1 John 2:1 MEANING

1 John 2:1

(4) The third idea that arises from the great fact that God is Light has already been suggested (1 John 1:7), but now takes its distinct place in the series. It is the doctrine of Reconciliation and Redemption. St. John does not wish them to contemplate with complacency the probability of sinning; but to remember gratefully, in spite of falls, that the Author and Restorer of Light has provided a remedy both for the offence before God, and for its effect on themselves. First comes the principle that we must not sin; second, the admission that we do sin; third, the consolation for actual sin when it is in spite of sincere zeal for sanctification.

(1) My little children.--Six times in the letter occurs this diminutive of tender and caressing love: 1 John 2:12; 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:18; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:21. He was aged, he felt a fatherly care for them, he was their spiritual progenitor. (Comp. Galatians 4:9.) The thought of the shame and misery of sin melted his heart. "My child" was what he called out to the lapsed youth, according to Eusebius (H. E. iii. 23).

These things.--He carries them on through the former points up to the new thought.

That ye sin not.--Another side of the object of the teaching: their joy could not be full unless they were earnest against sin. And yet the most holy would not be perfect.

If any man sin.--See 1 John 1:8-10.

We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.--The word here translated Advocate was translated Comforter in John 14:16; John 14:25; John 15:26; John 16:7. It has two meanings; one, as in Job 16:2, he who comforts, or exhorts; the other, as here, he who is appealed to--a proxy, or attorney. (Comp. Romans 8:26; Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 7:25.) The Redeemer, the Word made flesh, and reascended with His human nature, is that part of the Deity which assures us of the ever-active vitality of divine love. If the justice of God is connected most with the Father, the mercy is pledged by the Son. He has exalted our nature, undertaken our interests, presents our prayers, and will one day be surrounded by the countless millions of His human brothers whom He has rescued, wearing the same nature as Himself. He is represented as continuing our advocate, because otherwise His work might appear a mere separate earthly manifestation; "righteous," because Christ, the only blameless example of human nature, can alone intercede for it with God (Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 3:18; John 16:8-10). The Armenian translation actually adds "and blameless." Augustine remarks that St. John did not set forth any apostle or saint as intercessor (here, if anywhere, he would have done so), but only Christ. "We" is not the Church corporately, but merely another instance of St. John's kindly delicacy, as in 1 John 1:6, &c.

(2) And he is the propitiation for our sins.--On the word "propitiation," see the Introduction. By the satisfaction which the voluntary sacrifice of the Saviour offered to that divine order which requires the punishment of rebellion, both for its own correction and for a universal warning, the whole Deity has been rendered propitious, His graciousness has been called out, the righteousness of Romans 3:16 has been set in motion, that willeth not the death of a sinner, and is higher than mere retributive justice. (Comp. 1 John 4:10; John 14:5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 9:28; Hebrews 10:20; 1 Peter 2:21-24.)

And not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.--This statement must not be limited. Its scope is that Christ's redemption was offered for the whole of mankind, from Adam to the last man. Who lay hold of the redemption, must be determined on other considerations. (Comp. 1 John 4:14; John 1:29; John 4:42.) Multitudes may be saved through this redemption who never heard of Christ (Acts 10:34-35; Romans 2:14-15). St. John's object in introducing this truth here is to rebuke the arrogance of those Christians who looked down on the non-Christian world as outside the Fatherhood and mercies of God. Such an error might be seen, for example, in the heated partisanship of a Crusader or persecutor for a civilisation politically Christian against one outside his own sympathies. (Comp. Titus 3:2-7; Romans 11:17-18.)

Verses 1, 2. - Moreover, walking in the light involves accepting the propitiation wrought through Jesus Christ the Righteous. The connexion with the preceding is close. We have just had

(1) the confession that we do sin; we now have

(2) the principle that we must not sin; and

(3) the consolation that sin is not irremediable. Verse 1. - My little children; or, perhaps, my dear children; or, simply, my children. The diminutive τεκνία, if it retains any force, expresses endearment rather than smallness or youth. The word occurs only once outside this Epistle (John 13:33), and it was, perhaps, from Christ's use of it then that St. John adopted it (verses 12, 28; 1 John 3:7, 18; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:21). In Galatians 4:19 the reading is doubtful Cf. Τί με φεύγεις, τέκνον τὸν σαυτοῦ πατέρα; in the beautiful story of St. John and the young robber (Eusebius, 'Hist. Eccl.,' III. 23:17). As distinct from παιδία (1 John 2:13, 18), the word seems to imply spiritual fatherhood. These things (the section, 1 John 1:5-10) I write to you, that ye may not sin. The aorist forbids the rendering, "continue in sin;" as before, those who are walking in light and yet sin through frailty are addressed. Two apparently contradictory principles have been set forth: you must walk in light; you must confess that you sin. St. John now goes on to reconcile them. I write

(1) to charge you not to sin;

(2) [to tell you that] if we sin, we have an Advocate.

Instead of understanding "to tell you that," we may take καί as "and yet" - a frequent use in St. John. There are two seemingly opposite truths - sin is wholly alien from the Christian, and the Christian is never wholly free from sin; and St. John struggles to give them their right balance, not in the dialectical manner of St. Paul, but by stating them alternately, side by side, varying the point of view. We have an Advocate. The possession of the Advocate is as continual ἔχομεν as of the sin (1 John 1:8). Every one feels that "a Comforter with the Father" is an impossible rendering. But St. John alone uses the word Παράκλητος, four times in his Gospel of the Spirit (see on John 14:16), and once here of Christ. Is it likely that he would use so unusual and important a word in two different senses, and that in two writings intended as companions to one another? The rendering "Advocate," necessary here, carries with it the rendering "Advocate" in the Gospel. Moreover, what is the meaning of ἄλλος Παράκλητος, if Christ is an Advocate, but the Spirit a Comforter? If Christ is one Advocate and the Spirit "another Advocate," all is intelligible. Philo frequently uses παράκλητος of the high priest as intercessor for the people, and also of the Divine Λόγος. There is a difference, however, between "Paraclete" as used of the Spirit and as used of Christ. It is applied to the Spirit in his relation to the disciples; to Christ in his relation to the Father. Christ is our Advocate πρὸς τὸν Πατέρα: his advocacy turns towards the Father to propitiate him. And not in vain; for he is himself "righteous." A sinner could not reconcile God to sinners; but a righteous Advocate can, for his character is a warrant for the righteousness of his cause. Thus, δίκαιον is the set-off to ἐάν τις ἁμάρτῃ. One who has sinned needs an advocate; one who has not sinned can best undertake the office. Δίκαιον at the end, without the article, is gently suggestive of the plea, "Jesus Christ, a Righteous One."

2:1,2 When have an Advocate with the Father; one who has undertaken, and is fully able, to plead in behalf of every one who applies for pardon and salvation in his name, depending on his pleading for them. He is Jesus, the Saviour, and Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed. He alone is the Righteous One, who received his nature pure from sin, and as our Surety perfectly obeyed the law of God, and so fulfilled all righteousness. All men, in every land, and through successive generations, are invited to come to God through this all-sufficient atonement, and by this new and living way. The gospel, when rightly understood and received, sets the heart against all sin, and stops the allowed practice of it; at the same time it gives blessed relief to the wounded consciences of those who have sinned.My little children,.... The apostle may address the saints under this character, on account of their regeneration by the Spirit and grace of God, in which they were as newborn babes; and on account of his being the instrument of their conversion, and so was their spiritual father, and therefore calls them his own children; and he might the rather use such a way of speaking, because of his advanced age, being now in his old age, and John the elder in age as well as in office; as well as to show his paternal affection for them, and care of them, and that what he had wrote, or should write, was not from any disrespect, but from pure love to them; and it might serve to put them in mind of their weakness in faith, in knowledge, and spiritual strength, that they might not entertain high notions of themselves, as if they were perfect and without infirmities; and it is easy to observe, that this is one of Christ's expressions, John 13:33, from whose lips the apostle took it, whose words and phrases he greatly delighted in, as he seems to do in this, by his frequent use of it; see 1 John 2:18.

These things write I unto you; concerning the purity and holiness of God, who is light itself; concerning fellowship with him, which no one that lives in sin can have; concerning pardon and cleansing from sin by the blood of Christ, and concerning sin being in them, and they not without it. The Ethiopic version reads, "we write", as in 1 John 1:4;

that ye sin not; not that he thought they could be entirely without it, either without the being of it, or the commission of it, in thought, word, or deed, for this would be to suppose that which is contrary to his own words, in 1 John 1:8; but he suggests that the end of his writing on these subjects was, that they might not live in sin, and indulge themselves in a vicious course of living, give up themselves to it, and walk in it, and work it with all greediness: and nothing could be more suitably adapted to such an end than the consideration of the holiness of God, who calls by his grace; and of the necessity of light and grace and holiness in men to communion with him; and of the pardoning grace of God and cleansing blood of Christ, which, when savingly applied, sets men against sin, and makes them zealous of good works; and of the indwelling of sin in the saints, which puts them upon their guard against it:

and if any man sin; as every man does, even everyone that is in the light, and walks in it, and has fellowship with God; everyone that believes in Christ, and is justified through his righteousness, and pardoned by his blood; everyone of the little children; for the apostle is not speaking of mankind in general who sin, for Christ is not an advocate for all that sin, but of these in particular; hence the Arabic version renders it, "if any of you sin"; and this, with the following, he says not to encourage in sin, but to comfort under a sense of it:

we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; Christ is an advocate, not for just or righteous persons, for as he came not to call these to repentance, nor to die for them, so such have no need of an advocate, nor is he one for them; but as he came to call sinners, and to save them, and died for them, the just for the unjust, so he is an advocate, and makes intercession for transgressors; and not for all men, though they have all sinned; not for the world, or those so called in distinction from the persons given him by his Father, for these he prays not; but for all the elect, and whatsoever charges are brought against them he answers to them, and for them; and for all that believe in him, be they weak or strong, even for the apostles as well as others; for they were not without sin, were men of like passions as others, and carried about with them a body of sin, and had their daily infirmities, and so needed an advocate as others; and hence John says, "we have an advocate", &c. but then Christ is not an advocate for sin, though for sinners; he does not vindicate the commission of sin, or plead for the performance of it; he is no patron of iniquity; nor does he deny that his clients have sinned, or affirm that their actions are not sins; he allows in court all their sins, with all their aggravated circumstances; nor does he go about to excuse or extenuate them; but he is an advocate for the non-imputation of them, and for the application of pardon to them: he pleads in their favour, that these sins have been laid upon him, and he has bore them; that his blood has been shed for the remission of them, and that he has made full satisfaction for them; and therefore in justice they ought not to be laid to their charge; but that the forgiveness of them should be applied unto them, for the relief and comfort of their burdened and distressed consciences: and for this he is an advocate for his poor sinning people "with the Father"; who being the first Person, and the Son the advocate, and the Spirit sustaining a like character, is only mentioned; and he being God against whom sin is committed, and to whom the satisfaction is made; and the rather, as he is the Father of Christ, and of those for whom he is an advocate; seeing it may be concluded that his pleadings will be with success, since he is not only related to him, and has an interest in him himself, but the persons also, whose patron he is, are related to him, and have a share in his paternal affection and care: moreover, this phrase, as it expresses the distinct personality of Christ from the Father, so his being with him in heaven at his right hand, and nearness to him; where he discharges this office of his, partly by appearing in person for his people in the presence of God; and partly by carrying in and presenting their confessions of sin, and their prayers for the fresh discoveries and applications of pardoning grace, which he offers up to his Father with the sweet incense of his mediation; and chiefly by pleading the virtue of his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice, which are carried within the vail, and are always in sight, and call aloud for peace and pardon; as also by answering and removing the charges and accusations of the court adversary, the accuser of the brethren, the devil; as well as by the declarations of his will, demanding in point of justice, in consideration of his sufferings and death, that such and such blessings be bestowed upon his people, as pardon, righteousness, grace, and supplies of grace, and at last glory; and by applying these benefits to their souls as a "comforter", which the word here used also signifies, and is so rendered, John 14:16; and by the Arabic version here. Now the saints have but one advocate, and that is enough for them; the apostle does not say we have advocates, but "an advocate"; not angels, nor saints departed, but Jesus Christ only, who is the one Mediator between God and man, 1 Timothy 2:5, and he is a continual one, he ever lives to make intercession; his blood is always speaking, and he always pleading; and therefore it is said "we have", not we have had, or we shall have an advocate and he is a prevalent one, he is always heard, he thoroughly pleads the cause he undertakes, and ever carries it; which is owing to the dignity of his person, his interest with his Father, and the virtue and value of his sacrifice: and he every way fit for such a work, for he is "righteous"; not only in his natures, both divine and human, but in his office, as Mediator, which he faithfully and righteously performs; he is a very proper person to plead for guilty persons, which he could not do if he himself was guilty; but he is so holy and righteous that nothing can be objected to him by God; and it need not be doubted by men that he will act the faithful part to them, and righteously serve them and their cause; and it is moreover his righteousness which he has wrought out, and is imputed to them, that carries the cause for them; and therefore this character of Christ fitly added, as is also the following. The Jews (i) have adopted the word in the text into their language, but have applied it to a different purpose, to alms deeds, repentance, and good works. Much more agreeably Philo the Jew (k) speaks of the son of perfect virtue, "as an advocate" for the forgiveness of sins, and for a supply of everlasting good things.

(i) Pirke Abot, c. 4. sect. 11. T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 32. 1. T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 10. 1.((k) De Vita Mosis, l. iii. p. 673.

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