The Father William Most Collection
Commentary on the Epistles of John
Author: There are great similarities in doctrine, style and vocabulary among these Epistles and the Gospel. Most would admit that all these are by the one author.
St. Polycarp in his Epistle to Philippi 7. 1. clearly alludes to 1 John 22-3 and also to 2 John 7. And Polycarp knew John personally. Eusebius affirms that Papias used 1 John. There is a complication in the case of Papias, for he speaks of two Johns. From the end of 2nd century there begin explicit citations: Muratorian Canon, St. Irenaeus (who knew St. Polycarp), Tertullian and Origen. Early Canons of Scripture, both East and West, attribute them to John.
A complication comes from the fact that the Beloved Disciple is left without a name in the Gospel. But St. Irenaeus identifies him as John, and Irenaeus knew Polycarp who knew John. Also: the Beloved Disciple is one of inner three: he reclined on breast of Jesus, was present at the cross, went to the tomb with Peter, the Mother of Jesus was entrusted to him. Now that could not be Peter of course. Is it James Elder? - but he was martyred in 44, too early to write the Gospel. James the Younger is barely known outside of the lists of the Apostles. He then could hardly be the special disciple.
Another complication: in 2J and 3J he calls himself the Presbyter, not the Apostle. This is strange, yet Peter also calls himself a fellow presbyter. (1 Pet. 5. 1)
Many today propose that Gospel of John and 1 John were composed by a Johannine Community. The reasons are these: 1) they claim to find traces of splits within the community. 2) They claim there are signs of breaks in the composition.
I. Splits within the community?
Even among the Twelve there were squabbles--arguing about who is greater. Jesus used this event to teach humility and the most essential lesson of all: God is our Father: to get place in His mansions we are not required, or able, to earn a place. We get that because our Father is most generous. Unless by doing evil we could earn to lose it (This is the essence of the right answer on predestination).
The early church of Corinth had factions, which Paul combated.
On his way to Jerusalem: Paul (Acts 20. 29) said ravening wolves would come from their number. -Such as these would be apt to claim: "We are the church" They really went out, yet claimed to be within. But not all squabbles led to that situation:, e. g., the factions at Corinth did not lead to any departures.
Yet there are some texts in 1J that seem to indicate such breaks:
In 2. 19: "They went out from us they were not of us". That going out seems doctrinal rather than moral. --And 2. 26. warns against deception, which would be doctrinal rather than moral. Bad morals would be scandal, not deception. They can distinguish truth from error by means of the Spirit given to them.
In 3. 6 we read :"No one who abides in him sins" Could hardly mean those who do not secede are free of sin (Cf the fact that we have an advocate, in 2. 1, who obtains pardon for sin). Rather we have here a focused picture, the sort of thing St. Paul often uses when he artificially limits his field of vision, as if he were looking through a tube, and so would see only the things within the circle formed by the tube. e.g. when he says that no one can keep the law, and it is the ministry of condemnation, he is leaving out, (blocked out by the circle), the fact that even before Christ's grace was available. So if one accepts it, he can stay out of sin. And example of a factual picture (without the tube’s circle) would be the texts early in chapters 3 and 9 of Romans which say that having the law was a great privilege. In short this means: the state of being a child of the Father as such can bring only good, not sin. So: no one who aides in Him sins.
4. 15 "everyone who confesses Jesus is of God"--seems to mean accepts the divinity of Christ. cf. confessing Him to be saved (= enter the Church) in Rom 10.
5. 16 : If we see someone commit a sin which is not mortal--a sin to death--pray for him. But if it is mortal--i.e. if he stays in his sin until he dies, then finally he breaks with the Church, then we need not pray for him, for he has died in his sin. Of course we should pray for his conversion = getting out of the mortal state. --This fits with 2J: whoever denies divinity of Christ does not have God within him
3J. 9 speaks of Diotrephes, who rejects John and casts out those who do accept John. Most likely that break was doctrinal, not just disciplinary.
Many, not nearly all, hold for the existence of a Johannine Community, who broke over interpretations of Gospel of John. For sure 1 John does speak of some who have broken--but is this the same? Reasons for a supposed split are chiefly as follows:
The major division in the Gospel of John is between the concept of a Jesus who is from above, the so-called high vs. low christology.
II. There are some strange joints. The clearest cases come in chapters 15-17 and 21, especially when they come after verses that seem to be definite conclusions:
In 14. 31: Jesus says He does as the Father has commanded Him: But right away: "Get up and go hence". But then there is more discourse on vine and branches. COMMENTS : Could He have said these added things on the way to garden? And although memories were fine then, and Jesus probably taught in digestible units, as the rabbis commonly did, yet what came to mind later could not be inserted as with an insert key--so just write it on next available space.
Chapter 20, 30-31 says there were many other things Jesus did and said so that if all were written down, the world could not contain all the books. These are written so you may believe--but then after seeming to have concluded, there follows cap 21 on the apparition at the Lake and the grant of primacy... COMMENTS: The comment on memories given in 14.31 above holds here too.
It is said that 16. 5 contradicts 14. 4. For in 16. 5 we read: "Now I am going to Him who sent me". - but in 14. 4: "You know the way". COMMENT: no problem at all, injected in a long discourse.
The functions of the Paraclete in 14. 16-17 and in 14. 26 are said to differ from those given in 16. 7-11 and 16. 13-14. -- COMMENT: the lines from cap 14. 16-17 say the Father will send another Paraclete whom world does not recognize. and v. 26 says Paraclete will bring to your mind all I have said. In contrast: the lines from chapter 16 say: "If I do not go He will not come and He will take what is mine from the Father and give it to you."--COMMENT: No change of function.
So it is suggested these were things circulating in the Johannine commnity which were added later on, without good connections--yes, but again remember they had no insert key.
John's Gospel suggests three groups:
1) Followers of the Baptist: 1. 35-37; 3. 23-30; 4. 1-3; 10. 40-42. COMMENT: There is no solid evidence that followers of John stayed within the community as followers of John. In 1. 35-37, Peter and Andrew left the Baptist and followed Jesus--so no problem.
In 3. 23-30 some followers of the Baptist object that Jesus is baptizing. COMMENT: But John himself had testified to Jesus, as he then said the objectors had admitted. - In 4. 1-4 it is really the Pharisees who are objecting. -- In 10. 40-42 Jesus went where John was baptizing and they went over to Jesus saying John had not done any sign, and what John had said about Jesus was true.
Further, when Paul came to Ephesus in Acts 19 he found followers of John Baptist. But they readily accepted the baptism of Jesus.
2) There were Jews who had taken measures to expel those who believed in Jesus: 9;22-23; 16. 1-4a. COMMENT: the Jews who moved to expel those who went to Jesus did not themselves become part of the Jcommunity; but those expelled did so.
3) Others, former followers, who now have separated themselves from Jesus’ community over such things as the promise of the Eucharist: John 6. 60-65. COMMENTS: They just gave up on Jesus, no longer walked with Him.
4) It is claimed that some gave up, seeing the futility to the mission to the Jews. and so turned to outsiders. This happened later in1st century, some suggest c 90 when the benediction was formulated against the "heretics ": birkat hamminim. -- COMMENT: There was such a curse against the minims, Jewish Christians. Some Jewish Christians then may have given up on converting other Jews and so turned to the gentiles. But did not give up altogether:. cf. . Paul’s practice: go first to synagogue, few converts, often persecution. So he turned to gentiles in that place--but did not give up on Jews altogether He tried to convert them in other places. And: notice his anguished exclamation in Romans 9. 1ff. Jesus at first told apostles to go not to the Samaritans and other gentiles. This was a provisional move. Apostles were not really psychologically ready to go to gentiles yet--see the scene in Acts 10. it was not even then a case of Apostles giving up on gentiles.
5) Finally it is claimed that Peter in the Gospel seems to represent Christians of apostolic communities outside the Johannine church. Peter emerges as leader of theTwelve and cap 21 makes Peter the shepherd--but at same time the faith and closenesss of Peter to Jesus are always inferior to that of the BD. COMMENT: Faith has a double category: sanctifying and charismatic. Peter was weak on the second, not on the first. . Objector misses distinction of grant of authority and special warmth of affection. Haurietis aquas says Jesus had triple love--third was a love of feeling. Its special power has nothing to do with grant of authority
1. 1: The very form of the opening tells us what cannot be put into words. It does not give the usual greeting. In the beatific vision there will be no image: the soul, joined to the divinity without even an image in between, just contemplates and so is filed, filled beyond what we or any one can now imagine: "Eye has not seen nor has ear heard what things God has prepared for those who love Him." So now John can do no more than gaze on this stupendous reality: That which was from the beginning." He does not say he or she -- the absence of gender seems more appropriate. It is a recalling of the vision with which John’s Gospel opens: "In the beginning was the word". The eagle soars up and up -- suitable iconography often pictures John as an eagle-- and rests in that contemplation.
We might perhaps compare it too to the jubilus of which. St. Augustine writes in his tract 48 on John 10. 22 when he says that at times we sing to express the deepest all-engulfing joy -- but when we have used up al the words we know for our song, we just keep on vocalizing melodically. Here too words fail, as they must always fail in this life.
St. Augustine said: "He should not even be called inexpressible, for when we say that word, we says something," Pardonable exaggeration - for though we can say true things about God, when we take away from our words all that is in any way short of perfection, hardly anything is left. As. Pseudo-Dionysius wrote: He is best known by unknowing For we cannot with absolute rightness say: "In the beginning there was a good Father-- for there is no beginning. and when we say that He made (past tense) the world, it is all one eternal present to Him. And if we call Him good, we must ever remember: One is good: God. Similarly in this way Plato could even say He is beyond being; while St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote well that the object of our seeing consists in not seeing.
And yet John continues: "What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes and your hands have touched about the Logos of Life." Great Saints before this day have feared to see God, for they might die. But John says he has not only seen and heard, but even touched Him, the Logos of which He wrote in the opening of His Gospel. .
Ecstatic, John continues: "And the Life has appeared, and we have seen, and we have testified and announced to you the Eternal Life which was with the Father and has appeared to us." What we have seen and heard we announce to you so that you too may have a state of communion (koinonia - state of having all in common--we even have in common with Him, the divine nature itself. We share in it not in same degree as the Logos does, but in same way -more on this in comments below on 3. 2-3) with us and this koinonia of ours is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. We write these things so that your joy may be in a state of fullness. Plato had written in his Symposium that no god associates with men; Aristotle said friendship with a god is impossible--distance too great. What overflowing joy then to not only associate with Him, but to become of one nature with Him!
1. 5: So this is the message which we have heard from Him and pass on to you: that God is light, and there is no darkness in Him. It is not enough to say God has light or dwells in light: He IS light, much as 1J says later (4. 8 ) God IS love. To say He has light or has love would be contrary to absolute unity. Hence He is love, is light And so the creed says of the Logos: "Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine." (in mind there is this fact: if a candle is lighted from a flame, the second flame is as fully flame as the first. And he first is in no way diminished). . The result is this: if we say we have koinonia with Him, and yet walk in darkness, we are lying, and we do not do the truth. -- The background is profound: Koinonia with Him means we even share His nature. But that divinity we share produces no evil, but only good: so: "no one who abides in Him sins". (please recall our words above on "focusing" in the introduction).
In regard to "doing the truth" we need to know that truth in John, and elsewhere in the NT (e.g., Romans 3. 4-7 )is equated with good, and the lie with sin. It helps to recall an English expression that says someone or something is "true to form". Logically, before God said: "let there be light", He had as it were within His mind the concept of light. Since this was in that way in which He created, if we do the truth we are "true to form’, i.e., . we match the idea or form within God to which we must conform, in order to be, in order to be "true to form". Hence St. Augustine said well (City of God 14. 4 ) that if we sin we move in the direction of not being at all. For it is only when and to the extent that we are true to the divine form that we exist at all, that we have good. So to walk in the light is to live one’s life or to walk according to the concept as it were that He had in His mind before saying: Let it be." (cf. Jn 14. 6: "I am the truth").
1J continues: if we walk in the light, we have koinonia not only with God, but with one another. For to love God is to will good to Him, i.e., that He may have the satisfaction of being able to give good to us (possible only if we are open to receive--hence we keep His commandments which tell us how to be open). But also we will that neighbor be open so that 1) neighbor may receive God’s gifts -- which His love) and 2) God may have the satisfaction of being able to give to neighbor. So in this way love of God and love of neighbor melt into the same thing. If we act this way, then the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. Of itself His blood has infinite power, but to be effective we must be open, by walking in the Way, which He is, walking in the light.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. (Sirach 7, 20; Prov. 20. 9) for everyone sins to some extent. (DB 633). With ordinary graces one can avoid all mortal sins, and can even avoid fully deliberate venial sins. And one can reduce the numer of kinds and feequency of sins of frailty--but cannot without an extraordinary grace avoid all of these. But if we confess our sins, He is just and faithful and will cleanse us from sin. He is just and faithful: This pertains to the covenant in which He has bound Himself to do good to us if we confess our sins.
What does confess mean here? Even though chapter 21 of JG institutes the sacrament of Penance, the present mention of confessing might be something less formal--it could mean the attitude of admitting in general that we are in the wrong at times, especially in a sort of liturgical confession such as our Confiteor. Since we have no entirely clear mentions of the Sacrament of Penance this early - it is clear in the Shepherd of Hermas - we suspect this confession is something less than sacramental.
Further there is no mention of any form of contrition here. Of course it is presupposed that there is some sort of change of heart. But there is no such mention: merely if the evil man turns, he will live. It is worthwhile here to indulge in a bit of theological speculation. This passage does not mention explicitly any contrition, nor does Ezekiel 18. 21 and 33. 14-19. Yet in changing course, it is implied that the sinner came to see: "What I am doing is wrong. No more of it after this":. Now perfect contrition is concerned with an offense to the goodness of God, who is good in Himself. But since all His attributes within Him are identified with each other (cf."God is love:"), then this change of heart is a change in attitude towards God’s dikaiosyne, moral rightness, which is really identified with His Goodness. So His moral rightness within the covenant makes it an act of dikaiosyne to forgive. (On dikaiosyne = Hebrew sedaqah cf. appendix to Wm. Most, The Thought of St. Paul). God who is eager to save all, will gladly utilize this opening.
2. 1-2: If we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ. He is propitiation not only for our sins but for those of the whole world. We gather that His suffering atones for all sins of all men, for its value is infinite.
Jesus is called the propitiatory, as in Romans 3. 24-26: "We are justified gratuitously through the redemption in Jesus Christ, whom God set up as the propitiatory through faith in His blood, to show His righteousness because of the passing over of previous sins, in the patience of God to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He is righteous and makes righteous the one who depends on faith in Christ Jesus."
The old propitiatory was the golden plate with cherubim on it, on the top of the ark of the covenant. Once a year (Lev 16. 2-13) the High Priest, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, would sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed animal on that propitiatory to make atonement for Israel’s sins of the previous year --There was no other rite fr the remission of sins committed be yad ramah, "with a high hand", in contrast to things done in inadvertence, sheggegah, for which Lev. 4 prescribed sacrifices once the sinner became aware of his previously not noted sin. It is imperative to understand God’s righteousness as His concern for objective righteousness (and not as many would have it, His salvific activity"- cf. Wm. Most, The Thought of St. Paul, appendix on sedaqah). If we took it that way then the shedding of the blood of Jesus would be merely a liturgical ceremony, excessively painful. Really His blood was a balancing of the objective order, called for by God’s holiness. . But taking righteousness in this sense, the meaning will be that Christ’s blood really rebalanced the objective order which had been put out of line by sin, but which the Holiness of God wanted to have righted.
Thus atonement means to make up. Rabbi Simeon ben Eleazar c 170 (Tosefta, Kiddushin, 1. 14) gives a helpful comparison: "He [anyone] has committed a transgression. Woe to him! He has tipped the scales to the side of debt for himself and for the world." The sinner takes from one pan what he has no right to have. It is the Holiness of God that wants the scales rebalanced. Jesus gave up, and endured more than all sins of all times - so He atoned for all. (On the concept of sin as debt cf. Wm. Most, appendix to The Thought of St. Paul). To get in on His atonement we must be His members and like Him: Rom 8. 17: "We are heirs of God, fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him so we may also be glorified with Him." He calls us heirs of the Father since we have not earned our inheritance, we get it from the kindness of our Father. though we could earn to lose it. He wants "all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth", that is, to formally enter the Church. But if through no fault one fails to find the Church, but yet follows what the Spirit writes on His heart (Rom 2. 15) he will be a Christian, even if he does not know it (cf. St. Justin Martyr, Apology 1. 46; 2. 10 and Lumen gentium §16). We do not earn it, Jesus earned it for us -- provided we do not forfeit it by sin. Cf. also Paul VI, Indulgentiarum doctrina, Jan. 1967.
There are two phases: 1) the once-for-all atonement made on the cross, which established an infinite title or claim to all forgiveness and grace; 2) the giving out of that which was once-for-all (cf. Heb 10. 10) earned. In the Mass, Jesus of course does not suffer or die again. But a sacrifice includes an outward sign and interior dispositions. The outward sign on Holy Thursday was the seeming separation of body and blood, in the separate species; on Friday it was the physical separation in His dying; in the Mass the sign is again that of Holy Thursday. But in all there is the interior disposition of obedience to the will of the Father, which is constant, and so not strictly repeated in the Mass: it is always present. The outward sign in many Masses is multiplied; the interior disposition is, as we said, not repeated, but continually present. Death makes permanent the interior attitude with which the soul leaves this world.
vv. 3-6: The way we know that we know Him is if we keep His commandments. Hebrew yada which is often translated "know" is really much broader: it means not just mental knowledge, but adherence of will in obedience, and even conformity in feelings.
Hence if we know Him, we also obey, and are in accord with his commandments. to obey God is to love Him. To love anyone else is to will good to him for his own sake; but we cannot will good to God who is infinite. Yet we can will that He have the satisfaction of giving to us and to neighbor if we are open to His commandments. Our obedience of course does Him no good, but it makes us open to receive what He so generously wants to give. St. Irenaeus wrote (Against Heresies 4. 14. 1) that God created Adam not that He needed anything, but to have someone to receive His gifts. Recall again comments above on 1. 5.
2:3-6: If anyone claims to know Him, but does not keep His commandments, He is a liar and the truth is not in him. - The thought is the same as in 2. 4 above and 2J 6: "And this is love [namely] that we walk according to His commandments." The Pelagians said this meant only that we need to be humble. But that idea was condemned by II Council of Milan, approved by Pope Zosimus in 418. Many Gnostics -- whose ideas were probably around this early (cf. . the opponents of Paul in Colossians) said they were automatically saved, no matter how they lived. But the worst case of error here is in Martin Luther, who in his Epistle to Melanchthon of Aug 1, 1521 (American Edition, Works 48. 282) wrote: "No sin will separate us from the Lamb even if we commmit murder and fornication 1000 times a day." (Yet in his Bondage of the Will, the Masterwork of the Great Reformer, tr. Packer &Johnston, Revell, Old Tappan, N J, 1957, pp. 103-04) he says we have no free will - our will is like a beast: - either God or devil rides, and so we do good or evil and go to heaven or hell, but we have nothing to say about which rider we get, so that those who go to hell are "undeserving" (. p. 314) and God "saves so few and damns so many" (p, 101). And so he even says at times he wishes he had never been made a man (p. 217).
2. 7-8: The commandment of love is both old and new (Jn 14. 34). But to love as I have loved you (Jn 15. 12) is extending the old. He died for us when we were still sinners: Rom 5. 8. There was a commandment of love of God in the OT (Dt 6. 3) But the commandment of love of neighbor was in Lev, 19. 18. where the wording is like that in the Gospel, but the Jews of that time took it to mean only other Jews are neighbor. Jesus of course properly extended the meaning.
2. 12-14: John says he writes to his little children since their sins are forgiven--to fathers since they have known the One who is from the beginning--to young men since they have conquered the evil one. And so on through a largely repetitive set. The language is odd. It is simply stylized: they know God and do not sin, they cannot sin (to be a son of God as such brings only good, it cannot bring any evil). To make it vivid he uses the several words for the recipients, but the general sense is the same.
2. 15-17: Do not love the world or the things in it. The world here means the attraction of creatures, or of evil men. If we consider the world merely as God’s creation, we would not speak the same way. Vatican II, On the Lay Apostolate §7 teaches that all creatures are good: God made them all good in Genesis 1; they have added dignity, being destined for men, the peak of visible creation; they have very high dignity because Jesus in the Incarnation took on a created nature and used created things. It used to be common to speak of despising the world, and not loving it. And in Phil 3. 7-8 St. Paul says he has gladly taken the loss of all things for Christ, and considers them as dung (skybala), to gain Christ. Paul is speaking there like 1J. And beautifully in Wisdom of Solomon 9. 15 we read that the magic spell of paltry things corrupts the soul and weighs it down. Pagan Socrates many times said the same thing: in Phaedo 82-83 Plato reports Socrates said that each pleasure and pain seems to nail the soul to the body and makes it bodily, so that the soul thinks things are true if the body say so. Therefore Socrates concludes that the soul that seeks the truth should have as little as possible to do with the things of the body. (Cf. Republic 519).
But here is no contradiction with what our Epistle says: there are two scales on which we weigh the two. Compared to the things of eternity the things of this world seem nothing or worse than nothing.
1J then urges us to avoid the three chief things that take us away from God. First, the concupiscence of the flesh This means not just the disorderly use of feelings and passions: it includes the attraction of earthly things, such as we have just seen above.
Secondly comes concupiscence of the eyes, which desire to see things that arouse lust, and even idle curiosity. In the day of 1J there was also the desire to see the cruel gladiator fights.
Thirdly, he warns against the pride of life. This means not just deficiencies in humility, but every unrestrained desire of honors, or power. The saying is so true: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is a stronger pull on one than even sex. In fact, pride is the root of absolutely every sin. We think of Eve in the garden: the tempter told her the forbidden fruit was good, that she would be like God, able to determine for herself what was good or bad. She looked at the fruit, and as it were said to herself: "God may know what is right many times --but right now, I know better." Pride can mimic humility: wanting to be praised for what seems to be humility.
How can kings and others with absolute power swallow some of the silly flattery they receive? Before we put a man in space, a preliminary experiment put him in a sealed capsule with no light or any other sensation. In a relatively short time all got hallucinations. In normal circumstances if a foolish thought comes, we readily compare it with reality about us, and see it is silly. But the man in the capsule has no points of reference, and so loses perspective. Similarly a king - or for that matter anyone with power such that all around him fear to tell him anything he might not like loses his points of reference, and can believe truly vain things. Not only kings but powerful ecclesiastics, judges, doctors, and many others suffer from this danger.
The world and its desires are passing: to ignore its pulls so as to adhere to God makes one share in His eternal perspective. `
2. 18-21: This is the last hour of God’s dealings with our race. The first was the time of the Old Testament. It is now completed and fulfilled by leading into the last period. of God’s dealings with us: the New Testament. John does not mean that the end of the world is just around the corner. In 1 Cor 7. 29 Paul says the time has grown short. In 2 Thes 2. 7 Paul says the mystery of iniquity is already at work: the forces of evil are at work. This includes the lesser antichrists. But there is still to come the great Antichrist, who will even sit in the temple proclaiming himself God. (When we recall the description of the future restored Jerusalem Temple, in Ezek 40-48, perhaps here that will be the time and place for the chief Antichrist to sit proclaiming himself God.
Jesus warned in Mt 24. 24 that the great Antichrist would work signs and wonders so as to deceive if possible even the elect. He will not be satan incarnate - the devil does not have such a capability. But the devil will put all his power at the disposal of the Antichrist. Will Antichrist be able to work a wonder and present it as the authentication of himself? In Exodus the magicians of Pharaoh turned rods into snakes; but the snake from the rod of Moses devoured the other snakes. So God in some way or other will always provide the means of recognizing the deception of the Antichrist. The mere fact that Jesus thus warns us is enough. And when Jesus Himself really comes, He will not be in some out of the way place: His coming will be as clear as lightning flashing from one end of the sky to another.
Further, the period of the Antichrist is often given as 3 1/2 years in Revelation/Apocalypse. that is apt to be a symbolic number: but it surely means that that period will be relatively short.
Also, Jesus warns in Luke 18. 8: "When the Son of Man comes, do you think He will find faith on the earth." And 2 Thes 2. 3 gives the same warning. Similarly Mt 24:12 says that the love of most people will grow cold since sin will reach its peak. ,"filling up its measure" Cf. also 2 Timothy 3. 1 ff on the characteristics of men near the end.
Now it is true that St. Paul three times teaches that the grace of final perseverance will be offered to all: 1 Thes 4. 23-24; 1 Cor 1. 8-9; Phil 1. 6. Yet one could resist even that grace. However there is a final protection. Pius XI wrote in Explorata res, AAS 15. 104:, Feb. 2, 1932: "Nor would be incur eternal death whom the most Blessed Virgin assists especially at his last hour. This view of the Doctors of the Church, in accord with the feelings of the Christian people and supported by the experience of all times, depends especially on this reason: the fact that the Sorrowful Virgin shared in the work of redemption with Jesus Christ... ." There are similar teachings of Benedixt XV and Pius XII. Benedict XV also called her "omnipotentia supplex" - whatever God can do by His own inherent power, she can obtain by asking Him.
22-25: The liar and antichrist is the one who denies the divinity of the Son. Such a one has neither the Son nor the Father.
26-29: I have written these things to you. But you have the anointing from Him, and do not need anyone to teach you. Vatican II in LG 12. wrote: "The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief." This is often called passive infallibility: if the whole Church, people and authorities has believed -- accepted as revealed -- anything, that belief cannot be in error. This of course would not apply to remote and recondite points of theology, but it does apply to most truths. It does not mean that the Magisterium should be merely the echo of the people: LG adds that the people do this "under the lead of the sacred magisterium, which they faithfully follow."
A truth once guaranteed by this universal belief cannot be changed or reversed if at a later time the people fall away from it--as is the case today when most Catholics reject the teaching on contraception. This covers so many things: e.g. today many deny the existence of angels, though the whole Church has long believed in them. and John urges them to do this, so that when He appears, they may not be ashamed, but may be able to stand before Him with confidence.
3. 1-3: Look at what kind of love the Father has given us, namely that we should not only be called sons of God, but really be sons, sharing in His very nature.
When He appears we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" In what way? In Mt 11. 27 we read: "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" For in the vision of God, the divinity joins itself to the created soul without even an image in between, even the three Divine Persons know each other within the Holy Trinity. So the Eastern Fathers with pardonable exaggeration said we become God.
If we go back to the opening of JG, we can begin to get some glimpse: In the beginning was the Word. That is, the Father speaks one Word. But it is not a ripple in the air such as our words, which cannot fully express the speaker. No, the Father’s Word is substantial, and fully expresses Him. thus Father and Son know each other. But yada means not just mental knowledge: it includes will as well for to love is to will good to another for the other’s sake. So the Father wills divine nature to the Son: thus He intellectually knows and wills or loves the Son. Father and Son together will divinity to the Holy Spirit. By this will the Spirit is constituted and is God. --this is koinonia, sharing, in the most perfect way. This is the perfect koinonia which John speaks of above in 1. 3. We are given to take part in this koinonia: thus we share in the Divine Nature itself!
So the Three Persons know and love each other and God IS love. The act of creating wills our being to us, and so we come into existence by the knowledge and will of God.
Already 1. 3. said we are in koiononia with him, John And also with others who have come to this divine life. Within this koinonia - we explained it above-- we will good to neighbor by willing that he be open (by obedience) to receive what God likes to give But this love of neighbor entails also love of God, for by willing that neighbor receive from God, we will that God may have the satisfaction of giving, which so pleases Him. We recall again the words of St. Irenaeus cited above: "God created Adam, not that He had need of anything, but to have someone to whom to give His goodness."
St. Paul told the Ephesians (5. 24-33) that marriage is an image of the union of Christ with His Church. Yes, marriage is aimed basically at the continuation of our race, but it does this by producing the koinonia of husband and wife. In this sense Pope Pius XI wrote brilliantly : "this mutual inner conformation of the spouses to each other, this constant zeal to perfect each other, can in a most true way, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be called the primary reason and cause of marriage, if it be understood not narrowly as the institution for procreating and educating offspring, but more broadly as the communion (really: koinonia), custom and association of the whole of life." (Casti connubii, DS 3707).
The last line of v 3 adds an important conclusion: Everyone who has this hope, purifies himself, as He is pure. If we even begin to realize the goal expressed in the above lines, of being a sharer in the divine nature, we begin to see that all things on this earth are or little or no value compared to it. - we recall again what was said above about St. Paul’s words saying all things in this world are so much dung compared to eternity. We spoke of beginning to realize: for there is an immense difference between what Cardinal Newman called notional knowledge and realized knowledge. If we read or hear there is a famine in Africa, we believe it. But it is not apt to move us much. But if we went to the famine area, and saw people dying, and got hungry ourselves: then we would know the same thing in a realized way. There is a large scale, a huge difference between deeply realized and merely notional knowledge.
3. 4-10: The sinner violates the law and sin is lawlessness. And we know that He, Jesus, came to take away sin, and there is no sin in Him. So whoever remains in Him does not sin: Everyone who sins has not seen Him or known Him. So John begs his little children: let no one deceive you. He who does what is right is righteous as He is righteous. Righteous means is in accord with the true form, as we saw in 1. 5.
He who sins is of the devil, is a son of satan. Satan sins from the beginning. We note John does not say he has sinned, but sins. There are three kinds of duration: time, eternity and aevum. In time, all kinds of change are possible and do happen. There is deep change, i.e., substantial change. There is also accidental, shallow change. If we look ahead to the moment ahead of us it is future, but quickly it changes to present, and then to past. This restless unending cycle of change is characteristic of time. In eternity taken in the strict sense, there is no change, and so no past, and no future. Thus we say that God made the world, a past statement. But to His eye it is all present. We say Christ will return: again: to the divine eye it is all present.
When a human sins, he never sees with ultimate clarity everything about this action. So there is room for him to reconsider, to go back over it, in the future and say within himself: That was not right, it was evil. I wish I had not done it, no more of that. But angels and devils are incapable of reconsidering. Humans, since their intelligence is composed on two parts, the material brain, and the spiritual intellect, never see things with absolute clarity at the time of sinning: the material instrument, the physical brain, hinders the clarity of the spiritual intellect. In contrast, the intellect of an angel or devil since it lacks the material instrument that is the physical brain, sees all with maximum possible clarity at the time of acting, and so cannot reconsider, and so cannot repent. So the devil, having once turned his will to evil cannot undo that evil: he is eternally fixed in evil; while angels are eternally fixed in good. So Johns says very exactly, not that the devil has sinned, but that he sins. He is eternally fixed in evil.
But departed souls, and angels and devils are not in time, but in aevum, the kind of duration in which there is no substantial or deep change, but only accidental change. And that does not go on constantly like our succession of future-present-past. Those who are in aevum in a way participate in the timelessness of God. There is no constant change for them. In a way those in aevum are like God - they simply ARE as He simply IS. (For a soul in the vision of God, there is no boredom: God is infinite, and also they do not go through an endless succession of changes: they are totally filled, completely blessed).
3. 11-12: For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and killed his brother. And for what reason? Because Cain’s works were evil, while the works of his brother were just. In Wisdom of Solomon 2. 12-20 we see the wicked say that the just man is a reproach to them. So they plot to kill him by a shameful death. - We cannot help wondering if the inspired author wrote more than he understood, for the Chief
Author, the Holy Spirit could clearly have had more in mind than the human author saw. . Vatican II in LG55 shows they are uncertain if the writers of Gen 3. 15 and Isaiah 7. l4 understood all the Church has gradually come to see in those texts, led by the full light of the Holy Spirit.
So Cain could have been distressed by the life of his brother, which was a reproach to him. St. Augustine in City of God 15. 7 thinks the sacrifice of Cain was not accepted because of a lack of the interior disposition of obedience to God. For it is that interior which gives all the value to a sacrifice.
3. 13-18: Since we have moved over from the realm of death to life, we are a reproach to the wicked. No wonder the world finds us disagreeable. John calls one who hates his brother a murderer -- the sense is that hate consists in willing evil to another for the other’s sake. Logically that is the root of doing evil to him, culminating in murder. Cf. Mt. 5. 21-22. Then: whoever hates does not have eternal life remaining in him. For this is eternal life, namely: to know the Father and Him whom He has sent: (Jn 17, 3). In heaven the soul knows and loves God -- both included in yada, and it reaches even to koinonia with Him, as we explained above. Even in this life we can have by grace, the Three Persons present in our soul. Now a spirit is present wherever it causes an effect. The effect is imparting the basic capability of knowing and loving Him later face to face.
Some commentators, not seeing this link, have said that John at times speaks of realized eschatology. But the eternal life is both now and then.
The practical test of this love of neighbor is doing good to him. If neighbor is in need, and we have the means, to refuse to help denies our claim of having interior love for him, for love wills good to another for the other’s sake.
3. 19-24: And this, namely the fact that our deeds show our love is genuine, reassures our hearts before Him whenever ( or if) our hearts reproach us -- for God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. So dear children if our hearts do not reproach us and our deeds to neighbor show that we are at least basically on the right side we can have speak confidently to Him, and we receive whatever we ask , since we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him -- the phrasing in the above is crucial. If we grouped words differently it might be taken to mean that even if our hearts reproach us we are still all right, for God still know our hearts.
And this is the commandment, namely that we believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ and love one another as He has commanded us. And he who keeps His commandments remains in Him. And by this means do we know that He remains in us, by the Spirit He has given us. - the Spirit leads us to know and do His will (Rom 8. 9 & 2. 14-15).
1- 4: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, for many lying spirits are in the world today. We can recognize the Spirit of God in this way: Every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ, who is divine, has come in the flesh is a spirit from God. And every spirit that does not confess Jesus, is not from God. You have heard that he is coming and he is now here. And such a one is an antichrist.
5-6: Those who are of the world speak in accord with the world , and the world listens to them. But we are of God. One who knows God listens to us. One who is not of God does not listen to us. By this means we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of lie
7-10: Beloved let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. One who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (We explained above in 1. 5 in what sense God is love). .
The love of God was made clear in this, namely. that He sent His Son into the world that it might be saved through Him (cf. John3. 16). . We stressed above that to love is to will good to another for the other’s sake. But then, if in our effort to bring good to the other, a small obstacle will stop us - our love is small. But if even an immense or measureless obstacle will not stop us, then our love is beyond measure. The Father sent His Son to a horrible death to bring us the good of eternal life. --Really since even the first instant of the incarnation was infinite in merit and satisfaction, . the Father Could have stopped there. But even when His Son begged in a sweat of blood to go no further-- farther than needed--the Father’s love still pressed on.
11-16: Beloved, if God has loved us in this way, we too must love one another. No one has ever seen God, but yet, if we love one another we know by this means that God is within us and His love is perfect within us. A spirit does not take up space, but we know He is present from the effects He is producing in us: we can tell that by the effect His Spirit produces in us: love for one another is an effect of the love of God, for love of God and love of others are inseparable, as we explained in 1. 5. speaking of koinonia. We have seen and we bear witness that the Father has sent His Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.--We have known and have believed in the love which God has in and for us. For God is love, as we explained in comments on1. 5 above, and the one who abides in His love has God abiding in him.
17-21: Perfect love brings it about that we have confidence on the day of judgment, for as He is in the world so are we -- He is God-man; we by grace become men-gods. He is in the world, not of the world, so should we be. But then John advances: he has been speaking of love and fear abstractly. Now in the concrete, if love really is perfect, it eliminates all fear on the day of judgment -- but in practice, love may not be entirely perfect. The ideal is the realization of koinonia with Him (cf. notes on 1. 5)
We love, for He has first loved us. --We would not be able to love, in fact, would not be, if He had not taken the initiative in loving us. We recall the text of St. Irenaeus that God created not out of need of anything, but to have someone to receive His gifts.
One who does not love his brother whom he has seen, will not love God whom he cannot see. This does not mean that love of God must include feeling -- rather John compares two things:. Loving what we cannot see is more difficult than loving one we can see. Love in humans includes two elements: the act of will in willing good to the other for the other’s sake, and the feeling that in human affairs often goes along with it. The feeling is the somatic resonance to real love, which resides in the will. There need be no feeling in our love of God. In fact one might have strong feelings toward God and have no love of Him: not obeying His commandments.
1-4: Everyone who believes Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. The way for us to know that we love the children of God is if we love God and obey His commandments This is love of God, namely, keeping the commandments. And His commandments are not heavy. For every one who is born of God conquers the world -- the one born of God cannot sin-- and this is the victory that conquers the world: our faith. - Faith includes obedience, and obedience to God is the same as love of God. Please cf. also comments above on 1. 5.
5-12: Who is the one that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. He is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not in water alone, but in water and in blood. - the reference is to the water of baptism and the blood which flowed from His side. The Spirit who is truth, testifies to the truth of this. Then vv. 7-8 add: "There are three who give witness: the Spirit and the water and the blood. And these three are one." The Biblical Commission at first strongly discouraged denying these words, "the Johanine Comma" were by the author of 1J. but later it admitted scholars may continue to discuss the question of authorship--it has always been clear that these words are part of inspired Scripture.
If we accept the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater And this is that testimony: He has testified to His Son. One who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in himself. The one who does not believe makes God a liar by not believing what God has testified about His Son. And the testimony is this: that God gave eternal life to us, and this eternal life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has eternal life. The one who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13-15: I have written these things to you so you may know that you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence we have towards Him, that whatever we ask according to His will, He hears us. . And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask we know that we have obtained the requests that we have made of Him.
16-17: If anyone sees his brother committing a sin that does is not finally death-bringing, he will ask and life will be given him, to the one who does not commit sins that are finally death-bringing. There is a sin that is finally death-bringing. I do not say that one should pray for that one All violation of the law is sin, but there is also a sin that is not finally death-bringing.
The lack of precise terms here is a problem. John does not mean of course that there is no use in praying for someone who commits mortal sin - it is the sin that is going to finally bring spiritual death, i.e., the sin of final impenitence, or such hardening that it is hardly possible for the sinner to repent.
We know that everyone who is born of God does not sin. The One who is born of God (Jesus) keeps the man and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so as to know Him who is true. And we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
Little children, keep yourself from idols.