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Bible Commentaries
1 John 2

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Verse 1

1 John 2:1 . Observe the sudden change in the Apostle’s manner. His heart is very tender toward his people, and he adopts an affectionate and personal tone: (1) He passes from the formal “we” to “I”. (2) He styles them τεκνία μου , filioli mci, mcine Kindlein his favourite appellation ( cf. 1 John 2:12 ; 1 John 2:28 ; 1Jn 3:7 ; 1 John 3:18 ; 1 John 4:4 ; 1 John 5:21 ). Not only was it very suitable on the lips of the aged teacher, but it was a phrase of Jesus ( cf. John 13:33 ). St. John had caught the phrase and its spirit. He remembered how the Master had dealt with His disciples, and he would deal with his people after the same fashion and be to them what Jesus had been to himself as gentle and patient.

He assumes this tone because he is about to address a warning to them, and he would fain take the sting out of it and disarm opposition. He foresees the possibility of a two-fold perversion of his teaching: (1) “If we can never in this life be done with sin, why strive after holiness? It is useless; sin is an abiding necessity”. (2) “If escape be so easy, why dread falling into sin? We may sin with light hearts, since we have the blood of Jesus to cleanse us.” “No,” he answers, “I am not writing these things to you either to discourage you in the pursuit of holiness or to embolden you in sinning, but, on the contrary, in order that ( ἵνα ) ye may not sin.” Cf. Aug.: “Lest perchance he should seem to have given impunity to sins, and men should now say to themselves, ‘Let us sin, let us do securely what we will, Christ cleanses us; He is faithful and righteous, He cleanses us from all iniquity,’ he takes from thee evil security and implants useful fear. It is an evil wish of thine to be secure; be anxious. For He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, if thou art always displeasing to thyself and being changed until thou be perfected.” As a physician might say to his patient: “Your trouble is obstinate; the poison is in your blood, and it will take a long time to eradicate it. But I do not tell you this to discourage you or make you careless; no, on the contrary, to make you watchful and diligent in the use of the remedy”; so the Apostle says: “My little children, these things I am writing to you in order that ye may not sin”.

If, however, we fall into sin, let us not lose heart, for Παράκλητον ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν Πατέρα . παράκλητος , “one called to your side,” so, in a forensic sense, “one who undertakes and champions your cause,” “an advocate”. Vulg., Advocatus ; Luth., Fürsprecher bei dem Vater . Here of the ascended Jesus; in John 14:16 ; John 14:26 ; John 15:26 ; John 16:7 , of the Holy Spirit, where Vulg. simply transliterates Paracletus , and both our versions give “Comforter,” Luth., Tröster an impossible rendering, since the word is not act. but pass. Render “Advocate” in every case. Cf. saying of R. Li‘ezer ben Jacob: “He who does one commandment has gotten him one advocate ( פרקליט , παράκλητος ), and he who has committed one transgression has gotten him one accuser ( קטיגור , κατήγορος ). Repentance and good works are as a shield in the face of punishment.” In the days of His flesh Jesus was God’s Advocate with men. He told the Eleven in the Upper Room that, though He was going away, God would not be left without an Advocate on the earth to plead His cause and win men to faith (John 16:16-17 ). The Holy Spirit has come in the room of Jesus, and still from age to age performs the office of God’s Advocate with men. Nor has the advocacy of Jesus ceased. He is our Advocate in Heaven, pleading our cause with God. The history of redemption is thus a progressive economy of grace: (1) the O. T. dispensation, when God was conceived as remote in high Heaven; (2) that of the Incarnation, when He revealed Himself as a Father and, by the advocacy of His Eternal Son, made His appeal to the children of men; (3) that of the Holy Spirit, under which we live in the enjoyment of a double advocacy our Glorified Redeemer’s, who “maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:34 ) in the Court of Heaven ( cf. Christina Rossetti’s Verses , p. 41: “Day and night the Accuser”), and the Holy Spirit’s down here, wooing us to faith by His gracious importunities. δίκαιον , Rothe: “Only the righteous One, the guiltless, the One that is separate from sin, can be the Advocate with God for sinners, in general the Mediator of salvation, and make His friendship for us prevalent with God, because only such a one has access to God and fellowship with God ( Heb 7:26 ; 1 Peter 3:18 ; John 16:8 ; John 16:10 )”. “What better advocate could we have for us, than He that is appointed to be our judge?” (Jer. Taylor, The Great Exemplar , I. i. 3).

Verses 1-2

1 John 2:1-2 . The Remedy for the Sins of Believers. “My little children, these things I am writing to you in order that ye may not sin. And if any one sin an Advocate have we with the Father Jesus Christ, a righteous One. And He is Himself the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

Verse 2

1 John 2:2 . Our Advocate does not plead that we are innocent or adduce extenuating circumstances. He acknowledges our guilt and presents His vicarious work as the ground of our acquittal. He stands in the Court of Heaven ἀρνίον ὡς ἐσφαγμένον (Revelation 5:6 ) and the marks of His sore Passion are a mute but eloquent appeal: “I suffered all this for sinners, and shall it go for naught?” περὶ ὃλου τοῦ κόσμου , pro totius mundi (Vulgate), “for the sins of the whole world”. This is grammatically possible ( cf. Matthew 5:20 ), but it misses the point. There are sins , special and occasional, in the believer; there is sin in the world; it is sinful through and through. The Apostle means “for our sins and that mass of sin, the world”. Cf. Rothe: “Die ‘Welt’ ist ihrem Begriff zufolge überhaupt sündig, ein Sündenmasse, und hat nicht blos einzelne Sünden an sich”. The remedy is commensurate with the malady. Bengel: “Quam late patet peccatum, tam late propitiatio ”.

Observe how the Apostle classes himself with his readers: “ we have,” “ our sins” a rebuke of priestcraft. Cf. Aug.: “But some one will say: ‘Do not holy men pray for us? Do not bishops and prelates pray for the people?’ Nay, attend to the Scriptures, and see that even the prelates commend themselves to the people. For the Apostle says to the common folk ‘withal praying for us’. The Apostle prays for the folk, the folk for the Apostle. We pray for you, brethren; but pray ye also for us. Let all the members pray for one another, let the Head intercede for all.”

Verse 3

1 John 2:3 . The principle is that it is not enough to understand the theory; we must put it into practice. E.g. , what makes an artist? Not merely learning the rules of perspective and mixture of colours, but actually putting one’s hand to brush and canvas. First attempts may be unsuccessful, but skill comes by patient practice. Cf. Rembrandt’s advice to his pupil Hoogstraten: “Try to put well in practice what you already know; and in doing so you will, in good time, discover the hidden things which you inquire about’. To know about Christ, to understand the doctrine of His person and work is mere theory; we get to know Him and to know that we know Him by practice of His precepts. γινώσκω ( cognosco ) is to οἶδα ( scio ) as γίνομαι ( fio ) to εἰμί ( sum ). ἐγνώκαμεν , cognovimus , “we have got to know,” i.e. “we know”. τηρεῖν , “keep a watchful eye upon”. Cf. Matthew 27:36 : καὶ καθήμενοι ἐτήρουν αὐτὸν ἐκεῖ .

Verses 3-6

1 John 2:3-6 . The Proof of our Interest in Christ’s Propitiation and Advocacy. “And herein we get to know that we know Him if we observe His commandments. He that saith ‘I know Him,’ and observeth not His commandments, is a liar, and in this man the Truth is not; but whosoever observeth His Word, truly in this man the love of God hath been carried to its end. Herein we get to know that we are in Him; he that saith he abideth in Him is bound, even as the Lord ( ἐκεῖνος ) walked, himself also so to walk.” The Apostle foresees a question which may be raised: “How can I be assured that Christ is all this to me my Propitiation, my Advocate? And how can I be assured that I have an abiding interest in Him?” He answers: (1) We attain to personal and conscious acquaintance with Christ by observance of His commandments (1 John 2:3-5 a ); (2) we attain to assurance of abiding union with Him by “walking even as He walked” (5 b , 6).

Verse 4

1 John 2:4 . μὴ τηρῶν , in classical Greek a gentle hypothesis, merely suggesting a possible case; but in later Greek μή is the regular negative with participles. It was an actual error, else the Apostle would hardly have spoken so emphatically about it. ψεύστης , see note on 1 John 1:6 . ἀλήθεια , see note on 1 John 1:8 .

Verse 5

1 John 2:5 . ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ , “the love of God,” is ambiguous like אַהֲבַת יְהֹוָה , amor Dei, l’ amore di Dio, l’amour de Dieu, die Liebe Gottes . It might be objective genitive, “love for God,” “die Liebe zu Gott” (Rothe). But the believer’s love for God is never perfected in this life. The genitive is subjective ( cf. 1 John 4:9 ), amor Dei erga honunem, per Christum nobis reconciliatus (Bengel), and the idea is that the redeeming love of God has attained its end in the man who observes His Word. Cf. Isaiah 53:11 . St. Augustine understands “the love of God” as His love for sinners, a forgiving love like that of Jesus when He prayed on the Cross “Father, forgive them”. “What is the perfection of love? It is both to love one’s enemies and to love them in order that they may be brethren.” By cultivating a love like this we get to know that we know Him. ἐν τούτῳ ( b ) points forward to ὁ λέγων , κ . τ . λ ., introducing a second assurance. It is not enough to know Him; we must be sure of continuing in fellowship with Him, of “abiding in Him” to the end. This assurance comes by “walking even as He walked”; i.e. the conformation of our lives to His is an evidence of our abiding interest in Him, our vital union with Him. We get like Him by imitating Him, and our likeness to Him is an irrefragable evidence to ourselves and the the world that we are His, as a son’s likeness to his father proves their relationship. ὀφείλει , “is bound,” “ist schuldig” (Rothe), of moral obligation . The claim ( λέγων ) must be honourably attested. αὐτὸς in this section refers grammatically to Jesus Christ 1 John 2:1-2 ). The change of pronoun ( ἐκεῖνος ) does not imply a change of person, since here as in 1 John 3:3 ; 1 John 3:5 ; 1 John 3:7 ; 1 John 3:16 , 1 John 4:17 , ἐκεῖνος is not a mere pronoun. It is used like ille , and signifies “that great One,” “the Master”. Cf. 2 Timothy 2:12-13 . περιπατεῖν , see note on 1 John 1:6 . Aug.: “Perhaps He admonishes us to walk in the sea. Far from it! He admonishes us to walk in the way of righteousness.”

Verse 7

1 John 2:7 . ἀγαπητοί , St. John’s favourite style ( cf. 1 John 3:2 ; 1 John 3:21 , 1 John 4:1 ; 1 John 4:7 ; 1 John 4:11 ). About to enjoin love, he begins by loving. καινός , “novel,” “new in kind ” ( novus ) as distinguished from νέος , “new in time ” ( recens ). ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς , here not as in 1 John 1:1 , but “from the beginning of your Christian life”. ἡ ἐντολὴ ἡ παλαιά , cf. 1 John 1:2 : τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον .

Verses 7-11

1 John 2:7-11 . A New Meaning in an Old Commandment. “Beloved, it is no new commandment that I am writing to you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye heard. Again, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you a thing which is true in Him and in yon, because the darkness is passing away and the light, the true light, is already shining. He that saith he is in the light and hateth his brother is in the darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is no stumbling-block in his way; but he that hateth his brother is in the darkness, and walketh in the darkness, and knoweth not where he is going, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes.”

St. John has lately discovered the supremacy of Love in the Christian revelation (see Introd. pp. 157 f.). His imperfect realisation of this has been the defect of his teaching hitherto, and he would now repair it: “It is not a new commandment that I am writing to you; it is part of the Gospel which I have been preaching to you all along. But I have never adequately understood it, and therefore it is new to your ears as it is to my heart.”

Verse 8

1 John 2:8 . πάλιν , “again,” i.e. in another sense, from another point of view, not in itself but in our recognition of it, “it is a new commandment”. ὅ ἐστιν ἀληθές , in apposition to ἐντολήν “a thing which is true,” viz. , the paramount necessity of Love. This truth, though unperceived, is contained in the revelation of Jesus Christ ( ἐν αὐτῷ ) and proved in the experience of believers ( ἐν ὑμῖν ). It is a fact that hatred of one’s brother clouds the soul and shuts out the light. “I know this,” says the Apostle, “because the darkness is passing away and the light, the true light, is already shining,” i.e. my eyes are getting accustomed to the light of the Gospel-revelation, and I have seen this truth which at first was hidden from me. Adjectives in - ινός denote the material of which the thing is made; and ἀληθινός is used of the real as opposed either to the type ( cf. John 6:32 ; John 15:1 ; Hebrews 8:2 ; Hebrews 9:24 ) or to the counterfeit ( cf. Symb. Nic. : Θεὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ “very God of very God,” i.e. the real God as opposed to false gods, idols, which were “things of naught”). The opposite of to τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν is, on the one hand, the dim light of the Jewish Law (the type) and, on the other, the false light of human speculation (the counterfeit).

Verse 9

1 John 2:9 . He says and perhaps thinks he is in the light, but he has never seen the light; it has never shone on him. ἀδελφόν , on the lips of Jesus a fellow-man ( cf. Matthew 5:45 ; Luke 15:30 ; Luke 15:32 ), in the apostolic writings a fellow-Christian ( cf. 1 John 2:1-2 ; 1 John 2:16 ) one of the apostolic narrowings of the Lord’s teaching. Cf. “neighbour” with the Rabbis, a fellow-Jew; with Jesus, a fellow-man ( cf. Luke 10:25-37 ). There is no contradiction between this passage and Luke 14:26 . The best commentary on the latter is John 12:25 .

Verse 10

1 John 2:10 . ἐν τῷ φωτὶ μένει : he does not merely catch glimpses of the light but “abideth in it,” being of one mind with God, the common Father, who “is light” (1 John 1:5 ). σκάνδαλον οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν αὐτῷ , “there is no occasion of stumbling, nothing to trip him up and make him fall, in his case” an echo of John 11:9-10 . Another interpretation, less agreeable to the context but more consonant with the common use of σκάνδαλον ( cf. Matthew 13:41 ; Matthew 18:7 ; Romans 14:13 ), is: Because he is winsome and gracious, there is in him no stumbling-block to others, nothing to deter them from accepting the Gospel. The love of the primitive Christians impressed the heathen. Cf. Tert. Apol. 39: “Vide, inquiunt, ut invicem se diligant: ipsi enim invicem oderunt; et ut pro alterutro mori sint parati: ipsi enim ad occidendum alterutrum paratiores erunt”. Ep. ad Diogn. 1: καὶ τίνα φιλοστοργίαν ἔχουσι πρὸς ἀλλήλους . This spirit disappeared, and in view of the bitter controversies of the 4th century the Pagan historian Ammianus avowed that “the enmity of the Christians toward each other surpassed the fury of savage beasts against man”. Another interpretation takes αὐτῷ as neuter: “There is no occasion of stumbling in it,” i.e. , in the light. Cf. John 11:9 .

Verse 11

1 John 2:11 . St. John recognises no neutral attitude between “love” and “hatred”. Love is active benevolence, and less than this is hatred, just as indifference to the Gospel-call amounts to rejection of it ( cf. Matthew 22:5-7 ). Observe the climax: “in the darkness is, and in the darkness walketh, and knoweth not where he is going”. ἐτύφλωσεν , aor. of the indefinite past , where we would use the perf. ( cf. Moulton, Gram, of N. T. Gk. , i. pp. 135 ff.). The penalty of living in the darkness is not merely that one does not see, but that one goes, blind. The neglected faculty is atrophied. Cf. the mole, the Crustacca in the subterranean lakes of the Mammoth Caves of Kentucky.

Observe how St. John emphasises and elaborates the old-new commandment “Love thy brother,” reiterating it, putting it negatively and positively.

Verse 12

1 John 2:12 . τεκνία , all the Apostle’s readers, his customary appellation (see n. on 1 John 2:1 ). ἀφέωνται , perf., the Doric form of ἀφεῖνται . τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ , the character, mind, purpose of God revealed in Christ. “The name of God” is “whatsoever there is whereby he makes himself known” ( Westm. Larg. Catech. ).

Verses 12-17

1 John 2:12-17 . The Appeal of Experience. “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake; I am writing to you, fathers, because ye have got to know Him that it is from the beginning I am writing to you, young men, because ye have conquered the Evil One. I wrote to you, little ones, because ye have got to know the Father; I wrote to you, fathers, because ye have got to know Him that is from the beginning; I wrote to you, young men, because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and ye have conquered the Evil One. Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world. If any one loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything that is in the world the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the braggart boast of life is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away and the lust of it, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

The Apostle has been setting forth searching truths and is about to make an exacting claim; and here he pauses and with much tenderness reassures his readers: “I am not addressing you as unbelievers or casting doubt upon the sincerity of your faith. On the contrary, it is because I am assured thereof that I am writing this letter to you and wrote the Gospel which accompanies it”.

Verse 13

1 John 2:13 . He now subdivides τεκνία into ποτέρες , i.e. , mature believers with a long and ever-deepening ( ἐγνώκατε ) experience behind them, and νεανίσκοι , who, though ἡ ἐπιθυμία τῆς σαρκός is strong within them, have conquered the Evil One by the aids of grace an evidence of the reality of their interest in Christ. ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς . as in 1 John 1:1 . The ancient interpreters took τεκνία , πατέρες , νεανίσκοι as a threefold classification, according to age (Aug., Athan.) or according to Christian experience, κατὰ τὸν ἔσω ἄνθρωπον (Euth. Zig.); but the order would then be either τεκνία , νεανίσκοι , πατέρες or πατέρες , νεανίσκοι , τεκνία . According to the variant γράφω ὑμῖν , παιδία , τεκνία is a general appellation subdivided into πατέρες , νεανίσκοι , παιδία . 1 John 2:14 should begin with ἔγραψα ὑμῖν , παιδία . The aor. ἔγραψα is most simply and reasonably explained as a reference to the Apostle’s Gospel (see Introd. p. 154). Having assured them of his present conviction of the sincerity of their faith, he now goes on to assure them that he had entertained a like opinion when he wrote the Gospel for their instruction. His tone is much like that of 2 Peter 1:12 . Other explanations: (1) The reference is to a former epistle ( cf. 3 John 1:9 ) a gratuitous and unnecessary hypothesis. (2) The Apostle resumes after a pause whether in composition or in thought, and reiterates what he “has written”. (3) An emphatic form of expression, like “we decree and have decreed”. (4) Calvin, reading γράφω ὑμῖν , παιδία , regards πατέρες … πονηρόν as an interpolation. This is to cut the knot instead of untying it. παιδία , a general appellation for all the Apostle’s readers, practically identical with τεκνία . Strictly τεκνία carries the idea of relationship by birth-regeneration; cf. Aug.: “ Quia remittuntur vobis peccata per nomen ejus , et regeneramini in novam vitam, ideo filii”. παιδία , on the other hand, are merely “children,” pueri (Aug.), infantes (Vulg.), and the distinction is ὅτι ἐγνώκατε τὸν Πατέρα . All men are children of God, believers are children who “have got to know the Father’

Verse 14

1 John 2:14 . The Apostle gives the same reason as before for writing to the fathers, as though there could be none greater. He gives the same reason also for writing to the young men, but he amplifies it: they have the strength of youth, but it is disciplined by the indwelling Word, and therefore they have conquered.

Verse 15

1 John 2:15 . He is dealing with believers who have a large experience of the grace of Christ, and on this fact he proceeds to base an appeal, a call to further advancement and higher attainment: “Love not the world”. Yet God “loved the world” (John 3:16 ). Observe that the Apostle does not say that the world is evil. It is God’s world, and “God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 ). His meaning is: “The things in the world are transient. Do not set your affection on them, else you will sustain a bitter disappointment. The world is a good and beautiful gift of God, to be used with joy and gratitude; but it is not the supreme end, it is not the home of our souls”. “Let the Spirit of God be in thee,” says St. Augustine, “that thou mayest see that all these things are good; but woe to thee if thou love created things and forsake the Creator!… If a bridegroom made a ring for his bride and, when she got it, she were fonder of the ring than of the bridegroom who made the ring for her, would not an adulterous spirit be detected in the very gift of the bridegroom, however she might love what the bridegroom gave?… God gave thee all those things: love Him who made them. There is more which He would fain give thee, to wit, Himself who made these things”. Again: “There are two loves of the world and of God. If the love of the world inhabit, there is no way for the love of God to enter. Let the love of the world retire and that of God inhabit, let the better get room.… Shut out the evil love of the world, that thou mayest be filled by the love of God. Thou art a vessel, but thou art still full; pour out what thou hast, that thou mayest get what thou hast not”. ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Πατρός , like ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ (1 John 2:5 ), either (1) “love for the Father,” in antithesis to ἀγαπᾷ τὸν κόσμον , or (2) “the love which the Father feels for us”. In fact the one implies the other. The sense of the Father’s love for us awakens in us an answering love for Him. Cf. 1 John 4:19 .

Verse 16

1 John 2:16 . ἡ ἐπιθυμία τῆς σαρκός , not object. gen. (Aug.: “desiderium earum rerum quæ pertinent ad carnem, sicut cibus et concubitus, et cætera hujusmodi,”) but subject.: “the lust which the flesh feels, which resides in the flesh”. Cf. ἡ ἐπιθυμία τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν . ἀλαζονία , vain pretension, claiming what one really has not. Def. Plat. : ἕξις προσποιητικὴ ἀγαθοῦ ἤ ἀγαθῶν τῶν μὴ ὑπαρχόντωυ . Suid.: ἀλαζόνας τοὺς ψεύστας ἐκάλουν , ἐπεὶ λέγειν ἐπαγγέλλονται περὶ ὧν μὴ ἴσασιν . Theophr. Char. vi.: προσδοκία τις ἀγαθῶν οὐκ ὄντων . ζωή , the vital principle ( vita qua vivimus ), ( βίος , the outward life ( vita quam vivimus ) or livelihood ( victus ). There is here a summary of all possible sins, exemplified in the temptations of Eve (Genesis 3:1-6 ) and our Lord (Matthew 4:1-11 ). Cf. Aug.; Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. , on Matthew 4:1 . (1) “The lust of the flesh”: cf. “The tree was good for food”; “Command that these stones become loaves”. (2) “The lust of the eyes”: cf. “It was a delight to the eyes”; “Cast thyself down” a spectacular display. (3) “The braggart boast of life”: cf. “The tree was to be desired to make one wise”: “All the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them”.

Verse 17

1 John 2:17 . An explanation, especially of ἡ ἀλαζονία τοῦ βίου . To set one’s affection on the things in the world is “braggart boasting”; for they are not ours, they are transient. Cf. Mohammed: “What have I to do with the comforts of this life? The world and I what connection is there between us? Verily the world is no otherwise than as a tree unto me: when the traveller hath rested under its shade, he passeth on.” Aug. on 1 John 4:4 : “Mundus iste omnibus fidelibus quærentibus, patriam sic est, quomodo fuit eremus populo Israel”. αὐτοῦ subjective genitive like σαρκός and ὀφθαλμῶν . τὸ θέλημα τοῦ Θεοῦ , alone permanent amid the flux of transitory things. Cf. Aug.: “Rerum temporalium fluvius trahit: sed tanquam circa fluvium arbor nata est Dominus noster Jesus Christus. Assumpsit carnem, mortuus est, resurrexit, ascendit in cœlum. Voluit se quodammodo circa fluvium temporalium plantare. Raperis in praeceps? tene lignum. Volvit te amor mundi? tene Christum.”

Verse 18

1 John 2:18 . Aug.: “Pueros alloquitur, ut festinent crescere, quia novissima hora est.… Proficite, currite, crescite, novissima hora est”. 1 John 2:28 puts it beyond doubt that ἐσχάτη ὥρα means “the end of the world,” and rules out various attempts which have been made to give it another reference and absolve the Apostle from the current misconception: (1) Aug. says vaguely: “the last hour is of long duration, yet it is the last” ( novissima hora diuturna est; tamen novissima est ). And Calv.: “Nothing any longer remains but that Christ should appear for the redemption of the world.… He calls that ‘the last time’ in which all things are being so completed that nothing is left except the last revelation of Christ”. (2) Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. , on John 21:22 , compares אַחֲרִית הַיּמִים i.e. , “the last times of the Jewish city, nation, and dispensation,” and remarks: “Gens ista vergit jam quam proxime in ruinam, cum enatus jam sit ultimus et summus apex infidelitatis, apostasiæ et nequitiæ”. (3) Beng. with unwonted ineptitude: The advanced age of St. John and his contemporaries in contrast to his “little children”. “ Ultima , non respectu omnium mundi temporum: sed in antitheto puerulorum ad patres , et ad juvenes ”. (4) Westcott: “a last hour,” i.e. , “a period of critical change”. This is possible but improbable. The omission of the def. art. in the pred. is regular. Ἀντίχριστος (anarthrous) is a proper name. Nowhere in N.T. but in the Johannine Epp. It may mean (1), on the analogy of ἀντιφιλόσοφος , ἀντικάτων , ἀντικείμενος , ἀντίθεσις , “adversary of Christ,” Widerchrist (Luth.); cf. Orig. C. Cels. 6:45: τὸν τούτῳ κατὰ διάμετρον ἐναντίον , Tert. De Praescript. Hær. : “antichristi, Christi rebelles,” Aug.: “Latine Antichristus contrarius est Christo”; (2), on the analogy of ἀντιβασιλεύς , ἀνθύπατος ( proconsul ), “antipope,” a “rival of Christ,” usurping His name, a ψευδόχριστος ( cf. Matthew 24:24 = Mark 13:22 ); cf. Aristoph. Eq. 1038 sq. : ἐγὼ γὰρ ἀντὶ τοῦ λέοντός εἰμί σοι . / καὶ πῶς μʼ ἐλελήθης Ἀντιλέων γεγενημένος ; St. John seems to combine both ideas. The heresy arose in the bosom of the Church and claimed to be an enlightened Christianity; yet, while calling themselves Christians, Cerinthus and his followers were adversaries of Christ. Wetst.: “Qui se pro Christo gerit, ideoque ei contrarius est”. ἀντίχριστοι πολλοί , the exponents and representatives of the antichristian movement were a numerous party. γεγόνασιν , “have arisen,” in contrast to the true Christ who “was in the beginning”. Cf. the contrast between the Word and the Baptist in John 1:1 ; John 1:6 .

Verses 18-29

1 John 2:18-29 . A Warning against Heretical Teaching. “Little ones, it is the last hour; and, as ye heard that Antichrist is coming, even now have many antichrists arisen; whence we recognise that it is the last hour. From our company they went out, but they were not of our company; for, if they had been of our company, they would have abode in our fellowship; but the purpose of it was that it may be manifested that they all are not of our company. And ye have a chrism from the Holy One, and ye all know. I did not write to you because ye did not know the Truth, but because ye know it and because every lie is not of the Truth. Who is the liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist he that denieth the Father and the Son. Every one that denieth the Son neither hath he the Father; he that confesseth the Son hath the Father also. As for you, that which ye heard from the beginning, let it abide in you. If that abide in you which ye heard from the beginning, ye also in the Son and in the Father will abide. And this is the promise which He Himself promised us the Life, the Eternal Life. These things I wrote to you regarding them that would lead you astray. And as for you, the chrism which ye received from Him abideth in you, and ye have no need that any one should teach you; but, as His chrism is teaching you regarding all things, and is true and is not a lie, and even as it taught you, abide in Him. And now, little children, abide in Him, that, if He be manifested, we may have boldness and not be shamed away from Him at His advent. If ye know that He is righteous, recognise that every one also that doeth righteousness hath been begotten of Him.”

A heresy had arisen in the bosom of the Church (see Introd. pp. 156 f.). It was a fatal heresy, a denial of the possibility of the Incarnation, and therefore of the relation of fatherhood and sonship between God and man. St. John’s emphatic condemnation of it was justified, but his apprehension was groundless. He shared the prevailing expectation of the imminence of the Second Advent ( cf. 1Co 10:11 ; 1 Corinthians 15:51 ; Philippians 4:5 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:15 sqq. ; Hebrews 10:25 ; James 5:8 ; 1 Peter 4:7 ; Revelation 1:1 ; Revelation 1:3 ; Revelation 3:11 ; Revelation 22:7 ; Revelation 22:10 ; Revelation 22:12 ; Revelation 22:20 ), and saw in the heresy an evidence that the end was at hand. It was rather an evidence that the Gospel was winning its way. The era of simple and unquestioning faith in the apostolic testimony was past, and men were beginning to enquire and reason. A heresy has the same use in theology as a mistaken hypothesis in science: it provokes thought and leads to a deeper understanding. What seemed to the Apostle the pangs of dissolution were in reality “growing pains”.

Verse 19

1 John 2:19 . Cf. Aug.: “Sic sunt in corpore Christi quomodo humores mali. Quando evomuntur, tunc relevatur corpus: sic et mali quando exeunt, tunc Ecclesia relevatur. Et dicit quando eos evomit atque projicit corpus: Ex me exierunt umores isti, sed non erant ex me. Quid est, non erant ex me? Non de carne mea præcisi sunt, sed pectus mihi premebant cum inessent”. ἵνα , sc. ἐξῆλθαν or γέγονε τοῦτο a frequent Johannine ellipse: cf. John 1:8 ; John 9:3 ; John 13:18 ; John 15:25 .

Verse 20

1 John 2:20 . An expression of confidence in his readers: they will not be led astray; they have received “a chrism,” the enlightening grace of the Holy Spirit, “which He poured forth upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Titus 3:6 ). Baptism was called χρῖσμα in later days (Greg. Naz. Orat. xl. 4) because of the rite of baptismal anointing ( cf. Tert. De Bapt. 7: “Exinde egressi de lavacro perungimur benedicta unctione de pristina disciplina, qua ungi oleo de cornu in sacerdotium solebant”; Aug.: “Unctio spiritalis ipse Spiritus sanctus est, cujus sacramentum est in unctione visibili”)’, but there is no reference here to this rite, which was of a later date and was derived from our passage. χρῖσμα is suggested by ἀντίχριστοι . “They are ἀντίχριστοι , you are χριστοί .” Cf. Psalms 105 :(104: LXX) 15: μὴ ἅψησθε τῶν χριστῶν μου . τοῦ Ἁγίου , not the Holy Spirit. St. John has τὸ Πνεῦμα in Epp. and Rev., but never τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον . Either (1) Christ ( cf. Revelation 3:7 ) or (2) God the Father ( cf. Acts 10:38 ; Hebrews 1:9 ). The latter is preferable. The Spirit παρὰ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται (John 15:26 ) from ( ἀπό ) the Father through ( διά ) Christ ( cf. Titus 3:6 ).

Verse 21

1 John 2:21 . ἔγραψα , “I wrote,” may refer to the Gospel, which is an exposition of the Incarnation, ἡ τοῦ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἔνσαρκος οἰκονομία ( cf. note on 1 John 2:14 ); but more probably “aor. referring to the moment just past” (Jebb on Soph. O.T. 337). The aor. is appropriate. No sooner has he spoken of the antichrists than he hastens to reiterate his assurance of confidence in his readers. τὴν ἀλήθειαν , see note on 1 John 1:8 . ἐκ , of parentage ( cf. 1 John 3:8-10 ). His readers had only to be reminded of their experience ( οἴδατε ), and it would keep them from being led astray. An experience is an anchor to the soul in time of storm. “Tell me,” said the dying Cromwell to a minister, “is it possible to fall from grace?” “No, it is not possible.” “Then I am safe, for I know that I was once in grace” (Morley’s Oliver Cromwell , V. x.).

Verse 22

1 John 2:22 . ψεύστης , cf. n. on 1 John 1:6 . The Cerinthian distinction between Jesus and the Christ was a denial of the possibility of the Incarnation, i.e. , of the filial relation of man to God. οὐκ in dependent clause after ἀρνεῖσθαι is a common Gk. idiom, not unknown in English; cf. Shakespeare, Comedy of Errors , iv. ii. 7: “He denied you had in him no right”.

Verse 23

1 John 2:23 . Since the Father is manifested and interpreted in the Son. cf. John 1:18 ; John 14:9 .

Verse 24

1 John 2:24 . ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς , as in 1 John 2:7 . The significant iteration of μένειν is lost in A.V. (“abide … remain … continue”). ἐν τῷ Υἱῷ καὶ ἐν τῷ Πατρί : observe the order. The Son is the manifestation of the Father; through Him we reach the Unseen Father ( cf. John 14:9 ).

Verse 25

1 John 2:25 . ἐπαγγελία , repromissio , “promise”; only here in the Johannine writings (see note on 1 John 1:5 ). αὐτός , i.e. , the Father. God is the Promiser, and His promises are made in Christ ( cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20 ).

Verse 26

1 John 2:26 . ἔγραψα , see note on 1 John 2:21 . τῶν πλανώντων , the heretical teachers. Pres. partic., “are leading astray” but unsuccessfully.

Verse 27

1 John 2:27 . The ground of the Apostle’s confidence in his readers. They need not be taught but only reminded. ἀλλʼ ὡς , κ . τ . λ ., a single sentence with one apodosis. Vulg. makes it a double sentence with two apodoses: “as His chrism is teaching you regarding all things, it is indeed true and is not a lie; and even as it taught you, abide in Him”. Reading ἀλλά , translate: “ye have no need that any one should teach you, but His chrism is teaching you … a lie; and even as, etc.” διδάσκει , of the continued teaching by the grace of the Spirit; ἐδίδαξεν , of the illumination at the hour of conversion. μένετε , plainly imperat. in next ver., can hardly be indicat. here (“ye are abiding”). The reading μενεῖτε (“ye shall abide”) would express the Apostle’s confidence in the steadfastness of his readers, like “England expects every man to do his duty”. Cf. Matthew 5:48 : ἔσεσθε οὖν ὑμεῖς τέλειοι . ἐν αὐτῷ , in eo (Vulg), “in Him,” i.e. , in Christ and therefore in God ( cf. 1 John 2:24 ). According to Aug., “in it,” i.e. , the chrism, unctio ( permanete in ipsa ).

Verse 28

1 John 2:28 . καὶ νῦν , continuing and reinforcing the exhortation, ἐὰν φανερωθῇ : the uncertainty is not in the manifestation but in the time of it, and this is the reason for steadfast abiding in Him. Cf. unwritten saying of Jesus: ἐφʼ οἷς γὰρ ἂν εὕρω ὑμᾶς , φησὶν , ἐπὶ τούτοις καὶ κρινῶ . σχῶμεν , aor. marking the suddenness of the crisis. παρρησία , properly “freedom of speech” ( cf. Mark 8:2 ; John 7:13 ; John 16:29 ; John 18:20 ; Acts 2:29 ; Acts 4:29 ; Acts 4:31 ; Acts 28:31 ); then “confidence,” “boldness,” especially before God ( cf. Hebrews 4:16 ; 1Jn 3:21 ; 1 John 4:17 ; 1 John 5:14 ), the attitude of children to their father in contrast with that of slaves to their master ( cf. Sen. Ep. xlvii.: “Infelicibus servis movere labra ne in hoc quidem ut loquantur licet. Virga murmur omne compescitur: … nocte tota jejuni mutique perstant”). καὶ μὴ αἰσχυνθῶμεν , in contrast to σχῶμεν παρρησίαν . παρουσία , frequent in N.T. but only here in the Johannine writings. Not simply “presence” but “arrival,” “advent” ( adventus ); cf. Luke 13:1 : παρῆσαν , Matthew 11:5 , John 11:28 .

Verse 29

1 John 2:29 . In view of the preceding verse δίκαιος must refer to Christ ( cf. 1 John 2:1 ), and it is equally certain that ἐξ αὐτοῦ refers to the Father, since “begotten of Christ” ( cf. Tennyson’s “our fair father Christ”) is not a Scriptural idea. The abrupt transition evinces St. John’s sense of the oneness of the Father and the Son ( cf. 1 John 2:24 ; John 10:30 ). γινώσκετε , scitote (Vulg.), rather cognoscite (Calv.), “get to know,” “recognise” (see note on 1 John 2:3 ); perceive the blessed inference, appropriate your birthright. It enfeebles the sentence to take the verb as indicat.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 John 2". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/1-john-2.html. 1897-1910.
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