From:  Over 50 Interpreters Explain 1 to 3 John                           Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2018



List of All Sources Quoted At End of File






CHAPTER 2:1-14




2:1                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     Dear children, I write thus to you in order that you may not sin. If any one sins, we have an Advocate with the Father--Jesus Christ the righteous;

WEB:              My little children, I write these things to you so that you may not sin. If anyone sins, we have a Counselor with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous.           

Young’s:         My little children, these things I write to you, that ye may not sin: and if any one may sin, an advocate we have with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one,

Conte (RC):    My little sons, this I write to you, so that you may not sin. But if anyone has sinned, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Just One.


2:1                   My little children.  Τεκνίον, little child.  Used as a term of affection, or possibly with reference to the writer's advanced age.  [1]

                        This expresses the warm feeling of a father’s heart, but at the same time it claims filial respect.  [50] 

                        So the apostle frequently addresses the whole body of Christians.  It is a term of tenderness and endearment, used by our Lord himself to His disciples, John 13:33.  [2]

                        It is probable that John was the only surviving apostle when he wrote this epistle and probably was the oldest Christian on earth at that time; none could ever with such propriety adopt [this language.]  [40]

                        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.  [16]

                        Probably refers to the preceding paragraph (1 John 1:5-10) rather than to what follows.  On the one hand they must beware of the spiritual pride which is one of the worst forms of sin: on the other they must not think that He is bidding them acquiesce in a state of sin.  [23]

that ye sin not.  Thus he guards them beforehand against abusing the doctrine of reconciliation.  [2] [35]

The Apostle is not giving a command, but stating his reason for writing thus; in order “that ye may not sin.”  That is his aim; to lead them onward to perfect holiness, to perfect likeness to God.  Those who are on the one hand warned of their liability to sin, and on the other are told of what cleanses them from sin, are put in the way towards this high ideal.  [23]

And if any man sin.  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.   [16]  

The moment a believer becomes self-occupied, undisciplined, and negligent in prayer, he sins.  Remember that sin consists not only in doing overt evil acts, but also in not doing the good that you know you should.  “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).  [30]

He adds, at once, a ground of consolation to those who fall under the

power of temptation, and commit sins of infirmity, of ignorance, of weakness.  Had John stopped with his exhortation, the believer might be tempted to despair.  [51] 

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.”  [1]

an advocate.  Who pleads with the Father not to withdraw his love because we may have been betrayed into sin.  [3]

A most powerful Advocate, because He Himself is the propitiation [verse 2].  [11]   

We have for our advocate, not a mean person [=a nobody], but him of whom it was said, This is my beloved son.  Not a guilty person, who stands in need of pardon for himself; but Jesus Christ the righteous; not a mere petitioner, who relies purely upon liberality, but One that has merited, fully merited, whatever He asks.  [2]

[This verse] does not say, “If any man repent, we have an advocate; if any man confess his sins, we have an advocate; if any man weep over his sins, we have an advocate.”  Instead it says, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father.”  It is not just when I am repentant that I have an Advocate, but the very moment I fail, Christ takes up my case, even before I am sorry about it.  The moment that unkind word left my lips, the moment I did that spiteful thing, the moment I was thoughtless in some business matter, that very moment before my conscience was exercised and I was troubled, the devil was in the presence of God to accuse me.  But the same instant the Son of God was there to represent me. As a result of His advocacy, the Spirit takes the Word of God and applies it to my conscience, and I confess my sin.  [30] At the very least the intervention of the Son secures for us time to repent.  [rw]


Why Jesus’ advocacy works:  “O Lord, you have pleaded the causes of my soul; you have redeemed my life” (Lamentations 3:58).  The figure is taken from a lawyer pleading the cause of a criminal, and using his best endeavors to bring him off uninjured.  But such advocacy may fail for two reasons— 1. the incompetency of the advocate; or 2. the badness of the cause.  But there are no such hindrances to the success of the advocacy of Christ.  How He can plead his own sufferings gives unspeakable value and validity to every plea of the great Intercessor.  It is true that he cannot deny the truth of the charge brought by the accuser of the brethren against His client; but he can present his own meritorious sufferings, and the sorrows he endured for the culprit.  On this ground he can stand up as his surety and representative, and plead with the Father that he has suffered in his place and stead.  On the firm, solid ground, then, of justice and equity, he can plead on his behalf, “Let him go, for I endured the penalty due to him.”   [28]


On the assumption of a personally indwelling of the Holy Spirit--rather than just through the scriptures He inspired--is also envolved:  The office of an advocate is to appear for his client in a court of justice, and to plead his cause. Now this office also the Lord Jesus Christ executes in behalf of his people: He is gone up to the court of heaven, where “he appears in the presence of God for us” (Job 33:24).”  The Holy Spirit also is our advocate [Romans 8:26-27]: but there is a very wide difference between the advocacy of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit: the Spirit intercedes in us at the throne of grace; Christ intercedes for us at the throne of glory; the Spirit assists us to pray according to the will of God; Christ presents those prayers unto the Father, and renders them acceptable in his sight.  [5]    


with the Father.  Here, of course, an intercessor, as Paul says, “Jesus . . . who is on the right hand of God, who ever liveth to make intercession for us’ (Romans 8).  [42]

“The Father” rather than “God, to bring out the point that our Advocate is His Son, and that through Him we also are made sons.  It is not a stern judge but a loving Father before whom He has to plead.  [23]

How Christ executes His office of Advocate with the Father, John does not say.   John considers the living Christ as personally operating in His work, as operating in His glorified position with His Father, with the same holy love with which He accomplished His work on earth as a mediation for sinful man.  [19]  

Jesus Christ the righteous.  One who is eminently righteous himself, and who possesses the means of rendering others righteous.  [18]

His sinlessness and holiness as manifested in His life.  [20


                        In depth:  The two key dangers being warned/protected against in these first verses of chapter two [21].  He foresees the possibility of a two-fold perversion of his teaching: 

(1)  “If we can never in this life be done with sin, why strive after holiness?  It is useless; sin is an abiding necessity.”

(2)  “If escape be so easy, why dread falling into sin?  We may sin with light hearts, since we have the blood of Jesus to cleanse us.”

“No,” he answers, “I am not writing these things to you either to discourage you in the pursuit of holiness or to embolden you in sinning, but, on the contrary, in order that (ἵνα) ye may not sin.”  Cf. Augustine: “Lest perchance he should seem to have given impunity to sins, and men should now say to themselves, ‘Let us sin, let us do securely what we will, Christ cleanses us; He is faithful and righteous, He cleanses us from all iniquity,’ he takes from thee evil security and implants useful fear.  It is an evil wish of thine to be secure; be anxious.  For He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, if thou art always displeasing to thyself and being changed until thou be perfected.” 

As a physician might say to his patient:  “Your trouble is obstinate and it will take a long time to eradicate it.  But I do not tell you this to discourage you or make you careless; no, on the contrary, to make you watchful and diligent in the use of the remedy”; so the Apostle says: “My little children, these things I am writing to you in order that ye may not sin.”


In depth:  Multiple reasons exist for John calling them “little children” [52].  The aged apostle, great in gentleness, so calls the Christians whom he addresses.  He may have been led to the use of these words by many reasons:

1.  Because he was a very old man, by whom even middle-aged people would be thought of as young.

2.  Because he was conscious of a fatherly care and love for the disciples of Christ.

3.  Because he had been instrumental in the conversion, or rather regeneration, of many of those to whom he wrote.  Paul uses the same words for this reason in Galatians 4:19; compare 1 Corinthians 4:15.

4.  Because they possessed a humble, simple, childlike nature, after conversion (see Matthew 18:3-6,10), which drew them to him as their spiritual guide and overseer.

5. Because in their present imperfect and dependent state, they needed to be led by further instruction into the light of doctrine and life.  The term “little” is undoubtedly expressive of endearment.  And John uses the whole phrase in the most eager affectionate solicitude for the welfare of the persons to whom it applies.  The phrase itself is a loving appeal and protecting assurance.


In depth:  Should “advocate” be the translation of the same Greek word when used in the Gospel of John [23]?  An argument that “Yes” is the right answer:  Advocate or Paraclete (παράκλητος) means one who is summoned to the side of another, especially to serve as his helper, spokesman (causae patronus), or intercessor.  The word occurs in [the] N.T. only in John; here in the Epistle and four times in the Gospel (John 14;16, 26; John 15:26; John 16:7).  It is unlikely that John would use the word in totally different senses in the two writings, especially if the Epistle was written to accompany the Gospel.  We must therefore find some meaning which will suit all five passages.

Two renderings compete for acceptation, “Comforter” and “Advocate”.  Both make good sense in the Gospel, and (though there is by no means agreement on the point) “Advocate” makes the best sense.  “Advocate” is the only rendering which is at all probable here:  it exactly suits, the context. “We have a Comforter with the Father” would be intolerable.  The older English Versions (excepting Taverner, who has “spokesman”) all have “Advocate” here; and (excepting the Rhemish, which has “Paraclete”) all have “Comforter” in the Gospel: and of course this unanimity influenced the translators of 1611.  But “Advocates” as the one rendering which suits all five passages should be adopted throughout. 

Then we see the full meaning of Christ’s promise (John 14:16), “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Advocate”.  Jesus Christ is one Advocate; the Holy Spirit is another.  As Paul says, “the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered:  and it is worthy of remark that he uses precisely the same language to express the intercession of the Spirit and the intercession of Christ (Romans 8:26-27, 34).  Compare Hebrews 7:25; Hebrews 9:24; 1 Timothy 2:5.  [23] 



2:2                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     and He is an atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

WEB:              And he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.

Young’s:         and he -- he is a propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world,

Conte (RC):    And he is the propitiation for our sins.  And not only for our sins, but also for those of the whole world.                                                         


2:2                   And he is the propitiation.  The atoning sacrifice by which the wrath of God is appeased.  [2]

                        That by which God's favor is secured for sinners.  The propitiation is Jesus Himself, since His own humanity, perfected through suffering, is the sacrifice which He as Priest brings to God.  His offering has world-wide efficacy.  [10]

                        The act or offering which makes an injured person favorable to the offender, Christ is the propitiation as well as the propitiator:  the offering itself as well as the sacrificing priest who makes it.  [7]   

                        is.  It should be observed the Apostle says “is,” and not “was,” the propitiation, because that precious blood avails as truly at this hour to cleanse, as it did when first He shed it; also because He “ever liveth to make intercession for us.”  [43]    

for our sins.  Believers:  not Jews in contrast to Gentiles; for he is not writing to Jews (1 John 5:21).  [4] 

Or:  It is not for us apostles that he has died, nor exclusively for the Jewish people, but περι ὁλου του κοσμου, for the whole world, Gentiles as well as Jews, all the descendants of Adam.  The apostle does not say that He died for any select part of the inhabitants of the earth, or for some out of every nation, tribe, or kindred; but for all Mankind; and the attempt to limit this is a violent outrage against God and his word.  [17]

and not for ours only.  The significance of “ours” (i.e., including John himself in the blessing):   Observe how the Apostle classes himself with his readers:  we have,” “our sins”—a rebuke of priestcraft.  Cf. Augustine:  “But some one will say: ‘Do not holy men pray for us?  Do not bishops and prelates pray for the people?’  Nay, attend to the Scriptures, and see that even the prelates commend themselves to the people.  For the Apostle says to the common folk ‘withal praying for us’.  The Apostle prays for the folk, the folk for the Apostle.  We pray for you, brethren; but pray ye also for us.  Let all the members pray for one another, let the Head intercede for all.”  [21]

Not only for the sins of us who are Christians, for the apostle was writing to such.  The idea which he intends to convey seems to be, that when we come before God we should take the most liberal and large views of the atonement; we should feel that the most ample provision has been made for our pardon, and that in no respect is there any limit as to the sufficiency of that work to remove all sin. It is sufficient for us; sufficient for all the world.  [18]  If the world but obeys Him!  [rw]

but also for the sins of the whole world.  Without distinguishing between contemporaneous and successive generations.  [20]

Just as wide as sin extends, the propitiation extends also.  [2]

The work of Christ was wrought for all, not for a chosen few.  There are none who may not share its benefits if they will.  [7]

the sins of.  More literally, but also for the whole world:  “the sins of” is not repeated in the Greek and is not needed in English.  Once more we have a parallel with the Gospel, and especially with chapter 17.  “Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that shall believe on Me through their word . . . that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me . . . that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and lovedst them, even as Thou lovedst Me” (John 17:20-23):  “Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29): “We know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world” (John 4:24).  Compare 1 John 4:14.  John’s writings are so full of the fundamental opposition between Christ or believers and the world, that there was danger lest he should seem to give his sanction to a Christian exclusiveness as fatal as the Jewish exclusiveness out of which he and other converts from Judaism had been delivered. Therefore by this (note especially “the whole world”) and other plain statements both in Gospel (see John 11:51 in particular) and Epistle he insists that believers have no exclusive right to the merits of Christ.  All who will may profit by it.  It remained to be seen who would avail themselves of the restored privileges.  [23]          


                        In depth:  Use of “propitiation” in other texts [23].  The word for “propitiation” occurs nowhere in [the] N.T. but here and in 1 John 4:10; in both places without the article and followed by “for our sins.”  It signifies any action which has expiation as its object, whether prayer, compensation, or sacrifice.  Thus “the ram of the atonement” (Numbers 5:8) is “the ram of the propitiation” or “expiation,” where the same Greek word as is used here is used in the LXX.  Compare Ezekiel 44:27; Numbers 29:11; Leviticus 25:9.  The LXX of “there is forgiveness with Thee” (Psalm 130:4) is remarkable:  literally rendered it is “before Thee is the propitiation” (ἱλασμός).  So also the Vulgate, apud Te propitiatio est.  And this is the idea that we have here:  Jesus Christ, as being righteous, is ever present before the Lord as the propitiation.  With this we should compare the use of the cognate verb in Hebrews 2:17 and cognate substantive Romans 3:25 and Hebrews 9:5.  From these passages it is clear that in [the] N.T. the word is closely connected with that special form of expiation which takes place by means of an offering or sacrifice, although this idea is not of necessity included in the radical signification of the word itself.



2:3                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     And by this we may know that we know Him--if we obey His commands.

WEB:              This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commandments.

Young’s:         and in this we know that we have known him, if his commands we may keep;

Conte (RC):    And we can be sure that we have known him by this: if we observe his commandments.


2:3                   And hereby.  By our loyal obedience.  [3]

we do know that we know him.  By this fact.  [rw]

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.  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.  [24]

if we keep his commandments.  The words themselves do not warrant the opinion of Augustine and Bede, that John insists here upon love.  He only demands the unexceptional keeping of the commandments of God, and by the use of the Article and the plural (τὰς ἐντολὰς), excludes any and every arbitrary selection [between them].  [20]

                        The apostle Paul speaks of those who “profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”  Here the Apostle seems to assert the difference between the knowledge of God and all other knowledge.  We may know other things perfectly and not be affected by our knowledge:  not so with God.  We cannot be said to [truly] know Him unless we do His will.  We may believe intellectually that there is a God.  We may defend the truth of His existence or His attributes, but we cannot know Him (savingly that is), unless we obey Him, and for the plain reason that He will not allow us.  [42]    


In depth:  Implications of this verse [23].  John is again condemning that Gnostic doctrine which made excellence to consist in mere intellectual enlightenment.  Divorced from holiness of life, says John, no enlightenment can be a knowledge of God. In his system of Christian Ethics the Apostle insists no less than Aristotle, that in morals knowledge without practice is worthless: “not speculation but conduct” is the aim of both the Christian and the heathen philosopher.  Mere knowledge will not do:  nor will knowledge “touched by emotion” do.  It is possible to know, and admire, and in a sort of way love, and yet act as if we had not known.  But John gives no encouragement to devotion without a moral life (compare 1 John 1:6).  There is only one way of proving to ourselves that we know God, and that is by loving obedience to His will.  Compare the very high standard of virtue set by Aristotle:  he only is a virtuous man who does virtuous acts, “first, knowingly; secondly, from deliberate preference, and deliberate preference for the sake of the acts (and not any advantages resulting from them); and thirdly, with firm and unvarying purpose” (Nic. Eth. II. iv. 3).  [23]


In depth:  Old Testament precedents for this verse’s assertion that to “know God” inherently envolves the requirement to obey His teaching [46].  It is said of Samuel in his early youth:  “That Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him” (1 Samuel 3:7).  He had not that communion with God which arises from a sense of His presence and gracious communications.

Jeremiah, again, says of Josiah, king of Judah:  “He judged the cause of the poor and fatherless:  that it was well with him:  was not this to know me, saith the Lord?” (Jeremiah 22:16).  “Was this not to be acquainted with God:  to understand His character and His will?” 

The same prophet has left on record a remarkable promise:  “After those days, saith the Lord, they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:34). 

To know the Lord, therefore, is to have raised our minds toward Him whom our eyes cannot discern, and to have applied our hearts to seek His love and favor:  to acknowledge His will as the rule of our will, and His law as the standard of our lives.  Not merely to acknowledge that there is a God, or that there is a Savior:  but to have sought acquaintance with our God and Savior through the thoughts and intents of the inward heart.

To keep the Lord’s commands involves three distinct things :  1. To regard them with watchful interest and approval.  2. To guard and preserve them as something precious.  3. To do them, to obey them.  [52]    



2:4                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     He who professes to know Him, and yet does not obey His commands, is a liar, and the truth has no place in his heart.

WEB:              One who says, "I know him," and doesn't keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth isn't in him.

Young’s:         he who is saying, 'I have known him,' and his command is not keeping, a liar he is, and in him the truth is not;

Conte (RC):    Whoever claims that he knows him,

and yet does not keep his commandments, is a liar,

and the truth is not in him.                                                         


2:4                   He that saith.   Anyone—everyone who does so.  [rw]

                        The previous statement is enforced by denying the opposite of it.  The construction, “he that saith,” “he that loveth,” &c. now takes the place of “if we say,” “if we walk,” &c., but without change of meaning.  [23]

I know him.  The case being hypothetical—if there be such a man, he is a liar, and has no idea of truth.  He must have lost the very power of recognizing truth to maintain that he knows Christ, when he habitually transgresses His commands.  It is no great thing, as Bode says, to know as the devils do, who "believe and tremble."  [24]

and keepeth not his commandments.  What He has appointed to be observed by his people.  [18]

Do we claim to be children of God?  Then we must prove it by our lives.  [30]

is a liar.  From the [inevitable] connection between the knowledge of God and the observance of His commandments, it follows that he who boasts of the former, but is wanting in the latter, has not the truth in him, but is a liar.  [19]  

The words “he is a liar” are stronger than “he lies” (1John 1:6), or “he deceives himself” (1John 1:8).  Not a single act, but his whole nature and being, is thus designated; the lie reigns in him.  There may first of all be wanting self-examination in the light of divine truth, or it may be self-deception and unconscious hypocrisy, but the conscious lie will follow; one desires to appear more than one is.  [20]

and the truth is not in him.  Gives emphatic prominence to the status, the emptiness of such a person.  [20]

No boasted acquaintance with sacred truths, no glib acceptance of a lengthy creed, are proofs of divine fellowship.  [44]  

                        Not a mere repetition, in a negative form, that the person lies; but a more radical and condemnatory statement--that he is utterly lacking in the gospel principle, the

new nature, the true religion.  [52]



2:5                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     But whoever obeys His Message, in him love for God has in very deed reached perfection. By this we can know that we are in Him.

WEB:              But whoever keeps his word, God's love has most certainly been perfected in him. This is how we know that we are in him:

Young’s:         and whoever may keep his word, truly in him the love of God hath been perfected; in this we know that in him we are.

Conte (RC):    But whoever keeps his word, truly in him the charity of God is perfected. And by this we know that we are in him.


2:5                   But whoso keepeth his word.  Conscientiously observes his doctrine, the spirit and letter of the religion of Christ.  [17]

                                                Moses also said the same thing, when he stated the sum of the law.  “Choose life, even to love the Lord thy God, to serve him and to cleave to him” (Deuteronomy 30:19).  [27]   

in him verily is the love of God.  Some, indeed, interpret “the love of God to us” is in 4:9, but the context shows that John had in view the love the believer has towards God (so Luther, Calvin, etc.).  [49]  

The term “verily” (ἀληθῶς) here means not only in reality, but also, in accordance with the principle of truth in the new man; harmonizing naturally somewhat with the similar word “truth” (ἀλήθεια) just before used [in verse 4].  [52]   

perfected.  Exemplified and fulfilled.  [12]

The full force of the Greek means “has been made perfect and remains so.”  [23]

He professes to have the love of God in his heart, and that love receives its completion or filling up by obedience to the will of God.  That obedience is the proper carrying out, or the exponent of the love which exists in the heart.  Love to the Savior would be defective without that, for it is never complete without obedience.  If this be the true interpretation, then the passage does not make any affirmation about sinless perfection, but it only affirms that if true love exists in the heart, it will be carried out in the life; or that love and obedience are parts of the same thing; that one will be manifested by the other; and that where obedience exists, it is the completion or perfecting of love.  [18]

hereby know we that we are in him.  In communion with him, and in conformity to him.  [25]   


                        In depth:  “Know” as a euphemism for “love” [23]?  This declaration shows that it is quite wrong to make “we know Him” in 1 John 2:3 and “I know Him” in 1 John 2:4 a Hebraism for “love Him.”  Even if “know” is ever used in the sense of “love,” which may be doubted, John would hardly in the same sentence use “know” in two totally different senses (1 John 2:3).  John’s mention of love here shows that when he means “love” he writes “love” and not “know.”  He declares that true knowledge involves love, but they are not identical, any more than convex and concave.  “The love of God” here means “the love of man to God: this is the common usage in this Epistle (1 John 2:15, 3:17, 4:12, 5:3).  Only once is the genitive subjective and means “the love of God for man;” and there the context makes this quite clear (1 John 4:9).           



2:6                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     The man who professes to be continuing in Him is himself also bound to live as He lived.

WEB:              he who says he remains in him ought himself also to walk just like he walked.           

Young’s:         He who is saying in him he doth remain, ought according as he walked also himself so to walk.

Conte (RC):    Whoever declares himself to remain

in him, ought to walk just as he himself walked.             


2:6                   He that saith.  He who declares his position is morally bound to act up to the declaration which he has made. To profess to abide in God involves an obligation to imitate the Son, who is the concrete expression of God’s will.  [23]

he abideth.  Abideth -- a condition lasting, without intermission and end.  [4]

It denotes a permanent life-union with God, holding fast by faith what has been received.  [51]

                        Greek, “remains” in him; that is, abides or remains in the belief of his doctrines, and in the comfort and practice of religion. The expression is one of those which refer to the intimate union between Christ and His people.  [18]

in him.  To be in Christ, verse 5, is to be converted to the Christian faith, and to have received the remission of sins.  To abide in Christ, verse 6, is to continue in that state of salvation, growing in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  [17]

The ambiguity of “in him” in many verses of the epistle:  Here, in light of the previous verses and that which follows in this verse, clearly of Christ.  [rw]  This figure is most simply expanded by comparing the influence, spirit, and presence of God to an atmosphere which is the constant “environment” and the determining condition of the Christian life.  Cf. Acts 17:28, “In him we live, and move, and have our being.”  John often speaks of “being” or “abiding” “in God” and “in him,” “him” being sometimes clearly God the Father, sometimes perhaps used with intentional ambiguity, so that it may be understood either of God or Christ.  John never uses Paul’s favorite phrases, “in Christ,” “in Christ Jesus.”  [45] 

ought himself.  Otherwise they are vain words.  [2]

Expresses the duty, the obligation inherent with the claim of being a true child of God.  [rw]

John does not say “must” (δεῖ) which might seem to imply constraint.  The obligation is internal and personal.  “Must” (δεῖ), frequent in the Gospel, does not occur in these Epistles.  [23]

also so to walk.  Ought to live and act as He did. If he is one with Him, or professes to be united to Him, he ought to imitate Him in all things.  Compare John 13:15.  [18]

God wants a genuine keeping of His will.  He abhors sham and hypocrisy.  A mere outward profession of faith, a mere crying, “Lord, Lord,” may make the desired impression upon men, especially since genuine good works may be imitated.  God examines the condition of the works very closely; He knows the motive which prompts every word and deed of every person.  The hypocrite may deceive others, but he cannot really deceive himself, and his efforts to deceive God are vain and foolish.  [15]

ought.  An obligation, put as a debt.  [1]

So that his deeds may be consistent with his words.  [4]

even as he walked.  “It is not Christ's walking on the sea, but His ordinary walk, we are called on to imitate” (Luther).

What is [it] to walk as He walked?  Is it not to live as He lived, to bear as He bore, to love as He loved, to hate what He hates?  [43]



2:7                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     My dearly-loved friends, it is no new command that I am now giving you, but an old command which you have had from the very beginning. By the old command I mean the teaching which you have already received.

WEB:              Brothers, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.

Young’s:         Brethren, a new command I write not to you, but an old command, that ye had from the beginning -- the old command is the word that ye heard from the beginning;

Conte (RC):    Most beloved, I am not writing to you a new commandment, but the old commandment, which you had from the beginning.  The old commandment is the Word, which you have heard.


2:7                   Brethren.  Beloved:  ἀγαπητοί, not ὀδελφοί, is the true reading.  [24]

                        If one remains with “brethren” as the translation:  Although not of the same family as in regard to earthly stock, he is of the same spiritual family as they and as a long term Christian—not to mention apostle—has a natural “family interest” in preserving their moral and religious integrity.  [rw]

                        If one prefers “beloved” as the translation:  This epithet naturally introduces some expressions on the love commandment.  It recognizes those addressed as persons who have entered into the circle of the divine love, and are especially dear to God and His people.  It marks John's own feeling toward them.  Standing in this relation to him, he could be the surer of their interest in what he was about to urge, and of their faithful application of it.  [52]

I write no new commandment unto you.  A reference to verse 6’s admonition to imitate the example of Jesus or to verse 8’s insistence upon love?  It is the same doctrine which you have always heard.  There has been much difference of opinion as to what is referred to by the word “commandment,” whether it is the injunction in the previous verse to live as Christ lived, or whether it is what he refers to in the following verses, the duty of brotherly love.  Perhaps neither of these is exactly the idea of the apostle, but he may mean in this verse to put in a general disclaimer against the charge that what he enjoined was new.  In respect to all that he taught, the views of truth which he held the duties which he enjoined, the course of life which he would prescribe as proper for a Christian to live, he meant to say that it was not at all new; it was nothing which he had originated himself, but it was in fact the same system of doctrines which they had always received since they became Christians.  [18]

Interpreted as a reference to the following verse:  The commandment of love is both old and new.  Old, because John's readers have had it from the beginning of their Christian experience.  New, because, in the unfolding of Christian experience, it has developed new power, meaning, and obligation.  [1]  

“New” as referring to Christ’s further refinement of the “old” commandment to love others:  It was exemplified in him, and is now fulfilled by you, in such a manner as it never was before.  “The new commandment,” says Macknight, “of which the apostle speaks, is that contained in verse 6.  That Christ’s disciples ought to walk even as He walked; and in particular that, as Christ laid down His life for His people, they ought to lay down their lives for one another, 1 John 3:16.  Thus, to walk as Christ walked, John, with great propriety, termed a new commandment, because, notwithstanding the precept to love one another was strongly enjoined in the law of Moses, consequently was not a new commandment, the precept to love one another as Christ loved us, was certainly a new commandment, and so is termed by Christ Himself (John 13:34) and is thus explained and inculcated [in] 1 John 3:16:  He laid down his life for us, therefore we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”  [35]

Why the need to emphasize that the teaching was not new?  He might have been induced to say this because he apprehended [= understood] that some of those whom he had in his eye, and whose doctrines he meant to oppose, might say that this was all new; that it was not the nature of religion as it had been commonly understood, and as it was laid down by the Savior.  Perhaps, also, the apostle here may have some allusion to false teachers who were in fact scattering new doctrines among the people, things before unheard of, and attractive by their novelty; and he may mean to say that he made no pretensions to any such novelty, but was content to repeat the old and familiar truths which they had always received.  Thus, if he was charged with breaching new opinions, he denies it fully.  [18]

but an old commandment.  viz. the commandment of love, which was given in the old law, but was renewed and extended by Christ.  (Challoner)  [29]

The word new may mean with reference to its age or date.  In that sense the divine law is not new because God has placed governing law before man ever since he has existed.  On that basis it is the old commandment and they had heard it from the beginning.  [9] 

It was part of the original law written in the heart of mankind.  It was renewed in the law of Moses, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” and was constantly brought out in different shapes in the Old Testament.  Thus, “Love ye the stranger, for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19).  “Blessed is he that considereth the poor and needy” (Psalms 41).  “What doth the Lord require of thee but to . . . love mercy” (Micah 6:8).  [42]

which ye had from the beginning.  Their first hearing of the gospel.  [3]

John has invented No new teachings, prescribed no new duties, but simply taught what was, of necessity, bound up in their received beliefs, and held by them from the first.  [51]

Other alternatives:  The meaning of “beginning” must always depend upon the context.  Several interpretations have been suggested here, and all make good sense.  (1) From the beginning of the human race: brotherly love is an original human instinct. Christian Ethics are here as old as humanity.  (2) From the beginning of the Law:  “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18) was commanded by Moses.  Christian Ethics are in this only a repetition of Judaism.  (3) From the beginning of your life as Christians: this was one of the first things ye were taught.  On the whole this seems best, especially as we have the aorist, which ye heard, not the perfect, as A.V., ye have heard.  [23]

The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.   The second “from the beginning” is not genuine.  [23]



2:8                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     And yet I *am* giving you a new command, for such it really is, so far as both He and you are concerned: because the darkness is now passing away and the light, the true light, is already beginning to shine.

WEB:              Again, I write a new commandment to you, which is true in him and in you; because the darkness is passing away, and the true light already shines.

Young’s:         again, a new command I write to you, which thing is true in him and in you, because the darkness doth pass away, and the true light doth now shine;

Conte (RC):    Then too, I am writing to you a new commandment, which is the Truth in him and in you. For the darkness has passed away, and the true Light is now shining.                                                     


2:8                   Again, a new commandment.  The “Again” introduces a new view:  that which from one point of view was an old commandment, from another was a new one.  It was old, but not obsolete, ancient but not antiquated:  it had been renewed in a fuller sense; it had received a fresh sanction.  Thus both those who feared innovations and those who disliked what was stale might feel satisfied.  [23]  

a new commandment.  The commandments of the Lord are new in the sense of being fresh and vigorous (not infirm as with old age).  The newness or liveliness of the laws of the Lord is manifested in their being able to dispel the darkness of ignorance, and shed the light of knowledge in the Lord.  [9]

                        There can be no doubt here that John refers to the commandment to “love one another,” (see verses 9-11), and that it is here called new, not in the sense that John inculcated it as a novel doctrine, but in the sense that the Savior called it such (John 13:34)  [18]  

                        It was a new commandment also, because since the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus there is a new motive to love, even the love of Christ (4:10), and a new example of love, even “the man Christ Jesus” (3:16); and a new kind of love is required of us, who have been incorporated into Christ, even to “love as brethren” (1 Peter 3:18), to love as Christ hath loved us.  [43]

                        I write unto you.  This way it will be a permanent reminder to everyone who reads these words or hears the words read.  It will serve as an ongoing reminder of your duty and responsibility.  [rw]

which thing.  The reference is to the contents of the new commandment,

the walking in brotherly love.  [51] 

is true.  I.e. evident, or verified, fulfilled, exemplified.  [14]

in him.  In the Lord Jesus.  That is, which commandment or law of love was illustrated in Him, or was manifested by Him in His contact with His disciples.  That which was most prominent in Him was this very love which he enjoined on all His followers.  [18] 

and in you.  Among you.  That is, you have manifested it in your contact with each other.  It is not new in the sense that you have never heard of it, and have never evinced it, but in the sense only that He called it new.  [18]

because the darkness is past.  Rather, is passing away:  present tense of a process still going on (1 John 2:17).  The “because” introduces the reason why he writes as a new commandment what has been proved true by the example of Christ and their own experience.  The ideal state of things, to which the perfect fulfillment of this commandment belongs, has already begun:  “The darkness is on the wane, the true light is shewing its power; therefore I bid you to walk as children of light.”  Compare 1 Thessalonians 5:5.  [23]

We have two options:  [The pleased reaction]—“The darkness is passing.”  Is this my stay, my hope, my joy in the hour of its fiercest power?  When it gathers thickest and falls heaviest, hiding God's face from me; when all about me and in me is so dark that I cannot see my sins; when a sense of guilt sinks me as in a dark pit, and “the sorrows of death compass me, and the pains of hell get hold upon me, and I find trouble and sorrow;”—let me fasten on this “thing which is true in Christ and in me, that the darkness is passing.”

[The partially regretful reaction]--But is it passing—this darkness?  Is it passing with my own consent?  Do I make it free and right welcome to pass?  Or do I cleave to it as if I would still have a little of it to abide with me?  Ah! this darkness, this shutting out of God!  How apt am I, if not to ask it, at least to suffer it, to return and remain.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  [37]

and the true light now shineth.  “True” in this sense means “genuine,” or “that which realizes the idea formed of it,” and hence “perfect.”  Christ and the Gospel are “the perfect light” in opposition to the imperfect light of the Law and the Prophets and the false light of Gnostic philosophy.  This form of the word “true” is almost peculiar to John:  it occurs 4 times in this Epistle, 9 times in the Gospel and 10 times in the Apocalypse: elsewhere in the N.T. only 5 times.  It is comparatively unimportant whether we interpret “the perfect light” here to mean Christ, or the light of the truth, or the kingdom of heaven:  but John 1:5, 9 will certainly incline us to the first of these interpretations.  The contrast with the impersonal darkness does not disprove this here any more than in John 1:5.  Darkness is never personal; it is not an effluence from Satan as light is from God or from Christ.  It is the result, not of the presence of the evil one, but of the absence of God.  Compare “Ye were once darkness, but now light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).  [23]



2:9                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     Any one who professes to be in the light and yet hates his brother man is still in darkness.

WEB:              He who says he is in the light and hates his brother, is in the darkness even until now.

Young’s:         he who is saying, in the light he is, and his brother is hating, in the darkness he is till now;

Conte (RC):    Whoever declares himself to be in the light, and yet hates his brother, is in the darkness even now.


2:9                   He that saith.  His saying [it] does not weigh or prevail against the moral fact.  Profession against truth is lighter than air.  [52]

                        he is in the light.  Namely, “the true light” of the last verse, Jesus the propitiator.  It is under the imagery of “light” and “darkness” now (in [verses] 9-11) that the antithesis between the Christian and the errorist is presented:  The “light” is the emblem of truth and purity blended in one; the “darkness” is the unity of error and sin.  [33]

and hateth.  “Hate” μισεῖν is not to be watered down into “neglect” or “fail to love.”  John knows nothing of such compromises.  Love is love, and hate is hate, and between the two there is no neutral ground, any more than between life and death, or between Christ and antichrist.  “He that is not with me is against me.”  “Love is the moral counterpart of intellectual light.  It is a modern fashion to represent these two tempers as necessarily opposed.  But John is at once earnestly dogmatic and earnestly philanthropic; for the Incarnation has taught him both the preciousness of man and the preciousness of truth” (Liddon).  [24]

his brother.  Does this mean “his fellow-Christian” or “his fellow-man,” whether Christian or not?  The common meaning in [the] N.T. is the former; and though there are passages where “brother” seems to have the wider signification, e.g. Matthew 5:22; Luke 6:41; James 4:11, yet even here the spiritual bond of brotherhood is perhaps in the background.  In John’s writings, where it does not mean actual relationship, it seems generally if not universally to mean “Christians: not that other members of the human race are excluded, but they are not under consideration.  [23]

is in darkness.  ἕως ἄρτι, up to this moment: notwithstanding any apparent change which may have taken place in him when he passed into the ranks of nominal Christians.  [22]

His supposing that hatred is compatible with light proves the darkness in which he is.  Nay, more, it shows that, in spite of his having nominally entered the company of the children of light, he has really never left the darkness.  “If ye loved only your brethren, ye would not yet be perfect; but if ye hate your brethren, what are ye?  where are ye?”  [24]

[“Darkness” =] in a state of spiritual blindness, of sin, perplexity, and entanglement.  For his malevolence blinds his reason to such a degree that he does not see what is right, and it extinguishes every virtuous inclination which would lead him to practice what is right, and puts him wholly under the power of bad passions; so that, in this darkness, he is in danger not only of stumbling, but of destroying himself; not knowing whither he goeth.  [35] 

even until now.  i.e. in spite of the light which “is already shining,” and of which he has so little real experience that he believes light and hatred to be compatible.  Years before this Paul had declared (1 Corinthians 13:2), “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, . . . but have not love, I am nothing.”  The light in a man is darkness until it is warmed by love.  The word for “now” (ἄρτι) is specially frequent in John’s Gospel:  it indicates the present moment not absolutely, but in relation to the past or the future. [23]



2:10                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     He who loves his brother man continues in the light, and his life puts no stumbling-block in the way of others.

WEB:              He who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no occasion for stumbling in him.

Young’s:         he who is loving his brother, in the light he doth remain, and a stumbling-block in him there is not;

Conte (RC):                Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause of offense in him.                                    


2:10                 He that loveth his brother.  Here the Apostle seems to make one Christian grace, loving one’s brother, [to be a substitute for all the rest] and in one most important sense it is so, for Christian graces which are the fruit of One Holy Spirit cannot be alone or by themselves.  The same Spirit who instills into the mind of the Christian love of his brother, will instill into him purity, and honesty, and the government of his tongue.  One grace may predominate, but all the rest will be there.  [42] 

abideth in the light.  Not only has entered into it but has made it his abode: see 1 John 2:24 [“Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning.  If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.”]  [23]

and there is none occasion [cause, NKJV] of stumbling in him.  Options in interpreting this [23]:  There are several ways of taking this. 1. He has in him nothing likely to ensnare him or cause him to stumble.  2. He has in him nothing likely to cause others to stumble.  3. There is in his case nothing likely to cause stumbling.  4. In the light there is nothing likely to cause stumbling;—the Greek for “in him” being either masculine or neuter, and therefore capable of meaning “in it.”  All make good sense, and the last makes a good antithesis to “knoweth not whither he goeth” in 1 John 2:11:  but the first is to be preferred on account of 1 John 2:11.

Yet in favor of the second it is worth noting that σκάνδαλον is commonly, if not always, used of offence caused to others.  The parallel expressions “the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4), “His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10; compare 1:8), make “in him” more probable than “in his case.”  And nothing here suggests the notion that the brother-hater leads others astray:  it is his own dark condition that is contemplated. 

Moreover, there is the very close parallel in John 11:9-10, “If a man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.  But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because the light is not in him.”  Compare Psalms 119:165, “Great peace have they which love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them;” i.e. there is no stumbling-block before them.  Where the LXX is very similar to this passage, omitting the preposition “in.” 



2:11                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     But he who hates his brother man is in darkness and is walking in darkness; and he does not know where he is going--because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

WEB:              But he who hates his brother is in the darkness, and walks in the darkness, and doesn't know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Young’s:         and he who is hating his brother, in the darkness he is, and in the darkness he doth walk, and he hath not known whither he doth go, because the darkness did blind his eyes.

Conte (RC):    But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness, and in darkness he walks, and he does not know where he is going. For the darkness has blinded his eyes.


2:11                 But he that hateth his brother.  And he must hate, if he does not love him:  there is no medium.  [2]

is in darkness.  The brother-hater has darkness as his habitual condition and as the atmosphere in which he lives and works.  [24]

and walketh in darkness.  The darkness is his home and the scene of his activity.  “The way of the wicked is as darkness:  they know not at what they stumble” (Proverbs 4:19).  [23]

Cf. "They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness" (Psalms 82:5); "The fool walketh in darkness" (Ecclesiastes 2:14).  St. John scouts all the pretences of men to illumination which do not involve the practical acknowledgment of brotherhood.  A man may say he is in the light as much as he pleases; but to be in the light implies that he is able to see his brethren, and not to stumble against them” (Maurice).  [24]

and knoweth not whither he goeth.  Like one in the dark.  He wanders about not knowing what direction he shall take, or where the course which he is on will lead.  The general meaning is, that he is ignorant of the whole nature of religion; or, in other words, love to the brethren is a central virtue in religion, and when a man has not that, his mind is entirely clouded on the whole subject, and he shows that he knows nothing of its nature.  [18]

Compare John 12:35, which is almost word for word the same as this, forming another point of contact between Gospel and Epistle [“Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you.  Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you:  for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth”].  [23]

because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.  “Blinded” must not be weakened into “dimmed:  the verb means definitely “to make blind” (John 12:40; 2 Corinthians 4:4).  Animals kept in the dark, e.g. ponies in coal-mines, become blind:  the organ that is never exercised loses its power.  So also the conscience that is constantly ignored at last ceases to act. The source of the metaphor is perhaps Isaiah 6:10 [“Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed”]; compare Romans 11:10.  [23]



2:12                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     I am writing to you, dear children, because for His sake your sins are forgiven you.

WEB:              I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.

Young’s:         I write to you, little children, because the sins have been forgiven you through his name;

Conte (RC):    I am writing to you, little sons, because your sins are forgiven for the sake of his name.                                                         


2:12                 I write unto you.  1 John 2:12-14 slightly breaks the argument.  It is prompted by John's desire to remove any impression which the earnestness of his previous words may have created, that he had misgivings as to the spiritual condition of his readers.  He speaks approvingly of their knowledge both of Christ (“him which is from the beginning”) and of the Father, and of their victories over temptation. He writes not because they are faulty, but to save them from being injured.  [10]

little children.  In this and the two verses following the writer uses the different age groups in a natural family to compare the ones with different talents and experiences in the family of God.  Little children, therefore, cannot mean those usually designated by the term, since they do not have sins to be forgiven.  It is used in view of some of them who were recent additions to the divine family by the spiritual birth.  [9] 

Or:  The phrase “little children” (John 13:33) is a term of endearment applied here to Christians in general (Matthew 18:6), whilst “fathers” and “young men” will represent two stages, the sage and mature, the active and strenuous.  [10]

Trying to turn it into a chronological reference:  He addresses as fathers, those who had witnessed the time of Jesus Christ engaged on earth: as young men, those who, having overcome the wicked one, ought also boldly to have subdued the world lying in the wicked one, and the lust of the world:  as little children, those whom, after the departure of the fathers and the young men, the last hour was unexpectedly coming upon, and in it Antichrist.  [11]

Are we trying to impose a preciseness on the meaning of the language that the author did not intend?  Many conjectures have been offered in regard to the distinctions intended by the writer in the several classes of persons addressed in this passage (1 John 2:12-14) and in the nature and appropriateness of the reasons assigned in each case.  But it is not certain that any accurate logical distinctions were intended.  We are probably to regard the changes in the forms of expression as only designed to give variety to the mode of presenting the considerations by which the various classes of Christians should feel impelled to give most serious and earnest attention to the instructions which they received.  [12] 

because your sins are forgiven you.  Past forgiveness implies also present forgiveness.  [49]  

Alternate translation option:  Some would render “that your sins are forgiven you;” and so in each of these sentences substituting “that” for “because.”  This is grammatically quite possible, but is otherwise highly improbable:  compare 1 John 2:21.  John is not telling them what he is writing, but why he writes it.  The forgiveness of sins is the very first condition of Christian morals (1 John 1:7); therefore he reminds them all of this first.  [23]  

for his name's sake.  Of course Jesus Christ’s.  It was by believing on His Name that they acquired the right to become children of God (John 1:12).  “The Name of Jesus Christ” is not a mere periphrasis for Jesus Christ.  Names in Scripture are constantly given as marks of character possessed or of functions to be performed.  This is the case with all the Divine Names.  The Name of Jesus Christ indicates His attributes and His relations to man and to God.  It is through these that the sins of John’s dear children have been forgiven.  [23]


2:13                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has existed from the very beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the Evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.

WEB:              I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, little children, because you know the Father.

Young’s:         I write to you, fathers, because ye have known him who is from the beginning; I write to you, young men, because ye have overcome the evil. I write to you, little youths, because ye have known the Father:

Conte (RC):    I am writing to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning.  I am writing to you, adolescents, because you have overcome the evil one.


2:13                 I write unto you, fathers.  The older men among his readers:  compare Judges 17:10; Judges 18:19; 2 Kings 2:12; 2 Kings 6:21; 2 Kings 13:14.  The address stands alone in [the] N.T.  The nearest approaches to it are Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21, where the actual fathers of children are addressed.  Augustine thinks that all the readers are included throughout.  Christians from one point of view are children, from another young men, and from another old men.  This is possible, but it ignores the order in which the three groups are ranged.  Compare Titus 2:1-8, where Paul in like manner gives directions as to the exhortations suitable for Christians of different ages.  [23]

Or as reference to time of conversion:  By fathers it is very likely that the apostle means persons who had embraced Christianity on its first promulgation in Judea and in the Lesser Asia, some of them had probably seen Christ in the flesh; for this appears to be what is meant by, “ye have known him from the beginning.”  These were the elders and eye witnesses, who were of the longest standing in the Church, and well established in the truths of the Gospel, and in Christian experience.  [17]

Improbability of having seen Jesus personally:  Very few of John’s readers could have done that.   Besides which to express this we should expect “ye have seen Jesus Christ,” rather than “ye have come to know Him that was from the beginning.”  [23]

because ye have known him.  Not known Christ in the flesh but have walked with him long and realized his presence.  [3]

that is from the beginning.  Observe John’s name for our Redeemer, “Him from the beginning,” from all eternity, as he spake of Him in his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word.”  [43]

I write unto you, young men.  These were confirmed disciples of Christ; persons who were well-grounded in the truth, had been thoroughly exercised in the Christian warfare, were no longer agitated by doubts and fears; hence they are said to have overcome the wicked one, verse 14.  They were persons in the prime of life, and in the zenith of their faith and love.  [17]

This statement concerning the young men was also true of the older members of the Church, “but John attributes this pre-eminently to the young men, because they, in accordance with their age, had just recently obtained this victory, and their care therefore must be especially this, not to lose again what had been lately won” (Huther).  [49]      

because ye have overcome.  Compare John 16:33.  Throughout both Gospel and Epistle John regards eternal life as a prize already won by the believer (John 3:36; John 5:24; John 6:47, 54; John 17:3):   the contest is not to gain, but to retain. We have perfects in each case (“have been forgiven,” “have come to know,” “have overcome”), expressing, as so frequently in John, the abiding result of past action.  He bases his appeals to the young on the victory which their strength has gained, just as he bases his appeals to the old on the knowledge which their experience has gained.  [23]

John is not here addressing those who have failed in the struggle and not repented, but those who have got the better of such temptations, or are in process of getting it.  [32]

The word “overcome” (νικάω) is Johannean; being used sixteen times in Revelation, six times in our Epistle, and only four times in the rest of the New Testament.  [52]

the wicked one.   The head of the kingdom of darkness, alluded to in 1 John 2:8, in whom “the whole world lieth” (1 John 5:19); elsewhere “the Prince of this world” (John 12:31),  [34]

I write unto you, little children.  i.e., persons intermediate between spiritual infancy and manhood.  [26]

Or:  These are the little ones, new believers in Christ.  A little while ago they were walking with the world in darkness, but they heard the gracious invitation of the loving Savior, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  Responding to His invitation, they came with all their sins and grief, and found how true a friend Jesus is to those who trust Him.  [30]

because ye have known the Father.  Known, understood His demands and requirements—and obeyed them.  [rw]

Hence what had been said of the spiritual knowledge of the fathers, in the former part of the verse, is true of all the disciples.  [52]



2:14                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has existed from the very beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong and God's Message still has a place in your hearts, and you have overcome the Evil one.

WEB:              I have written to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God remains in you, and you have overcome the evil one.        

Young’s:         I did write to you, fathers, because ye have known him who is from the beginning; I did write to you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God in you doth remain, and ye have overcome the evil.

Conte (RC):    I am writing to you, little children, because you have known the Father. I am writing to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.                                                           


2:14                 I have written unto you.  The “I wrote” refers not to a former letter, but to this.  It was an idiom to put the past, regarding the time from the reader's point of view: when he should receive the letter the writing would be past.  When he uses “I write, he speaks from his own point of view.  [4] 

                        fathers.  People may be very old in Christ and yet not be fathers in a spiritual sense.  Sadly, many who have been Christians for years are still very worldly minded and know little of true fellowship with Christ.  Paul earnestly prayed, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10).  It is this personal knowledge of God that constitutes one a father in Christ.  This is the height of Christian maturity, and comes through a life of intimate fellowship with Christ.  [30]  

because ye have known him.  To know Him means vastly more than to know about him (Philippians 3:10).  With John there is no true knowledge that is not associated with holiness.  [51]

that is from the beginning.  i.e., Jesus Christ.  Addressed, as it is to older Christians, the reference also carries the connotation that they should deeply appreciate the long time that they have known of and about their Lord.  They have set down deep, long lasting roots.  [rw]

I have written unto you.  The tense is now changed from the present to the aorist, I wrote.  The Received version has I write four times, hence this appeal is embraced in verse 13.  Many explanations of this change have been given.  Some have attributed the appeals in the present tense to the present and following parts of this letter, and the appeals in the past tense to the parts already written.  This is the view of Meyer.  Some refer the past tense to John's other and previous writings.  It is better to regard both tenses, the present and the aorist, as referring to this letter in its entirety, but regarding

it from different standpoints.  The present tense applies to John's immediate act of writing; the aorist to the reader's act of reading when completed.  This is sometimes called the epistolary aorist, used when regarding the letter as a whole when finished.  [51]

young men.  John applies this term to those less mature in the Christian life, embracing naturally the young disciples, immature in years, or immature in character.  Young life is fitted for conflict and conquest.  The young man is full of life, enthusiasm, energy.  [51]

Or:  These are the strong Christians who, although they may not have walked with God for as many years as the fathers, have yet gone on with Him into spiritual maturity.  They have learned the secret of overcoming.  In the book of Revelation we read, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11).  [30]

because ye are strong.  That is, that they were qualified for active and useful service in the cause of the Redeemer.  Children were yet too young and feeble to appeal to them by this motive, and the powers of the aged were exhausted; but those who were in the vigor of life might be called upon for active service in the cause of the Lord Jesus.  [18]

and the word of God abideth in you.  The Word is not merely to be known, it is to abide in us.  It is to dwell in our thoughts and in our affections; in this way it will control us, governing the whole of our lives.  If that point is reached by any of us, then it can be said that we are strong, for our lives will be founded upon the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture.  [8]

An echo of John 15:7 [“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you”].  This is the secret of their strength and the source of their victory.  They conquer because they are strong, and they are strong because God’s word is ever in their hearts.  They have God’s will, especially as revealed in Scripture, and in particular in the Gospel, as a permanent power within them: hence the permanence of their victory.  [23]

and ye have overcome.  The conflicts of life come in the early years ; the life will then, as a rule, overcome or be overcome.  He does not assert that there will be no struggles in after years ; but the same overcoming spirit should lead them to a final overcoming.  [51]

the wicked one.  The Devil, but overcoming him also requires overcoming the hindrances of nonbelievers in unknowing alliance with the Devil and his purposes.  [rw]

The assaults of the evil one will be especially against the young.  Their

passions and inexperience make them open to his assaults (Psalms 25:7; 2 Timothy 2:22).  John elsewhere alludes to the works of Satan (3:8, 10, 12) and to his power over the world (5:19).  We may be assured that the devil who left even Jesus for a season only (Luke 4:13), will not abandon his attacks as long as life lasts.  But Jesus Christ and the young disciple taken together will be stronger than any evil being or agency.  [51] 








All commentaries are in the public domain; the copyright having expired or never been on them. 



1          Marvin R. Vincent, D.D.  Word Studies in the New Testament.  1886.  Internet edition. 


2          John Wesley.  Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible.  1754-1765.  Internet edition.


3          Barton Johnson.  People’s New Testament.  1891.  Internet edition.


4          Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, David Brown.  Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible.  Unabridged edition.  Internet edition.


5          Charles Simeon.  Horae Homileticae.  1832.  Internet edition.


6          James Gray.  Concise Bible Commentary.  1897-1910.  Internet edition.


7          John Dummelow, editor.  Dummelow’s Commentary on the Bible.  1909.  Internet edition. 


8          Frank B. Hole.  Old and New Testament Commentary.  Internet edition.            


9          E. M. Zerr.  Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament.  Internet edition.


10        Arthur Peake.  Commentary on the Bible.  1919.  Internet edition.


11        John A. Bengel.  Gnomon of the New Testament.  1897.  Internet edition.          


12        John S. C. Abbott.  Illustrated New Testament.  1878.  Internet edition. 


13        Joseph Sutcliffe.  Commentary on the Old and New Testaments.  1835.  Internet edition. 


14        Matthew Poole.  English Annotations on the Bible.  1685.  Internet edition.        


15        Paul E. Kretzmann.  Popular Commentary.  1921-1922.  Internet edition.            


16        John Gill.  Exposition of the Entire Bible.  1746-1763.  Internet edition. 


17        Adam Clarke.  Commentary.  1832.  Internet edition.        


18        Albert Barnes.  Notes on the New Testament.  1870.  Internet edition.   


19        Heinrich Meyer.  Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament.  1832.  Internet edition.             


20        Johann P. Lange.  Commentary on the Holy Scriptures:  Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical.  1857-1884.  Internet edition.        


21        William R. Nicoll, editor.  Expositor’s Greek Testament.  1897-1910.  Internet edition. 


22        Henry Alford.  Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary.  1863-1878.  Internet edition.        


23        Alfred Plummer.  Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges.  1889.  Internet edition.  Basically a “simplified” version of the Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges.       


24        The Pulpit Commentary.  1897.  Internet edition.  


25        John Trapp.  Complete Commentary.  Lived 1601-1669.  1865-1868 reprinting.  Internet edition.  


26        William Godbey.  Commentary on the New Testament.  Internet edition.  


27        John Calvin.  Commentary on the Bible.  Internet edition.            


28        Joseph C. Philpot (1802-1869).  Commentary on Select Texts.  Internet edition.            


29        George Haydock (1774-1849).  Catholic Bible Commentary.  Internet edition.  

30        H. A. Ironside.  Ironside’s Notes on Selected Books.  1914.  Internet edition     


31        Lost source; rather than delete the material, I felt it better to simply list the unidentifiable volume and admit my error.          


32        Charles J. Ellicott, editor. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers.  Internet edition.          


33        Daniel D. Whedon.  Commentary on the Bible.  Internet edition. 


34        Philip Schaff, editor.  Schaff’s Popular Commentary on the New Testament.  Internet edition.  


35        Joseph Benson (born 1748).  Commentary of the Old and New Testaments.  Internet edition.  


36        Thomas Coke (published 1801-1803).  Commentary on the Holy Bible.  Internet edition.          


37        Robert S. Candlish.  The First Epistle of John Expounded In A Series of Lectures.  1877 edition.  Internet edition.           


38        Arno C. Gaebelein.  The Annotated Bible.  Internet edition.         


39        Joseph Parker.  The People's Bible.  Internet edition.       


40        Thomas Scott.  Commentary on the Bible.  Volume Six.  Fifth Edition.  London:  L. B. Seeley et al, 1822.           


41        Bernhard Weiss.  Commentary on the New Testament.  Volume Four.    New York:  Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1906.        


42        M. F. Sadler.  The General Epistles of SS James, Peter, John and Jude.  London:  George Bell and Sons, 1895. 


43        [Robert S. Hunt?]  The Cottage Commentary:  The Epistle to the Hebrews and the General Epistles.  London:  Joseph Masters, 1865.     

44        Charles Erdman.  The General Epistles:  An Exposition.  Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1918.      


45        W. H. Bennett.  The Century Bible:  The General Epistles—James, Peter, John, and Jude.  Edinburgh:  T. C. & E. C. Jack, 1901.     


46        John B. Sumner.  A Practical Exposition of the General Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude.  London:  J. Hatchard and Son, 1840.           


47        James C. Gray.  Biblical Museum:  Hebrews to the End of the New Testament.  London:  Elliot Stock, 1877. 


48        William G. Humphry.  A Commentary on the Revised Version of the New Testament.  London:  Cassel, Petter, Galpin & Company, 1882.    


49        Revere F. Weidner.  The Lutheran Commentary:  Annotations on the General Epistles of James, Peter, Peter, John, and Jude.  New York:  Christian Literature Company, 1897.           


50        A Short Protestant Commentary on the New Testament.  Volume 3.  Translated from the Third German Edition.  London:  Williams and Norgate, 1884. 


51        O. P. Eaches.  Clark’s Peoples Commentary:  I, II, and III John, Jude, and Revelation.  Boston:  American Baptist Publication Society, 1910.           


52        Henry A. Sawtelle.  Commentary on the Epistles of John.  Philadelphia:   American Baptist Publication Society, 1888.