Tag Archives: Son

The First Epistle of John, Chapter 2




First purpose To inform us that the epistle is “concerning the word of life”.  In other words, the theme is the life of God as expressed in the Son of God when He was on earth.
Second purpose To tell us that the one who is Eternal Life personified has been manifested, seen, heard, and reported.
Third purpose To report these things so that we may have a share in them, and consequently have full joy.

The life of God expresses itself in the manifestation of light and love, and these two themes continue throughout the epistle.

1:5-2:2    Christ’s life tells us God is light:


First test, verses 6-7 If we say we walk in the light.  Those who pass the test do walk in light, and the blood of Jesus Christ keeps us fit for the light.
Second test, verses 8-9 If we say we have no sin.  Those who pass the test confess their sins.
Third test, verses 10-2:2 If we say we have not sinned.  Those who pass the test do not deny sinning, and have an Advocate with the Father.

2:3-11    Christ’s life shows us how to love:


First test, verses 3-5. He that saith “I know Him”.  Those who pass the test find God’s love reaches its goal in their hearts, verse 5.
Second test, verses 8-9 He that saith he abideth in Him.  Those who pass this test walk as Christ walked, verse 6.
Third test, verses 9-11.  He that saith he is in the light.  Those who pass this test love their brothers, and do not stumble them, verse 10.

3:12-27      The family of God is addressed according to maturity, after the general statement of verse 12.


Verse 13(a)  First word to fathers
Verse 13(b) First word to young men.
Verse 13(c) First word to infants.
Verse 14(a) Second word to fathers.
Verses 14(b)-17 Second word to young men.
Verses 18-27  Second word to infants.

The instruction to the infants is given so that they may grow into young men, and then into fathers.  After this, the leading features of the passage are now developed in the remainder of the epistle, so that this growth might take place.  The first phrase of the next section is, “little children, abide in Him”, verse 28.  By little children the apostle means all the children of God, not just the infants.  To abide in Him is to rest in what He is, and this is developed in the remainder of the epistle.

The leading themes of the address to the infants are enlarged on in the rest of the epistle, and they are as follows:
1.    Antichrist shall come.
2.    Already there are many antichrists.
3.    Believers have the Holy Spirit, and know all things.
4.    The deceivers deny the Father and the Son.
5.    There is the need to abide in Him


2:1  My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

2:2  And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

2:3  And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.

2:4  He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

2:5  But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him.

2:6  He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.

2:7  Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.

2:8  Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in Him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.

2:9  He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.

2:10  He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.

2:11  But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

1:5-2:2    Christ’s life tells us God is light:


First test, verses 6-7 If we say we walk in the light.  Those who pass the test do walk in light, and the blood of Jesus Christ keeps us fit for the light.
Second test, verses 8-9 If we say we have no sin.  Those who pass the test confess their sins.
Third test, verses 10-2:2 If we say we have not sinned.  Those who pass the test do not deny sinning, and have an Advocate with the Father.

2:1  My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

My little children- having applied tests in chapter one which find out whether they are true believers, the apostle can now confidently address them as children in the family of God.  He uses two words in the epistle which are both translated in the Authorised Version as “little children”.  However, in verses 13 and 18 of this chapter the reference is to the infants in the family of God, whereas in 2:1,2,12,18; 3;7,18; 4:4; 5:21, the reference is to all who are born again, and are therefore children in the family of God, irrespective of their stage of maturity.  So in this chapter John addresses every believer in verses 1,12, and 28, whereas in verses 1, 13, and 18-27 he addresses those who are newly-saved.
These things write I unto you- the things of chapter one, on the theme of “life”, as found in, and manifested by, Christ, who is life personified, John 14:6.
That ye sin not- this is the ideal standard that we are set, because our example is Christ in His sinless perfection.  John has seen the glory of that perfection, for he had been with Christ “from the beginning”, and never did he see Christ sin.
The law was given to frighten Israel into not sinning.  As Exodus 20:20 says, “God is come down to prove you, and that His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not”.  With us it is different, for God has come down to us in His Son, that His grace might be known, and we see that grace in the face of Jesus Christ, as well as His glory, 2 Corinthians 4:6.  Nonetheless, God still proves His people, but not to condemn and cause them fear, but that they might be encouraged to live like His Son.  The more we know of Him, the more detestable sin will seem to us.
And if any man sin- so John writes for two reasons, the first, in chapter one, that we sin not, and second, in this verse, (hence the “and”), if we do sin, that we might know what God’s provision for us is.
Note it is not “when any man sin”, as if John is expecting it to happen, but “if any man sin”, as if, (as should be the case), it will be an exceptional event.
We have an advocate with the Father- just as John included himself in the tests of chapter one, so he includes himself here in the possibility of sinning.  There is only one who never sinned; all others, even apostles, have the capacity and will to do so, hence the need for Divine provision.  That provision is two-fold, and the first is here, the advocacy of the Lord Jesus.  An advocate is one who speaks up for another, having the ability and authority to do so.  The word used is translated Comforter in the upper room ministry, where the idea is of one called alongside to help.  Here the idea is of a legal advocate, for when believers sin Satan lives up to two of his names, (Satan meaning “adversary”, and Devil meaning “accuser”), and accuses them in the presence of God; see Job 1:6-11, 2:1-5;  Revelation 12:10.
Note that we have this advocate, we do not have to engage Him each time we sin; He is constantly involved in a ministry of intercession for His own, as Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25 assure us.
The fact that the advocate is with the Father indicates that the relationship of children with the Father is in view.  If we had an advocate with God it would mean that we were looked on as sinners.  But the reality is that our advocate speaks for us on the basis that we are children of God, despite the fact that we have sinned.
Jesus Christ the righteous- the emphasis is not so much on the fact that He is the Son of the Father, although that is true, but rather that He, Jesus, the sinless man, and Christ, the approved man, is righteous in all His dealings.  He does not try to disguise the fact that we have sinned, nor make excuse for sin.  He does not need to do these things even if He were capable of them, (which He is not), for He has the perfect answer when the Devil accuses us before God.  This perfect answer is found in the next verse.

2:2  And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

And He is the propitiation for our sins- when John saw the Lord Jesus as He is in heaven, he saw Him as “a lamb, as it had been slain”, Revelation 5:6.  John had been in the Upper Room after the resurrection of Christ, and had seen the nail prints in His hands and feet, Luke 24:39, and the spear-wound in His side, John 20:27, (the wounds inflicted at the beginning of the crucifixion process, and at the end of it).  These wounds showed that it was the Lord Himself that was before them, for only one person in Jerusalem at that time had the marks of crucifixion in His hands and feet, and also a spear wound.  The two thieves had the former, but not the latter, and in any case they were still in the grave.  We learn from the gospels the historical facts about the crucifixion, but in the epistles we learn the deeper meaning behind them.  And part of that deeper meaning is the truth that by His suffering and death, (for both were necessary to make propitiation, as the two goats of Leviticus 16 teach us), He made propitiation.
So as He intercedes for His own as their advocate, He does so as the one who made propitiation for them at Calvary, and because that work was done to God’s utmost satisfaction, the Devil has no valid and sustainable claim against us.  It is not that the sin of a believer is less deserving of Divine wrath, but that the sin has already been answered for at Calvary.
And not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world- John was ever concerned for the welfare of the souls of men.  As he thinks of the way propitiation caters for the needs of believers when they sin, his mind cannot help think that the work of Christ is enough for the whole world too.  There is no sin that has not been given an answer by Christ on the cross.  The foundation has been laid there whereby any in the world of sinful men, even if they all came, (which they are genuinely invited to do), would find there is full and adequate provision for them.  We must not limit the scope of the work of Christ; it was not limited at all, despite what Calvinists might say. 

It might be worth quoting what one of them wrote, “I know there are those who think it necessary to their system of theology to limit the merit of the blood of Jesus:  if my theological system needed such limitation, I would cast it to the winds.  I cannot, I dare not, allow the thought to find a lodging in my mind, it seems so near akin to blasphemy.  In Christ’s finished work I see an ocean of merit:  my plummet finds no bottom, my eye discerns no shore.  There must be sufficient efficacy in the blood of Christ, if God had so willed it, to have saved not only all the world, but all in a thousand worlds, had they transgressed their Master’s law.  Once admit infinity into the matter and limit is out of the question.  Having a Divine Person for an offering, it is not consistent to conceive of limited value.  Bound and measure are terms inapplicable to the Divine sacrifice.  The intent of Divine Purpose fixes the application of the infinite offering, but does not change it into a finite work”, C. H. Spurgeon.

There are those who point to the undoubted fact that the words “the sins of” are not in the Received Text.  From this they deduce that Christ made propitiation for the whole world, but not for the sins of the whole world.  They do not tell us what making propitiation for the world means.  The fact is that the words in italics, (“the sins of”), are necessary to give the sense.  If the apostle had written, “He is the propitiation for us, and also for the whole world”, the objection might be sustained.  But because he undoubtedly wrote “not for our’s only”, a phrase which prompts the question “for whose as well?” then the words “for the sins of” must be inserted to explain that it is also for the sins of the whole world as well.  It will not do to suggest that John is distinguishing between the sins of Jewish believers and Gentile believers.  Nor is John making a difference between his readers and other believers scattered throughout the earth, since the epistle is not addressed to a particular group of believers, but rather to all in the family of God.
Perhaps some contend for this view because they do not distinguish between the work of Christ accomplished, and the work of Christ applied.  For instance, Galatians 1:4 speaks of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, (the work accomplished when Christ died), that He might deliver us from this present evil world, (the work applied when a person believes).  Just because Israel was nationally atoned for on the Day of Atonement did not mean that they were all personally saved, for the conditions God laid down for them to be in the personal good of the work of atonement were to afflict their souls, (the equivalent to repentance), and abstain from work, (the equivalent to faith), Leviticus 16:29,30.  If they refused to do these two things, they opted out of the blessing, being cut off from the nation that God had reconciled to Himself that day.  In this age, men are required to opt in by repentance and faith.  The work of Christ is available to all, but sadly is not availed of by all.

At this point we need to define the word propitiation.  It may be understood like this: “Propitiation is that aspect of the work of Christ at Calvary by which He gave to God the full and final satisfaction with regard to every claim God had against sin, enabling mercy to be shown to the repentant sinner on a just basis”.


1.    Because sins offend God.  As God is the Absolute Standard of righteousness and holiness, all deviations from this standard are highly offensive to Him.  Such is the intensity of His holiness that the simple mention of it is enough to make the posts of the doors of the temple in heaven move, Isaiah 6:3,4.  His reaction to sin and iniquity is to turn from it, for He is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and who cannot look upon iniquity, Habakkuk 1:13.  The very presence of sin in the universe is a grief to God. 

2.    Because as Moral Governor of the universe, He must be seen to deal with sins.
God has enemies, both devilish and human, and He must be clear of any charge which they may level against Him that suggests He has ignored sins, or at least, ignored some sins.  Eternity must not be allowed to run its course without this matter being settled.  God deals with some sins instantly, but the majority seem to have gone unpunished.  Sentence against an evil work has not been executed speedily, Ecclesiastes 8:11, since God is longsuffering, and waits to be gracious.  This situation might give rise to the charge of indifference to sins, and so God must act to defend His honour.

3.    Because God must have a just basis for continuing to have dealings with sinful men. 
One of the main purposes of the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement in Israel was that God might continue to dwell amongst them despite their uncleanness, Leviticus 16:16.  So also when Christ was down here.  It was only because God was not imputing trespasses so as to instantly judge them, but rather was working to reconcile unto Himself, that He was prepared to have dealings with men in the person of His Son.  See 2 Corinthians 5:19.

4.    Because if men are to be shown mercy, have their sins forgiven, and be reconciled to God, there must be a solid basis upon which these things can happen. 
God declares Himself to be a Saviour God- He cannot be fully satisfied solely by judging men .  The fact that “God is light” demands that this be done, but “God is love” too, and delights to manifest Himself in grace.

5.    Because the cycle of sin must be broken. 
In other words, if there is not to be an eternal succession of creations, falls, remedies for fall, and new creations, then there must be that established which is once for all, giving the complete answer to the question of sin.  Unless this complete answer is given, the new heavens and new earth will not be safe from disturbance.


1.    The demands of God are fully met.
To satisfy God as the Moral Governor of the universe, an adequate and final answer must be found to the question of sin.  The demands of His holiness and righteousness are such that every sin must be responded to.  Only Christ is adequate for this situation.  He it is who has “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”, Hebrews 9:26.  To put away in that verse means to abolish.  As far as God is concerned, and in this context, sin is not.  No charge can henceforth be made against God that He has ignored the presence of sin.  On the contrary, He has taken account of each and every sin through His Son’s work at Calvary.  John wrote, “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world”, 1 John 2:2.  Of course “the sins of” is in italics in that verse.  But the words must be supplied because they are implied in the “ours” of the previous statement.  If John had written “not for us only”, then the translation could have continued “but also for the whole world”.  Since, however, he uses the possessive pronoun “ours”, which shows he is writing about the sins people possess, then “the sins of” must be inserted.  Now the apostle will write later that “we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness”, 1 John 5:19.  He sees mankind divided into two clearly defined sections, believers, and the whole world.
John not only clearly distinguishes between believers and the world, but just as clearly states that Christ is the propitiatory offering for both classes.  That Christ became the propitiation for the whole world does not mean that the whole world will be saved, since propitiation is only made good to a person when he believes.  It does mean, however, that no charge may be levelled against God for not making provision for men.  Gospel-blessing may be genuinely offered to all men, for there is abundant provision for all. 

2.    God’s dealings are vindicated.
In Old Testament times God blessed men by reckoning them righteous when they believed in Him.  Romans 3:24,25 indicates that the propitiatory work of Christ vindicates God for so acting.  In can be seen now that God was blessing anticipatively, crediting believers with the results of Christ’s work before they had been achieved.  He also remitted, or passed over, their sins in forbearance, holding back from judging those sins in virtue of what His Son would do at Calvary. 

3.    God’s glory is fully displayed.
There is no attribute of God which has not been fully expressed at Calvary.  This is why the apostle Paul speaks of rejoicing in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement, Romans 5:11.  Atonement in this verse means reconciliation, one of the effects of propitiation.  By His sacrificial work at Calvary Christ has brought the character of God out into full and glorious display.  Those who are brought by faith into the good of that work are enabled to behold that display, and rejoice in it.  Would we know Divine holiness, or righteousness, or love, or wrath, or any other aspect of the Person of God?  Then we must look to the cross for the sight of it.  We shall not be disappointed.

4.    God’s mercy is available.
The repentant sinner who called upon God to be merciful to him, is the first person in the New Testament to use the word propitious- “God be merciful to me on the basis of propitiation”.  He went down to his house justified, Luke 18:13,14. Under the terms of the New Covenant, God promises that “I will be merciful (propitious) to their unrighteousness, Hebrews 8:12. The mercy-seat was the same width and breadth as the ark, telling us that the ark (the person of Christ) and the mercy-seat, (the work of Christ), were perfectly matched. But we are not told the thickness of the gold of the mercy-seat, for there is an infinite supply of mercy for those who believe, enough to keep them secure for all eternity.

5.    God’s forgiveness is assured. 
In Hebrews 10:5-8 we have the Spirit of Christ in the psalmist telling of His work of sacrifice. Then we have the Spirit’s testimony telling us of the results of that work, Hebrews 10:15-17.  God promises emphatically that He will not remember the sins and iniquities of His people any more, since He brought those sins into remembrance at Calvary, and Christ dealt with them effectively there. “No more” means in no way, nor at any time.  Note that God pledges to positively not remember, not negatively to forget. We may forget, and then remember again, whereas God promises never to remember for ever.

6.    God’s people are preserved.
The Lord Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene after He was risen, and instructed her to tell the brethren that He was about to “ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God”, John 20:17.  Thus He would still be the link between His people and God, maintaining them in His dual role of Advocate with the Father, and High Priest in things pertaining to God.
The basis of His advocacy is two-fold.  His person, for He is Jesus Christ the righteous, and His work, for He is the propitiation for our sins, 1 John 2:1,2.  The apostle John was concerned about believers sinning.  The sins of believers are just as obnoxious to God, and just as deserving of wrath, as those of unbelievers.  But we are “saved from wrath through Him”, Romans 5:9, as He pleads the merits of His work.  He is, says John, the propitiatory offering for our sins.  Not was, but is.  In other words, the one who acts for us in heaven as our advocate, is the very same one who hung upon the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.
He is also our High priest.  The language of Hebrews 2:17,18 is as follows, “Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted”.  These verses form a bridge between chapter two, with its emphasis on the reasons why the Lord Jesus took manhood, and the way in which Israel were tempted in the wilderness.  Note in particular the word “for” which begins verse 18.  Too little attention has been paid to this word, and hence the connection between verses 17 and 18 is often lost.  The reason why we have a high priest who is merciful and faithful is that He has been here in manhood and suffered being tempted.  When His people pass through temptation, then He undertakes to deal with their cause.  Because He has been here, and has been tempted in all points like as we are, He is able to help us when we cry to Him for help.  The word for succour is used by the woman of Canaan in Matthew 15:25 when she cried out, “Lord, help me”.  He is able to point us to the ways in which He overcame in the wilderness temptation, and thus we are strengthened to resist temptation.
But what if we fall, and sin?  In that case He comes to our aid in another way.  We see it typified negatively in Leviticus 10:16-20.  The priests were commanded to eat the sin-offerings, if the blood thereof had not been brought into the sanctuary.  But at the end of the consecration of the priesthood, Moses was angry on God’s behalf, for the priests had failed in this.  Moses said, “God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord”, Leviticus 10:17.  One of the functions of priesthood, then, was to personally identify with the sin-offering by eating it, and by so doing bear the iniquity of the congregation, taking responsibility for their failure, but doing so safeguarded by the fact that a sin-offering had been accepted by God.  As they did this the scripture explicitly says they made atonement for the people, Leviticus 10:17.  We see then what the writer to the Hebrews means when he talks of Christ making reconciliation or propitiation for the sins of the people.  He is indicating that Christ personally identifies Himself with His sin-offering work at Calvary, and thus takes responsibility for the failures of His people under temptation.  This is acceptable to God, and His people are preserved, despite their failure.

7.    God’s purpose for the earth is furthered. 
When Adam the head of the first creation fell, all creation had to be subjected to vanity, or else a fallen man would have been head over an unfallen creation.  Now that He has obtained rights over the earth by His death, the Lord Jesus is able to bring in new conditions for God.  He can now righteously deliver the present creation from the bondage of corruption into which the fall of man brought it, Romans 8:19-23.  Colossians 1:20 assures us that on the basis of the blood of His cross, all things, whether in earth or in heaven, can be reconciled to God, for that alienation between God and His creation which took place at the Fall, can be remedied.  Notice it is things, not people, that are spoken of in that verse as being reconciled.

8.    God’s intention to create a new heavens and new earth can be realised. 
Unless the sin which has marred the first creation is dealt with, God cannot righteously introduce an eternal earth and heavens, for it would not have been evident that He was able to deal with the fall of the first creation.  Having dealt with it through Christ, He is able to bring in new things that will never be spoiled.  Daniel was told that Messiah the Prince would bring in “everlasting righteousness”, Daniel 9:24, and this He will do, on the basis of His death.  It only remains for God to announce “Behold, I make all things new”, Revelation 21:5, and a “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness”, shall be established, 2 Peter 3:13.  At last there will be a settled and congenial place for righteous to dwell in, after all the turmoil brought in by Adam’s sin.  At last those profound words spoken by John the Baptist will be fully brought to pass, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, John 1:29.

Returning to 1 John chapter 2:

2:3-11    Christ’s life shows us how to love:


First test, verses 3-5. He that saith “I know Him”.  Those who pass the test find God’s love reaches its goal in their hearts, verse 5.
Second test, verses 8-9 He that saith he abideth in Him.  Those who pass this test walk as Christ walked, verse 6.
Third test, verses 9-11.  He that saith he is in the light.  Those who pass this test love their brothers, and do not stumble them, verse 10.

First test, verses 3-5.        He that saith “I know Him”.  Those who pass the test find God’s love reaches its goal in their hearts, verse 5. 

2:3  And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep his commandments.

And hereby we do know that we know Him- we learn from John 17:3 that life eternal consists in knowing the true God, and the one who came that He might be fully known, even Jesus Christ.  When a person is born of God, the life of God is imparted, and with it the capacity to know God.  So having applied tests to show whether his readers are true believers or not, the apostle now sets out to tell true believers how they may know for sure that they know God in a meaningful way.
If we keep His commandments- a very slight knowledge of God will tell us that He has claims over us, and genuine believers will want to submit to those claims.  In John 17:2 the Lord Jesus contrasted men in the flesh with those who have eternal life.  The life of men in the flesh is the expression of the life of Adam, whereas the life of true believers is the expression of the life of God as seen in Christ incarnate.  Now Adam transgressed God’s simple command to him.  God commanded him to not eat of the tree, and he did.  Disobedience brought death, and men demonstrate that they are spiritually dead  by constantly disobeying God; in fact the apostle Paul calls them children of disobedience in Ephesians 2:2.  The true believer will earnestly desire to comply with all that God commands.  After all, faith is an act of obedience, Romans 1:6; 16:26.

2:4  He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

He that saith, I know Him- up to 2:2 the apostle had used the formula “if we say”, involving anyone, including himself.  Now he is more specific, and thinks of those who profess to be true believers, and therefore claim to know God.
These people say various things in this section:
Verse 4        He that saith, I know Him.
Verse 6        He that saith he abideth on Him.
Verse 9        He that saith he is in the light.

And keepeth not His commandments- to John, not keeping God’s commands is a sign of the absence of spiritual life, for faith and obedience go together, as we have seen.  God cannot deny Himself, 2 Timothy 2:13, so the life we have from Him cannot deny itself by disobeying Him.

Is a liar, and the truth is not in him- not only is the statement “I know Him” a lie, but it demonstrates that the truth regarding God and His nature and demands has not penetrated within, and found its home in the soul.  The profession is on the lip, but the reality is not displayed in the life. 

2:5  But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him.

But whoso keepeth His word- the word for keep involves preserving and not breaking.  The nation of Israel failed to keep God’s commandments.  Even whilst Moses was at the top of Sinai receiving the commandments, the nation was at the bottom of the mountain breaking them by worshipping the golden calf.  No wonder Moses broke the tables of stone, for thereby he illustrated what the people had done by their rebellion.
What is kept is His word, meaning the sum total of all God requires of us.  We are not to pick and choose what we obey, but are to abide by all God says.  This the Lord Jesus did, for He could say “I do always those things that please Him”, John 8:29, and He is our example, as the next verse will say.
In him verily is the love of God perfected- God loves His people so much that He desires them to be His obedient children.  When we obey all He commands us, then the love of God will have reached its goal, which is the idea behind the word “perfected”.
Hereby know we that we are in Him- not only is God gratified by us reaching the goal He has for us, but our hearts are assured too, for obedience is a sign that we are “in God”, as opposed to being in the world.  We are enfolded in God’s love and purpose, instead of being entangled in the world.  To be in Him means to have a vital life-relationship with God.

Second test, verses 6-8        He that saith he abideth in Him.  Those who pass this test walk as Christ walked, verse 6.

2:6  He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.

He that saith he abideth in Him- to abide in God is to consciously and willingly remain involved in all that God is and does.  It is the settled place that only a true believer can occupy.
Ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked- the walk of a person is the way they pass through life, whether as an unbeliever walking after the course of this world, Ephesians 2:2, or a believer walking with God.  We are under obligation to walk in a certain way, and it is described here as “as He walked”.  Notice first of all the way in which the apostle does not hesitate to use the pronouns “Him” and “He” both of God and Christ, without telling us to whom he is referring.  This is testimony to the Deity of Christ.  John was so convinced of the equality of the Son and the Father that he calls both, at times, simply “Him”, or as here, “He”.
The way in which the Lord Jesus passed through this world is the pattern for us.  As the apostle Peter wrote, “Christ also hath suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps; who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth”, 1 Peter 2:21,22.  John tells us of two of John the Baptist’s disciples who, when he exhorted them to look upon Jesus as He walked, immediately began to do so; but they did more than simply observe, for they began to follow Him, thus walking where He walked, John 1:36,37.  But we need to not only walk where He walked, (remembering that He did not walk after the counsel of the ungodly, not stand in the way of sinners, Psalm 1:1), but also walk as He walked, passing through this world in the same manner as He did.  In this way the inward reality of abiding in God is expressed in an outward way, to God’s glory.  This is only possible because we have the life of God within us.

2:7  Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you- John has nothing to add to what had already been given through the ministry of the Lord Jesus.  He does not set out some new and fresh way of pleasing God, for the way marked out by Christ never loses its relevance.
But an old commandment which ye had from the beginning- the latter expression can be taken in three ways.  The beginning either refers to the beginning of their Christian experience; or the beginning of the public manifestation of Christ as eternal life personified; or the beginning of Christ’s Upper Room ministry, in which He prepared His own for His absence, and exhorted them to love one another.  In practical terms all three ideas are true, for what they had from when they were first born again is what was from the beginning of Christ’s ministry as to its expression in Him, and from the upper room ministry as far as being formally required of them is concerned.  The commandment was therefore about sixty years old by the time the apostle wrote these words, hence the adjective old can be used of it.
The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning- this would refer to the words of the Lord Jesus when He said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another”, John 13:34.  It is true that the law of Moses commanded men to love their neighbours, but never before was the carrying out of that command given perfect expression, as has now happened in the life of Christ.  The standard is not now a command written in stone, but the living example of Christ in His life.  By “word” the apostle means a statement expressing a thought, in this case, that we should love.  Only because we have eternal life can we, in any measure, love one another as He has loved us.

2:8  Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in Him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.

Again, a new commandment I write unto you- the word “again” would signify “on the other hand”.  On one hand the commandment is old because Christ gave it decades before, but on the other hand it is still fresh and new, as all His words are.  His words are “spirit and life”, and the Spirit quickens them, John 6:63.  The commandment has not lost its power and its point.
Which thing is true in Him and in you- there is a continuous line of believers who follow the example of Christ and obey His command to love one another; so what is true in Him, as a historical fact, (hence the “is”, not “was”), is still true, but in the children of God.  The command is true in Him, that is, is a reality with Him, and it is true in us, since the life of the God who is love is in us.
Because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth- the reason the commandment is a reality in both Christ and the people of God is that He has come to express all that God is, and through Him the light of the knowledge of the glory of God is seen.  As far as believers are concerned, and as far as God’s purpose is concerned, the darkness that Adam brought in by his disobedience is over, and the light of the person of Christ dispels the darkness of ignorance about God.
No doubt John is thinking back to the upper room scene, when Judas went out, and his comment in his gospel had been, “It was night”, John 13:30.  As soon as Judas went out, the spirit of Christ was free to speak of glory, verses 31 and 32.  Then in verse 34 comes the word alluded to in verse 7 of this chapter, about loving one another.  The glory of Christ is a great incentive to love one another, for part of His glory is the splendour of His love.

Third test, verse 9-11.      He that saith he is in the light.  Those who pass this test love their brothers, and do not stumble them, verse 10.

2:9  He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.

He that saith he is in the light- the word brother is used here from the perspective of the false professor, who claims believers as his brothers.  By profession Judas was “in the light”, walking with Christ for those days of public ministry, no doubt enabled to work miracles, and to the other apostles apparently one of them.  When the Lord said “one of you shall betray Me” no disciple thought immediately of Judas, but rather looked within their own hearts, saying, “Is it I?”  John 13:22; Matthew 26:22.
And hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now- it is difficult for us to understand how Judas could stoop so low as to express his hatred of Christ by betraying Him, especially as he did it with a kiss, the sign of affection, but so it is.  It helps us a little to remember that the Lord said, “One of you is a devil”, John 70, and also that Satan entered into Judas after having put it into his heart to betray Him, John 13:2,27.  Just as love and light go together, so darkness and hatred do as well.  How solemn that Judas is in the darkness “even until now”, for nothing has changed since he plunged into perdition.  His state is eternal, as will be the state of all who go into eternity hating Christ.  But “even until now” does leave the door open for a change for them who are still upon the earth.  The hatred would stop the moment they believed.

2:10  He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.

He that loveth his brother abideth in the light- those who truly love their fellow-believers with the sort of love Christ loved them with, (therefore a love that is neither sentimental nor emotional, but spiritual), can be said to be at home in the light of God’s presence.  That light does not expose them as traitors, but as believers.  They abide in the light for they find it congenial, and will never go into the blackness of darkness as Judas did, Jude 13.
And there is none occasion of stumbling in him- unlike Judas, who prepared a trap for Christ in the darkness of Gethsemane, the true believer will only do those things that encourage and strengthen their fellow-brethren in the family of God.

2:11  But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

But he that hateth his brother is in darkness- he who does this, but at the same time hates, shows that he is still in the darkness of ignorance about God.  The light that Christ came to bring has not affected him, and consequently, not possessing eternal life, he does not possess the knowledge of God, for to have eternal life is to know God, John 17:3.
And walketh in darkness- as he does not really follow Christ, who is the light of the life of the believer, John 8:12, he walks in the darkness that Adam plunged the world into when he sinned.  It is not just that there is hatred in the heart, but his ignorance of true love is expressed in the way he passes through this world.
And knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes- we are familiar with the idea of a light blinding, for it happened to Paul on the Damascus Road, Acts 9:18, 22:11.  But it is also possible to be blinded by darkness.  There are certain deep-sea fish which live in the darkness, and although they have eyes, they are blind; they do not need to see, for there is nothing to see in the darkness.  So men have become so used to living in the darkness that ignorance of God brings, that they have no capacity to see for themselves.  Of course, God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness in the beginning can shine in their hearts, 2 Corinthians 4:4,6.  Because of this blindness, men are neither aware of the way to walk with God now, nor are they aware of their destiny, which is the blackness of darkness for ever, Jude 13.  “But the path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more until the perfect day.  The way of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble”, Proverbs 4:18,19.


2:12  I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.

2:13  I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.

2:14  I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.

2:15  Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

2:16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

2:17  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

2:18  Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

2:19  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

2:20  But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.

2:21  I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

2:22  Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

2:23  Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.

2:24  Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.

2:25  And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life.

2:26  These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.

2:27  But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

3:12-27        The family of God is addressed according to maturity, after the general statement of verse 12.


Verse 13(a)  First word to fathers
Verse 13(b) First word to young men.
Verse 13(c) First word to infants.
Verse 14(a) Second word to fathers.
Verses 14(b)-17 Second word to young men.
Verses 18-27  Second word to infants.


2:12  I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.

I write unto you, little children- as he brings this section to an end, the apostle reassures those that he has tested in every way, and confidently writes to them as children in the family of God.  In the next verses he will distinguish between infants, young men and fathers in the family of God, but here all believers, whatever their stage of maturity, are classed as little or dear children in the family.  In this verse, what is true of one is true of them all.
Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake- in chapter one sins were forgiven because of the blood of Christ.  Here, it is because of the value of His name to God.  By His name is meant all that He is in His character and person.  In tabernacle times, not only was the blood of propitiation sprinkled on the mercy seat each Day of Atonement, but some incense was laid up before the testimony so as to be in the presence of God, Exodus 30:36.  The incense represents the virtues and graces of Christ.  So both the work of Christ and the Person of Christ were prefigured there.  Now we have the reality of which these things were a foreshadowing, for the Son of God is in the presence of God in all the value of His work, and also in all the value of His sinless life down here.  And not just His sinless life, but His positive graces and virtues.  And it is for the sake of such a Person that our sins are forgiven.  We could never be forgiven on the basis of our person and work.  To be forgiven because of Him is the very best way to be forgiven.

Verse 13(a)        First word to fathers
Verse 13(b)        First word to young men.
Verse 13(c)        First word to infants.

2:13  I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning.  I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one.  I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.

I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning- here is a remarkable testimony to the Deity of Christ.  He that is from the beginning is the Son of God, as chapter 1 has told us.  And it is the knowledge of this one that has enabled the fathers to grow to the state of maturity they have.  So He cannot be less than God in any sense, since the advance from immaturity to maturity comes about by knowing Him.  The little children in their immaturity know the Father; those who are mature know the Son.
I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one- these have advanced to the point where the wicked one has attacked them because they sought to know Christ better, (which thing the Devil hates), and they have overcome his wicked attempts to side-track them.  How they did it is told us in the second word to them in verse 14.
I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father- the apostle will have much more to say to the little children in verses 18-27, but he is content for now to record that they know the Father.  This is a blessed position to be in, for it shows they have eternal life, and that they are in the family of God, and have the potential to grow into young men, and then into fathers.

Verse 14(a)             Second word to fathers.
Verses 14(b)-17    Second word to young men.

2:14  I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning.  I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.

I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning- here is further testimony to the Deity of Christ, for once a person can be said to know Christ, there is nothing more advanced to know, hence what is said the first time is said again to the fathers, without addition.  In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Colossians 2:3.  No wonder the apostle Paul exclaimed, “That I may know Him”, Philippians 3:10.  It is well for us if we have the same desire.  The more we ponder the gospel records, the more we shall appreciate Him, and know Him in a deeper way.  The man who brought his meal offering was to take out a handful and it was placed on the altar for God.  The greater his grasp of the offering, the more there was for God.  So the greater our grasp of the One who is typified by the meal offering, the more we shall have to offer to God, the meal offering representing the life of Christ down here.
I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one- the secret of the growth of the young men is now told us.  It centres around the fact that they overcome the wicked one, hence the apostle mentions this again.  But how did they do it?  The answer is two-fold.  First, it was because they were strong.  They were spiritually fit and healthy.  The second answer tells us why this was so.  It was because the word of God abode in them.  The word of God had a settled place in their hearts and lives.  They did not relegate it to a small part of their lives, but allowed it to govern them in everything.  In this way the wicked one’s attempts to divert them from becoming fathers was thwarted. 

2:15  Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Love not the world- these young men should not become complacent, however.  If the Devil does not succeed by a frontal attack on the souls of these young men, he may seek to entice them by the allurements of the world, which they may think has nothing to do with him.  The world, however, as presently constituted, is geared to the advancement of the Devil’s interests, and not God’s.  Satan is the god of this world, religiously, 2 Corinthians 4:4, and the prince of this world politically, John 14:30.  He is working behind the scenes to frustrate the purpose of God, and one of God’s main purposes is to encourage believers in the knowledge of Himself and His Son.  The world is so constructed that it hinders that process; we should therefore be resolved not to love it, but to hate it for what it does and also what it represents.
Neither the things that are in the world- not only is the world in general and in principle opposed to God and His interests, but also the individual things in the world are also.  There is nothing good in the world, but there are, of course, many good things in the earth God made, even though they are spoiled by sin, Romans 8:20,21.
If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him- so opposed to God is the world that love of it becomes a test of Christian reality.  No true believer will say that he loves the world that cast out and crucified his Saviour.  He may hanker after and indulge in some of the things that the world contains, but in principle his life is opposed to the life of the world.  Since the Father and the world are opposed, especially because of what it did to His Son, so the love of the world and the love of the Father are opposed also.

2:16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

For all that is in the world- we now learn why the apostle is so forthright about the world.
The lust of the flesh- the world is full of people.  People, moreover, who have no Divine life in their souls.  The Lord Jesus contrasted them with those who eternal life, in His prayer to His Father, John 17:2.  Man in the flesh is weak, failing, and sinful, an easy prey to the Devil.  He supplies for them everything and anything they desire, for he knows this will keep them from considering God.
And the lust of the eyes- there are many in the world who are taken up with intellectual matters, who are concerned about ideas, philosophies, and suchlike, which could not be described as the lust of the eyes, but they are, nonetheless, sinful.  There are many others, however, who are absorbed with visible and tangible things.  They may not even be sinful in themselves, but they become sinful if they detract from interest in Divine things.  There are many whose parents went to church regularly on Sunday mornings, and took their children with them.  Those children are now grown up and have children of their own, and they take them for nature walks instead of seeking after God.  Thus seen things become sinful, and to go in for them to the exclusion of God is lustful.  Of course there are many other seen things which are sinful through and through.
And the pride of life- when Satan tempted Eve he held out to her the prospect of being as gods, Genesis 3:5.  He did not appear to try to drag her down, (although he did, in fact, do so), but present her with an opportunity to advance herself and rise higher.  Thus it was that pride played a part in the first sin committed by humans, and they have tended to pride ever since.  The world is geared to pander to this pride, and the desire to out-do one’s neighbour in some way is very prevalent.  Pride, in fact, was the sin of the Lucifer when he said, “I will be like the Most High”, Isaiah 14:12-14.  The apostle Paul makes it clear that pride is the reason why the Devil is condemned, 1 Timothy 3:6.
Is not of the Father, but is of the world- so this world system, with its lust and pride, is not sourced in the Father.  He is not responsible for the evils that are manifest in the world; they come from the one who, as the prince of this world, controls all that goes on, and as the god of this world, controls its opposition to God.  All that is in the world is of the world, so it is a closed system, self-generating, self-replicating, self-sufficient, and having no time for the things of heaven and Christ.

2:17  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

And the world passeth away- the current world-system is destined to soon be swept away when the Lord Jesus comes to judge and make war.  He will be like the stone in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, which shall smite the whole of Gentile world-dominion at its base, and destroy it utterly, and replace it with His kingdom of righteousness, Daniel 2:44,45.
And the lust thereof- lust and pride will have no welcome place in Christ’s kingdom, and men will be occupied with better things as they serve the King.  The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.  Isaiah speaks of the Day of the Lord in terms of destroying all the high things that men think themselves to be, and all the high things they build in their pride.  His words were:

“For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty,
and upon every one that is lifted up;
and he shall be brought low:
And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan,
And upon all the high mountains,
and upon all the hills that are lifted up,
And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall,
And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.
And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down,
and the haughtiness of men shall be made low:
and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day”.
Isaiah 2:12-17.

But he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever- far from being swept away when Christ comes to judge, the true believer will abide, and continue into eternity.  The will of God rather than the lusts of the flesh will be his occupation for ever.  God has begotten His children by His own will, James 1:18, and they delight in that will, because the life they have from God enables them to do so.

Verses 18-27        Second word to infants.

2:18  Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

Little children- the apostle now turns from his word to the young men to addressing the infants in the family of God.  If they are going to mature into young men, they will need information and warning about the things that help and that hinder.  The first word to them assured them that as those who know the Father, they had eternal life.  Now they need to preserve that life and allow it to flourish.
It is the last time- John is justified in saying that it is the last time, (as opposed to the last times, the end days just prior to the return of Christ), because Satan has been deceiving men about God for thousands of years, and as the apostle Paul said, “the night is far spent, the day is at hand”, Romans 13:12, and also that “the mystery of iniquity doth already work”, 2 Thessalonians 2:7.  That this is so is evident from the presence of antichrists even in John’s day.
And as ye have heard that antichrist shall come- the Lord Jesus warned of false christs and false prophets, Matthew 24:24, and Paul taught the Thessalonians about the coming antichrist.  We must not think of antichrist as merely a prominent political figure of the end times. Satan knows that if he is going to gain universal homage he must pander to the religious side of man.  So it is that the primary object of antichrist will be to attract the worship of the world, for in so doing, since he will be Satan’s representative, worship will be given to Satan.  See Appendix 1 for more on the antichrist.
Even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time- since John’s definition of antichrist has to do with the denial of the Father and the Son, any false teacher who promotes the denial of Christian truth is antichristian in character, and merits the name antichrist.  Since there were many such teachers in John’s day, he was justified in saying that the features that will prevail when the Antichrist rules the world are seen already, and therefore, in principle, last-time conditions are already here.

2:19  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

They went out from us, but they were not of us- it is startling to learn that these antichrists had once been amongst the people of God, and even companying with the apostles.  But then, so had Judas, and he is characterised by the fact that he went out of the Upper Room to betray the Lord, thus showing he was not in sympathy with what was being taught in that room.
For if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us- John sees continuance in Divine things in company with the apostles as the test of genuineness.  His characteristic words are “abide”, “continue” and “remain”, all translations of the same word.  At the beginning, those who believed “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship”, Acts 2:42, and John will later say that “he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us”, 1 John 4:6.
But they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us- Adam was driven out from the presence of God, but Cain went of his own will.  The word “all” refers to the total number of those who went out, who were not “of us”, had no sympathy with what the apostles taught.  All that went out were not of us, declares the apostle.  It was not that some who went out were in sympathy with the apostles, and some were not.  Rather, all who went out were not “of us”.

2:20  But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.

But ye have an unction from the Holy One- the word unction is the same as anointing, and this anointing is said to be from the Holy One, namely God Himself.  Just as Jesus of Nazareth was anointed on the banks of the Jordan, marking Him out as the Christ, or Messiah, (see Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38), so every believer, without exception, has been anointed with the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion.  The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said, “Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who also hath sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts”, 2 Corinthians 1:21,22.  We read in Isaiah 11:1-3 that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the Messiah, and by this power He would show wisdom, understanding, and discernment.  So it is with the children of God, for they have been anointed so that they might know the things of God, as the apostle goes on to explain.  It is important to notice that it is the infants in the family of God who are being addressed here, not the mature fathers.  The anointing of the Spirit is not something that comes only after maturity is reached.  On the contrary, it is one of the principal means whereby that maturity is attained.  It is encouraging, but also sobering, to notice that the believer is anointed by the same One as anointed Christ, and with the same Spirit.
And ye know all things- this is a relative statement.  It is not that the infants knew everything there was to know about the faith, because then they would be fathers and not simply infants.  The point is that they knew all things it was necessary to know so as to be able to recognise the teaching of the antichrists for what it was, namely, false and therefore misleading.  The knowledge that is needed to come to faith in Christ is also the knowledge that enables a new believer to recognise error, for the Spirit gives discernment.
Notice how two ideas are being brought together here.  First, the antichrists are “anti-Christ”, meaning they are hostile to the fact that He is God’s anointed.  Second, God, who anointed Christ, also anoints His children, in order that the effect of the antichrists might be neutralised.

2:21  I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth- John wrote his gospel so that sinners might know the truth about the Lord Jesus, John 20:30,31, but he is now writing to believers, and does not need to repeat the truth he set out in his gospel.  They have come to know and believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the very truth that the antichrists deny.
But because ye know it- having said why he did not write, John now gives two reasons why he does.  First, because they know the truth; that is, they are true believers, and therefore have an interest in the truth, not only to continue believing it, but to defend it.
And that no lie is of the truth- the second reason John writes is because these infants in the family of God know that truth and lies are mutually exclusive; they can never be combined.  Truth is that which corresponds to reality, and lies are a denial of that reality; in this context, the reality of the person of Christ.  They also know that no lie can issue forth out of the truth; the lies the antichrists spread abroad in their teaching have not come from within the body of Christian doctrine, for their source is elsewhere.  That source is Satan himself, for “he is a liar, and the father of it”, as the Lord Jesus said, John 8:44.

2:22  Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?  He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?  John is very direct here, and highlights the main lie that the antichrists promote.  The truth about the anointing of the Lord Jesus, and what it signifies, is the deciding factor for John.  He will tell us why this is so in the rest of the verse.
He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son- John does not record the baptism of the Lord Jesus.  What he does do, however, is record the effect it had on John the Baptist, as is told us in the following passage:

“And I knew Him not: but that He should be made manifest to Israel therefore am I come baptising with water.  And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him.  And I knew Him not:  but He that sent me to baptise with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He that baptiseth with the Holy Spirit.  And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God”, John 1:31-34. 

So for the apostle John, and for John the Baptist, the descent of the Spirit upon the Lord Jesus was a sure sign that He is the Son of God.  To be “anti-anointing” therefore, is to contradict the significance of Christ’s anointing, and thereby deny the Father who did it, and the Son who is marked out by it.  This results in a denial of His Deity, and the special relationship He has with the Father.  This is to deny the proper relationship between the Father and the Son, and is contrary to the faith.

2:23  Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.

Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father- there might be some who would protest at this, and resent John’s forthright assessment of the situation.  He is adamant, however, that to deny the Son, (the word deny meaning to contradict), by denying the significance of His anointing, is to not be a true believer.  There is no middle ground, where a person may claim to be a child of God, and therefore have Him as Father, and yet deny the Son, for the Son has a unique relationship with the Father, and this is acknowledged by those who are genuine believers.  The Father will not enter into a relationship with those who deny His Son His proper place.
He that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also- the reverse is the case, for to recognise the Son for who He is, as set out in the Word of God, is to be born of God, and therefore to have God as Father.  It is God’s will that all should honour the Son as they honour the Father, John 5:23, and this either happens willingly at conversion, or unwillingly at the Great White Throne, Philippians 2:9-11.

2:24  Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning.  If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.

Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning- the truth as to the person of Christ, which initially was set out by Himself as recorded in the gospel of John, (see especially chapter 5), will know no development.  Whether we think that the beginning mentioned here is the beginning of Christ’s ministry, or the beginning of the Christian life, the exhortation is the same.  We are to abide in the truth about His person.  The rest of the epistle is written to encourage us in this in various ways.
If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father- this is virtually a definition of what it means to abide in the Son and the Father, for the words “abide”, “remain”, and “continue”, as used in this verse, mean the same.  So if the truth abides in the sense that it has a settled place in our hearts, then we ourselves are said to abide in the one to whom the truth relates. 

2:25  And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life.

And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life- this sentence tells us several things.  First, that when the Lord Jesus announced, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life”, John 5:24, He was making a promise.  Second, because that promise is made by the Son of God, it is certain to be honoured, therefore to possess eternal life is to be secure for eternity, hence John is justified in saying that the true believer will abide.  Third, that those who have eternal life have the life of God, and therefore cannot deny the truth about God, or else it would be possible for God to deny Himself, and this He cannot do, 2 Timothy 2:13.  The apostle hints at these things in this verse so that we may be assured of the things we have believed, because we live in a world that is hostile and antagonistic towards them, and against those who believe them.

2:26  These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.

These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you- to seduce means to lead astray.  The antichrists that abound in the world are false shepherds, and they seek to lead believers astray from the path of loyalty to Christ.  One of the titles of Antichrist is idol shepherd, Zechariah 11:17, so it is no surprise that his minions have the same character.
To change the figure of speech, the word “seduce” comes from the verb “planoo, to wander”, from which we derive the word planet.  The wise seaman plots his course by the “fixed” stars.  It is only foolish sea-goers who go by the planets, which wander through the sky.  The apostate antichrists are “wandering stars”, Jude 13, and to be guided by them is to be in danger of spiritual shipwreck.

2:27  But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.

But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you- the promise of the Lord Jesus was that the Holy Spirit would abide with the believer for ever, John 14:16.  It is significant that the word “abide” was used in that statement, since it is the theme the apostle is pursuing here.  Since the Spirit abides, the believer abides, and since only believers have the Spirit, this becomes a mark of the genuine believer.  So that there is no such person as a believer who does not abide in Christ.  Nonetheless all need to be exhorted to abide, so as to be in the good of the place God has given us.  Note that the Spirit is said to abide in the believer, despite the fact that the believer is said to be anointed in this passage.  We might think that He is simply upon the believer, but the apostle assures us here that He is within as well.
And ye need not that any man teach you- since the Spirit abides, the believer will never need any other teacher than He.  By “any man” the apostle means any false teacher, for the Spirit does distribute the genuine teaching gift to men, but only believing men.  There will never be a time when a false teacher will be able to come along and advance the believer in Christian things, for he is Divinely provided for in this area.
But as the same anointing teacheth you of all things- we shall never have a different Spirit within us to the one we received when we were born of God.  Because He is a person of the Godhead, He is able to enlighten us with regard to all Divine things. 

The Lord Jesus said, “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth:  for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come.  He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.  All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you”, John 16:13-15. 

So the persons of the Godhead all move in their respective ways to ensure that the children of God are fully informed.
And is truth- God calls Himself the God of truth, Isaiah 65:16, and the word for God is Elohim, a plural word.  Each person of the Godhead therefore can be said to be truth.  Not just truthful, although that is the case, but rather, truth finds its full expression in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  In this place the emphasis is on the Holy Spirit, since it is He that teaches the believer.
And is no lie- we may rest assured that Divine persons will never lie to us, for God cannot lie, as the apostle Paul assures us in 2 Timothy 2:13.  As the source and standard of truth, God cannot deny Himself by uttering a lie.  So the Lord Jesus described the Spirit as the Spirit of truth, not only because He imparts truth, but also because He is incapable of telling a lie.  Of course this is in stark contrast to the antichrists, who lie to men as they deny Christian things.  John has already written, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?” verse 22.
And even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him- the word for “even as” in this place is kathos, which means “in the degree that”.  So we are not to be complacent in this matter.  The apostle has not been assuring the believers of Divine help in the advance into Divine things so that we may sit back and not apply ourselves.  After all, eternal life has been given to us not only that we might initially know God and Jesus Christ, John 17:3, but in order that we might get to know them better.  And this is what the apostle is encouraging by his use of this particular word.  It is not that we can only be said to abide after a certain stage of maturity has been reached, but rather that the degree to which we consciously abide in Him is linked to the degree we progress in Divine things.

The apostle now returns to addressing the whole of the family of God.  The rest of the epistle is taken up with the development of various themes that have been introduced during his word to the infants in the family.  If they are going to grow, and if young men are going to become fathers, and if fathers are going to continue to be a help to those less mature in the faith, then there are other things the apostle must write.  The themes he has mentioned in verses 18-27 are as follows:
1.    The coming of antichrist.
2.    The presence of many antichrists already.
3.    The anointing of believers by the Holy Spirit.
4.    The denial of the Father and the Son by evil teachers.
5.    The need to abide in Him.

The first theme is developed in 2:28-3:6.  The manifestation of Christ, by which He will destroy the antichrist, is brought in by the apostle to emphasise three features that were found in Christ, and which need to be found in us, in view of the fact that we shall be manifested with Him.

Antichrist shall come, as stated in 2:18, but so shall Christ come- to destroy him.


First feature  Verses 28-29  He is righteous. We should practice righteousness.
Second feature Verses 3:1-3 He is pure.  We should purify ourselves.
Third feature Verses 4-6  He is sinless. We should not sin.

If we strive to display these features, the apostles will not be embarrassed by us as we all come with Christ at His manifestation.  He is coming to be glorified in His saints, 2 Thessalonians 1:10.


2:28  And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.

2:29  If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him. 

2:28  And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.

And now, little children- the apostle now reverts back to the general word for children in the family.  Having addressed the infants from verses 18-27, he is now speaking of all the members of the family of God.  No matter how they have progressed, whether they are young men or fathers, or just infants, they all need the instruction of the rest of the epistle.
Abide in Him- this is the vital need of every child of God, for the antichrists abroad will seek to unsettle and move him away from the truth.  This is to be counteracted by a conscious, active and spiritual resolve to remain true to Christ and the doctrines concerning Him.  The rest of the epistle is constructed around this need to abide.
That, when He shall appear- there is reference here to the coming of the Lord Jesus to earth, for the word translated “appear” has to do with a person being manifested.  There are two other main words used for the coming of Christ.  One is “parousia”, which simply means He is going to be present after a period of absence.  That presence may be in the air to meet His saints as they rise to meet Him, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, or His presence as He descends to the earth to judge and set up His kingdom.  The context must decide in each case, for He is not only absent from His people but also absent from the earth.  Then there is the word “apokalupsis”, which means an unveiling after having been hidden from sight.  This is His coming to earth, as described in the Book of Revelation, (hence that book is sometimes called “The Apocalypse”).
We may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming- John has spoken of the Antichrist in verse 18, but by His manifestation the Lord Jesus will destroy him, as is described in 2 Thessalonians 2:8.  When He thus comes to reign, the saints shall come with Him, the apostles included, of course.  The apostle now gives one of the reasons why he is anxious that we abide in Christ.  He and his fellow-apostles do not wish to be embarrassed when they come with Christ, when they find that the children of God they sought to teach had not made progress in Divine things, and hence were not so honoured in that day as they might have been.  The apostle Paul expressed a similar thought, but from the other side, in 1 Thessalonians 2:19, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?  Are not even ye in the presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?  For ye are our glory and joy.”  And in his second epistle to them he said of Christ that “He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe, (for our testimony among you was believed), in that day”, 2 Thessalonians 1:10.  That day being a reference to the coming of Christ to earth to judge.  How embarrassing for the apostle John if some of his pupils had been led astray by the spirit of antichrist, and had not made so much progress in Divine things as they might have done.  The apostle had no greater joy than to hear that his children walk in truth, 3 John 4, so he was sensitive to lack of progress on their part.

2:29  If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him. 

If ye know that He is righteous- the apostle highlights three features that marked the Lord Jesus at His first coming, and they are, “He is righteous”, “He is pure”, 3:3, and “In Him is no sin”, 3:5.  Those who have the life of God will appreciate these features of Christ and will wish to display it also, so that they may be a credit to Him when He comes.
Ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him- if a person knows and believes these things about Christ, then he will also know that the life He gives in the new birth is able to imitate the righteous life of Christ.  He will also be able to recognise others who are born again, because they seek to be righteous like Christ too.  In this way he will be able to avoid the influence of antichristian teachers, who are marked by unrighteousness, impurity, and sinfulness.


Truths about the coming antichrist as set out in Daniel chapter 8:

1. He waxes great even to the extent of being able to influence the host of heaven, meaning the angel hosts, verse 10.  As we learn later, this king is energised by Satanic power, and hence it is no surprise that he can control spirit-beings.  In chapter 10 we learn that there is conflict in heaven between holy and evil angel-representatives of the nations, and that victory is not easily achieved by the holy angels, such is the power of evil.  So successful is this king in verse 10, that he is able to cast some of the host of heaven and the stars, meaning, presumably, angels, to the ground and triumph over them.  This is awesome power, and reminds us we should not underestimate the power of the Devil.  We take comfort from the fact, however, that the eventual triumph of Christ is assured, (for “He shall send forth truth to victory”, Matthew 12:20), and meanwhile, “greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world”, 1 John 4:4.
2. He so exalts himself that he aspires to attack Christ Himself, verse 11.  We read the armies of the Antichrist make war with the Lamb in Revelation 19:19, and this statement is to the same effect.  Not only is he antichrist in the sense of “instead of” Christ, but also in the sense of “against Christ”, for the Greek word “anti” has both these meanings.
3. He interferes with the sacrifices offered on the altar in the rebuilt temple at Jerusalem, verse 11.  Chapter 9:27 tells of a covenant with the majority in Israel to allow them to resume their temple worship.  This covenant he breaks after three and a half years, and this signals the commencement of the Great Tribulation, Matthew 24:15,21.
4. A host is given him.  A host is a multitude, especially when organised for war.  The fact that a host is given him against the daily sacrifice suggests Satan allots some of his demon-forces to allow him to do this without God’s angels, and in particular Michael, preventing him.  Michael does not seem to be as strong as the Devil, as is seen in Jude 9, and Daniel 10:13 indicates that Gabriel was no match for the angel-prince of Persia until Michael came to assist him.  In verse 11 he magnifies himself against the prince of the host, which from 12:1 we learn is Michael, the prince that stands for the children of Israel.
5. He casts down the truth to the ground.  This word “cast down”, is used in verses 7,11,12.  The idea is of throwing out, down, or away.  Here the little horn attacks the truth, and succeeds in casting it down, meaning that he persuades many to apostatise, especially in Israel, where the majority of the nation have sided with him, and only a remnant remains true to God.  John tells us that one of the main features of the antichrist is that he denies both the Father and the Son, 1 John 2:22; 4:3.  In other words, he totally rejects Christianity, with its emphasis on the revelation of the Father by the Son.
6. He practises and prospers, for evil is having its final attempt to overthrow the things of God, verse 12.  It will be said that “all the world wondered after the beast”, and no-one is able to make war with him, Revelation 13:3,4.
7. He has a fierce countenance, for he will act with unimaginable cruelty, such is the nature of man, verse 23.  It is no coincidence that he is likened to a wild beast, unmerciful and untamed.  All the  features of the bear, (relentless attack), the lion (fierce attack with strength), and the leopard, (swift decisive attack), will combine in him.  In this he is like the one who empowers him, who is responsible for the misery and heartache experienced by men through the ages.
8. Understanding dark sentences indicates that Satan gives him insight into the mysteries that have been hidden from the mass of men down the centuries.  These secrets enable him to gain and keep hold of the minds of men.
9. His power is mighty, but he owes it to another, for he will have succumbed to the temptation of the Devil, verse 24.  He had offered the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them to Christ, if He would bow down to worship him.  This the Lord refused to do, but this man will have done it, so that “the dragon gave him his power, his seat, and great authority, Revelation 13:2.
10. He destroys wonderfully, for all the world shall wonder after the beast, such is the impressive nature of the things he is able to do by Satanic power.  He shall prosper, but God is in control, allowing the Devil to overreach himself so that he may be finally and decisively defeated.
11. He shall destroy the mighty and holy people, (literally “the people of the holy ones”, the ones spoken of in chapter 7:27), that part of the nation of Israel which refuses to renounce God.  Such is the intensity of his onslaught against them that only a third pass through the fire to enter the kingdom age.  Zechariah 13:9 had spoken of this, and it is interesting that Christ took a third of His apostles onto the Mount of Olives to tell them of these things, as recorded in Matthew 24.  They represent the faithful remnant of Israel in that chapter, whereas in John 13-17 they represent the church.
12. Through his policy he causes craft to prosper under his control, verse 25.  Satan used the serpent in the Garden because it was more subtle or crafty than all other beasts of the field.  Of course, before sin entered this simply meant that the serpent was crafty or skilful in the best sense.  The devil used that characteristic to his own ends with the serpent at the beginning, and now is using it with the antichrist at the end.
13. Magnifying of self is a feature of the devil, and the antichrist shares it.  Pride is the condemnation of the devil, 1 Timothy 3:6, who sought in pride to be like the Most High, Isaiah 14:14.  We learn that this pride on the part of the antichrist is the same, for he will magnify himself even above gods that are worshipped.  Satan is using him to try to gain the goal he sought at the beginning when he tried to usurp the throne of God.  He still has the five-point plan he had then, see Isaiah 14:13,14.
14. By peace he destroys many, peace having the sense of “ease”, freedom from anxiety, freedom from stress.  Those who worship him will be rewarded by him.  They will be called “them that dwell upon the earth” in Revelation 13:8, who are content with earth, have no thought of heaven, and deny the existence of hell.
15. He will be so bold as to stand up against Christ, the Prince over the angel-princes.  He will no doubt attempt this by the devilish power Satan has given him.  We little appreciate the power the Devil still wields, even though he is a defeated foe.
He will be broken “without hand”, meaning without any coming to “give him a hand”, in other words, utterly defeated.  Such were the tremendous issues involved in this vision, and in particular the events concerning the little horn, that Daniel fainted, and was sick.  He was astonished at what the vision indicated, but no-one understood the precise meaning of it.


The epistle to the Hebrews was written for a threefold purpose.  First, to encourage those from the nation of Israel who had truly believed to not lose heart because of the sufferings they were enduring, but rather to go on with Christ.

Second, to convince those still unbelieving in Israel, that the One they crucified was in fact their true Messiah, and to continue to ignore Him was to invite Divine judgement.  He Himself had warned of the consequences of not believing Him with the words, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins”, John 8:24.

Third, to warn those in danger of turning back from the profession they had made in Christ that He was their only hope, and their best policy was to place genuine faith in Him to the salvation of their souls.

The writer describes his epistle as a “word of exhortation”, 13:22, the only other use of this expression being in Acts 13:15, where it refers to an address given in a synagogue. This may account for the difference in style from the rest of the epistles.  It also accounts for the fact that the word God opens the letter, and not the name of the writer.  See Acts 7:7; 13:17.

The first section runs from 1:1 to 2:5, and here the writer declares four things:
 That the Lord Jesus is superior to the prophets, whom the Hebrews revered.
 That He is superior to angels whom the Hebrews respected.
 That He is seated in heaven having purged sins, a thing which Old Testament sacrifices could not effect.
 That His place in heaven is the guarantee that He will reign on the earth, which no-one else is qualified to do.

This first section has two themes, and then a warning.  The themes are designed to convince the Hebrews that Christ is supreme:
In verses 1-3, Christ ascends the throne of God in heaven, where He is still present, proof positive that His work on earth meets God’s approval.
In verses 4-2:4, Christ is seen in the future on the throne of David, which becomes at last in the truest sense, the throne of Jehovah, 1 Chronicles 29:23.
In 2:1-4 the warning is against neglecting the salvation that Christ came to bring to the nation.

The references to the reign of Christ on earth, (the world or habitable earth to come, 2:5), are made to assure the Hebrews of the following things:
 God has not cast them off as a people.
 He has confidence in “the carpenter of Nazareth”, for He is His Son.
 His character as King-Priest is displayed already in the heavenly sanctuary.  This is the sign that He will indeed be a priest upon His throne in a coming day, see Zechariah 6:13.
 There is a vital connection between His purging of sins, and the reconciling of all things, Colossians 1:20.
 It is worthwhile being in relationship with Christ, for He is the coming King, and His enemies will be made His footstool.  To know Him is to be His associate, not His enemy.
 That those who were prepared to accept a dual-Messiah idea, with Jesus of Nazareth as the suffering Messiah, but another, yet to come, as the sovereign Messiah, are shown to be wrong.  Jesus Christ combines both in His person.

The present exalted position of the Lord Jesus at the right hand of the throne of God would be a great encouragement to the believers amongst the Hebrews.  Isaiah was no doubt disappointed by the death of King Uzziah, but he was shown Christ in glory, Isaiah 6, John 12:37-41.  Ezekiel must have been depressed as he sat with the captives by the river, but he was shown the throne of God, and the likeness of the appearance of a man above upon it, Ezekiel 1:26.  Daniel must have been dismayed by the thought of great Gentile powers dominating the earth, when he knew that was rightly Messiah’s role, but he saw in vision the Son of Man approach the throne of God to be given a kingdom that will never be destroyed, Daniel 7:13,14.  Stephen was disowned by his own nation, as his Saviour had been, but what caused his face to glow was the sight of Jesus in heaven, Acts 7:55,56.  John, on the isle of Patmos  was deprived of fellowship and comfort, but he was given a vision of coming things, when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our God, and of His Christ, Revelation 5:5-7.  So when the word came to the Hebrew believers, “when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high”, they must have been greatly heartened.

The words “Son”, (who He is in eternity), “purged”, (what He did at Calvary), and “sat down”, (where He is in glory), sum up the epistle.  His person, His purging and His place are the key elements which show Him to be better than anything the Hebrews had known in Old Testament times.


1:1  God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

 1:2  Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

 1:3  Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:

1:1    God, who…spake- This epistle begins with an emphasis on the way God had spoken to the nation of Israel. This theme continues throughout, for in chapter 2 the word spoken through angels, (the Law at Sinai), is contrasted with the word spoken by the Lord, 2:3, a reference to His speaking when upon the earth.  In 3:7 they are exhorted to hear the voice of Christ as Son.  In 4:12 the (spoken) word of God is in view, referring to the word of Christ to them, (and hence an incidental proof of the Deity of Christ); whilst in 12:25-29 the warning is against rejecting the word of the one who spoke at Sinai, who speaks now in grace and salvation, and who will speak again in judgement to those who reject Him.  Once again the Deity of Christ is affirmed, for the one who shall speak when He comes in glory is the same one who spoke at Sinai.  So the latter passage gathers up the three aspects of the speaking, in law, in grace, in judgement. Men either prefer law to grace, clinging to their works, or ignore grace and receive judgement.

It is important for the writer to prove the superiority of Christ not only to the angels through whom the Law was given, 2:2; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19, but also to the prophets, who brought the word of God to the people subsequently. On the Mount of Transfiguration Moses represented the Law, and Elijah the prophets, yet the word from heaven was “hear Him”, for He who had spoken indirectly by the prophets, was now speaking directly, in the Person of Christ.  Moses himself had received the assurance from God that a prophet like unto him would be raised up, Deuteronomy 18; Acts 3.  The writer is insisting that Jesus Christ was that prophet.  See also John 1:21; Acts 3:22.  It is important for him to show Christ as superior to prophets, before he turns to the subject of His King-Priesthood, since the prophets as a class were faithful to God, whereas many kings and priests in Israel were not.

Later on the writer will emphasise the fact that Christ is King-priest, so He supersedes the three offices that were prominent in Israel. The Lord Jesus was rejected by elders who governed, (instead of a king), chief priests who officiated, and scribes who taught, (instead of prophets).  These were all appointed by men, and as such were false shepherds, who had “climbed up some other way”, John 10:1.  These princes of this world were ignorant as to who the Lord of Glory was, 1 Corinthians 2:8, and hence they crucified Him. 

At sundry times- literally “in many portions”, meaning that an individual prophet could not embrace all the truth of God. Nor could a prophet be present at all times during Israel’s history. He who is the “I am”, unaffected by time and change, is relevant at all times. 

And in diverse manners- divers is the old word for diverse.  The prophets spoke in different ways as fitted the circumstance.  Sometimes judging, at other times consoling and exhorting.  They spoke of coming judgement and coming glory.  Some, like Ezekiel, acted out their prophecies.  Now, however, everything is concentrated in the Son, who has the capacity to speak in whatever way is relevant.  He who is “the truth”, can embrace it all.  When Christ asked His disciples who the people said He was, they answered with various suggestions, Matthew 16:13,14.  Some of the people saw in Christ likeness to Isaiah, (delighting in salvation), others, to Jeremiah, (weeping, and rejected of his own people), still others, to Elijah, (courageous, reforming, and a miracle worker). Others said He was John the Baptist risen from the dead, showing they thought that He deserved to rise from the dead.  We should not be surprised at the names the people mentioned, for since He is the Son of the Living God, and the features seen in the prophets were the expression of the life of God, then they are to be expected in the Son.  It is interesting to notice that they did not say He was like Moses, the law-giver, for they appreciated that grace marked Him. 

Spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets- Note the contrast between time past and last days.  The word for past here means old, in the sense of worn-out.  See verses 11 and 12, for Divinely established things wearing out and needing to be replaced, and link with 8:13, where the law-system was waxing old and was ready to vanish away.  The Hebrews are being prepared for the truth that even Divinely-established things can become old and in need of replacing.  There needed to be a fresh beginning, and this comes in with Christ.  Fathers is a term of respect for ancestors, but also a reminder that it was the fathers who ill-treated the prophets, Matthew 23:29-33, and the children of the prophets who were guilty of rejecting “the prophet”, Acts 3:22-26; John 1:21; Deuteronomy 18:15,18,19. 

1:2    Hath in these last days- a Hebrew expression for the end of the age of the Law, prior to the age of the Messiah, the two divisions of time as far as Israel knew.  Note that the speaking is still in the last days of the law, for the latter did not come to an end until Christ died, 7:18,28.  The church age is unknown in the Old Testament.  A reminder that a critical point had been reached, and if they miss out on Christ, they will miss out entirely. 

Spoken unto us by His Son- The contrast is with the character of the speakers, not between “by” and “in”.  The prophets were agents outside of the Godhead, whereas now the speaking is directly by God, in (the person of) His Son, and this gives the speaking a different character, for it is no longer at different times and in different ways, but all centred in the Son.  The difference is between the prophets as a class, taken from among men, and Christ in His character as Son, taken from among the persons of the Godhead.  So the speaking is now concentrated, in relation to time and content, as with prophets it could not be, and also consummated, for it is now last days, and the Son has come.  The parable of the vineyard, Matthew 21:33-46, spoke of servants, more servants, (corresponding to the early and the latter prophets), then last of all, his son, corresponding to Christ as Son of God.  The prophets said “Thus saith the Lord”, but Christ said “Verily, verily, I say unto you”. How foolish to ignore such a Speaker!  “To whom shall we go, for Thou hast the words of eternal life,” was the confession of Peter, and also of all who truly believe, John 6:68. 

The Sonship of Christ indicates Deity, for to be the son of a father means to share his nature.  There are expressions in Scripture like “sons of Belial”, (worthlessness), “sons of thunder”, “son of consolation”, “sons of disobedience”.  The idea is not that a person is descended from the thunder, for example, but rather that he has a stormy nature. 

Christ is presented in Hebrews as God’s Firstborn Son, the administrator of the Father’s affairs.  As such, He, like firstborn sons generally, fulfils a prophet/priest/king rôle, speaking to the family for the father, introducing the family into the father’s presence, and administering the father’s affairs.  This is all worked out in the epistle as a whole.  Hence He fulfils His prophetic role by speaking to Israel, just as He had spoken the worlds into being as firstborn, Colossians 1:15,16, and upholds them by the word of His power.  He speaks as priest too, for He ever lives to make intercession, 7:25.  He will speak as king, for His voice will soon shake earth and heaven, 12:25-27.

The titles Only begotten and Firstborn compared and contrasted:
Only begotten eternally- “The only begotten Son, which is (permanently) in the bosom of the Father”, John 1:18.  “That eternal life, which was with the Father”, 1 John 1:2.
First born eternally.  For He was appointed heir before He made the worlds.  Creation is by Him and for Him as firstborn, Colossians 1:16.  There is no point of time in eternity, so He was ever the appointed one in the eternal counsels. 

Only- begotten is in relation to the Father, John 1:18.
Firstborn is in relation to creation and believers, Colossians 1:15,18.
As Only begotten He is alone.
As firstborn He has many brethren, Romans 8:29.

His only begotten relationship is not shared.
His firstborn rights are shared- for Hebrews 12:23 speaks of “the church of firstborn ones written in heaven”,

As only begotten, He is in the Father’s bosom, John 1:18.
As firstborn, He is about His Father’s business, Luke 2:49; John 3:35.

Whom He hath appointed heir of all things- the idea of firstborn rights must come from “the Father, from whom every family in heaven and earth is named”, Ephesians 3:15.  This is seen in the fact that there is no regulation about firstborn rights in the early chapters of Genesis, yet the idea was practised, and given Divine approval.  It is therefore a reflection of eternal counsels.  No doubt God spoke to Adam about many things as He walked and talked with him in the garden of Eden.
“Appointed heir” does not imply a specific moment, since we are thinking of Divine and eternal things- moments of time have no relevance there.  Joseph was Jacob’s firstborn son, replacing Reuben, but he was not in control of everything, for the right to rule was given to Judah, 1 Chronicles 5:1,2.  Christ, however, has all things under His control.  As heir, the Son has a double portion, heavenly and earthly, (compare the stars and sheaves of Joseph’s dream, Genesis 37:6-11).  If He has control of all things, (just as Joseph had everything under his hand, Genesis 39:4-6) then we must be linked to Him if we are to have blessing from God.  “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand.  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him”, John 3:35,36.

The fact that He is heir highlights the sin of crucifying Him.  The language of the parable was, “Come, this is the heir, let us kill Him”; Matthew 22:38.  And chapter 6:6 speaks of crucifying to themselves the Son of God afresh.  To crucify the Son again is crime indeed! 

By whom also He made the worlds- Note the “whom” and “to whom”, with Christ the passive one, whereas in verse 3 it is “who”, Christ’s active work as one charged with representing the Father’s interests, and those of the family of God too.  As the Creator, Christ has authority over creation, yet He was in the world, the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not, John 1:10.  Angels, demons, animals, birds, fishes, all responded to Him in His lifetime, and recognised Him in some way, but men did not, and crucified Him.

The making of the worlds is one way in which Christ displays what God is, as Romans 1:18-20 indicates.  As the Creator, He could bypass what rain did to the vine when it fell, and the best wine was ready in an instant, John 2:1-11.  He could also do to a fig tree what happens when rain does not fall, even dry it up by the roots, Matthew 21:19. 

“By whom” does not imply He was merely a creature-agent, given power from God to do things.  Romans 11:36 says all things are “through Him”, meaning God, but none can give God the power to act.  John 1:3 is clear that not one thing that has come into being has done so without Christ, so He did not come into being, or else He made Himself!  This subject is returned to in verses 10-12, contrasting the angels with the Creator.

There are three words for world in the New Testament.  There is “kosmos”, (which gives us “cosmetic”, and “cosmos”), which, in an ideal sense, is the world of symmetry, beauty, and harmony, (the opposite being chaos), but which has now been corrupted by Satan into the world of hostility to God; “aionas”, (which gives us “aeon”), the world of history; and “oikeumene”, (which gives us “ecumenical”), the world of humanity.  The word used here is “aionas”, the world as an age, the world of history, although it is used in 11:3 in connection with things.  “The aggregate of things contained in time”, Grimm.  The world of matter and time, (which came into being at the same moment, the “beginning” of Genesis 1:1), is the stage for the unfolding of the truth of God.  This is now finalised in Christ, for “once in the end of the world (or the consummation of the ages) hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”, 9:26.

1:3    Who being the brightness of His glory- He does not merely reflect, but rather radiates the glory of God, as the sunlight has the same character as the sun.  He is the Shekinah of Psalm 80, shining forth from between the cherubims above the ark, so that Israel may be saved.  Aaron had to make a cloud of incense to shield him from the glory, that he die not, for to see God was to die.  But that glory was Christ!  Aaron entered the presence of God without his garments of glory and beauty, lest anything detract from the glory of God. 

And the express image of His person- “The exact expression of His essence”.  Christ expresses in Himself all that the Godhead is in Itself.  To see Him is to see the Father, to know His comfort is to know the comfort of the Holy Spirit, for He is another comforter of the same sort, John 14:16; Luke 2:25, where “consolation” is the same word as “comforter”.  The word person translates hupostasis, which was used in ordinary speech of a foundation.  The idea is of an underlying and steadfast thing.  Christ is the unique, full, and exact expression of all that God is in the essence of His Being.  The Son is personally distinct from, and yet literally equal to, the One of whom He is the full expression.  Note later quotations that call the Son “God”, and “Jehovah”, verses 8, and 10. 

And upholding all things by the word of His power- The Targums, (Jewish commentaries), and Rabbis often spoke of God in this way.  This is part of His first-born work, of maintaining and bearing responsibility for everything for the Godhead. He has power sufficient for any task, and can maintain everything intact for God, and also cause it to pass and replace it, as verse 12 says.  The idea behind upholding is not simply supporting, or even maintaining, but “carrying toward a final goal”.  He so manages the universe that it moves inevitably to the goal set for it in the Divine Purpose. 

When He had by Himself purged our sins- So whatever is involved in purging sins, it is given character by who He is that does it, for He did it “by Himself”, in all the glory of His person.  In the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, the Day of Atonement is called the Day of Purification.

Notice how the glories of Christ relate to the work of purging sins:
 As Son He purged sins, so He did the work with Divine insight.
 As firstborn and heir He purged sins, for He cannot inherit a defiled inheritance, whether it be His people, or His land, or His world. 
 As the maker of all things, He knows perfectly the difference between what things are now, and what they were when He made them very good, including man. 
 As the brightness of the glory, He brings things back by his purging, so that they glorify God. 
 As the exact expression of the essence of God, He purges in conformity with the Divine character.
 As the upholder of all things, He maintains what He establishes in the material world, and in the spiritual.  Note the contrasts, however, for sins are not things, but are moral offences, yet He can deal with these too.  He upholds by His word, but can only purge sins through His death.

Note the following facts about the words “by Himself”:
 The purging of sins cannot be done by merely speaking, even though He upholds all things by the word of His power. 
 It cannot be done with the help of another, for all others, (Aaron included, see 7:27), need a sin-offering themselves, so He did it by the sacrifice of Himself, not needing a personal sin-offering. 
 He needs no special vestments to make Him suitable for God’s presence, as Aaron did; what He is in Himself is enough. 
 He needs no sacrifice or officiating priest, but did the work alone.

Three things were purged in Leviticus 16:16-19 as a result of propitiation- the sanctuary, reminding us that Christ has purified the heavenly sanctuary, of which the tabernacle was a representation, Hebrews 9:23; the altar of incense, reminding us that the Lord Jesus ever liveth to make intercession for us, Hebrews 7:25; the people, Leviticus 16:30, reminding us that we have been purged in conscience from dead works, to serve the living God, Hebrews 9:14.  The phrase is literally “made purgation for sins”, so it is the work itself in view here, not the result of the work in persons being individually purged from sins; that comes later, in 9:14.

There are three main results from propitiation. In relation to God, the demands of God regarding sins are met fully.  In relation to man, there can be reconciliation to God, 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Romans 5:11.  In relation to heaven and earth, the defilement of sin can be removed, so that God can righteously bring in a new heavens and a new earth which shall never be spoiled by sin, John 1:29, Daniel 9:24. 

Sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high- literally, “He set Himself down”, confident of His place with the Father, and of the sufficiency of His work.  As His work of purging sins is complete, He can sit down, as no Aaronic priest was able to do, see Hebrews 10:11-14.  As Son, He ever had the right to be on the throne, but now as firstborn Son, and moreover as a man, He is given the place at the right hand of the Father.  See the incident in Genesis 48:12-14 which shows the importance of the right hand of a father.  As one who is the brightness of the glory, He had dealt with sins in conformity with the majesty of God, and God can now be appropriately designated “The Majesty”, with every question as to whether He was able to deal with sins finally removed. “Majesty” means greatness, and Christ ensures that nothing can reduce God’s standing and dignity.  In chapter 1, Christ is seated as firstborn.  In 8:1 He is seated as one firmly established; in chapter 10:12 as finaliser, and in chapter 12:2 as the faithful one.

As the heir He is responsible for Administering.
As the one who made the worlds, for Creating.
As the one who is the brightness, for Radiating.
As the one who is the image, for Expressing.
As the one upholding all things, for Preserving.
As the one who purged sins, for Propitiating.
As the one who is sat down on the throne, for Completing.


1:4  Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

 1:5  For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?

 1:6  And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.

 1:7  And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.

 1:8  But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

 1:9  Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

 1:10  And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:

 1:11  They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;

 1:12  And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

 1:13  But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?

 1:14  Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? 

There is a correspondence between the seven-fold glories of Christ in verses 1-3, and the seven quotations from the Old Testament in verses 4-14, as follows:

His Son.  Thou art My Son.  
Appointed heir  By inheritance…He shall be to Me a Son.  
Made the worlds Of old Thou hast laid the foundation of earth.  
Brightness of glory   Psalm 104- “Clothed with honour and majesty”.  
Express image  Thou Lord (Jehovah)…  
Upholding all things  As a vesture Thou shalt fold them up.  
Sat…on the right hand   Sit on My right hand.  

 A summary of the seven quotations is as follows:-                                  

First    God to the Son.  The decree establishing His rule.
Second  God speaking about the Son.  The devotedness which marks His rule.
Third   God speaking to the angels. The deference to be given when He rules.
Fourth  God speaking about the angels.  The demands He makes when He rules.
Fifth  God to the Son, and about Him as God.  The Deity of the one who rules.
Sixth God to the Son, and about Him as Jehovah.  The duration of the One who rules.
Seventh God to the Son, but never to the angels in the same terms.  The dominion of the One who rules.

1:4    Being made so much better than the angels- the idea behind “being made” is “having become”, or “proving Himself to be”.  He becomes, by purging, superior to the angels who administered the first covenant, with its purging only of the flesh, Hebrews 9:13.  The word for made here is “ginomai” which is used “in passages where it is specified who or what a person of thing is or has been rendered, as respects quality, condition, place, rank or character”- Grimme.  So the Son has proved Himself to be superior to angels by all the things He is said to do in verses 1-3. 
As He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they- The more excellent name is Firstborn Son, and because the idea of inheritance is bound up with the word firstborn, (for the size of a son’s share of the inheritance depended on whether he was firstborn or not), as soon as this Firstborn Son begins to enter into His inheritance, then He can begin to be called by His proper title of firstborn.  It is part of the inheritance, and so He can be said to inherit it.  He is “Firstborn from among the dead”, Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5.  The words “so much”, and “as”, taken together, give to us the idea of the measurement of the glory of His name, bearing in mind that the name is more than a title, and involves reputation.  The measure of how much better He has become, is the greatness of the name He is given, and the greatness of this name is understood from the next verses, hence the “for” at the beginning of verse 5.  God Himself leads the way in these quotations by introducing His Son into the world under the title Firstbegotten.

1:5    For unto which of the angels said He at any time- The angels rejoiced when the earth was established, and they will no doubt rejoice again when it is delivered from the bondage of corruption, but they have not been given the task of doing that.  See 2:5.  The angels could never be only begotten sons, but Lucifer was called the son of the morning, Isaiah 14:12.  He may have been the first one created, and might aspire to the title firstborn.  Hence his hatred of, and opposition to, the Son of God.

Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee?- Angels are called sons of God in the Old Testament, Job 1:6, but to none of them were these words spoken, for the word son is being used in a distinctive sense here in relation to Christ.  In Luke 3:38 Adam is called son of God, but when in Luke 4:3 the Devil tempted Christ he said, “If Thou be the Son of God command this stone that it be made bread”.  Clearly, the Devil distinguishes the sonship of Adam from that of Christ, for there would have been no point in tempting Adam to turn a stone into bread. 

These words were originally spoken to David when he ascended the throne of Israel, Psalm 2:7, which is dated BC 1047, the year after David began to reign.  As king in Israel, David was to administer for God, the primary task of the firstborn.  David had been harassed and hunted for many years by Saul and his supporters, but at last he was brought into prominence in Israel, and the anointing which had taken place when he was but a lad, now authorised him to reign.  So it is that David writes of God saying, “Yet (despite the raging of his enemies, verses 1,2) have I set, (or anointed) My king upon My holy hill of Zion”, Psalm 2:6.  But now these words find their fulfilment in Christ, and all that was foreshadowed by the reign of David, shall come to pass through David’s son, who is also David’s Lord, Matthew 22:41-46. 

The fact that these words can be spoken in a limited sense to David, yet not in any sense to the angels, shows that it is to a man that these words come.  The believers in Acts 4:25,26 applied the words of Psalm 2 to the Lord Jesus as He was raged at by the kings of the earth.  Now the writer to the Hebrews is quoting later verses from the psalm, to show that the one Israel rejected and crucified is indeed to be established by God as His firstborn, “higher than the kings of the earth”, Psalm 89:27. 
Psalm 2:7 is quoted again in 5:5 to show that Christ in resurrection and ascension has the title of firstborn, now that as High Priest He has displaced Aaron as priest. 
In Acts 13:33 the words are used in connection with Him being raised up in Israel at His baptism, with the words of Psalm 16 being used to show that He was not left in the grave.  The baptism of Christ marked the beginning of His prophetic ministry.

The Hebrew word “yalad” meaning begotten, used in Psalm 2:7, is also translated “declare their pedigree” in Numbers 1:18.  It was unheard of for one who was Son of God to be crucified on a cross, and be cursed of God, but God has declared His pedigree by raising Him from the dead, as Romans 1:4 also indicates, “declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection of the dead”.

It is important that the Hebrews be reassured that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Messiah, and that His present place in heaven is not a signal that the kingdom they expected will not be established.  If He disappoints them in that, then He might disappoint them in other ways.  So the seven quotations which are made here serve to show His competence to reign.  Chapter 2:5 assures us that what is being spoken of in these verses is the time when the habitable earth in the future, (the world to come), will be under the sway of God’s king.  The seven quotations (which have to with His manifestation on earth the second time), enforce the truth set out in the opening verses, with their seven-fold description of Christ’s glories, (which glories were manifest when He came the first time).

Peter made it clear on the Day of Pentecost that David was still in the grave, and had not ascended into heaven.  But Christ is risen, and ascended, thus showing that the way is open for the throne of David to be occupied by a man who is clear of death, and can reign for ever.  So not only by His birth is He uniquely qualified to sit on David’s throne, (for all others of David’s line through Solomon are unable to overcome the obstacle represented by God’s curse on Jechoniah’s descendants, Jeremiah 22:29,30), but by His resurrection also.  He is able to reign without interruption for ever, with none raising an objection.

And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son?- This is a statement that was made in the first instance to David about Solomon, his immediate successor.  “I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build an house for My name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.  I will be his father, and he shall be My son.  If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: but My mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.  And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever”, 2 Samuel 7:12-16.  Solomon did indeed proceed out of David’s bowels, verse 12, and have an established kingdom.  He did indeed build a house for Jehovah, verse 13.  It is also true that he committed iniquity, verse 14, yet the kingdom was not taken away from him, verse 15.  Now clearly the house and royal line of David has been interrupted, so how can the promise that they will be established for ever be fulfilled?  Only by Christ coming of the seed of David, and rising from the dead to be alive for evermore.  The writer to the Hebrews, inspired by the same Spirit that inspired Nathan to prophesy to David, understands this, hence he shows that the vitally important part of the prophecy, upon which all the rest depends, was perfectly fulfilled in Christ.  Because this is so, there is no question of Him being disciplined for iniquity, or having the throne removed from Him.  It is noticeable that the writer of the Book of Chronicles does not mention anything about iniquity, and also tells us additional things that God must have said through Nathan to David, but which the writer of 2 Samuel 7 does not record; for he was concerned to encourage those who had returned from exile in Babylon, and one way he did it was to record the history of the kings of Judah in such a way that features which will be seen to perfection in the Messiah are highlighted.

2 Samuel 7:12-15  1 Chronicles 17:11-14
I will set up thy seed after thee… I will raise up thy seed after thee…
I will establish his kingdom…     I will establish his kingdom…
He shall build a house for My name… He shall build Me a house…
 I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever…  I will stablish his throne for ever…
I will be His father…  I will be His father
He shall be My son…  He shall be My son
If he commit iniquity…  (omitted)
Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever…  Settle him in Mine house and in My kingdom.
Thy throne shall be established for ever.  His throne shall be established for evermore.

“I will be to Him a Father” signifies that God will guarantee to Christ all the resources He needs, in terms of affection and direction, to enable Him to reign on the earth.  Just as He was dependant on the Father when here the first time, it will be the same when He reigns- He will not be independent then either.  This is indicated by the fact that on the Mount of Transfiguration, when a preview of the coming kingdom was given to the disciples, He is said to have been praying, Luke 9:29.

“He shall be to Me a Son” indicates that all that a father expects from a son will be forthcoming from Christ, in terms of loyalty and diligence.  This too will be manifest when He reigns, for His reign will be mediatorial, on behalf of the Father, to whom He will then give it up at the end of 1000 years, 1 Corinthians 15:24.  Therefore Jesus the Messiah can be relied on by God- He should be relied on by the Hebrews.  Being more honoured than any angel, and more than two of the most illustrious kings Israel have ever had, David and Solomon, He is surely worthy of their trust.

1:6    And again, when He bringeth in the first begotten into the world He saith- the word for world here is “habitable earth”, just as it is in 2:5. 

The following things are brought out in this chapter with regard to the reign of Christ over the earth as the sphere of Christ’s rule in the future: 

1. Verse 5 Christ is heir of it.
2. Verse 7 Angels serve it.
3. Verse 8 God’s throne governs it.
4. Verse 10 Earth was made for it.
5. Verse 12 Earth is folded up at the end of it.
6. Verse 12 Christ reigns continuously throughout it.
7. Verse 13 Enemies are expelled from it
8. Verse 14 Saints inherit it.
9. Chapter 2:4 Miracles foreshadow it, for they are the powers of the age to come, 6:5.

God has decreed that in all things Christ should have the pre-eminence, as is seen in the following scriptures:

In Hebrews 2:8 All things are to be put under Christ as man.
In Ephesians 1:10 All things will be gathered together into one in Christ.
In Luke 24:44 All things must be fulfilled.
In Colossians 1:20 All things must be reconciled.
In 2 Peter 3:11 All things shall be dissolved, to make way for a new heaven and earth.

 The scene, then, is millenial, and God is going to introduce His Son into this world again.  At His first coming, He was sent by God, but when He comes to earth again, so pleased is His Father because of all He was the first time, He is going to personally introduce Him.  Perhaps this is what the Lord Jesus meant at the time of the Mount of Transfiguration experience, (when the power and coming of Christ were manifested to the apostles, 2 Peter 1:16), when He spoke of coming “in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels”, Luke 9:26. 

And let all the angels of God worship Him- This is a quotation from Psalm 97:7.  In that psalm the kingdom of Christ is anticipated, and especially the beginning of it when He comes in flaming fire taking vengeance on His enemies.  Compare 2 Thessalonians 1:7,8, with Psalm 97:3.  It is Jehovah who is said to come in Psalm 97, but Jesus is Jehovah, equally with the Father and the Spirit.  At that time all the angels (the meaning of “gods”) will worship Him, in effect acknowledging that to none of them has the honour of reigning been given.

1:7    And of the angels He saith, Who maketh His angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire- having told us things about Christ to show why He is superior to angels, we now learn what makes the angels inferior to Him. This is a quotation from Psalm 104:4, which speaks of God as the creator and sustainer of all things.  Indeed, the psalm is a commentary on the six days of creation, and then finishes with what may be thought of as a Sabbath hymn of praise to God.  Since the Son is the exact expression of the essence of God, the writer is free to attribute what is said of Jehovah in Psalm 104 to Christ.  And the matter he emphasises is that He made the angels!  Here is further proof of the inferiority of angels to Christ, for they, for all their glory and might, are simply the product of His hand. 

Consider the following facts about angels in comparison with Christ:
 “For by Him (Christ) were all things created…whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers”, Colossians 1:16. 
 The angels are said to be made as spirits, so they have not the ability to die, as Christ had because He took flesh and blood.  They will never attain to the glories He has won by His death. 
 Notice, too, that they are His angels, they belong to Him by creatorial right, and therefore in gratitude to Him for ever making them, they ought to worship Him. 
 They are said to be His ministers, for while Christ has taken the form of a servant, and serves man, He is not said to serve angels. 
 They are a flame of fire, sent out on missions of burning judgement, whereas Christ came in grace, and rebuked disciples who wanted to call fire down on men, Luke 9:54-56. 
 Given the supreme worthiness of Christ, it is only right for them to worship Him.

1:8    But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever- this is the second thing that God says directly to His Son.  The words are a quotation from Psalm 45, which is a marriage song for a king, a song of loves.  The psalm speaks of God anointing this one, yet He is called God! The throne of Solomon is called “the throne of the Lord” in 1 Chronicles 29:23.  Here is the full expression of that.  When Solomon sat there it was only the throne of God in a faint sense, but when God manifest in flesh sits on it, then it will indeed be the throne of Jehovah.  The promise to David was that his seed would reign for ever, and here is the fulfilment of the promise, for Christ is risen from the dead to die no more, and He is coming to establish a kingdom which shall last for ever, Daniel 7:14.  “Of His kingdom there shall be no end”, Luke 1:33.  How Satan must shudder at these words, for they indicate that what he sought from the beginning shall never be his.  They explain his hostility to Christ when the wise men sought one who was born king, and when he motivated Herod to slay the infants, Matthew 2:2,16. 

A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom- verse 4 of Psalm 45 exhorts Christ to ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness, and this He will do.  He shall come from heaven riding on a white horse, Revelation 19:11-16, and shall judge all the injustice of the earth.  At last He will be vindicated for His stand for the truth when He came the first time, and shall “bring forth judgement unto truth”, Isaiah 42:3.  All the meekness He displayed before the kings of earth at His first coming will be recompensed, too, for “the servant of rulers”, shall be worshipped by kings and princes, Isaiah 49:7.  The emphasis, however, is on His righteousness, for “He that ruleth over men must be just”, 2 Samuel 23:3, and David had to admit that his “house was not so with God”, verse 5, yet he remembered that God had made with him an “everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure”.  When David’s son and David’s Lord reigns, righteousness will be established for ever.  The word for righteousness in this verse means straightness, and is connected with the word used in Matthew 3:3, “make His paths straight”.  Men gave Him a reed, the symbol of weakness, as if He had no power to rule, and as if He could be shaken in the wind, but He was, and will be, steadfast, upright and true in His judgement in the future, as He was in His dealings in the past.

There is a connection between the word for sceptre and the word for tribe.  Jacob had used this word for sceptre when he prophesied that the sceptre would not depart from Judah, nor the law-giver from between his feet, until the coming of Shiloh, Genesis 49:10, Shiloh being one of the names of the Messiah.  Judah, however, had given up his staff to Tamar, Genesis 38:18,26, and subsequently had to admit that she was more righteous than he was, for she knew that it was her duty to have children, in case she was destined to be the mother of the Messiah.  While this was happening, Joseph was being tempted by Potiphar’s wife, and overcoming.  Hence while the right to rule was taken from Reuben and given to Judah, the moral character demanded of a ruler was only found in Joseph, hence the rôles are divided in Israel’s family, but are united in Christ.  He has the right to rule as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but has the moral character to do so, for He is the Lamb slain, Revelation 5:5,6.

1:9    Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity- looking back on the life of Christ at His first coming, it is clear He was righteous, so He is called Jesus Christ the righteous one, 1 John 1:1. – His love of the one, and hatred of the other, was complete.  He did not even stand in the way of sinners, much less walk in it, Psalm 1:1.  The word to David’s house was “if he commit iniquity”  As we saw in verse 5, Solomon did commit iniquity, but “a greater than Solomon is here”, Matthew 12:42, and He is totally free from all wrong.  Here is one of David’s line, yet who is not descended through Joseph the son of David, Matthew 1:20.  The marriage of Joseph to Mary before Christ was born ensures, however, that He has the legal right to the throne.  According to Jewish law, any child born to a man’s fiancé was legally his child, even if he was not the physical father.  Therefore the legal claim was stronger than the physical claim, so Christ’s claim to the throne through Joseph is sound.  Note that Christ’s resurrection is “far more evident”, Hebrews 7:15, and by implication that His birth of the tribe of Judah is evident, verse 14.  It is said that the Temple records Matthew probably consulted to compile the genealogy he gives were destroyed in AD 70.  But God saw to it that the genealogy of Christ was preserved in another place before that happened. 

Therefore, God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows- the one who is the true God, is Messiah’s God, for He is a dependant man upon the earth. A specially scented oil was reserved for the favoured guest at a feast, so that he was honoured above his fellow-guests.  Since Psalm 45, from which this is quoted, is a song of loves, probably composed to be sung at the marriage of a king, the feast is a marriage feast, that of the King’s Son, Matthew 22:1-7. 

Christ was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power; in other words, by the one the oil symbolised, not the symbol.  David was anointed twice, first in obscurity, as “the least”, 1 Samuel 16:11, margin, keeping the flocks, whom they did not bother to call, who was, so to speak, “despised and rejected of men”.  Then he was anointed again, once he had gained the throne.  This anointing was “according to the word of the Lord by Samuel”, 1 Chronicles 11:3.  In other words, it was a reaffirmation of his original anointing, but this time surrounded by the nation, who described themselves as bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh.  He was anointed above his fellows, the nation, just as he had been anointed above his fellows, his brethren.
Note the first and last words of the quotation, “Thy throne, O God…Thy fellows”.  In Zechariah 13:7 the word used for fellow means an equal, a direct testimony to the equality of the Shepherd with God. This is plain testimony to the truth of the Deity of Christ in the Old Testament, justifying His claim that the Old Testament testified of Him, John 5:39.  Here, however, the word means one who has been joined in fellowship with another, and this time we have an direct testimony to the true manhood of Christ, for He has men as fellows, yet He is addressed as God.  The word “fellows” in Hebrews 1:9 is the same as partakers, or companions, the words used in 2:14 and 3:1.

1:10    And, Thou, Lord- a further quotation, this time from Psalm 102:25-27.  The psalmist had lamented his position, and this is often taken as previewing Christ’s sufferings during His life, especially as depicting His experience in Gethsemane.  In which case the psalmist contrasts the brevity of his life, with the fact that Jehovah’s years would not fail. It is possible, however, to read it as if there is a change of speaker, so that the words, “Thou Lord” are spoken by Jehovah to the Messiah.  Certainly all that is said in this quotation is true of Christ.  Each of the persons of the Godhead may rightly be called “Jehovah”, just as they all may rightly be called God.  Each one may fully represent the whole Godhead in its power and authority.  In Romans 10 the apostle Paul does not hesitate to quote “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”, (bearing in mind that the words as originally penned by the prophet Joel referred to Jehovah), for he insists that to be saved we must confess Jesus to be Lord, i.e. to ascribe Deity to Him. So it is here.  The psalmist ranges over the whole of time, from the beginning to the end of things.  And before, and during, and after these things Christ remains in His timeless, unchangeable grandeur. 

In the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands-  God asked Job the question, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?”, Job 38:4.  Then it is said in verse 7, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy”.  It seems that the heavens (with all their hosts, stellar and angelic) were made before the earth; hence the angels could rejoice at the founding of the earth.  This effectively disposes of both the Old Earth theory and the Gap-Theory.  Both these  ideas suppose that what God pronounced as very good was built on the ruins of former rebellion.  Those angels who fell must have done so after the creation week, for all was very good on the seventh day.  The millenial reign of Christ was prepared for from the foundation of the earth, Matthew 25:34; Hebrews 4:4,5. 

1:11    They shall perish, but Thou remainest- even Divinely established things perish, and are replaced, and this is relevant in another direction, for the law system was decaying, waxing old, and was ready to vanish away, 8:13.  The Hebrews are being prepared for the idea that Divinely established things are to be done away- they do not have to continue for ever just because God sets them up.  So with the system of sacrifices.  Remain means “to continue without interruption” for there is no principle of change with God, whereas creation will perish or be destroyed through the active intervention of God.  Peter speaks of the Day of God, the eternal day when He is supreme, “by reason of which” (margin) the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up”, 2 Peter 3:10.  The earth is not only made to continue for ever, Psalm 104:5, (it has no built-in obsolescence), but also to be dissolved at the moment of God’s choosing.  The entrance of sin and corruption into the world has not disrupted the Divine Programme.  After all, Christ is the Architect of the Ages, for He made the worlds of time and space. 

And they all shall wax old as doth a garment- Isaiah 40:22 speaks of God stretching out the heavens as a curtain, and here they and the earth are likened to an old, worn-out garment.  In this verse the universe is destroyed by Divine design, whereas in the next verse it is folded up because of decay. 

1:12    And as a vesture thou shalt fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail- So the heavens and the earth perish, but He remains; they are to be folded up, and changed, but He is the same, never putting off His garments of glory and beauty; they wax old, like Aaron who dies outside of Canaan, but His years do not fail, and He has entered in.  “Thou art the Same” indicates the unchangebleness of His Deity, whereas “Thy years shall not fail” speaks of His resurrection manhood. “He asked life of Thee, and Thou gavest Him it, even length of days for ever and ever”, Psalm 21:4.  He is Jesus Christ the Same yesterday, (on earth), today, (in heaven), and for ever.  The Same is a Divine title, used in the Old Testament to emphasise the unchangebleness of God.  This is revealed in Christ, who was always consistent and unvarying in His character.  When asked “Who art Thou? He could reply, “Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning”, John 8:25. 

Notice the ways in which these verses prepare us for the later teaching of the epistle:
 “Thou art My Son” not only guarantees His reign in a day to come, but since the same scripture is quoted in Hebrews 5:5, His priesthood is guaranteed and given Divine sanction also.
 He is priest upon His throne, whether in the future on earth, Zechariah 6:12,13, or at present in heaven, Hebrews 8:1.
 He is high priest in virtue of His Deity and manhood, (Jesus the Son of God, Hebrews 4:14), so we may count on His ministry at all times.  He combines Divine authority with sympathy as a man.
 He loved righteousness, and hated iniquity, reminding us that His priesthood is not to sympathise with our sins, (for He is unable to do that), but rather to succour us so that we do not sin, Hebrews 2:18; 4:14-16.
 He remains, and ever liveth to intercede for us, 7:25.  Zecharias remained (same word) speechless, Luke 1:22. 
 He is the same, and has an unchangeable priesthood; 7:24. 
 He does not fail, for He saves to the uttermost, right on to the end, 7:25.  The Greek word gives us “eclipse”, telling of one who is never overshadowed or overcome by another.
 He will never change His “priestly garments”, nor will they ever wax old and wear out.

1:13    But to which of the angels said He at any time, “Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool?”- This is a rhetorical question, demanding a negative answer.  The psalm said, “The Lord said unto My Lord…”  so clearly angels are not being addressed.  Only one who is Lord can respond to this invitation.  Yet He does so as man!  It is one of the most amazing things possible, that there is a man on the throne of God.  This fact alone should have settled the matter of Christ’s superiority over everyone else.  Note that whereas in verse 3 Christ sat Himself down, confident that He had the right to do so, here, He sits down by invitation.  This assures us that He was justified in His confidence in verse 3.  Lucifer sought to exalt his throne above the stars of God, and be like the Most High in His exaltation and majesty, Isaiah 14:12-15.  Here is one who humbled Himself, and has been exalted, whereas Lucifer sought to exalt himself and has been abased, Luke 14:11. 

The right hand was the place for the firstborn.  Joseph had been displeased with his father because he had crossed his hands when blessing Ephraim and Manasseh.  He had presented Manasseh, who was born first, to Jacob’s right hand, but Jacob, by crossing his hands, gave Ephraim the firstborn’s place, Genesis 48:11-19.  So Christ is not only firstborn Son and heir by appointment in eternity, verse 2, but also by position at God’s right hand.  This position is reserved for Him until a certain time.  The particular word for “until” used here means “up to the time when”.  His position is a moral one, just as Queen Elizabeth is said to be on the throne of England, although she in fact rarely sits upon it physically.  This verse does not imply that He cannot come for the church before the defeat of His enemies at His coming to earth, because even 1000 years after that event He will still have enemies that need to be subdued, see Revelation 20:7-9. 

Note the recurring theme of enemies throughout the epistle, 10:13; 10:27; 12:25-29; 13:13, (camp is a military word, suggesting Israel were encamped against Christ, and were in military array against Him, see Psalm 2:2; Acts 4:25-28).  Joshua had made his captains put their feet on the necks of the defeated kings of Canaan, to show their utter subjection, Joshua 10:24. 

Benjamin, Jacob’s 12th son, and Joseph’s true brother, was “son of my right hand”, according to his father, but Benoni, “son of my sorrow”, according to his mother, Genesis 35:16-20.  He was born near Bethlehem, and amid sufferings and death, for his mother died giving birth to him.  Jeremiah recalls this in connection with the sufferings of the people of Israel, Jeremiah 31:15, and Matthew quotes his words in connection with the slaughter of the infants at the birth of Christ, Matthew 2:18.  This shows that He is able to relate to the sufferings the people of Israel go through, even the sufferings of the Great Tribulation, the “time of Jacob’s trouble”, Jeremiah 30:7.
So the first quotation in this chapter reminds us of what Leah said when she bare Jacob his first son, Reuben, “Behold, a son”.  And now the seventh quotation has reminded us of Jacob’s youngest son, Benjamin, the son of his father’s right hand.

1:14    Are they not all ministering spirits- far from having a right to the throne, every one of the angels is a minister, serving the interests of the throne of God.  And they are spirits, whereas Christ has acquired for Himself the right to sit on the throne of God by what He did in manhood. 

Sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?- Far from being seated, the angels speed forth to minister for the heirs of salvation.  Note it is “for” and not “to”.  Their service is indirect, and has to do with the physical preservation of those who will enter the kingdom.  All spiritual preservation is in the hands of Christ, for He is the author of eternal salvation, but He delegates lesser and temporal things to the angels.  See, for instance, Genesis 19:15; Acts 12:7-11,15. 

Heirs of salvation are those who, literally rendered, “are about to inherit salvation”.  This is the Greek way of saying it will be sure to happen.  As the Captain of salvation, 2:10, Christ leads His people into ultimate and eternal salvation, whether saints of this age brought to glory in heaven, or tribulation saints who enter the kingdom on earth.  A description of the latter aspect of salvation is found in the words of Zacharias in Luke 1:69-79: “That He would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life”.  Luke 1:74,75.




4:1  Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;

4:2  But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.

4:3  Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:

4:4  But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

4:5  To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

4:6  And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

4:7  Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

4:8  Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.

4:9  But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?

4:10  Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.

4:11  I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain 

(a) Verses 1-3 Infants in bondage.
(b) Verses 4-5 God’s Son sent to redeem from bondage and bring to liberty.
(c) Verses 6-7 God’s Spirit sent to enable that liberty to be expressed. 
(d) Verses 8-10 God’s sons return to bondage.

(a)    4:1-3    Infants in bondage
4:1    Now I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child (infant)- the apostle now uses another illustration, similar to that of 3:24,25.  He has spoken of believers being Abraham’s seed, as those who belonged to Christ.  He now concentrates on the fact that believers are heirs as well.  Differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all- as far as the realisation of heirship is concerned, the infant is no different to a slave, who has no prospects at all. 

4:2    But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father- a tutor is a guide or guardian of infants, a guardian is a superior servant over the household, whether children or slaves.  These trusted servants would be responsible for the welfare of the infant until he reached the age of maturity, at around 14 years old.  Time appointed of the father- in the Roman household, the father exercised absolute control over his wife, children, slaves, and even nephews and nieces.  This control lasted until his death.  The instatement of an infant as his father’s heir depended absolutely on the discretion of the father. 

4:3    Even so we- now comes the application of the illustration.  The apostle has used the pronoun “ye” from 3:25, where he saw in the fact that Gentiles had entered into sonship the proof that the Jews were no longer in a state of infancy, if they believed in Christ.  Now he uses the emphatic “we”, to signal the fact that he is now thinking of the Jews again.  When we were children (infants)- the Authorised Version obscures the important distinction the apostle is making in these verses between infancy which lasted from birth to about age 14, and sonship, from age 14 onwards.  He is not thinking of life in the family, but privilege.  Were in bondage under the elements of the world- as the tutor of 3:24 represented the law of Moses, so here.  The elements were the rudimentary principles as found in the law, the abc of God’s dealings with His people.  The law was not for those who were in the full privilege of sonship.  This is why chapter five will show that to go back to the law is to be hindered in the Christian life, see 5:7. 

(b)    4:4-5    God’s Son sent to redeem and bring to liberty
4:4    But when the fulness of the time was come- corresponding to “the time appointed of the father”, of verse 1.  When the time was right for the nation of Israel to have the opportunity of sonship.  God sent forth His Son- it was evident that the law had produced none who could be an example of sonship, for God had to send forth His Son from His own presence.  Certainly there was no-one who could remedy the immaturity of Israel from amongst the people.  Made of a woman- the word “made” is from the verb “to become”, and has to do with what a person has been rendered as regards condition, place or rank.  Here the emphasis is on the condition of the Son’s entrance into the world.  He came by the normal means, although His conception was supernatural.  As one born of Mary, He was a real man.  The sinful nature which the rest of men possess is not a normal part of man, for it is perfectly possible to be a true man and not have a sinful nature, as was the case with Adam before he sinned.  As one who was not begotten of Joseph, He was ideal man, for He did not inherit the tendency to sin which all others receive from their father.  Because He was the Son of God, and as such was equal with God in all respects, He was also righteous man, for it is not possible for Him to unite anything unrighteous to His person.  As one who was a real man, He manifested true sonship in manhood on the earth.  Sonship is not something that can only be displayed in heaven, but can be worked out on earth.  Adam failed because of the woman, whereas Christ failed not, even though His manhood was derived from a woman.  Made under the law- the same remarks apply to “made”, as before.  The condition of His presence here in the world was governed by the fact that He was under the jurisdiction of the law of Moses.  Even though this was so, His motivation to do God’s will came from within, from the heart, and not from tables of stone.  It is interesting that in the quotation from Psalm 40 which is made in Hebrews 10:5-8, the words, “thy law is within my heart”, are omitted, for there was nothing legal about Christ.  He showed true sonship, involving dignity, maturity and liberty, even though surrounded by those in Israel who were immature infants. 

4:5    To redeem them that were under the law- verse 3 has spoken of bondage, and slaves need to be redeemed if they are to be brought into the position of sons.  It was perhaps a shock for those in Israel to be told that they were slaves, but the law had brought them to this, see John 8:34.  The essential features of slavery are lack of liberty, dignity, and maturity, and only God’s free sons have these things.  Christ came to “Preach deliverance to the captives, and to set at liberty those that are bruised”, Luke 4:18.  His word sets free, John 8:31, so the opportunity of freedom was given to the nation by His preaching, but it was only those who realised they were “bruised” that were set at liberty.  The lawyer of Luke 15 would no doubt have seen himself as the Good Samaritan, performing works in love to his neighbour.  He ought to have realised, however, that he was pictured by the man wounded at the roadside, half-dead, and sinking slowly until he was fully dead.  As One who was under the law, but, being virgin-born, was sinless, Christ was in a position to rescue others under the law.  That we might receive the adoption of sons- the apostle has already explained how Gentiles become sons, in 3:26, now he shows how those in Israel are brought to the same position.  The Gentiles were brought straight from slavery to sonship, when they believed.  Israel, however, was in a national relationship with God as an infant, and the practice of adoption needed to operate.  The phrase “adoption of sons”, refers to the practice in Roman culture of a father who had no son and heir legally adopting a suitable son from another family.  The adopted son was introduced into all the privileges of his new family, being legally as if he were born into it.  So those from Israel who believed the gospel, entered into the full privilege of being sons of God. 

(c)    4:6-7    God’s Spirit sent to enable liberty to be expressed
4:6    And because ye are sons- the apostle now resumes his remarks regarding believers who were formerly Gentiles, but who had been brought into sonship through faith in Christ.  God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts- this shows conclusively that all believers are sons, for the following reason.  All believers possess the Spirit of God, as Galatians 3:2 shows, so if all have the Spirit, and all have the Spirit because they are sons, then all believers must be sons.  This is confirmed by 3:26, where sonship is based on faith, not progress.  Of course there should be progress in the manifestation of this relationship, as Matthew 5:44,45 indicates, “That ye may be (become) the children (sons) of your Father which is in heaven”.  The Spirit of God, who was upon the Lord Jesus, was the power by which He lived here for God.  So because we have that same Spirit, we are enabled to live here for God, too, and that as His sons.  Dignity, liberty and maturity should mark us, as it marked Him.  Into your hearts- it was God’s promise under the terms of the New Covenant that He would write His laws in the hearts of His people, Hebrews 10:16.  This is in contrast to His laws being written on tables of stone.  See how the apostle elaborates on this in 2 Corinthians 3:1-4:6.  No longer are believers under the law as a religious code by which they seek to please God and earn His favour.  Instead, there should be willing obedience in their hearts to all that He commands, just as there was with Christ, Isaiah 50:4,5; John 8:26-29; 38; 12:49,50; 14:24; 17:8.  The power to do this is found in the indwelling Spirit of God.  As the apostle teaches in Romans 8:2,3, having been made free from the law which highlighted sin and brought in death, the believer is able to fulfil the righteousness of the law in the measure in which he walks after the Spirit and not after the flesh.  The righteousness of the law is all that the law demanded as being right.  Sent forth- not only has God sent forth His Son, because sonship had not been exhibited under the law, but He has also sent forth the Spirit, for the power to live as sons is not found amongst men either.  Crying, Abba, Father- in Romans 8:15 it is the believer who cries “Abba”, whereas here it is the Spirit who does so.  Now God the Father is not the Father of the Holy Spirit, so the meaning must be that the Spirit so relates to us in our sonship-position, (remember He is the Spirit of God’s Son), that our crying is said to be His.  On earth, we cry by the Spirit, “Abba”, whilst the cry is heard in heaven through the mediation of the Spirit of God.  Compare a similar action of the Spirit in the matter of prayer generally in Romans 8:26,27.  This is what Jude calls “Praying in the Holy Spirit”, Jude 20.  It is said that slaves in the Roman household were forbidden to use this word to the father in the house, so the fact that believing Gentiles can use it in their address to God is conclusive evidence that their slave-days are gone.  The word abba is an Aramaic word, as brought back by Israel from their captivity in Babylon.  The word translated father is of course a Greek word as originally written by the apostle, so is the word Greek and Roman sons would use.  The fact that all believers use both words shows the fact that there is in Christ neither Jew nor Gentile, 3:28.  The use of the word abba denotes a closeness of relationship, a fondness for the one addressed, and a freeness in his presence, that was never known by Israel under the law, and certainly not by Gentiles as they worshipped idols. 

4:7    Wherefore thou art no more (longer) a servant (slave), but a son- they had once been abject slaves to idols, as verse 8 will go on to say.  There was no process of infancy followed by sonship as there was nationally for Israel.  And if a son, then an heir of God through Christ- the Father has decided that the appointed time has come, and the full rights of sonship are now possessed; with them comes the rights of heirship too.  Again, there is the reminder that Israel were potentially heirs under the law, but not until they reached sonship in Christ could they know the inheritance.  Gentiles go straight from having nothing, to possessing everything in Christ.  As God is now their Father, they are heirs of all that He has, and this through the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus.  “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be His God, and he shall be My son”, Revelation 21:7.  This is the only place in John’s writings where believers are called sons, and is an allusion to Psalm 2:8, so not John’s words in one sense.  Everywhere else he reserves the title for the Lord Jesus in order to preserve the uniqueness of His Sonship.

(d)    4:8-11    God’s sons return to bondage
4:8    Howbeit then, when ye knew not God- eternal life involves the knowledge of God as “the only true God”, John 17:3, therefore when the Galatians worshipped false gods, they could not have known the True God.  Ye did (bond)service unto them which by nature are no gods- they were enslaved to gods which, as far as their real identity is concerned, must be labelled “No-gods”.  This is in agreement with the ancient prophets, who declared that the gods of the heathen were vanities, or nothings. See 1 Chronicles 16:25,26; Isaiah 44:9,10.  This is not to say that the evil spirits behind idolatry did not exist, but rather that having dealings with them is a vain and worthless exercise, because it involves a person in vain worship.  The stark contrast is between liberty as sons to serve the God they know to be real, and bondage as slaves to gods that are unreal.

4:9    But now, after that ye have known God- the Lord Jesus has been given authority to grant eternal life to all that the Father has given Him, John 17:2.  Thus blessed, the believer knows God, and is in vital relationship with Him.  Or rather, are known of God- the apostle guards against the notion that knowing God is an achievement on the part of the Galatians.  It is God who has taken the initiative, and worked out in time the logical outcome of His foreknowledge of His people, Romans 8:20; 1 Peter 1:2.
How turn ye to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?- “How” asks the question “In what manner”?  “By what process?  The apostle is baffled as to how true believers can be so influenced, that they turn their backs on liberty and return to bondage.  He will say in 5:8 “this persuasion cometh not of Him that calleth you”, again a reference to God’s sovereign call of them in line with His foreknowledge.  They had not so much turned back to the weak and beggarly elements, but turned back to bondage; bound to a different slavemaster indeed, but still in slavery.  The elements are the elementary and basic principles of the law, which are weak, and therefore unable to give power to put the laws into effect, for the law was “weak through the flesh”, Romans 8:3.  The law was also beggarly, and so could not bring into the prosperity which God’s sons and heirs ought to know.  By describing the elements as weak and beggarly, the apostle does not speak evil of God’s law, but rather emphasises the fact that it had not the power to bring into maturity, liberty and prosperity, any more than slavery to idols had.

4:10    Ye observe days- such as the Sabbath day, whether the regular seventh day of the week, or the other sabbaths which were stipulated, Leviticus 23:39, (there was no guarantee that the fifteenth day of the month would be a sabbath, and in any case the eighth day was to be a sabbath as well).  And months- the Jewish feasts were regulated by the appearance of the new moon.  And times- Israelites were required to appear at Jerusalem at three seasons during the religious year, see Deuteronomy 16:16.  And years- the years of Jubilee and release were occasions of great rejoicing in Israel, occurring once every 49 years, Leviticus 25:8-10.  All these, then, were times at which the religious ceremonies of Israel took place.  The emphasis here is on the festivals and celebrations of Israel; but these only had meaning for those who were under obligation to the civil code of the law, which took the form of a covenant between God and the people of Israel- Gentiles were never under this covenant.

4:11    I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain- such was the zeal of the Galatians in embracing Judaism, that the apostle began to wonder whether his labour in preaching the gospel to them, and subsequently seeking to establish them in the truth, was all fruitless effort.  Such is the difference between law and grace that the two cannot both be in control at the same time. 

REASON FOUR    4:12-18       



4:12  Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.

4:13  Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.

4:14  And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.

4:15  Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.

4:16  Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

4:17  They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.

4:18  But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.


(a) Verse 12 Paul’s interest and its entreaty.
(b) Verses 13-16 Paul’s infirmity and its effect.
(c) Verses 17-20 Judaiser’s influence and its evil.

(a)    4:12    Paul’s interest and its entreaty
4:12    Brethren, I beseech you- he does not doubt their salvation when he says “I am afraid of you”, in verse 10, so here calls them his brethren.  Be as I am- he wonders whether the principles of the grace of God have really been grasped by them as firmly as they should.  He himself had been delivered from Judaism, and the grace of God had so impressed its truth on his soul, that he was not only free from the law in principle, but in practice too.  He desired them also to be free both in principle and practice. For I am as ye are- he was free in principle, as he is convinced they were.  It only remained for them to be free in practice, as he was.  Ye have not injured me at all- they had not done him any harm when he came with the gospel to them, even though that gospel often arouses enmity on the part of the unsaved, since it condemns their sin.  Note the experiences of the apostle when in and around Galatia in Acts 14.  In fact, as he will say in verse 15, they would have healed his illness if they could.  As he looks back at their initial response, it encourages him to think that they will retrace their steps and return to the things they believed at the first. 

(b)    4:13-18        Paul’s infirmity and its effect
4:13    But ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first- when Paul went to the Galatian area, as recorded in Acts 14, twice he was stoned, and on one occasion was thought to be dead, such was the ferocity of the attack, Acts 14:19.  It was against this background that the apostle can not only say that they had not injured him, but also that he was in a poor physical state when he came to their province, yet persevered with the gospel. 

4:14    And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected- not only was he weak through persecutions, but had a trial (temptation) which seems to have rendered him repulsive to look upon.  Some have suggested that he had some distressing eye complaint, hence the reference to eyes in verse 15.  Tradition says the apostle may have been ugly in appearance.  Certainly his enemies said that his bodily presence was weak, 2 Corinthians 10:10.  An ancient non-Biblical description of Paul is as follows:- “A little man of stature, thin-haired upon the head, crooked in the legs, of good state of body, with eyebrows joining, and nose somewhat hooked, full of grace: for sometimes he appeared like a man, and sometimes he had the face of an angel”.  But received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus- despite his outward appearance, the Galatians welcomed him for what he had come to say, as if he were an angel, or even as if he were Christ Himself.  Such was the power by which he preached, the comparison which came to mind was that he was like an angel, a messenger from God; and such was the Christ-likeness of this man, that they thought it was as if He Himself had come.  They saw no man save Jesus only, Mark 9:8; Matthew 28:20; Mark 16:20.

4:15    Where then is the blessedness ye spake of?- the gospel brings into the blessedness of sins forgiven, see Psalm 32:1; Romans 4:6-8, but now the Galatians had been influenced by the law-men, and the misery which comes when there is a lack of assurance engulfed them.  For I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me- such had been the gladness which the grace of Christ had brought, that it translated into an intense love and concern for the welfare of the one who was His representative. 

4:16    Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?- from one who brought them liberty, the apostle, in the opinion of the Galatians was now one who acted against their best spiritual interests.  The apostle had not changed, but the Galatians had been influenced by the false teachers.  John tells us that those who receive the apostles are of God, 1 John 4:6.  The early believers continued steadfastly in the doctrine and fellowship of the apostles, Acts 2:42, so fellowship with the apostles was enjoyed because the truth was enjoyed.  All truth causes the natural heart to rebel, for the lie of the Devil is more attractive to it than the truth of God, see John 8:37-47.

(c)    4:17-18        Judaiser’s influence and its evil
4:17    They zealously affect you, but not well- to zealously affect means to give close attention to something or someone.  The law-teachers were diligent and persuasive, and had influenced the Galatians, but not well, that is, against their best spiritual interests.  Yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them- the false teachers wanted to drive a wedge between the believers and the apostle, so that the truth he brought no longer had its proper place in their hearts.  They also wanted the Galatians to give them their attention, that they might (zealously) affect them, for the word used is the same as at the beginning of the verse.  See also 6:12,13. 

4:18    But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing- the apostle makes it clear that he is not against enthusiasm, but it must be directed in the right channel.  And it must always be directed there, for no progress is made by those who veer from grace to law.  And not only when I am present with you- the Galatian national characteristic of hasty changes of opinion showed itself by a change of allegiance when the apostle left them, and the false teachers came.  They should have had the truth firmly held in their hearts, so that the truth was not just in the apostle, and left when he did. 

4:19    My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you- immediately the apostle uses the idea of birth relationship as he introduces the truth contained in the Old Testament record of the birth and weaning of Isaac.  He, like Sarah, had travailed and brought forth.  His travail, however, was spiritual, as he “laboured” in the gospel until there were those who were born of God.  Compare also his words to the Thessalonians, amongst whom he had “laboured and travailed”, 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8, and towards whom he acted as a nurse does towards her (own) children, 1 Thessalonians 1:7, and as a father toward his (own) children, 1 Thessalonians 2:11.  The apostle’s salutation to them in both epistles to the Thessalonians emphasised the Fatherhood of God, 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1.  The apostle was therefore imitating God as he acted with care towards the Thessalonians.  Such was his desire for the Galatians, too.

4:20     I desire to be present with you and change my voice- having exhorted them to be zealous even when he was not present, verse 18, he assures them that saying that did not mean that he was glad to be absent- the reverse was the case.  His “voice”, or tone of rebuke that he had employed in verses 8-18, he would gladly exchange for a tone of commendation and praise.  For I stand in doubt of you- because of their change in thinking, he was perplexed as to where they really stood.  He had not come to the final conclusion that they had never really known the grace of God, but they were acting as if they had not, and this caused the apostle disquiet.

We now come to the fifth reason why grace is to be preferred to law.  In this section the apostle skilfully undermines the false teachers by using a technique that the scribes used.  The difference between the apostle and them, though, is that he was inspired of God as he handled the Old Testament Scriptures, whereas they were not.  So he proceeds to use a pivotal story from the life of Abraham to illustrate the need to banish law-keeping from our lives, so as to live according to the grace expressed in Christ.



4:19  My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,

4:20  I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.

4:21  Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

4:22  For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.

4:23  But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.

4:24  Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.

4:25  For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

4:26  But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

4:27  For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.

4:28  Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

4:29  But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

4:30  Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.

4:31  So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. 


(a) Verses 21-23 The foundation of the allegory.
(b) Verses 24-26 The explanation of the allegory.
(c) Verse 27 The confirmation of the allegory.
(d) Verses 28-31 The application of the allegory.

(a)    4:21-23        The foundation of the allegory.
4:21    Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?- note that the apostle uses the word law in two senses in one verse here, as he does elsewhere.  The first word law refers to the law of Moses given at Sinai, which formed the terms of God’s covenant with the people of Israel.  The second word refers to the five books of Moses.  The Old Testament was divided into three, as the words of the Lord Jesus in Luke 24:44 indicate- “Which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me”.  The book of Genesis, the first of the books of Moses, although recounting events before the law was formally given, was considered to be as binding in its instruction as the law itself, and therefore was included in the section called “The law”, or “Torah”.  If the Galatians desired to be under the law, they must react as the law requires, and the apostle will show that that means rejecting the law! 

4:22    For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free woman- thus the apostle uses the historical record as the Lord Jesus did in John 8:30-47, where it was a question of the claim of the Jews that they were Abraham’s seed.  As we have seen in connection with 3:29, the Saviour did not dispute their claim to natural descent, but He did refuse their claim to spiritual descent, for they were not believers like Abraham.  The first son referred to by Paul is Ishmael, son of the Egyptian slave-girl Hagar, whereas the second son is Isaac, son of the free woman, Abraham’s true wife, Sarah. 

4:23    But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh- the word “but” suggests to us that there are important differences between these two sons, (apart from the fact that they had different mothers), and this is the case, as the apostle now explains.  Ishmael and Isaac were both men of flesh and blood, so the word flesh here must be used, not in that sense, but in the sense of carnal.  Sarah, realising that she was approaching the time when her inability to have children would never, naturally speaking, be remedied, employed the custom of the day, (hence the fact that Ishmael was born after the flesh), and suggested that Abraham have a child by Hagar to provide an heir.  This he did, and Ishmael was born.  It is significant that after this event, recorded in Genesis 16, we read in Genesis 17:1 that God exhorted Abraham to walk before Him and be perfect, thus suggesting that for thirteen years since the conception and birth of Ishmael, Abraham had not been doing this.  But he of the freewoman was by promise- Isaac was born as a direct result of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:4, which he had ignored by listening to Sarah’s carnal suggestion.  He is described in verse 29 as having been born after the Spirit.  These facts prepare the way for the application of the events related in Genesis.

(b)    4:24-26        The explanation of the allegory
4:24    Which things are an allegory- unfortunately this translation might give the impression that the apostle believed that the book of Genesis was a collection of allegories, and was not historical fact.  Nothing could be further from the truth, for time and again the apostle based doctrine on what happened in the early chapters of the book of Genesis, and there would have been no point in doing this if they were not real events. See for example the following passages:

Romans 4
The principle of justification by faith is established by reference to the history of Abraham.

Romans 5:12-21
The contrasts and comparisons between Christ and Adam are used to show both the result of man’s link with Adam by nature, and the result of his link with Christ if he believes.

1 Corinthians 11:3-12
The headship of the male believer, and the subjection of the female believer, is established from the early chapters of the book of Genesis.

1 Corinthians 15:22, 45-49
Just as man bears the image of the earthly man, Adam, so believers shall bear the image of the Lord from heaven.

1 Corinthians 14:34,35
The need for the sisters to be silent in the assembly is based on the principle of subjection established in Eve.

2 Corinthians 11:1-4
The way Satan deceived Eve is given as a warning to believers today.

Galatians 3:6-9
The prospect of blessing for Gentiles if they believe like Abraham believed.

Ephesians 6:30,31
The formation of Eve is seen as a foreshadowing of the union between Christ and His people.

1 Timothy 2:11-15
The order in which Adam and Eve were formed, and the fact that Eve sinned first, is used to show that the sisters should not usurp the headship of the brothers by engaging in teaching.

1 Timothy 4:3-5
The fact that God sanctioned the eating of meat after the flood indicates that meat is now sanctified for the believer’s use by the word of God.  So Paul indicates, in an inspired epistle, that Genesis 9 is the word of God.

That Paul believed in the authority of the book of Genesis is not surprising, for the Lord Jesus, whom Paul served, taught the historicity of the book of Genesis too.  In fact He quoted from, or referred to, every one of the first eleven chapters, (the ones that are especially attacked by liberals and infidels), as follows:

Genesis 1
“He which made them at the beginning made them male and female”, Matthew 19:4.

Genesis 2
  “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and cleave unto his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh”, Matthew 19:5.

Genesis 3
“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father will ye do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it”, John 8:44.

Genesis 4
“The blood of righteous Abel”, Matthew 23:35.

Genesis 5/6
“The days of Noah”, Matthew 24:37, 38.

Genesis 7/8/9
“The flood came”, Matthew 24:39.

Genesis 10
“The flood…took them all away”, Matthew 24:39, (“Of them was the whole earth overspread”, Genesis 10:19, implying that only the eight that were in the ark survived).

Genesis 11
“Before Abraham was, I am”, John 8:58.

Furthermore, every chapter of the book of Genesis is alluded to in some way in the New Testament and every New Testament writer alludes to, or quotes, the book of Genesis, so that there are more than one hundred quotes or allusions to the book of Genesis in the New Testament.  When the New Testament writers referred to the book of Genesis, they never give the impression that they believed it to be anything other than literal, historical fact.  If the events described are not real, then the doctrine based on them is not real either. 
To return to the apostle’s use of the word allegory.  It would be better to understand him to mean that the incident he refers to in the life of Abraham and his family, whilst it is literal fact, is also allegorical.  This means it has an alternative and spiritual meaning that we may put alongside of it, and which gives an added reason why it has been included in the Word of God.  Although the same word is not used in Hebrews 11:19, where Abraham is said to have received Isaac back from the dead in a figure, yet there is a similar idea.  Isaac had not actually died, but in figure he had, in the person of the ram, and his return from the place of sacrifice as a living son was a figure of resurrection.  So in Galatians 4, the incidents are true literally, but are also true figuratively and spiritually, for principles are illustrated by them.  This does not give us licence to use our imagination with the Old Testament, and make it mean what we want it to mean, since we are not inspired by the Spirit of God to infallibly interpret Scripture as the apostles were.  For these are the two covenants- now we have the spiritual meaning which the apostle sees, by the Spirit, in these facts. 

Already, in His public teaching, the Lord Jesus had seen in Ishmael and Isaac an illustration of those who were simply sons of Abraham by natural descent, and those who were sons of Abraham by faith, John 8:33-41.  Coupled with this, the prophet Isaiah, in the passage the apostle will quote in verse 27, saw a reference to two aspects of the nation of Israel in their relationship with God.  Furthermore, the apostle has already told the Galatians that they are Abraham’s seed, and has thereby prepared the way for the further ideas in this passage.  Thus there has already been a three-fold use of the truths in relation to the sons of Abraham, by Christ, by Isaiah, and by the apostle himself.

The relationship which Abraham had physically with two women, is used to illustrate God’s moral relationship with the nation of Israel considered from an earthly standpoint, and then from a heavenly.  The one from the mount Sinai- God’s relationship with Israel at Sinai was based on the covenant of the Law.  The terms on which God had dealings with them as a nation were detailed in that set of laws.  In Jeremiah the Lord refers to this covenant, and declares He was a husband to Israel, Jeremiah 31:32.  Which gendereth to bondage- gendereth means produces children, as Hagar produced Ishmael.  As a result of the Sinai-relationship with God, there was produced those who were in bondage, because the demands of the law were impossible to meet, and therefore they became under obligation to God to remedy the situation.  Which is Hagar- that is, in the symbolism of the allegory, Sinai, and all that it involves, is portrayed by Hagar.

4:25    For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia- that is, this Hagar in the language of the allegory, not Hagar literally, for a woman cannot be a mountain.  And answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children- Sinai corresponds to, (answereth to), Jerusalem on earth, the centre of Judaism, where that which was given to the nation at Sinai was at that time enforced.  Those who are Jerusalem’s “children”, or product, are in bondage, just as Jerusalem itself is, the place of bondage to the law.  It was those who had come from Jerusalem that led the Galatians astray in the first place, as they tried to win them over to law-works for salvation.  This is the road to bondage. 

4:26    But Jerusalem which is above is free- there is a heavenly city, where God makes His presence felt, and from whence also the Lord Jesus came in grace.  Note the similar argument of the writer to the Hebrews in Hebrews 12:18-24.  Which is the mother of us all- that is, the mother of all believers, including the Galatians.  Just as Jerusalem on earth represented the religion given at Sinai, so Jerusalem which is above, in heaven, represents the grace of God in Christianity.  The believer is to rejoice that his name is written in heaven, in the roll of the citizens of the heavenly Zion, Luke 10:20.  Our citizenship is in heaven; just as the citizens of Philippi, a Roman colony, had citizenship of distant Rome, so believers have citizenship in heaven, Philippians 3:20,21.  The Lord Jesus spoke of being born again, and the word for “again” is used when John the Baptist said Christ had come “from above”, John 3:31.  So inasmuch as our life is the life of heaven, then we are the “children” of that place, and as such are free, being born as a result of the grace of God expressed in Christ. 

(c)    4:27        The confirmation of the allegory
4:27    For it is written- The apostle not only has the sanction of the words of the Lord Jesus in John 8:33-36, but also the way the prophet Isaiah spoke of Israel firstly under the figure of a woman who was barren, and then of a woman who rejoiced at the number of her children.  Break forth and cry, thou that travailest not- Isaiah exhorts Israel, under the figure of a woman, to break out into singing, and cry cheerfully.  This is all the more startling, because the words follow the account of the life, rejection, and crucifixion of their Messiah, the Man of Sorrows.  But this is the reason for the change in the nation, for they have joy through His sorrow.  Thou that travailest not- like Sarah, Israel considered naturally was barren, and only the grace of God could remedy this.  For the desolate- as Sarah was deprived of the attentions of Abraham in favour of Hagar, so Israel was not only barren of results for God, in her natural state, but was, Hagar-like, linked to the God of the law.  Hath many more children than she which hath a husband- or better, “she which hath the husband”.  It was Hagar who had Abraham the husband, leaving Sarah desolate in her barrenness and loneliness, just as Israel was separated from God.  At last, however, it was Sarah who triumphed, for in the birth of Isaac there was the prospect of the fulfilment of God’s words of promise that Abraham’s seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude, Genesis 15:5.

To summarise-
Israel naturally, like Sarah naturally, was barren and unproductive.
Israel under the law was, like Hagar and Ishmael, in bondage.
Israel responding to grace is, like Sarah and Isaac, in freedom.  This is true of those in Israel now who receive the gospel of grace, and also will be true of those in Israel in a future day who will receive their Messiah.

(d)    4:28-31        The application of the allegory
4:28    Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise- as already indicated in 3:29, believers are part of Abraham’s spiritual seed, and they have received the promised Spirit, through faith, 3:14.  So just as Isaac was a son produced according to God’s promise to Abraham that he would have a child, so believers are God’s sons in accordance with the promise found in the gospel.  All the promises of God in Christ are Yea and Amen, 2 Corinthians 1:20; or in other words God’s promises are certain, because they are secured by Christ- He will never say “Nay”, and thus reverse His “Yea”. The apostle John clearly states that the promise that God gives to His children involves the possession of eternal life, 1 John 2:25.  Implied in this is the fact that believers are not sons of God through law-keeping, for that would depend on merit earned by us, not promise given by God in grace.  We should not deduce that every promise given to Abraham is ours, but rather see that the principle on which God deals with us in grace is that of promising things, not expecting things like works of law.

4:29    But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit- Ishmael was born as a result of the carnal suggestion from Sarah that Abraham should have a child by Hagar.  Isaac, on the other hand, was born by the direct intervention of God, and we learn here that Sarah was given strength to have Isaac by the Spirit of God Himself.  It is important to notice that the exact way in which Isaac was born after the Spirit is not repeated with believers.  With the latter it is the new birth that is after the Spirit, whereas with Isaac it was his natural birth.  Which confirms that when we are said in verse 28 to be children of promise, it does not necessarily mean that everything promised to Isaac is ours.  Even so it is now- the apostle is preparing the way for his strong words about the Judaisers in chapter 5, and is content for the present to remind the Galatians that Ishmael mocked Isaac at his weaning feast, Genesis 21:8-11.  The reason he did this was because it became apparent at that time that Isaac was established as the son and heir of Abraham, and had displaced Ishmael.  The apostle sees in the mocking of Ishmael the principle of persecution, for “he that hateth his brother is a murderer”, 1 John 3:15.

4:30    Nevertheless what saith the scripture?- it is a remarkable vindication of Sarah’s return to strong faith in God after her initial disbelief when she was promised a son, that her words are referred to here as scripture.  Earlier in the life of Ishmael, Sarah had dealt severely with Hagar, who had despised her, no doubt because of her barrenness, Genesis 16.  Then, the angel of the Lord had commanded Hagar to return to her mistress.  “Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the bondwoman”- with the birth of Isaac, and his presentation to the world at his weaning feast, the time had come for the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael, as before it had not.  Two things had to happen; first, Isaac had to be born, and second, Ishmael had to show his true feelings towards him by mocking him.  This explains why the expulsion of Hagar in Genesis 16 had to be put right, and Hagar re-instated, whereas when Ishmael mocked, it was the right time to expel both him and his mother, for the true son had been manifested.  So also, when God had sent forth His Son, and presented Him to the world in the words “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”, and when also the representatives of the law had persecuted Him, then it was time for those who were produced under the law to be shown in their true character, and be rejected by God.  And this response of God to the rejection of His Son by religious men, should be the response of the believer too, hence in 5:12 the apostle wishes that the law-teachers were cut off.

4:31    So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free- The conclusion can now be drawn that, like Isaac, believers are the children of the freewoman, Jerusalem which is above, the centre of the grace of God. 

Note the three ways in which believers are described in this passage, using Isaac as the figure-

Verse 28 Children of promise.
Verse 29 Born after the Spirit.
Verse 31 Children of the freewoman.  

The first verse of chapter 5 may be thought of as part of chapter 4, and exhorts us to stand fast in the liberty of the gospel that the freewoman represents, and not to become enslaved by the bondage to the law that Hagar the slave-girl represents.