1 John 2 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 1 John 2)

Verse 1

[1] My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

My beloved children — So the apostle frequently addresses the whole body of Christians. It is a term of tenderness and endearment, used by our Lord himself to his disciples, John 13:33. And perhaps many to whom St. John now wrote were converted by his ministry. It is a different word from that which is translated "little children," in several parts of the epistle, to distinguish it from which, it is here rendered beloved children. I write these things to you, that ye may not sin - Thus he guards them beforehand against abusing the doctrine of reconciliation. All the words, institutions, and judgments of God are levelled against sin, either that it may not be committed, or that it may be abolished.

But if any one sin — Let him not lie in sin, despairing of help.

We have an advocate — We have for our advocate, not a mean person, but him of whom it was said, "This is my beloved son." Not a guilty person, who stands in need of pardon for himself; but Jesus Christ the righteous; not a mere petitioner, who relies purely upon liberality, but one that has merited, fully merited, whatever he asks.

Verse 2

[2] And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

And he is the propitiation — The atoning sacrifice by which the wrath of God is appeased.

For our sins — Who believe.

And not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world — Just as wide as sin extends, the propitiation extends also .

Verse 3

[3] And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

And hereby we know that we truly and savingly know him - As he is the advocate, the righteous, the propitiation.

If we keep his commandments — Particularly those of faith and love.

Verse 5

[5] But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.

But whoso keepeth his word — His commandments.

Verily in him the love of God — Reconciled to us through Christ.

Is perfected — Is perfectly known.

Hereby — By our keeping his word.

We know that we are in him — So is the tree known by its fruits. To "know him," to be "in him," to "abide in him," are nearly synonymous terms; only with a gradation,-knowledge, communion, constancy.

Verse 6

[6] He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

He that saith he abideth in him — which implies a durable state; a constant, lasting knowledge of, and communion with, him.

Ought himself — Otherwise they are vain words.

So to walk, even as he walked — In the world. As he, are words that frequently occur in this epistle. Believers having their hearts full of him, easily supply his name.

Verse 7

[7] Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.

When I speak of keeping his word, I write not a new commandment - I do not speak of any new one.

But the old commandment, which ye had — Even from your forefathers.

Verse 8

[8] Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.

Again, I do write a new commandment to you — Namely, with regard to loving one another. A commandment which, though it also was given long ago, yet is truly new in him and in you. It was exemplified in him, and is now fulfilled by you, in such a manner as it never was before. For there is no comparison between the state of the Old Testament believers, and that which ye now enjoy: the darkness of that dispensation is passed away; and Christ the true light now shineth in your hearts.

Verse 9

[9] He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.

He that saith he is in the light — In Christ, united to him.

And hateth his brother — The very name shows the love due to him.

Is in darkness until now — Void of Christ, and of all true light.

Verse 10

[10] He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.

He that loveth his brother — For Christ's sake.

Abideth in the light — Of God.

And there is no occasion of stumbling in him — Whereas he that hates his brother is an occasion of stumbling to himself. He stumbles against himself, and against all things within and without; while he that loves his brother, has a free, disencumbered journey.

Verse 11

[11] But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

He that hateth his brother — And he must hate, if he does not love him: there is no medium.

Is in darkness — In sin, perplexity, entanglement. He walketh in darkness, and knoweth not that he is in the high road to hell.

Verse 12

[12] I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.

I have written to you, beloved children — Thus St. John bespeaks all to whom he writes. But from the thirteenth to 1 John 2:13-27 the twentyseventh verse, he divides them particularly into "fathers," "young men," and "little children." Because your sins are forgiven you - As if he had said, This is the sum of what I have now written. He then proceeds to other things, which are built upon this foundation.

Verse 13

[13] I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.

The address to spiritual fathers, young men, and little children is first proposed in this verse, wherein he says, I write to you, fathers: I write to you, young men: I write to you, little children: and then enlarged upon; in doing which he says, "I have written to you, fathers," 1 John 2:12,) "beloved children." Fathers, ye have known him that is from the beginning - We have known the eternal God, in a manner wherein no other, even true believers, know him.

Young men, ye have overcome the wicked one — In many battles, by the power of faith.

Little children, ye have known the Father — As your Father, though ye have not yet overcome, by the Spirit witnessing with your Spirit, that ye are the children of God."

Verse 14

[14] I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.

I have written to you, fathers — As if he had said, Observe well what I but now wrote. He speaks very briefly and modestly to these, who needed not much to be said to them, as having that deep acquaintance with God which comprises all necessary knowledge.

Young men, ye are strong — In faith.

And the word of God abideth in you — Deeply rooted in your hearts, whereby ye have often foiled your great adversary.

Verse 15

[15] Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

To you all, whether fathers, young men, or little children, I say, Love not the world - Pursue your victory by overcoming the world.

If any man love the world — Seek happiness in visible things, he does not love God.

Verse 16

[16] For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

The desire of the flesh — Of the pleasure of the outward senses, whether of the taste, smell, or touch.

The desire of the eye — Of the pleasures of imagination, to which the eye chiefly is subservient; of that internal sense whereby we relish whatever is grand, new, or beautiful.

The pride of life — All that pomp in clothes, houses, furniture, equipage, manner of living, which generally procure honour from the bulk of mankind, and so gratify pride and vanity. It therefore directly includes the desire of praise, and, remotely, covetousness. All these desires are not from God, but from the prince of this world.

Verse 17

[17] And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

The world passeth away, and the desire thereof — That is, all that can gratify those desires passeth away with it.

But he that doeth the will of God — That loves God, not the world.

Abideth — In the enjoyment of what he loves, for ever.

Verse 18

[18] Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

My little children, it is the last time — The last dispensation of grace, that which is to continue to the end of time, is begun.

Ye have heard that antichrist cometh — Under the term antichrist, or the spirit of antichrist, he includes all false teachers and enemies to the truth; yea, whatever doctrines or men are contrary to Christ. It seems to have been long after this that the name of antichrist was appropriated to that grand adversary of Christ, "the man of sin," 2 Thessalonians 2:3 Antichrist, in St. John's sense, that is, antichristianism, has been spreading from his time till now; and will do so, till that great adversary arises, and is destroyed by Christ's coming.

Verse 19

[19] They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

They were not of us — When they went; their hearts were before departed from God, otherwise, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest - That is, this was made manifest by their going out.

Verse 20

[20] But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.

But ye have an anointing — A chrism; perhaps so termed in opposition to the name of antichrist; an inward teaching from the Holy Ghost, whereby ye know all things - Necessary for your preservation from these seducers, and for your eternal salvation. St. John here but just touches upon the Holy Ghost, of whom he speaks more largely, 5:6.

Verse 21

[21] I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

I have written — Namely, 1 John 2:13.

To you because ye know the truth — That is, to confirm you in the knowledge ye have already.

Ye know that no lie is of the truth — That all the doctrines of these antichrists are irreconcilable to it.

Verse 22

[22] Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

Who is that liar — Who is guilty of that lying, but he who denies that truth which is the sum of all Christianity? That Jesus is the Christ; that he is the Son of God; that he came in the flesh, is one undivided truth. and he that denies any part of this, in effect denies the whole.

He is antichrist — And the spirit of antichrist, who in denying the Son denies the Father also.

Verse 23

[23] Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.

Whosoever denieth the eternal Son of God, he hath not communion with the Father; but he that truly and believingly acknowledgeth the Son, hath communion with the Father also.

Verse 24

[24] Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.

If that truth concerning the Father and the Son, which ye have heard from the beginning, abide fixed and rooted in you, ye also shall abide in that happy communion with the Son and the Father.

Verse 25

[25] And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.

He — The Son.

Hath promised us — If we abide in him.

Verse 26

[26] These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.

These things — From 1 John 2:21.

I have written to you — St. John, according to his custom, begins and ends with the same form, and having finished a kind of parenthesis, 2:27, what he said in the twentieth verse, concerning them that would seduce you.

Verse 27

[27] But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

Ye need not that any should teach you, save as that anointing teacheth you — Which is always the same, always consistent with itself. But this does not exclude our need of being taught by them who partake of the same anointing.

Of all things — Which it is necessary for you to know.

And is no lie — Like that which antichrist teaches.

Ye shall abide in him — This is added both by way of comfort and of exhortation. The whole discourse, from verse 18 to this, 1 John 2:18-27 is peculiarly adapted to little children.

Verse 28

[28] And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.

And now, beloved children — Having finished his address to each, he now returns to all in general.

Abide in him, that we — A modest expression.

May not be ashamed before him at his coming — O how will ye, Jews, Socinians, nominal Christians, be ashamed in that day!

Verse 29

[29] If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.

Every one — And none else.

Who practiseth righteousness — From a believing, loving heart.

Is born of him — For all his children are like himself.