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1 John 2:3-11

Context
Keeping God’s Commandments

2:3 Now 1  by this we know that we have come to know God: 2  if we keep his commandments. 2:4 The one who says “I have come to know God” 3  and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person. 2:5 But whoever obeys his 4  word, truly in this person 5  the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him. 2:6 The one who says he resides 6  in God 7  ought himself to walk 8  just as Jesus 9  walked.

2:7 Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. 10  The old commandment is the word that you have already 11  heard. 2:8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you which is true in him 12  and in you, because 13  the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 14  2:9 The one who says he is in the light but still hates 15  his fellow Christian 16  is still in the darkness. 2:10 The one who loves his fellow Christian 17  resides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 18  2:11 But the one who hates his fellow Christian 19  is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 20 

1 tn The translation of καί (kai) at the beginning of 2:3 is important for understanding the argument, because a similar καί occurs at the beginning of 1:5. The use here is not just a simple continuative or connective use, but has more of a resumptive force, pointing back to the previous use in 1:5.

sn Now. The author, after discussing three claims of the opponents in 1:6, 8, and 10 and putting forward three counterclaims of his own in 1:7, 1:9, and 2:1, now returns to the theme of “God as light” introduced in 1:5. The author will now discuss how a Christian may have assurance that he or she has come to know the God who is light, again by contrast with the opponents who make the same profession of knowing God, but lack the reality of such knowledge, as their behavior makes clear.

2 tn Grk “know him.” (1) Many take the third person pronoun αὐτον (auton) to refer to Jesus Christ, since he is mentioned in 2:1 and the pronoun αὐτός (autos) at the beginning of 2:2 clearly refers to him. But (2) it is more likely that God is the referent here, since (a) the assurance the author is discussing here is assurance that one has come to know God (all the claims of the opponents in 1:5-2:11 concern knowing and having fellowship with the God who is light); (b) when Jesus Christ is explicitly mentioned as an example to follow in 1 John 2:6, the pronoun ἐκεῖνος (ekeinos) is used to distinguish this from previous references with αὐτός; (c) the καί (kai) which begins 2:3 is parallel to the καί which begins 1:5, suggesting that the author is now returning to the discussion of God who is light, a theme introduced in 1:5. The author will now discuss how a Christian may have assurance that he or she has come to know the God who is light.

3 tn Grk “know him.” See the note on the phrase “know God” in 1 John 2:3 for explanation.

4 tn The referent of this pronoun is probably to be understood as God, since God is the nearest previous antecedent.

5 tn Grk “in him.”

6 tn The Greek verb μένω (menw) is commonly translated into contemporary English as “remain” or “abide,” but both of these translations have some problems: (1) “Abide” has become in some circles almost a “technical term” for some sort of special intimate fellowship or close relationship between the Christian and God, so that one may speak of Christians who are “abiding” and Christians who are not. It is accurate to say the word indicates a close, intimate (and permanent) relationship between the believer and God. However, it is very important to note that for the author of the Gospel of John and the Johannine Epistles every genuine Christian has this type of relationship with God, and the person who does not have this type of relationship (cf. 2 John 9) is not a believer at all (in spite of what he or she may claim). (2) On the other hand, to translate μένω as “remain” removes some of these problems, but creates others: In certain contexts, such a translation can give the impression that those who currently “remain” in this relationship with God can at some point choose not to “remain”, that is, to abandon their faith and return to an unsaved condition. While one may easily think in terms of the author’s opponents in 1 John as not “remaining,” the author makes it inescapably clear in 2:19 that these people, in spite of their claims to know God and be in fellowship with God, never really were genuine believers. (3) In an attempt to avoid both these misconceptions, this translation renders μένω as “reside” except in cases where the context indicates that “remain” is a more accurate nuance, that is, in contexts where a specific change of status or movement from one position to another is in view.

sn The Greek word μένω (menw) translated resides indicates a close, intimate (and permanent) relationship between the believer and God. It is very important to note that for the author of the Gospel of John and the Johannine Epistles every genuine Christian has this type of relationship with God, and the person who does not have this type of relationship (cf. 2 John 9) is not a believer at all (in spite of what he or she may claim).

7 tn Grk “in him.” Context indicates a reference to God since a different pronoun, ἐκεινος (ekeinos), is used later in the same verse to indicate a reference to Jesus. See the note on “Jesus” later in this verse.

8 tn That is, ought to behave in the same way Jesus did. “Walking” is a common NT idiom for one’s behavior or conduct.

9 tn Grk “that one.” Context indicates a reference to Jesus here. It is clear that ἐκεῖνος (ekeinos) here does not refer to the same person as αὐτῷ (autw) in 2:6a. The switch to ἐκεῖνος indicates a change in the referent, and a reference to Jesus Christ is confirmed by the verb περιεπάτησεν (periepathsen), an activity which can only describe Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, the significance of which is one of the points of contention the author has with the opponents. In fact, ἐκεῖνος occurs 6 times in 1 John (2:6; 3:3, 5, 7, 16; and 4:17), and each one refers to Jesus Christ.

10 sn See John 13:34-35.

11 tn “Already” is not is the Greek text, but is supplied for clarity.

12 tn “In him” probably refers to Jesus Christ since the last third person pronoun in 2:6 referred to Jesus Christ and there is no indication in the context of a change in referent.

13 tn The clause beginning with ὅτι (Joti) is often taken as (1) epexegetical or (2) appositional to the commandment (ἐντολήν, entolhn) giving a further explanation or clarification of it. But the statement following the ὅτι is about light and darkness, and it is difficult to see how this has anything to do with the commandment, especially as the commandment is related to the “new commandment” of John 13:34 for believers to love one another. It is far more likely that (3) the ὅτι clause should be understood as causal, but this still does not answer the question of whether it offers the reason for writing the “new commandment” itself or the reason for the relative clause (“that is true in him and in you”). It probably gives the reason for the writing of the commandment, although R. E. Brown (Epistles of John [AB], 268) thinks it refers to both.

14 sn The reference to the darkness…passing away and the true light…already shining is an allusion to John 1:5, 1:9, and 8:12. Because the author sees the victory of light over darkness as something already begun, he is writing Jesus’ commandment to love one another to the readers as a reminder to (1) hold fast to what they have already heard (see 1 John 2:7) and (2) not be influenced by the teaching of the opponents.

15 tn Grk “the one saying he is in the light and hating his brother.” Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” because of the contrast present in the two clauses.

16 tn Grk “his brother.” Here the term “brother” means “fellow believer” or “fellow Christian” (cf. BDAG 18 s.v. ἀδελφός 2.a). In the repeated uses of this form of address throughout the letter, it is important to remember that sometimes it refers (1) to genuine Christians (those who have remained faithful to the apostolic eyewitness testimony about who Jesus is, as outlined in the Prologue to the letter, 1:1-4; an example of this usage is 2:10; 3:14, 16), but often it refers (2) to the secessionist opponents whose views the author rejects (examples are found here at 2:9, as well as 2:11; 3:10; 3:15; 3:17; 4:20). Of course, to be technically accurate, in the latter case the reference is really to a “fellow member of the community”; the use of the term “fellow Christian” in the translation no more implies that such an individual is genuinely saved than the literal term “brother” which the author uses for such people. But a translation like “fellow member of the community” or “fellow member of the congregation” is extremely awkward and simply cannot be employed consistently throughout.

17 tn See note on the term “fellow Christian” in 2:9.

18 tn The third person pronoun αὐτῷ (autw) could refer either (1) to the person who loves his brother or (2) to the light itself which has no cause for stumbling “in it.” The following verse (2:11) views darkness as operative within a person, and the analogy with Ps 119:165, which says that the person who loves God’s law does not stumble, expresses a similar concept in relation to an individual. This evidence suggests that the person is the referent here.

19 sn The one who hates his fellow Christian. The author’s paradigm for the opponents portrays them as those who show hatred for fellow Christians (Grk “brothers,” but not referring to one’s physical siblings). This charge will be much more fully developed in chap. 3, where the author will compare the opponents to Cain (who is the model for one who hates a brother, since he ultimately murdered his own brother). In 1 John 3:17 the specific charge against the opponents will be failing to give material aid to a brother in need.

20 sn 1 John 2:3-11. The section 2:3-11 contains three claims to intimate knowledge of God, each introduced by the phrase the one who says (participles in the Greek text) in 2:4, 6, and 9. As with the three claims beginning with “if” in the previous section (1:6, 8, 10), these indirectly reflect the claims of the opponents. Each claim is followed by the author’s evaluation and its implications.



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