The apostle directs to the atonement of Christ for help against sinful infirmities. (1,2) The effects of saving knowledge in producing obedience, and love to the brethren. (3-11) Christians addressed as little children, young men, and fathers. (12-14) All are cautioned against the love of this world, and against errors. (15-23) They are encouraged to stand fast in faith and holiness. (24-29)
Verses 1-2 When have an Advocate with the Father; one who has undertaken, and is fully able, to plead in behalf of every one who applies for pardon and salvation in his name, depending on his pleading for them. He is "Jesus," the Saviour, and "Christ," the Messiah, the Anointed. He alone is "the Righteous One," who received his nature pure from sin, and as our Surety perfectly obeyed the law of God, and so fulfilled all righteousness. All men, in every land, and through successive generations, are invited to come to God through this all-sufficient atonement, and by this new and living way. The gospel, when rightly understood and received, sets the heart against all sin, and stops the allowed practice of it; at the same time it gives blessed relief to the wounded consciences of those who have sinned.
Verses 3-11 What knowledge of Christ can that be, which sees not that he is most worthy of our entire obedience? And a disobedient life shows there is neither religion nor honesty in the professor. The love of God is perfected in him that keeps his commandments. God's grace in him attains its true mark, and produces its sovereign effect as far as may be in this world, and this is man's regeneration; though never absolutely perfect here. Yet this observing Christ's commands, has holiness and excellency which, if universal, would make the earth resemble heaven itself. The command to love one another had been in force from the beginning of the world; but it might be called a new command as given to Christians. It was new in them, as their situation was new in respect of its motives, rules, and obligations. And those who walk in hatred and enmity to believers, remain in a dark state. Christian love teaches us to value our brother's soul, and to dread every thing hurtful to his purity and peace. Where spiritual darkness dwells, in mind, the judgment, and the conscience will be darkened, and will mistake the way to heavenly life. These things demand serious self-examination; and earnest prayer, that God would show us what we are, and whither we are going.
Verses 12-14 As Christians have their peculiar states, so they have peculiar duties; but there are precepts and obedience common to all, particularly mutual love, and contempt of the world. The youngest sincere disciple is pardoned: the communion of saints is attended with the forgiveness of sins. Those of the longest standing in Christ's school need further advice and instruction. Even fathers must be written unto, and preached unto; none are too old to learn. But especially young men in Christ Jesus, though they are arrived at strength of spirit and sound sense, and have successfully resisted first trials and temptations, breaking off bad habits and connexions, and entered in at the strait gate of true conversion. The different descriptions of Christians are again addressed. Children in Christ know that God is their Father; it is wisdom. Those advanced believers, who know Him that was from the beginning, before this world was made, may well be led thereby to give up this world. It will be the glory of young persons to be strong in Christ, and his grace. By the word of God they overcome the wicked one.
Verses 15-17 The things of the world may be desired and possessed for the uses and purposes which God intended, and they are to be used by his grace, and to his glory; but believers must not seek or value them for those purposes to which sin abuses them. The world draws the heart from God; and the more the love of the world prevails, the more the love of God decays. The things of the world are classed according to the three ruling inclinations of depraved nature. 1. The lust of the flesh, of the body: wrong desires of the heart, the appetite of indulging all things that excite and inflame sensual pleasures. 2. The lust of the eyes: the eyes are delighted with riches and rich possessions; this is the lust of covetousness. 3. The pride of life: a vain man craves the grandeur and pomp of a vain-glorious life; this includes thirst after honour and applause. The things of the world quickly fade and die away; desire itself will ere long fail and cease, but holy affection is not like the lust that passes away. The love of God shall never fail. Many vain efforts have been made to evade the force of this passage by limitations, distinctions, or exceptions. Many have tried to show how far we may be carnally-minded, and love the world; but the plain meaning of these verses cannot easily be mistaken. Unless this victory over the world is begun in the heart, a man has no root in himself, but will fall away, or at most remain an unfruitful professor. Yet these vanities are so alluring to the corruption in our hearts, that without constant watching and prayer, we cannot escape the world, or obtain victory over the god and prince of it.
Verses 18-23 Every man is an antichrist, who denies the Person, or any of the offices of Christ; and in denying the Son, he denies the Father also, and has no part in his favour while he rejects his great salvation. Let this prophecy that seducers would rise in the Christian world, keep us from being seduced. The church knows not well who are its true members, and who are not, but thus true Christians were proved, and rendered more watchful and humble. True Christians are anointed ones; their names expresses this: they are anointed with grace, with gifts and spiritual privileges, by the Holy Spirit of grace. The great and most hurtful lies that the father of lies spreads in the world, usually are falsehoods and errors relating to the person of Christ. The unction from the Holy One, alone can keep us from delusions. While we judge favourably of all who trust in Christ as the Divine Saviour, and obey his word, and seek to live in union with them, let us pity and pray for those who deny the Godhead of Christ, or his atonement, and the new-creating work of the Holy Ghost. Let us protest against such antichristian doctrine, and keep from them as much as we may.
Verses 24-29 The truth of Christ, abiding in us, is a means to sever from sin, and unites us to the Son of God, ( john 15:3 john 15:4 ) . What value should we put upon gospel truth! Thereby the promise of eternal life is made sure. The promise God makes, is suitable to his own greatness, power, and goodness; it is eternal life. The Spirit of truth will not lie; and he teaches all things in the present dispensation, all things necessary to our knowledge of God in Christ, and their glory in the gospel. The apostle repeats the kind words, "little children;" which denotes his affection. He would persuade by love. Gospel privileges oblige to gospel duties; and those anointed by the Lord Jesus abide with him. The new spiritual nature is from the Lord Christ. He that is constant to the practice of religion in trying times, shows that he is born from above, from the Lord Christ. Then, let us beware of holding the truth in unrighteousness, remembering that those only are born of God, who bear his holy image, and walk in his most righteous ways.
1 John 2:1-29 . THE ADVOCACY OF CHRIST IS OUR ANTIDOTE TO SIN WHILE WALKING IN THE LIGHT; FOR TO KNOW GOD, WE MUST KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS AND LOVE THE BRETHREN, AND NOT LOVE THE WORLD, NOR GIVE HEED TO ANTICHRISTS, AGAINST WHOM OUR SAFETY IS THROUGH THE INWARD ANOINTING OF GOD TO ABIDE IN GOD: SO AT CHRIST'S COMING WE SHALL NOT BE ASHAMED.
1. ( 1 John 5:18 .)
My little children--The diminutive expresses the tender affection of an aged pastor and spiritual father. My own dear children, that is,
these things--( 1 John 1:6-10 ). My purpose in writing what I have just written is not that you should abuse them as giving a license to sin but, on the contrary, "in order that ye may not sin at all" (the Greek aorist, implying the absence not only of the habit, but of single acts of sin [ALFORD]). In order to "walk in the light" ( 1 John 1:5 1 John 1:7 ), the first step is confession of sin ( 1 John 1:9 ), the next ( 1 John 2:1 ) is that we should forsake all sin. The divine purpose has for its aim, either to prevent the commission of, or to destroy sin [BENGEL].
And, &c.--connected with the former; Furthermore, "if any man sin," let him, while loathing and condemning it, not fear to go at once to God, the Judge, confessing it, for "we have an Advocate with Him." He is speaking of a BELIEVER'S occasional sins of infirmity through Satan's fraud and malice. The use of "we" immediately afterwards implies that we all are liable to this, though not necessarily constrained to sin.
we have an advocate--Advocacy is God's family blessing; other blessings He grants to good and bad alike, but justification, sanctification, continued intercession, and peace, He grants to His children alone.
advocate--Greek, "paraclete," the same term as is applied to the Holy Ghost, as the "other Comforter"; showing the unity of the Second and Third Persons of the Trinity. Christ is the Intercessor for us above; and, in His absence, here below the Holy Ghost is the other Intercessor in us. Christ's advocacy is inseparable from the Holy Spirit's comfort and working in us, as the spirit of intercessory prayer.
righteous--As our "advocate," Christ is not a mere suppliant petitioner. He pleads for us on the ground of justice, or righteousness, as well as mercy. Though He can say nothing good of us, He can say much for us. It is His righteousness, or obedience to the law, and endurance of its full penalty for us, on which He grounds His claim for our acquittal. The sense therefore is, "in that He is righteous"; in contrast to our sin ("if any man sin"). The Father, by raising Him from the dead, and setting Him at His own right, has once for all accepted Christ's claim for us. Therefore the accuser's charges against God's children are vain. "The righteousness of Christ stands on our side; for God's righteousness is, in Jesus Christ, ours" [LUTHER].
2. And he--Greek, "And Himself." He is our all-prevailing Advocate, because He is Himself "the propitiation"; abstract, as in 1 Corinthians 1:30 : He is to us all that is needed for propitiation "in behalf of our sins"; the propitiatory sacrifice, provided by the Father's love, removing the estrangement, and appeasing the righteous wrath, on God's part, against the sinner. "There is no incongruity that a father should be offended with that son whom he loveth, and at that time offended with him when he loveth him" [BISHOP PEARSON]. The only other place in the New Testament where Greek "propitiation" occurs, is 1 John 4:10 ; it answers in the Septuagint to Hebrew, "caphar," to effect an atonement or reconciliation with God; and in Ezekiel 44:29 , to the sin offering. In Romans 3:25 , Greek, it is "propitiatory," that is, the mercy seat, or lid of the ark whereon God, represented by the Shekinah glory above it, met His people, represented by the high priest who sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on it.
ours--believers: not Jews, in contrast to Gentiles; for he is not writing to Jews ( 1 John 5:21 ).
also for the sins of the whole world--Christ's "advocacy" is limited to believers ( 1 John 2:1 , 1 John 1:7 ): His propitiation extends as widely as sin extends: that bought them." "The whole world" cannot be restricted to the believing portion of the world (compare 1 John 4:14 ; and "the whole world," 1 John 5:19 ). "Thou, too, art part of the world, so that thine heart cannot deceive itself and think, The Lord died for Peter and Paul, but not for me" [LUTHER].
3. hereby--Greek, "in this." "It is herein," and herein only, that we know (present tense) that we have knowledge of (perfect tense, once-for-all obtained and continuing knowledge of) Him" ( 1 John 2:4 1 John 2:13 1 John 2:14 ). Tokens whereby to discern grace are frequently given in this Epistle. The Gnostics, by the Spirit's prescient forewarning, are refuted, who boasted of knowledge, but set aside obedience. "Know Him," namely, as "the righteous" ( 1 John 2:1 1 John 2:29 ); our "Advocate and Intercessor."
keep--John's favorite word, instead of "do," literally, "watch," "guard," and "keep safe" as a precious thing; observing so as to keep. So Christ Himself. Not faultless conformity, but hearty acceptance of, and willing subjection to, God's whole revealed will, is meant.
commandments--injunctions of faith, love, and obedience. John never uses "the law" to express the rule of Christian obedience: he uses it as the Mosaic law.
4. I know--Greek, "I have knowledge of (perfect) Him." Compare with this verse 1 John 1:8 .
5. Not merely repeating the proposition, 1 John 2:3 , or asserting the merely opposite alternative to 1 John 2:4 , but expanding the "know Him" of 1 John 2:3 , into "in Him, verily (not as a matter of vain boasting) is the love of (that is towards) God perfected," and "we are in Him." Love here answers to knowledge in 1 John 2:3 . In proportion as we love God, in that same proportion we know Him, and vice versa, until our love and knowledge shall attain their full maturity of perfection.
his word--His word is one His "commandments," which are many ( 1 John 2:3 ).
hereby--in our progressing towards this ideal of perfected love and obedience. There is a gradation: 1 John 2:3 , "know Him"; 1 John 2:5 , "we are in Him"; 1 John 2:6 , "abideth in Him"; respectively, knowledge, fellowship, abiding constancy. [BENGEL].
6. abideth--implying a condition lasting, without intermission, and without end.
He that saith . . . ought--so that his deeds may be consistent with his words.
even as he--Believers readily supply the name, their hearts being full of Him (compare John 20:15 ). "Even as He walked" when on earth, especially in respect to love. John delights in referring to Christ as the model man, with the words, "Even as He," &c. "It is not Christ's walking on the sea, but His ordinary walk, that we are called on to imitate" [LUTHER].
7. Brethren--The oldest manuscripts and versions read instead, "Beloved," appropriate to the subject here, love.
no new commandment--namely, love, the main principle of walking as Christ walked ( 1 John 2:6 ), and that commandment, of which one exemplification is presently given, 1 John 2:9 1 John 2:10 , the love of brethren.
ye had from the beginning--from the time that ye first heard the Gospel word preached.
8. a new commandment--It was "old," in that Christians as such had heard it from the first; but "new" (Greek, "kaine," not "nea": new and different from the old legal precept) in that it was first clearly promulgated with Christianity; though the inner spirit of the law was love even to enemies, yet it was enveloped in some bitter precepts which caused it to be temporarily almost unrecognized, till the Gospel came. Christianity first put love to brethren on the new and highest MOTIVE, instinctive love to Him who first loved us, constraining us to love all, even enemies, thereby walking in the steps of Him who loved us when enemies. So Jesus calls it "new," John 13:34 John 13:35 , "Love one another as I have loved you" (the new motive); John 15:12 .
which thing is true in him and in you--"In Christ all things are always true, and were so from the beginning; but in Christ and in us conjointly the commandment [the love of brethren] is then true when we acknowledge the truth which is in Him, and have the same flourishing in us" [BENGEL]. ALFORD explains, "Which thing (the fact that the commandment is a new one) is true in Him and in you because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is now shining; that is, the commandment is a new one, and this is true both in the case of Christ and in the case of you; because in you the darkness is passing away, and in Him the true light is shining; therefore, on both accounts, the command is a new one: new as regards you, because you are newly come from darkness into light; new as regards Him, because He uttered it when He came into the world to lighten every man, and began that shining which even now continues." I prefer, as BENGEL, to explain, The new commandment finds its truth in its practical realization in the walk of Christians in union with Christ. Compare the use of "verily," 1 John 2:5 . John 4:42 , "indeed"; John 6:55 . The repetition of "in" before "you," "in Him and in you," not "in Him and you" implies that the love commandment finds its realization separately: first it did so "in Him," and then it does so "in us," in so far as we now "also walk even as He walked"; and yet it finds its realization also conjointly, by the two being united in one sentence, even as it is by virtue of the love commandment having been first fulfilled in Him, that it is also now fulfilled in us, through His Spirit in us: compare a similar case, John 20:17 , "My Father and your Father"; by virtue of His being "My Father," He is also your Father.
darkness is past--rather, as in 1 John 2:17 , "is passing away." It shall not be wholly "past" until "the Sun of righteousness" shall arise visibly; "the light is now shining" already, though but partially until the day bursts forth.
9-11. There is no mean between light and darkness, love and hatred, life and death, God and the world: wherever spiritual life is, however weak, there darkness and death no longer reign, and love supplants hatred; and Luke 9:50 holds good: wherever life is not, there death, darkness, the flesh, the world, and hatred, however glossed over and hidden from man's observation, prevail; and Luke 11:23 holds good. "Where love is not, there hatred is; for the heart cannot remain a void" [BENGEL].
in the light--as his proper element.
his brother--his neighbor, and especially those of the Christian brotherhood. The very title "brother" is a reason why love should be exercised.
even until now--notwithstanding that "the true light already has begun to shine" ( 1 John 2:8 ).
10. Abiding in love is abiding in the light; for the Gospel light not only illumines the understanding, but warms the heart into love.
none occasion of stumbling--In contrast to, "He that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes." "In him who loves there is neither blindness nor occasion of stumbling [to himself]: in him who does not love, there is both blindness and occasion of stumbling. He who hates his brother, is both a stumbling-block to himself, and stumbles against himself and everything within and without; he who loves has an unimpeded path" [BENGEL]. John has in mind Jesus' words, John 11:9 John 11:10 . ALFORD well says, "The light and the darkness are within ourselves; admitted into us by the eye, whose singleness fills the whole body with light."
11. is in darkness . . . walketh--"is" marks his continuing STATE: he has never come out of "the darkness" (so Greek); "walketh" marks his OUTWARD WALK and acts.
whither--Greek, "where"; including not only the destination to which, but the way whereby.
hath blinded--rather, as Greek aorist, "blinded" of old. Darkness not only surrounds, but blinds him, and that a blindness of long standing.
12. little children--Greek, "little sons," or "dear sons and daughters"; not the same Greek as in 1 John 2:13 , "little children," "infants" (in age and standing). He calls ALL to whom he writes, "little sons" ( 1 John 2:1 , Greek; 1 John 2:28 , 3:18 , 4:4 , 5:21 ); but only in 1 John 2:13 1 John 2:18 he uses the term "little children," or "infants." Our Lord, whose Spirit John so deeply drank into, used to His disciples ( John 13:33 ) the term "little sons," or dear sons and daughters; but in John 21:5 , "little children." It is an undesigned coincidence with the Epistle here, that in John's Gospel somewhat similarly the classification, "lambs, sheep, sheep," occurs.
are forgiven--"have been, and are forgiven you": ALL God's sons and daughters alike enjoy this privilege.
13, 14. All three classes are first addressed in the present. "I write"; then in the past (aorist) tense, "I wrote" (not "I have written"; moreover, in the oldest manuscripts and versions, in the end of 1 John 2:13 , it is past, "I wrote," not as English Version, "I write"). Two classes, "fathers" and "young men," are addressed with the same words each time (except that the address to the young men has an addition expressing the source and means of their victory); but the "little sons" and "little children" are differently addressed.
have known--and do know: so the Greek perfect means. The "I wrote" refers not to a former Epistle, but to this Epistle. It was an idiom to put the past tense, regarding the time from the reader's point of view; when he should receive the Epistle the writing would be past. When he uses "I write," he speaks from his own point of view.
him that is from the beginning--Christ: "that which was from the beginning."
overcome--The fathers, appropriately to their age, are characterized by knowledge. The young men, appropriately to theirs, by activity in conflict. The fathers, too, have conquered; but now their active service is past, and they and the children alike are characterized by knowing (the fathers know Christ, "Him that was from the beginning"; the children know the Father). The first thing that the little children realize is that God is their Father; answering in the parallel clause to "little sons . . . your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake," the universal first privilege of all those really-dear sons of God. Thus this latter clause includes all, whereas the former clause refers to those more especially who are in the first stage of spiritual life, "little children." Of course, these can only know the Father as theirs through the Son ( Matthew 11:27 ). It is beautiful to see how the fathers are characterized as reverting back to the first great truths of spiritual childhood, and the sum and ripest fruit of advanced experience, the knowledge of Him that was from the beginning (twice repeated, 1 John 2:13 1 John 2:14 ). Many of them had probably known Jesus in person, as well as by faith.
14. young men . . . strong--made so out of natural weakness, hence enabled to overcome "the strong man armed" through Him that is "stronger." Faith is the victory that overcomes the world. This term "overcome" is peculiarly John's, adopted from his loved Lord. It occurs sixteen times in the Apocalypse, six times in the First Epistle, only thrice in the rest of the New Testament. In order to overcome the world on the ground, and in the strength, of the blood of the Saviour, we must be willing, like Christ, to part with whatever of the world belongs to us: whence immediately after "ye have overcome the wicked one (the prince of the world)," it is added, "Love not the world, neither the things . . . in the world."
and, &c.--the secret of the young men's strength: the Gospel word, clothed with living power by the Spirit who abideth permanently in them; this is "the sword of the Spirit" wielded in prayerful waiting on God. Contrast the mere physical strength of young men, Isaiah 40:30 Isaiah 40:31 . Oral teaching prepared these youths for the profitable use of the word when written. "Antichrist cannot endanger you ( 1 John 2:18 ), nor Satan tear from you the word of God."
the wicked one--who, as "prince of this world," enthrals "the world" ( 1 John 2:15-17 , 5:19 , Greek, "the wicked one"), especially the young. Christ came to destroy this "prince of the world." Believers achieve the first grand conquest over him when they pass from darkness to light, but afterwards they need to maintain a continual keeping of themselves from his assaults, looking to God by whom alone they are kept safe. BENGEL thinks John refers specially to the remarkable constancy exhibited by youths in Domitian's persecution. Also to the young man whom John, after his return from Patmos, led with gentle, loving persuasion to repentance. This youth had been commended to the overseers of the Church by John, in one of his tours of superintendency, as a promising disciple; he had been, therefore, carefully watched up to baptism. But afterwards relying too much on baptismal grace, he joined evil associates, and fell from step to step down, till he became a captain of robbers. When John, some years after, revisited that Church and heard of the youth's sad fall, he hastened to the retreat of the robbers, suffered himself to be seized and taken into the captain's presence. The youth, stung by conscience and the remembrance of former years, fled away from the venerable apostle. Full of love the aged father ran after him, called on him to take courage, and announced to him forgiveness of his sins in the name of Christ. The youth was recovered to the paths of Christianity, and was the means of inducing many of his bad associates to repent and believe [CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, Who Is the Rich Man Who Shall Be Saved? 4.2; EUSEBIUS, Ecclesiastical History, 3.20; CHRYSOSTOM, First Exhortation to Theodore, 11].
15. Love not the world--that lieth in the wicked one ( 1 John 5:19 ), whom ye young men have overcome. Having once for all, through faith, overcome the world ( 1 John 4:4 , 5:4 ), carry forward the conquest by not loving it. "The world" here means "man, and man's world" [ALFORD], in his and its state as fallen from God. "God loved [with the love of compassion] the world," and we should feel the same kind of love for the fallen world; but we are not to love the world with congeniality and sympathy in its alienation from God; we cannot have this latter kind of love for the God-estranged world, and yet have also "the love of the Father in" us.
neither--Greek, "nor yet." A man might deny in general that he loved the world, while keenly following some one of THE THINGS IN IT: its riches, honors, or pleasures; this clause prevents him escaping from conviction.
any man--therefore the warning, though primarily addressed to the young, applies to all.
love of--that is, towards "the Father." The two, God and the (sinful) world, are so opposed, that both cannot be congenially loved at once.
16. all that is in the world--can be classed under one or other of the three; the world contains these and no more.
lust of the flesh--that is, the lust which has its seat and source in our lower animal nature. Satan tried this temptation the first on Christ: Luke 4:3 , "Command this stone that it be made bread." Youth is especially liable to fleshly lusts.
lust of the eyes--the avenue through which outward things of the world, riches, pomp, and beauty, inflame us. Satan tried this temptation on Christ when he showed Him the kingdoms of the world in a moment. By the lust of the eyes David ( 2 Samuel 11:2 ) and Achan fell ( Joshua 7:21 ). Compare David's prayer, Psalms 119:37 ; Job's resolve, Psalms 31:1 , Matthew 5:28 . The only good of worldly riches to the possessor is the beholding them with the eyes. Compare Luke 14:18 , "I must go and SEE it."
pride of life--literally, "arrogant assumption": vainglorious display. Pride was Satan's sin whereby he fell and forms the link between the two foes of man, the world (answering to "the lust of the eyes") and the devil (as "the lust of the flesh" is the third foe). Satan tried this temptation on Christ in setting Him on the temple pinnacle that, in spiritual pride and presumption, on the ground of His Father's care, He should cast Himself down. The same three foes appear in the three classes of soil on which the divine seed falls: the wayside hearers, the devil; the thorns, the world; the rocky undersoil, the flesh ( Matthew 13:18-23 , 4:3-8 ). The world's awful antitrinity, the "lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life," similarly is presented in Satan's temptation of Eve: "When she saw that the tree was good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise," Genesis 3:6 (one manifestation of "the pride of life," the desire to know above what God has revealed, Colossians 2:8 , the pride of unsanctified knowledge).
of--does not spring from "the Father" (used in relation to the preceding "little children," 1 John 2:12 , or "little sons"). He who is born of God alone turns to God; he who is of the world turns to the world; the sources of love to God and love to the world, are irreconcilably distinct.
17. the world--with all who are of the world worldly.
passeth away--Greek, "is passing away" even now.
the lust thereof--in its threefold manifestation ( 1 John 2:16 ).
he that doeth the will of God--not his own fleshly will, or the will of the world, but that of God ( 1 John 2:3 1 John 2:6 ), especially in respect to love.
abideth for ever--"even as God also abideth for ever" (with whom the godly is one; compare Psalms 55:19 , "God, even He that abideth of old): a true comment, which CYPRIAN and LUCIFER have added to the text without support of Greek manuscripts. In contrast to the three passing lusts of the world, the doer of God's will has three abiding goods, "riches, honor, and life" ( Proverbs 22:4 ).
18. Little children--same Greek as 1 John 2:13 ; children in age. After the fathers and young men were gone, "the last time" with its "many Antichrists" was about to come suddenly on the children. "In this last hour we all even still live" [BENGEL]. Each successive age has had in it some of the signs of "the last time" which precedes Christ's coming, in order to keep the Church in continual waiting for the Lord. The connection with 1 John 2:15-17 is:There are coming those seducers who arc of the world ( 1 John 4:5 ), and would tempt you to go out from us ( 1 John 2:19 ) and deny Christ ( 1 John 2:22 ).
as ye have heard--from the apostles, preachers of the Gospel (for example, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 ; and in the region of Ephesus, Acts 20:29 Acts 20:30 ).
shall come--Greek, "cometh," namely, out of his own place. Antichrist is interpreted in two ways: a false Christ ( Matthew 24:5 Matthew 24:24 ), literally, "instead of Christ"; or an adversary of Christ, literally, "against Christ." As John never uses pseudo-Christ, or "false Christ," for Antichrist, it is plain he means an adversary of Christ, claiming to himself what belongs to Christ, and wishing to substitute himself for Christ as the supreme object of worship. He denies the Son, not merely, like the pope, acts in the name of the Son, 2 Thessalonians 2:4 , "Who opposeth himself (Greek, "ANTI-keimenos") [to] all that is called God," decides this. For God's great truth, "God is man," he would substitute his own lie, "man is God" [TRENCH].
are there--Greek, "there have begun to be"; there have arisen. These "many Antichrists" answer to "the spirit of lawlessness (Greek) doth already work." The Antichristian principle appeared then, as now, in evil men and evil teachings and writings; but still "THE Antichrist" means a hostile person, even as "THE Christ" is a personal Saviour. As "cometh" is used of Christ, so here of Antichrist, the embodiment in his own person of all the Antichristian features and spirit of those "many Antichrists" which have been, and are, his forerunners. John uses the singular of him. No other New Testament writer uses the term. He probably answers to "the little horn having the eyes of a man, and speaking great things" ( Daniel 7:8 Daniel 7:20 ); "the man of sin, son of perdition" ( 2 Thessalonians 2:3 ); "the beast ascending out of the bottomless pit" ( Revelation 11:7 , 17:8 ), or rather, "the false prophet," the same as "the second beast coming up out of the earth" ( Revelation 13:11-18 , 16:13 ).
19. out from us--from our Christian communion. Not necessarily a formal secession or going out: thus Rome has spiritually gone out, though formally still of the Christian Church.
not of us--by spiritual fellowship ( 1 John 1:3 ). "They are like bad humors in the body of Christ, the Church: when they are vomited out, then the body is relieved; the body of Christ is now still under treatment, and has not yet attained the perfect soundness which it shall have only at the resurrection" [AUGUSTINE, Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Homily 3.4].
they would . . . have continued--implying the indefectibility of grace in the elect. "Where God's call is effectual, there will be sure perseverance" [CALVIN]. Still, it is no fatal necessity, but a "voluntary necessity" [DIDYMUS], which causes men to remain, or else go from the body of Christ. "We are either among the members, or else among the bad humors. It is of his own will that each is either an Antichrist, or in Christ" [AUGUSTINE]. Still God's actings in eternal election harmonize in a way inexplicable to us, with man's free agency and responsibility. It is men's own evil will that chooses the way to hell; it is God's free and sovereign grace that draws any to Himself and to heaven. To God the latter shall ascribe wholly their salvation from first to last: the former shall reproach themselves alone, and not God's decree, with their condemnation ( 1 John 3:9 , 5:18 ).
that they were not all of us--This translation would imply that some of the Antichrists are of us! Translate, therefore, "that all (who are for a time among us) are not of us." Compare 1 Corinthians 11:19 , "There must be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." For "were" some of the oldest manuscripts read "are." Such occasions test who are, and who are not, the Lord's people.
20. But--Greek, "And." He here states the means which they as believers have wherewith to withstand. Antichrists ( 1 John 2:18 ), namely, the chrism (so the Greek: a play upon similar sounds), or "anointing unguent," namely, the Holy Spirit (more plainly mentioned further on, as in John's style, 1 John 3:24 , 4:13 , 5:6 ), which they ("ye" is emphatical in contrast to those apostates, 1 John 2:19 ) have "from the Holy One, Christ" ( John 1:33 , 3:34 , 15:26 , 16:14 ): "the righteous" ( 1 John 2:1 ), "pure" ( 1 John 3:3 ), "the Holy One" ( Acts 3:14 ) "of God"; Mark 1:24 . Those anointed of God in Christ alone can resist those anointed with the spirit of Satan, Antichrists, who would sever them from the Father and from the Son. Believers have the anointing Spirit from the Father also, as well as from the Son; even as the Son is anointed therewith by the Father. Hence the Spirit is the token that we are in the Father and in the Son; without it a man is none of Christ. The material unguent of costliest ingredients, poured on the head of priests and kings, typified this spiritual unguent, derived from Christ, the Head, to us, His members. We can have no share in Him as Jesus, except we become truly Christians, and so be in Him as Christ, anointed with that unction from the Holy One. The Spirit poured on Christ, the Head, is by Him diffused through all the members. "It appears that we all are the body of Christ, because we all are anointed: and we all in Him are both Christ's and Christ, because in some measure the whole Christ is Head and body."
ye know all things--needful for acting aright against Antichrist's seductions, and for Christian life and godliness. In the same measure as one hath the Spirit, in that measure (no more and no less) he knows all these things.
21. but because ye know it, and that, &c.--Ye not only know what is the truth (concerning the Son and the Father, 1 John 2:13 ), but also are able to detect a lie as a thing opposed to the truth. For right (a straight line) is the index of itself and of what is crooked [ESTIUS]. The Greek is susceptible of ALFORD'S translation, "Because ye know it, and because no lie is of the truth" (literally, "every lie is excluded from being of the truth"). I therefore wrote (in this Epistle) to point out what the lie is, and who the liars are.
22. a liar--Greek, "Who is the liar?" namely, guilty of the lie just mentioned ( 1 John 2:21 ).
that Jesus is the Christ--the grand central truth.
He is Antichrist--Greek, "the Antichrist"; not however here personal, but in the abstract; the ideal of Antichrist is "he that denieth the Father and the Son." To deny the latter is virtually to deny the former. Again, the truth as to the Son must be held in its integrity; to deny that Jesus is the Christ, or that He is the Son of God, or that He came in the flesh, invalidates the whole ( Matthew 11:27 ).
23. Greek, "Every one who denieth the Son, hath not the Father either" ( 1 John 4:2 1 John 4:3 ): "inasmuch as God hath given Himself to us wholly to be enjoyed in Christ" [CALVIN].
he--that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. These words ought not to be in italics, as though they were not in the original: for the oldest Greek manuscripts have them.
hath--namely, in his abiding possession as his "portion"; by living personal "fellowship."
acknowledgeth--by open confession of Christ.
24. Let that--truth respecting the Father and the Son, regarded as a seed not merely dropped in, but having taken root ( 1 John 3:9 ).
ye--in the Greek standing emphatically at the beginning of the sentence. YE, therefore, acknowledge the Son, and so shall ye have the Father also ( 1 John 2:23 ).
from the beginning--from the time of your first hearing the Gospel.
remain--Translate as before, "abide."
ye also--in your turn, as distinguished from "that which ye have heard," the seed abiding in you. Compare 1 John 2:27 , "the anointing abideth in you . . . ye shall abide in Him." Having taken into us the living seed of the truth concerning the Father and the Son, we become transformed into the likeness of Him whose seed we have taken into us.
25. this is the promise--Eternal life shall be the permanent consummation of thus abiding in the Son and in the Father ( 1 John 2:24 ).
he--Greek, "Himself," Christ, "the Son" (compare 1 John 1:1 ).
promised--( John 3:15 John 3:36 , John 6:40 John 6:47 John 6:57 , John 17:2 John 17:3 ).
26. These things--( 1 John 2:18-25 ).
have I written--resumed from 1 John 2:21 and 1 John 2:14 .
seduce you--that is, are trying to seduce or lead you into error.
27. But--Greek, "And you (contrasting the believing readers with the seducers; the words 'and you' stand prominent, the construction of the sentence following being altered, and no verb agreeing with 'and you' until 'need not') . . . the anointing," &c. (resumed from 1 John 2:20 ).
received of him--( John 1:16 ). So we "are unto God a sweet savor of Christ."
abideth in you--He tacitly thus admonishes them to say, when tempted by seducers, "The anointing abideth in us; we do not need a teacher [for we have the Holy Spirit as our teacher, Jeremiah 31:34 , John 6:45 , 16:13 ]; it teaches us the truth; in that teaching we will abide" [BENGEL].
and--and therefore. God is sufficient for them who are taught of Him; they are independent of all others, though, of course, not declining the Christian counsel of faithful ministers. "Mutual communication is not set aside, but approved of, in the case of those who are partakers of the anointing in one body" [BENGEL].
the same anointing--which ye once for all received, and which now still abides in you.
all things--essential to salvation; the point under discussion. Not that the believer is made infallible, for no believer here receives the Spirit in all its fulness, but only the measure needful for keeping him from soul-destroying error. So the Church, though having the Spirit in her, is not infallible (for many fallible members can never make an infallible whole), but is kept from ever wholly losing the saving truth.
no lie--as Antichristian teaching.
ye shall abide in him--( 1 John 2:24 , end); even as "the anointing abideth in you." The oldest manuscripts read the imperative, "abide in Him."
28. little children--Greek, "little sons," as in 1 John 2:12 ; believers of every stage and age.
abide in him--Christ. John repeats his monition with a loving appellation, as a father addressing dear children.
when--literally, "if"; the uncertainty is not as to the fact, but the time.
appear--Greek, "be manifested."
we--both writer and readers.
ashamed before him--literally, "from Him"; shrink back from Him ashamed. Contrast "boldness in the day of judgment," 1 John 4:17 ; compare 1 John 3:21 , 5:14 . In the Apocalypse (written, therefore, BENGEL thinks, subsequently), Christ's coming is represented as put off to a greater distance.
29. The heading of the second division of the Epistle: "God is righteous; therefore, every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him." Love is the grand feature and principle of "righteousness" selected for discussion, 1 John 2:29-3:3'.
If ye know . . . ye know--distinct Greek verbs: "if ye are aware (are in possession of the knowledge) . . . ye discern or apprehend also that," &c. Ye are already aware that God ("He" includes both "the Father," of whom the believer is born (end of this verse, and 1 John 3:1 ), and "the Son," 1 John 2:1 1 John 2:23 ) is righteous, ye must necessarily, thereby, perceive also the consequence of that truth, namely, "that everyone that doeth righteousness (and he alone; literally, the righteousness such as the righteous God approves) is born of Him." The righteous produceth the righteous. We are never said to be born again of Christ, but of God, with whom Christ is one. HOLLAZ in ALFORD defines the righteousness of God, "It is the divine energy by whose power God wills and does all things which are conformable to His eternal law, prescribes suitable laws to His creatures, fulfils His promises to men, rewards the good, and punishes the ungodly."
doeth--"For the graces (virtues) are practical, and have their being in being produced (in being exercised); for when they have ceased to act, or are only about to act, they have not even being" [ÆCUMENIUS]. "God is righteous, and therefore the source of righteousness; when then a man doeth righteousness, we know that the source of his righteousness is God, that consequently he has acquired by new birth from God that righteousness which he had not by nature. We argue from his doing righteousness, to his being born of God. The error of Pelagians is to conclude that doing righteousness is a condition of becoming a child of God" [ALFORD most truly]. Compare Luke 7:47 Luke 7:50 : Her much love evinced that her sins were already forgiven; not, were the condition of her sins being forgiven.