Tuesday, May 30th, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary
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"Commentary on 1 John 5". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ cgt/ 1-john-5.html. 1896.
"Commentary on 1 John 5". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://studylight.org/
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The chapter falls into two parts. The first twelve verses form the last section of the second main division of the Epistle, God is Love (2:29 5:12): the last nine verses form the conclusion and summary of the whole. Some editors break up the first part of the chapter into two sections, 1 5 and 6 12, but texts and versions seem to be right in giving the whole as one paragraph. The second part does contain two smaller sections, 13 17 and 18 21. We may analyse the chapter therefore as follows: Faith is the Source of Love, the Victory over the World, and the Possession of Life (1 12). Conclusion and Summary: Intercessory Love the Fruit of Faith and of the Possession of Life (13 17); The Sum of the Christian’s Knowledge (18 20); Final Practical Injunction (21).
It will be observed that in the middle of the first section we have what looks at first sight a digression and yet is intimately connected with the main subject of the section. This main subject is Faith , a word which (strangely enough) occurs nowhere else in S. John’s Epistles, nor in his Gospel. And faith necessarily implies witness . Only on the strength of testimony is faith possible. Therefore in this paragraph on Faith and its effects the Apostle gives in detail the various kinds of witness on which the Christian’s faith is based (6 12). The paragraph shews plainly S. John’s view of the relation of Faith to Love. The two are inseparable. Faith that does not lead to Love, Love that is not based on Faith, must come to nothing.
1 12. Faith is the Source of Love, the Victory over the World and the Possession of Life
1. Whosoever believeth ] Or, Every one that believeth : the construction is identical with that in 2:29, 3:3, 4, 4:2, 3, 7, and in the second half of this verse. See concluding note on 3:4. The verb ‘believe’, which occurs only 3 times in the rest of the Epistle, occurs 6 times in these first 13 verses. After the third verse the word ‘love’, which has been the keyword of the last two chapters, ceases to appear. With the first sentence comp. John 1:12 .
The verse is a couple of syllogisms condensed into an irregular Sorites.
Every one who believes the Incarnation is a child of God.
Every child of God loves its Father.
… Every believer in the Incarnation loves God.
Every believer in the Incarnation loves God.
Every one who loves God loves the children of God.
… Every believer in the Incarnation loves the children of God.
To believe that Jesus is the Christ is to believe that One who was known as a man fulfilled a known and Divine commission; that He who was born and was crucified is the Anointed, the Messiah of Israel, the Saviour of the world. To believe this is to accept both the Old and the New Testaments; it is to believe that Jesus is what He claimed to be, One who is equal with the Father, and as such demands of every believer the absolute surrender of self to Him. Belief without love is, as S. Augustine remarks, the belief of a demon (James 2:19 ).
is born of God ] Better, in order to be uniform with what follows, is begotten of God : see on v. 18.
him also that is begotten of him ] Any believer. Here again the verb ( ἀγαπᾷ ) may be either the indicative or the hortative subjunctive: as in 4:19, the indicative is preferable; ‘loveth’, not ‘let him love’.
This verse shews that 4:20 ought not to be interpreted to mean that through love of the visible brother we ascend to the love of the invisible God. On the contrary the love of the Father is the source of love of His children. “That is the natural order; that, we may say it confidently, is the universal order” (Maurice).
2. The converse of the truth insisted upon in 4:20, 21 is now stated. There love and obedience to God was shewn to involve love of His children: here love of God’s children is said to follow from our love and obedience to God. The two (or three) ideas mutually imply one another. Love to God implies obedience, and either of these implies love of His children, which again implies the other two. In short, love to God and love to the brethren confirm and prove each other. If either is found alone it is not genuine. Fellowship with God and fellowship one with another (1:3, 7) necessarily exist together. A man may be conscious of kindliness towards others and yet doubt whether he is fulfilling the law of brotherly love. For such the Apostle gives this test, ‘Do you love God? Do you strive to obey Him? If so your love of others is of the right kind’. For the characteristic phrase ‘keep His commandments’ see on 2:3: but here the true reading seems to be do His commandments , a phrase which occurs nowhere else. This reading is supported by B, all ancient Versions, and several Fathers. Note the ‘when’, or more literally, ‘whenever’ ( ὅταν ): whenever we love and obey we have fresh evidence that our philanthropy is Christian.
3. For this is the love of God ] Or, For the love of God is this , i.e. consists in this: see on 1:5. The truth implied in v. 2, that love involves obedience, is here explicitly stated. Comp. John 14:15 , John 14:21 , John 14:23 , John 14:15 :10; 2 John 1:6 .
his commandments are not grievous ] For two reasons: 1. Because He gives us strength to bear them; juvat qui jubet (Philippians 4:13 ); 2. Because love makes them light. They are not like the ‘burdens grievous to be borne’ which the legal rigour of the Pharisees laid on men’s consciences. Here again we have an echo of the Master’s words; ‘My yoke is easy, and My burden is light’ (Matthew 11:30 ).
4. Reason why keeping even the difficult commandment of loving others rather than oneself is not a grievous burden. It is the world and its ways which makes the Divine commands grievous, and the new birth involved in faith gives us a new unworldly nature and a strength which conquers the world.
For whatsoever is born of God ] Or, Because whatsoever is begotten of God : see on v. 1. The collective neuter, ‘ what soever’, gives the principle a wide sweep by stating it in its most abstract form: comp. John 6:37 , John 17:2 . Moreover, whereas the masculine would make the victorious person prominent, the neuter emphasizes rather the victorious power . It is not the man, but his birth from God, which conquers. In v. 1 we had the masculine and in v. 18 return to the masculine again. In all three cases we have the perfect, not the aorist, participle. It is not the mere fact of having received the Divine birth that is insisted on, but the permanent results of the birth. Comp. John 3:6 , John 3:8 , where we have the same tense and a similar change from neuter to masculine.
this is the victory that overcometh ] Better, the victory that overcame the world is this (see on 1:5): aorist, of a victory won once for all. Faith, which is ‘the proof of things not seen’ (Hebrews 11:1 ) which ‘are eternal’ (2 Corinthians 4:18 ), has conquered the world which is visible and ‘is passing away’ (2:17). Faith is both the victory and the victor. Under the influence of the Vulgate’s vincit , Wiclif, Luther, Tyndale and many others all have the present tense here. In the faith which has won a decisive victory the believer goes on conquering. ‘Victory’ ( νίκη ) occurs nowhere else in N.T.
5. Who is he that overcometh ] Here the present tense is right. The Apostle appeals to the daily experience of every victorious Christian.
that Jesus is the Son of God ] The faith that conquers is no mere vague belief in the existence of God, but a definite belief in the Incarnation: comp. v. 1, 2:22, 3:23, 4:2, 3. For the form of question comp. 2:22: this verse shews that ‘the liar’ ( ὁ ψεύστης ) there does not mean ‘the supreme liar’, for ‘he that overcometh’ ( ὁ νικῶν ) cannot mean ‘the supreme conqueror’. The one sole Victor, who is such in the highest and unique sense, is Christ. Comp. ‘Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:57 ). Belief in Christ is at once belief in God and in man. It lays a foundation for love and trust towards our fellow men. Thus the instinctive distrust and selfishness, which reign supreme in the world, are overcome.
6. This is he that came ] Closely connected with what precedes: ‘This Son of God is He that came’. The identity of the historic person Jesus with the eternal Son of God is once more insisted upon as the central and indispensable truth of the Christian faith. Faith in this truth is the only faith that can overcome the world and give eternal life. And it is a truth attested by witness of the highest and most extraordinary kind.
by water and blood ] Literally, by means of or through water and blood . This is the most perplexing passage in the Epistle and one of the most perplexing in N. T. A very great variety of interpretations have been suggested. It would be simply confusing to discuss them all; but a few of the principal explanations, and the reasons for adopting the one preferred, may be stated with advantage. The water and the blood have been interpreted to mean:
(1) The Baptism by means of water in the Jordan and the Death by means of blood upon the Cross.
(2) The water and blood which flowed from Christ’s pierced side.
(3) Purification and Redemption.
(4) The Sacraments of Baptism and of the Eucharist.
These are fairly representative interpretations; the first two making the water and blood refer to facts in the earthly career of the Messiah; the last two making them symbolical of mysteries. It will be observed that these explanations are not all exclusive one of another: either of the last two may be combined with either of the first two; and in fact the fourth is not unfrequently combined with the second. The second, which is S. Augustine’s, has recently received the support of the Speaker’s Commentary and of Canon F. W. Farrar in The Early Days of Christianity : but in spite of its attractiveness it appears to be scarcely tenable. The difficult passage in John 19:34 and the difficult passage before us do not really explain one another. That “ in these two passages alone, of all Scripture, are blood and water placed together ,” would, if true, amount to nothing more than a presumption that one may be connected with the other. And such a presumption would be at once weakened by the change of order: instead of the ‘blood and water’ of the Gospel we have ‘water and blood’ here. But the statement is not true; e.g. ‘He shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird, and with the running water ’ (Leviticus 14:52 ); ‘He took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, &c.’ (Hebrews 9:19 ). And is it credible that S. John would speak of effusions from the dead body of Jesus as the Son of God ‘coming through water and blood’? Moreover, what, on this interpretation, can be the point of the emphatic addition, ‘not in the water only, but in the water and in the blood’? At the piercing of the side it was the water, not the blood, that was so marvellous. So that, to make the reference clear, the whole ought to run somewhat in this manner: ‘This is He that shed forth blood and water, even Jesus Christ; not the blood only, but the blood and the water’.
The first of the four explanations is far more tenable, and is adopted by Bede, but not to the entire exclusion of the second. So also Dr Westcott, who thinks the additional reference to John 19:34 “beyond question”. The Baptism in the water of Jordan and the Death by the shedding of blood sum up the work of redemption. Christ’s Baptism, with the Divine proclamation of Him as the Son of God and the Divine outpouring of the Spirit upon Him, is not merely the opening but the explanation of the whole of His Ministry. The bloody death upon the Cross is not merely the close but the explanation of His Passion. ‘Coming’ when spoken of the Christ includes the notion of His mission (John 1:15 , John 1:27 , John 1:30 , John 1:3 :31, John 1:6 :14, John 1:7 :27, John 1:31 , John 1:41 , &c., &c.). Therefore, when we are told that the Son of God ‘ came by means of water and blood ,’ we may reasonably understand this as meaning that He fulfilled His mission by the Baptism with which His public work began and the bloody Death with which He finished it (John 19:30 ). (1) This interpretation explains the order ; ‘water and blood’, not ‘blood and water’. (2) It explains the first preposition ; ‘through’ or ‘by means of’ ( διά with the genitive: comp. the remarkable parallel Hebrews 9:12 ). (3) It also explains the second preposition ; ‘in’ ( ἐν , of the element in which, without the notion of means: comp. the remarkable parallel Hebrews 9:25 ). Christ’s Baptism and Death were in one sense the means by which , in another sense the spheres in which His work was accomplished. (4) Above all it explains the emphatic addition, ‘not in water only, but in the water and in the blood’. The Gnostic teachers, against whom the Apostle is writing, admitted that the Christ came ‘through’ and ‘in’ water : it was precisely at the Baptism, they said, that the Divine Word united Himself with the man Jesus. But they denied that the Divine Person had any share in what was effected ‘through’ and ‘in’ blood : for according to them the Word departed from Jesus at Gethsemane. S. John emphatically assures us that there was no such separation. It was the Son of God who was baptized; and it was the Son of God who was crucified: and it is faith in this vital truth that produces brotherly love, that overcomes the world, and is eternal life.
It may reasonably be admitted, however, that there is this large amount of connexion between the ‘water and blood’ here and the ‘blood and water’ in the Gospel. Both in a symbolical manner point to the two great sacraments. Thus Tertullian says; “He had come by means of water and blood , just as John had written; that He might be baptized by the water, glorified by the blood; to make us in like manner called by water, chosen by blood. These two baptisms He sent out from the wound in His pierced side, in order that they who believed in His blood might be bathed in the water; they who had been bathed in the water might likewise drink the blood” ( De Bapt. XVI.).
not by water only, but by water and blood ] Better as R.V., not with the water only, but with the water and the blood . ‘With’ is literally ‘in’, of the element or sphere in which a thing is done. The use of ‘in’ in this connexion both here and Hebrews 9:25 perhaps comes direct from LXX. In Leviticus 16:3 we have ‘He shall come into the holy place in a young bullock’ ( ἐν μόσχῳ ἐκ βοῶν ), i.e. with one. The Hebrew may mean ‘in’, ‘with’, ‘by’. The article in all three cases simply means ‘the water’ and ‘the blood’ already mentioned.
As applied to us these words will mean, ‘Christ came not merely to purify by His baptism, but to give new life by His blood; ‘for the blood is the life’.’ In short, all that is said in the Gospel, especially in chapters 3 and 4, respecting water and blood may be included here. The Epistle is the companion treatise of the Gospel.
And it is the Spirit that beareth witness ] Here again there are great diversities of interpretation. S. Augustine, who makes the water and blood refer to the effusions of Christ’s side, takes ‘the spirit’ to mean the spirit which He committed to His Father at His death (John 19:30 ; Luke 23:46 ). But in what sense could Christ’s human spirit be said to be ‘the Truth’? Far more probably it is the Holy Spirit that is meant (3:24, 4:13; John 1:32 , John 1:33 , John 1:7 :39; Revelation 2:7 , Revelation 2:11 , Revelation 2:17 , Revelation 2:29 , &c.). Bede takes this view and understands the witness of the Spirit at Christ’s baptism to be meant. The form of the sentence is exactly parallel to ‘It is the spirit that giveth life’ (John 6:63 ). We might render in each case; ‘The spirit is the life-giver’, ‘And the Spirit is the witness-bearer’.
that beareth witness ] We have seen already (note on 1:2) that witness to the truth in order to produce faith is one of S. John’s leading thoughts in Gospel, Epistles, and Revelation. Here it becomes the dominant thought: the word ‘witness’ (verb or substantive) occurs ten times in five verses. In the Gospel we have seven witnesses to Christ; scripture (5:39 47), the Baptist (1:7), the Disciples (15:27, 16:30), Christ’s works (5:36, 10:25, 38), Christ’s words (8:14, 18, 18:37), the Father (5:37, 8:18), the Spirit (15:26). Of these seven three are specially mentioned in the Epistle, the Disciples in 1:2, the Father in vv. 9, 10, and the Spirit here; but to these are added two more, the water and the blood .
because the Spirit is truth ] It would be possible to translate ‘It is the Spirit that beareth witness that the Spirit is the truth’: but this self-attestation of the Spirit would have no relation to the context. It is the witnesses to Christ, to the identity of Jesus with the Son of God, that S. John is marshalling before us. It is because the Spirit is the Truth that His testimony is irrefragable: He can neither deceive nor be deceived. He is ‘the Spirit of Truth’ (John 14:16 , John 15:26 ), and He glorifies the Christ, taking of His and declaring it unto the Church (John 16:14 ).
There is a remarkable Latin reading, quoniam Christus est veritas , ‘It is the Spirit that beareth witness that the Christ is the Truth’, but it has no authority.
7. For there are three that bear record in heaven ] If there is one thing that is certain in textual criticism, it is that this famous passage is not genuine. The Revisers have only performed an imperative duty in excluding it from both text and margin. External and internal evidence are alike overwhelmingly against the passage. A summary of both will be found in Appendix D. But there are three facts, which every one should know, and which alone are enough to shew that the words are an interpolation. (1) They are not found in a single Greek MS. earlier than the fourteenth century. (2) Not one of the Greek or Latin Fathers who conducted the controversies about the doctrine of the Trinity in the third, fourth, and first half of the fifth centuries ever quotes the words. (3) The words occur first towards the end of the fifth century in Latin, and are found in no other language until the fourteenth century. The only words which are genuine in this verse are, For there are three that bear record , or more accurately, For those who bear witness are three : ‘three’ is the predicate; for ‘witness’ see on 1:2.
8. And there are three that bear witness in earth ] These words also are part of the spurious insertion. The true text of vv. 7, 8 runs: For those who bear witness are three, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and the three agree in one . S. John says ‘those who bear witness’, not simply ‘the witnesses’: they are not merely witnesses who might be called, or who have once been called, but who are perpetually delivering their testimony. The masculine ( οἱ μαρτυροῦντες ) is evidence of the personality of the Spirit. The Apostle is answering the misgivings of those who fancied that when he, the last of the Apostles, was taken from them, the Church would possess only second-hand evidence, and a tradition ever growing fainter, as to the Person and Mission of the Christ. ‘Nay’, says he, ‘evidence at first-hand is ever present, and each believer has it in himself’ ( v. 10). Comp. John 15:26 .
are three ] It is very doubtful whether the Trinity is even remotely symbolized. Perhaps S. John wishes to give the full, complement of evidence recognized by law (Matthew 18:16 ; 2 Corinthians 13:1 ; Deuteronomy 19:15 ; comp. John 8:17 ).
the water, and the blood ] These of course have the same meaning as before; Christ’s Baptism and Death. “The real value of our Lord’s baptism and His death may be estimated by supposing that neither had taken place, and that our Lord had appeared on His mission without openly professing His mission from God in submitting to the baptism of John; or that He had died quietly, as other men die” (Jelf).
agree in one ] Literally, are (united) into the one ; or, are for the one object of establishing this truth. This may mean either that they are joined so as to become one witness, or that they co-operate in producing one result. “The trinity of witnesses furnish one testimony”. ‘To be one ( ἓν εἶναι ) occurs John 10:30 , John 10:17 :11, John 10:21 , John 10:22 ; and ( εἶς ἐστε ) 1 Corinthians 3:23 : ‘into one’ ( εἰς ἔν ) occurs John 11:52 , John 17:23 : but ‘to be into one’ or ‘to be into the one’ occurs nowhere else in N. T. ‘The one’ here has been made into an argument for the genuineness of v. 7. It is said that ‘ the one’ plainly implies that ‘one’ has preceded. But this lands us in absurdity by making ‘one’ in v. 8 mean the same as ‘one’ in v. 7. ‘One’ in v. 7 means ‘one Substance’, the ‘Unity in Trinity’. But what sense can ‘The spirit, the water, and the blood agree m the Unity in Trinity’ yield?
9 11. S. John’s characteristic repetition of the word ‘witness’ is greatly weakened in A. V. by the substitution of ‘testify’ in v. 9 and ‘record’ in vv. 10, 11: see on 1:2, 2:15, 24, 4:5.
9. If we receive the witness of men ] And it is notorious that we do so: comp. ‘if God so loved us’ (4:11), and see on 2 John 1:10 . The argument reads like an echo of that of Christ to the Pharisees, ‘In your law it is written that the witness of two men is true’ (John 8:17 ); how much more therefore the witness of the Father and the Son? For ‘receive’ in the sense of ‘accept as valid’ comp. John 3:11 , John 3:32 , John 3:33 .
for ] Or, because . Something is evidently to be understood; e.g. ‘I say, the witness of God, because …’, or ‘I use this argument, because …’.
this is the witness of God ] Better, as R.V., the witness of God is this : ‘this’ is the predicate and refers to what follows (see on 1:5). His witness consists in His having borne witness about His Son.
which he hath testified ] According to the better reading and rendering, that He hath borne witness . ‘I appeal to the witness of God, because the witness of God is this, even the fact that He hath borne witness concerning His Son’. The perfect tense indicates the permanence of the testimony. Comp. ‘He that hath seen hath borne witness’ (John 19:35 ).
10. He that believeth on the Son of God ] For the first time in this Epistle we have the full phrase ‘to believe on ’, of which S. John is so fond in his Gospel, where it occurs nearly 40 times. Elsewhere in N.T. it occurs only about 10 times. It expresses the strongest confidence and trust; faith moves towards and reposes on its object. Whereas ‘to believe a person’ ( πιστεύειν τινί ) need mean no more than to believe what he says (4:1), ‘to believe on or in a person’ ( πιστεύειν εἴς τινα ) means to have full trust in his character.
hath the witness ] Some authorities add ‘of God,’ which is right as an interpretation, though not as part of the text. He has it as an abiding possession (John 5:38 ; Hebrews 10:34 ): ‘hath’ does not mean merely ‘he accepts it’. Comp. ‘The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God’ (Romans 8:16 ); ‘God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father’ (Galatians 4:6 ).
in himself ] According to the revised reading, in him . Wiclif has ‘in him’, Luther, bei ihm : Tyndale added the ‘self’, and most English Versions have followed him. But ‘in him’ in this context cannot mean anything but ‘in himself’. The external witness faithfully accepted becomes internal certitude. Our faith in the Divinity of Christ attests its own Divine origin, for we could not have obtained it otherwise than from God. “The human mind is made for truth, and so rests in truth, as it cannot rest in falsehood. When then it once becomes possessed of a truth, what is to dispossess it? but this is to be certain; therefore once certitude, always certitude. If certitude in any matter be the termination of all doubt or fear about its truth, and an unconditional conscious adherence to it, it carries with it an inward assurance, strong though implicit, that it shall never fail” (J. H. Newman).
he that believeth not God ] He that has not even enough faith to induce him to believe what God says (see first note on this verse). There are great diversities of reading here; ‘God’, ‘the Son’, ‘the Son of God’, ‘His Son’, ‘Jesus Christ’: of these ‘God’ ( א BKLP) is certainly to be preferred. The others have arisen from a wish to make ‘he that believeth not’ more exactly balance ‘he that believeth’. But, as we have repeatedly seen, S. John’s antitheses seldom balance exactly. Yet it is by no means impossible that all five are wrong, and that we ought simply to read ‘ He that believeth not hath made Him a liar’: comp. John 3:18 , of which this verse seems to be an echo. In ‘he that believeth not’, the case is stated quite generally and indefinitely ( ὁ μὴ πιστεύων ): the Apostle is not pointing at some one person who was known as not believing ( ὁ οὐ πιστεύων ); comp. 3:10, 14, 4:8, 20, 5:12.
hath made him a liar ] See on 1:10.
believeth not the record that God gave ] Better, as R.V., hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne : see on 1:2. The perfect in both cases indicates a permanent result: he has been and remains an unbeliever in the witness which God has given and continually supplies concerning His Son. ‘To believe in (on) the witness’ occurs nowhere else. See on 3:23.
11. And this is the record ] Better, as R.V., And the witness is this , as in v. 9: this is what the external witness of God, when it is internally appropriated by the believer, consists in; viz. the Divine gift of eternal life.
eternal life ] See on 1:2 and on John 3:36 , John 5:24 . ‘Hath given’ is more literally gave ; but perhaps this is a case in which the English perfect may represent the Greek aorist. But at any rate ‘gave’ must not be weakened into ‘offered’, still less into ‘promised’. The believer already possesses eternal life.
this life is in his Son ] This is a new independent statement, coordinate with the first clause: it is not, like the second clause, dependent upon the first. Eternal life has its seat and source in the Son, who is the ‘Prince’ or ‘Author of life’ (Acts 3:15 ): see on John 1:4 , John 5:26 .
12. A deduction from the preceding clause. If the Son has the life in Himself, then whoever has the Son has the life, and no man can have the one without the other. ‘To have the Son’ must be compared with ‘to have the Father’ in 2:23. In both cases ‘have’ signifies possession in living union through faith.
hath life ] Better, as R.V., hath the life ; not merely ‘the life just mentioned’, ‘the life which God has given’, but ‘the life which in the full sense of the word is such’.
he that hath not ] As in verse 10, the negative alternative is stated generally and indefinitely ( ὁ μὴ ἔχων ). The addition of ‘of God’ is neither fortuitous nor pleonastic. Those who possess Him know that He is the Son of God; those who do not, need to be reminded Whose Son it is that they reject.
The verse constitutes another close parallel with the Gospel: comp. the last words of the Baptist (John 3:36 ).
13 21. Conclusion and Summary
Some modern writers consider that v. 13 constitutes the conclusion of the Epistle, the remainder (14 21) being a postscript or appendix, analogous to chap. 21. of the Gospel, and possibly by another hand. Some go so far as to conjecture that the same person added chap. 21 to the Gospel and the last nine verses to the Epistle after the Apostle’s death.
Not much can be urged in favour of these views. No MS. or version seems to exist in which these concluding verses are wanting. Tertullian quotes vv. 16, 17, 18 ( De Pudicitia xix.) and v. 21 ( De Corona x.): Clement of Alexandria quotes vv. 16, 17 ( Strom , II. xv.); and both these writers in quoting mention S. John by name. This shews that at the end of the second century these verses were an integral part of the Epistle. Against such evidence as this, arbitrary statements that the division of sins into sins unto death and sins not unto death, the sternness of v. 19, and the warning against idolatry, are unlike S. John, will not have much weight. The diction is S. John’s throughout, and some of the fundamental ideas of the Epistle reappear in these concluding verses. Moreover, the connexion with the first half of the chapter is so close, that there is no reason for supposing that, while unquestionably by S. John himself, yet it is, like chap. 21. of the Gospel, a subsequent addition to the original work. Indeed so close is the connexion with what precedes that some commentators consider only the last four verses, or even only the last verse, to be the proper Conclusion of the Epistle.
The Conclusion, as here arranged, falls into three parts. In the first, three main thoughts are retouched; faith in the Son of God, eternal life, and love of the brethren shewing itself in intercession (13 17). In the second, three great facts of which believers have certain knowledge are restated (18 20). In the third, a farewell practical warning is given ( v. 21).
13 17. Intercessory Love the Fruit of Faith and of the Possession of Life
13 17. Eternal life, faith, and brotherly love shewing boldness in intercession, are the leading ideas of this section. We have had most of these topics before, and the section is more or less of a recapitulation. But S. John “cannot even recapitulate without the introduction of new and most important thoughts” (F. W. Farrar); and the combination of the idea of boldness in prayer (3:21, 22) with that of love of the brethren leads to very fruitful results.
13. These things have I written unto you ] ‘These things’ will cover the whole Epistle, and such is probably the meaning, as in 1:4, where S. John states the purpose of his Epistle in words which are explained by what he says here: there is nothing there or here, as there is in 2:26, to limit ‘these things’ to what immediately precedes. As in 2:21, 26, ‘I have written’ is literally, ‘I wrote’: it is the epistolary aorist, which may be represented in English either by the present or the perfect.
In the remainder of the verse the divergences of reading are very considerable, and authorities are much divided. The original text seems to be that represented by א 1 B, which has been adopted in R. V. These things have I written unto you , that ye may know that ye have eternal life, unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God . The awkwardness of the explanatory clause added at the end has led to various expedients for making the whole run more smoothly. Comp. the similarly added explanation in v. 16; ‘them that sin not unto death.’
that ye may know that ye have eternal life ] At the opening of the Epistle S. John said ‘These things we write that our joy may be fulfilled’ (1:4). The context there shews what constitutes this joy. It is the consciousness of fellowship with God and His Son and His saints; in other words it is the conscious possession of eternal life (John 17:3 ). Thus the Introduction and Conclusion of the Epistle mutually explain one another. This verse should also be compared with its parallel in the Gospel (20:31), a passage which has probably influenced some of the various readings here. We see at once the similar yet not identical purposes of Gospel and Epistle. S. John writes his Gospel, ‘that ye may have life ’; he writes his Epistle ‘that ye may know that ye have life.’ The one leads to the obtaining of the boon; the other to the joy of knowing that the boon has been obtained. The one is to produce faith; the other is to make clear the fruits of faith.
believe on the name ] See on v. 10 and on 3:23.
14. And this is the confidence that we have in him ] Better, And the boldness that we have towards Him is this : see on 1:5 and 2:28. For the fourth and last time in the Epistle the Apostle touches on the subject of the Christian’s ‘boldness.’ Twice he speaks of it in connexion with the Day of Judgment (2:28, 4:17); twice in connexion with approaching God in prayer (3:21, 22 and here). In the present case it is with special reference to intercessory prayer that the subject is retouched. Thus two more leading ideas of the Epistle meet in this recapitulation, boldness towards God and brotherly love; for it is love of the brethren which induces us to pray for them.
according to his will ] This is the only limitation, and it is a very gracious limitation. His will is always for His children’s good, and therefore it is only when they ignorantly ask for what is not for their good that their prayers are denied. Comp. S. Paul’s case, 2 Corinthians 12:9 . ‘Heareth’ of course means that He hears and grants what we ask (John 9:31 , John 9:11 :41, 42). Comp. ‘The desire of the righteous shall be granted’ (Proverbs 10:24 ).
15. if we know that he hear us … we know that we have ] The one certitude depends upon the other: if we trust God’s goodness, we are perfectly certain that our trust is not misplaced. Comp. ‘All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye have received them , and ye shall have them’ (Mark 11:24 ). ‘Whatsoever we ask’ belongs to the conditional clause.
that we have ] Not merely that we shall have: our prayers are already granted, although no results may be perceptible. ‘Everyone that asketh, receiveth ; and he that seeketh, findeth ’ (Matthew 7:8 ).
that we desired of him ] Better, that we have asked of Him : it is the perfect tense of the same verb as is used in ‘whatsoever we ask.’ Comp. Matthew 20:20 . ‘Of Him’ or ‘from Him’ ( ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ ) can be taken with ‘that we have’.
16. ‘The prayer of faith’ is all-prevailing when it is in accordance with God’s will. This is the sole limit as regards prayer on our own behalf. Is there any other limit in the case of prayer on behalf of another? Yes, there is that other’s own will: this will prove a further limitation. Man’s will has been endowed by God with such royal freedom, that not even His will coerces it. Still less, therefore, can a brother’s prayer coerce it. If a human will has deliberately and obstinately resisted God, and persists in doing so, we are debarred from our usual certitude. Against a rebel will even the prayer of faith in accordance with God’s will (for of course God desires the submission of the rebel) may be offered in vain. For exhortations to intercession elsewhere in N. T. see 1 Thessalonians 5:25 ; Hebrews 13:18 , Hebrews 13:19 ; James 5:14-20 ; comp. Philippians 1:4 .
If any man see his brother ] Here it is obvious that ‘brother’ must mean ‘fellow- Christian ’, not any one whether Christian or not.
sin a sin ] More accurately, as R.V., sinning a sin : the supposed case is one in which the sinner is seen in the very act. The phrase ‘to sin a sin’ occurs nowhere else in N.T. Comp. Leviticus 5:6 , Leviticus 5:10 , Leviticus 5:13 ; Ezekiel 18:24 .
he shall ask ] Future for imperative; or, he will ask , i.e. a Christian in such a case is sure to pray for his erring brother. The latter seems preferable.
and he shall give him life ] The Greek is ambiguous. ‘He’ may mean either God or the intercessor, and ‘him’ may mean either the intercessor or the sinner for whom he intercedes. If the latter alternatives be taken, we may compare ‘he shall save a soul from death’ (James 5:20 ). Commentators are much divided. On the one hand it is urged that throughout Scripture asking is man’s part and giving God’s: but, on the other hand, when two verbs are connected so closely as these, ‘will ask and will give’ ( αἰτήσει καὶ δώσει ), it seems rather violent to give them different nominatives; ‘he will ask and God will give’. It seems better to translate; he will ask and will give him life, them that sin not unto death . ‘Them’ is in apposition to ‘him’, the clause being an explanation rather awkwardly added, similar to that at the end of v. 13. If ‘God’ be inserted, ‘them’ is the dativus commodi ; ‘God will grant the intercessor life for those who sin’. The change to the plural makes the statement more general: ‘sinning not unto death’ is not likely to be an isolated case. The Vulgate is here exceedingly free; petat, et dabitur ei vita peccanti non ad mortem . Tertullian also ignores the change of number; postulabit, et dabit ei vitam dominus qui non ad mortem delinquit .
There is a sin unto death ] Or, There is sin unto death ; we have no τις or μία in the Greek, a fact which is against the supposition that any act of sin is intended. In that case would not S. John have named it, that the faithful might avoid it, and also know when it had been committed? The following explanations of ‘sin unto death’ may be safely rejected. 1. Sin punished by the law with death. 2. Sin punished by Divine visitation with death or sickness. 3. Sin punished by the Church with excommunication. As a help to a right explanation we may get rid of the idea which some commentators assume, that ‘sin unto death’ is a sin which can be recognised by those among whom the one who commits it lives. S. John’s very guarded language points the other way. He implies that some sins may be known to be ‘ not unto death’: he neither says nor implies that all ‘sin unto death’ can be known as such. As a further help we may remember that no sin, if repented of, can be too great for God’s mercy. Hence S. John does not speak even of this sin as ‘fatal’ or ‘mortal’, but as ‘ unto death’ ( πρὸς θάνατον ). Death is its natural, but not its absolutely inevitable consequence. It is possible to close the heart against the influences of God’s Spirit so obstinately and persistently that repentance becomes a moral impossibility. Just as the body may starve itself to such an extent as to make the digestion, or even the reception, of food impossible; so the soul may go on refusing offers of grace until the very power to receive grace perishes. Such a condition is necessarily sin, and ‘sin unto death’. No passing over out of death into life (3:14) is any longer (without a miracle of grace) possible. ‘Sin unto death’, therefore, is not any act of sin, however heinous, but a state or habit of sin wilfully chosen and persisted in: it is constant and consummate opposition to God. In the phraseology of this Epistle we might say that it is the deliberate preference of darkness to light, of falsehood to truth, of sin to righteousness, of the world to the Father, of spiritual death to eternal life.
I do not say that he shall pray for it ] More accurately, not concerning that do I say that he should make request . This reproduces the telling order of the Greek; it avoids the ambiguity which lurks in ‘pray for it’; it preserves the emphatic ‘that’; and marks better the difference between the verb ( αἰτεῖν ) previously rendered ‘ask’ ( vv. 14, 15, 16) and the one ( ἐρωτᾷν ) here rendered ‘pray’. Of the two verbs the latter is the less suppliant (see on John 14:16 ), whereas ‘pray’ is more suppliant than ‘ask’. Two explanations of the change of verb are suggested. 1. The Apostle does not advise request, much less does he advise urgent supplication in such a case. 2. He uses the less humble word to express a request which seems to savour of presumption. See on 2 John 1:5 .
(1) Note carefully that S. John, even in this extreme case, does not forbid intercession : all he says is that he does not command it. For one who sins an ordinary sin we may intercede in faith with certainty that a prayer so fully in harmony with God’s will is heard. The sinner will receive grace to repent. But where the sinner has made repentance morally impossible S. John does not encourage us to intercede. Comp. Jeremiah 7:16 , Jeremiah 14:11 .
(2) Note also that, while distinguishing between deadly and not deadly sin, he gives us no criterion by which we may distinguish the one from the other . He thus condemns rather than sanctions those attempts which casuists have made to tabulate sins under the heads of ‘mortal’ and ‘venial’. Sins differ indefinitely in their intensity and effect on the soul, ending at one end of the scale in ‘sin unto death’; and the gradations depend not merely or chiefly on the sinful act , but on the motive which prompted it, and the feeling (whether of sorrow or delight) which the recollection of it evokes. Further than this it is not safe to define or dogmatize. This seems to be intimated by what is told us in the next verse. Two facts are to be borne in mind, and beyond them we need not pry.
17. All unrighteousness is sin ] A warning against carelessness about breaches of duty, whether in ourselves or in others. All such things are sin and need the cleansing blood of Christ (1:9, 2:2). Here, therefore, is a wide enough field for brotherly intercession. The statement serves also as a farewell declaration against the Gnostic doctrine that to the enlightened Christian declensions from righteousness involve no sin. Comp. the definition of sin as lawlessness in 3:4.
there is a sin not unto death ] Or, as before, there is sin not unto death : Wiclif, Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Genevan here omit the indefinite article, though they all insert it in v. 16. A warning against despair , whether about ourselves or about others. Not all sin is mortal: an answer by anticipation to the unchristian rigour of Montanism and Novatianism.
18 20. The Sum of the Christian’s Knowledge
18 20. The Epistle now draws rapidly to a close. Having briefly, yet with much new material, retouched some of the leading ideas of the Epistle, eternal life, faith in Christ and boldness in prayer united with brotherly love (13 17), the Apostle now goes on to emphasize once more three great facts about which Christians have sure knowledge, facts respecting themselves, their relations to the evil one and his kingdom, and their relations to the Son of God. Each verse is a condensation of what has been said elsewhere. V. 18 is a combination of 3:9 with 2:13; v. 19 a combination of the substance of 1:6, 2:8, 15 and 3:10, 13: v. 20 condenses the substance of 4:9 14 and 5:1 12. “Hence we have in these last verses a final emphasis laid on the fundamental principles on which the Epistle rests; that through the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ we have fellowship with God ; that this fellowship protects us from sin ; and that it establishes us in a relation of utter opposition to the world ” (Haupt). Fellowship with one another is not mentioned again, but is included in the threefold ‘ we know’.
18. We know ] This confident expression of the certitude of Christian faith stands at the beginning of each of these three verses and is the link which binds them together. We have had it twice before (3:2, 14; comp. 2:20, 21, 3:5, 15): and perhaps in all cases it is meant to mark the contrast between the real knowledge of the believer, which is based upon Divine revelation in Christ, and the spurious knowledge of the Gnostic, which is based upon human intelligence.
The triple ‘we know’ at the close of the Epistle confirms the view that John 21:24 is by the Apostle’s own hand, and not added by the Ephesian elders.
whosoever is born of God ] Better, as R.V., whosoever is begotten of God , It is the same verb, though not the same tense, as is used in the next clause: A.V. changes the verb and does not change the tense. The sentence is a return to the statement made in 3:9, where see notes. Once more the Apostle is not afraid of an apparent contradiction (see on 2:15). He has just been saying that if a Christian sins his brother will intercede for him; and now he says that the child of God does not sin. The one statement refers to possible but exceptional facts; the other to the habitual state. A child of God may sin; but his normal condition is one of resistance to sin.
but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself ] Rather, but the Begotten of God keepeth him . The first change depends upon a question of interpretation, the second on one of reading; and neither can be determined with certainty. The latter is the easier question and it throws light on the former. ‘Him’ ( αὐτόν ), on the high authority of A 1 B and the Vulgate, seems to be rightly preferred by most editors to ‘himself’ ( ἑαυτόν ). This ‘him’ is the child of God spoken of in the first clause: who is it that ‘keepeth him’? Not the child of God himself, as A. V. leads us to suppose and many commentators explain, but the Son of God, the Only-Begotten. On any other interpretation S. John’s marked change of tense appears arbitrary and confusing. Recipients of the Divine birth are always spoken of by S. John both in his Gospel and in his Epistle in the perfect participle ( ὁ γεγεννημένος or τὸ γεγεννημένον ); 3:9, 5:1, 4; John 3:6 , John 3:8 ; also the first clause here. In the present clause he abruptly changes to the aorist participle ( ὁ γεννηθείς ), which he uses nowhere else (comp. Matthew 1:20 ; Galatians 4:29 ). The force of the two tenses here seems to be this: the perfect expresses a permanent relation begun in the past and continued in the present; the aorist expresses a timeless relation, a mere fact: the one signifies the child of God as opposed to those who have not become His children; the other signifies the Son of God as opposed to the evil one. It is some confirmation of this view that in the Constantinopolitan Creed, commonly called the Nicene Creed, ‘begotten of the Father’ ( τὸν ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς γεννηθέντα ) is the same form of expression as that used here for ‘begotten of God’ ( ὁ γεννηθεὶς ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ). Moreover this interpretation produces another harmony between Gospel and Epistle. Christ both directly by His power and indirectly by His intercession ‘keepeth’ the children of God: ‘I kept them in Thy Name’ (17:12); ‘I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil one ’ (17:15).
that wicked one toucheth him not ] Better, the evil one toucheth him not : see on 1:2 and 2:13. Strangely enough the Genevan Version has ‘that wycked man .’ The original is perhaps less strong than the English; ‘layeth not hold on him’ ( ἅπτεται ); see on John 20:17 . The evil one does assault him, but he gets no hold. ‘No one shall snatch them out of My hand’ (John 10:28 ). ‘The ruler of the world cometh: and he hath nothing in Me’ (John 14:30 ). Therefore whoever is in Christ is safe.
19. And we know ] The conjunction must be omitted on abundant authority. This introduces the second great fact of which the believer has sure knowledge. And, as so often, S. John’s divisions are not sharp, but the parts intermingle. The second fact is partly anticipated in the first; the first is partly repeated in the second. Christians know that as children of God they are preserved by His Son from the devil. Then what do they know about the world, and their relation to the world? They know that they are of God and the whole world lieth in the evil one . It remains in his power. It has not passed over, as they have done, out of death into life; but it abides in the evil one, who is its ruler (John 12:31 , John 14:30 , John 16:11 ), as the Christian abides in Christ. It is clear therefore that the severance between the Church and the world ought to be, and tends to be, as total as that between God and the evil one. The preceding verse and the antithesis to God, to say nothing of 2:13, 14, 4:4, make it quite clear that ‘the evil’ ( τῷ πονηρῷ ) is here masculine and not neuter. The Vulgate has in maligno , not in malo . Tyndale and Cranmer have ‘is altogether set on wickedness,’ which is doubly or trebly wrong. Note once more that the opposition is not exact, but goes beyond what precedes. The evil one doth not obtain hold of the child of God: he not only obtains hold over the world, but has it wholly within his embrace. No similar use of ‘to lie in’ occurs in N. T. Comp. Sophocles Oed. Col. 248.
20. And we know ] This introduces the third great fact of which believers have certain knowledge. The first two Christian certitudes are that the believer as a child of God progresses under Christ’s protection towards the sinlessness of God, while the unbelieving world lies wholly in the power of the evil one. Therefore the Christian knows that both in the moral nature which he inherits, and in the moral sphere in which he lives, there is an ever-widening gulf between him and the world. But his knowledge goes beyond this. Even in the intellectual sphere, in which the Gnostic claims to have such advantages, the Christian is, by Christ’s bounty, superior.
The ‘and’ ( δέ ) brings the whole to a conclusion: comp. Hebrews 13:20 , Hebrews 13:22 . Or it may mark the opposition between the world’s evil case and what is stated here; in which case δέ should be rendered ‘but.’
is come ] This includes the notion of ‘is here’ ( ἥκει ); but it is the coming at the Incarnation rather than the perpetual presence that is prominent in this context.
hath given us an understanding ] Or, hath given us understanding , i.e. the capacity for receiving knowledge, intellectual power. The word ( διάνοια ) occurs nowhere else in S. John’s writings.
that we may know ] Literally, ‘that we may continue to recognise, as we do now’ ( ἵνα with the indicative; see on John 17:3 ). It is the appropriation of the knowledge that is emphasized; hence ‘recognise’ ( γινώσκομεν ) rather than ‘know’ ( οἴδαμεν ). The latter word is used at the opening of these three verses: there it is the possession of the knowledge that is the main thing.
him that is true ] God; another parallel with Christ’s Prayer; ‘ that they should know Thee the only true God ’ (John 17:3 ), where some authorities give ἵνα with the indicative, as here. ‘True’ does not mean ‘that cannot lie’ (Titus 1:2 ), but ‘genuine, real, very ,’ as opposed to the false gods of v. 21. See on 2:8. What is the Gnostic’s claim to superior knowledge in comparison with this? We know that we have the Divine gift of intelligence by means of which we attain to the knowledge of a personal God who embraces and sustains us in his Son.
and we are in him ] A fresh sentence, not dependent on either preceding ‘that’. ‘Him that is true’ again means God. It is arbitrary to change the meaning and make this refer to Christ. ‘The Son has given us understanding by which to attain to knowledge of the Father.’ Instead of resuming ‘And we do know the Father,’ the Apostle makes an advance and says: ‘And we are in the Father.’ Knowledge has become fellowship (1:3, 2:3 5). God has appeared as man; God has spoken as man to man; and the Christian faith, which is the one absolute certainty for man, the one means of re-uniting him to God, is the result.
even in his Son Jesus Christ ] Omit ‘even’ which has been inserted in A.V. and R.V. to make ‘in Him that is true’ refer to Christ. This last clause explains how it is that we are in the Father, viz. by being in the Son. Comp. 2:23; John 1:18 , John 1:14 :9, John 1:17 :21, John 1:23 . Tyndale boldly turns the second ‘in’ into ‘through’; ‘we are in him that is true, through his sonne Jesu Christ.’ We have had similar explanatory additions in vv. 13, 16.
This is the true God ] It is impossible to determine with certainty whether ‘This’ ( οὗτος ) refers to the Father, the principal substantive of the previous sentence, or to Jesus Christ, the nearest substantive. That S. John teaches the Divinity of Jesus Christ both in Epistle and Gospel is so manifest, that a text more or less in favour of the doctrine need not be the subject of heated controversy. The following considerations are in favour of referring ‘This’ to Christ. 1. Jesus Christ is the subject last mentioned. 2. The Father having been twice called ‘the true One’ in the previous verse, to proceed to say of Him ‘This is the true God’ is somewhat tautological. 3. It is Christ who both in this Epistle (1:2, 5:12) and also in the Gospel (11:25, 14:6) is called the Life. 4. S. Athanasius three times in his Orations against the Arians interprets the passage in this way, as if there was no doubt about it (III. xxiv. 4, xxv. 16; IV. ix. 1). The following are in favour of referring ‘This’ to the Father. 1. The Father is the leading subject of all that follows ‘understanding.’ 2. To repeat what has been already stated and add to it is exactly S. John’s style. He has spoken of ‘Him that is true’: and he now goes on ‘This (true One) is the true God and eternal life .’ 3. It is the Father who is the source of that life which the Son has and is (John 5:26 ). 4.John 7:3 supports this view. 5. The Divinity of Christ has less special point in reference to the warning against idols: the truth that God is the true God is the basis of the warning against false gods: comp. 1 Thessalonians 1:9 . But see the conclusion of the note on ‘from idols’ in the next verse: see also note k in Lect. v. of Liddon’s Bampton Lectures .
21. Farewell Warning
Little children ] As usual (2:1, 12, 28, 3:7, 18, 4:4), this refers to all his readers.
keep yourselves ] Better, as R. V., guard yourselves . It is not the verb used in v. 18 ( τηρεῖν ) but that used 2 Thessalonians 3:3 ( φυλάσσειν ); ‘shall guard you from the evil one’. Both verbs occur John 17:12 : comp. 12:25, 47. Here the verb is in the aorist imperative; ‘once for all be on your guard and have nothing to do with’. The use of the reflexive pronoun instead of the middle voice intensifies the command to personal care and exertion ( φυλάξατε ἑαυτά ). This construction is frequent in S. John: 1:8, 3:3; John 7:4 , John 7:11 :33, 55, John 7:13 :4, John 7:21 :1; Revelation 6:15 , Revelation 8:6 , Revelation 19:7 .
from idols ] Or perhaps, from the idols ; those with which Ephesus abounded: or again, from your idols ; those which have been, or may become, a snare to you. This is the last of the contrasts of which the Epistle is so full. We have had light and darkness, truth and falsehood, love and hate, God and the world, Christ and Antichrist, life and death, doing righteousness and doing sin, the children of God and the children of the devil, the spirit of truth and the spirit of error, the believer untouched by the evil one and the world lying in the evil one; and now at the close we have what in that age was the ever present and pressing contrast between the true God and the idols. There is no need to seek far-fetched figurative explanations of ‘the idols’ when the literal meaning lies close at hand, is suggested by the context, and is in harmony with the known circumstances of the time. Is it reasonable to suppose that S. John was warning his readers against “systematising inferences of scholastic theology; theories of self-vaunting orthodoxy … tyrannous shibboleths of aggressive systems”, or against superstitious honour paid to the “Madonna, or saints, or pope, or priesthood”, when every street through which his readers walked, and every heathen house they visited, swarmed with idols in the literal sense; above all when it was its magnificent temples and groves and seductive idolatrous rites which constituted some of the chief attractions at Ephesus? Acts 19:27 , Acts 19:35 ; Tac. Ann. iii. 61, iv. 55. Ephesian coins with idolatrous figures on them are common. ‘Ephesian letters’ ( Ἐφέσια γράμματα ) were celebrated in the history of magic, and to magic the ‘curious arts’ of Acts 19:19 point. Of the strictness which was necessary in order to preserve Christians from these dangers the history of the first four centuries is full. Elsewhere in N. T. the word is invariably used literally: Acts 7:41 , Acts 7:15 :20; Romans 2:22 ; 1 Corinthians 8:4 , 1 Corinthians 8:7 , 1 Corinthians 8:10 :19, 1 Corinthians 8:12 :2; 2 Corinthians 6:16 ; 1 Thessalonians 1:9 ; Revelation 9:20 . Moreover, if we interpret this warning literally, we have another point of contact between the Epistle and the Apocalypse (Revelation 9:20 , Revelation 21:8 ). Again, as we have seen, some of the Gnostic teachers maintained that idolatry was harmless, or that at any rate there was no need to suffer martyrdom in order to avoid it. This verse is a final protest against such doctrine. Lastly, this emphatic warning against the worship of creatures intensifies the whole teaching of this Epistle; the main purpose of which is to establish the truth that the Son of God has come in the flesh in the Man Jesus. Such a Being was worthy of worship. But if, as Ebionites and Cerinthians taught, Jesus was a creature, the son of Joseph and Mary, then worship of such an one would be only one more of those idolatries from which S. John in his farewell injunction bids Christians once and for ever to guard themselves.
Amen ] Here, as at the end of the Gospel and the Second Epistle, ‘Amen’ is the addition of a copyist. א AB and most Versions omit it. Such conclusions, borrowed from liturgies, have been freely added throughout N. T. Perhaps that in Galatians 6:18 is the only final ‘Amen’ that is genuine; but that in 2 Peter 3:8 is well supported.