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The peculiar character of John's first epistle
The epistle of John has a peculiar character. It is eternal life manifested in Jesus, and imparted to us — the life which was with the Father, and which is in the Son. It is in this life that believers enjoy the communion of the Father, that they are in relationship with the Father by the Spirit of adoption, and that they have fellowship with the Father and the Son. God's own character is that which tests it; because it proceeds from Himself.
The first chapter establishes these two latter points: namely, communion with the Father and the Son, and that this communion must be according to the essential character of God. The name of Father is that which gives character to the second chapter. Afterwards it is that which God is, which tests the reality of imparted life.
What characterises Paul's epistles and this of John
The epistles of Paul, although speaking of this life, are in general occupied with setting before Christians the truth respecting the means of standing in the presence of God justified and accepted. The epistle of John, that is to say, his first, shows us the life that comes from God by Jesus Christ. John sets God before us, the Father revealed in the Son, and eternal life in Him. Paul sets us before God accepted in Christ. I speak of what characterises them. Each respectively touches on the other point.
Eternal life manifested in the Person of Jesus that of the Christian
Now, this life is so precious, manifested as it is in the Person of Jesus, that the epistle now before us has in this respect quite a peculiar charm. When I, too, turn my eyes to Jesus, when I contemplate all His obedience, His purity, His grace, His tenderness, His patience, His devotedness, His holiness, His love, His entire freedom from all self-seeking, I can say, That is my life.
This is immeasurable grace. It may be that it is obscured in me;
but it is none the less true, that that is my life. Oh how do I
enjoy it thus seen! How I bless God for it! What rest to the
soul! What pure joy to the heart! At the same time Jesus Himself
is the object of my affections; and all my affections are formed
on that holy object.*