WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FOUR (Lesson XXXIX) 03/14/22

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.

Sir Rowland Hill (1795-1879), English teacher, inventor, and social reformer, reminisces that there was a pastor who addressed several candidates for the ministry, and as he was going from one theme to another, he paused and said, let me tell you a story. Having amassed comfortable independence, a well-known barber retired to his hometown, becoming a preacher in a small chapel. Another person from the same village, being similarly fortunate, settled there and attended the former barber’s church. This other gentleman wanted a new toupée and said to his pastor, “Perhaps you could make one for me.” The Pastor/barber readily agreed. The poorly made hairpiece came to the gentleman’s home at double the usual price. The good gentleman said nothing, but when the barber/preacher said anything worth listening to, the gentleman’s first thought was, “That’s excellent, but I can’t forget his overcharging me for the toupée.” When the preacher/barber prayed with apparent anointing, he also thought, “This should touch my heart, but I can’t forget the toupée.” Now, my dear young brethren, said the pastor wherever you are assigned to minister, don’t forget the toupée.[1] In other words, actions speak louder than words.

Charles Hodge (1797-1878) insists that the power granted by the Anointed One to His Church of binding and loosening, of forgiving or retaining sin, is not absolute but conditional.[2] For example, our Lord said to His disciples, “They who hear you, hear Me.”[3] That means people are required to believe the Gospel preached by the disciples as if they heard it from the lips of the Anointed One. If these words are to be understood as addressed exclusively to the Apostles and include a promise of infallibility in teaching, the meaning is substantially the same. People were as much bound to receive the Apostles’ doctrines, as teachings of the Anointed One, for what He taught, they taught. That’s why the Apostle John says here in verse six that the people who know God listen to us.[4]

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) says that we can distinguish those who embrace the truth from those who do not. Whatever pretensions they might offer for being a devout Christian, it was clear that if they did not embrace the doctrines taught by the true apostles of God, they could not be regarded as His friends; that is, as true Christians. It may be added that the same test is applicable now. Those who do not receive the doctrines laid down in God’s Word, whatever pretenses in their devotion to God and the Church, or whatever zeal they may offer in the cause they promote, can have no well-founded claims to the name Christian. One of the most unmistakable pieces of evidence of true reverence is the readiness to receive all that God taught through His Son.[5] [6]

Robert Smith Candlish (1806-1873) outlines the importance of these first six verses in order to ask a question that guarantees our full and final victory over antichrist and his spirit lies in the emphatic declaration: “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” He that is in you is the Spirit of God; for “hereby we know that God abides in us, by the Spirit which He gave us;”[7] the Spirit that, being of God, “confesses that Jesus the Anointed One is manifested in the flesh.[8] He that is in the world is the spirit of antichrist, “whereof you have heard that it should come, and even now, it is already in the world.”[9] Therefore, you who “are of God have overcome the spirits[10] – the “spirits” are false prophets “that are gone out into the world.”[11] They are of the world; what they teach is what worldly people love to hear.[12] We, the true teachers, are of God; what we speak is of God; and meets with the acceptance, not of those who are not of God, but of those who, being of God, knows God. With this test, the spirit of truth in us is distinguished from the spirit of error in them.[13] So, from whom do you obtain the truth?[14]

Then Candlish explains that the spirit of error and the spirit of truth are everywhere, and it may be these sifting, trying, critical days at hand. What is to be your protection? How are you to be prepared? Let me warn you, says Candlish, discerning the spirit of error is not done with head knowledge, nor logic, or rhetoric, or philosophy, or theology; nor creeds, or catechisms, or confessions; nor early training in fundamental manuals; nor familiarity with the brightest and most fundamental writings; nor skill in argument and debate. Nothing will do but God in you; in your heart of hearts; God in the Anointed One dwelling in you; God giving you the Spirit.

A personal experience will bring that blessed assurance to keep you safe. For as the person not of God won’t listen to our truth who speak under the anointing, they know God will not listen to the false prophets. So, the Good Shepherd Himself assures us. He “goes before the sheep, and they follow Him, for they know His voice; they will not follow strangers but flee from them, for they are unfamiliar with strangers’ voices.[15] My Father is the one who gave them to me, and He is greater than all.  No one can steal My sheep out of His hand.”[16] [17]

Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885) says that we follow the true apostolic traditions from the Anointed One, as claimed with bold emphasis by the Apostle John in the first three verses of this chapter. Hence, here is the third test of the antichrist spirits – not following the true Gospel’s history and doctrine, as maintained and declared by John and his fellow apostles. The Apostle Paul seems to have had the same problem with Timothy’s members.[18] As the apostles were the chosen witnesses and pupils of Jesus, their narrative of facts and statements of principles are solely authoritative. The heretics were outsiders. They took their systems from the spirit of the age – the world – mixed them with Christian dogma and undertook to hand an unhistorical, unauthentic pseudo-Christianity to the Church.[19]

William Graham (1810-1883) tells us that this strong confidence of faith, expressed in the words “You are of God,” is what sustained England’s reformation fathers in many a dark and cloudy day. They were contending face-to-face like believers against the Romish antichrist, for the right to worship God according to the Scripture, and planted in tears and blood the tree of liberty, under whose shade British Protestants now enjoy such expansion and restfulness. So, it is with the individual soul as well. We fall back upon the confidence that we are of God that His agápe-love has conquered our stubbornness, His mercy pardoned our transgressions, and His promises filled us with humble but immortal hopes. “You are of God,” says the Apostle John, “His creatures, His children, His peculiar treasure, the trees of His planting, the branches of His vine, the stones in His temple, the vessels of His mercy, and the heirs of His heavenly glory. So do not be afraid, little flock; it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you, His kingdom.”[20] [21]

John Stock (1817-1884) writes that when God in His loving mercy converts our souls, He does not destroy their properties but gives them their true and proper direction and use. Any person in union with the Anointed One becomes a new creature; they partake of a newly created life.[22]  Once the abode of chaotic darkness, the mind now has the light of truth to guide it. Former sinners with attitudes, kindled from below and full of hostility toward God, are now delivered, enjoying God’s agápe-love from above, and have a foretaste of heaven. Their will, before aggressive, is now on God’s side, reconciled to God, and submissive to His influence. Their imagination, by which Satan accesses the soul, is cleansed by God’s inspiration and adorns the temple of the soul. Sins are blotted out, the heart quickened of God, made through grace His habitation, the new creation appears as a result of God’s formation, beyond angelic or human power, to His sole glory, and eternal praise!

Dr. Stock continues by issuing this message: Listening to the still small voice of God, contained in His Word, and spoken by Himself, His Prophets, and Apostles will allow us to escape the desolation and the anguish which will come like a whirlwind on those who have no interest in God’s counsel, nor of His discipline.[23] They will find it difficult to escape from the maze of error and enjoy the freedom of the children of Light. This Light and Liberty increases the richness of the Anointed One’s word active in us with wisdom. The more we resemble the Lord, such are blessed, as the Lord Himself affirms, saying, “Blessed are your ears because they hear.”[24] [25]

Charles Ellicott (1819-1904) mentions that this is the anthesis to those not of God. In condemnation of Cerinthus and other opponents, John feels the grave duty to assert the apostolic Gospel’s genuine truth and divine authority. There could be no spiritual pride in this; it was a conscientious obligation. God spoke in them, and their loyalty forbids any denial or accommodation.[26] When heretics said, “The Anointed One ought to have said this or that,” the Apostles had only to reply, “But He didn’t say it.” In other words, “Get real!” The criterion here is much the same as in 1 John 4:2-3, but regarded from a different point of view: attention to false innovators or faithful adherence to Jesus the Anointed One of history.[27]


[1] Hill, Rowland, His Life, Anecdotes, and Pulpit Sayings by Vernon J. Charlesworth, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1876, The Barber and the Wig, p. 124

[2] Matthew 18:18 is analogous to many others in the Scriptures and is all to be explained in the same way.

[3] Luke 10:16

[4] Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology, op. cit., Vol. III, pp. 656-657

[5] Cf. Matthew 18:1-3; Mark 10:15; James 1:19-21

[6] Barnes, Albert: Notes on N.T., op. cit., pp. 4862-4863

[7] 1 John 3:24, 4:13

[8] Ibid. 4:2

[9] Ibid. 4:3

[10] Ibid. 4:4

[11] Ibid. 4:1

[12] Ibid. 4:5

[13] Ibid. 4:6

[14] Candlish, Robert S., First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 92

[15] John 10:5, 26

[16] Ibid. 10:29

[17] Candlish, Robert S., First Epistle of John, op. cit., pp. 92-93; 102-103

[18] 1 Timothy 1:11-20

[19] Whedon, Daniel D., Commentary of the Bible, op. cit., pp. 273-274

[20] Luke 12:32

[21] Graham, William: A Practical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 255

[22] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[23] Proverbs 1:27

[24] Matthew 13:16

[25] Stock, John: Expositions of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 837-338

[26] Cf. John 18:37

[27] Ellicott, Charles. Ellicott’s Bible Commentary for English Readers, p. 16235

About drbob76

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