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Tuesday, May 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
1 John 2

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Verses 1-6



FIRMLY does St. John declare that the Christian should not sin, and must not sin. But he clearly recognises that Christians do actually sin through frailty. And he presents the consolation which is found in the gracious provision for dealing with Christian sins, both in their relation to God, and in their effects upon Christians themselves.

1 John 2:1. Little children.—Suitable to such an aged and honoured teacher, such a father in Christ, as St. John. It is seen that it expresses his affectionate interest in them; it is not so often seen that it expresses also his sense of the immaturity, and consequent peril, of the disciples. These things.—Both those things which he has said, and those things which he is about to say. St. John’s one all-ruling anxiety was, to help Christians not to sin. His epistle can only be understood when that passion for righteousness in Christian professors is fully apprehended. This may be taken as St. John’s key-note, “He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He [the Divine and human Son] is righteous.” Advocate.—Same word as St. John uses in his gospel. It is there translated “Comforter” (John 14:16; John 14:25; John 15:26; John 16:7). One who is ready to plead for us; and One who has peculiar power, and right, to plead. See our word “Intercessor.” With the Father.—With is literally towards. But the point is, that the Advocate is always with the Father, and His help is therefore always available. The name for God, Father, is intended to remind us that the apostle is not here speaking about anybody and everybody’s sins against God, but precisely about the sins of God’s children, which are sins against their spiritual and Divine Father. The righteous.—Or, the perfect, ideal, model Son, who never sins, but does always the things that please the Father. His standing before the Father as the righteous Son is the perpetual plea for merciful dealing with those who want to be such sons as He is, and cannot be by reason of their bodily and human frailties. Righteous sonship is the best of pleas with the righteous Father.

1 John 2:2. Propitiation.—Better, “And He Himself is a propitiation.” It is not something He does that propitiates, but He Himself standing ever before the Father as the righteous Son propitiates the Father, and, as it were, secures His kindly dealing with the other sons, who are working towards, but come short of, the same righteous sonship. Our sins.—Distinctly ours; the reference is precisely to those who are born of God into the spiritual sonship. Of the whole world.—This St. John adds, lest his precise setting of truth should be supposed to exclude the general truth of Christ’s redemptive work for the world. St. Paul presents a similar double truth when he writes of Christ as “the Saviour of all men, specially of those who believe.”

1 John 2:3. Know Him.—Compare chap. 1 John 1:6, “have fellowship with Him.” Better, know Him in the special spiritual relations of Divine Fatherhood. Sin disturbs the knowledge, and breaks the relations. Perfect son-like obedience, such as Christ’s, keeps for us the knowledge of the Father, and the close relations with the Father, which Christ has. His commandments.—Some think Christ’s are meant; but it is better to understand the Father’s commandments apprehended through Christ.

1 John 2:4. A liar.—We do not now use this word, save under special stress. Such a man as St. John speaks of we should call “self-deceived,” a man giving way to self-delusions. The two things, the new life unto righteousness, in Christ; and the old life unto iniquity, in self, can never by any possibility be made to go together. The one kills the other.

1 John 2:5. Love of God perfected.—Because the one thing that love is ever striving to do is, inspire obedience; and it only accomplishes its end when it secures obedience.

1 John 2:6. Abideth in Him.—The truth is applied to the Christian life which has already been applied to the Christian profession. A Christ-like obedience is the one all-sufficing test of reality and sincerity. Walk.—Compare “conversation,” terms that compass the whole Christian life and relations.


The Remedy for Christian Sin a Reason for not sinning.—It has already been shown that fellowship with God must depend on our being kin with Him in light, which represents purity, righteousness, sinlessness. But that condition is practically unattainable by any who are placed in creaturely limitations, and in existing human conditions. Even when a man is right in will, and purpose, and endeavour, the fact remains that he falls into sins of frailty, and even sins of temporary self-willedness. If St. John had failed to recognise this fact, and had made unqualified the demand for perfection, as the absolutely essential condition of fellowship, he would have made the Christian life a hopeless and impossible thing: men would despairingly have said, “It is high; I cannot attain unto it; and I shall not try.” On the other hand, it was necessary to present the remedy for Christian frailty and sin in such a way that men could not presume upon it, and continue in sin that grace may abound. In the first two verses of this chapter, the remedy for Christian sin, which was partly stated in chap. 1 John 1:7, is further unfolded; or we may more correctly say, the one truth is seen from other sides, and other points of view.

I. The provision made for Christian sin.—This is stated in very precise terms. We have an Advocate, and His advocacy is a propitiation.

1. We have an Advocate—παράκλητον ἔχομεν. The word is “Paraclete,” which we directly associate with the Holy Ghost, but which our Lord taught us could properly be applied to Himself; for He said, “I will send you another Comforter.” Would we then understand the Paraclete’s work with the Father, we must compare it with the Paraclete’s work in us. It is clearly a persuading, influencing work—a pleading of our cause, a securing of gracious and kindly dealing with our Christian sins. The figure in the word, both as applied to Christ and to the Spirit, is the pleading of a man’s cause at a court of justice, and the securing of an acquittal, or at least of a modification of sentence. But we may come much nearer to the case St. John presents if we fit his illustration to family life. One of the children in the family love may be led astray, and may do some wrong thing, which greatly grieves the parent, and for the time properly puts even the beloved child out of pleasant relations. What can be done to restore relations? Plainly enough, it is possible for another son—maybe the eldest son—to take all the burden upon himself, and resolve to do everything possible to set things right again. His first work will be with the erring brother; he must get him to see his sin, confess it, and be sorry for it. Then when he has got his brother restored to his right, child-like mind, he can be his “advocate with the father,” and can present such reasons as may persuade and propitiate him, and make it right for him to receive the erring son back again into the family life. And so Christ, our elder brother, undertakes to deal with His brothers’ sins. “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sins.” When they are recovered to right-willedness, right-heartedness, He can become their “Advocate with the Father,” and with all becoming and effective persuasions propitiate Him, and secure their return to full son-like standing and relations.

2. The advocacy of Christ is a “propitiation.” There is no indication whatever that St. John had in his mind the sacrificial work of Christ. His mind was evidently occupied with the person of Christ, with, the living person of Christ—not with something He had done, but with something He was doing, the actual present relation in which He stands to believers, His present spiritual intercession and advocacy. A father ought to show his indignation and grief at the wrong-doing of his child. He ought to punish the child by putting him for a time out of pleasant relations. And such a father, in such a becoming state of mind, can be appeased, can be properly propitiated, if he can be assured that the erring child has been brought to penitence and confession, and, in the recovered spirit of son-like obedience and trust, longs to have loving relations restored. It should clearly be seen, that the pleading of the Advocate is with the Father, whose son has gone astray; and the propitiation is such as can be offered to a grieved Father. It is twofold:

1. It is the personal acceptableness of the Advocate (Christ the righteous) which gives power to His plea.

2. It is the work which the Advocate has done in the erring son which gives the Father full and sufficient ground for restoring him to favour.

II. The persuasion against Christian sinning.—“These things I write unto you, that ye may not sin.” To unfold such full and gracious provisions for a case of Christian sin might be used wrongly, and Christian people might become indifferent and careless. Because recovery was so easy and so complete, they might presume, and think lightly of frailties and stumblings. St. John reminds us how utterly wrong, and how unworthy, such a misuse of his teachings was. The grace in recovery should be a persuasion to the most watchful endeavour not to make occasion for the grace. There should be the most resolute effort to keep our Father’s commandments, and never grieve Him, or put ourselves out of loving relations with Him. And we shall be sure to keep right if only we will “walk even as Christ walked” (1 John 2:6). There is the Sonship that is always well-pleasing to the Father; and the very grace of that Son towards His frail brothers should be a constant persuasion to them to try, more and more, to live like Him, and think like Him, and keep all pleasant relations with the Father, even as He does, because He ever walks in the light, which is kin with the Father, who is light.


1 John 2:1. St. John’s Little Children.—“My little children”—τεκνία. It is quite certain that St. John does not write his epistle to, or here address, mere children. His term is used figuratively. St. John may have in mind—

1. That the believers to whom he wrote were but in the young, early stages of Christian life, knowledge, and experience.
2. Or the term may only indicate his affectionate considertion for them, as an aged father in Christ. But it is more probable—
3. That the term was carefully chosen by St. John, in order to suggest to them that family associations would best explain to them his teachings. They would understand him if they thought of themselves as children—good children, but frail—and needing much training and discipline; and if they thought of God as their Father, who would surely be grieved at His Children’s wayward ways. “St. John’s conception of the Church is that of a family; in which all are children of God and brethren one of another, but in which also some who are elders stand in a parental relation to the younger brethren.” See chaps, 1 John 2:12; 1 John 2:28, 1 John 3:18, 1 John 4:4, 1 John 5:21.

Children’s Sin.—“That ye may not sin.” Ye, the children of the family, to which St. John, and the Lord Jesus, both belonged. The distinction between the sin of those in family relations, and the sin of those outside family relations, needs to be very carefully drawn. For one thing, the sins of the members of the family are wholly dealt with within the family. They are never taken to a court of justice. They can be quite effectively dealt with by the father, and the other children. For another thing, the idea of punishment for vindication of authority goes into the background in connection with a child’s sin; and the recovery of the child, and the discipline of the child through the way in which he is recovered, become the prominent and all-important things.

Our Lord as Paraclete.—παράκλητος πρὸς τὸν πατέρα. The Lord is our Paraclete—that is, not as it were with the Father, for the accusative must have its rights, as meaning over against or towards the Father. His advocacy turns towards the Father, and has to do with Him; while, on the other hand, He is, according to the gospel, ἐν ἡμῖν, our Paraclete, inasmuch as He stands by the side of the Christian, in all his conflict with the world and himself, as his Counsellor, and Advocate, and Helper. But as towards God, who is light, and a righteous Judge, the Lord can be regarded as a merciful Mediator only under a twofold presupposition:

1. He must Himself be well-pleasing to God through His moral qualification.
2. He must represent a cause which may commend itself to God as the righteous One. The first element is in our verse made prominent by the predicate δίκαιος; the second verse brings out the second element. The two united cannot be more tersely and precisely expressed than in the words of Calvin: “Justum et propitiationem vocat Christum; utroque præditum esse oportet; ut munus personamque advocati sustineat, quis enim peccator nobis Dei gratiam conciliet?” Hence it is not to be overlooked that we read, not παράκλητον δίκαιον ἔχομεν, but παράκλητον ἔχομεν ʼΙησοῦν Χριστὸν δίκαιον. The former statement would indeed mean that His agency as a Paraclete was a righteous one, that He is righteous in His proper function as a Paraclete—as Beda expresses it, “Patronus justus caussas injustas non accipit”; but it is not until the second verse that that element comes out. The order in the apostle’s own words gives prominence first to the righteousness of the person—by reason of which He is fitted generally, as over against God, to assume the part of a Mediator.—Eric Haupt.

Christ in Heaven.—St. John’s message can be put into a sentence. Fellowship with the Father may be enjoyed, but only by those who “walk in the light.” The full idea of the Christian life includes likeness to God in two essential things—light and love. In the perfect Christian life there is no sin, for there is no self-will. Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. But that ideal is seldom, if ever, actually attained. As a fact, Christian people do sin. Unless the statement is most carefully qualified, it is false for any man to say that he has reached conscious freedom from sin. The word of God provides for the fact of Christian sin. They who are clean every whit still need to wash their feet. There are two ways of dealing with the fact:

1. We may assume that sin is a necessity to the Christian life, and that there need be no grave anxiety about it. But to deal with it in this way would be to put our Christian life in peril, and nourish presumption. Dress a child in pure garments, and it will make all the difference in his conduct if he is expected to soil them. The child and the Christian should fully understand that they need not soil their garments: they may walk in white. But in case they unwittingly do, provision is duly made.

2. We may too greatly despond on account of Christian sins, and this we do when we wrongly estimate the provision which has been made for them. Despondency is a serious evil; it plucks away the joy and enterprise of Christian life. It is quite one thing for us to have some stains gather on the white garment of our acceptance, and quite another to strip our white garment off. Keeping it on, there is a most full and blessed provision made for the stains: “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Deliverance from both forms of mistake lies in a proper apprehension of the truth gathering round Christ in heaven.

I. Christ in heaven—in general, His work in the heavenly places.—The mediatorial work of Christ is represented as having three stages, when viewed historically. A stage of preparation running through some four thousand years, in which man was permitted to exhaust every scheme of self-recovery. Then followed a stage of manifestation, comprising the brief human life of the Lord Jesus. Perfect virtue, incarnate love, was then exhibited as the object of man’s trust, imitation, and love. To this succeeds a stage of spiritual relations. Christ is conceived as exalted to the right hand of the Father, as passed beyond body limitations, as become a spiritual power, aiding the development of the godly life in those who believe. New Testament Scriptures frequently present the vision of Christ in heaven, in His glorified humanity—in that glorified humanity which He showed us for forty days after His resurrection. Thus exalted, and spiritualised, our Lord bears now actual, present, direct, and most intimate relations to all the varying phases of our personal and our associated life. Often we read the deep meanings of the Sacrifice and Resurrection. We should be oftener searching into the deep meanings of the Ascension. The Christian disciple may stand steadfastly gazing into heaven, watching the shining way up which the Saviour went, and trying to pierce the cloud-veil that hides His glory from view. In the moments of opened vision, which holy souls sometimes know, Stephen looked through, and saw “Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” Saul of Tarsus heard the voice of Him he was persecuting speaking out of the heavenly places; and St. John saw Christ, in the sublime visions of Patmos, standing before the throne, and, as the “Angel of the covenant,” waving the golden censer wherein are the “prayers of the saints.” There, in the glory, “on His vesture, and on His thigh, is this name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords.” “We have a great High Priest who is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.” John “beheld, and lo! in the midst of the throne, and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” We need not, however, think of Him as exhibiting His wounds in heaven, and using persuasions with God on our behalf by pointing to the marks of nails and spear. He is God’s beloved Son, infinitely acceptable on the ground of a spiritual obedience, of which the Father can never need any such material remindings. The natural body has become the glorified body; even the earth-marks are glorified, and lie now only as tender memorials of a past to quicken the redeemed to new love and thankfulness. In addition to Scripture teachings, we can discover the necessity for thinking of Christ as in heaven by the place left for that truth in the circle of Christian doctrine, and in the demand made for it by the Christian heart. We can see this—

1. God can never be rightly known by man except through humanity. The very point of Christ’s taking our nature upon Him, actually coming in the flesh, being born of a woman, and in all points tempted like as we are, lies in the necessity for revealing the knowledge of God through man’s nature. Man can never know God sufficiently and savingly until he can see Him as if He were a fellow-man. Therefore false religions always dream of incarnations. Therefore the true religion declares that “He who was in the form of God … was found in fashion as a man.” It is still as true as it ever was, that man can only know God through the forms and figures that belong to man. So when he lifts his eyes to the heavenly, and through the veil of Christ would see God, it can only be by realising the humanity, the brotherhood, of the glorified and exalted Son. All visions of the spiritual and the heavenly would become unreal to us, would be vague, dim, dreamy, unpractical, if we lost from the ascended Christ His bodily and human associations. Our living and spiritual Saviour is the “Man Christ Jesus.”

2. Men would be, all down through the ages, and all over the world, seeking the Saviour with their various burdens of suffering and sin. They would want the sympathy of the “Man of sorrows.” They would need a Saviour in heaven. Kept in the limitations of a human body, He could not speak with voice that should reach all seekers; but exalted, ascended, spiritual, He can be the dear friend of every soul; from the east, and west, and north, and south they may come, and do come, to sit down in the kingdom of the Son, because He is the risen, glorified, living Song of Song of Solomon 3:0. And the work of sanctification which has to be wrought in the renewed assures us that Christ is in heaven. There are three stages in His work as carried on in the hearts of His people. Entire recovery is not effected by the first act of faith. That enthrones the new principle. But much has to be done in giving that principle its full sway. And the one condition of progressive sanctification is that we maintain fellowship with the Father. And the fellowship is kept up by this—Jesus, our elder Brother, is maintaining the fellowship, as representing us, and pledging us. Is a Christian asked whether he is keeping up fellowship with God, he replies, “Do you mean I by myself, or I in Christ?”

4. And Christ’s own are ever passing into the glorified state, where they will want Him. If the marks of His manhood do not still appear, our passing friends will feel strange in their new home. Surely it must be the soul’s recognition of its long-loved Brother, and Friend, and Saviour that will unseal the eyes, and bring recognition of glorified mothers, and children, and friends. Call it what you may, the Christian heart clings to the conviction that “Jesus lives”: He is in heaven. He still reveals the Father. He still welcomes the seeker. He still sanctifies those who believe. He will be the glorified Man until all the elect are gathered in, and all the ends of His redemption reached. Then He shall “see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.”

II. Christ in heaven—in particular, His relation to Christian sins, and to the states of mind into which we are brought by sins.—The word translated “Advocate” is the word “Paraclete,” with which we are familiar as describing the Holy Spirit. It exactly means, “One who may be called upon for help.” And in calling Christ our “Advocate” attention is directed to His relation to us as a Helper. It is not designed, by the use of this word, to indicate the exact nature of His relationship to God. He is our Advocate, appearing in the presence of God for us. It is needful to point this out, because, having the idea of the barrister and lawyer in our minds, we too easily transfer our legal fictions to God, and thereby sadly misconceive His relations both with Christ and with men. Then He is Advocate with the Father: not with a Judge; not before the Father, but with Him. Not using persuasions before the Father, or arguments to guide the Judge, but the Father’s own Helper, provided by the Father in His great love for the helping of His redeemed family. Moreover, it is Jesus Christ the righteous who is Advocate. Not Jesus Christ the priest. Not Jesus Christ the sacrifice, or the atonement, but Jesus Christ the righteous. His fellowship with the Father, as representing us, is based on His merit, His righteousness—the righteousness of His Sonship, the obedience of the Divine will unto and through death. His righteousness is perfect; therefore the fellowship is never broken, and He can use all the privileges belonging to that fellowship for the helping, comforting, teaching, saving, of His people.

1. Christ in heaven ensures the abiding forgiveness of Christian sins. In Christ the righteous we stand ever before the Father as accepted, righteous sons. Every act of sin breaks our fellowship. The holy Father could not pass by even the least sin in the children He loves so well. If every act of Christian sin actually broke up our fellowship with the Father, how hopeless our condition would be! Our elder Brother keeps up the fellowship for us.
2. Christ in heaven is the living Friend by whose help we are delivered from the power of Christian sins. He covers with His righteousness all our wrong; but He can never cover any unrepented wrong. Christ supposes that we really want to put the sin away, and comes in the power of His Spirit to help us. Every one who honestly struggles against sin may be sure of the presence of Jesus to root out of his soul the very love and desire of it. Under this most inspiring truth shall we

(1) dare to presume, or
(2) dare to despond?

The Advocate in the Court of Mercy. This opening sentence reminds us—

I. Of the speaker’s venerable age.—Sixty years before he had clasped the hand of Christ, drooped his head on the breast of incarnate Love. He had stood by the cross, witnessed the Ascension, seen Jerusalem in its glory and final ruin. Last of apostles who had stood face to face with Jesus.

II. It reveals his tender love.—His love glows in the epithet of endearment with which he habitually addresses his younger companions in the faith.

III. His authority as a teacher.—All inspired men speak with equal authority of office, but not with equal authority of knowledge—with equal accuracy, but not with equal range of light. His writings are marked by simplicity, gentleness, and love.

1. Consider the fact. “We have an Advocate.”

(1) Such a mediatorial office can only exist by the appointment of the absolute Ruler. Behind the great mystery of the Redemption there is the love of a Father contriving it all, inspiring it all, explaining it all.

(2) It proves our need of an Advocate. There is a wise and exact economy in all the works, and ways, and words of the Divine Father. He never grants a needless gift, never founds a needless institution.

(3) He pleads for us in the court of mercy. Propitiation, in its meaning, includes the idea of mercy. The propitiatory was the mercy-seat. “Be propitious to me” is fitly rendered “Be merciful to me.”

(4) “Advocateis the title of a helper whose aid must be invoked. An advocate is one who is called to the aid of a client. Christ is silent until we invoke Him. A cry to Him will bring Him to our side as a kind and faithful Pleader.

2. The qualifications of the Person to whom this advocacy is entrusted Our Pleader is “Jesus Christ the righteous.”

(1) His character, “the righteous.” The rectitude of Jesus is emphatically perfect. Theorists confess their faith in the spotless splendour of His humanity.

(2) His plea. God saves transgressors on the ground of righteous substitution. Jesus is the second Adam, the Sponsor for those who believe. “He, for us, has fulfilled the law; we, in Him, are fulfillers of the law.”

(3) His nature. He has all natural qualifications for the undertaking. He is God and man.

(4) His acquaintance with your case. Before you confide to Him a single secret, His acquaintance with your whole life is intimate and perfect. “He knew what was in man.” Christ knows the worst of us.

3. Trace the influence which these things are to have upon our lives.

(1) You are to avoid presumption. “That ye sin not.” We must not so hold the doctrine of Christ’s substitutionary work that the thought of it will make us less alive to the enormity of sin, and less afraid of its defilement, than we should otherwise have been. The merit of Christ justifies none but those whom His Spirit sanctifies.

(2) You are to avoid despondency. “If any man sin.” The men whose spiritual life is most faint and wavering are most in danger of presumption; and the men whose spiritual life is most advanced are sometimes in danger of despondency. Keen perception of sin, leading to despondency, is not always caused by growing holiness. The backslider may feel it. Almost every awakened sinner has felt it. Whoever feels it, here is a revelation that furnishes an antidote to all despair: “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”—Charles Stanford, D.D.

Christ the Righteous.—The Armenian translation adds to the term “righteous,” “and blameless”; and it is evident that what we may properly call our Lord’s moral and religious character is the thing upon which attention is fixed. The Son, the “Man Christ Jesus,” does actually stand in full and perfect acceptance with the Father, with God, on the ground of His personal righteousness as a Son, and as a man. That personal acceptance gives Him the place, the right, and the power for His advocacy in our behalf. It is most important to the understanding of St. John that we should realise how entirely his mind and heart were absorbed in the contemplation of the person of Christ, even to the exclusion of direct references to Christ’s work. To understand our Lord’s redemptive work, we must seek the guidance of St. Paul; to understand our Lord’s redemptive power, we must seek the guidance of St. John. Our Lord presents the only blameless example of human nature. He is “righteous.” He is human nature entirely recovered, absolutely delivered from the effects of the Fall; He is God’s idea of a human son realised; and there can therefore be no conceivable hindrance to His acceptance with the Father. Scripture writers are exceedingly jealous over not the merely negative “sinlessness,” but over the positive “righteousness,” of Christ. (See John 16:8-10; Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 3:18.) And the righteousness of Christ is a distinctly human righteousness, because it has been gained through the testing of a human body and an earthly experience. It is not an innocent condition in which Christ was set, but a righteousness which Christ has won under the conditions in which we have to win our righteousness. It is therefore distinctly relative to us. It is a leadership of us. It can be a representative of us. Christ before the throne, Christ the Son before the Father, standing in the acceptance of His own humanly won righteousness, is our Advocate, and pleads for us on the ground of that righteousness.

1 John 2:1-2. Propitiation for Sin.—Let us not be afraid of a theory of the Atonement. Vagueness in this matter is spiritual weakness. The word “propitiation” has a well-defined meaning, and in itself embodies a theory; and when we read it with what else Scripture teaches, we cannot be wrong in saying that the death of the Lord Jesus is the one means by which God extends His favour to sinful men.

I. The need of propitiation.—To propitiate is to turn away wrath. Propitiation implies wrath. Words occur all through Scripture which indicate more than Divine sorrow, even Divine displeasure, Divine wrath. So there is Divine wrath to be turned away; whilst that wrath remains God cannot receive man, and man cannot go to God. And Divine forgiveness must be legal. God is not only Father, He is Sovereign; sin is the rejection of His law, rebellion against His majesty, and its forgiveness must be in harmony with law, and the inviolable claims of His throne. Before God can receive back the sinner there is wrath to be averted in some way by which righteousness shall be equally honoured with mercy. And man needs such propitiation too; his moral sense must be satisfied in any adequate redemption.

II. The propitiation provided.—

1. This is a propitiation provided and made by God Himself.

2. This propitiation is by the substitutionary offering of God the Son. Sin cannot be transferred, but penalty Song of Song of Solomon 3:0. This propitiation is sufficient for the sins of the world.

III. The propitiation made use of.—Propitiation does not save; it makes it possible for us to go to God; it enables Him to throw His door wide open, and to receive graciously and love freely all who come; but we must tread that open way, we must go to Him. That is where faith comes in. “We are saved through faith.” The end of the propitiation is the filial relationship fulfilled, and that is salvation.—Charles New.

1 John 2:2. The Ends Attained by Propitiation.—

1. It is the fullest revelation of the Divine character. It sets before us, in one great act, the righteousness and the mercy of God. The cross proclaims the pardon for which infinite love solicits. The heart of God yields to itself. But how can this be? It is because the pardon solicited by love is obtained by a sacrifice which equally exhibits God’s righteousness.
2. If men are to be saved at all, they must be saved to holiness; they must be sanctified as well as forgiven. The result cannot be otherwise for those who truly believe in the sacrifice of Christ as thus explained. Holiness and love, the two great elements of the character of God—these are expressed in the cross, and they must be reproduced in the character of those for whom the cross does its appointed work.—C. Bailhache.

Christ’s Death.

I. Christ’s death was vicarious.—He did not merely die for our benefit, in order to our good; He died in our stead. Christ the sinless One suffered for the sinful in the place of the sinful.

II. Christ’s death was propitiatory.—When parties are at variance with each other, we speak of the offended party, especially if he be a superior, as becoming propitious, or propitiated, when the displeasure is removed, and the variance gives place to favour.

III. Christ’s death is expiatory.—Propitiation and expiation are constantly used as synonymous terms.

IV. In our Lord’s death God’s righteousness is manifested in inseparable union with His grace.

V. Christ’s death is fraught with moral benefit to mankind.—Its great object is to bring us back to God, the fountain of all goodness. When we come under its power, our character is transformed; we are delivered from the tyranny of sin, and come under the sway of holy principle, which permeates and controls our life in all the relations we bear, and in all the circumstances in which we can be placed.—James Kennedy, M.A.

Propitiation for Christian Sins.—“For our sins.” Whatever may be the meaning of the word “propitiation” in the New Testament generally, it is quite clear that in this passage it is directly connected with the sins of Christians. In only a very indirect way can this passage be connected with the sins of the whole world. That at least is the large and general truth, and St. John is laying emphasis on the particular and precise truth. Propitiation, as connected with Christian sins, must be represented most effectively by the restoration of peace in a home that has been broken up by the Children’s wrong-doing. The word cannot here mean propitiatory sacrifice, because it is the Person Christ, and not the work of Christ, that is referred to in the passage. It is Jesus Christ the righteous; and His personal righteousness is evidently the ground or basis of the propitiation. He is—He Himself is—the propitiation for our sins. He, standing before God in His righteousness, is the basis of God’s gracious and peaceful relations with us. Christ, as it were, pledges the family obedience, and so wins and keeps the peace of the home.

The World’s Propitiation.—“But also for the whole world.” This expression requires us to recognise at once a sameness, and a difference, in the senses in which propitiation is to be applied to the sin-frailties of Christians, and the sin-wilfulnesses of the world. It reminds us of the expression of St. Paul, “The living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe.” What is presented to thought is, that God the Son has undertaken a twofold work of grace. He has undertaken to deal with, in order to secure their removal, the difficulties occasioned by “our sins,” i.e. our Christian frailties, imperfections, and temporary wilfulnesses. And He has also undertaken to deal with all the difficulties, disabilities, and penalties which have come through the world’s wilful sin. Christ bears brotherly and helpful relations to those who are sons indeed, and also to those who are sons, though headless of the fact.

1 John 2:3. Obedience the Secret of the Higher Knowledge.—“And hereby know we that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” The reference is to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to that full apprehension of Him which is so entirely different from mere acquaintance. There may be only one way in which we can get to know things. The laws of mind may be as absolute and universal as the laws of nature. But there are many ways in which we can get to know persons.

1. We can make them a subject of study, watch their conduct under varying circumstances, and form our impressions, which will be more or less correct and complete. In that way, however, we can never come to know more than the surface of a man. The spiritual being, who is the real man, makes only a very imperfect impression upon us, in that way. No amount of study will ever do more than give us apprehension of a man from the outside.

2. We can come into direct, constant, personal associations with a man, and thus come to know him through daily intercourse. The persons on earth whom we know best we know in this way, and the knowledge comes by feeling rather than by thinking. The good son never thinks of studying his mother, but he knows her well.

3. We can yield ourselves in personal service to a man, and thus come to the very fullest and highest knowledge of him. It is said that “No man is a hero to his own valet.” And it is so because a man opens up his real and true self to him who serves him. And our Lord said concerning the intimacy given to trusted servants, “Henceforth I call you not servants, but I have called you friends.” It is but presenting this truth from one point of view to say that through our obedience to Christ, our keeping His commandments, our serving Him, come into our souls the fullest, highest, most spiritual, apprehensions of Him. We can know Christ by study, and by ordinary relations of life with Him. But we can never know Christ fully until we have entered into personal relations of obedient service to Him.

1 John 2:6. Fellowship dependent on Like-mindedness.—“Ought himself also to walk, even as He walked.” A man’s walk is the expression of his real mind and purpose, but not necessarily of the profession he may make. The distinction between a man’s profession and a man’s mind needs to be clearly and sharply drawn. They ought to be in absolute correspondence; they need not be; and they often are not. What measure of fellowship can be obtained on the basis of men’s professions?—

1. When they do not carry men’s minds, and find fitting expression for them. Such fellowship must of necessity be surface fellowship, uncertain, untrustworthy, and wholly unable to stand any sort of strain.

2. When they do carry and express men’s settled minds and purposes. Then the fellowship is soundly and safely based; the man himself is in it. But it remains to be shown that for the full joy of the fellowship the man’s mind must be fully kin with him whose fellowship he seeks. The man himself must be in it; and he must be like-minded with the other party in the fellowship.

Knowledge through Obedience.—There is no real knowledge of God, no fellowship with Him, without practical conformity to His will. St. John is again condemning that Gnostic doctrine which made excellence to consist in mere intellectual enlightenment. Divorced from holiness of life, St. John says, no enlightenment can be a knowledge of God. In his system of Christian ethics the apostle insists, no less than Aristotle, that in morals knowledge without practice is worthless: “not speculation, but conduct,” is the aim of both the Christian and the heathen philosopher. Mere knowledge will not do; nor will knowledge “touched by emotion” do. It is possible to know, and admire, and in a sort of way love, and yet act as if we had not known. But St. John gives no encouragement to devotion without a moral life (compare chap. 1 John 1:6). There is only one way of proving to ourselves that we know God, and that is by loving obedience to His will. Compare the very high standard of virtue set by Aristotle: he only is a virtuous man who does virtuous acts,—“first, knowingly; secondly, from deliberate preference, and deliberate preference for the sake of the acts (and not any advantages resulting from them), and, thirdly, with firm and unvarying purpose” (Nico. Eth., II. iv. 3).—A. Plummer, D.D.


1 John 2:1. Intercession.—An ancient historian records the history of two brothers, one of whom was a gallant hero, and bad lost his arm in the defence of his native country; the other, an infamous profligate, who for capital crimes was condemned to die. The hero appeared before the judges as an advocate for his brother; he spoke not, but only held up his arm. This act pleaded so powerfully that the guilt was forgiven, on account of the services rendered by his brother. Sacred history also gives an account of the debt or guilt of one being charged to another. Onesimus was Philemon’s bond-slave, but had stolen his master’s goods, and deserted his service. In his wanderings he met with Paul, and became a convert to the gospel; being useful to the apostle during his imprisonment at Rome, he took him under his protection, and endeavoured to bring about a reconciliation between the master and slave. Accordingly, he wrote a letter to the rich citizen of Colossæ, and sent it by the criminal himself, in which he insisted that the slave might be forgiven, and that, if he had been injured by him, or was in his debt, to charge it to his, Paul’s, account (Philemon 1:18). Pardon and forgiveness were thus obtained, not from any merits in the recipients, but in consideration of the merits of others.

Verses 7-11


1 John 2:8. New commandment.—St. John seems to refer to his demand of love to the brethren, as the satisfactory sign of heart-obedience, son-like obedience to the Father. And this was new in the sense that no previous religious or ethical system had made such a demand. The common law of humanity is, “Serve yourself first, and then serve others, if you can.” The Divine law of humanity is, “Serve others first, and serve yourselves only when you are quite free of all brotherly obligations.” Darkness is past.—Which hid from men the Fatherhood of God, and prevented them from realising their brotherhood. True light.—It is the light of Christ’s ideal sonship and brotherliness.

1 John 2:9. Hateth.—This is a word which has changed its meaning since the A.V. was made. The Bible word means, “love less”; “put second”; “show indifference to.” The Christian hates self when he puts self second. The worldly man hates his brother when he puts him after self.

1 John 2:10. None occasion of stumbling.—I.e. the self-seeking principle is constantly putting men in peril of doing wrong and unjust things to their brethren. The love which “seeketh not her own” never urges any man to do anything that is unkind or unworthy. “Love to the brethren is a proof of uninterrupted abiding in the light, and of a blameless course in the way of righteousness.” St. John evidently had to deal with teachers who urged that love to Christ was enough to secure all the Christian blessings. He counteracts such mischievous teachings, by thus firmly asserting that love to Christ is absolutely inseparable from love to the brethren; there cannot possibly be the one without the other.


A New, yet Old, Commandment.—The new life in Christ will always find expression in two forms—in righteousness, and in charity. Or, to state the same thing in concrete form, in the obedience of sonship to God, and in the service of brotherhood to men. The apostle has been dealing with the first of these; he now turns to the second, beginning a new section by the direct address “Brethren,” or more precisely, “Beloved.” There are senses in which the love of the brethren is the oldest of old commandments. And there are senses in which the old commandment has been given anew; a fresh glow, and force, and meaning have been put upon it, and it comes to us like a new commandment, when we receive it from the lips of our Divine Lord and Master. Think of it as old, or think of it as new, still it stands as the second great commandment for humanity, and it is, in fact, included and involved in the first. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” It is remarkable that counsels respecting the law of brotherly love should take such a prominent place in St. John’s epistles. The Churches of his day must have been failing in this duty. The spirit of self-seeking and rivalry must have been spoiling the Christian relations. It was not the wisest thing for the apostle to attempt dealing directly with cases of contention and misunderstanding. It is seldom possible to get such matters put straight by any interference from without. But it is always possible, and it is often effective, to deal with such matters by reaffirming and reimpressing general principles, and this course the apostle takes. There is a Divine atmosphere, in which alone the quickened and regenerate soul can breathe and thrive. It is the light, which is the atmosphere of God. And there is an earthly atmosphere, in which alone the quickened and regenerate soul can breathe and thrive. It is love—the love of the brethren, the spirit in a man towards the brethren which leads him to put the interest of his brethren before his own. Nothing but love will inspire that.

I. Love of the brethren is an old commandment.—“An old commandment, which ye had from the beginning.” It is as old as humanity. This was evidently in the apostle’s mind, for we find him presently referring to the first human brother, Cain, who failed in keeping this commandment in his day. When God made man, He designed for him fatherhood; and since this involved sonship, it also involved brotherhood. The Divine idea of society was brotherhood in the inspiration of family love, which would lead each brother to care for his brother, as much and as truly as he cared for himself. What would society have been if the Divine idea had never been disturbed, if the Cain spirit had never been introduced? What would society be to-day, if, everywhere, every man was as interested in the welfare of his brother-man as in his own? “Brotherly love is an original human instinct. Christian ethics are as old as humanity.” The “milk of human kindness” feeds every child at the breast of the great nature-mother. No man, the world over, needs to be told of this old commandment. It is recognised as the first of human laws in every clime and every age. If the appeal be limited to the Jews, as having received a special revelation from God, we can see another sense in which brotherly love is an old commandment. For Moses distinctly enjoined this rule for the guidance of all social relations, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18), and the law was never for one moment disputed; the only contention that arose was over the precise meaning to be attached to the term “neighbour.” It may, however, be, as some have thought, that St. John’s expression “from the beginning” has exclusive reference to the beginning of the Christian experience of those to whom he wrote. It was one of the first things they were taught; and it had been taught them as an essential feature of the Christian life. There can be no “sonship” without “brotherhood.”

II. Love of the brethren is a new commandment.—Two things make it a new commandment for Christian disciples.

1. It was announced afresh, on His own authority, by their Divine Lord and Master. It was a main point of His teaching. It never had been taught so clearly, or so forcibly; it never had been set in such a primary place, as moral duty. There was no conceivable possibility of any man’s being a disciple of Christ, if he failed to keep this commandment of the Lord. Jesus Himself called it a new commandment, because He put such freshness of meaning into it, when He commended it to His disciples, and because He put such new power of obedience into it, when He quickened souls with His Divine life (John 15:12).

2. It was embodied afresh in our Lord’s example. Taking upon Himself human sonship, He took on Himself human brotherhood; and He loved His brethren up to the very limits of self-sacrifice for their true welfare. The law of brotherly love is true for Christ, since He walked in the light. It will be true for us precisely in the measure in which we walk with Him in the light. The thing “is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.”

III. Love of the brethren is in full consistency with the Christian profession.—That profession is symbolically represented as “light.” It includes everything true, kind, right, pure, gentle, and helpful. Manifestly “love of the brethren” is in the fullest harmony with all these things. And the worldly life ruled wholly by self-interest, by self-seeking considerations, is symbolically represented as “darkness”; and hatred of our brother, in the milder form of neglecting him, or the harsher form of injuring him, is in full harmony with that worldly life of darkness. “The whole history of religious rancour has been a deplorable illustration of this ‘hating our brother.’ Controversy for principles honestly and reasonably held is one thing; prejudice, spite, private censures and condemnations, harsh words, suspicions, jealousies, misunderstandings and misrepresentations, are the chief props of the kingdom of darkness among Christian churches and nations.” (Compare John 13:34; John 15:12 1 Corinthians 13:2; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7-9). St. John even suggests that keeping up the love of the brethren, by finding for it constantly active expression, is the very best way to keep in the light. Such a man “abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him” (1 John 2:10).


1 John 2:8. Right Estimate of Christian Times.—“The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.” The apostle Paul calls the præ-Christian ages, “The times of this ignorance.” And of Galilee, upon which the light of Christ’s ministry shone, prophecy had declared, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” We can get a right estimate of Christian times only by contrast with a right estimate of præ-Christian times.

I. Præ-Christian times are represented by the term “darkness.”—And—

1. Darkness implies the absence of light. No sun, or moon, or stars bring any relief. And these represent the revelations of God which alone can relieve the moral darkness of men. It is not advisable to speak in an exaggerated way on this matter, and to deny all Divine interest in heathen and pagan peoples. What may be clearly stated is that God was pleased to leave the world to itself, to its own natural developments, without direct and special Divine intervention and help. But it must be “darkness” for the creature made by God, and dependent on Him, to be wholly left without any sense of His presence. The creature could but be “feeling after Him,” groping for Him, in the dark.

2. Darkness implies foulness. And we could not exaggerate in any statement that we could make concerning the moral degradation of heathen and pagan nations; it would be difficult to exaggerate in stating the mental blindness and moral corruption into which the Jews had fallen in the ages between Malachi and John the Baptist.

II. Christian times are represented by the term “light.”—

1. If the earlier ages were characterised by the absence of revelation, this is characterised by the greatest of all the revelations that have ever come from God: the one that illuminates, explains, and renews every other Revelation 2:0. If the earlier ages were dark indeed with sensual vices and self-aggrandisements, these ages are light indeed with a higher morality, family purity, personal restraints, gracious relations, and brotherly love.

1 John 2:10. Lore preventing Stumblings.—“He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling [scandal] in him.” This verse is pointedly addressed to the members of the Christian Church, and has in view the fact that there had been stumblings, scandals, and that there was always more or less danger of such things. The tone of the epistle suggests, that St. John had been greatly distressed by the report of such things. He does not choose to refer directly to any particular cases; he prefers to treat the evil as a general one, and to meet it by the assertion of Christian principles directly applicable to the case. The idea in his mind, to which he gives expression here, is something like this: If a man walks in the light, he can see where he is going; he can watch the path of his feet, and there is no occasion whatever for his stumbling. But if he walks in the night and darkness, he must pick his way tremblingly, for there are likely to be, here and there, many occasions of stumbling. St. John’s words recall those of our Divine Lord: “If a man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because the light is not in him.” We have seen that the proper atmosphere for the Christian life, if regarded in relation to God, is light, and if regarded in relation to man, is love. Here St. John is thinking of the love. If a man love his brother, he will walk in an illuminated atmosphere, in which he can see his way, and carefully avoid all occasions of offence. But if a man does not love his brother, if he has any enmities cherished against him, he will walk in a darkened atmosphere, in which he will not recognise occasions of offence, and, in this mood of mind, he will not care to avoid them if he does see them. “It must needs be that offences come, but woe unto that man by whom the offence cometh.” All family, all church, all society, quarrels come still, as they have always come, out of somebody’s unbrotherly moods. Somebody has been “walking in the darkness” of ill-will.

1 John 2:11; 1 John 2:15. An Important Distinction.—Light is often thrown on the meaning of passages by comparing scripture with scripture. That will reveal apparently striking distinctions and contrasts. The distinctions of inspired language are always carefully made, and they represent spiritual realities. Putting these two passages together, three things appear to view:

1. A distinction between “sinning” and “loving the world.” Sinning is a peril to which the best Christian stands exposed. Loving the world is essentially an un-Christian state. Sinning is an act. Loving the world is a spirit, an inward principle. Sinning is response to outward temptation. Loving the world is a personal choice.

2. A distinction between the effect of “sinning” and of “loving the world” on the religious spirit and life. Sin drives the soul to God. Loving the world draws the soul away from God. Sin makes precious the Father’s Comforter. Loving the world crushes out all love of the Father.
3. Loving the world is set forth as a more perilous thing than sinning. The one may be consistent with a real, sincere, and earnest religious life. The other is absolutely inconsistent with it. And yet, practically, we think but little of this “loving the world.” It is treated as quite a venial sin. It is more to be dreaded than any sinful act we could possibly commit.

1 John 2:11. The Apostle’s Line of Argument.—God is light. Christ is that light revealed. The life of Christ was a life of obedience and a life of love. In order, therefore, to have fellowship through Him with God believers must obey and love. The state of things in which this is possible has already begun. Therefore I write to you a command which is both old and new; walk in the light by imitating the love of Christ. In this manner St. John lays the foundation of Christian ethics.—A. Plummer, D.D.

Verses 12-17


1 John 2:12-17 indicate the things which the disciples must not love, if they would walk in the light, and be sons with the “Only Begotten.”

1 John 2:12. Sins are forgiven.—The reception of Divine forgiveness is our virtual pledge that we will not again sin. “The forgiveness of sins is the first condition of Christian morals.” His name’s sake.—His name is Son. The basis of forgiveness is the offering to God the Father of a perfect sonship—the sonship of a man tested in a human life and death. St. John has not in mind what we mean by “for the sake of His atonement.”

1 John 2:13. Fathers.—The older men among the disciples; regarded as having a prolonged personal experience. Young men.—Who have gained something like a personal hold of Divine things, but are in danger of being over-confident and over-positive. They have gained first victories over evil, and are in danger of being unduly proud of their success. In each case St. John recognises a certain maturity, in which there is hope, together with a certain immaturity, which exposes disciples to the powers of evil and temptation.

1 John 2:15. The world.—Compare our Lord’s words, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” By the “world” we may understand “that moral order which is antagonistic to God.” Or we may keep in the line of St. John’s thought and say, “It is all that sphere in which only self-interests are allowed to rule.” St. John personifies the self, and calls it the “evil one,” the “wicked one.” Things in the world.—The love of pleasure, money, glory. See James 1:27; James 4:4. Philo taught, “It is impossible for love to the world to coexist with love to God.”

1 John 2:16. Lust of the flesh.—The genitive after ἐπιθυμία is usually subjective. The lusts which have their agents in the flesh and in the eyes. Lust is desire that is not being held in wise and safe control. “The habit of a mind engrossed by sensual gratifications.” Pride of life.—This is well expressed by the term “braggadocio of life”; “wanton ostentation in gratifying the desires of sense and sight” (James 4:16). “All living up to a supposed social position, instead of as the responsible steward of undeserved bounties, is hereby condemned.”

1 John 2:17. Abideth for ever.—Because God is on the side of goodness, and there are no forces which can effectively stop it, or destroy it. In the nature of things evil is temporary, and good is permanent. For ever means, “unto the age to come.”


Types of Stages in Christian Experience.—We have piety here as it appears in individuals at different periods of life—its characters in each class, and the common danger of all. I. Little children. Their piety is characterised by much affection. II. Young men—and women too. Piety in manhood is—

1. Strong and courageous.
2. Full of enterprise and achievement. III. Old men, or fathers in Christ. The characteristic of these is knowledge—knowledge of men and things, but especially of Divine things (J. Leifchild, D.D.). It is, however, a fuller understanding of St. John to recognise in his three terms, “little children,” “young men,” “fathers,” figures of the three great stages of religious culture and experience which are represented in every Church. Sometimes the term “little children” is used to include all the believers, but at other times the threefold distinction is clear. In every Church there are always those who do but look on to Christian living, those who are in the actual strain of Christian living, and those who are able to look back on Christian living. Or to state the case in simple terms, there are united in the fellowship of every Church the immature, the prime, and the mature. And the blending of these classes, their mutual relations, responsibilities, and ministries, make the glory of Church life; and it is skilful and helpful mutual blending that we should try to secure. Let us see if we can recognise the distinctness of these types, and the ways in which each one may be the helper of the other.

I. “Little children” represent the “immature,” those who have no experience behind them, and do but look on to Christian living.—Of them St. John says, “I write unto you, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake”—“because ye know the Father.” The very first stage of Christian life is the thought of God which brings personal relations and the joy of forgiveness. The awakening of the soul is the sense of God that comes, the reality of God, the personal relation of God to the soul. No man is converted save as Jacob was, by a personal revelation of God to him. Express it in whatever form you may, the very essence of conversion is a man’s discovery that he is a child, and that God is his Father. A man cannot help becoming a new being, conscious of a new atmosphere and new relations, when once he has apprehended those two things. And there is no other possible beginning of the regenerate life. With that discovery there is bound to go another. He will feel his actual relations as a child with a father are not what they should be; and he cannot rest until they are made what they ought to be. And since he feels the wrong to be altogether on his side, he can but seek that Fatherly forgiveness which is so ready to be extended to every seeking child. There are always in the Church some persons who are at this first and simple stage of the Divine life. They are alive to the thought of God, and they have got their relations right with Him. But they have no experience. Christian living is an altogether unknown thing to them; they can but look on, and wonder what the long years will unfold. Such persons come into the fullest concern of Christian pastors, who, like St. John, will try to adapt their teaching and influence so as most efficiently to help and guide all such. The simplicity and strength of faith, the brightness and joy of first experience, in these “little children,” are a most gracious blessing to the spiritual life of our Churches, and it is well that every Church should have such representative cases always in it.

II. “Young men” represent the “prime,” those who are in the actual strain of Christian living.—“I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the evil one”—“because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the evil one.” These members of the Church are such as have some experience of the Christian life, enough to fit them for dealing with the duties, difficulties, and temptations that may come. When a man has reached some thirty years of life, he is in a sense prepared for life, partly matured. The unexpected will still happen; but the round of experiences which the man has gone through will have prepared him to deal wisely with any circumstances that may arise. And so there are in a Church those whose experiences of the Divine life have been sufficiently prolonged and varied to give them efficiency and maturity. They are like young men in their prime. On them the strain of Church life and responsibility rests. They are fitted for it: their experiences are fresh; none have become so prolonged as to become wearisome, the sense of strength and wisdom makes Church life and work a delight to them. They have fought evil, in one shape and another. They have felt the thrill of joy in first victories, and a great sense of power is upon them. But they need the wisely adapted teachings of the apostle, and of faithful ministers, because in their conscious strength lies a subtle peril. These experiences are not complete; they have no experience of keeping on. There is too much excitement in their experience; they are too much in it themselves. It is more an experience of what they have been doing, than of what God has been doing in them. It gives them confidence and energy. They feel as if they could overcome all the evil ones, and so need to be reminded that “old Satan may prove too much for young Melancthon.”

III. “Fathers” represent the “mature,” those who are able to look back on Christian living.—“I write unto you, fathers, because ye know Him which is from the beginning.” This is the one thing in St. John’s mind concerning the fathers, and he repeats it a second time. Their experience was complete. It might be that in the Churches which St. John addressed some yet lingered who had been connected with Church life from the very beginning, from the days of the earthly manifestation of the Lord Jesus. Or the thought may be of a long life spent in Christian relations, and bringing not only every kind of experience, but such a repetition of experiences as involves the special experience of weariness through sameness. There are always “fathers” in this sense in Christian Churches; and they need apostolic counsels, for they are in danger of checking enterprise, by being quite sure that everything attempted will fail, because they have seen so many things fail, and because they know so well how many difficulties everything will have to contend against. A full experience is not an unqualified advantage. In Christian experience it is possible to know so much as to lose faith in anything. These types can be helpful to each other in Church life. The “little children” call for sympathy, and put the brightness of simple faith into Church relations. The “young men” bear the burden of Church duties and responsibilities. And the “fathers” temper enterprise with counsels of prudence. And what is the one message which St. John considers to have its precise adaptation to each of these classes? At first sight it seems to be suitable only for the “young men,” those in their prime. It is this, “Love not the world.” But if we understand St. John to mean by the world what we may call personified (or projected) self, we shall at once see how his advice becomes applicable to all the classes. The peril of the “little children” is making too much of what they have felt; and that is simply putting self into their experiences. The peril of the “young men” is in making too much of what they do, of what they are doing in their maturity and strength; and that is simply putting self into their experiences. The peril of the “fathers” is in making too much of what they know, presuming upon their length of years and their observations; and that is simply putting self into their complete experiences. “Love not the world” really is but, in a figurative way, saying, “Love not yourself.” And this is plain to view when we notice that it is not the “world,” but the love of the world, against which we are so carefully warned. That is, it is something in us, not something outside us; it is the self in us that is always—either in some secret or some open way—trying to be master of us. St. John is evidently very anxious to make this quite plain to us. So he tells us what he means by the “things that are in the world,” and we see at once that they are, all three, not things of the outside world at all, but things of the world of self, the world within us. The “lust of the flesh” is a bad side of the self. The “lust of the eyes” is a bad side of the self. The “vain-glory of life” is a bad side of the self. Those things will be found to prove sources of difficulty to Church members in all the stages of the Divine life. Beginners must beware of over-mastering self. Strong men must beware of over-mastering self. Aged men—our fathers in Christ—must beware of the subtle ways in which self can spoil their witness and their influence. And St. John suggests the safeguard that will defend us at every stage of the Divine life—defend us from the precise influence of the world of self upon us. It is this—Keep up the full sense of your child-relation to the Father, and in everything watch for and do His will.


1 John 2:12. Forgiveness of Sins a First Experience.—It is remarkable that “forgiveness of sins” should be associated with the term “little children,” if children in age are meant by the apostle. The real sense of sin, and consequently the full joy of forgiveness, can only be known by those of mature age, who have intelligent understanding, and personal experience, of what wilful sin is and involves. A child’s experience of sin and forgiveness are right enough and important enough for the child-stage of life; but we must look to the larger, fuller life of manhood for real and deep experiences. When a man is awakened by the Spirit of God, he is brought to a sense of sin, and of the conditions into which sin has brought him. He is oppressed above everything by the conviction that it has put him out of pleasant relations with the Father-God, and brought on him the Divine disfavour and frown. Then it is clear that there can be no beginning of Christian life, without such a restoration of relations with God as must involve His forgiveness. Not a step can be taken in the Christian life until we know that we are forgiven and accepted.

1 John 2:13. The Young Man’sWicked One.”—“Ye, young men, have overcome the wicked one.” It is very easy to assume that there is a Satan, and then say that Satan is meant by the “wicked one” here. But the verse needs some careful and precise thinking about. Personifying moral or immoral qualities, influences, or forces is constantly done, and constantly occasions difficulty. Joubert very wisely says, “The trick of personifying words is a fatal source of mischief in theology.” It is not intended here to present any arguments for or against the idea of a personal devil—only to direct attention to the suggestive fact, with which preachers may effectively deal, that the “young man’s wicked one” is nothing outside him, but is himself, in the untried and unrestrained strength of his intensity and passion. It is his undue “self-centredness,” “self-interest.” There can be no “wicked one” so wicked to him as his own weak, untested, over-confident self.

Knowing the Father.—“Ye know the Father.” We may learn from the case of the apostles—those first disciples—what is the Christian way of getting to see and know the Father.

I. The disciples were filled with the thought of Christ.—They had their Master in the sphere of the senses. They spent day by day with Him. They watched every deed, and listened for every word, and their whole thought was occupied with His personality. We can hardly imagine what it must have been to spend three years in the fascination of Christ’s daily presence. Those disciples could think of nothing but Jesus, and talk of nothing but Jesus. And this was so far good and right. Since Christ is God, we can never make too much of Him; we may fearlessly fill our heart and thought with Him. His individuality can never be too forcibly impressed upon us. And yet Christ will be grieved if we stop with His earthly manifestation, and fail to enter into His greater mystery. He does not want to be seen only with men’s bodily eyes. We may not—the disciples may not—stop with the fascination of the “Man Christ Jesus.” He does indeed strongly impress His human presence, but only with an ultimate design, only as a stepping-stone to something further and better. “Though we have known Christ after the flesh,” says St. Paul, “yet now henceforth know we Him [thus] no more.” Christ would neither have His disciples, nor us, rest in Him, if we can only see His earthly features. Disciples must see God in Him, even the Father-God in Him. We may not stay with the outward show of the Christ of the gospels: we too must find God in Him, even the Father-God in Him. The earthly and the human are but stepping-stones; and yet it is only with our feet on them that we can rise to higher and better things. The way to all else, and bettor, is to be, like the first disciples, full of the thought of Christ, and setting all our affection and hope on Him. But, on the other hand—

II. Christ was filled with the thought of His Father.—All His life was seen by Him in its relation to the Father, and to the Father’s will. He was absorbed with the thought of the Father. He was always talking of the Father. It was the word for God that was characteristic of Him, the sacred name that was continually upon His lips. He seemed to be always putting Himself back into the second place, that He might fill men’s thoughts with the holy, righteous Father. So thoroughly characteristic is this of His teaching, that we are almost justified in calling it “Jesus Christ’s name for God,” and in saying that it is the very point and essence of the revelation which He brought to men. He seemed only to live among men that, in His character, and by His conduct, He might “show us the Father.” Was He pure, with a strict and yet winsome purity? He was but bringing closely home to our thought and feeling the holiness of God. Was He gentle, and pitying, and merciful? He was but persuasively making all the “goodness of God to pass before us,” and proclaiming the Father-name of God before us. Was He personally touched by human sorrows? Did He really take up our human woes as burdens on His own sympathy? He was but convincing us that “like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” Look at His mighty works, His miracles of love and power. Are they mere! wonderful events—merely demonstrations of almightiness? Nay, surely, better far is their purpose. They are signs of the Father. There are the Father’s great works seen in miniature, that men may recognise the Father-hand that is in all the great things. Christ healed the sick, with a word and a touch, to reveal the living Father, who is watching by all sickbeds, raising up them that are bowed down, restoring, and healing, and comforting, every day and everywhere. Christ stood up to quell the sudden storm on little Galilee, to show His disciples the Father, who holdeth “the winds in His fists, and the waters in the hollow of His hand”; who can say, even to the winter-driven waves of the great ocean, “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further”; who is the all-controlling Father even of the whirlwind and the tempest. Christ took the few loaves, and multiplied them into a full feast for the seated thousands, to show the Father-God, who, each returning year, multiplies the scattered seeds of the spring-time into the rich and waving autumn harvests from which all His children are fed. The miracles are not simply acts that glorify Christ’s power; the Father who sent Him, He doeth the works, and He stands out to view in all those miracles. They were all wrought with this for their supreme aim—to “shew us the Father.” All that Christ did, all that Christ said, all that Christ suffered, has for its one object the glorifying of the Father; and His closing prayer revealed the great purpose of His life: “Now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self.”

III. When disciples see Christ truly, they go past Him, and know the Father, see the Father, even as He did.—Seeing Christ truly! What is the true seeing of anything, or of any one? Is it ever so minute and exact a tracing of his doings or his sayings? Nay, it must be reading the heart—sympathetically entering into the very motive and spirit. Seeing is not a mere matter of bodily vision. What can any man who has only eyes in his body see of Christ? True seeing is soul-seeing,—apprehending the inner life of thought, principle, motive; seeing a man’s secret. What then may we see in Christ? He tells us Himself: “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” We may see the wise God as we trace the long and chequered history of our race, and note how “all things have been working together for good.” We can see the strong God as we look upon the everlasting mountains, and hear the mighty storm-voice echoing among the hills. We can know the beautiful and good God as we gaze upon the jewelled lake in its mountain setting, see the threading of the silver streamlet, or watch the golden-flowered fields. Goodness is revealed to all who can read nature’s heart. But how everything seems to pale, and fade, and pass out of vision, when we find that we can see and know our Father-God, in the human manifestation of Christ the Son, when we can read its heart aright! Simple souls, Christ’s “little children,” can “know the Father.”

1 John 2:14-16. An Old Man’s Message to the Young.—The writer of these words was an old man, a very old man, a very noble old man,—one more than usually rich in the experiences of life; one whose work for many years had been to watch the influences for good or for evil affecting the people, so that he might duly warn and guide. We read of “Paul the aged,” but the man of whom we now speak was “John the Beloved,” who lived to be nearly a hundred years old. What a wonderful century of life his must have been! Born into Jewish privileges, but at a time when Jewish ceremonial had lost its ever-present Jehovah, and had become a vain formalism—born at a time when Jewish liberty was crushed under the heel of Roman supremacy—St. John must have had a hard youth-time and early manhood. For a soul with any bigness in it, any great wants in it, any yearnings after high and Divine things in it, those few years before the birth of Christ must have been a weary time—the cry of the soul ever stifled, the out-reaching hand smitten back, the empty soul left empty still. Manhood had fully dawned when St. John came into the illuminations of the “Light” God had sent into the world. Prepared by the repentance which John the Baptist demanded, he came to Jesus, “found in Him a resting-place,” and for some three years knew a kind of joy unspeakable in the daily fellowship of “God manifest in the flesh.” When he lost his Lord out of hand-grasp, there came years of loving service to the risen and living One—years of travel, of preaching, of teaching, of suffering, of practical dealing with varieties of character, and of opposing both subtle and open evils. Who can tell what care and what work were crowded into those long years! He must have come to know young men well. He watched the eagerness with which they received the gospel-message. He mourned over the devices by which they were so often enticed back into the world again. Surely the young may wisely sit at the feet of this reverend, this saintly, this experienced old man. Consider then—

I. The old man’s kindly description of young men.—“Ye are strong.” If this description were not given by an inspired teacher, we might suspect flattery, or at least such an effort to say kindly things as would open the young man’s heart to receive his counsels. But, in truth, St. John gives us a careful, an almost philosophical estimate of the young man. No single word could more exactly describe him. He is “strong.” “The glory of young men is their strength.” The prophet exclaims, “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” The word is a fitting one to describe the bodily, physical vigour of the young. At no other time in life is the frame so perfect, the energy so abundant, the vitality so strong. Oftentimes there is such a flow of purely physical power, as cannot be exhausted in the toil of life, and must flow over into athletic sports. To the strong man labour is joy, not toil; it is only with the wearying years that a man finds his work grow toilsome and hard. But St. John means more than bodily strength; he applies his word to the whole man, to the moral and spiritual nature, as well as the physical. We never love as we love in youth. We never desire as as we desire in youth. We never battle with obstacles and difficulties as we battle with them in youth. Perhaps it is even true to say, that we never “hunger and thirst after righteousness” as we do in youth. There is an intensity in all that the young folks do. Sometimes, indeed, it needs checking; sometimes it is not ruled by prudence. Sometimes the young man’s glory becomes his shame. The very energy put into worldly pursuits may result in bringing into the soul the “love of the world,” and pushing out the “love of the Father.” And St. John says of the young men, “the word of God abideth in you.” Only just started in life, the cares, and toils, and sorrows that make up our human lot have not yet proved strong enough to efface the impressions of the word of God, as they have been made on your hearts by early teachings and associations. By and by this may be true of you: the cares of life and the deceitfulness of riches may choke the word. By-and-by you may refuse the invitations of Divine grace, using the poor excuses, “I have bought a piece of land”; “I have bought live yoke of oxen.” But it is not so with you now. The hallowing impressions of the early years abide. Holy memories of mother’s prayers abide. Relics of influence from days of sickness abide. Thoughts come back that were started in the Sabbath class. Warm feelings fill the heart sometimes, renewing the sacred impressions of the Sabbath and the sanctuary. There is on your heart to-day a strong grip of Christian truth and Christian claim. As yet, you have your souls, your memories, filled up with the word of God, the desire for God. In that the beloved apostle finds a basis for his warning: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” And, again, St. John describes young men as those who have “overcome the wicked one.” How graciously God must have put the hedge of His protection round you, if this can be said truly of you! Up to this hour you have been kept from “that wicked one”—from young men’s sins, the sins that come in the line of bodily indulgence and passion. Up to this hour you stand in God’s all-searching presence, pure from these defiling and debasing forms of evil. A stained and erring man, in the shame and weariness of old age, once said to a young brother, “John, bless God every day you live, if, by His grace, you have been kept from youthful sins.” Up to this time you have overcome “that wicked one.” You have, then, begun the great conflict: you have begun to understand what life means and involves. Consider—

II. The old man’s estimate of young men’s dangers.—“The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” The old man knows what things there really are in the world, and what are their different values and influences. The young man can know very little of the world, and what he does know is largely disguised to deceive. There is an important difference between the old man’s “I know,” and the young man’s “I know.” When the old man says “I know,” he means, “I have been there,” “I have had to do with it,” “I have battled through it.” When the young man says “I know,” he only means, “I think so,” “I have heard so,” “I hope so.” Young folk often think that the dangers of life are magnified by the old people: they cannot see such pitfalls, such carefully concealed nets and gins, such gaily decked temptations, as they hear of. And yet the truth is with the old man, not with the young. It is a glorious thing to live, but it is a very responsible thing. It is a blessed thing to be in this wonderful world of God’s, with all these surroundings of pleasure, and all these possible achievements opening before us. But it is a highly perilous thing; and every earnest soul will want to ask, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way,” and be ready to pray, “Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins.” Aged St. John could see that the world appeals to three faculties, or capacities, in us; and that, if our controlling power be the love of the world, rather than the love of the Father, then the world will be sure to lead us away from all that is true and good, and put us into the power of the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Everybody’s danger and temptation bear relation to these three things. The first, “the lust of the flesh,” embraces all the indulgences of the natural passions and depraved inclinations of our bodily nature—all the excesses in eating, and drinking, and sensuality to which fallen humanity is liable. And how appalling is the ruin wrought by these lusts of the flesh! Every day we may see, on the street, the leering side-glance of the sensualist, the bloated face and figure of the drunkard; and as we see them, we can scarcely admit the possibility of our ever becoming as they are. Yet St. John, with his full experience of life and temptation, sees danger even for us. “I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong.” True of the powers of good in us, that is also true of the powers of evil. The “lusts of the flesh” in the young are strong. The passions and desires of our fallen nature are strong—stronger in youth-time than they ever again will be; and in their strength lies our peril. Remember, I beseech you, that the “lusts of the flesh” are not of the Father; they do not belong to the holy Father, they do not suit the great Father’s thoughts and hopes for you. If you would be the Son of the holy Father, then “flee youthful lusts.” The second danger comes out of the “lust of the eye.” This is a peril affecting nobler kinds of men. The eye is one of the most honourable of our senses. The “eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing,” and God is graciously pleased to give us exquisite pleasure in the things on which we may gaze. But the Father made them all, gave them all, speaks by them all to our hearts. St. John, however, says that, for you young men, there is some danger. You are strong; the “lust of the eye” is strong: in passionate satisfying of the senses, even the sense of the beautiful, you may pass by the Father; you may fail to see Him, and find Him; you may be carried away by the love of the world. Your very strength may make you love even the higher pleasures of life for their own sakes; and your soul, with all its noble possibilities, will stop short of God, our only true end. The third danger comes out of the “pride of life”—a still higher kind of peril, connected with our intelligence, our thought, our ambitions, our aspirations. Many a man has fled youthful lusts, has conquered the desire for pleasure through the senses, and then has fallen before this “pride of life.” We know well what is meant by that term. We watch, we envy, those above us in society; we want to have houses such as they have, to be as free with wealth as they are, to be able to enjoy what they enjoy, to take the position in society which they are able to take. And St. John reminds us of our peril. We need to step carefully, and to walk watchfully. The “pride of life” is not wholly wrong; the desire to rise must till every noble breast; it is the feebler sphere of the yearning of our souls for God. But the “pride of life” must be kept in, curbed, moulded, well-possessed, and inspired with higher principle, or it will surely overwhelm us and degrade us. The danger for the young is that they are strong. Fill the “pride of life” with all your youthful strength, and you will surely find it is not “of the Father”; it is “of the world,” and the “world passeth away, and the lust thereof”; only “he who doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” Consider—

III. The old man’s counsel for the guidance of the young man’s way.—“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” St. John would say, “Young men, take care of yourselves; consider where your love is set, and what is its object.” Love is always nobler and mightier than lust. Love is the holy, God-like power within us. Lust is the low, grovelling earth-power. Nothing can really conquer lust and pride but love. Then you will be safe, quite safe, if your love is right. The whole life is endangered if the love be wrong. A man always is according as he loves. A man may drive the evil spirit out, and have his house empty, swept, and garnished. But he is not safe until holy love fills the empty house. There is always the danger that the evil spirit may come back to the empty place, and bring with him seven other spirits worse than himself. The sanctifying capacity in us is love. Then “love not the world.” “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” The love in us can never rest in anything; it must set itself upon a person. Our lust can do with things, but our love cannot. And our love to a person can never fully satisfy itself with any other person than our “Father who is in heaven.” Then let your youthful strength go out in love to God, of whom John Tauler so expressively says, “Rightly is He called the Master of love, for He rewards nothing but love; He rewards only out of love; and He rewards with love.” Love God, and then you shall keep down all lusts, all pride; you shall make such things servants to serve you, not temptations to triumph over you, nor tyrants to enslave you. Love God! What God? Why, “God manifest in the flesh,”—God shadowed to your view in your own humanity, that your eyes may see Him, your ears may hear Him, and your arms twine with a life-clasp about Him,—the God whom St. John loved and lived for; the God whom St. Paul loved, and would have died to honour; the God whom Mary loved, and at whose feet she sat up-looking, with those eyes which Tennyson so exquisitely calls “homes of silent prayer.” Set your hearts upon loving, trusting, following, serving, that brother-man, that manifested God, Jesus Christ. Relying on the man Christ Jesus, you are trusting the God of love. Loving Christ Jesus, on your hearts will be set that love of the Father which alone can keep you, through all the long years, from the love of the world.

1 John 2:15. The Love of the Father as the Law of Life.—A fragment from Philo declares that “it is impossible for love to the world to coexist with love to God.” By writing “the love of the Father,” rather than “the love of God,” the apostle points to the duty of Christians as children of God. The “love of the Father” means man’s love to Him, not His to man. “The love of the Father is the true posture of the soul towards God. If the soul is evenly balanced between love of God and of the world, it is negative and colourless. If the balance incline towards the things that distract from the pure and simple walk with God, then the emotion for Him has died away; if the balance be for Him, the expulsive power of the new affection “makes the contrary attractions insignificant and increasingly powerless.” A man must have a “law of life” to be a man at all. Manhood is life under intelligent rule. The law of his life will be the thing which he supremely loves. A man may love the world, which is precisely this—himself projected outside himself, and made a circle round himself. That self will present the entire series of considerations that rules his conduct. Or a man may love the Father; and that is man going out beyond himself, outside his own circle, and living under the most sanctifying rule of love.

1 John 2:15-17. Worldliness.—Religion differs from morality in the value which it places on the affections. Morality requires that an act be done on principle. Religion goes deeper, and inquires into the state of the heart. In the eye of Christianity he is a Christian who loves the Father. He who loves the world may be in his way a good man, respecting whose eternal destiny we pronounce no opinion; but one of the children of the kingdom he is not. The boundary lines of this love of the world, or worldliness, are exceedingly difficult to define.

I. The nature of the forbidden world.—There are three ways in which we learn to know God:

1. By the working of our minds. Love, justice, tenderness: if we would know what they mean in God, we must gain the conception from their existence in ourselves.
2. By the representation which God has given us of Himself in Christ.
3. The world is but manifested Deity—God shown to eye, and ear, and sense. Then to forbid the love of all this world is to forbid the love of that by which God is known to us. The sounds and sights of this lovely world are but the drapery of the robe in which the Invisible has clothed Himself. By the world is sometimes meant the men that are in the world—as if we could love God the more by loving man the less. This is not St. John’s forbidden world. By the world is often understood the worldly occupation, trade, or profession which a man exercises. It is no uncommon thing to hear this spoken of as something which, if not actually anti-religious, so far as it goes, is time taken away from the religious life. A man’s profession or trade is his religion. And this is true even of those callings which at first sight appear to have in them something hard to reconcile with religiousness, such as that of the lawyer. Worldliness consists in these three things: attachment to the outward; attachment to the transitory; attachment to the unreal, in opposition to love of the inward, the eternal, and the true.

II. The reasons for which the love of the world is forbidden.—

1. It is incompatible with the love of God. St. John takes it for granted that we must love something. Every man must go out of himself for enjoyment.
2. Its transitoriness. It is transitory in itself—the world passeth away. It is transitory in its power of exciting desire—the lust thereof passeth away. Man becomes satiated with the world. There is something in earthly rapture that cloys.
3. The solitary permanence of Christian action. Christian life is action: not a speculating, not a debating, but a doing. One thing, and only one, in this world has eternity stamped upon it. Feelings pass; resolves and thoughts pass; opinions change. What you have done lasts—lasts in you. Distinguish, however, between the act and the actor: it is not the thing done, but the doer who lasts. The thing done often is a failure. Two lessons:
1. Learn from earthly changefulness a lesson of cheerful activity.
2. The love of this world is only unlearned by the love of the Father. It were a desolate thing, indeed, to forbid the love of earth, if there were nothing to fill the vacant space in the heart. But it is just for this purpose, that a sublimer affection may find room, that the lower is to be expelled.—F. W. Robertson.

1 John 2:16. The Pride of Life.—This is one of the great frailties of humanity in every age, and it gains expression in every class of society. The forms it took in the days of the apostle John, and in the Christian Churches to which he wrote, may be studied, and used to give point to his counsels and warnings. Attention is now fixed on this—that the “pride of life” is a self-toned circle of which the centre is self. The essence of it is self-superiority: it is the Pharisaic “I thank thee that I am not as other men are.” It is pride of the peculiarities that mark our lives off from the lives of others. It may be pride of superior intellect, or superior acquirements, or superior birth, or superior station, or superior tastes. Our differences from others are no moral temptations to us while we regard them as a Divine trust committed to us, as an agency for service to others. “Who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou hast not received?”


1 John 2:16. Love of Dress.—A forcible instance occurs in Ten Years of a Preacher’s Life. A man following the occupation of wood-cutting wrought with exemplary zeal the six working days, hoarding every cent not required to furnish him with the most frugal fare. As his “pile” increased, he invested it in gold ornaments,—watch-chain of massive links, shirt and sleeve buttons, shoe buckles, then buttons for vest and coat, a hat-band of the precious metal, a heavy gold-headed cane; and, in short, wherever an ounce of it could be bestowed upon his person, in or out of taste, it was done. The glory of his life, his sole ambition, was to don this curious attire, which was deposited for safe keeping during the week in one of the banks, on Sunday morning, and then spend the day, the “observed of all observers,” lounging about the office or bar-room of the St. Charles. He never drank, and rarely spoke. Mystery seemed to envelop him. No one knew whence he came, or the origin of his innocent whim. Old citizens assured you that year after year his narrow savings were measured by the increase of his ornaments, until at length the value of the anomalous garments came to be estimated by thousands of dollars. By ten o’clock on Sunday night the exhibition was closed—his one day of self-gratification enjoyed—his costly wardrobe was returned to the bank vault, and he came back into the obscurity of a wood-chopper.

Verses 18-19


1 John 2:18. Last time.—R.V. “last hour”; probably it should be “a last hour.” The period after Christ’s coming in the flesh, however long it may prove to be, is regarded as the “last time.” If the apostles did expect a visible return of their Lord in their day, it is quite clear that the facts of Christian history have proved that the expectation was founded on misapprehension. The Christian dispensation is the last until there is another. Antichrist shall come.—Cometh. It was the common belief of Christians that some individual antichrist would appear before our Lord’s second coming; and a similar notion is entertained by those who look for the second coming now. Antichrist is any person, or any thing, that opposes the establishment of Christ’s kingdom in the earth. So there have been antichrists in every age, and there are antichrists to-day. Opposition to Christ is the essential idea of the word; but it seems specially to refer to those who claimed that they themselves were christs—such as Barcochba. There is, however, a distinction to be drawn between false christs and antichrists. Compare Barcochba and Cerinthus. Are there many antichrists.—Better, “have there arisen.” St. John would check the disposition to fix the association of antichrist to any one person. And his caution is greatly needed in our day. What we require to see more clearly is, that antichrist may be a person, but it need not be: it may be a sentiment, a teaching, a doctrine, a social influence.

1 John 2:19. Went out from us.—The most dangerous form of antichrist is the heretical teaching of those who have belonged to Christ’s Church. They so easily make rival parties and sects. Perhaps St. John had in mind the Gnostics, who were recruited from members of the Christian Church. The Church in every age has been composed of nominal members and real members. Its peril has always lain in the uncertainty of the response of its nominal members to surrounding doubtful and evil influences. Those who have the “unction from the Holy One,” the Divine indwelling Spirit, are defended from the attractions of sectarianism and heresy. Their spiritual life, kept in health by the Holy Spirit, throws off all attacks of disease, as bodies do in which there is strong vitality.


The Time of the Antichrists.—“It is the list time,” or more correctly, “it is a last hour.” By this figurative term the apostle indicates a time of severe conflict. We precisely express his meaning when we say, “Things are reaching a climax.” Much mistake has been made by taking the expression “last time” in a strictly temporal sense. What St. John meant to say was this, “Things are evidently coming to a point.” When we come to deal closely and philosophically with the term “last time,” we are compelled to see that so long as God lives, and is actively working, there cannot be any such thing as a “last time.” There never has been, and there never can be. Seemingly last things were only last of parts of a series. There never yet was an end that was not also a beginning,—just as you cannot destroy one particle of matter; you can only change its form and relations. The “last times” of St. John have come and gone, but the Christian ages continue; and every time in those ages when a great fight has arisen over some imperilled Christian truth has been a “last time” in St. John’s sense. The conflict over the “filioque” was a last time. The Arian struggle was a “last time.” The Reformation was a “last time.” Another point has too often escaped attention. The name “Christ” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “Messiah,” and therefore the term “antichrist” is strictly referable to any one who opposes or denies the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth, and all that it involved. But that was a particular phase of conflict which belonged exclusively to the times of St. John. For the Christian nations it is a controversy that is dead and gone, or lingering only, in a small way, in the controversy with the Jew. We have filled the term “antichrist” with our own meanings, and so have quite forgotten the very precise and limited connotation of the term in the time of the first Christian Church. In these verses three things are urged on attention.

I. The Christian Churches had been warned to expect antichrist.—“Ye have heard that antichrist shall come.” Warnings had been fully given by our Lord Himself (Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:23-24). And it could not have been otherwise, human nature being what it is. Was ever anything provided for humanity, or proclaimed to humanity, which was not opposed? Was ever scientific theory or theological doctrine presented without arousing contradiction? Enthusiastic men may take up some new thing, and imagine that, unhindered, it is going to carry all before it; but it never does. It succeeds at all only by forcing its way through and against obstacles. Christianity is a Divine force, but it works, and can only work, under human conditions. It was a dream that it would go forth to conquer, in such a sense as that; crushing all opposition, it would never have any fighting to do. Our Lord never for one moment encouraged that delusion. The result of His coming would be to set men at variance; and His truth would have as big a fight as His people. It must be so; and it was better that it should be so. Man never can get his best things save through conflict. And it is in wrestlings against antichrists that the Christian truth has been at once unfolded and preserved. And it will always be kept in similar conflicts.

II. The antichrists had come, and proved to be many.—If the singular “antichrist” is employed, it is only as a collective or representative term. To find some single person answering to antichrist has been a kind of mania in the Church. There never was only one; there is not now; and there never will be. St. John does all that he can toward correcting that serious mistake when he says, “even now are there many antichrists,” suggesting as the conclusion of his sentence, “and how many more there will be by-and-by.” When once we have mastered the fact, that antichrists, in every age, are many, we are put upon the right lines for understanding what is meant by, and what is included in, the term. Whatever in the Church opposes the living authority and rule of the Lord Jesus is an antichrist. So it includes the moral opponent, the sensual teacher, quite as truly as the doctrinal opponent. And the very essence of the spirit of antichrist is this—setting some authority, based on the claims of self, against the authority of Christ.

III. The antichrists proved to be mischievous persons inside the Church.—The significance of 1 John 2:19 as an account of the antichrists that were in St. John’s mind has been overlooked. We have not to look for them outside the Churches. They were persons who had been until recently members of the Churches. They were apostates, who had found their position within the Church impossible, and so had left the Church, and were now making themselves as actively mischievous against the Church as they possibly could. And now we know the two classes from which the antichrists were recruited.

1. The Judaisers; or those who wanted to make religion—Christianity—a formality instead of a life. And such persons are antichrists in every age.

2. The philosophers; or those who wanted to make Christianity an opinion rather than a life. And it is equally true that such persons are antichrists in every age. Under the Judaiser, the false liberty that nourishes immorality is sure to flourish. Under the philosopher, the false pride that puts self between the soul and the living Christ is sure to flourish. Christ is holiness and humility. Antichrist is sensual indulgence, and self-aggrandisement, and everything that tends to nourish such evil things.


1 John 2:19. Separation expressing Lost Harmony.—Some actual cases of self-willed separation from the Church had evidently occurred, and had been a source of much anxiety and distress. The voluntary withdrawal of members from Church fellowship always puts a slight upon the fellowship, and brings a feeling of unrest and suspicion to the remaining members. There is always danger of those who leave making a party. And St. John therefore tries to quiet the unrest, and prevent the enlargement of the mischief, by helping the members to look aright on the removal of these self-willed persons. Sooner or later things out of harmony, or persons out of harmony, will be sure to separate. Outside forces may act for a while and keep in relation those who are not in harmony. But the forces never succeed in holding on very long. The natural separation persists in working on beneath all the restraints; and the moment that the force holding them together is released, they break asunder. It is so in the Church of Christ. Members that are out of harmony, either with the moral tone, or with the primary religious truths of the Church, cannot long maintain their association with it. As St. John expressed it, “they are not of us.” They are not in sympathy with us. Their aims are not ours; their cherished thoughts are not ours; their first principles are not ours. And they cannot help it; they must go from us. If we stand firm in our loyalty to Christ, they will be sure to find themselves uncomfortable, and make some occasion for going away. And this is the point in which the want of harmony will most evidently appear. Supreme in the mind of the Church will be, the holiest admiration of Christ, the most loving loyalty to Christ, the full recognition of the living presence of Christ, and the absolute submission of the whole soul and life to His authority. In whatever sense self rules mind, and feeling, and life, the man will be out of harmony with all this. He will be antichrist; and when he finds he is, he knows he will be best away.


1 John 2:18. The Pope as Antichrist.—It is singular to find that the See of Rome did not receive the appellation of antichrist first from its enemies the Protestants, but from its own leaders. Gregory himself (A.D. 590) started the idea by declaring that any man who held even the shadow of such power as the popes arrogated to themselves after his time would be the forerunner of antichrist. Arnulphus, bishop of Orleans, in an invective against John XV at Rheims (A.D. 991), intimated that a pope destitute of charity was antichrist. But the stigma was fixed, in the twelfth century, by Amalric of Bona, and also by the abbot Joachim (A.D 1202). Joachim said that the second apocalyptic beast represented some great prelate who will be like Simon Magus, and, as it were, universal pontiff, and that very antichrist of whom St. Paul speaks. Hildebrand was the first pope to whom this ugly label was affixed, but the career of Alexander VI. (Roderic Borgia) made it for ever irremovable for the Protestant mind. There is in the British Museum a volume of caricatures, dated 1545, in which occurs an ingenious representation of Alexander VI. The pope is first seen in his ceremonial robes; but a leaf being raised, another figure is joined to the lower part of the former, and there appears the papal devil, the cross in his hand being changed into a pitchfork. Attached to it is an explanation in German, giving the legend of the pope’s death. He was poisoned (1503) by the cup he had prepared for another man.—Conway.

1 John 2:19. One Fold and One Shepherd.—One evening I went out with a shepherd to collect his sheep. After they had been gathered together, and were being driven off the moor, I observed that there were some among them who did not belong to his flock. I particularly noticed, also, that he paid no attention whatever to these wandering strangers, urged forward though they were, by the barking dog, farther and farther from their rightful companions. At last, thinking I must have been mistaken in supposing they were not his, I pointed to one of them and said, “Are those your sheep?” And he answered “No.” I said unto him, “Why then do you not separate them from the flock?” And he answered and said, “They will find out directly they are not of us, and then they will go away of themselves.” And immediately I remembered the words of John, how he had said, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”—W. G. S.

Verses 20-23


1 John 2:20. Unction from the Holy One.—Or, “anointing.” The association of the Spirit coming to a man, when anointed to a Divine office, may be seen in the case of the kings Saul and David. Each believer, in the early Church, received an anointing from God in the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. Know all things.—Led by the Spirit into all truth, and therefore guarded against the attractions of error. Some read, “you all know”—that is, “you are in possession of the true knowledge” (John 16:13).

1 John 2:22. A liar.—Better, “the liar.” The Christ.—I.e. the Messiah. Denieth the Father and the Son.—Three tests by which the spirit of antichrist may be recognised. It will be found to oppose the Messiahship, and the Sonship of Jesus, and the Fatherhood of God. These tests of orthodoxy are seldom applied now, or indeed regarded as sufficient.

1 John 2:23.—The second part of this verse the R.V. preserves, and reads thus, “he that confessed the Son hath the Father also.”


The First and Supreme Christian Truth.—“Jesus is the Christ.” But this is repeated and explained. St. John shows how much is involved in it.

I. Jesus is the Christ.—This is the first apprehension of Jesus that can be gained. This begins the differentiation of Jesus from other men. There were other men named Jesus (Joshua), but this man stands out distinct from them all. He appeared before the Jews, and the first thing they were asked to do was to recognise in Him their long-expected Messiah. St. Peter expressed what all should have felt, when he said, “Thou art the Christ [Messiah] of God.” This first faith concerning Christ does not of course come so freshly and so powerfully to us as it did to the Jews of our Lord’s time; but we may apprehend what is always the first call of faith to us, if we express it in this form—we must believe in Jesus as the sent One. Jesus is commonplace and ordinary until we have that belief concerning Him. Then he becomes intensely interesting to us. He has a message: it may be that He is a message. We must know concerning this unique Man.

II. Jesus is the Son.—Fix exclusive attention upon Him, watch His doings, listen to His words, and it will increasingly be impressed upon you that what He is embodying in a human life is sonship; and it is so evidently beyond anything ever attainable by man, that you are compelled to call it a Divine Sonship. You find your faith claimed for the truth that He is “the Son of God.”

III. The Son implies the Father.—When Jesus is known, you find that God is known. The Son implies that He who sent Him is the Father. And so you gain the truth that is “worthy of all acceptation,” and in the acceptance of which is eternal life. “The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.”


1 John 2:20. The Unction from the Holy One.—The word rendered “unction” signifies “anointing oil.” Its reference is to the anointing of men who were set apart to special Divine service. The act of anointing was the symbolical act of consecration; the oil symbolised the endowments with which God fitted them for their work. The sacred oil with which the priests were consecrated, compounded of rich and varied medicaments, was the symbol of the manifold endowments of the Holy Spirit which should be given to all God’s consecrated people. The virtue of Christian consecration, and specially its power to discern between truth and error, is the present subject. The word “unction” might be changed to “chrism,” which immediately suggests the word “Christ.” John is intending to contrast the “chrism” with the “antichrist,” the Spirit with which Christians are endowed because of their fellowship with Christ with the spirit of error that is opposed to Him. The coming of antichrist was the sign of the last times. We too witness many antichrists, subtle signs of a spirit opposed to Christ revealing itself in many and diverse ways. We know that we are exposed to these seductions,—falsehood wearing the garb of truth; many a time-honoured habit and tradition concealing an essential denial of Christ; a spirit and a tone in society, and in the Church itself, and sanctioned by venerated names, which involve nothing less than the rejection of the precepts and teachings of the gospel. And John here affirms that we are safe against these things in the possession of the Spirit of Christ. In our consecration to Him, in our fellowship with His anointing, is given us a Spirit that cannot be deceived.

I. This is a common Christian endowment.—It is to a body of Christian disciples that John is writing. So simple are some of them that he calls them “little children.” John speaks of a gift bestowed upon all alike in their very consecration to Christ, and involved in that consecration,—the endowment of a Spirit, the Spirit of the Holy One, in which all are sharers; a Divine instinct, which enables those who receive it to look on what is true and good, and recognise it; to look on error, and on evil, and at once detect it.

II. Observe what this Spirit is which is given us in our consecration, and by which we are enabled to discern the truth of things.—

1. It is the spirit of the consecration itself. Decision of purpose is the secret of directness of judgment. We shake ourselves free from the influence of many a deluding motive; we are able to look right through plausibilities and discern hidden falsehood; we are delivered from confusion in the simple fact of our acceptance of one aim in life. When you resolved that you would follow Christ, you felt that you had attained a new power of judgment. A truer spirit, a spirit clearer and more confident, was yours in your consecration.
2. It is the Spirit of Christ—a chrism from Christ, who was Himself the anointed One. The mind that was in Christ is given to us; we are partakers of the Spirit of Jesus.
3. The spirit of consecration is the spirit of devotedness to our fellows. Priests and kings were anointed in symbol of their dedication to the service of their brethren. The Spirit of the Lord was on Christ, endowing Him for service. We share in Christ’s consecration; His purpose is ours; ours too is the Spirit that dwelt in Him. The devotion to men which we have learnt from Christ will be our protection. Our fellowship is with Christ’s love and hopefulness; a Spirit devoted to men like His to men is given us, and by this Spirit we discern all things. Christian character is the director of Christian life. The true heart of Christ within us is never-failing discernment, clearness of decision, promptitude of resolve, and stability of will. The Spirit of Christ is the possession of all who consecrate themselves to Him.—A. Mackennal, B.A., D.D.

The Oil of the Spirit.—I need not remind you how, in the old system, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed with consecrating oil, as a symbol of their calling, and of their fitness for their special offices. The reason for the use of such a symbol would lie in the invigorating, and in the supposed, and possibly real, health-giving effect of the use of oil in those climates. Whatever may have been the reason for the use of oil in official anointings, the meaning of the act was plain. It was a preparation for a specific and distinct service. And so, when we read of the oil of the Spirit, we are to think that it is that which fits us for being prophets, priests, and kings, and which calls us because it fits us for these functions. You are anointed to be prophets, that you may make known Him who has loved and saved you, and may go about the world evidently inspired to show forth His praise, and make His name glorious. That anointing calls and fits you to be priests, mediators between God and man—bringing God to men, and, by pleading and persuasion, and the presentation of the truth, drawing men to God. That unction calls and fits you to be kings, exercising authority over the little monarchy of your own natures, and over the men around you, who will bow in submission whenever they come in contact with a man evidently aflame with the love of Jesus Christ, and filled with His Spirit. The world is hard and rude; the world is blind and stupid; the world often fails to know its best benefactors; but there is no crust of stupidity so crass and dense but that through it there will pass the penetrating shafts of light that ray from the face of a man who walks in fellowship with Jesus.—A. Maclaren, D.D.

Verses 24-29


1 John 2:24.—Omit “therefore. “Which ye have heard.—Concerning Christ, and Christ’s truth, on the authority of His apostles. Remain … continue—In both cases prefer the word “abide.” Dr. Plummer paraphrases thus, “Let the truths which were first taught you have a home in your hearts: if these have a home in you, ye also shall have a home in the Son and in the Father.” Developments of the primary truths there must be, but all developments, adjustments, and adaptations must be in the strictest harmony with the primary truths.

1 John 2:27. Any man teach you.—That is, any man who claims personal authority to teach, and does not speak by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Anointing.—Which implies and involves that the Spirit is in you, leading you into all truth. St. John seems to suggest that the Spirit dwelling in the disciple will always make him sensitive to the recognition of the Spirit in his teacher. As he has shown that the new Divine life will keep us from sin, so now he shows that it will keep us from error.

1 John 2:28. Ashamed before Him.—Better, “shamed away from Him”; or, “shrink in shame from Him.”

1 John 2:29. Ye know.—Better, “know ye.” Doeth righteousness.—Note the emphasis on doing: see chap. 1 John 3:7. “A sober, righteous, and godly life is the fruit, and consequently the proof, of spiritual birth—the token by which the sons of God by adoption and grace are distinguished from other men.”


Persuasions to letting the Truth abide in us.—“Abiding” is one of St. John’s key-words. What had to be feared in the early Church has to be feared in every age of the Church. It is restlessness, that tends to shift men from their foundations. Nothing more effectually hinders Christian living than perpetual uncertainty about the grounds of our confidence and hope. Souls are like plants—they cannot thrive if their roots are continually being shaken. They grow in atmospheres of quietness and peace. They must abide as they have begun.

I. Abiding in Christ is holding fast the truth received concerning Him.—“That which ye have heard from the beginning.” Apostles, and all true teachers, never attempted to shift the foundations of primary truth concerning Christ which they had laid. They are willing enough to build on those foundations, but absolutely unwilling to alter the foundations. It would be useless and mischievous work for Englishmen now to try and alter Magna Charta, which is the basis of English liberty. “Holding fast the profession of our faith without wavering” is “abiding in Christ.” The primary truths about Christ concern His Divine-human person, and Divine-human mission: Son of God; Son of man; and God saving man.

II. Abiding in Christ is the guarantee of continuous spiritual life.—It brings the “eternal life.” That life can be ours only by vital union with Him. It is the communication of His own Divine life through the channels of our faith. Break the connection, and the life can but flag and fail. Our Lord Himself said, “Without Me ye can do nothing.”

III. Abiding in Christ is the work for us done by the Holy Spirit, who is with us.—This appears to be the idea St. John tries to express under the figure of the “anointing.” The believer is sealed by the anointing of the Spirit. That Spirit has, for His supreme mission in the believer, to keep him in vital relations with Christ—abiding in Christ.


1 John 2:24. Jealousy concerning Primary Truths.—In our day it has been anxiously asked, “What is the minimum of evangelical truth which must be accepted to constitute a saving belief? “The answer is difficult, and will probably vary according to the religious school to which the answerer belongs. It is quite clear that there were some primary and essential truths to which apostles required full assent and absolute faithfulness; but they are much more simple truths than we usually admit, and they are sufficiently general to allow of various unfoldings and expressions. We may see how simple the truth required to be witnessed before baptism was in the case of Philip and the eunuch. If the words of Acts 8:37, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” are a later addition to the text, they meet our case by representing the earliest tradition. The primary truth, of which we must be supremely jealous, and which constitutes the minimum of the Christian demand, is this—Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ of God, the Son of the Father, sent by Him to be the Saviour of the world from sin.

1 John 2:25. The Promise of Eternal Life.—The term “eternal life” is a figurative one. Mere continuance is not the manifestly most desirable thing; and all time-measures are unsuitable to the after-life, “time” being strictly one of the present earthly conditions of thought. As a figure, the term “eternal” represents, in part, what we mean by “spiritual”; or perhaps it would be more precise to say that it stands for “the highest conceivable,” “the best that is attainable.” When applied to “life,” it suggests full, unhindered life in God, life unto God. From the point of view of the tripartite division of human nature into body, animal soul, and spirit, what is meant by “eternal life” can readily be apprehended. It is the Divine quickening, and consequently the holy activity, of the “spirit” which man really is. Much has been missed by the confounding of the “eternal life” with the “after-life.” It may be found in the after-spheres, but it may also be found in the present earthly spheres. A man may have the eternal life now. As soon as this is clearly seen, the figurative character of the word comes to view, and the impossibility of its being strictly descriptive is recognised. There are many passages in which the “time” idea is manifestly unsuitable; in them the idea of “quality” is prominent. As instances see Deuteronomy 33:27—“The eternal God is thy refuge”; where it is evidently intended to suggest high and inspiring estimates of God, as the infinitely trustworthy One. In Isaiah 60:15, the prophet, speaking in the name of God to Israel as a nation, says, “I will make of thee an eternal excellency.” Continuity of existence cannot be predicated of any nation. A supreme excellency is evidently meant. St. Paul, in Romans 1:20, refers to God’s “eternal power”; and in 2 Corinthians 4:17 he writes of an “exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Save as a figurative expression, “an eternal weight” can have no intelligible meaning. The following suggestion deserves consideration: One of our common “notes of value” is the length of time that a thing will last. Ephemeral things are regarded as worthless; enduring things are estimated as valuable. The nettle is worthless; the oak is valuable. The gnat of a summer evening is worthless; the elephant of a century is valuable. The coal that burns through in an hour is worthless; the diamond that outlasts all the generations is valuable. God, then, would impress on us the very highest conceivable value, as attaching to His gift to us in Christ Jesus. So He meets us on our own level, fits His figure to our usual thoughts and estimates, bids us realise what must be the value of a thing which can not only outlast all generations, but even outlast all world-stories, and so apprehend the infinite value of that gift which He gives to us, even “eternal life.” The “eternal life” is the life which cannot be measured by years or days, but is the enjoyment of the blessedness of virtue. This is a present fact, begun as soon as the believer begins to be in Christ, growing more and more as he walks more and more closely with God, secured for ever when he enters his rest, and perfected in the glory of heaven. But this life, depending on knowledge of God, as begun here, does not lessen the reasonableness of its being perfected hereafter, any more than its future completion prevents its present beginning. F. D. Maurice took a firm stand in resisting the association of the idea of “duration” with the term “eternal.” A striking passage from his Theological Essays may be given: “The word ‘eternal,’ if what I have said be true, is a key-word of the New Testament. To draw our minds from the temporal, to fix them on the eternal, is the very aim of the Divine economy. How much ought we then to dread any confusion between thoughts which our Lord has taken such pains to keep distinct—which our consciences tell us ought to be kept distinct! How dangerous to introduce the notion of duration into a word from which He has deliberately excluded it!” And yet this is precisely what we are in the habit of doing, and it is this which causes such infinite perplexity in our minds. “Try to conceive,” the teachers say, “a thousand years. Multiply these by a thousand, by twenty thousand, by a hundred thousand, by a million. Still you are as far from eternity as ever.” “Certainly I am quite as far. Why then did you give me that sum to work out? What could be the use of it, except to bewilder me, except to make me disbelieve in eternity altogether? Do you not see that this course must be utterly wrong and mischievous? If eternity is the great reality of all, and not a portentous fiction, how dare you impress such a notion of fictitiousness on my mind as your process of illustration conveys?” “But is it not the only one?” “Quite the only one, so far as I see, if you will bring time into the question—if you will have years and centuries to prevent you from taking in the sublime truth, ‘This is life eternal—to know God.’ The eternal life is the perception of His love, the capacity of loving; no greater reward can be attained by any, no higher or greater security. The eternal punishment is the loss of that power of perceiving His love, the incapacity of loving; no greater damnation can befall any.” Bishop Weslcott, writing of the phrases used in St. John’s epistles, says: “In considering these phrases it is necessary to premise that in spiritual things we must guard against all conclusions which rest upon the notion of succession and duration. ‘Eternal life’ is that which St. Paul speaks of as ἡ ὄντως ζωή, ‘the life which is life indeed’ (1 Timothy 6:10), and ἡ ζωὴ τοῦ Θεοῦ, ‘the life of God’ (Ephesians 4:18). It is not an endless duration of being in time, but being of which time is not a measure. We have, indeed, no power to grasp the idea except through forms and images of sense. These must be used, but we must not transfer them as realities to another order. The life which lies in fellowship with God and Christ is spoken of as ‘eternal life,’ in order to distinguish it from the life of sense and time, under which true human life is veiled at present. Such a life of phenomena may be ‘death,’ but ‘eternal life’ is beyond the limitations of time; it belongs to the being of God.”—From “Handbook of Scientific and Literary Bible Difficulties”.

1 John 2:26. False Teachings as Spiritual Seduction.—“Concerning them that seduce you.” The term which St. John uses brings out very prominently that the moral mischief of false teachings is of much more serious concern than the intellectual. We need not undervalue the importance of correct opinion on religious subjects. But as mere intellectual differences, keeping in the mental range, they are too often little more than logomachies. Every shape of opinion bears some direct relation to moral conduct, and every wrong setting of Christian truth has an evil influence on morals, and can be fairly judged in the light of that influence. Concerning all teaching submitted to us we can ask two questions:

1. Is it true? That question is often beyond all our power of solution.
2. Does it work out unto righteousness? That can always be answered.


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 John 2". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/1-john-2.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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