I John 2



Walking in the light involves accepting the propitiation (appeasement) wrought through

Jesus Christ the Righteous.  The connection with the preceding is close. We have just


            (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 “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.

And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus

Christ the righteous:  My little children; or, perhaps, my dear children; or,

simply, my children. The diminutive τεκνία -  teknialittle children - 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 John adopted it (vs. 12, 28; ch.3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21). In Galatians 4:19 

the reading is doubtful.  As distinct from παιδία paidialittle children; little

boys and girls -  (ch. 2:13, 18), the word  seems to imply spiritual fatherhood.

These things (the section, ch. 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:


Ø      you must walk in light;

Ø      you must confess that you sin.


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 - kai  as and yet -

a frequent use in John. There are two seemingly opposite truths:


Ø      sin is wholly alien from the Christian, and

Ø      the Christian is never wholly free from sin;


and John struggles to give them their right balance, not in the dialectical manner

of 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

echomenwe have; we are having - as of the sin (ch. 1:8). Every one

feels that “a Comforter with the Father” is an impossible rendering. But

John alone uses the word ΠαράκλητοςParaklaetosComforter; Consoler –

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 -

allos Paraklaetosanother Comforter -  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 ΛόγοςLogos – Word.. 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

pros ton Paterawith (toward) the Father – 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

 dikaionrighteous; just one -  is the set-off to ἐάν τις ἁμάρτῃ - ean tis hamartae

 if any man sin.  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!”


2 “And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but

also for the sins of the whole world.”  And He (not quia nor enim, but

idemque ille) is a Propitiation for our sins. Ἱλασμός hilasmospropitiation –

occurs here and chapter 4:10 only in the New Testament. Paul’s word is καταλλαγή -

katallagaeatonement -  (Romans 5:11; 11:15; II  Corinthians 5:18-19). They are

not equivalents; Ἱλασμός has reference to the one party to be propitiated, καταλλαγή

to the two parties to be reconciled. ἈπολύτρωσιςApolutrosisredemption;

deliverance - 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 (propitiation) does not necessarily include the idea of sacrifice,

yet the use  of the word in the Septuagint, and of ἱλάσκεσθαιhilaskesthaito

be propitiating - (Hebrews 2:17) and ἱλαστήριον hilastraerionpropitiation –

 (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:5 [propitiatory shelter; mercy seat) in the New Testament,

points to the expiation wrought by the great High Priest by the sacrifice of Himself.

It is Ἱλασμός (propitiation)  and not ἱλαστήρhilastaerpropitiator -  because the

prominent fact is Christ as an Offering rather than as One who offers. With the

περί - perifor -  compare John 8:46; 10:33; 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, 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!




God’s Remedy for Sin (vs.1-2)


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, yet

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 v. 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.


·         WHAT IS THIS DIVINE REMEDY FOR SIN? Here the apostle gives

us three steps, each succeeding one an advance on the former. 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: His work is

represented here as twofold.


Ø      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. 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

                        (propitiation).  Nor should we confine ourselves to the thought that

                        something that Christ did was the propitiation. He is the Propitiation.

                        καί αὐτός ἱλασμός ἐστιν kai autos hilasmos estinand He is the

                        propitiation - 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.


Ø      Jesus Christ the Righteous One is also an Advocate - Παράκλητος (see

      v. 2 - above)  Παράκλητοςparaklaetos is a verbal adjective and suggests

      the capability to give aid – thus the word “Paraclete” is one of wide

      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; here

      “Advocate.” Neither is inaccurate; both are 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, compare Hebrews ch.7. For

the contents of the pleading, see John 17.) 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?



Ø      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). He is not an Advocate

      who wishes to set aside the Law, but to carry it out and apply it.”



US? The action of the Saviour’s work is twofold.


Ø      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!”

                        (John 19:30)


Ø      Subjectively. In us — manward.


o       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.


o       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.


o       Penitence is awakened. A sense of blood-bought pardon soon

dissolves a heart of stone.


o       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.”  (Ephesians 5:2)


o       Then 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.


o       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!



                        Our Advocate and Propitiation (vs. 1-2)


“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. 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 (I Corinthians 4:14-15).

Probably many of those to whom John was writing were his spiritual



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:



            “These things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” The “these things” are the

            statements made in ch. 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, John writes, “These

            things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” 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 6:1-2). That the

            provisions of Divine grace for the pardon of sin afford no encouragement

            to its commission is proved by:


Ø      The object of Christ’s mediatorial work. To “save His people from their

                  sins.” (Matthew 1:21) “He appeared to, put away sin by the sacrifice of

                  Himself  (Hebrews 9:26 - compare Ephesians 1:4; 2:10; 5:25-27; Titus 2:14).


Ø      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.;  (Romans 8:32)

                   “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold,…

                   but with the precious blood of Christ,” etc. (I Peter 1:18-19)  Since

                   redemption from sin is so expensive a process, sin must be not a

                   trifling, but a terrible evil.


Ø      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.



            LIABILITY OF EVEN GOOD MEN TO SIN. “And if any man sin.”

            This liability arises from:


Ø      Our exposure to temptation. Sometimes we are confronted by our

                  adversary the devil, as a roaring lion.”  (I Peter 5:8)  But more

                   frequently are we in danger by reason of “the wiles of the devil.”

                   (Ephesians 6:11);  Satan fashioneth himself into an angel of light”

                   (II Corinthians 11:14),  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.


Ø      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:


o       by the history of good men, e.g.,

§         Noah,

§         Abraham,

§         Moses,

§         Aaron,

§         David,

§         Peter;

o       by our own experience.




            “And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,” etc.


Ø      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 favor, the stimulus and strength which we need.  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



Ø      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 honorable 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 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:


o       life and work,

o       sufferings and death,

o       resurrection,

o       ascension, and

o       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 chapter

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



(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

honored. 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” (Colossians 1:21) 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.” (II Corinthians 5:19)  The sacrifice of Christ is the supreme manifestation

of THE INFINITE LOVE OF GOD towards man (compare 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 Paul that Christ Jesus is “a Propitiation

through faith by His blood.”  (3:25) The true Christian idea of propitiation

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!”  (v. 2)  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



Vs. 3-6 - Walking in the light involves obedience.


3 “And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His

commandments.”  And herein we perceive that we know him, if we keep His

commandments (γινώσκομενginoskomen - we come to know, we recognize;

ἐγνώκαμενegnokamen -  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 15:24). 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 taeromen -  is meant keep the eye fixed upon,



4 “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar,

and the truth is not in him.”  The participial substantive λέγων – ho legon

he that saith, the one saying - now takes the place of ἐάν eanif ever -

with the subjunctive, but the two are equivalent (compare ch. 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). John says, μὴ τηρῶν mae taeronnot

keeping -  not, οὐ τηρῶν ou taeron -  the case being hypothetical — if there be

such a man, he is a liar, and has no idea of truth (see on ch.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 to know as the devils do,

who “believe and tremble.”  (James 2:19)


5 “But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God

perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him.”

Once more (compare ch.1:7, 9) the opposite is stated and the

thought carried further. But whoso keepeth His word (His doctrine as a

whole, including the separate commandments), 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 John ἀληθῶς alaethosverily; truly - is no

mere expletive; it expresses reality, and reality that is known. From v. 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 (compare ch. 4:11). The

context shows that τοῦ Θεοῦ ~ is objective — his love of God

rather than God’s love of him. The insertion of τοῦ Θεοῦ - tou Theouof the

God - here, and the drift of the Epistle thus far, are in favor of αὐτόν autonHim –

and αὐτοῦ -  autonof Him in verses 3-5 meaning God rather than Christ, although

αὐτός autos – He in v. 2 tells the other way. The last clause sums up and reaffirms,

but as usual with a new turn of thought, the whole section (vs. 3-5), which begins and

ends with ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν – en touto ginoskomenhereby know we; in this we

are knowing. 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 John publishes his Gospel (John 1:3-4).



            Verification Verified; or, Knowing that We Know God (vs. 3-5)


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,

or now, the twenty-first 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 (v. 3). How? Let us carefully follow

his tracks of thought.




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 (see 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.



UP BY THE APOSTLE IN TWO. The Lord Jesus summed up Old

Testament commands in two (Matthew 22:37-40). John sums up his

Saviour’s commands in two (ch. 3:23):


Ø      Believing in the Name of Jesus Christ, i.e., confiding in Him and

following Him.


Ø      Loving one another. How much stress the apostle lays on this we

shall have abundant occasion to see in after homilies.




THE SECRETS OF THE LOVE OF GOD. There are two phrases —

“Keeping his commandments,” and “keeping his Word;” the former

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

learned of Jesus. Jesus is the perfect copy of the invisible Father. Hence we

learn, practically, “God is love!”



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. (II Corinthians 5:17)  A

verification this of the glorious love of God, which brings with it a certitude

of unspeakable worth and matchless glory!



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.


Ø      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.



The True Knowledge of God and Its Infallible Proof. (vs. 3-5)


“And hereby we know that we know Him,” etc. We have in our text:



            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.”  (Matthew 5:8)  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.”  (ch. 4:7-8)  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:


Ø      truly,

Ø      savingly,

Ø      progressively, and

Ø      blessedly.



            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 - entolaecommandment - which

            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.  It is certain that “His Word” (v. 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 wilL as one whole. The word translated to keep - τηρεῖν taerein

            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.” (Romans 7:12)


Ø      This keeping is habitual. This is indicated by the use of the present

      tense in v. 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.”


Ø      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.” (ch. 4:19)  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, 21, 23-24; 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.


Ø      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 dishonor God and delude himself with the false

profession that he knows Him.


6 “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even

as He walked.”  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 - en auto – in Him to ἐκεῖνος ekeinosthat One –

confirms the view that αὐτόν and αὐτοῦ (as in v. 5) mean the Father; but

John’s use of ἐκεῖνος to recall with emphasis a previous subject (John 1:8, 18, 33;

5:11; 9:37; 10:1; 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 kathos - even as; according as  (not merely ὡς hos - 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).     



Great Professions Involve Great Obligations. (v. 6)


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.


·         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,


Ø      because no one ever sustained such a loving relation to the human soul

      as Christ sustains to it; and therefore


Ø      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


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




WALK. “He that saithought himself,” etc.


Ø      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

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.  (I Peter 2:21)  He stands historically at the head of the

human  race, its most heavenly Inspirer, its noblest Figure, its most

luminous Example.


Ø      Why ought the walk to be conjoined with the avowal? The word here

                        used is not δεῖ - dei -  denoting a “must” in the nature of things, but

                        ὀφείλειopheilei - ought, 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:


o       he owes it to himself to be consistent with his declaration.

o       he owes it to his Christian brethren with whom he is in Church


o       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,” (Titus 2:10) 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?  (Zechariah 13:6)  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 percent  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.



Christian Profession and Consequent Obligations.  (v.6)


“He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself,” etc.


·         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:


o       to know Him;

o       to be in Him; and

o       to abide in Him.


Ø      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 endeavors 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.


Ø      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.” (ch. 4:16)  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 (compare John 14:20-21, 23; 15:4; 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.



“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 ch. 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” (ch. 1:5, 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” (I 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 He walked is the obligation of every one who

professes to be in God. This includes:


Ø      Living after the example of Christ. “Learn of me;” (Matthew 11:29);

     “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 5:1-2).   Let us endeavor to act in our lives as our Saviour and

     Lord would act if He were in our place.


Ø      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  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 endeavor to prove the reality of our Christian profession

by treading in the footsteps of our perfect Exemplar.


The Negative side.  (vs. 7-28)   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 vs. 7-8 form an introduction, as chapter 1:5,7 to the

positive side.


Sin Supposed: Sin Dealt With  (vs. 1-6)


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;





Ø      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 chapter 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?” (John 8:46)

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 be 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.


Ø      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, if 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”?  (Luke 22:31-32)  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. (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25)  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.”  (John 14:16)  When we sin, then — which

is the experience of all believers in this life — this is the heavenly advocacy


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.”  (Hebrews 9:24)  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.”  (Romans 5:10)  “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.”  (Hebrews 7:25)  The latter

Scripture is sometimes quoted in the sense that, while there is life there is

hope; but, 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.


Ø      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. (Luke 18:1-5)  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?  (ibid. vs. 5-8)  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?


o       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



o       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 favorable. 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  (II Corinthians

5:19),  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 twenty 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 savor. 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.”  (v. 2)  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 praying 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,







Ø      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.


o       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.


o       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



Ø      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 He 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



7 “Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old

commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old

commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.”

Beloved; ἀγαπητοί - agapaetoibeloved -  not αδελφοί - adelphoibrothers;

brethren -  is the true reading.  Addresses of this kind commonly introduce a fresh

division of the subject, main or subordinate. Thus ἀγαπητοί  (ch. 4:1, 7); τεκνία

(little children - ch. 2:1); παιδία (little children; little boys and girls - ch.2:18);

ἀδελφοί (ch. 3:13).  Sometimes, however, they introduce an earnest conclusion

(2:28; 3:21; 5:21). In ch. 4:11 ἀγαπητοί (beloved) 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, - kainos -  fresh, as opposed to “worn out,”

“obsolete,” from νέοςneos - 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 15:12 will

incline us to the latter view. The command was old, for “Thou shalt love

thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 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” (ch.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 ap archaes

from the beginning - it spurious.


8 “Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in

Him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now

shineth.”  Again. The πάλιν palinagain - 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 ἐστιν ἀληθὲς  - ho estin alaethes - which is true;

which thing is true  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 neighbor might have remained old and

become obsolete. Ὅτι hoti -  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 ἀληθινόνto phos

to alaethinonthe light the true - 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;

compare John 1:4, 9; 6:32; 15:1). Christ is the perfect Light, as He is the perfect

Bread and the perfect Vine.


(Vs. 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 misein

is not to be watered down into “neglect” or “fail to love.” John knows

nothing of such compromises (as Christianity today – CY – 2015)  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.”  (Luke 11:23) “Love is the moral counterpart of intellectual light.

It is a modern fashion to represent these two tempers as necessarily opposed.

But 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


9 “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness

even until now.” He that saith. For the fifth time John points out a glaring

inconsistency which is possible between profession and fact (ἐὰν εἴπμενeav

eipmenif we say – ch. 1:6, 8, 10; λέγων – ho legon he that saithch. 2:4.9);

compare ch. 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?” (St.



10 “He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of

stumbling in him.”  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 stumblingσκάνδαλονskandalon

is in reference to himself or to others. The context here and John 11:9-10

are in favor 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  - proskoptgei hoti to phos oouk estin en auto – he is stumbling

because there is no light in him - 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 (compare 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 - en auto - may mean “in it,” i.e., “in the light there

is no occasion of stumbling.” This makes a good antithesis to the close of

v. 11, knoweth not whither he goeth.”


11 “But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in

darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness

hath blinded his eyes.”  Note the alternation: v. 10 is the antithesis of v.9, and

v. 11 of v. 10, repeating and enlarging v. 9. Note also the climax

effected by the gradual increase of predicates: in v. 9 one, in v. 10

two, in v. 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. Compare “They know not,

neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness” (Psalm 82:5);

“The fool walketh in darkness” (Ecclesiastes 2:14).  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.



The Commandment of Brotherly Love  (vs. 7-11)


·         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.


·         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 land 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.



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.”  (Matthew 7:21)

Let us demand from ourselves reality.



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.



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.



Living in Light and Love (vs. 9-11)


“He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother,” etc. Our text




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 neighbor, but the

members of the Christian community, those who by profession are

Christian brethren. We say, “by profession,” because it is clear that in

vs. 9 and 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 13:34-35). In this one thing, 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.



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.



SECURITY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. “There is none occasion of

stumbling in him.”


Ø      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 neighbor.”  (Romans 13:10)


Ø      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. (I Corinthians 13:4-7).




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. John mentions no middle condition between love of the brethren

and hatred of them. On the one side is God, on the other the world: here is

life, there is death (ch. 3:14): here love, there hate, i.e., murder (ibid. v.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.


Ø      Darkness of moral condition. He “is in the darkness” — in it as the

element of his moral life.


Ø      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.


Ø      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.


Ø      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 (compare John 9:41).


(Vs. 12-14) Before passing on to the second thing which walking in

the light excludes, viz. love of the world (vs. 15-17), the apostle twice

makes a threefold address, first stating why he writes γράφω grapho

I am writing - and secondly why he wrote ἔγραψα, - egrapsaI write – (v.14),

to the three classes named. This suggests several questions.


(1) What is the difference between “I write” (or, “am writing”) and “I

wrote” (or, “have written;” for this is a case where the English perfect may

represent the Greek aorist)? 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 ο{ 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” (vs.15-17); “to you, fathers”

(vs.18-27); “to you, young men” (vs. 28–3:22): “I wrote to you, children”

(ch.1:5-7); “to you, fathers” (ch. 1:8–2:2); “to you, young men” (here vs.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



(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 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



(d) “I am writing” is from 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 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 chapter 1:4).


(2) Who are indicated by the three classes? In the first triplet, τεκνία -  teknialittle

 children as elsewhere in the Epistle (vs. 1, 28; ch. 3:18; 4:4-5, 21), refers to

his readers as a whole, of whom πάτερες pateres -  fathers and νεανίσκοι

neaniskoiyouths; little children - are two component divisions. This is probably the

case in the second triplet also, although the change from τεκνία to παιδία (little

boys and girls) renders this a little doubtful (see on v. 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 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.



Love and Light.  (vs. 7-11)


Connecting link: The word “ought” (v. 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




CONSIDERED. These are fourfold.


Ø      The true Light is now shining. A reference to John 1:4-5 and 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.” (Genesis 5:24; 9:6)  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.”  (John 1: 9)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.  (Malachi 4:2)


Ø      Because of this the darkness is passing away (παράγεται paragetai

      is past; is passing by).  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. (II Corinthians 4:4)  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.


Ø      This being the case, additional force is given to human duty. (Note the

ὅτι  (that) in v. 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.


Ø      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.”  (John 13:34)



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.


Ø      “He who loves his brother abides in the light.” Both φιλανθρωπία

      philanthropiakindness – and φιλαδελφία philadelphiabrotherly

      love - would be included here. When both are learned of Christ the

pathway is light, and he who walks therein becomes “light in the Lord,”

(Ephesians 5:8) receiving and reflecting the radiance of the central Sun.


Ø      Consequently, he sees where he is going. “There is no occasion of

stumbling in him” (compare John 11:9-10).


Ø      This is an unvarying law, all profession to the contrary notwithstanding

(v. 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.


Ø      Such a walk in the darkness will issue in his losing the power of seeing.

“The darkness blinded his eyes” (compare Matthew 6:22-23;

II Corinthians 4:3-4). Fishes in underground rivers become blind. The

moral and spiritual eyesight may be TRIFLED WITH  till it is

DESTRITED,  if a proper use be not made of the light God has sent

 to us in Christ.


Ø      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


(Colossians 1:12)


12 “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you

for His name’s sake.”  I am writing to you, little children (see on v. 1), because,

etc. Beyond reasonable doubt, Ὅτι hoti  is “because,” not “that,” in vs. 12-14;

it gives the reason for his writing, not the substance of what he has to

say (compare  v. 21). For His Name’s sake must refer to Christ, not only

because of the context, but also of the instrumental διά - diathrough; because of –

(compare ch. 3:23; 5:13; John 1:12); and Christ’s Name means His character,

especially as Saviour. Because they have already partaken of the ἱλασμός -  hilasmos

propitiation (v. 2), and have had their sins washed away in the blood of Christ

(ch.1:7), therefore he writes to them this Epistle. Note the perfects

throughout, indicating the permanent result of past action: ἀφέωνταιapheontai  -

having been forgiven (here); ἐγνώκατεegnokateye have known (v. 13);

νενικήκατε nenikaekateye have overcome; conquered (v. 14)


13 “I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the

beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked

one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.” 

Because ye know (literally, have come to know, as in vs. 3-4) Him that is from the

beginning - τὸν ἀπ ἀρχῆς – ton ap archaes. The context respecting Christ’s Name and

η΅ν ἀπ ἀρχῆς  - ho haen ap archaeswhich was from the beginning (ch.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

ἀγγελίαangeliamessage - 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 (ch. 3:12; 5:18-19; John 12:31; 14:30; 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 (I have

written) must be preferred to γράφω (I am writing), on overwhelming evidence,

both external and internal. The second triplet begins here, and this sentence should

have been given to v. 14. It is difficult to determine what is meant by the change

from τεκνία -  teknia to παιδία. Tεκνία occurs once with μου moumy -  (v. 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. Pαιδία occurs in v. 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 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 (v. 12).


14 “I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is

from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because

ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have

overcome the wicked one.”  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 10:35

utterly forbid us from understanding λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ - ho logos tou Theou

the Word of the God -  of the “living Personal Lord” (compare John 17:6, 14, 17;

Revelation 1:9; 6:9; 20:4).



“Little Ones,” “Young Men,” and Fathers.”(vs. 12-14)


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.




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.  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.



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.


Ø      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



Ø      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!


Ø      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 learned

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.




DIRECTORY TO ALL. γράφωἔγραψα. “I am writing… I wrote.”

(For the varied possible hypotheses on these words, i.e. whether John

refers to a previous letter, etc., see Exposition) 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 (compare

Philippians 3:1; II Peter 3:1-2; here - v. 26).






Ø      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:


o       because their sins are forgiven; and

o       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. (I Peter 1:8)  A treasure indeed to start with.

They may well “sing in the ways of the Lord”  (Psalm 138:5),

hold on their way, and pass from more to more.


Ø      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 valor, 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 (Ephesians 6:15), sure to overcome

in the strength of the great Captain of salvation.


Ø      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

(Revelation 22:13),  as over  the creation of God, “the same yesterday,

and today, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8)  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:


o       the little ones,

o       manlier words for robust energy,

o       riper truths for those in the fullness of grace and knowledge.


ALL, all may go to the book!  It will give:


o       pictures for the child to look at,

o       a shield and sword which the warrior may wield, and

o       a pillow on which the aged and worn-out veteran may

      peacefully breathe his last.



Seasons of Life and Their Appropriate Spiritual Experiences  (vs. 12-14)


“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. 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




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

(little children) is employed seven times in this Epistle, and always as

comprehending the whole of his readers.


Ø      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 favor of God — “the love of God is shed abroad in

his heart by the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 5:5)  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.


Ø      The medium through which the blessing is obtained. “For His Name’s

sake.”  (Psalm 106:8)  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.”  (Romans 5:1)



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 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. (Is this not one of the biggest problems facing Americans

today?  No father in the home? – CY – 2015)  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.”

(Romans 8:15)  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




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.”


Ø      The possession of spiritual strength. “Ye are strong.” Strength should

characterize young manhood.


o       Strength of body is a good thing;

o       strength of mind is better;

o       strength of soul is best. Spiritual strength is the strength of


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

labor, 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 a 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. (John 15:5)  We can do all things in

Him that strengtheneth us.  (Philippians 4:13) “Therefore be strengthened

in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”  (II Timothy 2:1)


Ø      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 (compare

Psalm 119:162). It dwelt within them


o       as an illuminating force (compare Psalm 19:7; 119:105, 130;

Proverbs 6:23);

o       as a regulative force (compare Psalm 37:31; 119:1-11, 101).


Ø      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.” 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


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 compare ch. 5:18). Whatever conflict remains for

them afterwards, is with a BAFFLED and CONQUERED enemy!”



have written unto you, fathers, because ye know Him which is from the

beginning,” i.e., Jesus Christ (compare ch. 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.  (John 17:3)


Let each of these classes addressed by John seek to realize its own

appropriate experience.


(Vs. 15-17)  Walking in the light excludes all love of the world. This is another

form of darkness.


15 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any

man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  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 kosmos -  in the New Testament. Connected with κόμεινkomein - and

comere, it means:  


(1) ornament (I 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 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 honor, still less such

as scenery or physical objects. 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 John forbids. With τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ - ta en to kosmothings in

the world - compare τί η΅ν ἐν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ - ti aen en to anthropo - what was in

man -  (John 2:25).   Note the μηδέ - maedenor yet  (not μήτε maete),

“Love not the world; no, nor any of its ways.” As so often, 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.” (Luke 16:13)  Some important authorities

have τοῦ Θεοῦ (God) for τοῦ Πατρός (the Father)-  the balance is decidedly

for the latter.                                                                                         


16 “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the

eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

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

(the things in the world) 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  — curiosity, covetousness,

etc. (compare “the lusts of their hearts,” “the lusts of your body,” Romans

1:24; 6:12). In the world of John’s day the impure and brutal spectacles

of the theater and the arena would supply abundant illustrations of these

ἐπιθυμίαιepithumiailust; desire.   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 neighbors. In Greek philosophy

βίος – bios – life -  is higher than ζωή  - zoae - life:  βίος is the life peculiar to man;

ζωή is the vital principle which he shares with brutes and vegetables, In the New

Testament ζωή is higher than βίος:   βίος is the life peculiar to man; ζωή is the

vital principle which he shares with God. Contrast βίος here; ch.3:17;

Luke 8:14, 43; 15:12, 30, etc., with ζωή in ch.1:1-2; 3:14; 5:11-12, 16;

John 1:4; 3:36; 5:24, 26, etc. βίος occurs only ten times in the New

Testament (in I 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

John as types 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.


17 “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will

of God abideth for ever.”  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. 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. 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 menei eis ton aionaabideth for

ever; is remaining unto the eon). The notion of endlessness is, perhaps, not

distinctly included; for that we should rather have had εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν,

αἰώνωνeis tous aionas ton, aiononinto the eons of the eons - (Revelation 1:18;

11:15; 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., αἰὼν οῦτος ho aion

outosthis eon (Luke 16:8; Romans 12:2; I Corinthians 1:20), νῦν αἰών

ho nun aioncurrent eon  (I Timothy 6:17; II Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:12),

as opposed to αἰὼν ἐκεῖνος, - ho aion ekeinosof the eon that  (Luke 20:35),

αἰὼνἐρχόμενος – ho aion ho erchomenosthe eon to come  (Luke 18:30),

μέλλων – ho mellonthe one impending (Ephesians 1:21), and very frequently,

as here and throughout  John’s Gospel and Epistles, simply αἰών – ho aion

the eon. In Revelation the invariable expression is εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων

(into eons of eons), 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




The Great Danger of Christians (vs. 12-17)


·         HOW ADDRESSED.

Ø      First time,

o       Generally.  “I write unto you, my little children, because your sins

      are forgiven you for His name’s sake.”  In accordance with v. 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 favor. 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.


o       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.


o       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 Christ’s 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.

Ø      Second  time.


o       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 v. 12. 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”  (John 21:15); 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 endeavoring 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.


o       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.  (Genesis 3)


o       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. (Matthew 4:1-11)  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, and

§         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.


·         HOW WARNED.


Ø      Worldliness forbidden.  “Love not the world, neither the things that are

            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.”


Ø      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



Ø      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 seat; “the

eyespoint 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.


Ø      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). 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


o       to do the will of God, i.e.,

o       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.”  (Hebrews 13:8)




            Love of the World Forbidden. (vs. 15-17)


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.


·         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 (Psalm 96:10). Sometimes the race of people thereon (John 3:16).

Sometimes the outer form of things (I 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.


Ø      The lust of the flesh. The vain indulgence and pampering of the fleshly

nature. If, e.g., we either eat or 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



Ø      The lust of the eyes. The fondness for glitter, glare, and show. The

inordinate love of sight-seeing, etc.


Ø      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:


o       There is 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.


o       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.


o       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 strifes, 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.





Ø      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.


Ø      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.


Ø      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.


Ø      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.


Ø      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:


o       in the Word,

o       by the openings of Providence, and

o       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. (Romans 14:8)  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.”  (Philippians 1:20-21)  A beloved and honored 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.”




An Apostolic Prohibition, and the Reason Thereof. (vs. 15-17)


“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:


·         THE APOSTOLIC PROHIBITION. “Love not the world, neither the

things that are in the world.”


Ø      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. (Psalm 19:1-6). The light is the garment in which He

robes Himself (Psalm 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:


o       much that is vast and sublime to awe us,

o       much that is beautiful to delight us,

o       much that is bountiful to supply our needs, and

o       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!


Ø      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.


Ø      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” John does not mean the material, but the moral world, the

heathen world. In his view 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 ‘color’ 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 MESS 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, (porn stars) 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; 27:20; Ecclesiastes 4:8; 5:10;

Luke 14:18-19. Probably there is also a reference to the feeling of hatred

and the desire of revenge, as indicated in Psalm 17:11; 54:7; 91:8; 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,

(cars) and rich and fashionable dresses; the effort to give luxurious

parties and splendid entertainments, and to outshine our neighbors in

our mode of life (all the while going into great debt). These things are of

the world, worldly; and these things Christians are exhorted not to love.


·         THE REASON OF THIS PROHIBITION. The reason, is twofold.


Ø      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.


Ø      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 PERMANANCE!   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. (“to be carnally minded is death!”

Romans 8:6)  The things which many so eagerly desire and pursue, the

pleasures and riches, the honors 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 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….my

Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode

with him.” (John 14:15,23)  (Is He living in us  today? – CY – 2015)  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.” (ibid. v. 19)

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.


18 “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that

antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby

we know that it is the last time.”  Children παιδία here must apply to all those

addressed in the Epistle; and this helps to fix the meaning in v. 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 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 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 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 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 - tachu - quickly. 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,” 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”  (II Peter 3:8)

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


AGAIN!   When He ascended to heaven the last hour sounded. There may

follow a silence (as it seemed to John) about the space of half an hour (Revelation

8:1), but (as human experience may prove) 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 ἐρχόμενος – ho erchomenos

one who comes – My translation – CY – 2015). This was the teaching of the gospel

(Matthew 24:5, 11, 23-26; Mark 13:22-23; compare Acts 20:29; II Timothy 3:1;

II Peter 2:1). What does John mean by ἀντίχριστος antichristos - antichrist?

The four passages (ch.2:18, 22; 4:3; II 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 antibasileus (anti-king ? – my translation – CY – 2015) and

ἀνθύπατος anthupatosdeptuty -  it would mean “vice-Christ, vicar of Christ.”

It is, however, analogous to ἀντίθεοςantitheos(anti-God ? – my

translation - and ἀντιφιλόσοφος antiphilosophosanti-philosophy - anti-policy;

?? – my translation – CY – 2015) and the Greek for a counterfeit Christ is , 

ψευδόχριστος pseudochristosfalse Christ -  (Matthew 24:24). But  , 

ψευδόχριστος 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 John and Paul (II Thessalonians 2:1-8).

The Jews expected a personal opponent of the Messiah to precede the Messiah —

Armillus, Gog, Antiochus Epiphanes, and the like (Ezekiel chps. 38 and 39;

Daniel 7:25; 8:25; 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 John in the New Testament. By the ἀντίχριστοι πολλοί  - antichristoi

polloi – antichrists many - 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” (St. Augustine).



A Last Hour; or, The Divine Enclosure of Revealed Time (v. 18)


Connecting link: “The world is passing away,” wrote the apostle (v.17), and now

he proceeds to repeat and re-impress this fact upon his readers in two additional



(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

not having an article.) Here are two homiletic studies of the profoundest interest:


(a)    one on the time-arrangements of the Divine dispensations;

(b)   the other on antichrist.


The first only do we now note; our topic — The Divine enclosure of revealed





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” (I 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 endeavor 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:


Ø      “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; 30:24; 48:47; 49:39; Ezekiel 38:16;

      Hosea 3:5; Joel 2:28; 3:1; Micah 4:1).


In the New Testament we have the phrases:


Ø      “mine hour” (John 2:4);

Ø      “His hour” (John 13:1; 8:20; 7:30);

Ø      “the hour” (John 17:1; 12:23; 4:21, 23;  5:28; 16:4, 25, 32);

Ø      “this hour” (John 12:27);

Ø      “your hour” (Luke 22:53);

Ø      “times or seasons” (Acts 1:7);

Ø      “forty-two months” (Revelation 11:2);

Ø      “three days and a half” (Revelation 11:11);

Ø      “time, and times, and half a time”  (Revelation 12:14; compare

      Daniel 7:25; 12:7, 11-12);

Ø      “these last times” (I Peter 1:20);

Ø      “these last days” (Hebrews 1:2);

Ø      “the last days” (Acts 2:17; II Timothy 3:1; II Peter 3:3; Jude 1:18;

      James 5:3);

Ø      “the last day” (John 6:39, 44, 54; 12:48);

Ø      “the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10);

Ø      “the day of the Lord” (I Thessalonians 5:2; Acts 2:20);

Ø      “that day” (Matthew 24:36; 7:22; II Timothy 1:12, 18);

Ø      “the last time” (I Peter 1:5);

Ø      “the end” (Matthew 24:14; 13:39; 28:20; I Corinthians 15:24);

Ø      “the fullness of times” (Ephesians 1:10);

Ø      “the age to come” (Hebrews 2:5; Ephesians 1:21);

Ø      the ages” (Hebrews 1:2; 11:3);

Ø      “ages of ages” (Revelation 14:11);

Ø      “all the ages” (Psalm 145:13 [Septuagint]; Jude 1:25 [Greek]);

Ø      “all the generations of the age of the ages” (Ephesians 3:21).


The conception, taken 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





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.



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




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. Th