September 24 – October 1

Friday, September 24

Titus 2:1-15: In the previous chapter Paul had spoken about being “sound in the faith” (hygiainosin en tei pistei-—1:13). Such “soundness” is the mark that he further inculcates in the present chapter, exhorting Titus to “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (hygiainousei didaskalioi-—verse 1), so that mature men may be “sound in faith” (hygiainantes tei pistei-—verse 2) and of “sound speech” (logon hygie-—verse 8). This “soundness” (in the Greek root of which, hygi, we recognize our English words “hygiene” and “hygienic”) is a noted theme also in the letters to Timothy (cf. 1 Timothy 6:3; 2 Timothy 1:13; 4:3). Christian teaching, that is to say, should carry the marks of intellectual, moral, and emotional health. It will not recommend itself if it encourages thoughts, sentiments, and behavior that are manifestly unhealthy.

In verse 2 we observe the triad of faith, love, and patience. This conjunction, common to the letters to Timothy (cf. 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 3:10), is also found earlier in Paul (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4).

In verse 5, as elsewhere in Paul (1 Corinthians 14:35; Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; 1 Timothy 2:11-14), wives are exhorted to subordinate themselves (hypotassomenas, from the verb tasso, “to set in order,” “to arrange”) to their husbands. With respect to this exhortation, the Baptist exegete E. Glenn Hinson observes: “The initiative is to be with the wife. . . . Paul did not tell husbands to subdue their wives.” Even with this sage caveat, nonetheless, it is obvious that Paul’s exhortation runs directly counter to the contemporary egalitarian impulse.

Like Timothy (1 Timothy 4:12), Titus is to set a good example (verse 7). We recall that Paul rather often referred to his own good example. Pastors and missionaries surely teach more by example than they do in any other way.

The “great God” in verse 13 is identical with the “Savior Jesus Christ,” because in the Greek text a single article covers both words—God and Savior—and the rest of the sentence speaks only of Christ. It is He whose appearance we await (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Timothy 6:14-15; 2 Timothy 4:1).

Christ’s self-giving (verse 14) is a typical Pauline reference to the Lord’s Passion and blood atonement (Galatians 1:4; 2:20; Ephesians 5:2,25; 1 Timothy 2:6).

Saturday, September 25

Titus 3:1-15: There are three things on which we want to remark in these closing verses of the Epistle to Titus.

First, the maintenance of the life in Christ requires consistent work. Paul says this twice today: “I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have put their trust in God should be careful to maintain good works,” and “let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.” The life in Christ is something at which we work.

We speak of people “practicing” their faith, and perhaps we should look more closely at this word “practice.” Those who seriously “practice” something do not merely dab at it. They work at it. A person will never learn to play the piano if he practices only twice a year, and only then if it is convenient. A person will never learn the piano, if he practices only once a week. What we want to do well, we practice everyday. Athletes, dancers, and musicians practice by the hour — everyday.

There is also a thing called “spring training,” which is the pursuit of that most exalted of athletic pursuits, baseball. Observe that these men are already professionals. They know baseball inside out. They are very good at baseball. Still, they find it necessary to go into what they call “spring training,” starting all over, as it were, as though they don’t know anything about baseball at all. During one entire season of the year, they review the basics and learn them all over again.

In the Church we have the same thing. It is called “Lent,” an Anglo-Saxon word that means “spring.” Lent is the spring training of the sport we work at all year round: the life in Christ. It is very important, during the year, that we do not completely lose the spirit of Lent. Our spring training is not just for spring. The life in Christ is year round.

Second, this attention to practice means that we don’t waste oor time and energies. Especially, says St. Paul, we don’t waste time and energies arguing with heretics: “Reject a divisive man (hairetikon anthropon) after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.” (It is worth mentioning that this is the only place in the NT where we find the word “heretic.”) That is to say, we deliberately avoid getting bogged down in theological arguments. St Paul forbids it. Arguing with heretics is as strictly prohibited as murder and adultery. God is not pleased nor served by such activity. One or two conversations, and it must stop.

And if we ever started taking Paul’s prohibition seriously, we would begin by closing down all those useless Orthodox blog sites where they do nothing else except ignore this solemn command of St. Paul. In the words of Tertullian: nihil proficiat congressio Scripturarum nisi plane ut aut stomachi quis ineat eversionem aut cerebri—“a controversy over the Scriptures clearly can produce nothing but a stomach ache or a headache.” In short, stay away from blog sites where theology is debated. They are arguably as bad as pornography. They are bad for both soul and body.

Third, these directions are for people whom St. Paul describes as “those who have put their trust in God” — hoi pepistevkotes theo. To “believe” in the Scriptural sense is not simply to assent to a proposition. It is an assent to a Person. To believe, as the Bible uses that term, establishes a relationship of trust. This is the force of the dative case. I have never been to the North Pole, but I believe in the North Pole, meaning that I assent to it as a proposition. That is not what is meant in the Bible by faith.

Faith, as understood in the Bible, is always a personal thing, not a merely propositional thing. To believe in someone is entirely different thing than to believe in something. The second is propositional, the first is personal; it denotes trust.

Thus, when merely I assent to the existence of God as a proposition, that is not what the Bible means by faith. To believe in God by faith is not merely to affirm His existence. It is also to affirm my trust in Him. This personal trust in God is the foundation of our lives.

Sunday, September 26

1 John 1:1-10: In the opening of this epistle we observe several parallels with the beginning of John’s Gospel. For instance, the “beginning” in verse 1 matches the same word in John 1:1. The Word’s presence with the Father in verse 2 find its correspondence in John 1:1-2—“the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” The “Word of life” in verse 4 matches John 1:4—“in Him was life.”

This chapter breaks into two equal parts of five verses each, a division discernible by careful attention to the word “we,” which is found at least once in every verse of the chapter.

In general there are two ways of meaning “we.” First, it may mean “we” as distinct from “you.” Second, it may mean “we” in the sense of “you and I.” Both senses are found in the chapter.

When the word appears in each of the first five verses, it always means “we” as distinct from “you.” In fact, in each instance it refers to the authority of the apostolic witness. In the verses John’s “we” signifies the apostles who were eyewitnesses of everything that happened during “all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us” (Acts 1:21). John’s “we” in these verses is identical to Luke’s “us” in this text from Acts. Thus, John writes, “ . . . we have heard . . . we have seen . . . we have looked upon, and our hands have handled . . . we have seen, and bear witness . . . was manifested to us . . . that which we have seen and heard we declare to you . . . these things we write . . . we have heard from Him and declare to you.”

Thus, the “we” of verses 1-5 indicates the authority of the apostolic witness itself, the genuine transmission off the divine revelation that took place in Jesus Christ. The identical use of this “we” is found also near the beginning of John’s Gospel: “ . . . we beheld His glory . . .” (1:14).

According to John, this authoritative witness involves the various senses by which the Apostles discerned God’s manifestation in the flesh—hearing, seeing, even touching: “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled” (verse 1).

God’s eternal Logos, here called “the Word of Life,” existing before all time, assumed human flesh and became accessible to the apostolic witnesses who by means of preaching and writing what they know of God as revealed in Jesus Christ: “we declare to you . . . these things we write to you.” This revelation is not a series of doctrinal propositions but a living Person in whom the eternal Father ahs been made known to the full experience of the Apostles, including their very senses.

In the second half of this chapter, the word “we” no longer refers to the apostolic witness. It means, rather, “we” in the sense of “you and I,” even “you and I” hypothetically considered. Indeed, the whole argument in verses 6-10 consists of a series of “we” hypotheses, in which the “we” means “you and I.” That is to say, an “if” clause appears in each of these five verses and always with a “we”:
(1) “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
(2) But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
(3) If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
(4) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(5) If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

This second half of this chapter, a section particularly concerned with the forgiveness of sins, places that forgiveness in a social context indicated by the word “we.” The forgiveness of sins, according to John, is not placed in a one-on-one setting between the believer and God. On the contrary, it necessarily involves a “we” in the sense of “you and I.” The forgiveness of sins is situated in the framework of the Church, that society formed by the authority of the apostolic witness: “we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

This ecclesial society, this koinonia (verses 3 [twice],6,7), does not begin with our relationship with God. On the contrary, it begins with our entering into communion with the Apostles, the authoritative witnesses of the Church: “ . . . that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have koinonia with us.” Communion with the Church is first. This is how we have communion with God and His Son: “ . . . and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (verse 3). This full communion with God, a reality inseparable from communion with the Church, is the framework of the forgiveness of sins. It is in communion with the Church that we are cleansed from our sins by the blood of Jesus. There is no such thing as the remission of sins apart from this communion with one another in the Church.

Nor is there remission of sins apart from the confession of sins in that same social context. In fact, the remission of sins rests on the hypothesis of the confession of sins: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (verse 9). This confession of sins within the Church is discernible in other parts of the New Testament and in early Christian literature generally (cf. James 6:16; John 20:23; Matthew 16:19; 18:18; Didache 4.14; 14.1).

Monday, September 27

1 John 2:1-11: In the previous chapter John had asserted, “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1:7). In the present chapter John pursues this theme by declaring that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (verse 2).

The word translated here as “propitiation” is hilasmos, which John will use later in 4:10—“He loved us and sent His Son to be the hilasmos for our sins.” This word comes from the Old Testament theology of expiatory sacrifice, and John uses it here to mean that the shedding of Christ’s blood was the true sacrifice for sins, in that it effected the expiation, or removal, of sins.

With respect to this verse, it is important to observe that Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross expiated not only the sins of believers but also “the sins of the whole world”—holou tou kosmou. That is to say, Christ’s atonement was unlimited. “Behold!” exclaimed John the Baptist, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

How can we be truly certain that we really know God? John answers this question by telling us, not to analyze the state of our consciousness, but to observe the empirical data of our conduct. The question is simplified to “Am I obeying Christ’s commandments?” (verse 3) Our Blessed Assurance, that is to say, is related to the concrete moral evidence visible in how we live. This practical approach to the matter, typically Johannine (cf. John 13:35; 14:21-24) had a long antecedence in the Old Testament prophets (cf. Hosea 4:1-3; 6:4-7; Jeremiah 2:8). To take some other approach to the matter not only threatens us with self-delusion; it may simply render us liars (verse 4).

As in all things, John’s approach here is entirely practical. He regards a person’s conduct—how he walks—as the reliable barometer of that person’s spiritual state (verses 6,29). Like James (or, for that matter, Paul—“and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing”—1 Corinthians 13:2), John resists the thesis of justification by faith alone, or faith apart from works. Being “in Christ” means walking as Christ walked.

There is nothing “new” about this teaching, says John; his listeners have heard it over and over since the day of their conversion and new life in Christ (verse 7). Nonetheless, this same teaching is “new” in the sense that means newness of life, as the coming light begins already to shine into our human and demonic darkness (verse 8). The sight of believers loving one another, in obedience to the command of Christ, is truly God’s light shining into the world.

Not to love one another, on the other hand, is to remain in darkness, which is John’s metaphor for hatred (verses 9-11; cf. John 8:12; 11:10). It is not sufficient to make spiritual claims unsupported by one’s observable conduct. Indeed, to do this constitutes a true “scandal” (verse 10). This darkness, says John, is really blindness (verse 11).

Tuesday, September 28

1 John 2:12-17: This section especially teaches Christian caution with respect to the “world.” As in his Gospel (15:18-27; 17:19-26), John is markedly negative about the world, seeing nothing in it except “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (verse 16).

This combination indicates that “world” in this and similar texts is understood, not as God created it, which the Bible insists was “good” (Genesis 1:31), but the world in its fallen and rebellious state, Creation “subjected to futility” and in “the bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:20-21).

The world here described by John is the world alienated from God by the fall of our first parents. Indeed, in the Bible’s description of Eve’s original act of disobedience we may discern the three elements that John says are “all that is in the world,” namely, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Narrating Eve’s fall, Holy Scripture says, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [the lust of the flesh], that it was pleasant to the eyes [the lust of the eyes], and a tree desirable to make one wise [the pride of life], she took of its fruit and ate” (Genesis 3:6).

This negative use of “world” indicates the rebellion of humanity satisfied with the purely physical aspects of existence, as we normally indicate by the adjective “worldly.” This is obvious in John’s reference to the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. It is also true, however, of “the pride of life.” John’s word for “pride” here is alazoneia, found also in James 4:16, which denotes arrogance and proud self-sufficiency. (The participle of a cognate verb, alalazo, is used by St. Paul to speak of a “clanging cymbal [1 Corinthians 13:1].)

John qualifies this arrogance as “of life,” not using the word zoe, which in John always refers to eternal life, but bios (a root of “biology”), meaning purely physical life. By “pride of life” John thus describes the person who relies entirely on his physical strength, his sense of animal energy, and his material resources, presuming himself to be self-sufficient, satisfied with a robust earthly existence, not needing God. There is no compatibility between God and the world understood in this sense: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (verse 15).

John, to show that his appeal to unworldliness extends to all believers, breaks the structure of his exhortation into two parts, each of them listing Christians according to age groups: the old, the young, and the very young.

He begins with the “little children, reminding them of the forgiveness of their sins (verse 12). Since we associate sins rather with older people than with children, we are justified in suspecting that the “little children,” in addition to being understood literally, may be a reference to all believers. Indeed, John routinely uses this identical expression, “little children” or teknia, in this sense (cf. 2:1,18; 3:7,18; 4:4; 5:21). (Moreover, this word appears in only one other place in the more reliable manuscripts of the New Testament; namely, on the lips of Jesus in John 13:33.)

All believers in Christ overcome the Evil One and the world through the knowledge of the true God (verse 13; 3:8,10; 5:18-19; John 16:11).

Having thrice addressed his readers and listeners in the present tense, “I write” (grapho), John shifts to the aorist tense, “I have written” (egrapsa), certainly to be understood as an “epistolary past,” meaning “my present act of writing will be in the past tense when you read this.” This epistolary style, common even today, is exemplified elsewhere in the New Testament (Acts 23:30; Philippians 2:28; Colossians 4:8, and so on).

The Christian’s attitude toward the world is determined by victory—“you have overcome” (verses 13,14). The used twice here for “overcome” is neniketate (perfect tense, meaning past action enduring through the present), which presents a sonorous parallel with the word for “young men,” neaniskoi.

Wednesday, September 29

1 John 2:18-29: John must now deal with the problem of heresy—false teaching—by which the faith of his readers is endangered. We observe that the false teaching mentioned here concerns the correct answer to the key questions asked by Jesus Himself: “What do you think of the Christ? Whose Son is He?” And, “but who do you say that I am?” The readers of this epistle were suffering trouble from certain former members who insisted on answering these questions incorrectly.

It is clear that John takes Christological heresy very seriously. In fact, he sees its emergence as a sign of the last times and the judgment of the world. For John, this is how “we know that it is the last hour” (verse 18). This consideration of “the last hour” is what links the current section of the epistle to the verses immediately preceding. Those verses ended, we recall, with an assertion that ”the world is passing away” (2:17).

One sure sign that the world is passing away, says John, is the appearance of these heretics, whom he does not flinch from calling “the Antichchrist,” even “many antichrists.”

This expression, Antichrist, which in the New Testament is not found outside John’s First and Second Epistles, has been likened to the “pseudochrists” or “false christs” of Matthew 24:23-24 and Mark 13:21-22.

However, the varying descriptions of these two terms should caution us against simply identifying them. In Matthew and Mark the pseudochrists are individuals who endeavor to replace Christ, whereas the antichrists in John are those who reject and oppose Him.

Thus, we observe here in First John that the mark of the antichrists is their denial that “Jesus is the Christ. He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son” (verse 22). Unlike many of our own contemporaries, John does not associate the antichrist with a usurping power that attacks the Christian faith from without, but with a doctrinal aberration that deceives it from within (verse 26).

To deny Christ, to disbelieve His filiation to God, is to separate oneself from all relationship to the Father, whom we have no means of knowing except in His Son (verses 22-23; John 1:18; 5:23; 10:30; 14:6-9; 15:23).

Thus, in truth John’s antichrists have already departed from the body of the Church. Like Judas Iscariot, who “went out immediately, and it was night” (John 13:30), these new betrayers of Christ “went out from us . . .” (verse 19). Their apostasy thus demonstrates that they were never really possessed of the Spirit of God.

To make the proper Christological assertions from the heart, it is imperative to be possessed of the Holy Spirit, whom John here calls “the Anointing,” Chrisma (verses 20,27). That is to say, the correct identification of Jesus as the Christ and God’s Son is not reducible to a doctrinal proposition that remains external to the person who affirms it. Correct Christological faith (“orthodoxy”) springs from an inner abiding witness give by the abiding Holy Spirit, who anoints and teaches the consciences of believers. It is only in the Holy Spirit that we know the Father and the Son. Flesh and blood cannot reveal this to us. It is only in the Holy Spirit that we proclaim that Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3) and God is His (and our) Father (Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15).

Because the Holy Spirit already teaches them from within, John is not simply addressing his readers from without. He writes to them, rather, in the light and context of what they already know by reason of the Anointing that they have received (verse 21). The Holy Spirit leads them into all truth (John 14:26; 16:13-15).

This inner witness and leading of the Spirit, nonetheless, must not be separated from the authority of the apostolic word, which serves to safeguard what “you have heard from the beginning” (verse 24; cf. 2:7). The Holy Spirit does not change His message over the course of time. He does not instruct the Church one way in one century but give them a new doctrine in another. The Holy Spirit’s witness and leading is recognizable when it conforms to what “you have heard from the beginning.”

Thursday, September 30

1 John 3:1-9: John takes up again the teaching of chapter two, elaborating it from a different perspective. For instance, John had earlier declared, “I write to you, so that you may not sin” (2:1), and now he explains, “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God” (verse 9).

John knows that he is writing to children of God, and he knows, as well, that this is the reason why the world treats them with enmity (verse 1). The world, as we have seen (2:15-16), has nothing in common with the Father of these children so it is to be expected will hate the children also (John 14:22-24; 17:25).

Although believers are already the children of God, the full meaning of their filiation has not yet been revealed (verse 2). Even with respect to their present ontological state there is more to be revealed (cf. Romans 8:19), and this revelation will come when “we shall see Him as He is.” Because the believer is sustained by this hope, he strives continually to be holy and pure (verse 3).

Striving thus for holiness and purity, the believer flees from sin, which is rebellion, anomia (verse4). Since God’s Son came to take away sin (verse 5; John 1:29), the man who continues to commit sin (ho poion, present participle for sustained action) can have no communion with God (verses 4,8). Continuance in sin (ho hamartanon, again the present participle) means that the sinner does not really know God.

John does not mean, of course, that the Christian never sins. Indeed, if “we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1:8). Rather, John indicates the incompatibility between being a child of God and willfully continuing to sin. These two things are as incompatible as God and the world. Consequently, the man that willfully continues in sin is lying to himself about knowing God (cf. 2:4), and those that say otherwise are deceivers (verse 7). The deception of such a man is that of the Devil (verse 8), who holds the world in bondage. The man who has been reborn in God is not capable of continuing in sin; willful rebellion is incompatible with being a child of God.

The Christian life, in short, is not just a state of mind. It involves also righteousness of conduct (cf. 2:5,6,29), and to some degree that conduct (including thought) is open to observation. If we want to know if we are in God, says John, the best indicator is our moral conduct. Mere profession of the faith is an inadequate indicator or our rebirth (verse 9).

Friday, October 1

1 John 3:10-24: John continues his practical approach to Christian salvation, especially addressing the believer’s duties toward his “brother.” These duties are summarized in the verb “love.”

Our brotherhood in Christ is contrasted with history’s first brotherhood, that of Cain and Abel (verse 12). In that ancient case Cain violated the most elementary duty of brotherhood by murdering Abel, and he murdered him, John gives us to believe, because he hated him. From this, John concludes that anyone who hates his brother is a murderer (verse 15). This is the reason why, from the beginning, Christians have been instructed to love one another (verse 11; cf. 2:7-8).

The negative example of Cain, a man lacking in both faith (Hebrews 11:4) and love (verse 12), was taken over in Christian moral instruction (Jude 11; First Clement 14), and John clearly expects his readers to be familiar with both the biblical text and the theme.

Augustine of Hippo pursued this motif in a particularly Johannine way by comparing the biblical story of Cain and Abel to the classical account of Romulus and Remus. The two murderers, Cain and Romulus, both fratricides, were also founders of cities. These two cities, Rome and Enoch (cf. Genesis 4:17), symbolize what St. John called “the world,” understood as humanity’s attempt to live its own life in defiance of God. John’s world corresponds to what Augustine calls “the city of man,” which he contrasts with the City of God (cf. The City of God 15:5-8).

Cain’s story, because it is a tale of hatred, exemplifies the world’s murderous attitude toward Christians (verses 13-15; John 15:18). In this respect John provides a further elaboration of the incompatibility between God and the world. To be a child of God is to be the beneficiary of an immense love, a love radically incompatible with hatred toward anyone. A person certainly cannot be a child of God and still hate other children of God. Nowhere does the spirit of the world more seriously endanger Christians than by tempting them to hate one another.

God’s love for us was proved by the life that was laid down on the Cross on our behalf, giving us the supreme example of how we ourselves are to love one another (verse 16). Fidelity to that example requires, at the very least, that we share with our needy brothers and sisters the means to preserve their lives (verse 17). This is the practical test to determine whether or not we love one another (verse 18). Most of us are never called on to die for someone else, so in some sense this is not normally a realistic test. Taking care of one another’s needs, however, is something we can actually observe and measure.

John’s exhortation that we should “not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” merits a closer grammatical inspection (verses 18-24). In the combination “word and tongue” we recognize what grammarians call a hendiadys, which means that a single idea is expressed by two words. That is to say, in John’s expression there is no real difference between word and tongue; they are both metaphors for speech. John means simply, “Let not our love be just a lot of talk.”

This much is clear enough, but our parsing should be carried over to John’s second pair of words, “deed and truth.” It is important to see that this second combination is also a hendiadys. In context, both words—deed and truth—mean the same thing; for John there is no real distinction between them. True love for one another is not just a lot of talk. It is composed, rather, of what we do. This is how “we shall know that we are of the truth” (verse 19).

In the verses that follow, John seems to have in mind those Christians of sensitive conscience, whose hearts may be smitten by a strong sense of their sins. No matter how hard they struggle, they find that their hearts condemn them, and they become subject to misgivings regarding their spiritual state (verse 20),

John strengthens such Christians by directing their attention to two elementary facts. First, they are to consult their actual behavior, especially active charity toward others, as a more reliable indicator of their true spiritual state. Second, they are to recall that the all-knowing Father reads their consciences more accurately than they do, and in His benevolent gaze they are to place their trust, putting their hearts at rest (pesomen ten kardian). In the context, John especially has in mind the efficacious prayer whereby “whatever we ask we receive from Him” (cf. also John 14:12-13; 16:23).

Such reflections on our spiritual state are not to be exercises of an isolated conscience. They are to take place under the eyes of God, “before Him” (emprosthen Avtou—verse 19), “in His sight” (enopion Avtou—verse 22). Proper Christian conscience is not simply the heart reflecting on itself; it is exercise, rather, in the conscious awareness of thee Father who sees in secret (Matthew 6:4,6,8,18).

God’s double commandment is both doctrinal and moral: orthodox faith in Christ and the love of one another (verse 23). These two things manifest that we are of the truth and that God’s Holy Spirit dwells within us (verse 24).