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Bible Commentaries
1 John 2

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-29

1 John 2:2 . He is the propitiation for our sin: ιλασμος , a ram, or other victim offered as an atoning sacrifice for sin. On Genesis 15:9, the rabbins make a distinction between the heifer, the she goat, and the ram, yet all the three are offered as atoning victims. The reference here is to Christ, our Ilasterion. Romans 3:25. Hebrews 9:5. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In him we draw near to God, through his blood; so that if any man do sin in the church, he ought immediately to return to God with true contrition of spirit, for the Redeemer is enthroned on the mercyseat with aspects of grace to the contrite; and not to them alone, but also to the whole world, whoever may return with broken and contrite hearts for past sins. He proclaims the Lord God, merciful and gracious, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin.

1 John 2:8 . A new commandment I write unto you. The ancient precept is enforced by an example altogether new, arising from the love of God to fallen man, who gave his only-begotten Son to die for our sins. Therefore the darkness is past, the old shadows of the law, and love, divine love, blazes out in new forms, and in all the exuberance of grace in the new covenant.

1 John 2:12-14 . I write unto you, little children, not yet established in grace. To you, fathers and young men. Our Saviour makes a triple distinction in the work of grace. The seed sown, grew, first the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in the ear, maturing for the harvest. This reminds us that youth is a growing time, and age a ripening time for the advent of the Lord.

1 John 2:15-17 . Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, which all pass away, while he who doeth the will of God abideth for ever. All beguiling objects, the concupiscence of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life, perish and vanish away, while the love of God remains in every age the same. This is the wisdom which cometh from above.

1 John 2:18-27 . Little children, it is the last time antichrist is already come. His influence may be seen in jewish sects that went out from us, because they were not of us. They deny the Lord that bought them; and whoever denies the Son, the same hath not the Father. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, the anointing of the Holy Spirit, which teaches you, little children, to know the truth, and to feel its power: whereas the antichrist is a lie, because he who denies Jesus to be the Christ, hath not the Father. One grand point of this unction is to know that Christ hath promised eternal life, which is the consummation of all our hope, and the grand cement of constancy and unity in the church of God. 2 Corinthians 1:21.


St. John, full of days and full of grace, proceeds with his work, and wisdom drops from his lips abundant as the precious fruits of autumn to nourish the church with the health of eternal life. He warns them to keep from sin, and from apostasy, the only ills which can hurt a saint; and if any man should basely or forgetfully yield to sin, he must not despondingly lie down in his shame, and suffer habits to be formed. One wound in a fight is often more than enough. Stupor reproaches the mercy which spares, and suspends the blow. Let us arise, and go, weeping to our advocate. Though we are sinful, Jesus Christ is righteous. Though we are guilty, he is the propitiation not only for us, but also for the whole world, as in 2 Timothy 2:6.

Assurance of pardon is the effect of obedience. This doctrine has been illustrated by notes on 2 Corinthians 5:0; 2 Corinthians 5:0: 2 Timothy 4:7. But here it opens anew. We know that God is ours, from the gracious frames and feelings excited by the comforts of the Holy Ghost. But these are only flowers, fragrant indeed as paradise, but they must mature into obedience. So St. Paul: I have fought a good fight henceforth there is laid up for me a crown. St. John likewise infers that a loving and willing obedience to the divine law is a proof of a new heart, for the carnal mind is enmity to this law, and revolts at this obedience.

Joseph Mede, in an admirable sermon on this text, says, “The tree is known by its fruits, and the workman by his work. Whoever therefore shows these fruits hath an infallible argument that the Spirit of God, and the earnest of salvation dwell in his heart; that his faith is true and saving, and no false conceit, no illusion of the devil, but the genuine operation of God’s own Spirit. The sun is known by his rising and shining beams, the fire by its burning, and the life of the body by its movements, even so certainly, the presence of God’s Spirit is known by the light of a holy conversation, and the purging fire of grace by a burning zeal against sin, and fervent desire to keep his holy commandments.”

The love of the brethren, called by Christ a new commandment, being enforced with new motives and augmented with new degrees of perfection, is adduced as a farther test of assurance. If we can forgive, and love him who has committed a fault against us, it is what we once could not do. This old law of love was grown out of date till Christ renewed it, and gave us a new heart to keep it.

Ministers, in feeding the flock, must distinguish the various states of believers, and give to every one a word in season. Young converts are comforted with the assurance of pardon: the young men are encouraged because they were strong in faith and love, and had overcome the wicked one, who had sought by every wile to draw them to pleasure and sin. The fathers are applauded for their long and deep experience; they had known the Eternal Father in his works of providence; they had become acquainted during their pilgrimage with the patriarchs of God, and now they could trust him for the future, and would be enabled to comfort others. They were however cautioned not to love the world; for a disposition to acquire wealth and encrease riches often tarnishes the piety of older men.

Watchmen must warn their people of peculiar danger. The roots of antichrist in false and lawless teachers began to appear, seeking authority and influence in the church. The best preservative is the unction of the Holy Spirit. Believers are anointed with this, as was their head, though not in the same measure. Hebrews 1:9. He gave us to know all things essential to salvation, and to sound morals. He will also warn us, if we lean too much to the world; or a minister who has a fine tongue, but whose heart is empty of holiness. This anointing dropping from Christ, will teach us to abide in him, that we may not be ashamed at his coming.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 John 2". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-john-2.html. 1835.
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