And now, little children, remain in Him, so that when He appears, we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming.
I. THE NATURE OF THIS BLESSING. "Ye have an anointing from the Holy One." The "unction," or "anointing," does not signify the act of anointing, but the material which is used in the anointing - the oil, or ointment, or unguent. Here it denotes the Holy Spirit, whom the Christians to whom St. John was writing had received. Prophets, priests, and kings were anointed, and Christians are spoken of in the New Testament as "kings and priests" (Revelation 1:6); but we cannot see in our text any reference to either of these aspects of Christian character and life. The apostle is rather contrasting his readers, who had received the anointing from the Holy One, with the antichrists, who were opposed to the Anointed. As Alford expresses it, "The apostle sets his readers, as χριστούς, anointed of God, over against the ἀντίχριστοι." They possessed the Holy Spirit. He was within them as their Teacher, Comforter, Sanctifier. This blessing is of unspeakable and inestimable worth.
II. THE SOURCE OF THIS BLESSING. "Ye have an anointing from the Holy One;" i.e., Jesus Christ. In verse 1 St. John speaks of him as "the Righteous." In 1 John 3:3 he says that "he is pure." St. Peter said to him, "We know that thou art the Holy One of God" (John 6:69). And he afterwards spake of him as "the Holy and Righteous One" (Acts 3:14). And he spake of himself to "his servant John" as "he that is holy, he that is true" (Revelation 3:7). He baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33). He sends the Holy Spirit (John 15:26). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost is ascribed to him (Acts 2:33). Therefore we conclude that he, our Lord and Saviour, is the Holy One from whom Christians receive the anointing; i.e., the Holy Spirit.
III. THE EFFECT OF THIS BLESSING. "Ye know all things And ye need not that any one teach you." The "all things" calmer, of course, mean all things in science and art, in history and philosophy. An examination of the context will lead us to the true meaning. In verse 20 St. John says, "Ye know all things;" in verse 21 and the next sentence he says, "Ye know the truth;" and in the following verse and the next sentence he shows what the truth of which he had spoken is, viz. "that Jesus is the Christ." By the "all things," then, the apostle means "the truth... that Jesus is the Christ." All things in the Christian system are comprised in that one great fact. "He who knows this one thing," says Ebrard, "that Jesus is the Christ, knows already in that one thing all; there is no most distant height or depth of truth which is not contained or involved in that simple proposition." This interpretation includes other interpretations which are not so clearly drawn from the context; e.g., Alford, "All things needful for right action in the matter under consideration;" Barnes, "All things which it is essential that you should know on the subject of religion;" and others, "All things necessary to salvation." These and others are comprised in the knowledge "that Jesus is the Christ." This knowledge they attained by means of "an unction from the Holy One." We do not understand that the Holy Spirit had communicated unto them new truths, or directly revealed any truth to them. But by reason of his influence they saw the truths which they had received, more clearly, and grasped them more firmly. This is well illustrated by Dr. Chalmers: The Spirit "does not tell us anything that is out of the record; but all that is within it he sends home with clearness and effect upon the mind. When a telescope is directed to some distant landscape, it enables us to see what we could not otherwise have seen; but it does not enable us to see anything which has not a real existence in the prospect before us. The natural eye saw nothing but blue land stretching along the distant horizon. By the aid of the glass there bursts upon it a charming variety of fields, and woods, and spires, and villages. Yet who would say that the glass added one feature to this assemblage? And so of the Spirit. He does not add a single truth or a single character to the book of revelation. He enables the spiritual man to see what the natural man cannot see; but the spectacle which he lays open is uniform and immutable. It is the Word of God which is ever the same." So the Holy Spirit had brought into clear and impressive light the things which they to whom this letter is addressed had learned from the sacred Scriptures and from St. John and other Christian teachers, and had enabled them to realize their importance and power. And as a matter of fact, in our own day we see persons whose educational advantages have been of the slightest, whose powers and opportunities for study have been must limited, who yet have a clear and comprehensive acquaintance with the essential truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the reason of this is, they "have an anointing from the Holy One," they are enlightened by the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:26; John 16:13, 14; 1 Corinthians 2:13-16). But St. John writes further, "Ye need not that any one teach you" - a statement on which Alford remarks, "His assertions here are so many delicate exhortations, veiled under the declaration of their true ideal state of unction with the Holy Spirit who guides into all truth. If that unction were abiding in them in all its fullness, they would have no need for his or any other teaching." The reference is to their knowledge of the great comprehensive truth "that Jesus is the Christ." They were not dependent upon any one for teaching concerning this vital and fundamental fact. But generally speaking, "the Divine unction does not supersede ministerial teaching, but surmounts it."
IV. THE OBLIGATION OF THIS BLESSING. More fully stated this is the obligation which is inseparable from the possession of this anointing from the Holy One. "Abide in him," i.e., in Christ, as the context clearly shows. The person spoken of in verses 27 and 28 is evidently the Lord Jesus. The exhortation to abide in him is based on the assurance that the anointing which they had received abode in them (verse 27). The "in him" must not be toned down to his doctrine, or his system, or anything of that kind. "In him" by the exercise of the faith of the heart, by the attachment of holy love, by intimate and reverent communion with him, and by participation in his life and spirit. Thus are we to abide in him (cf. John 15:4-7). From our subject we learn:
1. That the illumination of the Holy Spirit is indispensable to a clear and correct apprehension of the great truths of Christianity. "Words and syllables," says Cudworth, "which are but dead things, cannot possibly convey the living notions of heavenly truths to us. The secret mysteries of a Divine life, of a new nature, of Christ formed in our hearts, they cannot be written or spoken; language and expressions cannot reach them; neither can they be ever truly understood, except the soul itself be kindled from within, and awakened into the life of them" (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:10-12).
2. That the "anointing from the Holy One" - the influence and presence of the Holy Spirit within us - is a preservative against the seductions of error. "If that which ye heard from the beginning abide in you, ye also shall abide in the Son, and in the Father.... but the anointing which ye received of him abideth in you," etc.
3. That the possession of this Divine preservative is not an encouragement to presumption, but a reason for perseverance. Because the anointing which they received of Christ abode in them, St. John exhorts his readers to "abide in him." - W.J.
And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidenceI. THE EVENT REFERRED TO, FOR WHICH PREPARATION IS TO BE MADE, IS THE COMING OF CHRIST — that we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him, at His coming.
II. THE DUTY HERE ENJOINED, THAT OF ABIDING IN CHRIST. What is it to abide in Christ? To speak of one as abiding in Christ implies that he is already in Him; if any man be in Christ he is a new creature. And surely in the great day of the Lord's coming we shall need something to rest upon as a ground of confidence firmer and more abiding than anything the world can afford us.
1. Abiding in Christ we shall have no fear of condemnation in the day of His final coming. For we are assured there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.
2. Abiding in Christ you may feel assured, when summoned into His presence at the last day, that you have a friend in your judge, an advocate and intercessor; and having chosen Him as your Saviour, you can securely leave your cause in His hand, in firm confidence that all will be well with you forever.
3. Abiding in Christ, His promise is given, His truth pledged, that all your dearest interests are safe for eternity.
III. REASONS OR MOTIVES WHICH ENFORCE THE DUTY of abiding in Christ, and so having confidence when He shall appear.
1. Let it be impressed on your mind that His coming to judge the world is an absolute certainty.
2. To enforce still further the duty we are considering, let me remind you again of the august and solemn scenes connected with the coming of Christ to judge the world.
3. Christ is presented in His gospel as an all-sufficient Saviour; and abiding in Him, you may rest assured that you will be able to witness the scenes of the last day with perfect peace.
4. Security amid those scenes can be derived from no other source.
(J. Hawes, D. D.)I. First observe TO WHAT HE URGES THEM — "Abide in Him." By this he meant one thing; but that thing is so comprehensive that we may better understand it by viewing it from many sides.
1. He meant fidelity to the truth taught by our Lord. Abide in the truth which you received from the beginning; for in your earliest days it wrought salvation in you. The foundation of your faith is not a changeable doctrine; you rest on a sure word of testimony. Truth is, in its very nature, fixed and unalterable. You know more about it than you did; but the thing itself is still the same, and must be the same. Take care that you abide in it. You will find it difficult to do so, for there is an element of changeableness about yourself; this you must overcome by grace. You will find many elements of seduction in the outside world. Let no man deceive you with vain words, though there are many abroad in these days who "would deceive, if it were possible, the very elect." Abide in Jesus, by letting His words abide in you.
2. Next, he means "abide in Him" as to the uniformity of your trust. When you first enjoyed a hope, you rested upon Christ alone. Depend today as simply as you depended then. If you have some idea that you are hastening towards perfection, take care that you do not indulge a vain conceit of yourself; but even if it be true, still mix not your perfection with His perfection, nor your advance in grace with the foundation which He has laid for you in His blood and righteousness. "Abide in Him."
3. Moreover, abide in the Lord Jesus Christ in making Him the constant object of your life. As you live by Christ, so live for Christ. If you are in health, live for Christ earnestly if you are bound to a sick bed, live for Christ patiently.
4. Surely, we should also understand by "abide in Him," that we are to persevere in our obedience to our Lord. "If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that everyone that doeth righteousness is born of Him." What your Lord bids you, continue to do. Be precise and prompt in your execution of His commands.
5. Continue in spiritual union with your Lord. All the life you have is life derived from Him; seek no other. You are not a Christian except as Jesus is the Christ of God to you; you are not alive unto God, except as you are one with the risen Lord.
6. "Abide in Hint," in the sense of being at home in Him. Do not go to Jesus one day, and to the world another day; do not be a lodger with Him, but abide in Him. What a comfort to have our Lord Himself to be our chosen dwelling place in time and in eternity! Why does the apostle urge us to abide in Christ? Is there any likelihood of our going away? Yes, for in this very chapter he mentions apostates, who from disciples had degenerated into antichrists, of whom he says, "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." "Abide in Him," then, and do not turn aside unto crooked ways, as many professors have done.
II. Secondly, notice UNDER WHAT CHARACTER JOHN ADDRESSES THESE BELIEVERS. He says, "And now, little children."
1. This indicates the apostle's love to them. He could not wish them a greater blessing out of the depth of his heart's affection, than that they should faithfully abide in Christ.
2. Next, by this he suggests their near and dear relation to their Father in heaven. Because you are little children, you are not of travelling years, therefore stay at home and abide in your Lord.
3. Does he not hint at their feebleness? Even if you were grown and strong, you would not be wise to gather all together and wander away into the far country; but as you are so young, so dependent, so feeble, it is essential that you abide in Him. Is He not your life, your all?
4. Does not the apostle also gently hint at their fickleness? You are very changeable, like little babes. You are apt to be hot and cold in half an hour. Surrender yourself to Him by an everlasting covenant never to be cancelled. Be His forever and ever.
5. Did not this remind them of their daily dependence upon the Lord's care, as little children depend on their parents?
III. We shall consider BY WHAT MOTIVE JOHN EXHORTS US TO THIS PLEASANT AND NECESSARY DUTY OF ABIDING IN CHRIST. Look at that little word: it runs thus, "that we may have confidence." The beloved John needed to have confidence at the appearing of the Lord, and confidence fetched from the same source as that to which he directed his little children. How wisely, and yet how sweetly, he puts himself upon our level in this matter!
1. Notice, further, that the motive is one drawn from Jesus. John does not drive believers with the lash of the law, but he draws them with the cords of love.
2. The motive is drawn from our Lord's expected advent. Notice how John puts it. He uses two words for the same thing: "when He shall appear," and, "at His coming." The second advent may be viewed in two lights. First, as the appearing of one who is here already, but is hidden; and next, as the coming of one who is absent. In the first sense we know that our Lord Jesus Christ abides in His Church; according to His word, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Yet, though spiritually present, He is unseen. The spiritual and secret presence of Christ will become a visible and manifest presence in the day of His appearing. The apostle also uses the term, "at His coming," or, "His presence." This is the same thing from another point of view. In a certain evident sense our Lord is absent: "He is not here, for He is risen." He has gone His way unto the Father. In that respect He will come a second time, "without a sin offering, unto salvation." He who has gone from us will so come in like manner as He was seen to go up into heaven. John pleads the glorious manifestation of our Lord under both of these views as a reason for abiding in Him. As to our Lord's "appearing," he would have us abide in Christ, that we may have confidence when He appears. What does he mean by having confidence when He shall appear? Why, this: that if you abide in Him when you do not see Him, you will be very bold should He suddenly reveal Himself. Before He appears, you have dwelt in Him, and He has dwelt in you; what fear could His appearing cause you? The word translated "confidence" means freedom of speech. If our Divine Lord were to appear in a moment, we should not lose our tongue through fear, but should welcome Him with glad acclaim. The other point is, that you should "not be ashamed before Him at His coming." That means, that having regarded Him as being absent, you have not so lived that, if He should suddenly be present in person, you would be ashamed of your past life. What must it be to be driven with shame away from His presence into everlasting contempt!
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. AN ACTUAL EXISTENCE IN CHRIST. You cannot "abide" in Him unless you are actually in Him. What is it to be in Christ? To be in His school as His disciple, in His family as His brethren, in His character as His imitators. Spiritually, all men live more or less in the character of others. The existing generation lives in the character of its predecessor, loving children live in the character of their parents. To live in His character, actuated in all things by His Spirit, guided in all things by His principles, is the highest state of existence for man.
II. THE POSSIBILITY OF LOSING THIS STATE OF EXISTENCE. If not, why should we be exhorted to "abide"? First, the constitutional freedom of the soul implies the possibility. Secondly, the corrupting influences of society are hostile to this state of existence. Thirdly, the exhortations of Scripture imply the danger of its decay. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." "Be steadfast," etc.
III. The NECESSITY FOR CONTINUING IN THIS STATE OF EXISTENCE. "When He shall appear we may have confidence, and not be ashamed at His coming." Or, according to the New Version, "that if He shall be manifested we may have boldness, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming." The idea is that a continuance of this high state of existence, this life in Christ will enable you to meet Him with unabashed confidence. Sooner or later He will come to all. He comes to all at death.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
(J. Elder Cumming, D. D.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that everyone that doeth righteousness is born of HimI. A STANDARD OF JUDGMENT IS SET UP — "If ye know that He is righteous." The expression is not put in this form to suggest the idea of doubtfulness. On the contrary, it is an assumption of certainty. "If ye know" is tantamount to "since ye know." He is righteous in His holiness. He maintains it in a way which is in strictest harmony with the requirements of His law. It is never compromised in the provisions of the gospel. He is righteous in His truth. He has uttered no threatening which He shall not execute, He has delivered no promise which He shall not fulfil. He is equally righteous in His mercy. "Justice and judgment are the habitation of His throne; mercy and truth go before His face." He is righteous in His goodness. All its bounties are conferred on the sinner for Jesus' sake. He is righteous in His justice. "Ye say the way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel, is not My way equal? are not your ways unequal?" "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
II. THE EVIDENCE FURNISHED BY THIS STANDARD, ENABLING US TO JUDGE OF THE GRACIOUS STATE OF THE BELIEVER. "Ye know that everyone that doeth righteousness is born of Him."
1. There are some of whom it may be said they are righteous. This is to be understood, not of the imputed righteousness by which they are justified, but of the personal righteousness by which they are sanctified. If it is asked, how is such a change made to pass upon the sinner? our reply is in the words of the Divine promise (Jeremiah 31:33). This is enough to account for their complete transformation of life. Of everyone on whom the Spirit of God has thus operated it may be said, "He is righteous." A few words will explain how it is so. He thus perceives the meaning of the law. He obtains a view of its spirituality and extent which he never had before. He sees how it covers his whole life, and enters into the deepest recesses of his heart. He thus feels the obligation of the law. He is led distinctly to perceive that it is impossible for it to relax its demands. It must always endure to claim the universal and unbroken homage of the heart and life. He is thus made to love the law. No matter how far he comes short of it, and how much it condemns him, he cannot but approve and admire it. He condemns himself, but he justifies it. He thus learns habitually to avoid the violation of the law. He cannot live in sin. He may be overcome by the force of temptation; but the whole bent of his mind is towards righteousness. He is thus impelled to obey the law. It is not the ground of his hope, but it is the rule of his life. Say now what must be the influence and effect of such exercises as these? It is not too much to say of their subject, "he is righteous."
2. Such righteousness furnishes satisfying proof that He who manifests it is born of God. Nature can bear no such fruit. "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." Education, and example, and prudence may do much, but they cannot produce the holiness of which we have spoken. Again, we find that it is distinctly ascribed to grace in the Divine Word (Ephesians 2:10).
(James Morgan, D. D.)Matthew 5:43-45; John 8:38-44). John may have had these words of his Master in his mind when he wrote the brief and pithy maxim, "God is righteous, and everyone that doeth righteousness is born of Him." His object is to supply a searching test by which our abiding in God may be surely tried. It is a mode of proof which may, without irreverence, be applied in the first instance to the Son Himself. We have His own warrant for so applying it (John 15:9, 10). It is by keeping His Father's commandments that He, as the Son, born of the Father, abides in the Father's love. As the Father is known by Him as righteous, so He, doing righteousness, is proved to be born of Him. He doeth the works of His Father, and so evinces His Sonship. All through, the stress is laid on righteousness. That is the distinguishing characteristic which identifies Him that is born of God: the common quality connecting what He does as born of God with the nature of Him of whom He is born. You who believe are born of God as He is. I speak of His human birth; in which you, in your new birth, are partakers with Him, the same Spirit of God being the agent in both, and originating in both the same new life. His birth was humiliation to Him, though it was of God; your new birth is exaltation to you, because it is of God. His being born of God by the Spirit made Him partaker of your human nature — your being born again of God by the Spirit makes you partakers of His "Divine nature." You, thus born of God, come to be of the same mind with Him who is the first begotten of the Father; especially as regards your knowing that God is righteous, and that it is, therefore, and must be, the impulse and characteristic of everyone that is born of Him to do righteousness. For if you are thus born of God must you not be as thoroughly on His side, as unreservedly in His interest, in the great outstanding controversy between His righteousness and man's sin, as is His well-beloved Son Himself? First, in Him, and with Him — born of God into fellowship with Him in His birth — you enter into that doing of righteousness on His part which was the main design of His being born; which brings into perfect harmony, not God's righteousness and man's sin, but God's righteousness and man's salvation from sin. Ah! what an insight into the righteous nature and character of God; what a measure of cordial oneness of principle and sentiment with Him, entering into His very mind and heart, does all this involve! How far removed is it from that loose, easy going sort of Christian virtue which would not itself do iniquity, but is very tolerant of those who do it; not, like Lot's righteous soul, vexed with evil; nor, like Lot, preaching righteousness; but rather prone to look on sin with indifference or complacency, and to let the sinner go on, without warning or entreaty to his doom. If you know that God is righteous, and make conscience of doing righteousness accordingly, you cannot be thus tame and acquiescent; thus cold and callous. To you righteousness, God's righteousness, is not a name, but a reality. To be confirmed to it, to submit to it, is life.
(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
1. Righteousness is that which in itself is right, or according to the will of God. To do righteousness is to do that which He commands, whether it relates to moral or positive precepts.
2. Doing righteousness includes in it a regard to the rectitude and propriety of what is commanded. It is not the honour or advantage arising from the performance of duty, but it is being a Divine requirement, and tending to glorify God, that furnishes the motive to obedience, and renders it acceptable in His sight (Zechariah 7:5, 6).
3. The sincerity of our obedience is implied in doing righteousness. Genuine obedience includes the whole compass of duty, and esteems God's testimonies concerning all things to be right.
4. It includes a patient continuance in well-doing, and preserving to the end.
5. Doing righteousness supposes the existence of a righteous principle. The tree must be made good before the fruit can be good. The fountain must be cleansed ere the streams can be pure; and a godly life can only be the effect of a Divine nature.
6. Those only can be said to work righteousness who place no dependence on the righteousness they have wrought. Faith in Jesus is essential to all true obedience, and without this it is impossible to please God.
(B. Beddome, M. A.).
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