1 John 2:3 MEANING

1 John 2:3
(5) The fourth inference from the doctrine that God is Light analyses more accurately the general expression of 1 John 1:7, walking in the light. If Christ is, as in 1 John 2:1-2, the Paraclete and Propitiation of the world, it becomes necessary to ascertain whether He is this to us; lest, when this salvation is offered, we condemn ourselves by rejecting it. The test is, "obedience to the commandments, especially in brotherly love."

(3) Hereby means, by what follows.

That we know him.--Rather, have known Him (so also in 1 John 2:4, I have known Him); that we have not grasped a shadow, but have been in intercourse with the living God, who reveals Himself not through speculation, but through a true inward life of man.

If we keep his commandments.--Christ's--because of the reference to John 14:15. "Keep" like a precious heirloom, watching them against the inroads of our lower nature. (Comp. Matthew 19:17; Matthew 28:20; 1 Timothy 6:14.) If each man's conscience was the standard of practice, confusion would again reign in morals as it reigned in the days of the Sophists at Athens. (Compare Plato's Republic, Bk. 2, Jowett's translation.) A code and an example fitted for all times and all circumstances have been given by our Lord.

(4) He that saith . . .--In particularising the general proposition according to his custom, St. John rejects the first person plural as shocking, unreal, and artificial, and throws the blasphemy on some third person. So "is a liar" is stronger than "we lie," and "we deceive ourselves;" in such a case the lie has entered thoroughly into the man's nature.

(5) But whoso keepeth his word.--The revelation of the will of God, looked at as a whole.

In him verily is the love of God perfected.--St. John has before his mind an ideal of a man so filled with the Spirit that in all things he embodies the will of God; the love that such a man has for God is indeed complete. But he knows that the best of the human race can only approach such an ideal in different degrees, at a great distance; and the perfection of the love which they bear to God will vary in the same degree. (Comp. 1 John 2:15; 1 John 3:17; 1 John 4:12; 1 John 5:3.) "In him verily;" rather, Truly in him. It is most emphatic, and refers back "the truth is not in him," in 1 John 2:4.

Hereby know we that we are in him.--Comp. 1 John 2:3 and 1 John 1:6; without such a test there Could be no happiness in religion. "In him" implies that we are saved by His grace, surrounded by His love, inspired by His thoughts, partakers of His nature, filled by His Spirit, the dwelling-place of the Father and the Son, with certain access to the divine throne and certain answer to prayer, heirs of the heavenly kingdom.

(6) Ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.--Abiding in Him--in Christ--is an evident reference to John 15:4-11. In the terms of 1 John 2:3-5 there is a double gradation: on the one hand, knowing Him, being in Him, remaining in Him; on the other, keeping His commandments, keeping His word, walking even as He walked. The last expression is the strongest of the latter three, as it views the Christian in action. The walk of Christ was the walk in the light (comp. 1 John 1:7); divine love the secret spring developing itself in a new virtue for every variety of circumstance. In 1 John 2:7-11 brotherly love is introduced as the special manifestation of this obedience that springs from the walk in the light. At a superficial glance it might have been thought that the personal address introduced a new paragraph; it is really only like the "Verily, verily," of our Lord, breaking in to emphasize a message to be brought directly home to the hearts of the readers. The life of obedience, the walk in light, is nothing else but the life of brotherly love: "This is my commandment, that ye love one another" (John 15:12; comp. also John 13:34-35).

(7) 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--i.e., "I am preparing to give you a special direction, which has been implied already by the walk in light. If you look at it from the point of view of your first entrance into Christ's kingdom it is old, because it was the chief point of His moral teaching which you then heard. If you look at its effect in you it is new, because (1) it had never been taught so forcibly and clearly before Christ; (2) you are so imperfect that you are always liable to forget it; (3) your obedience to the command can never be complete, but will always require fresh growth; (4) it can never be permanent without continual renewal by Christ's presence." "Ye" is therefore his present Christian audience; "from the beginning" implies the time of their conversion; "the word" is here less wide than in 1 John 2:6, and means rather Christ's teaching on this point. (Comp. 2 John 1:5; Leviticus 19, Leviticus 18:24.)

(8) Which thing is true in him and in you.--The commandment might have hung in the air and remained "old," i.e., confined to the definite point of time of its promulgation, had it not been embodied for ever (1) in the living example of Christ during His life on earth; (2) in His active presence and power since His resurrection; (3) in the conduct and character of His people, radically renewed by His Spirit and continually growing after His image. (Comp. 1 John 3:23; John 13:34.)

Because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.--Rather, is passing away; already shineth. Here he gives the reason why he announces as new what he says is already truly realised in Christ and in process of realisation in His people. A visible change, a notable renovation, is going on; the gross darkness that covered the face of the earth is being rent away in the circle of the apostolic preaching; the life of the Lord, which gleamed forth for three-and-thirty years in the cities and on the hill-sides of Judaea and Samaria and Galilee, is now bursting far and wide into ever-increasing brightness; wondrously quick is the spread of the rays of His glory; multitudes in every known land are gathered into His kingdom. Old things are passing away as the Apostle looks round, and all things are becoming new. (Comp. John 1:4-9; Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5.)

Verses 3-6. - Thirdly, walking in the light involves obedience. Verse 3. - And herein we perceive that we know him, if we keep his commandments γινώσκομεν, we come to know, we recognize; ἐγνώκαμεν, we have come to know, we know). The token of our having this knowledge is stated hypothetically; not because, but if, we obey. To serve under another and obey him is one of the best ways of knowing his character. The knowledge is no mere intellectual apprehension, such as the Gnostic, postulated, but a moral and spiritual affection and activity. It is possible to know and hate (John 16:24). Again, the knowledge is not a mere emotional appreciation. Christianity knows nothing of piety without morality. To know Christ is to love him, and to love him is to obey and imitate him. By "keep" τῆρῶμεν is recant "keep the eye fixed upon, observe."

2:3-11 What knowledge of Christ can that be, which sees not that he is most worthy of our entire obedience? And a disobedient life shows there is neither religion nor honesty in the professor. The love of God is perfected in him that keeps his commandments. God's grace in him attains its true mark, and produces its sovereign effect as far as may be in this world, and this is man's regeneration; though never absolutely perfect here. Yet this observing Christ's commands, has holiness and excellency which, if universal, would make the earth resemble heaven itself. The command to love one another had been in force from the beginning of the world; but it might be called a new command as given to Christians. It was new in them, as their situation was new in respect of its motives, rules, and obligations. And those who walk in hatred and enmity to believers, remain in a dark state. Christian love teaches us to value our brother's soul, and to dread every thing hurtful to his purity and peace. Where spiritual darkness dwells, in mind, the judgment, and the conscience will be darkened, and will mistake the way to heavenly life. These things demand serious self-examination; and earnest prayer, that God would show us what we are, and whither we are going.And hereby we do know that we know him,.... Either the Father, with whom Christ is an advocate; not as the God of nature, and by the light of it, nor as the lawgiver and Judge of the whole earth, and by the law of Moses; but as the God of all grace, as a God pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin, as the Father of Christ, and as in him by the Gospel; and this not in a mere notional and speculative way, but with love and affection; not with fear and trembling, as devils know him, nor in theory, as formal professors and hypocrites, but with a knowledge, joined with hearty love of him, and cheerful obedience to him: or else Christ, the advocate and propitiation for sin; and him also, not with a mere notional knowledge of his person and offices, which carnal men and devils themselves have of him, but with that which is spiritual, special, and saving, being from the Spirit and grace of God; and regards Christ as a Saviour, as a propitiatory sacrifice for sin, and an advocate with God the Father; and by which he is approved as such, to the rejection of all other savours, sacrifices, and advocates; and is trusted, confided, and believed in as such, and affectionately loved, and that above all others, in sincerity and truth; and is readily obeyed in his word and ordinances; for where there is true knowledge of Christ, there is faith in him; and where there is faith in him, there is love to him, for faith works by love; and where there is love to him, there will be an observance of his commands; and this is here made the evidence of the true knowledge of him: for it follows,

if we keep his commandments; not the commandments of men, for the keeping of them arises from ignorance of God, and is a proof of it; nor the commandments of the ceremonial law, which are abolished, particularly circumcision, which is opposed to the keeping of the commandments of God, 1 Corinthians 7:19; but either those of the moral law, and which are more particularly the commandments of God the Father; the observance of which, though it cannot be with perfection, yet being in faith, and from love to God, and with a view to his glory, is an evidence of the true knowledge of him and of his will: or else those commandments, which are more especially the commandments of Christ Jesus; such as the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper, which are peculiar to the Gospel dispensation; and which being kept as they were delivered by Christ, and in his name and strength, and to his glory, without depending on them for life and salvation, is an argument and proof of the right knowledge of him; and particularly his new commandment of loving one another may be chiefly designed, that being what the apostle has greatly in view throughout this epistle; now let it be observed, that keeping of the commands of God, or Christ, is not the knowledge of either of them itself, for much may be done in an external way, yet neither God nor Christ be spiritually and savingly known; nor is it the cause of such knowledge, for that is owing to the Spirit and grace of God; but is an effect or consequence of spiritual knowledge, and so an evidence of it; hereby is not the knowledge itself, but the knowledge of that knowledge, that is, that it is true and genuine.

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