The Issues of Eternal Life

1 John 2  •  16 min. read  •  grade level: 7
The first and second verses of this chapter belong to chapter 1. They bring out advocacy to restore to communion after failure. Our communion is with the Father and the Son, but God’s nature is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. Then, if we fail in walking in the light, communion is interrupted walking, and the provision for our failure is the advocacy of Jesus Christ the righteous. He has made propitiation for our sins, and He is with the Father the expression of divine righteousness, and on the ground of established righteousness He acts to restore our souls.
In vv. 3-11 we have the tests of the confidence of the relationship in which we stand, brought forward to meet the pretensions of those who say they are in the light, and do not walk in consistency with it. Remark, these tests are to “assure our hearts before him,” and not to lead to doubt and uncertainty. The tests are obedience and love, to give us the consciousness of the position we are in, not to answer doubts whether we are there or not. For we can neither obey nor love, till we know the Father, and are in the relationship whence our responsibility flows. How can I obey as a child, if I do not know that I am a child? Again, take love to the brethren; “He that loveth his brother abideth in the light;” if I do not know who my brethren are, or if I doubt that I am a child in the family, I cannot love them as my brethren.
This is not a vague charity, which both false religion and infidelity will support and insist upon.
The Word of God teaches me to love God’s children as a positive, manifested people. It does not teach me to love every one alike, for if so, where are the brethren, the children of God? Take, for example, an earthly relationship. If I am a child in a family, I am to love my father’s children as my brothers and sisters; I am not to love any child in the street as one of the family; for if so, I have disowned my father, for they are not his children. Certainly we are to love all men and love the world, as God loved it; but how did He love it? Why, as lost and perishing; this is not the way we love the brethren. See how positive is the ground the Word of God takes— “we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” There is the perfect consciousness of being children ourselves, and of knowing others as such, or we could not say “we” and “us.” I grant you, in the mixture of the present day, it may be difficult to find out the children of God, but, notwithstanding, there is a manifested family, and no one can love the brethren, unless he is assured he himself is one of the family. This is of all importance in this day of doubting and uncertainty.
It is the same thing in the twelfth verse; “I write unto you little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.” Not “little children” as a class, for here the Apostle is addressing the whole family. He writes to them because their sins are forgiven them. We never find in Scripture such a thing as a child of God whose sins are unforgiven just as we have seen we cannot love the brethren unless we are in the family and know the Father; so the Word of God does not own as children those whose sins are not forgiven. The Spirit of God may be working in them, showing them their need, giving them desires after Christ, attracting their hearts, all very blessed in its place. But the Word of God never speaks of any as Christians who know not the forgiveness of sins. Now this is of vast importance in a day like this. Many would not like you to question their being Christians, while at the same time they would not think of saying their sins were forgiven. Scripture, however, never separates one confession from the other.
What do we see on every side? Numbers of souls in clouds and confusion. Some who have known forgiveness and have got clouded through bad teaching, others who have never been delivered; some gone back to doubts, others never come out of them. But when I turn to Scripture I see all sure and positive. All the children have their sins forgiven them for His name’s sake.
It is very touching all through the epistle to see how the heart of the Apostle is so filled with Christ, that sometimes he does not even mention His name. There was no fear of their mistaking whom he meant, for whose name’s sake the Father had forgiven all His children. They could not be His children and not be forgiven. This positive standing is the texture of all the epistles, I do not say of some difficult texts, but every epistle is addressed to saints and to no one else. There may be allusions to others, the gospel to sinners may be stated in them, but the epistles themselves are addressed to saints. If you cannot take the name to yourselves, you cannot take the epistle as addressed to you, you are not on Christian ground. God may be working in your heart by His Spirit, revealing Christ to you, and attracting your heart by His Person, as He did to the poor woman in the seventh of Luke, but till you have learned the value of His work in the putting away of sin, you cannot be addressed as a Christian.
See for instance Col. 3:1212Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; (Colossians 3:12): “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering.” You can only take this up as one “holy and beloved,” “elect of God;” if you cannot say this is true of you, you are not in the relationship from which these holy affections and dispositions flow.
How can you put on lowliness of mind as one elect of God, holy and beloved, if you do not know it is true of you? How can I love my father, if I do not know whose child I am, or to whose family I belong? It is quite impossible.
The Apostle now proceeds, from addressing himself generally to all as children, to address specially “fathers”—“young men”—and “babes.” “I write unto you fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning.” This is the knowledge that characterized the people of God as fully matured: they know Christ. It is a term of great importance, and constantly repeated by, the Apostle, “Him that is from the beginning.” I do not dwell upon it here, but allude to it as declaring what Christ is in answer to all pretenses of progress and increase of light. He is, from the beginning, the perfect absolute manifestation of God. In John 1 we have the beginning of all things to which we could possibly attach the idea of beginning—earth, the heavens, angels, and whatever else we can conceive; and when their beginning commenced, Jesus Christ. Was the eternal Son of the Father—God in fact. But here we have the beginning of His manifestation. From the beginning He was the perfect absolute manifestation of God, and all that He is. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” He did so here below, having become a Man. There is no development here, growth in the knowledge of Christ there is in us; but from the beginning He has manifested all that the Father is. Prophets and types have spoken of Him. Adam was a figure of Him who was to come, as Eve was of the church. Types and shadows of Him to instruct us, as God spake in times past by the prophets, we have; but in all this God was not revealed, God was manifested in Christ. Angels, too, learn their God in this. as we read, God was “seen of angels.” The fathers thus knew Christ. This is all that is said of them, nothing can be added to this, it will be the eternal delight of heaven.
Young men are characterized as overcoming the wicked one. It is not the peaceful enjoyment of Christ, but what they have to go through to enjoy Him. There is everything in the world where Satan reigns to oppose this knowledge of Christ, to draw away and distract their hearts. They have to meet Satan in conflict, and thus to overcome. He presents the world to attract them, and they must go through it. Their age in nature, as well as in grace, brings them into conflict with the world. They are in it and have practically to go through it, they must either overcome it, or be overcome by it.
Fathers have learned what it is, and know its emptiness, and find their joy in Christ, who feeds the nature they possess, for, as we read in the second chapter, (v. 8) the life that has been manifested in Him, is in them their life, and thus there is communion in the possession of a divine nature to enjoy Him, and delight in its perfection in Him. But those who are young men have to overcome that they may enjoy Him. We see this difference when a man is converted in old age, he finds Christ; and goes quietly out of the world to be with Him. The young man has to go through it and overcome, and get the victory over it.
He writes unto babes, because they know the Father. They are in the happy enjoyment of the Spirit of adoption; they would not be owned as babes, did they not know the Father. But they are not said to know “Him that is from the beginning;” neither are they in conflict like the young men. Theirs is the joy of the Spirit of adoption in one sense a happier state than that of the young man. We who have been Christians for some time, know the difference between the first j oy of the Spirit of adoption and the conflict we have to pass through to enjoy Christ in an alluring world, where Satan reigns. The apostle has nothing to add in addressing the fathers—they know Him that is from the beginning, and he can say nothing more in addition to this.
To the young men he can say, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” They are strong, and the Word of God abides in them, and they have overcome the wicked one. Their condition is more developed here. They are strong; their strength is that the Word of God abides in them, the divine weapon to meet all the attacks of the enemy. But their energy exposes them to the power of the world. They have to pass through it, and they need to know its real character. It is impossible to love the world and the Father too. They are to discern its evil by their relationship, to the Father.
Persons may keep out of sin by the thought of God, and yet be in the world; for, as a God of providence, He has not given it up. But once realize what your relationship is as a son to the Father, and you cannot love the Father and the world. Persons may say, they ought to use their influence in the world to benefit it; and I grant that the more they are in it, the wider will their influence be; but we have to test all this, and everything else, by Christ. What we want is to be the true expression of Christ in the world. If by your influence you can do more than you could by manifesting Christ, you are only putting the light half out to accommodate yourself and those who hate Christ and love the darkness.
People ask me sometimes, what is the world? It is so difficult to tell, they say. Indeed, I reply; Do you not know what it means if I ask, “How is your son getting on in the world?” If I speak of people “rising in the world,” “prospering in the world,” and such expressions, do you not know what that means? The world is made up of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. There is the lust of the flesh-we need not speak of this for all would own sin to be wrong; then the lust of the eyes, all the vanity that Satan puts before you to attract and engage your mind—this persons find more difficult to condemn; and lastly, the pride of life, the most difficult of all to judge, because all carry so much of it about with them. It does not apply to any particular class in society. There are those who desire it, and who attain it; others there are who have it, and keep it.
Remark how wide the expression is, “all that is in the world,” People may explain it away, and say it cannot mean what it states; I would answer, I, for one, dare not deny the truth of Scripture. “All that is in the world is not of the Father.” Here is the test; I must judge the world by its treatment of Christ. If I am a child of the Father I must learn how the world treated the great Son of God, if I may be allowed the expression, the eternal Son of the Father. He was in the world manifesting all possible grace and love, and it spit in His face, and crucified Him. If any man love the world, then the love of the Father, whose Son it thus treated, is not in him.
Suppose I had a mother whom I loved, and she was ill-treated and put to death one day, could I go the next, and be “a hail-fellow well met” with those who did it, and retain my love to my murdered mother’? The two things could not go together—it would be quite impossible. I must pass through the world as an overcomer, because of its treatment of God’s Son.
In the eighteenth verse the Apostle addresses babes. The spirit of Antichrist was working in the professing Church, “whereby we know that it is the last time.” It is not that Antichrist personally is come, for, through grace, we believe we shall be taken out of the scene before this; but the spirit of Antichrist has been working from the Apostle’s days, and the evil has only been more and more developed since. “Whereby we know,” yes, even babes in Christ “know” that the last time is come. Men dream of progress and improvement, and the march of intellect. The babe in Christ is not deceived; by the knowledge of Christ he discerns the spirit of the day, and judges it as that which is the last time, and not a day of improvement. But these little children have the conscious possession of the good, whereby they judge the evil. They speak of these evil workers going out from us, and not being of us, I know since then profession has been so corrupt, that there is no need of false teachers going out, the whole thing is corrupt. The professing has tried to pull up the tares by persecution, and sometimes has burnt tares, and sometimes wheat, as the Jew said would be the case, if men tried to pull the tares out of the field, but, notwithstanding how profession has sunk, we can still say of all error, they are not of us. Do you say, how can we judge thus? The, Apostle answers, “ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things; I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but, because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” The babes have an unction from God, they are taught of God. Mark too, the unction is from the Holy One, it is His own character, whereby they know all things, His own holiness, the unction is the Holy Spirit, and comes from God as the Holy One. Again, they know the truth thereby—that is Christ Himself, who is the Truth, and they know no lie is of the truth. They need not any to teach them, as the same anointing teacheth them of all things, and is truth.
It is very blessed to see the Apostle telling them they have no need of any one to teach them, and yet he is teaching them all the while.
It is an infinite blessing to have divine certainty in a world of darkness and uncertainty. All the teaching of the Apostle is grounded on divine certainty. Are we to love the brethren! Then there are brethren to love, and a known relationship to God as the Father, teaching us that we are the children of God. Then there is positive knowledge of the forgiveness of sins, the portion of every child in the family. I am a child, and I can say, “Abba, Father,” by the Spirit of adoption. I know what Christ is, and what the world is, and what the truth is.
Persons may say to me, how can you say this? Let us argue it out and put the question in doubt.” “No,” I reply, “if I know the way to my home, and you come to me and tell me all the roads in England, I simply answer, they are not the way to my home!” I am asked to discuss this as an open question and to canvass the matter: I decline, because I know the right way, and any other way is wrong. But how do you know this? Because, I reply, God says all my children “shall be taught of God,” and are taught of God, I may be called presumptuous and what not, it does not matter; the children of God can say, “we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.”
The man of the world says, “I do not believe” I reply, I cannot help this; if you are not taught of God, of course you cannot know the truth. We must act in patience and grace to such, but the Word of God gives us divine certainty, and this is an immense blessing in a day of unbelief and universal misgiving. The babe in Christ knows the truth, and has only to let that which he has heard from the beginning abide in him, for, “as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”