Verses to review today: 1 John 1:1-2:9 (review all)
New Verse: 1 John 2:10
Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. (ESV)
He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. (KJV)
Greek: ὁ ἀγαπῶν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ φωτὶ μένει καὶ σκάνδαλον ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν•
Transliterated Greek: ho agapōn ton adelphon autou en tō phōti menei kai skandalon en autō ouk estin•
Literal Word for Word Translation: the one who loves his brother resides in the light and there is no stumbling block in him (or in it/in the light).
Vocab: ἀγαπῶν, agapōn, he is loving; ἀδελφὸν, adelphon, brother; φωτὶ, phōti, light; μένει, menei, stays in; σκάνδαλον, skandalon, a stumbling block.
Commentary: The one who is in the light knows love and not hatred of persons. However, the verse has switched the two halves to say that he who loves his brother is in the light. Can we say that one who loves his brother is indeed in the light since we all likely know people who have refused Christ yet who are very loving to others in general? We have to jump ahead to verse 11 to answer this. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. That one loves indicates they are in the light, and that one hates indicates they are in darkness. If there is an occasion for a person to hate, they are not in the light. A loving person who is not in the light will have people they despise which will reveal they are actually in the darkness and never were in the true light. Can one who is in the light have an occasion to despise someone? This verse seems to indicate not, since there is no cause for stumbling when the person is in the light. I’ll come back to this. Right now, let’s look at the “cause for stumbling.”
The stumbling block is either in “him” or in the “light,” and it can trip up either “him” or “another brother.” While it is possible that the one who loves his brother could cause another to stumble, it makes the most sense to say there is no stumbling block in the light to cause the believer to stumble (especially given verse 11 that follows). As long as he is in the light and only loves his brother there is nothing to cause him to stumble as there might be in the darkness. The light helps the believer see the path before him clearly. Yet, most translations say, “there is no cause for stumbling in him.” The noun to which the pronoun “him/it” refers, as just explained, is the light. If we use “him,” in the Greek there is no way to know whether “him” has a little “h” or capital “H,” where the capital “H” refers to God. But, to memorize the verse as it is translated, it would not be entirely wrong to make the “him” a “Him,” where the light that the pronoun refers to is Jesus. Both the ESV and KJV can be thought of this way: Whoever loves his brother abides in the Light, and in Him there is no cause for stumbling. (ESV) He that loveth his brother abideth in the Light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in Him. (KJV) These translations then say that whoever abides in Jesus will not stumble. (For the NIV: Whoever loves his brother lives in the Light, and there is nothing in Him to make him stumble.)
So, what of a believer who does stumbles and hates another brother? We’ve seen it, right? First the hate cannot persist and must be a temporary stumbling. Otherwise, they are showing they have never partaken of the light. The key word in the verse is “abide.” The believer must “abide” in the Light. John 15 talks about abiding in the vine, who is Christ. If a Christian turns from being in Scripture, prayer, fellowship, and other spiritual disciplines, they will fall back to where their human desires predominate. There are times of weakness, being tired, etc., where we might stumble. Those times will happen. But we must continue to “abide” in the Light if we wish to not stumble. This verse is not implying that if we stumble that we are not saved, but does indicate that to keep from stumbling, one must stay in the light. One who has never stepped into the light would not be saved and would not be abiding. One who stepped into it and rejected it was never transformed by it and thus is not saved. Yet, the one who trusts in the Lord, despite times of weakness, is always saved and will not stay away from the spiritual disciplines that put them in the Light. The Light, once it is on us, never leaves us. So if we are stumbling, we are self-focused and not paying attention to the light that is around us. To be in the light and not stumble requires keeping our eyes open. When we do stumble, it should be to wake us up to pay attention to the light.