WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XXX) 02/25/22

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. 

However persistent and intense hatred may be, it is not as persistent, patient, or powerful as agápe-love. God lives through love in His people for their salvation, but Satan dwells in the world to destroy the worldly. And the loving, saving Spirit is immeasurably greater and mightier than the hating, destroying spirit. God’s presence within His people is the secret of their victory over heretical teachers; this Presence in the soul imparts power for spiritual conflict and conquest. The most effective safeguard against error in religious faith and union is not the subtle and strong intellect but the devout and godly spirit and the upright life. The secret of the Lord is with them that reverence Him.[1] In the conflicts of the spiritual life, the mightiest weapons are not logical but devotional. In this sphere, the greatest victories are often won on our knees. The consciousness of God’s presence within us is the inspiration for achieving the most inspiring conquests.[2]

Augustus Neander (1789-1850) notes that with the Apostle John having taught how to distinguish the revelations of the Spirit which is from God, and of that which is not from God; the Apostle holds out a consolation for believers in their conflicts with the representatives of that ungodly spirit: You belong to God, my dear children. So, it is not our spirit against the antichrist spirit, but the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.[3] This war between God’s Spirit and the devil’s spirit began in heaven and will only end in the burning pit of eternal fire. In the meantime, we must not let the evil spirit convince us, like he did to Eve, that we are wrong, God has lied to us, we are our gods after all. As William Henley wrote, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.[4]

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) says that what was true then is true now. He who dwells in the hearts of Christians by His Spirit is infinitely mightier than Satan, “the ruler of the darkness of this world,” and victory, therefore, over all his arts and temptations may be sure. Thus, a Christian should never despair in their conflicts with sin, temptation, and error, for God will ensure victory.[5]

Johann P. Lange (1802- 1884) states that the victory referred to here is inward in the heart. It is a conquest not only in their heart but also outward, visible in the life, in the sphere of their church-life. The defeat is Satan and his false prophets. But it is an advantage actually achieved, a prize of continuous duration notwithstanding a succession of conflicts; through these very struggles and conflicts the gain is already achieved and decisive, you have overcome! You have it! By your faithfulness, their seductive arts and temptations have been baffled. Why? Because the heavenly Spirit in us is greater than the worldly spirit that leads them. What a triumph![6]

Daniel Whedon (1808-1885) says that verse four contains the antichrist spirit’s second test, pitting the world against the Church. But John gives them the blessed assurance that they have overcome the world.[7]

John Stock (1817-1884) reminds us that Christians are God’s workmanship.[8] Each person in the sacred Trinity is the author of a true confession; and infinite grace. The Father elects, chooses, and redeems and gives them to His Son.[9] The Son receives and saves and keeps those given to Him without losing one.[10] The Spirit seals, sanctifies, comforts, and preserves in God’s heavenly kingdom, convincing of sin, righteousness, and judgment.[11] And so the Church is energized, and is enlarged, and endures to this day. It will exist, expand, and be enshrined in an increased progression until the end; to the uttermost; until the day of the Anointed One, the day of His appearing, which He called the last days![12]

Truly,” Stock cries out; “every Christian may exclaim, ‘O Lord, what great works you do! And profound are your thoughts!’[13] When each of us considers their salvation, so totally unmerited; so wonderfully applied; so continually enjoyed. Those who are God’s children, by reverence and love, are secure; choosing His ordinances, using His confirming and consoling sacraments, and abstaining from every evil way: overcoming and not overcome because greater is He that is in them, than he that is in the world![14]

William Kelly (1822-1888) remarks that no Epistle has a nobler opening than this, though that of the Epistle to the Hebrews may be reasonably close. Both epistles immediately introduce the incarnate Son, the Word, who became flesh. The writers wanted to direct the attention of those Jews who confessed Jesus as the Anointed One and His glorified person and office in heaven. He is the One on whom the work of redemption is founded. It was also to guard believers everywhere from all new doctrines or holy living by having them recall that “What was from the beginning” was unchanged from the grace and glory of His person manifested on earth as both God and man united in Him forever. Furthermore, the man who ascended into heaven depicted the person God sent down from heaven as the Anointed One giving eternal life is the same.[15] Nevertheless, the Epistle to the Hebrews is rich in its unfolding of His person, as this First Epistle fully presents His atoning work throughout.[16]

Kelly adds that God, by virtue of redemption, was pleased to give the Holy Spirit to the Christian in a measure and way which was not possible before the Anointed One’s death, resurrection and ascension. Meanwhile, Satan set up his empire to counterfeit the heavenly gift and thwart the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He performs these evil deeds by the many apostates and false prophets who not only mislead others to perdition but inflict on themselves vengeance more severely than the guilty Jew or the ignorant Gentile. That’s why the Apostle John took care to present the two-fold criterion of the truth in the simplest and most direct form for the help of every Christian who needs it.[17]

Kelly also warns that there is nothing that exposes the believer (and it has always been so) to greater danger than severing the Holy Spirit from the Anointed One. John always binds His power with the Anointed One’s name. We will remain in the truth if we remember that the one object of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Anointed One, and this, therefore, becomes the test in practice: the Spirit of God must ever operate to keep the Anointed One before our eyes. If not, we are not far from a snare. Connect the Spirit with the church merely, and then you will have popery; connect Him simply with individuals, and you will have fanaticism. He is a free and evident witness to the Anointed One.

There is this truth, says Kelly; the Holy Spirit was sent down to take charge of the things the Anointed One started and explain them to us. He is come to glorify (not a priest nor even the church, but) the Anointed One. This is the truest glory of the saint and the Church – their greatest blessedness and joy. In the Anointed One’s name, the Church is formed by the Holy Spirit; through Him also, the Holy Spirit dwells in the believer. There is no doubt that the testimony and ways of each and all are perpetually for exalting our God by the Anointed One Himself. If they fail here, the salt has lost its savor.[18]

William Alexander (1824-1911) says that Ephesus’ wholesale burning of books resulted from awakened convictions. Ephesus, at great expense, burnt curious and evil volumes, and the “word of God grew and prevailed.”[19] The Apostle Paul then proceeds to show how the people of Ephesus manifested such costly shame just over the matter she was rewarded by being made a depository of the most precious books that ever came from human pens. Timothy was Bishop of Ephesus when Paul’s two great pastoral Epistles addressed to him were sent.[20]  All John’s writings point to the same place. The Gospel and Epistles were written there or with primary reference to the capital of Ionia. The book of Revelation was, in all probability, first read at Ephesus.[21]

Daniel Steele (1824-1914) mentions that the false prophets who were able to seduce weak believers from their loyalty to the Anointed One are permanently conquered by the Apostle John’s hearers. This is implied by the use of the perfect tense, [22] to all of which John explains in his Gospel as the key where Jesus told His disciples, “The time is coming – in fact, it is here – when you will be scattered, each one returning to their own home, leaving me alone. Yet, I will not be alone, for the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world.”[23] [24] As Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) said, the Christian’s victory is in virtue of that which the Anointed One has already won for all time. The image of the “victory” of believers’ recurs constantly in First John and Book of Revelation.[25] This power is applied by the mutual indwelling of God and the believer.[26] [27]


[1] Psalm 25:9, 14; cf. John 7:17

[2] Plummer, Alfred: First Epistle of John, Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 22, Homiletics, pp. 119-120

[3] Neander, Augustus: First Epistle of John, op. cit., Chapters IV, V, p. 245

[4] Cf. Invictus by William Ernest Henley

[5] Barnes, Albert: Notes on N.T., op. cit., p. 4861

[6] Lange, Johann: Exegetical Commentary, op. cit., p. 134

[7] Whedon, Daniel D., Commentary of the Bible, op. cit., p. 273

[8] Ephesians 2:10

[9] 1 Peter 1:2; 2:9. John 6:37

[10] John 6:37; 10:8; Luke 15:2

[11] Ephesians 1:18; 2:1; Romans 15:16; Jude 1:1; John 16:8

[12] John 6:39

[13] Psalm 92:5

[14] Stock, John: Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 325-326, 328

[15] John 3:13

[16] Kelly, William: Exposition of the Epistles of John the Apostle, Bible Truth, loc. cit.

[17] Kelly, William: An Exposition of the Epistles of John the Apostle, Logos, loc. cit.

[18] Kelly, William: Lectures Introductory to the Study of the Catholic Epistles, Wh. H. Broom, London, 1870, pp. 320-321

[19] Ibid. 19:20

[20] Johann Bengel, on Acts 19:19, 20, finds a reference to manuscripts of some of the synoptical Gospels and of the Epistles in 2 Timothy. 4:13, and conjectures that, after Paul’s martyrdom, Timothy carried them with him to Ephesus.

[21] Alexander, William: The Expositor’s Bible, op. cit., p. 82

[22] See 1 John 2:14, 5:4; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 12:11

[23] John 16:32-33

[24] Steele, Daniel, Half-Hour, op. cit., p. 100

[25] Elsewhere it is found only in Romans 8:37, 12:21. 

[26] 1 John 3:24; 4:16; John 15:4

[27] Westcott, Brooke F., The Gospel According to St. John, John Murray, London, 1892, p. 236


About drbob76

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