Keeping his Commands (2:3–11)

3 We can be sure we know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

The theme of the previous section is continued in this one. This can be seen from the way in which the writer is still taking up the kind of claims that might be made by his opponents (2:4; cf. 2:9) and showing that they are incompatible with certain ways of life. It can also be seen by the way in which the thought of light, which introduced the earlier section (1:5), reappears for the last time in the Epistle to round off the present section. But the teaching is now directed more to John’s readers in the form of exhortation, than against his opponents. The Christian’s relationship to God, which was expressed earlier in terms of fellowship with him, is now spoken of as knowledge of God living (literally, “abiding”) in him. If the accent earlier was on recognition of one’s sinfulness and taking steps to deal with this barrier to fellowship with God, now John speaks more positively of the commands which Christians ought to fulfil.

3 The thought of knowledge of God appears here for the first time, although we have already come across the idea of knowing the truth in 2 John 1. The abruptness of the new idea is mitigated by the fact that the writer’s earlier references to fellowship with God (1:3, 6, 7) are alternative ways of expressing the same reality. Nevertheless, the connection of thought with the immediately preceding verses is not obvious. Probably the key lies in verse 4 where we have another slogan of John’s opponents which stands in the same series as the slogans in chapter 1; if so, John was simply moving on from the opponent’s claims to live in the light (1:6) to their claims to know God, and, as in 1:5 he inserts his own basic point before proceeding to evaluate his opponents’ claims in terms of it, so he does the same here by stating his own belief first.

Knowledge of God was a favorite theme of ancient religion. It was particularly common in a group of religions which have come to be known as “Gnostic” (from Gk. gnōsis, “knowledge”). Although they flourished in the second century, some of their basic motifs were already current earlier and their roots stretched a long way back. For some religions of this kind “knowledge” of God meant some kind of mystical experience or direct vision of the divine. For others it meant knowledge of esoteric myths, sometimes given in visions, which conveyed salvation to those who were initiated in them. In both cases knowledge was a purely religious attainment and had little, if any, connection with moral behavior. The evidence which we have already gathered from this Epistle suggests that John’s opponents were not too concerned about sin and evil, and did not think that sin was a barrier to fellowship with God.

In the Old Testament it is comparatively rare to find the thought that men know God, although this was something for which the prophets hoped (Jer. 31:34; cf. Heb. 8:11). On the contrary, it is more often the case that the prophets complain that the people do not know God (Job 36:12; Jer. 9:6; Isa. 1:3; 5:13; 1 Sam. 2:12) and need to be told to know him (1 Chron. 28:9; Jer. 9:24). The sign of knowledge of God is obedience to his commands and recognition of the way of life that he expects from his people. When Hosea, for example, complains that there is no knowledge of God in the land, he immediately follows this up by saying “there is swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery” (Hos. 4:1f.). To know God thus involves knowledge of his character and requirements and obedience to these requirements. 1

When John speaks of knowing God he uses the perfect tense. 2  This manner of expression indicates that he is thinking of a past experience which has continuing results: “we have come to know him.” 3  By “him” he probably means God the Father; it is true that the nearest person to whom the pronoun might refer is Jesus (v. 2), but John is not too careful about such matters. In practice God the Father and God the Son cannot be sharply distinguished as the objects of Christian experience, and the pronouns used reflect this ambiguity. 4

But how does a person know that he knows God? This is the question which is in John’s mind and which he answers by saying “we can be sure [literally, we know] that we know him.” It is the question of religious assurance. For many people today it arises in the form, “How can I know that I am a Christian? I don’t feel any different. I haven’t had any religious experience.” Others may have had some kind of experience, and their question is, “How can I know whether my experience was a religious experience? Was it perhaps something that can be explained in natural terms?” John is writing in the present verse with a positive purpose, to reassure his readers that their experience of God was genuine. We can know by this, he says: 5  The test is whether we keep his commandments. This test is deliberately put as a condition, since it may or may not be true of each of the readers; each one must ask himself whether he fulfils the conditions. Bultmann makes the valuable point that the writer is not suggesting that certain conditions have to be fulfilled before a person can come to know God; obeying God’s commands “is not the condition, but rather the characteristic of the knowledge of God. There is no knowledge of God which as such would not also be ‘keeping the commandments.’ ” 6

In 2 John 4–6 we saw that love for God is expressed in keeping his commandments. This fact removes any suggestion that keeping the commandments is a condition of salvation or a means of securing the favor of God by our own efforts. It is rather the result of love for God, the tangible evidence of the presence of that love. John does not detail their contents at present, although it is clear from verses 10f. that he has in mind principally the obligation for Christians to love one another.

Here, then, is the test by which the readers can be sure that they know God. It may be hard to know whether one’s spiritual experience is a genuine knowledge of the invisible God; it is easier to look at one’s own conduct and see whether it is in conformity with God’s commands. Nevertheless, there is a difficulty here which should not be overlooked. Keeping the commandments is the sign of knowing God, while sinning is the sign of ignorance of God. How absolute are these conditions? It would surely be as unreasonable to say that perfect obedience was the necessary sign of true spiritual knowledge as it would be to say that a person must be totally sunk in sin before we can say that he is ignorant of God. Plainly, therefore, John cannot be saying that perfect obedience to God’s commandments is necessary before we can say that we know him; otherwise, he would be contradicting his own teaching that none of us can say that we are without sin. The question is whether I am trying (and to some extent succeeding) to keep God’s commandments. 7

4 The writer now turns to the negative side of the matter and issues a warning to any who claim to have come to know God and yet do not keep God’s commandments. As has already been suggested, the slogan “I know him” must have emanated from the same people as those who claimed fellowship with God in 1:6. John, therefore, is repeating the same point in different words. These people were indifferent to the commandments of God. John has no hesitation in stating that their claims to know God must be false 8  and that God’s truth is not in them (1:8). 9  He has thus attacked their claims to knowledge of God by pointing to their sins of commission (1:6) and omission (the present verse).

5 The writer’s thought in verses 3–5 has an “A B A” pattern; having stated a contrast to his original point, he now restates the latter once more. His aim was to reassure his readers who kept God’s commands that they really did know God and to exhort those who were under the influence of his opponents’ teaching to follow his own instruction. So now he takes up the condition expressed in verse 3 and speaks of the reward which is in store for those who fulfil it. Instead of speaking, however, of keeping God’s commandments, he speaks more broadly of keeping God’s word, that word which is not kept by those who deny that they have sinned (1:10). This expression moves beyond the thought of obeying God’s commands and includes the thought of receiving and believing his promises. If a person does this, he does not merely have the truth of God in him (the expected converse of the statement in v. 4), but “God’s love is truly made complete in him.” 10

Commentators dispute whether “the love of God” means (a) “God’s love for man” (the undoubted meaning in 4:9), or (b) “man’s love for God” (the probable meaning in 2:15 and 5:3), or (c) “God’s kind of love.” The fact is that all three interpretations are possible here; de Jonge rightly asks whether John was conscious of the kind of distinctions made by modern grammarians. It is, of course, true that our love for God is a reflection of God’s love for us and a response to it, so that our keeping of God’s word could be a sign that God’s love had done its full work in us. On the other hand, the parallel expressions in 2:15 and 5:3 strongly support the view that John is thinking primarily of our love for God rather than of the divine love which produces this response in us. One might also suggest that “love of God” stands parallel with “knowledge of God” in verses 3f. 11

Such love is “truly made complete.” “Truly” suggests that the writer is thinking of the realities of the situation as compared with the possibly empty claims of the man who says “I love God” (4:20). “Made complete” means that the Christian’s love is entire and mature. 12  It was this and other references in this Epistle (4:12, 17f.) which led John Wesley to his doctrine of “perfect love” as the characteristic of the mature Christian. 13  This phrase is scriptural, whereas the closely related phrase “Christian perfection” is not and is open to misunderstanding. Wesley’s concept expresses what John evidently regarded as the normal characteristic of the Christian. To receive and obey God’s word is to be made perfect in love; the thought of pleasing and serving God is supreme in the Christian’s motives and molds his conduct. Nevertheless, it is staggering to think that “perfection” can be attributed to the love shown by the ordinary Christian. 14  We must bear in mind two things: first, that perfection is not incompatible with further progress and development, and, second, that John’s statement here must be placed (paradoxically) alongside his earlier assertion that it is wrong for us to say “we are without sin.” What he puts before us here is a divine promise rather than a statement that we might proudly make on our own behalf.

Indeed much of the criticism of teaching about perfect love has arisen from the danger of its proponents claiming perfect love for themselves and so falling into the sin of pride. But anyone who proudly claims to have perfect love shows by his very claim that he has misunderstood the nature of Christian love. It will become apparent later in the Epistle that by “love” John means the kind of love which God showed in giving his Son to be the Savior of the world. It is the sort of love which does not look for personal reward but for the benefit of the person loved. Much (but not all) human love is of the “getting” variety, where the lover is really seeking his own pleasure; “I love ice cream” is a fairly harmless example of this attitude, although such love for anything may stand in the way of fulfilling our obligations. God’s love is of the “giving” variety, where the lover is seeking the benefit of the beloved, and his own pleasure is found in giving pleasure to others. Human pride is incompatible with this sort of love, since it means that the lover is really seeking his own selfish pleasure by his action. 15

The verse concludes with the words “This is how we know we are in him.” Unfortunately it is not clear whether the “this” is a signpost pointing backward or forward. If it points forward (as in the NIV), the test by which we may know whether we are in him is to be found in verse 6 and consists in determining whether we “walk as Jesus did.” If, however, the signpost points backward, then the test lies in determining whether we keep his word or whether we experience fulness of love. 16  In substance there is not much difference between the two views. If the sentence does refer backward, verse 6 is in effect a recapitulation of verse 5a expressed in the form of an exhortation. If it refers forward, verse 5a contains the principle out of which the test in verses 5b–6 is developed. In any case, there is no real difference between keeping God’s word and walking as Jesus did. The latter is the concrete, practical expression of the former. If we must make a decision, however, probably we should follow the NIV. 17

John here employs yet another expression for the state of the true Christian. He is “in him,” i.e. in God. 18  The phrase is synonymous with “Live [literally, abide] in him” in verse 6. Elsewhere John speaks of Christians abiding in Jesus (Jn. 15:4–10; cf. 1 Jn. 2:27, 28; 3:6) or of Jesus abiding in them: men are in the Son and the Son is in men (Jn. 14:20, 23; 17:21, 23, 26; 1 Jn. 5:20). He also speaks of the Father being in men (Jn. 14:23; 1 Jn. 4:4) and of men being in the Father (Jn. 17:21; 1 Jn. 5:20). By such expressions John denotes the close communion between believers and the Son or the Father. He uses similar language to indicate the relationship between the Son and the Father (Jn. 14:10, 11, 20; 17:21, 23). 19

6 The test is now expressed in terms of living (literally, abiding) in him. 20  Being in him and living in him are to be regarded as synonyms, the latter word perhaps emphasizing the permanence of the relationship and the need for perseverance on the part of men. John is thinking of persons who claim to enjoy this relationship. It is not certain whether this was a specific claim of his opponents; the way in which it is expressed is typically Johannine; hence either the opponents had picked up John’s manner of expression, or he is putting the kind of claim they made into his own words. But there need not be any polemical tone; John may simply be saying, “If you want to be able to claim that you live in him, you must do this.” The test is whether we walk (1:6) 21  as Jesus did. 22  John uses a strong demonstrative pronoun, “that one,” for Jesus here and elsewhere. 23  Christians were so used to talking about Jesus that “that One” was a self-evident term. The interesting thing is that here the earthly life of Jesus is being presented as an example to Christians (cf. Jn. 13:15; 1 Pet. 2:21). John can assume that his readers were familiar with the picture of one who “went around doing good” (Acts 10:38), although he gives no concrete description of the life of Jesus in his Epistle. 24  The test of our religious experience is whether it produces a reflection of the life of Jesus in our daily life; if it fails this elementary test, it is false.

7 It is tempting to regard a new section of the Epistle as beginning here; having concluded his discussion of his opponents’ slogans, John now turns to a positive statement of the Christian way of life (2:7–17). But we have already noted that verses 9–11 are linked closely with 1:5f., and there is something of a break at 2:11/12. It is preferable, therefore, to see here the beginning of a new sub-section closely linked to what precedes. Some support for the thought of a new beginning might be seen in the writer’s new address to his readers as “dear friends,” literally “beloved” (cf. 3 Jn. 1). 25  This is a frequent form of address, which indicates that he is writing to those who already stand in the circle of Christian love; here the choice of words is an appropriate bridge to a discussion of the need for them to show love.

Just as in John 13 the example of Jesus’ love and humility is associated with a statement of how his disciples ought to live, and followed by the giving of the new commandment of love, so here the reference to Jesus’ way of life and the statement that disciples should live in the same way are followed by an exposition of the commandment. It is not unknown for new sects to impose new patterns of behavior on their adherents; one has only to think, for example, of the early Mormons. It does not seem likely that any such new rules were being put forward by John’s opponents, so that he would have had to put up some alternative of his own. Rather, it looks as though they thought that he was putting up some novel rules which they could ignore. This suspicion might have been confirmed in their minds by his talk of a “new” commandment (cf. 2 Jn. 5). So he begins his elucidation of the commandments (vv. 3f.) by emphasizing that the commandment which Christians should obey is not new, but old. The switch from the plural “commandments” (2:3f.) to the singular is because John regards all the commandments as being summed up in one.

If the readers were familiar with the Gospel, they would know that Jesus had spoken of a “new” commandment (Jn. 13:34), that of mutual love (Jn. 15:12; 1 Jn. 3:23; 2 Jn. 5). Clearly this is the commandment which is meant. But although it was “new” when Jesus gave it, 26  it had now been in circulation among Christians for some years, and it had often been heard before by the readers. In that sense it was no longer “new” but “old.” The readers had had it “since the beginning,” i.e. from the start of their Christian experience, in the Christian proclamation which they had heard. 27

8 Yet 28  there was a sense in which the writer could refer to the commandment as “new.” It remains new in that it remains true and is continually being realized and actualized in the life of Jesus and his followers in the new age. The NIV is not altogether adequate here, and the force of the Greek is better expressed in the TNT: “Yet it is a new commandment that I am writing to you. The truth of that is seen both in Christ and in you; for the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” This translation makes it clear that the “truth” refers to the whole of the previous clause; it is not so much that the commandment is “true” as the fact that it is “new.” 29  Moreover, “truth” conveys more the idea of the realization of the commandment in the lives of Jesus and the disciples. 30  It was Jesus who showed the reality of this new kind of love in a concrete manner (Jn. 10:14–18; 15:12f.), and the same thing was to be seen in the disciples who followed his example. We might almost translate: “Its fulfilment is seen in him and in you.” The newness of the commandment lies in the fact that it is being fulfilled in a way that had not happened previously. To put it differently, the darkness of the old age, in which men did not love in this sort of way, is disappearing, and the light of the new age, in which Christian love is shown, is already shining. 31  The picture is that of a world in the darkness of night, but the first rays of the dawning sun have already begun to shine; more and more areas are becoming light instead of dark, and the light is getting brighter. There are still dark places, completely sunk in shadow, but there are places where there is bright light, and it is here that the disciples are to be found, walking in the light and themselves shedding light. This is how John expresses the thought of the two overlapping eras of the old and new creations. The light, of course, is not that shed by the approaching parousia of Jesus, heralded as it is by a period of twilight (Rom. 13:12; 1 Cor. 7:31; 2 Pet. 1:19). 32  The light of the world has already dawned in the coming of Jesus (Jn. 8:12; cf. 1:19; 3:19; 9:5; 12:35f., 46), but it shines like a beacon in the continuing darkness, and will blaze out gloriously at the parousia. Hence men have the choice of remaining in the darkness or coming to the light. The light is described as “true.” 33  It is the real thing. Possibly there is a polemical thrust here. John is rejecting the idea that there can be any other source of light than that provided by Jesus and the Christian message. 34

9 The close association which John has made between the new commandment and the light has an inevitable consequence. If a person claims to be in the light (as John’s opponents claimed to be. 1:6) and yet hates his brother, he is still in the darkness—even though the light has already begun to shine! 35  John is here assuming that his readers know that the new commandment is about loving one’s brothers, and that if a person does not love his brother, he hates him. This is not how we would put it. We would say that there are persons whom we do not love, but this is not the same thing as hating them. Our attitude is a neutral one. We might in fact point out that there are lots of people in the world, including people we meet in daily life, with whom we cannot have a relationship of love, since our contacts with them are so slight; I can hardly be said to “love” the garbage collector, with whom I have at the most a nodding acquaintance. But John will have none of this. His concept of love is caring for the needs of others, even to the point of self-sacrifice. If I am unwilling to do that for somebody in need, I love myself more than him; I am not being merely neutral, but am actually hating him. Moreover, he is writing about our fellow-Christians, and is thinking no doubt about relationships in a comparatively small community where everybody could know everybody else; in this situation failure to care for others was all the more heinous. John’s comment is a shocking one, for here and elsewhere he is deliberately awakening us to the need for radical love if we claim to follow Jesus. Even the garbage collector must be the object of my love; if I do not treat him with courtesy and give him the help he needs, but say “he is just the garbage collector” and treat him accordingly, then I hate him.

Critics have pointed out, however, that John says nothing about loving the garbage collector—or anybody else outside the Christian community. He has been criticized for restricting Jesus’ command to love our enemies not merely to love for our friends but to love for our Christian friends. The criticism, however, loses its force when we bear in mind that John was writing to a specific situation in which members of the church (or former members) were not loving their Christian brothers. He is dealing with this particular problem and concentrates all his attention on it. 36
10 As is his manner, John goes on to state the converse of the proposition which he has just offered and to make a fresh point (which he will then develop again in a negative contrast in the next verse). It is significant that he does not write: “Whoever says that he loves his brother lives in the light.” He is concerned with action, not with words which may not correspond to reality. In any case, the man who loves his brothers does not go around telling everybody that he does. Such people live in the light; they are in no danger of wandering off into the darkness. 37

So far verse 10 has simply stated the antithesis to verse 9, but now a fresh thought is added. There is nothing in him 38  to make him stumble. The Greek wording leaves it uncertain whether the thought is that the man himself does not stumble (NIV) or does not cause other people to stumble. Since verse 11 is concerned with the personal fate of the man who hates his brother and does get lost in the darkness, it is probable that we should follow the first interpretation here. 39  To stumble is to fall into sin or apostasy. The person who loves his brother is not going to succumb to temptation because he has his principles right and will not be deflected from them by the attractions of a self-centered existence; he recognizes temptation for what it is and says “No” to it. 40

11 Finally, John returns to the case of the man who hates his brother. He has already commented that such a person is still in the darkness. Now he repeats the point but with greater emphasis, using ideas arising out of verse 10. First, he goes on to say that such a person walks in the darkness. This is a stronger expression: while a person may feel comparatively safe in one place in the darkness, once he tries to move around and find his way to a better place he will quickly land in trouble. It is good advice to mountaineers lost in a mist without a compass to stay where they are until the mist clears or help comes, rather than to wander around without any sense of direction. “Walk” is thus being used in a fairly literal sense. This is confirmed by the second statement: the man does not know where he is going (cf. Jn. 12:35), i.e. he does not know what to do, or how to find his way to salvation. He cannot find lasting satisfaction in life because he is blind. Having chosen to live in the darkness, he now finds that his eyes can no longer see the light; in other words, having yielded to sin, he finds that his heart has become so hardened that he cannot respond to the call of God and he falls into further sin. 41  This is the divinely permitted result of sin (Jn. 12:40).

Already in this section another of John’s major lessons is forcefully expressed. At the beginning of the Epistle he emphasized that the reality of a person’s claims to spiritual life is to be tested by his sin. It is sin which cuts a person off from fellowship with God, and John warns against the attitude which is blind to one’s own sin and treats it with indifference. Now in this section he sets forth the converse, that the reality of spiritual life is to be seen in acceptance of God’s commandments and obedience to them. It is not just the absence of sin which characterizes the true Christian; it is also the positive presence of love. Too often we think of Christian maturity in terms of freedom from sin. Provided that we think of sins of omission rather than commission, that is fair enough. But John wants us to see that spiritual life is characterized by positive acts of love, and that such love will be seen in the fellowship of the church as well as in our attitude to other people generally. The writer remembers the reaction of some of the members of a prominent evangelical church to their new minister: “He is always preaching on ethics,” they said, and the implication was that he was not preaching the gospel, perhaps indeed that it was doubtful if he was a thoroughgoing evangelical. Maybe his sermons were touching them in sensitive areas. In any case, it is unlikely that they would have fared any differently with John as their minister. For the gospel is about “faith expressing itself through love” (Gal. 5:6), and anything else is counterfeit.


1 On “knowledge” see R. Bultmann, TDNT I, 689–714; C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, New York/Cambridge, 1954, 151–169; W. Schottroff, THAT I, 682–701; M.-É. Boismard, “La connaissance de Dieu dans l’Alliance Nouvelle d’après la première lettre de S. Jean,” RB 56, 1949, 365–391; Schnackenburg, 95–101.
2 This is obscured in the NIV, which translates by the present tense.
3 Cf. 2:4, 13, 14; 3:6, 16; 4:16; 2 John 1; BD 340.
4 A reference to God is found by Chaine, 154; Schnackenburg, 82; Bultmann, 24; Haas, 44. Heise, 121f., argues that Jesus is meant on the grounds that only so can John produce an argument against the opponents who claimed to know God apart from Jesus, and that in verses 7f. “his commandments” have become identified as the commandment of Jesus. These arguments are unconvincing. αὐτός in verse 3 can hardly have a different meaning from that in verse 4 where it must refer to God (in a claim by John’s opponents), and while it is true that John has in mind Jesus’ commandment to love in verses 7f. he does not characterize it as coming from him, but as being true in him. It may be truer to say with Westcott, 46f., that John “assumes a general antecedent ‘Him to whom we turn as God’ without special distinction of Persons” (cf. Dodd, 31), but it remains probable that if John were pressed to give an answer, he would say that he was thinking primarily of God (Haas, 44).
5 The Greek is literally translated: “And by this we know that we have come to know him, (namely) if we keep his commandments.” John uses ἐν τούτῳ to point forward to the following clause; see on 2:5.
6 Bultmann, 25.
7 Calvin, 245f.; Stott, 90.
8 The point here is that they are telling lies and deceiving other people by their false claims; in 1:6 the point is rather that they are deceiving themselves.
9 This does not mean merely that their statement is false (which would be a simple repetition of the preceding phrase); rather the truth of God has not taken control of their thinking. Cf. Brooke, 31.
10 Morris, 1263.
11 (a) God’s love for man (subjective genitive): Westcott, 49; Bultmann, 25; Houlden, 68; Haas, 46f. (with hesitation); Wengst, 73 n. 172; (b) man’s love for God (objective genitive): Brooke, 32; Dodd, 31; Stott, 91; Bruce, 51. (c) God’s kind of love (genitive of quality): Schnackenburg, 103; de Jonge, 77f. Schnackenburg and Haas hold that there is a parallel between “truth” (v. 4) and the love of God, which speaks against view (b), but this does not seem compelling. On the basis of 4:20 and 5:2f. Bultmann claims that our love cannot be directly oriented to God, but the texts do not support this remarkable statement. On the whole, the primary sense here appears to be (b). See further on 2:15; 3:17; 4:9, 12;5:3.
12 See G. Delling. TDNT VIII, 81f. (who thinks that the reference is to God’s love for us).
13 J. Wesley, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, London, 1952 edition.
14 The point still holds if we take the phrase to mean the love of God for men; in this case the thought is that it achieves its perfect work in men.
15 On love see 213 n. 4.
16 Reference backward: Westcott, 50; Schnackenburg, 104; Bultmann, 26; Haas, 47; reference forward: Dodd, 32; Stott, 91; Bruce, 52; Houlden, 55; Heise, 122f.
17 The expression usually points forward (2:3; 3:16, 24; 4:2, 9, 10, 13); it may refer backward in 3:10, 19; 4:17; 5:2 (see notes on these verses), but at least in 3:10 it appears to look both ways. Statistical probability thus supports the NIV here; the reference is probably forward, but the test given is derived from the principle in verse 5a.
18 So most commentators, as in 2:3. Heise, 123 n.125, however, thinks that Jesus is meant, as in verse 3.
19 See C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, 187–200.
20 See Heise for a detailed study of all the occurrences of μένω in the Johannine writings; his conclusions are often open to criticism. The treatment in TDNT IV, 574–576 (F. Hauck), is thin; it is better in Schnackenburg, 105–110.
21 Heise, 123–126, claims that the background to the use of περιπατέω in 1 John is to be found in Gnosticism, which sees the whole of life as a journey leading to God and salvation; the “walk” of Jesus leads from the Father into this world and back again and is characterized by obedience to the Father and love for his disciples. This usage is to be differentiated from the Pauline usage which is more concerned with the moral aspects of life; cf. H. Seesemann, TDNT V, 945; R. Bultmann, Das Evangelium des Johannes, Göttingen, 1959, 261 n. 1. There is, however, as Heise has to admit, so little of the Gnostic outlook present, that it seems unnecessary to postulate its presence here. (For the Jewish background see Schnackenburg, Johannesevangelium, II, 242.) The difference from the Pauline usage is more imaginary than real, since here too a moral condition is present.
22 οὕτως is bracketed in UBS; it is omitted by A B d vg sa.
23 3:3, 5, 7, 16; 4:17.
24 In general, the Epistles make no direct reference to the ministry and teaching of Jesus; it appears to have been considered inappropriate to do so. Cf. I. H. Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian, Grand Rapids/Exeter, 1970, 48.
25 Some MSS have ἀδελφοί (K Lal; TR), but the attestation for ἀγαπητοί is better (S A B C P al vg syp h sa bo arm); the latter suits the context better and fits in with John’s style (he uses “brothers” only in 3:13); see Brooke, 34; Metzger, 709.
26 The newness of the commandment lies in the fact that it rests on the example of God’s supreme love seen in Jesus himself and that it offers the possibility of a new kind of life. It does not mean that Jesus was the first to tell men to love one another (cf. Lev. 19:18). He was, however, the first to reveal fully the self-giving love of God which constitutes the pattern for his disciples to follow.
27 “From the beginning” refers primarily to the readers’ own Christian experience, more broadly to the beginning of the church’s experience, i.e. the beginning of the Christian era (Westcott, 51). The possible view that the writer’s thought goes even further back to the beginning of creation (cf. 3:11f.; Brooke, 33f.) is probably to be rejected. The repetition of the phrase ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς at the end of the verse (K L pm; TR; Diglot) is secondary; Metzger, 710.
28 πάλιν usually means “again,” but can have the force “on the other hand”; cf. Luke 6:43; AG, s.v.
29 The relative clause is introduced by the neuter ὅ, whereas ἐντολή is feminine; it refers to the preceding clause as a whole. Law’s view (376), that we should render it, “I write to you, as a new commandment, what is true in him …,” is cited by Moule, 130f., but was already rightly rejected by Westcott, 53, on grounds of symmetry with verse 7.
30 Fulfilment of the commandment has become a reality, rather than that the commandment has been shown to be true. (Strictly speaking, a commandment cannot be true or false, but it could be said to reflect the truth.) Cf. Dodd, 34f. (citing Moffatt’s rendering, “realized in Him and also in yourselves”); R. Bultmann, TDNT I, 248. Schnackenburg, 112 n. 1, cites Acts 12:9 as a good parallel and refers to the use of ἀληθῶς, meaning “really.”
31 The connection between the ὅτι clause and what precedes is discussed by Haas, 50, who concludes that it explains in what situation the new commandment is being realized by referring to the fact that the true light is already shining. The NEB takes it as an explanation of the newness of the commandment, while the TEV combines both possibilities.
32 This was Brooke’s view, 36.
33 John used a different adjective here, ἀληθινός (cf. 5:20). G. D. Kilpatrick, “Two Johannine Idioms in the Johannine Epistles,” JTS ns 12, 1961, 272f., suggests that John uses ἀληθής predicatively and ἀληθινός attributively. This rule, however, does not apply to the Gospel.
34 The term φῶς means the light brought by Jesus, rather than simply Jesus himself as the light of the world (Schnackenburg, 112f.).
35 “Still” renders ἕως ἄρτι, literally “until now,” i.e. “even now.”
36 See Wengst, 68–70, who claims that refusal to love one’s brother is the same as love for the world (2:15; 3:17). Love for the world thus does not mean helping a group of “false” people, but refusing to give help wherever it is needed, whether inside or outside the church.
37 Bultmann, 26 n. 9, rightly notes that “abide” answers the question “until when? how long?”; the verb expresses persistence and faithfulness. Heise, 126–130, ignores the point.
38 The pronoun could refer to “it,” i.e. the light (NIV mg.; RSV; Schnackenburg, 115); but the analogy of 1:8, 10; 2:4f., 8 supports the personal interpretation (Haas, 52).
39 For the thought of causing others to stumble see John 6:61; 16:1; Matthew 16:23; Romans 14:13; Revelation 2:14. For the thought of causing oneself to stumble (using προσκόπτω) cf. John 11:9f. For the first view see Westcott, 56 (apparently); for the second, see Brooke, 39f.; Haas, 52. Bultmann, 28, follows AG, s.v., in translating σκάνδαλον by “stain, blemish.” See further G. Stählin, TDNT VII, 356f., and Nauck, 39f., who cite Judith 5:20; 1QS 2:12, 17; Jubilees 1:21.
40 A σκάνδαλον is a trap, hence something which causes a person to stumble, a temptation or cause of ruin; G. Stählin, TDNT VII, 339–358.
41 H. Conzelmann, TDNT VII, 444, claims that “darkness” is not a sphere or power opposed to God, but is rather an expression for the state of living in sin and apart from God. The statement that the darkness blinds a person’s eyes is metaphorical; Westcott, 57, thinks that a physical effect of the darkness on the eyes is meant, but Brooke, 40, holds that John simply means that a man’s eyes are useless in the dark. The point is that sinning leads to moral and spiritual blindness; cf. W. Schrage, TDNT VIII, 292.