SUMMARY.--The Advocate with the Father. The Propitiation. The Old and the New Commandment. The Love of the World and the Love of the Father Inconsistent. The Unction of the Holy Spirit. Antichrist. The Anointing Which Teacheth All Things.
1, 2. My little children. From so aged a teacher as John, now probably more than four score, and at least fifty years in the service of Christ, this fatherly style of address is very appropriate. That ye sin not. He writes to exhort them to a pure and holy life, the only life permissible to those born again. And if any sin. The word "man" is not found in the Greek. The meaning is, "If any brother, any of you, should be overtaken by sin," there is a way of forgiveness. They must not sin, but if unhappily one does sin, let him go to Christ, the Advocate. We have an advocate. Who pleads with the Father not to withdraw his love because we may have been betrayed into sin. 2. He is the propitiation. The mercy seat of the Tabernacle where God met man was called the propitiation. Christ is our mercy seat, where God meets us in mercy and forgiveness. And not for ours only. Christ's offering is for all. "He tasted death for every man."
3-6. And hereby we do know that we know him. The evidences that we have a saving knowledge of Christ is loyal obedience to his commandments. 4. He that saith, etc. If one claims to have a saving knowledge of Christ, yet lives in disobedience, his life puts the lie to his words. 5. But whoso keepeth his word, etc. It is by keeping his commandments that the love of God is made perfect in us. Obedience is the result and proof of love, and also gives love the opportunity to flow over the whole life. Compare John 14:21. Hereby. By our loyal obedience. 6. He that saith he abideth in him. Who so abideth in Christ, and lives by the life Christ imparts, must show that life by a life like that of Christ. See John 15:4.
7-11. I write no new commandment. He writes in substance what was commanded from the beginning when he bids them walk as Christ walks. The beginning. Their first hearing of the gospel. The old commandment is the word. The Gospel. Its substance is condensed by Christ into the words: "Follow me." 8. Again, a new commandment. Yet this commandment, the substance of which is brotherly love, is in one sense new (see John 13:34), because it was first taught them by Christ. Which thing is true. Its truth is shown in the life of Christ and in your life. Because the darkness is past. The truth of the new commandment is shown because you have come out of the darkness and are walking in the light that shineth. He that keeps the new commandment walks in the light. 9. He that saith he is the light. If one hates his brother he demonstrates that he is in darkness. 10. He that loveth, etc. On the other hand, brotherly love shows that one abides in the light. None occasion of stumbling. Because he walks in the light and can see where he walks. 11. But he that hateth, etc. He who hates is not following Christ, the Light, and hence walks in the darkness, hence is blinded. He cannot see the dangers that beset him on account of the darkness.
12-14. I write unto you, little children. John calls all the saints "little children." Then he divides them into three classes, "fathers," "young men," and "little children" (verse 13), but the Greek word rendered "little children" in verse 13, is a different one from that of verses 1 and 12. 13. I write unto you, fathers. These father have known him. Not known Christ in the flesh but have walked with him long and realized his presence. Young men. The special excellence of these Christian young men is that they have overcome the temptations of the evil one. Little children. These have known the Father, and can say, "Our Father who art in heaven." 14. I have written. This verse, imitating the Hebrew parallelism, repeats verses 12 and 13 with slight variations.
15-17. Love not the world. An exhortation to all three classes just named. The love of the world and of God are not reconcilable. See notes on James 4:4. By "the world" is meant the ways of the world, its passions, pleasures and pursuits. 16. For all that is in the world. This sinful world is comprehended under three heads. The lust of the flesh. The desires which spring from the appetites and passions. The lust of the eyes. The desires that are aroused by appeals made to our eyes. The pride of life. The vain glory of the world; its foolish display. Sensuality, avarice and pride, nearly, but not quite, illustrate what is meant. 17. And the world passeth away. All things are transient, but he who does the will of God builds on eternal foundations.
18-25. Little children, it is the last time. We are in the last dispensation. Ye have heard that antichrist shall come. False Christs and those opposed to Christ. See Matt. 24:4. Anti-Christ is Anti-Christianity. Whereby we know that it is the last time. Their appearance is a part of the series of events which leads to the final consummation. 19. They went out from us. This implies that these antichrists were apostates. The worst men are often those who were once outwardly religious and have fallen away. If they had been of us. Had they been true and genuine Christians they could hardly have fallen into such a state of enmity. Their going away and bitter opposition show that they were not real converts. 20. But ye have an unction. Ye are anointed with the Holy Spirit. Christian means an anointed one; Anti-Christ would mean against the Anointed. Hence John reminds them that they have been anointed by the Holy One. Know all things. All things needful to guard against these opposers and seducing teachers. It is the privilege of those who have this anointing to know Christ experimentally (John 14:22, 23). 21. I have not written, etc. John writes to them as those who know the truth, and know how to discern between the truth and lies. 22. Who is a liar, etc.? Hence they will know how to reject these antichrists who lyingly deny Jesus Christ. 23. Whosoever denieth the Son. All who deny the Father and the Son are antichrist; so also those who reject the Son cannot have the Father. 24. Let that therefore abide in you. The truth concerning the Father and the Son which Anti-Christ denies. Ye shall continue. He who remains steadfast in this faith will continue in the Son, etc. 25. And this is the promise. This promise is made to all who abide in the Son and in the Father.
26-29. These things have I written, etc. All these words about Anti-Christ; all from verse 18 to the end of the chapter is to put them on their guard against false teachers. 27. But the anointing which ye have received. See verse 20. This anointing is spoken of because it furnishes them a means of guarding against the false teachers and seducers. The passage does not teach a continuous revelation, or that we are to be led by the inner light, but that God has given us means of knowing whether men speak the truth. Ye need not that any man should teach you. There is another fountain of knowledge so that ye need not the aid of these opposing teachers. As the same anointing teacheth you all things. The Holy Spirit bestowed upon you. It was the promise of Christ that the Spirit should guide you into all truth (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit was thus imparted to the apostles and through them spiritual gifts were imparted everywhere in the early church. Among these gifts were wisdom, knowledge, prophecy, and discerning of spirits. These extraordinary gifts continued until the Holy Spirit had prepared the New Testament to guide the church (1 Cor. 13:8). Now we have the Word of God, which the Holy Spirit has given us, and the presence of the Spirit with us to fit us for understanding. The word and the unction still "teach us all things." 28. Abide in him. By continuing in the truth taught of God. 29. If ye know that he is righteous. A life of righteousness shows that we have the life of Christ, and hence is proof that we have been born of him.