Vincent's Word Studies
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
My little children (τεκνία μου)
Τεκνίον, little child, diminutive of τέκνον child, occurs in John 8:33; 1 John 2:12, 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:7, 1 John 3:18; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:21. This particular phrase is found only here (best texts omit my in 1 John 3:18). Used as a term of affection, or possibly with reference to the writer's advanced age. Compare Christ's word, παιδία children (John 21:5) which John also uses (1 John 2:13, 1 John 2:18). In the familiar story of John and the young convert who became a robber, it is related that the aged apostle repaired to the robber's haunt, and that the young man, on seeing him, took to flight. John, forgetful of his age, ran after him, crying: "O my son why dost thou fly from me thy father? Thou, an armed man, - I, an old, defenseless one! Have pity upon me! My son, do not fear! There is still hope of life for thee. I wish myself to take the burden of all before Christ. If it is necessary, I will die for thee, as Christ died for us. Stop! Believe! It is Christ who sends me."
More personal than we write (1 John 1:4), and thus better suiting the form of address, my little children.
If any man sin, we have
The change from the indefinite third person, any man, to the first person, we have, is significant. By the we have, John assumes the possibility of sinful acts on the part of Christians, and of himself in common with them, and their common need of the intervention of the divine Advocate. So Augustine: "He said, not 'ye have,' nor 'ye have me,' nor 'ye have Christ himself;' but he put Christ, not himself, and said 'we have,' and not 'ye have.' He preferred to place himself in the number of sinners, so that he might have Christ for his advocate, rather than to put himself as the advocate instead of Christ, and to be found among the proud who are destined to condemnation."
An advocate (παράκλητον)
See on John 14:16.
With the Father (πρὸς τὸν πατέρα)
And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
And He (καὶ αὐτὸς)
The He is emphatic: that same Jesus: He himself.
The propitiation (ἱλασμός)
Only here and 1 John 4:10. From ἱλάσκομαι to appease, to conciliate to one's self, which occurs Luke 18:13; Hebrews 2:17. The noun means originally an appeasing or propitiating, and passes, through Alexandrine usage, into the sense of the means of appeasing, as here. The construction is to be particularly noted; for, in the matter of (περί) our sins; the genitive case of that for which propitiation is made. In Hebrews 2:17, the accusative case, also of the sins to be propitiated. In classical usage, on the other hand, the habitual construction is the accusative (direct objective case), of the person propitiated. So in Homer, of the gods. Θεὸν ἱλάσκεσθαι is to make a God propitious to one. See "Iliad," i., 386, 472. Of men whom one wishes to conciliate by divine honors after death. So Herodotus, of Philip of Crotona. "His beauty gained him honors at the hands of the Egestaeans which they never accorded to any one else; for they raised a hero-temple over his grave, and they still propitiate him (αὐτὸν ἱλάσκονται) with sacrifices" (v., 47). Again, "The Parians, having propitiated Themistocles (Θεμιστοκλέα ἱλασάμενοι) with gifts, escaped the visits of the army" (viii., 112). The change from this construction shows, to quote Canon Westcott, "that the scriptural conception of the verb is not that of appeasing one who is angry, with a personal feeling, against the offender; but of altering the character of that which, from without, occasions a necessary alienation, and interposes an inevitable obstacle to fellowship. Such phrases as 'propitiating God,' and God 'being reconciled' are foreign to the language of the New Testament. Man is reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:18 sqq.; Romans 5:10 sq.). There is a propitiation in the matter of the sin or of the sinner."
For the sins of the whole world (περὶ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου)
The sins of (A. V., italicized) should be omitted; as in Revelation, for the whole world. Compare 1 John 4:14; John 4:42; John 7:32. "The propitiation is as wide as the sin" (Bengel). If men do not experience its benefit, the fault is not in its efficacy. Dsterdieck (cited by Huther) says, "The propitiation has its real efficacy for the whole world; to believers it brings life, to unbelievers death." Luther: "It is a patent fact that thou too art a part of the whole world; so that thine heart cannot deceive itself, and think, the Lord died for Peter and Paul, but not for me." On κόσμου see on John 1:9.
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
Hereby (ἐν τούτῳ)
Lit., in this. Characteristic of John. See John 8:35; John 15:8; John 16:30; 1 John 2:5; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:13; 1 John 5:2; 1 John 3:16; 1 John 3:19; 1 John 4:2. The expression points to what follows, "if we keep His commandments," yet with a covert reference to that idea as generally implied in the previous words concerning fellowship with God and walking in the light.
We know (γινώσκομεν)
Or, perceive. By experience, from day to day; distinguished from οἴδαμεν we know, expressing absolute, immediate knowledge of a fact once for all. Compare 1 John 3:2.
That we know (ὅτι ἐγνώκαμεν)
Or, more literally, have come to know. John does not use the compound forms ἐπιγινώσκειν and ἐπίγνωσις (see on Matthew 7:16. See Luke 1:4; Acts 4:13; Romans 1:28; Ephesians 1:17, etc.), nor the kindred word γνῶσις knowledge (Luke 1:77; Romans 2:20, etc.).
We keep His commandments (τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ τηρῶμεν)
A phrase peculiar to John and occurring elsewhere only Matthew 19:17; 1 Timothy 6:14. In 1 Corinthians 7:19, we find τήρησις ἐντολῶν the keeping of the commandments. On τηρέω to keep, see on 1 Peter 1:5.
He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
Compare we lie, 1 John 1:6.
In him (ἐν τούτῳ)
Emphatic. Lit., in this one the truth is not. See on 1 John 1:8.
But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
Keepeth His word (τηρῇ αὐτοῦ τὸν λόγον)
Note the changed phrase: word for commandments. The word is the revelation regarded as a whole, which includes all the separate commandments or injunctions. See the use of λόγος word, and ἐντολή precept, in John 14:21-24.
Is the love of God perfected (ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ τετελείωται)
Rev., rendering the perfect tense more closely, hath the love of God been perfected. The change in the form of this antithetic clause is striking. He who claims to know God, yet lives in disobedience, is a liar. We should expect as an offset to this: He that keepeth His commandments is of the truth; or, the truth is in him. Instead we have, "In him has the love of God been perfected." In other words, the obedient child of God is characterized, not by any representative trait or quality of his own personality, but merely as the subject of the work of divine love: as the sphere in which that love accomplishes its perfect work.
The phrase ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ the love of God, may mean either the love which God shows, or the love of which God is the object, or the love which is characteristic of God whether manifested by Himself or by His obedient child through His Spirit. John's usage is not decisive like Paul's, according to which the love of God habitually means the love which proceeds from and is manifested by God. The exact phrase, the love of God or the love of the Father, is found in 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:9, in the undoubted sense of the love of God to men. The same sense is intended in 1 John 3:1, 1 John 3:9, 1 John 3:16, though differently expressed. The sense is doubtful in 1 John 2:5; 1 John 3:17; 1 John 4:12. Men's love to God is clearly meant in 1 John 2:15; 1 John 5:3. The phrase occurs only twice in the Gospels (Luke 6:42; John 5:42), and in both cases the sense is doubtful. Some, as Ebrard, combine the two, and explain the love of God as the mutual relation of love between God and men.
It is not possible to settle the point decisively, but I incline to the view that the fundamental idea of the love of God as expounded by John is the love which God has made known and which answers to His nature. In favor of this is the general usage of ἀγάπη love, in the New Testament, with the subjective genitive. The object is more commonly expressed by εἰς towards, or to. See 1 Thessalonians 3:12; Colossians 1:4; 1 Peter 4:8. Still stronger is John's treatment of the subject in ch. 4. Here we have, 1 John 4:9, the manifestation of the love of God in us (ἐν ἡμῖν) By our life in Christ and our love to God we are a manifestation of God's love. Directly following this is a definition of the essential nature of love. "In this is love; i.e., herein consists love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us" (1 John 4:10). Our mutual love is a proof that God dwells in us. God dwelling in us, His love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12). The latter clause, it would seem, must be explained according to 1 John 4:10. Then (1 John 4:16), "We have known and believed the love that God hath in us" (see on John 16:22, on the phrase have love). "God is love;" that is His nature, and He imparts this nature to be the sphere in which His children dwell. "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God." Finally, our love is engendered by His love to us. "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).
In harmony with this is John 15:9. "As the Father loved me, I also loved you. Continue ye in my love." My love must be explained by I loved you. This is the same idea of divine love as the sphere or element of renewed being; and this idea is placed, as in the passage we are considering, in direct connection with the keeping of the divine commandments. "If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love."
This interpretation does not exclude man's love to God. On the contrary, it includes it. The love which God has, is revealed as the love of God in the love of His children towards Him, no less than in His manifestations of love to them. The idea of divine love is thus complex. Love, in its very essence, is reciprocal. Its perfect ideal requires two parties. It is not enough to tell us, as a bare, abstract truth, that God is love. The truth must be rounded and filled out for us by the appreciable exertion of divine love upon an object, and by the response of the object. The love of God is perfected or completed by the perfect establishment of the relation of love between God and man. When man loves perfectly, his love is the love of God shed abroad in his heart. His love owes both its origin and its nature to the love of God.
The word verily (ἀληθῶς) is never used by John as a mere formula of affirmation, but has the meaning of a qualitative adverb, expressing not merely the actual existence of a thing, but its existence in a manner most absolutely corresponding to ἀλήθεια truth. Compare John 1:48; John 8:31. Hath been perfected. John is presenting the ideal of life in God. "This is the love of God that we keep His commandments." Therefore whosoever keepeth God's word, His message in its entirety, realizes the perfect relation of love.
We are in Him
He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
He abideth in Him (ἐν αὐτῷ μένειν)
To abide in God is a more common expression with John than to be in God, and marks an advance in thought. The phrase is a favorite one with John. See John 15:4 sqq.; John 6:56; 1 John 2:24, 1 John 2:27, 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:6, 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:12 sq.; 1 John 4:15 sq. Bengel notes the gradation in the three phrases "to know Him, to be in Him, to abide in Him; knowledge, fellowship, constancy."
An obligation, put as a debt. See Luke 17:10, and on debts, Matthew 6:12. The word expresses a special, personal obligation, and not as δεῖ must, an obligation in the nature of things. See John 20:9, and compare 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:11; 3 John 1:8.
Always of Christ in the Epistles of John. See ἐκείνης, referring to ἁμαρτία sin, 1 John 5:16.
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.
The correct reading is ἀγαπηοί beloved. The first occurrence of this title, which is suggested by the previous words concerning the relation of love.
No new commandment (οὐκ ἐντολὴν καινὴν)
The Rev., properly, places these words first in the sentence as emphatic, the point of the verse lying in the antithesis between the new and the old. On new, see on Matthew 26:29.
Four words are used in the New Testament for old or elder. Of these γέρων and πρεσβύτερος refer merely to the age of men, or, the latter, to official position based primarily upon age. Hence the official term elder. Between the two others, ἀρχαῖος and παλαιός, the distinction is not sharply maintained. Ἁρχαῖος emphasizes the reaching back to a beginning (ἀρχή) Thus Satan is "that old (ἀρχαῖος) serpent," whose evil work was coeval with the beginning of time (Revelation 7:9; Revelation 20:2). The world before the flood is "the old (ἀρχαῖος) world" (2 Peter 2:5). Mnason was "an old (ἀρχαῖος) disciple;" not aged, but having been a disciple from the beginning (Acts 21:16). Sophocles, in "Trachiniae," 555, gives both words. "I had an old (παλαιὸν) gift," i.e., received long ago, "from the old (ἀρχαίου) Centaur." The Centaur is conceived as an old-world creature, belonging to a state of things which has passed away. It carries, therefore, the idea of old fashioned: peculiar to an obsolete state of things.
Παλαιός carries the sense of worn out by time, injury, sorrow, or other causes. Thus the old garment (Matthew 9:16) is παλαιόν. So the old wine-skins (Matthew 9:17). The old men of a living generation compared with the young of the same generation are παλαιοί. In παλαιός the simple conception of time dominates. In ἀρχαῖος there is often a suggestion of a character answering to the remote age.
The commandment is here called old because it belonged to the first stage of the Christian church. Believers had had it from the beginning of their Christian faith.
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.
The commandment of love is both old and new. Old, because John's readers have had it from the beginning of their Christian experience. New, because, in the unfolding of Christian experience, it has developed new power, meaning, and obligation, and closer correspondence "with the facts of Christ's life, with the crowning mystery of His passion, and with the facts of the Christian life."
Which thing is true (ὅ ἐστιν ἀληθὲς)
The expression which thing, or that which, refers either to the commandment of love, or to the fact stated, viz., that the old commandment is new. The fact that the old commandment is new is true in Him and in us. On the whole I prefer this.
In Him and in us
For us, read you. The fact that the old commandment is new, is true in Him (Christ), since He gave it as a new commandment, and illustrated it by His word and example. It is true in you, since you did not receive it until Christ gave it, and since the person and life of Christ are appealing to you in new lights and with fresh power as your Christian life develops. In Him, points back to as He walked.
Explaining the apparent paradox.
The darkness (ἡ σκοτία)
See on John 1:5. God is light; and whatever is not in fellowship with God is therefore darkness. In all cases where the word is not used of physical darkness, it means moral insensibility to the divine light; moral blindness or obtuseness. Compare John 8:12; John 12:35, John 12:46; 1 John 2:9, 1 John 2:11.
Is past (παράγεται)
Wrong. The passing is not represented as accomplished, but as in progress. Rev., rightly rendering the present tense, is passing away.
The true light (τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινὸν)
Lit., the light, the true (light). See on that eternal life (1 John 1:2). True, not as distinguished from false, but as answering to the true ideal. See on John 1:9. The true light is the revelation of God in Christ. See on 1 John 1:5.
He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
The sharp issue is maintained here as in Christ's words, "He that is not with me is against me" (Luke 11:23). Men fall into two classes, those who are in fellowship with God, and therefore walk in light and love, and those who are not in fellowship with God, and therefore walk in darkness and hatred. "A direct opposition," says Bengel; where love is not, there is hatred. "The heart is not empty." See John 3:20; John 7:7; John 15:18 sqq.; John 17:14. The word hate is opposed both to the love of natural affection (φιλεῖν), and to the more discriminating sentiment - love founded on a just estimate (ἀγαπᾶν). For the former see John 12:25; John 15:18, John 15:19; compare Luke 14:26. For the latter, 1 John 3:14, 1 John 3:15; 1 John 4:20, Matthew 5:43; Matthew 6:24; Ephesians 5:28, Ephesians 5:29. "In the former case, hatred, which may become a moral duty, involves the subjection of an instinct. In the latter case it expresses a general determination of character" (Westcott).
His brother (τὸν ἀδελφόν)
His fellow-Christian. The singular, brother, is characteristic of this Epistle. See 1 John 2:10, 1 John 2:11; 1 John 3:10, 1 John 3:15, 1 John 3:17; 1 John 4:20, 1 John 4:21; 1 John 5:16. Christians are called in the New Testament, Christians (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16), mainly by those outside of the Christian circle. Disciples, applied to all followers of Christ (John 2:11; John 6:61) and strictly to the twelve (John 13:5 sqq.). In Acts 19:1, to those who had received only John's baptism. Not found in John's Epistles nor in Revelation. Brethren. The first title given to the body of believers after the Ascension (Acts 1:15, where the true reading is ἀδελφῶν brethren, for μαθητῶν disciples). See Acts 9:30; Acts 10:23; Acts 11:29; 1 Thessalonians 4:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 John 3:14; 3 John 1:5, 3 John 1:10; John 21:23. Peter has ἡ ἀδελφότης the brotherhood (1 Peter 2:17; 1 Peter 5:9). The believers. Under three forms: The believers (οἱ πιστοί; Acts 10:45; 1 Timothy 4:12); they that believe (οἱ πιστεύοντες; 1 Peter 2:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:7; Ephesians 1:19); they that believed (οἱ πιστεύσαντες; Acts 2:44; Acts 4:32; Hebrews 4:3). The saints (οἱ ἅγιοι); characteristic of Paul and Revelation. Four times in the Acts (Acts 9:13, Acts 9:32, Acts 9:41; Acts 26:10), and once in Jude (Jde 1:3). Also Hebrews 6:10; Hebrews 13:24. In Paul, 1 Corinthians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Ephesians 1:1, Ephesians 1:15, etc. In Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3, Revelation 8:4; Revelation 11:18, etc.
Until now (ἕως ἄρτι)
Though the light has been increasing, and though he may claim that he has been in the light from the first. The phrase occurs in John 2:10; John 5:17; John 16:24; and is used by Paul, 1 Corinthians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 8:7; 1 Corinthians 15:6.
He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
Occasion of stumbling (σκάνδαλον)
See on offend, Matthew 5:29. For the image in John, see John 6:61; John 11:9; John 16:1; Revelation 2:14. The meaning is not that he gives no occasion of stumbling to others, but that there is none in his own way. See John 11:9, John 11:10.
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.
Is - walketh - whither
The condition of him who hates is viewed as related to being, action, and tendency.
He goeth (ὑπάγει)
Hath blinded (ἐτύφλωσεν)
For the image see Isaiah 6:10. See on closed, Matthew 13:15. Compare John 1:5, and see note on κατέλαβεν, overtook; John 11:35, John 11:40. The aorist tense, blinded, indicates a past, definite, decisive act. When the darkness overtook, it blinded. The blindness is no new state into which he has come.
I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.
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.
Indicating age and authority.
Have known (ἐγνώκατε)
Rev., correctly, ye know. Knowledge is the characteristic of fathers; knowledge as the fruit of experience. Ye have perceived, therefore ye know.
Have overcome (νενικήκατε)
Compare John 16:33. The image is characteristic of Revelation and First Epistle. See Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:26; Revelation 12:11; Revelation 21:7; 1 John 2:14; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:4, 1 John 5:5.
The evil one (τὸν πονηρόν)
See on wickedness, Mark 7:22; see on evils, Luke 3:19; see on evil spirits, Luke 7:21. The prince of darkness is styled by John ὁ διάβολος the false accuser (John 8:44; John 13:2; 1 John 3:8, 1 John 3:10. See on Matthew 4:1): ὁ Σατανᾶς Satan, the adversary (John 13:27; compare ὁ κατήγωρ the accuser, properly, in court, Revelation 12:10): ὁ πονηρός the evil one (John 17:15; 1 John 2:13, 1 John 2:14; 1 John 3:12; 1 John 5:18, 1 John 5:19): ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου the ruler of this world (John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11). Note the abrupt introduction of the word here, as indicating something familiar.
I have written (ἔγραψα)
Or, strictly, I wrote. Compare I write (1 John 2:12, 1 John 2:13), and note the change of tense. The past tense, I wrote, does not refer to some previous writing, as the Gospel, but, like the present, to this Epistle. The present, I write, refers to the immediate act of writing: the aorist is the epistolary aorist, by which the writer places himself at the reader's stand-point, regarding the writing as past. See on 1 Peter 5:12. I write, therefore, refers to the Apostle's immediate act of writing; I have written, or I wrote, to the reader's act of reading the completed writing.
Little children (παιδία)
Compare τεκνία little children (1 John 2:1), which emphasizes the idea of kinship, while this word emphasizes the idea of subordination and consequent discipline. Hence it is the more appropriate word when spoken from the stand-point of authority rather than of affection.
Ye have known (ἐγνώκατε)
Rev., correctly, ye known.
In His rightful authority, as a Father over little children.
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.
Him that is from the beginning
The eternal, pre-existent Christ, who was from the beginning (John 1:1). The eternal Son, through whom men are brought into the relation of children of God, and learn to know the
The knowledge of God involves, on the part of both fathers and children, the knowledge of Christ.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
The world (τὸν κόσμον)
See on John 1:9.
The love of the Father (ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ πατρὸς)
Is not in him
This means more than that he does not love God: rather that the love of God does not dwell in him as the ruling principle of his life. Westcott cites a parallel from Philo: "It is impossible for love to the world to coexist with love to God, as it is impossible for light and darkness to coexist." Compare Plato. "Evils, Theodorus, can never pass away; for there must always remain something which is antagonist to good. Having no place among the gods in heaven, of necessity they hover around the earthly nature, and this mortal sphere. Wherefore we ought to fly away from earth to heaven as quickly as we can; and to fly away is to become like God, as far as this is possible; and to become like Him is to become holy and just and wise" ("Theaetetus," 176).
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.
Not all things severally, but all that is in the world collectively, regarded as a unit.
The lust (ἡ ἐπιθυμία)
See on Mark 4:19.
Of the flesh
Sensual appetite. The desire which resides in the flesh, not the desire for the flesh. For this subjective usage of the genitive with lust, see John 8:44; Romans 1:24; Revelation 18:14. Compare 1 Peter 2:11; Titus 2:12. The lust of the flesh involves the appropriation of the desired object. On the flesh, see on John 1:14.
The lust of the eyes
This is included in the lust of the flesh, as a specific manifestation. All merely sensual desires belong to the economy which "is not of the Father." The desire of the eyes does not involve appropriation. It is satisfied with contemplating. It represents a higher type of desire than the desire of the flesh, in that it seeks mental pleasure where the other seeks physical gratification. There is thus a significant hint in this passage that even high artistic gratification may have no fellowship with God.
The pride of life (ἡ ἀλαζονεία τοῦ βίου)
Rev., vainglory. The word occurs only here and James 4:16, on which see note. It means, originally, empty, braggart talk or display; swagger; and thence an insolent and vain assurance in one's own resources, or in the stability of earthly things, which issues in a contempt of divine laws. The vainglory of life is the vainglory which belongs to the present life. On βίος life, as distinguished from ζωη. life, see on John 1:4.
Of the Father (ἐκ τοῦ πατρός)
Do not spring forth from the Father. On the expression εἶναι ἐκ to be of, see on John 1:46. "He, therefore, who is always occupied with the cravings of desire and ambition, and is eagerly striving after them, must have all his opinions mortal, and, as far as man can be, must be all of him mortal, because he has cherished his mortal part. But he who has been earnest in the love of knowledge and true wisdom, and has been trained to think that these are the immortal and divine things of a man, if he attain truth, must of necessity, as far as human nature is capable of attaining immortality, be all immortal, for he is ever attending on the divine power, and having the divinity within him in perfect order, he has a life perfect and divine" (Plato, "Timsaeus," 90).
And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
Forever (εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα)
The only form in which αἰῶν age, life, occurs in the Gospel and Epistles of John, except ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος since the world began (John 9:32). Some old versions add, "as God abideth forever."
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.
Little children (παιδία)
See on 1 John 2:13.
The last hour (ἐσχάτη ὥρα)
The phrase only here in the New Testament. On John's use of ὥρα hour, as marking a critical season, see John 2:4; John 4:21, John 4:23; John 5:25, John 5:28; John 7:30; John 8:20; John 11:23, John 11:27; John 16:2, John 16:4, John 16:25, John 16:32. The dominant sense of the expression last days, in the New Testament, is that of a period of suffering and struggle preceding a divine victory. See Acts 2:17; James 5:3; 1 Peter 1:20. Hence the phrase here does not refer to the end of the world, but to the period preceding a crisis in the advance of Christ's kingdom, a changeful and troublous period, marked by the appearance of "many antichrists."
Peculiar to John in the New Testament. The absence of the article shows its currency as a proper name. It may mean one who stands against Christ, or one who stands instead of Christ; just as ἀντιστράτηγος may mean either one who stands in the place of a στρατηγός praetor, a propraetor (see Introd. to Luke, vol. 1, p. 246, and note on Acts 16:20), or an opposing general. John never uses the word ψευδόχριστος false Christ (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22). While the false Christ is merely a pretender to the Messianic office, the Antichrist "assails Christ by proposing to do or to preserve what he did, while denying Him." Antichrist, then, is one who opposes Christ in the guise of Christ. Westcott's remark is very important, that John's sense of Antichrist is determined by the full Christian conception of Christ, and not by the Jewish conception of the promised Savior.
Are there (γεγόνασιν)
Rev., more correctly, have there arisen.
Lit., whence. Only here in John. It is found in Matthew and Luke, and frequently in Hebrews, and not elsewhere.
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.
They went out from us (ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξῆλθαν)
The phrase went out from, may mean either removal (Revelation 18:4; John 8:59) or origin (Revelation 9:3; Revelation 14:13, Revelation 14:15, Revelation 14:17; Revelation 19:5, Revelation 19:21). Here the latter, as appears from the following clause. Compare Acts 20:30.
Were not of
See on John 1:46.
A needless addition of the A.V.
With us (μεθ' ἡμῶν)
Ἑν ἡμῖν, among us, would be more according to John's ordinary usage; but his thought rests here rather on fellowship than on the unity of believers as one body.
They might be made manifest (φανερωθῶσιν)
See on John 21:1.
They were not all (οὐκ εἰσὶν πάντες)
Rev., more correctly, they all are not.
But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.
An unction (χρίσμα)
The word means that with which the anointing is performed - the unguent or ointment. In the New Testament only here and 1 John 2:27. Rev., an anointing. The root of this word and of Χριστός, Christ, is the same. See on Matthew 1:1. The anointing is from the Anointed.
The Holy One
Ye know all things (οἴδατε πα.ντα)
The best texts read πάντες, ye all know; in which case the connection is with the following clause: "I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it."
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.
I have not written (οὐκ ἔγραψα)
Or, I wrote not. See on 1 John 2:13.
Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
A liar (ὁ ψεύστης)
Rev., correctly, "the liar." For a similar interrogative phrase see 1 John 5:5. It marks the lively feeling with which the apostle writes. By the definite article, the liar, the lie is set forth in its concrete personality: the one who impersonates all that is false, as antichrist represents every form of hostility and opposition to Christ. The denial that Jesus is the Christ is the representative falsehood. He that denies is the representative liar.
He that denieth (ὁ ἀρνούμενος)
The article with the participle denotes the habitual denial. Lit., the one denying, the one who habitually represents this attitude towards Christ. The words are aimed at the heresy of Cerinthus, a man of Jewish decent and educated at Alexandria. He denied the miraculous conception of Jesus, and taught that, after His baptism, the Christ descended upon Him in the form of a dove, and that He then announced the unknown Father and wrought miracles; but that, towards the end of His ministry, the Christ departed again from Jesus, and Jesus suffered and rose from the dead, while the Christ remained impassible (incapable of suffering) as a spiritual being.
The title the Father occurs always in its simple form in the Epistle. Never his or our Father, or the Father in heaven.
Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.
Hath not the Father (οὐδὲ τὸν πατέρα ἔχει)
Properly, "hath not even the Father," though he professes to reverence the Father while rejecting the Son. Compare John 8:42.
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 the Father.
As for you (ὑμεῖς)
This is the rendering of the Rev. The force of the emphatic you at the beginning of the sentence is utterly lost in the A.V., which takes the pronoun simply as nominative to ye have heard. You is emphatic by way of contrast with the false teachers (1 John 2:22).
From the beginning
See on 1 John 1:1. Notice the change in the order of the repeated sentence, that which ye heard from the beginning: ὃ ἠκούσατε ἀπ' ἀρχῆς, that which ye heard; the emphasis being on their reception of the message: ὃ ἀπ ἀρχῆς ἠκούσατε, that which ye heard from the beginning; emphasizing the time of the reception as coincident with the origin of their faith.
In the Son and in the Father
Compare the reverse order in 1 John 2:22. "Here the thought is that of rising through the confession of the Son to the knowledge of the Father; there the thought is of the issue of denial culminating in the denial of the Father" (Westcott).
And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.
The promise (ἡ ἐπαγγελία)
See on Acts 1:4.
Eternal life (τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον)
Lit., the life, the eternal (life).
These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
See on 1 John 1:8. Rev., lead astray.
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.
As for you (ὑμεῖς)
Emphatic, as in 1 John 2:24.
Of Him (ἀπ' αὐτοῦ)
See on 1 John 1:5.
The same anointing (τὸ αὐτὸ χρίσμα)
The best texts read αὐτοῦ, His anointing.
Is truth, and is no lie
The characteristic combination of positive and negative statement. See on 1 John 1:5.
Ye shall abide (μενεῖτε)
Wrong. The best tests read μένετε, which may be taken either as imperative, abide ye, or as indicative, ye abide. The indicative is preferable, as answering to μένει abideth.
And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
When He shall appear (ὅταν φανερωθῇ)
The best texts read ἐὰν if, for when. So Rev., which gives also the proper passive force of φανερωθῇ, if He shall be manifested. Not expressing a doubt of the fact, but uncertainty as to the circumstances. On φανερόω to make manifest, see on John 21:1. John never uses ἀποκαλύπτω to reveal, of the revelation of Christ. Indeed, neither the verb nor the kindred noun, ἀποκάλυψις, occurs in his writings except in John 12:38, which is a citation from Isaiah, and in Revelation 1:1.
We may have
Thus identifying himself with his children in the faith. Teacher and pupil must alike abide in Him.
We may have confidence (σχῶμεν παῤῥησίαν)
Rev., boldness. For the phrase have boldness, see 1 John 3:21; 1 John 4:17; 1 John 5:14; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 10:19; Plm 1:8. For the word παῤῥησία boldness, see on John 7:13; see on Acts 2:29. It is opposed, as here, to αἰσχύνομαι to be ashamed, in Proverbs 13:5, where the Septuagint reads "a wicked man is ashamed (αἰσχύνεται) and shall not have boldness (παῤῥησίαν). Also in Philippians 1:20. Compare 2 Corinthians 3:12. The idea of free, open speech lies at the bottom of the word: coming before God's bar with nothing to conceal. The thought is embodied in the general confession of the Book of Common Prayer: "That we should not dissemble nor cloke them before the face of Almighty God our Heavenly Father, but confess them." So John Wesley's Hymn:
"Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress:
'Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
Bold shall I stand in Thy great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am, -
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame."
Be ashamed before Him (αἰσχυνθῶμεν ἀπ' αὐτοῦ)
The expression is peculiar. Lit., "be ashamed from Him." The fundamental thought is that of separation and shrinking from God through the shame of conscious guilt. The same construction is found in the Septuagint. Isaiah 1:29, "They shall be ashamed from their idols." Jeremiah 2:36, "Thou shalt be ashamed of (from) Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of (from) Assyria." Jeremiah 12:13.
Lit., presence. So 2 Corinthians 10:10. Hence, the presence of one coming, and so coming, especially in the New Testament, of the future, visible return of our Lord to raise the dead, judge the world, and finally establish the kingdom of God. The word does not occur elsewhere in John, nor does he use ἐπιφάνεια, which is Paul's word for the same event.
If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.
If ye know - ye know (ἐὰν εἰδῆτε - γινώσκετε)
If ye know absolutely that He is righteous, ye perceive that every one, etc. See on John 2:24. Ye perceive may be taken as imperative: perceive or know ye.
Is born of Him (ἐξ αὐτοῦ γεγέννηται)
The interpreters differ as to the reference of Him; some referring it to God, and others to Christ. Against the latter is the fact that men are not said to be born of Christ, but of God; and that to be born of God is a characteristic phrase of John, while to be born of Christ is a phrase which occurs nowhere. On the other hand, the undoubted reference to Christ in 1 John 2:28, would seem to demand a similar reference here. Men are said to abide in Christ as well as in God, and to be born of the Spirit. Westcott's remark is pertinent. "When John thinks of God in relation to men, he never thinks of Him apart from Christ (see 1 John 5:20); and again, he never thinks of Christ in His human nature without adding the thought of His divine nature. Thus a rapid transition is possible from the one aspect of the Lord's divine-human person to the other."
Is born of Him (ἐξ αὐτοῦ γεγέννηται)
Rev., begotten. The first occurrence of the phrase in the Epistle.