The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on 1 John 2:29-3:6

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 2, 2012

This post includes the Bishop’s paraphrasing (in purple) of the text he is commenting on.

1Jn 2:29  If you know that he is just, know ye, that every one also who doth justice is born of him.

And, since you have known him to be just by excellence, know also this, that every man who doth good works has has contracted with God the relation of Son, having been regenerated by his spirit; it is only in virtue of the grace and strength, received at this second spiritual birth, that he performs good works.

The Apostle, after cautioning the faithful against the seductions of error, now proceeds to describe the sons of God. “If you know ” (as you know, certainly, from faith) “that he is just,” that Christ is by excellence “just,” “know ye that every one also that doth justice” (to “do justice,” means in every part of sacred Scripture, to perform just or good works, v.g., Psalm 15:2; Rom 9:30; 1 John 3:7), “is born of him.” It is not in virtue of the strength or natural powers received at his birth from the first Adam, that he does good works; but in virtue of the spiritual and supernatural strength received at his second birth from the second Adam, by sanctifying grace; for, through sanctifying grace, we receive a new existence, and are made partakers of the Divine nature.—(2 Peter 1:4). And, as the morals and complexion of the son in the order of nature, show his earthly parentage and the seed from which he sprang; so, does the performance of good works point out the heavenly seed of grace, and the spiritual birth from God.

1Jn 3:1  Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called and should be the sons of God. Therefore the world knoweth not us, because it knew not him.

Reflect again and again, how great a proof of his unbounded love the Father has given us, by conferring upon us the exalted title of sons of God, and rendering us such in reality; and it is because the world neither knows nor loves this your bountiful Father, that it does not love you either; but on the contrary, persecutes you, and treats you with the greatest contempt.

“Behold,” diligently consider, “what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us,” that is, how great is the love of God the Father for us, as manifested in this, viz., “that we should be called,” or, should receive the exalted appellation and epithet, of “sons of God,” and “should be,” in reality, such, viz., adopted sons of God, owing to our new spiritual birth by grace, and owing to his adopting us, as co-heirs of his Son. “Therefore, the world knows us not,” does not recognise, or love us as his sons; on the contrary, it contemns and persecutes us, “because it knew not him,” it is because the world, that is to say, worldly, carnal men, neither knew nor loved him, that, therefore, they prize not your exalted privilege of divine filiation, through sanctifying grace. The words, “should be,” are not in the ordinary Greek copies, but they are implied in “should be called,” and are found  και εσμεν, in the chief manuscripts and ancient versions.

1Jn 3:2  Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God: and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when he shall appear we shall be like to him: because we shall see him as he is.

Dearly beloved, we are even now  in the midst of the persecution and contempt with which we are treated, the sons of God. But what we shall be, what glory we shall enjoy at a future day, hath not yet appeared. But when Christ shall come in majesty to judge the world, we know that our bodies, clad with all the properties of glorification, shall be assimilated to his, because we shall then see him, not as we see him now (“through a glass, in a dark manner,”) but, as he really is, face to face.-(1 Cor 12).

Even at the present moment, in the midst of the opprobrium heaped upon us, by those who know not God, we enjoy the lofty prerogative of divine sonship; and “what we shall be, hath not yet appeared,” it is only at a future day it will be seen, to how great a degree of glory we are to be raised. “We know, that when he shall appear,” when Christ shall appear in majesty to judge the world, “we shall be like to him.” This is commonly understood to regard a likeness in the glorified bodies of the elect to Christ’s glorified body. Some interpreters translate the words, “when he shall appear,” εαν φανερωθη   “when it shall appear,” namely, when it shall appear, what we will be, as if reference were made to the words immediately preceding. The other, however, is the far more common construction. The words have the same meaning, as in chapter 2 verse 28. “Because we shall see him as he is,” not obscurely, as now, but “face to face” (1 Cor 12), the lumen gloria shall enable us to see, “face to face” the glory of God; for this, the grace of the present life would be insufficient; and from the beatific vision of God, or the glory of our souls, shall flow the glorification of our bodies. Hence, the Apostle assigns our “seeing him as he is,” as the cause why we will be like him as to the glorification of our bodies, when he shall appear in judgment, “because we shall see him as he is.”

1Jn 3:3  And every one that hath this hope in him sanctifieth himself, as he also is holy.

And everyone that hath a true and well grounded hope, through the merits of Christ, of thus seeing him, and of being, consequently, assimilated to him in glory, must, in this life, purify and sanctify himself, as Christ is pure and holy, as far as a creature can imitate God.

1Jn 3:4  Whosoever committeth sin committeth also iniquity. And sin is iniquity.

To this purity, which should characterize every Christian, sin is opposed; for, all who commit sin or in any way grievously violate the moral law, or the dictates of right reason, are guilty of iniquity, and violate the law of God; since every grievous departure from the law of right reason is a violation of the law of God.

Verse 3~“And everyone that hath this hope,” or, a well grounded confidence “in him,” through the merits of Christ, of seeing him as he is, and of consequently being assimilated to him in his glorified body. “Sanctifieth himself, as he also is holy.” The Greek for “sanctifieth,” αγνιζει, purifieth, and renders himself chaste, by imitating his purity and sanctity, as far as this imitation can be carried by creatures. The resemblance in glory between Christ and the elect, in order to be the object of solid and legitimate hope, must be commenced in this life by grace.

He now shows (verse 4), how opposed to this sanctity and purity, which should characterize every Christian, is the commission of sin, “whosoever committeth sin committeth also iniquity, and” (i.e. for), “sin is iniquity.” The interpretation of the verse depends on the meaning of the words “sin” and “iniquity.” St. Ambrose and St. Augustine think that “sin” is more grievous than “iniquity.” Others, among whom is St. Gregory, understand them to mean the same thing, although there may be some difference in the signification of both words. It is, however, more probable, that “sin,” is employed to denote every grievous departure from the rule of right reason, or the dictates of the moral law, although not punishable with penalties by human law (v.g.) sins of uncleanness and impurity; and it is likely that the followers of Simon Magus, and the Nicolaites, regarded sins of impurity, and other sins, not punished by human laws, as trifling, and thus indulged in them freely. Hence, St. John says, that all such sins are violations of God’s law, and are opposed to the sanctity of the Christian state. The Greek word for iniquity is, ανομια, that is, the transgression, or prevarication of a law. Of course, St. John, when calling “sin” iniquity, speaks of grievous violations of the natural or moral law. 

1Jn 3:5  And you know that he appeared to take away our sins: and in him there is no sin.

And you know from the principle of your faith that the object of Christ appearing on earth in his assumed nature, was to take away or abolish sin, by offering a sufficient ransom to obtain pardon for our past, and to merit grace to prevent our future, transgressions; for, he was fit to make satisfaction for our sins, having been himself free from all sin.

The Apostle gives, in this verse, a reason, grounded on the very economy and
plan of the incarnation, why we should not sin; “to take away our sins,” is understood by some to mean, to carry or take upon him our sins, as to their imputability, in the sense of the prophet, ”vere languores nostros ipse tulit et dolores portavit; ipse peccata multorum tulit(Isaiah 53:4~Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows).  The interpretation of abolishing sin, adopted in the Paraphrase, is the most probable. The words, “and in him there is no sin,” are understood causatively, by some—he made atonement for sin; because, being a victim free from all sin, his atonement should be accepted. Others make these words have reference to the preceding words, “our sins,” he took away our sins; for, he had no sins of his own to atone for.

1Jn 3:6  Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: and whosoever sinneth hath not seen him nor known him.

And whosoever is united to him, by sanctifying grace, receives the spiritual influences which, as head, he imparts to members, commits no grievous sin, and whosoever commits mortal sin, has not practically seen him, nor known him with a knowledge joined with love.

“Whosoever abideth in him,” or, is united to him by sanctifying grace, “sinneth not.” How can this be reconciled with the doctrine of the Church, viz., that without an extraordinary privilege of grace, every person will fall into venial sins? Some Expositors, with St. Agustine (lib de Bap. Parvul. ch. viii., et Epistola 95), say, the words mean, that such a person, inasmuch, as he received the grace of Christ, and shares in the influence of his headship on his members, does not commit any sin whatever: although, as a son of the world, he may often fall into sins. This interpretation, they contend, best accords with the scope of the Apostle in this verse, which is to prove the foregoing assertion, viz., that “in him (Christ) there is no sin;” for, if his members, deriving the vital influence of his grace from him, do not commit any sin whatsoever; therefore, in him there can be no sin. Others, with St. Jerome (contra Jovinianum, ch. i., et libr. i contra Pelagianos, ch. i.), say, the words, “sinneth not,” refer to mortal sin, on account of which, alone, a person ceases to be a living member of Christ; and, it is clear from the following verses, that the Apostle is referring to the sin which makes us “children of the devil,” and that is mortal sin only. And, moreover, it is only of a. person sinning mortally, that the words could be verified in the next member of the sentence, “whosoever sinneth, hath not seen him nor known him” practically, with an affective vision, a knowledge joined with love, he knows God, as if he knew him not; for, had he known God as he ought, had he considered his love and goodness, and the rewards and punishments which he holds out, such a knowledge would have restrained him from the commission of sin. The words, “seen” and “known,” mean the same thing. Oh! that men had known God, how ardently would they love him, how zealously would they fulfil his holy law, and run in the way of his holy commandments!

2 Responses to “Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on 1 John 2:29-3:6”

  1. […] UPDATE: Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (1 John 2:29-3:6). […]

  2. […] UPDATE: Bishop MacEvily’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (1 John 2:29-3:6). […]

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