J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 5.)
- Chapter 1. "The Word" - eternal existence - personality - divinity - eternal personality - (what He was) Creator - and "nothing created without Him" (here we begin Genesis) - Life in Him - "That life the light of men" - "The light shines in darkness" - "The darkness" (de facto) "comprehended it not." Note, life was light.
This is the full abstract statement of the nature and personality of Christ, as the Word. Verses 6-13, we have the witness given to it, and its reception or the contrary, and the effect of its reception. How man comes to receive the Lord. Man's state, and how changed. The divine Word and man, and how he receives it. From verse 14, we have quite another subject. The Object of faith, and One, who being made flesh, becomes in His fulness the Source of communication to others of the fulness of blessing in Him. Not what He is, but what He is as made flesh, and fulness in Him, and fulness for others. He is made flesh, is full of grace and truth as a living Person down here as a Man, and of this have we all received. The former part was nature, witness, and how received; this fulness communicable as a source to others, and the Object of their faith, declaring God, withal the only-begotten Son as in the bosom of the Father. This is important in John, for while showing He was I AM, yet we always find Christ personally as Man, the recipient of all from God; we always find Him as made flesh, and speaking as such, whatever that Man might be. "Glorify thou me," not "I will glorify myself." Himself the Object of faith, fulness of grace and truth in Him, of which we have all received, and declaring what God was, as the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father. The former part testimony (and how received) this grace, as chapters 8, 9 and 10.
It is a wonderful chapter, this first of John. What grace to have it! That He whom none knows but the Father, One with the Father, should come and reveal the Father here! God manifest in flesh, He, the Lamb of God that takes away wholly, finally, the sin of the world which no more will be in it (heaven and earth) before God. Then, that great work being accomplished, He baptises with the Holy Ghost - makes us capable of knowing Him, and of entering into what is heavenly. Then we find Him making Himself a present Centre, and putting His divine fiat on what each one was as knowing him divinely, knowing all before they came, though brought by human means, knowing and pronouncing on what each was before He Himself was known, and thus the prejudiced Remnant owning Him, and His larger but human place, with serving angels, of Son of man, revealed. It is a great thing to say, "Henceforth ye shall see heaven opened," but greater to see Him who is there, as in fact Stephen did; to know Himself, the same here and there - only here God in grace, there Man in glory. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
180 Note here in Peter's case we have no such confession as in Nathanael's (who represents the Remnant for the end) - he came to find the Christ, but was given a name which we know elsewhere was connected with the building of the Church on the rejected Christ's being the Son of the living God. (This Man was the Son of God, besides being the eternal Son of the Father.) But then John does not bring in the heavenly part, but the Son manifesting God down here, and then the revelation of Him at the end. Only we get the Comforter come down, while He is there on high; but here, man baptised with it. But it is His Person - neither Head of the Church, nor Priest, nor Christ, as said elsewhere, but Himself. The second chapter is plain, as often noticed.
John's place is very beautiful, and how close to Christ, though before Him! And how at once, in John, we get the real internal thing in contrast with mere nominal faith, in the third chapter, beginning at chapter 2:23. The Lord's reply to Nicodemus is infinitely striking and absolute. No circumlocution. Man is not to be taught, but born. It is a wholly new thing, so that a Gentile could have it - it is spirit, though Ezekiel 26 ought to have made Nicodemus know it. But Christ's testimony went further. He spoke of what He knew and had seen, a heavenly Person, and then the whole truth is brought out. It could not be otherwise in John. It is God with man, not dispensational, nor, as to those under law or promise, probatory, but absolute truth, and the truth of men's state as having to say to God. Christ spoke the words of God. But this state is one wholly judged. A man must be born anothen (anew). It is a wholly new thing, but then man was responsible, and so in order to have this eternal life, new (to us) in its nature, but in its full, accepted character, atonement must be, the Son of man lifted up as Man before God, the Son of God given, that love may be known, but to death and wrath - wondrous word! - "Made sin." Then comes, not guilt, which is already supposed in atonement, but responsibility, in connection with the presentation of the Son of God, of Light to men - presentation in grace, but as Light. But the main point is, it is wholly a new thing - in nature, born of the Spirit, and involving death and the putting away of the old, but this in grace, by Christ. But then what He reveals is heavenly, and, as such, no man receives it; where received, it is faith in the Word of God - a great principle. The Word of God is come into this world - all else is man. "He whom God hath sent" is emphatic in verse 34. There is what He has seen, and the Spirit acting in Him as Man, and that not by measure (ek metrou). It is, though in Man, wholly divine and infinite in its source, as absolutely heavenly in its character. This is as blessed as it is wonderful. The Apostles could not say this of heavenly things. The Holy Ghost was there to give divine certainty, words of divine certainty, but they had received the Spirit, that they might know. He took the things of Christ, and showed them to them - did not speak of (from) Himself, but revealed what was in heaven of the Father and of the Son. But it could not be said of them, "What he hath seen and heard that he testifieth" - "We testify that we have seen." When Paul was there, he could not utter what he heard - it was not natural to him, man, as to Christ. This too gives a special character to Christ in ministry. It was not that the Holy Ghost was not divine in certainty in what He revealed by them, but it was acting in, and speaking by them whatever was to be revealed. It was not their own knowledge of the things, as that from which they came, and in which they abode. Besides this, the Father has put everything into the Son's hand. The whole of John brings out the new thing, beginning with chapter 4:23-24, and that according to verses 10, 14, adding, at the end, the coming of the Holy Ghost.
181 In chapter 3, the principles on which the new thing rests are stated abstractedly in their nature and truth - born of the Spirit, and the Son of man lifted up (the Son of God given). The connection of both with the Person of Jesus is given in chapters 5, 6 and 7, going on to the Holy Ghost on His rejection. But here men are recognised as dead, and sovereign grace is exercised by the Son. As the Father raises up the dead and quickens them, so the Son whom He will. Death was his state, but he passes from death unto life; hence, Christ being Judge, does not come into judgment. Responsibility is in man, because Life was there and they would not have it. Life was (is) in Christ, and He quickens, as the Father raises up the dead and gives them life. That was then, as now, and He will finally raise both just and unjust - the former to resurrection of life, the latter of judgment. In chapter 6, we have as in chapter 3:14, the Object of faith, but still the Person of the Lord, but as Man, the Bread come down from heaven, and still to give life; but then, morally and righteously, death must come in that there might be life, for here responsibility stands in the front - in quickening, not at all, He quickens whom He will - only responsibility is referred to there, as we have seen, because life was in Him, and they would not come. But here, though the Bread come down from heaven, they must eat the flesh and drink the blood, or they have no life in themselves - the full recognition of their own guilty state and death in sin, and of the work of grace by Him, in that He had met all God's claim as regards sin. We must know a Christ who has died and shed His blood, or there is no life in us, or to be had. Incarnation will not do, because we are sinners, and the claim of God as against sin is to be maintained in righteousness, and His grace fully known. The result is a heavenly place where He was before. The quickening power of the Son of God become Man, and the embracing His death as the way of life - these are the two great principles before us.
182 In chapter 7, the whole state of things, and the need of His death connected with it, made His manifestation to the world impossible then, and the Holy Ghost is given as an outflowing stream of blessing from the believer meanwhile. In chapters 8 and 9, as often remarked, we have His rejection as to word and work, and then the sheep.
It is to be noted that the life-giving resurrection power comes before the Messiahship and Headship of the Gentiles, in the testimony rendered at the end, and the Messiahship is His royalty, the Gentiles the glory of the Son of man. Only death then evidently had to come in. The whole Gospel thus assumes death, i.e., no spiritual life to be there, and more than that, in a very striking way in chapter 11, in saying, "I am the resurrection and the life." So, from the beginning, they had to be born anew (anothen). The Father raises up the dead and quickens them, the Son quickens whom He will. He comes to give life to the world, only He must die for this. He gives His sheep eternal life. He is the Resurrection and the Life. Yet responsibility, as in chapter 5, is fully maintained as to this, as the Law elaborately develops that principle. Chapter 12 gives, as we have seen, the Son of David and Son of man (for this death) and then, chapter 13, the place He takes on going on high, and the present consequence as having glorified God and finished the work He had given Him to do. From the end of chapter 20, it is after His return. Only in chapter 14 we have both what He was personally on earth, what the disciples really had in having Him, and, secondly, what they would have in consequence of His obtaining the Spirit for them from the Father. All as Man here. Chapter 15 what He was dispensationally on earth (Israel set aside); but from the end of chapter 15, and in chapter 16, the Comforter sent by Him from on high, when exalted, and so here on earth. Chapter 17, the whole status of the disciples as replacing Him on the earth, and finally with Him, and then displayed in glory when He is. It is remarkable, though long ago remarked, how John is occupied with manifestation on earth.
183 Note, in chapter 5, the Spirit begins with the incapacity of man, and in Israel, and rises to the life-giving power of the Son, and judicial authority of the Son of man. In chapter 6 He begins with Jehovah satisfying the poor with bread, and descends to the dying Saviour come down from heaven, and His blood shed, but it is a descent which rises in divine love. In chapter 16, the Holy Ghost convinces the world of sin, not of sins, quod nota.
A word as to the order of chapter 1: we have what Christ is, and what man is; what Christ is abstractedly in Himself, and the effect when this is placed before man. Then, before we have Christ historically as a Source of grace, we find man in a state in which he is of God - born of God - now capable of knowing Him (and note the being born and receiving Christ, or believing in His Name, is all one, because it is by the Word through the power of the Holy Ghost, "Of his own will begat he us by the word of truth"). Then the source of fulness for those born historically - the Word made flesh, full of grace and truth, and of His fulness have all we received. Next, the Object - God revealed by the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father. Collaterally with this, we have the title to take the place of sons, yet He, the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father. Yet thus, as sons, learning there what the love is, and by His being in us. In chapter 17, we take His place, but we learn what our Father is, and what a Son in His bosom is, in Christ. Thus the Law deals with the responsibility - not with receiving; it is not a Person in whom fulness is. Grace and truth are come by Jesus Christ. But the full responsibility is in verses 4 and 5, 6 and 7.
184 What I have remarked as to God connected with responsibility, and Father and Son when grace is unfolded in the body of the Gospel is found even the first chapter of it, in the introduction. You have God and Light first, as in verse 8, and then from verse 14 actually exercised in grace. His glory is then "As of an only begotten with a father," and this is more fully drawn out in verses 17, 18. Then, when no man had seen God at any time, the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. This indeed lays the foundation of the whole matter. This gives fulness and importance to the distinction, as characterising the Gospel. Note that verse 14 is the source of grace; in verses 17, 18, He is the Revealer and Object, as the Father by Him.
The ground of God's first relationship with man was innocence; the next, sin, in which He has developed all His attributes, and glorified Himself in grace and divine righteousness. Hence it leads to what is heavenly, because it displays God as He is there. In the new heavens and earth, His relationship will not be innocence, nor of course sin, but righteousness. This is through Christ, the last Adam. It is secured in righteousness which is past evil and all its power, but in those who have the divine quality of the knowledge of good and evil. This it is that is marked in John 1, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." Without that, God could not have set it on and been in relationship with it on the ground of righteousness; but thus He is.
I return to chapter 4. False systems rejected, traditional blessing of no avail, true system left (ground of pride, not truth to conscience - Christ in grace, the test of this). But more, the flesh cannot receive what is spiritual. Then we get God giving, the Father seeking, and man, as often remarked, reached by conscience. But then I had noticed often that "God" is used in John in connection with responsibility, "the Father and the Son" in connection with grace. This must be so far modified as to be confined to the latter applying to the positive and personal objects of grace. We have God's character as Love. God so loved the world - not relationship, save to the Son Himself. It could not be said, "The Father loved the world," for it would be relationship, and yet the world not in it but the contrary, for it rejected the Son. God here is God, as such, in His character and nature. How exquisitely beautiful to see the Lord, rejected by Judaea to whom He came so far, in the measured grace of promise, only giving occasion, in the deep sorrow of His own heart, to the full, divine outgoing of love in itself, and service in the gift and power of eternal life, and His heart, refreshed by the fruits in a poor Samaritan sinner, was to open out on the whole scene of blessing, fields white for harvest, just when He was rejected! How truly He is Man here, yet God to give God's gifts, and to act in love with God's love! And how, if we carry with us this grace, we constantly find this fulfilled with us too!
185 There is a point of much interest, not heretofore noticed, in John 4. The Lord says, "Salvation is of the Jews," yet He leaves Judaea, really driven out by the jealousy of the Pharisees. He abandons God's own institutions, the place in which covenant and law and promises were found (Himself as Minister of the circumcision) and is Himself, as the humiliated Son of God, God manifested in the lowliness of flesh, the Giver and Gift of all blessing, in the power of the Holy Ghost. It is a present thing. Jerusalem and Samaria became alike here. Jacob's well, all traditional descended blessing is nothing; God gives the well of water. He is personally face to face with the sinner to communicate life in power, only to give understanding the conscience must be reached. But though it be in the lowest form of revelation, still He is there, the then present thing, bringing it in His own Person: "I that speak unto thee am he." All our service depends on what we bring; all its true power, that is. And even those farthest from the true institutions of God are nearer the truth than where these are taken as matter of boast. Samaritans, not Jews, call Christ the Saviour of the World. Our emptiness is the place of truth. But what a blessing it is that present power in life is there, when false pretentions on one side, and iniquity and enmity to Christ where God's institutions and promises are, so that hypocrisy makes the heart sick, and throws the true and anxious but unsettled heart into doubt about everything! The Father is seeking, to worship Him. And here it is when those who possess the institutions and promises, the root and fatness of the olive tree, are rejecting the counsel of God against themselves, the heart of the Saviour finds its relief and joy - "meat to eat" even His disciples (as still looking to blessing in the place of promise) knew not of, and "the fields white to harvest." How blessed it is to see, when Jesus was rejected as Messiah, and weary as Man, the former only drives Him into His own absolute fulness in grace, coming out (never weary in service) pure from all inferior elements in its own pureness, and absolute grace bringing in the power of a new life to God! In chapter 3,
You must be born again." Here "The Gift of God." How blessed to see the rest of His heart in the fruit of the actings of His own grace! For that the fields were white for harvest though Israel knew Him not. But no moment could be more solemn than that when God thus (come in goodness) forsook His own institutions, the place where He said salvation was. All was given up, as to man, but only to bring in the power of eternal life in the free gift of God. In this aspect the chapter is one of the deepest import.
186 All divinely founded institutions in connection with man of which Christ could say, "Salvation is of the Jews" - all tradition referred by man to a supposed source of descended blessing which guaranteed their position - "our father Jacob" - wholly set aside; future expectations set aside by a present living Saviour. We may add responsibility, ending in judgment superseded by present gift and salvation - eternal life.
Note in John 6 we have incarnation, death, and ascension to come. But if it be applied to the Lord's supper, we are as much called upon to eat Christ living in incarnation, as we are Christ dying and shedding His blood on the Cross. The only thing we are not called upon to eat is Christ as He is now - the only way they would make us do it as it is now taught. And in truth it is a Christ humbled and dying on which the soul feeds. We shall be like Him as He is, and are transformed into His image by the Spirit in contemplating Him; but feeding on a glorious Christ is wholly unscriptural.
I do not think in John 6:51, that phage (shall have eaten) is what is past, and ho trogon (he that eats), verse 54, continuous; one is fact without time, the other is character - he who eats. But the latter does suppose it is not done once for all, or it would be, I suppose, ho phagon.
187 I have long ago remarked that the Spirit and the flesh, the Son and the devil, and the Father and the world are in opposition in Scripture, but the opposition between the Father and the world is much more developed than I had remarked. It is stated in 1 John 2, but in chapters 14, 15, 16 and 17 of the Gospel, it will be found brought out in very various aspects. One sees a complete world, so to speak, a stream of blessing flowing down of which the Father is the Source and Spring - a system of positive blessing in relationship with Him, and taking its character from its Source, the whole of which is stamped with that character, of which Christ, as Son, is the immediate Revelation and Centre, which then takes in the saints brought in, in and with Him, and into a whole scene of blessing in the light of the Father's countenance. In these Christ secures us now by the Holy Father's keeping. The world is looked at as a system wholly outside it, having no part in it, distinct, and indeed opposed, being not of the Father. The personal glory connected with this Christ had before the world was. He came into it from the Father, was sent into it, and so are we as of the Father by Him, being not of it as He was not of it. This world is what is grown up from the fall of the first Adam - a system thus connected with man (fallen) but not of God at all, though He may overrule it. But then the Father introduces an entirely new thing by the Son, in connection with a subsistence and a glory which existed before the world ever was. He has this here as Son, but He is thus also, as Man, to set it up - a Second Adam. These chapters should be more studied in this view.
Although not that which is first put forth, on the contrary the solemn closing ground, yet, as opening out the condition of saints, I would refer to what is said at the end of chapter 17, "O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee; but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared," etc. Now here the world is put in direct breach with Jesus. He had displayed the Father in the world - they had seen and hated both Him and the Father, thus not really knowing one or the other, yet what they were was manifested, and this they hated. But Christ (the Son) was loved before the foundation of the world. The Father's delight was fully and completely in Him before the world was. Hence, the world having rejected Him, and seen no beauty in Him, the Father and the world were in complete opposition. Christ is taken out of it, and set at God's right hand in the glory He had with Him before the world was; this, on two grounds - His title as Son, and His work. Thus a completely distinct scene is for us, in contrast with the world. We are associated with Him who was the Father's delight before ever the world existed, and is returned into it as Man, so as to bring us into it. Then Christ declares the Name of the Father - puts us into the relationship in which He is as Son - gives us the words the Father gave Him when down here, i.e., all the communications which filled up in blessing and enjoyment the measure of the relationship down here. Thus the joy is full, Christ's joy fulfilled in ourselves. Then the testimony is given. We, thus associated with Him in the Father's delights, are not of the world as He Himself is not of the world. We belong to the other system with the Father, in the Son whom the world has rejected, but who was loved before the world was. We are chosen out of the world, too. Such is our position in the world, and as absolutely not of it, but of the other system of the Son's relationship to the Father who delights in Him. Thus we are sent into it as He was sent into it - the best proof of our not being of it. But how brought practically into a condition capable of this? First, we are to be sanctified by the truth. The Father's word is the judgment of everything that is according to His mind - is the expression of it. All things are put in their true light by it in reference to what He is. But this is not all. Christ has set Himself apart - the Man, as we have seen, exalted into glory which, as Son, He had with the Father before the world was, and this becomes, in its communication, the truth to us. We get not only the truth by the Word, so that all is estimated rightly, but the positive excellency, the affections engaged in all that tells this truth. Christ has sanctified Himself that we may be sanctified through the truth. The Spirit takes these things and shows them to us, and we are in heart associated with those things in which the Father delights, and which are indeed ours, and thus are separated from the world. The bearing of the chapter will thus be clear, however imperfect the expression of it may be.
189 It is remarkable how the Gospel of John refers entirely to earth - Christ on earth, and the saints on earth. It is the Life and Son of God come down here, not the children of the first Adam going up to heaven; and nothing of the Church, while the Jews are wholly set aside; only it is the "Son of man who is in heaven" - the divine life and nature upon earth. The exceptions only confirm the general view. In chapter 3, He alludes to heavenly things - in chapter 6, to the possibility of His ascending with "what and if" - in chapter 13, it is laid down prospectively as the ground and objective measure of washing. The disciples are comforted with it prospectively, chapter 14, and Himself is to be glorified, chapter 17; so chapter 12, and to Mary Magdalene, who is to tell that He is ascending. But all these are to give a character to those on earth, a heavenly character like the Son of man who is in heaven. Even these takings of the Lord up to heaven are used to bring out in them the heavenly thing upon earth. This is beautiful. It is a glorious thing that Adam's children, who belong creatively to earth, should be taken up to heaven, and have their reward there. It is another thing that the eternal life that was with the Father, the Word made flesh, should be displayed in a Man (as an only begotten with a father) and we now, having this life, be so set to display it on earth, being united to Him who is in heaven, quickened with His life, as He on earth was perfectly associated in heaven. Hence the great aim of the close of the Gospel is to place us in the same place as Himself on earth, not to take us out of it. When He comes again, of course this will be the ultimate result, and that He tells them. Hence too, all the close of the Gospel is occupied with showing them that they belong to another system which is not the world, but the Father's, and they are sent into the world as He was, as from that home to bear its character in that relationship, and if He be gone there as Man, it is that having thus set Himself apart as the heavenly Man, we should be found, after Him, as heavenly men upon the earth.
Note too, in Ephesians 1:21, in connection with what I have remarked as to our association with the Father in a system entirely without the world, in association with Christ, loved before its foundation, not of the world as He is not of the world, and sent into it as He was, brought out in chapter 17, and indeed chapters 14-17, and the Epistle, that as that was for the individuals, so here Christ is raised above all the created powers, not only now but in the whole hierarchy in the world to come, and there it is the Church is united to Him.
190 In John 1 we have already Christ before the foundation of the world (compare what is said of John 17, and Ephesians 1 and 2). The other Gospels give the proving of Adam, or the Jews, by the coming of Christ; not so John - the Jews are treated as reprobates in starting. He came into the world and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own and His own received Him not, but He had been in the beginning before ever the world was, and created it. But we do not receive life from man, or what is born in the world, but of God. And then the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we have received of His fulness, i.e., of Him who was before the worlds. It connects us with what was before the worlds - that eternal life which was with the Father.
The connection, John speaks of, with the Father and which we have seen connects itself with our having a life which, in the Person of Christ, existed before the world was, runs on into the principle of light also. The living God is Light. Of Christ it is said, "In him was life" - in that Word who was in the beginning, and who made the worlds - "And the life was the light of men." As man was made in the image of God after His likeness, so Christ was in nature the Light of men (not of angels as such) He is the Image of the invisible God. But we are born of God, and "He that hath the Son hath life," God having given to us eternal life - quite a different thing from simply being immortal. It is the possession of that divine life which, in Christ, never had a beginning, that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested to us, and of which, in its moral qualities, it is said, "Which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light now shineth." Hence it is said of us, "Ye were sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord." But in us this partaking of the divine life, or nature, is dependent as it is derivative. And though it is a nature which, in se, does not sin and delights in God, as the eye in light, yet we have to walk in the light. We have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ in that life which is from Them (and that through the Holy Ghost) but then "God is Light," and fellowship with Him out of the light is impossible. It is not 'If we walk according to the light' - that is the practical consequence in this world, even when we are not directly enjoying communion, but we walk in the light when we walk with God fully revealed to soul and conscience. It is a real thing in life - we walk, but more than walking according to light. It is a walking in the presence of a fully revealed God, the conscience, and spiritual judgment, and apprehension being in the light as He is - what God is, perfectly seen, and everything by it, and all clear as it is in light and for the soul. If we walk thus with God inwardly, all is judged inwardly, and our life is only the expression of the working of God in power in the life which we have of Him, of Christ in us (wisdom and power). Then temptations lose their force as snares or attractions, because all is judged in the light and according to it, i.e., the communications of the divine nature in us with God Himself as Light, and Object of the affections, Centre of them - as of the city, the glory of God lightens it, and the Lamb is the Light thereof - the phronema (mind) of the Spirit is the active element in us, and this is the true principle of obedience, the divine will being added, and thence a law of liberty. This is the reason why the flesh is not found in the Christian experiences of Philippians. "To me to live is Christ." Temptations to go through are found, i.e., hostile difficulties, but not temptations to enter into.
191 There are still one or two points I would remark in chapter 1. First, this abstract part is light, and while such in se is thus for condemnation by opposition of nature, and speaks of God and light, whereas, verse 14, His actual coming in grace in flesh is grace. Hence we have the Father, and Christ as Son; as we have seen heretofore in chapters 8, 9 and 10, so chapters 3:19 and 17:3, and all through, as often noticed. But further, we must look at what Christ was thus abstractly as His divine place no doubt, but also as the Source of blessing for us, when grace does work. He was not only God, so that we know God, but He was with God (pros ton Theon). All He was, a distinct Person, He was towards God. This is an all-important truth, because when incarnate and returned into glory this does not cease, ze to theo (He liveth unto God) here not pros (with) - that "was" (en) in His nature - here the object and end of life, as such, in its purpose, as well as its character; ze (liveth) is the activity of what was, and now in manhood.
Then downwards He is the Light of men specifically and specially. Both thus are true when by grace He is our Life; only we cannot say esmen pros (we are with), but zomen to (we live to) we can; and hence, as is Philippians 2:15-16, the same place comes out for us. Then we have life, object, reception from His fulness, and privilege of taking the relationship in which He stands. The first nature is ignorance or opposition; hence a new one in receiving Christ, but this in relationship with the Father. Note, too, light is of "every man," reception "as many as," and they "born of God," not of man's will. Truth is more than light, quod nota. Light is simply that which God is in His nature, which, manifesting everything, is avoided by him who does evil, though and because it is perfect in itself. But truth cannot be separated from grace; it is the entering in of grace, so as to show what everything is indeed, but as grace because it reveals God in goodness, or it would not be the truth. Light does not say "the Father and the Son"; it just shows good and evil with divine authority, but the great truth is, "The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour." No doubt it tells us the truth about our sins, but it tells it me in grace by Jesus coming into the world about them, by the presence of Jesus in grace. It reveals the Father sending the Son in grace, and the blessed perfectness of Jesus in grace here, though our state therewith, but in goodness and attractive power towards us, whatever the result. It does not require - that Law did, which therefore was not truth. It tells, and cannot tell, with Christ in the world, without telling of grace, though, as I said, it tells us the truth about ourselves. If the grace were not there, the truth would not. Blessed truth!
192 I have long remarked that "From the beginning" in 1 John 1, means from the beginning of Christ's path down here. But the importance of this is very great. It is the true beginning, not, I need say, of that which has none, nor, what is important to notice, of the provisional and first presented scheme of creation (though what abides was first in purpose) as to that. In the beginning "was" and then came Creation; this is the historical statement of the Gospel, before declaring what the Word, the Creator, was in Himself, and as made flesh. But here the history, before speaking of the communicated effects in us, takes up exactly what the Gospel has brought out - the manifestation, the first manifestation, of God Himself, of a divine Person as the Beginning and to be the Centre of all that is eternal. God manifest in the flesh then first "was." Jehovah had given a Law, and sent Prophets in connection with the responsibility of man, but now the Son of God appeared. God was manifested, and, as to the Person of Christ, not our connection with Him, the foundation of the new, first purposed glory and system was manifested and began. Christ's Person - His work gives us a portion with Him - was the beginning of the whole system of the revelation of God. God had acted; He was a Creator. God had spoken, and made man a creature responsible; but God, such as He was before there was a creation, or a morality founded on a creature's relationship, was now first manifested. This was the true beginning. Our having part in it was not the beginning - that was by redemption and Christ's work as to righteousness; but it was the beginning of that manifestation of God in the Person of Christ, in which we have part, in its full display in glory, by redemption.
193 It is worthy of remark that 1 John 1 is wholly objective. Further in the Epistle he speaks of life communicated, but he begins with life manifested, and what communion is with, not how. There must be life, and the Holy Ghost, but that is not touched on here. This particularly in the first part; but even in the second, we are in light, not "light in the Lord." Nor is what follows properly subjective, but the discussion of what concerns communion.
Christ is not only eternal life but the Word of Life. All He said was the expression of what He was (John 8). Then it is communicated as a seed of life, spiritually received by faith. We have fellowship in life with the Father and with the Son. Those who had known Him, as the clay on the eyes of the blind man, knowing Him thus personally revealed by the Holy Ghost as the Sent One, became by the Word the instrument of bringing others in. So onward by the Word; we are formed by the Word after Christ; sanctified by the Word; and Christ has now sanctified Himself in heavenly glory, that we might be sanctified by the truth. Now Christ was this beginning of manifestation of God, and of all His counsels as to the new but really oldest thing (for here the world is only by the bye) which He was setting up. His Person was the power and substance of it all, for us, however, it is true, becoming true in us, as in Him, consequent on redemption. It is old as the beginning in Him of the manifestation of God when He was incarnate - new, as introducing it into us by redemption. Then he who keeps His word, i.e., the spring of all his thoughts and inward life is the Word in which all the form and parts and reality of this life in Christ are found, in him the love of God is perfected - the flesh has no part in this, but it is practically out of sight and movement when the Word is kept, and thus the whole being of the believer is in relationship with God in love, and God who is Love being really what is thus communicated, and, there being nought distracting in the mind, the man being morally this, i.e., the Word formed in Him, God's love is revealed perfectly in him. The divine nature communicated enjoys the full perfection of the love which has communicated it, and which has no hindrance in, nay, cannot but reveal itself to, the nature which flows from and is the communication of itself, and able to enjoy, flowing without hindrance when the Word, which revealed it, is kept. The snare of mysticism, which has no place here, is carefully guarded against in 1 John 4.
194 We may indeed, well note in 1 John 1 the exceeding blessedness of life being made an object, so that it should be presented to us in all its source, power, and fulness - that eternal life which was with the Father, and has been manifested to us. Yet it is ours; hence, what qualification (for the Holy Ghost becomes power - a subject not introduced here, where all is treated as life - He has given us of His Spirit) what qualification for communion! And how wonderfully and essentially intimate that communion must be! It is that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested to us, and becomes our life. "He that hath the Son, hath life." Yet it is presented to us in its own perfectness and fulness, objectively in Christ, so that we lose nothing of all its perfect fulness; and note herewith that, in virtue of this, we have a revelation of the Father in the Son livingly, and the Son known in life, and the Father in and by Him. So we have fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ through Him who, in the power of life, reveals the Father, and in whom, as the Object of the Father's delight, we have communion with the Father's thoughts, as with the Son's as so manifesting the Father. All flows from life being presented to us objectively in the Person of the Son.
As to this point - that life is objectively before us in Christ - it is of the highest interest; not only we have it in all its perfectness and proper power, but "As the Father hath life in himself, so he hath given to the Son" as down here "to have life in himself." That eternal life which was manifested, was so in the Person of the Son. God hath given to us eternal life, and that life is in the Son. "He that hath the Son hath life." Hence, in knowing Him, and receiving Him as life, we receive the Son, and in the Son the Father; and this being in a life which has the nature and character of Christ, we have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. The power may be, and is, of the Holy Ghost, but the nature of it is found here. The whole of it lies in seeing Christ as objective Life, and yet our life.
195 There are three points in 1 John 1, but the first is general as to the witness of what God is by the revelation of Him, and communion we have in Christ - "If we say we have fellowship with Him"; "If we say we have no sin"; "If we say we have not sinned." In the first case, "We lie and do not the truth." In the second, "We deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." In the third, "We make God a liar, and His word is not in us." In the first, there is contradiction between our walk and our profession. God being Light, the pretension to communion with Him and a walk in darkness is a practical lie. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves"; it is a judgment we pass falsely on ourselves, self-deceived, and the truth is not in us. Were the power of the truth in us, we should recognise the true character of the principle of darkness in the flesh. The power of life and truth and light are not in us. "If we say we have not sinned," actually "we make God a liar," for He has said we have; and His word, in which He has declared it, is not in us, though we may pretend to receive it outwardly. On the other hand, "If we walk in the light" - the Christian standing - the other parts of that standing are then, "Fellowship together" and "The blood of Jesus cleansing from all sin," so that "In the light as God is in the light," we are pure, though we cannot say we have no sin. We can say that we are cleansed by blood as in the light. And if we confess our sins, He forgives them, and cleanses from unrighteousness (actual sin) though we cannot say we have not committed any. It is the abstract truth, power and position. Verse 6 answers to verse 3, in connection with the revelation of what God is; verse 8 to 7 and verse 10 to 9.
I do not know whether I have clearly pointed out the completeness of the introduction of the Epistle, chapter 1:1-2:11. We have first the full blessing of communion with the Father and the Son in life, 'That our joy may be full.' Next, the true character of this communion flowing from the nature of God, and the means and their completeness, which makes it possible for a sinner. Thirdly, the means of its practical restoration, if interrupted by our fault - means, whose employ is founded on righteousness (or the righteous One) before God, and propitiation made for us. In the fourth place, there is the practical character and evidence of the life in us, by commandment, which while maintaining authority (which must be to have what is right, because it is right) yet is perfect liberty, because the thing commanded is true in us as well as in Christ by the communication of life, and of the Holy Ghost as its power and consciousness in communion. The two parts of the evidence are obedience to God's will and love to the brethren. Then the Apostle gives his motive for writing, and proceeds to unfold from chapter 2:28, the whole condition and character of this life going on through the nature we have received as born of God, and the presence of the Holy Ghost, to dwelling in God and God in us, and the consciousness of it, and the perfectness of love in our position in Christ and as Christ Himself before God. But this is not my subject here.
196 Note the connection in 1 John 3; first, as often remarked, Christ is seen as one Person - God and eternal life, manifested in the Word made flesh. Hence He appears in chapter 2:28, i.e., is Man (in glory); we are born of Him, verse 29, and so He is God and we sons of God. And as He as Man in the world was not known, as the world did not discern He was the Son, "knew him not," so it does not know us who are sons (children) also. That we are, and here we are in His place in relationship with God as Father, and He being our life we are so completely associated with Him, that we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Thus we are fully like and as Christ, He being our Life, in the presence of God, with the Father, in the house, entered with the Son into the excellent glory. This grace has called us to, as alive in and by the Second Adam, the Son of God, as having eternal life, our calling as associated with Him our life.
What I would now note is that we see how the Apostle turns to the other side of man's position - his responsibility as child of Adam, having shown his place as child of God. "He that hath this hope in Christ," i.e., of being like Him, "purifies himself as he is pure." But there is no limit between this and lawlessness. If he is not in the divine calling to glory of the Second Adam, he is in the absolute selfwill and lawlessness of the first. It is not, of course, transgression of law, but a difference of nature, the being born of God. And this difference enters into the whole force of the passage, for law proves the old man to see whether it is good. This contrasts divine life in the Second Adam - our being really born of God, and Christ Himself our life - with those, as to their nature, the children of the devil. Making an applied rule the question, destroys the whole force of the argument and teaching. The traits of the two families are brought out, not transgression.
197 All hangs here, in John, on Christ's being eternal life, here first manifested, then communicated - He who is, and is not here separated in thought from God, and yet who is our life so that we are associated with Him in unity of place and nature - "True in him and in you"; just as death put away the old thing, and resurrection brought us into acceptance in the Beloved, in the new estate, so we are dead to the old thing and alive according to the new. The difference between Romans and 1 John 3:9, is that as Romans brings in man as a sinner, it leads him up to the point of death to that, and life to God through Jesus, whilst John speaks of the Life come down from God in its nature becoming our life, and John knows nothing but that as life in one born of God, though he well knows we cannot say we have no sin.
But the character of divine righteousness is very distinct and definite, if we think of Christ. If I keep the law, I fulfil the obligation of a man. But Christ's work, though He did that, was a very different thing. He by His work on the Cross glorified God, which brought Him as Man into God's glory. All that God was, Righteousness, Love, His truth, His majesty wholly compassed by sin (really to be glorified) was perfectly glorified on the Cross. Otherwise, if justice had its way, no love; if forgiveness simply, no justice, but, sin or not, all alike. This was not God - but through the Cross, Christ offering Himself through the eternal Spirit, God was perfectly glorified in the place of sin - what God was. Hence it was divine righteousness, keeping the Law, made good man's place; the work on the Cross made good God's. Hence He enters into the divine glory, and we rejoice in the hope of it. But this is divine righteousness. The difference is very simple. Righteousness is consistency with the relationship in which we stand, and practically, we may say, consistency with the obligation in which we stand to God. Only that in God consequently it has the character of His judging according to this. Now keeping the Law would be man's righteousness, because the Law is the perfect measure of the obligations of man in the relationship in which man stands to God, and, we may add, to his neighbour, as placed in this relationship by God. Christ's keeping the Law would fulfil this obligation - and no more, or it would not be obligation or righteousness; but in offering Himself through the eternal Spirit without spot to God, and dying on the Cross, He glorified all that God is in Himself, His own nature - hence this accepted of God was divine righteousness. Accomplishment of the Law could be no more than a justly measured obligation, measured by the relationship - if it were more, it were not righteousness in it. It is human righteousness consequently. But glorifying what God is is not human righteousness - it is, as to its measure and ground, evidently divine - the righteousness is shown in the conferring of divine glory, according to John 13-17.
198 Note also the connection of 1 John 3:5-6, "In him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not." No doubt the whole passage depends on life being Christ, as life in us, on which is founded the assertion, "He cannot sin," for, our nature being of the seed of God, that is impossible; yet Christ is objectively considered here too, and as in Him is no sin, he who abides in Him, whose life, affections, thoughts, dependence, have their existence by and from Him, does nor sin. There is the living abiding in Him, as well as His being our life, or being born of God, in this passage.
Although I have noticed the principle elsewhere, I remark here that though in 1 John 4:9-19, the Spirit of God shows that the soul looks to the action of God in love to know it, not in us, yet in the end it turns back fully to the way in which we become livingly Christ, so to speak. As He is - we have had identity of relationship through communication of life, and, in result, our being like Him when He appears, declaring we shall see Him "as he is." So here we are "as he is," in this world, founded on the same truth, only known to and realised by the soul now.
199 Though it is not a new apprehension, yet it is worthy of all note - what a place of blessing the comparison of 1 John 4:12, and John 1:18! How the revelation of God by the Son, as in the bosom of the Father, is known and realised by His dwelling in us, in connection with a communicated life - with His being our Life (compare 1 John 1:1-2, and chap. 2:8), so that we possess, live in, are acquainted with, enjoy, draw from, and abide in, so that it is the atmosphere of our moral existence, all that God is revealed to be as the Son knows Him, as dwelling in His bosom! (See, too, the effect in John 17:26.) But what a blessing is this! And how it makes one know what the blessedness of heaven is! For what can be more perfect or sweet, or more absolute, than the knowledge of the Father by the Son as in His Father? 1 John 4:12 shows it to be in connection with the possession of the very nature of God Himself. "If we love one another, God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us." This love has been manifested to us in Christ (see verse 10, and chap. 3:16); but it dwells in us, i.e., God who is Love. And it is perfected in us. Remark here that we have "perfected in us," of which I now speak, and "with us," in verse 17, where our position before God is spoken of in connection with the day of judgment, that, through this union with Christ, "as he is, so are we in this world."
But I return to the great principle flowing from the comparison of John 1:18, with this 1 John 4:12 - that the perfection manifested in Christ is now our portion through the dwelling of God in us, as partakers of His nature, and so he says, "of his Spirit," not "his Spirit" here. It is a wonderful place, and shows, as I have said, what our heavenly joy is.
Remark too the connection between 1 John 4:17: "as he is, so are we" as to our position, and chapter 3:2: "when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." In the latter, He appears, and we are "like him"; in the former, we have boldness, because we are "as he is."
But as we have already seen in verse 12 - how the Epistle of John develops the life in us, of which the perfection was displayed in Jesus! Chapter 3:16 has struck me in the same sense. How wonderfully does it set us (of course atonement is out of question here) in the same place as Christ, i.e., the very same life unfolds itself in us as did in Him in all its perfection! It displays itself in us in exactly the same traits, qualities, actings, feelings, motives, as in Him, even as giving Himself. He laid down His life for us - well then, we ought to lay down our lives too! This is unspeakably blessed. What a fund of capacity it gives us (through grace) of enjoying Christ who is all this in its perfection! And what a place down here! What a hope - when we see Him as He is! This is an unspeakable source of joy, a character and capacity of joy, which is most blessed and intimate. Nor is this left out in the passage in chapter 4:17, "as he is," even "in this world." It is before, but it is not simply forensic, as men speak, but we have part in the perfectness of Christ, forensically, because we share His life in fact. It is not this life in us which is the perfectness, but this life in us is the way that we have to say to Him, in whose perfectness we stand before God. Paul tells the same truth in the way in which truth was committed to him, through the power of the Holy Ghost, as He gave the forensic place for it (and so we need it to be freed from law) and then shows its connection with life, as in Romans 6, and end of Galatians 2. He says, "Therefore I endure all things for the elects' sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." Christ could say that, of course, in a sense in which Paul could not, but, as regards the working of the same love, it is the same truth as John gives to us. To him I return, for this communion of life gives us a wonderful nearness, and power of enjoyment.
200 Note as to dwelling in God and God in us, we have it presented in a triple way, and inverse order. First, when the great truth of God's dwelling in us is presented, of which the consequence is that we dwell in Him; thus, "Hereby we know that he abides in us by the Spirit which he has given to us," and again, "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him and he in God." The latter being the consequence of the former. Now the consequence of God dwelling in us is that we dwell in Him. He is our dwelling place, in heart, we are sheltered, protected, at home in God. We abide there as our hiding place and perfect joy. But thus we realise the spirit and power of that in which we dwell, and this realisation gives an active, living character to the dwelling of God in us, so that we are said to dwell in Him first in this case, and He in us because this last is in power and grace. Hence it is said: "If we love one another, God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us." "Hereby we know that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit," and "He who dwells in love dwells in God and God in him." He abides in this power and source of joy and blessing, and thus the power and blessing of Him in whom he dwells is reproduced in him. We have already remarked the astonishing power and reality of this truth, from the comparison of 1 John 4:12 with John 1:18. The dwelling of God in us being an answer to the difficulty of having never seen God, as to His manifestation in the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, i.e., in Him in whom the whole love of the Father centres in the most intimate nearness. We may add chapter 2: 5, where observing His word, His love is perfected in us, and thus "we know" we are in Him. The fruit, by His dwelling in us in power and grace, is not followed out, but the responsibility of walking as He walked, for it is specially connected with Christ here, whose Person is identified with God in this Epistle, as manifested in Him; compare chapter 5:20.
201 Thus, in chapter 4, we have first God - His love manifested for life and propitiation; then His dwelling in us and so we in Him; and thirdly, love perfected with us in placing us as Christ before God, while in the world. As to what we are, there is first nature - we love, therefore are born of God, and know God; next, God's dwelling in power, to fill, quicken, and animate this nature.
There are also one or two points to be noticed in 1 John 5, besides those already seen. We have the Spirit, the water, and the blood, agreeing in the witness, purifying, expiation are come, through the death of Christ to all association with man alive in Adam, and the Spirit too. He witnesses, the water purification by death also, and blood cleansing the conscience by blood. Death is sealed, even in grace, on the first man. Yet it is grace. God has not mended or reformed man in the first Adam - there is death to that - but the witness is that He gives eternal life. It is not derived from the first Adam; the way of having it is by death to that, not by Law - that is no wonder. But grace does not act in leading on what was in man; it acts by death on it and for it. God has given, not wrought in what man had. What He has given is eternal life - new, divine life to be enjoyed for ever with Him. What God has given must be blessing with Him, and it is for ever, but it is not life given to men in man - a life to the fallen Adam in himself This life is in the Son, not in the man who receives it but in the Son. But this puts him in the relationship of the Son, and his life is in Him. The believer has it, but has it in the Son, not an independent eternal life in himself; hence, "He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." Thus, as at the beginning, it is the eternal life, which was with the Father, manifested and communicated, true in Him and in us now; and then, when He shall appear we are to be like Him. How simply Scripture teaches it! But what a wondrous place!
202 Note further in 1 John 1, there is more, as regards fellowship, than the fact of life suited as being from Christ, to give us capacity for fellowship. That eternal life was WITH the Father, as it is said in the Gospel, the Word was WITH God, i.e., we have the Son as Life, personally distinct from the Father. It is that which was with (pros) the Father, which has been manifested. The Father has life in Himself, but here is Life WITH the Father. Hence, when manifested, we see the revelation of the Father in Him, according to that nature in which the Life was, and receiving of this Life we have communion with the Father with whom it was, and with the Son in whom it has been manifested (and so the Father livingly, and in Him; compare John 1 and 14). This is important here as regards the fellowship - it is in Christ manifested down here; nor can anything thus be more intimate than this communion.
Remark, too, that in John it is never, 'Hereby do we know that we believe' - it is not a subjective fact - "we know him," and "are in him."
I return to John 14:15-16; it is this - both refer to the point of His going away and their desire to keep Him. This is met by two considerations - If ye love Me do not desire Me to stay, but keep My commandments. Besides, I will, by and on going, pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, who shall abide for ever. Both refer to their anxiety that He should stay as proof of their love, and as taking their trouble away. If it was love, prove it is genuine; trouble would be relieved. Thus, chapter 13, "clean" for heaven - a "part with Me"; chapter 15, to produce fruit. But though on earth, chapter 15 very distinctly points to His removal.
Again, in chapter 13, we have evidently not position but fitness for position - hence, cleansing; in chapter 17, much more position - hence Christ's finished work, not washing, privilege we have. But then we have another enquiry, which suggests itself. We have keeping from evil in the world, and sanctifying by the Word according to the setting apart of Jesus (as exalted). And note, up to verse 24, chapter 17 refers wholly to their place in this world, only their setting apart in it was according to Jesus' setting apart to God - always true, but now fully made good as separate from sinners, made higher than the heavens. In chapter 13, Christ is viewed in His abstract perfection and conferred glory, as gone up, and the disciples washed for a part with Him; whereas, in chapter 17:1-23, He puts them, representatively, in His place in the world, but in the place of sons with Him who, to Christ, was "Holy Father," with the words, and the Name given and revealed. Hence, first positively in the place in relationship, and then representatively, because verses 6-8 are what He had done. Hence, here note there is not the thought of washing when I look at "come from God" and "gone to God," and "a place with" Christ there. Even though I may not need for any particular thing the washing of the feet at a given moment, yet, as a principle, we need washing, and by Christ, to have a part with Him, for, in any case, there is that, save in the principle of the new nature, which needs washing, and, hence, it is feet not hands, walk not acts; while in chapter 17, it is being kept from evil such as there is in this world - a state of soul preserved according to God from the evils, opposite to His nature and will, around. Hence also progress on towards Christ, in knowledge of what He is by the truth, formed more into all the motives and character which the Word, and the Word revealing Christ, gives. I have a good conscience if I live up to the light which I have acquired in truth of heart, but I may yet need cleansing and purifying into the fulness of what He is, and what is in God's presence. I purify myself as He is pure. He washes my feet when I have picked up defilement, but I need purifying - Christ's washing - as a principle, continually; so we - "He that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, as he is pure," for "We shall see him as he is," i.e., according to chapter 13.
203 Note again, too, in chapter 17, the chapter passes really from verse 6 to verse 24, i.e., Christ passes into glory, and then takes us up there. It is never death or suffering on His part in John - He has glorified His Father, finished His work, and then goes into glory; but verses 6-24 is all on earth. Communications of grace have placed them in relationship with the Father - where He could, as in it - and then with the world in testimony, but explicitly as left on earth when He was gone. As to the unity, no doubt it is founded on divine life and the Holy Ghost, but still, I think, whatever universality in principle may exist, and I admit it, yet the literal application to the Apostles of the first, as contrasted with those through their word, gives, as noticed elsewhere, the thought of absolute unity of counsel, thought, purpose, plan, as living in that glory of the Father's name by the Son, apart from the whole thought of the world, though in it. Whereas, as to those brought in, it was only in derivative communion the unity was according to 1 John 1:3. Verses 22, 23, bring all into the fully unity. It returns to the perfect unity of the Father and Son in themselves, not introcession, as it is called, one being in the other, to which communion through the connecting power answers in us, because in glory all saints will be one, according to perfect and like grace. This is in manifestation. The Father manifested in His perfect glory in the Son, and the Son in all the saints, so that they have evidently been loved kathos ('as' is not exactly the meaning) He has been loved. But this, of Christ's being in them, makes them perfect in one according to what He is displayed in, yet not apart from the Father being in Him, without which it would not be perfect. Hence we have first, the absolute and essential unity of the Father and the Son, which makes them absolutely One in all that they are essentially, and what flows from it; then mutuality of being in one another, the source and object of joy and blessing in an ineffable way; thirdly, display - the Father in the Son (compare beginning of chapter 14.) To the first answers the wholly absorbed mind and action of the disciples in the power of the Holy Ghost; to the second, that into which all were brought by the Holy Ghost; to the third, the perfect display of glory in all the saints - Christ (in whom the Father was) in them, and here no difference, all appear loved kathos (as) Christ was loved.
204 There is a point in John's Epistle which I had not noticed hitherto, and which is interesting; from the beginning of chapter 3 the Father is not mentioned - it is always God (theos). It is His nature as God. We are children of God (tekna theou). We may remark that in the first chapter, there are the two points; first - "Fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ," then it is stated that God is such, namely, "Light." The following part follows this. Chapter 2 gives relationship with the Father, and the acknowledgment of Him through the Son. Chapter 3 to the end, it is always God. But the way in which Love is introduced is remarkable. The whole doctrine of the Epistle flows from life. The not keeping of the commandments of God is a proof that we do not know Him, but if we do keep them, His love (which is His nature) is perfected in us, flows in us, in its own true nature and character, and in the consciousness of it. Thereon, God being thus known in the obedience of His loved creature, this love flowing forth is necessarily exercised towards the Author - he abides in the light for he walks in the nature of God. Hence, when developed, it is introduced as the fruit of the Father's love, through "We are children of God" (tekna, children, as begotten, not huioi, sons), i.e., born of Him so as to be partakers of His nature through the sovereign bestowal of the Father. Hence he speaks of the love bestowed upon us, because, though the communication of a nature, it is the sovereign love, and bestowal of grace. Hence the world does not know us having this nature, more than Christ who was the manifestation of it in life. Hence the likeness to Him is carried on to perfection. The characteristic development of this nature (manifested in its perfectness in Christ, chap. 3:16) is then pursued, connected with faith in Christ, as the proof, and the presence of the Spirit as the power of it. The truth in acknowledging Christ is the grand test of false spirits. Hence, as it is the participation of the nature, God alone is spoken of in this part, save in the one testimony which brings men into it; chap. 4:14.
205 We have seen how the love of God is introduced in chapter 2; His Being, as such, is introduced only in speaking of the love of God, the word of God, the will of God. So that it is a different thing from Himself in His nature, though the first is closely connected with it, so far as revealed in us, and communicated to us. Appearing before God is quite a different thing - there He is judicially viewed as righteous.
In 1 John 2 we have some interesting points not noted. The Father's things in contrast with the world, of which Satan is the prince - brings out the way in which we live in them. The things are 'of' the Father (all that is in the world is 'of the world - an immense system built up to develop and suit flesh, and that by Satan) - "We are of God." "Of God are ye" - partakers of the divine nature. All the Father's things are Christ's, and delivered to Him; they are His glory, and He the glory of them. This nature finds its natural objects in them; the Life is Christ, and the things the things of Christ, for all that the Father hath is His - we born of God, and He our Life. Then the Spirit takes the things and shows them to us. We have an unction from the Holy One and know all things. We do not then look on the things that are seen, but the things that are not seen. Our nature, we have our life and development in these things. The unction of the Holy One has introduced us into them all. Then we have to abide in what we heard from the beginning - no Church-teaching (the Church does not teach - it has heard and believed) no development of it. We are called upon to abide in what we heard from the beginning - but Christ is that. It is truth, but it is a Person who is that truth (as is confirmed further on). Now Christ is in Himself full perfection. The Church can develop nothing, unless it is going to make Christ more perfect. If it has anything else, it is apostate, in principle an Antichrist. But the moment it is Himself who is the whole of what is to be revealed, the very test of faithfulness and of the truth is 'abiding in what was from the beginning.' It is thus a Person, living Truth, holy Truth. The Truth makes us free, but the Son makes us free. There is a Person I am attached to, and who has an absolute claim and authority over me, and all truth becomes, not knowledge that puffs up but, part of my life, for Christ is my Life, and the Object of divine affections in me, because it is in Christ. Christ the Son, my Life! Christ, the Object of it, revealing, as Son, the Father! Yet all this is by the word, the truth, "that which we have heard" (the full consequence of the opposite is Jewish unbelief, and apostasy from Christianity, which is the form of Antichrist), if what we have heard from the beginning remain in us, we remain in the Son and in the Father.
206 But further, the anointing remains in us, and the teaching is personal and immediate. This characterises our state: "They shall be all taught of God." Having the Holy Ghost, we have the divine teaching which is the truth, and being in living power in the Holy Ghost who communicates the Truth (i.e., Christ the Son) we abide in Him. This connection of "Him" and "It" is made certain by what follows, for it goes on, "When he shall appear" - it is all one, if we read "it" or "Him" in verse 27, though I receive "Him" - and all this, remark, addressed to "Babes in Christ," verse 18; verse 28 begins with all Christians again.
207 I have remarked in 1 John 2:28-29, and chapter 3:1-3, how the Lord, looked at as one Person, is spoken of as God and Man alternately; but note, what is so deeply interesting, that we are also entirely associated with Him - not then as one Person, of course, but as partakers of one nature with its consequences - we, as born of God, are sons (teknia, of the family). The world then does not know us, as it did not know Him. What we shall be has not appeared, but this identification of position is so clear that we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him - that cannot but be - "like him, for we shall see him as he is" (compare John 17:24).
The only thing which we have to do with this world is the way (now I have the heavenly things, it is a wilderness) through and out of it. But there is more, and we say, Exodus 33, "Show me THY way, that I may know thee." "He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." It is the path of God in the desert. This also is Christ. He is the way to the Father - goes before His sheep - we have to walk as He walked. It is the word too which is the expression of His life. "Who art thou? Perfectly that which I have said unto thee." He is the Word, and His words express Himself. This must be if He is the Truth. See John 8:25-27. Ten archen ho, ti kai lalo humin ("Altogether that which I also say to you"). This passage, I doubt not, means (the chapter, we may remember, speaks of the word of Christ as testimony - chapter 9, of His works) that He was in the principle of His nature, and altogether, that which He also said to them. They could in no other way really understand Him but by His word. He had said they were to believe that He was (ego eimi, I AM), that it was He. "Who art thou?" then say they. "In my nature and Being," answers Christ, "that which my discourse, my word expresses me to be." His word was the expression of Himself. This is the force of ten archen - more commonly with a negative, but also without it - that is, what a thing is altogether, or in its origin and nature. That was His present life and service. He had much to say and judge of them, but that was not His then service. But He that sent Him was true, and He then spoke in the world what He had heard from Him.
208 I think I see in 1 John 1 a difference between "seen" and "heard." All clearly goes together as to the Person of Christ known of the Apostle in the first verse, but then we have the manifestation of eternal life in the Person of Christ, seen by the Apostle, in verse 2. And then after saying that they declared both to them that they might have fellowship, he turns to what he had heard in the fifth verse. Christ was what He spoke, and spoke what He was; ten archen ho, ti kai lalo humin. So "Thy Word" (the Father's here) "is truth." "I sanctify myself that they might be sanctified by the truth." And thus while Christ is the living Word, the written Word gives us divinely the truth. How the written and living Word run into one another is noticed elsewhere, as in Hebrews 4. It is the same, but still in its expression here, the seen Word is more grace for affection (though we have that in the written Word, and so only now, but then, as looking to His Person, One with and the Revealer of the Father) the written Word here, exigence from the nature and authority of God. Hence in the latter case, we have "God," in the former, "Father" - a distinction noticed as running all through John. In Hebrews it is always God; hence the living Word in chapter 4 is scrutinising, not grace. The priesthood goes on with grace there. The Advocate is with the Father for communion, only we must remember that John always sees God and Christ, subsequently to this, in One Person, and passes from one to the other as the same One.
I return again to 1 John 3:5, et seq: "In him is no sin" is not merely a dogma, important as it is as such, but the blessed rest of the new nature. All around I see and grieve at sin; I know it works in my flesh. My new nature, like Noah's dove, finds no rest, no real rest; in Him I do, "In him is no sin." God is holy, He judges and repels all sin. Angels, as creatures, have been kept; but how could my heart rest there? But Jesus has loved - loves - me, the Man of God's delight, of my delight, and He whom I have learned to love and look to. In Him my spirit can rest - He is sinless. What a comfort! Sins He was manifested on purpose to take away. Blessed be God, He has done it! These hateful things are gone; but in my new nature I can rest in, delight in His Person. Then see how our likeness of Christ is wrought out in full! There are three points of the divine life: practical righteousness like Christ's, love, and confidence through obedience. As to the first, "He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous." Love was known in that "He laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." He says He knew He was always heard. The Father did not leave Him alone, because He always did such works as pleased Him. So "Whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in his sight." What a place we are set in! It is not 'He has no sin,' but "he cannot sin." It is all connected with the divine nature - Christ being our life, and the Holy Ghost with us and in us. Note the connection - "He was manifested to put away," that we might have done with this horrid thing, the fruits of anomia (lawlessness) working in lusts. But "In him sin is not." Then it is a consequence that he who abides in Him does not sin, for there is no such thing in Him. He who sins (is so characterised) has nothing to say to Him; for there is no sin in Him. But then it is a real nature - born of God, does not, cannot, sin but then it is maintained by abiding in . Him, the Source and Perfection of it. It is not independent competency even in that nature. It is obedient, dependent - was so in Christ - and has in us its rest and strength in Christ. What an infinite blessing!