WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XL) 05/18/21

2:14 I write to you, children because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers because you know the one who existed from the beginning. I write to you, young people because you are strong. The word of God lives in you, and you have defeated the Evil One.

Albert Barnes makes note by saying that there are differences of opinion among commentators regarding this verse and the three following verses, due to the apparent recurrence of the thought. Barnes says that the Nonconformist minister, Philip Doddridge (1702-1751), supposes many errors have crept into the text. Doddridge feels that we should omit verses thirteen and fourteen to avoid repetition.[1] We could connect verses twelve and fifteen to read: “I write to you, dear children, because your sins are forgiven through the Anointed One. Don’t love this evil world or the things in it. If you love the world, you do not have a love of the Father in you.”

But, says Barnes, there is no authority for omitting any portion of the text, and the passage is very much in accord with the general style of the Apostle John. The author of this epistle felt accustomed to expressing his thoughts in various ways, even by using repetition, that the exact idea might be visible for his readers, to avoid misinterpretation. To show that the truths he writes in this letter pertained to all and secure the interest of all in them, he addresses different segments and says that there were reasons for writing each group.[2]

Heinrich Meyer (1800-1873) notes John says some of the same things to the elders and children’s groups, but reserved mention the recent victory over the evil one by the young men because they proved to be faithful and steadfast by having God’s word living in their hearts. The Apostle was taking care that they did not lose again what they just won by the power of God’s Word. And that victory was over the devil and his schemes.[3] Commentators notice that John attributes this to their being “strong in spirit,” with supernatural ability to battle.[4] [5]

Frederick D. Maurice (1805-1872) notes that the Jewish nation is spoken of in the First Covenant as a holy nation, consecrated and sacrificed to God. Every Jew was to claim to be a godly, devoted person who made the appropriate sacrifices. When they confessed their sin and presented the offering, God restored them to their proper position.

The Holy Jewish nation was to be holy in the Messiah, their divine King. When He manifested Himself as the Son of Man, it showed He was the Chosen One. When He sacrificed Himself, He offered up the Israelites as a living sacrifice acceptable to God. Each person was to claim that privilege as a gift to God, as one of a redeemed body. When they confess their sins – namely, their separation from the Anointed One and His sacrifice – they asked to be restored to the blessing of that sacrifice; they asked that they may offer themselves again as a sacrifice in the name of the Anointed One. Unfortunately, most of the Jews rejected this plan to stick with the schedule given to Moses. However, it became the core meaning of the Christian faith.[6]

Robert Candlish (1806-1873) says clearly there are two parallel lines running through this text. So, for the symmetry of the passage it requires to make the last clause of the thirteenth verse consistent with the fourteenth. This will form a synonymous[7] parallelism, such as we find in Psalm twenty-two. When placed together from the NIV text, they read like this:


I am writing to you, dear children,     
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I write to you, dear children,     
because you know the Father.  
I am writing to you, fathers,     
because you know Him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, fathers     
because you know Him who is from the beginning.  
I am writing to you, young men,     
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, young men     
because you are strong and the Word of God lives in you, and you have
overcome the evil one. [8]

Johann Huther says that after the Apostle depicted the Christian life in its essential features, he moves on from explanation to exhortation. These verses form an introduction in which John assures his readers that their commitment to Christianity is his reason for writing. The motive revealed in this also explains the form of expression. The Apostle had an earnest longing that his readers may take away the following exhortation about knowing God, knowing His Son, and knowing that they are His children.[9]

The Reverend Gordon Calthrop (1823-1894), vicar of St. Augustine’s Church in Highbury, England, shares and excellent illustration to help us picture what the Apostle John is talking about here in verse fourteen about not loving the world. He relates how years ago, he visited a terminally ill friend, held in the grip of an incurable disease. He always had an explanation for his shrinking physical form. One day, he was not feeling well, and another day he’s doing better. Then it starts all over again. He ate some food one day that did not agree with him, and things turned for the worst. Despite his deteriorating condition, he found something to blame – a cold east wind, eating the wrong food, lack of sleep, etc. Although everyone could see he was gradually declining in health, he found a way to excuse it with unfortunate circumstances or an unfavorable situation. Yet, day after day, he came nearer and nearer to the river banks of death. So, says Calthrop, could this not be the same condition with some people’s soul?

It is hard to miss, says Calthrop. You see someone drifting away from the harbor of grace and floating aimlessly out to sea, driven by the tide and lukewarm winds of contentment. They admit their love for God’s Word has grown cold; their church attendance now consists of special days and events. For the last few years, they only attended as a matter of duty or for family pride. Prayers are said only when they find themselves in trouble. Shouldn’t we then conclude that the cause of their backsliding is the unraveling of the fabric of their spiritual oneness with God and the Anointed One?[10] That is something John did not want to happen to these steadfast pillars of the congregation upon whom, so many depended on their faithfulness. Unfortunately, many church members are afraid to stand up and stand out because of their spiritual condition.

Andrew Maclaren (1826-1910) tells us that the Apostle John establishes three points here in this verse. First, he lays his finger upon the strength, which is more than mere physical strength, proper to youth. Secondly, he lets us see the secret source of that strength: “You have the Word of God abiding in you.” Thirdly, he shows the level on which to exercise it and the victory which it secures: “You have overcome the wicked one.”[11]

George G. Findlay (1849-1919) gives a sparking exposition here about knowing the Anointed One. He writes: as in the soul of a believer, so in the soul of the Church. “To know Him” is the supreme possession. Both the great thinkers among the older Apostles – Paul and John, set this down as the crown jewel of faith – knowing God. Paul counted every other prize as secondary to this: “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.”

For Findlay, Paul counted every other prize as conceded so – “that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.”[12] He represents the mark of the Christian calling in a different light from that used by John. Paul sought the knowledge of His Master as it lay in the path of his ministry, subject to cross-bearing and self-sacrifice.

But for the Apostle John, notes Findlay, contemplating the knowledge of the Anointed One objectively. It concerns what the Redeemer is, not in His servants and the members of His body, but Himself. It relates to His absolute relationship to God and the world. The experimental question possessed the mind of the one Apostle, the theological question that of the other. But Jesus the Anointed One is the center of both problems.

To know Him,” continues Findlay, is the goal alike of life and thought, whether one would sink by fellowship into the depth of His sufferings or rise in contemplation to the heights of His glory. As time went by, each of these remarkable men made the chief pre-occupation of life; “the Anointed One is all and in all.”[13] What the Master was to Paul and John as the central object of the mind, Jesus the Anointed One must increasingly become the main focus of thought for believers. It is for the fathers – for those who have learned most and proved most of life’s needs – that the knowledge of Jesus the Anointed One has an enormous wealth of interest.[14]


[1] Doddridge, Philip: The Family Expositor; a Paraphrase and Version of the New Testament; with Critical Notes, published by Frederick Westley and A. H. Davis, London, 1831, p.878, footnote “c.”

[2] Albert Barnes: New Testament Notes, op. cit., pp. 4815-4816

[3] Cf. Matthew 13:19, 38-39; Ephesians 6:16; 1 John 3:12; 5:18-19

[4] Hebrews 11:34; Luke 11:21; Matthew 12:29

[5] Heinrich A. W. Meyer, Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 517

[6] Maurice, F. D., The Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 111-112

[7] A Synonymous Parallelism is two lines that say the same thing with different words.

[8] Candlish, R. S., The First Epistle of John Expounded in a Series of Lectures, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 150

[9] Johann Huther: Handbook on Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 328-329

[10] Arnold, Thomas; Maurice, F.D.; Burgon, John. Church Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., Kindle Location 92813

[11] MacLaren, Alexander. Commentary (Expositions of Holy Scripture), op. cit., (Kindle Locations 167782-167785)

[12] Philippians 3:7-11

[13] Colossians 3:11

[14] Findlay, G. G. (1909), Fellowship in the Life Eternal: An Exposition of the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 186–187

About drbob76

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