WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XXXV) 03/08/22

4:5 These men belong to this world, so, quite naturally, they are concerned about worldly affairs, and the world pays attention to them.

However, those people who are not from God do not listen to the proclamation of His Word. They refuse to believe the truth: instead, they prefer “the spirit of falsehood.” They also accept full responsibility when they willfully reject the call to repentance and faith in the Anointed One. Believers are able to recognize the Spirit of truth and the lying spirit by observing a listener’s reaction to the preaching of God’s Word. The Apostle Paul gave God thanks, who always leads us in victory through the Anointed One. God uses us to spread His knowledge everywhere, like a sweet-smelling perfume. Our offering to God is to be the perfume of the Anointed One that goes out to those who are being saved and to those who are being lost.[1] To those who are being lost, this perfume smells like death, and it brings them death. But to those who are being saved, it has the sweet smell of life, and it brings them life. So, who is good enough to do this work?[2] [3]

Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) points out that “out of the world” denotes their origin and membership: the spiritual origin and allegiance of the heretics are worldly, which the Apostle John attacks.[4] [5] To put this another way, they came out of the world to be part of the church, but the world never came out of them. They looked for salvation but were never interested in sanctification. Since these are mandatory in order to speak with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, they proclaimed their message in the spirit of the world.

Edward J. Malatesta (1932-1998) convinced that the Apostle John sees the spirit of antichrist acting contrary to the faith proclaimed by the community. Its number one goal is to turn believers away from listening to God’s voice and persuade them to pay attention to what the world likes. In so doing, they isolate them from Jesus and the Father and the truth. They begin by wandering away from the fundamental doctrines they were taught and end up drifting apart from the fullness of loving, personal communion with Jesus, the Father, and the believing community into the emptiness of the world’s selfishness and hatred.[6]

Zane Clark Hodges (1932-2008) has no doubt that those with antichrist spirits are from the world and speak from the world’s viewpoint. For this reason, they get a good hearing from the world. It is always true that satanically inspired thought has a special appeal to worldly minds. But people who are from God or are “of God;” and those “from the world belonged to the evil one.” The “of God” people listen to the apostles; the “of the world” won’t listen at all. The pronouns which begin verses four, five, and six – (You, They, and We) are emphatic in the original and mark off three groups: the readers, the antichrists, and the apostles. Each one who can be described as “from God” (that is, motivated and influenced by God) and thus knows God listens to the apostolic voice. In Church history, the apostolic doctrine has always been how the Holy Spirit of truth and spirit of falsehood can be effectively distinguished. True Christianity is godly Christianity, not ungodly Christianity.[7]

James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) fears that the tragedy of our time is that we do not have enough men and women to proclaim and defend sound doctrine. So, the Truth is not clearly defined, and the Way is not correctly illuminated to envision the Life we have in the Anointed One. The Apostles’ Creed, the only true teaching of the church, illuminates it; and the incarnation of God’s Anointed One defines and gives a focal point to those beliefs. It is for whether we believe that dogma and, if we do, to respond to it. There are not three ways, according to the Apostle John. There are only two ways: the straight way of the Anointed One and the crooked way of antichrist. We are called to serve the Anointed One, and those who are true to God will do so.[8]

John Painter (1935) notes that to say “they are of the world” means that they are the world’s inhabitants rather than the children of God. To call them the world’s offspring is the equivalent of calling them generation of the Evil One or the devil’s brood.[9] They are the world’s descendants because they speak from the determining reality of the world. The world determines the subject and values expressed in their speech. Naturally, the world, whose speech and values are expressed here, listens to them; that is, it receives and approves of what it hears.[10] The people of the world are so anxious and pleased to hear what these evil-spirited speakers have to say because it validates their lifestyle, and they need not fear any retribution from God. That’s why they hated it when a Holy Spirit anointed preachers to tell them the truth.

Muncia Walls (1937) says success in the world’s eyes is calculated by how much one possesses, how many followers one has, how much one has accumulated. But, according to God’s Word, success in God’s eyes is predicated on obedience to the Word of God and obeying the leading of the Spirit with our life. Just because some present-day religious leader boasts of a large following does not mean success in the view of the Word of God. Many such ministers today have tremendous crowds who follow them, but this is no scriptural indication of their message being true. The majority follow them because the greater number are not interested in the truth. Truth brings change, and the masses are not willing to change. They would rather hear Words that comfort them and make them feel good rather than listen to words that cut to the heart and bring about conviction, resulting in repentance.[11] [12]

William Loader (1944) notes that it is obvious that the opponents of the Apostle John and his community had gone the way of the world. Doubtlessly, they did not see themselves as rebels or traitors. On the contrary, they probably formed their community and successfully carried their kind of mission in the world. Maybe the reason the world listens to them indicates the success of their mission. But, on the other hand, perhaps John is simply reinforcing his assertion that their beliefs are a sell-out to the world’s values. John does not elaborate how this is so, but he may see their defamation of the Anointed One’s flesh and their neglect of practical love as symptoms of the world’s system of self-indulgence. From John’s perspective, religion without justice, spirituality without engagement in life’s flesh and blood issues is just another form of the world’s depravity.[13]

Judith M. Lieu (1951) reminds us that the assurance of victory does not mean that hostility and danger belong to the past. There continues to be a division between those whom the Apostle John identifies only as “they” and those whom, in the previous verse, he labeled “you” and “we” of the text. “They” have their origin in and belong to the world; first “you,” then “we,” are aligned with God. Why should this opposition continue to matter if the readers are already confidant of the outcome? Apparently, because the expected consequences of their supremacy had not been realized.

Some forms of future, says Lieu, hope imagined the final defeat of evil and the consequent acknowledgment of God by all. Isaiah saw in a vision, “There will be a steady stream of people from all nations going to Zion.” At the same time, early Christians’ hope anticipated the universal confession of Jesus as Lord.[14] Others were less optimistic: perhaps only the elect would be preserved.[15] In the meantime, if the vast majority failed to respond or even preferred other sets of ideas, this too might itself be part of God’s purpose.[16] For John, the outcome had yet to be fully realized.[17] But he gave one good piece of advice to the community, pay no attention to or believes what the world has to say about Christianity’s future, listen only to those anointed by the Holy Spirit.

Peter Pett (1966) believes that the Apostle John is confident that false prophets will not mislead true Christians because they have “the anointing as true Christians.”[18] The Holy Spirit is within them. And He will lead them into truth. And the Father and the Son also abide within them.[19] They are, and therefore, as John says here in verse six, very much “of God.” So, “greater is He (the Triune God) that is in them than the one who is in the world.” That is why they overcome “them” by not being deceived or led astray, but by holding firmly to the truth and continuing to win souls to such truth. John’s Christian community may sometimes seem to be back on its heels but is not. Remaining in Him will propel them forward to victory.[20]

Duncan Heaster (1967) states that there is a negative aspect attached to all truths; if something is true, then, therefore, other things or ways of life are not true. There are several Bible passages that bring out this dualism.

            “God is light, and in Him, there is no darkness” (1 John 1:5)

               “God is faithful, and there is no unrighteousness in Him(Deuteronomy 32:4)

               “God is righteous, and there is no unrighteousness in Him”(Psalm 92:16)

Therefore, it is quite valid to understand that a set of true teachings by their very nature give rise to a set of untrue ones to be rejected. But more personally relevant for each of us, each truth we perceive leads to things we should do and things we should not. This seems to be good thinking and adherence to God’s Word. But hidden in Unitarian Heaster’s writings is that there is no recognition that when the Apostle John talks about God being light, he’s quoting Jesus, thus showing a distinction between the two. We see this in what Heaster goes on to say in the next paragraph.


[1] Ephesians 5:2/Philippians 4:18;

[2] 2 Corinthians 2:14-16; cf. John 14:17

[3] Kistemaker, Simon J., New Testament Commentary James and I-III John, op. cit., pp. 328-329

[4] Cf. 1 John 1:2:16; John 15:19; 17:14, 16

[5] Smalley, Stephen S., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51., op. cit., p. 228

[6] Malatesta, Edward J., Interiority and Covenant, op. cit., p. 293

[7] Hodges, Zane C., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, op. cit., loc. cit.

[8] Boice, James Montgomery: The Epistles of John, op. cit., p.111

[9] 1 John 3:12-13; 5:19; John 8:39-45

[10] Painter, John. Sacra Pagina: 1, 2, and 3 John: Vol. 18. loc, cit.

[11] Hebrews 4:12

[12] Walls, Muncia: Epistles of John & Jude, op. cit., pp. 70-71

[13] Loader, William: Epworth Commentary, op. cit., pp. 50-51

[14] Philippians 2:10-11

[15] Mark 13:22-27

[16] 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12

[17] Lieu, Judith, The New Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 171

[18] 1 John 2:20, 27

[19] Ibid. 4:13, 16; 5:12

[20] Pett, Peter: Commentary on the Bible, op. cit., PDF., loc. cit.

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s