By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XXXV) 05/11/21

2:11 But whoever hates their brother or sister is in darkness. They live in darkness. They don’t know where they are going because the darkness has made them blind.

Robert Cameron (1839-1904) points out what he calls an unfortunate error in that chapter one should have ended with the second verse of chapter two. So, the text here in chapter two should begin with verse three (See NIV), which reads: “We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands.” Cameron says that we come then to the confession of fellowship and knowledge and the responsibilities that grow out of it. This confession comes in three forms: confession of knowledge, confession of abiding in Him, and confession of fellowship in light. As the word “know” is used in its highest sense, to be one with, it is a confession of union with God, with His life and with His light—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit implied but not named. The walk that should grow out of this confession is Here unfolded. As duty is the reverse side of doctrine, so possession is the opposite side of proclamation.[1]

Robert Candlish makes an interesting point here in verse eleven. He says that there is a well-known principle in ethics that may furnish us an illustration. It is that of sympathy, which shows that our moral instincts, judgments, and emotions are developed by putting ourselves in our neighbor’s place, seeing with their eyes, and feel with their hearts. It is the most wholesome adjustment obtainable for our sentiments on all questions of duty. But it is more, it is also a stimulus and incentive impulse.

If I wrap myself up in myself, says Candlish, I become a solitary being, bent chiefly or exclusively on preserving my virtue and the cultivation of my character. My sense of obligation, no matter how fundamental and alert, will get warped or grow sluggish. By staying aloof from my fellow beings – thinking only of me, interested only in self – leaves my ethics dwarfed and dimmed toward others but toward God.[2]

William E. Jelf (1811-1875) writes about addressing the fathers, sons, and children by the Apostle John. He says that in opposition to the proposition that John’s separate message to the children, the young men, and the elders target beginners, the maturing, and the wise Christians in different stages of life. But, says Jelf, the attributes assigned to each are not exclusive to the ages or stages of spiritual growth. All of them are committed Christians and have experienced victory over sin along the way.

It seems to me, says Jelf, that the Apostle John is pointing out issues that occur during particular phases of spiritual maturation. Christian life presented itself to the Apostle’s mind under the image of the three stages of life: innocence belonging to childhood, strength to adulthood, and wisdom to old age. These blessings belong proportionally to all Christians alike according to their faith. Their possession supplies the strongest motive to Christian perfection and obedience which John has been impressing and will impress still further on them.[3]

Ernst Dryander (1843-1922) admits that the Apostle John is not a thinker like Paul, who proves his points in sharply defined, consistent development. He does so by keeping the adversary’s position in mind, cutting the ground from under their objections, and refuting them. In one instance, Paul employs the logical sequence of thought, while in another, he appeals to the witness of his conscience.   

The Apostle John’s characteristically quiet contemplation arises out of the depths of a single thought, says Dryander. Silently and almost imperceptibly, the formation of his argument glides up step by step, often repeating itself, but gathering new riches, new significance. However, as Dryander notes, other earlier commentators see a certain dullness through all John’s writings; it is, however, not that of a mindless turning of the thought-wheel, but the tolling of a bell. It is a repercussion from above that echoes in the heart, attracting its attention.[4]

F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) states that it is possible to avoid known and presumptuous sin. We will be tempted, for that is an inevitable experience of life in this world, but we have the help of the indwelling Spirit. Yet, if some sudden gust of temptation should overtake us, let us not despair; our Advocate stands ready to intercede for us. The evidence that we have saving knowledge of our Savior, not obtained by the memory of an ecstatic experience, but because we are conscious of doing things for His sake, which we might otherwise evade. Let us continue to do such good deeds because we will enter the Paradise of perfect love by the path of patient obedience. The outer walk is the best evidence to ourselves and others that there is a lasting union between Jesus and us. Light involves love, and love, light. You and love are in the Light. Indulge hatred or ill-will, and you begin to grope in darkness.[5]

George G. Findlay (1849-1919) comments on the Apostle John stirring words about the advent of the pure Light coming to earth in the person of Jesus the Anointed One. Says Findlay, A new day is dawning for the world. At last, the darkness lifts, the clouds break and scatter; “the true light shines” out in the sky; the sons of light can now walk with a clear vision, toward a sure end. Earlier the Apostle employed this phrase, where he writes in the prologue to his Gospel, “There was the true Light coming into the world.” Here, his gaze is retrospective; and he describes the advent of the Word as that of a light long veiled (existing ages before John the Baptizer’s day) but now piercing through all obstruction. Now, at last! “The mystery hid from the ages and generations—hidden away in God, who created all things[6] — comes to light. The hour of the new creation has struck; the Voice has sounded, “Behold, I make all things new!”[7]

To what splendor the great day may grow, asks Findlay? John does not suggest or speculate, he declares. “The Son of God has come; we have eternal life in Him;”[8] this conviction fills John’s mind and brings him perfect satisfaction. He has lived through a day of a new creation; he has “seen the kingdom of God come in power.”[9] The religious world of John’s childhood and that era – what guilt lies between them, is a contrast between the old and the new within his lifetime; the more marvelous, the more he reflects upon it. Enough for him that the darkness passes, and the Light mounts in the sky. He is one who mourns for the morning in the east after a long stormy night; he has seen the sun climb the horizon and is sure of the day. The old Apostle is ready to say with the Jewish priest Simeon, son of John the Baptizer,  “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people.”[10] [11]

Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901) says that John distinguishes between “being in darkness” and “walking in darkness.” One is the inner cause, the other the outer effect; one is the moral state of nature, the other the spiritual life and new super-nature. The one trapped to walking in the darkness cannot see where they are going. The very goal of life remains hidden from their eyes. They are wandering stars moving along on an uncertain orbit, “to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.”[12] How fearful the reason assigned for these false braggers not knowing where they go. Sin has been the element of life so long that it has obscured their moral powers, and the course of life is but a tangled web leading down to the pit of darkness.[13]

Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965) makes note that the Apostle inserts a severe warning here. John warns that the person claiming to be in the Light and yet hates those in the Light suffers from a chronic sinful condition. They do not realize they’re treating Christians with disdain. After all, it’s like shooting an arrow in the dark of night, and they don’t know where it landed because they are blind. So, how can they know when walking in the dark on an unmarked path where they are going?

The distinction which the Apostle makes is obvious, says Kretzmann. If a person professes to be a Christian, people have a right to expect corresponding conduct from them. It is a form of behavior that agrees with the will and character of the Anointed One, one which is conspicuous for its show of brotherly love. When this is not the case, then everyone knows they are blind to what they are doing. In making this warning, the Apostle John makes a powerful appeal to all Christians to strive for purity of brotherly love based on justifying and sanctifying faith![14]

Rev. Priestly L. Greville (1891-1976) sees the previous three verses as an effort on the Apostle John’s part of stressing the test of genuine love and loving. These heretics were individualists. They had very little sense of the obligations of brotherhood and fellowship. Theirs was a thin-lipped, loveless intellectualism that gave no room for those who accepted everything the Gospel said by faith. On the other hand, those who stuck to their orthodox Jewish beliefs must remember that the Anointed One required them to love their opponents, although they despise their false teaching.[15] So don’t become like those you criticize and challenge their beliefs. If you do, then you become just like them.[16]

[1] Cameron, Robert: The First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 57

[2] Candlish, R. S., The First Epistle of John Expounded in a Series of Lectures, op. cit., pp. 119-120

[3] Jelf, W. E., Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 25

[4] Dryander, E., A Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John in the Form of Addresses, op. cit., p. 46

[5] Meyer, F. B. Through the Bible Day by Day, op. cit., loc. cit.

[6] Colossians 1:26; Ephesians 3:9

[7] Isaiah 43:18-19; 65:17; Revelation 21:5

[8] 1 John 5:11-13, 20

[9] Mark 9:11

[10] Luke 2:29-31

[11] Findlay, G. G. (1909)., Fellowship in the Life Eternal: An Exposition of the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 172-173

[12] Jude 1:13

[13] Cocke, A. R. (1895), Studies in the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 39-40

[14] Kretzmann, Paul E., Popular Commentary, First Epistle of John, op. cit., loc. cit.

[15] See Matthew 5:43-48; Cf. Revelation 2:2-3

[16] Greville, Priestly L., The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 51-52

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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