Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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1 JOHN - Chapter 2

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1 John 2

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  GOD IS LIGHT  1, 5 -- 2, 27 (continued)

1, 5 -- 2, 2:  Walk in Light (continued).    2, 1.  My dear children: indicating the close personal relations between St. John and his readers.  That you may not sin: the Christian ideal is to avoid all sin.  The term advocate means a defender, consoler, mediator, intercessor.  Cf. John 14, 16.26; 15, 26; 16, 7.  The Holy Spirit continues the work of Christ here on earth.  Christ, however, remains our advocate in heaven.  Cf. Rom. 8, 34; Heb. 7, 24-25; 9, 24; 1 Tim. 2, 5.    2.  He is our propitiation: i.e., the essential office of Jesus consists in His act of expiation.

2, 3-11:  Observe the Commandments, Especially Charity.    3.  We know him: only he who keeps God's commandments can be said to know Him (cf. John 14, 15.21; 15, 10).  The knowledge is practical.    4.  Is a liar: the lip-service of those who, like certain gnostics of John's time, claim a superior knowledge of God but consider themselves exempt from the observance of the commandments.    5 f.  Abides in him: a frequent term in John's writings.

7-11: The commandment of brotherly love is singled out for special mention because of its practical importance.  It is called both an old and a new commandment.  That it is old, cf. Lev. 19, 18; Tob. 1, 19 f; 4, 16.  It is new because its full meaning in theory and in practice was revealed to us in the teachings and example of Christ.    11.  For St. John there is no middle way: not to love is to hate; and he who refuses to love is still in darkness.

2, 12-17:  Reasons for Writing.    12-14.  The different categories addressed, children, fathers, young men, refer to physical and not to spiritual stages.    15-17.  The term world, frequent in the writings of St. John, usually designates the men who are in the world, sometimes without any moral qualification (John 3, 16 f); more often, however, it designates the unbelieving enemies of God, and the kingdom of darkness, of Satan, which is opposed to the kingdom of light and of God (cf. Matt. 13, 22; John 1, 10; 12, 31; Jas. 1, 27; 4, 4).  St. John makes the disordered love of the world and its goods incompatible with true love of God.  He illustrates this inordinate love with three examples.  The lust of the flesh, the demands of the flesh replacing obedience to God; the lust of the eyes, unbridled curiosity to see and try all, even what is contrary to the will of God; the pride of life, the inordinate pomp and display of earthly honors, dignities, possessions.  Is passing away: the goods of this world are doomed to perish.  Worldly pleasures cannot satisfy the human heart; God alone remains eternally, and he who is of God, and not of the world, also remains forever, because he obtains eternal life.

2, 18-27:  Against False Teachers.    18.  In St. John the term hour is used to designate an extended, indefinite period (John 4, 21.23; 5, 25; 16, 2), or a period determined by God for some definite action (2, 4; 7, 30; etc.).  The expression, last hour, recalls the Old Testament terms, "the last days," "the end of days" (Isa. 2, 2; Jer. 23, 20; etc.), which usually refer to the time of the Messianic era.  Hence the expression here probably signifies this final period of the world, the Christian era, during which Christ will establish His reign in triumph over Satan (Dan. 7, 14).  The Apostle does not say how long this period will continue.  St. Augustine: "The last hour is a long hour, nevertheless it is the last."  As you have heard: from the predictions of Christ (Matt. 24, 5.24), and from the teaching of the Apostles (Acts 20, 30; 1 Tim. 4, 1; 2 Tim. 4, 3; 2 Pet. 1-3).  The coming of Antichrist is a proof that the last hour is at hand.

Antichrist is coming: "Antichrist" means both adversary, and one who is taken for Christ, who usurps the honor due to Christ.  This double characteristic is also found in the "man of sin" of whom St. Paul speaks (2 Thess. 2, 3-12), and in the beasts of the Apocalypse (13; 16, 13; 19, 19; 20, 1-3.7-10).  Commentators are divided in their identification of Antichrist.  Some prefer to see in him an individual, the great adversary of Christ, who at the end of time will appear and embody in himself all the world's hatred of Christ.  This seems to be the meaning of the term as used by St. John.  Others, however, prefer to see in Antichrist a collective personage, a personification of the enemies of Christ, of the many antichrists who have been, and are continually at work to destroy the kingdom of Christ.

19.  But they were not of us: they belonged to the Christian community, but were Christians in appearance only.  Christ had predicted that His kingdom would have a mixture of wheat and weeds (Matt. 13, 24-30).    20.  An anointing: probably the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.  The Holy One can mean anyone of the three Divine Persons, or the three Persons in the one God, although the Holy Spirit is perhaps meant primarily.  Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, the Christians possess a knowledge which enables them to distinguish between truth and error, between false and true Christians.    21.  No lie is of the truth: hence these false teachers never really belonged to the Church.    22.  Their principal error is the denial that Jesus is the Christ, that is, they denied the Incarnation, separating Jesus from the Christ, as did the followers of Cerinthus (cf. 4, 2 f).  This is ultimately a denial of the fundamental doctrine of the divinity of Christ.    23.  There can be no communion with the Father if one denies the Son.  The Father can be known only through the Son (1, 2; John 5, 23; 8, 19.42; 14, 6; 15, 23).    24.  Note the importance given here to the traditional teachings concerning Christ which are preserved by the Church.    25.  The life of grace, lived here in union with Christ, is the prelude to life eternal (John 3, 15; 4, 14; 6, 40; etc.).    26 f.  The Apostle again summarizes his purpose in writing, which is to warn his children, and to urge them to persevere in Christian truth.  It is to be noted that the interior teaching of the Holy Spirit, which is here referred to, in no wise excludes but rather includes the testimony of the Scriptures, or the infallible teaching authority of the Church established by Christ.

II.  GOD IS JUSTICE  2, 28 -- 4, 6

God is just, therefore we must do justice; and everyone who does justice is born of God.  Fellowship with God, which is the main thought of the Epistle, is here shown to consist in a real, singular sonship, effected not by our own faith or love, but rather by the love God has for us.  Justice is not the cause of our spiritual generation, by which we call God our Father, but rather its effect.  God's love and grace have made us His children, and as children of God we must practise justice.

2, 28 -- 3, 6:  Children of God.    28.  When he appears: this probably refer to the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time.  Those who walk in the light of the commandments need not be disturbed over this.    29.  Has been born of him: the practice of justice is made possible through a supernatural rebirth, by which man is said to be born of God.  Of him refers to God the Father, and not to Christ, since the faithful are never called children of Christ; they are rather called the brethren of Christ, and coheirs with Him (Rom. 8, 17).  [Commentary on this section is continued at the beginning of the next chapter.]


Confraternity Bible:

1 My dear children, these things I write to you in order that you may not sin.  But if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the just; 2 and he is a propitiation for our sins, not for ours only but also for those of the whole world.

Observe the Commandments Especially Charity  3 And by this we can be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments.  4 He who says that he knows him, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him.  5 But he who keeps his word, in him the love of God is truly perfected; and by this we know that we are in him.  6 He who says that he abides in him, ought himself also to walk just as he walked.

7* Beloved, no new commandment am I writing to you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning.  The old commandment is the word which you have heard.  8 Again, a new commandment I am writing to you, and this is true both in him and in you.  Because the darkness has passed away and the true light is now shining.  9 He who says that he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in the darkness still.  10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and for him there is no stumbling.  11 But he who hates his brother is in the darkness, and walks in the darkness, and he does not know whither he goes; because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Reasons for Writing  12 I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.  13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.  I am writing to you, young men, because you have conquered the evil one.  14 I am writing to you, little ones, because you know the Father.  I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.  I am writing to you, young men, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have conquered the evil one.  15 Do not love the world, or the things that are in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; 16 because all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; which is not from the Father, but from the world.  17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but he who does the will of God abides forever.

Against False Teachers  18* Dear children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that Antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have arisen; whence we know that it is the last hour.  19 They have gone forth from us, but they were not of us.  For if they had been of us, they would surely have continued with us; but they were to be made manifest, that not one of them is of us.  20* But you have an anointing from the Holy One and you know all things.  21 I have not written to you as to those who do not know the truth, but as to those who know it, and because no lie is of the truth.  22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  He is the Antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.  23 No one who disowns the Son has the Father.  He who confesses the Son has the Father also.  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 will abide in the Son and in the Father.  25 And this is the promise that he has given us, the life everlasting.

26 These things I have written to you concerning those who lead you astray.  27 And as for you, let the anointing which you have received from him, dwell in you, and you have no need that anyone teach you.  But as his anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true and is no lie, even as it has taught you, abide in him.

Children of God  28 And now, dear children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence, and may not shrink ashamed from him at his coming.  29 If you know that he is just, know that everyone also who does what is just has been born of him.
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*

7: The old and the new commandments are really one and the same commandment of love, promulgated in the Old Testament, but renewed by Christ, especially in the new motives and other helps supplied by Him.

18: It is the last hour: the meaning probably is that it is the last age of the world, the age of the Church.  How long it will last no one knows.  Antichrist: St. John supposes that the doctrine concerning the coming of Antichrist is already known to his readers.  "Antichrist" is commonly understood as a personal opponent of Christ at the end of time.  Cf. 2 John 7.

20: Anointing from the Holy One: the expression is usually understood to refer to the conferring of the Holy Spirit.