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1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:2
Moreover, walking in the light involves accepting the propitiation wrought through Jesus Christ the Righteous.
The connexion with the preceding is close. We have just had
(1) the confession that we do sin; we now have
(2) the principle that we must not sin; and
(3) the consolation that sin is not irremediable.
1 John 2:1
My little children; or, perhaps, my dear children; or, simply, my children. The diminutive τεκνία, if it retains any force, expresses endearment rather than smallness or youth. The word occurs only once outside this Epistle (John 13:33), and it was, perhaps, from Christ's use of it then that St. John adopted it (verses 12, 28; 1 John 3:7, 1Jn 3:18; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:21). In Galatians 4:19 the reading is doubtful Cf. Τί με φεύγεις, τέκνον τὸν σαυτοῦ πατέρα; in the beautiful story of St. John and the young robber (Eusebius, 'Hist. Eccl.,' III. 23:17). As distinct from παιδία (1 John 2:13, 1 John 2:18), the word seems to imply spiritual fatherhood. These things (the section, 1 John 1:5-10) I write to you, that ye may not sin. The aorist forbids the rendering, "continue in sin;" as before, those who are walking in light and yet sin through frailty are addressed. Two apparently contradictory principles have been set forth: you must walk in light; you must confess that you sin. St. John now goes on to reconcile them. I write
(1) to charge you not to sin;
(2) [to tell you that] if we sin, we have an Advocate.
Instead of understanding "to tell you that," we may take καί as "and yet"—a frequent use in St. John. There are two seemingly opposite truths—sin is wholly alien from the Christian, and the Christian is never wholly free from sin; and St. John struggles to give them their right balance, not in the dialectical manner of St. Paul, but by stating them alternately, side by side, varying the point of view. We have an Advocate. The possession of the Advocate is as continual ἔχομεν as of the sin (1 John 1:8). Every one feels that "a Comforter with the Father" is an impossible rendering. But St. John alone uses the word Παράκλητος, four times in his Gospel of the Spirit (see on John 14:16), and once here of Christ. Is it likely that he would use so unusual and important a word in two different senses, and that in two writings intended as companions to one another? The rendering "Advocate," necessary here, carries with it the rendering "Advocate" in the Gospel. Moreover, what is the meaning of ἄλλος Παράκλητος, if Christ is an Advocate, but the Spirit a Comforter? If Christ is one Advocate and the Spirit "another Advocate,'' all is intelligible. Philo frequently uses παράκλητος of the high priest as intercessor for the people, and also of the Divine Λόγος. There is a difference, however, between "Paraclete" as used of the Spirit and as used of Christ. It is applied to the Spirit in his relation to the disciples; to Christ in his relation to the Father. Christ is our Advocate πρὸς τὸν Πατέρα: his advocacy turns towards the Father to propitiate him. And not in vain; for he is himself "righteous." A sinner could not reconcile God to sinners; but a righteous Advocate can, for his character is a warrant for the righteousness of his cause. Thus, δίκαιον is the set-off to ἐάν τις ἁμάρτῃ. One who has sinned needs an advocate; one who has not sinned can best undertake the office. Δίκαιον at the end, without the article, is gently suggestive of the plea, "Jesus Christ, a Righteous One."
1 John 2:2
And he (not quia nor enim, but idemque ille) is a Propitiation for our sins. Ἱλασμός occurs here and 1 John 4:10 only in the New Testament. St. Paul's word is καταλλαγή (Romans 5:11; Rom 11:15; 2 Corinthians 5:18, 2 Corinthians 5:19). They are not equivalents; ἱλασμός has reference to the one party to be propitiated, καταλλαγή to the two parties to be reconciled. ̓Απολύτρωσις is a third word expressing yet another aspect of the atonement—the redemption of the offending party by payment of his debt (Romans 3:24, etc.). Although ἱλασμός does not necessarily include the idea of sacrifice, yet the use of the word in the LXX, and of ἱλάσκεσθαι (Heb 2:1-18 :27) and ἱλαστήριον (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:5) in the New Testament, points to the expiation wrought by the great High Priest by the sacrifice of himself. It is ἱλασμός, and not ἱλαστήρ, because the prominent fact is Christ as an Offering rather than as One who offers. With the περί, cf. John 8:46; John 10:33; John 16:8. Our sins are the subject-matter of his propitiatory work. And not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. Again we seem to have an echo of the prayer of the great High Priest (John 17:20, John 17:24). The propitiation is for all, not for the first band of believers only. The sins of the whole world are expiated; and if the expiation does not effect the salvation of the sinner, it is because he rejects it, loving the darkness rather than the light (John 3:19). No man—Christian, Jew, or Gentile—is outside the mercy of God, unless he places himself there deliberately. "It seems clear that the sacrifice of Christ, though peculiarly and completely available only for those who were called, does in some particulars benefit the whole world, and release it from the evil in which the whole creation was travailing" (Jelf).
1 John 2:3-6
Thirdly, walking in the light involves obedience.
1 John 2:3
And herein we perceive that we know him, if we keep his commandments γινώσκομεν, we come to know, we recognize; ἐγνώκαμεν, we have come to know, we know). The token of our having this knowledge is stated hypothetically; not because, but if, we obey. To serve under another and obey him is one of the best ways of knowing his character. The knowledge is no mere intellectual apprehension, such as the Gnostic, postulated, but a moral and spiritual affection and activity. It is possible to know and hate (John 16:24). Again, the knowledge is not a mere emotional appreciation. Christianity knows nothing of piety without morality. To know Christ is to love him, and to love him is to obey and imitate him. By "keep" τῆρῶμεν is recant "keep the eye fixed upon, observe."
1 John 2:4
The participial substantive ὁ λέγων now takes the place of ἐάν with the subjunctive, but the two are equivalent (cf. 1 John 1:6, which is almost exactly parallel to this, and shows what "knowing him" really is, viz. having fellowship with him, just as not keeping his commandments is the same as walking in darkness). St. John says, μὴ τηρῶν, not, οὐ τηρῶν, the case being hypothetical—if there be such a man, he is a liar, and has no idea of truth (see on 1 John 1:8). He must have lost the very power of recognizing truth to maintain that he knows Christ, when he habitually transgresses his commands. It is no great thing, as Bode says, to know as the devils do, who "believe and tremble."
1 John 2:5
Once more (cf. 1 John 1:7, 1 John 1:9) the opposite is stated and the thought carried further. But whoso keepeth his word, of a truth in him hath the love of God been perfected; i.e., as an accomplished fact; the relation of love has been established. In St. John ἀληθῶς is no mere expletive; it expresses reality, and reality that is known. From verse 4 we might have expected "of a truth he knoweth God;" but the apostle goes beyond this, and shows that really knowing God involves loving him. The context shows that τοῦ Θεοῦ is objective—his love of God rather than God's love of him. The insertion of τοῦ Θεοῦ here, and the drift of the Epistle thus far, are in favour of αὐτόν and αὐτοῦ in verses 3-5 meaning God rather than Christ, although αὐτός in verse 2 tells the other way. The last clause sums up and reaffirms, but as usual with a new turn of thought, the whole section (verses 3-5), which begins and ends with ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν. Knowing God implies keeping his Word; and keeping his Word involves loving him; and all this implies being in him, i.e., having that fellowship with him and his Son in which the Christian's life (which is eternal life) consists, and to promote which St. John publishes his Gospel (1 John 1:3, 1 John 1:4).
1 John 2:6
Profession involves an obligation to act up to the profession. "He who says that he abides in God is by his words morally bound to walk even as his Son, the incarnate Revelation of his will, walked."
The change from ἐν αὐτῷ to ἐκεῖνος confirms the view that αὐτόν and αὐτοῦ mean the Father; but St. John's use of ἐκεῖνος to recall with emphasis a previous subject (John 1:8, John 1:18, John 1:33; John 5:11; John 9:37; John 10:1; John 12:48) makes this argument inconclusive. To be or abide in God or in Christ implies an habitual condition, not isolated apprehensions of his presence. Obedience, not feeling, is the test of union; and the Christian who is really such has least to tell of "experiences" of special visitations. He who is ever in the light has few sensible illuminations to record. Note the strong καθώς, even as (not merely ὡς, as); nothing less than "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13) is to be aimed at. "Ye therefore shall be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
1 John 2:7-28
(2) Negative side. What walking in the light excludes; the things and persons to be avoided—hatred of a brother, love of the world, antichrists. To this section 1 John 2:7, 1 John 2:8 form an introduction, as 1 John 1:5, 1 John 1:7 to the positive side.
1 John 2:7
Beloved; ἀγαπητοί, not ὀδελφοί, is the true reading. Addresses of this kind commonly introduce a fresh division of the subject, main or subordinate. Thus ἀγαπητοί (1 John 4:1, 1 John 4:7); τεκνία (1 John 2:1); παιδία (1 John 2:18); ἀδελφοί (1 John 3:13). Sometimes, however, they introduce an earnest conclusion (1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:21; 1 John 5:21). In 1 John 4:11 ἀγαπητοί introduces a conclusion which serves as a fresh starting-point. Not a fresh commandment do I write to you, but an old commandment. Where it can be conveniently done, it is worth while distinguishing καινός, "fresh," as opposed to "worn out," "obsolete," from νέος, "new," as opposed to "old, aged." "New wine must be put into fresh skins" (Mark 2:22). Are two commandments meant—one to cultivate brotherly love, the other to walk as Christ walked? Or is there only one, which from different points of view may be regarded as either new or old? Commentators are divided; but the latter seems better. Then what is the commandment which is at once new and old? The whole gospel, or the command to love one another? John 13:34 and John 15:2 will incline us to the latter view. The command was old, for" Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Le John 19:18) was part of the Mosaic Law. But the standard was new: "Even as I loved you;" "Even as he also walked;" and the motive was new: because "God so loved us" (1 John 4:11). Brotherly love, enforced by such an example, and based on such a fact, was a new command as compared with the cold injunction of the Law. From the beginning may have either of two senses:
(1) from of old, i.e., long before the Gospel;
(2) from the beginning of your career as Christians. This new and yet old command sums up the practical side of the gospel which had been preached to them from the first. The second ἀπ ἀρχῆς it spurious.
1 John 2:8
Again. The πάλιν indicates another point of view—what in one sense was not fresh, in another sense was so. It is impossible to be certain as to the meaning of ὅ ἐστιν ἀληθὲς κ.τ.λ.. It may mean
(1) "which thing (the newness of the command) is true;" or
(2) "as a fresh commandment I am writing to you a thing which is true."
But for the practical example of the life of Christ, and men's acceptance of it, the command to love one's neighbour might have remained old and become obsolete. Ὅτι is almost certainly "because," not "that;" it introduces the reason why he writes, not the substance of, the fresh commandment. How can "the darkness is passing away," etc., be a commandment? The light, the true light τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν; i.e., the real, the perfect, the very light, that which most fully realizes the ideal of light; in opposition to those "wandering stars, for whom the blackness of darkness hath been reserved for ever" (Jude 1:13; cf. John 1:4, John 1:9; John 6:32; John 15:1). Christ is the perfect Light, as he is the perfect Bread and the perfect Vine.
1 John 2:9-11
Walking in the light excludes all hatred towards brethren, for such hatred is a form of darkness. These verses set forth in a variety of forms the affinity between love and light, hatred and darkness, and the consequent incompatibility between hatred and light. "Hate" μισεῖν is not to be watered down into "neglect" or "fail to love." St. John knows nothing of such compromises. Love is love, and hate is hate, and between the two there is no neutral ground, any more than between life and death, or between Christ and antichrist. "He that is not with me is against me." "Love is the moral counterpart of intellectual light. It is a modern fashion to represent these two tempers as necessarily opposed. But St. John is at once earnestly dogmatic and earnestly philanthropic; for the Incarnation has taught him both the preciousness of man and the preciousness of truth" (Liddon).
1 John 2:9
He that saith. For the fifth time St. John points out a glaring inconsistency which is possible between profession and fact (ἐὰν εἴπμεν, 1 John 1:6, 1 John 1:8, 1 John 1:10; ὁ λέγων, 1 John 2:4.1 John 2:9); cf. 1 John 4:20. In all these passages the case is put hypothetically; but in some of the Gnostic teaching of the age this inconsistency existed beyond a doubt. Is in darkness even until now. His supposing that hatred is compatible with light proves the darkness in which he is. Nay, more, it shows that, in spite of his having nominally entered the company of the children of light, he has really never left the darkness. "If ye loved only your brethren, ye would not yet be perfect; but if ye hate your brethren, what are ye? where are ye?".
1 John 2:10
Whereas he who loves his brother has not only entered the region or' light, but has made it his home: he abideth in the light. It is difficult to determine whether the "occasion of stumbling" σκάνδαλον is in reference to himself or to others. The context here and John 11:9, John 11:10 are in favour of the former. It is a man's own salvation that is under consideration here, not his influence over others: and προσκόπτει ὅτι τὸ φῶς οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν αὐτῷ seems exactly parallel. To have no light in one is to be in danger of stumbling; to have light in one is to have no occasion of stumbling (comp. Ezekiel 14:3, which is very parallel). But elsewhere in the New Testament σκάνδαλον means a stumbling-block or snare in another's way, not in one's own way; and this makes sense here. There is yet a third explanation. Ἐν αὐτῳ may mean "in it," i.e., "in the light there is no occasion of stumbling." This makes a good antithesis to the close of John 11:11, "knoweth not whither he goeth."
1 John 2:11
Note the alternation: 1 John 2:10 is the antithesis of 1 John 2:9, and 1 John 2:11 of 1 John 2:10, repeating and enlarging 1 John 2:9. Note also the climax effected by the gradual increase of predicates: in 1 John 2:9 one, in 1 John 2:10 two, in 1 John 2:11 three. The brother-hater has darkness as his habitual condition and as the atmosphere in which he lives and works; and long ago (aorist) the continual darkness deprived him of the very power of sight, so that he is in ignorance as to the course he is taking. Cf. "They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness" (Psalms 82:5); "The fool walketh in darkness" (Ecclesiastes 2:14). "St. John scouts all the pretences of men to illumination which do not involve the practical acknowledgment of brotherhood. A man may say he is in the light as much as he pleases; but to be in the light implies that he is able to see his brethren, and not to stumble against them" (Maurice).
1 John 2:12-14
Before passing on to the second thing which walking in the light excludes, viz. love of the world (1 John 2:15-17), the apostle twice makes a threefold address, first stating why he writes γράφω, and secondly why he wrote ἔγραψα, to the three classes named. This suggests several questions.
(1) What is the difference between "I write" (or, "am writing") and "I wrote"? Five answers are given.
(a) The change is made for emphasis: "I write; I wrote; there is nothing more to be said." But in this case the past tense should come first: "I wrote; I write it again." Moreover, we should expect the perfect rather than the aorist, as in ὁ͂ γέγραφα γέγραφα.
(b) "I write" refers to what follows; "I wrote," to what precedes. And some have even tried to find out the three different portions in each part of the Epistle; e.g., "I write to you, little children" (1 John 2:15-17); "to you, fathers" (1 John 2:18-27); "to you, young men" (1 John 2:28-22): "I wrote to you, children" (1 John 1:5-7); "to you, fathers" (chapter 1:8-2:2); "to you, young men" (1 John 2:3-11). But this is fanciful and very arbitrary; and in this case also the past tense should come first: "I have written thus far to you; again I proceed to write to you."
(c) "I write" refers to the whole Epistle; "I wrote," to what precedes. This answer has the sanction of the 'Speaker's Commentary;' but it seems to be quite frivolous. What could induce St. John first of all to tell each class that he writes the whole Epistle to them, and then to tell them that he wrote the first part of it to them? There would be little enough sense in first saying that he wrote the beginning to them, and then that he writes the whole to them; but there is no sense in the former statement if it comes after the latter.
(d) "I am writing" is from St. John's point of view, as he pens the growing letter. "I wrote" is from the readers' point of view, as they peruse the completed letter. But what is gained by this change of standpoint? Is it probable that St. John would make three distinct addresses in the position of the writer of the Epistle, and then solemnly repeat them in the position of the recipients of it?
(e) The Epistle is written as a companion to the Gospel: therefore "I write" refers to the Epistle, which he is in the act of composing; "I wrote," to the Gospel, which lies completed before him, and on which the Epistle serves as a commentary. This seems to be the most satisfactory explanation (see on John 1:4).
(2) Who are indicated by the three classes? In the first triplet, τεκνία, as elsewhere in the Epistle (verses 1, 28; 1 John 3:18; 1 John 4:4, 1 John 4:5, 1 John 4:21), refers to his readers as a whole, of whom πάτρες and νεανίσκοι are two component divisions. This is probably the case in the second triplet also, although the change from τεκνία to παιδία renders this a little doubtful (see on verse 13).
(3) Does the difference between "fathers" and "young men" refer to age as men or age as Christians? Probably the former. In both Gospel and Epistle St. John writes to mature and well-instructed Christians. The following table will illustrate the view taken:—
I write this Epistle: ― Reasons for writing it:
1. To all of you. ― You have been forgiven.
2. To the old among you ― You have knowledge of the Word.
3. To the young among you. ― You have conquered the evil one.
I wrote my Gospel: ― Reasons for writing it:
1. To all of you (?). ― You have knowledge of the Father.
2. To the old among you ― You have knowledge of the Word.
3. To the young among you. ― You have strength, have God's revelation in your hearts, and have conquered the evil one.
1 John 2:12
I am writing to you, little children (see on 1 John 2:1), because, etc. Beyond reasonable doubt, ὅτι, is "because," not "that," in 1 John 2:12-14; it gives the reason for his writing, not the substance of what he has to say (cf. 1 John 2:21). For his Name's sake must refer to Christ, not only because of the context, but also of the instrumental διά (cf. 1 John 3:23; 1 John 5:13; John 1:12); and Christ's Name means his character, especially as Saviour. Because they have already partaken of the ἱλασμός (1 John 2:2), and have had their sins washed away in the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7), therefore he writes to them this Epistle. Note the perfects throughout, indicating the permanent result of past action: ἀφέωνται ἐγνώκατε νενικήκατε.
1 John 2:13
Because ye know (literally, have come to know, as in 1 John 2:3, 1 John 2:4) him that is from the beginning τὸν ἀπ ἀρχῆς. The context respecting Christ's Name and ὁ͂ ἦν ἀπ ἀρχῆς (1 John 1:1) show that the Word and not the Father is meant. A more perfect knowledge of Jesus as the Eternal Word, and no mere aeon or emanation from the Deity, is the special prerogative of the aged Christian; and such are fit recipients of the ἀγγελία of the apostle. No less fit, but for a different reason, are the younger among his readers. To fight is the lot of the young soldier; and a victorious warfare against Satan is the distinction of youthful Christians. They have got the better of that evil one in whose power the whole world lies (1 John 3:12; 1Jn 5:18, 1 John 5:19; John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11). Not that the warfare is over, but that it is henceforth warfare with a defeated enemy. Hence they also have a right to share in the apostolic message. I wrote (or, have written) to you, children, because ye know (or, have come to know) the Father. The reading ἔγραψα must be preferred to γράφω, on overwhelming evidence, both external and internal. The second triplet begins here, and this sentence should have been given to 1 John 2:14. It is difficult to determine what is meant by the change from τεκνία to παισία. Τεκνία occurs once with μου (1 John 2:1), and six times without μου in the Epistle, and once in the Gospel (John 13:33), the probable source of this form of address. Παιδία occurs in 1 John 2:18 (see note) and John 21:5, and nowhere else in the New Testament as a form of address. Probably both words are applied to the whole of St. John's readers. Some would limit παιδία to actual children; but in that case we should expect a different order—children, young men, fathers; or fathers, young men, children. These "children" know the Father to whom they have been reconciled by forgiveness of sins; they have become his adopted sons through the Name of his own Son (verse 12).
1 John 2:14
The address to the fathers remains unchanged; their claim to Gospel and to Epistle is the same. The address to the young men is enlarged; their claim to the Gospel is that they are strong to fight, have God's revelation of himself as a permanent possession in their hearts, and have won victories over Satan. The context and John 5:38 and John 10:35 utterly forbid us from understanding ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ of the "living Personal Lord" (cf. John 17:6, John 17:14, John 17:17; Revelation 1:9; Revelation 6:9; Revelation 20:4).
1 John 2:15-17
Secondly, walking in the light excludes all love of the world. This is another form of darkness.
1 John 2:15
Love not the world. Obviously, both "love" and "the world" are used in a different sense in John 3:16, where it is said that "God loved the world." The one love is selfish, the other unselfish. In the one case "the world" means the sinful elements of human life, in the other the human race. It is most important to distinguish the different meanings of κόσμος in the New Testament. Connected with κόμειν and comere, it means
(1) ornament (1 Peter 3:3);
(2) the ordered universe, mundus (Romans 1:20);
(3) the earth (John 1:9);
(4) the inhabitants of the earth (John 3:16);
(5) all that is alienated from God, as here and frequently in St. John's writings.
The things of the world are not those things in the world which may become objects of sinful affection, such as wealth or honour, still less such as scenery or physical objects. St. John is not condemning a love of those material advantages which are God's gifts, nor of nature, which is God's work. He is forbidding those things the love of which rivals and excludes the love of God—all those immoral tendencies and pursuits which give the world its evil character. The world κόσμος is order; the things in the world are the elements of disorder—those things which arise from each man making himself the center of the world, or of some little world of his own creation.
These rival centers clash with one another, and also with the one true Center. All this St. John forbids. With τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, cf. τί ἦν ἐν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ (John 2:25). Note the μηδέ (not μήτε), nor yet: "Love not the world; no, nor any of its ways." As so often, St. John goes on to enforce his words by a negative statement of similar but not identical import. Love of the world absolutely excludes the love of the Father. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." Some important authorities have τοῦ Θεοῦ for τοῦ Πατρός; the balance is decidedly for the latter.
1 John 2:16
He still further emphasizes the command by explaining the negative statement just made. Everything that is in the world has as its source, not the Father, but the world. This shows clearly that τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ cannot mean material objects capable of being desired; these have their origin in God who created them (John 1:3). To assert otherwise is rank Gnosticism or Manicheism. But God did not create the evil dispositions and aims of men; these have their source in the sinful wills of his creatures, and ultimately in "the ruler of this world" (John 8:44). The three genitives which follow are subjective, not objective. The lust of the flesh is not merely the lust after the flesh, but all lust that has its seat in the flesh (Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 2:3). The lust of the eyes is that lust that has its origin in sight (Augenlust)—curiosity, covetousness, etc. (cf. "the lusts of their hearts," "the lusts of your body," Romans 1:24; Romans 6:12). In the world of St. John's day the impure and brutal spectacles of the theatre and the arena would supply abundant illustrations of these ἐπιθυμίαι. The vain-glory of life, or arrogancy of living, is ostentation exhibited in the manner of living; the empty pride and pretentiousness of fashion and display. It includes the desire to gain credit which does not belong to us, and outshine our neighbours. In Greek philosophy βίος is higher than ζωή: βίος is the life peculiar to man; ζώη is the vital principle which he shares with brutes and vegetables, In the New Testament ζωή is higher than βίος is the life peculiar to man; ζωή is the vital principle which he shares with God. Contrast βίος here; 1 John 3:17; Luke 8:14, Luke 8:43; Luke 15:12, Luke 15:30, etc., with ζωή in 1Jn 1:1, 1 John 1:2; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 5:11,1Jn 5:12, 1 John 5:16; John 1:4; John 3:36; John 5:24, John 5:26, etc. Βίος occurs only ten times in the New Testament (in 1 Peter 4:3 it is a false reading), ζωή more than a hundred and twenty times. Each of the three forms of evil here cited by St. John as typos of τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ are dangerous at different periods of a man's life; each also has been a special danger at different periods of the world's history.
1 John 2:17
Seeing, then, that the love of the world and the love of the Father are absolutely incompatible, which must we choose? Not the former, for its object is already passing away; while not only does the Father abide for ever, but he who loves him and does his will abides for ever also. The antithesis, as usual, is a progress; it carries us beyond the limits of the original statement. The world is passing away like a dissolving view. It has its sentence of death in itself; its decay has begun. And even if it were not passing away, our capacity for enjoying it would none the less certainly come to an end. "The sensualist does not know what the delights of sense are; he is out of temper when he is denied them; he is out of temper when he possesses them" (Maurice). To love the world is to lose everything, including the thing loved. To love God is to gain him and his kingdom. Some men would have it that the external world is the one thing that is certain and permanent, while religion is based on a mere hypothesis, and is ever changing its form. St. John assures us that the very reverse is the case. The world is waning: it is God alone and his faithful servants who abide. As St. Augustine says, "What can the world promise? Let it promise what you will, it makes the promise, perhaps, to one who tomorrow will die." The will of God is the exact antithesis of "all that is in the world." The one is the good power "that makes for righteousness;" the other is the sum of the evil powers which make for sin. Abideth for ever is literally, abideth unto the age (μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα). The notion of endlessness is, perhaps, not distinctly included; for that we should rather have had εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν, αἰώνων (Revelation 1:18; Revelation 11:15; Revelation 22:5). The contrast is not between "passing away" and "lasting forever," but between "passing away" and abiding till "the age" comes. But as "the age" is the age of eternity as distinguished from this age of time, the rendering "abideth for ever" is justified. The Jews used" this age" and" the age to come" to distinguish the periods before and after the coming of the Messiah. Christians adopted the same phrases to indicate the periods before and after Christ's second coming; e.g., ὁ αἰὼν οὗτος (Luke 16:8; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 1:20), ὁ νῦν αἰών (1 Timothy 6:17; 2 Timothy 4:10; Ti 2 Timothy 2:12), as opposed to ὁ αἰὼν ἐκεῖνος, (Luke 20:35), ὁ αἰὼν ὁ ἐρχόμενος (Luke 18:30), ὁ μέλλων (Ephesians 1:21), and very frequently, as here and throughout St. John's Gospel and Epistles, simply ὁ αἰών. In Revelation the invariable expression is εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, the τῶν being omitted in Revelation 14:11. The exact meaning here, therefore, is "abideth unto the age," i.e., the coming of Christ's eternal kingdom.
1 John 2:18
Children παιδία here must apply to all those addressed in the Epistle; and this helps to fix the meaning in 1 John 2:13. It is the last hour. What does this mean? There is scarcely room for doubt. The perishableness of the world has suggested the thought of its end, and St. John goes on to warn his readers that this thought is full of meaning to them; for they may recognize the time in which they are living as the last hour by the many antichrists that have arisen. "The last hour" can only mean the last hour before the second coming of Christ. Nothing but the unwillingness of Christians to admit that an apostle, and especially the Apostle St. John, could seem to be much in error about the nearness of the day of judgment, could have raised a question about language so plain. All explanations about its signifying the Christian dispensation, or the nearness of St. John's death, or the nearness of the destruction of Jerusalem, must be firmly set aside. How could the rising of antichrists show that the Christian dispensation had begun? It was Christ, not antichrist, that showed that? What had antichrists to do with St. John's death? or with the fall of Jerusalem, which, moreover, had fallen many years before this Epistle was written? Just as the apostles, even after the Resurrection (Acts 1:6), remained grossly ignorant of the nature of Christ's kingdom on earth, so to the last they remained ignorant of its duration. The primitive Church had not yet found its true perspective, and, in common with all Christians of the first age, the apostles believed that Christ would return soon, possibly within the lifetime of some then living. "Yea, I come quickly" (Revelation 22:20) was by them understood in the most literal sense of ταχύ. But it will not surprise those who remember Christ's very strong declaration (Mark 13:32), to find even an apostle in ignorance as to the time of the second advent of Christ. But it may very reasonably and reverently be asked, What becomes of the inspiration of Scripture if an inspired writer tells the Church that the end of the world is near, when it is not near? The question of inspiration must follow that of interpretation, not lead it. Let us patiently examine the facts, and then try to frame a theory of inspiration that will cover them; not first frame our theory, and then force the facts to agree with it. But the question in its proper place requires an answer. The Old Testament prophets were often guided to utter language the Divine meaning of which they did not themselves understand. They uttered the words in one sense, and the words were true in a far higher sense, of which they scarcely dreamed. The same thing is true of the New Testament prophets, though in a less degree, because the gift of Pentecost had given them powers of insight which their predecessors had not possessed. The present text seems to be an illustration of this truth. We can hardly doubt that, in saying, "it is the last hour," St. John means to imply that within a few years, or possibly even less time, Christ will return to judgment. In this sense the statement is not true. But it may also mean that the last period in the world's history has begun; and in this sense we have good reason for believing that the statement is true. "That one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" is not rhetoric, but sober fact. By the Divine standard times are measured, not according to their duration, but their importance; it is their meaning, not their extent, which gives them value. What are all the measureless prehistoric aeons of the material universe compared with the time since the creation of rational life? What are the thousands of years covered by the Old Testament compared with the portion of a century covered by the New? The great crisis in the history of the world, constituted by the life and death of Christ, will never be equaled until he comes again. When he ascended to heaven the last hour sounded. There may follow a silence (as it seemed to St. John) about the space of half an hour, but of half a thousand centuries. Yet the duration of the period, as measured by man, will not alter its essential characteristics; it was, is, and will still remain, "the last hour." Even as ye heard (when ye were instructed in the faith) that antichrist cometh (is destined to come). Antichrist in this also is assimilated to the Christ; he is ὁ ἐρχόμενος. This was the teaching of the gospel. What does St. John mean by ἀντίχριστος? The four passages (1 John 2:18, 1Jn 2:22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7) in which he uses the term do not enable us to answer the question with certainty. The predominant idea is that of opposition to Christ, and rivalry of Christ, rather than merely of counterfeiting Christ. If ἀντίχριστος were formed on the analogy of ἀντιβασιλεύς and ἀνθύπατος, it would mean "vice-Christ, vicar of Christ." It is, however, analogous to ἀντίθεος ἀντιφιλόσοφος and the Greek for a counterfeit Christ is ψευδόχριστος (Matthew 24:24). But we are left in doubt whether this rival of Christ is a principle or a person. None of the four passages is decisive. Here we are not sure whether the arising of many antichrists proves that the spirit of antichrist is already in the world, or that by them the way is fully prepared for the one personal antichrist. Either the existence of the antichristian character, or the approach of the antichrist, is given as evidence that the day of the Lord is at hand. The latter is the more probable. A great personal opponent to the personal Christ seems to be indicated both by St. John and St. Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:1-8). The Jews expected a personal opponent of the Messiah to precede the Messiah—Armillus, Gog, Antiochus Epiphanes, and the like (Eze 38:1-23 :39; Daniel 7:25; Daniel 8:25; Daniel 11:36); and Christians from the earliest times have expected a similar prelude to the return of the Messiah. The term ἀντίχριστος is absolutely peculiar to St. John in the New Testament. By the ἀντίχριστοι πολλοί he probably means those early heretical teachers, who in various ways denied the Incarnation, and were thus forerunners of the antichrist—the Nicolaitanes, Simon Magus, Cerinthus, Diotrephes, Hymenaeus, and Philetus. Besides these there are practical antichrists. "Let us mark, not the tongue but the deeds. For if all be asked, all with one mouth confess that Jesus is the Christ. Let the tongue keep silent awhile: ask the life. If the Scripture itself shall tell us that denial is a thing done not only with the tongue, but also with deeds, then assuredly we find many antichrists if deeds are to be questioned, not only do we find many antichrists gone out, but many not yet manifest, who have not gone out at all".
1 John 2:19
They went out from us ἐχ ἡμῶν ἐχῆλθαν; just as the evil spirit went out of the demoniac. But they were not of us οὐκ ἦσαν ἐχ ἡμῶν; they had not their origin with us, just as the unbelieving Jews were "not of God" ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ οὐκ ἐστὲ, but of the devil (John 8:23, John 8:44, John 8:47). The emphatic repetition of ἠμῶν, five times in one verse, is quite in St. John's style. The "no doubt" of the Authorized Version, rightly omitted in the Revised Version, probably represents the utique of the Vulgate, which is a mistaken attempt to give a separate word to translate ἄν (compare forsitan in John 4:10; John 5:46. For the elliptical ἀλλ ̓ ἵνα, comp. John 1:8). What follows is not clear, and is taken in three ways:
(1) "That all are not of us," which seems to imply that some of them are of us. This can hardly be right.
(2) "That all of them are not of us;" i.e., are aliens. But in that case we should expect πάντες οὐκ εἰσίν, not οὐκ εἰσὶν πάντες.
(3) Two thoughts are mixed together:
(a) "That they may be made manifest that they are not of us;"
(b) "That it may be made manifest that not all who are with us μεθ ) are of us ἐχ ἡμῶν." This seems preferable. The renegade and apostate was all along only nominally a Christian. Of the true Christian the declaration remains true, "No one snatcheth them out of his hand."
1 John 2:20
The thought of many antichrists suggests that of many Christs; i.e., many who have been anointed χριστοί by the Christ himself. "The false teachers have the spirit of antichrist; ye have a chrism from the Christ." The Johannine καί places the two antithetical groups side by side, while the emphatic ὑμεῖς accentuates the contrast. And ye have an anointing from the Holy One. The unction or chrism is the Holy Spirit (John 1:33; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 2:27). As Christ was anointed with the Spirit in all fullness, so each Christian is anointed with him in his measure (2 Corinthians 1:21, 2 Corinthians 1:22). The twenty-first 'Catechetical Lecture' of St. Cyril, "On the Holy Chrism," should be read in illustration of this verse. "In apostolic language, each Christian is in due measure himself a Christ, empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit to announce the truth which he has learnt, to apply the atonement which he has received, to establish the kingdom which he believes to be universal" (Westcott). The ἀπό depends on ἔχετε, not on χρίσμα. The Holy One is Jesus Christ (John 6:69; Acts 3:14; Revelation 3:7; comp. John 14:26; John 16:7, John 16:13). It is hard to decide between three readings:
(1) καὶ οἴδατε πάντα, "and ye know all things" necessary to salvation, i.e., "the truth" (1 John 2:21; John 16:13);
(2) καὶ οἴδατε πάντες, "and ye all know" that ye have this anointing;
(3) οἴδατε πάντες," ye all know—I did not write to you because ye know not the truth." There is evidence of a fourth variation, πάντας "ye know all" the antichrists. If (1) be right, it does not mean that the Christian is omniscient, but that he has the basis of all knowledge; he can see things in their right proportions. The apostle's own disciple, St. Polycarp, writes to the Philippians
1 John 2:21
The first οὐκ belongs to ὅτι, not to ἔγραψα: I wrote to you, not because ye know not, etc. It does not mean "I omitted to write to you because ye know not." Whatever meaning we give to the aorists in 1 John 2:13, 1 John 2:14 need not be retained here. There is here no abrupt change from present to aorist. Moreover, 1 John 2:26 limits this ἔγραψα to the present section. What in 1 John 2:20 is spoken of as "all things" (assuming πάντα to be right) is here spoken of as "the truth." St. John writes to well-instructed Christians, to adults in the faith. It is precisely because they "know the truth" that he addresses them, especially to warn them against antichrists. We are in doubt whether καὶ ὅτι, depends upon ἔγραψα ("and because")or upon οἴδατε ("and that"). The former is better; it introduces a second reason for his writing. Some take ὅτι, in all three places as "that" after ἔγραψα: "I did not write to you and say that ye know not the truth, but that ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth." Every lie is fundamentally and ab origine ἐκ separate from the truth; and hence his readers will easily recognize lies and liars, for they know the truth.
1 John 2:22
Who is the liar, but he that denieth, etc.? From the lie St. John passes on to the utterer of it. "Ye readily distinguish any lie from the truth. Who, then, is the liar?" "The liar" does not mean the liar κατ ἐχοχήν, as if this denial constituted the very acme of falsehood. To deny the very existence of God is surely a worse lie. Still less can we say that "the context leaves no doubt that 'the liar' is the same with 'the antichrist.'" The article ὁ ψεύστης refers to the preceding ψεῦδος, just as in 1 John 5:4, 1 John 5:5 ὁ νικῶν refers to the preceding νίκη. The very form of sentence is the same: τίς ἐστιν ὁ νικῶν … εἰ μὴ ὁ κ.τ.λ. and there ὁ νικῶν cannot mean the victor, κατ ̓ ἐχοχήν, who is Christ, and not the believer. So that the Authorized Version is not so very inaccurate in rendering ὁ ψεύστης "a liar." "Who tells lies, if not he who denies (and says) that Jesus is not the Christ?" This was the great Gnostic lie to which St. John's Gospel and Epistle give the answer. The antichrist is this, he who denieth the Father and the Son. "The antichrist" here is not the great adversary, but one having similar characteristics. He denies the Messiahship of Jesus, and thus virtually denies both the Father and Son. This truth St. John proceeds to restate and develop.
1 John 2:23
Every one who denieth the Son not only does that, but οὐδέ doth not possess the Father. To deny that Jesus is the Christ is to deny the Son of God, for the Christ is the incarnate Son; and to deny the Son of God is to deny the Father also, for the incarnate Son is the Revelation of the Father; and not only so, but to deny the Son is to cut one's self off from the Father, for "no one knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." To emphasize this great truth St. John uses his favourite motive of stating it both negatively and positively. To deny the Son is not to have the Father; to confess the Son is to have the Father. Note the solemn asyndeta. There is not a single connecting particle in verses 22-24; the sentences fall on the ear like minute-guns. "Every one that denieth." There is no exception. Even an apostle, if he denies that Jesus is the Christ. thereby also loses all possession of the Father. The history of philosophy verifies the statement. Deism has ever a tendency to end in pantheism or atheism.
1 John 2:24-28
Exhortation to abide in the truth and in God.
1 John 2:24
The οὖν of the T.R. must certainly be rejected. The ὑμεῖς placed first marks the antithesis, "as for you," as distinct from the antichrists. With singular caprice the Authorized Version renders St. John's favourite verb, μένειν, in three different ways in this one verse—"abide," "remain," "continue;" thereby losing the emphasis of the repetition: "Let the good seed abide in your hearts; not be snatched away by the evil one. Then not only will it abide, but ye also καὶ ὑμεῖς will abide in the Son, and therefore with the Father." From the beginning; when they first heard the gospel, as distinct from what they have since heard from false teachers.
1 John 2:25
And the promise which he promised us is this, even the eternal life. Αὐτός is Christ; αὕτη looks forward to "the eternal life," not backwards to the abiding in the Father (John 3:16; John 5:24; John 6:40, John 6:54). Τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον is in the accusative by attraction to ἥν. "What St. John would have us feel is this, that there can be no promise to compare with this—that we should share the eternal life, the life of God.… We often speak as if people were to be paid for being good; not as if the being good were itself God's highest gift and blessing" (Maurice). The reading ὑμῖν (B) for ἡμῖν is worthy of notice. In verses 16, 17 St. John gives two reasons for shunning the world: because
(1) the world is alien to the Father;
(2) it is passing away.
So here he gives two for holding fast the truth originally delivered to them: because the truth leads
(1) to fellowship with God;
(2) to eternal life.
1 John 2:26
resumes for a moment and concludes the section respecting antichrists. "These things" refers to what precedes, especially 1 John 2:18-23, as distinct from what now follows. The present participle τῶν πλανώντων indicates the continual attempt of these false teachers to lead the "little children" astray. Ἔγραψα, as in 1 John 2:21, is the "epistolary aorist" (see on 2 John 1:4).
1 John 2:27
Parallel to 1 John 2:24, but stating as a fact what is there given as a command. The emphatic ὑμεῖς again marks the emphatic contrast between St. John's readers and the antichrists. Απ ̓ αὐτοῦ means "from Christ" (verse 20). The indicative μένει states what ought to be true of them, and is a delicate equivalent to μενέτω (verse 24). The anointing of Christ τὸ χρίσμα αὐτου abides with them as a permanent gift, and renders further apostolic teaching unnecessary. It is quite a mistake to suppose that the superfluous teaching refers to the antichrists. The ideal to which the Christian must aspire is the being led into all truth by the Spirit; he will need no human teachers then (see the remarkable parallel to this in Jeremiah 31:33, and the quotation of it in Hebrews 8:10, Hebrews 8:11). The construction in the middle of the verse is amphibolous. We may take καὶ ἀληθές ἐστὶν either as the apodosis of ὠς ("as his anointing teacheth you… so it is true") or as a continuation of the protasis, which is resumed by καθώς ("as his anointing teacheth you… and is true… and even as"). Thereafter is better. The emphatic "and is no lie" is thoroughly Johannine (see on verse 23). The conclusion of the verse is doubtful also. The reading μένετε is certainly preferable to μενεῖτε; but μένετε may be indicative like μένει in the first clause, or imperative like μένετε in the next verse. The latter is more probable.
1 John 2:28
And now, summing up the whole section (1 John 2:18-28). "If he shall be manifested" expresses no uncertainty as to the fact of Christ's appearing; the uncertainty is in the time. In all these cases the point is the result of the act, not the time of it. The graphic αἰσχυνθῶμεν ἀπ αὐτοῦ expresses the shrinking away in shame from his presence. The παρουσία (see on 2 Thessalonians 2:8) is introduced without explanation as a well-known belief.
1 John 2:29
This verse forms a bridge between the two main divisions of the Epistle. The coming of Christ suggests the righteousness of Christ; for it is as the righteous Judge that he is coming, and those who would not be ashamed to meet him at his coming must be righteous also. Once more (1 John 2:27) we are in doubt between indicative and imperative: γινώσκετε, in spite of the preceding μένετε and following ἴδετε, is probably indicative. To know that God is righteous is to perceive that every doer of his τήν righteousness is a son of God (not of Christ; we are nowhere in Scripture said to be born of Christ). To partake of that righteousness which is God's nature is proof of birth from him. With ποιεῖν τὴν δικαιοσύνην, compare ποιεῖν τὴν ἀληθείαν (1 John 1:6; John 3:21). Righteousness must be shown in conduct; mere desire to be righteous will not suffice. And the conduct must be habitual ὁ ποιῶν not ὁ ποιήσας; a single act of righteousness will not suffice. Note to come to know (by experience) that who the change from εἰδῆτε to γινώσκετε.To ever habitually acts righteously is God' know (intuitively) that God is righteous is offspring.
1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:2
God's remedy for sin.
Connecting link: The being without sin, although that to which we cannot as yet pretend without frustrating the purpose of God's revelation of himself, is nevertheless a point to be aimed at in our advance in and towards the light, and is the purpose of the apostle in unfolding his teachings. Hence there immediately suggests itself the following topic—The completeness of the Divine provision for the forgiveness and cure of sin. It is by no means an unimportant part of the evidence of the Divine origin of the gospel that, while nowhere else is sin viewed so seriously, vet nowhere else is its cure provided for so radically. And whereas one of the first lessons a man has to learn is that of the terrible evil of sin, the next in order is that of its possible removal. To learn how deeply he is sunk in it, without being shown how he may rise above it, would plunge a man either into morbid indifference or into bitter and hopeless despair. On the other hand, to point out the greatness of the remedy to one who sees not the depth of the evil it is designed to meet, would be but to speak to inappreciative ears. Consequently, the preacher has to dwell on both in turn. Hence, lest any one should have been brought by the apostle's teaching to so vivid a sense of sin's pervasive poisoning as to despair of ever attaining to the end indicated in 1 John 2:1, "that ye sin not," the apostle seems to say, "Of this you need not despair, for God's provision is so complete. If any man sin," etc. Hence two lines of thought may be indicated here.
I. WHAT IS THIS DIVINE REMEDY FOR SIN? Here the apostle gives us three steps, each succeeding one an advance on the former. 1. The entire work of God in providing a remedy for sin centers in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Let each word in the apostle's phrase have its full weight and meaning expanded as far as possible.)
(1) Jesus—the Saviour.
(2) Christ—the Anointed One, the Messiah.
(3) The Righteous One—One who, being perfectly righteous, was so far fitted to undertake the sinner's cause;
One who, being the Son of man, could represent earth to heaven, and who, being also the Son of God, could represent heaven to earth. In this mutual representativeness is the fitness of his mediation. As such: 2. His work is represented here as twofold.
(1) He is a Propitiation. It is all-important to indicate here the wide distinction between the classical and the scriptural conceptions attached to this word (see Westcott, in loc.). In the one case man seeks to propitiate an offended and incensed Deity. In the other case the "Righteous Father" himself reconciles the world to himself by the giving up of his own Son to do a work which should at once clear the great Ruler from all connivance at sin, and thus open the way for a reception of the penitent sinner in abounding love and in perfect righteousness. [The student should study the entire Scripture usage of the words ἱλασμός ἱλαστήριον; רפַךָ תרֶפֹךַ Nor should we confine ourselves to the thought that something that Christ did was the propitiation. He is the Propitiation. Καὶ αὐτὸσ ̔ιλασμός ἐστιν. He himself is, abidingly, the Propitiation. The propitiation is not simply an act once done; but the ever-living Saviour himself, who died for us and rose again. He covers sin with the mantle of his own forgiving love, having the infinite right to do it as the Priest upon his throne.
(2) Jesus Christ the Righteous One is also an Advocate Παράκλητος. The word "Paraclete" is one of wine significance. It would apply to one who undertook a cause on behalf of another—stood by him through all difficulties, and saw him safely through. The word is translated "Comforter" in John 14:1-31; here "Advocate." Neither is inaccurate; both am too limited. The Lord Jesus Christ, who came to us from the Father, is now our Intercessor with him. (For the glory of this office, cf. Hebrews 7:1-28. For the contents of the pleading, see John 17:1-26.) Of its method in detail we can form no conception; but we know that, if our cause is undertaken by the Lord Jesus, he will carry it through, and we shall prevail through him? 3. The propitiation is for the sins of the whole world. How unscriptural does any limitation of the merciful intent of the atonement seem in the presence of such phrases as this! The advocacy is for all those who entrust their cause to him (Hebrews 7:25). As Westcott beautifully remarks, "He is not an Advocate who wishes to set aside the Law, but to carry it out and apply it."
II. How DOES ALL THIS BEAR ON THE DOING AWAY OF SIN IN US? The action of the Saviour's work is twofold.
1. Objectively. For us—Godward. It fulfils the Law. It vindicates righteousness. It reveals the purity of the great white throne, and the love of the eternal Father. It thus declares God's rectitude in the remission of sin. All that is needed to clear the way for the sinner having access to the Father righteously, is done. "It is finished!"
2. Subjectively. In us—manward.
(1) It awakens hope, and thus banishes despair—an imperative condition, without which no further step can be gained. When hope dawns it is a sure sign all is not lost.
(2) Faith is called forth. When the Spirit of God shows the glory of Christ to a sin-mourning spirit, then the Object of trust is disclosed, and trust reposes in that Object, and pardon is received.
(3) Penitence is awakened. "A sense of blood-bought pardon soon dissolves a heart of stone."
(4) Love is called forth to a living and loving Redeemer. The warmest affections of the soul go out to the Son of God, as to One "who loved us, and gave himself for us." Then
(5) there is henceforth a constant and increasing loathing of sin. By means of "the expulsive power of a new affection" the poison of sin is driven out from the heart. What was once loved is loathed, what was once hated is loved. The new man declares a lifelong war against the sin which made his Saviour bleed.
(6) The life is now devoted to the Lord Jesus, who, in the new kingdom of his grace, gives full scope for every power and faculty of the man, giving them "loved and Divine employ." And the more ardently the Saviour's service is entered on, the more rapidly doth sin perish and holiness adorn the life. And in this course the new career is entered on, in which, sustained by Divine grace and inspired by Divine love, the sin which once was his plague shall come to be for ever and for ever dead!
1 John 2:3-5
Verification verified; or, knowing that we know God.
Connecting link: The redemption effected by Christ in doing away with sin restores the lost fellowship between us and God. In the act of fellowship we come to a heart-knowledge of God; and this true knowledge of God is constantly being verified by a life of obedience. Topic—Certitude in the knowledge of God. The closer our study of the Word of God, and the more minute our investigation of its phrases and words, the more striking will the far-reachingness of its teachings appear, and their adaptedness to meet the exigencies of modern times. And among the New Testament writers none of them is more adapted to an agnostic age than the Apostle John. Albeit there is a great difference between the despairing agnosticism of ancient days and the defiant agnosticism of our own, nevertheless, the words of the Apostle John do as really administer a rebuke to the pride of the later, as they supply the information yearned for by the earlier, age. His key-words being "life," "love," "knowledge," "fellowship," he is constantly throwing such flashes of light on the pathway of Christian thought, as to lead the devout student often spontaneously to cry out, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ," even in the fierce glare of nineteenth-century criticism! If the true way of knowing God, and of knowing that we know him, be disclosed, either of the three following false theses will thereby be overturned: Whether it be maintained
(1) that we know God apart from a supernatural revelation; or
(2) that we cannot possibly know God at all; or
(3) that knowing is an end in itself.
The apostle's teachings demolish each and all! The first, by his showing that the true knowledge of God has been brought by the Son of God. The second, by showing that, even if we cannot rise to God, God has come down to us. The third, by declaring that God has come down to us in order to bring us into fellowship with himself. But even beyond these glorious truths does the apostle lead us. He shows us not only that we can know, but that we can know that we know (verse 3). How? Let us carefully follow his tracks of thought.
I. THERE ARE "COMMANDMENTS" BROUGHT BY THE LORD JESUS CHRIST FOR THE OBEDIENCE OF MEN. (Verses 3-5.) "His commandments." The tendency of many is to be impatient and erratic truth-seekers. The Lord Jesus Christ teaches us that, if we want to know the truth which as yet lies beyond us, there is one sure way thereto, even by the discharge of the duty which we already know; the truth we already possess will thereby increase (cf. John 7:17). As a summary, moreover, of the commandments of our Lord Jesus, we may take the sermon on the mount, in which the only life that will be of worth in his kingdom is set forth, and that too on his own Divine authority.
II. THE COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD JESUS ARE SUMMED UP BY THE APOSTLE IN TWO. The Lord Jesus summed up Old Testament commands in two (Matthew 22:37. Matthew 22:38). John sums up his Saviour's commands in two (1 John 3:23):
(1) Believing in the Name of Jesus Christ, i.e., confiding in him and following him.
(2) Loving one another. How much stress the apostle lays on this we shall have abundant occasion to see in after homilies.
III. CAREFUL REGARD FOR AND THE PRACTICAL FULFILMENT OF THESE WILL EVER BE LETTING US MORE AND MORE INTO THE SECRETS OF THE LOVE OF GOD. There are two phrases—"Keeping his commandments," and "keeping his Word;" the former (so Westcott) being an observance of definite instructions, while the latter is the observance of a principle which is ever taking a new embodiment in the very process of life. This course of conduct will disclose to us the love of God. How? Thus our life will be a life of growing love. This love we have learnt of Jesus. Jesus is the perfect copy of the invisible Father. Hence we learn, practically, "God is love!"
IV. THUS WE COME TO KNOW THAT WE HAVE COME TO A KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. £The Father's love is revealed through the Son. The Son by the Spirit reproduces his own love in our hearts. Thus a new world of love is ever opening up before our eyes. If any man be in Christ, there is a new creation disclosed to his view. A verification this of the glorious love of God, which brings with it a certitude of unspeakable worth and matchless glory!
V. THIS IS THE SEAL OF OUR UNION WITH CHRIST. Hereby know we that we are in him. The growing conformity of our nature to his likeness, and the ripening fellowship with him, are seals to our union with the Lord Jesus that cannot be mistaken.
In conclusion: The Apostle John makes use of all this to ward off and overturn the heresies of his day. We should likewise make use of it now. Not, however, by setting one speculation over against another; but by showing that the certitude of the believer is gained through taking the lowly pathway of duty, and that in the close following of him whom he believes and loves will be found the true secret of the highest knowledge—a knowledge which will develop from moment to moment in the actual course of life.
1 John 2:6
Great professions involve great obligations.
Connecting link: In the fifth verse the apostle had just declared that a life of obedience to God certifies to the believer that he is in Christ. In this verse that thought is as it were turned round: not only is it true that, if a man diligently obeys, he has in that fact the proof of a living union with Christ, but it also follows that, if a man avows to others that he is living in union with the Son of God, he is bound to justify that avowal by a life in entire harmony therewith. Hence we get the following theme—The avowal of a Christian life demands a Christ-like walk. Two lines of remark are here suggested.
I. HERE IS A GREAT DECLARATION SUPPOSED. "He that saith he abideth in him." It has been not unfrequently remarked that old words and phrases which had long been employed in pagan terminology have to put on a new meaning altogether when used in Christian teaching. Not only is this true, but much more. There are in Christian teaching absolutely new phrases used. This is one of them: "in Christ." It is entirely new, (1)because no one ever sustained such a loving relation to the human soul as Christ sustains to it; and therefore
(2) never could human souls be so related to any other being as they are to the Lord Jesus, specially when knit to him by a living faith and drawing their very life from him. If, e.g., we speak of being in Isaiah or in Moses, who is there that would not turn away in disgust from the absurdity? And yet the Christian knows and feels it to be perfectly natural thus to speak of his relation to his Saviour. Yea, more; so close, so real, so vital, is that relationship, that no weaker phrase would adequately express it! For what does he mean by it? Certainly not less than seven things.
1. That he worships him as the ideal and real Head of' the entire human race.
2. That he recognizes the supreme Lordship of Christ.
3. That he relies upon the atonement made by Christ.
4. That he receives power from Christ every day and all the day long.
5. That he has no other conception of a worthy object in life than that life should be wholly for Christ.
6. That for life or death, for time or eternity, he commits his all to Christ.
7. And lastly, that the life he lives now, that the life he hopes for hereafter, is received from Christ himself, and can be sustained by him alone. For there is no such hypothesis in the text as that a man can be out of Christ one moment and in him the next, and vice versa, thus alternating perpetually. The phrase is "abideth in him." It is not, however, necessarily supposed here that the man is in Christ. The only supposition is that he declares such to be the case. Hence the question arises—How is this declaration supposed to be made? Nothing can be clearer, both from the Gospels and the Epistles, that open confession of faith before the world was expected of believers, and was indeed the natural outcome of such faith. £There was the broader confession, when disciples were admitted to Christian training by the rite of baptism. There was the far fuller and deeper one when the ranks of believers gathered together around the table of the Lord, declaring that Christ was the Life of those that believe. In a word, while, in mingling with the world and in ordinary conversation, it was quite possible for a man openly to confess his Saviour, go where he would, yet the recognized public avowal of his faith and hope as a Christian was to be found in his taking his place among the ranks of the faithful, and in pledging himself to be everywhere true to his Saviour and to his fellow-believers, when he gathered with them around the Eucharistic board!
II. AN AVOWAL SO GREAT DEMANDS A CORRESPONDING WALK. "He that saith … ought himself," etc.
1. How ought he to walk? "Even as he walked." The outward walk ought to correspond with the verbal avowal. But who can suitably describe how Christ walked? Expansion of this is not possible within our assigned space. We can but hint. See Christ's purity, devotedness to God, love of communion with God, pity, benevolence, daring, patience, self-sacrifice, resistive force even to the death. A man who says he abides in Christ ought to reproduce that life in his own! We are not required to follow him in the waters of baptism, nor in the forty days' temptation, nor in his wondrous works; but in his Spirit and his life he has left us an example that we should follow his steps. He stands historically at the head of the human race, its most heavenly Inspirer, its noblest Figure, its most luminous Example.
2. Why ought the walk to be conjoined with the avowal? Dr. Westcott aptly calls our attention to the fact that the word here used is not δεῖ, denoting a "must" in the nature of things, but ὀφείλει, which expresses a special, personal obligation. To whom, then, does the avower owe it to "live like him whom he avows as his Lord and his Life"? Certainly
(1) he owes it to himself to be consistent with his declaration.
(2) He owes it to his Christian brethren with whom he is in Church-fellowship.
(3) But supremely he owes it to his Lord, whose holy Name he thus takes upon himself. For our Lord Jesus Christ is in some sort represented by the professors of his Name. Alas! alas! while in every age there have been very many who have" adorned the doctrine of God their Saviour in all things," who can reflect without many a sigh and many a tear of the numberless ways in which our Lord has been wounded in the house of his friends? Surely, surely our Lord endured suffering enough for us when he was on earth. Do not let him suffer from us now he is in heaven! And if even thus the argument should fail to impress, let two matters more be weighed: One, that if the avowal is true, a man will make it his aim to live as Christ lived; for the life a, man receives from Christ cannot possibly be other than like his own. Another, that if a man is not living a Christ-like life, he is thereby disproving the truth of the avowal he is making. The water in the stream cannot be muddy if it comes direct from the pure fountain-head.
We are well aware that a preacher's fidelity on this matter will be met by—
Objection (1) such as this: "How ignorant of the ways of the world you preachers must be! Nothing can stand in our day against twenty-five per cent. profit." Reply: Our thesis is, if a man declares he is in Christ, he says he treads mammon underfoot; and if he says it, he is expected to show it.
Objection (2): "Impossible! too high!" Reply: It is too high for a Christless man, but not for "a man in Christ." Note: When life and profession harmonize with each other, and both harmonize with a perfect ideal, the life is what it ought to be, and all that it can be.
1 John 2:7-11
Love and light.
Connecting link: The word "ought" (1 John 2:6) implies a command explicitly given or implicitly involved in other teaching; such is the case here. The Son of God has come. And from him as the Light the command has proceeded. What specific form the commandment has taken from his lips is the main teaching of this paragraph. Hence our theme—The commandment, old and yet new, brought by him who is the Light. The "connecting links" which are traceable in the writings of John, are very different from such as are discoverable in the Epistles of Paul. Paul works out mighty themes cumulatively. John treats keywords radiatively. Such words are "light," "love," "truth," "life," "knowledge," etc. Consequently, it would be a mistake to attempt to find in this Epistle any such continuous unfolding of one great theme, such, e.g., as the doctrine of justification by faith, which is dealt with by Paul in Romans 1-8. As another method, and that very widely different, is adopted in this Epistle by the Apostle John, so the work of the pulpit expositor in dealing therewith must vary from the method he would adopt in unfolding the Epistle to the Romans. We must take up the key-words of John as he uses them, and expound the teaching concerning them. In this paragraph we have two main lines of remark suggested.
I. TEACHINGS CONCERNING LIGHT AND LOVE OBJECTIVELY CONSIDERED. These are fourfold.
1. The true Light is now shining. A reference to John 1:4, John 1:5 and John 3:19 will indicate the way in which the apostle refers to our Lord Jesus as the Light. God has never left men in absolute darkness concerning himself. Even before the Old Testament was written, devout men could "walk with God." But whatever light on the invisible men have had has come from the Lord Jesus Christ. "He is the true Light, which lighteth every man." When, however, he came into the world, men beheld the Source of light; the world has been clearer and brighter ever since; and to this day the light streams from Christ as from the Sun of Righteousness.
2. Because of this the darkness is passing away (παράγεται).£It is as if the veil were being lifted off which concealed the great realities on which the meaning and destiny of human life depend. And with new light thrown on the plans and mind of God for our race, it follows that fresh light is cast on the way in which men ought to walk.
3. This being the case, additional force is given to human duty. (Note the ὅτι in John 3:8.) The clearer the light on a man's pathway, the greater his obligation to walk aright. Hence, when Jesus brings a fuller light, he must needs bring a command for us to walk accordingly. We cannot suppose the Son of God to come from heaven to light up our way, and that it can then be an indifferent matter whether we heed him or no. Surely not. The light has a commanding force. It is a new command, as brought in anew by the Lord Jesus, and felt with new force through his infinite love. It is an old one, inasmuch as it had been in force from the very beginning of the Christian economy, and even then was but the resetting of the old law of love which God had enjoined from the first.
4. This command is that we should love our brother. This is the burden of the whole paragraph. This is the sum and substance of that following of Christ to which all "who profess and call themselves Christians" are bound. The light which he brings is meant to guide us to a life of love. "Love one another, as I have loved you."
II. THESE SAME TEACHINGS CONCERNING LIGHT AND LOVE SUBJECTIVELY APPLIED. It is no wonder to find the apostle setting and resetting his key-words in so many different forms, and ringing the changes, so to speak, on "those charming bells "—life, light, love. A deep and true philosophy underlies the whole. Right conception existing in thought is truth. Right conception expressed in word is light. Right conception realized in act is duty. Right conception embodied in a life is love. There are five distinct statements made in this paragraph on the subjective side of our theme, all of them enforcing with terrific power the importance of obeying the command of love.
1. "He who loves his brother abides in the light." Both φιλανθρωπία and φιλαδελφία would be included here. When both are learned of Christ the pathway is light, and he who walks therein becomes "light in the Lord," receiving and reflecting the radiance of the central Sun.
2. Consequently, he sees where he is going. "There is no occasion of stumbling in him" (cf. John 11:9, John 11:10).
3. This is an unvarying law, all profession to the contrary notwithstanding (John 3:9). Let a man talk as largely and as loudly as he may, if he loves not, he is in the dark. No love, no light. He will not see the light God has shed on the destiny of the race. He will be in miserable darkness as regards his own.
4. Such a walk in the darkness will issue in his losing the power of seeing. "The darkness blinded his eyes" (cf. Matthew 6:22, Mat 6:23; 2 Corinthians 4:3, 2 Corinthians 4:4). Fishes in underground rivers become blind. The moral and spiritual eyesight may be trifled with till it is destroyed, £ if a proper use be not made of the light God has sent to us in Christ.
5. When the power of seeing is gone, every step must be a leap in the dark. "Knoweth not whither he goeth." What an awful agnosticism! Can anything be more terrible than for a human soul to be compelled to plunge forward wildly, blindly, without a ray of light in any direction, simply because he would not follow the light God sent him, and tampered with his own power of seeing?
Thus both objectively and subjectively it is true: The light brought in by Christ points to love, and his love leads us on to the light. Following his light, we learn to love; imitating his love, we are moving forward to the light. Here, then, is the outward practical proof of our following Christ—a proof which even the world can to some extent appreciate, the proof without which no profession, nor words, nor deeds, nor sacraments, nor ordinances, can avail; it lies in this, and in this only, in love. The only possible proof that we can give that we love Jesus is by loving those for whom he died and in whom he lives, for his sake—by loving them as he loved us. This is the old, old line of duty, yet the one which is ever new. This is the true religion—to love. This is loyalty—to love. And when we have learned to love others as Christ loved us, we shall have within us the proof that his light is pervading our whole nature, and the pledge of our fitness for the inheritance of saints in light!
1 John 2:12-14
"Little ones," "young men," and fathers."
Here the thread of thought is broken. The apostle, instead of continuing his theme, turns for a little to those to whom he wrote and is writing; he recognizes the difference between the age, standing, and capacity of his readers, and reminds them that in each case his writing has had and still has a specific reason and intent. Topic—The Word of God permanently suited alike for the young and the old.
I. THERE ARE TO BE FOUND IN THE CHURCH WIDE DIVERSITIES IN AGE AND EXPERIENCE. There are, at least apparently, three classes specified—the children, the young men, and the fathers. The children are specified by two distinctive terms—''little children," "little ones." "Little children" as sustaining a common relation; "little ones" as being equally feeble and helpless (cf. Westcott, in loc.). There is room, however, for difference in opinion as to whether the apostle—aged and mature as he himself was at the time of writing—does not include all under the term "little children" here, as he certainly does in the first verse of this chapter. But it appears to us to be otherwise, and that the apostle afterwards varies the phraseology, saying "little ones," that he might make it clear that he, in this particular case, means "little ones" in age, i.e. as concerning the Christian life. That there were children in the early Churches appears clearly indicated in the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians. And certainly in the Churches there have been, in all periods, the little ones, who have newly come to the faith; the young men, whose glory is in their strength; the fathers, whose glory is their ripeness in Christian experience and their attainments in saving knowledge.
II. THESE DIVERSITIES OF AGE ARE RECOGNIZED BY THE APOSTLE. In the fact of the apostle thus distinctly setting each class before him, and specifying each, we see a graciously designed adaptation of the sacred writings alike to young and old. And also in the specific reason given in each case.
1. John writes to the "little ones," because their "sins are forgiven" for the sake of Christ, and because they have "known the Father." The most glorious fact, forgiveness, and the most blessed relationship, fatherhood,—these, though deep enough and high enough for the researches of an eternity, are yet simple enough for babes in Christ to exult rapturously therein.
2. He writes to the "young men," because they "are strong," etc. The glory of a young man is his strength. High ideals, ardent pursuit, brave daring,—these are the delight of young men. And how abundant is the scope afforded in the teachings of the Word for the abandonment of all their energies to the noblest objects!
3. He writes to the "fathers," because they have "known him that is from the beginning;" i.e., in the ripeness of their attainment they have learnt the glory of Christ as the Eternal Word, and have come to see how the whole course of human history is bound up in him. Note: The fathers in Christ have gone on learning of Christ ever since they were little ones; the "little ones," consequently, should never be pressed too hard, nor be expected to see all that they will come to see by-and-by. Loyalty and docility should be expected of them; but not maturity of knowledge and of wisdom. In the Bible there is milk for the babes, as well as strong meat for those of full age.
III. THE APOSTLE REPEATEDLY PUTS THE DIVINE TRUTH DOWN IN WRITING, THAT IT MAY BE A PERMANENT DIRECTORY TO ALL. Γράφω … ἔγραψα. "I am writing… I wrote." (For the varied possible hypotheses on these words, 1.e. whether John refers to a previous letter, etc., see Exposition; also Westcott, in loc.) The point here worthy of being dwelt upon is the gracious foresight, which, seeing the danger of the future ages to the faith of men, arranged that the truth should be repeatedly committed to writing, and so committed that in the after-years there should be something for all—for the little ones, the young men, and the fathers—to which, in all perils, seductions, and bewilderments, whether of doctrine or of practice, they may perpetually appeal, as the standard alike for truth and for duty (cf. Phip Joh 3:1; 2 Peter 3:1, 2 Peter 3:2; verse 26).
IV. THE TRUTH THUS PERMANENTLY RECORDED IS SUCH, AS WHEN RIGHTLY USED, WILL LEAD ON TO FURTHER ADVANCES IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
1. Are there those who are but babes in Christ, and who are just taking their first feeble steps in Zion's pathway? in the glorious tact of which they are here reminded there is the noblest inspiration to progress. They are addressed
(1) because their sins are forgiven; and
(2) because they can rejoice in the Father's love as theirs.
How great the achievement expressed in the first! How vast the possession pointed out in the second! Enough for them to rejoice in even at the outset of their Christian life with a joy unspeakable and full of glory. A treasure indeed to start with. They may well "sing in the ways of the Lord," hold on their way, and pass from more to more.
2. There are the young men, who glory in their energy, in whom the Word abideth, and who have in Divine might overcome the wicked one. They are addressed in the book, and a grand field is opened up for their energies and a trial ground for all their valour, as they are bidden to fight the good fight of faith and are cautioned against the antichrists of every age. Here may they learn how to bear the shield and to wield the sword; to step forth to war, having their feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, sure to overcome in the strength of the great Captain of salvation.
3. There are the fathers, too, who in their maturity of life and love are learning the glory of their Redeemer as the First and the Last, as over the creation of God, "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." Here are disclosures of the Redeemer's glory in which they too may luxuriate; so that, let them become as ripe as they may, they will still find the teachings of the book far ahead of them. Yes; it is even so. As John thought of all in writing this Epistle; so, through the Spirit, in both Old and New Testaments there will be found simple teachings for the little ones, manlier words for robust energy, riper truths for those in the fullness of grace and knowledge. All, all may go to the book. It will give pictures for the child to look at, a shield and sword which the warrior may wield, and a pillow on which the aged and worn-out veteran may peacefully breathe his last.
1 John 2:15-17
Love of the world forbidden.
Connecting link: Having paused for a moment in his theme to survey lovingly the believers of various ages to whom he is writing, the apostle now resumes the theme of love and life. Inasmuch as love is no merely benevolent sentimentalism disregarding moral distinctions, it must needs follow that the duty of loving in one direction must involve the corresponding duty of not loving in an opposite and alien direction. In the negative as well as the positive aspects of duty believers need instruction. Hence our theme—The region in which love is prohibited, and why.
I. HERE IS AN EARNEST PROHIBITION. "Love not the world." Owing to the poverty of language, it may be, one word has to serve several purposes. It is so with this term "world." Sometimes it means the globe itself (Psalms 96:10). Sometimes the race of people thereon (John 3:16). Sometimes the outer form of things (1 Corinthians 7:31). At other times, as here, it refers to the world of busy human concerns, of thinking, planning, racing, hungering, thirsting, striving, and all for its own aims and purposes, irrespectively of the glory of God or even of questions of righteousness and truth. As such it is a sinful world, and on it our love must not be set. There are, however, three specific forms of sinfulness, against the love of which we are warned.
1. The lust of the flesh. The vain indulgence and pampering of the fleshly nature. If, e.g., we either tutor drink merely for pleasure's sake, or indulge in excess in either direction, or gratify the sensual appetites either in wrong directions or to too great an extent, we are neglecting the warning of the text.
2. The lust of the eyes. The fondness for glitter, glare, and show. The inordinate love of sight-seeing, etc.
3. The pride of life. Its vain-glory and love of ostentatious display. This will have no place in a consistent Christian's life. The spirit of the words, "My river is my own, and I made it for myself," is by no means extinct. Query: How far has the civilizing and humanizing effect of Christianity changed the "world"? Is the evil in it, and the consequent peril therefrom, as great as in the Apostle John's time? In other words, Is the prohibition of the text as needful now as it was then? In reply, note:
(1) Beyond all question there is a vast improvement in many respects, notably
(a) in the fact that sins to which no disgrace attached in the days of the old Roman empire are now all but unknown, or at least have to hide themselves from view;
(b) in the fact that there is a very large amount of commerce, etc., in which there is "upon the bridles of the horses, Holiness to the Lord." For this we may be devoutly thankful. In many directions, too, art, music, painting, sculpture, are consecrated to the Lord.
(2) Notwithstanding all allowance to be made for these advances, there is still a sinful element of self-seeking, selfishness, pride, haughtiness, and boasting in the world, which is strenuously to be shunned. The lusts of the flesh are not dead yet. The pride of life lingers—nay, it flourishes yet. The "interests" of commerce are regarded as paramount.
(3) There are forms of ill in the world which have actually developed under modern civilization, and against which it behooves a Christian steadily and steadfastly to protest. Selfishness of the lords of the soil, etc. In all that partakes of the world-spirit, i.e., self first, a believer is to have no concern, no sympathy whatever.
(4) Nor can it be questioned that since the apostle's time there have arisen, and in our day there still exists, forms of the world-spirit even in the Churches of Christ. Sectarian strives, heart-burnings, huge hierarchies, dead forms, high offices, gorgeous vestments, large ambitions, exclusive claims, etc. All these, though clad in religious guise, are as much a part of the lust and pride of the worldliness as aught outside; and, because found in the Church, must be more offensive to God, because of the pretence of sanctity which attaches to them. From all this our hearts must recoil. It is "the world," though baptized with the Church's sacred name. It is altogether inconsistent with the simplicity that is in Christ. It cannot be reconciled with the Lord's teaching in Matthew 20:25-28.
II. HERE ARE MANY REASONS SUGGESTED AGAINST THIS PROHIBITED LOVE. Mainly five.
1. These things in the world which we are forbidden to love are themselves essentially and radically wrong. They are "not of the Father, but of the world," i.e., the world indulges its own lusts, pursues its own aims, seeks its own pleasures, without care for or thought of a higher will. The world is a self-seeker and self-pleaser, and will not be burdened with the larger and higher questions of God, righteousness, and truth.
2. The love of the world is incompatible with the love of the Father, i.e., with our loving him. We can love either God or the world But no human heart can hold the two opposing at the same time. That is as absolutely certain as the doctrine of the impenetrability of matter. No man can serve God and mammon. The attempt has been made to form a God-and-mammon guild. But all such attempts must be miserable failures.
3. Besides, "perishableness" is inscribed on the world and all that is therein. "The world passeth away." And how sorely incongruous is it for an imperishable spirit to ally itself with a merely perishing framework! £ No form of national life continueth alway. Families break up and pass away. Friends die. Nothing earthly is permanent.
4. And more than this, even if objectively the "world" continued pretty much the same, yet "the lust thereof" passes away; earth loses its power to charm; and the passions, if they have been lustfully indulged, retain their craving, but lose the power of enjoyment. But a more pleasing reason yet remains to be specified.
5. There is a far better pursuit open to us, which will open up nobler prospects. "He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." Here the opposite course is pointed out—"doing the will of God." Losing our wills in his. "This is the way the Master went," finding his meat in the fulfillment of the Father's will. We know that that will is perfect wisdom and perfect love. And if we ever ask, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" our duty will be revealed to us
(1) in the Word,
(2) by the openings of Providence, and
(3) the teachings of the Holy Ghost.
He that lives for this end "abideth for ever;" i.e., the aims of his being can never be interrupted. If he lives, he lives to the Lord; if he dies, he dies to the Lord. If he toils, he does God's will. If he suffers, he bears it. If he be on earth, he fulfils his Father's will in this life; if he departs hence, he fulfils it in another. The supreme object of his existence is sure to be realized under any circumstances, through all outward changes, in all possible places, and in any state of being, and throughout the ages of eternity. He who is thus living can use the sublime boast of Paul, and say, "In nothing I shall be ashamed… Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death For to me to live is Christ, and to have died is gain." A beloved and honoured pastor, the Rev. Thomas Craig, of Becking, in Essex, after a pastorate of sixty-two years, during which he had often expressed the wish to die "in harness," was called to his rest after a very brief illness. After his death, a sermon he had begun to prepare for the pulpit was found half-finished upon his desk. It was from the text, "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
1 John 2:18
A last hour; or, the Divine enclosure of revealed time.
Connecting link: "The world is passing away," wrote the apostle (1 John 2:17), and now he proceeds to repeat and reimpress this fact upon his readers in two additional statements:
(1) that a great crisis had already begun; and
(2) that the mark of that being so was the appearance of antichrist,—by this, he says, we know that it is a last hour. (The phrase is anarthrous.) Here are two homiletic studies of the profoundest interest. One on the time-arrangements of the Divine dispensations; the other on antichrist. The first only do we now note; our topic—The Divine enclosure of revealed time.
I. THE GREAT SUPREME, WHO IS FROM EVERLASTING TO EVERLASTING, HAS GRACIOUSLY DIVIDED TIME INTO PERIODS FOR US. No finite minds can comprehend a whole eternity. They will make their own horizon, even if one be not disclosed. The eye requires a point of repose whichever way it turns. We are not, however, left to make our own. God has furnished us with one in each direction, before and behind. We have such phrases as, "in the beginning" (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1); "then the end" (1 Corinthians 15:24). In neither case can the phrase mean an absolute beginning or an absolute end. For with God is neither beginning nor end. Beginning and end can be such only so far as God reveals time to us. These are the two enclosures within which revelation moves. There are varied expressions in the Scriptures, moreover, to indicate several epochs which lie between the two extremes; and it would be a great gain to Bible students if, instead of wasting time and energy in attempting to fix dates for this event or that, they would take a larger view, comprehending all the time-expressions in the sacred volume, and endeavour to seize hold of and to apply the principles of the Divine government and the outlines of Divine plan thereby disclosed. Let the following references be carefully compared: "The last days," or "the latter days," as spoken of under the old dispensation (Genesis 49:1; Numbers 24:14; Deuteronomy 4:30; Isaiah 2:2; Jeremiah 23:20; Jeremiah 30:24; Jeremiah 48:47; Jeremiah 49:39; Ezekiel 38:16; Hosea 3:5; Joel 2:28; Joel 3:1; Micah 4:1). In the New Testament we have the phrases, "mine hour" (John 2:4); "his hour" (John 13:1; John 8:20; John 7:30); "the hour" (John 17:1; John 12:23; John 4:21, John 4:23; John 5:28, John 5:35; John 16:4, John 16:25, John 16:32); "this hour" (John 12:27); "your hour" (Luke 22:53); "times or seasons" (Acts 1:7); "forty-two months" (Revelation 11:2); "three days and a half" (Revelation 11:11); "time, and times, and half a time" (Revelation 12:14; cf. Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7, Daniel 12:11, Daniel 12:12); "these last times" (1 Peter 1:20); "these last days" (Hebrews 1:2); "the last days" (Act 2:17; 2 Timothy 3:1; 2 Peter 3:3; Jude 1:18; James 5:3); "the last day" (John 6:39, John 6:44, John 6:54; John 12:48); "the day of Christ" (Philippians 1:10); "the day of the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 5:2; Acts 2:20); "that day" (Matthew 24:36; Matthew 7:22; 2 Timothy 1:12, 2 Timothy 1:18); "the last time" (1 Peter 1:5); "the end" (Matthew 24:14; Matthew 13:39; Matthew 28:20; 1 Corinthians 15:24); "the fullness of times" (Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10); "the age to come" (Hebrews 2:5; Ephesians 1:21); "the ages" (Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 11:3); "ages of ages" (Revelation 14:11); "all the ages" (Psalms 145:13 [LXX]; Jude 1:25 [Greek]); "all the generations of the age of the ages" (Ephesians 3:21). The conception, developed with great care by Mr. Grattan Guinness,£ that the clockwork of the heavens and that of prophecy are similarly set as to time, is one of exceeding attractiveness and grandeur, though our knowledge requires to be enormously wider ere we have the materials for its verification. At the same time, the broad fact remains that he whose being is "one eternal Now" has, both in his works and in his Word, enclosed duration for us in a series of periods smaller or larger, in order that our limited apprehensions may have some point from whence to start, and some goal towards which to look!
II. GOD HAS HIS OWN SPECIFIC PERIOD FOR EACH STEP TO BE TAKEN IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF HUMAN AFFAIRS. So far as it is needed that we should know what that step may be at any age, prophecy unfolds the plans of God. We know, e.g., that this period is "the day of salvation" foretold by the prophets; that it was ushered in by the first coming, and will be closed by the second coming of the Son of God, for which we are bidden to wait and watch.
III. EACH SUCCEEDING PERIOD IS MARKED BY FEATURES PECULIARLY ITS OWN. "By this we know that it is a last hour." The Adamic, patriarchal, Mosaic, and prophetic periods were all distinctly marked. So was the transition period of the Baptist, and that of the Messiah's life, death, and resurrection; so also is this, the dispensation of the Spirit. A critical change takes place in each one, marking an advance on the times gone by, and serving as an introduction to those which are to come.
IV. HENCE EACH EPOCH MAY BE DESCRIBED AS "A LAST HOUR," inasmuch as it brings to a close some form of good (or of evil) which marked that which preceded. John the Baptist marked "the last hour" of prophecy. The Lord Jesus, "the last hour" of types and shadows; the Holy Ghost, "the last hour" of human probation. And our Lord Jesus reminds us that earthquakes, pestilences, etc., will mark the last hour ere he comes again, but that these will be but the beginnings of the "birth-pangs" that will usher in a new and glorious life. The Apostle John sees in the rise of antichrist a mark of "the last hour." Even so. It is the period in which Christ goes forth to judgment and to victory, when his foes are to be made manifest to their own destruction and to his glory!
V. STILL, THE WORD OF GOD BIDS US FIX OUR EYE ON THE CLOSE OF THIS EPOCH, referred to as "the day," "that day" "the great day," etc. We are looking for the reappearing of the Son of God, when all antichrists shall be trampled underfoot, and when he shall bring in the "new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
VI. EVEN "THE LAST DAY," "THE END" FOR WHICH WE LOOK, WILL NOT BE AN ABSOLUTE END. It will be a consummation; and with our God it may be as it were a new beginning. His ways are ever unfolding from glory to glory. Then let it be ours to recognize this method of Divine disclosure, and learn herefrom:
1. The limits of Divine revelation. It is enclosed between a "beginning" and an "end." Of what was before the one, of what will be after the other, we know nothing and can think nothing.
2. To use the revealed period, that of probation, so that, let the "end" be what it may and come how it may, we are "ready."
3. To look forward without fear, if we are in Christ.
4. To learn "the terrors of the Lord," his manifestations of himself, which make the righteous glad, will put rebellion and the rebel to increasing shame.
1 John 2:18
Connecting link: In the preceding homily we had occasion to remark that the expression, "a last hour," indicated that a great crisis had already begun, and that the apostle declared that the mark of such a crisis was to be seen in the rise of "many antichrists." We then, with the thought of a last hour as the basis, endeavoured to indicate the time-enclosures of Divine revelation. Now we have to expand, as far as our space permits, the apostolic teachings which gather round the expressions, "antichrist," "many antichrists." Topic—Antichrist; a manifold series of negations.
I. SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE CHRISTIAN AGE, THE SUPREME TEST OF TRUTH AND FALSEHOOD IN RELIGION IS THEIR RELATION TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Cf. Matthew 12:30, where our Lord shows that there is no neutrality in reference to himself. Either for or against. And we know the apostle himself received a sharp rebuke and a touching lesson when forbidding one, who was casting out devils, because he did not follow with them. Our Lord then took occasion to give the converse of the former expression, saying, "He that is not against us is on our part." So that it is no wonder, after such a lesson (which he could not forget), that the one test of truth should be with John—How does it stand with reference to the Master? Does it enthrone or dethrone him? If the former, a wide divergence on minor topics would be allowed. If the latter, however specious its pretence, he would brand it as antichrist. This word (in the New Testament) is peculiar to John. It is found in verses 18, 22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7. It is not at all improbable that he coined the word, although (so Westcott) the absence of the article in this verse indicates that it had become current as a technical name.
II. BELIEVERS HAD BEEN PREPARED TO EXPECT THE RISE OF ANTICHRISTIAN HERESY. And no one can read the Epistles to the Corinthians, Colossians, and to the seven Churches without seeing how very early, even during the lifetime of the apostles, sundry antichristian heresies threatened to make havoc of the Church. It would be inaccurate to fix the term "antichrist" solely on one individual or one system, even if our knowledge of this or that one were complete enough to enable us to identify it or him as one form of antichrist. For in the prophetic passages referred to such forms are pointed out as manifold. And the apostle declares that manifold are the forms already seen; for, says he, "even now are there many antichrists." So that we are forbidden by the terms of the passage to fasten on any one form of heresy to the exclusion of others.
III. THOUGH PROPHECY AND FACT SHOW MANY ANTICHRISTS, THERE IS ONE FEATURE MARKING THEM ALL, viz. NEGATION. (Verse 22.) "He is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son." Thus the apostle himself, if he seems to plunge us into uncertainty as to who is antichrist, when he declares that there are many, speedily relieves us of the uncertainty, by giving us one mark by which antichrist may be distinguished anywhere and in all ages, whatever the name he assumes, whatever the garb he wears. So far, of course, as the word goes, if
(1) any one else professed to be the Christ;
(2) if any one, under the guise of a prophet, opposed Christ;
(3) if any one, under pretence of honouring his Person, denied his redeeming work; or
(4) if any one set himself openly and entirely against Christ;—in either case the word "antichrist" would apply. Whether a man or a system opposes Christ's Person, mission, revelation, redemption, or commandments, he or it would be a deceiver and an antichrist. But the apostle lays most stress, yea, the entire stress, on the thought of a denial. "Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh… this is the [mark] of the antichrist." What may be its claims for itself does not enter seriously into the apostle's mind thereon; if it will not yield Christ his claims, it is antichrist. For in denying the Son, it denies all the faith. If any one denies the Son, he denies the Incarnation. Denying the Incarnation, he denies revelation of God, and a Mediator between God and man. He denies, consequently, any link between man and God. Christ united man to God. Antichrist would disown or break the tie, so that man is cut off from God, thus bringing out the terrible result, "He that denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father." Thus everything distinctive of the Christian faith goes in a moment, when once the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ is denied (see Westcott, in loc.). This—this is antichrist! He would take away the ladder between earth and heaven!
IV. THE DEVELOPMENTS OF HISTORY SHOW US THIS ANTICHRISTIAN SPIRIT IN GREAT DIVERSITY or FORM. Obviously, all we have space for is to name some of the more prominent of these forms of error.
1. The heresies of the apostolic age.£ These are indicated in the apostolic Epistles and in the Apocalypse. Notably, there was Gnosticism.
2. Sacerdotalism. In the multiplication of priests and mediators the all-sufficiency of the one Priest and Mediator is denied. In the Church of Rome this evil has reached an appalling height. We would not intimate that the Church of Rome is one form of antichrist; but so far as this one point is concerned, or any point of her teaching, which obscures the glory of the Redeemer, she is so far antichristian.
3. Papal infallibility. When the pope applies to himself the words, "No man cometh to the Father but by me," he is so far, certainly, antichrist.
4. Socinianism. The denial of the eternal Sonship, and consequently, yea, necessarily, of the Incarnation, is another antichrist.
5. Deism. Denying revelation is another.
6. Anti-supernaturalism is another.
7. Positivism,£ in its denial of all but the phenomenal, and its worship of humanity, is another.
8. Agnosticism, in denying that God is knowable, or that he has ever made himself known, is another, and the most modern, most attractive, and most perilous form of antichrist existing at the present day. The growing culture of the day has broken off much of the roughness of religious controversy on all sides; but this system, which, under the guise of ignorance, declines all inquiry into religion, as lying beyond all possible knowledge, is about the most subtle fallacy by which men could be misled.
V. THE APOSTLE'S DISCLOSURE OF THE REAL ANTICHRISTIAN PRINCIPLE IS MOST VALUABLE AND INSTRUCTIVE TO EVERY AGE. It may be made special use of by at least six classes of persons.
1. By the theologian. Here is indicated:
(1) The point-point of his theology, the central sun which lights up the whole of it.
(2) The testing-point, or touchstone to be applied to every system of thought—Where does it place the Christ?
(3) The true tolerance which is demanded.
(4) Also where he must be intolerant, viz. wherever the Christ is robbed of his glory.
2. By the preacher. In his preaching, the Son of God must be all in all; he must be preached as "wisdom from God unto us; even righteousness and sanctification and redemption." And his hearers must be taught to be very impatient of any form of thought which relegates the Christ to an inferior place.
3. By the Christian. A young man once said to the writer, "I wanted to be right; I wanted to be religious; but my religion wanted a point-point; and now I have it in Christ." Just so. In Christ, the incarnate Son of God, is the immovable point of all we believe and know. All Christian doctrine is what it is because Christ is what he is. When he is denied or dislodged, the whole Christian scheme falls to pieces.
4. By the inquirer. In the search after Christian truth, let him study the testimony concerning Jesus, his Person, and his work. And if at first he cannot see all in Christ that the matured Christian sees in him, let him "follow on," ready to receive the kingdom of God as a little child, and he will certainly come at the truth concerning his Saviour's glory.
5. By the student of comparative religion. Such a one sees here the main point of the Christian religion; and it is one with which there is naught in the world to compare.
6. By the student of prophecy. Since the Person of Christ as the incarnate Son of God is the supreme feature in Christianity, let him not wonder that in the Christian age, while the believer finds his chief glory in Christ, the unbeliever finds in him a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. "You may say anything you like in praise of Christ," said a noted skeptic to the writer, "if you will but put him on the merely human platform!" Ah! it is here, it is here the great conflict will point, and prophecy leads us to expect that it will grow fiercer and wilder till the end shall come. We know the issue: "He must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet."
1 John 2:19
Connecting link: "Even now are there many antichrists" are the words we have just studied. Do not these words raise the question—But whence come these antichrists? The reply, as indicated by this verse, is painful enough. They went out from the bosom of the Church itself. They first espoused the cause of the Lord Jesus, and then from some cause or other took offence, went out, and since have fought against the very Saviour for whom they had vowed, with us, that they would live and die! Topic—An early defection from the Church, and how it is accounted for. Let us arrange our expansion of the teachings of this verse under two heads.
I. HERE IS A PAINFUL HISTORIC FACT, WITH AN APOSTLE'S COMMENT THEREON.
1. There had been a defection from the ranks of the faithful. They went out from us." How many questions we would like to ask the Apostle John about this! But details are not given us, nor are they accessible. We can gather little more than we have hinted at already, that some—many—of those who now ranked with the antichristian party had once sought admission to and found a home within the visible Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. What was the pressure put upon them from without we cannot tell; but outside pressure alone, however great, would not account for their apostasy.
2. The apostle at once reaches a definite conclusion—that, though these deserters had once had a name and a place on the Christian roll, yet they had never known that living fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ which alone is the actual raison d'etre for Churches at all.
3. This conclusion is something more than a decision of the judgment; it is a manifested fact. "That it might be made manifest that they all were not of us."£ "All." Without exception. They could not have drifted off from the ranks of Christ's followers and joined an antichristian heretical party if they had been really in Christ.
4. Their defection was a Divine provision for the exposure of the hollowness of their profession. Ἀλλ ̓ ἵνα φανερωθῶσιν "in order that," etc.; either they went out with that purpose, or God had that end in view. We cannot suppose the former. We are shut up to the latter. If there are hypocrites in the Church, God will not allow his Church to be wrecked by them, but will cause them somehow or other to be exposed to view. A gardener was once asked, "Why do so many pears fall off that tree?" "Oh! sir," was his reply, "it is only those that are rotten inside that fall off." Some there are who "receive the Word with joy," and "for a while believe;" but they have "no root in themselves, and in time of temptation fall away."
II. BOTH FACT AND COMMENT TEACH LESSONS OF PERMANENT VALUE.
1. External Church-membership and vital fellowship with Christ and his people are by no means the same in substance or uniform in extent. The one is a form; the other is the reality of which the form is supposed to be the expression. If there is the reality, the form should follow. But it is quite possible for the form to be adopted without any such reality behind it. Judas. Demas. Achan.
2. There may be much to attract adherents to a visible Church. The first outgushing of brotherly love and community of goods attracted Ananias and Sapphire. Success. "Nothing succeeds like success." When "religion walks in silver slippers" many will be ready to follow. Wealth. Power. Patronage. Splendour. Ornate services. All such features in the external framework and environment of Churches will attract numbers of adherents. And if such a phase of social life should show itself, as for it to be "the thing" to make a profession of religion, thousands will do it for the sake of going with the stream.
3. Being in the external Church will not minister life, any more than it will prove its existence. If belonging to God's own Church is a sure means of salvation, these deserters would have been saved by union with it, specially when under the oversight of the Apostle John! But no! No Church on earth can minister spiritual life to any soul, by any ordinances whatever. What a scathing rebuke to "sacramental efficacy," or any such doctrine, is the fact indicated in our text! Note: John had once had to learn that a man might be with Christ, though he did not follow with the apostles. He has now had to learn that a man may follow with apostles, and yet not be with Christ.
4. All such merely external adherents are but dead weights in a Church. They do not and cannot increase its living acting force; they are rather a drag on the body to which they are outwardly attached. When a living Church is encumbered with them it is like a living body tied to so many dead ones.
5. It is even possible that many forms of antichristian evil may exist in such. "Many antichrists… they went out from us." A living faith in a living Lord ensures unity in all essential points. But if men are only dead professors, numberless forms of error may take root in them and bear poisonous fruit. If, e.g., it has been fashionable to belong to this or that Church, to repeat a form of sound words, and to accept such and such a creed merely because it is the law of the land, there is scarcely any form of pestiferous error which may not nestle beneath such hollowness as that. Nor can any order of Church life, however free in action, pure in creed, scriptural in government, or becoming in its forms of service, be proof against the intrusion of dead professors.
6. Consequently, any external Church may require weeding to a very considerable extent. In such cases as those we have before us, this weeding process will often have to precede all others. The ground must be cleared of its cumberers, that the plants of grace may thrive the better.
7. If Churches are on the whole loyal and sound, false men will "go out" from them. "They went out," etc. This is an effective yet potent kind of Church discipline, when Church ministration and testimony are so faithful and effective that false adherents spontaneously quit its ranks. Happy is the Church whose constitution is so sound that foreign substances expel themselves from its body!£
8. Where this is not the case, God will in his providence use another and a sharper remedy. "Judgment must begin at the house of God" (cf. Isaiah 4:6). It may be:
(2) Disease and death (1 Corinthians 11:32).
(3) Fierce blasts of temptation.
(4) Keen and searching, criticism.
(5) New forms of alien thought.
All these may and will have a telling effect on formalists in the Churches in any age. Their defection will save the Church!
9. Let us not be discouraged at the fact that we cannot prevent the intrusion of false members into the Church. Doubtless we should be glad enough of the charism of "discernment of spirits;" but we see that even in the apostle's lifetime that was not granted for their convenience. It did not then ensure a Church being proof against imposture. But God will not let the Church be fatally injured by aliens within. It may be annoyed; but antichrist shall be exposed, and the living fellowship saved. 10. Let each reader take home to himself three closely and sternly practical lessons.
(1) May a man be in the visible Church and yet be an "antichrist"? Then should not each one ask tremulously, "Lord, is it I?"
(2) Is it so? Then let each one of us sympathize with the Church, and not pour scorn upon it.
(3) Is it so? Then let us, each of us, say, "The more strenuously the foes of Christ, secretly or openly, fight against him, the more courageously will I fight for him!"
1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:27
Connecting link: If it be so that many who were in the Church have become ensnared by antichristian error, and have deserted the faith they once avowed, the question—a very serious one—suggests itself—Is there or is there not any sure preservative against such apostasy in any case? The apostle had already observed, indeed, that there was a reason which would account for some deserting; viz. "they were not of us." Still, another and closer question arises—What is it that makes the difference between being merely in the Church and being also of it? To this 1 John 2:20 and 1 John 2:27 are an answer: "And ye ['ye' emphatic] have an unction," etc., "a chrism," so the word is—an anointing from the Holy One. Hence our topic—Chrism from the Christ the preservative against antichrist.
I. LET US STUDY WHAT THE APOSTLE SAYS RESPECTING THIS UNCTION OR ANOINTING.
1. Whence? "From the Holy One;" i.e., from the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
(1) He is "the Holy" (cf. Revelation 3:7; John 6:69, Revised Version; Acts 3:14).
(2) He it is who promised to send another Paraclete (John 16:16).
2. What is the anointing? Christ himself, the Anointed of the Father, anoints them with the Holy Ghost. Another symbolic word is used in John 1:33, "The same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." In John 16:26 the Paraclete is said to be the Holy Ghost. The anointing here referred to is not a merely official privilege, but is an enrichment of believers, as such, with an endowment of the Holy Ghost.
3. When was it given? "The gift is referred to a definite time (John 16:27): ὁ ἐλάβετε; and the narrative of the Acts fixes this normally at the imposition of hands which followed on baptism (Acts 8:14, etc.). But the context shows that the word χρίσμα is not to he understood of the material signs, but of the corresponding spiritual reality" (Westcott, in loc.). There is no occasion to think that such a spiritual gift will synchronize in its bestowment with the time of administration of any external ordinance. Indeed, the opposite is indicated in Ephesians 1:13. It is given after believing. Just as the penitent may receive pardon from Christ, so the believer may receive this unction from him.
4. Where? "In you" (verse 27). Here the figure fails, and we evidently have a reality far transcending it. An unction to pervade the whole nature of the believer. The Holy Ghost takes up his abode in us. Believers are his temples.
5. For how long? Τὸ χρίσμα … μένει ἐν ὑμῖν. The anointing is a permanent endowment, and not a fitful or uncertain boon. The incoming and indwelling of the Holy Ghost is assured for ever (John 14:16). Some gifts of the Spirit, as e.g. his supernatural charisms, or his bestowments of wisdom upon the natural man, may be lost; but this higher chrism in true believers, never!
6. What are its effects?
(a) Enlightenment. "Ye all know" (cf. John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:9-16). Those filled with the Spirit see the truth as others cannot.
(b) Consequently, they can apply criteria of truth divinely given (verse 27).
(c) They are, in a most important sense, independent of human teaching (Hebrews 8:11). The transition from a traditional faith depending upon what man says, to a living one born of God, is of vital importance (cf. John 4:41, John 4:42).
(a) The lie of antichrist will be perceived in a moment through the supernatural light given from above. The inward guidance of the Holy Ghost enables men to detect false guides.
(b) The quick discernment of error will be the surest safeguard against it. As the anointing abides in believers, the abiding of such believers in Christ naturally follows. Καθὼς ἐδίδαχεν ὑμᾶς μένετε ἐν αὐτῷ.
II. HOW FAR DOES THIS UNCTION SERVE AS A SAFEGUARD AGAINST THE ANTICHRISTS OF THIS AND OF EVERY AGE? The teaching of the apostle, which in our first division we have carefully analyzed and arranged, we must now aim at using for its designed end.
1. There are now many antichrists. A legion of opposing foes set themselves in array against the Lord and against his gospel. What they are the Christian preacher knows but too well—atheism, agnosticism, deism, pantheism, positivism, etc. Several forms of error range themselves under the one word "anti-supernaturalism." As in apostolic days the great stumbling-block was "the offence of the cross," in our days it largely consists in the insisting on a supernatural revelation.
2. Argument for argument, it is quite possible, and even easy, adequately to defend the Christian faith. There have never been lacking competent advocates for God's truth, who have met the arguments of the unbeliever with complete and even crushing replies. Never was this more strikingly the case than now. Never were the enemies of the cross more daring in their denials. Never were the defenses of the faith more magnificent than now. So complete, indeed, are they, that if the unbeliever did but see how the case stands, he would know that his was a lost cause. But:
3. Something more than argument is needed for an effective guard against antichristian error. Three things are necessary.
(1) A disposition to weigh the argument.
(2) The spiritual discernment to perceive things that are spiritual.
(3) A readiness to receive the kingdom of God as a little child—to let God teach us what he will, and to let in the light from above.
4. These conditions it is not in the power of man to ensure. God will give them to every earnest prayerful seeker that he may be guided into all truth. But not the ablest pleader for God can create these conditions of success in any one with whom he pleads.
5. Only by the anointing of the Holy One can these conditions be bestowed and maintained. But by this anointing, by this rich enduing with the Holy Ghost, will that state of soul be initiated and sustained, to which the truth of God will readily find access, and by which it will be guarded against serious and fatal error, A finely cultivated taste will be a better safeguard against the violation of good taste than any technical rules apart therefrom.
6. Hence the one point at which we should constantly and prayerfully aim is the sure neutralization of error by the fullness of a Divine enlightenment and power.
(1) For the Christian advocate this is the point to aim at. If he relies on argument alone, he will fail. The Divine Spirit can create the conditions under which the right argument will have its right effect.
(2) So with the Christian. Let him plead for a discernment so accurate and quick that he will see error to be error without the need of argument about it.
(3) So with our young people as they go forth into life, and have to meet with temptations everywhere to desert the Christian camp. Their true, their only sure safeguard is the fullness of the Holy Ghost, with all his renewing, enlightening, and quickening powers. Filled with the Spirit, they are safe anywhere; without the Spirit, they are safe nowhere!
1 John 2:22
The greatest possible lie.
Connecting link: The chrism from the Christ will ward off antichrist, because it will give such clear and quick intuitions concerning what is true and what is false, that the lie of antichrist will be instantly seen to be such, and Christ's anointed ones will not be deceived by him. And the value of this safeguard against antichrist is seen in the fact that the lie he would propagate being not merely on a minor point of detail, but concerning the Person of the Christ himself, it covers so much ground and carries so much along with it, that this lie of antichrist is the greatest which could be uttered. "Who is the liar," etc. ὁ ψεύστης? Hence the topic presented to the homiletic expositor. Topic—The lie of antichrist the greatest falsehood possible.
I. WHAT IS THAT WHICH ANTICHRIST DENIES? The several references to antichrist indicate that the main, if not the sole, mischief of antichrist lies in denial. It is not unfrequently so. To deny, or, if that be too daring an effort, to call in question, Divine testimony and even first principles, is the favourite method of the father of lies. It is an easy way of seeking to unsettle and beguile unstable souls, to cast doubt on everything. And as if he himself did not know the difference between a spirit of inquiry and a spirit of doubt, one of our foremost men of science has laid it down as an axiom that the first step in science is to doubt everything! The evil one knows too well that it is much quicker work to throw down than to build up. And hence he tries this easy way of ruining souls by attempting to overthrow all that is sacred in their religious beliefs. As he could not prevail against the King when he met him in single combat, he aims his deadly blow at his subjects, in order to seduce them from their loyalty by casting doubts upon and even denying the Christ. This denial, not without motive, gathers round the Son of God. If we lose him, all is lost that is peculiar to our faith, as we shall presently see. The denial of Jesus as the Christ may take one or more of four forms.
1. The denial of Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed of the Father.£ In this respect the minds of the Jews (among others)are blinded to this day.
2. The denial of Jesus as combining the Divine and human natures in one person: according to the Gnostic theory that the Christ descended upon the man Jesus at his baptism, and left him before his Passion (see Westcott, in loc.).
3. The denial of Jesus as the eternal Son of the Father, and the consequent denial of the Incarnation. All the present systems of unbelief are at one on this point; though "neither so does their witness agree together" in aught save the denial.
4. The denial of Jesus as the Lord of his Church enthroned in heaven. The latest result of theology is affirmed to be, inter alia, "that the Christ holds no office whatever." The same in substance, the denial changes its forms.
II. WHAT DOES THIS DENIAL INVOLVE? Many errors are not only serious in themselves, but are even more so on account of others which they drag along with them (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-58). We have remarked that if we lose our Christ, we lose all. So, indeed, the apostle himself argues. "Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father;" i.e., as Westcott aptly puts it, "He hath not the Son, whom he rejects, nor yet the Father, whom he professes to regard." According to this denial:
1. There is no Fatherhood and Sonship in the Divine Nature.
2. God is not the Father as Christ represented him (see 'Speaker's Commentary' on 1 John 2:23).
3. We have no personal revelation of God, nor any message of love from the eternal throne.
4. We have no redemption.
5. We have no Saviour and no salvation.
6. We have no Head of humanity with living and regenerative power to quicken the dead mass of souls. We may have from one source or other, to some extent, a revelation of law, order, and duty; but we have no disclosure of any power or provision to quicken to obedience to the Law, observance of the order or fulfillment of the duty.£
III. ON WHAT GROUNDS IS SUCH A DENIAL MADE? Broadly and generally this denial comes either of a misguided intellect or a depraved heart. It may be made in the name of philosophy or of science (in both cases falsely so called). The Christ comes as Revealer and Redeemer. Antichrist denies both the revelation and the redemption, either on the ground
(1) that we know nothing beyond phenomena, and that the infinite and eternal are absolutely and hopelessly beyond our reach; or
(2) that humanity is working itself right by a method of evolution, in the struggle for existence casting off the weak and worthless, and letting only the fittest survive,—that thus no redemptive force ab extra is needed, the vis medicatrix is within humanity; or
(3) that nothing at all of the supernatural can be entertained for a moment.
IV. THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH THE DENIAL IS MADE.
1. In spite of the dearest testimony to the facts and doctrines denied—testimony, given by blameless men, in the teeth of their own natural and strongest prepossessions to the contrary. (Let this last clause be duly weighed.)
2. In spite of the tenderest seal. The blood of Christ. "The blood of the everlasting covenant."
3. In spite of the most powerful confirmation. The resurrection of Christ. The descent of the Holy Ghost. The sustentation of a living Church to this day, in spite of every conceivable effort to destroy it.
4. And in many cases the denial is made with a defiant recklessness, or a proud supercilious scorn, as if by the efforts of their pen men would wish the dearest hopes of millions to be dashed to the ground!
V. THE CONSEQUENCES WHICH WOULD FOLLOW THE SUCCESS OF ANTICHRIST'S DENIAL.
If (as shown under division II) the denial drags along with it all other Christian doctrines, then the basis and support of the noblest life ceases. Men talk largely about the evolution of the race, forgetting to note:
1. That it is only the portion of the race which is leavened by Christian thought that is thus advancing.
2. That the advance is prompted by men who, because leavened with Christian thought, are inspired by faith, hope, and level But destroy Christian doctrine, then
(1) faith must expire for want of an adequate Object;
(2) hope must decline from the lack of a specific goal;
(3) love must die out through lack of a revealed Object worthy of the perfect love of the soul, and then love to man will die out when the great reason for it and inspiration to it are withdrawn. And when neither faith, nor hope, nor love have any sustaining food, what will human life be worth? Life is dependent upon environment. Withdraw the environment, and life must decline from want of sustentation from without. Clearly, then, the lie of antichrist is the master-lie!
VI. APPLICATION AND INFERENCES.
1. If these things be so, then no one need be surprised that some of the controversies respecting Christian doctrine which have been carried on in the Church have been so sharp and bitter. The many who took thoughtlessly over the history of the divisions of Christendom, and who laugh at or pour scorn on the sternness of religious war, would do well to look a little deeper. If they understood more, they would jeer less. Tolerance may arise from short-sightedness or indifference; intolerance, from the clear foresight of what must follow if such and such an error be permitted to flourish. And the more ardently a believer loves his Lord, the more angry is he likely to be at aught which would obscure his glory! Of all the apostles John loved most fervently, yet he it is who lashes most severely.
2. Let us, too, be very jealous for the honour of our Lord and Master; and if any, in our hearing, deny him the glory which is his due, let us not be found wanting in the defense. We should at least insist on such points as these:
(1) that men have no right to deny, any more than to affirm, save on adequate grounds;
(2) that violent prejudice against the admission of the supernatural is but a faulty prepossession, which hinders the reception of evidence;
(3) that it is never right to rob men of an inspiring power for virtue, unless the denier has something better to put in its place.
3. The confession of Christ, by contending for the right doctrine concerning him, should in every case be attended with a Christ-like life. We shall best contend for him non sonando, seal amando.
1 John 2:23
Having the Father.
Connecting link: Having shown us of how much the lie of antichrist would deprive us, the apostle declares how rich we are when that lie is rejected, and the truth of Christ abides in us. Topic—The vast wealth of the believer. No uncertainty can attach to the expression, "he that hath the Son;" for while we are sure it must include abiding in the confession of the Son in all his glory and grace, we are equally sure that the confession must be the submission to, the acceptance, the embrace of Christ with all the heart, as well as the avowal of him with the lip (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:1-31). To "have" Christ is to have received him as a Saviour, to own him as the Revealer of the Father, to honour him as Lord, to follow him as Leader, to grow up to him as the Head. Now, our text contains a remarkable statement about those who thus "have" Christ. They "have" the Father also. In what sense?
1. In the Person of Christ as the incarnate Son they have the exact Image of the Father, so that they see him through the Son (John 14:9).
2. Through the atoning work of Christ—they learn the self-sacrificing love of the Father, "τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἀγάπην" (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10).
3. Through the mediation of Christ they have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18; Romans 5:2).
4. Through the intercession of Christ they have constant communion with the Father; not merely occasional access as to a King, but a filial fellowship with a Father.
5. Through Christ as the channel of communication between earth and heaven they receive of the infinite wealth of the Father (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).
6. Through the impartation of power and life from Christ they share the life of the Father (Galatians 2:20). We are not only ἔν τῷ Υιῷ, but also ἐν τῶ Πατρὶ (1 John 2:24).
7. Through the gracious leadership of Christ they will have an everlasting home with the Father (John 14:2, John 14:3). And such a Father! Then how ought we:
(1) To delight in God in Christ with rapturous joy!
(2) To rouse all the powers of our soul to contend against those who would miserably impoverish us by compassing the destruction of this blessed life!
(3) To honour such a Father by a calm, pure, heavenly life! Well might Faber ask—
"O little heart of mine! shall pain
Or sorrow make thee moan,
When all this God is all for thee
A Father all thine own?"
1 John 2:24, 1 John 2:28
Duty annexed to privilege.
Connecting link: The apostle had just said that wherever the Christly chrism was bestowed, it would prove so effective a guard against antichrist that he who received it would abide in Christ, since, being taught of God, he would not be deceived by any pretences of antichrist, however plausible. He now guards that thought from abuse by balancing his statement concerning the believer's privilege with another, which reminds him of his responsibility and duty, saying, "Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning.… And now, little children, abide in him; that when he shall be manifested, we may have freedom of speech, and not be ashamed before him at his coming." Hence our topic—The duty of abiding in Christ. There are six or seven lines of thought which are here put before us.
I. THE EXPECTATION OF THE BELIEVER IS THE SECOND COMING OF THE SON OF GOD. The Apostle John was not alone in the assertion of this. He joins, indeed, with the rest (cf. verse 28; John 3:2; Revelation 1:7; Revelation 22:20). Paul gives his testimony thereto (2 Corinthians 5:10; Philippians 1:6, Philippians 1:10; Colossians 3:4; 1Th 1:1-10 :19, 20; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2Th 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:8). Peter also (1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 5:4). There are in our day two widely divergent views as to the place the second coming of Christ holds in the Divine plan. But there is no difference among believers as to that coming being "the blessed hope," and as to its being the great event for which all should be "ready" (2 Peter 3:12-14). This, this, is indeed the Christian's greatest ambition, to be ready for that day. For—
II. AT HIS SECOND COMING THE LORD JESUS WILL BE MANIFESTED. The deep meaning of the Saviour's "manifestation" is concealed in the word "appear" (Authorized Version). The Revised Version brings it out to clear light. When he was on earth "a weary Man and full of woes" there was a veil over his true glory, through which only a few could see. When he comes a second time, he will be seen as he is, "in his glory" (Matthew 25:1-46; Matthew 3:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; 1Ti 6:14, 1 Timothy 6:15; Hebrews 9:28).
III. BEFORE HIM AN ACCOUNT WILL HAVE TO BE RENDERED. The word παῤῥησία is literally "liberty of speech to speak out all that we think."£ It denotes "the entire freedom with which we unburden, in the presence of an intimate friend, all which can weigh upon our heart." So Neander. But such a word thus used obviously suggests, as Westcott remarks, such passages as 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10-12; and also, we would add, Hebrews 4:13 (Greek); Hebrews 13:17 (see Romans 8:19; Colossians 3:4; Luke 12:2; Matthew 12:36).
IV. THERE IS A SOLEMN ALTERNATIVE BEFORE EVERY MAN. Either "to have confidence" or "to be ashamed." In the former case, how blessed the freedom! In the latter, how dire the distress! The original reads not merely "ashamed before him," but "ashamed from him," as if conscious guilt would itself act as a repellent force to bar men from their Lord. What if the Saviour's word "depart" should be a terrified shrinking from the presence of the Lord (cf. Genesis 4:16; Genesis 3:8)? Who would not labour and strive and pray, that at his Saviour's appearing he may be ready to meet him with a holy joy, and lovingly to unburden his whole soul, as one who, though indeed "looking for mercy," yet shrinks not back with shame?
V. TO ENSURE THE RESULT WE MUST MOST DESIRE, WE MUST ABIDE IN CHRIST. There are two expressions in the text, "Let that [Word] abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning." "Abide in him." Our Lord had joined these two together in the hearing of John, long years before (John 15:7). The two go together. Faith receives the Word, and it lives in us. Faith clings to Christ, and we live in him. This, this is to be our daily life, and then, let the Lord come when he will, we shall not be ashamed. Note: It is not the imperfections of a loyal soul that will make him ashamed when Christ comes, but the faithlessness of an apostate soul who has to confront a deserted Lord!£
VI. To THE LIFE OF FAITHFUL ABIDING IN CHRIST WE ARE MOST TENDERLY URGED. "And now, little children," etc.
1. This is the gospel tone (Romans 12:1). Sinai thunders. Calvary pleads.
2. This is the spirit in which the true ambassador for Christ must and will speak (2 Corinthians 5:20).
3. This is the tone which tells most powerfully. The cords of love do more than the whips of the taskmaster. God "draws" us with loving-kindness. Let us, then, hear the voice of the Saviour tenderly calling, "Hold fast to me, whatever others do."
(4) safety, all demand our lifelong Yea.
1 John 2:25
Eternal life. Connecting link:
Whatever may be the arts used and the temptations set before us by antichrist to draw us away from the Father by tempting us to apostatize from the Son, there can be offered to us by antichrist nothing so great as, yea, nothing to compare with, the vast promise left us on record by our own gracious Lord and Master; for "this is the promise which he [himself] hath given us, even the life, the eternal life." Whence our topic—The greatest of all promises from the greatest of all Promisers.
I. LET US FIRST INQUIRE INTO THE CONTENT AND MEANING OF THE PROMISE. "The eternal life." The phrase is so expressively worded as to indicate that there is one well-understood kind of life which forms the sum and substance of the hope put before Christian believers. It had been, indeed, very clearly defined by our Lord himself (cf. John 17:2, John 17:3). So that on the highest possible grounds we are precluded from any warrant for confounding the phrase "eternal life" with continuity of existence. The latter, indeed, is postulated thereby; but it might be, quite apart from the former.£ The eternal life is that state of being in which the highest part of man's nature is in communion with the Highest One, and in which a perfect organization that can never be impaired is in perfect correspondence with a perfect environment that can never change. Or, to reset this definition in scriptural phraseology, it is an unbroken and unending enjoyment of God by perfected natures in a perfected world. But there is this difference between the two definitions—the one lies in the region of science, and declares in what it must consist if it could be secured; the other lies in the region of revelation, and declares in what it does consist as Divine love secures it! There are three factors in the making of this life.
1. God, and the riches of his love as the sustaining energy of the soul.
2. A nature ripened in holiness, and divested of all decaying tendencies in its bodily enswathement, as the developed life of the soul.
3. A world of undecaying fitness and beauty as the sphere of activity of the soul. Now, the first is precisely that which is the delight and the food of the soul even here. God! God in Christ! The second, so far as concerns the ripening the nature in holiness, is now being secured by the sanctification of the Spirit; and as concerns the freeing of the soul from decaying elements, it is ensured by the body being left behind as a worn-out vesture. The third is revealed as the ensuing outcome of God's plan in preparing a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. The work already done upon the globe is a prophecy that God is preparing it for something higher. The work already wrought on the soul of the believer is a prediction that it will be carried on to completion (1 Corinthians 2:9; Philippians 1:6; 1 John 3:1, 1 John 3:2; cf. 1 John 1:3, in which Jesus Christ himself is spoken of as "that Eternal Life," etc.). But the main point now to be insisted on is this—not only that all the elements which go to make up eternal life are even now in existence and action, but also that the consummation, the perfection, and the perpetuity of the life which now exists in germ and develops in growth, are all matter of distinct and definite promise; yea, that this is the promise in which all lesser ones are contained. That we have not to be tantalized with a vision of glory, saying, "That is it if it could be attained," but that we may live under the inspiration of a promise which says—It is the Father's will that you should be kept from failing, and presented "faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy"!
II. THIS, THE GREATEST OF ALL PROMISES, COMES FROM THE GREATEST OF ALL PROMISERS. Not all the conclaves of the wisest philosophers could create or sustain the lowly life of a blade of grass! Yet, somehow or other, there is a promise on record of a girt of life, of the highest life, to men of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, to a great multitude which no man can number; and that that life shall be sustained forever! Well may the apostle lay stress on the personal pronoun he; for assuredly none but a Divine Being could have the right to make such a promise, for no one but he who is Lord of life could possibly guarantee its fulfillment! The promise, indeed, was first made long before Christ came (Titus 1:2). But in and by The Lord Jesus Christ has it been again vouchsafed.
1. Where and how has Christ promised eternal life? (Cf. John 6:37-40, John 6:54; John 10:27, John 10:28; John 11:26; John 12:26; John 14:3, John 14:19; see also John 17:2, John 17:3.) But such words as these do not stand alone. Christ bids us "eat his flesh, and drink his blood;" i.e., he gives us himself to live upon—he nourishes us with his own life. All his pledges, moreover, were confirmed by his resurrection and ascension, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost, by whom he now imparts and nourishes the life which he promises eternally to sustain.
2. What are the qualifications of Christ for making such a promise as this?
(1) He has all authority, and therefore may make such a promise (John 17:2, John 17:3).
(2) He is the Almighty, therefore can fulfill it (Hebrews 7:25; Revelation 1:8).
(3) He is himself the Life-giver (1 Corinthians 15:45).
(4) He is the Life-sustainer (Hebrews 1:3)
(5) His love leads him to long that his people should be with him (John 17:24).
(6) His love changes not (John 13:1).
(7) His being changes not (Hebrews 13:8).
(8) As far as the experience of believers this side the grave informs us, they find that in and by Christ they have already this very life; and up to the close of his earthly career he proves himself faithful to his own (1 John 5:12 (Greek), first part; Galatians 2:20; 2 Timothy 1:12). Let each of these seven lines of illustration be followed out, and they will prove abundantly that Jesus is and ever will be equal to fulfill the promise he has made.
III. ARE THESE THINGS SO? Then:
1. Let us see that, since the objective ground of the good hope of the believer is found in the word of promise, there is just one point to which the test of validity needs to be applied, viz. the person of him who promises. If he is true, it is! How clear and yet how pure the ground on which we stand!
2. It should never trouble us to find that neither science nor philosophy can either light us or help us in this matter. We never have looked to them as guides to immortality, and never will.
3. The ground on which the promise is given removes all improbability of its fulfillment. "Grace;" "love;" "The riches of his grace;" "Herein is love!"
4. Both objectively and subjectively, the enjoyment of the first-fruits makes us sure of the harvest. Objectively (Romans 5:10). Subjectively (Philippians 1:6).
5. This clear and definite goal to human existence gives to theories of advance, development, evolution, an intelligible meaning, a crowning glory.
6. The reason of life is thus magnificently told it! It is that we may become like unto the Son of God, conformed to the type of all goodness, and that forever!
7. How guilty shall we be, and how miserably poor, if we miss this life! "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God!" Oh! if there be a higher life spoken of by others and experienced by them, and if any have not this higher life, and know they have not, ought they not to cry mightily to its Lord and Giver, saying, "Lord, give me this higher life"? They will not cry in vain. God never deserts the imploring soul.
Lastly: The theme prepares us for an answer to the charge of unbelievers, and for a retort upon them likewise. We are told that the Christian aims are selfish in cherishing the hope of eternal life, and in being inspired thereby. What? Is it selfish to find an inspiration in the hope of being free from all selfishness, and of becoming more and more God-like for ever in benevolence and love? We reply that not to desire eternal life is base ingratitude. It is like saying to the eternal Father, "Father, I know quite enough of thee already, and do not wish to know more; nor do I desire time to grow that I may become more grateful to the goodness and mercy which have crowned my days." The truly loyal son will long to do something to recompense his Father's care, and to fulfill the words, "As a bridegroom rejoiceth over a bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee!"
1 John 2:29
This verse marks a transition. It is not, indeed, absolutely disconnected from the preceding ones, but yet it rather prepares the way for what is about to follow. One phrase therein contained—"born of him"—is much used by the Apostle John; as Bishop Alexander remarks (in 'Speaker's Commentary,' in loc.), "it is one of the loops which connect this Epistle with the Fourth Gospel;" and it is also grandly developed in its meaning and bearing in the remaining chapters of this Epistle. Another feature of the verse is its recognition of different orders of knowledge, as indicated by the use of the two verbs εἰδῆτε and γινώσκετε—the one marking knowledge direct and absolute; the other, a knowledge gained by observation and inference. The latter verb may be either indicative or imperative. We may read, "If ye know… ye perceive," or, "If ye know… perceive ye." We adopt the latter, understanding the apostle to point it out as a duty to exercise rightly the spiritual faculties, and, so doing, to draw the conclusion, when they see a man practicing righteousness habitually, that that man has received his love of righteousness front the Righteous One. The ἐὰν here by no means marks an uncertainty as to whether Christ is righteous, but merely indicates concerning the two facts named in the text that, wherever a man knows the first, he ought to be equally assured of the second. Our text, therefore, suggests—
I. HERE IS A FACT PUT BEFORE US DIRECTLY IN THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION. There is a Righteous One (cf. verse 1; Acts 3:14; 1 Peter 3:18). Inasmuch, moreover, as he, the Son, is" the Image of the invisible God," then in the righteousness of the Son we see imaged that also of the Father. And thus we come to know it as the supreme declaration of revealed truth that righteousness is on the throne of the universe. The philosophy of today declares, "Amid the mysteries which become the more mysterious the more they are thought about, there will remain the one absolute certainty that he [the man of science] is ever in presence of an infinite and eternal energy from which all things proceed."£ To this "absolute certainty" of the man of science, revelation adds that that infinite and eternal energy is light without a speck of darkness (John 1:4); love which changeth not; righteousness without a flaw. We know this.
II. HERE IS A SECOND FACT GATHERED INDIRECTLY FROM CHRISTIAN OBSERVATION. It is this: Supposing a man to be continuously living a righteous life, we can gather from thence that he is drawing his life from the Righteous One. Note: It is not a casual or occasional good deed which will manifest this. But the continuity of righteousness—always, everywhere, under all circumstances, and in spite of all temptations, ὁ ποιῶν. Given, then, this man, what are the inferences which we ought with certainty to draw? See him; his course is no uncertain, fickle one; be is in love with righteousness, and with nothing but righteousness; towards God his most devout, reverent love goes forth; towards man he is uniformly true and kind. As for himself; the soul regulates the body, the spirit governs the soul, and God governs all. Tell us what he ought to be and do at any moment, and we can tell you what he will be and do at that moment. Tell us where he ought to be at any instant, and we will tell you where at that instant you may be sure to find him. His path is as the light, brighter and brighter to the perfect day. Now, when we see such a man, what do we with certainty know about him?
1. We know that he is alive. "Alive unto God." lie is a spiritual man. He has passed from death unto life.
2. We know that such a life is from God. It is divinely originated and sustained. A stream can rise no higher than its source. Only a spiritual Being could originate such a spiritual life. The Divine Spirit has quickened the human (Ephesians 1:1-6).
3. We know that such a life is begotten, of the Divine nature. The physical world is God's handiwork. The social and moral worlds are called into being by his power. The order of the cosmos proclaims wisdom and skill. But not hero is there aught which is begotten of God, or which is the outcome of his very nature. Music, beauty, fragrance, are all of God: but they are not born of God. But here, here in this man whose whole nature is renewed to righteousness, there is one whom God has made in his own image and in the image of his Son.
4. We know that such a life is a very special product. It is one which is a peculiar manifestation of God. You may learn what an architect is as an architect by seeing the buildings he has designed. But you may learn more of what he was as a man from one of his children than of all the products of his designing genius. So here, and. much more so. When the Spirit of God creates and sustains a nature in holiness, such a nature is, in its way, a manifestation of himself.
5. We know that such a life sustains a peculiar relation to God. Being "born" of him, the man is in God's family—one of his sons. Not in the general sense alone, in which we all are the offspring of God, but in a higher sense; he is a member of "the household of God"—of one family in heaven and on earth. Of what in privilege and prospect accrues to those "born of God" we shall speak further as we follow the apostle in his thought. Here we take our stand and say," When we know that a man resembles God in nature," we are sure that he is a child of God by the second birth, even of the Holy Ghost.
III. TO RECOGNIZE ONE WHO RESEMBLES GOD, AS HAVING BEEN BORN OF HIM, IS A SACRED DUTY. "Know ye" (margin, Revised Version) is most in harmony with the context. But whether John means that we d know it, or that we ought to know it, either way the practical force is the same. For:
1. In the band of holy God-moved men we see the very highest manifestation of God's nature which earth affords.
2. In these we see the home of God's delight. He dwells with his own, and communes with them. They have fellowship with the Father. 3, In these we see those of mankind who are ripening for a higher destiny, and whose radiant faces shine in the light of a nobler state.
4. This conclusion is not to be denied to any because they "follow not us," nor because they do not belong to this or that Church. Wherever there is a God-like man, there is a Heaven-born one.
5. This conclusion is not to be drawn where there is no holiness of heart and life, however high the rank, or sound the creed, or rigid the Churchmanship, or constant the reception of sacraments. Without holiness "no man shall see the Lord."
HOMILIES BY W. JONES
1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:2
Our Advocate and Propitiation.
"My little children, these things write I unto you," etc. Very tender and eminently Johannean is the opening of this paragraph. "My little children." The appellation suggests:
1. The spiritual paternity of the apostle. St. Paul addressed the same words to those Galatian Christians whom he had spiritually begotten (Galatians 4:19). He referred with great tenderness and force to the same relationship in writing to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:14, 1 Corinthians 4:15). Probably many of those to whom St. John was writing were his spiritual children.
2. The spiritual affection of the apostle. The use of the diminutive indicates this.
3. The spiritual authority of the apostle. His fatherly relation to them, his tender affection for them, and his venerable age combine to invest his words with authority. Our text teaches—
I. THAT THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST DISCOURAGES SIN. "These things write I unto you, that ye sin not." The "these things" are the statements made in John 1:6-10. The fact that sin exists even in the Christian is there affirmed, and gracious provision for the forgiveness of sin and for the sanctification of the believer is set forth. And now, in order that no one by reason of these things should look upon sin as inevitable, or regard it with tolerance, or fail to battle against it, St. John writes, "These things write I unto you, that ye sin not." St. Paul guards against the same misuse of the provisions of the rich grace of God thus: "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid" (Romans 6:1, Romans 6:2). That the provisions of Divine grace for the pardon of sin afford no encouragement to its commission is proved by:
1. The object of Christ's mediatorial work. To "save his people from their sins." "He appeared to, put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (cf. Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 5:25-27; Titus 2:14).
2. The cost of Christ's mediatorial work. The great price at which pardon and salvation were rendered possible should powerfully deter from the practice of sin. "God spared not his own Son," etc.; "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold,… but with the precious blood of Christ," etc. Since redemption from sin is so expensive a process, sin must be not a trifling, but a terrible evil.
3. The influence of Christ's mediatorial work. The love of God manifested in our Lord and Saviour is fitted to awaken our love to him. Love to God springs up in the heart of every one who truly believes in Jesus Christ; and love to God is the mightiest and most resolute antagonist of sin.
II. THAT THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST RECOGNIZES THE LIABILITY OF EVEN GOOD MEN TO SIN. "And if any man sin." This liability arises from:
1. Our exposure to temptation. Sometimes we are confronted by our "adversary the devil, as a roaring lion." But more frequently are we in danger by reason of "the wiles of the devil." "Satan fashioneth himself into an angel of light," that he may deceive souls and lead them into sin. We are also assailed by temptations in human society—temptations which are plausible and appear harmless, but which are full of peril to us.
2. The infirmity of our moral nature. There is that in us which is ready to respond to temptation. Thus temptations which appeal to our sensual appetites sometimes prove too strong for our spiritual principles, the sensual in us not being in complete subjection to the spiritual. Temptations which promise present pleasure or profit, but involve the risk of some of our most precious interests in the future, are sometimes successful because of defective spiritual perception or of moral weakness. This liability to sin is confirmed
(1) by the history of good men, e.g., Noah, Abraham, Moses, Aaron, David, Peter;
(2) by our own experience.
III. THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST ANNOUNCES GRACIOUS PROVISION TO MEET THE LIABILITY OF GOOD MEN TO SIN. "And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father," etc.
1. Jesus Christ is our Representative with the Father. "We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous." The word translated "advocate" means one who is called to our side; then a Comforter, Helper, Advocate. "Representative'' is a word which, perhaps, expresses the meaning here. Jesus Christ "appears before the face of God for us." He stands by us with his face directed towards the face of God the Father, obtaining for us the forgiveness and favour, the stimulus and strength which we need. As Professor Lias puts it, "We have One who stands by us παρά, yet looks toward πρὸς the Father, and who, one with us and with him, can enable us to do all things through his all-powerful aid." And he is "righteous." In this he is unlike us. We are unrighteous, and therefore unfit to appear before the face of God. But he, being perfectly righteous, is fitted to appear before God on our behalf.
2. Jesus Christ is also the Propitiation for our sins. "And he is the Propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world." The primary meaning of "propitiation" was that which appeases or turns away the wrath of the gods from men. But we must take heed that we do not rashly apply the ideas of heathenism as to its gods, to the only living and true, the holy and gracious God. So much has been said and written concerning the propitiation, which seems to us to have no warrant in the sacred Scriptures, and much that has not been honourable to the holy and ever-blessed God and Father, that it is with diffidence that we venture upon any remarks concerning it. The New Testament does not give us any explanation of the propitiation; it presents us with no theory or scheme concerning it; it simply states it as a great fact in the Divine way of salvation. And it would have been well if the example of the sacred writers in this respect had been more generally followed. Here is the declaration of St. Paul: "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God set forth to be a Propitiation, through faith, by his blood, to show his righteousness," etc. (Romans 3:24-26). Jesus Christ himself is said to be the Propitiation for our sins. No particular portion of his life or work, his sufferings or death, is specified in our text as constituting the propitiation. Christ, in the whole of his mediatorial ministry—life and work, sufferings and death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession—is our Propitiation. We venture to make two observations.
(1) The propitiation was not anything offered to God to render him willing to bless and save us. If proof of this were required, we have it in John 4:10 : "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the Propitiation for our sins." God did not provide the propitiation to propitiate himself. Our Saviour is the Gift of the Father's love to us, not the Procurer of that love for us. It is nowhere said in the Scriptures that Christ reconciled God to man. Such reconciliation was never needed. The great Father was always disposed to bless and save man.
(2) The propitiation was designed to remove obstructions to the free flowing forth of the mercy of God to man. Here was an obstruction: man had broken the holy Law of God, had set it at naught, and was still doing so. But man cannot be pardoned while he stands in such an attitude and relation to Law. Love itself demands that Law shall be obeyed and honoured. True mercy can only be exercised in harmony with righteousness. The well-being of man is an impossibility except he be won to loyalty to the Law of God. Jesus Christ vindicated the solemn authority of God's holy Law by his obedience unto death, even the death of the cross. Again, there was an obstruction in the heart of man to the free flowing forth of the mercy of God to him. Man regarded God with distrust and suspicion, if not with enmity. "Alienated and enemies in your mind in your evil works" is the apostolic description of unrenewed man. The propitiation was designed to reconcile man to God, and dispose him to accept the offered salvation. "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself." The sacrifice of Christ is the supreme manifestation of the infinite love of God towards man (cf. John 3:16; Romans 5:8). When that love is heartily believed in, man is reconciled to God; he no longer regards him as an enemy, but as his gracious and adorable God and Father. This accords with the statement of St. Paul that Christ Jesus is "a Propitiation through faith by his blood." "The true Christian idea of propitiation," says Bushnell, "is not that God is placated or satisfied by the expiatory pains offered him. It supposes, first, a subjective atoning, or reconciliation in us; and then, as a further result, that God is objectively propitiated, or set in a new relation of welcome and peace. Before he could not embrace us, even in his love. His love was the love of compassion; now it is the love of complacency and permitted friendship."£ And this propitiation is for all men. "The Propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world." If any are not saved, it is neither because of any deficiency in the Divine purposes or provisions, nor because the propitiation of Christ is limited to certain persons or to a certain number only. The salvation of Jesus Christ is adequate to all men, and is offered freely to all men. If any are not saved, it is because they refuse the redemptive mercy of God in Christ Jesus - W.J.
1 John 2:3-5
The true knowledge of God and its infallible proof.
"And hereby we know that we know him," etc. We have in our text—
I. AN EXALTED SPIRITUAL ATTAINMENT. To "know him," i.e., God. This is not to be altered and weakened into knowing certain doctrines concerning him; it is the knowledge of God himself. We may know, or think that we know, much about him, without knowing himself. This knowledge of God is not intellectual, but moral and spiritual. It is not the trained and vigorous intellect that sees God, but the pure heart. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." This knowledge is that inward and spiritual acquaintance with him which arises out of our faith in him and our love to him. Our Lord speaks of it as identical with eternal life. "This is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God," etc. Again, this knowledge is intimately and vitally related to love. "Every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love." It is by love that we know Him. Without love we cannot know him; the more we know him the more we shall love him, and the more we love him the more clearly and fully shall we know him. Yet, fully and perfectly, we can never know him. The ocean cannot be contained in a tea-cup. The finite cannot comprehend the Infinite. To the most advanced and holy of created intelligences God must ever remain incomprehensible. But we may know him truly, savingly, progressively, blessedly.
II. THE PROOF OF THIS EXALTED ATTAINMENT. "Hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments," etc. The sure evidence that we know him is "keeping his commandments" and" keeping his Word." The idea of the word ἐντολή which St. John uses here is "that of a charge laid upon us by one whom we ought to obey, a charge which love and duty urge us to fulfill, instead of the old idea of a law enforced by penalties, under which the slightest dereliction of duty constituted us transgressors. In short, he regards the Christian's duty as of personal rather than legal obligation "(Professor Lias, M.A.). It is certain, as Ebrard says, that "his Word" (verse 5) means essentially the same as "his commandments." "Nevertheless, 'his Word' is not perfectly synonymous with the 'commandments,' but denotes the revelation of the Divine wilt as one whole." The word translated "to keep" τηρεῖν will repay notice. It means "to watch, to guard, to watch over protectively"—"guarding as some precious thing." Thus it comes on to signify "to observe practically"—"observing to keep." When it is used to express obedience, it is obedience because the commandments and the Word are esteemed as precious, and are regarded as treasures not to be broken. "The Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good."
1. This keeping is habitual. This is indicated by the use of the present tense in verse 3: "if we keep." It does not denote the perfect keeping of the commandments without any omission or defect, but their habitual observance. It does not mean sinlessness, but that he who knows God, as a rule obeys him; he does not "walk in the darkness," but "in the light."
2. This keeping is the development of love. "Whoso keepeth his Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected." There has been much discussion of the question whether the love of God to man or the love of man to God is here meant. The discussion seems to us unnecessary. God is the great Fountain of love. All love flows from him. "We love, because he first loved us." Our love to him and. our love to each other are effects of his love to us. If, therefore, we say that the love of God in this verse is our love to him, we speak of his own love in one of its effects. The love of God has been perfected in him who keeps his Word. This cannot mean that the love to God of that man who keeps his Word is so perfected as not to admit of further growth or progress. We may get at the meaning thus: love aims at obedience, delights in obedience. Our Lord demands obedience as an evidence of our love to him (John 14:15, John 14:21, John 14:23, John 14:24; John 15:10). If we take "perfected" as meaning that which is appropriately developed, that which has attained its end, then we see how love is perfected in keeping his Word. Our love to him is the effect of his love to us, and his will is that we should express our love to him by keeping his commandments, and when we do so his love attains its design—it is perfected.
3. This keeping is joyous. It is the keeping, not of that of which we would fain be rid, but (as the verb implies) of a prized treasure in which we delight. It is joyous, too, because it springs from love. Obedience to those we love is delightful. God's "service is perfect freedom." Where this obedience is not, the profession of the knowledge of God is false. "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." A man may be well versed in theology, may hold an orthodox creed, may be a member of a Christian Church, and may profess that he knows God, but if he does not heartily keep his commandments he "is a liar." "They profess that they know God; but by their works they deny him" (Titus 1:16). Let us examine ourselves by these inspired tests. Are we vindicating our Christian confession by our obedience to Divine commands? Are we expressing our love to God by a life conformed to his holy will? If we are, let us rejoice that we have in this a well-founded assurance "that we know him." And let no one dishonour God and delude himself with the false profession that he knows him - W.J.
1 John 2:6
Christian profession and consequent obligations.
"He that saith he abideth in him ought himself," etc.
I. A PROFESSION OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. "He that saith he abideth in him," i.e., in God. In the paragraph of which our text is a part there is a gradation of ideas as to the relation of the Christian to God: to know him; to be in him; and to abide in him.
1. The Christian is in God by spiritual fellowship. Through Christ the Christian is brought into intimate and hallowed communion with God—he believes his revelation of himself, he endeavours to apprehend his thoughts, he accepts his gracious will, he receives his best inspirations from him. Thus he has his spiritual being in God. He derives his inner life of thought, affection, purpose, and power from him.
2. The Christian is in God by mutual love. "We know and have believed the love which God hath in us. God is love; and he that abideth in love, abideth in God, and God abideth in him." We may obtain help to the understanding of this by considering how our trusted and beloved friends dwell in us and we in them. Distant from us locally and corporeally, yet they are with us truly and spiritually, How the child dwells in the being, occupies the thoughts and affections, of the loving parent! These are imperfect figures of how the true Christian lives in God the Father through Jesus Christ his Son (cf. John 14:20, John 14:21, John 14:23; John 15:4; John 17:21-23). And to say that we abide in him is to profess fidelity and perseverance in this exalted and sacred relation. It is a great profession.
II. THE CONSEQUENT OBLIGATION OF CHRISTIAN CONDUCT. "Ought himself also to walk even as he walked." We have here a change in the pronoun, indicating a change of person. The former personal pronouns from 1 John 1:5 to this clause point to God the Father; the present one denotes God the Son. The Christian is to walk as he walked. It cannot be said that the eternal God walks. He is ever the same. His being admits of no advancement or progress. Man is said to "walk in the light;" but of God it is said that he "is light," and that "he is in the light" (1 John 1:5, 1 John 1:7). But Christ walked this earth as our Example. He spake of his life in this world as a walk: "I must walk today, and tomorrow, and the day following" (Luke 13:33). He hath left us "an example, that ye should follow his steps" (1 Peter 2:21). It is the moral, not the miraculous, in his life that we are called to imitate—his devotion and reverence, his truth and righteousness, his humility and self-sacrifice, his love and holiness. In his character and conduct we have the clear and complete expression of the will of the Father. To walk as be walked is the obligation of every one who professes to be in God. This includes:
1. Living after the example of Christ. "Learn of me;" "I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you" (John 13:13-15); "Walk in love, even as Christ also loved you," etc. (Ephesians 5:1, Ephesians 5:2). Let us endeavour to act in our lives as our Saviour and Lord would act if he were in our place.
2. Growing in likeness to Christ. Walking implies advancement. The Divine life in man is a progressive thing. We are summoned to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." "Let us go on unto perfection" (Hebrews 6:1-3). In this respect let us copy the example of St. Paul: "I press on, if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus," etc. (Philippians 3:12-14). And let us endeavour to prove the reality of our Christian profession by treading in the footsteps of our perfect Exemplar - W.J.
1 John 2:9-11
Living in light and love.
"He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother," etc. Our text teaches—
I. THAT THE EXERCISE OF BROTHERLY LOVE IS AN EVIDENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light." To be "in the light" and to "abide in the light" is to live a true Christian life, a life in harmony with the light of God. By the "brother" we are to understand here neither our fellow-man nor our neighbour, but the members of the Christian community, those who by profession are Christian brethren. We say, "by profession," because it is clear that in 1 John 2:9 and 1 John 2:11 persons are spoken of who are professedly but not really Christians. We show that we are in the light by our affection for those who are in the light. "God is Light" and "God is Love;" if we are sharers in his light we shall also be sharers in his love. "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34, John 13:35). "In this one thing," says Stier, "and in no other, is discipleship approved. It is not knowledge which avails, not a so-called faith, even though, like that of Judas, before the devil entered him, it could cast out devils and remove mountains; rather is this knowledge and this genuine faith known by this love. As little avails the confession of my Name, or of all the truth concerning my Person and my kingdom. Where this walking in the truth is not found, the confession becomes an all the more frightful lie. As the disciples of the Pharisees were known by their phylacteries, and as the disciples of John were known by their fasting, and every school by its shibboleth—the mark of the disciples of Christ is to be love. And that a genuine love, as Christ loveth."
II. THE EXERCISE OF BROTHERLY LOVE PROMISES THE STABILITY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light." Love is an expression of faith; it also increases and invigorates faith. The outgoing of the heart in holy affection to the Christian brotherhood strengthens the new life within the heart. Pure affection for others augments the wealth of our being. "The heart grows rich in giving." The exercise of brotherly love promotes the sanctity and strength of the entire Christian life, the susceptibility of the soul to Divine influences, its firmness in holy principles, and fidelity and facility in Christian practices.
III. THE EXERCISE OF BROTHERLY LOVE PROMOTES THE SECURITY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. "There is none occasion of stumbling in him."
1. Brotherly love will give no occasion of stumbling to others. Love will keep us from doing any wrong to others, from giving any cause of offence to others, or from doing anything whereby they may be led astray from the path of rectitude or caused to stumble in that path. "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour."
2. Brotherly love will preserve us from stumbling ourselves. Love is not quick to take offence. Love is forbearing, patient, humble; and humility walks peacefully and safely where pride painfully stumbles and falls. "Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself," etc. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
IV. THE ABSENCE OF BROTHERLY LOVE IS AN EVIDENCE OF A LIFE OF SIN, NOTWITHSTANDING A PROFESSION OF LIFE IN THE LIGHT. "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in the darkness even until now He that hateth his brother is in the darkness," etc. St. John mentions no middle condition between love of the brethren and hatred of them. As Dusterdieck says, "On the one side is God, on the other the world: here is life, there is death (1 John 3:14): here love, there hate, i.e., murder (1 John 3:15); there is no medium. In the space between, is nothing. Life may as yet be merely elementary and fragmentary, love may be as yet weak and poor; but still, life in God and its necessary demonstration in love, is present really and truly, and the Word of our Lord is true, 'He that is not against me is with me' (Luke 9:50): and on the other side, the life according to the flesh, the attachment to the world, and the necessary action of this selfishness by means of hatred, may be much hidden, may be craftily covered and with splendid outer surface; but in the secret depth of the man, there, where spring the real fountains of his moral life, is not God but the world; the man is yet in death, and can consequently love nothing but himself and must hate his brother, and then that other Word of the Lord is true, 'He that is not for me is against me' (Luke 11:23). For a man can only be either for or against Christ, and consequently can only have either love or hate towards his brother." Mark the characteristics of this life from which brotherly love is absent, as they are here sketched.
1. Darkness of moral condition. He "is in the darkness"—in it as the element of his moral life.
2. Darkness of moral action He "walketh in the darkness.'' His course of life and conduct is in keeping with the gloom of error and sin.
3. Darkness as to destination. He "knoweth not whither he goeth." He knows neither the way he is walking in nor the end to which it leads.
4. Darkness of the spiritual being. "The darkness hath blinded his eyes." Persons who have long been imprisoned in darkness have frequently lost their physical vision. So here it is said that the moral darkness in which the sinner dwells has destroyed his spiritual vision; and he walks on in moral night, imagining that he is walking in the light of day (cf. John 9:41) - W.J.
1 John 2:12-14
Seasons of life and their appropriate spiritual experiences.
"I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you," etc. Our text teaches:
1. That the revelations of redemptive truth are adapted to every season of human life. St. John writes to little children, to young men, and to fathers. To each of these classes the Bible has much to say, and much that is appropriate to each class. The Bible is the book for the little child, for the venerable sage, and for all the intermediate seasons of life.
2. That there should be an appropriate relation between the physical seasons and the spiritual experiences of human life. Some of these seasons and experiences are mentioned in our text; and to these we now turn our attention.
I. AS EXPERIENCE COMMON TO ALL CHRISTIANS. "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his Name's sake." In this place we regard the "little children" as addressed to all the apostle's readers, irrespective of age. The word which he uses τεκνία is employed seven times in this Epistle, and always as comprehending the whole of his readers.
1. The great blessing enjoyed. "Your sins are forgiven you." This forgiveness is an accomplished fact, and is realized by the Christian as a present blessing. And how great a blessing it is! He who receives it is set free from the guilt of his sins, delivered from their condemnation, exempted from their punishment; and there is imparted to him a blessed consciousness of the favour of God—"the love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost." Dr. Maclaren has well said, "Not putting up the rod, but taking your child to your heart, is your forgiveness And pardon is the open heart of God, full of love, unaverted by any consequences of my sin, unclosed by any of my departures from him."
2. The medium through which the blessing is obtained. "For his Name's sake." The Name is that of Jesus Christ, the Saviour and the Anointed of God. The Name is suggestive of all his work for us and for our salvation—his perfect redemptive work, with which the Father was well pleased. We have forgiveness and "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
II. AN EXPERIENCE APPROPRIATE TO CHILDHOOD. "I have written unto you, little children, because ye know the Father." The word used for "children" παιδία here is not the same as that in the preceding verse; and we think, with Ebrard, that the apostle does not now address all his readers, but those only who were children in age. One of the first indications of the intelligence of a child is its recognition of its father. Very early in life the heart of the child knows its father. Not as the result of teaching or reasoning, but in the natural unfolding of its powers it makes the recognition. And those who are children in the Christian life know God as their Father, not by evidences or arguments, but by the trust and love of their heart, which have been awakened through Jesus Christ. They know him as their Father, not only because they are his creatures, but by the gracious, loving, tender relations which he sustains to them, and by the existence and exercise of the filial spirit in themselves. They have "received the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, Abba, Father." It seems to us that "little children" in many cases apprehend and realize the Divine Fatherhood more clearly and fully than Christians of mature age; and that they do so because their faith in him is simpler and stronger.
III. AS EXPERIENCE APPROPRIATE TO YOUNG MANHOOD. "I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the evil one."
1. The possession of spiritual strength. "Ye are strong." Strength should characterize young manhood. Strength of body is a good thing; strength of mind is better; strength of soul is best. Spiritual strength is the strength of confidence in God, of love to God and to man, of worthy purposes, of righteous principles, and of vital accord with truth. And this strength finds expression in patient endurance, and earnest labour, and resolute resistance to wrong and battling for the right. The last aspect of this strength is probably prominent in the clause under consideration. The young men were strong in moral conflict, The interpretation is confirmed by the use of the same word in Luke 11:21," When the strong man armed," etc.; and in Hebrews 11:34, "Waxed valiant in fight," or, as in the Revised Version, "mighty in war." And this strength is derived through Jesus Christ. Apart from him we can do nothing. We can do all things in him that strengtheneth us. "Therefore be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."
2. The possession of Divine truth. "The Word of God abideth in you." The Word of God is the revelation of his mind and will which he had made to man, with perhaps special reference to the gospel. They had received this Word, and it was prized by them; they retained it as a treasure (cf. Psalms 119:162). It dwelt within them
(1) as an illuminating force (cf. Psalms 19:7; Psalms 119:105, Psalms 119:130; Proverbs 6:23);
(2) as a regulative force (cf. Psalms 37:31; Psalms 119:1-11, Psalms 119:101).
3. The attainment of spiritual victory. "Ye have overcome the evil one," i.e., Satan. He is the wicked one, "because the first in wickedness, because most industriously wicked, and because most obstinate and persevering in wickedness." St. John cannot mean that the young men had completely and finally vanquished Satan. He does not so readily accept and submit to defeat, but renews his attacks again and again. The apostle writes of the victory achieved in conversion. There is a sense in which all who have become new creatures in Christ Jesus are already conquerors of the wicked one. They are "delivered out of the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of the Son of his love" (Colossians 1:13; and cf. chapter 5:18). As Alford says," Whatever conflict remains for them afterwards, is with a baffled and conquered enemy."
IV. AN EXPERIENCE APPROPRIATE TO MATURE MANHOOD. "I have written unto you, fathers, because ye know him which is from the beginning," i.e., Jesus Christ (cf. 1 John 1:1). The appropriate occupation of age is not conflict, but contemplation; not stormy strife, but serene meditation; to penetrate mere deeply into the heart of truth, to get clearer and deeper visions of the Eternal and the Divine, to know more and more of Jesus Christ, and of God in Christ. Maturity in the knowledge of Christ is becoming in Christian fathers. "The whole sum of Christian ripeness and experience is this knowledge of 'thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ.'"
Let each of these classes addressed by St. John seek to realize its own appropriate experience - W.J.
1 John 2:15-17
An apostolic prohibition, and the reason thereof.
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world," etc. The text is not addressed to either of the three previously mentioned classes in particular, but to all the apostle's readers. Genuine Christians need to guard themselves against love of the world. The worldly spirit is about us, it pervades much of society, it is active and vigorous; and within us there is a residue of the old worldly and sinful nature. By reason of these things even a true Christian is in danger of loving the world. Notice—
I. THE APOSTOLIC PROHIBITION. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world."
1. The world is not the material universe. This is a creation of God, and it vividly illustrates some of his infinite perfections. "The heavens declare the glory of God," etc. (Psalms 19:1-6). The light is the garment in which he robes himself (Psalms 104:2). The fertility of the earth is an illustration of his bounty and beneficence. A divinely inspired poet, having surveyed the creations of God, exclaimed, "O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches." We read, "The Lord shall rejoice in his works." There is in nature endless significance for our instruction, much that is vast and sublime to awe us, much that is beautiful to delight us, much that is bountiful to supply our needs, and much to lead our thoughts to God. There is a sense in which we may love this beautiful creation, and with all the more of warmth because our Father made it and sustains it!
2. The world is not the world of men as such, or mankind. It is not the world of John 3:16, "God so loved the world," etc. With the love of benevolence and pity God loved the world of sinful men. And we should cherish feelings of kindness and pity for those who do not yet know Jesus Christ—should love them as God loved the world.
3. The world here is the world of sinners as distinguished from those that are true Christians, or, as Ebrard expresses it, "unchristian humanity." By "the world" St. John does not mean the material, but the moral world, the heathen world. In his view, as Dr. Culross says, "the world is in sin. Its sinful condition is variously represented. It is in darkness; it knows not God; it finds his commandments grievous; it lies in wickedness; it is in death—not merely exposed to it as a penalty, but in it as a condition. The 'things' of it are such as these—'the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.'… The 'world' of John's day we know, as to its actual condition, from other sources. Let any one turn over the pages of Tacitus, Juvenal, Martial, or Persius, with their often-unconscious disclosures of prevailing licentiousness and cruelty; and what he learns will put 'colour' into John's outlines. The same world—at heart—we still find in the present century, under modem conditions. It has grown in wealth. It has become civilized and refined. Law has become a mightier thing. The glory of science was never half so bright. But, looking close in, we still find the old facts—a dislike of God and love of sin, pride and self-sufficiency, a godless and selfish use of things, men 'hating one another,' selfishness fighting selfishness, an infinite mass of misery."£ "Neither the things that are in the world,… the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the vain-glory of life." By "the lust of the flesh "we understand the inordinate desire for sensual indulgences, the longing for the gratification of the carnal appetites. How prevalent is this lust! We see it in the epicure, in the wine-bibber, and in others in still coarser and more degrading forms. It is most terrible in its effects upon the soul. "The lust of the eyes," interpreted by the aid of other Scriptures, seems to mean the eager desire of possession directed towards temporal and material goods, or covetousness. It is not the desire to look upon pleasing, or beautiful, or sublime things, which is here condemned, but the sinful look of avarice. In confirmation of this view, see Proverbs 23:5; Proverbs 27:20; Ecclesiastes 4:8; Ecclesiastes 5:10; Luke 14:18, Luke 14:19. Probably there is also a reference to the feeling of hatred and the desire of revenge, as indicated in Psalms 17:11; Psalms 54:7; Psalms 91:8; Psalms 92:11. "The vain-glory of life" is "the lust of shining and making a boasting display." It points to that which is so prevalent in our day—the desire for grand houses, and costly furniture, and fine horses and carriages, and rich and fashionable dresses; the effort to give luxurious parties and splendid entertainments, and to outshine our neighbours in our mode of life. These things are of the world, worldly; and- these things Christians are exhorted not to love.
II. THE REASON OF THIS PROHIBITION. The reason, is twofold.
1. Because the love of the world excludes the love of God. "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Man cannot love the holy Father and the unchristian world. These two affections cannot coexist in one heart. Either of them, by its very nature, excludes the other. And "the things that are in the world," the love of which is prohibited, are "not of the Father, but of the world." They do not proceed from him; they are utterly opposed to his character and will; and, therefore, affection to them cannot dwell in the heart that loves him. Sensuality and covetousness and vain-glory are irreconcilably opposed to love to God.
2. Because the world and worldly things are transient. "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof." "The world" is still the unchristian world. It has in it no elements of permanence. The darkness of moral error and sin must recede before the onward march of the light of truth and holiness. The principles and words which oppose the Church of God are transient; they are passing away. Shall we set our hearts upon such fleeting things? And the lusts of the world are evanescent also. The gratifications of the flesh and. of the senses quickly cease. The things which many so eagerly desire and pursue, the pleasures and riches, the honours and vain shows of this world, are passing away like dreams of the night. And even the appetite for some of these things fails. The time comes when the desire for sensual gratifications ceases. Indulgence in the pleasures of the world tends to destroy the capacity for enjoying them. When that time comes, the man of the world, sated, wearied, disappointed, regards these things bitterly and cynically, finding that he has wasted heart and life upon them. Therefore let us not love them. But, on the other hand, "he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." The doing of his will is the evidence and expression of our love to him. Here, as so frequently in the writings of St. John, we see the importance of action. It is not love in profession that is blessed, but love in practice. "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments." It is not the creed that is commended, but the conduct. He who thus acts out his love to God abides for ever. He is connected with a stable order of things. He is vitally related to God himself, and is an heir of immortal and blessed life. He is now a participator in the life of Christ; and to all his disciples he gives the great assurance, "Because I live, ye shall live also."
By all these considerations let us not love the unchristian, unsatisfying, and perishing world; but through our Lord Jesus Christ, let us seek to love the Father with an ever-growing affection - W.J.
1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:27
The unction from the Holy One.
"But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things But the anointing which ye have received," etc.
I. THE NATURE OF THIS BLESSING. "Ye have an anointing from the Holy One." The "unction," or "anointing," does not signify the act of anointing, but the material which is used in the anointing—the oil, or ointment, or unguent. Here it denotes the Holy Spirit, whom the Christians to whom St. John was writing had received. Prophets, priests, and kings were anointed, and Christians are spoken of in the New Testament as "kings and priests" (Revelation 1:6); but we cannot see in our text any reference to either of these aspects of Christian character and life. The apostle is rather contrasting his readers, who had received the anointing from the Holy One, with the antichrists, who were opposed to the Anointed. As Alford expresses it, "The apostle sets his readers, as χριστούς, anointed of God, over against the ἀντίχριστοι." They possessed the Holy Spirit. He was within them as their Teacher, Comforter, Sanctifier. This blessing is of unspeakable and inestimable worth.
II. THE SOURCE OF THIS BLESSING. "Ye have an anointing from the Holy One;" i.e., Jesus Christ. In verse 1 St. John speaks of him as "the Righteous." In 1 John 3:3 he says that "he is pure." St. Peter said to him, "We know that thou art the Holy One of God" (John 6:69). And he afterwards spake of him as "the Holy and Righteous One" (Acts 3:14). And he spake of himself to "his servant John" as "he that is holy, he that is true" (Revelation 3:7). He baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33). He sends the Holy Spirit (John 15:26). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost is ascribed to him (Acts 2:33). Therefore we conclude that he, our Lord and Saviour, is the Holy One from whom Christians receive the anointing; i.e., the Holy Spirit.
III. THE EFFECT OF THIS BLESSING. "Ye know all things And ye need not that any one teach you." The "all things" calmer, of course, mean all things in science and art, in history and philosophy. An examination of the context will lead us to the true meaning. In verse 20 St. John says, "Ye know all things;" in verse 21 and the next sentence he says, "Ye know the truth;" and in the following verse and the next sentence he shows what the truth of which he had spoken is, viz. "that Jesus is the Christ." By the "all things," then, the apostle means "the truth… that Jesus is the Christ." All things in the Christian system are comprised in that one great fact. "He who knows this one thing," says Ebrard, "that Jesus is the Christ, knows already in that one thing all; there is no most distant height or depth of truth which is not contained or involved in that simple proposition." This interpretation includes other interpretations which are not so clearly drawn from the context; e.g., Alford, "All things needful for right action in the matter under consideration;" Barnes, "All things which it is essential that you should know on the subject of religion;" and others, "All things necessary to salvation." These and others are comprised in the knowledge "that Jesus is the Christ." This knowledge they attained by means of "an unction from the Holy One." We do not understand that the Holy Spirit had communicated unto them new truths, or directly revealed any truth to them. But by reason of his influence they saw the truths which they had received, more clearly, and grasped them more firmly. This is well illustrated by Dr. Chalmers: The Spirit "does not tell us anything that is out of the record; but all that is within it he sends home with clearness and effect upon the mind. When a telescope is directed to some distant landscape, it enables us to see what we could not otherwise have seen; but it does not enable us to see anything which has not a real existence in the prospect before us. The natural eye saw nothing but blue land stretching along the distant horizon. By the aid of the glass there bursts upon it a charming variety of fields, and woods, and spires, and villages. Yet who would say that the glass added one feature to this assemblage? And so of the Spirit. He does not add a single truth or a single character to the book of revelation. He enables the spiritual man to see what the natural man cannot see; but the spectacle which he lays open is uniform and immutable. It is the Word of God which is ever the same." So the Holy Spirit had brought into clear and impressive light the things which they to whom this letter is addressed had learned from the sacred Scriptures and from St. John and other Christian teachers, and had enabled them to realize their importance and power. And as a matter of fact, in our own day we see persons whose educational advantages have been of the slightest, whose powers and opportunities for study have been must limited, who yet have a clear and comprehensive acquaintance with the essential truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the reason of this is, they "have an anointing from the Holy One," they are enlightened by the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:26; John 16:13, John 16:14; 1 Corinthians 2:13-16). But St. John writes further, "Ye need not that any one teach you"—a statement on which Alford remarks, "His assertions here are so many delicate exhortations, veiled under the declaration of their true ideal state of unction with the Holy Spirit who guides into all truth. If that unction were abiding in them in all its fullness, they would have no need for his or any other teaching." The reference is to their knowledge of the great comprehensive truth "that Jesus is the Christ." They were not dependent upon any one for teaching concerning this vital and fundamental fact. But generally speaking, "the Divine unction does not supersede ministerial teaching, but surmounts it."
IV. THE OBLIGATION OF THIS BLESSING. More fully stated this is the obligation which is inseparable from the possession of this anointing from the Holy One. "Abide in him," i.e., in Christ, as the context clearly shows. The person spoken of in verses 27 and 28 is evidently the Lord Jesus. The exhortation to abide in him is based on the assurance that the anointing which they had received abode in them (verse 27). The "in him" must not be toned down to his doctrine, or his system, or anything of that kind. "In him" by the exercise of the faith of the heart, by the attachment of holy love, by intimate and reverent communion with him, and by participation in his life and spirit. Thus are we to abide in him (cf. John 15:4-7). From our subject we learn:
1. That the illumination of the Holy Spirit is indispensable to a clear and correct apprehension of the great truths of Christianity. "Words and syllables," says Cudworth, "which are but dead things, cannot possibly convey the living notions of heavenly truths to us. The secret mysteries of a Divine life, of a new nature, of Christ formed in our hearts, they cannot be written or spoken; language and expressions cannot reach them; neither can they be ever truly understood, except the soul itself be kindled from within, and awakened into the life of them" (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:10-12).
2. That the "anointing from the Holy One"—the influence and presence of the Holy Spirit within us—is a preservative against the seductions of error. "If that which ye heard from the beginning abide in you, ye also shall abide in the Son, and in the Father.… but the anointing which ye received of him abideth in you," etc.
3. That the possession of this Divine preservative is not an encouragement to presumption, but a reason for perseverance. Because the anointing which they received of Christ abode in them, St. John exhorts his readers to "abide in him."—W.J.
HOMILIES BY R. FINLAYSON
1 John 2:1-6
Sin supposed: sin dealt with.
There is here a contrast to the statement in the last verse of the first chapter. There, a man was supposed to deny the commission of sin. Here, the apostle supposes its existence, and shows how God has dealt with it. We have here—
I. DIVINE PROVISION AGAINST EXPERIENCE OF SIN IN BELIEVERS,
1. Advocacy as far as our need for it is concerned. "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye may not sin. And if any man sin," etc. John addresses Christians in the circle of Churches of which Ephesus was the point, in whom he was deeply interested, as his little children. This term of affection, which Paul only uses once in his Epistles, John uses seven times in this Epistle. It is in accordance with affection being the strongest element in his nature, and also in accordance with his advanced age in comparison with Paul. The addition of the personal pronoun is found only here and in John 3:18. In presenting the contrast, John would naturally have gone on to say, "If we sin." But that would have had the appearance of treating the experience of sin in believers too much as a matter of course. He therefore considers it necessary to interpose words in which he states it to be the object of his writing to them, that they should not sin. It is important to note, in view of subsequent statements, that he does not write to them as sinless, but as those who have the ideal of sinlessness before them. Struggling on toward sinlessness, we have yet the experience of sin. It was not thus with the Master, who, in his struggle on toward perfection, could say, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" "No mere man since the Fall is able, in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed." This applies even to those who are assisted by grace. Our nature is not thoroughly renewed, and so, as the language bears here, there are acts of sin which, according to a former thought, we have to confess to God. How, then, with the constantly recurring consciousness of sin, are we to he advanced to sinlessness? In the answer which the apostle gives to this we are not to understand that he excludes our own pleading; for he repeatedly in this Epistle assumes that it is our duty to ask of God, which must pass into earnest pleading. But, in bringing in the advocacy of Another, he views our own advocacy as being insufficient by itself. It is not difficult to see how this should be. It is really involved in that which gives rise to constantly recurring acts of sin. It is one and the same disposition which leads us to shut our eyes to our need, and also makes us lukewarm in seeking the remedy. It unfits us for our being our own advocate, that we have an insufficient knowledge of our case. We cannot go into it with that thoroughness and skillfulness with which an advocate should go into a case which he undertakes. We do not know precisely the stage to which we have already come in our deliverance from sin, nor have we an adequate conception of the goal of sinlessness to which we have yet to come. We are, therefore, more or less working in the dark, and our pleading for ourselves must partake more or less of ignorance. "So find we profit," says Shakespeare, "by losing of our prayers." We have not a right idea of the blessings which we really need. We are like children, who ask many things of their parents which it is not wise for them to grant. Again, it unfits us for our being our own advocate, that we have an insufficient earnestness in urging our case. To be delivered from sin, from particular sins which beset us, from the love of sin, is a matter essential to our well-being. We ought to plead for it as for our life, and this continuously. We are not to plead as though we would rather be refused, or in the more earnest tone only by fits and starts. But how can our advocacy be up to the mark of what advocacy should be, when what we have need to plead for is earnestness of the whole soul, and this in every successive moment of life? If, then, we are to have perfect advocacy, we must look away from ourselves.
2. The advocacy that we need. "We have an Advocate." It has sometimes happened that a person against whom a charge has been laid, for whom a good plea could be presented, has suffered materially for want of an advocate properly to present the plea. This cannot be said of us, for we are told here that, it' we sin, we have an Advocate. The Divine love has been beforehand with us, and the case of our falling into sin, as we do, notwithstanding our covenant position, and notwithstanding our struggle after sinlessness every day, is met by the provision of an Advocate. There is the same word here which in John's Gospel is translated "Comforter." It is literally one who is called to our side. There is no inconsistency in the translation; for in the Gospel we are to think of One who stands by us in our distresses, whereas here we are to think of One who stands by us so that we do not sink under our experience of sin on our way to sinlessness. The Paraclete in the Gospel is the Holy Ghost; but he is said to be another Comforter. Christ had been the Paraclete of his disciples, ever at their side to keep them from sinking of heart. He had been their Paraclete even in the sense of Advocate. What are we to understand by the night spent in prayer before the ordination of the twelve? While it was for himself, was it not also for them, "that they might rise to the height of their high calling, not puffed up, but divinely filled with grace and lowly power; till all—all save one—should be found finally not unworthy of this ministry and apostleship? And for us, and for all the long line of Christian generations to be built up on those twelve foundations, believing through their word: may we not so read that long night-prayer of consecration and of intercession by our Priest and King? What are we to make of that prayer for Peter on the last night of our Saviour's earthly life: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not"? Have we not here an open vision of the manner in which he was engaged in his private devotions? The Spirit makes up in this respect for the want of Christ's earthly presence; for be is with us to help our infirmities in prayer, and is engaged himself in intercession. The Spirit's advocacy on earth does not, however, supersede our Lord's advocacy in heaven. For even the sending of the Spirit was to be an answer to Christ's future intercession. "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." When we sin, then—which is the experience of all believers in this life—this is the heavenly advocacy that we are to take advantage of. Our minds may turn to the inexhausted power of Christ's work on earth. But, according to what is laid down here, we are to turn our minds more immediately to our Savior's advocacy. The high priest did not stop with the offering of sacrifice in the court of the temple; but he followed it up by going into the most holy place, and going with incense, which is to be regarded as the symbol of acceptable prayer. So "Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." His appearance there means continued priestly service in the form of advocacy for us. As acting for us he takes up our individual cases, with a view to our being brought forward, each in our own way, to sinlessness. Christ has all the knowledge of our case that is needed for advocacy. We have to make up for the deficiency of our child. He has to be educated for all the relations of life—educated even physically, educated for business, educated for society. With our larger acquaintance with life we superintend his education; and there is much which he does not comprehend or see the use of now, but which, we hope, he will feel the benefit of hereafter. Christ occupies a similar vantage-ground with regard to our life. He can take up all the threads of our life. He can comprehend its working, in view of the past and in view of the future. He can follow out in detail the whole struggle with sin. And he can judge infallibly how our outward circumstances need to be arranged, how our hearts need to be influenced, with a view to our complete deliverance from sin. All this he turns into matter of intercession for us, and we have the comfort of thinking that the ignorance which cleaves to our prayers is covered by the perfect knowledge of his intercession. He has also all the interest in us that is needed for advocacy. It is said that Jesus died once for all; but the spirit in which he died was not momentary and evanescent. We sometimes attain to an elevated state of feeling, and then we fall back into an habitually lower state. But the same intensity of interest in us which led Jesus to die for us he has carried into his risen life, and the form which it takes is intercession. We are given to understand that his life on high is directed to the carrying forward of the work of grace in believers; and is this not the guarantee of its completion? "If, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." "Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." The latter Scripture is sometimes quoted in the sense that, while there is life there is hope; hut, in accordance with the other Scripture, it is to be understood in the sense that there is, in the living interest and unfailing intercession of the Saviour, covering all deficient interest in our prayers, guarantee for our salvation being carried to the uttermost, i.e., being thoroughly completed in sinlessness.
3. Explanation, of its sufficiency. "With the Father." Christ is our Ambassador at the court of heaven. He is there to represent us, and to protect and advance our interests. But we are not to think of any reluctance on the part of the First Person needing to be overcome, or of all the desire to save us being on the part of the Son. Rather is the Saviour's advocacy to be regarded as the manifestation of the earnest desire of God (without distinction of Person) for our salvation. For it is with the Father that Christ intercedes. Does not this suggest to us his being easily reached? Christ tells us of a judge who seemed unreachable, and yet he was found to be reachable by the very lowest of considerations. If there is a way of reaching the worst kind of mind, how much more must there be a way of reaching the Father's heart? Will he take no heed of his children who cry unto him day and night? Will he not interpose for their deliverance from sin when their case is taken up by their heavenly Advocate, who, from all eternity, stands to him in the most intimate of relations? Will the face of his Son turned toward him, and his continual pleadings on our behalf, be unheeded?
(1) Our Representative. "Jesus Christ the Righteous." He is Jesus, i.e., in our humanity, and, at the same time, Christ, i.e., the Anointed of God promised to men. He has, therefore, the qualification of nature that is needed for our Representative. But he has also the qualification of character, being here called the Righteous. He does not need to shrink from standing in the presence of God as our Advocate; for he has all the righteousness in our humanity which God demands. He has met the Divine requirement all round, even as the Representative of sinners. God, therefore, looks upon him with infinite pleasure. And will he not be willing to bless us for the sake of so righteous an Advocate?
(2) His work. "And he is the Propitiation for our sins." The character of Christ had to do with his work. It was because he always pleased the Father that his work could have value. He is here called "the Propitiation." He was also the Propitiator, but he is called the" Propitiation," as being more distinctive. For whereas a propitiator has usually the means of propitiation outside himself, in Christ both are united. From the sacrificial association of the word, there can be no doubt that the reference is to his death. It was of the nature of a propitiatory offering. The heathen idea was that there was the feeling of revengefulness on the part of the gods toward men. Therefore men had, by their offerings, to propitiate them, i.e., to appease them and to make them favourable. The Christian idea is essentially different. It is that God always and necessarily is benevolently disposed toward men, and desires fellowship. But sin has placed an obstacle between us and the Divine love and fellowship. On account of this sin God is angry with us. But Christ is the Propitiation, i.e., receives into himself in his death the desert of sin, so that now, as is most pleasing to God, the Divine love and fellowship can be enjoyed. This is properly God reconciling the world unto himself—he who never had thought of evil toward men himself graciously removing the obstacle which sin interposed between us and him. It is the propitiatory work of Christ that is the base's of his advocacy. He does not plead our desert, which would tell against our happiness; but he pleads his own offering, the virtue of which was not exhausted in his own age, but is as great today as it was eighteen centuries ago. He is the Propitiation absolutely, i.e., has atoning virtue without stint—one with his Personality. It is as natural for him to give forth atoning virtue as it is for a rose to give forth fragrance. He is an Offering and a Sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. As incense is grateful to the sense of smell, so, in an infinite degree, is Christ, in his atonement for sin, pleasing to God. Our Advocate, then, in his own inexhaustible sacrificial worth, does not want a plea, and a very strong plea, for the Divine love breaking forth upon us sinners with all blessing. "And not for ours only, but also for the whole world." There is a difference which does not seem to be unintentional. Christ is the Propitiation for the sins of believers: he is not the Propitiation for the sins of the world, but for the world itself, as not so much sinning as being in a state of sin. With this difference, he is the Propitiation in the same sense. It is said in a way that is liberating to thought, that he is the Propitiation for the whole world. Most perversely Calvin attempts to limit the reference of the atonement here. Luther gives the evangelical exposition: "It is a potent fact that thou too art a part of the whole world, so that thine heart cannot deceive itself and think, 'The Lord died for Peter and Paul, but not for me.'" The meaning of the universal reference of the atonement is most precious, viz. that love, which is inseparable from God, has found outlet in the provision of suitable means for the salvation of all sinners of mankind. It is not said that Christ's advocacy extends to the world. "We [believers] have an Advocate." And yet it is worthy of notice that it is in connection with Christ being the Propitiation for the whole world that Christ's advocacy is so plainly taught. If, then, we have an Advocate, what is our duty? It is not to forbear paying ourselves, but rather to join our prayers to our Saviour's advocacy. When difficult matters have to be taken into a court of law, there requires to be the employment of an advocate. It is no easy matter for us to be carried through constantly recurring experiences of sin up to complete salvation. The action which we require to take, and, with new experience of sin, to renew, is to put our case into the hands of our Advocate.
II. EVIDENCE OF THE DIVINE PROVISION AGAINST EXPERIENCE OF SIN IN BELIEVERS BEING PERSONALLY EFFICACIOUS.
1. The sign of knowledge. "And hereby know we that we know him, if we keep his commandments." The second "know" (which in the original is in a different tense from the first) is to be understood of the experience of covenant love and fellowship. John wishes to class himself, as we should all wish to class ourselves, with them that know God in this way. But how are we to know, i.e., have the consciousness, from moment to moment, that we are thus classed? The sign given here is obedience. This is the first "hereby" of the Epistle. There are commandments of God, i.e., instructions laid down by him who not only has supreme authority, but supreme knowledge and love. These we are to tend as we would tend a plant. There are certain rules founded upon observation which must be attended to in horticulture. So we have to apply the maxims of past experience and Divine wisdom to our conduct from moment to moment. We are to see to their having their proper place in regard to the development of our life.
(1) Issue of disobedience. "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." There is not here a classing with others, but a singling out. The person singled out is bold in his assertion, "I know him;" but he belies it by his conduct. He does not see to the Divine pleasure being carried out in his life, but makes his own pleasure his rule. And, as his assertion is bold, so is his characterization bold. He is described, both positively and negatively, as to his permanent state. He is a liar, i.e., lives in an atmosphere of lies; and the truth is not in him, i.e., does not rule his thoughts and actions.
(2) Issue of the activity of obedience. "But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily hath the love of God been perfected." Instead of singling out, there is now throwing wide the door. Let every one be included in this class who fulfils the conditions. Instead of his commandments we have his Word, by which we are led to think of the commandments in their unity, and especially in their vitality. The Word is the Divine revelation, ever instinct with Divine power, which, entering as a vital principle into us, ever comes forth in new manifestations in our life. This Word we are to tend, so as to bring it forward to all beautiful forms. What, from the Divine side, is the issue of our tending the Word? It is not said, as the contrast would have led us to expect, that the truth of God is in us; but the truth is carried forward into the personal relation. "In him verily hath the love of God been perfected." As love to God is included in what we are to cultivate, this must be God's love to us. According as we cultivate the Word does the love of God toward us reach its end. When our obedience is no mere outward form, but is active, then it can be said that God's love is having its way. Let us, then, in the activity of our obedience, allow freedom for the carrying out of the Divine thought and desire regarding us.
2. The sign of union. "Hereby know we that we are in him: he that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk even as be walked." There is here, first, classing with others, and then singling out. The sign of our union to God is here declared to be the imitation of Christ. The assertion which each of us makes is that we abide in God, i.e., are in God, and mean to continue in God. This assertion brings with it no little obligation. What is the "ought" by which we are bound as making the assertion? It is to walk, even as that Person walked. That is the literal translation, and there is only One to whom it can refer. It is he in whom God sees all his thought and desire regarding men. It is he who perfectly kept the commandments, perfectly kept the Word, was the living realization on earth of all that God demands from us. While we go for comfort to his heavenly life of advocacy, we are to go for direction to his heavenly life. He has left us in great detail a pattern of purity, of unselfishness, especially of central obedience. Let us look upon this pattern and then upon our blurred, blotched lives; and, if there is thereby produced in us a deep sense of our own deficiency, let us take encouragement from the thought that he who asks us to copy into our life such a picture of holiness will also supply the needful grace - R.F.
1 John 2:7-11
The commandment of brotherly love.
I. THE COMMANDMENT OLD. "Beloved, no new commandment write I unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning: the old commandment is the Word which ye heard." The commandment indicated in the previous verse, viz. to walk as Christ walked, is in this paragraph identified with the commandment of brotherly love. His heart warming to his readers, he addresses them as "beloved." What he has in his mind to lay upon them by his letter was no new commandment. It was an old commandment, older than his connection with them. From the beginning, i.e., from their first contact with Christianity down to his connection with them, it had been presented to them. It was no subsidiary matter, such as the form of Church government, which could be held back for a time, but was the very essence of the message which had been delivered to them.
II. THE COMMANDMENT NEW. "Again, a new commandment write I unto you, which thing is true in him and in you; because the darkness is passing away, and the true light already shineth." Changing his point of view, he calls it a new commandment. Its being new is contemplated as inhering both in Christ and in them. It is new, because the darkness is passing away and the true light already shineth. What was this but the new light of Christianity, viz. the light introduced by Christ and spread among Christians? Granted that the duty had been known before, it had been greatly obscured. What an obscuration had there been of it in heathen life! And the light that had been shining in the laud of the Jews had been partial. It was only when Christ came and showed its perfect realization, that it could be said to be light having all the elements of truth. Realized in Christ, it was also being realized partially in his people. Thus, not in all places, but in many places, was the darkness giving place to the light, giving promise of the ultimate entire displacement of darkness and prevalence of light.
III. CONDITION OF FULFILLING THE COMMANDMENT, ABSENT. "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in the darkness even until now." It is to be inferred that the condition of our loving our brother is our being in the light, i.e., as the element in which we live. It is not enough to say that we are in the light; saying must be taken along with acting, or the state of the feelings. Let a man's character be this, that he hates his brother (is even unsympathetic), he may say that he is in the light, but it is a moral impossibility. The light may have been shining widely around him, may have been shining around him for long years, but it has never yet penetrated his being and displaced his natural darkness. He is in that darkness even until now. This is John's way of putting the Master's lesson, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord." Let us demand from ourselves reality.
IV. CONDITION OF FULFILLING THE COMMANDMENT, PRESENT, WITH BENEFIT. "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him." The commandment is now stated positively; the condition is stated with a modification. "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light," i.e., is so related to the light as to have it continually penetrating his being. The advantage of being thus made loving by the light is that he has guidance at every step. He sees what lies in his path, and does not fall over obstacles.
V. CONDITION OF FULFILLING THE COMMANDMENT, ABSENT, WITH DETRIMENT. "But he that hateth his brother is in the darkness, and walketh in the darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes." To the state formerly mentioned is added the corresponding walk. The walk of the unloving is in the darkness. He does not see what lies in his path, and may be tripped up at any moment. This follows with a double certainty. The surrounding darkness keeps him from seeing what is immediately before him; but that is not all. The darkness in which he has been moving has operated to destroy his spiritual vision, just as fishes in a dark subterranean cave are known to have become eyeless through long disuse of the organ - R.F.
1 John 2:12-17
The great danger of Christians.
I. How ADDRESSED.
1. First time,
(1) Generally. "I write unto you, my little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his Name's sake." In accordance with 1 John 2:1, we are to understand by "little children" all his readers. It is a designation expressive of affection more than of subordination. Christians are addressed according to their fundamental position. What we need first of all is to have our sins forgiven. As unforgiven, our position is fundamentally wrong; we lie under the Divine condemnation. As forgiven, our position is fundamentally right; we come into the Divine favour. The ground on account of which we are forgiven is here said to be his Name (Christ's), i.e., what he is declared to be. Because he is declared to be Saviour, to be the Source of all atoning virtue, by believing on him as such we have our sins forgiven by the Father. Those who are thus forgiven can be appealed to against the encroachments of the world.
(2) Older section. "I write unto you, fathers, because ye know him which is from the beginning." While all Christians are forgiven, they are divided into the class of the fathers and the class of the young men. There are those who have been a long time Christians. These, the fathers, are addressed as having the fruit of experience. They know him which is from the beginning, viz. Christ. They have a large amount of peculiarly Christian experience. They know him who best reveals the deep things of God, who was at the beginning, and entered into the Divine counsels about redemption. They know the love of him who, having an unbeginning existence and glory, entered into time and into the midst of sinful men, and devoted himself in shame and anguish and death—the love this which passeth knowledge. Those who have attained to this experience may well be appealed to against thinking of substituting for it a more worldly experience.
(3) Younger section. "I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the evil one." There are those who have not been a long time Christians. These, the young men, are addressed as having victory, the prize of strength. They have not had time for experience, but are in the midst of the conflicts which give rise to experience. Their adversary is here called the evil one, i.e., one who, as the great impersonation and champion of evil, heartily wishes their destruction, and seeks, by all stirrings within and solicitations from without, to compass their destruction. Especially are they exposed to his assaults as having, in their youth, strong passions and illusionary views of life, without the counterpoise of experience. But Christ has always his representatives among the young men. They have not been deterred by their powerful adversary from taking up their position on his side, and showing an active interest in his cause. These youthful victors may well be appealed to against thinking of throwing away victory for the sake of a few worldly pleasures.
2. Seceded time.
(1) Generally. "I have written unto you, little children, because ye know the Father." There is not the same Greek word here for "little children" that there is in the twelfth verse. It is a word which points to his hearers not so much as objects of his affection, as placed under his authority and care. There is not sufficient reason for destroying the symmetry of the passage, and supposing the reference to be to those who are literally little children. These are an interesting class, for whom Christ cared separately when he said, "Feed my lambs;" but they are to be regarded here as falling under the class of the young men. For even the little children may win victories over the evil one, by taking up their position on the side of Christ, and standing by his side in all that he requires of resistance to evil, and, beyond that, though their equipment is but small, of aggression on evil. Christians, both old and young, are addressed according to what essentially belongs to them. Being forgiven, they also know the Father, i.e., they have been adopted into his family, have his authority and loving care exercised over them, and are endeavouring to fulfill their duties to him as their Father. That is the basis on which their life goes forward, and they may well be appealed to against taking a worldly basis for their life.
(2) Older section "I have written unto you, fathers, because ye know him which is from the beginning." In writing to the fathers there is no change in his language. We need no new object of knowledge; for the knowledge of Christ comprehends all that we can know. What we need is to have our knowledge of him deepened, extended, cleared, ordered into a more complete whole; and this admits of endless progress. When we have known Christ for years, do we feel that we have exhausted the meaning of his words and his love? The fathers, then, may well be appealed to a second time, not to go aside, like the first human pair, to a forbidden knowledge.
(3) Younger section. "I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the evil one." In writing to the young men, to the fact of victory he adds the conditions of victory. The immediate condition of victory is strength. The condition of strength is the indwelling of the Word of God. When Christ was in his youthful conflict he opposed a decisive word from the Old Testament to the devil's lie. Three times he conquered by the use of the same means. Young men are to have their inexperience and rawness made up to them by their grasp of what God has spoken. The Word as a whole, and in its parts, must be in them—in their memory, in their understanding, in their heart—ready for use. And when the needed word is brought up clearly before them, they are rendered invulnerable. Young men who have felt this to be the secret of their strength may well be appealed to not to allow the strength they have acquired to be sapped by worldly compliance.
II. HOW WARNED.
1. Worldliness forbidden. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." We must connect with the world here the idea of that which is abnormal, or separated from God. But we are not to think of the morally corrupt world, the world that lieth in the evil one. We are to think of the world of created good as apart from God; for it is represented as passing away. What, then, is to be our feeling, the feeling of all Christians—for there is now no distinction of old and young—or rather, what is not to be our feeling with regard to the world? The feeling which is most peremptorily vetoed is that of love. Some would say, "Love not the world too much;" what the writer of this Epistle says is, "Love it not at all." Nay, he is yet more explicit. With regard to the various things which constitute the world, as though each passed before him in succession, he says, with the same peremptoriness, "Love them not at all."
2. Worldliness incompatible with love to God. "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Earthly things, such as a living, money, art, office, may be sought legitimately and worthily in connection with God. But when they are sought as complete, as ends in themselves, they become rivals to God, and love to them can only be cherished at the expense of love to God. Love to the world and love to the Father (who adopts us in Christ) are so contrary that one heart cannot contain them both.
3. Three aspects of the worldliness that cannot be traced to God. "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the vain-glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." We have not here all sin; for such sins as hatred of the brethren, heresy, spiritual pride, are not included; we have only three aspects of one sin, viz. worldliness. "The flesh" points to that in which worldly enjoyment has its scat; "the eyes" point to means by which there is a ministering to worldly enjoyment; "life" (means of living) points to there being guarantee of worldly enjoyment. Within the flesh there is the stirring of desire for worldly enjoyment; the eyes are ministers to the flesh, presenting objects for desire. Objects not desired, but possessed beyond what we can appropriate of them for worldly enjoyment, produce a feeling of vain-glory. All this stirring within the flesh, this desiring through the eyes, this gloating over possession, has no high origin; it is not of the Father, but of the world.
4. Worldliness linked to the transient, not to the abiding. "And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." The transitoriness of the world is brought in as a dissuasive from worldliness. There is a constant flux in earthly things, and the pleasures connected with them are momentary.
"But pleasures are like poppies spread—
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snowflake on the river,
A moment white—then melts for ever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow's lovely form,
Evanishing amid the storm."
Not merely does the world pass away, but also the lust thereof. After a time our capacity for enjoyment is diminished. Those that look out at the windows are darkened; the daughters of music arc brought low; and desire fails (Ecclesiastes 12:1-14). Death severs our connection with the world, and puts an end to all earthly appetency. What is this transitoriness of the world meant to teach us? The voice which is here given to it is this, "Love not the world." If our love is fixed on the world, then the time is coming when we shall be left with a total blank. Divine wisdom counsels another course. It is to do the will of God, i.e., to believe in Christ, and to follow Christ. The recommendation of this course is that it links us to the eternal order of things. "He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." There are creatures that keep themselves from being drifted about in the waters by fastening themselves on to a rock; so in our mutable element we must secure fixity for our being by attaching ourselves to 'him who is "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever."—R.F.
1 John 2:18-29
I. PERIOD OF ANTICHRIST. "Little children, it is the last hour: and as ye heard that antichrist cometh, even now have there arisen many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour." The apostle addresses his readers with the authority of age and experience. He has been referring to the transitoriness of the world; from that he passes to the last hour. What was designated in Old Testament times the age to come, extending from the Incarnation to the second coming, is here called not "the last age," or "the last days," but, more strongly, "the last hoar," to emphasize the fact that we know not the hour when the present order of things is to terminate. The solemnity of the end is fitted to have a salutary impression; and it is kept dark, that we may always have the feeling of its being the last hour. The present era is for the Christian manifestation; but opposed to it is the antichristian manifestation. John is the only New Testament writer who uses the term "antichrist." Paul's designation is "he who opposeth himself." Antichrist is more than Opposer; he is one who opposes under the guise of Christ. He is one who would supplant Christ by assuming to be and to do what Christ is and does. Our Lord had said that many would come in his name, saying, "I am Christ." This was doubtless the foundation for the teaching about the coming of antichrist. John follows the Master in referring to a plurality of antichrists. It would seem to follow that the personal element changes; the spirit remains. Those who represent separate anti-christian manifestations are antichrists; the whole of these manifestations, personally represented, is antichrist. In the apostle's day there were not wanting quasi-Christian movements; they are not wanting still. When Christianity is active, attempts are made to meet the demand it makes, with something spurious, resembling Christianity, but not really Christianity. There is a displacing of Christ by priestly pretension, by the multiplication of rites, by the authority of the Church, by the merits of the saints; or there is, on the other hand, an explaining away of the Incarnation and the substitution, hero-worship, the gospel of mere science. Such antichristian developments, however much to be regretted, are only to be expected. John would seem to say that they are the writhings of the last hour, the rising up of evil against him by whom it is being destroyed, increasing in bitterness as the end approaches.
II. RELATION OF THE ANTICHRISTS TO THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest how that they all are not of us." The same idea is brought out by Paul when he describes the development as an apostasy, i.e., a falling away from the Christian position once occupied. The leaders were apostates, perverts, men who used the intellectual quickening, general enlightenment, and even the forms of thought they had got from Christianity, against its essential principles. The leaving of the Christian society by the antichrists of John's day was to be accounted for by their not being animated by the common sentiment, or rather, as it is put, by their not being sustained in their life from the society, but from some other source. They had never been able to say that all their springs were in the Church (Psalms 87:7). If they had thus derived from the Church, they would have remained in the Church. But not being the Church's true progeny and upbringing, they went out. By this there was served a good probationary purpose. Their true character and position were clearly brought out. They were known as persons whom the Church did not own. It is well, when there is so much life in Christian societies, that those who are not of them feel the necessity of going out. It is well, also, when it is made clear with whom we have to do.
III. CONFIDENCE IN THE CHRISTIAN DISCERNMENT OF HIS READERS. "And ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and because no lie is of the truth." Christ has not left his people without suitable provision against deception. He is here called the Holy One; and we may conclude that his own holiness has to do with his discernment. It is through his own holy experience, acquired in this world, that he sees things. And so it is the good who have true discernment. "Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not." Without holy experience, intellectual giants and the most successful men of business are blind. Christ's provision is closely allied to his own name, viz. chrism. It is he who is himself the Christ, the Anointed of God, that supplies the chrism, the anointing oil for his people. After the tabernacle had been constructed, it had to be consecrated by the application, to all its parts and furniture, of the holy anointing oil, for the preparation of which special instructions were given. When Samuel poured the vial of oil on Saul's head he said, "And the Spirit of the Lord shall come upon thee." The anointing of David is thus described: "Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward." What was conferred on prophets and priests and kings is now conferred on Christians, viz. the anointing Spirit. The Spirit gives us a pure, deep, rich experience through which we can see things. We are here described ideally, as those who, with the anointing of the Spirit, know all things. As we are said to be omnipotent within the sphere of our doing, so we are said to be omniscient within the sphere of our knowing. As in the one case we must think of what is proper for us to do, so in the other case we must think of what is proper for us to know. We are to regard this as guarantee against deception. "For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." But it is not possible with what provision we have secured to us. There is no false appearance beneath which it is impossible for us to see, no truth into which it is impossible for us to penetrate. In writing, John recognized the favoured condition of his readers as qualified to know the truth, and to detect every lie as belonging to another category.
IV. ANTICHRIST DEFINED. "Who is the liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, even he that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that confesseth the Son hath the Father also." Having recognized their power to detect every lie (passing from the abstract), he asks vividly, "Who is the liar?" i.e., the utterer of the supreme lie, the denier of truth by pre-eminence? His answer is virtually a definition of antichrist, viz. "he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ." Jesus was a historical Person, who had been seen, heard, handled; what was to be predicated of him? As there was a definiteness about Jesus, so there was a definiteness about the Christ, or the Messiah, i.e., there were certain ideas which the Old Testament put into the word, and which the Jews were trained to associate with it. There were these ideas in the Jewish mind as to the work of the Messiah—that he would tell all things (John 4:25), that he would be a King, that he would be the Saviour of the world (John 4:42), in a word, meet all spiritual need. There were these ideas as to his Person—that it would not be known whence he was (John 7:27), that he would abide for ever (John 12:34), that he would be the Son of God (John 1:49). These ideas were far from being distinctly or consistently held; but they were founded on the Old Testament. When Jesus claimed to be the Christ, it was according to the pure Old Testament conception. The distinguishing part of the conception was his being the Son of God. This was understood by Peter (Matthew 16:16), and also by the high priest (Matthew 26:63). The liar here is defined to be he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ; and then this denier of Christ—named antichrist—is regarded as denying therewith the Father and the Son. The antichristian lie, then, comes to be the denial of the Incarnation, which is the key-note of the Epistle, viz. the union of the Son of God and man. The Jewish antichrist refused to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, declared him to be an impostor, and thus set aside the Incarnation. The Gnostic antichrist, which is more pointed at here, taught that the aeon, Christ, descended on the man Jesus at his baptism, and left him before the Passion. The antichrist is not confined to one shape or to two shapes, but is protean; its inmost character, however, always is the setting aside of the Incarnation. If God has not formed the connection with humanity, which is pointed to in the Incarnation, then his Fatherhood is not revealed; and we do not have the Father, i.e., possess him in living fellowship. Denying the Incarnation, we cannot have the joy of the thought that he has gone the length of sacrificing his Son for us. But, confessing God Incarnate, we have the joy of the Son dying for us, and of the Father giving him up to the death for us.
V. ADVANTAGE OF HOLDING TO THE CHRISTIAN POSITION. "As for you, let that abide in you which ye heard from the beginning. If that which ye heard from the beginning abide in you, ye also shall abide in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise which he promised us, even the life eternal." That which they heard from the beginning was the truth about the Incarnation. If that abode in them, constantly mingled with their being, then they would also abide in the Son and in the Father—would have constant communion, not only with the incarnate Son, but with his Father. The promise contained in the Incarnation is the life eternal. What could such condescending love mean but that, in communion with the Son and the Father, we should have our highest well-being inalienably secured to us? Let, then, the Incarnation dwell in our minds. Let it elevate our conception of God; let it touch our hearts; let it be motive-power to our wills. According as it takes possession of us do we advance toward the goal of our being.
VI. RENEWED EXPRESSION OF CONFIDENCE IN HIS HEARERS. "These things have I written unto you concerning' them that would lead you astray. And as for you, the anointing which ye received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any one teach you; but as his anointing teacheth you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, ye abide in him." The antichristian teachers were busy at their work, trying to lead them astray. That was his motive for writing to them as he had done. He did not thereby intend to convey any want of confidence in them. They had immediate communication with Christ, access to his thoughts through the reception of the anointing Spirit. The anointing abiding in them made them independent of any human teacher such as he was. Christ was present, in his Spirit, to teach them as every new occasion required—to teach them what was truth and what was no lie, to teach them always in the way of opening up the meaning of the original message. Thus taught by his Spirit, they abode in him, notwithstanding the attempts to lead them astray. This doctrine does not exclude new developments; but these must be developments of the original teaching. We have thus a safeguard against extravagances. We are not to despise human helps; but it is well that we can all have the truth witnessed in our minds. Our teachers are not intended to see for us (which is the Roman Catholic idea), but to help us to see for ourselves.
VII. EXHORTATION IN ACCORDANCE WITH THEIR KNOWLEDGE, IN WHICH TRANSITION IS MADE TO A NEW SECTION. "And now, my little children, abide in him; that, if he shall be manifested, we may have boldness, and not he ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one also that doeth righteousness is begotten of him." In this hortatory part he addresses them, not as under his care, but rather as objects of his warm affection. They knew, as we have seen, how to abide in Christ; let them, then, abide in him. It was a great fact that Christ was to be manifested, i.e., in glory, though there was uncertainty as to the time of the manifestation. What was their relation to that manifestation? Were they prepared, the moment of its occurrence, to pass into his presence with boldness, and not "as a guilty thing surprised," to shrink with shame from him? They knew what was required. It was a requirement founded on what they knew God to he, viz. righteous. "The righteousness of God is the Divine attribute of an active nature, by virtue of which God wills and performs all things which are conformable to his eternal Law, prescribes suitable laws to his creatures, implements his premises made to man, rewards the good, and punishes the ungodly." The requirement, then (to which there is no exception), is doing righteousness, i.e., actively fulfilling our duties. The inner abiding in Christ must pass into the outer life of God-defined and God-like activity. Only thus can we show ourselves to be begotten of God—with which idea the new section begins - R.F.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 John 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany