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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 John 2

 

 

Verse 1

1 John 2:1. My little children, &c.— St. John has several times called the Christians to whom he wrote, little children; not that it is to be supposed they were all his converts, though probably many of them were; but he was an apostle, and, as such, he looked upon himself as a father, and all Christians under his care and inspection as his children. It was a tender and affectionate appellation, denoting his paternal authority, love, and concern for them. If any man sin, might be rendered more properly, If any man have sinned; that is, "have formerly sinned;" and thus it falls in admirablywell with the connection: "I write these things unto you, that you may not hereafter sin; and if anyman have formerly sinned, I write likewise to inform him, that if he repent, he need not despair of mercy; for we have an Advocate with the Father, &c." Jesus Christ is here represented as our Advocate with the Father: he is sometimes also represented as our Intercessor, which, in English, signifies "one who petitions or prays for favour for others." But what principally concerns us upon this subject is, that the Greek words ευτυγχανω, and υπερεντυγχανω, are of a more lax meaning, and signify to interpose or intervene in any way, whether by authority, petitioning, pleading, or otherwise. See Romans 8:27; Romans 11:2. According to the import of the Greek words, an intercessor, who pleads the cause of another, is the same with an advocate; for an advocate pleads the cause of his client before his prince or judge. An accuser and an advocate stand opposed to each other: the first is applied to the devil, who is called The accuser of the brethren: Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is our Advocate with the Father, maintaining and pleading our cause, always fully patronizing those who come to him in faith—that great exalted Saviour, who was himself by way of eminence, and in such a degree as no other person dwelling in human flesh ever was, so perfectly righteous, that his obedience absolutely answered the demands of the divine law in all its extent and purity.


Verse 2

1 John 2:2. And he is the propitiation Rather the propitiatory sacrifice; the sin-offering, or sacrifice of atonement; for so the word ' Ιλασμος signifies both here and ch. 1 John 4:10. See on Romans 3:25. In this and the former verse, Jesus Christ is considered as being himself both the High-priest and the Sacrifice of atonement; and St. John having represented him as our Advocate with the Father, or our great High-priest gone within the veil to plead for us, further intimates, that he was also the great Christian Sacrifice or Sin-offering, and entered with his own blood within the veil, there to appear in the presence of God for us. Under the law the high-priest had never perfectly made an atonement, until he had entered within the veil, and sprinkled the blood before the mercy-seat. The slaying of the sacrifice, and offering it upon the altar, were previous steps; but the completion of the work was going within the veil, and there sprinkling the blood: thereby the high priest made an atonement for himself, for his household the priests, and for all the congregation of Israel. Leviticus 16:17.

In allusion hereto, our blessed Lord is here represented as entering into heaven, to plead our cause with the Father, after he had offered himself on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins; a view in which he is often represented, particularly in the epistle to the Hebrews. "He is the great propitiation for our sins, to whom, under that character, we have fled with cheerful confidence: and it is a joy to us to reflect, that he is not only the propitiation for ours but also [for the sins] of the whole world," &c. See the annotations on the epistle to the Romans for a full view of this subject, as it relates to the Heathen world.


Verse 3

1 John 2:3. Hereby we do know that we know him To know Christ, to love him, to have him, and to be in him, are in this epistle used as synonymous terms, or very nearly so. St. John had in the former chapter intimated, that no man can have communion with God, unless he walk in the light, as God is in the light. Here he asserts, that no man can have any benefit from Christ's being an Advocate with the Father, or a propitiation for the sins of men, unless his knowledge of God and the gospel produces holiness of heart and life. This seems to be the connection between the present and the foregoing verse. The false teachers boasted of their knowledge, while their practice was bad; hence they were called Gnosticks;—and that perhaps might be the reason why St. John so often repeats the words know and knowledge. The knowledge of God does not consist in mere opinion, or barren speculation, or in mysterious notions of his nature and essence, but in that practical knowledge which leads to a love of God, and keeping the divine commandments. It has been observed, that there was a set of men, who rose up in the Christian church, even in the days of the apostles, who so far perverted the doctrine of the great apostle St. Paul concerning justification by faith, without the works of the law, as to pretend that they who knew the truth, and had faith, were under no necessity of leading a holy life. All the seven Catholic Epistles seem to have been particularly levelled against that dangerous error, and the present text is a direct confirmation of this opinion. Practical errors are the most dangerous errors; and unless knowledge is carried into practice, and faith influences to a right temper and conduct, our knowledge is vain, and our faith also is vain: but the knowledge of God which influences to a holy experience and a right practice, will, if persevered in, end in eternal life.


Verse 5

1 John 2:5. His word The word of Jesus Christ; the same with his commandments in the preceding verse. The love of God is sometimes put for that love which God bears to us; but as the fear of God signifies our fear of offending the Divine Being, and the faith of Christ signifies our believing in him, so the love of God signifies that love which genuine believers bear unto God, and which all men ought to bear to that most amiable Being. See Jude, 1 John 2:21. In this latter sense the love of God is to be understood in this text. "Whosoever uprightly and impartially keepeth his word, in him certainly is the love of God perfected: it is plain he has the perfect love of God in his heart."


Verse 7

1 John 2:7. But an old commandment Founded in innocent nature before the Fall, recommended by the Mosaic law, and that which you had especially inculcated upon youfrom the beginning of your acquaintance with the gospel, the great practical intent of which was, doubtless, presently made known to you by whomsoever it was preached. I may therefore well say, it is the old commandment; for it is the word which you heard from the beginning of your acquaintance with Christianity.


Verse 8

1 John 2:8. Again, Or, on the other hand. The apostle, as it were, checks himself for what he had said 1 John 2:7. See the like use of the word παλιν, Matthew 4:7. The same commandment may, upon different accounts or in different respects, be called both old and new. For instance, the commandment that Christians should love one another as Christ had loved them, might, when St. John wrote this epistle, be called an old commandment, as having now been inculcated for a long time, or from the beginning; and yet it was, nevertheless, Christ's new commandment, first proposed and enjoined by him in its present form, and made the badge of distinction between his disciples and the rest of the world: he laid down his life for his disciples; and this is his new commandment, that we should love one another even as he has loved us; that is, be ready, when proper occasions call for it, to lay down our lives for the Christian brethren, See ch. 1 John 3:16 and John 15:12; John 15:27. Dr. Heylin observes, that the commandment here spoken of is that of charity, which indeed is old, and of eternal obligation; but as it had been almost effaced by the malice of mankind, it was renewed, improved, and perfected by Jesus Christ. The thing enjoined in this new commandment of Christ's, hadbeen verified in Christ himself. He had most intensely loved his disciples, and had even laid downhis life for them. It had been also verified, at least in part, in the practice of the Christians to whom St. John wrote; and the Jews and the Heathens used afterwards to observe of the primitive Christians, "Behold how these Christians love one another!" St. John commends the Christians for their love to each other, in order to encourage them to persevere and abound therein more and more.


Verse 10

1 John 2:10. There is none occasion, &c.— There is no stumbling-block, Σκανδαλον, in him. By this expression it may be implied, that such a man lays no stumbling-block in the way of others; but it more particularly means that there is no stumbling-block lies in his way; he walks in the light, and therefore avoids all stumbling-blocks, and sees his way plainly before him. "The word Σκανδαλον in the New Testament, says Parkhurst, denotes whatever actually makes, or has a manifest tendency to make men fall,stumble, or be remiss in the ways of duty; and particularly whatever hinders men from becoming the disciples of Christ, discourages them in their new profession, ortempts them to forsake that faith which they had lately embraced."


Verse 11

1 John 2:11. But he that hateth his brother Here is all along an evident allusion to one person's walking in the open day-light and another's walking in a very dark night: the one walks securely, and avoids all dangers, seeing his way clearly before him; the other, like a blind man, is in danger every step he takes; cannot tell which way he is going, whether in the right road or not; nor is he sensible of the danger which maybe near at hand. Just so the truly benevolent and genuine Christian has through grace his eyes open, walks in broad day-light, and is safe and secure; whereas the uncharitable, contentious, or malevolent person, is involved in thick darkness, and his sin and danger are greater than if the light of the gospel had never appeared. See John 12:35.


Verse 12

1 John 2:12.— In this and the two following verses, St. John affectionately addresses Christians of various ages or standings in the church; children, or young converts; young men, or those who were more established in the faith; and fathers, or those who were the most confirmed in the divine life. He then cautions them against the love of this world, and enforces the caution with three arguments, shewing, first, that the love of God and the love of this world are inconsistent; secondly, that this world will soon pass away; thirdly, that the rewards of sincere piety will be eternal 1 John 2:15-17. After which he advises the Christians to be upon their guard against the deceivers, who then appeared in great numbers, and points out to them the many advantages which they had for knowing the truth; and the many obligations which they are under to adhere to it, and to practise accordingly: 1 John 2:18-28.

I write unto you, little children "These things I say unto you, and they are of universal concern; I hope therefore you will attend to them, and improve them for your own advantage. I write unto you, little children, among the rest, to guard the least and weakest of you against sin; because by his name, even the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has made an atonement for them, your sins are forgiven you, and I am very solicitous that you may make all due return for so inestimable a favour, as a pardon purchased at the expence of such sacred Blood." As they probably had been but lately converted to the Christian faith, St. John, with the greatest propriety, takes notice of their sins having been forgiven them because of Christ's name; whereby it was insinuated, that if they would not have that forgiveness cancelled, but desired a final justification at the great day, they must not hearken to the deceivers, who were endeavouring to corrupt them, See ch. 1 John 5:13.


Verse 13

1 John 2:13. I write unto you, fathers, "Because you have heard of his divine dignity and glory, who was in the beginning, who was with God, and himself God; and you are old in grace, have experienced much of the heights and depths and lengths and breadths of the divine love; that you may behave aright towards that Divine Saviour, who submitted to such abasement for us, though in himself so exalted and glorious. I write to you, young men, because you have bravely and effectually bid defiance to the allurements and terrors of the wicked one; and I would by no means have you disgrace the victory that you have already gained. I write to you, little children, because even the youngest of you in grace, have known God as your Father; and I desire you may, with all filial reverence and love, approve yourselves dutiful and grateful to him under that relation."


Verse 14

1 John 2:14. I have written unto you, fathers, It is said, Job 12:12. That with the ancient is wisdom, and in length of days understanding. The propriety of St. John's address to the Christians aged in experience consists in this, that age brings both experience and wisdom; and as no knowledge or remembrance of former things could equal their knowledge of Christ, therefore St. John points at this, as hoping their wisdom and long experience had so established them, that the false teachers could make no impression upon them. The most celebrated of the Greek and Latin poets have very frequently taken notice of the strength and valour of young men; and what was a propriety in them, cannot be less so in an inspired apostle. There is therefore this poetical beauty in his sayingto the young men, "Ye are strong, and have got the victory:" the Christian life is in many passages compared to a warfare. These young men were therefore considered as warriors under Christ, the great Captain of their salvation; and as young soldiers count it their highest ambition to distinguish themselves in the field of battle, and obtain the victory over the enemies of their country; St. John alludes thereto, and applauds these young Christians, as in the strength of grace signalizing themselves, in fighting the spiritual warfare, and gaining the victory over the grand enemy. He adds, The word of God abideth in you. The false teachers endeavoured to take the pure word of God from them, and to impose their corrupt and immoral doctrine instead of it; but the apostle intimates the vast advantage of the true Christian principles: thereby through grace they had obtained the victory; and if they would go on conquering and to conquer, they must not hearken to the seducers, who would have taken from them the pure word of God. How much are they to be blamed, who wouldhinder the people from reading the Scriptures; who would take that spiritual weapon out of their hands, and leave them naked and defenceless, to be conquered in this important warfare. And how greatly was it to the glory of these young men, that when their passions and appetites were in their full strength and vigour, yet in the power of the Spirit of God they conquered the temptations arising from sensible objects, and were not discouraged by the contempt and opposition which the gospel met with! Such was the applause bestowed upon them by the apostle, that he might animate and encourage them to persevere to the end. St. John goes over his address to these three sorts of persons a second time, to make the deeper and more lasting impression upon their minds; and if we consider the unwearied zeal and industry of the false teachers, we shall easily perceive that there was occasion for so doing.


Verse 15

1 John 2:15. Love not the world, &c.— By the world, is sometimes meant the whole creation; sometimes the visible part of it, more commonly this earthly globe, with its appendages. Sometimes the world includes this animal life,together with the place of our present abode, and the things which support this life, or render it agreeable in a temporal sense. The love of such a state is then criminal, when it is exorbitant, and disproportioned to the worth and value thereof; when it is regarded as the chief good of man, and a due regard to God and religion, to holiness and to a better world, is thereby neglected: and as the many set too great a value on present and sensible things, they are sometimes called the world. See ch. 1 John 5:19. If it should be objected, that we ought to love the wicked, and all mankind, the answer is obvious: we ought to love all mankind with a love of benevolence or good will; but we ought not to love a wicked world with a love of complacence or delight: we should shuntheir company as much as possible, lest we be tainted by their customs, and corrupted by their bad examples. By the things which are in the world, we may understand the good things, or the enjoyments thereof; the inordinate love of which is in the next verse reduced to three heads, and all most justly condemned. God is considered as the Creator and Father of all men, (but more especially of real Christians,) who has amply manifested his paternal affection for them. An inordinate love of earthly things is inconsistent with that love which we owe our Heavenly Father. When conscience under the Spirit of Christ governs, and the passions, affections, and appetites are regulated thereby; when the rules of the gospel are our guide, that is the government of God over us; but when a worldly disposition governs us, and the passions and appetites bear sway, the love of the Father is not in us, nor do we behave at all as his obedient children. Hence it was that in the primitive church adults, when baptized, renounced the world, that is, the unlawful pursuit or love of riches and honours; the flesh, that is, all sensual impurity, or criminal pleasures; and the devil, that is, idolatry, and all the vices which it supported and encouraged: and Christians are still under the same obligations; for the love of these things is utterly inconsistent with the love of God. See the next note.


Verse 16

1 John 2:16. For all that is in the world, St. John did by no means intend to say, that the natural world, and every thing in it, is confusion and deformity. If so, how could we from the make and constitution of the world infer a God and Providence? The three particulars immediately specified, shew what he means by all that is in the world. The first head of human vices is, the lust of the flesh: the flesh of itself has no lusts, no passions, appetites, desires, or inclinations whatever; but when the human body is united to a rational spirit, and they mutually influence each other, then it appears that certain passions, appetites; and inclinations are planted in man, and that the flesh is the chief seat of several of them; or that a human soul would have no such appetites as spring from the flesh, unless it were united to such an animal body. Perfectly fallen as we are by nature, yet the Spirit of God is offered to us, whereby we may controul and direct these appetites and propensions: but when they are indulged in a wrong manner, or beyond proper bounds, then they become vices, and are condemned as fleshly lusts which war against the soul. By the lusts of the fleshexpositorsingeneral understand gluttony, drunkenness, and lewdness. Covetous desires are excited by the eye, and steal that way into the heart, Ecclesiastes 2:8-10 and if by the lust of the eyes we here understand covetousness, then this second head will not interfere either with the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life; and moreover, it is perfectly agreeable to the Jewish phraseology, by the lust of the eyes to understand covetousness. See Matthew 6:23. Proverbs 27:20. Ecclesiastes 4:8; Ecclesiastes 5:10-11. Though the word Βιος sometimessignifieslifeitself, sometimes worldly substance, or a provision for life; yet we need not restrict the meaning of the third phrase, the pride of life, to men's being proud of their riches: for ambition, an aspiring to places of power or preferment, high titles and grandeur, the pomp and glory of this world, or placing too great an esteem on ourselves, and despising others upon these or any other accounts, may be justly called the pride of life. Raphelius on this passage observes, that Polybius uses the same phrase with St. John, for all kind of luxury in one's manner of living, whether in dress, houses, furniture, eating, &c. No doubt St. John's expression implies all this; but it seems moreover to include all those other pursuits, whether of ambition or vain-glory, by which men aim at making a figure in the eyes of their fellow-mortals. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, are the three great idols of the world; St. John mentions them as all that is in the world: it may therefore be inquired, whether he intendedunder these three heads to rank all the vices of the world? To which it may be replied, that certainly there are several vices, which are not particularly named here; but it would be no very difficult matter to shew, how other particular vices may either be reduced under these three heads, or are closelyconnected with them, how lust, covetousness, and pride, lead men to private injustice and injuries, or to public murder, rebellion, and cruelty, and to trample upon all laws, human and divine; and upon that account this division of the vices of mankind may well be defended. But St. John seems to have had his eye upon the grand temptation which reduced our general mother Eve;—The woman saw that the tree was good for food,—that was the lust of the flesh;—that it was pleasant to the eye,—that was the lust of the eyes; and a tree to be desired to make one wise, (i.e. to exalt men to the rank of gods;)—this was the pride of life: and Dr. Lightfoot thought that the three great temptations with which Satan assaulted our Lord, might be reduced under the same heads.


Verse 17

1 John 2:17. And the world passeth away, &c.— The short continuance of this life is here alleged as another reason against worldly-mindedness. See Psalms 37:36. 2 Peter 3:7. In this and the two foregoing verses there is an antithesis, which helps to fix the sense: this world is opposed to the future state; the inordinate love of the world, to doing the will of God. The springs of action in good and bad men are also set in opposition; the one is of God, the other is of the world: and finally, we are presented with their different ends. This world, and its enjoyments, together with the desires thereof, soon pass away; the enjoyments of the holy and faithful will endure for ever. The good man as well as the bad must pay the great debt of nature; but he that now perseveringly doeth the will of God is to be raised to a glorious immortality, and then abide in that happy state for ever.


Verse 18

1 John 2:18. Little children, it is the last time If these words are to be connected withthecontext,thenwe may consider them either as connected with the immediately preceding verses, and as containing one reason why those Christians were not to love the world; namely, that it was the last hour, and therefore the enjoyments thereof would continue but a little while; (See James 5:3.) or this verse may be connected with all that went before, and then the connection will stand thus: the apostle, having laid before the Christians some of the principal doctrines and duties of Christianity, takes care that the false teachers might not impose upon them, and draw them off from a steady adherence to these doctrines, and the faithful practice of the duties which he had been recommending. The word antichrist is in Scripture no where to be found but in this and in the second epistle of St. John. Some understand by it a false Christ, or one who unjustly assumed the character of the Messiah; others take it to signify an opposer of Christ. All those false prophets and corrupt teachers who arose before the destruction of Jerusalem, did not pretend to be themselves the Messiah or Christ: any person who opposes Jesus Christ, or corrupts the gospel, may be called an antichrist. See 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. The persons on whom St. John had his eye more particularly, denied that Jesus, who came in the flesh, was the Christ. See 1 John 2:22. Ch. 1 John 4:3. 2 John, 1 John 2:7. They were, most likely, of the number of the Docetae, who held that Christ only seemed to have flesh, and to suffer. When the false teachers were spoken of collectively, they were, in the singular number, called the antichrist; when distinctively, in the plural, they were called many antichrists. The Jewish Christians had heard, that many antichrists, or false prophets, and corrupt teachers, would appear a little before the destruction of Jerusalem: the apostles, without doubt, mentioned this to their converts, generally speaking, wherever they came; but the most famous predictions of that kind were delivered by our Lord himself, Matthew 24:1; Matthew 24:51. Mark 13:1; Mark 13:37. Luke 21:5; Luke 21:38. And St. John's putting them in mind that they had heard of these things, was in effect saying, "Take heed and beware, by attending to the admonitions which have been given you." See 2 John, 1 John 2:7-8. The strength of his argument lies here: Our Saviour had foretold, that just before the destruction of Jerusalem, antichrist would appear: a number of antichrists had accordingly appeared. Hence they might conclude, that it was the last hour; or that the desolation of the Jewish temple, city, and nation, was just at hand.


Verse 19

1 John 2:19. They went out from us, &c.— It is one mark of antichrist, that he had once been in the bosom of the church, and a Christian at least in profession. There were some judaizing Christians, who went down from Judea to Antioch, and assured the Gentile Christians there, that unless they were circumcised according to the law of Moses, they could not be saved; and the apostles, elders, and brethren, writing to the Gentile converts concerning those deceivers, say, (Acts 15:24.) They went out from us, and have troubled you with their doctrine; but we sent them not. Whether the false teachers, against whom St. John is here warning the Christians, went out pretending a commission from the apostles, does not appear; but St. John writes to obviate such difficulties as these: "What! Does the Christian church breed such pests, or does she nourish them in her bosom? Did not these men learn their Christianity from the apostles and true Christians? Did they not frequent their company, and communicate with them; and, as such, may we not hearken to them?"—To such difficulties St. John answers, "Yes, they went out from us; but, before they forsook us, they were not of the number of the true Christians; if they had been so, they would have remained with us; but their forsaking us has had this good consequence, to make it manifest to you, and to all the world, that they do not any of them belong to us. This will free us from the reproach which the unbelieving Jews and Heathens might cast upon us, because of the behaviour of these false teachers, and ought to prevent your paying any regard to them." See John 6:66. Acts 20:30. The church of Rome would gladly represent the heretics, as they call them, (that is, the Protestants,) in going out from them, to be as criminal as the false teachers were in going out from the apostles and true Christians. But the two cases are not at all parallel; for the Protestants left the church of Rome, because that corrupt church had forsaken the apostles, departed from the scriptures, and left the pure doctrine of the gospel, to which the Protestants have returned.


Verse 20

1 John 2:20. But ye have an unction, &c.— Both kings and priests were consecrated to their offices by anointing; and in the New Testament, wherein the title of kings and priests is given to true believers, by anointing we are to understand any divine grace imparted to true believers. The apostle's meaning therefore is to this effect: "The Spirit of truth and holiness, which Christ the Holy One of God hath poured forth upon you, is to guide you into all truth; so that you havean experimental knowledge of all things relating to the pure gospel, at least so far as is necessary to salvation."


Verse 21

1 John 2:21. I have not written unto you Though St. John uses the word εγραψα, I have written, as he had done before, 1 John 2:14 yet he speaks of what he was now writing; for there is no reason to think that he had written his Gospel or one Epistle to these Christians before this. See 1 Peter 5:12. And his using the aorist is well accounted for by Beza, who observes, that he refers to the time when the epistle would be read; which manner of speaking is used by the Latins, as well as the Greeks.


Verse 22

1 John 2:22. Who is a liar, but he that denieth, &c.?— See ch. 1 John 4:3. Some are of opinion, that this was written against Cerinthus, who in his doctrine separated Jesus from Christ, maintaining that they were two distinct persons, and denying Jesus to be the Son of God. The church of Rome denies both the Father and Son, by throwing off the government of God and of his Christ over the Christian church, setting up a pretended infallible head, reversing the laws of Christ laid down in the New Testament, and making laws at pleasure to bindthe consciences of all Christians. The pope therefore, as head of the church, may properly enough be called antichrist. It has indeed very often been inquired, whether the pope be antichrist? This seemed so clear to the famous Lord Bacon, that, being asked by king James 1 whether he thought the pope so to be, he answered, "That if an hue and cry should come after antichrist, which should describe him by those characters whereby he is decyphered in the Bible, he should certainly take the pope for him."


Verse 23

1 John 2:23. But he that acknowledgeth the Son, &c.— Our translators have printed this passage in Italics; but it is found in many authentic manuscripts, as well as in the Syriac, Vulgate, and other versions.


Verse 24

1 John 2:24. Let that therefore abide in you This verse contains an inference from what was said before; namely, "As they who received the doctrine of the false teachers, did in effect hold neither the Father nor Son, therefore the true Christians were to hold fast the pure, primitive, and apostolic doctrine, which they had heard from their first conversion to Christianity, and not regardthe false teachers." The pure doctrine of the gospel is that which was from the beginning; that which was preached by the apostles and evangelists, and which is with certainty to be found in their writings, andno where else: accordingly Tertullian says, "That is true which was first; that was first which was from the beginning; that was from the beginning, which was from the apostles."


Verse 25

1 John 2:25. And this is the promise, &c.— OEcumenius thought, that και, and, was put for γαρ, for, οτι, because. It is evident, that the apostle here mentions the promise of eternal life as a motive to induce them to retain the true gospel, and remain faithful toChrist; as if he had said, "There is motive sufficient to induce you to remain true to Christ; for this is the promise which he hath promised to us that do so; even eternal life." To promise a promise was a common form of expression with the Greeks and Latins, as well as with the Hebrews. The promise is here put for the thing promised, as in other texts of scripture.


Verse 26

1 John 2:26. These things have I written, &c.— By these things some understand all that is said from 1 John 2:18 to this place; others understand this whole epistle. If some of the Christians to whom St. John wrote had been seduced, then by you, in this verse, the apostle might mean some of you: but it is generally thought, that by those who deceive you, he meant those who endeavour to deceive you. There are many passages, both in sacred and profane authors, in which a person is said to do a thing which he attempts. St. John thought it a possible thing for them to be deceived, and to fall away: and therefore he wrote to prevent the impostors succeeding in their attempts. It is the part of good shepherds, not only to gather together their flocks at night, but prevent their going astray by day; and not only to feed them in good pastures, but to drive away the wolves. They are to teach the people the pure doctrine of Christ, and likewise to guard them against the errors, arts, and delusions of false teachers.


Verse 27

1 John 2:27. But the anointing, &c.— See on 1 John 2:20. The Spirit of God is compared to an anointing, because of his precious and cheeringgifts, which rendered Christians more fit to encounter spiritual enemies; as wrestlers were anointed with oil, to make them fitter for their various exercises, and to prevent the advantages which might otherwise be taken of them. This has been produced to shew, that the office of a stated ministry in the church was unnecessary; "because (say the advocates for this opinion,) this anointing could not be any special, peculiar, or extraordinary privilege, but that which is common to all saints, this being a general epistle, directed to every one of them of that age; and he that hath an anointing abiding in him, which teacheth him all things, so that he needs no man to teach him, hath an inward and immediate teacher, and is taught inwardly and immediately." But those who argue after this manner, would do well to consider, that the Christian minister was in the higher repute in the church, even when the gifts of the Holy Spirit were poured down upon them in the greatest abundance; and moreover, that this epistle was written to Christians in general, which it would not have been, were not the admonitions that it contains necessary. And if they were necessary in those early ages, when so many Christians were endued with the miraculousgifts of the Spirit, and there was, in some sense, a necessity that they should be thus extraordinarily invested with powers from on high, and the admonitions for exhortations in this epistle are similar to the exhortations of a stated ministry, the expediency of a stated ministry, instead of being superseded, seems to be confirmed by this very passage.


Verse 28

1 John 2:28. Abide in him; that—we, &c.— St. John says, "Do you abide in him, that we may not be ashamed;" which change of persons may be accounted for thus: "Do you continue true and faithful Christians, that we your apostles and teachers may not be ashamed of our converts, as persons who have lost their labour." Or thus: "Do you remain steadfast, as we do, that we may all appear with courage before our Judge, and not be confounded at his second coming."


Verse 29

1 John 2:29. If ye know, &c.— "I have before been discoursing of the Divine holiness and purity: now the consideration of this may enable you to judge, whether you are, or are not, in the happy number of the children of God. For since you know that he is perfectly righteous, you may know that every one who practiseth righteousness, is born of him; as the production of righteousness in the mind argues a Divine agency upon it; therefore he, in whom it is produced, is, by regeneration, a son of God." This verse ought to have been placed at the beginning of chap. 3: as being a most evident introduction to what follows.

Inferences.—How beautifully harmonious is the tendency and design of the gospel, to caution believers against all sin, and to support them under a humbling sense of their former iniquities, and of their present disallowed infirmities! The propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, and his advocacy founded upon it, are extended to all believing sinners of the Gentiles, as well as of the Jews, through the whole world. But how vainly do any pretend to have a right knowledge of Christ, or true faith in him for their own salvation, if they cast off a conscientious regard to his commandments! They give the lie to their own profession, and to the truth itself, and have no sincere love to him, which would engage them to a holy imitation of him.—The law of love to his people is, for substance, an old commandment; but, for circumstances, suited to the light and grace of the gospel, is a new one; and whatever any one may pretend to, his loving his Christian brother, or not, is one test of his either being truly enlightened, or remaining under the power of darkness. O how happy is their condition, who walk in the light of truth and holiness, whether they be babes, young men or fathers in Christ! The weakest believer is forgiven all trespasses for Christ's sake, and has a filial affection to God as his Father; the more grown Christian is established in the faith, and has greater strength from Christ for vanquishing the temptations of the devil and his instruments; and the old experienced Christian is best acquainted with the Ancient of Days. But alas! what an enemy is the love of this world to the love of God! As far as we are carried away with pleasures, riches, or honours, which are all precarious, empty, and perishing, so far are we estranged from the love of God to us, and love to him: and a predominant love of this world is inconsistent with a true love to him, who cannot be the author of any evil influence which the things of flesh and sense make upon us.—How dangerous are the schemes of men of an antichristian spirit, which has worked in all ages of the church! But O what a blessed and holy unction of the Spirit have true believers from their exalted Head and Saviour: by this they are well satisfied about the truth of all the fundamental articles of the gospel, insomuch that they do not need to be always taught the first rudiments of Christianity; much less to be taught any of its doctrines by false pretenders to it. All that deny Jesus to be the Son of God and the only Saviour are antichristians, and constructively deny both the Father and Son; but all that cordially believe the doctrine originally delivered in the gospel concerning these divine Persons, have a sure interest in them both. The great promise of eternal life belongs to those who persist in their most holy faith, and continue in union and communion with Christ to their own and their faithful pastor's joy and confidence at his second and most glorious appearing: and they that have such just and impressive sentiments of his purity and holiness, as produce an effectual change upon them, in resemblance of him, may certainly conclude that they are partakers of a new and spiritual birth from him, and have a title to the inheritance of children.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have,

1. The design which the apostle chiefly aimed at in what he had written. My little children, whom I regard with the tenderest sensations of paternal love, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not; watchful against every surprise and temptation, and never allowing yourselves in the practice of any sin. And if any man, through the infirmity of his nature, be drawn aside from the way of God's commandments, and sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, through whom alone God the Father can be just, and yet a Justifier of the sinner; and if we with shame and sorrow, and true contrition of spirit, return to him, his infinite merit will plead the cause of the returning penitents before the throne of God. And he is the propitiation for our sins, having made the full atonement, and paid that ransom which alone is available for them: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world,—the ransom was paid for all mankind, and no damned sinner shall have the least ground of accusation against him as a partial Judge; but every mouth shall be stopped, and he alone be justified before an assembled universe. Note; (1.) While with holy jealousy we war against sin, we must not, if at any time cast down, sink into despair: we have one before the throne, who ever liveth to make intercession for every faithful soul that comes to God through him. (2.) Christ's salvation is universal to sinners of all ranks and nations, who yield to be saved by grace: none who answer this description shall be cast out or rejected.

2. The rule of judgment concerning our real knowledge of Christ. And hereby we do know that we know him, and have the fullest demonstration of our real acquaintance with him, and of our genuine faith and love, if we keep his commandments, and of course unreservedly yield up ourselves to be guided by his holy word and will. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, living in the inward indulgence, or outward practice of iniquity, is a liar, and the truth is not in him, however confident his boast may be, and however high his pretensions. But whoso keepeth his word, in doctrine and practice, faithfully corresponding therewith in all things, in him verily is the love of God perfected; its prevailing influence over the whole soul is hereby manifested; it is plain that he has this perfect love truly in his heart, and does not make a vain and hypocritical pretence to it: and by this know we that we are in him; vitally united to the Living Head, interested in all the privileges of his gospel, in which the hypocrite hath neither part nor lot. He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also to walk, even as he walked; copying the divine pattern, and, though at a humble distance, following the footsteps of the holy Jesus. Note; The profession of Christianity, without the practice of true godliness, is but an empty name. They who are truly Christ's, will prove it not only in their lips, but by their lives.

2nd, The apostle, as the most distinguishing character of true discipleship, and the great command of the divine Master, earnestly, inculcates the great duty of brotherly love. Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but remind you of an old commandment which ye had from the beginning; written upon the heart of man in innocence, and enforced, in that revelation which God from the first made unto men. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning, wherein love is enjoined as the fulfilling of the law. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, the same indeed in substance, but enforced by new motives, encouragements, assistances, and examples; which thing is true in him and in you; manifested most strikingly in that divine person of love which he set before you, and which you have in a gracious measure humbly imitated. Because the darkness of the former dispensation is past, and thee true light now shineth, the Sun of righteousness is arisen, and the shadows are fled, the glorious gospel bringing us forth as it were into the meridian light of truth, and demanding from us a conversation suitable to the peculiar advantages which we enjoy. He that saith he is in the light, and professes faith in Jesus the Light of the world, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now, a stranger to the godlike spirit of love which the gospel breathes, and covered with the black night of sin and error. He that loveth his brother, as a fellow-member of Christ's mystical body, and because he is a child of the same heavenly Father, abideth in the light of truth, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him; he will carefully avoid whatever would offend or weaken his brother's soul, and walketh in the light himself. But he that hateth his brother, who harbours an uncharitable, envious, proud, or revengeful disposition, is in darkness, under the evident dominion of Satan and sin; and walketh in darkness, all his ways being perverse before God; and knoweth not whither he goeth, nor is aware of the dreadful issue of his ways, because that the darkness of his fallen heart hath blinded his eyes to all the dire consequences of sin. Note; (1.) Charity or love is the distinguishing characteristic of the Christian. (See 1 Corinthians 13.) (2.) If there be a creature living, against whom we harbour allowed envy, malice, or revenge, in whose misery we should delight, or whose good we desire not to promote, we brand ourselves the children of darkness.

3rdly, The great duty of love is equally the concern of all ranks and degrees of Christians, whatever their several attainments may be in the divine life.

1. He addresses himself to Christians in every stage of their profession.

(1.) I write unto you, little children; and, as a powerful incentive to the exercise of love, urge this duty upon you, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake; and having much forgiven, you should love much. Note; The lowest in the Christian life have received the free and full pardon of all their sins, this being the first great privilege of the gospel, of which, every babe in Christ is immediately a partaker.

(2.) I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning, and, by long and intimate acquaintance with his grace and love, are peculiarly called and engaged to shew the same divine love to others.

(3.) I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one, and have been made more than conquerors over sin and Satan, and the world, through him that loved you. And, to impress more deeply my exhortation, I repeat my words,

(4.) I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father; and, young as you are in the Christian life, have tasted the goodness and love of your heavenly Father. I have written unto you, fathers, grown old in the happy experience of the good ways of Christ, because ye have known him that is from the beginning, entered deeply into the mysteries of his grace and love, and transcendent excellencies. I have written unto you, young man, because ye are strong in faith and knowledge, and the exercise of every heavenly temper; and the word of God abideth in you, Christ being formed in your hearts, and his gospel dwelling in you richly, and influencing all your conversation; and ye have overcome the wicked one, have effectually defeated all his efforts against your souls, and will, I trust, go on still conquering and to conquer; and blessed are they who are thus strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

2. He solemnly warns them all, whatever their several attainments may be, to beware of this present evil world. Love not the world, set not your affections thereon; neither be inordinately delighted with the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, set his heart upon it as his home and his happiness, the love of the Father is not in him; it is evident that such a one does not experience a sense of his love, or feel any real heart-attachment to God in Christ as his portion and exceeding great joy. For all that is in the world, to engage and seduce the heart from God; the lust of the flesh, whatever ministers to the lawless gratification of appetite, and leads to excess, sloth, intemperance, luxury, drunkenness, revellings, and every kind of impurity; and the lust of the eyes, the gain, possessions, wealth, and glittering riches which the covetous eye gazes upon with such rapture, or with eager desire after them; and the pride of life, the pomp and splendor of titles, show, equipage, honours, magnificence, which gratify the vanity, and inflame the ambition of the fallen mind; of all and each of these we must say, that it is not of the Father; worldly things were not given to be thus abused, nor are these the objects on which God's children place their affections; but we know, that each of these things is of the world; they are the flattering baits which the god of this world, the devil, spreads to ensnare the sensual and earthly hearts of fallen men, and to seduce them from their true Lord and Master. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; great and desirable as the things of it appear in the eye of sense, they are poor, perishing, unsatisfactory in the enjoyment, and transitory; often in life flying our grasp, and certainly failing us at death: but he that doeth the will of God, abideth for ever; has a more enduring substance; his fidelity to death shall be crowned with immortal life and glory; his pleasures in eternity shall be infinitely superior to all the delights of sense; and his inheritance above, incorruptible, undefiled, and which fadeth not away. Oh! that thou mayest be wise, reader, and learn to weigh time and eternity, this world and the next, in the balances of the sanctuary!

4thly, As the mystery of iniquity had begun already to work, the apostle,

1. Reminds them, that the Jewish dispensation was now ready to expire utterly, with the destruction of their temple, city, and nation. Little children it is the last time; and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; either those who among the Jewish people set up themselves for the Messiah; or rather, who under the Christian profession opposed and denied the person, offices, and gospel of Christ; broaching their heretical tenets, and perverting many from the truth. They went out from us, from our communion and society; but they were not of us, did not enjoy the renewing power of the grace of God, or the communion of saints: for if they had been of us, partakers of the like precious faith with us, and enjoying the genuine communion of saints, they would no doubt have continued with us,—possessing such a spirit, they would not, they could not, have separated from us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us, but were false-hearted hypocritical professors, who either had never tasted the grace of God in truth, or had made shipwreck of their faith, and become vile apostates.

2. He encourages them to trust, and not be afraid, since no seducers should ever be able to move them from their steadfastness, if they perseveringly cleaved to Christ, and used the power bestowed upon them. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, from the Spirit of grace and truth, which, through the exalted Savour, hath been bestowed upon you; and ye know all things necessary to preserve you from the wiles of deceivers, and to bring you to everlasting salvation. I have not written unto you, because ye know not the truth; but because ye know it, and are established in the principles of the gospel, and the fundamental doctrines of Christ; and know that no lie is of the truth, but the very reverse, and proves the hypocrisy or apostacy of those who by fraud and error would support their heretical doctrines.

3. He particularly points out these seducers, by their tenets. Who is a liar, and to be deemed an impostor, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ, rejecting him as the true Messiah? He is antichrist, and bears the brand of this hateful name, that denieth the Father and the Son, either confounding the persons in the Godhead, or dividing the substance; or denying that flood of evidence, wherewith God the Father hath borne withers to the mission and incarnation of his dear Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, his Personality and essential Deity, or the office that he bears as Mediator, the same hath not the Father, holds not the true doctrine of the Trinity, and of the relation which God the Father bears to God the Son; and therein denies all that revelation which he hath made of pardon and reconciliation through the substitution of the incarnate Redeemer; but he that acknowledgeth the Son, hath the Father also; he that receives the Lord Jesus by faith as the only Saviour, and confesses him to be the eternal Son of God, he hath the true knowledge of God the Father, and an interest in his favour and love.

4. He exhorts them to cleave to the old truth, for novelty of doctrine is the sure proof of error. Let that therefore abide in you which ye have heard from the beginning, when the gospel was first preached to you. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son and in the Father, and, holding the profession of your faith unwavering, shall enjoy the most happy communion with the Father through the Son, until you come to his kingdom in glory. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life, which he will infallibly fulfil to those who perseveringly abide in him, and will bring them to the beatific vision and enjoyment of his blessed Self for ever and ever.

5. He mentions one great purpose of this epistle. These things have I written unto you concerning them that labour to seduce and pervert you from the simplicity which is in Christ. But the anointing which ye have received of him, abideth in you; the Spirit which he hath given you, continues to teach, direct, and lead you aright; and ye need not that any man teach you; you cannot want the help of these pretended wise men to instruct you above what is written: but, as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and hath opened your eyes to see in the revealed word all things that pertain unto life and godliness, and is truth, and is no lie, but directly contrary to the spirit of error which actuates those seducers: and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him, your living Head, to whom by the divine Spirit you are thus vitally united; and continue under the blessed influence and guidance of his truth and grace unto the end. See the Annotations.

5thly, From what he had said, the apostle closes with this affectionate exhortation to them: And now, little children, abide in him, maintaining the closest communion with Jesus, and walking in the lively exercise of faith and hope, and love towards him, unmoved from the doctrines of his gospel by the wiles of deceivers; that when he shall appear on the throne of judgment at the last day, we may have confidence and boldness to appear in his presence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming, when we, your ministers, shall not be disappointed of our hopes, but meet you as our joy and crown, and, together with you, stand forth without fault, and blameless, acknowledged by him as his saints, and admitted into the joy of our Lord. If, or since, ye know that he is righteous, perfectly righteous himself, and the lover and author of all righteousness in his faithful people, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him, and thereby gives a demonstration that he is a partaker of a divine nature, and has the possession of spiritual life. (1.) They only will have boldness in the day of judgment, who are found in Christ, and perseveringly cleave to him. (2.) Everlasting shame and contempt will cover those, who ungratefully, unfaithfully, and perversely, have departed from the truth, and they shall be disowned of Jesus in the day of his appearing and glory. (3.) The evidence of a divine nature must be manifested in a good conversation; for whatever conceits men may entertain of themselves, it is their fruits by which they must be known.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 John 2:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/1-john-2.html. 1801-1803.

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