7. The Epistle has two parts: I. Concerning faith in Christ, and the Antichrist opposed to Him. II. Concerning true piety and charity, and the love of the world opposed to them. Which things are scattered through the five Chapters. Interpreters of the Epistle, Ancient, Reformed, Lutheran, Roman Catholic; and also a Synoptic Table.
This Epistle is summed up in two parts: one concerning faith in Christ, to whom the doctrine of Antichrist is set in opposition; the other concerning true piety, and marks of the sons of God, but specifically concerning love towards one’s neighbor, which is illustrated by love of the world and hatred of one’s neighbor as contraries. Which two parts, cleaving closely together, are thus treated promiscuously and by turns and arbitrary method, so that they are not able to be distinguished by certain bounds. Therefore, it should suffice to treat the arguments of the chapters.
I. The Doctrine concerning Christ, the true light, communion with it, and the remission of sins through Him, Chapter 1.
Setting down by way of preface that the summary of his preaching, the doctrine concerning the word of life, and communion with it, is written by him, so that their joy might be full (verses 1-4), he exhibits the promise that God is light, and that there is no darkness in Him (verse 5), and deduces that communion with Him is not able to exist, except to those walking in the light (verse 6), and that the blood of Jesus Christ, to those confessing their sins, is the cause of their remission (verses 7-10): chapter 1.
II. The Doctrine concerning propitiation through Christ, with the marks of faith, obedience toward God, charity toward the brethren; with Antichrist and the love of the world opposed to both, Chapter 2.
Asserting that Christ is the propitiation for sinners (verses 1, 2), he shows that He is known, or believed upon, if we keep His commandments (verses 3-5), that is, if we walk as He walked (verse 6); which precept he says is ancient, heard from the beginning (verse 7), and new in Christ and us, because the true light shines (verse 8), that is, with us loving our brother (verses 9-11): Whence addressing little children, whose sins have been remitted; fathers, who have known Him from the beginning; young men, who have overcome the world (verses 12-14), he denies that the world is to be loved, since it is vain and passing away (verses 15-17); and he warns them as children to avoid the seduction of Antichrist, many of which Antichrists appear in this last hour, going out from them (verses 18, 19), and thus to be discerned through the anointing teaching them all things, inasmuch as they deny Jesus to be the Christ (verses 20-27); whence he exhorts to abide in Him, lest they be ashamed at His coming (verse 28), and so that they might study righteousness (verse 29): chapter 2.
III. The privileges acquired through Christ, and the duties of the sons of God, faith and love, Chapter 3.
From the love of God he shows to flow, that we are the sons of God, destined to be like Christ, when He shall be revealed (verses 1, 2); the one having this hope, says he, sanctifies himself, because He has been revealed to abolish sin (verses 3-6), and he is righteous, but the sinner is of the Devil (verses 7, 8), and everyone born of God does not commit sin (verse 9); and by righteousness and love of the neighbor the son of God is distinguished from a child of the Devil (verses 10, 11), which he illustrates by the example of Cain (verses 12, 13); and from our love of the brethren we know that we have passed from death to life (verses 14, 15), and in this we perceive the love of Christ, who gave His life for us (verses 16-18); and thus at length we shall quiet our hearts, if they accuse us not (verses 19-21), whence we are going to have confidence in petitioning (verse 22); and, finally, he sums up what is the commandment of God, namely, faith in Christ and mutual love (verse 23), and that the one keeping those things abides in Him (verse 24): chapter 3.
IV. Concerning the proving of spirits and the love of God and one’s neighbor, Chapter 4.
Commanding that spirits be proven, because many False Prophets have gone out into the world (verse 1), he establishes the rule of trial, that is, the confession of Christ coming in the flesh (verses 2, 3), and the hearing of the Divine word (verses 4-6). Then he commends charity, because an unloving man knows not God, which he proves from this, that God is love, made manifest in the sending of His Son (verses 7-11); and that God is seen by no man, but abides in us through charity (verses 12-16), which he teaches to be perfected amongst us, so that we have confidence in the day of judgment, without any fear (verses 17, 18); and that we love Him, because He first loved us (verse 19); and, finally, that it is impossible to love God, with one’s brother unloved (verses 20, 21): chapter 4.
V. Concerning the use of faith in Christ, and the avoidance of idolatry, Chapter 5.
He teaches that the one believing upon Jesus Christ has been born of God, and loves the one born of God, and observes God’s commandments, which are not grievous (verses 1-3); now, the one born of God and believing overcomes the world, both because faith in Christ, who comes by water and blood, is victory over the world (verses 4-6); and because the three witness in Heaven and on earth testify to this same thing (verses 7-13); and because the believer has this confidence, that he is going to obtain whatever he asks (verses 14, 15), even for a sinner, but not for one sinning unto death (verses 16-18). Finally, we warns that idols are to be avoided, because we are of God, and the Son of God has given this understanding to us, that we might know the truth God (verses 19-21): chapter 5.