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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
1 John 2

 

 

Verse 1

1 JOHN CHAPTER 2

1 John 2:1,2 Christ is our advocate with the Father, and a

propitiation for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:3-6 Rightly to know God is to keep his commandments,

1 John 2:7-11 the chief of which is, to love one another.

1 John 2:12-14 The apostle addresseth Christians of all ages severally,

1 John 2:15-17 and warneth them against an inordinate love of this world,

1 John 2:18,19 and against deceivers, who were many.

1 John 2:20-28 He showeth the means they had of knowing the truth,

and of distinguishing false teachers; and pointeth

out their obligation to abide in the truth which they

had been taught,

1 John 2:29 he that doeth righteousness is born of God.

He endeavours in this to steer them a middle course, that they might neither presume to sin, nor despair if they did; and bespeaks them with a compellation, importing both authority and love; well becoming him as then an aged person, an apostle, their teacher, and who was their most affectionate spiritual father. And lets them know, the first design of what he was now writing (had hitherto written, and was further to write) was: That they might to their uttermost avoid sinning at all: but adds, if, through human frailty, they did sin,

we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; implying our need of Christ for renewed as well as first pardon; and not of his death only, but continual intercession; and represents the advantages Christ hath for success in his interposing for us, in respect both of his relation to God as his Father, (which is put indefinitely,

the Father, that the consideration might not be excluded of his being our Father also), and his righteousness, by which he could not but be acceptable to him.


Verse 2

And he is the propitiation for our sins: the adding of these words, shows that our Lord grounds his intercession for pardon of sin unto penitent believers, upon his having made atonement for them before; and therefore that he doth not herein merely supplicate for favour, but (which is the proper business of an advocate) plead law and right; agreeably to what is said above, 1 John 1:9.

And not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world; nor is his undertaking herein limited to any select persons among believers, but he must be understood to be an Advocate for all, for whom he is effectually a Propitiation, i.e. for all that truly believe in him, {Romans 3:25} all the world over.


Verse 3

This faith is often in the Holy Scripture signified by the name of knowledge, Isaiah 53:11 John 17:3, viz. an appropriative, transformative knowledge, by which we own and accept God in Christ, as ours, (expressed also by acknowledgment, epignwsiv, Ephesians 1:17 Colossians 2:2), and are changed into his likeness, 2 Corinthians 3:18. The meaning then is: That we perceive, or discern ourselves to be sincere believers, and consequently that Christ is both our Propitiation and Advocate, when it is become habitual and easy to us to obey his commandments.


Verse 4

A liar; a false, hypocritical pretender, as 1 John 1:6.


Verse 5

His faith worketh by love, Galatians 5:6; his love is

perfected, and attains its end in obedience, whereof it is the vital principle, 1 John 5:3 John 14:15. Such an efficacious governing knowledge of him, therefore, as, by the power of the love which it produces, subdues our souls to the obedience of him, is a certain proof to us of our union with him, 1 John 5:20, and relation to him.


Verse 6

And this proof we ought to give. For whereas our Lord Jesus Christ was not only our Lawgiver, but our pattern, and practised himself what he commanded us; if indeed we have an abiding, real union with him, we partake of his Spirit, Romans 8:9, which must be understood to work uniformly, and enable us

to walk (in the main of our course, according to our measure of that Spirit)

as he walked.


Verse 7

This commandment must be that which he insists on, 1 John 2:9-11, and which in different respects he calleth both old and new. Not new, he says, in opposition to their Gnostic seducers, to intimate he was not about to entertain them with vain novelties, as they did; all whose peculiar doctrines were no other than innovations upon true Christianity: but old, viz. a part of original Christianity, as it came pure first from our Lord Christ himself; the commandment, or word, which they had, or had heard, from the beginning. This phrase, from the beginning, being here put in conjunction with some act of theirs, ye had, or have heard, as also 2 John 2:5,6, shows it to intend a much later term of commencement than 1 John 1:1. Though also, considering them as Jews, whom he here writes to, it might run up as high as the law given by Moses; or, even as men, to the creation, and the first impression of the law of nature (whereof this was a very noble part) upon the heart of man.


Verse 8

Yet also he calls it a new commandment, as our Saviour did, John 13:34, upon the subjoined accounts.

Which thing is true; i.e. evident, or verified, fulfilled, exemplified.

In him; viz. in that new and high demonstration he had given of the sincerity and greatness of his own love, laying down his life for us, as John 15:13.

And in you; or, us, (as some read), i.e. the mind of God herein is by a new and fresh light most evidently and gloriously signified in or among you, (the subject being here collective and plural, admits this varied and very usual sense of the particle in), inasmuch as

the darkness is past; i.e. the heathenish ignorance that made the world barbarous; a darkness in which the furious lusts and passions of men are wont to rage, turning this earth into another hell, Psalms 74:20, is in a great measure vanished; and also the dark umbrage of the Judaic dispensation, (some read skia for skotia, not darkness, but shadow), in which the love of God to men was more obscurely represented, is past away and gone,

and the true light now shineth; the love and grace of God towards sinners (the pattern and argument of our mutual love to one another) shines with

true light, that is evident, in opposition to darkness, or immediately substantial, in opposition to type or shadow, as John 1:9,14,17: representing the gracious design of God, and his very nature, who is love, 1 John 4:8,16, with so bright and glorious beams as ought to transform us into his likeness; and which therefore render the mutual hatred of one another the most incongruous thing to us in the world. Whereupon he adds... {see 1 John 2:9}


Verse 9

To be in the light, signifies to be under the transforming, governing power of it, as the phrases import of being in the flesh, and in the Spirit, Romans 8:9, being expounded by walking after the flesh, and after the Spirit, 1 John 2:1. He therefore that

hateth his brother, a thing so contrary to the design of the gospel, whatever he pretends,

is still in darkness, @ under the power of the unregenerate principle of impure and malignant darkness: the gospel hath done him no good, is to him but an impotent and ineffectual light, in the midst whereof, by stiff winking, and an obstinate resistance, an exclusion of that pure and holy light, he creates to himself a dark and a hellish night.


Verse 10

His brother, put indefinitely, must be understood universally, i.e. he that loveth not this or that fellow Christian, upon some personal or private reason, but all, upon one and the same common and truly Christian account.

Abideth in the light; shows or doth demonstrate the settled, constant power, the regenerate, Divine principle hath over him.

And there is none occasion of stumbling in him; Greek, no scandal; no inconsistent thing, that ought to occasion him to judge otherwise of himself, or others to think otherwise of him.


Verse 11

Hath no principle to guide or govern him, but what is common to the unregenerate world, so that his whole life is a continual error; nor doth he understand or consider the tendency of his course, being still under the power of an affected darkness, that makes his eyes, or understanding, of no more use than if he were quite blind, or had none at all. So weighty and important is the precept which he had to lay down, 1 John 2:15, of not loving the world, &c., that he introduces it with the solemnity of a most pathetic preface, contained in these three following verses, wherein he applies himself severally to the distinct orders and ranks into which Christians were capable of being reduced, the matter being of common and equal concernment to all of them. And he speaks suitably to the condition and state of each, such things as whereby he might most effectually insinuate with them, and oblige them deeply to consider what he had to say; doubling also his application to each of them, out of the earnestness of his intention and endeavour to fasten the exhortation upon them which was to follow.


Verse 12

He here uses an appellation before {1 John 2:1} applied to all in common, being put alone; but being now set in contradistinction to others, must be understood to intend a distinct rank of Christians, viz. those more newly entered into the Christian state; and to them he suggests the free remission of their sins

for his name’s sake, i.e. for his own sake, as the reason why they should, out of ingenuity, and a new, recent sense of God’s mercy towards them, comply with his holy pleasure in the following precept. The remission of their sins being a first and most early privilege with them, that commenced from the beginning of their sincere Christianity, and which was sealed to them in their late baptism, it is the more fitly mentioned to this first rank of Christians.


Verse 13

Unto fathers, because to such belong much experience, and the knowledge of ancient things, he ascribeth the knowledge of

him who is the Ancient of days, from the beginning, and than whom none is more ancient, and whom they should be supposed so well to know by their long continued course in religion, as fully to understand his good and acceptable will, what would be pleasing and what displeasing to him.

I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one: to such as were in the flower of their strength and age in Christianity, he attributeth victory; to whom therefore it would be inglorious to slur the honour of that noble conquest they had gained over

the wicked one, the god of this world, as he is elsewhere called, 2 Corinthians 4:4, by suffering themselves again to be entangled in its snares and bands. His method is, we see, to place this order of Christians last, as a middle state, which he would have us conceive afterwards to be interposed between the other two; which method we find he observes in going over them again the second time.

I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father: he again first begins with his little children, whom he now bespeaks by another compellation in the Greek, (before teknia, now paidia), importing no material difference, except this latter signify more capacity of instruction; and he now also gives them another character, which implies so much, that he not only considers them as the passive subjects of a privilege, remission of sins, which they were capable of in the first moment of their being born into the Christian state, (as the word teknia, above, seems to intimate), but as being able to use their understanding, and consider whose children they were,

because ye have known the Father; before said also of the eldest sort of Christians; but he is there mentioned by a description more suitable to their more aged state; and therefore the knowledge ascribed to the one, and to the other, though the same in kind, must, in respect of degrees, be accommodately understood.


Verse 14

To the former sort he only repeateth what he had said before, supposing their greater wisdom to need no more; (see L. Brugens. Not. in Bibl. Sacr. of the insertion of this clause); only the repetition importeth his earnest desire they would again and again consider it. The other he also puts in mind of their active strength and vigour, and of the rootedness which the gospel must now be supposed to have in them, whereby they were enabled to

overcome the wicked one. And by all which endowments they were all both enabled and obliged to comport the better with the following precept, and its enforcements.


Verse 15

What he here means by the forbidden object of our love, must be gathered from his own explication, 1 John 2:16. The love itself forbidden, in reference thereto, is that excess thereof, whereby any adhere to terrene things, as their best good; wherewith, as he adds, any sincere love to God is inconsistent, as Matthew 6:24 Luke 14:3: a consideration so awful and tremendous, that it is not strange the precept it enforces should have so solemn and urgent an introduction.


Verse 16

Here he explains his meaning, what, under the name of

the world, and the things of it, we are not to love, or under what notion we ought not to love it, viz. the world as it contains the objects and nutriment of these mentioned lusts; either more grossly sensual, called the lust of the flesh, viz. of gluttony, drunkenness, whoredom, &c. Romans 13:13,14; or that which is excited more immediately by the fancy, unto which the eye especially ministereth, the excessive appetite of much wealth, and great possessions; which the eye is therefore said to desire, and not to be satisfied with, Ecclesiastes 2:8-10, and Ecclesiastes 4:8; called therefore the lust of the eyes. And again, the ambitious affectation of the pomp and glory of the world, vain applause, the unmerited and overvalued praise and observance of other men, with power over them, affected for undue ends, or only with a self-exalting design, meant by

the pride of life, forbidden by our Saviour to his disciples, Matthew 20:25,26. This triple distribution some observe to have been before used by some of the ancient learned Jews, and imitated by certain of the more refilled heathens; whence, as being formerly known and understood, the apostle might be induced to make use of it. And these lusts are therefore argued to be inconsistent with the love of the Father, as not being of him, but

of the world; not from the Divine Spirit, but the spirit of the world.


Verse 17

He sets the difference in view, of living according to the common genius, will, or inclination of the world, (which is lust), and according to the Divine will, that he who unites himself in his will and desire with the former, which vanishes, (objects and appetite altogether), must (which is implied) perish therewith; but he that unites himself with the supreme eternal good, by a will that is guided by and conformed to the Divine will,

abideth for ever, partakes a felicity coeternal with the object and rule upon which his heart was set, and which it was guided by.


Verse 18

The last time; the time here referred to seems to be the destruction of Jerusalem, and the finishing of the Jewish state, both civil and ecclesiastical. In the Greek, the last hour, the approaching period of Daniel’s seventy weeks, as Mr. Mede understands it, in his Apostacy of the Later Times. Whereas therefore it was now a known and expected thing among Christians, that the eminent

antichrist, or antichristian state, (expressly foretold, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17), was to come, or take place; therefore the apostle says, ye, i.e. the generality of Christians,

have heard so much. So he says,

even now, as the forerunners of that eminent one,

are there many antichrists, ( foretold also by our Saviour, Matthew 24:5,24), viz. noted heretics and seducers then in being: not such falsely assuming vicarious Christs, as only pretended to do that part which the Jews expected from their Messiah, the delivering them from the Roman tyranny, and so set up to be merely civil or secular Christs, having themselves never been Christians, but such as had revolted from Christianity, and now laboured fundamentally to subvert it, denying Christ to be come in the flesh, 1 John 2:22 2 John 1:7; having been before professed Christians, as appears by the following words.


Verse 19

If they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: sincere and living Christians are so strongly held in with Christ, and the truly Christian community, by a union and bond of life, and by sense of pleasures which thereupon they find in that holy communion, with the expectation which their lively faith gives them of eternal life at last, that there is no doubt of their continuance.

But they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us: others, that are Christians upon external inducements, alter, as these do, and are permitted to do so, that the difference may appear between true and counterfeit ones, 1 Corinthians 11:19.


Verse 20

See Poole on "1 John 2:27".


Verse 21

He prudently intimates his confidence concerning them, together with the pleasure he himself took (as any one would) in communicating the sentiments of holy truth to prepared, receptive minds; implying also, that any part of false doctrine doth so ill match and square with the frame of Divine truth, that judicious Christians may discern they are not of a piece.


Verse 22

Especially may the ill accord be discerned between Divine truth and a lie, when the lie is so directly levelled against the foundations upon which the whole fabric is built, as the denying Jesus to be the Christ strikes at all. And though he that doth so, seems not only an

antichrist as directing his opposition but against Christ, he really as much

denieth the Father, who testified of him.


Verse 23

To have the Father and the Son, is, by faith, love, and obedience, vitally to adhere to the one and the other. The latter part of this verse, though it be not in the ordinary Greek copies, is in some of the versions, and said to be in some Greek manuscripts also, whence it is supplied very agreeably to the apostle’s scope, and usual way of writing.


Verse 24

He only exhorts them to persevere in that faith which they at first received, whereby their union with God in Christ would be preserved entire.


Verse 25

Which perseverance they are highly encouraged to by the promise of so great a thing as eternal life at length.


Verse 26

So much he thought requisite to be said, in respect of their danger by seducers, though their safety was principally to depend upon what he next mentions... See Poole on "1 John 2:27".


Verse 27

But the anointing which ye have received: it is evident, that the ancient anointing of persons to some eminent office, was not a mere empty rite of investiture, or authorization, but also a symbol of their qualification by another Spirit then coming upon them. Whereupon our Lord Jesus was eminently the Christ, or anointed One, not only as denoting his solemn investiture with the sacred offices of King, Priest, and Prophet, which were all wont to be entered into by unction; but as signifying also his receiving the Spirit, (not by measure), by which he was most perfectly qualified for them. And whereas he is also said to have made those that believe on him, in a far inferior sense, kings and priests to his Father; to them also he imparts of the same Spirit, Romans 8:9, whence they are said to be anointed too, 2 Corinthians 1:21,22. And hence, as is here said, and 1 John 2:27, they do not need, & c.

Ye need not that any man teach you; not as if they had absolutely no need at all of human teaching, for the apostle supposes not himself to be now doing a vain or needless thing; but that they had less need, having the internal principles of light and life in them, they were in a great measure capable of steering their own course. They had in themselves a living, ingrafted word, enabling them to teach and commune with themselves, as Deuteronomy 30:11,12 Ro 10:7-9. Hereupon their own reins could instruct them, Psalms 16:7. Or, they could instruct themselves, eautouv, as that may be read, Colossians 3:16, the word of Christ dwelling richly in them. Therefore they did not so need to be taught, as those that know not the first principles of the oracles of God.

Teacheth you of all things; i.e. all such necessary and essential things to the life and being of Christianity, of which sort that doctrine concerning the Messiah was, which he was now speaking of; not all things simply, for that had been to attribute to them far higher knowledge than he could pretend to himself, even that which was peculiar to God only. Nor was that knowledge which they had of those necessary things to be thought the effect of an immediate inspiration, but such as by ordinary external means they had already learned, but made vital and efficacious by the special sanctifying influence and operation of the Holy Ghost; who having begotten in them a correspondent impress to those great truths which are after godliness, formed the new creature in them, which is begotten of the word of truth, had made them capable of dijudication, or of distinguishing by a spiritual sense, Philippians 1:9,10, between things that were grateful, suitable, and nutritive to the life of the new creature in them, and such things as were noxious and offensive. Whereas, in reference to things more remote from the vitals of religion and godliness, none can assure themselves of such a privilege. And as to these, they are to expect it in the way of their own sincere and diligent endeavours and prayers, as the effect of the habit of grace, maintained and kept up in life and vigour; and a reward of their sincere resignation and subjection of heart and soul to the governing power of truth, so far as it should be understood and known of them, according to that of our Saviour, John 7:17: If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, & c. And thus they might certainly keep their station, and

abide in him; unto which they are therefore exhorted.


Verse 28

He condescendingly includes himself with them, that we may have confidence; intimating, for their encouragement, the common mutual joy they should have together at Christ’s appearance; he, that he had not been wanting in his endeavours that they might persevere; and they, that they had persevered; which is implied in the menace of the contrary, upon the contrary supposition.


Verse 29

Lest he should be thought only solicitous to preserve among them the right notions of the Christian docrine, as if that alone would suffice them for their salvation and blessedness, (which was the conceit of the Gnostics, touching their own notions, that the entertaining of them would save men, whatsoever men they were, or howsoever they lived), he subjoins this serious monition:

If ye know, & c., intimating, that whatsoever they had of the knowledge of God would avail them nothing, if, whereas

he is righteous, they were not transformed by it into his likeness, and enabled thereby to

do righteousness, which alone would evidence their Divine birth, since God hath no children destitute of his image, or who resemble him not.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 John 2:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-john-2.html. 1685.

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Saturday, December 14th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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