NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XXV) 04/27/21
2:6 If we say we live in God, we must live the way Jesus lived.
Robert Law (1860-1919) points out that verses three through six contain a threefold statement of the matter to be tested and the test appropriate to it and both on an ascending scale.
|THE TALK||THE TEST|
|2:3-4 We know God, so,||that we keep His Commandments|
|2:5a The Love of God is so perfected in us||that we keep His Word|
|2:5b We so abide in Him||that we walk even as He walked.|
Arno C. Gäbelein (1861-1945) sees the Apostle John now giving the characteristics of the true believer’s life, the eternal life, and applies specific tests. The profession of a Christian is that they know God. But how do we know that we know Him? The answer is, “If we keep His commandments.” It is not legality that puts the believer back under the law. Obedience is an outstanding attribute of those who’ve received everlasting life. They are determined to do God’s will. The Anointed One walked on earth in obedience. His daily nutrition was to do the will of Him that sent Him.
Since His life is in us as believers, says GäbeleIn, it must manifest itself in obedience to the will of God. We find the same in sanctification, set apart, to the obedience of Jesus the Anointed One. Ours is not sinless obedience as it was with Him; while the believer has their heart set on obeying the Lord and doing His will, they often fail and stumble, but they continue to aim at doing God’s will, for that is the nature of the reborn spirit. We see this in John’s words, “The one that says, ‘I know Him’ yet does not keep His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in them. But whoever keeps His Word, God’s love is perfected in them. As a result, it assures that they are in union with Him.”
William Barclay (1907-1978) tells us that years after the Gospels and writings of the Apostles became known, pagan Greek playwrights began to produce stage productions that sought to portray God having an emotional experience. The characteristic religious phenomenon of those days was the “Mystery Religions.” In any view of the history of any religion, they are an astonishing feature. Their aim was union with the divine, and they were all in the form of passion plays. They offered mythical gods who lived and suffered, died a cruel death, and rose again. The beginner received a long course of instruction and was urged to practice strict discipline. They pushed the trainee to an intense pitch of expectation and emotional awareness. They were then allowed to come to a passion play in which the story played out on stage was of the suffering, dying, and risen god.
They designed everything to heighten the emotional atmosphere. There was crafty lighting, sensuous music; perfumed incense; and a captivating liturgy. In this atmosphere, the worshiper identified themselves with the experiences of the god until they could cry out: “I am you, and you are I,” as they shared the god’s suffering and also shared its victory and immortality.
Paul W. Hoon (1910-2000) makes a good point by noting that we should not urge people to live a Christian life by obeying all kinds of laws. Instead, all motivation comes by offering the opportunity of living by imitating Jesus’ example and fellowship with His presence. And the more they faithfully walk as He walked, the more they find His Spirit continuously helping to get rid of their sinful desires and bringing their spirit into a genuine union of the knowledge of God’s love and fellowship.
Donald W. Burdick (1917-1996) finds in verses two through six a repetition of the examination found in 1:5-7, using different terms and figures of speech. John also introduces the additional idea of love for fellow believers. Burdick believes that John is comparing knowing with fellowship. But they are inseparable. How can a person say they love God but dislike their believing brothers and sisters? Also, how can anyone hope to enjoy fellow Christians if they do not love God? So, instead of being in contrast, knowing and fellowship is parallel concepts; they go side by side with each other.
John Phillips (1927-2010) reacts to what John says here in verse six about living as Jesus lived. He recalls how Dutch WWII concentration camp survivor Corrie ten Boom went to Germany to tell the German people about God’s love. She spoke at a church in Munich. Suddenly, she saw a man in the audience that she recognized right away as one of the most brutal guards at the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
At the end of the service, he came up to her, told her he had become a Christian, and asked God’s forgiveness for all the evil things he did at the camp. Corrie found it hard to believe that God would so easily forgive such a devil as this man. He reached out his hand to shake hers, and she stood frozen! The face of her emaciated sister flashed in her mind. It seemed as though the man had been holding out his hand for a long, long time before she reacted.
It was then that the indwelling presence of the Anointed One prompted her to respond. She reached out and took the man’s hand. Warmth, supernatural and sublime, flooded her heart. Tears came to her eyes as she said, “I forgive you, my brother – with all my heart.” If God could forgive him, then she could not deny him the same forgiveness. Even as those who beat our Lord pressed the crown of thorns on His head, mocked Him as He hung on the cross, He looked up and said, “Father forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”
Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) makes the point that the Apostle John includes a hidden message in verse five about the love of God made complete in the believer. That message is: “God’s love in them has reached perfection.” To understand this, John clarifies it later: “Perfect love puts fear out of our hearts.” Those who love God are not afraid to live in union with Him. And by living in fellowship with Him, they live as Jesus did. That is, they are not afraid to love God and love each other to be more and more like Jesus. In God’s eyes, that is the only way to complete His love for us.
Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) mentions how the Final Covenant calls the Christian life a “walk.” This walk begins with a step of faith when we trust the Anointed One as our Savior. But salvation is not the end – it’s only the beginning – of spiritual living. “Walking” involves progress, and Christians are supposed to advance in their spiritual life. Just as a child must learn to walk and must overcome many difficulties in doing so, a Christian must learn to “walk in the Light.” And the fundamental challenge involved here is this matter of “sinful tendencies.”
Ian Howard Marshall (1934-2015) points out that much of the criticism of teaching about perfect love arises from the danger of its proponents claiming perfect love for themselves and fall into the sin of pride. But anyone who proudly claims to have complete love shows by their very claim that they have misunderstood the nature of Christian love. It will become apparent later in the Epistle that by “love,” John means the kind of love which God showed in giving His Son to be the Savior of the world.
It is the sort of love, says Marshall, which does not look for personal reward but the benefit of the person loved. Much (but not all) human love is of the “getting” variety, where the lover is seeking their pleasure. “I love ice cream” is a relatively simple example of this attitude, although such love for anything may stand in the way of fulfilling our obligations. God’s love is of the “giving” sort, where the lover is seeking the benefit of the beloved and finding joy in giving happiness to others. Human pride is incompatible with this agape-love since it means that the lover is seeking selfish pleasure by their actions.
John Painter (1935) tells us that in Johannine writings, over half the uses of the Greek verb menō (“abide,” “abiding”) are tied to God’s Word, illustrated as [seed – sperma], and [anointing – charisma], that abides with the believer and the in the Light, in God, and the truth. The believer abides in God and God in the believer. The concentration of this theme in First John is unmistakable. Not only is the verb used twenty-three times in five short chapters, but in almost all cases, it speaks of abiding in God and His love, or God and His love in them.
 Law, Robert: The Tests of Life: A Study of the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 210
 John 4:34
 1 Peter 1:2
 Gäbelien, Arno C. The Annotated Bible, op. cit., loc. cit.
 Barclay, William: The Letters of John and Jude, Revised Edition, Daily Study Bible, op. cit. p. 47
 Hoon, Paul W., The Interpreter’s Bible, op. cit., Vol. XII, p. 232
 Burdick, Donald W. The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 28
 Ten Boom, Corrie, Tramp for the Lord, Published by CLC Publications, Fort Washington, PA, 1974, pp. 55-57
 Luke 23:34
 1 John 4:18
 Brown, Raymond E., The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 257
 Wiersbe, Warren W., Be Real (1 John), op. cit., pp. 35-36
 Marshall, I. Howard. The Epistles of John, op. cit., p. 126
 In the KJV menō is translated 61 times as “abide;” 16 times as “remain;” 15 times as “dwell;” 11 times as “continue;” 9 times as “tarry;” 3 times as “endure,” and 5 times miscellaneous terms.
 See 1 John 2:6, 10, 14, 17, 24, 27-28; 3:6, 9, 14-15, 24; 4:12-13, 15-16; 2 John 1:2, 6
 1 John 3:16
 Painter, John. Sacra Pagina, Vol. 18, op. cit., (Kindle Locations 2543-2547)