RPM, Volume 19, Number 8, February 19 to February 25, 2017

Barnes' New Testament Notes

Notes on the New Testament
Explanatory and Practical
Part 94

By Albert Barnes




LITTLE need be said respecting the authenticity of this epistle, or the evidence that it was written by the apostle John. There are, in general, two sources of evidence in regard to ancient writings: the external evidence, or that which may be derived from the testimony of other writers; and the evidence which may be derived from some marks of the authorship in the writing itself, which is called the internal evidence. Both of these are remarkably clear in regard to this epistle.

(1.) The external evidence.

(a.) It is quoted or referred to by the early Christian writers as the undoubted production of the apostle John. It is referred to by Polycarp in the beginning of the second century; it is quoted by Papias, and also by Irenaeus. Origen says, "John, beside the gospel and Revelation, has left us an epistle of a few lines. Grant also a second, and a third; for all do not allow these to be genuine." See Lardner, vi. 275, and Lucke, Einlei. i. Dionysius of Alexandria admitted the genuineness of John's first epistle; so also did Cyprian. All the three epistles were received by Athanasius, by Cyril of Jerusalem, and by Epiphanius. Eusebius says, "Beside his gospel, his first epistle is universally acknowledged by those of the present time, and by the ancients; but the other two are contradicted."

(b.) It is found in the old Syriac version, probably made in the first century, though the second and third epistles are not there.

(c.) The genuineness of the first epistle was never extensively called in question, and it was never reckoned among the doubtful or disputed epistles.

(d.) It was rejected or doubted only by those who rejected his gospel, and for the same reasons. Some small sects of those who were called "heretics," rejected all the writings of John, because they conflicted with their peculiar views; but this was confined to a small number of persons, and never affected the general belief of the church. See Lucke, Einlei. 9, seq.

(2.) There is strong internal evidence that the same person wrote this epistle who was the author of the gospel which bears the same name. The resemblance in the mode of expression, and in the topics referred to, are numerous, and at the same time are not such as would be made by one who was attempting to imitate the language of another. The allusions of this kind, moreover, are to what is peculiar in the gospel of John, and not to what is common to that gospel and the other three. There is nothing in the epistle which would particularly remind us of the gospel of Matthew, or Mark, or Luke; but it is impossible to read it and not be reminded constantly of the gospel by John. Among those passages and expressions the following may be referred to:


Chapter i. 1�"compared with Chapter i. 1, 4, 14.

ii. 5 �" xiv. 23.
ii. 6 �" xv. 4.
ii. 8; iii. 11 �" xiii. 34.
ii. 8, 10 �" i. 5, 9; xi.10.
ii. 13, 14 �" xvii. 3.
iii. 1 �" i. 12.
iii. 2 �" xvii. 24.
iii. 8 �" viii. 44.
iii. 13�" xv. 20.
iv. 9 �" iii. 16.
iv. 12 �" i. 18.
v. 13 �" xx. 31.
v. 14 �" xiv. 14.
v. 20 �" xvii. 2.

This language in the epistle, as will be easily seen by a comparison, is such as the real author of the gospel by John would be likely to use if he wrote an epistle. The passages referred to are in his style; they show that the mind of the author of both was turned to the same points, and those not such points as might be found in all writers, but such as indicated a peculiar mode of thinking. They are not such expressions as Matthew, or Mark, or Luke, or Paul would have used in an epistle, but just such as we should expect from the writer of tho gospel of John. It must be clear to any one that either the author of the gospel was also the author of this epistle, or that the author of the epistle meant to imitate the author of the gospel, and to leave the impression that the apostle John was the author. But there are several things which make it clear that this is not a forgery.

(a.) The passages where the resemblance is found are not exact quotations, and are not such as a man would make if he designed to imitate another. They are rather such as the same man would use if he were writing twice on the same d subject, and should express himself the second time without intending to copy what he had said the first.

(b.) If it had been an intentional fraud or forgery, there would have been some allusion to the name or authority of the author; or, in other words, the author of the epistle would have endeavoured to sustain himself by some distinct reference to the apostle, or to his authority, or to his well-known characteristics as a teller of truth. See Joh 19:35; 21:24. Compare 3 Jo 12. But nothing of the kind occurs in this epistle. It is written without disclosing the name of the author, or the place where he lived, or the persons to whom it was addressed, and with no allusions to the gospel, except such as show that the author thought in the same manner, and had the same things in his eye, and was intent on the same object. It is, throughout, the style and manner of one who felt that his method of expressing himself was so well understood, that he did not need even to mention his own name; as if, without anything further, it would be apparent from the very epistle itself who had written it, and what right he had to speak. But this would be a device too refined for forgery. It bears all the marks of sincerity and truth.


ALMOST nothing is known of the time and place of writing the epistle, and nearly all that is said on this point is mere conjecture. Some recent critics have supposed that it was in fact a part of the gospel, though in some way it afterwards became detached from it; others, that it was sent as an epistle at the same time with the gospel, and to the same persons. Some have supposed that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and some long after, when John was very aged; and these last suppose that they find evidences of the very advanced age of the author in the epistle itself, in such characteristics as commonly mark the conversation and writings of an old man. An examination of these opinions may be found in Lucke, Einlei. Kap. 2; and in Hug, Introduction, p. 456, seq., p. 732, seq.

There are very few marks of time in the epistle, and none that can determine the time of writing it with any degree of certainty. Nor is it of much importance that we should be able to determine it. The truths which it contains are, in the main, as applicable to one age as to another, though it cannot be denied (see & 3) that the author had some prevailing forms of error in his eye. The only marks of time in the epistle by which we can form any conjecture as to the period when it was written are the following:

(1.) It was in what the author calls the last time, escath wra 1 Jo 2:18. From this expression it might perhaps be inferred by some that it was just before the destruction of Jerusalem, or that the writer supposed that the end of the world was near. But nothing can be certainly determined from this expression in regard to the exact period when the epistle was written. This phrase, as used in the Scriptures, denotes no more than the last dispensation or economy of things, the dispensation under which the affairs of the world would be wound up, though that period might be in fact much longer than any one that had preceded it. See Barnes "Isa 2:2" See Barnes "Ac 2:17" See Barnes "Heb 1:2".

The object of the writer of this epistle, in the passage referred to, (1 Jo 2:18,) is merely to show that the closing dispensation of the world had actually come; that is, that there were certain things which it was known would mark that dispensation, which actually existed then, and by which it could be known that they were living under the last or closing period of the world.

(2.) It is quite evident that the epistle was composed after the gospel by John was published. Of this no one can have any doubt who will compare the two together, or even the parallel passages referred to above, & 1. The gospel is manifestly the original; and it was evidently presumed by the writer of the epistle that the gospel was in the hands of those to whom he wrote. The statements there made are much more full; the circumstances in which many of the peculiar doctrines adverted to were first advanced are detailed; and the writer of the epistle clearly supposed that all that was necessary in order to an understanding of these doctrines was to state them in the briefest manner, and almost by mere allusion. On this point Lucke well remarks, "the more brief and condensed expression of the same sentiment by the same author, especially in regard to peculiarities of idea and language, is always the later one; the more extended statement, the unfolding of the idea, is an evidence of an earlier composition," Einlei. p. 21. Yet while this is clear, it determines little or nothing about the time when the epistle was written, for it is a matter of great uncertainty when the gospel itself was composed. Wetstein supposes that it was soon after the ascension of the Saviour; Dr. Lardner that it was about the year 68; and Mill and Le Clerc that it was about the year 97. In this uncertainty, therefore, nothing can be determined absolutely from this circumstance in regard to the time of writing the epistle.

(3.) The only other note of time on which any reliance has been placed is the supposed fact that there were indications in the epistle itself of the great age of the author, or evidences that he was an old man, and that consequently it was written near the close of the life of John. There is some evidence in the epistle that it was written when the author was an old man, though none that he was in his dotage, as Eichhorn and some others have maintained. The evidence that he was even an old man is not positive, but there is a certain air and manner in the epistle, in its repetitions, and its want of exact order, and especially in the style in which he addresses those to whom he wrote, as little children�" teknia �"(1 Jo 2:1,12,28; 3:7,18; 4:4; 5:21) �"which would seem to be appropriate only to an aged man. Comp. Lucke, Einlei. pp. 23, 25, and Stuart in Hug's Introduction, pp. 732,733.

As little is known about the place where the epistle was written as about the time. There are no local references in it; no allusions to persons or opinions which can help us to determine where it was written. As John spent the latter part of his life, however, in Ephesus and its vicinity, there is no impropriety in supposing that it was written there. Nothing, in the interpretation of the epistle, depends on our being able to ascertain the place of its composition. Hug supposes that it was written in Patmos, and was sent as a letter accompanying his gospel, to the church at Ephesus. Lucke supposes that it was a circular epistle addressed to the churches in Asia Minor, and sent from Ephesus.

To whom the epistle was written is also unknown. It bears no inscription, as many of the other epistles of the New Testament do, and as even the second and third of John do, and there is no reference to any particular class of persons by which it can be determined for whom it was designed. Nor is it known why the name of the author was not attached to it, or why the persons for whom it was designed were not designated. All that can be determined on this subject from the epistle itself is the following:

(1.) It seems to have been addressed to no particular church, but rather to have been of a circular character, designed for the churches in a region of country where certain dangerous opinions prevailed.

(2.) The author presumed that it would be known who wrote it, either by the style, or by the sentiments, or by its resemblance to his other writings, or by the messenger who bore it, so that it was unnecessary to affix his name to it.

(3.) It appears to have been so composed as to be adapted to any people where those errors prevailed; and hence it was thought better to give it a general direction, that all might feel themselves to be addressed, than to designate any particular place or church. There is, indeed, an ancient tradition that it was written to the Parthians. Since the time of Augustine this has been the uniform opinion in the Latin church. Venerable Bede remarks, that" many of the ecclesiastical writers, among whom is St. Athanasius, testify that the first epistle of John was written to the Parthians." Various conjectures have been made as to the origin of this opinion, and of the title which the epistle bears in many of the Latin Mss., (ad Parthos,) but none of them are satisfactory. No such title is found in the epistle itself, nor is there any intimation in it to whom it was directed. Those who are disposed to examine the conjectures which have been made in regard to the origin of the title may consult Lucke, Enlei. p. 28, seq. No reason can be assigned why it should have been sent to the Parthians, nor is there any sufficient evidence to suppose that it was.


IT is evident from the epistle itself that there were some prevailing errors among those to whom it was written, and that one design of the writer was to counteract those errors. Yet very various opinions have been entertained in regard to the nature of the errors that were opposed, and the persons whom the writer had in his eye. Loeffler supposes that Jews and Judaizers are the persons opposed; Semler, Tittman, Knapp, and Lange suppose that they were Judaizing Christians, and especially Ebionites, or apostate Christians; Michaelis, Kleuker, Paulus, and others, suppose that the Gnostics are referred to; others, as Schmidt, Lucke, Vitringa, Bertholdt, Prof. Stuart, suppose that the Docetae was the sect that was principally opposed. It is impossible now to determine with accuracy to whom particularly the writer referred, nor could it be well done without a more accurate knowledge than we now have of the peculiarities of the errors which prevailed in the time of the author, and among the people to whom he wrote. All that we can learn on the subject that is certain, is to be derived from the epistle itself; and there the intimations are few, but they are so clear that we may obtain some knowledge to guide us.

(1.) The persons referred to had been professing Christians, and were now apostates from the faith. This is clear from 1 Jo 2:19, "They went out from us, but they were not of us," etc. They had been members of the church, but they had now become teachers of error.

(2.) They were probably of the sect of the Docetae; or if that sect had not then formally sprung up, and was not organized, they held the opinions which they afterwards embraced. This sect was a branch of the great Gnostic family; and the peculiarity of the opinion which they held was that Christ was only in appearance and seemingly, but not in reality, a man; that though he seemed to converse, to eat, to suffer, and to die, yet this was merely an appearance assumed by the Son of God for important purposes in regard to man. He had, according to this view, no real humanity; but though the Son of God had actually appeared in the world, yet all this was only an assumed form for the purpose of a manifestation to men. The opinions of the the Docetes are thus represented by Gibbon: "They denied the truth and authenticity of the gospels, as far as they relate the conception of Mary, the birth of Christ, and the thirty years which preceded the first exercise of his ministry. He first appeared on the banks of the Jordan in the form of perfect manhood; but it was a form only, and not a substance; a human figure created by the hand of Omnipotence to imitate the faculties and actions of a man, and to impose a perpetual illusion on the senses of his friends and enemies. Articulate sounds vibrated on the ears of his disciples; but the image which was impressed on their optic nerve, eluded the more stubborn evidence of the touch, and they enjoyed the spiritual, but not the corporeal presence of the Son of God. The rage of the Jews was idly wasted against an impassive phantom, and the mystic scenes of the passion and death, the resurrection and ascension of Christ, were represented on the theatre of Jerusalem for the benefit of mankind."�" Dic. L. Fall, vol. iii. p. 245, Ed. New York. 1829. Comp. vol. i. 440.

That these views began to prevail in the latter part of the first century there can be no reason to doubt; and there can be as little doubt that the author of this epistle had this doctrine in his eye, and that he deemed it to be of special Importance in this epistle, as he had done in his gospel, to show that the Son of God had actually come in the flesh; that he was truly and properly a man; that he lived and died in reality, and not in appearance only. Hence the allusion to these views in such passages as the following: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life�"that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you," 1 Jo 1:1,3. "Many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know we the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come," 1 Jo 4:1-3. Comp. 1 Jo 4:9,14,15; 5:1,6,10-12.

John had written his gospel to show that Jesus was the Christ, (Joh 20:31;) he had furnished ample proof that he was Divine, or was equal with the Father, (1 Jo 1:1-4,) and also that he was truly a man, (Joh 15:25-27) but still it seemed proper to furnish a more unequivocal statement that he had actually appeared in the flesh, not in appearance only but in reality, and this purpose evidently was a leading design of this epistle.

The main scope of the epistle the author has himself stated in 1 Jo 5:13: "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God;" that is, that you may have just views of him, and exercise an intelligent faith.

In connexion with this general design, and keeping in view the errors to which they to whom the epistle was written were exposed, there are two leading trains of thought, though often intermingled, in the epistle.

(a.) The author treats of the doctrine that Jesus is the Christ, and

(b.) the importance of love as an evidence of being united to him, or of being true Christians. Both these things are characteristic of John; they agree with the design for which he wrote his gospel, and they were in accordance with his peculiarity of mind as "the beloved disciple," the disciple whose heart was full of love, and who made religion consist much in that.

The main characteristics of this epistle are these:

(1.) It is full of love. The writer dwells on it; places it in a variety of attitudes; enforces the duty of loving one another by a great variety of considerations, and shows that it is essential to the very nature of religion.

(2.) The epistle abounds with statements on the evidences of piety, or the characteristics of true religion. The author seems to have fell; that those to whom he wrote were in danger of embracing false notions of religion, and of being seduced by the abettors of error. He is therefore careful to lay down the characteristics of real piety, and to show in what it essentially consists. A large part of the epistle is occupied with this, and there is perhaps no portion of the New Testament which one could study to more advantage who is desirous of ascertaining whether he himself is a true Christian. An anxious inquirer, a man who wishes to know what true religion is, could be directed to no portion of the New Testament where he would more readily find the instruction that he needs, than to this portion of the writings of the aged and experienced disciple whom Jesus loved. A true Christian can find nowhere else a more clear statement of the nature of his religion, and of the evidences of real piety, than in this epistle.



THIS short chapter embraces the following subjects:

I. A strong affirmation that the Son of God, or the "Life," had appeared in the flesh, 1 Jo 1:1-3. The evidence of this, the writer says, was that he had seen him, heard him, handled him; that is, he had had all the evidence which could be furnished by the senses. His declaration on this point he repeats, by putting the statement into a variety of forms, for he seems to regard it as essential to true religion.

II. He says that he wrote to them, in order that they might have fellowship with him in the belief of this truth, and might partake of the joy which flows from the doctrine that the Son of God has actually come in the flesh, 1 Jo 1:3,4.

III. He states that the sum and substance of the whole message which he had to bring to them was, that God is light, and that if we profess to have fellowship with him we must walk in the light, 1 Jo 1:5-10.

(a.) In God is no darkness, no impurity, no sin, 1 Jo 1:5.

(b.) If we are in darkness, if we are ignorant and sinful, it proves that we cannot have any fellowship with him, 1 Jo 1:6.

(c.) If we walk in the light as he is in the light, if we partake of his character and spirit, then we shall have fellowship one with another, and we may believe that the blood of Christ will cleanse us from all sin, 1 Jo 1:7.

(d.) Yet we are to guard ourselves from one point of danger, we are not to allow ourselves to feel that we have no sin. We are to bear with us the constant recollection that we are sinners, and are to permit that fact to produce its proper impression on our minds, 1 Jo 1:8,10.

(e.) Yet we are not to be desponding though we do feel this, but are to remember, that if we will truly confess our sins he will be found faithful to his promises, and just to the general arrangements of graces by which our sins may be forgiven, 1 Jo 1:9.


Verses 1 and 2 of 1st John Chapter 1

Verse 1. That which was from the beginning. There can be no doubt that the reference here is to the Lord Jesus Christ, or the "Word" that was made flesh. See Barnes "Joh 1:1".

This is such language as John would use respecting him, and indeed the phrase "the beginning," as applicable to the Lord Jesus, is peculiar to John in the writings of the New Testament: and the language here may be regarded as one proof that this epistle was written by him, for it is just such an expression as he would use, but not such as one would be likely to adopt who should attempt to palm off his own writings as those of John. One who should have attempted that would have been likely to introduce the name John in the beginning of the epistle, or in some way to have claimed his authority. The apostle, in speaking of "that which was from the beginning," uses a word in the neuter gender instead of the masculine, (o.) It is not to be supposed, I think, that he meant to apply this term directly to the Son of God, for if he had he would have used the masculine pronoun; but though he had the Son of God in view, and meant to make a strong affirmation respecting him, yet the particular thing here referred to was whatever there was respecting that incarnate Saviour that furnished testimony to any of the senses, or that pertained to his character and doctrine, he had borne witness to. He was looking rather at the evidence that he was incarnate; the proofs that he was manifested; and he says that those proofs had been subjected to the trial of the senses, and he had borne witness to them, and now did it again. This is what is referred to, it seems to me, by the phrase "that which," (o.) The sense may be this: "Whatever there was respecting the Word of life, or him who is the living Word, the incarnate Son of God, from the very beginning, from the time when he was first manifested in the flesh; whatever there was respecting his exalted nature, his dignity, his character, that could be subjected to the testimony of the senses, to be the object of sight, or hearing, or touch, that I was permitted to see, and that I declare to you respecting him." John claims to be a competent witness in reference to everything which occurred as a manifestation of what the Son of God was. If this be the correct interpretation, then the phrase "from the beginning" (ap archv) does not here refer to his eternity, or his being in the beginning of all things, as the phrase "in the beginning" (en arch) does in Joh 1:1; but rather means from the very commencement of his manifestation as the Son of God, the very first indications on earth of what he was as the Messiah. When the writer says ( 1 Jo 1:3) that he "declares" this to them, it seems to me that he has not reference merely to what he would say in this epistle, for he does not go extensively into it here, but that he supposes that they had his gospel in their possession, and that he also means to refer to that, or presumes that they were familiar with the testimony which he had borne in that gospel respecting the evidence that the "Word became flesh." Many have indeed supposed that this epistle accompanied the gospel when it was published, and was either a part of it that became subsequently detached from it, or was a letter that accompanied it. See Hug. Intro. P. II. & 68. There is, it seems to me, no certain evidence of that; but no one can doubt that he supposed that those to whom he wrote had access to that gospel, and that he refers here to the testimony which ne had borne in that respecting the incarnate Word.

Which we have heard. John was with the Saviour through the whole of his ministry, and he has recorded more that the Saviour said than either of the other evangelists. It is on what he said of himself that he grounds much of the evidence that he was the Son of God.

Which we have seen with our eyes. That is, pertaining to his person, and to what he did. "I have seen him; seen what he was as a man; how he appeared on earth; and I have seen whatever there was in his works to indicate his character and origin." John professes here to have seen enough in this respect as to furnish evidence that he was the Son of God. It is not hearsay on which he relies, but he had the testimony of his own eyes in the case. See Barnes "2 Pe 1:16".

Which we have looked upon. The word here used seems designed to be more emphatic or intensive than the one before occurring. He had just said that he had "seen him with his eyes," but he evidently designs to include an idea in this word which would imply something more than mere beholding or seeing. The additional idea which is couched in this word seems to be that of desire or pleasure; that is, that he had looked on him with desire, or satisfaction, or with the pleasure with which one beholds a beloved object. Comp. Mt 11:7; Lu 7:24; Joh 1:14.

See Rob. Lex. There was an intense and earnest gaze, as when we behold one whom we have desired to see, or when one goes out purposely to look on an object. The evidences of the incarnation of the Son of God had been subjected to such all intense and earnest gaze.

And our hands have handled. That is, the evidence that he was a man was subjected to the sense of touch. It was not merely that he had been seen by the eye, for then it might be pretended that this was a mere appearance assumed without reality; or that what occurred might have been a mere optical illusion; but the evidence that he appeared in the flesh was subjected to more senses than one; to the fact that his voice was heard; that he was seen with the eyes; that the most intense scrutiny had been employed; and, lastly, that he had been actually touched and handled, showing that it could not have been a mere appearance, an assumed form, but that it was a reality. This kind of proof that the Son of God had appeared in the flesh, or that he was truly and properly a man, is repeatedly referred to in the New Testament. Luke 24:39: "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have." Comp. Joh 20:25-27. There is evident allusion here to the opinion which early prevailed, which was held by the Docetes, that the Son of God did not truly and really become a man, but that there was only an appearance assumed, or that he seemed to be a man. See the Intro., & 3. It was evidently with reference to this opinion, which began early to prevail, that the apostle dwells on this point, and repeats the idea so much, and shows by a reference to all the senses which could take any cognizance in the case, that he was truly and properly a man. The amount of it is, that we have the same evidence that he was properly a man which we can have in the case of any other human being; the evidence on which we constantly act, and in which we cannot believe that our senses deceive us.

Of the Word of life. Respecting, or pertaining to, the Word of life. "That is, whatever there was pertaining to the Word of life, which was manifested from the beginning in his speech and actions, of which the senses could take cognizance, and which would furnish the evidence that he was truly incarnate, that we have declared unto you." The phrase "the Word of life," means the Word in which life resided, or which was the source and fountain of life. See Barnes "Joh 1:1, See Barnes "Joh 1:3".

The reference is undoubtedly to the Lord Jesus Christ.

{a} "the beginning" Joh 1:1

{b} "seen" 2 Pe 1:16

{c} "have handled" Lu 24:39

Verse 2. For the life was manifested. Was made manifest or visible unto us. He who was the life was made known to men by the incarnation. He appeared among men so that they could see him and hear him. Though originally with God, and dwelling with him, (Joh 1:1,2,) yet he came forth and appeared among men. See Barnes "Ro 1:3, See Barnes "1 Ti 3:16".

He is the great source of all life, and he appeared on the earth, and we had an opportunity of seeing and knowing what he was.

And we have seen it. This repetition, or turning over the thought, is designed to express the idea with emphasis, and is much in the manner of John. See Joh 1:1-3. He is particularly desirous of impressing on them the thought that he had been a personal witness of what the Saviour was, having had every opportunity of knowing it from long and familiar intercourse with him.

And bear witness. We testify in regard to it. John was satisfied that his own character was known to be such that credit would be given to what he said. He felt that he was known to be a man of truth, and hence he never doubts that faith would be put in all his statements. See Joh 19:35; 21:24; Re 1:2; 3 Jo 1:12.

And shew unto you that eternal life. That is, we declare unto you what that life was�"what was the nature and rank of him who was the life, and how he appeared when on earth, he here attributes eternity to the Son of God�"implying that he had always been with the Father.

Which was with the Father. Always before the manifestation on the earth. See Joh 1:1: "The word was with God." This passage demonstrates the pre-existence of the Son of God, and proves that he was eternal. Before he was manifested on earth he had an existence to which the word life could be applied, and that was eternal. He is the Author of eternal life to us.

And was manifested unto us. In the flesh; as a man. He who was the life appeared unto men. The idea of John evidently is,

(1.) that the Being here referred to was for ever with God;

(2.) that it was proper before the incarnation that the word life should be given to him as descriptive of his nature;

(3.) that there was a manifestation of him who was thus called life, on earth; that he appeared among men; that he had a real existence here, and not a merely assumed appearance; and

(4.) that the true characteristics of this incarnate Being could be borne testimony to by those who had seen him, and who had been long with him. This second verse should be regarded as a parenthesis.

{a} "eternal life" Joh 17:3


Verse 3. That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you. We announce it, or make it known unto you�"referring either to what he purposes to say in this epistle, or more probably embracing all that he had written respecting him, and supposing that his gospel was in their hands. He means to call their attention to all the testimony which he had borne on the subject, in order to counteract the errors which began to prevail.

That ye may have fellowship with us. With us the apostles; with us who actually saw him, and conversed with him. That is, he wished that they might have the same belief, and the same hope, and the same joy which he himself had, arising from the fact that the Son of God had become incarnate, and had appeared among men. To "have fellowship," means to have anything in common with others; to partake of it; to share it with them, See Barnes "Ac 2:42" and the idea here is, that the apostle wished that they might share with him all the peace and happiness which resulted from the fact that the Son of God had appeared in human form in behalf of men. The object of the apostle in what he wrote was, that they might have the same views of the Saviour which he had, and partake of the same hope and joy. This is the true notion of fellowship in religion.

And truly our fellowship is with the Father. With God the Father. That is, there was something in common with him and God; something of which he and God partook together, or which they shared. This cannot, of course, mean that his nature was the same as that of God, or that in all things he shared with God, or that in anything he was equal with God; but it means that he partook, in some respects, of the feelings, the views, the aims, the joys which God has. There was a union in feeling, and affection, and desire, and plan, and this was to him a source of joy. He had an attachment to the same things, loved the same truth, desired the same objects, and was engaged in the same work; and the consciousness of this, and the joy which attended it, was what was meant by fellowship. See Barnes "1 Co 10:16" See Barnes "2 Co 12:14".

The fellowship which Christians have with God relates to the following points:

(1.) Attachment to the same truths, and the same objects; love for the same principles, and the same beings.

(2.) The same kind of happiness, though not in the same degree. The happiness of God is found in holiness, truth, purity, justice, mercy, benevolence. The happiness of the Christian is of the same kind that God has; the same kind that angels have; the same kind that he will himself have in heaven�"for the joy of heaven is only that which the Christian has now, expanded to the utmost capacity of the soul, and freed from all that now interferes with it, and prolonged to eternity.

(3.) Employment, or co-operation with God. There is a sphere in which God works alone, and in which we can have no co-operation, no fellowship with him. In the work of creation; in upholding all things; in the government of the universe; in the transmission of light from world to world; in the return of the seasons, the rising and setting of the sun, the storms, the tides, the flight of the comet, we can have no joint agency, no co-operation with him. There God works alone. But there is also a large sphere in which he admits us graciously to a co-operation with him, and in which, unless we work, his agency will not be put forth. This is seen when the farmer sows his grain; when the surgeon binds up a wound; when we take the medicine which God has appointed as a means of restoration to health. So in the moral world. In our efforts to save our own souls and the souls of others, God graciously works with us; and unless we work, the object is not accomplished. This co-operation is referred to in such passages as these: "We are labourers together (sunergoi) with God," 1 Co 3:9. "The Lord working with them," Mr 16:20. "We then as workers together with him," 2 Co 6:1. "That we might be fellow-helpers to the truth," 3 Jo 1:8. In all such cases, while the efficiency is of God�"alike in exciting us to effort, and in crowning the effort with success�"it is still true that if our efforts were not put forth, the work would not be done. In this department God would not work by himself alone; he would not secure the result by miracle.

(4.) We have fellowship with God by direct communion with him, in prayer, in meditation, and in the ordinances of religion. Of this all true Christians are sensible, and this constitutes no small part of their peculiar joy. The nature of this, and the happiness resulting from it, is much of the same nature as the communion of friend with friend�"of one mind with another kindred mind�"that to which we owe no small part of our happiness in this world.

(5.) The Christian will have fellowship with his God and Saviour in the triumphs of the latter day, when the scenes of the judgment shall occur, and when the Redeemer shall appear, that he may be admired and adored by assembled worlds. See Barnes "2 Th 1:10.

See also Mt 19:28; Re 3:21.

And with his Son Jesus Christ. That is, in like manner there is much which we have in common with the Saviour�"in character, in feeling, in desire, in spirit, in plan. There is a union with him in these things�"and the consciousness of this gives peace and joy.

{b} "fellowship" Joh 17:21


Verse 4. And these things write we unto you. These things respecting him who was manifested in the flesh, and respecting the results which' flow from that.

That your joy may be full. This is almost the same language which the Saviour used when addressing his disciples as he was about to leave them, (Joh 15:11;) and there can be little doubt that John had that declaration in remembrance when he uttered this remark. See Barnes "Joh 15:11".

The sense here is, that full and clear views of the Lord Jesus, and the fellowship with him and with each other, which would follow from that, would be a source of happiness. Their joy would be complete if they had that; for their real happiness was to be found in their Saviour. The best editions of the Greek Testament now read "your joy," instead of the common reading "our joy."

{c} "that your joy" Joh 15:11


Verse 5. This then is the message which we have heard of him. This is the substance of the announcement (epaggelia) which we have received of him, or which he made to us. The message here refers to what he communicated as the sum of the revelation which he made to man. The phrase "of him" (ap autou) does not mean respecting him, or about him, but from him; that is, this is what we received from his preaching; from all that he said. The peculiarity, the substance of all that he said, may be summed up in the declaration that God is light, and in the consequences which follow from this doctrine. He came as the messenger of Him who is light; he came to inculcate and defend the truths which flow from that central doctrine, in regard to sin, to the danger and duty of man, to the way of recovery, and to the rules by which men ought to live.

That God is light. Light, in the Scriptures, is the emblem of purity, truth, knowledge, prosperity, and happiness�"as darkness is of the opposite. John here says that "God is light"�" fwv�"not the light, or a light, but light itself; that is, he is himself all light, and is the source and fountain of light in all worlds, He is perfectly pure, without any admixture of sin. He has all knowledge, with no admixture of ignorance on any subject. He is infinitely happy, with nothing to make him miserable. He is infinitely true, never stating or countenancing error; he is blessed in all his ways, never knowing the darkness of disappointment and adversity. See Barnes "Jas 1:17" See Barnes "Joh 1:4, See Barnes "Joh 1:5" See Barnes "1 Ti 6:16".

And in him is no darkness at all. This language is much in the manner of John, not only affirming that a thing is so, but guarding it so that no mistake could possibly be made as to what he meant. Comp. Joh 1:1-3. The expression here is designed to affirm that God is absolutely perfect; that there is nothing in him which is in any way imperfect, or which would dim or mar the pure splendour of his character, not even as much as the smallest spot would on the sun. The language is probably designed to guard the mind from an error to which it is prone, that of charging God with being the Author of the sin and misery which exist on the earth; and the apostle seems to design to teach that whatever was the source of sin and misery, it was not in any sense to be charged on God. This doctrine that God is a pure light, John lays down as the substance of all that he had to teach; of all that he had learned from him who was made flesh. It is, in fact, the fountain of all just views of truth on the subject of religion, and all proper views of religion take their origin from this.

{*} "message" "declaration"

{a} "light" Joh 1:4,9; 1 Ti 6:16


Verse 6. If we say that we have fellowship with him. If we reckon ourselves among his friends, or, in other words, if we profess to be like him: for a profession of religion involves the idea of having fellowship with God, See Barnes "1 Jo 1:3, and he who professes that should be like him.

And walk in darkness. Live in sin and error. To "walk in darkness" now commonly denotes to be in doubt about our religious state, in contradistinction from living in the enjoyment of religion. That is not, however, probably the whole idea here. The leading thought is, that if we live in sin, it is a proof that our profession of religion is false. Desirable as it is to have the comforts of religion, yet it is not always true that they who do not are not true Christians, nor is it true by any means that they intend to deceive the world.

We lie. We are false professors; we are deceived if we think that we can have fellowship with God, and yet live in the practice of sin. As God is pure, so must we be, if we would be his friends. This does not mean necessarily that they meant to deceive, but that there was an irreconcilable contradiction between a life of sin and fellowship with God.

And do not the truth. Do not act truly. The profession is a false one. Compare See Barnes "Joh 3:22".

To do the truth is to act in accordance with truth; and the expression here means that such an one could not be a Christian. And yet how many there are who are living in known sin who profess to be Christians! How many whose minds are dark on the whole subject of religion, who have never known anything of the real peace and joy which it imparts, who nevertheless entertain the belief that they are the friends of God, and are going to heaven! They trust in a name, in forms, in conformity to external rites, and have never known anything of the internal peace and purity which religion imparts, and in fact have never had any true fellowship with that God who is light, and in whom there is no darkness at all. Religion is light; religion is peace, purity, joy; and though there are cases where for a time a true Christian may be left to darkness, and have no spiritual joy, and be in doubt about his salvation, yet still it is a great truth, that unless we know by personal experience what it is to walk habitually in the light, to have the comforts of religion, and to experience in our own souls the influences which make the heart pure, and which bring us into conformity to the God who is light, we can have no true religion. All else is but a name, which will not avail us on the final day.


Verse 7. But if we walk in the light. See Barnes "1 Jo 1:5".

Walking in the light may include the three following things:

(1.) Leading lives of holiness and purity; that is, the Christian must be characteristically a holy man, a light in the world, by his example.

(2.) Walking in the truth; that is, embracing the truth in opposition to all error of heathenism and infidelity, and having clear, spiritual views of truth, such as the unrenewed never have. See 2 Co 4:6; 1 Co 2:9-15; Eph 1:18.

(3.) Enjoying the comforts of religion; that is, having the joy which religion is fitted to impart, and which it does impart to its true friends, Ps 94:19; Isa 57:8; 2 Co 1:3; 13:11.

See Barnes "Joh 12:35".

As he is in the light. In the same kind of light that he has. The measure of light which we may have is not the same in degree, but it is of the same kind. The true Christian in his character and feelings resembles God.

We have fellowship one with another. As we all partake of his feelings and views, we shall resemble each other. Loving the same God, embracing the same views of religion, and living for the same ends, we shall of course have much that is common to us all, and thus shall have fellowship with each other.

And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. See the sentiment here expressed fully explained See Barnes "Heb 9:11.

When it is said that his blood cleanses us from all sin, the expression must mean one of two things�"either that it is through that blood that all past sin is forgiven, or that that blood will ultimately purify us from all transgression, and make us perfectly holy. The general meaning is plain, that in regard to any and every sin of which we may be conscious, there is efficacy in that blood to remove it, and to make us wholly pure. There is no stain made by sin so deep that the blood of Christ cannot take it entirely away from the soul. The connexion here, or the reason why this is introduced here, seems to be this: The apostle is stating the substance of the message which he had received, 1 Jo 1:5. The first or leading part of it was, that God is light, and in him is no darkness, and that his religion requires that all his friends should resemble him by their walking in the light. Another, and a material part of the same message was, that provision was made in his religion for cleansing the soul from sin, and making it like God. No system of religion intended for man could be adapted to his condition which did not contain this provision, and this did contain it in the most full and ample manner. Of course, however, it is meant that that blood cleanses from all sin only on the conditions on which its efficacy can be made available to man�"by repentance for the past, and by a cordial reception of the Saviour through faith.

{b} "walk" Joh 12:35

{c} "blood" Eph 1:7; Heb 9:14; 1 Pe 1:19; Re 1:5


Verse 8. If we say that we have no sin. It is not improbable that the apostle here makes allusion to some error which was then beginning to prevail in the church. Some have supposed that the allusion is to the sect of the Nicolaitanes, and to the views which they maintained, particularly that nothing was forbidden to the children of God under the gospel, and that in the freedom conferred on Christians they were at liberty to do what they pleased, Re 2:6,15. It is not certain, however, that the allusion is to them, and it is not necessary to suppose that there is reference to any particular sect that existed at that time. The object of the apostle is to show that it is implied in the very nature of the gospel that we are sinners, and that if, on any pretence, we denied that fact, we utterly deceived ourselves. In all ages there have been those who have attempted, on some pretence, to justify their conduct; who have felt that they did not need a Saviour; who have maintained that they had a right to do what they pleased; or who, on pretence of being perfectly sanctified, have held that they live without the commission of sin. To meet these, and all similar cases, the apostle affirms that it is a great elementary truth, which on no pretence is to be denied, that we are all sinners. We are at all times, and in all circumstances, to admit the painful and humiliating truth that we are transgressors of the law of God, and that we need, even in our best services, the cleansing of the blood of Jesus Christ. The fair interpretation of the declaration here will apply not only to those who maintain that they have not been guilty of sin in the past, but also to those who profess to have become perfectly sanctified, and to live without sin. In any and every way, if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. Compare See Barnes "Jas 3:2".

We deceive ourselves. We have wrong views about our character. This does not mean that the self-deception is willful, but that it in fact exists. No man knows himself who supposes that in all respects he is perfectly pure.

And the truth is not in us. On this subject. A man who should maintain that he had never committed sin, could have no just views of the truth in regard to himself, and would show that he was in utter error. In like manner, according to the obvious interpretation of this passage, he who maintains that he is wholly sanctified, and lives without any sin, shows that he is deceived in regard to himself, and that the truth, in this respect, is not in him. He may hold the truth on other subjects, but he does not on this. The very nature of the Christian religion supposes that we feel ourselves to be sinners, and that we should be ever ready to acknowledge it. A man who claims that he is absolutely perfect, that he is holy as God is holy, must know little of his own heart. Who, after all his reasoning on the subject, would dare to go out under the open heaven, at midnight, and lift up his hands and his eyes towards the stars, and say that he had no sin to confess�"that he was as pure as the God that made those stars?

{d} "no sin" 1 Ki 8:45; Job 25:4; Ec 7:20; Jas 3:2.


Verse 9. If we confess our sins. Pardon, in the Scriptures, always supposes that there is confession, and there is no promise that it will be imparted unless a full acknowledgment has been made. Compare Ps 51; Ps 52; Lu 15:18; 7:41; Pr 28:13.

He is faithful. To his promises. He will do what he has assured us he will do in remitting them.

And just to forgive us our sins. The word just here cannot be used in a strict and proper sense, since the forgiveness of sins is never an act of justice, but is an act of mercy. If it were an act of justice it could be demanded or enforced, and that is the same as to say that it is not forgiveness, for in that case there could have been no sin to be pardoned. But the word just is often used in a larger sense, as denoting upright, equitable, acting properly in the circumstances of the case, etc. Comp. See Barnes "Mt 1:19".

Here the word may be used in one of the following senses:

(1.) Either as referring to his general excellence of character, or his disposition to do what is proper; that is, he is one who will act in every way as becomes God; or,

(2,) that he will be just in the sense that he will be true to his promises; or that, since he has promised to pardon sinners, he will be found faithfully to adhere to those engagements; or perhaps,

(3,) that he will be just to his Son in the covenant of redemption, since, now that an atonement has been made by him, and a way has been opened through his sufferings by which God can consistently pardon, and with a view and an understanding that he might and would pardon, it would be an act of injustice to him if he did not pardon those who believe on him.

Viewed in either aspect, we may have the fullest assurance that God is ready to pardon us if we exercise true repentance and faith. No one can come to God without finding him ready to do all that is appropriate for a God to do in pardoning transgressors; no one who will not, in fact, receive forgiveness if he repents, and believes, and makes confession; no one who will not find that God is just to his Son in the covenant of redemption, in pardoning and saving all who put their trust in the merits of his sacrifice.

And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. By forgiving all that is past, treating us as if we were righteous, and ultimately by removing all the stains of guilt from the soul.

{a} "confess" Job 33:27,28; Ps 32:5; Pr 28:13


Verse 10. If we say that we have not sinned. In times that are past. Some perhaps might be disposed to say this; and as the apostle is careful to guard every point, he here states that if a man should take the ground that his past life had been wholly upright, it would prove that he had no true religion. The statement here respecting the past seems to prove that when, in 1 Jo 1:8, he refers to the present�""if we say we have no sin "�"he meant to say that if a man should claim to be perfect, or to be wholly sanctified, it would demonstrate that he deceived himself; and the two statements go to prove that neither in reference to the past nor the present can any one lay claim to perfection.

We make Him a liar. Because he has everywhere affirmed the depravity of all the race. Compare Barnes Notes on Romans chapters 1-3. On no point have his declarations been more positive and uniform than on the fact of the universal sinfulness of man. Comp. Ge 6:11,12; Job 14:4; 15:16; Ps 14:1,2,3; 51:5; 58:3; Ro 3:9-20; Ga 3:21.

And his word is not in us. His truth; that is, we have no true religion. The whole system of Christianity is based on the fact that man is a fallen being, and needs a Saviour; and unless a man admits that, of course he cannot be a Christian.


(1.) The importance of the doctrine of the incarnation of the Son of God, 1 Jo 1:1,2. On that doctrine the apostle lays great stress; begins his epistle with it; presents it in a great variety of forms; dwells upon it as if he would not have it forgotten or misunderstood. It has all the importance which he attached to it, for

(a.) it is the most wonderful of all the events of which we have any knowledge;

(b.) it is the most deeply connected with our welfare.

(2.) The intense interest which true piety always takes in this doctrine, 1 Jo 1:1,2. The feelings of John on the subject are substantially the feelings of all true Christians. The world passes it by in unbelief, or as if it were of no importance; but no true Christian can look at the fact that the Son of God became incarnate but with the deepest emotion.

(3.) It is an object of ardent desire with true Christians that all others should share their joys, 1 Jo 1:3,4. There is nothing selfish, or narrow, or exclusive in true religion; but every sincere Christian who is happy desires that all others should be happy too.

(4.) Wherever there is true fellowship with God, there is with all true Christians, 1 Jo 1:3,4. There is but one church, one family of God; and as all true Christians have fellowship with God, they must have with each other.

(5.) Wherever there is true fellowship with Christians, there is with God himself, 1 Jo 1:3,4. If we love his people, share their joys, labour with them in promoting his cause, and love the things which they love, we shall show that we love him. There is but one God, and one church; and if all the members love each other, they will love their common God and Saviour. An evidence, therefore, that we love Christians, becomes an evidence that we love God.

(6.) It is a great privilege to be a Christian, 1 Jo 1:3,4.

If we are Christians, we are associated with

(a.) God the Father;

(b.) with his Son Jesus Christ;

(c.) with all his redeemed on earth and in heaven;

(d.) with all holy angels. There is one bond of fellowship that unites all together; and what a privilege it is to be united in the eternal bonds of friendship with all the holy minds in the universe!

(7.) If God is light, 1 Jo 1:5, then all that occurs is reconcilable with the idea that he is worthy of confidence. What he does may seem to be dark to us, but we may be assured that it is all light with him. A cloud may come between us and the sun, but beyond the cloud the sun shines with undimmed splendour, and soon the cloud itself will pass away. At midnight it is dark to us, but it is not because the sun is shorn of his beams, or is extinguished. He will rise again upon our hemisphere in the fulness of his glory, and all the darkness of the cloud and of midnight is reconcilable with the idea that the sun is a bright orb, and that in him is no darkness at all. So with God. We may be under a cloud of sorrow and of trouble, but above that the glory of God shines with splendour, and soon that cloud will pass away, and reveal him in the fulness of his beauty and truth.

(8.) We should, therefore, at all times exercise a cheerful confidence in God, 1 Jo 1:5. Who supposes that the sun is never again to shine when the cloud passes over it, or when the shades of midnight have settled down upon the world? We confide in that sun that it will shine again when the cloud has passed off, and when the shades of night have been driven away. So let us confide in God, for with more absolute certainty we shall yet see him to be light, and shall come to a world where there is no cloud.

(9.) We may look cheerfully onward to heaven, 1 Jo 1:5. There all is light. There we shall see God as he is. Well may we then bear with our darkness a little longer, for soon we shall be ushered into a world where there is no need of the sun or the stars; where there is no darkness, no night.

(10.) Religion is elevating in its nature, 1 Jo 1:6,7. It brings us from a world of darkness to a world of light. It scatters the rays of light on a thousand dark subjects, and gives promise that all that is now obscure will yet become clear as noonday. Wherever there is true religion, the mind emerges more and more into light; the scales of ignorance and error pass away.

(11.) There is no sin so great that it may not be removed by the blood of the atonement, 1 Jo 1:7, last clause. This blood has shown its efficacy in the pardon of all the great sinners who have applied to it, and its efficacy is as great now as it was when it was applied to the first sinner that was saved. No one, therefore, however great his sins, need hesitate about applying to the blood of the cross, or fear that his sins are so great that they cannot be taken away.

(12.) The Christian will yet be made wholly pure, 1 Jo 1:7, last clause. It is of the nature of that blood which the Redeemer shed that it ultimately cleanses the soul entirely from sin. The prospect before the true Christian that he will become perfectly holy is absolute; and whatever else may befall him, he is sure that he will yet be holy as God is holy.

(13.) There is no use in attempting to conceal our offences, 1 Jo 1:8. They are known, all known, to one Being, and they will at some future period all be disclosed. We cannot hope to evade punishment by hiding them; we cannot hope for impunity because we suppose they may be passed over as if unobserved. No man can escape on the presumption either that his sins are unknown, or that they are unworthy of notice.

(14.) It is manly to make confession when we have sinned, 1 Jo 1:9,10. All meanness was in doing the wrong, not in confessing it; what we should be ashamed of is that we are guilty, not that confession is to be made. When a wrong has been done, there is no nobleness in trying to conceal it; and as there is no nobleness in such an attempt, so there could be no safety.

(15.) Peace of mind, when wrong has been done, can be found only in confession, 1 Jo 1:9,10 . That is what nature prompts to when we have done wrong, if we would find peace, and that the religion of grace demands. When a man has done wrong, the least that he can do is to make confession; and when that is done and the wrong is pardoned, all is done that can be to restore peace to the soul.

(16.) The ease of salvation, 1 Jo 1:9. What more easy terms of salvation could we desire than an acknowledgment of our sins? No painful sacrifice is demanded; no penance, pilgrimage, or voluntary scourging; all that is required is that there should be an acknowledgment of sin at the foot of the cross, and if this is done with a true heart the offender will be saved. If a man is not willing to do this, why should he be saved? How can he be?




THE subjects which are introduced into this chapter are the following:

I. A statement of the apostle that the great object which he had in writing to them was that they should not sin; and yet if they sinned, and were conscious that they were guilty before God, they should not despair, for they had an Advocate with the Father who had made propitiation for the sins of the world, 1 Jo 2:1,2. This is properly a continuation of what he had said in the close of the previous chapter, and should not have been separated from that.

II. The evidence that we know God, or that we are his true friends, is to be found in the fact that we keep his commandments, 1 Jo 2:3-6.

III. The apostle says that what he had been saying was no new commandment, but was what they had always heard concerning the nature of the gospel; but though in this respect the law of love which he meant particularly to enforce was no new commandment, none which they had not heard before, yet in another respect it was a new commandment, for it was one which in its peculiarity was originated by the Saviour, and which he meant to make the charac- teristic of his religion, 1 Jo 2:7-11. A large part of the epistle is taken up in explaining and enforcing this commandment requiring love to the brethren.

IV. The apostle specifies 1 Jo 2:12-14 various reasons why he had written to them�"reasons derived from the peculiar character of different classes among them�"little children, fathers, young men.

V. Each of these classes he solemnly commands not to love the world, or the things that are in the world, for that which constitutes the peculiarity of the "world" as such is not of the Father, and all "that there is in the world is soon to pass away," 1 Jo 2:15-17.

VI. He calls their attention to the fact that the closing dispensation of the world had come, 1 Jo 2:18-20. The evidence of this was, that antichrist had appeared.

VII. He calls their attention to the characteristics of the antichrist. The essential thing would be that antichrist would deny that Jesus was the Christ, involving a practical denial of both the Father and the Son. Persons of this character were abroad, and they were in great danger of being seduced by their arts from the way of truth and duty, 1 Jo 2:21-26.

VIII. The apostle, in the close of the chapter, 1 Jo 2:27-29, expresses the belief that they would not be seduced, but that they had an anointing from above which would keep them from the arts of those who would lead them astray, he earnestly exhorts them to abide in God the Saviour, that when he should appear they might have confidence and not be ashamed at his coming.

Verse 1. My little children. teknia mou. This is such language as an aged apostle would be likely to use when addressing a church, and its use in this epistle may be regarded as one evidence that John had reached an advanced period of life when he wrote the epistle.

These things write I unto you. To wit, the things stated in chapter one.

That ye sin not. To keep you from sin, or to induce you to lead a holy life.

And if any man sin. As all are liable, with hearts as corrupt as ours, and amidst the temptations of a world like this, to do. This, of course, does not imply that it is proper or right to sin, or that Christians should have no concern about it; but the meaning is, that all are liable to sin, and when we are conscious of sin the mind should not yield to despondency and despair. It might be supposed, perhaps, that if one sinned after baptism, or after being converted, there could be no forgiveness. The apostle designs to guard against any such supposition, and to show that the atonement made by the Redeemer had respect to all kinds of sin, and that under the deepest consciousness of guilt and of personal unworthiness, we may feel that we have an advocate on high.

We have an advocate with the Father. God only can forgive sin; and though we have no claim on him, yet there is one with him who can plead our cause, and on whom we can rely to manage our interests there. The word rendered advocate (paraklhtov or�"paraclete) is elsewhere applied to the Holy Spirit, and is in every other place where it occurs in the New Testament rendered comforter, Joh 14:16,26; Joh 15:26; 16:7. On the meaning of the word, See Barnes "John 14:16".

As used with reference to the Holy Spirit (Joh 14:16, et al.) it is employed in the more general sense of helper, or aid; and the particular manner in which the Holy Spirit aids us may be seen stated in See Barnes "Joh 14:16".

As usual here with reference to the Lord Jesus, it is employed in the more limited sense of the word advocate, as the word is frequently used in the Greek writers to denote an advocate in court; that is, one whom we call to our aid; or to stand by us, to defend our suit. Where it is applied to the Lord Jesus, the language is evidently figurative, since there can be no literal pleading for us in heaven; but it is expressive of the great truth that he has undertaken our cause with God, and that he performs for us all that we expect of an advocate and counsellor. It is not to be supposed, however, that he manages our cause in the same way, or on the same principles on which an advocate in a human tribunal does. An advocate in court is employed to defend his client. He does not begin by admitting his guilt, or in any way basing his plea on the conceded fact that he is guilty; his proper business is to show that he is not guilty, or, if he be proved to be so, to see that no injustice shall be done him. The proper business of an advocate in a human court, therefore, embraces two things:

(1.) To show that his client is not guilty in the form and manner charged on him. This he may do in one of two ways, either

(a.) by showing that he did not do the act charged on him, as when he is charged with murder, and can prove an alibi, or show that he was not present at the time the murder was committed; or

(b.) by proving that he had a right to do the deed�"as, if he is charged with murder, he may admit the fact of the killing, but may show that it was in self-defence.

(2.) In case his client is convicted, his office is to see that no injustice is done to him in the sentence; to stand by him still; to avail himself of all that the law allows in his favour, or to state any circumstance of age, or sex, or former service, or bodily health, which would in any way mitigate the sentence. The advocacy of the Lord Jesus in our behalf, however, is wholly different from this, though the same general object is pursued and sought, the good of those for whom he becomes an advocate. The nature of his advocacy may be stated in the following particulars:

(1.) He admits the guilt of those for whom he becomes the advocate, to the full extent charged on them by the law of God, and by their own consciences. He does not attempt to hide or conceal it. He makes no apology for it. He neither attempts to deny the fact, nor to show that they had a right to do as they have done. He could not do this, for it would not be true; and any plea before the throne of God which should be based on a denial of our guilt would be fatal to our cause.

(2.) As our advocate, he undertakes to be security that no wrong shall be done to the universe if we are not punished as we deserve; that is, if we are pardoned, and treated as if we had not sinned. This he does by pleading what he has done in behalf of men; that is, by the plea that his sufferings and death in behalf of sinners have done as much to honour the law, and to maintain the truth and justice of God, and to prevent the extension of apostasy, as if the offenders themselves had suffered the full penalty of the law. If sinners are punished in hell, there will be some object to be accomplished by it; and the simple account of the atonement by Christ is, that his death will secure all the good results to the universe which would be secured by the punishment of the offender himself. It has done as much to maintain the honour of the law, and to impress the universe with the truth that sin cannot be committed with impunity. If all the good results can be secured by substituted sufferings which there would be by the punishment of the offender himself, then it is clear that the guilty may be acquitted and saved. Why should they not be? The Saviour, as our advocate, undertakes to be security that this shall be.

(3.) As our advocate, he becomes a surety for our good behaviour; gives a pledge to justice that we will obey the laws of God, and that he will keep us in the paths of obedience and truth; that, if pardoned, we will not continue to rebel. This pledge or surety can be given in no human court of justice. No man, advocate or friend, can give security when one is pardoned who has been convicted of stealing a horse, that he will not steal a horse again; when one who has been guilty of murder is pardoned, that he will never be guilty of it again; when one who has been guilty of forgery is pardoned, that he will not be guilty of it again. If he could do this, the subject of pardon would be attended with much fewer difficulties than it is now. But the Lord Jesus becomes such a pledge or surety for us, (Heb 7:22,) and hence he becomes such an advocate with the Father as we need.

Jesus Christ the righteous. One who is eminently righteous himself, and who possesses the means of rendering others righteous. It is an appropriate feeling when we come before God in his name, that we come pleading the merits of one who is eminently righteous, and on account of whose righteousness we may be justified and saved.

{*} "little children" "My children"

{a} "advocate" Ro 8:34; Heb 7:25


Verse 2. And he is the propitiation for our sins. The word rendered propitiation (ilasmov) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, except in 1 Jo 4:10 of this epistle; though words of the same derivation, and having the same essential meaning, frequently, occur. The corresponding word ilasthrion (hilasterion) occurs in Ro 3:25, rendered propitiation�""whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood;" and in Heb 9:5, rendered mercy-seat�""shadowing the mercy-seat." The verb ilaskomai (hilaskomai) occurs also in Lu 18:3�""God be merciful to me a sinner;" and Heb 2:17�""to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." For the idea expressed by these words, See Barnes "Ro 3:25".

The proper meaning of the word is that of reconciling, appeasing, turning away anger, rendering propitious or favourable. The idea is, that there is anger or wrath, or that something has been done to offend, and that it is needful to turn away that wrath, or to appease. This may be done by a sacrifice, by songs, by services rendered, or by bloody offerings. So the word is often used in Homer.�"Passow. We have similar words in common use, as when we say of one that he has been offended, and that something must be done to appease him, or to turn away his wrath. This is commonly done with us by making restitution; or by an acknowledgment; or by yielding the point in controversy; or by an expression of regret; or by different conduct in time to come. But this idea must not be applied too literally to God; nor should it be explained away. The essential thoughts in regard to him, as implied in this word, are,

(1,) that his will has been disregarded, and his law violated, and that he has reason to be offended with us;

(2,) that in that condition he cannot, consistently with his perfections, and the good of the universe, treat us as if we had not done it;

(3,) that it is proper that, in some way, he should show his displeasure at our conduct, either by punishing us, or by something that shall answer the same purpose; and,

(4,) that the means of propitiation come in here, and accomplish this end, and make it proper that he should treat us as if we had not sinned; that is, he is reconciled, or appeased, and his anger is turned away. This is done, it is supposed, by, the death of the Lord Jesus, accomplishing, in most important respects, what would be accomplished by the punishment of the offender himself. In regard to this, in order to a proper understanding of what is accomplished, it is necessary to observe two things�"what is not done, and what is.

I. There are certain things which do not enter into the idea of propitiation. They are such as these:

(a.) That it does not change the fact that the wrong was done. That is a fact which cannot be denied, and he who undertakes to make a propitiation for sin does not deny it.

(b.) It does not change God; it does not make him a different being from what he was before; it does not buy him over to a willingness to show mercy; it does not change an inexorable being to one who is compassionate and kind.

(c.) The offering that is made to secure reconciliation does not necessarily produce reconciliation in fact. It prepares the way for it on the part of God, but whether they for whom it is made will be disposed to accept it is another question. When two men are alienated from each other, you may go to B and say to him that all obstacles to reconciliation on the part of A are removed, and that he is disposed to be at peace, but whether B will be willing to be at peace is quite another matter. The mere fact that his adversary is disposed to be at peace, determines nothing in regard to his disposition in the matter. So in regard to the controversy between man and God. It may be true that all obstacles to reconciliation on the part of God are taken away, and still it may be quite a separate question whether man will be willing to lay aside his opposition, and embrace the terms of mercy. In itself considered, one does not necessarily determine the other, or throw any light on it.

II. The amount, then, in regard to the propitiation made for sin is, that it removes all obstacles to reconciliation on the part of God; it does whatever is necessary to be done to maintain the honour of his law, his justice, and his truth; it makes it consistent for him to offer pardon�"that is, it removes whatever there was that made it necessary to inflict punishment, and thus, so far as the word can be applied to God, it appeases him, or turns away his anger, or renders him propitious. This it does, not in respect to producing any change in God, but in respect to the fact that it removes whatever there was in the nature of the case that prevented the free and full offer of pardon. The idea of the apostle in the passage before us is, that when we sin we may be assured that this has been done, and that pardon may now be freely extended to us.

And not for our's only. Not only for the sins of us who are Christians, for the apostle was writing to such. The idea which he intends to convey seems to be, that when we come before God we should take the most liberal and large views of the atonement; we should feel that the most ample provision has been made for our pardon, and that in no respect is there any limit as to the sufficiency of that work to remove all sin. It is sufficient for us; sufficient for all the world.

But also for the sins of the whole world. The phrase "the sins of" is not in the original, but is not improperly supplied, for the connexion demands it. This is one of the expressions occurring in the New Testament which demonstrate that the atonement was made for all men, and which cannot be reconciled with any other opinion, if he had died only for a part of the race, this language could not have been used. The phrase, "the whole world," is one which naturally embraces all men; is such as would be used if it be supposed that the apostle meant to teach that Christ died for all men; and is such as cannot be explained on any other supposition. If he died only for the elect, it is not true that he is the "propitiation for the sins of the whole world" in any proper sense, nor would it be possible then to assign a sense in which it could be true. This passage, interpreted in its plain and obvious meaning, teaches the following things:

(1.) That the atonement in its own nature is adapted to all men, or that it is as much fitted to one individual, or One class, as another;

(2,) that it is sufficient in merit for all; that is, that if any more should be saved than actually will be, there would be no need of any additional suffering in order to save them;

(3,) that it has no special adaptedness to one person or class more than another; that is, that in its own nature it did not render the salvation of one more easy than that of another. It so magnified the law, so honoured God, so fully expressed the Divine sense of the evil of sin in respect to all men, that the offer of salvation might be made as freely to one as to another, and that any and all might take shelter under it and be safe. Whether, however, God might not, for wise reasons, resolve that its benefits should be applied to a part only, is another question, and one which does not affect the inquiry about the intrinsic nature of the atonement. On the evidence that the atonement was made for all, See Barnes "2 Co 5:14, and See Barnes "Heb 2:9".

{a} "propitiation" Ro 3:25


Verse 3. And hereby we do know that we know him. To wit, by that Which follows, we have evidence that we are truly acquainted with him, and with the requirements of his religion; that is, that we are truly his friends. The word him, in this verse, seems to refer to the Saviour. On the meaning of the word know, See Barnes "Joh 17:3".

The apostle had stated in the previous part of this epistle some of the leading points revealed by the Christian religion, and he here enters on the consideration of the nature of the evidence required to show that we are personally interested in it, or that we are true Christians. A large part of the epistle is occupied with this subject. The first, the grand evidence�"that without which all others would be vain�"he says is, that we keep his commandments.

If we keep his commandments. See Barnes "Joh 14:15".

Comp. Joh 14:23,24; 15:10,14.


Verse 4. He that saith, I know him, He who professes to be acquainted with the Saviour, or who professes to be a Christian.

And keepeth not his commandments. What he has appointed to be observed by his people; that is, he who does not obey him.

Is a liar. Makes a false profession; professes to have that which he really has not. Such a profession is a falsehood, because there can be no true religion where one does not obey the law of God.


Verse 5. But whoso keepeth his word. That is, what he has spoken or commanded, The term word here will include all that he has made known to us as his will in regard to our conduct.

In him verily is the love of God perfected. He professes to have the love of God in his heart, and that love receives its completion or filling up by obedience to the will of God. That obedience is the proper carrying out, or the exponent of the love which exists in the heart. Love to the Saviour would be defective without that, for it is never complete without obedience. If this be the true interpretation, then the passage does not make any affirmation about sinless perfection, but it only affirms that if true love exists in the heart, it will be carried out in the life; or that love and obedience are parts of the same thing; that one will be manifested by the other; and that where obedience exists, it is the completion or perfecting of love. Besides, the apostle does not say that either the love or the obedience would be in themselves absolutely perfect; but he says that one cannot fully develope itself without the other.

Hereby know we that we are in him. That is, by having in fact such love as shall insure obedience. To be in him, is to be united to him; to be his friends. See Barnes "Joh 6:56" See Barnes "Ro 13:14".


Verse 6. He that saith, he abideth in him. Gr., remains in him; that is, abides or remains in the belief of his doctrines, and in the comfort and practice of religion. The expression is one of those which refer to the intimate union between Christ and his people. A great variety of phrase is employed to denote that. For the meaning of this word in John, See Barnes "Joh 3:6".

Ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. Ought to live and act as he did. If he is one with him, or professes to be united to him, he ought to imitate him in all things. Comp. Joh 13:15. See Barnes "1 Jo 1:6".

{a} "abideth" Joh 15:4,5

{b} "walk" Joh 13:15


Verse 7. Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you. That is, what I am now enjoining is not new. It is the same doctrine which you have always heard. There has been much difference of opinion as to what is referred to by the word commandment, whether it is the injunction in the previous verse to live as Christ lived, or whether it is what he refers to in the following verses, the duty of brotherly love. Perhaps neither of these is exactly the idea of the apostle, but he may mean in this verse to put in a general disclaimer against the charge that what he enjoined was new. In respect to all that he taught, the views of truth which he held, the duties which he enjoined, the course of life which he would prescribe as proper for a Christian to live, he meant to say that it was not at all new; it was nothing which he had originated himself, but it was in fact the same system of doctrines which they had always received since they became Christians. He might have been induced to say this because he apprehended that some of those whom he had in his eye, and whose doctrines he meant to oppose, might say that this was all new; that it was not the nature of religion as it had been commonly understood, and as it was laid down by the Saviour. In a somewhat different sense, indeed, he admits 1 Jo 2:8 that there was a "new" commandment which it was proper to enjoin�"for he did not forget that the Saviour himself called that "new;" and though that commandment had also been all along inculcated under the gospel, yet there was a sense in which it was proper to call that new, for it had been so called by the Saviour. But in respect to all the doctrines which he maintained, and in respect to all the duties which he enjoined, he said that they were not new in the sense that he had originated them, or that they had not been enjoined from the beginning. Perhaps, also, the apostle here may have some allusion to false teachers who were in fact scattering new doctrines among the people, things before unheard of, and attractive by their novelty; and he may mean to say that he made no pretensions to any such novelty, but was content to repeat the old and familiar truths which they had always received. Thus, if he was charged with breaching new opinions, he denies it fully; if they were advancing new opinions, and were even "making capital" out of them, he says that he attempted no such thing, but was content with the old and established opinions which they had always received.

But an old commandment. Old, in the sense that it has always been inculcated; that religion has always enjoined it.

Which ye had from the beginning. Which you have always received ever since you heard anything about the gospel. It was preached when the gospel was first preached; it has always been promulgated when that has been promulgated; it is what you first heard when you were made acquainted with the gospel. Compare See Barnes "1 Jo 1:1".

The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Is the doctrine; or is what was enjoined. John is often in the habit of putting a truth in a new form or aspect in order to make it emphatic, and to prevent the possibility of misapprehension. See Joh 1:1,2. The sense here is, "All that I am saying to you is in fact an old commandment, or one which you have always had. There is nothing new in what I am enjoining on you."


Verse 8. Again, a new commandment I write unto you. "And yet, that which I write to you, and particularly enjoin on you, deserves in another sense to be called a new commandment, though it has been also inculcated from the beginning, for it was called new by the Saviour himself." Or the meaning may be, "In addition to the general precepts which I have referred to, I do now call your attention to the new commandment of the Saviour, that which he himself called new." There can be no doubt here that John refers to the commandment to "love one another," (1 Jo 2:9-11,) and that it is here called new, not in the sense that John inculcated it as a novel doctrine, but in the sense that the Saviour called it such. For the reasons why it was so called by him, See Barnes "Joh 13:34".

Which thing is true in him. In the Lord Jesus. That is, which commandment or law of love was illustrated in him, or was manifested by him in his intercourse with his disciples. That which was most prominent in him was this very love which he enjoined on all his followers.

And in you. Among you. That is, you have manifested it in your intercourse with each other. It is not new in the sense that you have never heard of it, and have never evinced it, but in the sense only that he called it new.

Because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. The ancient systems of error, under which men hated each other, have passed away, and you are brought into the light of the true religion. Once you were in darkness, like others; now the light of the pure gospel shines around you, and that requires, as its distinguishing characteristic, love. Religion is often represented as light; and Christ spoke of himself, and was spoken of, as the light of the world. See Barnes "Joh 1:4" See Barnes "Joh 1:5".

Comp. Joh 8:12; Joh 12:35,36,46; Isa 9:2.

{c} "new commandment" Joh 13:34

{d} "darkness" Ro 13:12


Verse 9. He that saith he is in the light. That he has true religion, or is a Christian. See 1 Jo 1:7.

And hateth his brother. The word brother seems here to refer to those who professed the same religion. The word is indeed sometimes used in a larger sense, but the reference here appears to be to that which is properly brotherly love among Christians. Comp. Lucke, in loc.

Is in darkness even unto now. That is, he cannot have true religion unless he has love to the brethren. The command to love one another was one of the most solemn and earnest which Christ ever enjoined, (Joh 15:17;) he made it the peculiar badge of discipleship, or that by which his followers were to be everywhere known, (Joh 13:35;) and it is, therefore, impossible to have any true religion without love to those who are sincerely and truly his followers. If a man has not that, he is in deep darkness, whatever else he may have, on the whole subject of religion. Comp. See Barnes "1 Th 4:9".

{e} "darkness" 2 Pe 1:9


Verse 10. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light. Has true religion, and enjoys it.

And there is none occasion of stumbling in him. Marg., scandal. Greek, "and there is no stumbling" [or scandal�"skandalon�"in him.] The word here used, means anything against which one strikes or stumbles; and then a stumbling-block, an impediment, or anything which occasions a fall. Then it is used in a moral or spiritual sense, as denoting that which is the occasion of falling into sin. See Barnes "Mt 5:29" and See Barnes "Ro 14:13".

Here it refers to an individual in respect to his treatment of others, and means that there is nothing, so far as he is concerned, to lead him into sin.�"Rob. Lex. If he has love to the brethren, he has true religion; and there is, so far as the influence of this shall extend, nothing that will be the occasion of his falling into sin in his conduct towards them, for "love worketh no ill to his neighbour," Ro 13:10. His course will be just, and upright, and benevolent. He will have no envy towards them in their prosperity, and will not be disposed to detract from their reputation in adversity; he will have no feelings of exultation when they fall, and will not be disposed to take advantage of their misfortunes; and, loving them as brethren, he will be in no respect under temptation to do them wrong. In the bosom of one who loves his brother, the baleful passions of envy, malice, hatred, and uncharitableness, can have no place. At the same time, this love of the brethren would have an important effect on his whole Christian life and walk, for there are few things that will have more influence on a man's character in keeping him from doing wrong, than the love of the good and the pure. He who truly loves good men, will not be likely in any respect to go astray from the paths of virtue.

{1} "stumbling" "scandal"


Verse 11. But he that hateth his brother. The word here used would, in this connexion, include both the mere absence of love, and positive hatred. It is designed to include the whole of that state of mind where there is not love for the brethren.

Is in darkness. 1 Jo 2:9.

And walketh in darkness. He is like one who walks in the dark, and who sees no object distinctly. See Barnes "Joh 12:35".

And knoweth not whither he goeth. Like one in the dark. He wanders about not knowing what direction he shall take, or where the course which he is on will lead. The general meaning is, that he is ignorant of the whole nature of religion; or, in other words, love to the brethren is a central virtue in religion, and when a man has not that, his mind is entirely clouded on the whole subject, and he shows that he knows nothing of its nature. There is no virtue that is designed to be made more prominent in Christianity; and there is none that will throw its influence farther over a man's life.

{a} "walketh in darkness" Pr 4:15; Joh 12:35


Verse 12. I write unto you, little children. There has been much difference of opinion among commentators in regard to this verse and the three following verses, on account of the apparent tautology. Even Doddridge supposes that considerable error has here crept into the text, and that a portion of these verses should be omitted in order to avoid the repetition. But there is no authority for omitting any portion of the text, and the passage is very much in accordance with the general style of the apostle John. The author of this epistle was evidently accustomed to express his thoughts in a great variety of ways, having even the appearance of tautology, that the exact idea might be before his readers, and that his meaning might not be mis- apprehended. In order to show that the truths which he was uttering in this epistle pertained to all, and to secure the interest of all in them, he addresses himself to different classes, and says that there were reasons existing in regard to each class why he wrote to them. In the expressions, "I write," and "I have written," he refers to what is found in the epistle itself, and the statements in these verses are designed to be reasons why he brought these truths before their minds. The word here rendered little children (teknia)is different from that used in 1 Jo 2:13, and rendered there little children, (paidia;) but there can be little doubt that the same class of persons is intended. Some have indeed supposed that by the term little children here, as in 1 Jo 2:1, the apostle means to address all believers �"speaking to them as a father; but it seems more appropriate to suppose that he means in these verses to divide the body of Christians whom he addressed into three classes�"children, young men, and the aged, and to state particular reasons why he wrote to each. If the term (teknia) little children here means the same as the term (paidia) little children in 1 Jo 2:13, then he addresses each of these classes twice in these two verses, giving each time somewhat varied reasons why he addressed them. That, by the term "little children" here, he means children literally, seems to me to be clear,

(1.) because this is the usual meaning of the word, and should be understood to be the meaning here, unless there is something in the connexion to show that it is used in a metaphorical sense;

(2.) because it seems necessary to understand the other expressions, "young men," and "fathers," in a literal sense, as denoting those more advanced in life;

(3.) because this would be quite in character for the apostle John. He had recorded, and would doubtless remember the solemn injunction of the Saviour to Peter, (Joh 21:15,) to "feed his lambs," and the aged apostle could not but feel that what was worthy of so solemn an injunction from the Lord, was worthy of his attention and care as an apostle; and

(4.) because in that case, each class, fathers, young men, and children, would be twice addressed in these two verses; whereas if we understood this of Christians in general, then fathers and young men would be twice addressed, and children but once. If this be so, it may be remarked,

(1.) that there were probably quite young children in the church in the time of the apostle John, for the word would naturally convey that idea.

(2.) The exact age cannot he indeed determined, but two things are clear:

(a.) one is, that they were undoubtedly under twenty years of age, since they were younger than the "young men"�"neaniskoi a word usually applied to those who were in the vigour of life, from about the period of twenty up to forty years, (See Barnes "1 Jo 2:13,) and this word would embrace all who were younger than that class; and

(b.) the other is, that the word itself would convey the idea that they were in quite early life, as the word children�"a fair translation of it �"does now with us. It is not possible to determine, from the use of this word, precisely of what age the class here referred to was, but the word would imply that they were in quite early life. No rule is laid down in the New Testament as to the age in which children may be admitted to the communion. The whole subject is left to the wise discretion of the church, and is safely left there. Cases must vary so much that no rule could be laid down; and little or no evil has arisen from leaving the point undetermined in the Scriptures. It may be doubted, however, whether tile church has not been rather in danger of erring by having it deferred too late, than by admitting children too early.

(3.) Such children, if worthy the attention of an aged apostle, should receive the particular notice of pastors now. See Barnes "Joh 21:15".

There are reasons in all cases now, as there were then, why this part of a congregation should receive the special attention of a minister of religion. The hopes of a church are in them. Their minds are susceptible to impression. The character of the piety in the next age will depend on their views of religion. All that there is of value in the church and the world will soon pass into their hands. The houses, farms, factories; the pulpits, and the chairs of professors in colleges; the seats of senators and the benches of judges; the great offices of state, and all the offices in the church; the interests of learning, and of benevolence and liberty, are all soon to be under their control. Everything valuable in this world will soon depend on their conduct and character; and who, therefore, can over-estimate the importance of training them up in just views of religion. As John wrote to this class, should not pastors preach to them?

Because�"oti. This particle may be rendered for, or because; and the meaning may be either that the fact that their sins were forgiven was a reason for writing to them, since it would be proper, on that ground, to exhort them to a holy life; or that he wrote to them because it was a privilege to address them as those who were forgiven, for he felt that, in speaking to them, he could address them as such. It seems to me that it is to be taken as a causal particle, and that the apostle, in the various specifications which he makes, designs to assign particular reasons why he wrote to each class, enjoining on them the duties of a holy life. Comp. 1 Jo 2:21. Your sins are forgiven you. That is, this is a reason why he wrote to them, and enjoined these things on them. The meaning seems to be, that the fact that our past sins are blotted out furnishes a strong reason why we should be holy. That reason is founded on the goodness of God in doing it, and on the obligation under which we are brought by the fact that God has had mercy on us. This is a consideration which children will feel as well as others; for there is nothing which will tend more to make a child obedient hereafter, than the fact that a parent freely forgives the past.

For his name's sake. On account of the name of Christ; that is, in virtue of what he has done for us. In 1 Jo 2:13, he states another reason why he wrote to this same class�""because they had known the Father."

{*} "little children" "Children"

{b} "name's sake" Ps 25:11; Lu 24:47; Ac 10:43


Verse 13. I write unto you, fathers. As there were special reasons for writing to children, so there were also for writing to those who were more mature in life. The class here addressed would embrace all those who were in advance of the neaniskoi, or young men, and would properly include those who were at the head of families.

Because ye have known him that is from the beginning. That is, the Lord Jesus Christ. See Barnes "1 Jo 1:1".

The argument is, that they had been long acquainted with the principles of his religion, and understood well its doctrines and duties. It cannot be certainly inferred from this that they had had a personal acquaintance with the Lord Jesus; yet that this might have been is not impossible, for John had himself personally known him, and there may have been some among those to whom he wrote who had also seen and known him. If this were so, it would give additional impressiveness to the reason assigned here for writing to them, and for reminding them of the principles of that religion which they had learned froth his own lips and example. But perhaps all that is necessarily implied in this passage is, that they had had long opportunity of becoming acquainted with the religion of the Son of God, and that having understood that thoroughly, it was proper to address them as aged and established Christians, and to call on them to maintain the true doctrines of the gospel, against the specious but dangerous errors which then prevailed.

I write unto you, young men. neaniskoi. This word would properly embrace those who were in the rigour of life, midway between children and old men. It is uniformly rendered young men in the New Testament: Mt 19:20,22; Mr 14:61; 16:6; Lu 7:14; Ac 2:17; 5:10; and in the passages before us. It does not elsewhere occur. It is commonly understood as embracing those in the prime and rigour of manhood up to the period of about forty years.�"Robinson.

Because ye have overcome the wicked one. That is, because you have rigour, (see the next verse,)and that rigour you have shown by overcoming the assaults of the wicked one�"the devil. You have triumphed over the passions which prevail in early life; you have combatted the allurements of vice, ambition, covetousness, and sensuality; and you have shown that there is a strength of character and of piety on which reliance can be placed in promoting religion. It is proper, therefore, to exhort you not to disgrace the victory which you have already gained, but to employ your vigour of character in maintaining the cause of the Saviour. The thing to which John appeals here is the energy of those at this period of life, and it is proper at all times to make this the ground of appeal in addressing a church, It is right to call on those who are in the prime of life, and who are endowed with energy of character, to employ their talents in the service of the Lord Jesus, and to stand up as the open advocates of truth. Thus the apostle calls on the three great classes into which a community or a church may be considered as divided: youth, be; cause their sins were already forgiven, and, though young, they had actually entered on a career of virtue and religion, a career which by all means they ought to be exhorted to pursue; fathers, or aged men, because they had had long experience in religion, and had a thorough acquaintance with the doctrines and duties of the gospel, and they might be expected to stand steadfastly as examples to others; and young men, those who were in the rigour and prime of life, because they had shown that they had power to resist evil, and were endowed with strength, and it was proper to call on them to exert their rigour in the sacred cause of religion.

I write unto you, little children". Many Mss. read here, I have written�"egraqa�"instead of I write�"grafw. This reading is found in both the ancient Syriac versions, and in the Coptic; it was followed by Origen, Cyril, Photius, and OEcumenius; and it is adopted by Grotius, Mill, and Hahn; and is probably the true reading. The connexion seems to demand this. In 1 Jo 2:12,13, the apostle uses the word grafw�"I write�"in relation to children, fathers, and young men; in the passage before us, and in the next verse, he again addresses children, fathers, and young men, and in relation to the two latter, he says egraqa�"I have written. The connexion, therefore, seems to demand that the same word should be employed here also. Some persons have supposed that the whole passage is spurious, but of that there is no evidence; and, as we have elsewhere seen, it is not uncommon for John to repeat a sentiment, and to place it in a variety of lights, in order that he might make it certain that he was not misapprehended. Some have supposed, also, that the expression "I have written," refers to some former epistle which is now lost, or to the Gospel by the same author, which had been sent to them, (Hug.,) and that he means here to remind them that he had written to them on some former occasion, inculcating the same sentiments which he now expressed. But there is no evidence of this, and this supposition is not necessary in order to a correct understanding of the passage. In the former expression, "I write," the state of mind would be that of one who fixed his attention on what he was then doing, and the particular reason why he did it�"and the apostle states these reasons in 1 Jo 2:12,13. Yet it would not be unnatural for him immediately to throw his mind into the past, and to state the reasons why he had resolved to write to them at all, and then to look at what he had purposed to say as already done, and to state the reasons why that was done. Thus one who sat down to write a letter to a friend might appropriately state in any part of the letter the reasons which had induced him to write at all to him on the subject. If he fixed his attention on the fact that he was actually writing, and on the reasons why he wrote, he would express himself in the present tense�" I write; if on the previous purpose, or the reasons which induced him to write at all, he would use the past tense�"I have written for such and such reasons. So John seems here, in order to make what he says emphatic, to refer to two states of his own mind: the one when he resolved to write, and the reasons which occurred to him then; and the other when he was actually writing, and the reasons which occurred to him then. The reasons are indeed substantially the same, but they are contemplated from different points of view, and that fact shows that what he did was done with deliberation, and from a deep sense of duty.

Because ye have known the Father. In 1 Jo 2:12, the reason assigned for writing to this class is, that their sins were forgiven, The reason assigned here is, that in early life they had become acquainted with God as a Father. He desires that they would show themselves dutiful and faithful children in this relation which they sustained to him. Even children may learn to regard God as their Father, and may have towards him all the affectionate interest which grows out of this relation.

{a} "him" 1 Jo 1:1

{*} "little children" "Children"

{b} "Father" Joh 14:7,9


Verse 14. I have written unto you, fathers, because, etc. The reason assigned here for writing to fathers is the same which is given in the previous verse. It would seem that, in respect to them, the apostle regarded this as a sufficient reason for writing to them, and only meant to enforce it by repeating it. The fact that they had through many years been acquainted with the doctrines and duties of the true religion, seemed to him a sufficient reason for writing to them, and for exhorting them to a steadfast adherence to those principles and duties.

I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, etc. The two additional circumstances which he here mentions as reasons for writing to young men are, that they are strong, and that the word of God abides in them. The first of these reasons is, that they were strong; that is, that they were qualified for active and useful service in the cause of the Redeemer. Children were yet too young and feeble to appeal to them by this motive, and the powers of the aged were exhausted; but those who were in the rigour of life might be called upon for active service in the cause of the Lord Jesus. The same appeal may be made now to the same class; and the fact that they are thus vigorous is a proper ground of exhortation, for the church needs their active services, and they are bound to devote their powers to the cause of truth. The other additional ground of appeal is, that the word of God abode in them; that is, that those of this class to whom he wrote had showed, perhaps in time of temptation, that they adhered firmly to the principles of religion. They had not flinched from an open defence of the truths of religion when assailed; they had not been seduced by the plausible arts of the advocates of error, but they had had strength to overcome the wicked one. The reason here for appealing to this class is, that in fact they had showed that they could be relied on, and it was proper to depend on them to advocate the great principles of Christianity.

{c} "strong" Eph 6:10

{d} "abideth" Joh 15:7

{e} "overcome" Re 2:7


Verse 15. Love not the world. The term world seems to be used in the Scriptures in three senses;

(1,) As denoting the physical universe; the world as it appears to the eye; the world considered as the work of God, as a material creation.

(2.) The world as applied to the people that reside in it�"" the world of mankind."

(3.) As the dwellers on the earth are by nature without religion, and act under a set of maxims, aims, and principles that have reference only to this life, the term comes to be used with reference to that community; that is, to the objects which they peculiarly seek, and the principles by which they are actuated, Considered with reference to the first sense of the word, it is not improper to love the world as the work of God, and as illustrating his perfections; for we may suppose that God loves his own works, and it is not wrong that we should find pleasure in their contemplation. Considered with reference to the second sense of the word, it is not wrong to love the people of the world with a love of benevolence, and to have attachment to our kindred and friends who constitute a part of it, though they are not Christians. It is only with reference to the word as used in the third sense that the command here can be understood to be applicable, or that the love of the world is forbidden; with reference to the objects sought, the maxims that prevail, the principles that reign in that community that lives for this world as contradistinguished from the world to come. The meaning is, that we are not to fix our affections on worldly objects�"on what the world can furnish�"as our portion, with the spirit with which they do who live only for this world, regardless of the life to come. We are not to make this world the object of our chief affection; we are not to be influenced by the maxims and feelings which prevail among those who do. Comp. See Barnes "Ro 12:2, and See Barnes "Jas 4:4".

See also Mt 16:26; Lu 9:25; 1 Co 1:20; 3:19; Ga 4:3; Col 2:8".

Neither the things that are in the world. Referred to in the next verse as "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." This explanation shows what John meant by "the things that are in the world." He does not say that we are in no sense to love anything that is in the material world; that we are to feel no interest in flowers, and streams, and forests, and fountains; that we are to have no admiration for what God has done as the Creator of all things; that we are to cherish no love for any of the inhabitants of the world, our friends and kindred; or that we are to pursue none of the objects of this life in making provision for our families; but that we are not to love the things which are sought merely to pamper the appetite, to please the eye, or to promote pride in living. These are the objects sought by the people of the world; these are not the objects to be sought by the Christian.

If any man love the world, etc. If, in this sense, a man loves the world, it shows that he has no true religion; that is, if characteristically he loves the world as his portion, and lives for that; if it is the ruling principle of his life to gain and enjoy that, it shows that his heart has never been renewed, and that he has no part with the children of God. See Barnes "Jas 4:4" See Barnes "Mt 6:24".

{f} "Love" Ro 12:2

{g} "If any man" Mt 6:24; Ga 1:10; Jas 4:4


Verse 16. For all that is in the world. That is, all that really constitutes the world, or that enters into the aims and purposes of those who live for this life. All that that community lives for may be comprised under the following things.

The lust of the flesh. The word lust is used here in the general sense of desire, or that which is the object of desire�"not in the narrow sense in which it is now commonly used to denote libidinous passion. See Barnes "Jas 1:14".

The phrase, "the lust of the flesh," here denotes that which pampers the appetites, or all that is connected with the indulgence of the mere animal propensities. A large part of the world lives for little more than this. This is the lowest form of worldly indulgence; those which are immediately specified being of a higher order, though still merely worldly.

And the lust of the eyes. That which is designed merely to gratify the sight. This would include, of course, costly raiment, jewels, gorgeous furniture, splendid palaces, pleasure-grounds, etc. The object is to refer to the gay vanities of this world, the thing on which the eye delights to rest where there is no higher object of life. It does not, of course, mean that the eye is never to be gratified, or that we can find as much pleasure in an ugly as in a handsome object, or that it is sinful to find pleasure in beholding objects of real beauty�"for the world, as formed by its Creator, is full of such things, and he could not but have intended that pleasure should enter the soul through the eye, or that the beauties which he has shed so lavishly over his works should contribute to the happiness of his creatures; but the apostle refers to this when it is the great and leading object of life,�"when it is sought without any connexion with religion or reference to the world to come.

And the pride of life. The word here used means, properly, ostentation or boasting, and then arrogance or pride.�"Robinson. It refers to whatever there is that tends to promote pride, or that is an index of pride, such as the ostentatious display of dress, equipage, furniture, etc.

Is not of the Father. Does not proceed from God, or meet with his approbation. It is not of the nature of true religion to seek these things, nor can their pursuit be reconciled with the existence of real piety in the heart. The sincere Christian has nobler ends; and he who has not any higher ends, and whose conduct and feelings can all be accounted for by a desire for these things, cannot be a true Christian.

But is of the world. Is originated solely by the objects and purposes of this life, where religion and the life to come are excluded.

{*} "lust" "desire"

{b} "flesh" 2 Pe 2:10

{c} "the eyes" Ps 119:37

{d} "pride of life" Ps 83:6


Verse 17. And the world passeth away. Everything properly constituting this world where religion is excluded. The reference here does not seem to be so much to the material world, as to the scenes of show and vanity which make up the world. These things are passing away like the shifting scenes of the stage. See Barnes "1 Co 7:31".

And the lust thereof. All that is here so much the object of desire. These things are like a pageant, which only amuses the eve for a moment, and then disappears for ever.

But he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. This cannot mean that he will never die; but it means that he has built his happiness on a basis which is secure, and which can never pass away. See Barnes "Mt 7:24" seq.

{e} "And the world" Ps 39:6; 1 Co 7:31


Verse 18. Little children. See 1 Jo 2:1.

It is the last time. The closing period or dispensation; that dispensation in which the affairs of the world are ultimately to be wound up. The apostle does not, however, say that the end of the world would soon occur, nor does he intimate how long this dispensation would be. That period might continue through many ages or centuries, and still be the last dispensation, or that in which the affairs of the world would be finally closed. See Barnes "Isa 2:2" See Barnes "Ac 2:17" See Barnes "Heb 1:2".

Some have supposed that the "last time" here refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the end of the Jewish economy; but the more natural interpretation is to refer it to the last dispensation of the world, and to suppose that the apostle meant to say that there were clear evidences that that period had arrived.

And as ye have heard that antichrist shall come. The word antichrist occurs in the New Testament only in these epistles of John, 1 Jo 2:18,22; 4:3; 2 Jo 1:7.

The proper meaning of anti (anti) in composition is,
(1.) over against, as antitattein;
(2.) contrary to, as antilegein;
(3.) reciprocity, as antapodidwmi;
(4.) substitution, as antibasileuv, in the place of the king, or anyupatov�"proconsul. The word antichrist, therefore, might denote any one who either was or claimed to be in the place of Christ, or one who, for any cause, was in opposition to him. The word, further, would apply to one opposed to him, on whatever ground the opposition might be; whether it were open and avowed, or whether it were only in fact, as resulting from certain claims which were adverse to his, or which were inconsistent with his.

A vice-functionary, or an opposing functionary, would be the idea which the word would naturally suggest. If the word stood alone, and there were nothing said further to explain its meaning, we should think, when the word antichrist was used, either of one who claimed to be the Christ, and who thus was a rival; or of one who stood in opposition to him on some other ground. That which constituted the characteristics of antichrist, according to John, who, only has used the word, he has himself stated. 1 Jo 2:22, "Who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son." 1 Jo 4:3, "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God; and this is that spirit of antichrist." 2 Jo 1:7, "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." From this it is clear, that John understood by the word all those that denied that Jesus is the Messiah, or that the Messiah has come in the flesh. If they held that Jesus was a deceiver, and that he was not the Christ, or if they maintained that, though Christ had come, he had not come in the flesh, that is, with a proper human nature, this showed that such persons had the spirit of antichrist. They strayed themselves against him, and held doctrines which were in fact in entire opposition to the Son of God. It would appear then that John does not use the word in the sense which it would bear as denoting one who set up a rival claim, or who came in the place of Christ, but in the sense of those who were opposed to him by denying essential doctrines in regard to his person and advent. It is not certainly known to what persons he refers, but it would seem not improbable to Jewish adversaries, (see Suicer's Thesaurus. voc.,) or to some forms of the Gnostic belief. See Barnes "1 Jo 4:2".

The doctrine respecting antichrist, as stated in the New Testament, may be summed up in the following particulars:

(1.) That there would be those, perhaps in considerable numbers, who would openly claim to be the Christ, or the true Messiah, Mt 24:5,24.

(2.) That there would be a spirit, which would manifest itself early in the church, that would strongly tend to some great apostasy under some one head or leader, or to a concentration on an individual, or a succession of individuals, who would have eminently the spirit of antichrist, though for a time the developement of that spirit would be hindered or restrained, See Barnes "2 Th 2:1, seq.

(3.) That this would be ultimately concentrated on a single leader �" "the man of sin"�"and embodied under some great apostasy, at the head of which would be that "man of sin," 2 Th 2:3,4,8,9,10.

It is to this that Paul particularly refers, or this is the view which he took of this apostasy, and it is this which he particularly describes.

(4.) That, in the mean time, and before the elements of the great apostasy should be concentrated and embodied, there might not be a few who would partake of the same general spirit, and who would be equally opposed to Christ in their doctrines and aims; that is, who would embody in themselves the essential spirit of antichrist, and by whose appearing it might be known that the last dispensation had come. It is to these that John refers, and these he found in his own age. Paul fixed the eye on future times, when the spirit of antichrist should be embodied under a distinct and mighty organization; John on his own time, and found then essentially what it had been predicted would occur in the church. He here says that they had been taught to expect that antichrist would come under the last dispensation; and it is implied that it could be ascertained that it was the last time, from the fact that the predicted opposer of Christ had come. The reference is probably to the language of the Saviour, that before the end should be, and as a sign that it was coming, many would arise claiming to be Christ, and, of course, practically denying that he was the Christ. Mt 24:5, "Many shall come m my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many." Verse 24, "And there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets; and they shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." This prediction it is probable the apostles had referred to wherever they had preached, so that there was a general expectation that one or more persons would appear claiming to be the Christ, or maintaining such opinions as to be inconsistent with the true doctrine that Jesus was the Messiah. Such persons, John says, had then in fact appeared, by which it could be known that they were living under the closing dispensation of the world referred to by the Saviour. See Barnes "2 Th 2:2, seq.

Even now are there many antichrists.< There are many who have the characteristics which it was predicted that antichrist would have; that is, as explained above, there are many who deny that Jesus is the Messiah, or who deny that he has come in the flesh. If they maintained that Jesus was an impostor and not the true Messiah, or if, though they admitted that the Messiah had come, they affirmed, as the Docetae did, (See Barnes "1 Jo 4:2,) that he had come in i>appearance only, and not really come in the flesh, this was the spirit of antichrist. John says that there were many such persons in fact in his time. It would seem from this that John did not refer to a single individual, or to a succession of individuals who should come previous to the winding up of the affairs of the world, as Paul did, (2 Th 2:2, seq.,) but that he understood that there might be many at the same time who would evince the spirit of antichrist. Both he and Paul, however, refer to the expectation that before the coming of the Saviour to Judge the world there would be prominent adversaries of the Christian religion, and that the end would not come until such adversaries appeared. Paul goes more into detail, and describes the characteristics of the great apostasy more at length, (2 Th 2:2, seq.; 1 Ti 4:1, seq.; 2 Ti 3:1, seq.;) John says, not that the appearing of these persons indicated that the end of the world was near, but that they had such characteristics as to show that they were living in the last dispensation. Paul so describes them as to show that the end of the world was not to be immediately expected, (See Barnes "2 Th 2:1, seq.;) John, without referring to that point, says that there were enough of that character then to prove that the last dispensation had come, though he does not say how long it would continue.

Whereby we know it is the last time. They have the characteristics which it was predicted many would have before the end of the world should come. The evidence that it was "the last time," or the closing dispensation of the world, derived from the appearing of these persons, consists simply in the fact that it was predicted that such persons would appear under the Christian, or the last dispensation, Mt 24:5, Mt 24:24-27. Their appearance was to precede the coming of the Saviour, though it is not said how long it would precede that; but at any time the appearing of such persons would be an evidence that it was the closing dispensation of the world, for the Saviour, in his predictions respecting them, had said that they would appear before he should return to judgment. It cannot now be determined precisely to what classes of persons there is reference here, because we know too little of the religious state of the times to which the apostle refers. No one can prove, however, that there were not persons at that time who so fully corresponded to the predictions of the Saviour as to be a complete fulfilment of what he said, and to demonstrate that the last age had truly come. It would seem probable that there may have been reference to some Jewish adversaries, who denied that Jesus was the Messiah, (Rob. Lex.,) or to some persons who had already broached the doctrine of the Docetae, that thought Jesus was the Messiah, yet that he was a man in appearance only, and had not really come in the flesh. Classes of persons of each description abounded in the early ages of the church.

{+} "Little children" "My children"

{f} "last time" Heb 1:2

{g} "ye have heard" Mt 24:24; 1 Ti 4:1


Verse 19. They went out from us. From the church. That is, they had once been professors of the religion of the Saviour, though their apostasy showed that they never had any true piety. John refers to the fact that they had once been in the church, perhaps to remind those to whom he wrote that they knew them well, and could readily appreciate their character. It was a humiliating statement that those who showed themselves to be so utterly opposed to religion had once been members of the Christian church; but this is a statement which we are often compelled to make.

But they were not of us. That is, they did not really belong to us, or were not true Christians. See Barnes "Mt 7:23".

This passage proves that these persons, whatever their pretensions and professions may have been, were never sincere Christians. The same remark may be made of all who apostatize from the faith, and become teachers of error. They never were truly converted; never belonged really to the spiritual church of Christ.

For if they had been of us. If they had been sincere and true Christians.

They would no doubt have continued with us. The words "no doubt" are supplied by our translators, but the affirmation is equally strong without them: "they would have remained with us." This affirms, without any ambiguity or qualification, that if they had been true Christians they would have remained in the church;, that is, they would not have apostatized. There could not be a more positive affirmation than that which is implied here, that those who are true Christians will continue to be such; or that the saints will not fall away from grace. John affirms it of these persons, that if they had been true Christians they would never have departed from the church, he makes the declaration so general that it may be regarded as a universal truth, that if any are truly "of us," that is, if they are true Christians, they will continue in the-church, or will never fall away. The statement is so made also as to teach that if any do fall away from the church, the fact is full proof that they never had any religion, for if they had had they would have remained steadfast in the church. But they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. It was suffered or permitted in the providence of God that this should occur, in order that it might be seen and known that they were not true Christians, or in order that their real character might be developed. It was desirable that this should be done,

(a.) in order that the church might be purified from their influence�"comp. See Barnes "Joh 15:2;

(b.) in order that it might not be responsible for their conduct, or reproached on account of it;

(c.) in order that their real character might be developed, and they might themselves see that they were not true Christians;

(d.) in order that, being seen and known as apostates, their opinions and conduct might have less influence than if they were connected with the church;

(e.) in order that they might themselves understand their own true character, and no longer live under the delusive opinion that they were Christians and were safe, but that, seeing themselves in their true light, they might be brought to repentance. For there is only a most slender prospect that any who are deceived in the church will ever be brought to true repentance there; and slight as is the hope that one who apostatizes will be, such an event is much more probable than it would be if he remained in the church. Men are more likely to be converted when their character is known and understood, than they are when playing a game of deception, or are themselves deceived. What is here affirmed of these persons often occurs now; and those who have no true religion are often suffered to apostatize from their profession for the same purposes. It is better that they should cease to have any connexion with the church than that they should remain in it; and God often suffers them to fall away even from the profession of religion, in order that they may not do injury as professing Christians. This very important passage, then, teaches the following things:

(1.) That when men apostatize from the profession of religion, and embrace fatal error, or live in sin, it proves that they never had any true piety.

(2.) The fact that such persons fall away cannot be adduced to prove that Christians ever fall from grace, for it demonstrates nothing on that point, but proves only that these persons never had any real piety. They may have had much that seemed to be religion; they may have been zealous, and apparently devoted to God, and may even have had much comfort and peace in what they took to be piety; they may have been eminently "gifted" in prayer, or may have even been successful preachers of the gospel, but all this does not prove that they ever had any piety, nor does the fact that such persons apostatize from their profession throw any light on a question quite foreign to this�"whether true Christians ever fall from grace. Comp. Mt 7:22,23.

(3.) The passage before us proves that if any are true Christians they will remain in the church, or will certainly persevere and be saved. They may indeed backslide grievously; they may wander far away, and pain the hearts of their brethren, and give occasion to the enemies of religion to speak reproachfully; but the apostle says, "if they had been of us, they would have continued with us."

(4.) One of the best evidences of true piety is found in the fact of continuing with the church. I do not mean nominally and formally, but really and spiritually, having the heart with the church; loving its peace and promoting its welfare; identifying ourselves with real Christians, and showing that we are ready to co-operate with those who love the Lord Jesus and his cause.

(5.) The main reason why professing Christians are suffered to apostatize is to show that they had no true religion. It is desirable that they should see it themselves; desirable that others should see it also. It is better that it should be known that they had no true religion than that they should remain in the church to be a burden on its movements, and a reproach to the cause. By being allowed thus to separate themselves from the Church, they may be brought to remember their violated vows, and the church will be free from the reproach of having those in its bosom who are a dishonour to the Christian name. We are not to wonder, then, if persons apostatize who have been professors of true religion; and we are not to suppose that the greatest injury is done to the cause when they do it. A greater injury by far is done when such persons remain in the church.

{a} "for if they had been of us" 2 Ti 2:19

{a1} "manifest" 2 Ti 3:9


Verse 20. But ye have an unction from the Holy One. The apostle in this verse evidently intends to say that he had no apprehension in regard to those to whom he wrote that they would thus apostatize, and bring dishonour on their religion. They had been so anointed by the Holy Spirit that they understood the true nature of religion, and it might be confidently expected that they would persevere, The word unction or anointing (crisma) means, properly, "something rubbed in or ointed;" oil for anointing, ointment; then it means an anointing. The allusion is to the anointing of kings and priests, or their inauguration or coronation, (1 Sa 10:1; 16:13; Ex 28:41; 40:15; compare See Barnes "Mt 1:1") and the idea seems to have been that the oil thus used was emblematic of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit as qualifying them for the discharge of the duties of their office. Christians, in the New Testament, are described as "kings and priests," (Re 1:6; 5:10,) and as a "royal priesthood," See Barnes "1 Pe 2:5, See Barnes "1 Pe 2:9") and hence they are represented as anointed, or as endowed with those graces of the Spirit, of which anointing was the emblem. The phrase "the Holy One" refers here, doubtless, to the Holy Spirit, that Spirit whose influences are imparted to the people of God, to enlighten, to sanctify, and to comfort them in their trials. The particular reference here is to the influences of that Spirit as giving them clear and just views of the nature of religion, and thus securing them from error and apostasy.

And ye know all things. That is, all things which it is essential that you should know on the subject of religion. See Barnes "Joh 17:13" See Barnes "1 Co 2:15".

The meaning cannot be that they knew all things pertaining to history, to science, to literature, and to the arts; but that, under the influences of the Holy Spirit, they had been made so thoroughly acquainted with the truths and duties of the Christian religion, that they might be regarded as safe from the danger of fatal error. The same may be said of all true Christians now, that they are so taught by the Spirit of God, that they have a practical acquaintance with what religion is, and with what it requires, and are secure from falling into fatal error. In regard to the general meaning of this verse, then, it may be observed:

I. That it does not mean any one of the following things:

(1.) That Christians are literally instructed by the Holy Spirit in all things, or that they literally understand all subjects. The teaching, whatever it may be, refers only to religion.

(2.) It is not meant that any new faculties of mind are conferred on them, or any increased intellectual endowments, by their religion. It is not a fact that Christians, as such, are superior in mental endowments to others; not that by their religion they have any mental traits which they had not before their conversion. Paul, Peter, and John had essentially the same mental characteristics after their conversion which they had before; and the same is true of all Christians.

(3.) It is not meant that any new truth is revealed to the mind by the Holy Spirit. All the truth that is brought before the mind of the Christian is to be found in the word of God, and revelation, as such, was completed when the Bible was finished.

(4.) It is not meant that anything is perceived by Christians which they had not the natural faculty for perceiving before their conversion, or which other men have not also the natural faculty for perceiving. The difficulty with men is not a defect of natural faculties, it is in the blindness of the heart.

II. The statement here made by John does imply, it is supposed, the following things:

(1.) That the minds of Christians are so enlightened that they have a new perception of the truth. They see it in a light in which they did not before. They see it as truth. They see its beauty, its force, its adaptedness to their condition and wants. They understand the subject of religion better than they once did, and better than others do. What was once dark appears now plain; what once had no beauty to their minds now appears beautiful; what was once repellent is now attractive.

(2.) They see this to be true; that is, they see it in such a light that they cannot doubt that it is true. They have such views of the doctrines of religion, that they have no doubt that they are true, and are willing on the belief of their truth to lay down their lives, and stake their eternal interests.

(3.) Their knowledge of truth is enlarged. They become acquainted with more truths than they would have known if they had not been under the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Their range of thought is greater; their vision more extended, as well as more clear.

III. The evidence that this is so is found in the following things:

(1.) The express statements of Scripture. See 1 Co 2:14,15, and the Notes on that passage. See Barnes "1 Co 2:14, See Barnes "1 Co 2:15, Compare Joh 16:13,14.

(2.) It is a matter of fact that it is so.

(a.) Men by nature do not perceive any beauty in the truths of religion. They are distasteful to them, or they are repulsive and offensive. "The doctrine of the cross is to the Jew a stumbling-block, and to the Greek foolishness." They may see indeed the force of an argument, but they do not see the beauty of the way of salvation.

(b.) When they are converted they do. These things appear to them to be changed, and they see them in a new light, and perceive a beauty in them which they never did before.

(c.) There is often a surprising development of religious knowledge when persons are converted. They seem to understand the way of salvation, and the whole subject of religion, in a manner and to an extent which cannot be accounted for, except on the supposition of a teaching from above.

(d.) This is manifest also in the knowledge which persons otherwise ignorant exhibit on the subject of religion. With few advantages for education, and with no remarkable talents, they show an acquaintance with the truth, a knowledge of religion, an ability to defend the doctrines of Christianity, and to instruct others in the way of salvation, which could have been derived only from some source superior to themselves. Comp. Joh 7:15; Ac 4:13.

(e.) The same thing is shown by their adherence to truth in the midst of persecution, and simply because they perceive that for which they die to be the truth. And is there anything incredible in this? May not the mind see what truth is? How do we judge of an axiom in mathematics, or of a proposition that is demonstrated, but by the fact that the mind perceives it to be true, and cannot doubt it? And may it not be so in regard to religious truth�"especially when that truth is seen to accord with what we know of ourselves, our lost condition as sinners, and our need of a Saviour, and when we see that the truths revealed in the Scriptures are exactly adapted to our wants?

{b} "unction" 2 Co 1:21

{c} "know" 1 Co 2:15


Verse 21. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth. You are not to regard my writing to you in this earnest manner as any evidence that I do not suppose you to be acquainted with religion and it duties. Some, perhaps, might have been disposed to put this construction on what he had said, but he assures them that that was not the reason why he had thus addressed them. The very fact that they did understand the subject of religion, he says, was rather the reason why he wrote to them.

But because ye know it. This was the ground of his hope that his appeal would be effectual. If they had never known what religion was, if they were ignorant of its nature and its claims, he would have had much less hope of being able to guard them against error, and of securing their steady walk in the path of piety. We may always make a strong and confident appeal to those who really understand what the nature of religion is, and what are the evidences of its truth.

And that no lie is of the truth. No form of error, however plausible it may appear, however ingeniously it may be defended, and however much it may seem to be favourable to human virtue and happiness, can be founded in truth. What the apostle says here has somewhat the aspect of a truism, but it contains a real truth of vital importance, and one which should have great influence in determining our minds in regard to any proposed opinion or doctrine. Error often appears plausible. It seems to be adapted to relieve the mind of many difficulties which perplex and embarass it on the subject of religion. It seems to be adapted to promote religion. It seems to make those who embrace it happy, and for a time they apparently enjoy religion. But John says that however plausible all this may be, however much it may seem to prove that the doctrines thus embraced are of God, it is a great and vital maxim that no error can have its foundation in truth, and, of course, that it must be worthless. The grand question is, what is truth; and when that is determined, we can easily settle the inquiries which come up about the various doctrines that are abroad in the world. Mere plausible appearances, or temporary good results that may grow out of a doctrine, do not prove that it is based on truth; for whatever those results may be, it is impossible that any error, however plausible, should have its origin in the truth.


Verse 22. Who is a liar. That is, who is false; who maintains an erroneous doctrine; who is an impostor, if he is not? The object of the apostle is to specify one of the prevailing forms of error, and to show that, however plausible the arguments might be by which it was defended, it was impossible that it should be true. Their own knowledge of the nature of religion must convince them at once that this opinion was false.

That denieth that Jesus is the Christ. It would seem that the apostle referred to a class who admitted that Jesus lived, but who denied that he was the true Messiah. On what grounds they did this is unknown; but to maintain this was, of course, the same as to maintain that he was an impostor. The ground taken may have been that he had not the characteristics ascribed to the Messiah in the prophets; or that he did not furnish evidence that he was sent from God; or that he was an enthusiast. Or perhaps some peculiar form of error may be referred to, like that which is said to have been held by Corinthus, who in his doctrine separated Jesus from Christ, maintaining them to be two distinct persons.�"Doddridge.

He is antichrist. See Barnes "1 Jo 2:18".

He has all the characteristics and attributes of antichrist; or, a doctrine which practically involves the denial of both the Father and the Son, must be that of antichrist.

That denieth the Father and the Son. That denies the peculiar truths pertaining to God the Father, and to the Son of God. The charge here is not that they entertained incorrect views of God as such�"as almighty, eternal, most wise, and good; but that they denied the doctrines which religion taught respecting God as Father and Son. Their opinions tended to a denial of what was revealed respecting God as a Father �"not in the general sense of being the Father of the universe, but in the particular sense of his relation to the Son. It cannot be supposed that they denied the existence and perfections of God as such, nor that they denied that God is a Father in the relation which he sustains to the universe; but the meaning must be that what they held went to a practical denial of that which is peculiar to the true God, considered as sustaining the relation of a Father to his Son Jesus Christ. Correct views of the Father could not be held without correct views of the Son; correct views of the Son could not be held without correct views of the Father. The doctrines respecting the Father and the Son were so connected that one could not be held without holding the other, and one could not be denied without denying the other. See Barnes "Mt 11:27" See Barnes "Joh 5:23".

No man can have just views of God the Father who has not right apprehensions of the Son. As a matter of fact in the world, men have right apprehensions of God only when they have correct views of the character of the Lord Jesus Christ.

{a} "that denieth" 1 Jo 4:3


Verse 23. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father. That is, has no just views of the Father, and has no evidence of his friendship. It is only by the Son of God that the Father is made known to men, (Mt 11:27; Heb 1:2,3, ) and it is only through him that we can become reconciled to God, and obtain evidence of his favour, See Barnes "Joh 5:23".

But he that acknowledges the Son, hath the Father also. This passage, in the common version of the New Testament, is printed in Italics, as if it were not in the original, but was supplied by the translators. It is true that it is not found in all the MSS. and versions; but it is found in a large number of Mss., and in the Vulgate, the Syriac, the AEthiopic, the Coptic, the Armenian, and the Arabic versions, and in the critical editions of Griesbach, Tittman, and Hahn. It is probable, therefore, that it should be regarded as a genuine portion of the sacred text. It is much in the style of John, and though not necessary to complete the sense, yet it well suits the connexion. As it was true that if one denied the Son of God he could have no pretensions to any proper acquaintance with the Father, so it seemed to follow that if any one had any proper knowledge of the Son of God, and made a suitable confession of him, he had evidence that he was acquainted with the Father. Compare Joh 17:3; Ro 10:9. Though, therefore, this passage was wanting in many of the Mss. consulted by the translators of the Bible, and though in printing it in the manner in which they have they showed the great caution with which they acted in admitting anything doubtful into their translation, yet the passage should be restored to the text, and be regarded as a genuine portion of the word of God. The great truth can never be too clearly stated, or too often inculcated, that it is only by a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ that we can have any true acquaintance with God, and that all who have just views of the Saviour are in fact acquainted with the true God, and are heirs of eternal life.

{b} "Whosever" Joh 15:23


Verse 24. Let that therefore abide in you. Adhere steadfastly to it; let the truth obtain a permanent lodgement in the soul. In view of its great importance, and its influence on your happiness here and hereafter, let it never depart from you.

Which ye have heard from the beginning. That is, the same doctrines which you have always been taught respecting the Son of God and the way of salvation. See Barnes "1 Jo 2:7".

Ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. Truly united to the Son and to the Father; or having evidence of the favour and friendship of the Son and the Father.

{c} "Let" 2 Jo 1:6

{*} "remain" "abide"

{*} "continue" "abide"


Verse 25. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. This is evidently added to encourage them in adhering to the truths which they had embraced respecting the Son of God. In maintaining these truths they had the promise of eternal life; in departing from them they had none, for the promise of heaven in our world is made only to those who embrace one class of doctrines or opinions. No one can show that any promise of heaven is made to the mere possessor of beauty, or wealth, or talent; to the accomplished or the gay; to those who are distinguished for science, or skill in the arts; to rank, or birth, or blood; to courage or strength, whatever expectation of heaven any one may entertain on account of any of these things, must be traced to something else than a promise, for there is none in the Bible to that effect. The promise of heaven to men is limited to those who repent of their sins, who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and who lead a holy life; and if any one will base his hope of heaven on a promise, it must be limited to these things. And yet what well-founded hope of heaven can there be, except that which is based on a promise? How does any one know that he can be saved, unless he has some assurance from God that it may and shall be so? Is not heaven his home? How does any one know that he may dwell there, without some assurance from him that he may? Is not the crown of life his gift? How can any one know that he will possess it, unless he has some promise from him? However men may reason, or conjecture, or hope, the only promise of eternal life is found in the Bible; and the fact that we have such a promise should surely be a sufficient inducement to us to hold fast the truth. On the promise of life in the gospel, see Joh 17:2; Ro 2:6,7; Mr 16:16; Mt 25:46.

{d} "even eternal life" Joh 17:3


Verse 26. These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. Respecting their character, and in order to guard you against their arts. The word seduce means to lead astray; and it here refers to those who would seduce them from the truth, or lead them into dangerous error. The apostle does not mean that they had actually seduced them, for he states in the following verse that they were yet safe; but he refers to the fact that there was danger that they might be led into error.

{*} "seduce" "deceive"


Verse 27. But the anointing which ye have received of him. See Barnes "1 Jo 2:20".

Abideth in you. The meaning is, that the influence on your heart and life, which results from the fact that you are anointed of God, permanently abides with you, and will keep you from dangerous error. The apostle evidently meant to say that he felt assured that they would not be seduced from the truth, and that his confidence in regard to this was placed in the fact that they had been truly anointed unto God as kings and priests. Thus understood, what he here says is equivalent to the expression of a firm conviction that those who are true Christians will not fall away. Comp, See Barnes "1 Jo 2:19, See Barnes "1 Jo 2:20".

And ye need not that any man teach you. That is, what are the things essential to true religion. See Barnes "1 Jo 2:20".

But as the same anointing teacheth you of all things. This cannot mean that the mere act of anointing, if that had been performed in their case, would teach them; but it refers to what John includes in what he calls the anointing�"that is, in the solemn consecrating to the duties of religion under the influences of the Holy Spirit.

And is truth, and is no lie. Leads to truth, and not to error. No man was ever led into error by those influences which result from the fact that he has been consecrated to the service of God.

Ye shall abide in him. Marg., "or it." The Greek will bear either construction. The connexion, however, seems to demand that it should be understood as referring to him�"that is, to the Saviour.

{a} "teacheth" Joh 16:26

{1} "him" "it"


Verse 28. And now, little children. See Barnes "1 Jo 2:1".

Abide in him; that, when he shall appear. In the end of the world, to receive his people to himself. See Barnes "Joh 14:2,3".

We may have confidence. Greek, boldness�"parrhsian. This word is commonly used to denote openness, plainness, or boldness in speaking, Mr 8:32; Joh 7:4,13,26; Ac 2:29; 4:13,29; 2 Co 3:12; 7:4.

Here it means the kind of boldness, or calm assurance, which arises from evidence of piety, and of preparation for heaven. It means that they would not be overwhelmed and confounded at the coming of the Saviour, by its being then found that all their hopes were fallacious.

And not be ashamed before him at his coming. By having all our hopes taken away; by being held up to the universe as guilty and condemned. We feel ashamed when our hopes are disappointed; when it is shown that we have a character different from what we professed to have; when our pretensions to goodness are stripped off, and the heart is made bare. Many will thus be ashamed in the last day, (Mt 7:21-23;) but it is one of the promises made to those who truly believe on the Saviour, that they shall never be ashamed or confounded. See Barnes "1 Pe 2:6, Comp. Isa 45:17; Ro 5:5; 1 Pe 4:16; Mr 8:38.


Verse 29. If ye know that he is righteous. This is not said as if there could be any doubt on the subject, but merely to call their attention to it as a well-known truth, and to state what followed from it. Every one who has any true acquaintance with God, must have the fullest conviction that he is a righteous Being. But, if this be so, John says, then it must follow that only those who are truly righteous can regard themselves as begotten of him.

Ye know. Marg., know ye. The Greek will bear either construction, and either would make good sense. Assuming that God is righteous, it would be proper to state, as in the text, that it followed from this that they must know that only those who are righteous can be regarded as begotten of him; or, assuming this to be true, it was proper to exhort them to be righteous, as in the margin. Whichever interpretation is adopted, the great truth is taught, that only those who are truly righteous can regard themselves as the children of God.

That every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. Or rather, is begotten of him; is truly a child of God. This truth is everywhere taught in the Bible, and is worthy of being often repeated. No one who is not, in the proper sense of the term, a righteous man, can have any well-founded pretensions to being regarded as a child of God. If this be so, then it is not difficult to determine whether we are the children of God.

(1.) If we are unjust, false, dishonest, we cannot be his children.

(2.) If we are indulging in any known sin, we cannot be.

(3.) If we are not truly righteous, all visions and raptures, all zeal and ardour, though in the cause of religion, all that we may pride ourselves on in being fervent in prayer, or eloquent in preaching, is vain.

(4.) If we are righteous, in the true and proper sense, doing that which is right toward God and toward men, to ourselves, to our families, to our neighbours, to the world at large, to the Saviour who died for us, then we are true Christians; and then, no matter how soon he may appear, or how solemn and overwhelming the scenes that shall close the world, we shall not be ashamed or confounded, for we shall hail him as our Saviour, and rejoice that the time has come that we may go and dwell with him for ever.

{2} "ye know" "know ye"

{b} "that every one" Jer 13:23; Mt 7:16-18

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