WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XXXVII) 03/10/22

4:6 But we are God’s children; that is why only those who have walked and talked with God will listen to us. Others won’t. That is another way to know whether a message is really from God, for if it is, the world won’t listen to it.

It’s like the story I heard about the well-known infidel, Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, who traveled around delivering lectures against religion and the Bible. His fame and oratorical ability assured him large crowds of admirers and skeptics. After one very inflammatory speech in which he severely attacked people’s faith in an unseen God, he dramatically took out his pocket watch and held it up. Then he said, “I’ll give God a chance to prove that He exists and is almighty; I challenge Him to strike me dead within five minutes!” A dead silence came over the stunned audience. As the time ticked away, people began to grow uneasy. Some left the hall, unable to take the nervous strain, and one woman fainted. Finally, at the end of the allotted time, the atheist mockingly exclaimed as he put his watch back in his vest pocket, “See!  There is no God; I’m still alive!” After the lecture, a young fellow said to a Christian lady he knew, “Well, Ingersoll certainly proved something tonight!” Her reply was memorable. “Yes, he did,” she said. “He proved God isn’t taking orders from atheists!”

COMMENTARY

In writing about avoiding lying, and the repentance of Hermas (circa 100-200 AD)[1] for his dishonesty, God, told Hermas he should love the truth, that the Holy Spirit living in him should inspire him to be truthful with everyone. Didn’t he know that those who lie are denying the Lord have become robbers of the Lord by not rendering Him the fruit of what he received? That’s when Hermas broke down and began to cry. So, God asked him why he was crying, and Hermas told Him that he had always had trouble telling the truth and live an honest life. Yet, no one bothered to contradict him, and he was credited with telling the truth. How can I live, cries Hermas, seeing I have behaved in such a way? That’s when God said to him: “Your feelings are indeed right and sound, for you ought as a servant of God to have walked in truth, and not joined an evil conscience with the spirit of truth, nor caused sadness to the holy and true Spirit of God.”[2]

Didymus the Blind (313-398) explains that if we take the word “hear” literally, it simply means that we hear all kinds of sounds through our ears. But it must be more than that – it implies that we should obey what we hear. Therefore, if someone does not know how to act, they have not listened.[3] To this, Bede the Venerable adds that the worldly person does not accept the things anointed by God’s Spirit; they consider them foolish. Therefore, those who do not want to listen to preachers of God’s love are soon recognized as not knowing God or what’s coming from Him because they have done nothing to imitate His love toward mankind.[4]

John Trapp (1601-1669) responds to the Apostle John’s remarks that those in union with God listen to us, but those with no contact with God don’t even hear us. Says Trapp, the Anointed One’s sheep are rational; they can discern His voice from that of a stranger and will not become hardheaded when listening to His voice, but with the ear of their soul, which tries doctrines as the mouth does meat, [[5] and knows the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.[6]

Daniel Whitby (1638-1726) tells us that when the bishops of Rome once prove they are of God, as the Apostle did, it will be time to consider the inference of Esthius.[7]He that is of God must hear their bishops and church, come to them, and resolve any doubts about their faith.”[8]

Matthew Henry (1662-1714) says that Christians who are well acquainted with Scripture may, with the Holy Spirit’s help, discern those who present doctrines according to the apostles and those who contradict them. The sum of revealed Christianity is in the doctrine concerning the Anointed One, His person, and office. The false teachers spoke of worldly philosophy according to its maxims and fleshly desires to not offend worldly-minded people. The world approved of them; they made rapid progress and had many followers like themselves; the world will love its own, and its own will love it.

The true doctrine of the Savior’s person leads sinners from the world to the Word. It serves as a mark of the spirit of truth in opposition to error. The more pure and holy any doctrine is, the more likely to be of God; nor can we by any other means try the spirits whether they are of God or not. And what wonder is it that people of a worldly spirit should cleave to those like themselves, who suit their schemes and discourses to their corrupt taste?

Thomas Pyle (1674-1756) says there should be little difficulty in seeing the mark of distinction between these heretics and a true Christian prophet. The others have no vision, only momentary power, greatness, and dominion. They have no other notions of the Anointed One, but that He is a time-based monarch to raise and magnify the Jewish nation by destroying the rest of mankind. On the other hand, a faithful Christian is motivated by the hope of spiritual good and the love of true virtue. However, all who delight in knowing God and true goodness must approve of them. On the contrary, it is no wonder to see the false teachers of these times followed and thronged by the majority that shares the same temperament.[9]

John Gill (1697-1771) talks about what it means to know God. Those personally acquainted with God know Him as the divine protector or as a spiritual power. But as in the Anointed One, not only professionally, but practically; has experimental knowledge of Him, as exercising lovingkindness, having tasted of His grace and goodness; so as to trust in Him, and love Him; for such a knowledge of God has true real affection for Him joined with it; so they love His name, His glory, His truths, and His ordinances.[10] So many know about God, but they do not know Him as one of His children.

James Lindsay (1710-1796) sees the Apostle John speaking against mistaking fanaticism for the move of the Holy Spirit. He says that above all, we must not mistake temporary feelings, which are the offspring of intense spiritual circumstances, with that devoted custom of the mind. Though less passionate, it is more beneficial because it acts by a steady and permanent influence. As to what regards our practice, says Lindsay, let us be equally careful to avoid loud sermon proclamations on the one hand, but never shrink from the open but modest testimony of what we deem essential truths. Let us examine our opinions by the standard of the Gospel and try their practical effect on our temperament and conduct. Let us never rest in emotions, however strong, however religious, until they mature into good spiritual fruit of the spirit. But let us also be careful not to discount extreme zeal so that we do not develop insensitivity and indifference to any move of the Spirit.[11]

James Macknight (1721-1800) notes that the Apostle John appeals to the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit[12] that God bestowed on the Apostles and continued with them as proof of His abiding in them. At the beginning of chapter four, John implied that the inspiration of the Spirit inspired the doctrine they taught. John asserts, in verse four, that God commissioned him and his brethren to teach the world. Therefore, all Christians were bound to acknowledge their authority and receive their doctrine; and if any teacher did not accept their authority, it was proof they were not one of God’s chosen servants.[13]

John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) says that anyone who preaches an incarnate crucified Savior as the only way to everlasting joy is enlightened, approved, sent, owned, as well as born of God. Whoever then truly knows anything about God according to the discoveries they’ve made of the Anointed One in the Gospel will diligently pay attention to and heartedly receive the divine truths we preach under the direction of the Holy Spirit. But those who have not been enlightened and renewed by God pay no attention to our message concerning the Anointed One as the only true Messiah, nor to us who preach it. By this, we easily and clearly discern whether people preach under the anointing of God’s Spirit of truth or the influence of the erroneous spirit of the devil.[14] In other words, the message we preach of God’s plan of salvation is only effective for the speaker and hearer, only with the Holy Spirit’s anointed. It’s not our talent, eloquence, persuasiveness, nor our intellect that draws a soul toward salvation, only the presence of God’s Spirit on the message.

Once again, says Robert Finlayson (1793-1861), the Apostle John’s heart warms toward his readers as his beloved at the thought of danger. It is necessary to bear in mind the circumstances in which they were placed. They had the help of true prophets. The apostolic age had not come to an end. John was still living; others had inspired words to deliver. They had what some minds still craved – unfailing guidance on the spot. But they were not placed beyond danger, as minds never are in this world. Many false prophets had gone out into the world and were in their neighborhood, as they are in all communities where the Anointed One’s truth is published and finding acceptance.


[1] Hermas was a well-to-do freedman and earnest Christian, who lived in Ancient Rome. He was a freed Greek slave living in Rome about the middle of the 2nd century. (Some later writers confuse him with Hermas of Dalmatia, mentioned in Romans 16:14) His writings were accepted as Scripture by Irenaeus (130-202 AD) in his “Against Heresies” (Book IV, Chapter 20:2) by quoting from the Shepherd of Hermas (Book 2, Command I) and Tertullian (ca. 155–230 AD) in his De pudicitia (“On Modesty”) Chapters 10 and 20.

[2] Shepherd of Hermas, Second Part of the Book of Hermas, Command III

[3] Didymus the Blind, (Bray Ed.), James, 2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, op. cit., loc. cit.

[4] Bede the Venerable, Ancient Christian Commentary, Vol. XI, Bray, G. (Ed.), James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John

[5] Job 14:3

[6] Trapp, John: Commentary upon all books of New Testament (1647), op. cit., p. 476

[7] Esthius, a Jewish convert who was a Medical Doctor and Religious writer, died in 1606

[8] Whitby, Daniel, A Critical Commentary and Paraphrase of the Old and New Testament and the Apocrypha, Vol. VI, J. F. Dove, London, 1822, pp. 302, 467

[9] Pyle, Thomas: Paraphrase, op. cit., pp. 395-396

[10] Gill, John. John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible (Kindle Locations 341265-341269)

[11] Lindsay, James: The Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., 1 John, p. 15

[12] See 1 John 3:24

[13] Macknight, James: Literal Paraphrase, op. cit., pp. 89-90

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

About drbob76

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