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THE CLOSING VERSES of chapter 1 have shown us that we cannot say that we have no sin, nor that we have not sinned. The opening words of chapter 2 act as a counter-balance, lest we should rush to the conclusion that we can excuse ourselves for sinning by assuming that we can hardly help it, that it is practically inevitable. It is nothing of the kind. John wrote these things that we might not sin. Other scriptures speak of special provision made to keep us from falling: the point here is that, if we enter
into the holy fellowship of which 1Jn_1:3 speaks, we shall be preserved. The enjoyment of that fellowship excludes sin; just as sin excludes from the enjoyment of that fellowship, until it is confessed.
There is ample provision made for us that we may not sin, even though sin is still in us. We ought not to sin. There is no excuse for us if we do sin; but there is, thank God! “an Advocate with the Father” for us in that case. The word translated, Advocate, here is the same as is translated, Comforter, in John 14 a word meaning literally, “One called alongside to help.” The risen One, Jesus Christ the righteous, has been called alongside the Father in glory for the help of His saints, if and when they sin. The Holy Spirit has been called along to our side here below for our help.
It is “the Father,” you notice. That is because the Advocate appears for those who are already the children of God. The first words of the chapter are, “My children” (N. Trans.) the word used is not the one meaning “babes,” but one for “children” in a more general way. In this loving way the aged Apostle embraced as his own all the true children of God. We have been introduced into this blessed relationship by the Saviour, as Joh_1:12 tells us. Being in the relationship, we need the services of the Advocate when we sin.
The righteousness of our Advocate is stressed. We might have expected that His kindness and mercy would be: yet we find elsewhere that emphasis is laid on righteousness when sin is in question, and so it is here. The One who takes up our case in the Father’s presence when we sin, will see to it that righteousness shall prevail. The Father’s glory shall not be tarnished by our sin, on the one hand. And, on the other hand, He will deal with us righteously, so that we may come to a proper and righteous judgment of our sin, be brought to confession, and be forgiven and cleansed.
He who is our Advocate on high is also “the propitiation for our sins.” This fact brings us back to the rock foundation upon which all rests. By His propitiatory sacrifice every claim of God against us has been met, and He takes up His advocacy with the Father upon that righteous basis. His propitiation has settled for us as sinners the eternal questions which our sins have raised. His advocacy now settles the paternal questions which are raised. when as children of God we sin.
Propitiation is what we may call the Godward side of the death of Christ. It is concerned with the most fundamental matter of all; the meeting of the Divine claims against sin. The meeting of the sinner’s need must be secondary to that. Hence when we have the Gospel unfolded by Paul in the epistle to the Romans, we find that the first mention of the death of Christ is “a propitiation through faith in His blood” ( Rom_3:25 ). We do not get substitution clearly stated until reaching Rom_4:25 , we read of Him as “delivered for our offences.”
Being the Godward aspect of His death the widest possible circle is in view “the whole world.” When the substitutionary side is stated believers only are in view: it is “our offences,” or, “the sins of many.” But though only believers stand in the realized benefits of the death of Christ, God needs to be propitiated in regard to every sin that ever has been committed by men, in regard to the whole great outrage which sin has wrought. He has been thus propitiated in the death of Christ, and because of this He can freely offer forgiveness to men without compromising in the smallest degree one feature of His nature and character.
Propitiation is a word which often rouses to much wrath and scorn! fulness many opponents of the Gospel. They assume that it means what it does among the heathen the pacifying by much blood-shedding of some angry, antagonistic and blood-thirsty power. But in the Scriptures the word is lifted on to an altogether higher plane. It still carries the general sense of appeasing or rendering favourable by sacrifice, but there is no ground for regarding God as antagonistic or blood-thirsty. He is infinitely holy. He is righteous in all His ways. He is of eternal majesty. His very nature, all His attributes must receive their due, and be magnified in the exaction of the appropriate penalty: yet He is not against man but for him, for what righteousness has demanded love has supplied. As we read presently in our epistle, “He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” ( 1Jn_4:10 ). God Himself provided the propitiation. His own Son, who was God, became it. Propitiation, rightly understood, is not a degrading idea but uplifting and ennobling. The only thing degrading is the idea of the matter falsely entertained by those who oppose. They attempt to foist their degraded idea into the Gospel, but the Word of God refutes their idea.
We now pass to the consideration of another claim that was being made falsely on occasions “I know Him.” It is indeed possible for the believer to say with great gladness that he knows God, inasmuch as “fellowship
with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” is granted to us, and there can be no fellowship without knowledge. Still, again a test is needed lest such a claim be mere pretension. The test is that of obedience to the commandments which He has given to us. The knowledge of Him is inseparably connected with obedience to Him.
In keeping His commandments we know that we have come to know Him. Apart from this obedience there cannot be this knowledge, and the claim, if made, would only reveal that the truth is not in the claimant. Compare verse 1Jn_2:4 with 1Jn_1:8 . The truth is not in the one who claims to have no sin, any more than it is in the one who claims to have the knowledge of God, and yet is not obedient to His commandments.
Let us clearly grasp the fact that there are commandments in Christianity, though they are not of a legal order: and by that we mean, not given to us in order that we may thereby either establish or maintain our footing before God. Every definite expression of God’s will has the force of a command, and we shall find this epistle has a great deal to say to us about His commandments, and they “are not grievous” (v. 1Jn_2:3 ). The law of Christ is a law of liberty, inasmuch as we are brought into His life and nature.
From keeping His commandments we pass, in verse 1Jn_2:5 , to keeping His word. This is a further thing. His word covers all that He has revealed to us of His mind and will, including of course His commandments, but going beyond them. A man might give his sons many definite instructions his commandments. But beyond these his sons have gleaned an intimate knowledge of his mind from the daily communications and intercourse of years, and with filial devotion they carefully observe his word even when they have no definite instructions. So it should be with the children of God. And, when it is so, the love of God is “perfected” in such, for it has produced in them its proper effect and answer.
Moreover, by such obedience we know “that we are in Him.” Our being “in Him” involves our participation in His life and nature. There is of course a very intimate connection between knowing “that we know Him,” (ver. 3) and knowing “that we are in Him,” (ver. 5). The second introduces us to a deeper thing. Angels know Him, and obey His commands. We are to know Him, as those who are in Him, and hence the slightest intimation of His thought or desire should be understood by us, and incite us to glad obedience.
Being in Him, we are to “abide in Him;” which means, as we understand it, abide in the consciousness and power of being in Him. Now it is easy for any of us to say, “I abide in Him,” but if so we must produce that which proves the claim to be real. Such an one “ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.” If we are in His life, and also in the power and enjoyment of it, that life is bound to express itself in our ways and activities just as it did in Him. The grace and power of our walk, compared with His, will be poor and feeble; yet it will be walk of the same order. The difference will not be in kind but only in degree.
What extraordinary elevation then is to characterize our walk! How far beyond the standard that was accepted in Old Testament times! When John wrote these words a good many may have felt inclined to protest that he was setting too high a standard and introducing what was entirely new. Hence in verse 1Jn_2:7 he assures them that what he was saying was not new in the way that the teachings of the antichrists were new but rather an old commandment. At the same time it was in another sense a new commandment. There is no contradiction here, though there is a paradox. It was an old commandment, for it had been from the beginning set forth in Christ, as being God’s holy will and pleasure for man: and so there was nothing about it which resembled the new notions of the Gnostics. Still it was a new commandment, for now it was to be set forth in those that were Christ’s, and hence came as a new thing for them. The thing, said John, “is true in Him and in you.” The life which was manifested in Christ, and which at the first was exclusively in Him, is now to be found in believers, who are in Him. As they abide in Him the life will express itself in them in the same way, and bring forth similar fruits.
And so we read, “the true light now shineth.” There is the closest possible connection between life and light. If the true life was manifested in Christ, the true light equally shone in Him. If we have part in that true life, the true light will also shine in us. “The darkness is passing,” is what the Apostle wrote, and not, “is past.” We must wait for the world to come to say it is past: yet clearly it is passing away, for the true light has begun to shine in Christ and in those that are His. When God acts in judgment and the false life and light of this world are put out, then the darkness will be past indeed. At present we can rejoice in the assurance that it is passing, and that the true light is shining. The more we walk as He walked, the more effectively the light will shine through us.
But further, if the light is now going to shine in and through us, we ourselves must be in the light. Do we claim to be in the light? Well, there is a simple test by which it may be known if that claim is a genuine one. If any one says he is in the light and yet he hates his brother his claim is false, and he is in darkness; that is, he does not really know God he is not in the light of God revealed in Christ. No one can be in the light of God who is not in the life of God, which is love. Hence a little later in the epistle we read, “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” ( 1Jn_3:14 ). So now we discover that life, light and love all go together; and in the very nature of things they act as tests, the one upon the other. The one who loves his brother manifests the life, according to 1John 3.0 . Here the point is that he abides in the light.
John adds the remark, “there is none occasion of stumbling in him.” This is in contrast to what follows in verse 1Jn_2:11 , where the one who hates his brother is described as being in darkness, walking in darkness, and not knowing where he is going. We have no light in ourselves, just as the moon only has light when it is in the light of the sun. So the one who hates his brother, being in darkness, is all dark himself, and consequently becomes an occasion of stumbling to others. He stumbles himself and acts as a stumbling-block. Such were the antichrists and their followers. The one who loves, as the fruit of having the divine life, walks in the light, and neither stumbles nor is a stumbling-block.
The loving of one’s brother is of course the loving of each and all who equally with ourselves are begotten of God. It is the love of the divine nature, extended to each who has entered the divine family, loving children of God as children of God, apart from all human likes or dislikes.
A fresh paragraph begins with verse 12. In 1Jn_1:4 , John indicated the themes as to which he wrote. Now we have the basis on which he wrote. All those whom he addressed stood in the wonderful grace of sins forgiven, and all were in the children’s place. The word translated “little children” is the one for children rather than babes. It includes all the children of God without distinction. The forgiveness which is ours has reached us solely for His Name’s sake. The virtue, the merit is wholly His. As forgiven, and brought into divinely formed relationship, we are addressed.
On the other hand, there are distinctions in the family of God, and they are brought before us in verse 13. There are “fathers,” “young men,” and “little children,” or “babes.” In this way John indicated the differing stages of spiritual growth. We all must of necessity begin as babes in the divine life. Normally we should develop into young men, and finally become fathers. Each of the three classes is characterized by certain things.
Verse 1Jn_2:13 , then, states the characteristic features of those to whom he writes, not the themes concerning which he writes, nor the basis on which he writes. The fathers are characterized by the knowledge of Him that is from the beginning; that is, they were matured in the knowledge of Christ, that “Word of life,” in whom the eternal life had been manifested. They really knew the One in whom had been revealed all that is to be known of God. All other knowledge shrinks into insignificance compared with this knowledge. The fathers had it.
The young men were characterized by having overcome the wicked one. Later verses in the chapter show more exactly the force of this. They had overcome the subtle snares of the devil through antichristian teachings, by having been built up in the Word of God. In our earlier years as believers, before we have had time to be well grounded in the teachings of the Word, we are much more likely to be led away by subtle teachings contrary to the Word, and thus overcome by the wicked one.
This is the danger to which the babes are exposed, as we shall see. Yet they have a beautiful feature characterizing them they know the Father. The human babe soon manifests the instinct which enables it to recognize its parents; and so it is with the children of God. They have His nature, so they know Him. There are many things for them still to learn about the Father, yet they know the Father. As the children of God let us be exercised that we do not remain babes. There we must begin, but let us aim at that acquaintance with the Word of God which will develop our spiritual growth, and lead us to become young men and even fathers in due season.
Having given, in verse 1Jn_2:13 , the features which characterize respectively the fathers, young men and little children, the Apostle begins, in verse 1Jn_2:14 , his special message to each of the three. He commences again with the fathers.
His message to them is marked by the utmost brevity; moreover it is expressed in exactly the same words as those used in the previous verse, when he described their characteristic feature. This is remarkable, and we
may well inquire what is the reason for it. The reason we believe to be that when we come to the knowledge of “Him that is from the beginning” we reach the knowledge of God in a fulness which is infinite and eternal, beyond which there is nothing. He who is “Son,” and “the Word,” the “Word of life,” manifested amongst us, is the One that is from the beginning. In Him God is known to us, and there is nothing beyond this knowledge of such infinite profundity.
Now the fathers knew Him in this deep and wonderful way. The God who is love had become the home of their souls and dwelling in love they dwelt in God and God in them. They had but to go on deepening in this blessed knowledge. Nothing needed to be said to them beyond this.
The young men had not as yet grown up to this, but they were on the way to it. They were characterized by having overcome the wicked one, as verse 1Jn_2:13 told us. We now learn how this overcoming had been brought to pass. They had been made strong by the Word of God abiding in them.
We all enter upon the Christian life as little children, but if healthy growth marks us we advance to be young men. Now the knowledge of the Word of God must come first. We cannot abide in that of which we are ignorant. Here then we are brought face to face with the reason why so many true believers of many years standing have remained little children just stunted babes. They have never become really acquainted with the Word of God. The great adversary of the work of God knows the need of this right well, and it is easy to see the skill of his deeply laid designs in the light of this fact.
Romanism takes the Scriptures out of the hands of its votaries on the ground that, being God’s Word, it is far above the layman and only fit to be in the hands of the doctors of the church, who alone can interpret it. Modernism is prevalent in the Protestant world. In its full-blown form it denies the Word of God entirely: the Bible is to them only a collection of doubtful legends interspersed with obsolete religious reflections. In its diluted form which often seduces real Christians, and therefore is the more mischievous as regards ourselves it weakens the authority of the Word, and therefore dooms its followers to perpetual spiritual babyhood. And where these evils are absent, so frequently people are content to take their knowledge of the Word from the texts upon which their minister may
happen to preach. They do not read, and mark and learn and inwardly digest the Word for themselves. Hence their growth also is stunted.
But the Word is not merely to be known, it is to abide in us. It is to dwell in our thoughts and in our affections; in this way it will control us, governing the whole of our lives. If that point is reached by any of us, then it can be said that we are strong, for our lives will be founded upon the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture. Even so however, strength is not everything, for we have yet to be conducted to that knowledge of Him that is from the beginning, which characterizes the fathers.
The young men are faced by a danger which, if it prevails, will hinder them advancing still further into this blessed knowledge. That danger is the world, and the love of it: not merely of the world as an abstract conception, but of the concrete, material things that are in the world. We use a great many of these things, and occasionally at least we enjoy them, but we are not to love them. That which we love dominates us, and we are not to be dominated by the world but by the Father. The love of the world and the love of the Father are mutually exclusive. We cannot be possessed by both. It must be one or the other. Which possesses us?
If the love of the Father possesses us, we shall see the world in its true light. We shall possess a spiritual faculty which acts after the fashion of the much prized X-rays. We shall get down beneath the surface of things to the skeleton framework on which all is built. That skeleton is revealed to us in verse 1Jn_2:16 as, “The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life;” all of which spring not from the Father but are wholly of the world.
The lust of the flesh is the desire of having the desire to possess oneself of those things that minister to the flesh. The lust of the eyes is the desire of seeing, whether with the eyes of the head or with those of the mind, all the things that minister to one’s pleasures. It would cover man’s restless intellectual cravings as well as his continual hunt for spectacular pleasures. The pride of life is the desire of being the yearning to be somebody, or something that ministers to pride of heart. This is the most deep-seated evil of the three, and often the least-suspected.
Here then we have exposed for us the framework on which the world system is built; every item of it totally opposed to the Father, and to that world which is to come, when the present world order is displaced. “The world passeth away,” we are told, and so does the lust of it. We are not
surprised to hear it. What a mercy that it does, for what greater calamity could there be than that the world and its lusts should be perpetuated for ever! The world will disappear; the Father and His world will abide. We shall indeed be foolish if we are filled with love for that which vanishes away instead of love for Him who abides.
How striking the contrast in verse 1Jn_2:17 ! We might have expected the end of the verse to have been, “but the Father abides.” That however is so obvious as hardly to need stating. “He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever;” that is the wonderful fact. It is the world that passes away. When believers die we remark that So-and-so has “passed away.” The world gets on very well without them and seems perfectly stable. The Apostle John views things from the Divine side, and helps us to do the same. Then we see the world about to pass away, and the doer of the will of God, though he be withdrawn from earthly scenes, is the one who abides for ever. He serves the will of God. The will of God is fixed and abiding. The servant of that will is abiding too.
From verse 1Jn_2:18 , onwards to verse 1Jn_2:27 , the “little children,” or “babes,” are addressed. Without any preface the Apostle plunges into a warning against the anti-christian teachers which were beginning to abound. “Antichrist” is a sinister personage, whose appearance in the last days is predicted. He is not yet come, yet many lesser men, who bear his evil character in greater or smaller degree, have long been on the scene. This shows us that we are in the last time; that is, the epoch immediately preceding the time when evil will come to a head and meet with summary judgment.
Now the antichrists, who had appeared when John wrote, had once taken their place amongst the believers, as verse 1Jn_2:19 shows. By this time however they had severed their connection and gone out from their midst By this act they made it manifest that they never really belonged to the family of God they were not “of us.” The true believer is characterized by holding fast the faith. They had forsaken it and gone out from the Christian company, thereby revealing that they had no vital connection with the children of God. The real child of God has an Unction from the Holy One, and this was just what the antichrists had never possessed.
The “Unction” of verse 1Jn_2:20 is the same as the “Anointing” of verse 1Jn_2:27 , and the reference in each case is to the Holy Spirit. Indwelling the children of God, He becomes the Source whence proceeds their spiritual
understanding. Now the simplest babe in the Divine family has received the Anointing, and so may be said to “know all things.” The word for know is the one meaning inward, conscious knowledge. If it be a question of acquired knowledge, there are ten thousand details of which at present the babe is ignorant, but the Anointing gives him that inward capacity which brings all things within his reach. He knows all things potentially, though not yet in detail.
Hence even the babe may be said to “know the truth,” and he possesses the ability to differentiate between it and what is a lie. He may at the moment only know the Gospel in its simplest elements; yet in the Gospel he has truth undiluted foundation truth out of which all subsequent truth springs and every lie of the devil can be detected if it be placed by way of contrast against the bright background of the Gospel.
Every lie of the devil is in some way aimed at the truth concerning the Christ of God. He is no mean marksman, and even when he appears to be directing his shots at the outer rings of the target he is calculating on a rebound action which will ultimately land them fairly on to the bulls-eye. In the Apostle’s day he aimed at the centre openly. The antichrists boldly denied that Jesus was the Christ: they denied the Father and the Son. In our day some of them are still doing this. Many more however hardly do this; they introduce teachings of a more subtle kind, not so harmful on the surface but ultimately leading to just the same denials, whereby the centre of the target is hit.
The Antichrist, when he appears, will be the full and perfect denial of the Father and the Son. He will “magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods.” ( Dan_11:36 ), and this prediction is amplified in 2Th_2:4 . The “many antichrists” who have preceded him all run on similar lines. Their denials relate more particularly to the Son who has been manifested on earth, and they may profess that they have nothing to say as to the Father or against Him. Such a profession is unavailing. To deny the Son is to deny the Father. To confess the Son is to have the Father also. Though distinct in person They are one in the Godhead, and he who has the Anointing (the Holy Spirit), who also is one with Them in the Godhead, knows this right well, and is not likely to be deceived on the point.
The whole drift of the Old Testament is that Jesus is the Christ, as is shown by Act_17:2 , Act_17:3 . The truth as to the Father and the Son is disclosed in the New Testament. It is not that just then the relationship of the Father and the Son began to be; but that this eternally existing relationship in the Godhead was then for the first time fully disclosed. The fellowship into which we are brought is with the Father and the Son, as we were told in the opening of the epistle; and therefore the denial of this truth must be destructive of our fellowship.
It is worthy of note that error most frequently takes the form of denying truth. Denials are dangerous: they should be issued with care, based upon wide knowledge. Usually more knowledge is needed to deny than to assert. For instance, I may assert that a certain thing is in the Bible, and I need know but one verse in the Book, where it is stated, in order to prove what I say. If I deny that it is in the Bible, I shall need to know the Bible from beginning to end, before I am sure I cannot be successfully contradicted.
From the beginning then Jesus had been manifested as the Christ, and as Son He had revealed the Father. To this knowledge even the babes had come and it was to abide in them, as also it is to abide in us. Jesus is the Christ, that is, the Anointed One: we have received the Anointing so that the truth may abide in us, and then as a consequence, we shall abide in the Son and in the Father.
The Apostle Paul instructs us that we are “in Christ” as the fruit of God’s gracious work. The Apostle John instructs us as to the revelation of the Father and the Son, and as to the communion established in connection with that relationship, into which each child of God even the youngest babe is brought, so that we may continue “in the Son and in the Father.” The Son comes first, since we can only continue in the Father as we continue in Him. To “continue” is to abide in the conscious knowledge and enjoyment of the Son and the Father, possible for us inasmuch as we are born of God and have received the Anointing.
This continuing in the Son and in the Father is eternal life. There was the promise of eternal life even “before the world began,” as stated in Tit_1:2 . The Lord Jesus spoke of eternal life as, “that they might know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” ( Joh_17:3 ). Verse 1Jn_2:25 of our chapter carries this a step further. He who abides in the Son and in the Father is abiding in the life which is eternal. The Eternal Life had
been manifested and had been seen; but that had been the privilege of the Apostles only. Now we may possess that life and be in it; and this is for all of us, for these things were written to the babes in the family of God.
All this the Apostle had been saying in order to fortify the babes against the seducing teachers. In verse 1Jn_2:27 he reverts again to the Anointing, for it was by the Spirit given to them that all these things were made available for them. What a comfort it is to know that the Anointing abides in us. There is no variation or failure there. Again the Anointing not only abides but teaches of all things. Instruction may reach us from without, but it is by the Holy Spirit that we have the capacity to take it in. We do not need that any man should teach us. This remark is not in tended to discredit teachers whom the Lord may have raised up and gifted to do His work, otherwise we might use it to discredit the very epistle we are reading. It is intended to make us realize that even gifted teachers are not absolutely indispensable, but the Anointing is.
The Anointing Himself is truth. This is repeated in slightly different words in chapter 1Jn_5:6 . Christ is the truth as an Object before us. The Spirit is truth, bringing it into our hearts by divine teaching. To these babes John could say, “even as it hath taught you,” for the Anointing was already theirs.
Thank God, the Anointing is ours also. Hence for us also the word is, “Ye shall abide in Him.” We may be but babes; our knowledge may be small; but may nothing divert us from this life and communion in which we are set. It all centres in Him. Let us abide in Him.
The paragraph especially addressed to the babes, or “little children,” which begins at verse 1Jn_2:18 , ends at verse 27. We have the words “little children” in verse 1Jn_2:28 , but the word there is not the one meaning “babes,” but the word for “children” in a more general sense, the same word as is used in verses 1Jn_2:1 and 12, and also in 1Jn_3:7 , 1Jn_3:10 and 18.
With verse 1Jn_2:28 , then, the Apostle resumes his address to the whole family of God, to all those who are His children, irrespective of their spiritual growth or state. He had just assured the babes that the Anointing was theirs, and that consequently they might “abide in Him.” Now he turns to the whole family of God and exhorts them to “abide in Him.” What is good for the babes is good for all, and this abiding is the way of all spiritual fruitfulness and growth. When we are diverted from Him and our hearts’
affections and interests abide in the things of the world, then we are feeble and unfruitful. The Apostle looked on to the manifestation of Christ, when all of us will stand revealed in our true character; and he desired that we all may have confidence in that day and not be ashamed.
He will be manifested, and we too shall be manifested at His coming; and there is evidently the possibility of the believer being put to shame in that solemn hour. It is very likely that in these words the Apostle indicated his own sense of responsibility toward them, and he wished them to do him credit if we may so put it in that day. But they also surely indicate that we each may be put to shame on our own account. Let us each so really abide in Him that we may be fruitful now and have confidence then; and so neither we may be put to shame nor those who have laboured over us, whether as evangelists or shepherds. f life eternal. That was the basis of all apostolic teaching. The antichrists pushed their seductive teachings which merely originated from their own foolish minds. The apostles declared that which was from the beginning, and not something which had been introduced since.
In verses 1Jn_2:1 and 2 the Lord Jesus is not mentioned personally, for the point is rather that which was presented to us in Him. He was “the Word of life.” In John 1.0 , He is “the Word,” and being such He creates, so that creation may express something at least of God. Also He becomes flesh and dwells amongst us that He may express God fully to us. Here the thought is similar, but more limited. Life is the point: He was “that eternal life which was with the Father” and in Him it has been manifested unto us. We are to
have the life in having Him; but the first thing is to see the full character of the life as it came out in Him.
The life was eternal life, but it also was “with the Father.” This statement, we are told, gives the character of the life; so that it is not merely a statement of the fact that it was with the Father, but rather that it was such a life as that. It was with the Father inasmuch as He, who is the Fountain Head of that life, was with the Father, and in Him it has been manifested unto us. He became flesh that it might be manifested.
By the fact of His becoming flesh He placed Himself within the reach of three out of the five senses or faculties with which man is endowed. He could be heard, seen and felt. Hearing comes first, for in our fallen condition it is to that faculty that God specially addresses Himself. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” ( Rom_10:17 ). And so in the first place the apostles heard the Word of life, and thus were able to apprehend Him.
But then they also saw Him with their eyes, and even “looked upon,” or “contemplated” Him. There had been in earlier days fleeting manifestations of this great Person as “the Angel of the Lord,” only then it was impossible to contemplate Him for He was seen but for a moment. Now, come in flesh, all was different. The apostles spent years with Him, and could scrutinize Him with attention. They gazed at Him long and earnestly, even though they did not properly understand all that they observed until they had received the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Also they came into physical contact with Him. Their hands actually handled Him. This guaranteed that He was no mere Spirit manifestation. He was amongst them in a real human body of flesh and blood. After His resurrection He sojourned among them in His risen body of flesh and bones, and we may remember how He specifically enjoined them to handle Him and see He was not a Spirit after His resurrection.
All this establishes then beyond a doubt that there had been this real manifestation of eternal life before them. John 1.0 shows that in Him the Father was declared (ver. 18); Colossians 1.0 , that God was perfectly represented in Him as His Image (ver. 15); Hebrews 1.0 , that as the Son He is the Word, and that He is the expression and outshining of God’s Being and glory (vers. 2, 3). Here we find that He furnished the only true, objective manifestation of eternal life. It is remarkable that, just as we have
four Gospels setting forth His life from differing aspects so we have these four passages which set forth from differing aspects all that which came into revelation in Him.
The reason why John laboured this point in his opening verses was that the anti-christian teachers belittled it, or even denied it altogether. They were called “Gnostics,” because they claimed to be “the knowing ones.” They preferred their own subjective impressions and philosophic speculations to the objective facts established in Christ. Now everything for the apostles and for us begins with well established facts. The faith once delivered to the saints is rooted and established on facts. We cannot be too clear and emphatic as to this. That which is (as we shall see) subjectively produced in the saints is strictly in keeping with that which has been objectively manifested in Him.
The manifestation was made in the first place to the apostles. They were the “we.” But then, “that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.” The “you” were the saints generally. The manifestation made before the apostles brought them into “fellowship . . . with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” They have made known to us that which was manifested, that we might be brought into the same wonderful fellowship. The Father and the Son are made known to us. The eternal life connected with the Father and the Son has been manifested to us through them. The things of the Father and the Son have been revealed. Nothing could be more wonderful than this: nothing more absorbing, if once by the Holy Spirit we begin to lay hold of it. Nothing more calculated to fill our hearts with abiding gladness. No wonder the Apostle adds, “These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”
Verse 1Jn_2:4 makes it quite clear that the communication of these things to us by the apostles is through the Scriptures. “These things write we . . .” The apostles heard, saw and handled. We must read. Thank God for the Holy Writings which bring the knowledge of these things to us for our joy.
In verse 1Jn_2:5 John begins his message. Where does he start? With this great fact that “God is light” and not, as we might have expected, with the fact that God is love. All the emphasis would no doubt have been on His love had the manifestation been made in regions of unsullied purity and light. As however the manifestation has been made in this world, so filthy with sin and full of darkness, the first emphasis must be laid on light.
As to light who can define it? Men have formulated theories to account for the light of creation, but they cannot really explain it. Who then shall explain the uncreated Light? We know that light is necessary if life is to exist in any but its lowest forms. We know that it is healthful, that it illuminates and exposes all things, and that if it enters darkness flees. In God there is no darkness at all, for darkness stands for that which is removed from the action of light, that which is hidden and sinful.
Not only is God Himself light but, as verse 1Jn_2:7 tells us, He is “in the light.” Once the Lord had said, “that He would dwell in the thick darkness” ( 2Ch_6:1 ); and the fact that Solomon built Him an house did not alter it, for His presence was still found in the Holy of Holies, where all was dark. This was altered by the coming of the Lord Jesus, for God stepped into the light in Him. The God who is light is now in the light.
This fact is used as a test in verse 6. We have in this verse the first of many tests which are propounded. The presence of many false teachers with their varied and boastful claims made these tests necessary; and we shall notice that none of them are based upon elaborate or far-fetched considerations. They are all of the simplest sort and based upon the fundamental nature of things. Here, for instance, the fact that God is light, and that He is in the light, tests any claim that is made of being in fellowship with Him. Such an one cannot possibly be walking in darkness, for as we read elsewhere, “What communion hath light with darkness?” There is no communion (or fellowship) at all between the two. They are diametrically opposed.
The point here is not whether we always walk according to the light that we have received. We are all found offenders as to this at some time or other, as we know to our sorrow. To “walk in darkness” is to walk in ignorance of the light that has shone in Christ. A reference to Isa_50:10 , Isa_50:11 , at this point may be helpful. The one who “walks in darkness and has no light” is to “trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” However, even in Isaiah’s day there were those who preferred to “kindle a fire” and walk in the light of the fire and the sparks that they kindled. It was just like this in John’s day, and still is so in our own. There are all too many false teachers who prefer the sparks of their own kindling to the light of God’s revelation. Consequently they and their followers are in darkness in spite of all their pretensions, and they have no fellowship with Him.
The true believer walks in the light of God fully revealed. The light has searched him of course. It could not be otherwise. But he walks happily in the light because he has learned in that light that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Every spot of defilement exposed by the light is removed by the Blood.
The word is “cleanseth” the present tense. From this some have deduced that the blood is to be continually applied. But the present tense is also used to denote the nature or character of anything; just as we say, “Cork floats.” “Fire burns.” “Soap washes.” Such are their respective natures. Those properties belong to them. So it is the nature of the blood of Christ to cleanse from all sin. That blessed property is inherent in it. The idea that the Blood has to be continually or repeatedly applied contravenes the teaching of Heb_9:23-28; Heb_10:1-14 . We are “ONCE PURGED” by the “one offering,” so as to have “no more conscience of sins.”
Not only were men found who professed to have fellowship with God while yet walking in darkness, but there also were found some who went so far as to say, “We have no sin.” No test is propounded in regard to this wicked pretension. None was needed since they must of necessity soon be found out. They were deceiving themselves, and John tells them so plainly. They would hardly deceive anyone else; and if for a moment they did, the deception would soon be dispelled by sin being manifested in them all too plainly. If any indulge in such high and unfounded claims they do not show that sin is not in them. They only make it very manifest that the truth is not in them.
It is very difficult to imagine true believers deceiving themselves in this way, save for a very brief time. The only true and honest attitude for us is that of confessing our sins, and doing so at once. It is true of course that the only honest thing for the unbeliever, when conviction reaches him, is to confess his sins; then forgiveness, full and eternal will be his. The believer is in question here however. It is, “If we confess . . .” The sin of a believer does not compromise or upset the eternal forgiveness which reached him, when as a sinner he turned to God in repentance. It does nevertheless compromise his communion with God, of which we have just been reading. That communion will be suspended until he confesses the sin that has broken in upon it.
When we confess, God is faithful and just to all that Christ is, and has done, and the sin is forgiven so that fellowship may be restored. This is what we may call paternal forgiveness, to distinguish it from the eternal forgiveness which reached us as sinners.
Not only does He forgive, but He also cleanses from all unrighteousness. The honest confession of sin by the saint not only ensures forgiveness but it also has a cleansing effect. Confession of sin means the judgment in our own hearts and minds of what we confess. And that means cleansing from its influence and deliverance from its power.
A third pretension comes before us in verse 10. Some may be so far deluded as to say that they “have not sinned.” A test is propounded in regard to this; namely, the Word of God. To make such a preposterous statement is to place ourselves in opposition to the Word of God and to make Him a liar. He plainly states that we have sinned, which ends the matter. We cannot contradict His Word, and yet have His Word abiding in us.
As surely as we are in the light, shall we know that we have sinned and that sin is still in us. Yet we shall also know the value of the blood of Christ and its cleansing power, as also the restoration that reaches us upon honest confession. Thus communion in the light with the Father and His Son is established for us, and also maintained. We are enabled to know and rejoice in the life which has been manifested, and in all that from the beginning has been set forth in the blessed Son of God.
Our joy being full in such things as these, we shall not feel inclined to run after the men who would entice us with their professed improvements and enlargements of “that which was from the beginning.” The sparks they display before us may be quite pretty, but they are only of their own kindling, and they die out into darkness.
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Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on 1 John 2". "Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany