Here the apostle encourages against sins of infirmity
(1 John 2:1,2),
shows the true knowledge and love of God
(1 John 2:3-6),
renews the precept of fraternal love
(1 John 2:7-11),
addresses the several ages of Christians
(1 John 2:12-14),
warns against worldly love
(1 John 2:15-17),
(1 John 2:18,19),
shows the security of true Christians
and advises to abide in Christ,
1 John 2:28,29.
Christ the Propitiation.
A. D. 80.
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:
2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours
only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
These verses relate to the concluding subject of the foregoing chapter,
in which the apostle proceeds upon the supposition of the real
Christian's sin. And here he gives them both dissuasion and
1. Dissuasion. He would leave no room for sin: "My little children,
these things write I unto you, that you sin not,
1 John 2:1.
The design or purport of this letter, the design of what I have just
said concerning communion with God and the overthrow of it by an
irreligious course, is to dissuade and drive you from sin." See the
familiar affectionate compellation with which he introduces his
admonition: My little children, children as having perhaps been
begotten by his gospel, little children as being much beneath
him in age and experience, my little children, as being dear to
him in the bonds of the gospel. Certainly the gospel most prevailed
where and when such ministerial love most abounded. Or perhaps the
judicious reader will find reason to think that the apostle's meaning
in this dissuasion or caution is this, or amounts to this reading:
These things write I unto you, not that you sin. And so the
words will look back to what he had said before concerning the assured
pardon of sin: God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
1 John 1:9.
And so the words are a preclusion of all abuse of such favour and
indulgence. "Though sins will be forgiven to penitent confessors, yet
this I write, not to encourage you in sin, but upon another account."
Or this clause will look forward to what the apostle is going to say
about the Advocate for sinners: and so it is a prolepsis, a prevention
of like mistake or abuse: "These things write I unto you, not that
you sin, but that you may see your remedy for sin." And so the
following particle (as the learned know) may be rendered adversatively:
But, if a man sin, he may know his help and cure. And so we
II. The believer's support and relief in case of sin: And (or but)
if any man sin (any of us, or of our foresaid communion), We
have we an Advocate with the Father, &c.,
1 John 2:1.
Believers themselves, those that are advanced to a happy gospel-state,
have yet their sins. There is a great distinction therefore between the
sinners that are in the world. There are Christianized (such as are
instated in the sacred saving privileges of Christ's mystical or
spiritual body) and unchristianized, converted and unconverted sinners.
There are some who, though they really sin, yet, in comparison with
others, are said not to sin, as
1 John 3:9.
Believers, as they have an atonement applied unto them at their
entrance into a state of pardon and justification, so they have an
Advocate in heaven still to continue to them that state, and procure
their continued forgiveness. And this must be the support,
satisfaction, and refuge of believers (or real Christians) in or upon
their sins: We have an Advocate. The original name is sometimes
given to the Holy Ghost, and then it is rendered, the Comforter.
He acts within us; he puts pleas and arguments into our hearts and
mouths; and so is our advocate, by teaching us to intercede for
ourselves. But here is an advocate without us, in heaven and with the
Father. The proper office and business of an advocate is with the
judge; with him he pleads the client's cause. The Judge with whom our
advocate pleads is the Father, his Father and ours. He who was our
Judge in the legal court (the court of the violated law) is our Father
in the gospel court, the court of heaven and of grace. His throne or
tribunal is the mercy-seat. And he that is our Father is also our
Judge, the supreme arbitrator of our state and circumstances, either
for life or death, for time or eternity. You have come--to God, the
Judge of all,
That believers may be encouraged to hope that their cause will go well,
as their Judge is represented to them in the relation of a Father, so
their advocate is recommended to them upon these considerations:--
1. By his person and personal names. It is Jesus Christ the Son of
the Father, one anointed by the Father for the whole office of
mediation, the whole work of salvation, and consequently for that of
the intercessor or advocate.
2. By his qualification for the office. It is Jesus Christ the
righteous, the righteous one in the court and sight of the Judge.
This is not so necessary in another advocate. Another advocate (or an
advocate in another court) may be an unjust person himself, and yet may
have a just cause (and the cause of a just person in that case) to
plead, and may accordingly carry his cause. But here the clients are
guilty; their innocence and legal righteousness cannot be pleaded;
their sin must be confessed or supposed. It is the advocate's own
righteousness that he must plead for the criminals. He has been
righteous to the death, righteous for them; he has brought in
everlasting righteousness. This the Judge will not deny. Upon this
score he pleads, that the clients' sins may not be imputed to them.
3. By the plea he has to make, the ground and basis of his advocacy:
And he is the propitiation for our sins,
1 John 2:2.
He is the expiatory victim, the propitiatory sacrifice that has been
offered to the Judge for all our offences against his majesty, and law,
and government. In vain do the professors of Rome distinguish between
and advocate of redemption and an advocate of intercession, or a
mediator of such different service. The Mediator of intercession, the
Advocate for us, is the Mediator of redemption, the propitiation for
our sins. It is his propitiation that he pleads. And we might be apt
to suppose that his blood had lost its value and efficacy if no mention
had been made of it in heaven since the time it was shed. But now we
see it is of esteem there, since it is continually represented in the
intercession of the great advocate (the attorney-general) for the
church of God. He ever lives to make intercession for those that
come to God through him.
4. By the extent of his plea, the latitude of his propitiation. It is
not confined to one nation; and not particularly to the ancient Israel
of God: He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours
only (not only for the sins of us Jews, us that are Abraham's seed
according to the flesh), but also for those of the whole world
(1 John 2:2);
not only for the past, or us present believers, but for the sins of all
who shall hereafter believe on him or come to God through him. The
extent and intent of the Mediator's death reach to all tribes, nations,
and countries. As he is the only, so he is the universal atonement and
propitiation for all that are saved and brought home to God, and to his
favour and forgiveness.
The Believer's Duty.
A. D. 80.
3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his
4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments,
is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God
perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to
walk, even as he walked.
These verses may seem to relate to the
of the former chapter,
between which and these verses there occurred an incidental discourse
concerning the believer's duty and relief in case of sin, occasioned by
the mention of one of the believer's privileges--his being cleansed
from sin by the Mediator's blood. In that verse the apostle asserts the
beneficial consequence of walking in the light: "We have then
fellowship with one another, such divine fellowship and communion
as are the prerogative of the church of Christ." Here now succeeds the
trial or test of our light and of our love.
I. The trial of our light: And hereby we do know that we know him,
if we keep his commandments,
1 John 2:3.
Divine light and knowledge are the beauty and improvement of the mind;
it becomes the disciples of the Mediator to be persons of wisdom and
understanding. Young Christians are apt to magnify their new light and
applaud their own knowledge, especially if they have been suddenly or
in a short time communicated; and old ones are apt to suspect the
sufficiency and fulness of their knowledge; they lament that they know
God, and Christ, and the rich contents of his gospel, no more: but here
is the evidence of the soundness of our knowledge, if it constrain us
to keep God's commandments. Each perfection of his nature
enforces his authority; the wisdom of his counsels, the riches of his
grace, the grandeur of his works, recommend his law and government. A
careful conscientious obedience to his commands shows that the
apprehension and knowledge of these things are graciously impressed
upon the soul; and therefore it must follow in the reverse that he
that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar,
and the truth is not in him,
1 John 2:4.
Professors of the truth are often ashamed of their ignorance, or
ashamed to own it; they frequently pretend to great attainments in the
knowledge of divine mysteries: Thou makest thy boast of God, and
knowest his will, and approvest (in thy rational judgment) the
things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law and art
confident that thou thyself art (or art fit to be) a guide to
the blind, &c.,
&c. But what knowledge of God can that be which sees not that he is
most worthy of the most entire and intense obedience? And, if that be
seen and known, how vain and superficial is even this knowledge when it
sways not the heart unto obedience! A disobedient life is the
confutation and shame of pretended religious knowledge; it gives the
lie to such boasts and pretences, and shows that there is neither
religion nor honesty in them.
II. The trial of our love: But whoso keepeth his word in him verily
is the love of God perfected; hereby know we that we are in him,
1 John 2:5.
To keep the word of God, or of Christ, is sacredly to attend thereto in
all the conduct and motion of life; in him that does so is the love of
God perfected. Possibly, some may here understand God's love to us; and
doubtless his love to us cannot be perfected (or obtain its perfect
design and fruit) without our practical observance of his word. We are
chosen, to be holy and blameless before him in love; we are
redeemed, to be a peculiar people, zealous of good works; we are
pardoned and justified, that we may be partakers of larger measures of
the divine Spirit for sanctification; we are sanctified, that we may
walk in ways of holiness and obedience: no act of divine love that here
terminates upon us obtains its proper tendency, issue, and effect,
without our holy attendance to God's word. But the phrase rather
denotes here our love to God; so
1 John 2:15,
The love of (to) the Father is not in him; so
1 John 3:17,
How dwelleth the love of (to) God in him? Now light is to kindle
love; and love must and will keep the word of God; it enquires wherein
the beloved may be pleased and served, and, finding he will be so by
observance of his declared will, there it employs and exerts itself;
there love is demonstrated; there it has its perfect (or complete)
exercise, operation, and delight; and hereby (by this dutiful
attendance to the will of God, or Christ) we know that we are in
(1 John 2:5),
we know that we belong to him, and that we are united to him by that
Spirit which elevates and assists us to this obedience; and if we
acknowledge our relation to him, and our union with him, it must have
this continued enforcement upon us: He that saith he abideth in him
ought himself to walk even as he walked,
1 John 2:6.
The Lord Christ was an inhabitant of this world, and walked here below;
here he gave a shining example of absolute obedience to God. Those who
profess to be on his side, and to abide with him, must walk with him,
walk after his pattern and example. The partisans of the several sects
of philosophers of old paid great regard to the dictates and practice
of their respective teachers and sect-masters; much more should the
Christian, he who professes to abide in and with Christ, aim to
resemble his infallible Master and head, and conform to his course and
prescriptions: Then are you my friends if you do whatsoever I
The Law of Love.
A. D. 80.
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.
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.
9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is
in darkness even until now.
10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there
is none occasion of stumbling in him.
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.
The seventh verse may be supposed either to look backward to what
immediately preceded (and then it is walking as Christ walked
that is here represented as no new, but an old commandment; it
is that which the apostles would certainly inculcate wherever they
brought Christ's gospel), or to look forward to what the apostle is now
going to recommend, and that is the law of fraternal love; this is the
message heard from the beginning
(1 John 3:11),
and the old commandment,
2 John 1:5.
Now, while the apostle addresses himself to the recommendation of such
a practice, he is ready to give an instance thereof in his affectionate
appellation: "Brethren, you who are dear to me in the bond of
that love to which I would solicit you;" and so the precept of
fraternal love is recommended,
I. As an old one: I write no new commandment unto you, but an old
commandment, which you had from the beginning,
1 John 2:7.
The precept of love must be as old as human nature; but it might admit
divers enactions, enforcements, and motives. In the state of innocence,
had human nature then been propagated, men must have loved one another
as being of one blood, made to dwell on the earth, as being God's
offspring, and bearing his image. In the state of sin and promised
recovery, they must love one another as related to God their Maker, as
related to each other by blood, and as partners in the same hope. When
the Hebrews were peculiarly incorporated, they must accordingly love
each other, as being the privileged people, whose were the covenants
and the adoption, and of whose race the Messiah and head of the church
must spring; and the law of love must be conveyed with new obligations
to the new Israel of God, to the gospel church, and so it is the old
commandment, or the word which the children of the gospel Israel
have heard from the beginning,
1 John 2:7.
II. As a new one: "Again, to constrain you to this duty the
more, a new commandment I write unto you, the law of the new
society, the Christian corporation, which thing is true in him,
the matter of which was first true in and concerning the head of it;
the truth of it was first and was abundantly in him; he loved the
church, and gave himself for it: and it is true in you; this
law is in some measure written upon your hearts; you are taught of God
to love one another, and that because" (or since, or forasmuch
as) "the darkness is past, the darkness of your prejudiced
unconverted (whether Jewish or Gentile) minds, your deplorable
ignorance of God and of Christ is now past, and the true light now
(1 John 2:8);
the light of evangelical revelation hath shone with life and
efficacy into your hearts; hence you have seen the excellency of
Christian love, and the fundamental obligation thereto." Hence we see
that the fundamentals (and particularly the fundamental precepts) of
the Christian religion may be represented either as new or old; the
reformed doctrine, or doctrine of religion in the reformed churches, is
new and old--new, as taught after long darkness, by the lights of the
reformation, new as purged from the adulterations of Rome; but old as
having been taught and heard from the beginning. We should see
that that grace or virtue which was true in Christ be true also in us;
we should be conformable to our head. The more our darkness is past,
and gospel light shines unto us, the deeper should our subjection be to
the commandments of our Lord, whether considered as old or new. Light
should produce a suitable heat. Accordingly, here is another trial of
our Christian light; before, it was to be approved by obedience to God;
here by Christian love.
1. He who wants such love in vain pretends his light: He that saith
he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even unto
1 John 2:9.
It is proper for sincere Christians to acknowledge what God has done
for their souls; but in the visible church there are often those who
assume to themselves more than is true, there are those who say they
are in the light, the divine revelation has made its impression upon
their minds and spirits, and yet they walk in hatred and enmity towards
their Christian brethren; these cannot be swayed by the sense of the
love of Christ to their brethren, and therefore remain in their dark
state, notwithstanding their pretended conversion to the Christian
2. He who is governed by such love approves his light to be good and
genuine: He that loveth his brother (as his brother in Christ)
abideth in the light,
1 John 2:10.
He sees the foundation and reason of Christian love; he discerns the
weight and value of the Christian redemption; he sees how meet it is
that we should love those whom Christ hath loved; and then the
consequence will be that there is no occasion of stumbling in
(1 John 2:10);
he will be no scandal, no stumbling-block, to his brother; he
will conscientiously beware that he neither induce his brother to sin
nor turn him out of the way of religion, Christian love teaches us
highly to value our brother's soul, and to dread every thing that will
be injurious to his innocence and peace.
3. Hatred is a sign of spiritual darkness: But he that hateth his
brother is in darkness,
1 John 2:11.
Spiritual light is instilled by the Spirit of grace, and one of the
first-fruits of that Spirit is love; he then who is possessed with
malignity towards a Christian brother must needs be destitute of
spiritual light; consequently he walks in darkness
(1 John 2:11);
his life is agreeable to a dark mind and conscience, and he knows
not whither he goes; he sees not whither this dark spirit carries
him, and particularly that it will carry him to the world of utter
darkness, because darkness hath blinded his eyes,
1 John 2:11.
The darkness of regeneracy, evidenced by a malignant spirit, is
contrary to the light of life; where that darkness dwells, the mind,
the judgment, and the conscience will be darkened, and so will mistake
the way to heavenly endless life. Here we may observe how effectually
our apostle is now cured of his once hot and flaming spirit. Time was
when he was for calling for fire from heaven upon poor ignorant
Samaritans who received them not,
But his Lord had shown him that he knew not his own spirit, nor whither
it led him. Having now imbibed more of the Spirit of Christ, he
breathes out good-will to man, and love to all the brethren. It is the
Lord Jesus that is the great Master of love: it is his school (his own
church) that is the school of love. His disciples are the disciples of
love, and his family must be the family of love.
Against the Love of the World.
A. D. 80.
12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are
forgiven you for his name's sake.
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.
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.
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
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.
17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he
that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
This new command of holy love, with the incentives thereto, may
possibly be directed to the several ranks of disciples that are here
accosted. The several graduates in the Christian university, the
catholic church, must be sure to preserve the bond of sacred love. Or,
there being an important dehortation and dissuasion to follow, without
the observance of which vital religion in the love of God and love of
the brethren cannot subsist, the apostle may justly seem to preface it
with a solemn address to the several forms or orders in the school of
Christ: let the infants or minors, the adults, the seniors (or the
adepti, the teleioi, the most perfect), in
the Christian institution, know that they must not love this
world; and so,
I. We have the address itself made to the various forms and ranks in
the church of Christ. All Christians are not of the same standing and
stature; there are babes in Christ, there are grown men, and old
disciples. As these have their peculiar states, so they have their
peculiar duties; but there are precepts and a correspondent obedience
common to them all, as particularly mutual love and contempt of the
world. We see also that wise pastors will judiciously distribute the
word of life, and give to the several members of Christ's family their
several suitable portions: I write unto you children, fathers, and
young men. In this distribution the apostle addresses,
1. The lowest in the Christian school: I write unto you, little
1 John 2:12.
There are novices in religion, babes in Christ, those who are learning
the rudiments of Christian godliness. The apostle may seem to encourage
them by applying to them first; and it may be useful to the greater
proficients to hear what is said to their juniors; elements are to be
repeated; first principles are the foundation of all. He addresses
the children in Christianity upon two accounts:--
(1.) Because their sins were forgiven them for his name's sake,
1 John 2:12.
The youngest sincere disciple is pardoned; the communion of
saints is attended with the forgiveness of sins. Sins are
forgiven either for God's name's sake, for the praise of his glory (his
glorious perfections displayed in forgiveness), or for Christ's
name's sake, upon his score, and upon the account of the redemption
that is in him; and those that are forgiven of God are strongly obliged
to relinquish this world, which so interferes with the love of
(2.) Because of their knowledge of God: I write unto you, little
children, because you have known the Father,
1 John 2:13.
Children are wont to know none so soon as their father. Children in
Christianity must and do know God. They shall all know me, from the
least to the greatest,
Children in Christ should know that God is their Father; it is their
wisdom. We say, It is a wise child that knows his father. These
children cannot but know theirs; they can well be assured by whose
power they are regenerated and by whose grace they are adopted. Those
that know the Father may well be withdrawn from the love of this world.
Then the apostle, proceeds,
2. To those of the highest station and stature, to the seniors in
Christianity, to whom he gives an honourable appellation: I write
unto you, fathers
(1 John 2:13,14),
unto you, Mnasons, you old disciples,
The apostle immediately passes from the bottom to the top of the
school, from the lowest form to the highest, that those in the middle
may hear both lessons, may remember what they have learned and perceive
what they must come to: I write unto you, fathers. Those that
are of longest standing in Christ's school have need of further advice
and instruction; the oldest disciple must go to heaven (the university
above) with his book, his Bible, in his hand; fathers must be written
to, and preached to; none are too old to learn. He writes to them upon
the account of their knowledge: I write unto you, fathers, because
you have known him that is from the beginning,
1 John 2:13,14.
Old men have knowledge and experience, and expect deference. The
apostle is ready to own the knowledge of old Christians, and to
congratulate them thereupon. They know the Lord Christ, particularly
him that was from the beginning; as
1 John 1:1.
As Christ is Alpha and Omega, so he must be the beginning
and end of our Christian knowledge. I count all things but loss for
the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord,
Those who know him that was from the beginning, before this world was
made, may well be induced thereby to relinquish this world. Then,
3. To the middle age of Christians, to those who are in their bloom and
flower: I write unto you, young men,
1 John 2:13,14.
There are the adult in Christ Jesus, those that have arrived at the
strength of spirit and sound sense and can discern between good and
evil. The apostle applies to them upon these accounts:--
(1.) Upon the account of their martial exploits. Dexterous soldiers
they are in the camp of Christ: Because you have overcome the wicked
1 John 2:13.
There is a wicked one that is continually warring against souls, and
particularly against the disciples: but those that are well taught in
Christ's school can handle their arms and vanquish the evil one; and
those that can vanquish him may be called to vanquish the world too,
which is so great an instrument for the devil.
(2.) Upon the account of their strength, discovered in this their
achievement: Because you are strong, and you have overcome the
1 John 2:14.
Young men are wont to glory in their strength; it will be the glory of
youthful persons to be strong in Christ and in his grace; it will be
their glory, and it will try their strength, to overcome the devil; if
they be not too hard for the devil, he will be too hard for them. Let
vigorous Christians show their strength in conquering the world; and
the same strength must be exerted in overcoming the world as is
employed in overcoming the devil.
(3.) Because of their acquaintance with the word of God: And the
word of God abideth in you,
1 John 2:14.
The word of God must abide in the adult disciples; it is the nutriment
and supply of strength to them; it is the weapon by which they overcome
the wicked one; the sword of the Spirit, whereby they quench his fiery
darts: and those in whom the word of God dwells are well furnished for
the conquest of the world.
II. We have the dehortation or dissuasion thus prefaced and introduced,
a caution fundamental to vital practical religion: "Love not the
world, neither the things that are in the world,
1 John 2:15.
Be crucified to the world, be mortified to the things, to the affairs
and enticements, of it." The several degrees of Christians should unite
in this, in being dead to the world. Were they thus united, they would
soon unite upon other accounts: their love should be reserved for God;
throw it not away upon the world. Now here we see the reasons of this
dissuasion and caution. They are several, and had need to be so; it is
hard to dispute or dissuade disciples themselves from the love of the
world. These reasons are taken,
1. From the inconsistency of this love with the love of God: If any
man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him,
1 John 2:15.
The heart of man is narrow, and cannot contain both loves. The world
draws down the heart from God; and so the more the love of the world
prevails the more the love of God dwindles and decays.
2. From the prohibition of worldly love or lust; it is not ordained of
God: It is not of the Father, but is of the world,
1 John 2:16.
This love or lust is not appointed of God (he calls us from it), but it
intrudes itself from the world; the world is a usurper of our
affection. Now here we have the due consideration and notion of the
world, according to which it is to be crucified and renounced. The
world, physically considered, is good, and is to be admired as the
work of God and a glass in which his perfections shine; but it is to be
considered in its relation to us now in our corrupted state, and as it
works upon our weakness and instigates and inflames our vile
affections. There is great affinity and alliance between this world and
the flesh, and this world intrudes and encroaches upon the flesh, and
thereby makes a party against God. The things of the world therefore
are distinguished into three classes, according to the three
predominant inclinations of depraved nature; as,
(1.) There is the lust of the flesh. The flesh here, being
distinguished from the eyes and the life, imports the
body. The lust of the flesh is, subjectively, the humour and appetite
of indulging fleshly pleasures; and, objectively, all those things that
excite and inflame the pleasures of the flesh. This lust is usually
(2.) There is the lust of the eyes. The eyes are delighted with
treasures; riches and rich possessions are craved by an extravagant
eye; this is the lust of covetousness.
3. There is the pride of life. A vain mind craves all the
grandeur, equipage, and pomp of a vain-glorious life; this is ambition,
and thirst after honour and applause. This is, in part, the disease of
the ear; it must be flattered with admiration and praise. The objects
of these appetites must be abandoned and renounced; as they engage and
engross the affection and desire, they are not of the Father, but of
1 John 2:16.
The Father disallows them, and the world should keep them to itself.
The lust or appetite to these things must be mortified and subdued; and
so the indulging of it is not appointed by the Father, but is
insinuated by the ensnaring world.
3. From the vain and vanishing state of earthly things and the
enjoyment of them. And the world passeth away, and the lust
1 John 2:17.
The things of the world are fading and dying apace. The lust itself
and the pleasure of it wither and decay; desire itself will ere long
fail and cease,
And what has become of all the pomp and pleasure of all those who now
lie mouldering in the grave?
4. From the immortality of the divine lover, the lover of God: But
he that doeth the will of God, which must be the character of the
lover of God, in opposition to this lover of the world, abideth for
1 John 2:17.
The object of his love in opposition to the world that
passeth away, abideth for ever; his sacred passion or affection,
in opposition to the lust that passeth away, abideth for ever; love
shall never fail; and he himself is an heir of immortality and endless
life, and shall in time be translated thither.
From the whole of these verses we should observe the purity and
spirituality of the apostolical doctrine. The animal life must be
subjected to the divine; the body with its affections should be swayed
by religion, or the victorious love of God.
A. D. 80.
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.
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they
had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but
they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were
not all of us.
I. A moral prognostication of the time; the end is coming: Little
children, it is the last time,
1 John 2:18.
Some may suppose that the apostle here addresses the first rank of
Christians again; the juniors are most apt to be seduced, and
therefore, "Little children, you that are young in religion,
take heed to yourselves that you be not corrupted." But it may be, as
elsewhere, a universal appellation, introductive of an alarm to all
Christians: "Little children, it is the last time; our Jewish
polity in church and state is hastening to an end; the Mosaic
institution and discipline are just upon vanishing away; Daniel's weeks
are now expiring; the destruction of the Hebrew city and sanctuary is
approaching, the end whereof must be with a flood, and to the end of
the war desolations are determined,"
It is meet that the disciples should be warned of the haste and end of
time, and apprised as much as may be of the prophetic periods of
II. The sign of this last time: Even now there are many
(1 John 2:18),
many that oppose the person, doctrine, and kingdom of Christ. It is a
mysterious portion of providence that antichrists should be permitted;
but, when they have come, it is good and safe that the disciples should
be informed of them; ministers should be watchmen to the house of
Israel. Now it should be no great offence nor prejudice to the
disciples that there are such antichrists:
1. One great one has been foretold: As you have heard that
antichrist shall come,
1 John 2:18.
The generality of the church have been informed by divine revelation
that there must be a long and fatal adversary to Christ and his church,
2 Thessalonians 2:8-10.
No wonder then that there are many harbingers and forerunners of the
great one: Even now there are many antichrists, the mystery of
iniquity already worketh.
2. They were foretold also as the sign of this last time. For there
shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great
signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall
deceive the very elect,
And these were the forerunners of the dissolution of the Jewish state,
nation, and religion: Whereby we know it is the last time,
1 John 2:18.
Let the prediction that we see there has been of seducers arising in
the Christian world fortify us against their seduction.
III. Some account of these seducers or antichrists.
1. More positively. They were once entertainers or professors of
apostolical doctrine: "They went out from us
(1 John 2:19),
from our company and communion;" possibly from the church of Jerusalem,
or some of the churches of Judea, as
Certain men came down from Judea, and taught the brethren, &c.
The purest churches may have their apostates and revolters; the
apostolic doctrine did not convert all whom it convinced of its truth.
2. More privately. "They were not inwardly such as we are: But they
were not of us; they had not from the heart obeyed the form of
sound doctrine delivered to them; they were not of our union with
Christ the head." Then here is,
(1.) The reason upon which it is concluded that they were not of us,
were not what they pretended, or what we are, and that is their actual
defection: "For, if they had been of us, they would no doubt
have continued with us
(1 John 2:19);
had the sacred truth been rooted in their hearts it would have held
them with us; had they had the anointing from above, by which they had
been made true and real Christians, they would not have turned
antichrists." Those that apostatize from religion sufficiently indicate
that, before, they were hypocrites in religion: those who have imbibed
the spirit of gospel truth have a good preservative against destructive
(2.) The reason why they are permitted thus to depart from apostolical
doctrine and communion--that their insincerity may be detected:
But this was done (or they went out) that they might be made
manifest that they were not all of us,
1 John 2:19.
The church knows not well who are its vital members and who are not;
and therefore the church, considered as internally sanctified, may well
be styled invisible. Some of the hypocritical must be manifested
here, and that for their own shame and benefit too, in their reduction
to the truth, if they have not sinned unto death, and for the terror
and caution of others. You therefore, beloved, seeing you know these
things before, beware lest you also, being led away with the error of
the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace,
2 Peter 3:17,18.
A. D. 80.
20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all
21 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth,
but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?
He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father:
(but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.
24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from
the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning
shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in
25 And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even
26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that
27 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.
I. The apostle encourages the disciples (to whom he writes) in these
dangerous times, in this hour of seducers; he encourages them in the
assurance of their stability in this day of apostasy: But you have
an unction from the Holy One, and you know all things. We see,
1. The blessing wherewith they were enriched--an unguent from heaven:
You have an unction. True Christians are anointed ones, their
name intimates as much. They are anointed with the oil of grace, with
gifts and spiritual endowments, by the Spirit of grace. They are
anointed into a similitude of their Lord's offices, as subordinate
prophets, priests, and kings, unto God. The Holy Spirit is compared to
oil, as well as to fire and water; and the communication of his
salvific grace is our anointing.
2. From whom this blessing comes--from the Holy One, either from
the Holy Ghost or from the Lord Christ, as
These things saith he that is holy--the Holy One. The Lord
Christ is glorious in his holiness. The Lord Christ disposes of the
graces of the divine Spirit, and he anoints the disciples to make them
like himself, and to secure them in his interest.
3. The effect of this unction--it is a spiritual eye-salve; it
enlightens and strengthens the eyes of the understanding: "And
thereby you know all things
(1 John 2:20),
all these things concerning Christ and his religion; it was promised
and given you for that end,"
The Lord Christ does not deal alike by all his professed disciples;
some are more anointed than others. There is great danger lest those
that are not thus anointed should be so far from being true to Christ
that they should, on the contrary, turn antichrists, and prove
adversaries to Christ's person, and kingdom, and glory.
II. The apostle indicates to them the mind and meaning with which he
wrote to them.
1. By way of negation; not as suspecting their knowledge, or supposing
their ignorance in the grand truths of the gospel: "I have not
written unto you because you know not the truth,
1 John 2:21.
I could not then be so well assured of your stability therein, nor
congratulate you on your unction from above." It is good to surmise
well concerning our Christian brethren; we ought to do so till evidence
overthrows our surmise: a just confidence in religious persons may both
encourage and contribute to their fidelity.
2. By way of assertion and acknowledgment, as relying upon their
judgment in these things: But because you know it (you know
the truth in Jesus), and that no lie is of the truth. Those who
know the truth in any respect are thereby prepared to discern what is
contrary thereto and inconsistent therewith. Rectum est index sui et
obliqui--The line which shows itself to be straight shows also what
line is crooked. Truth and falsehood do not well mix and suit
together. Those that are well acquainted with Christian truth are
thereby well fortified against antichristian error and delusion. No lie
belongs to religion, either natural or revealed. The apostles most of
all condemned lies, and showed the inconsistency of lies with their
doctrine: they would have been the most self-condemned persons had they
propagated the truth by lies. It is a commendation of the Christian
religion that it so well accords with natural religion, which is the
foundation of it, that it so well accords with the Jewish religion,
which contained the elements or rudiments of it. No lie is of the
truth; frauds and impostures then are very unfit means to support
and propagate the truth. I suppose it had been better with the state of
religion if they had never been used. The result of them appears in the
infidelity of our age; the detection of ancient pious frauds and wiles
has almost run our age into atheism and irreligion; but the greatest
actors and sufferers for the Christian revelation would assure us that
no lie is of the truth.
III. The apostle further impleads and arraigns these seducers who had
1. They are liars, egregious opposers of sacred truth: Who is
a liar, or the liar, the notorious liar of the time and age in
which we live, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? The
great and pernicious lies that the father of lies, or of liars, spreads
in the world, were of old, and usually are, falsehoods and errors
relating to the person of Christ. There is no truth so sacred and fully
attested but some or other will contradict or deny it. That Jesus of
Nazareth was the Son of God had been attested by heaven, and earth, and
hell. It should seem that some, in the tremendous judgment of God, are
given up to strong delusions.
2. They are direst enemies to God as well as to the Lord Christ: He
is antichrist who denieth the Father and the Son,
1 John 2:22.
He that opposes Christ denies the witness and testimony of the Father,
and the seal that he hath given to his Son; for him hath God the
And he that denies the witness and testimony of the Father, concerning
Jesus Christ denies that God is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and consequently abandons the knowledge of God in Christ, and thereupon
the whole revelation of God in Christ, and particularly of God in
Christ reconciling the world unto himself; and therefore the
apostle may well infer, Whosoever denies the Son the same has not
(1 John 2:23);
he has not the true knowledge of the Father, for the Son has most and
best revealed him; he has no interest in the Father, in his favour, and
grace, and salvation, for none cometh to the Father but by the Son.
But, as some copies add, he that acknowledgeth the Son has the
1 John 2:23.
As there is an intimate relation between the Father and the Son, so
there is an inviolable union in the doctrine, knowledge, and interests
of both; so that he who has the knowledge of, and right to, the Son,
has the knowledge of, and right to, the Father also. Those that adhere
to the Christian revelation hold the light and benefit of natural
IV. Hereupon the apostle advises and persuades the disciples to
continue in the old doctrine at first communicated to them: Let that
therefore abide in you which you have heard from the beginning,
1 John 2:24.
Truth is older than error. The truth concerning Christ, that was at
first delivered to the saints, is not to be exchanged for novelties. So
sure were the apostles of the truth of what they had delivered
concerning Christ, and from him, that after all their toils and
sufferings they were not willing to relinquish it. The Christian truth
may plead antiquity, and be recommended thereby. This exhortation is
enforced by these considerations:--
1. From the sacred advantage they will receive by adhering to the
primitive truth and faith.
(1.) They will continue thereby in holy union with God and Christ:
If that which you have heard from the beginning shall remain in you,
you also shall continue in the Son and in the Father,
1 John 2:24.
It is the truth of Christ abiding in us that is the means of severing
us from sin and uniting us to the Son of God,
The Son is the medium or the Mediator by whom we are united to the
Father. What value then should we put upon gospel truth!
(2.) They will thereby secure the promise of eternal life: And this
is the promise that he (even God the Father,
1 John 5:11)
hath promised us, even eternal life,
1 John 2:25.
Great is the promise that God makes to his faithful adherents. It is
suitable to his own greatness, power, and goodness. It is eternal
life, which none but God can give. The blessed God puts great value
upon his Son, and the truth relating to him, when he is pleased to
promise to those who continue in that truth (under the light, and
power, and influence of it) eternal life. Then the exhortation
aforesaid is enforced,
2. From the design of the apostle's writing to them. This letter is to
fortify them against the deceivers of the age: "These things have I
written to you concerning those that seduce you
(1 John 2:26),
and therefore, if you continue not in what you have heard from the
beginning, my writing and service will be in vain." We should
beware lest the apostolical letters, yea, lest the whole scripture of
God, should be to us insignificant and fruitless. I have written to
him the great things of my law (and my gospel too), but they
were counted as a strange thing,
3. From the instructive blessing they had received from heaven: But
the anointing which you have received from him abideth in you,
1 John 2:27.
True Christians have an inward confirmation of the divine truth they
have imbibed: the Holy Spirit has imprinted it on their minds and
hearts. It is meet that the Lord Jesus should have a constant witness
in the hearts of his disciples. The unction, the pouring out of the
gifts of grace upon sincere disciples, is a seal to the truth and
doctrine of Christ, since none giveth that seal but God. Now he who
establisheth us with you (and you with us) in Christ, and hath
anointed us, is God,
2 Corinthians 1:21.
This sacred chrism, or divine unction, is commended on these
(1.) It is durable and lasting; oil or unguent is not so soon dried up
as water: it abideth in you,
1 John 2:27.
Divine illumination, in order to confirmation, must be something
continued or constant. Temptations, snares, and seductions, arise. The
anointing must abide.
(2.) It is better than human instruction: "And you need not that any
man teach you,
1 John 2:27.
Not that this anointing will teach you without the appointed ministry.
It could, if God so pleased; but it will not, though it will teach you
better than we can: And you need not that any man teach you,
1 John 2:27.
You were instructed by us before you were anointed; but now our
teaching is nothing in comparison to that. Who teacheth like
The divine unction does not supersede ministerial teaching, but
(3.) It is a sure evidence of truth, and all that it teaches is
infallible truth: But as the same anointing teacheth you of all
things, and is truth, and is no lie,
1 John 2:27.
The Holy Spirit must needs be the Spirit of truth, as he is
The instruction and illumination that he affords must needs be in and
of the truth. The Spirit of truth will not lie; and he teacheth all
things, that is, all things in the present dispensation, all things
necessary to our knowledge of God in Christ, and their glory in the
(4.) It is of a conservative influence; it will preserve those in whom
it abides against seducers and their seduction: "And even as it hath
taught you you shall abide in him,
1 John 2:27.
It teaches you to abide in Christ; and, as it teaches you, it secures
you; it lays a restraint upon your minds and hearts, that you may not
revolt from him. And he that hath anointed us is God, who also hath
sealed us for himself, and given the earnest of the Spirit in
2 Corinthians 1:21,22.
Christ's Second Appearance.
A. D. 80.
28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall
appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at
29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that
doeth righteousness is born of him.
From the blessing of the sacred unction the apostle proceeds in his
advice and exhortation to constancy in and with Christ: And now,
little children, abide in him,
1 John 2:28.
The apostle repeats his kind appellation, little children, which
I suppose does not so much denote their diminutiveness as his
affection, and therefore, I judge, may be rendered dear
children. He would persuade by love, and prevail by endearment as
well as by reason. "Not only the love of Christ, but the love of you,
constrains us to inculcate your perseverance, and that you would
abide in him, in the truth relating to his person, and in your
union with him and allegiance to him." Evangelical privileges are
obligatory to evangelical duties; and those that are anointed by the
Lord Jesus are highly obliged to abide with him in opposition to all
adversaries whatever. This duty of perseverance and constancy in trying
times is strongly urged by the two following considerations:--
1. From the consideration of his return at the great day of account:
That when he shall appear we may have confidence, and not be ashamed
before him at his coming,
1 John 2:28.
It is here taken for granted that the Lord Jesus will come again. This
was part of that truth they had heart from the beginning. And, when he
shall come again, he will publicly appear, be manifested to all. When
he was here before, he came privately, in comparison. He proceeded from
a womb, and was introduced into a stable: but, when he shall come
again, he will come from the opened heavens, and every eye shall see
him; and then those who have continued with him throughout all their
temptations shall have confidence, assurance, and joy, in the sight of
him. They shall lift up their heads with unspeakable triumph, as
knowing that their complete redemption comes along with him. On the
contrary, those that have deserted him shall be ashamed before
him; they shall be ashamed of themselves, ashamed of their
unbelief, their cowardice, ingratitude, temerity, and folly, in
forsaking so glorious a Redeemer. They shall be ashamed of their hopes,
expectations, and pretences, and ashamed of all the wages of
unrighteousness, by which they were induced to desert him: That we
may have confidence, and may not be ashamed. The apostle includes
himself in the number. "Let not us be ashamed of you," as well as, "you
will not be ashamed of yourselves." Or me aischynthomen ap
autou--that we be not ashamed (made ashamed, or put to
shame) by him at his coming. At his public appearance he will
shame all those who have abandoned him, he will disclaim all
acquaintance with them, will cover them with shame and confusion, will
abandon them to darkness, devils, and endless despair, by professing
before men and angels that he is ashamed of them,
To the same advice and exhortation he proceeds,
2. From the consideration of the dignity of those who still adhere to
Christ and his religion: If you know that he is righteous, you know
that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him,
1 John 2:29.
The particle here rendered if seems not to be vox
dubitantis, but concedentis; not so much a conditional
particle, as a suppositional one, if I may call it so, a note of
allowance or concession, and so seems to be of the same import with our
English inasmuch, or whereas, or since. So the
sense runs more clearly: Since you know that he is righteous, you
know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. He
that doeth righteousness may here be justly enough assumed as another
name for him that abideth in Christ. For he that abideth in Christ
abideth in the law and love of Christ, and consequently in his
allegiance and obedience to him; and so must do, or work, or practise,
righteousness, or the parts of gospel holiness. Now such a one must
needs be born of him. He is renewed by the Spirit of Christ,
after the image of Christ, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,
which God hath fore-ordained that he should walk in them,
"Since then you know that the Lord Christ is righteous
(righteous in his quality and capacity, the Lord our righteousness, and
the Lord our sanctifier or our sanctification, as
1 Corinthians 1:30),
you cannot but know thereupon" (or know you, it is for your
consideration and regard) "that he who by the continued practice of
Christianity abideth in him is born of him." The new spiritual nature
is derived from the Lord Christ. He that is constant to the practice of
religion in trying times gives good evidence that he is born from
above, from the Lord Christ. The Lord Christ is an everlasting Father.
It is a great privilege and dignity to be born of him. Those that are
so are the children of God. To as many as received him to them gave
he power to become the sons of God,
And this introduces the context of the following chapter.
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for '1 John' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".