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On the Epistles of John, Part 2: The Propitiation for Sin
In our opening presentation in this commentary, discussing 1 John chapter 1, we saw the apostle repeat particular themes from his Gospel in relation to the nature of Christ, that, among other things, He is the Word of Life, and He is the true Light come into the World. Doing that, we used an accompanying illustration which seeks to describe the various ways in which Yahweh, the Invisible God, chose to manifest Himself in the world. Among these are the burning in the bush which appeared to Moses, the pillars of cloud and fire which led the Israelites out of Egypt, the Rock in the desert, and finally, as the man Yahshua Christ, who is also the Son. Sadly, there are trinitarians who also call themselves Christian Identity, but who do not realize that the concept of the trinity is contrary to the truth of God.
It is not that Yahweh God became or made Himself into a pillar of smoke or a pillar of fire, but that He used the pillars of smoke and fire as signs indicating that He was present with the children of Israel to lead them out of Egypt. So from the perspective of man, we read in Exodus chapter 13 that “21… the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:” Likewise, in Exodus chapter 3, while the burning in the bush was initially called an “angel”, an angel is only a messenger, and an angel does not have to be a sentient being, as even the elements of Creation may be used by God to send a message. So after Moses wrote that “the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire”, as it is in the King James Version, in that same place we then read: “4 And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.” It was not an angel who spoke to Moses, but Yahweh God Himself, described as being in the flames in the bush. Therefore the flames themselves were the angel, as they were employed to attract the attention of Moses and to represent to presence of the Invisible God. Perhaps trinitarians may imagine Moses to have been speaking to a man with wings and a white garment sitting in the flames in a bush, but that is not what the Scripture implies.
Likewise the Rock in the Desert, of which Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 where he said “1 Now I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all had passed through the sea. 2 And all up to Moses had immersed themselves in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all had eaten the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank of an attending spiritual rock, and that rock was Christ.” Trinitarians claim this was some sort of preincarnate Christ, a concept which they strive to find in an assortment of disparate Scriptures, none of which stand as proof of their claims.
Rather, Paul of Tarsus and the other apostles knew nothing of a trinity, and neither did Moses, because the concept is not found in Scripture. The trinity concept was developed later by so-called “Church Fathers” who were much more interested in worldly wisdom, in Plato and Aristotle, than they were in Scripture. In the writings of Clement of Alexandria, for example, who was a follower of Plato, he cited passages from Plato which he believed were allusions to the trinity, upholding them as authorities supporting the concept as if to give it greater credibility.
Furthermore, Paul of Tarsus was not making a novel association where he wrote that “they drank of an attending spiritual rock, and that rock was Christ.” Moses also wrote of that Rock, and it is found in the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 32. The song opens with a beckoning for Israel to listen to his words: “1 Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. 2 My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: 3 Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. 4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”
Then a little further on, where Moses admonished the children of Israel for going astray, we read: “15 But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation…. 18 Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee. 19 And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters.” The epithet Jeshurun (or Jesurun) means “the upright one” and it is used as a symbolic name for Israel in their ideal state of obedience to God. So it also appears in that manner in Isaiah chapter 44, and twice more here in Deuteronomy chapter 33.
Finally, a little further on we read “30 How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had shut them up? 31 For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.” Then, in reference to the heathen nations a few verses later it says “ 36 For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left. 37 And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, 38 Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection.”
Throughout these passages of Deuteronomy, the Rock in the desert is said to be God, and then more specifically, it is said to be Yahweh, who is the only God of Israel. The same Moses who wrote the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 32 also wrote these words in Deuteronomy chapter 6: “4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Yet Paul of Tarsus attested that the Rock in the Desert was Christ, and of course Paul must have been familiar with the Song of Moses.
So in his epistle, did Paul contradict Moses? Yet the same Paul wrote in his epistle to the Ephesians that “4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” That word for Lord, κύριος, was used by Paul throughout his epistles in reference to both Yahshua Christ and to Yahweh, God the Father, but neither was Paul contradicting himself. The same Paul wrote that Christ is the “fulness of the Divinity bodily” in his epistle to the Colossians, and also that Christ is, in reference to God, “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person”, in his epistle to the Hebrews. Christ is not the image of His Own person, He is the image of the person of God the Father, because he is the person of God the Father. The only way to reconcile the words of Moses and those of Paul is to understand that Yahshua Christ is indeed Yahweh God the Father Incarnate, and that the only preincarnate Christ is the One God of Israel, who is Yahweh God the Father.
The physical body of Christ is an earthly temple for God the Father. In John chapter 2, as the adversaries of Christ sought a sign from Him, we read “19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? 21 But he spake of the temple of his body.” Christ is also the temple of God in the future City of God as we read in Revelation chapter 22 where John describes the city and says “22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” Of course, God is invisible, so Christ had said, as it is recorded in John chapter 14: “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father”.
Christ the Lamb, the image of the person of God as Paul described Him in Hebrews chapter 1, is also the fulfillment of a promise made by Yahweh in Ezekiel chapter 37: “26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. 27 My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.” So, in reference to Christ we read in Revelation chapter 21: “3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” This does not contradict the fact that God is invisible, as Christ is the image of the person of God, so Paul wrote in Colossians chapter 1 and attested that Christ “15… is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature; 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” Again, by saying this Paul was not contradicting Moses, who wrote in Exodus chapter 20 “11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day….” Rather, all things having been created both by Him and for Him, Yahshua Christ assumes both roles, as the Creator and as the principle heir to His Creation, which is Yahweh God as both the Father and the Son.
Yahweh God dwelling with man as Yahshua Christ was the plan of God from the beginning. But because Christ was the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world”, as we read in Revelation chapter 13, it was also known by God from the beginning that He would have to offer Himself as a propitiation for their sins. The trinitarians would insist that some God separate from the Father, a different person of God whom they imagine to be God the Son, had died to propitiate the sins of the children of Israel. But how could that be? How could a single son die to propitiate the sins of an entire people, regardless of the status of that son? Why or how could one man be slain purposely to propitiate the sins of another? All of this is contrary to the law of God. In Deuteronomy chapter 24 we read: “16 The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” If Christ, the Son, had died on behalf of the Father, that does not fulfill the law, and if He had died on behalf of the Father’s wife, the Mother, which is the nation of the children of Israel, neither would that fulfill the law. Both predicaments are contrary to the law. But Christ came to fulfill the law, not to destroy it (Matthew 5:17), and to release Israel from the penalties of the law which demanded death.
As Paul also wrote, in Romans chapter 10, “4 For Christ is the end [or fulfillment] of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” For this to be true, it seems that we must believe how Christ had fulfilled the law, and not merely that He had fulfilled it. Therefore we should be able to discern from the Scripture just how His death had fulfilled the law, thereby making Him a propitiation for the sins of the children of Israel. As Yahweh said in Isaiah chapter 52, speaking in reference to the sins and the resulting captivities of Israel: “3 For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money.”
While we had discussed aspects of the opening verses of 1 John chapter 2 in our last presentation, here we shall repeat those verses, so that we may discuss them even further:
II 1 My children, I write these things to you in order that you do not do wrong. And if one should do wrong, we have an Advocate with the Father: the righteous Yahshua Christ. 2 And He is a propitiation on behalf of our errors; yet not for ours only but for the whole Society.
Paul of Tarsus used different language, but drew a similar analogy where he compared Moses, the mediator of the Sinai covenant, to Christ, the mediator of the New Covenant, and said: “6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.” The New Covenant, as we learn in Luke chapter 1 and elsewhere, was established on the unconditional promises which God had made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, where the Sinai covenant was based on the promises of Israel to keep the law, something which they continually failed to do.
As we have already explained, the verb ἁμαρτάνω is to do wrong here, and the noun ἁμαρτία is errors, being plural. Both terms may have been translated as sin. And once again, just as John had attested in chapter 1 of this epistle, if we walk in the light and confess our sins then they shall be remitted, or perhaps forgiven, by Christ. But here where we see that when Christians sin they have an Advocate in Christ, who is the propitiation for their sin, we must ask, how did the death of Christ make a propitiation for sin? The law rejects the idea that one man may die in place of another for his sins, since if a man commits an offense which is worthy of death, then he must die for his own sin, according to Deuteronomy chapter 24. This we read again in, 2 Kings chapter 14, as Amaziah ascended to be king of Judah upon the death of Joash his father: “5 And it came to pass, as soon as the kingdom was confirmed in his hand, that he slew his servants which had slain the king his father. 6 But the children of the murderers he slew not: according unto that which is written in the book of the law of Moses, wherein the LORD commanded, saying, The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” Yahshua Christ had no sin, but He was put to death for the sins of all Israel, yet how does that absolve Israel of sin under the law? There is no such law which explains or provides for that situation.
In Romans chapter 6 Paul of Tarsus gave a lengthy discourse attesting that the death of Christ had cleansed his intended readers of their sin, and for that reason that they should sin no more, since continuing in sin kept them in bondage to sin, where departing from sin one has liberty in Christ. Where there is a chapter break which Paul himself did not make, and a new chapter begins in Romans chapter 7, the subject has not changed, and Paul continues to discuss the relationship between himself and his intended readers and sin and the law through the end of that chapter.
In the opening verses of that chapter, Paul discusses the relationship of a wife to a husband, who is subject to the law of her husband. He is not changing the subject. Yahweh God was a husband to the children of Israel, He imposed His law on Israel as a condition of this and accepting the condition, Israel as a nation was described as the wife, or bride of Yahweh. But Israel was divorced by Yahweh on account of her adultery, as we read in Hosea chapter 2: “2 Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts”. This is evident again in the very promise of a New Covenant in Jeremiah chapter 31: “31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD”.
Under the law, the penalty for adultery is death. This is found in Leviticus chapter 20: “10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” For this, the children of Israel, who had persistently engaged in fornication in Baal worship in the pagan groves and temples, were collectively under penalty of death. Yet in that same place where a New Covenant was promised, we read: “35 Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: 36 If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.” So while all Israel was under penalty of death, so long as there was a sun, moon and stars, Yahweh promised that they would live. However Christ came to fulfill the law, so He had to do that in a manner whereby the law was kept, or God Himself is a hypocrite.
That is what Paul is explaining in Romans chapter 7, precisely how Yahweh had fulfilled the law so that Israel could live. So Paul wrote: “1 Are you ignorant, brethren (I speak to those who know the law,) that the law lords over the man for as long a time as he should live? 2 For a woman married to a living husband is bound by law; but if the husband should die, she is discharged from the law of the husband: 3 so then as the husband is living, she would be labeled an adulteress if she were found with another man; but if the husband should die, she is free from the law, she is not an adulteress being found with another man.” Why is Paul mentioning this in the middle of a lengthy discourse on man and his relationship to sin and the law? Because this is how Yahweh freed Israel the adulteress from the judgment of the law which insists that the wife be put to death. Yahweh Himself had chosen to die in place of the children of Israel, thereby freeing the wife from the law of the Husband.
The resurrected Yahshua Christ, the Son of God, could then redeem Israel as kinsman redeemer, so Paul continued and wrote in the verses which follow that “4 Consequently, my brethren, you also are put to death in the law through the body of Christ; for you to be found with another, who from the dead was raised in order that we should bear fruit for Yahweh. 5 Indeed when we were in the flesh, the occurrences of fault, which were through the law, operated in our members for the bearing of fruit for death; 6 but now we are discharged from the law, being put to death in that which we were held, so that we are bound in newness of Spirit, and not oldness of letter.” Knowing that Christ died on their behalf in this manner, the children of Israel should count themselves dead on account of Him. So in Romans chapter 6 Paul advised them that they should be baptized in His death, since it is they who should have died for their sins, rather than God.
Yahshua Christ is the Redeemer of Israel, yet Yahweh God insisted in Isaiah that He is their only redeemer. In Isaiah chapter 44 the Word of Yahweh said “6 Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” Then again in chapter 54: “5 For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.” There is a Messianic prophecy in Isaiah chapter 59: “20 And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.” We cannot imagine this Redeemer to be a different Redeemer that that spoken of in Isaiah chapters 44 and 54. There is only one God, and according to the law the nation of Israel, being the wife, can only have one Husband. While there are other relevant passages, we will cite one more, from Isaiah chapter 63, a sentiment attributed to the children of Israel in captivity: “16 Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O LORD, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting.” So once again, Yahweh, the Father, is also the Redeemer, and there is no other.
Yahshua Christ, being Yahweh Incarnate, could die for the children of Israel, freeing them from the law, but He could also redeem and betroth Israel, being the Bridegroom, as He was described by John the Baptist in John chapter 3: “28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.” In Luke chapter 5, Christ Himself had described His relationship with His people as that of a bridegroom, where His adversaries had contended with Him: “33 And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink? 34 And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? 35 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.”
So with the children of Israel having been under penalty of death, Yahweh instead chose to come as a man and to die Himself, so the death of the Husband would free the wife from the law of the Husband. No other man, not even a son, could do that in His place. Christ is the Son of God, insofar as He is also a man descended from God, but He is also God Incarnate, the image of the person of the Father and the fulness of the Divinity bodily. He is the Almighty God, and therefore He is able to be both the Father and the Son, and He is able to transcend His law while also keeping His law, in spite of our sins. So in that manner is Christ a propitiation for sin, as His death freed Israel from the sentence of death under the penalty of the law to which they were liable. In that same manner Yahweh could also keep the unconditional promises which He made to Abraham, that his seed would become many nations and inherit the earth, as Jacob was the heir of that promise in spite of their breaking of the Sinai covenant.
So we read in John chapter 10 that Christ did this of His Own volition: “14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep…. 17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”
While Christ is the bridegroom, neither can a man have his father’s wife, according to the law. This is found in Leviticus chapter 18, and also in chapter 20 where it says: “11 And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” So in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, Paul admonished the assembly at Corinth to put out a man who had slept with his father’s wife. Yet Christ, being Yahweh God Incarnate, can once again transcend the law without breaking it, as He is the Bridegroom of Israel. In that way, Yahweh also keeps the promise to Israel which He made in Hosea, after He announced that Israel was being divorced, where He said: “19 And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. 20 I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.”
The only way that all of these conditions are met as they are presented in all of these Scriptures is if Yahshua Christ is one and the same as Yahweh God the Father. No division of God into three persons on some imaginary trinity can satisfy the law and the prophets. Christ is the image of the person of God, He is not His Own person. So now, referring to the propitiation which is in Christ, John makes another declaration:
3 And by this we may know that we know Him, if we would keep His commandments.
Here John is illustrating yet another lesson which stands out in his Gospel account, where Christ Himself had said, as it is found in chapter 14, “15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Then a little further on in the chapter: “21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” Then further on, in John chapter 15: “10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.”
Using different language, Paul of Tarsus had also taught this in Romans chapters 6 and 7, that we should keep the law on account of the mercy we have received, that having been liberated from the bondage of sin, we should strive to sin no more. Then, in spite of the inevitability that men would sin, Paul concluded: “12 So indeed the law is sacred, and the commandment sacred, and just, and good.”
John continues his assertion with a reference to those who would not keep the commandments:
4 He saying that [C and the MT want “that”] he knows Him and not keeping His commandments, he is a liar and the truth is not in him.
The Codex Sinaiticus (א) has the end of verse 4 to read “… he is a liar and he is not the truth of God.” Apparently this is an error in transcription.
Likewise we read in John chapter 14, in reference to the commandments and the love of God which results from keeping them: “23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.”
Here John is basically asserting that one who rejects the commandments has actually rejected God even if he claims to know God, and this we also see in Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians, in chapter 4: “2 For you know what instructions we gave to you by Prince Yahshua. 3 For this is the will of Yahweh: your sanctification; you are to abstain from fornication; 4 each of you are to know to possess one’s own vessel in sanctification and in honor, 5 not in emotions of passion just as even the nations who do not know Yahweh; 6 not to be excessive and to be greedy in business with one’s brother, since the Prince is an avenger concerning all these things, just as also we have forewarned and affirmed to you. 7 For Yahweh has not called us to uncleanness, but in sanctification. 8 So then, he who is rejecting rejects not man, but Yahweh, who is also giving His Holy Spirit to you.” So Paul also taught that those who do not keep the commandments have rejected God, so they do not know God, as John attests here. In many other places in his epistles Paul forbade things which are also forbidden in the law.
But the basis for John’s statement here is also found in his Gospel account, where Christ argued with His adversaries in John chapter 8: “54 Yahshua replied: ‘If I would honor Myself, My honor is nothing! It is the Father who is honoring Me, whom you say that ‘He is our God’. 55 Yet you do not know Him, but I know Him. And if I should say that I do not know Him, I shall be a liar like you! But I know Him and I keep His Word.’” They had claimed to know and to be of God, but they did not keep His Word, so He called them liars as John also says here.
However where Christ insisted that His disciples keep His commandments, it is also clear that He was referring to much more than merely the primary ten commandments, although He repeated those expressly during the time of His ministry. This should be realized from His discourse with a certain lawyer as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 22: “34 Then the Pharisees, hearing that He had silenced the Sadducees, gathered together at that same place. 35 And one from among them, a lawyer, making trial questioned Him: ‘Teacher, what is the great commandment in the law?’ 37 And He said to him: ‘Love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 The second is thusly: You shall love him near to you as yourself. 40 By these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’”
If the second greatest commandment in the law is “You shall love him near to you as yourself”, or as it is in the King James Version, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”, then we must realize that the commandments which Christ expects Christians to keep are the commandments found throughout the law, and not merely the so-called “ten commandments”, which I prefer to refer to as the ten primary commandments, as they were the first given to the people at Sinai as it is recorded in Exodus chapter 20. That is because the commandment that “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” is not found in those ten commandments. It is only found in Leviticus chapter 19, where it also defines what a neighbor is and it says “18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.”
Since this is the second greatest commandment, and it is only found in Leviticus, then all of the other commandments in Leviticus, and in Deuteronomy as well, must also be considered by Christians. Where Paul of Tarsus had warned, in 1 Corinthians chapter 6, that “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminates, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor rapacious shall inherit the kingdom of Yahweh”, he was also referring to commandments found throughout the law which prohibit such things. Where Christ said “Keep My commandments”, He being the Word made Flesh is also the author of those commandments found in the law, as He is Yahweh God incarnate.
5 But he whom would keep His word, truly the love of Yahweh is perfected in him: by this we know that we are in Him. 6 He purporting to abide in Him, just as He had walked, thusly [A and B want “thusly”; the text follows א, C and the MT] he also is obliged to walk.
Having love for God is first related to keeping His commandments in Exodus chapter 20, where we read concerning a warning not to commit idolatry: “5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; [children do suffer on account of the sins of their fathers, but the law forbids them to be executed for those sins] 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” This is repeated in Deuteronomy chapter 5, and then we read in chapter 7: “9 Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations”.
Likewise, where John said “just as He had walked, thusly he also is obliged to walk”, referring to one who would keep the Word of God and abide in His love, we read in Joshua chapter 22 where Joshua exhorted the tribes which remained east of the River Jordan: “5 But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Love for God is directly connected to keeping the commandments elsewhere in Deuteronomy, as well as in the Psalms, in Daniel and in Nehemiah.
To walk with God is to keep His commandments. The children of Israel having gone into captivity for not keeping the commandments, we read in Amos chapter 3: “2 You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Then in the very next verse we see a rhetorical question: “3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Of course, two cannot walk together unless they agree, so the children of Israel shall ultimately have to express their agreement with Yahweh their God by keeping His commandments.
Now John continues to speak of love in the context of the law:
7 Beloved [the MT has “Brethren”], I do not write to you a new commandment, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the Word which you have heard [the MT inserts “from the beginning”, the text follows א, A, B and C].
Here John must be referring to what was said in the preceding verses, since in the verse which follows he presents a new commandment. So this old commandment to which he refers must be the connection which he had made between having a love for God and the keeping of the commandments, which is found from the beginning.
8 Contrariwise, I write to you a new commandment, which is [א inserts “also”] true in Him and in you [A has “us”], because the darkness [A has “shadow”, σκιά rather than σκοτία] passes by and the true light already shines:
John is alluding once again to his Gospel, and the testimony of John the baptist concerning Christ in John chapter 1: “9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” The subsequent verses reveal that John is speaking in reference to the love which Christians should have for their brethren. Of course, in Romans chapter 9 Paul had defined brethren where he prayed concerning “my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh”, which is true to this day since Christ had said that “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
In John chapter 13 we first read of this new commandment, where Christ is recorded as having told His disciples: “34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
Where John said that this new commandment is “true in Him and in you” he seems to be alluding to something which Christ had said as he recorded it in John chapter 15: “12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”
So John continues with this same theme:
9 He purporting to be in the light and hates his brother is [א inserts “a liar and”] in darkness even now.
The light is the light of Christ, as John recorded in chapter 12 of his Gospel where Christ had declared: “46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” Likewise, in 2 Corinthians chapter 4, Paul described the light brought into the world in Christ, and associated it with the first light of Creation in Genesis chapter 1 verse 3: “6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. ”
In regard to one who hates his brother, John continues with a comparison:
10 He loving his brother abides in the light and there is no offense in him.
This is the first time in this epistle that we see the verb ἀγαπάω, the noun form of the word, ἀγάπη, is probably more familiar. The verb appears 20 times in John’s epistles, and the noun perhaps 18 times, the first of which is in verse 5 of this chapter. This love for one’s brethren is a predominant theme in these epistles of John.
Admonishing his readers, the apostle Peter exhorted them to this same thing, where he wrote in chapter 1 of his first epistle that on account of their having had faith and hope in God: “22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.”
Likewise, in chapter 12 of his epistle to the Romans, Paul exhorted his readers to have “9 Love without acting; abhorring wickedness, cleaving to goodness: 10 brotherly love affectioned towards one another; in honor preferring one another 11 with diligence, not hesitating; fervent in Spirit, serving the Prince.”
Now John turns back to the contrary example:
11 But he hating his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness and knows not where he goes, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
This evokes the words of Christ to the Pharisees, that they were blind leading the blind and will inevitably fall into a ditch. In a Messianic prophecy in Isaiah chapter 9 speaking of the affliction of Israel for her sins, we read in part: “2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”
John continues this theme describing brotherly love throughout his epistle, and in chapter 5 he defines what it is to love one’s brother where he writes: “2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” So to keep the commandments is to love God, and we also exhibit our love for our brethren in that same manner, by keeping the commandments of God. Now, of course, there may be other things we can do for our brethren, and by that store up treasure in heaven, however the minimum we need to love our brethren is to keep the commandments.
In Leviticus chapter 19 we read: “18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” So it is evident that this commandment in Leviticus is essentially the same as the commandment of Christ in John chapter 13: “That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Yet, introducing this commandment Christ had said to His disciples, “a new commandment I give unto you”, and His assertion is repeated here in the first epistle of John.
We may only conjecture that while this commandment was always in Leviticus, perhaps it was new to the disciples of Christ if they had never heard it being taught in their synagogues. If the scribes were teaching the law to the people from Deuteronomy, this commandment is not even found there. But there is support for this interpretation in the Gospel, as Christ admonished the Pharisees for keeping arcane aspects of the law, but for having no mercy in judgment.
Now John describes why he had written these things:
II 12 I write to you, children, because your errors are remitted through His Name. 13 I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have prevailed over the Evil One.
The Codex Sinaiticus (א) has a neuter form of the definite article, rather than a masculine form, whereby we may be compelled to write “because you have prevailed over the evil” rather than “… the evil one.” But the difference is only the want of a single letter, and in verse 14 where the same phrase appears, the definite article is masculine in all but one of other the manuscripts. AND IN THIS
Now John repeats himself with only slight variation:
14 I have written [the MT has “write”, which the King James Version did not follow; the text follows א, A, B and C] to you, little children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong and the Word of Yahweh [B wants the phrase “of God”] abides in you and you have prevailed over the Evil One.
Where John says “and you have prevailed over the Evil One”, the phrase translated as the Evil One is τὸν πονηρόν, which is a masculine form of the noun for evil accompanied by a masculine definite article. If the article were in the neuter form, we would have merely written “and you have prevailed over evil.” While in verse 13 only the Codex Sinaiticus (א) has the neuter form of the article, here only the Codex Vaticanus (B) has the neuter form. We would therefore esteem the proper readings to be those which the majority of manuscripts have in each instance, which is the masculine form of the article.
Here and in verse 18 the word for little children is παιδίον, yet everywhere else in these epistles, on 7 other occasions, the word for little children is a synonym, τεκνίον. We cannot know whether John intended any distinction with his use of παιδίον here. Both words are diminutive forms of words which primarily mean child, so in the plural they describe little children, or even infants. Elsewhere in these epistles, on 9 occasions, the form τέκνα was used, which is a child. The words παῖς and παιδίον were sometimes used to describe young slaves, but that is not the context in which John uses the terms here.
Perhaps Paul explains how one may prevail over the Evil One, in Ephesians chapter 6: “10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Likewise, James in chapter 4 of his epistle wrote similarly: “7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Evidently John was persuaded that his readers were already equipped so that they would prevail if they were tried in that manner.
Yet in spite of that, he warns them further:
15 Do not love Society nor the things in Society. If one should love the Society, the love of the Father [A and C have “the love of God”] is not in him.
For this same reason the apostle James wrote in chapter 4 of his epistle: “4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” There James had likened those who love the world, or society, to “adulterers and adulteresses”. Later in this epistle, in 1 John chapter 5, the apostle professes that “19 We know that we are from of Yahweh and the whole Society lies in the power of the Evil One.” So overcoming the Evil One is connected here to a warning not to love the Society, or world.
16 Because all which is in Society, the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the pretense of life, is not from of the Father but is from of Society, 17 and the Society passes on, and its [A has “the”] desire, but he doing the will of Yahweh abides forever.
This evokes the words of Peter in the closing verses of chapter 1 of his first epistle where he wrote: “24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
In Romans chapter 3 Paul refers to the guilt of the world, but his use of the word for world in that passage seems to agree with Solomon’s definition of the same word for world, κόσμος, which is found in Wisdom chapter 19, that the whole world was represented by the four rows of stones in the garment of the high priest, which of course represented only the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. So we read from that passage of Romans: “19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” The children of Israel alone having had the law, they are all the world which is guilty.
The Word of Yahweh abides forever, as we read in a similar passage in Isaiah chapter 40: “8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” But he doing the will of Yahweh also abides forever, as we read in Matthew chapter 19 where a certain inquiry was made of Christ: “16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
In turn Yahshua Christ had entered into life, and therefore He must have also kept the commandments. So the propitiation for sin, the redemption and the betrothal of Israel all must have been in accordance with the law, and that is not possible if we imagine that there is a trinity of Gods and that one may have His Father’s wife, or be put to death for another man’s sin. Yahshua Christ died to free Israel from the law as He was Yahweh the husband dying to free the wife from the law of the husband, as Paul explained in Romans chapter 7. In that manner was the law kept, and in that manner He is a propitiation for their sins.
Next John turns to describe antichrists, and Yahweh willing we will return to this commentary next Friday.