VINCENT'S WORD STUDIES
1 JOHN 2
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Robertson's Word Pictures in the NT - Greek NT
I write. More personal than we write (i. 4), and thus better suiting the form of address, my little children.
If any man sin, we have. The change from the indefinite third person, any man, to the first person, we have, is significant. By the we have, John assumes the possibility of sinful acts on the part of Christians, and of himself in common with them, and their common need of the intervention of the divine Advocate. So Augustine: "He said, not 'ye have,' nor 'ye have me,' nor 'ye have Christ himself;' but he put Christ, not himself, and said 'we have,' and not 'ye have.' He preferred to place himself in the number of sinners, so that he might have Christ for his advocate, rather than to put himself as the advocate instead of Christ, and to be found among the proud who are destined to condemnation."
An advocate (paraklhton). See on John xiv. 16.
With the Father (prov ton patera). See on with God, John i. 1. An active relation is indicated. On the terms the Father and my Father, see on John iv. 21.
The righteous. Compare righteous, i. 9. There is no article in the Greek. Jesus Christ righteous. See on i. 9.
For the sins of the whole world (peri olou tou kosmou). The sins of (A. V., italicized) should be omitted; as in Revelation, for the whole world. Compare 1 John iv. 14; John iv. 42; vii. 32. "The propitiation is as wide as the sin" (Bengel). If men do not experience its benefit, the fault is not in its efficacy. Dusterdieck (cited by Huther) says, "The propitiation has its real efficacy for the whole world; to believers it brings life, to unbelievers death." Luther: "It is a patent fact that thou too art a part of the whole world; so that thine heart cannot deceive itself, and think, the Lord died for Peter and Paul, but not for me." On kosmou see on John i. 9.
We know (ginwskomen). Or, perceive. By experience, from day to day; distinguished from oidamen we know, expressing absolute, immediate knowledge of a fact once for all. Compare 1 John iii. 2.
That we know (oti egnwkamen). Or, more literally, have come to know. John does not use the compound forms ejpiginwskein and ejpignwsiv (see on Matt. vii. 16. See Luke i. 4; Acts iv. 13; Rom. i. 28; Ephesians i. 17, etc.), nor the kindred word gnwsiv knowledge (Luke i. 77; Romans ii. 20, etc.).
We keep His commandments (tav entolav autou thrwmen). A phrase peculiar to John and occurring elsewhere only Matt. xix. 17; 1 Timothy vi. 14. In 1 Cor. vii. 19, we find thrhsiv ejntolwn the keeping of the commandments. On threw to keep, see on 1 Pet. i. 5.
In him (en toutw). Emphatic. Lit., in this one the truth is not. See on i. 8. Keepeth His word (thrh autou ton logon). Note the changed phrase: word for commandments. The word is the revelation regarded as a whole, which includes all the separate commandments or injunctions. See the use of logov word, and ejntolh precept, in John xiv. 21-24.
Is the love of God perfected (h agaph tou Qeou teteleiwtai). Rev., rendering the perfect tense more closely, hath the love of God been perfected. The change in the form of this antithetic clause is striking. He who claims to know God, yet lives in disobedience, is a liar. We should expect as an offset to this: He that keepeth His commandments is of the truth; or, the truth is in him. Instead we have, "In him has the love of God been perfected." In other words, the obedient child of God is characterized, not by any representative trait or quality of his own personality, but merely as the subject of the work of divine love: as the sphere in which that love accomplishes its perfect work.
The phrase hJ ajgaph tou Qeou the love of God, may mean either the love which God shows, or the love of which God is the object, or the love which is characteristic of God whether manifested by Himself or by His obedient child through His Spirit. John's usage is not decisive like Paul's, according to which the love of God habitually means the love which proceeds from and is manifested by God. The exact phrase, the love of God or the love of the Father, is found in iii. 16; iv. 9, in the undoubted sense of the love of God to men. The same sense is intended in iii. 1, 9, 16, though differently expressed. The sense is doubtful in ii. 5; iii. 17; iv. 12. Men's love to God is clearly meant in ii. 15; v. 3. The phrase occurs only twice in the Gospels (Luke vi. 42; John v. 42), and in both cases the sense is doubtful. Some, as Ebrard, combine the two, and explain the love of God as the mutual relation of love between God and men.
It is not possible to settle the point decisively, but I incline to the view that the fundamental idea of the love of God as expounded by John is the love which God has made known and which answers to His nature. In favor of this is the general usage of ajgaph love, in the New Testament, with the subjective genitive. 64 The object is more commonly expressed by eijv towards, or to. See 1 Thessalonians. iii. 12; Colossians. i. 4; 1 Pet. iv. 8. Still stronger is John's treatment of the subject in ch. 4. Here we have, ver. 9, the manifestation of the love of God in us (en hmin) By our life in Christ and our love to God we are a manifestation of God's love. Directly following this is a definition of the essential nature of love. "In this is love; i.e., herein consists love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us" (ver. 10). Our mutual love is a proof that God dwells in us. God dwelling in us, His love is perfected in us (ver. 12). The latter clause, it would seem, must be explained according to ver. 10. Then (ver. 16), "We have known and believed the love that God hath in us" (see on John xvi. 22, on the phrase have love). "God is love;" that is His nature, and He imparts this nature to be the sphere in which His children dwell. "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God." Finally, our love is engendered by His love to us. "We love Him because He first loved us" (ver. 19).
In harmony with this is John xv. 9. "As the Father loved me, I also loved you. Continue ye in my love." My love must be explained by I loved you. This is the same idea of divine love as the sphere or element of renewed being; and this idea is placed, as in the passage we are considering, in direct connection with the keeping of the divine commandments. "If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love."
This interpretation does not exclude man's love to God. On the contrary, it includes it. The love which God has, is revealed as the love of God in the love of His children towards Him, no less than in His manifestations of love to them. The idea of divine love is thus complex. Love, in its very essence, is reciprocal. Its perfect ideal requires two parties. It is not enough to tell us, as a bare, abstract truth, that God is love. The truth must be rounded and filled out for us by the appreciable exertion of divine love upon an object, and by the response of the object. The love of God is perfected or completed by the perfect establishment of the relation of love between God and man. When man loves perfectly, his love is the love of God shed abroad in his heart. His love owes both its origin and its nature to the love of God.
The word verily (alhqws) is never used by John as a mere formula of affirmation, but has the meaning of a qualitative adverb, expressing not merely the actual existence of a thing, but its existence in a manner most absolutely corresponding to ajlhqeia truth. Compare John i. 48; viii. 31. Hath been perfected. John is presenting the ideal of life in God. "This is the love of God that we keep His commandments." Therefore whosoever keepeth God's word, His message in its entirety, realizes the perfect relation of love.
We are in Him. Compare Acts xvii. 28. See note on ii. 15.
Ought (ofeilei). An obligation, put as a debt. See Luke xxvii. 10, and on debts, Matt. vi. 12. The word expresses a special, personal obligation, and not as dei must, an obligation in the nature of things. See John xx. 9, and compare 1 John iii. 16; iv. 11; 3 John 8.
He (ekeinov). Always of Christ in the Epistles of John. See ejkeinhv, referring to aJmartia sin, 1 John v. 16.
No new commandment (ouk entolhn kainhn). The Rev., properly, places these words first in the sentence as emphatic, the point of the verse lying in the antithesis between the new and the old. On new, see on Matt. xxvi. 29.
Old (palaian). Four words are used in the New Testament for old or elder. Of these gerwn and presbuterov refer merely to the age of men, or, the latter, to official position based primarily upon age. Hence the official term elder. Between the two others, ajrcaiov and palaiov, the distinction is not sharply maintained. Arcaiov emphasizes the reaching back to a beginning (arch). Thus Satan is "that old (arcaiov) serpent," whose evil work was coeval with the beginning of time (Apoc. vii. 9; xx. 2). The world before the flood is "the old (arcaiov) world" (2 Peter ii. 5). Mnason was "an old (arcaiov) disciple;" not aged, but having been a disciple from the beginning (Acts xxi. 16). Sophocles, in "Trachiniae," 555, gives both words. "I had an old (palaion) gift," i.e., received long ago, "from the old (arcaiou) Centaur." The Centaur is conceived as an old-world creature, belonging to a state of things which has passed away. It carries, therefore, the idea of old fashioned: peculiar to an obsolete state of things.
Palaiov carries the sense of worn out by time, injury, sorrow, or other causes. Thus the old garment (Matt. ix. 16) is palaion. So the old wine-skins (Matt. ix. 17). The old men of a living generation compared with the young of the same generation are palaioi. In palaiov the simple conception of time dominates. In ajrcaiov there is often a suggestion of a character answering to the remote age.
The commandment is here called old because it belonged to the first stage of the Christian church. Believers had had it from the beginning of their Christian faith.
Commandment. The commandment of love. Compare John xiii. 34. This commandment is fulfilled in walking as Christ walked. Compare Ephesians v. 1, 2.
Which thing is true (o estin alhqev). The expression which thing, or that which, refers either to the commandment of love, or to the fact stated, viz., that the old commandment is new. The fact that the old commandment is new is true in Him and in us. On the whole I prefer this. In Him and in us. For us, read you. The fact that the old commandment is new, is true in Him (Christ), since He gave it as a new commandment, and illustrated it by His word and example. It is true in you, since you did not receive it until Christ gave it, and since the person and life of Christ are appealing to you in new lights and with fresh power as your Christian life develops. In Him, points back to as He walked.
Because. Explaining the apparent paradox.
The darkness (h skotia). See on John i. 5. God is light; and whatever is not in fellowship with God is therefore darkness. In all cases where the word is not used of physical darkness, it means moral insensibility to the divine light; moral blindness or obtuseness. Compare John viii. 12; xii. 35, 46; l John ii. 9, 11.
Is past (paragetai). Wrong. The passing is not represented as accomplished, but as in progress. Rev., rightly rendering the present tense, is passing away.
The true light (to fwv to alhqinon). Lit., the light, the true (light). See on that eternal life (i. 2). True, not as distinguished from false, but as answering to the true ideal. See on John i. 9. The true light is the revelation of God in Christ. See on 1 John i. 5.
Shineth (fainei). See on John i. 5. Compare Apoc. i. 16; viii. 12; xxi. 23; 2 Pet. i. 19. See also Rom. xiii. 11 sqq.; Tit. ii. 11; iii. 4.
His brother (ton adelfon). His fellow-Christian. The singular, brother, is characteristic of this Epistle. See vv. 10, 11; iii. 10, 15, 17; iv. 20, 21; v. 16. Christians are called in the New Testament, Christians (Acts xi. 26; xxvi. 28; 1 Pet. iv. 16), mainly by those outside of the Christian circle. Disciples, applied to all followers of Christ (John ii. 11; vi. 61) and strictly to the twelve (John xiii. 5 sqq.). In Acts xix. 1, to those who had received only John's baptism. Not found in John's Epistles nor in Revelation. Brethren. The first title given to the body of believers after the Ascension (Acts i. 15, where the true reading is ajdelfwn brethren, for maqhtwn disciples). See Acts ix. 30; x. 23; xi. 29; 1 Thess. iv. 10; v. 26; 1 John iii. 14; 3 John 5, 10; John xxi. 23. Peter has hJ ajdelfothv the brotherhood (1 Peter ii. 17; v. 9). The believers. Under three forms: The believers (oiJ pistoi; Acts x. 45; 1 Tim. iv. 12); they that believe (oiJ pisteuontev; 1 Peter ii. 7; 1 Thess. i. 7; Eph. i. 19); they that believed (oiJ pisteusantev; Acts ii. 44; iv. 32; Heb. iv. 3). The saints (oi agioi); characteristic of Paul and Revelation. Four times in the Acts (ix. 13, 32, 41; xxvi. 10), and once in Jude (3). Also Heb. vi. 10; xiii. 24. In Paul, 1 Corinthians vi. 1; xiv. 33; Eph. i. 1, 15, etc. In Apoc. v. 8; viii. 3, 4; xi. 18, etc.
Until now (ewv arti). Though the light has been increasing, and though he may claim that he has been in the light from the first. The phrase occurs in John ii. 10; v. 17; xxvi. 24; and is used by Paul, 1 Cor. iv. 13; viii. 7; xxv. 6.
Occasion of stumbling (skandalon). See on offend, Matt. v. 29. For the image in John, see John vi. 61; xi. 9; xvi. 1; Apoc. ii. 14. The meaning is not that he gives no occasion of stumbling to others, but that there is none in his own way. See John xi. 9, 10.
He goeth (upagei). Or, is going. See on John vi. 21; viii. 21.
Hath blinded (etuflwsen). For the image see Isa. vi. 10. See on closed, Matt. xiii. 15. Compare John i. 5, and see note on katelaben, overtook; John xi. 35, 40. The aorist tense, blinded, indicates a past, definite, decisive act. When the darkness overtook, it blinded. The blindness is no new state into which he has come.
Name. See on John i. 12; ii. 23.
Have known (egnwkate) Rev., correctly, ye know. Knowledge is the characteristic of fathers; knowledge as the fruit of experience. Ye have perceived, therefore ye know.
Have overcome (nenikhkate). Compare John xvi. 33. The image is characteristic of Revelation and First Epistle. See Apoc. ii. 7, 11, 17, 26; xii. 11; xxi. 7; 1 John ii. 14; iv. 4; v. 4, 5.
The evil one (ton ponhron). See on wickedness, Mark vii. 22; evils, Luke iii. 19; evil spirits, Luke vii. 21. The prince of darkness is styled by John oJ diabolov the false accuser (John viii. 44; xiii. 2; 1 John iii. 8, 10. See on Matt. iv. 1): oJ Satanav Satan, the adversary (John xiii. 27; compare oJ kathgwr the accuser, properly, in court, Apoc. xii. 10): oJ ponhrov the evil one (John xvii. 15; 1 John ii. 13, 14; iii. 12; v. 18, 19): oJ arcwn tou kosmou toutou the ruler of this world (John xii. 31; xiv. 30; xvi. 11). Note the abrupt introduction of the word here, as indicating something familiar. I have written (egraya). Or, strictly, I wrote. Compare I write (vv. 12, 13), and note the change of tense. The past tense, I wrote, does not refer to some previous writing, as the Gospel, but, like the present, to this Epistle. The present, I write, refers to the immediate act of writing: the aorist is the epistolary aorist, by which the writer places himself at the reader's stand-point, regarding the writing as past. See on 1 Pet. v. 12. I write, therefore, refers to the Apostle's immediate act of writing; I have written, or I wrote, to the reader's act of reading the completed writing.
Little children (paidia). Compare teknia little children (ver. 1), which emphasizes the idea of kinship, while this word emphasizes the idea of subordination and consequent discipline. Hence it is the more appropriate word when spoken from the stand-point of authority rather than of affection.
Ye have known (egnwkate). Rev., correctly, ye known.
The Father. In His rightful authority, as a Father over little children.
Strong (iscuroi). See on was not able, Luke xiv. 30; I cannot, Luke xvi. 3.
The love of the Father (h agaph tou patrov). The phrase occurs only here in the New Testament. It means love towards the Father, yet as generated by the Father's love to man. Compare 1 John iii. 1. See on love of God, ver. 5.
Is not in him. This means more than that he does not love God: rather that the love of God does not dwell in him as the ruling principle of his life. Westcott cites a parallel from Philo: "It is impossible for love to the world to coexist with love to God, as it is impossible for light and darkness to coexist." Compare Plato. "Evils, Theodorus, can never pass away; for there must always remain something which is antagonist to good. Having no place among the gods in heaven, of necessity they hover around the earthly nature, and this mortal sphere. Wherefore we ought to fly away from earth to heaven as quickly as we can; and to fly away is to become like God, as far as this is possible; and to become like Him is to become holy and just and wise" ("Theaetetus," 176).
The lust (h epiqumia). See on Mark iv. 19.
Of the flesh. Sensual appetite. The desire which resides in the flesh, not the desire for the flesh. For this subjective usage of the genitive with lust, see John viii. 44; Rom. i. 24; Apoc. xviii. 14. Compare 1 Pet. ii. 11; Tit. ii. 12. The lust of the flesh involves the appropriation of the desired object. On the flesh, see on John i. 14.
The lust of the eyes. This is included in the lust of the flesh, as a specific manifestation. All merely sensual desires belong to the economy which "is not of the Father." The desire of the eyes does not involve appropriation. It is satisfied with contemplating. It represents a higher type of desire than the desire of the flesh, in that it seeks mental pleasure where the other seeks physical gratification. There is thus a significant hint in this passage that even high artistic gratification may have no fellowship with God. The pride of life (h alazoneia tou biou). Rev., vainglory. The word occurs only here and Jas. iv. 16, on which see note. It means, originally, empty, braggart talk or display; swagger; and thence an insolent and vain assurance in one's own resources, or in the stability of earthly things, which issues in a contempt of divine laws. The vainglory of life is the vainglory which belongs to the present life. On biov life, as distinguished from zwh. life, see on John i. 4.
Of the Father (ek tou patrov). Do not spring forth from the Father. On the expression einai ejk to be of, see on John i. 46. "He, therefore, who is always occupied with the cravings of desire and ambition, and is eagerly striving after them, must have all his opinions mortal, and, as far as man can be, must be all of him mortal, because he has cherished his mortal part. But he who has been earnest in the love of knowledge and true wisdom, and has been trained to think that these are the immortal and divine things of a man, if he attain truth, must of necessity, as far as human nature is capable of attaining immortality, be all immortal, for he is ever attending on the divine power, and having the divinity within him in perfect order, he has a life perfect and divine" (Plato, "Timsaeus," 90).
The last hour (escath wra). The phrase only here in the New Testament. On John's use of wra hour, as marking a critical season, see John ii. 4; iv. 21, 23; v. 25, 28; vii. 30; viii. 20; xi. 23, 27; xvi. 2, 4, 25, 32. The dominant sense of the expression last days, in the New Testament, is that of a period of suffering and struggle preceding a divine victory. See Acts ii. 17; Jas. v. 3; 1 Pet. i. 20. Hence the phrase here does not refer to the end of the world, but to the period preceding a crisis in the advance of Christ's kingdom, a changeful and troublous period, marked by the appearance of "many antichrists."
Antichrist. Peculiar to John in the New Testament. The absence of the article shows its currency as a proper name. It may mean one who stands against Christ, or one who stands instead of Christ; just as ajntistrathgov may mean either one who stands in the place of a strathgov praetor, a propraetor (see Introd. to Luke, vol. 1, p. 246, and note on Acts xvi. 20), or an opposing general. John never uses the word yeudocristov false Christ (Matt. xxiv. 24; Mark xiii. 22). While the false Christ is merely a pretender to the Messianic office, the Antichrist "assails Christ by proposing to do or to preserve what he did, while denying Him." Antichrist, then, is one who opposes Christ in the guise of Christ. Westcott's remark is very important, that John's sense of Antichrist is determined by the full Christian conception of Christ, and not by the Jewish conception of the promised Savior.
Cometh (ercetai). The prophetic present, equivalent to is about to come. The same term is used of Christ (John xiv. 3; xxi. 22; Revelation xxii. 20).
Are there (gegonasin). Rev., more correctly, have there arisen.
Whereby (oqen). Lit., whence. Only here in John. It is found in Matthew and Luke, and frequently in Hebrews, and not elsewhere.
Were not of. See on John i. 46.
No doubt. A needless addition of the A.V.
With us (meq hmwn). En hJmin, among us, would be more according to John's ordinary usage; but his thought rests here rather on fellowship than on the unity of believers as one body.
They might be made manifest (fanerwqwsin). See on John xxi. 1.
They were not all (ouk eisin pantev). Rev., more correctly, they all are not.65
The Holy One. Christ. See John vi. 69; Acts iii. 14; iv. 27, 30; Apoc. iii. 7. Ye know all things (oidate pa.nta). The best texts read pantev, ye all know; in which case the connection is with the following clause: "I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it."
He that denieth (o arnoumenov). The article with the participle denotes the habitual denial. Lit., the one denying, the one who habitually represents this attitude towards Christ. The words are aimed at the heresy of Cerinthus, a man of Jewish decent and educated at Alexandria. He denied the miraculous conception of Jesus, and taught that, after His baptism, the Christ descended upon Him in the form of a dove, and that He then announced the unknown Father and wrought miracles; but that, towards the end of His ministry, the Christ departed again from Jesus, and Jesus suffered and rose from the dead, while the Christ remained impassible (incapable of suffering) as a spiritual being.
The Father. The title the Father occurs always in its simple form in the Epistle. Never his or our Father, or the Father in heaven.
From the beginning. See on i. 1. Notice the change in the order of the repeated sentence, that which ye heard from the beginning: o hjkousate ajp' ajrchv, that which ye heard; the emphasis being on their reception of the message: o ajp ajrchv hjkousate, that which ye heard from the beginning; emphasizing the time of the reception as coincident