Philippians – Introductory Material

Writer

Paul. So much could be said about him. Paul is his Greco-Roman name (Saul was his Jewish name). From this correspondence we learn that Paul is clearly of Jewish descendent (3.5): an Israelite, a Hebrew, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee who had been circumcised on the eighth day (cf. 2 Cor 11.22; Rom 11.1). He was an educated man who perhaps had elementary education growing up in Tarsus (cf. Acts 22.3) and received secondary education as a Pharisee under Gamaliel. Thus, his claim “under the law blameless” (Phil 3.6). He excelled past his fellow countrymen in his orthodox observance of the Law. Prior to his conversion, he was a church persecutor (see 3.6). During a trip to Damascus he has an encounter with the resurrected Jesus and is struck blind (Acts 9). A man named Ananias explains to him how to obey the gospel (Acts 22.16) and he is converted. “This experience had dramatic consequences, changing his entire life, self-understanding, theological views, and goals.”[1] He went from being a persecutor of the church to a propagator of Christ.

His letters reflect a brilliant intellect, skillful in rhetoric, careful in composition, and elaborate in theological argumentation. Indeed, Paul was competent to defend himself in court while his opponents, Jewish priests, needed an orator (Acts 24.1). Through his letter writing he codified much Christian doctrine and beliefs of the church concerning Christ and Christian conduct. Through this medium he became a prominent champion for orthodox Christian theology. Often his zeal and passion for true Christology, orthodoxy, or orthopraxy comes through the page of Scripture.

From later Christian sources we know that Paul was martyred for his faith. 1 Clement 5.5-7 records that Paul “showed the way to the prize for patient endurance” and that he “departed from the world and went to the holy place.” Tradition holds that he was beheaded in Rome in AD 69 with the exact site of the beheading and subsequent burial being disputed.

Paul writes this epistle to a church he helped establish in Philippi (Acts 16). Some time has passed since first preached the gospel in Philippi.

Date

Caffin (Pulpit Commentary) says this epistle was written about 30 years after the ascension of Christ and about decade since Paul established the church in Philippi. This places the epistles composition around AD 63-64 during Paul’s Roman (Neronian) imprisonment. However, there is a school of thought which argues for an earlier composition during Paul’s Caesarean imprisonment (Acts 23.33-35).[2]

Destination

Philippi

Originally founded as Krenides (or Crenides) by residents of the nearby island of Thasos in 360-59 BC, Philippi is a city in E Macedonia, NE Greece. Philippi was named after Philip II of Macedonia who was the father of Alexander the Great. Philip enlarged the city and renamed it in 356 BC. It is located on a plain surrounded by mountains about 10 miles from the Aegean Sea. The main route of trade between Asia and the West called the Egnatian Way ran through the city. Philippi was made into a Roman colony when Marc Anthony and Octavian (who would later become Augustus Caesar) defeated Brutus and Cassius there in 42 BC. This entitled the residents to the rights and privileges that were specially reserved for residents of Italy. Along with this came the settling of veterans in the town, giving it a Latin military heritage which would last into Paul’s day. The city of Philippi was the urban political center of the colony and with its proximity to the Via Egnatia also dominated the colony’s commercial life.[3] Thus the historian Luke is right in calling Philippi “a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony” (Acts 16.12).

Philippi was the site of Paul’s extensive missionary activity in Europe. He walked into a town which hosted a sanctuary for Egyptian gods and a cult which was considerably popular. In fact, the sanctuary enjoyed a prominent place in the town and was probably supported by some of the wealthy members of the city based on the costly marble used in its construction. Other inscriptions show that many gods were prominent in Philippi and that most of religious activity surrounded the cultic activities of women (cf. Acts 16.16ff). “Roman gods such as Jupiter and Mars had their cults, but the Thracian goddess Bendis remained very popular, and sanctuaries to gods from Egypt and to Cybele, a Phrygian goddess, are also known.” [4] Paul set foot into this unique polytheistic culture on his second missionary journey (c. AD 49). Perhaps aware of the high percentage of women involved in religious duties, he found a group of women praying outside the city and upon converting one lady (Lydia) and her family, they became the core group of the church. Some suggest that the reason starts by the river is because there were no synagogues because they didn’t even have the necessary number of males (ten) to form one.[5] However, some argue that the women were meeting at a synagogue located outside the city (Harper).

Neverthless, Paul visits Philippi on his second missionary journey, establishes a congregation and proceeds from there to Thessalonica, leaving Luke in Philippi (from 1st person to 3rd). Paul and Silas (probably with Timothy also though he is not mentioned) will not return to Philippi until Acts 20.5 when they are reunited with Luke (3rd to 1st person). The time span is one of about 5 years and no doubt the presence of Luke helped to strengthen and mature that congregation. This may help explain why Paul’s letter is not harsh and corrective as some of his other works.

Occasion & Purpose

Lenski points out that neither the dispute between sisters (4.2) nor the gift from the Philippians (4.18) prompted this letter. Lenski says the two-fold occasion for writing is the recovery of Epaphroditus (who Lenski says became sick when he delivered the Philippians’ gift to Paul) and the positive progress of his case in the imperial court (including those in the imperial court hearing the gospel). Paul isn’t correcting grave error or developing a theme – he is simply writing a letter.

Muller agrees: “The frank, hearty tone, the artless form, the cheerful mood even under oppressive circumstances, the practical purport – these all bear a very personal stamp, and make it – to a measure surpassing any other of the apostle – a letter, the effusion of the heart to a Church he loved.”[6] It was written for personal reason without dogmatic intention. Those personal reasons include the gift from the Philippians: “For this token of love he wished to express his thanks.”[7]

Martin offers a couple occasions for writing: 1) recognition of the generosity of the church in their gift (monetary support, 1.3, 5; 4.10, 14ff), 2) Epaphroditus, very much acquainted with the church, informs Paul of various troubles within the body (2.2-4, 14; 4.2; possibly 1.27) – there may have been divisions and certainly were quarrels and possibly a “perfectionist faction” to which Paul explains that not even has arrived and those who “think otherwise” (i.e. that they have arrived) are not mature in their thinking.

Barclay offers four (4) reasons for Paul’s writing: 1) thanksgiving for the gift sent, 2) information about Epaphroditus who became sick, 3) encouragement for the Philippians during trials, 4) appeal for unity in the body.

Paul writes to a group of Christians who are at a crossroads. They are beset by Judaizer teachers who no doubt want them to adopt into their Christian walk the Law and Jewish customs. The pure practice of the Christian is thereby threatened. Their faith also needs refining in certain fine points of following Christ and how to be a Christian. Further, the minds of the Philippians are troubled over Paul and Epaphroditus, one imprisoned and the other ill. Their joy has been threatened by all of these besetting factors.

The purpose of this book is to stimulate the Philippian Christians to live a life worthy of the gospel.

Theme

Paul seeks to remind his brethren that God empowers servants (slaves) to rejoice regardless of circumstances.


[1] Hans Dieter Betz, “Paul (Person)”, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992). 187.

[2] See Ralph Martin, Phillipians, Tyndale New Testament Commentary, 26-28.

[3] Holland L. Hendrix, “Philippi (Place)”, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992). 314.

[4] Paul J. Achtemeier, Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 1st ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985). 786.

[5] Ronald F. Youngblood, ed., “Philippi,” New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville: Nelson, 1995). 984.

[6] Jac. Muller, The new International Commentary on the New Testament. Philippians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co., 1955). 20-21.

[7] Ibid. 14

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Fellowship with God is Rooted in the Practice of Brotherly Love

1 John 3.1-10 was an expose on the works of the children of God v. the children of the devil. The child of God is to practice righteousness. John concluded that section with the evidence used to identify the child of God: practice righteousness and love one another. This launches the present conversation on loving the brethren.

11For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

For this is the message—some commentators say that since this is identical to 1.5 that John is starting a new division in his epistle. John’s admonition to his readers in light of the Gnostic teachers is to look to the revealed message which they have heard from the apostles from the beginning, not to the secret enlightenment of the Gnostics.

That you have heard from the beginning—”you have heard” is aorist tense. “From the beginning” harkens back to 2.7; this is the beginning of their career as Christians. And it continues to be in-force. Abide in the teaching which they have heard from the beginning (2.24).

Love one another—here is the aim of the message. This was the message even revealed by Jesus (John 13.34-35). Objectively, the singular desire to see Christ formed in your brother.

12We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.

Like Cain—Cain’s attitude and actions typifies the conduct of the world toward Christians. Cain was under the influence of Satan even as the world lies under the influence of him (5.19). For a Christian to exemplify this kind of behavior would be worldly, wrong, devilish.

Murdered his brother—the word used for murder in contexts such as these points to the violence and mercilessness of the act, hence, the NET “brutally murdered.” Savagery involved. Gk. Sphazo, to slay, slaughter, butcher, by cutting the throat; John graphically describes this.

Why…? His own deeds were evil—his deeds lined up with the evil one. It seems this also points to Cain’s lifestyle (linked to context); he lived a lifestyle of evil deeds. “own” – as compared to the righteous works, done by faith, of Abel. This produced resentment, jealousy, hatred, then murder.

13Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

Do not be surprised…– Present imperative, “stop marveling.” Apparently, the readers were surprised by the treatment they were receiving from the world. Cain (world) still hates Abel

Brothers—before and after, they are “beloved” and “little children” but brothers in this section.

The world hates you—hatred is the lack of the desire to see Christ formed in another person. “You mean the world doesn’t want to help me look like Christ?” Light and darkness are hostile (cf. John 3.19).

14We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

We know that we have passed—”we know” is perf. Tense from oida; certain, absolute knowledge. “We have passed” is perfect tense. We were dead (state of being) and became alive. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt this change happened. How?…

Because we love the brothers—they are obeying the commandment. Those who are obedient to the commandments of God (namely, the commandment of Christ to love one another) is in the light, has light.

Whoever does not love—lit. the one not loving; connect to “the one hating” in v.15.

…abides in death—the person failing to obey the commandment remains in a state of spiritual death, settled into it. In other words, he remains in darkness (2.9; cf. John 12.46). “A Christian can no more live without love that a plant can live without growth.” Pulpit Commentary.

15Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

…is a murderer—a throat cutting brother butcher. You’re a Cain who is serving the evil one. This is the same word that is used of Satan (John 8.44); he was a murderer from the beginning and when you hate you brother (no desire or indifference toward their becoming like Christ), you exhibit devilish behavior.

You know—Gk. Oida, perfect tense. The settled conviction; absolute, certain knowledge.

No murderer has eternal life abiding in him—John is not saying murder is the unpardonable sin (cf. Mark 3.29). Rather, he is showing hate and death go together just as love and life go together. Death and life are mutually exclusive. “Where hate is, there is death; where there is death, there can be no life.” – Woods, pg.280.

16By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

By this we know love—or lit. “we know the love.” “The thing called love” (Smith). “Know” is Gk. Ginosko, to know something through investigation of the facts. They have acquired and possess this knowledge concerning love. How? Looking at Christ’s love. We cannot know agape without a trip to the Calvary/the cross.

He laid down his life for us—”He” is unquestionably Jesus. “laid down” – as one would lay down/aside a garment (see 13.4). He was active in this (John 10.18); no one took it from Him. It was deliberate, voluntary, and even casual. Jesus died on purpose; it was no accident. He died “for us” or “on our behalf.” Cain is the example of hatred (murderer) whereas Christ is the supreme example of love (murdered). Love, then, is wrapped with the blanket of self-sacrifice.

We ought to lay down our lives—”We” is emphatic. We have seen this “ought” before (2.6) concerning the debt we owe to God to live like Christ. We also owe our brethren the debt of love (cf. Rom 13.8). There is an assignment, an obligation (see 2 Cor 5.14-15). While our laying down of our lives has no atoning value, it is a supreme proof of our love for the brethren.

17But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

If anyone has the world’s goods—”anyone” is anyone in the household of faith. “World’s goods” (Gk. Ton bion tou kosmou) is your livelihood. The woman with an issue of blood (Luke 8.43-48) spent all her bios, livelihood, trying to get well. Your possessions, property, what you live on, resources.

Sees his brother in need—not just a passing glance; this person worships with you, is your brother/sister and you see them week-in and week-out (daily in 1st century). You’ve watched their plight and understand their need and lack.

Yet closes his heart against him—”against” is Cainish language, behavior (see Gen 4.8). This can also be translated “turns away from him.” To close the heart is lit. to shut up the bowels, the ancient thought that emotions are from the inward parts (similar to our heart today). Implied is that for a moment, his heart was open to his brother’s plight.

How does God’s love abide in him? – rhetorical question: it doesn’t! The motivation of neglect, then, is hatred. And even passive neglect is itself hatred; it certainly doesn’t represent God’s love.

18Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Let us not love in word or talk—James 2.15-16 is a prime example of someone who loves in word only. John does not condemn affectionate speech; but this only is empty.

But in deed and truth—Back up what you speak/say with action; love is a verb.

19By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;

By this we shall know—”By this” points back to v.18. “It is by doing these deeds that believers assure themselves that they belong to the truth, because the outward action reflects the inward reality of their relationship with God. Put another way, ‘conduct is the clue to paternity.’” (NET notes). ”We will know” future tense; in any future occurrence/emergency we will know…

That we are of the truth—some commentators say “of the truth” can be understood “of God.” It would seem if John wanted to say that, he would have said it. It seems John is rather saying that Christians can know they are listening to the voice of Christ (Jn 18.37).

Reassure our hearts—(an idiom, literally ‘to convince the heart’) to exhibit confidence and assurance in a situation which might otherwise cause dismay or fear—‘to be confident, to be assured’” (Lowe-Nida). What better to silence the voice of the heart (conscience) than the voice of the Lord! The voice of “the truth” speaks a better word, assuring our hearts.

Before him—in the very presence of God, the Judge.

20for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

Whenever our heart condemns us—our heart (conscience) acts as local peace officer, telling us “good job” or “bad form,” what is right and wrong. Needs divine law—Rom 2.12

God is greater than our heart—God is the Supreme Court; He overrules. Only God can give us a clean conscience by the blood of Jesus: Heb 9.14; 1 Peter 3.21. Cf. Rom 8.1

He knows everything—He knows your lifestyle, career, habitual practice when it comes to listening to the voice of Christ. He understands when we are conscience stricken over sin.

21Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;

If our heart does not condemn us—Our heart (conscience) does not convict us of something bad/wrong. If we are free from the internal judgment of conscience…In reality, we need this freedom from condemnation. We need a clear conscience before God. This has implications upon our prayer life.

We have confidence before God—This is present reality. We continue to have confidence/boldness before God Almighty. Lit. confidence is the freedom to speak and coupled with the word “towards” (Gk. Pros) implies a special “face-to-face” communication. Prayer.

22and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

Whatever we ask we receive from him—We can ask with the expectation that we will receive. “We ask” is present tense, i.e. we keep on asking. “The prerequisites for answered prayer are an uncondemning heart, the habitual keeping of God’s commandments, and the habitual doing of those things which please Him.” (Wuest) “We receive” is present tense; keep on receiving. This is the Christian’s habitual experience (see also Matt 7.7a, 8a).

Because (causal hoti) we keep his commandments—present tense, we keep on obeying His commandments (see 5.3b). Walk in the light, walk as Jesus walked, abide in Him; contextually, love one another in deed and truth. “Obedience is the indispensible condition, not the meritorious cause, of answered prayer” (Stott).

And do what pleases him—This is a characteristic of Jesus (John 8.29) and He was heard (John 11.42). God desires it and therefore it is fit, right that we do it. This also touches on motivation – out of our love and gratitude we do these things.

23And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

This is his commandment—singular, what God has ordered of humanity.

We believe in the name of His Son—Belief is personal conviction; how can God demand this? When the evidence is clear, then He can command that people believe. It is evident in what He has made (Rom 1.19-20; Heb 11.1). He demands that we evaluate the evidence and believe. Concerning His Son, the evidence is clear and has been preserved even to today. There is enough evidence to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Aorist tense used points to a decisive moment when you put your faith and trust in “the name” (the whole personality, all that Jesus is) of the Son of God.

Love one another—How can God command this? Because He Himself is love (4.8). To know God, is to demonstrate brotherly love. (See John 13.34; 15.12, 17; 1 Jn 2.7; 3.11; 4.7). Present tense is used pointing to the continuous action of loving the brethren.

24Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

Whoever keeps his commandments—lit. the one keeping His commandments; this is present tense, continued, habitual obedience to the commandments of God; lifestyle. What commandments? V.23

Abides in God and God in him— should read: “abides in Him and He in him.” keeps on abiding in God. Same language as 4.15. Whether “Him” is God or Christ would probably be unimportant to John esp. considering John 14.23; 17.21 where Jesus uses the pronouns “we” and “us” dwelling in/with believers. God lives in us, present reality. Fellowship language.

We know that he abides in us—Gk. Ginosko for “know”; that knowledge which comes through comprehension by seeing, hearing, investigation, experience. We understand God has taken up residence in us (fellowship with God); how?

By the Spirit whom he has given us—”he has given” is clearly past tense (aorist in Gk) but the precise time of this giving is disputed. Some say Pentecost (Pulpit Commentary), although it should be noted that “us” seems to include not only the apostle but his recipients. Others say beginning of Christian life (Stott). But then the question of operation arises. Some say it is fact God has given us the Spirit but that only through the Word does He motivate us to present an abode hospitable for the Father and Son to abide (Woods). Others say the Holy Spirit will enlighten our minds, elevate our affections, quicken us in performance of duty, and imbue us with the temper and spirit of the Lord (Barnes). Still others say this is the “Gift Ordinary” of the Holy Spirit, the earnest of our inheritance: Acts 2.38; Eph 1.14; 2 Cor 1.22; Rom 5.5 (Coffman). “By the Word we were taught that such a life was the right one to lead. By the Spirit we are so inspired that we cannot lead any other.” (Pulpit Commentary 86). If I confess Jesus has come in the flesh, to that degree I apprehend that I am inspired and will live accordingly.

Fellowship with God is rooted in apostolic epistemology

In American pop culture there is a lot made of the antichrist. In fact, Tim LaHaye (with Jerry B. Jenkins) has made quite the career out of sensationalizing the person the apostle John was talking about in 1 & 2 John. For many people, Antichrist is a shadowy political figure who rises out of the European Union who will come to power,  make a treaty with Israel and the Jews, and then proceed to violate the treaty with war with and slaughter of the Jews. This is nothing short of gross misinterpretation of John and down-right Scrip-torture. It is egregious error. So who did John have in mind when he wrote about “antichrists” (note the plural) who were already in the world of the 1st century? Let’s look at 1 John 2.18-27.

18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

Children—different word from 2.1 (see also 2.12, 13b). Aged John’s affectionate salutation.

The last hour—actually, no definite article in Greek. Simply “a last hour.” This denotes to me that John is describing some critical period of time, not the “last days” of humanity. This does not refer to the end of the world, but to the time prior to the advancement of the kingdom of Christ which would be a troublesome and perilous time marked by “antichrists.”

Antichrist—means one who stands in place of (substitution) or one who stands against (opposition) Christ. Jesus Himself warned of this thing (see Matt 24.24), imposters and imposers. John says they are coming (lit. “comes,” present tense”).

Now many antichrists have come—Perf. Tense; they have come and remain with us. The present reality in John’s day (1st century) is that antichirsts (pl.) were there and were opposing the faith, the faithful, and the Christ. An antichrist is one who promotes antichristian doctrine.

We know that is a last hour—based on the foregoing fact that many antichrists are present.

19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

They went out from us— “They” are the antichrists of v.18. “Us” could mean the apostolic college. However, in context, “us” seems to be the body of believers collectively.

But they were not of us— “from us” and “of us” are identical in the Greek. John is clarifying that although these antichrists may have come from the congregation of believers, they were not of the same spirit or life as believers.

That is might become plain—the antichrist makes it plain he is not of the faith by departing from the faith. It is unmistakable. Their darkness is exposed.

20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.

But you have an anointing—these Christians had an anointing. What is this anointing? See special studies. There is a play on words in the Greek: if the false teachers are anti-christoi, the true believers are christoi, anointed ones who followed Gods anointed.

By the Holy One—who is this? Holy Spirit? No. Jesus? Yes (see Psa 16.10; Isa 12.6; 54.5; Mark 1.12; John 6.69; Acts 3.14. Jesus is the Holy One who anointed these Christians.

You all know or you know all things—there is some debate about this (Gk. Pantes v. panta). The evidence (though not overwhelming) seems to point to the former. And kept in context, John wants these Christians to know they are of God and not of the world/antichrist. Hence, because they all know they have an anointing, they know they are “of us.” Compare the all of v.19 with “you all” is this verse; as if John is trying to assure them. “The meaning cannot be that they knew all things pertaining to history, to science, to literature and to arts.” (Barnes)

21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 

I write—lit. I wrote (aorist). Epistolary aorist, “I have written” meaning this epistle.

Not because you do not know the truth—this knowledge came from the anointing they had. Truth had been taught and confirmed by the apostles. By the anointing, the first century church preserved the truth in the local body.

You know it—”know” – perf. Tense; they knew and continue to know the truth. They continue to know and expose error because of the anointing.

No lie is of the truth—they have an absolute and final knowledge of the truth. The lie would be what the antichrist brings in.

22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.

Who is the liar—lies find their origin in the father of lies, Satan (see John 8.44).

He who denies Jesus is the Christ—here is a monstrous lie. The truth is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who came in the flesh. The liar has perverted truth with a lie.

He who denies the Father and the Son—this denial is antichristian in origin. Denial is a refusal to agree with or follow some principle or truth. A refusal to accept Jesus as Christ is a denial of Jesus, but also a denial of the Father who has given his testimony concerning Jesus.

23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.

No one who denies the Son has the Father—the one making it his habitual practice to refuse to acknowledge the Son (Jesus) as the Christ (cf. v.22) has God the Father abiding in them or with them.

Whoever confesses the Son has the Father—the one speaking the same word about the Son (Jesus) as the Christ (cf. Mt. 16.16) has God the Father abiding in and with them.

What grand assurance to these Christians and to us today who make the good confession!

24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 

What you heard from the beginning—You is emphatic in the Greek. This first sentence is imperative. What had they heard? The apostolic doctrine—God is light, eternal life found in Jesus the Christ, Jesus is the Son of God, love one another

If…then you will abide in the Son and the Father—you remain in them, their care, their protection from the evil one (cf. 5.18). Otherwise, you will wander off into error and darkness being deceived by the liar.

25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

The promise…eternal life—Who made the promise? God? Christ? Yes! Those who abide in the apostolic teaching have eternal life and fellowship with God. The faithfulness of God is the basis of this promise for us; He’s made promises before and kept them (Lk 24.49; Acts 1.4; 2.1)

26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 

I write these things… These Christians have the anointing but are assailed by “every wind of doctrine.” They hear these new teachings and doubts begin to arise, perhaps even some have left the faith. John knows there are deceivers/liars/antichrists who are perverting the doctrine and so he writes what he writes about the anointing and Christ because of these deceivers and to assure these Christians they have everything they need (v.27).

27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

The anointing…abides in you—they’ve got it. It is present reality that they have the complete teaching of Christ and need no other instruction from these false Christs/antichrists. This is the Holy Spirit in them which teaches them. Hence, by the Spirit they can test the spirits to see if they are from God (1 John 4.1).

You have no need that anyone should teach you—Then why the epistle? V.26, deceivers were afoot. They did not, though, need the Gnostic teachers.

As his anointing teaches you about everything—this anointing keeps on teaching (present tense) all things pertaining to salvation. Again, not the combustion engine here, but salvific matters. It has taught them and continues to teach them what they need for salvation.

It is true, and is no lie—as opposed to the false teachers, the Gnostics running around with their special revelation.

Abide in him—here is the message from the beginning that was taught them by the word of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit on apostles, prophets, teachers, etc.

Fellowship with God is rooted in the true knowledge of God and Satan

Here are several purposes for John’s writing (1 John 2.12-14).

12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. 

Little children – term of endearment. Some commentators believe these are recent converts. Possibly; maybe. Some new Christians struggling with forgiveness? Maybe. Even some of the older members have trouble with it. Others say this is just aged John’s way of addressing these brothers/sisters in Christ en total.

Your sins are forgiven you – Perf. Pass. Ind. These Christians were forgiven of their sins (past) and continue to enjoy a state for forgiveness in the present; that is the abiding effect of forgiveness. This was something God did (passive) and that in Christ as propitiation and by His blood (1.7). And it is real! “You have been, and consequently stand forgiven of your past, or alien sins” – Guy N. Woods, 1st John commentary, pg.235.

For his name’s sake – or “through His name.” Indeed, Acts 4.12. Also, God the Father forgives us on account of Christ and his advocacy on our behalf.

13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father.

Fathers – those seasoned veterans of the faith.

You know him who is from the beginning – again, know is Perf. Act. Ind. Thus, you came to know/knew (in the past) and continue to know (present) “Him who is from the beginning.”

Him who is from the beginning – lit. “the one from (the) beginning” and the context would point us toward Christ (v.12). They know and continue to know Christ.

Young men – Those who are mature in the faith and possess great zeal for the Lord and church.

You have overcome the evil one – Again, Per. Act. Ind. They have overcome and continue to overcome the evil one. Not that the war is over, but that Christians wage war against a defeated enemy.

The evil one – Satan

Children – different word from above and it has its subtle nuance of difference. However, just exactly the audience intended with this word is debated by scholars. It would appear that John has the whole church in mind when he uses it. Brother Guy N. Woods explains the difference between the terms (Teknia v. paidia) – Teknia are relatively new Christians who are still in the “childhood” stage of faith in Christ. Paidia are those brand new baby Christians.

You know the Father – yet another perf. Act. Ind. Verb. They came to know (knew) and continue to know him (in context, via obedience to the commandments).

14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

I write – epistolary aorist, referring to this epistle, not some other correspondence.

Fathers – same as previous verse, those saints more mature than others with a long and rich experience. John writes the exact same to the Fathers twice. Why?

Young men – same as previous verse.

Strong – if physical, then they are able bodied and in good health. But probably spiritual strength, endowed to them by God (truly both are from God).

Word of God abides in you – God revelation of Himself is possessed in their hearts and minds.

You have overcome the evil one – same as above (v.13).

In interpreting this section of Scripture, Guy N. Woods offers: Children means recent converts; Young men means those who have reached maturity and possess great spiritual strength in the Lord; Father means those who have been in Christ the longest and attained greatest spiritual growth.

The Pulpit Commentary breaks it down as follows:

“I write this epistle”: To all of you – you have been forgiven; To the old among you – you have knowledge of the Word; To the young among you – you have conquered the evil one.

“I wrote my Gospel”: To all of you (new Christians) – you have knowledge of the Father; To the old among you – you have knowledge of the Word; To the young among you – you have strength, have God’s revelation in your hearts, have conquered evil one.