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THE FIRST EPISTLE GENERAL OF JOHN - Chapter 2 - Verse 1
FIRST JOHN CHAPTER II.
ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.
THE subjects which are introduced into this chapter are the following:
I. A statement of the apostle that the great object which he had in writing to them was that they should not sin; and yet if they sinned, and were conscious that they were guilty before God, they should not despair, for they had an Advocate with the Father who had made propitiation for the sins of the world, 1 Jo 2:1,2. This is properly a continuation of what he had said in the close of the previous chapter, and should not have been separated from that.
II. The evidence that we know God, or that we are his true friends, is to be found in the fact that we keep his commandments, 1 Jo 2:3-6.
III. The apostle says that what he had been saying was no new commandment, but was what they had always heard concerning the nature of the gospel; but though in this respect the law of love which he meant particularly to enforce was no new commandment, none which they had not heard before, yet in another respect it was a new commandment, for it was one which in its peculiarity was originated by the Saviour, and which he meant to make the charac- teristic of his religion, 1 Jo 2:7-11. A large part of the epistle is taken up in explaining and enforcing this commandment requiring love to the brethren.
IV. The apostle specifies 1 Jo 2:12-14 various reasons why he had written to them—reasons derived from the peculiar character of different classes among them—little children, fathers, young men.
V. Each of these classes he solemnly commands not to love the world, or the things that are in the world, for that which constitutes the peculiarity of the "world" as such is not of the Father, and all "that there is in the world is soon to pass away," 1 Jo 2:15-17.
VI. He calls their attention to the fact that the closing dispensation of the world had come, 1 Jo 2:18-20. The evidence of this was, that antichrist had appeared.
VII. He calls their attention to the characteristics of the antichrist. The essential thing would be that antichrist would deny that Jesus was the Christ, involving a practical denial of both the Father and the Son. Persons of this character were abroad, and they were in great danger of being seduced by their arts from the way of truth and duty, 1 Jo 2:21-26.
VIII. The apostle, in the close of the chapter, 1 Jo 2:27-29, expresses the belief that they would not be seduced, but that they had an anointing from above which would keep them from the arts of those who would lead them astray, he earnestly exhorts them to abide in God the Saviour, that when he should appear they might have confidence and not be ashamed at his coming.
Verse 1. My little children. teknia mou. This is such language as an aged apostle would be likely to use when addressing a church, and its use in this epistle may be regarded as one evidence that John had reached an advanced period of life when he wrote the epistle.
These things write I unto you. To wit, the things stated in chapter one.
That ye sin not. To keep you from sin, or to induce you to lead a holy life.
And if any man sin. As all are liable, with hearts as corrupt as ours, and amidst the temptations of a world like this, to do. This, of course, does not imply that it is proper or right to sin, or that Christians should have no concern about it; but the meaning is, that all are liable to sin, and when we are conscious of sin the mind should not yield to despondency and despair. It might be supposed, perhaps, that if one sinned after baptism, or after being converted, there could be no forgiveness. The apostle designs to guard against any such supposition, and to show that the atonement made by the Redeemer had respect to all kinds of sin, and that under the deepest consciousness of guilt and of personal unworthiness, we may feel that we have an advocate on high.
We have an advocate with the Father. God only can forgive sin; and though we have no claim on him, yet there is one with him who can plead our cause, and on whom we can rely to manage our interests there. The word rendered advocate (paraklhtov or—paraclete) is elsewhere applied to the Holy Spirit, and is in every other place where it occurs in the New Testament rendered comforter, Joh 14:16,26; Joh 15:26; 16:7. On the meaning of the word, See Barnes "John 14:16".
As used with reference to the Holy Spirit (Joh 14:16, et al.) it is employed in the more general sense of helper, or aid; and the particular manner in which the Holy Spirit aids us may be seen stated in See Barnes "Joh 14:16".
As usual here with reference to the Lord Jesus, it is employed in the more limited sense of the word advocate, as the word is frequently used in the Greek writers to denote an advocate in court; that is, one whom we call to our aid; or to stand by us, to defend our suit. Where it is applied to the Lord Jesus, the language is evidently figurative, since there can be no literal pleading for us in heaven; but it is expressive of the great truth that he has undertaken our cause with God, and that he performs for us all that we expect of an advocate and counsellor. It is not to be supposed, however, that he manages our cause in the same way, or on the same principles on which an advocate in a human tribunal does. An advocate in court is employed to defend his client. He does not begin by admitting his guilt, or in any way basing his plea on the conceded fact that he is guilty; his proper business is to show that he is not guilty, or, if he be proved to be so, to see that no injustice shall be done him. The proper business of an advocate in a human court, therefore, embraces two things:
(1.) To show that his client is not guilty in the form and manner charged on him. This he may do in one of two ways, either
(a.) by showing that he did not do the act charged on him, as when he is charged with murder, and can prove an alibi, or show that he was not present at the time the murder was committed; or
(b.) by proving that he had a right to do the deed—as, if he is charged with murder, he may admit the fact of the killing, but may show that it was in self-defence.
(2.) In case his client is convicted, his office is to see that no injustice is done to him in the sentence; to stand by him still; to avail himself of all that the law allows in his favour, or to state any circumstance of age, or sex, or former service, or bodily health, which would in any way mitigate the sentence. The advocacy of the Lord Jesus in our behalf, however, is wholly different from this, though the same general object is pursued and sought, the good of those for whom he becomes an advocate. The nature of his advocacy may be stated in the following particulars:
(1.) He admits the guilt of those for whom he becomes the advocate, to the full extent charged on them by the law of God, and by their own consciences. He does not attempt to hide or conceal it. He makes no apology for it. He neither attempts to deny the fact, nor to show that they had a right to do as they have done. He could not do this, for it would not be true; and any plea before the throne of God which should be based on a denial of our guilt would be fatal to our cause.
(2.) As our advocate, he undertakes to be security that no wrong shall be done to the universe if we are not punished as we deserve; that is, if we are pardoned, and treated as if we had not sinned. This he does by pleading what he has done in behalf of men; that is, by the plea that his sufferings and death in behalf of sinners have done as much to honour the law, and to maintain the truth and justice of God, and to prevent the extension of apostasy, as if the offenders themselves had suffered the full penalty of the law. If sinners are punished in hell, there will be some object to be accomplished by it; and the simple account of the atonement by Christ is, that his death will secure all the good results to the universe which would be secured by the punishment of the offender himself. It has done as much to maintain the honour of the law, and to impress the universe with the truth that sin cannot be committed with impunity. If all the good results can be secured by substituted sufferings which there would be by the punishment of the offender himself, then it is clear that the guilty may be acquitted and saved. Why should they not be? The Saviour, as our advocate, undertakes to be security that this shall be.
(3.) As our advocate, he becomes a surety for our good behaviour; gives a pledge to justice that we will obey the laws of God, and that he will keep us in the paths of obedience and truth; that, if pardoned, we will not continue to rebel. This pledge or surety can be given in no human court of justice. No man, advocate or friend, can give security when one is pardoned who has been convicted of stealing a horse, that he will not steal a horse again; when one who has been guilty of murder is pardoned, that he will never be guilty of it again; when one who has been guilty of forgery is pardoned, that he will not be guilty of it again. If he could do this, the subject of pardon would be attended with much fewer difficulties than it is now. But the Lord Jesus becomes such a pledge or surety for us, (Heb 7:22,) and hence he becomes such an advocate with the Father as we need.
Jesus Christ the righteous. One who is eminently righteous himself, and who possesses the means of rendering others righteous. It is an appropriate feeling when we come before God in his name, that we come pleading the merits of one who is eminently righteous, and on account of whose righteousness we may be justified and saved.
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