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Bible Commentaries
1 John 2

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

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A.M. 4094. A.D. 90.

(1,) He points believers to the intercession and atonement of Christ for help against despondency, and peace and comfort in case of any relapse into sin, 1 John 2:1 , 1 John 2:2 .

(2,) He testifies that all saving knowledge of Christ and union with him produce holy obedience to God’s law, and love to his people, 1 John 2:3-11 .

(3,) After addressing Christians in their different characters, as little children, young men, and fathers, he warns them all against an inordinate love to the world, and against antichristian errors, 1 John 2:12-23 .

(4,) He encourages them to stand fast in the faith and holiness of the gospel, according to the light and influences of the Holy Ghost, 1 John 2:24-29 .

Verses 1-2

1 John 2:1-2. My little children So the apostle frequently addresses the whole body of Christians, and so our Lord himself addressed his disciples, John 13:33. It is a tender and affectionate appellation, denoting paternal authority, love, and concern, which, in the character of an apostle, St. John might have used in any period of his life; but as used in this epistle, it seems to imply, together with apostolical authority, the apostle’s advanced age. It is a different word from that which is translated little children, in several parts of the epistle, to distinguish it from which, it may here be rendered beloved children. These things write I unto you, that ye sin not Thus he guards them beforehand against abusing the doctrine of reconciliation. All the words, institutions, and judgments of God, are levelled against sin, either that it may not be committed, or that it may be abolished. And if any man sin Let him not lie in sin, despairing of help; for we have an Advocate We have for our Advocate not a mean person, but Him of whom it was said, This is my beloved Son; not a guilty person, who stands in need of pardon for himself; but Jesus Christ the righteous Not a mere petitioner, who relies purely upon liberality, but one that has merited, fully merited, whatever he asks. And he is the propitiation The atoning sacrifice, through the merit of which our sins are pardoned when we repent and believe in him. The word ιλασμος , here rendered propitiation, is nowhere found in the New Testament, but in this passage, and 1 John 4:10. But it occurs often in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, where it signifies a sacrifice of atonement. Thus, Leviticus 6:6-7; Numbers 5:8, κριος ιλασμου , is a ram for a sin- offering. And Ezekiel 44:27, προδφερειν ιλαδμον , is, to offer a sin- offering. “In considering the death of Christ as a sacrifice for sin, St. John, like the other apostles, followed his Master, who, in the institution of his supper, directed his disciples to consider it as designed to bring to their remembrance his blood shed for many for the remission of sins.” For our sins Who believe; and not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world Just as wide as sin extends, the propitiation extends also.

Verses 3-6

1 John 2:3-6. Hereby we do know that we, truly and savingly, know him As he is the Advocate, the righteous One, the Propitiation; if we keep his commandments Particularly those of faith and love. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar “The Nicolaitans and Gnostics, notwithstanding they lived in an habitual course of the most criminal sensual indulgences, boasted that they were the objects of God’s love, and sure of obtaining eternal life, merely because they possessed the knowledge of the true God, and of his mercy in forgiving men’s sins. In this boasting the apostle declared them liars, either because they spake what they knew to be false, or at least what was in itself most false.” But whoso keepeth his word Sincerely endeavours to live in obedience to all his commands; in him verily is the love of God Reconciled to us through Christ; perfected Perfectly known, or shows itself to be sincere. See on 1 John 4:12. Hereby By our keeping his word; know we that we are in him Truly united to him by a lively faith, and have communion with him. So is the tree known by its fruits. To know him, to be in him, to abide in him, are nearly synonymous terms; only with a gradation: knowledge, communion, constancy. He that saith he abideth in him An expression which implies a durable state; a constant, lasting knowledge of and communion with him; ought himself Otherwise they are vain words; so to walk, even as he walked In the world. As he are words that frequently occur in this epistle. Believers, having their hearts full of him, easily supply his name.

Verses 7-8

1 John 2:7-8. I write no new commandment Ministers must avoid all suspicion and affectation of novelty in their doctrine. But an old commandment Concerning holiness of life, and loving one another. Which ye had from the beginning Which was given to your fathers at the first forming of your commonwealth, Leviticus 19:18. The old commandment is the word The doctrine of the gospel also; which ye have heard from the beginning Which was delivered at the first publication thereof, and has been insisted upon ever since, Matthew 5:43; John 15:12. Again, a new commandment I write unto you Namely, with regard to your loving one another; a commandment which is true in him and in you It was exemplified in him, and is now fulfilled by you, in such a manner as it never was before. “The new commandment,” says Macknight, “of which the apostle speaks, is that contained in 1 John 2:6. That Christ’s disciples ought to walk even as he walked; and in particular that, as Christ laid down his life for his people, they ought to lay down their lives for one another, chap. 1 John 3:16. Thus, to walk as Christ walked, St. John, with great propriety, termed a new commandment, because, notwithstanding the precept to love one another was strongly enjoined in the law of Moses, consequently was not a new commandment, the precept to love one another as Christ loved us, was certainly a new commandment, and so is termed by Christ himself, (John 13:34,) and is thus explained and inculcated 1 John 3:16: He laid down his life for us, therefore we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Which thing is true This translation is exact; for the word αληθες , being in the neuter gender, cannot agree with εντολη , commandment, which is feminine; we must

“therefore supply πραγμ , ( action or thing,) or some such general word, expressive of the subject of the command. By saying that the thing enjoined in the new commandment was true, concerning the persons to whom the apostle wrote, he perhaps meant that some of them had already hazarded their lives in assisting their brethren.” Because the darkness is past, &c. The apostle not only means the darkness of heathenism, but that of the Mosaic dispensation, together with the corrupt doctrines and practices of the Jews under that dispensation; and particularly the impious notion that they were commanded in the law to hate the Gentiles, Matthew 5:43. This darkness was gradually passing away by means of the shining of the light which was true; that is, by the publication of Christ’s doctrine and example in the gospel. The Mosaic law, with its obscure types, was likewise ready to vanish, in consequence of the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jewish nation; which events were soon to take place.

Verses 9-11

1 John 2:9-11. He that saith he is in the light In Christ; united to him, and truly enlightened by the gospel and the grace of God; and yet hateth his brother (The very name shows the love due to him;) is in darkness until now Void of Christ, and of all true light. He that loveth his brother See 1 John 3:14; abideth in the light Thereby shows that he possesses the saving knowledge of God and of Christ, and that he is truly enlightened with the doctrine of the gospel. And there is none occasion of stumbling in him He walks so as neither to give nor take offence. The apostle alludes here to Christ’s words, (John 11:9,) If any one walk in the day he doth not stumble, &c. By expelling ill-will, pride, anger, immoderate selfishness, and all other evil passions, which are occasions of sin, love removes every stumbling-block lying in our way, and enables us to do our duty to our brethren in Christ, or to mankind in general, with ease and pleasure. But he that hateth his brother And he must hate if he does not love him; there is no medium; is in darkness In a state of spiritual blindness, of sin, perplexity, and entanglement. For his malevolence blinds his reason to such a degree that he does not see what is right, and it extinguishes every virtuous inclination which would lead him to practise what in right, and puts him wholly under the power of bad passions; so that, in this darkness, he is in danger not only of stumbling, but of destroying himself; not knowing whither he goeth Whether to heaven or hell, or how near he is to destruction; while he that loves his brother has a free, disencumbered journey.

Verse 12

1 John 2:12. I write unto you, little, or beloved, children Because this appellation is used ( 1Jn 2:1 ) to denote Christians of all ages and characters. Beza, and many other critics, suppose that St. John here addresses the whole body of Christ’s disciples, as their common instructer, (see on 1 John 2:1,) whom he afterward divides into three classes. In support of this opinion, it may be observed, 1st, That the word by which, in the distribution, he expresses young Christians, is παιδια , which properly means young children, and not τεκνια , which, it seems, should be here rendered dear, or beloved children; 2d, That the reason which St. John assigns for writing to those to whom he gives the latter appellation, namely, that their sins were forgiven them, through Christ, is applicable to the whole body of believers; and was a strong reason, for such of them as John addressed, not to love the world, &c.

Verse 13

1 John 2:13. Here he distributes the whole body of Christians into three classes, according to their different standings in the faith, and their proficiency in Christian knowledge and holiness; namely, fathers, young men, and young children. The fathers were the most ancient believers, who had made the greatest progress in the knowledge, experience, and practice of true religion. Young men were those in the greatest vigour of the spiritual life, and who were considered by the apostle as soldiers fighting under Christ against the powers of darkness. Little or young children were the newly converted, who, being under instruction, were called in the first age catechumens. Fathers, ye have known him that is from the beginning You have attained to a more perfect and intimate acquaintance with the Ancient of Days, (Daniel 7:9,) the eternal God, than others, though true believers, and with Christ, who is from the beginning, 1 John 1:1; and therefore you should more diligently keep his commandments, (1 John 2:3-4,) and this particularly of loving one another. Instead of, Ye have known him, who is from the beginning, Macknight reads, Ye have known him from the beginning, and paraphrases the clause thus: “Old Christians, I write to you what follows, (1 John 2:15,) because you have known Christ, his doctrine, and precepts, and manner of life, from the beginning, and must know that what I am going to write is his precept.” I write unto you, young men Who are in the flower of your spiritual age, and are strong in grace, vigorous Christians, 1 John 2:14; because ye have already overcome the wicked one Have resisted his strongest temptations to apostacy; or, more at large, you have manifested your spiritual strength in your conflicts with, and conquests over the devil, and his associates, the world and the flesh; and therefore take heed you be not hereafter foiled by them. I write the same precept unto you, young children Or new converts; of short standing in grace, and of little knowledge, strength and experience in divine things; because ye have known the Father As your Father, (though ye have not yet overcome,) by the Spirit witnessing with your spirits that you are the children of God. In other words, As children in the first place learn to know their parents, so you have attained to some saving knowledge of God your heavenly Father, and of his willingness and power to support and strengthen you, and therefore you must take care to conduct yourselves at all times as his loving and obedient children.

Verse 14

1 John 2:14. I have written, &c. He repeats almost the same words, in order that they might the more regard them. As if he had said, Observe well what I now write. He speaks very briefly and modestly to those who needed not much to be said to them, as having that deep acquaintance with God, which comprises all necessary knowledge; young men, ye are strong In God and his grace, Ephesians 6:10; in faith, hope, love, and in prayer; and the word of God abideth in you Deeply rooted in your hearts, whereby you have often foiled your great adversary. Macknight thus paraphrases the verse: “Old Christians, I have written to you to walk even as Christ walked, (1 John 2:6,) by loving your brethren as he loved you, 1 John 2:8; because ye have known him from the beginning, and have been deeply affected with the knowledge of his love. Vigorous Christians, I have written the same precept to you, (1 John 2:8,) because ye are strong in all the Christian virtues, through the word of God abiding in you, and ye have already overcome the devil.”

Verses 15-17

1 John 2:15-17. To you all, whether fathers, young men, or little children, I say, Love not the world Pursue your victory by overcoming the world, and all the temptations which may assault you from it, whether from prosperity or adversity, from riches or poverty, honour or reproach, pleasure or pain, life or death; from the persons of the world, or from the things that are in the world Whether they assault you through the medium of your senses, or your appetites and passions. If any man love the world Esteem, desire, or pursue it, or any thing in it, inordinately, so as to place his happiness in the enjoyment of it; the love of the Father is not in him There being a real inconsistency between the love of the world and the love of God; between being carnally minded, esteeming, desiring, and pursuing immoderately visible and temporal things, which is death, and being spiritually minded, having our thoughts and affections set on invisible and heavenly things, which is life and peace, Romans 8:6. For all that is in the world That is tempting and alluring; the lust Επιθυμια , the desire; of the flesh The pleasure arising from gratifying the outward senses, whether of the taste, smell, or touch, or the bodily appetites; the desire of the eyes Those things, which, being seen by the eyes, are earnestly desired and sought after, and which they take pleasure in beholding, especially riches, including also the pleasures of imagination, (to which the eye chiefly is subservient,) of that internal sense whereby we relish whatever is grand, new, or beautiful; and the pride of life Those things wherein men are wont to take the greatest pride, and which chiefly feed pride of heart; all that pomp in clothes, houses, furniture, equipage, manner of living, things which generally procure honour from the bulk of mankind, and so gratify pride and vanity. It therefore directly includes the desire of praise, and, remotely, covetousness. All these desires are not of the Father, but of the world That is, from the prince of this world, or from that corruption of nature that prevails in worldly men. And the world passeth away Namely, all the enjoyments of the world; and the desire thereof All that appears desirable in it, and causes it to be so much sought after; or all that can gratify the above-mentioned desires, passeth away with it; but he that doeth the will of God That loves him, and not the world, and seeks happiness in him, and not in worldly things, abideth in the enjoyment of what he loves, and makes the object of his pursuit, for ever.

Verse 18

1 John 2:18. Little, or young, children The former caution against the love of the world belongs chiefly to old experienced Christians, or those who have attained some considerable knowledge and experience in divine things, because they are most apt to offend in that particular; this against seducers belongs chiefly to younger Christians, who are less established, and therefore more liable to be seduced. It is the last time Greek, εσχατη ωρα εστι , it is the last hour, namely, as some understand it, of the duration of the Jewish Church and state, a sense of the expression which is favoured by the consideration that it was the period in which our Lord had foretold the rise of many false Christs. And therefore the apostle here cautions them against such deceivers, intimating, at the same time, for their encouragement and comfort, that the power of their persecutors, the Jews, would speedily be broken. Doddridge, however, Wesley, and many others, by the last hour, or last time, here understand the last dispensation of grace. As if the apostle had said, “The last dispensation that God will ever give to the world is now promulgated, and it is no wonder if Satan endeavour, to the utmost, to adulterate a system from which his kingdom has so much to fear.” And as ye have heard that antichrist shall come Ερχκεται , cometh. “The word αντιχριστος , antichrist, is nowhere found but in John’s first and second epistle. It may have two meanings. For if the preposition αντι , in αντιχριστος , denotes in place of, the name will signify one who puts himself in the place of Christ: consequently antichrist is a false Christ. But if the preposition denotes oppositions, antichrist is one who opposeth Christ. The persons to whom this epistle was written had heard of the coming of antichrist in both senses of the name. For the first sort of antichrists were foretold by our Lord, Matthew 24:5: Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many. The second sort were foretold Matthew 24:11, Many false prophets will arise and deceive many. From what John hath written, 1Jn 2:22 of this chapter, and chap. 1 John 4:3-4; 1 John 2:7, there is reason to think that by antichrist he meant those false prophets, or teachers, who were foretold by our Lord to rise about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, and who were now gone abroad. Some of these denied the humanity of Jesus Christ, others of them denied his divinity; and as both sorts opposed Christ, by denying the redemption of the world through his death, it is probably of them chiefly that John speaks in his epistles. When the apostle mentions these false teachers collectively, he calls them the antichrist in the singular number, as St. Paul called the false teachers collectively, of whom he prophesied, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, the man of sin. But when John speaks of these teachers as individuals, he calls them many antichrists, in the plural number.” Macknight. Thus also Mr. Wesley: “Under the term antichrist, or the spirit of antichrist, he includes all false teachers as enemies to the truth; yea, whatever doctrines or men are contrary to Christ. It seems to have been long after this that the name of antichrist was appropriated to that grand adversary of Christ, the man of sin, 2 Thessalonians 2:3.” Even now are there many antichrists Many seducers revolted from Christianity, (1 John 2:19,) who were actuated by an antichristian spirit, and do secretly undermine the interest of Christ, and so make way for the grand antichrist. The preterit tense, γεγονασι , is here used to signify, not only the existence of many antichrists at that time, but also that there had been many antichrists who had gone off the stage; whereby we know that it is the last time The last hour of the Jewish state, namely, by Christ’s prediction, Matthew 24:24.

Verse 19

1 John 2:19. They went out from us Separated themselves from the communion of the true church of Christ. Hence it is one of the marks of antichrist, that he had been once in the Christian Church, and a teacher by profession, but had left it or apostatized; but they were not of us When they went, their hearts were before departed from God; for if they had been of us Had been inspired by the same spirit wherewith we are inspired; they would, no doubt, have continued with us For upright men, of a pure intention, would never have seen any cause to leave us, and divine grace would have preserved such from being overcome by the temptations of these artful deceivers; but they went out They were permitted to apostatize outwardly; that they might be made manifest See 1 Corinthians 11:19. (This was made manifest by their going out;) that they were not all of us Sound members of our body, really believing the same truths which we believe, and partaking of the same grace which we partake of.

Verse 20

1 John 2:20. But ye have an unction Χρισμα , a chrism, (perhaps so termed in opposition to the name of antichrist,) an inward teaching from the Holy Ghost, whereby ye know all things Necessary for your preservation from these seducers, and for your eternal salvation. There seems to be no proof that the apostle here, as some suppose, was addressing those of the primitive Christians only who were endowed with extraordinary gifts, especially the gift of discerning spirits. It rather appears, that through the whole epistle he is addressing true Christians in general, that is, divinely illuminated, justified, and regenerated persons, all of whom are represented in this very epistle as dwelling in God, and God in them, and as knowing that he dwelt in them by the Spirit which he had given them, 1Jn 3:24 ; 1 John 4:16; which is perfectly agreeable to the doctrine of the other apostles, particularly of St. Paul, who represents believers in general as the temple of God, having the Spirit of God dwelling in them, 1Co 3:16 ; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:22: and who declares positively, that if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his, Romans 8:9; and that only they who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God, Romans 8:14. Now, this Spirit, which all true believers possess, at least in his ordinary graces, as a Spirit of light and life, of love, peace, and joy, of holiness and happiness, is a Spirit of truth as well of grace, and leads those on whom he is conferred into at least all essential truth; all the grand leading doctrines of the gospel, which would sufficiently secure those to whom the apostle wrote against the seducing teachers, the antichrists here referred to.

Verses 21-23

1 John 2:21-23. I have not written unto you In the manner I have done; because ye know not the truth In which case I must have entered largely into the discussion of this matter; but, on the contrary, I have contented myself with these short intimations; because ye know it Approve of and embrace it, and I am desirous to confirm you in the knowledge of it; and because no lie is of the truth No false doctrine can proceed from, or agree with, that gospel which you have embraced; in other words, that all the doctrines of these antichrists are irreconcilable to it. Or perhaps the doctrine, contrary to that which was taught by the apostles, may be called a lie, because the teachers who propagated such doctrines knew them to be false, especially the doctrines which they propagated concerning the person and actions of Christ. They, therefore, in particular are called ο ψευστης , the liar, as in the next clause. Who is the liar The false teacher foretold to come before the destruction of Jerusalem; but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ Who is guilty of that lying but he who denies the truth which is the sum of all Christianity? That Jesus is the Christ, that he is the Son of God, that he came in the flesh, is one undivided truth; and he that denies one part, in effect denies the whole. He is antichrist He deservedly bears that name; that denieth the Father and the Son Denies God to be the Father of Christ, by denying Christ to be his Son. Or who, in denying the Son, denies the Father also. He denies the Son directly, and by consequence denies the Father, who testified by a voice from heaven that Jesus was his Son, and by all the miracles which Christ wrought. Whosoever denieth the Son Even the only-begotten and eternal Son of God, either in his person, his natures, offices, or merits. The same hath not the Father Has no interest in him as his Father, since that is obtained only through Christ; and, consequently, he hath not communion with the Father. But he that truly and believingly acknowledgeth the Son, hath communion with the Father also The last clause of this verse, in our English Bible, is printed in italic letters, to show that it is not in the common Greek copies. Beza, however, hath inserted it in his edition of the Greek Testament, on the authority of some ancient MSS., and of the Syriac and Vulgate versions. Mill also, on this verse, mentions a number of MSS. which have this clause. Estius reckoned it genuine, as did Doddridge, who says, “It is to be found in so many good MSS. that I cannot but believe it made a part of the original, by whatever accident it was omitted in some early copy, to which, as it seems, too much regard has been paid.”

Verses 24-25

1 John 2:24-25. Let that therefore abide in you Namely, that doctrine concerning the Father and the Son; which ye have heard from the beginning Of the preaching of the gospel: retain a firm belief of it, and let your minds be so impressed with a sense of its certain truth and infinite importance, that it may have the desired influence on your spirit and conduct. If that which ye have heard, &c., shall remain fixed and rooted in you If you persevere in the faith of the gospel, and show that you do so by your life and conversation; ye also shall continue in the Son and in the Father Genuine members of Christ’s mystical body, and consequently in the love of God, and in communion with him. And, to encourage you in this, remember the promise, that he, the Son, hath made to us, if we abide in him, even eternal life.

Verses 26-27

1 John 2:26-27. These things From 1 John 2:21; have I written unto you St. John, according to his custom, begins and ends with the same form, and having finished a kind of parenthesis, (1 John 2:21-26,) continues ( 1Jn 2:27 ) what he said 1 John 2:20; concerning them that would seduce you That is, I say it to arm you against the solicitations of those who endeavour to draw you from the truth and grace of the gospel; from the experience and practice of real Christianity. But the anointing The spirit of illumination; which ye have received of him Who hath given you the promise of eternal life; abideth in you Continually and powerfully; and In consequence thereof; ye need not that any man teach you Namely, the principles of Christ’s religion, and things necessary to salvation; (see on Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:11;) but as the same anointing teacheth you Which is always the same, always consistent with itself. See on 1 John 2:20. But this does not exclude men’s need of being taught by them that partake of the same anointing, much less their need of being put in remembrance of the things they already know, and being confirmed therein. Teacheth you of all things Which it is necessary for you to know; and is truth Certain and infallible; and is no lie Like that which antichrist teaches. And as it The truth I speak of; hath taught you, ye shall abide in him In Christ, and in the belief and profession of his truth. The whole discourse, from 1Jn 2:18 to this, is peculiarly adapted to young Christians, whom he terms little children.

Verses 28-29

1 John 2:28-29. And now, little Or rather, beloved, children, (for, having finished his address to each, he now returns to all in general,) abide in him Maintain your union with and interest in him, by living a life of faith, love, and new obedience; of prayer, watchfulness, and self-denial; that when he shall appear As he assuredly will, in his own glory and in that of his Father, with all his holy angels; we may have confidence, (a modest expression,) and not be ashamed before him at his coming And put to confusion. O how will you, ye Jews, Deists, and nominal Christians, and especially ye apostates from the faith, and all who, having begun in the Spirit, end in the flesh, be ashamed before him in that day! But how certainly may all, who approve their fidelity to him, expect from his mercy and love a gracious reception, and an abundant reward! If ye know That is, as certainly as you know; that he is righteous, so surely ye know also that every one And none else; that doeth That practiseth; righteousness From a believing, loving heart; is born of him Is regenerated and made a new creature by the power of God’s Spirit, (John 1:13,) and so is made like him by partaking of the divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4. For all his children are like himself.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 John 2". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/1-john-2.html. 1857.
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