1 John 2:5
But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
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2:3-11 What knowledge of Christ can that be, which sees not that he is most worthy of our entire obedience? And a disobedient life shows there is neither religion nor honesty in the professor. The love of God is perfected in him that keeps his commandments. God's grace in him attains its true mark, and produces its sovereign effect as far as may be in this world, and this is man's regeneration; though never absolutely perfect here. Yet this observing Christ's commands, has holiness and excellency which, if universal, would make the earth resemble heaven itself. The command to love one another had been in force from the beginning of the world; but it might be called a new command as given to Christians. It was new in them, as their situation was new in respect of its motives, rules, and obligations. And those who walk in hatred and enmity to believers, remain in a dark state. Christian love teaches us to value our brother's soul, and to dread every thing hurtful to his purity and peace. Where spiritual darkness dwells, in mind, the judgment, and the conscience will be darkened, and will mistake the way to heavenly life. These things demand serious self-examination; and earnest prayer, that God would show us what we are, and whither we are going.But whoso keepeth his word - That is, what he has spoken or commanded, The term "word" here will include all that he has made known to us as his will in regard to our conduct.

In him verily is the love of God perfected - He professes to have the love of God in his heart, and that love receives its completion or filling up by obedience to the will of God. That obedience is the proper carrying out, or the exponent of the love which exists in the heart. Love to the Saviour would be defective without that, for it is never complete without obedience. If this be the true interpretation, then the passage does not make any affirmation about sinless perfection, but it only affirms that if true love exists in the heart, it will be carried out in the life; or that love and obedience are parts of the same thing; that one will be manifested by the other; and that where obedience exists, it is the completion or perfecting of love. Besides, the apostle does not say that either the love or the obedience would be in themselves absolutely perfect; but he says that one cannot fully develop itself without the other.

Hereby know we that we are in him - That is, by having in fact such love as shall insure obedience. To be in him, is to be united to him; to be his friends. Compare the John 6:56 note; Romans 13:14 note.

5. Not merely repeating the proposition, 1Jo 2:3, or asserting the merely opposite alternative to 1Jo 2:4, but expanding the "know Him" of 1Jo 2:3, into "in Him, verily (not as a matter of vain boasting) is the love of (that is towards) God perfected," and "we are in Him." Love here answers to knowledge in 1Jo 2:3. In proportion as we love God, in that same proportion we know Him, and vice versa, until our love and knowledge shall attain their full maturity of perfection.

his word—His word is one (see on [2641]1Jo 1:5), and comprises His "commandments," which are many (1Jo 2:3).

hereby—in our progressing towards this ideal of perfected love and obedience. There is a gradation: 1Jo 2:3, "know Him"; 1Jo 2:5, "we are in Him"; 1Jo 2:6, "abideth in Him"; respectively, knowledge, fellowship, abiding constancy. [Bengel].

His faith worketh by love, Galatians 5:6; his love is

perfected, and attains its end in obedience, whereof it is the vital principle, 1Jo 5:3 John 14:15. Such an efficacious governing knowledge of him, therefore, as, by the power of the love which it produces, subdues our souls to the obedience of him, is a certain proof to us of our union with him, 1Jo 5:20, and relation to him.

But whoso keepeth his word,.... Either the word of the Gospel, and the truths of it, who receives it in love, cordially embraces and retains it, and will by no means part with it, but holds it fast, and stands fast in it; or the precepts and ordinances of the word, who loves these, and esteems them above fine gold, and concerning all things to be right, and observes them as they should be:

in him verily is the love of God perfected: not the love wherewith God loves him, for that is perfect in himself, and admits of no degrees, and cannot be more or less in his heart, and is entirely independent of the obedience of men, or any works of theirs; it is true indeed the manifestations of this love to the saints are imperfect, and may be more and greater, and greater manifestations of love are promised to such that love Christ, and keep his commandments, John 14:21; but here it is to be understood not actively, but passively, of the love wherewith God is loved by his people; and intends not the absolute perfection of it in them, in whom it often waxes cold, and is left, or the fervour of it abated, but the sincerity and reality of it; for by keeping the word of God, both his truths and his ordinances, it is clearly seen that their love to him is without dissimulation, and is not in tongue only, but in deed and in truth:, now it is not the keeping of the word of God that causes this love, or makes it perfect or sincere, for it is a fruit of the Spirit, and is owing to the grace of God; but love, on the other hand, is the cause of keeping of the word; and the latter being a consequent and an effect of the former, is the evidence of it, of the truth and sincerity of it:

hereby know we that we are in him: in Christ, not merely nominally, or by profession, as all that name the name of Christ, and are in a Gospel church state, may be said to be; but really, first secretly, through the love of Christ, the election of God, and the covenant of grace, and then openly, in conversion and the effectual calling, through believing in Christ, when the saints appear to be in him as branches in the vine; and which is known by their fruits, as here, by keeping the word, and doing the commandments of Christ, which do not put a man into Christ, but only show that he is there; for a man's being in Christ is owing to the grace of God; this is the first thing done in grace, 1 Corinthians 1:30.

{4} But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the {f} love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in {g} him.

(4) He that keeps God's commandments loves God indeed: He that loves God, is in God, or is joined together with God. Therefore he that keeps his commandments is in him.

(f) Wherewith we love God.

(g) He means our union with Christ.

1 John 2:5. In this verse the apostle confirms the idea of 1 John 2:3, in the form of an antithesis to 1 John 2:4, and with the introduction of a new element.

ὃς δʼ ἂν τηρῇ αὐτοῦ (i.e. Θεοῦ) τὸν λόγον] The particle δέ, which refers not to 1 John 2:3 (Lücke), but to the words καὶ τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ μὴ τηρῶν, 1 John 2:4, shows that this verse stands in the same relationship to 1 John 2:4 as chap. 1 John 1:7 to 1 John 2:6; “τηρῇ is with emphasis put first, and similarly αὐτοῦ before τὸν λόγον” (Braune).

αὐτοῦ ὁ λόγος is synonymous with αἱ ἐντολαὶ αὐτοῦ, 1 John 2:3-4 : “the essence of the divine commandments;” a Lapide: Dicit verbum ejus in singulari, quia praecipue respicit legem caritatis; haec enim caeteras omnes in se comprehendit.

The predicate does not run: οὗτος ἔγνωκεν αὐτόν, but: ἀληθῶς ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ τετελείωται, whereby “a new side of the thought comes into view” (Ebrard).

ἀληθῶς] “in truth,” opposed to appearance and mere pretence; it is emphatically put first, as in John 8:31; with reference to the preceding ἡ ἀλήθεια (de Wette); and serves to bring out not a quality of the τετελείωται (Ebrard), but the actuality of the ἐν τούτῳτετελείωται (so also Brückner).

ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ τετελείωται] ἡ ἀγάπη τ. Θεοῦ is not here, as in chap. 1 John 4:9 : “the love of God to us” (Flacius, Calovius, Bengel, Spener, Russmeyer, Sander, Lange, etc.), nor: “the love commanded by God” (Episcopius), nor: “the relationship of mutual love between God and man” (Ebrard: “the mutua amicitia et conjunctio between God and the Christian”);[95] but: “love to God,” as in chap. 1 John 2:15, 1 John 3:17, 1 John 4:12, 1 John 5:3 (Bede, Oecumenius, Luther, Calvin, Beza, Lorinus, Hornejus, Paulus, de Wette-Brückner, Baumgarten-Crusius, Lücke, Düsterdieck, Erdmann, Myrberg, Braune, etc.). This interpretation is required by the context; for “the love of God” appears here in place of the “knowledge of God,” 1 John 2:3-4. As in the latter, so in the former also, consists fellowship with God. Both, love and knowledge, are so inseparably connected, and are so essentially one in their principle and nature, that the one is the condition of the other.[96]

The idea ΤΕΤΕΛΕΊΩΤΑΙ is not to be weakened, as in Beza: ΤΕΛΕΙΟῦΝ hoc in loco non declarat perfecte aliquid consummare, sed mendacio et simulationi opponitur, ut hoc plane sit, quod dicimus: mettre en exécution; but it is to be taken in its constant meaning: “has been perfected,” as in chap. 1 John 4:12; 1 John 4:17-18.[97] The objection, that nevertheless no Christian can boast of perfect love to God, does not justify an arbitrary change of meaning. The absolute idea τηρεῖν αὐτοῦ τὸν λόγον demands for its counterpart an idea quite as absolute (so also Brückner).[98] Where the word of God is perfectly fulfilled, there love to God is perfect; in perfect obedience perfect love is shown. That the Christian has not attained this perfection at any moment of his life, but is ever only in a state of progress towards it, is no doubt true; but John is not here considering that aspect (so also Braune).[99]

ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν] ἐν τούτῳ refers neither to the thought contained in 1 John 2:6 (Socinus, Ewald), nor to ἡ ἀγάπητετελ., but to the keeping of the commandments (so also Düsterdieck, Ebrard, Brückner, Braune). Obedience is the evidence for the knowledge that we are ἐν αὐτῷ.

ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐσμεν] The expression signifies the inward fellowship of life (differently Acts 17:28); it combines the preceding ἐν τούτῳτετελ. and the former ἐγνώκαμεν αὐτόν, and is identical with κοινωνίαν ἔχομεν μετʼ αὐτοῦ (chap. 1 John 1:6), which it defines in its internal character. The knowledge and love of God is being in God (so also Brückner).[100]

Grotius, who understands αὐτῷ of Christ, enfeeblingly explains: Christi ingenii discipuli sumus.

[95] Similarly Besser: “ ‘The love of God in us’ usually embraces both God’s love to us, by which, and our love to God, in which we live. This is the case in this passage also.” This interpretation can be just as little grammatically justified as that of Ebrard; neither a duplicity nor a mutual relationship is expressed in the phrase ἡ ἀγ. τοῦ Θεοῦ.

[96] Grotius, it is true, is not wrong when he says: Amor praesupponit cognitionem; but it is just as correct to say: Cognitio praesupponit amorem.

[97] Even Bengel’s interpretation: perfectum regimen nactus et perfecte cognitus est (viz. amor Dei erga hominem), does not correspond to the idea of the word.

[98] Ebrard, it is true, wants the idea τετελείωται to be retained unweakened, but finds himself compelled by his interpretation of ἡ ἀγ. τ. Θ. to agree with Beza’s explanation, because “in the case of a relationship its perfection is nothing else than its conclusion.” Ebrard’s opinion, that if ἡ ἀγ. τ. Θ. = “love to God,” John must have written τελεία ἐστίν instead of τετελείωται, is—besides being contrary to John’s usus loquendi—without foundation.

[99] In Calvin’s explanation: Si quis objiciat, neminem unquam fuisse repertum, qui Deum ita perfecte diligeret, respondeo: sufficere, modo quisque pro gratiae sibi datae mensura ad hanc perfectionem aspiret, and in that of Socinus: “Est autem perfectio ista earitatis in Deum et obedientia praeceptorum ejus ita intelligenda, ut non omnino requiratur, ne ei quiequam deesse possit, sed tantum ut ejusmodi sit, qua Deus pro sua ingenti erga nos bonitate contentus esse voluit,” limitations are introduced which are foreign to the apostle’s train of thought.

[100] In substantial agreement with this Weiss says: “In vv. 3 and 4 it was stated that in the keeping of God’s commandments we recognise that we have known God. If, therefore, there is a continuous train of thought here, the being in God must only be a new expression for the knowing of God, or must be directly given along with it.”

1 John 2:5. ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ, “the love of God,” is ambiguous like אַהֲבַת יְהֹוָה, amor Dei, l’ amore di Dio, l’amour de Dieu, die Liebe Gottes. It might be objective genitive, “love for God,” “die Liebe zu Gott” (Rothe). But the believer’s love for God is never perfected in this life. The genitive is subjective (cf. 1 John 4:9), amor Dei erga honunem, per Christum nobis reconciliatus (Bengel), and the idea is that the redeeming love of God has attained its end in the man who observes His Word. Cf. Isaiah 53:11. St. Augustine understands “the love of God” as His love for sinners, a forgiving love like that of Jesus when He prayed on the Cross “Father, forgive them”. “What is the perfection of love? It is both to love one’s enemies and to love them in order that they may be brethren.” By cultivating a love like this we get to know that we know Him. ἐν τούτῳ (b) points forward to ὁ λέγων, κ.τ.λ., introducing a second assurance. It is not enough to know Him; we must be sure of continuing in fellowship with Him, of “abiding in Him” to the end. This assurance comes by “walking even as He walked”; i.e. the conformation of our lives to His is an evidence of our abiding interest in Him, our vital union with Him. We get like Him by imitating Him, and our likeness to Him is an irrefragable evidence to ourselves and the the world that we are His, as a son’s likeness to his father proves their relationship. ὀφείλει, “is bound,” “ist schuldig” (Rothe), of moral obligation. The claim (λέγων) must be honourably attested. αὐτὸς in this section refers grammatically to Jesus Christ 1 John 2:1-2). The change of pronoun (ἐκεῖνος) does not imply a change of person, since here as in 1 John 3:3; 1 John 3:5; 1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:16, 1 John 4:17, ἐκεῖνος is not a mere pronoun. It is used like ille, and signifies “that great One,” “the Master”. Cf. 2 Timothy 2:12-13. περιπατεῖν, see note on 1 John 1:6. Aug.: “Perhaps He admonishes us to walk in the sea. Far from it! He admonishes us to walk in the way of righteousness.”

5. The statement in 1 John 2:3 is still further emphasized by taking the opposite of 1 John 2:4; but with this we do not return to 1 John 2:3, but have an expansion of it.

His word] A wider expression than ‘His commandments’, covering the sum total of the revelation of God’s will: comp. 1 John 2:14. Thus Christ says, ‘He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me’ (John 14:21).

verily] Or, truly, or, of a truth. S. John uses this word (ἀληθῶς) about 8 times; and in the rest of N. T. it occurs about 8 times: see on 1 John 1:6. It must not be confounded with the ‘verily’ (ἀμήν) in our Lord’s discourses. Here it stands first for emphasis; verily in him: comp. John 8:31.

is the love of God perfected] Or, the love of God hath been perfected. We need both renderings in order to bring out the full force of the Greek, which means ‘has been made perfect and remains so’. Obedience, not feeling, is the test of perfect love. This declaration shews that it is quite wrong to make ‘we know Him’ in 1 John 2:3 and ‘I know Him’ in 1 John 2:4 a Hebraism for ‘love Him’. Even if ‘know’ is ever used in the sense of ‘love’, which may be doubted, S. John would hardly in the same sentence use ‘know’ in two totally different senses (1 John 2:3). S. John’s mention of love here shews that when he means ‘love’ he writes ‘love’ and not ‘know’. He declares that true knowledge involves love, but they are not identical, any more than convex and concave. ‘The love of God’ here means ‘the love of man to God’: this is the common usage in this Epistle (1 John 2:15, 1 John 3:17, 1 John 4:12, 1 John 5:3). Only once is the genitive subjective and means ‘the love of God for man’; and there the context makes this quite clear (1 John 4:9). ‘Love,’ both verb and substantive, is one of S. John’s favourite words. His Gospel is the Gospel of Love and his Epistle the Epistle of Love. ‘To perfect’ is also much more common in his writings than elsewhere in N. T., excepting the Epistle to the Hebrews, especially in the passive voice (1 John 4:12; 1 John 4:17-18; John 17:23; John 19:28). S. John is here speaking, as often in this Epistle, of an ideal state of things. No Christian’s love to God is perfect: but the more perfect his knowledge, the more perfect his obedience and his love.

hereby we know] Or, Herein we come to know: it is the same phrase as in 1 John 2:3, and should probably, as there, be taken with what follows, rather than with what precedes. It belongs to 1 John 2:6 more than to 1 John 2:5, and is parallel to 1 John 1:6.

1 John 2:5. Αὐτοῦ τὸν λόγον, His word) the word of Jesus Christ respecting the Father: ch. 1 John 1:5. The precepts are many; the word is one.—ἀληθῶς, in truth) It is not a lie or vain boasting. This adverb has great force at the beginning of the clause.—ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ, the love of God) towards man, reconciled to us by Christ.—τετελείωται, is made perfect) Having obtained perfect rule, it is also perfectly known: ch. 1 John 4:12.—ἐν τούτῳ, in this) There is a reference to the preceding words, but whoso keepeth, as ch. 1 John 4:6, from this.—ἐν αὐτῷ ἐσμεν, we are in Him) Synonyms, with progressive gradation: to know Him; to be in Him; to abide in Him: 1 John 2:6, knowledge; fellowship; constancy.

Verse 5. - Once more (cf. 1 John 1:7, 9) the opposite is stated and the thought carried further. But whoso keepeth his word (his doctrine as a whole, including the separate commandments), of a truth in him hath the love of God been perfected; i.e., as an accomplished fact; the relation of love has been established. In St. John ἀληθῶς is no mere expletive; it expresses reality, and reality that is known. From verse 4 we might have expected "of a truth he knoweth God;" but the apostle goes beyond this, and shows that really knowing God involves loving him (comp. 1 John 4:11). The context shows that τοῦ Θεοῦ is objective - his love of God rather than God's love of him. The insertion of τοῦ Θεοῦ here, and the drift of the Epistle thus far, are in favour of αὐτόν and αὐτοῦ in verses 3-5 meaning God rather than Christ, although αὐτός in verse 2 tells the other way. The last clause sums up and reaffirms, but as usual with a new turn of thought, the whole section (verses 3-5), which begins and ends with ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν. Knowing God implies keeping his Word; and keeping his Word involves loving him; and all this implies being in him, i.e., having that fellowship with him and his Son in which the Christian's life (which is eternal life) consists, and to promote which St. John publishes his Gospel (1 John 1:3, 4). 1 John 2:5Keepeth His word (τηρῇ αὐτοῦ τὸν λόγον)

Note the changed phrase: word for commandments. The word is the revelation regarded as a whole, which includes all the separate commandments or injunctions. See the use of λόγος word, and ἐντολή precept, in John 14:21-24.

Is the love of God perfected (ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ τετελείωται)

Rev., rendering the perfect tense more closely, hath the love of God been perfected. The change in the form of this antithetic clause is striking. He who claims to know God, yet lives in disobedience, is a liar. We should expect as an offset to this: He that keepeth His commandments is of the truth; or, the truth is in him. Instead we have, "In him has the love of God been perfected." In other words, the obedient child of God is characterized, not by any representative trait or quality of his own personality, but merely as the subject of the work of divine love: as the sphere in which that love accomplishes its perfect work.

The phrase ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ the love of God, may mean either the love which God shows, or the love of which God is the object, or the love which is characteristic of God whether manifested by Himself or by His obedient child through His Spirit. John's usage is not decisive like Paul's, according to which the love of God habitually means the love which proceeds from and is manifested by God. The exact phrase, the love of God or the love of the Father, is found in 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:9, in the undoubted sense of the love of God to men. The same sense is intended in 1 John 3:1, 1 John 3:9, 1 John 3:16, though differently expressed. The sense is doubtful in 1 John 2:5; 1 John 3:17; 1 John 4:12. Men's love to God is clearly meant in 1 John 2:15; 1 John 5:3. The phrase occurs only twice in the Gospels (Luke 6:42; John 5:42), and in both cases the sense is doubtful. Some, as Ebrard, combine the two, and explain the love of God as the mutual relation of love between God and men.

It is not possible to settle the point decisively, but I incline to the view that the fundamental idea of the love of God as expounded by John is the love which God has made known and which answers to His nature. In favor of this is the general usage of ἀγάπη love, in the New Testament, with the subjective genitive. The object is more commonly expressed by εἰς towards, or to. See 1 Thessalonians 3:12; Colossians 1:4; 1 Peter 4:8. Still stronger is John's treatment of the subject in ch. 4. Here we have, 1 John 4:9, the manifestation of the love of God in us (ἐν ἡμῖν) By our life in Christ and our love to God we are a manifestation of God's love. Directly following this is a definition of the essential nature of love. "In this is love; i.e., herein consists love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us" (1 John 4:10). Our mutual love is a proof that God dwells in us. God dwelling in us, His love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12). The latter clause, it would seem, must be explained according to 1 John 4:10. Then (1 John 4:16), "We have known and believed the love that God hath in us" (see on John 16:22, on the phrase have love). "God is love;" that is His nature, and He imparts this nature to be the sphere in which His children dwell. "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God." Finally, our love is engendered by His love to us. "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

In harmony with this is John 15:9. "As the Father loved me, I also loved you. Continue ye in my love." My love must be explained by I loved you. This is the same idea of divine love as the sphere or element of renewed being; and this idea is placed, as in the passage we are considering, in direct connection with the keeping of the divine commandments. "If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love."

This interpretation does not exclude man's love to God. On the contrary, it includes it. The love which God has, is revealed as the love of God in the love of His children towards Him, no less than in His manifestations of love to them. The idea of divine love is thus complex. Love, in its very essence, is reciprocal. Its perfect ideal requires two parties. It is not enough to tell us, as a bare, abstract truth, that God is love. The truth must be rounded and filled out for us by the appreciable exertion of divine love upon an object, and by the response of the object. The love of God is perfected or completed by the perfect establishment of the relation of love between God and man. When man loves perfectly, his love is the love of God shed abroad in his heart. His love owes both its origin and its nature to the love of God.

The word verily (ἀληθῶς) is never used by John as a mere formula of affirmation, but has the meaning of a qualitative adverb, expressing not merely the actual existence of a thing, but its existence in a manner most absolutely corresponding to ἀλήθεια truth. Compare John 1:48; John 8:31. Hath been perfected. John is presenting the ideal of life in God. "This is the love of God that we keep His commandments." Therefore whosoever keepeth God's word, His message in its entirety, realizes the perfect relation of love.

We are in Him

Compare Acts 17:28. See note on 1 John 2:15.

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