From The Work of God's Children
THE FIRST EPISTLE OF ST. JOHN THE APOSTLE
The same vein of divine love and charity towards our neighbor, which runs throughout the Gospel written by the beloved disciple and Evangelist, St. John, is found also in his Epistles. He confirms the two principal mysteries of faith: The mystery of the Trinity and the mystery of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The sublimity and excellence of the evangelical doctrine he declares: This commandment we have from God, that he, who loves God, loves also his brother (1 John 4:21). And again: For this is the charity of God, that we keep His commandments, and: His commandments are not heavy (1 John 5:3). He shows how to distinguish the children of God from those of the devil: marks out those who should be called Antichrists: describes the turpitude and gravity of sin. Finally, he shows how the sinner may hope for pardon. It was written, according to Baronius' account, sixty-six years after our Lord's Ascension.
1 John Chapter 1
He declares what he has seen and heard of Christ who is the life eternal, to the end that we may have fellowship with God and all good through Him. Yet so if we confess our sins.
1:1. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled, of the word of life.
1:2. For the life was manifested: and we have seen and do bear witness and declare unto you the life eternal, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
1:3. That which we have seen and have heard, we declare unto you: that you also may have fellowship with us and our fellowship may be with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.
1:4. These things we write to you, that you may rejoice and your joy may be full.
1:5. This is the declaration which we have heard from Him and declare unto you: That God is light and in Him there is no darkness.
1:6. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth.
1:7. But if we walk in the light, as He also is in the light, we have fellowship one with another: And the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son cleanses us from all sin.
1:8. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
1:9. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity.
1:10. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar: and his word is not in us.
1 John Chapter 2
Christ is our advocate. We must keep his commandments and love one another. We must not love the world nor give ear to new teachers, but abide by the spirit of God in the church.
2:1. My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin. But if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just.
2:2. And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
2:3. By this we know that we have known Him, if we keep His commandments.
We have known Him, if we keep His commandments. . .He speaks of that practical knowledge by love and affection, which can only be proved by our keeping His commandments; and without which we can not be said to know God as we should do.
2:4. He who saith that he knows Him and keeps not His commandments is a liar: and the truth is not in him.
2:5. But he that keeps his word, in him in very deed the charity of God is perfected. And by this we know that we are in Him.
2:6. He that saith he abides in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked.
2:7. Dearly beloved, I write not a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you have heard.
2:8. Again a new commandment I write unto you: which thing is true both in Him and in you, because the darkness is passed and the true light now shines.
A new commandment. . .Viz., the commandment of love, which was first given in the old law; but was renewed and extended by Christ. See John 13:34.
2:9. He that says he is in the light and hates his brother is in darkness even until now.
2:10. He that loves his brother abides in the light: and there is no scandal in him.
2:11. But he that hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness and knows not where he goes: because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
2:12. I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake.
2:13. I write unto you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one.
2:14. I write unto you, babes, because you have known the Father. I write unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.
2:15. Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him.
2:16. For all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life, which is not of the Father but is of the world.
2:17. The world passes away and the concupiscence thereof: but he that doth the will of God abides forever.
2:18. Little children, it is the last hour: and as you have heard that Antichrist comes, even now there are become many Antichrists: whereby we know that it is the last hour.
It is the last hour. . .That is, it is the last age of the world. Many Antichrists;. . .that is, many heretics, enemies of Christ and His church, and forerunners of the great Antichrist.
2:19. They went out from us but they were not of us. For if they had been of us, they would no doubt have remained with us: but that they may be manifest, that they are not all of us.
They were not of us. . .That is, they were not solid, steadfast, genuine Christians: otherwise they would have remained in the church.
2:20. But you have the unction from the Holy One and know all things.
The unction from the Holy One. . .That is, grace and wisdom from the Holy Spirit. Know all things. . .The true children of God's church, remaining in unity, under the guidance of their lawful pastors, partake of the grace of the Holy Spirit, promised to the church and her pastors; and have in the church all necessary knowledge and instruction; so as to have no need to seek it elsewhere, since it can be only found in that society of which they are members.
2:21. I have not written to you as to them that know not the truth, but as to them that know it: and that no lie is of the truth.
2:22. Who is a liar, but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is Antichrist, who denies the Father and the Son.
2:23. Whosoever denies the Son, the same has not the Father. He that confesses the Son has the Father also.
2:24. As for you, let that which you have heard from the beginning abide in you. If that abides in you, which you have heard from the beginning, you also shall abide in the Son and in the Father.
2:25. This is the promise which He has promised us, life everlasting.
2:26. These things have I written to you concerning them that seduce you.
2:27. As for you, let the unction, which you have received from Him abide in you. You have no need that any man teach you: but as His unction teaches you of all things and is truth and is no lie. And as it has taught you, abide in Him.
You have no need, etc. . .You want not to be taught by any of these men, who, under pretence of imparting more knowledge to you, seek to seduce you (1 John 2:26), since you are sufficiently taught already, and have all knowledge and grace in the church, with the unction of the Holy Spirit; which these new teachers have no share in.
2:28. And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He shall appear we may have confidence and not be confounded by Him at His coming.
2:29. If you know that He is just, know ye, that every one also who does justice is born of Him.
1 John Chapter 3
Of the love of God to us. How we may distinguish the children of God and those of the devil. Of loving one another and of purity of conscience.
3:1. Behold what manner of charity the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called and should be the sons of God. Therefore the world knows not us, because it knew not Him.
3:2. Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God: and it has not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when He shall appear we shall be like to Him: because we shall see Him as He is.
3:3. Every one that has this hope in Him sanctifies himself, as he also is holy.
3:4. Whosoever commits sin commits also iniquity. And sin is iniquity.
Iniquity. . .transgression of the law.
3:5. You know that He appeared to take away our sins: and in Him there is no sin.
3:6. Whosoever abides in Him sins not: and whosoever sins has not seen Him nor known Him.
Sins not. . .viz., mortally. See 1 John 1:8.
3:7. Little children, let no man deceive you. He that does justice is just, even as He is just.
3:8. He that commits sin is of the devil: for the devil sins from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God appeared, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
3:9. Whosoever is born of God commits not sin: for his seed abides in him. He cannot sin, because he is born of God.
Commits not sin. . .That is, as long as he keeps in himself this seed of grace, and this divine generation, by which he is born of God. But then he may fall from this happy state, by the abuse of his free will, as appears from Romans 11:20-22; 1 Corinthians 9:27; and 1 Corinthians 10:12; Philippians 2:12; Revelation 3:11.
3:10. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil. Whosoever is not just is not of God, or he that loves not his brother.
3:11. For this is the declaration which you have heard from the beginning, that you should love one another.
3:12. Not as Cain, who was of the wicked one and killed his brother. Why did he kill him? Because his own works were wicked: and his brother's just.
3:13. Wonder not, brethren, if the world hates you.
3:14. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He that loves not abides in death.
3:15. Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer. You know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in himself.
3:16. In this we have known the charity of God, because He has laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
3:17. He that has the substance of this world and shall see his brother in need and shall shut up his bowels from him: how does the charity of God abide in him?
3:18. My little children, let us not love in word nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
3:19. In this we know that we are of the truth and in His sight shall persuade our hearts.
3:20. For if our heart reprehends us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things.
3:21. Dearly beloved, if our heart does not reprehend us, we have confidence towards God.
3:22. Whatsoever we shall ask, we shall receive of Him: because we keep His commandments and do those things which are pleasing in His sight.
3:23. This is His commandment: That we should believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He has given this commandment to us.
3:24. He that keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. In this we know that He abides in us by the Spirit which He has given us.
1 John Chapter 4
What spirits are of God, and what are not. We must love one another, because God has loved us.
4:1. Dearly beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits if they be of God: because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Try the spirits. . .Viz., by examining whether their teaching be agreeable to the rule of the Catholic faith, and the doctrine of the church. (1 John 4:6,) For as he says, He that knows God, hears us [the pastors of the church]. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
4:2. By this is the spirit of God known. Every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
Every spirit which confesses, etc. . .Not that the confession of this point of faith alone, is, at all times, and in all cases, sufficient; but that with relation to that time, and for that part of the Christian doctrine, which was then particularly to be confessed, taught, and maintained against the heretics of those days, this was the most proper token, by which the true teachers might be distinguished form the false.
4:3. Every spirit that dissolves Jesus is not of God. This is Antichrist, of whom you have heard that he comes: and he is now already in the world.
That dissolves Jesus. . .Viz., either by denying His humanity, or His divinity. He is now already in the world. . .Not in His person, but in His spirit, and in His precursors.
4:4. You are of God, little children, and have overcome him. Because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.
4:5. They are of the world. Therefore of the world they speak: and the world hears them.
4:6. We are of God. He that knows God hears us. He that is not of God hears us not. By this we know the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of error.
4:7. Dearly beloved, let us love one another: for charity is of God. Every one that loves is born of God and knows God.
4:8. He that loves not knows not God: for God is charity.
4:9. By this hath the charity of God appeared towards us, because God hath sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by Him.
4:10. In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because He hath first loved us, and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins.
4:11. My dearest, if God has so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
4:12. No man has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us: and His charity is perfected in us.
4:13. In this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us: because He hath given us of His Spirit.
4:14. We have seen and do testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world.
4:15. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
4:16. We have known and have believed the charity which God has to us. God is charity: and he that abides in charity abides in God, and God in him.
4:17. In this is the charity of God perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment: because as he is, we also are in this world.
4:18. Fear is not in charity: but perfect charity casts out fear, because fear has sin. And he that fears is not perfected in charity.
Fear is not in charity, etc. . .Perfect charity, or love, banishes human fear, that is, the fear of men; as also all perplexing fear, which makes men mistrust or despair of God's mercy; and that kind of servile fear, which makes them fear the punishment of sin more than the offence offered to God. But it no way excludes the wholesome fear of God's judgments, so often recommended in holy writ; nor that fear and trembling, with which we are told to work out our salvation. Philippians 2:12.
4:19. Let us therefore love God: because God first hath loved us.
4:20. If any man say: I love God, and hates his brother; he is a liar. For he that loves not his brother whom he sees, how can he love God whom he sees not?
4:21. This commandment we have from God, that he who loves God love also his brother.
1 John Chapter 5
Of them that are born of God, and of true charity. Faith overcomes the world. Three that bear witness to Christ. Of faith in his name and of sin that is and is not to death.
5:1. Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God. And every one that loves Him who begot, loves him also who is born of him.
Is born of God. . .That is, is justified, and becomes a child of God by baptism: which is also to be understood; provided the belief of this fundamental article of the Christian faith be accompanied with all the other conditions, which, by the word of God, and his appointment, are also required to justification; such as a general belief of all that God has revealed and promised: hope, love, repentance, and a sincere disposition to keep God's holy law and commandments.
5:2. In this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments.
5:3. For this is the charity of God: That we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not heavy.
5:4. For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory which overcame the world: Our faith.
Our faith. . .Not a bare, speculative, or dead faith; but a faith that works by charity. Galatians 5:6
5:5. Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
5:6. This is He that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ: not by water only but by water and blood. It is the Spirit which testifies that Christ is the truth.
Came by water and blood. . .Not only to wash away our sins by the water of baptism, but by His own blood.
5:7. There are Three who give testimony in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit. These Three are one.
5:8. And there are three that give testimony on earth: the spirit and the water and the blood. And these three are one.
The spirit, and the water, and the blood. . .As the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, all bear witness to Christ's divinity; so the spirit, which He yielded up, crying out with a loud voice upon the Cross; and the water and blood that issued from His side, bear witness to His humanity, and are one; that is, all agree in one testimony.
5:9. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater. For this is the testimony of God, which is greater, because He has testified of His Son.
5:10. He that believes in the Son of God has the testimony of God in himself. He that believes not the Son makes him a liar: because he believes not in the testimony which God has testified of His Son.
He that believes not the Son, etc. . .By refusing to believe the testimonies given by the three divine Persons, that Jesus was the Messiah, and the true Son of God, by whom eternal life is obtained and promised to all that comply with His doctrine. In Him we have also this lively confidence, that we shall obtain whatever we ask, according to His will, when we ask what is for our good, with perseverance, and in the manner we ought. This we know, and have experience of, by having obtained the petitions that we have made.
5:11. This is the testimony that God has given to us: eternal life. This life is in His Son.
5:12. He that has the Son has life. He that has not the Son has not life.
5:13. These things I write to you that you may know that you have eternal life: you who believe in the name of the Son of God.
5:14. This is the confidence which we have towards Him: That, whatsoever we shall ask according to His will, He hears us.
5:15. We know that He hears us whatsoever we ask: we know that we have the petitions which we request of Him.
5:16. He that knows his brother to sin a sin which is not to death, let him ask: and life shall be given to him who sins not to death. There is a sin unto death. For that I say not that any man ask.
A sin which is not to death, etc. . .It is hard to determine what St. John here calls a sin which is not to death, and a sin which is unto death. The difference can not be the same as between sins that are called venial and mortal: for he says, that if a man pray for his brother, who commits a sin that is not to death, life shall be given him: therefore such a one had before lost the life of grace, and been guilty of what is commonly called a mortal sin. When he speaks of a sin that is unto death, and adds these words, for that I say not that any man ask, it cannot be supposed that St. John would say this of every mortal sin, but only of some heinous sins, which are very seldom remitted, because such sinners very seldom repent. By a sin therefore which is unto death, interpreters commonly understand a willful apostasy from the faith, and from the known truth, when a sinner, hardened by his own ingratitude, becomes deaf to all admonitions, will do nothing for himself, but runs on to a final impenitence. Nor yet does St. John say, that such a sin is never remitted, or cannot be remitted, but only has these words, for that I say not that any man ask the remission : that is, though we must pray for all sinners whatsoever, yet men can not pray for such sinners with such a confidence of obtaining always their petitions, as St. John said before, 1 John 5:14. Whatever exposition we follow on this verse, our faith teaches us from the Holy Scriptures, that God desires not the death of any sinner, but that he be converted and live, Ezekiel 33:11. Though men's sins be as red as scarlet, they shall become as white as snow, Isaiah 3:18). It is the will of God that every one come to the knowledge of the truth, and be saved. There is no sin so great but which God is willing to forgive, and has left a power in His church to remit the most enormous sins: so that no sinner need despair of pardon, nor will any sinner perish, but by his own fault.
A sin unto death. . . Some understand this of final impenitence, or of dying in mortal sin; which is the only sin that never can be remitted. But, it is probable, he may also comprise under this name, the sin of apostasy from the faith, and some other such heinous sins as are seldom and hardly remitted: and therefore he gives little encouragement, to such as pray for these sinners, to expect what they ask.
5:17. All iniquity is sin. And there is a sin unto death.
5:18. We know that whosoever is born of God sins not: but the generation of God preserves him and the wicked one touches him not.
5:19. We know that we are of God and the whole world is seated in wickedness.
And the whole world is seated in wickedness. . .That is, a great part of the world. It may also signify, is under the wicked one, meaning the devil, who is elsewhere called the prince of this world, that is, of all the wicked. John 12:31.
5:20. We know that the Son of God is come. He has given us understanding that we may know the true God and may be in His true Son. This is the true God and life eternal.
And may be in His true Son. He is, or this is the true God, and life eternal. . .Which words are a clear proof of Christ's divinity, and as such made use of by the ancient fathers.
5:21. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
Keep yourselves from idols. . .An admonition to the newly converted Christians, lest conversing with heathens and idolaters, they might fall back into the sin of idolatry, which may be the sin unto death here mentioned by St. John.
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