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1 John 2:1 Commentary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

1. My little children ] The diminutive form ( τεκνία ) does not at all imply that he is addressing persons of tender age: it is a term of endearment. Wiclif has ‘litil sones’ as a rendering of the filioli of the Vulgate; Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Genevan Version all waver between ‘babes’ (which is far too strong) and ‘little children’. Setting aside Gal 4:19, where the reading is uncertain, the word occurs only in this Epistle ( 1Jn 2:12 ; 1Jn 2:28, 1Jn 3:7; 1Jn 3:18, 1Jn 4:4, 1Jn 5:21) and once in the Gospel (Joh 13:33). Possibly it is a reminiscence of Christ’s farewell address in John 13. S. John’s conception of the Church is that of a family, in which all are children of God and brethren one of another, but in which also some who are elders stand in a parental relation to the younger brethren. Thus there were families within the family, each with its own father. And who had a better right to consider himself a father than the last surviving Apostle? “The Apostles loved and cherished that name, and all that it implied, and all that illustrated it. They much preferred it to any title which merely indicated an office. It was more spiritual; it was more personal; it asserted better the divine order; it did more to preserve the dignity and sacredness of all domestic relations” (Maurice). Comp. the story of ‘S. John and the Robber’ (p. 24).

These things ] Probably refers to the preceding paragraph (1Jn 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.

I write ] Henceforward the Apostle uses the more personal and direct first person singular. Only in the Introduction (1Jn 1:4) does he use the apostolic ‘write we ’: contrast 1Jn 2:1 ; 1Jn 2:7-8; 1Jn 2:12-14; 1Jn 2:21 ; 1Jn 2:26, 1Jn 5:13.

that ye sin not ] The Apostle is not giving a command, but stating his reason for writing thus; in order that ye may not sin. Tyndale’s first edition has ‘that ye should 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.

And if any man sin ] Or, have sinned ( peccaverit): S. John is not telling the intending sinner that sin is a light matter; but the penitent sinner that sin is not irremediable. In both sentences ‘sin’ is in the aorist, and implies a definite act, not an habitual state, of sin. We are to avoid not merely a life of sin, but any sin whatever. And not merely the habitual sinner, but he who falls into a single sin, needs and has an Advocate. Sin and its remedy are stated in immediate proximity, just as they are found in life.

we have an Advocate ] Just as we always have sin (1Jn 1:8), so we always have One ready to plead for pardon. S. John does not say ‘ he hath an Advocate’, but ‘ we have’ one: he breaks the logical flow of the sentence rather than seem not to include himself in the need and possession of an Advocate. On Advocate or Paraclete ( παράκλητος ) see on Joh 14:16. It 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 N.T. only in S. John; here in the Epistle and four times in the Gospel (Joh 14:16; Joh 14:26, Joh 15:26, Joh 16:7). It is unlikely that S. 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 (Joh 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 S. 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 (Rom 8:26-27; Rom 8:34). Comp. Heb 7:25; Heb 9:24; 1Ti 2:5. Philo’s use of the word ‘Paraclete’ throws considerable light upon its meaning. He often uses it of the high-priest with his breastplate of judgment (Exo 28:29) interceding on earth for Israel, and also of the Divine Word or Logos giving efficacy in heaven to the intercession of the priest upon earth: ‘It was necessary that the priest who is consecrated to the Father of the world should employ an Advocate most perfect in efficacy, even the Son, for the blotting-out of sins and the obtaining of abundant blessings’ ( De Vita Mosis, III. xiv. 155). It is evident that the whole passage ‘the blood of Jesus cleanseth us’, ‘to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’, ‘Advocate’, ‘propitiation’ points back to the Mosaic purifications by the blood of victims, and especially to the intercession of the high-priest with the blood of the bullock and the goat on the Day of Atonement. That great type, S. John affirms, has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Comp. Heb 9:24.

with the Father ] Literally, towards the Father. The idea is either that of turning towards in order to plead with Him; or, as in 1Jn 1:2 and Joh 1:1, at home with Him, ever before His face. ‘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.

Jesus Christ the righteous ] Or, a righteous one: there is no article in the Greek. But in English ‘the righteous’ comes nearer to the Greek than the apparently more exact ‘a righteous one’. It is as being righteous Himself that He can so well plead with the ‘righteous Father’ (Joh 17:25; 1Jn 1:9) for those who are not righteous. And, as Bede remarks, “a righteous advocate does not undertake unrighteous causes.” It is the Sinless Man, the perfected and glorified Jesus, who pleads for sinners before the Throne of God. Note that neither in the body of the Epistle, any more than in the body of the Gospel, does S. John speak of Christ as ‘the Word’. In both cases that title is used in the Introduction only. When he speaks of the historic person Jesus Christ, S. John uses the name by which He is known in history. Of the perfect righteousness of this Man S. John has personal knowledge, and he alludes to it repeatedly in this Epistle.

Ch. 1Jn 2:1-6. Obedience to God by Imitation of Christ

1 6. The Apostle is still treating of the condition and conduct of the believer as determined by his walking in the light; there is no break between the two chapters. Having shewn us that even Christians constantly sin, he goes on (1) to point out the remedy for sin, (2) to exhort us not to sin. The paragraph begins and ends with the latter point, but the former constitutes the chief link with the preceding paragraph: comp. 1Jn 1:7. He who craves to grow in sanctification, and yet is conscious of his own frailty must constantly have recourse to the Advocate and His cleansing blood: thus he will be enabled to obey God more and more perfectly.

1Jn 1:5 to 1Jn 2:28. God is Light

1Jn 1:5 to 1Jn 2:11. What Walking in the Light involves

This section is largely directed against the Gnostic doctrine that to the man of enlightenment all conduct is morally indifferent. Against every form of this doctrine, which sapped the very foundations of Christian Ethics, the Apostle never wearies of inveighing. So far from its being true that all conduct is alike to the enlightened man, it is the character of his conduct that will shew whether he is enlightened or not. If he is walking in the light his condition and conduct will exhibit these things; 1. Fellowship with God and with the Brethren (5 7); 2. Consciousness and Confession of Sin (8 10); 3. Obedience to God by Imitation of Christ (1Jn 2:1-6); 4. Love of the Brethren (1Jn 2:7-11).

Consult other comments:

1 John 2:1 - Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

1 John 2:1 - The Greek Testament

1 John 2:1 - Barclay Daily Study Bible

1 John 2:1 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

1 John 2:1 - Joseph Benson’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

1 John 2:1 - Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

1 John 2:1 - Calvin's Complete Commentary

1 John 2:1 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

1 John 2:1 - B.H. Carroll's An Interpretation of the English Bible

1 John 2:1 - Through the Bible Commentary

1 John 2:1 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

1 John 2:1 - Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke

1 John 2:1 - College Press Bible Study Textbook Series

1 John 2:1 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

1 John 2:1 - Expository Notes of Dr. Constable (Old and New Testaments)

1 John 2:1 - John Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament

1 John 2:1 - Expositors Bible Commentary

1 John 2:1 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

1 John 2:1 - Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

1 John 2:1 - The Expositor’s Greek Testament by Robertson

1 John 2:1 - Expositor's Dictionary of Text by Robertson

1 John 2:1 - F. B. Hole's Old and New Testaments Commentary

1 John 2:1 - F.B. Meyer's Through the Bible Commentary

1 John 2:1 - Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

1 John 2:1 - Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books

1 John 2:1 - Geneva Bible Notes

1 John 2:1 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

1 John 2:1 - Gnomon of the New Testament

1 John 2:1 - William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

1 John 2:1 - Grant's Commentary on the Bible

1 John 2:1 - The Great Texts of the Bible

1 John 2:1 - Henry Alford's Greek Testament

1 John 2:1 - Smith's Writings on 24 Books of the Bible

1 John 2:1 - Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

1 John 2:1 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

1 John 2:1 - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)

1 John 2:1 - International Critical Commentary New Testament

1 John 2:1 - Biblical Illustrator Edited by Joseph S. Exell

1 John 2:1 - Commentaries on the New Testament and Prophets

1 John 2:1 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

1 John 2:1 - William Kelly Major Works (New Testament)

1 John 2:1 - The Popular Commentary on the Bible by Kretzmann

1 John 2:1 - A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical by Lange

1 John 2:1 - Cornelius Lapide Commentary

1 John 2:1 - Neighbour's Wells of Living Water

1 John 2:1 - Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer's New Testament Commentary

1 John 2:1 - An Exposition on the Whole Bible

1 John 2:1 - Church Pulpit Commentary

1 John 2:1 - The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

1 John 2:1 - Peake's Commentary on the Bible

1 John 2:1 - Commentary Series on the Bible by Peter Pett

1 John 2:1 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

1 John 2:1 - The Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Edited by Joseph S. Exell

1 John 2:1 - The Complete Pulpit Commentary

1 John 2:1 - Old and New Testaments Restoration Commentary

1 John 2:1 - Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

1 John 2:1 - A Popular Commentary on the New Testament

1 John 2:1 - Scofield Reference Bible Notes

1 John 2:1 - The Sermon Bible

1 John 2:1 - Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

1 John 2:1 - Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

1 John 2:1 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

1 John 2:1 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

1 John 2:1 - Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament

1 John 2:1 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

1 John 2:1 - Combined Bible Commentary

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges