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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

1 John 2

 

 

Verse 1

OUR ADVOCATE

‘If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’

1 John 2:1

In the great Arbitration between God and man, Jesus, being God, lays His hand on God, and Jesus, being Man, lays His hand on every believing man, and brings them together in peace.

I. Christ is an authoritative Advocate.—‘All power,’ He said, ‘is given unto Me in heaven and in earth’ (St. Matthew 28:18). You notice the four ‘alls’—‘all power,’ ‘all nations,’ ‘all things,’ ‘all the days.’ But the first ‘all’ is the most important; without that the other three would be useless.

II. Christ is a never-ceasing Advocate.—‘He ever liveth to make intercession’ (Hebrews 7:25). I very much admire those lines in the Christian Year

What, fallen again? Yet cheerful rise,

Thine Intercessor never dies.

III. Christ is a compassionate Advocate.—Christ’s was Divine compassion, Christ’s was Divine pity. Christ is more pitiful and more compassionate even than His Blessed Mother, because the pity and compassion of God are greater than the pity and compassion of man.

IV. Christ is a successful Advocate.—The greatest of human advocates have been unsuccessful and lost their cases, but Christ never. Ask from one end of heaven to the other and you will find that He has never failed. The Great Advocate has ‘gone before’ to plead for and to prepare for His people.

—Rev. F. Harper.


Verse 1-2

COMFORTABLE WORDS

‘If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins.’

1 John 2:1-2

‘Hear also what St. John saith.’ So our text is introduced to us as one of the Comfortable Words of our Communion service. It brings to our minds the sinner, the Father, and the Saviour.

I. The sinner.—‘If any man sin.’ This, then, is clearly a message for you and for me. St. John, the Apostle of Love, is not one whit behind the other Apostles in bringing before us the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and also its universality. ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.’

II. The Father.—It is the presence of sin in our hearts which has come between us and God.

(a) We know that God is love; but that is only one attribute of the Divine character.

(b) God is holy, and His holiness is such that He cannot bear to behold iniquity.

(c) Moreover, God is just, and His justice demanded that sin must be punished.

III. The Saviour.—But St. John tells us in this beautiful text how God’s love, and holiness, and justice all meet in Jesus Christ.

(a) He is our Advocate (all our prayers are offered through Him).

(b) His very name, Jesus, means that He is our Saviour.

(c) He is also Christ (the Anointed of God).

(d) The Righteous (for He knew no sin).

And all these characteristics fit Him to be the propitiation for our sins.

Illustration

‘We need to remember, as Bishop Moule of Durham writes, that “the first and direct regard of the Atoning Sacrifice is not towards man, but towards God. It aims, indeed, with Divine precision, by a short, sublime circuit of love and blessing, at man’s heart; showing man not by word only, but by unspeakably moving deed, what God would do, I dare to say what God would suffer, for his salvation. But the direct aspect of the sacrifice is towards God, as violated Holiness. It is such as to set God’s love free along the line of His law; ‘that He may be just and the Justifier,’ the Accepter, of the sinner who closes with Him. He Who is the propitiation is, as such, our ‘Advocate towards the Father’ (1 John 2:1). The notion of ‘reconciliation,’ in the diction of the Bible, looks probably in this direction. ‘Be ye reconciled to God,’ interpreted by non-theological passages where kindred phraseology is used as between man and man (see 1 Samuel 29:4; and compare Pearson, p. 365), means not, ‘Bring your wills to meet half-way a Father cruelly misunderstood and purely indulgent’; but, ‘Hasten while you may to claim the amnesty of the Atonement at the feet of your holy King.’ Not for one moment does the Bible allow us so to mistake this aspect of the Atonement as to dream of a fierce and hostile Deity wishing to condemn but bought off by the woes of a sinless Victim. It is the Father Himself Who finds the ransom, Who gives His Beloved, Who lays on Him the iniquity of us all. From the infinite recess of paternal love comes forth the Lamb that is to be slain. But then the Lamb bleeds on an altar that looks toward the dread shrine of that awful Holiness which means the eternal moral order personal in God. Jesus Christ crucified is the Gift of God as love, that we may stand scatheless, welcomed, adopted, beloved, before God as fire.’”


Verse 2

PROPITIATION

‘He is the propitiation for our sins.’

1 John 2:2

The propitiation made by our Lord Jesus Christ lies at the foundation of the whole system of Christianity, so that a weakness there involves a weakness everywhere, and if there is any undermining of this great foundation fact it is time that we should very seriously consider the words of the psalmist, ‘If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?’

There are three great truths to be for ever written on our memories and hearts:—

I. The Divine propitiation is complete.—The whole, and every part, is completed for ever. In the typical sacrifices there were two parts in each typical propitiation—the death of the substitute, and the offering, or presentation, of the blood before one of the altars or the mercy-seat. The atonement was not completed by the death alone, but it was necessary that the death should be followed up by the presentation of the blood. Now, in the Divine propitiation both parts have been completed. The one sacrifice has been once offered, and the whole is finished. The blood was shed on Calvary, and sprinkled or presented, when, ‘by His own blood, He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.’

II. The Divine propitiation is final.—If there were the possibility of any repetition there is no room left for it. Do we not read (Hebrews 10:18): ‘Where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin’? If, therefore, remission is granted according to the covenant of God, if we are enjoying His promise, ‘their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more,’ and if, according to 1 John 2:14, ‘by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,’ what place is there for any further propitiatory offering of any kind whatever? Who can whiten that which is already white as snow? Who can perfect that which God Himself has already perfected? Who can by any means whatever either repeat, or continue, or perpetuate an offering which God Himself has pronounced to be once for all, as in the words (Hebrews 10:12): ‘But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God’?

III. The Divine propitiation is sufficient.—By this I mean that it is so complete and perfect in the covenant of God that those who are saved by it are made partakers of a complete reconciliation. There are many persons who appear to be satisfied with what I may call a partial reconciliation. They hope they are not in the position of an altogether unforgiven sinner, but still they dare not accept the position of one whose every sin has been blotted out, and to whom there is no barrier in the way of a full, free, unfettered enjoyment of the love of God. There is nothing of this half-and-half character in our heavenly Father’s provision for us. ‘His love unknown has broken every barrier down.’ When our blessed Saviour took on Himself the burden of our sin He took the whole; and when He paid the price He paid the whole. He did not leave His work half done. So the whole is taken out of the way, being nailed to His cross, and there is no barrier left between the restored sinner and the Father in heaven. The veil of separation has been rent from the top to the bottom, and as the curse of all sin has been completely and for ever borne, it is the privilege of every soul that is in Christ Jesus to approach the mercy-seat of our most holy God with the same peaceful, loving, filial trust that he would have felt if he had never known sin. Thus it is that we may realise the words of St. John: ‘Because as He is, so are we in this world.’

Rev. Canon Edward Hoare.

Illustration

‘When Absalom returned from Geshur he remained three years at Jerusalem without being permitted to see his father’s face. In his case there was only a partial restoration. David could not see his way to a complete relaxation of law, for nothing had been done to satisfy it, so he adopted a compromise which satisfied neither love nor law. He allowed Absalom to return to Jerusalem, but did not allow him to see his face. Now the position of Absalom when he returned to Jerusalem was very much that of a multitude of those who have not practically received the blessed truth of a complete, final, and sufficient propitiation. They are not as he was when in Geshur, for they are in the midst of religious life as he was in Jerusalem, but they are not fully restored, they have not seen the face of the King, and their Father has not kissed them. The result is that their religion is one of little more than anxiety, and they begin to think that it was almost better with them when they were altogether in the world. But this is not the result of an all-sufficient Divine propitiation.’


Verse 15

WHAT IS ‘THE WORLD’?

‘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.’

1 John 2:15

The ‘world’ here is some kind of moral order which corresponds to the ‘far country’ described in the parable of the Prodigal Son—that country where God is not obeyed, is not cared for, perhaps is not even recognised; but which is under the influence and rule of another, and an antagonistic, power.

I. The World in the Church.—Does any one say to me, ‘I, for instance, have had no experience of this opposing force—this system of antagonism—this realm, in which God is not to be found. Indeed, I question altogether the existence of such a thing as this within the borders of the Christian Church’? Well, we have only to make the experiment for ourselves. The man who is floating in a boat down a stream is incredulous when you warn him of the force of the current; and it is only when he turns his boat’s head round and endeavours to make his way upward to the spot from which the waters flow that he can be persuaded to believe in the truth of what you affirm. And it is just so in spiritual things. Content yourself with outward form; let your religion be merely superficial; multiply your ceremonies if you please, but let your heart be unchanged—and you will have a very easy time of it. The world is keen enough to recognise its own under any disguise. But change all this. Accept Christ in downright reality as your Lord and your King. Carry Christ into your life, into your conversation, into your household, into your bargains, into your counting-house, into your profession. I do not urge upon you to make a false show of Christian earnestness. That is simply disgusting. But be real and true, and be manifestly on the Lord’s side, so that there can be no doubt about it. And I am very much mistaken if you do not find that there is a ‘world’ even within the borders and precincts of the professedly Christian Church.

II. When a man becomes a true disciple under the influence of the teaching of the Spirit of God, he is drawn out of this great system and placed apart from it. ‘I have chosen you,’ says the Lord to His followers, ‘out of the world.’ Of course, it is not meant that there is any change of locality. In all probability the man remains where he was when the Lord met with him. He moves amongst his old companions; he is engaged in his old pursuits. The difference lies in the spirit which animates him, and in the motive which impels him to his work. In this respect he has become what St. Paul calls a new creature: that is, a new ‘creation’—recast, remoulded, refashioned, remade. The same in his faculties and powers, preserving his former characteristics of mind and body, of preferences and tastes; he is different from what he was, simply because the current of his being has been turned from its former direction into another channel; because, in fact, whilst he moves amongst the activities of human life, occupied, but not engrossed by them, he is all the while, in heart and spirit, a citizen of that heavenly commonwealth of which the Lord Jesus Christ is the centre and the King and the exceeding great reward. He has, as it were, pushed forward his moral and intellectual frontier. Formerly, the horizon of time was the boundary of his calculations; now, he reaches out and links himself on to the region of the eternity which lies beyond the grave. It is not, then, the intention of the Lord that the true believer should be taken out of the world, but rather that he should be ‘kept’—kept from the evil, kept from the power of surrounding influences—whilst he abides in it. For his own sake, that he may receive the necessary training and discipline; for the world’s sake, that he may make it somewhat the better and the more wholesome by his presence in it, he has to continue where he is, steadfast at his post of duty and a witness to his Divine Lord, until the summons comes for him to depart hence and to enter into the rest that remaineth for the people of God. Let this stand for our second thought.

III. It may be well for us to consider that the security of the Christian disciple, thus placed in the world, consists in his possession and retention of spiritual life.—‘He that hath the Son hath the life’; that is to say, when we lay hold of by faith, and appropriate to ourselves the Lord Jesus; when we claim our interest in His person and work—we enter into the enjoyment of that life, which is the germ and foretaste of eternal life. But it is not to be supposed that the life will be retained without our own personal concurrence in the matter. ‘Abide in Me’—says the Lord to the branches of the true vine—‘and I in you.’ If we cease to abide in Him, He ceases to abide in us. Now, no words could convey more forcibly than these the indispensable necessity there is for an earnest watchfulness on our part, and for a diligent use of opportunities in order that we may remain possessed of the trust that was committed to us, and may not be deprived of it by the influences by which we are surrounded on every side. We have, if I may so say, to keep ourselves up to the mark continually; for there is no little danger for all of us to relax our influence, and so to drift into carelessness, which may possibly lead to a fatal result.

Rev. Prebendary Gordon Calthrop.

Illustration

‘Some years ago I visited a poor sufferer, held in the grip of an incurable disease. He had always a reason to give for diminution of his physical power. He is not so well to-day; but then, he sat in a draught yesterday. Another day he is not so well; but then, he incautiously took some food that did not agree with him. Again, he is not so well; but that, of course, is the fault of the bitter east wind that is now blowing. Anything, you see, to hide from himself what is patent enough to every observer—that his vital force is gradually declining; and that, day by day, he is drawing nearer and nearer to the brink of the cold waters of the river of death. Why not so with our souls? If we notice, and we can hardly help noticing, that we are drifting away from our old moorings, and floating down the tide; if we have to confess to ourselves that our interest in religion has abated; that we do not read our Bibles—or, if we do, that we only read them as a dry matter of duty; that our private prayers are huddled up and shortened, or even abandoned altogether; that we are glad of any excuse for absenting ourselves from the house of God; that we have deserted the Lord’s table, though we once attended it; that we are beginning to relish more keenly any argument which seems to tell against the authority of the Scriptures or to throw discredit on the supernatural life—under such circumstances ought we not to conclude that the explanation of the whole matter is to be found in the fact that, somehow or other, the fabric of our spiritual vitality is being undermined?’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

‘LOVE NOT THE WORLD.’

‘Love not the world.’

1 John 2:15

This command may appear to some incapable of being obeyed. But rightly understood, it is incumbent upon us all.

I. What it is not:—

(a) It is not the world of nature.

(b) It is not the world of human occupation.

(c) It is not the world of human affection.

II. What it is.—The command applies—

(a) To the world apart from God.

(b) To the world apart from righteousness.

(c) To the world which is in opposition to the eternal and true.

The world which St. John condemns is, alas! a very real world. It is a world which is everywhere around us—a world from which we cannot escape, and yet a world which need not contaminate a single one of us. It is the world of which Wordsworth speaks when he says, ‘The world is too much with us; late and soon.’ It is the world to which our Blessed Lord alludes when He says, ‘I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.’

Illustrations

(1) ‘It is told of Mary Godolphin that she bore an unsullied character—a soul unspotted by the world, amid the dissolute surroundings of Whitehall, in the Court of Charles II. She lived in the world—in a world infamous in history for its shameless profligacy—and yet she was not of the world; in the midst of general corruption, her “soul was like a star and dwelt apart.”’

(2) ‘Not to love the world was identified with flying from it altogether. But even in the solitude of the desert it was revealed to the blessed saint Macarius that, in spite of his privations and asceticism, he was yet less dear to God than two poor washerwomen of Alexandria; and, upon inquiry, he found to his amazement that they were simply good women honestly endeavouring, amid the humblest surroundings, to perform their duties faithfully and well.’


Verse 20

THE ANOINTING

‘Ye have an unction from the Holy One.’ ‘But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.’

1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27

The anointing is a sacred symbol. It speaks at once to us of a Divine operation. We know from other parts of Scripture that the unction from the Holy One is an appointed emblem of the Holy Spirit and His work.

I. The anointing is necessary:—

(a) To enlighten us. This oil gives light. What wondrous light it gave to St. Peter on the day of Pentecost.

(b) To emancipate us. Men want not only to know what to do, they want power to do it. They want not only a teacher, but a liberator.

(c) To establish us. It is, in fact, specially in this connection that the Apostle refers to it. False teachers and false doctrines had crept into the Church in his day, even as they have in our own, with the result that the most earnest Christians were most in danger of being led astray by them. But the Apostle had an unfailing resource. He appeals at once to the anointing as enough to safeguard his converts.

(d) To endear Christians to each other. It used to be said in the early days, ‘See how these Christians love one another.’ I fear it can hardly be said now. Alas, for ‘our unhappy divisions.’

(e) To encourage us. How much encouragement we want in this world of sadness and gloom, when sorrow and care seem ready to overwhelm us; ‘when we are in heaviness through manifold temptations’;

When gathering clouds around we view,

And days are dark and friends are few;

when we say, with Jacob, ‘All these things are against me.’ At such times let us remember that comfort is provided for us. The sweet name of the Holy Ghost is ‘Comforter.’

II. Upon what conditions will the anointing be ours?

(a) We must be united to the Anointed One. It is from the head of our great High Priest that the holy oil flows down, even to the very skirts of His garments. It is only through union with Christ that we can receive the unction which descends from Christ. If we have not experienced uniting grace, it is in vain that we look for anointing grace. We must be alive before we can be strong. The first and indispensable condition, before we are baptized of the Spirit, is that we be begotten of the Spirit ‘unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3).

(b) We must be surrendered and cleansed. Selfishness, slothfulness, waywardness, unbelief—these are the hindrances which clog the channel between our souls and Christ. Are you sincerely willing that Christ should banish them? When you are really willing, He can burn up these ‘thorns and briers in one day’ (Isaiah 10:17).

Rev. E. W. Moore.

Illustration

‘Men do not readily acknowledge that all sinning is slavery. The subtler forms of evil so disguise themselves that men shut their eyes and refuse to acknowledge that they are chains at all. What shall we say of the bondage of heart sin; of the yoke of pride, hard, unbending, galling; of the yoke of ill-temper, which turns a happy home into a prison-house; of the yoke of some secret, besetting sin, eating like a canker into the soul? “The trouble is,” a Christian man once said to a friend who was speaking to him of these things, “I love some sins.” Ah, yes, that is the trouble. Nor can it ever be overcome until at length we learn that Christ can save us from the love as well as from the practice of the sins we deplore.’


Verse 27

THE ANOINTING

‘Ye have an unction from the Holy One.’ ‘But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.’

1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27

The anointing is a sacred symbol. It speaks at once to us of a Divine operation. We know from other parts of Scripture that the unction from the Holy One is an appointed emblem of the Holy Spirit and His work.

I. The anointing is necessary:—

(a) To enlighten us. This oil gives light. What wondrous light it gave to St. Peter on the day of Pentecost.

(b) To emancipate us. Men want not only to know what to do, they want power to do it. They want not only a teacher, but a liberator.

(c) To establish us. It is, in fact, specially in this connection that the Apostle refers to it. False teachers and false doctrines had crept into the Church in his day, even as they have in our own, with the result that the most earnest Christians were most in danger of being led astray by them. But the Apostle had an unfailing resource. He appeals at once to the anointing as enough to safeguard his converts.

(d) To endear Christians to each other. It used to be said in the early days, ‘See how these Christians love one another.’ I fear it can hardly be said now. Alas, for ‘our unhappy divisions.’

(e) To encourage us. How much encouragement we want in this world of sadness and gloom, when sorrow and care seem ready to overwhelm us; ‘when we are in heaviness through manifold temptations’;

When gathering clouds around we view,

And days are dark and friends are few;

when we say, with Jacob, ‘All these things are against me.’ At such times let us remember that comfort is provided for us. The sweet name of the Holy Ghost is ‘Comforter.’

II. Upon what conditions will the anointing be ours?

(a) We must be united to the Anointed One. It is from the head of our great High Priest that the holy oil flows down, even to the very skirts of His garments. It is only through union with Christ that we can receive the unction which descends from Christ. If we have not experienced uniting grace, it is in vain that we look for anointing grace. We must be alive before we can be strong. The first and indispensable condition, before we are baptized of the Spirit, is that we be begotten of the Spirit ‘unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3).

(b) We must be surrendered and cleansed. Selfishness, slothfulness, waywardness, unbelief—these are the hindrances which clog the channel between our souls and Christ. Are you sincerely willing that Christ should banish them? When you are really willing, He can burn up these ‘thorns and briers in one day’ (Isaiah 10:17).

Rev. E. W. Moore.

Illustration

‘Men do not readily acknowledge that all sinning is slavery. The subtler forms of evil so disguise themselves that men shut their eyes and refuse to acknowledge that they are chains at all. What shall we say of the bondage of heart sin; of the yoke of pride, hard, unbending, galling; of the yoke of ill-temper, which turns a happy home into a prison-house; of the yoke of some secret, besetting sin, eating like a canker into the soul? “The trouble is,” a Christian man once said to a friend who was speaking to him of these things, “I love some sins.” Ah, yes, that is the trouble. Nor can it ever be overcome until at length we learn that Christ can save us from the love as well as from the practice of the sins we deplore.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 John 2:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/1-john-2.html. 1876.

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