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The First Epistle Of John by Augustus Neander

1 John ii. 24, 25

The Apostle concludes this warning by again enforcing the exhortation, that they hold fast and faithfully preserve what they have received; so should the gifts of grace also remain theirs. |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. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.|

Here again in the original Greek, the |Ye| is placed first (|Ye therefore,| which we cannot imitate), in emphatic contrast with those heretical teachers. For as these, through their apostacy from the original truth, had again estranged themselves from that fellowship with God as the Father, which is received through Christ; so on the contrary, should the church be distinguished from them by a faithful adherence to that original teaching, and by so doing abide also in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. What they have received from the beginning is to remain IN them; being something abiding, not a mere external thing, which like an empty sound had passed by them. As they have received it into their inward life, so should it ever remain deeply imprinted in their spirits. And as it is through the preached word, received into their hearts, that they have attained to fellowship with the Father through the mediating Son; the indwelling of this truth in their hearts is made the condition, on which they should continue to abide in fellowship with the Son, and through him with the Father. This continuing IN the Soil and the Father, we must endeavor to apprehend in the full significance of the term. This IN can be exchanged for no other word. It declares that their life has its being in Jesus as the Son of God, and through this, in the Father whom he has revealed as such, and with whom he has brought them into fellowship. In the Gospel of John, the two things are always presented as connected with each other, as involved in each other; viz. the abiding of believers in Christ and his abiding in them. The communication of Christ to the believer, -- wherein the whole christian life has its root, -- and the continuance of this communication, appears therefore as something dependent upon their susceptibility for this divine gift, upon the free surrenders of themselves to Christ. So soon as they, through the bent of the will, abandon their original relation to Christ, will Christ also depart from them. All hangs upon the unconstrained susceptibility, the direction of the will in man. Hence, whatever may be the enjoyment of divine grace in the christian life, the requirement is still binding on man to watch unceasingly over himself, lest through his own fault he should again lose the heavenly gift which he has received. The means on their part for continuing in fellowship with Christ is, in John's view, holding fast the doctrines originally made known to them. By this he does not mean merely retaining them in the memory, in the understanding; but so holding them fast that this truth shall remain an indwelling and determining principle of their inner life. As an encouragement to fidelity, he shows them what on this condition they have a right to expect. He sums up the whole in one all-embracing promise, -- the eternal life which Christ has promised to those who abide in fellowship with him; for, as he has before said, in Christ has this eternal life itself appeared personally in humanity. There is, for the God-related spirit, no other blessedness than this life for which he was created, and in which alone he can find satisfaction for all the wants implanted in his godlike nature. It is called The Life, absolutely, inasmuch as it is the participation in that which alone, in the truest and highest, in an unqualified sense, can be called life, the life of God himself; as to the God-related spirit, which can only find in God its true life, the want of it is Death. It is called eternal life, inasmuch as it is in its very nature exalted above all change of time, in its very nature eternal, belonging not to the transitory temporal existence, but to eternity. Where it has once taken up its abode, it can no more be disturbed and interrupted by death; but, victorious over all death, unfolds itself in progressive and glorious development forever. Hence Christ, in the Gospel of John, speaks of it as the fountain which gushes up into eternal life; a river, checked by no barriers, pouring along from the once imparted source, into the eternal and the infinite. And hence it is said, that he who believes in Christ has eternal life; in this Believing, it is his already. The future blessedness promised to the christian is not, therefore, something essentially different from what he has already received in the earthly life through faith, and to be added from without as something new. In its germ and essence, it is contained in what he already has. It needs only to burst from the imprisoning shell, in order to reveal itself in its own inherent glory.

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