the prince of this world.” So, (Question), how does God dwell in His people. (1) By His Word.[19] (2) By their faith (3) By their love to Him.[20] (4) By His Spirit.[21] Not only that but (Answer), God is greater than Satan. (a) God is independent, but Satan is dependent.[22] (b) God is infinite, but Satan is finite.[23] (c) God is the God of truth, [24] but Satan is the father of lies. (d) God is healing, but Satan is malignant.


[1] Poole, John: Commentary on 1 John, op. cit., loc., cit.

[2] See Romans 15:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; Hebrews 2:4

[3] Whitby, Daniel: A Paraphrase with Annotations, op. cit. p. 467

[4] Pyle, Thomas: Paraphrase, op. cit., p. 395

[5] Genesis 3:15

[6] 1 John 4:6

[7] Ibid. 3:7-8

[8] 1 Thessalonians 5:5

[9] Proverbs 29:27

[10] Macknight, James: Literal Paraphrase, op. cit., p. 88

[11] Brown, John of Haddington, Self-Interpreting Bible, op. cit., p. 1327

[12] Rothe, Richard: The Expository Times, December 1893, p. 124

[13] Young, Robert: Translation of the Whole Bible (1863), op. cit., loc. cit.

[14] John 12:31

[15] Cf. 1 John 3:10; John 8:44

[16] 1 John 3:8

[17] Plummer, Alfred: Cambridge Commentary, op. cit., p. 144

[18] Simeon, Charles: Horæ Homileticæ, op. cit., Vol. XX, Sermon 2453, pp. 469-470

[19] Psalm 1:2; 119:97

[20] 1 John 4:12-13, 16; John 14:23

[21] 1 John 4:13; John 14:16-17

[22] Cf. Job 1:12; 2:6

[23] Revelation 20:1-3

[24] John 8:44


About drbob76

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