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The Apostle is here affectionately addressing the Church. He speaks sweetly of Christ, in his Advocacy, and in his Propitiation. He calls upon little Children, young Men, and Fathers, in speaking to them of the great Subject of Salvation.
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: (2) And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
I cannot sufficiently admire the blessedness of the subject John here enters upon; neither the tenderness to the Church, with which he doth it. Little children! is a sweet appellation, well suited for the beloved Apostle to use in his now advanced years, and the Church to receive. It is well, when faithful servants of the Lord so exercise their pastoral charge!
But what I would yet more particularly beg the Reader to keep in view, is the subject, with which he opens this Chapter. He warns the Church against sin. But, aware what a body of sin and death the best of men carry about with them, be bids them, under all sin, and all discouragements, to look to Christ. And how blessedly he speaks. If any man sin. And who is there of the Lord's people; which sins not? We have (saith he) an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins. Observe. We, that is, the Church have this Advocate. We have not now to look out for an advocate. We have One, yea, an Almighty One. And he is both an Advocate, and a Propitiation; that is, he hath both paid our debt as a Propitiation, and now takes up our persons and our causes, as an Advocate, to see our sins all cancelled, and done away in his blood. And, observe yet further. This Advocate which we have, is with the Father. He who hath set forth Christ, as a Propitiation in his blood. So that God, who hath given Christ, and set forth Christ as a Propitiation, is He, with whom Christ hath to do, as our Advocate. And I pray the Reader yet further to observe. The Apostle doth not say, we have an Advocate with our Father: for though he is our Father in Christ Jesus, and very blessed it is to know him as such, in numberless instances and occasions; yet here, Christ is said to be an Advocate with the Father. Not only Christ's Father, and our Father, but the Father. What! is there more in the expression the Father, than our Father, or Christ's Father? Yes! upon the present occasion for which John writes. For let it be observed, that as John is holding forth this encouragement to the Church of Christ, that Christ is an Advocate and Propitiation for his people under the infirmities of sin; he is dealing with us as on the footing of God's justice. He considers the Father, therefore, as God, holy and just; and One that will not clear the guilty; Exodus 34:7 . Hence he tells the Church, that Christ is with the Father, both as a Propitiation for sin, having fully paid down on the judgment-seat, the complete price for our redemption; and also while there (which he ever is,) he is an Advocate, to plead, and see that his Church is accepted, pardoned, justified, sanctified, and glorified, according to the agreement in Covenant-settlements.
Reader! what a blessed subject is here? Oh! what confidence might the faith of it produce, if grace was always in lively exercise, to come with it before God? Who would ever feel deadness, fears, doubts, misgivings, or even heart-straitenings in prayer, if he beheld the throne of grace, the pardon office, the mercy-seat of the Lord, thus encircled with mercy; Jesus, both the Propitiation for sin, and the Advocate for the cause of his people? What shall stop or silence the plea of Jesus Christ the righteous, with the righteous Father? This was our Lord's own plea, when upon earth. 0 righteous Father! John 17:25 . And it is his people's plea, taught by him, and offered up in him, now he is in heaven. And there is a great degree of blessedness in it, when rightly considered. For, when we thus plead, we plead upon the right and footing of God's justice. When we look up to God, simply as we are in ourselves; we can only look up for pardon and grace, as helpless sinners. But, when we look up in the interest of Christ, from an union with Christ; we then plead on the score of justice. And hence, upon this account it was, that Paul called the crown, which he knew was laid up for him, a crown of righteousness; because it was the just earnings of Christ's blood and righteousness. And Paul declared, that when it was given to him, it would be by the righteous Judge; 2 Timothy 4:8 . Reader! what know you of these things? Are you so looking to the throne? Can you hear the awful threatenings of God's holy law against sins; and yet look undismayed, under the consciousness of a broken law, to the Lord's righteous judgment against every single breach of it, because you behold the whole law fulfilled, in the Person of your Almighty Surety, and know your security in Him? If so, then will you enter into a blessed personal enjoyment of this sweet scripture, in stedfastly beholding and resting upon him, who is your Advocate, and with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and who is the propitiation for your sins! See Romans 3:25 and Commentary:
I only detain the Reader for the moment, to observe how blessedly the Apostle includes the whole Church of Christ, as interested alike in this propitiation, when he saith, and not the propitiation for our sins only, the Apostles, and that Church to whom he was immediately writing; but also for the sins of the whole elect world. Blessed comprehensive mercy!
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. (4) He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (5) But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. (6) He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
It should seem, that it is Christ that is here spoken of as knowing him, because the Apostle had been speaking of Christ, in the preceding verses, as our Advocate and Propitiation; and as such, the way he saith by which we knew Christ, both in his Person, and in those blessed offices, is manifested in keeping his commandments. All which may he gathered from the Gospel, and which relate to his ordinances: and, as John dwells so particularly in this whole Epistle on the grace of love, as the fruit, and effect of God's love to the Church in Christ; it is possible, that he might have an eye to what the Lord Jesus had said in the days of his flesh, of a new commandment he gave them, to love one another. See John 13:34 . But if the Apostle had a more general reference to the commandments of God, they are all comprized in that one comprehensive obedience, which our Lord, in his Commentary, gave the Jews; John 6:28-29 .
Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. (8) Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. (9) He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. (10) He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. (11) But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
The new commandment and the old commandment the Apostle here speaks of are well explained on Gospel principles. And the evidences of obedience he sums up in the fruits of obedience, as manifested in brotherly love. Not what the world seems so fond to inculcate, universal love, but the special love of brethren; and this on Christ's account. Loving them as brethren, and as members of Christ's body.
I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. (13) I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. (14) I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
Those different ages, in the members of Christ's body are distinctly spoken to, not as if their interest and union with Christ were not all the same, and the claims upon them the same, to live to Christ, and to walk with Christ; but, as those different ages furnish out occasion for promoting the Lord's glory in the earth, by their several graces, arising from that different age, brought into exercise. A babe in Christ is as truly part of Christ as the oldest saint of God. The single leaf on a tree, is as truly part of that tree, as the largest and loftiest branch belonging to it. And in both, it is the root gives support and nourishment, and not the leaf or the branch the tree. So is it in relation to Christ's body. The weakest, humblest, and most inconsiderable of Christ's members, is as much the Father's gift, Christ's purchase, and the Spirit's work of regeneration, as a Prophet or an Apostle. Paul, under the Holy Ghost, blessedly explains this: Ephesians 4:4-13 . I beg the Reader to notice how sweetly the Apostle speaks to little children, and what a comprehensiveness of expression he folds up in one, Your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. Hence, here is a complete justification of their persons, though but children, yea, little children; for Christ's name sake. I would recommend those who would presume to call in question the finished salvation of Christ, to consider this declaration of the Holy Ghost by John; and let them shew the Church, if they can, what is wanting to make this complete? By regeneration, these little children, babes as they are yet in Christ, are made partakers of the divine nature, and have all things that pertain to life and godliness; and, therefore, they are washed, they are sanctified, they are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. Compare 2 Peter 1:3-4 with 1 Corinthians 6:11 , and Isaiah 65:20 .
The fathers John writes to are considered as having long known the Lord, and as such, long proved his faithfulness; and, therefore, can well speak of it, to his glory and the Church's comfort. The Lord (if we may so presume to speak,) delights to be known and acknowledged in his faithfulness. Deuteronomy 7:9 . And holy men of old, when a-dying, took pleasure to recount to the by-standers, of God's faithfulness and truth. We have beautiful instances to this amount in scripture record: Jacob; Genesis 48:15 to the end; Joseph; Genesis 1:24 ; Moses; Deuteronomy 33:26 to the end; Joshua; Joshua 23:1-10 . And, in more modern times, the Church of God hath no wanted testimonies of old saints, when dying out of time, and going into eternity, faithfully recording the righteous acts of the Lord, as a covenant God in Christ. Indeed, what can be more suitable and proper?
Young men come in for a portion of the Apostle's address, because, by regeneration, they are made strong in the Lord; the devil hath thereby received his deadly wound, and the sweet communications of grace give a withering to the fleshly lusts which war against the soul. But, Reader! do not overlook in all these, that little children, and old men, and young men, yea, every age in the Church of whatever standing, all derive their being, and well-being in grace, not from themselves or their attainments, but from the Lord. All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will; 1 Corinthians 12:11 .
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (17) And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.
Very sweet as these verses are, yet, so very plain are they as to need no comment. The Apostle contrasts the world, with all its pursuits and pleasures, to Christ; and, within the compass of a few lines, shews how little to be considered, by souls regenerated, and made new creatures in Christ, are all that the world hath to propose, in comparison of the durable riches and righteousness which is in Jesus; yea, which is Jesus himself. One view of Him fades the whole; Proverbs 8:18-21 .
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. (19) 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. (20) But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. (21) I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. (22) Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. (23) Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: but he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. (24) Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. (25) And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life, (26) These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. (27) But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (28) And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. (29) If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that everyone that doeth righteousness is born of him.
By the last time, whether the Apostle meant the age of the Apostles, he himself being the only survivor, or the destruction of Jerusalem, I do not determine; but that it could have no reference to the end of the world is certain, for the period in the Church which was to succeed the Apostolic age was but just begun. Heresies were to arise, according to what God the Holy Ghost had said by Paul, and the last time of the Gospel state was not to come before there had been a falling away, and the man of sin revealed. See 2 Thessalonians 2:3-9 and 1 Timothy 4:1 . I desire the Reader to be very attentive to these scriptures. If they are taken in one mass of particulars, they evidently amount to this conclusion: God the Holy Ghost, by the ministry of John, the last then living Apostle, was summing up the canon of scripture. And God the Holy Ghost, having given every evidence and testimony by the inspired writings of his servants the Apostles, to the truth as it is in Jesus, tells the Church expressly, that heresies shall come, the chief feature of whose character would be to deny the Godhead of Christ. Heresies now at the close of John's life, began to appear, which, under various shapes and forms, soon swarmed in the Church, that is, the nominal Church. And this John shews, is a plain testimony of being the last time.
He then draws the feature of their character. They went out from us, that is, they joined our assemblies, called themselves Christians, and, as far as outward appearances carried them, they seemed to be of the Church of Christ. But, they were not of us. Never had the tokens of regeneration, and therefore no features of the true sonship in Christ. Reader! do not overlook this. There is but one mark, and that is an infallible one of a real Christian; namely, the new-birth, or regeneration. Where this is, the proof is unquestionable of a child of God. Where this is not, the highest flaming profession is what Jude calls, clouds without water; Jude 1:12 . I beg the Reader to remark with me, the grace of the Lord, in thus giving his children the sure testimony of a believer, in being born of God.
And, let not the Reader overlook what makes everything blessed in knowledge, namely, having the unction of the Spirit, by which we know all things. This is an infallible teacher; and the figure is beautiful. The unction of the Spirit, gives light to the spiritual eyes, softens the heart, searcheth the understanding, mollifies the corrupt affections, and becometh the oil of joy and gladness, in imparting a knowledge of all things necessary to salvation.
It appears that John, the beloved Apostle, lived long enough to see many of the early heresies. And it is our mercy that he did. For, by reason of it, he hath armed the Church, under the Holy Ghost, against them. If they dared to creep in, with the denial of the Godhead of Christ, (which, for the most part, is the foundation of all other heresies,) while John was yet alive, who lay in the bosom of Christ, what might not be expected from the latter-day apostacy?
I admire the remedy which the Apostle, under God the Holy Ghost, proposeth for the stability of the faith. Abide in Him. A close adherence to Jesus becomes the sure way of comfort in the faith of Jesus. Our safety in Christ, indeed, hath nothing to make it so from any act of our's. It is the Lord's holding us, and not our holding him, which forms the everlasting security of the Church. Nevertheless, our confidence in Him will, more or less, bring comfort, and prevent us from being ashamed before him, at his coming. There is an abiding in Christ, which means somewhat more than our merely believing in Christ. A child of God, once savingly regenerated, may be said always to abide in Christ, though he is not always found in a lively exercise of the actings of faith upon Christ. He is still in the root, but it is winter with him, and there are no marks of life, in buddings, or blossoms, or fruit. It is plain that the Apostle meant somewhat more than merely confessing Christ, when he saith, little children abide in him, that when he shall appear ye may have confidence before him. He certainly meant to say, that by abiding in Christ, the child of God should constantly have Christ in view, be always living upon him, and living to him. He is supposed, by this abiding, to undertake nothing but in Christ's strength, and to aim in nothing but Christ's glory. And where this abiding in Christ is, there will be an increasing desire after him, and an increasing delight in him. So that when Christ, who is thus the life of his redeemed shall appear, we shall appear with him in glory.
Reader! let us behold, with holy joy, the gracious provision which God, who is rich in mercy, hath made for sin, in the person, blood, and righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is God who hath set Christ forth a Propitiation. And it is God who hath sworn him into the office of our Advocate. Blessed therefore with such a Propitiation, and such an Advocate, in One and the same Person, and of God our Father's own providing, with what confidence may we draw nigh the mercy-seat, under all the discouragements and infirmities of our poor fallen nature?
And, dearest Jesus! may not all thy redeemed behold thee, waiting with delight for employment in that high character of thine, our Advocate, for all thy people, since thou hast already acted as their propitiation, and made complete satisfaction for them in thy blood? Do thou, Lord, then, take up every cause, and plead in thine own infinite merits, and death, for every one of thine, against all the accusations of Satan, the demands of God's law and justice, and all the fears and misgivings of unbelief, and our own guilty consciences! Oh! the blessedness of the assurance, Jesus can and will save to the uttermost all that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them!
Hail! no less thou Holy and Eternal Spirit! It is from thee cometh that unction, by which thy people know all things. Oh! for grace from God, to believe in God, and to continue in the Father, and in the Son, in the full assurance of the promise of eternal life!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 John 2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent