The Latter Epistles – 1 John 2

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.  Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.  But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them.  This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning.  This old command is the message you have heard.  Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.  Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.  But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness.  They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
I am writing to you, dear children,
    because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
    because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children,
    because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
    because you are strong,
    and the word of God lives in you,
    and you have overcome the evil one.
Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.  This is how we know it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.  I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.  Who is the liar?  It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son.  No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you.  If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.  And this is what he promised us—eternal life.
I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.  As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.
If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

  • 1 John 2:1-29

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

1 John 2:1 ‘God is faithful’: “When you read your Bible, instead of wondering about it, say to yourself, ‘God wrote this and God is faithful; God cannot lie.’  For example, read 1 John 1:7: ‘But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.’  That’s a heartening and wonderful truth, if you are a Christian who may have sinned.
“I have heard people say, ‘I don’t believe in sinning Christians.’  I don’t either, but I meet a lot of them!  I don’t think Christians ought to sin and I don’t think we ought to make light of it.  I know that the Holy Ghost said, ‘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.’  And He also said, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1:9).
“Now here’s something you may have never noticed: ‘He is faithful and
just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’  God promised He would forgive and He is faithful to do so.  But it says He is faithful and just to forgive.  Justice is on our side now!  Instead of justice being against us and grace being for us, the blood of Jesus Christ works such an amazing wonder before the throne of God and before the presence of man that now justice has come over on the side of the returning sinner.  And when the sinner comes home, there isn’t a thing standing between him and the very heart of God.  It’s all been swept away by the blood of the Lamb.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God II (emphasis the author’s)

1 John 2:1 ‘do not sin’: “John is anxious that they should not sin.  He knows they do; if they say they do not, they lie.  Still the Christian’s objective is sinless perfection.  Thought we will never have it until we get to heaven, that is all the better pressing forward and never reckoning that we have attained it.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

1 John 2:1 ‘Jesus, our advocate’: “Every day I find it most healthy to my soul to try to walk as a saint.  But in order to do so, I must continually come to Christ, as a sinner.  We may have great growth in sanctification, progress in graces, and development of our virtues.  But I earnestly pray we never put any of these where Christ should be.  ‘Jesus Christ, the righteous one’ stands up to plead for me, and pleads his righteousness.  And note: he does this not if I do not sin but if I do sin.  There is the beauty of the text.  When I have sinned, I come creeping up to my prayer closet with a guilty conscience and an aching heart, and feel that I am not worthy to be called God’s son, I still have an advocate because I am one of the many who sin.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

1 John 2:3-4 ‘fellowship bears certain distinctives – obedience’: “The first test is obedience.  Fellowship means personal knowledge (experience) of God with results affecting one’s conduct.  The test of such experience is obedience: ‘if we obey.’  ‘Commands’ (vv. 3-4) are probably to be equated with ‘truth’ (v. 4) and ‘his Word’ (v. 5).”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

1 John 2:5-8 ‘fellowship bears certain distinctives – fellowship’: “The second test (vv. 5b-8) concerns fellowship, which is defined as being ‘in him’; that is, in Christ (rather than the Father; cf. v. 6).  Throughout 2:3ff., ‘this One’ (autos) and ‘that One’ (ekeinos) seem to refer to Christ.  The second claim (v. 6) is to ‘abide’ (NIV live) in him.  John does not explicitly state the form a false claim might take, but points out the positive obligation to righteous conduct (to ‘walk as Jesus did’).

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

1 John 2:6 ‘from initiation to imitation’: “This first thing about a Christian is initiation into Christ.  The next thing is imitation of Christ.  We cannot be Christians unless we are in Christ, and we are not truly in Christ unless the life of Christ is lived over again by us as we are able.  We certainly have not had the purpose of God fulfilled in us unless we have been conformed to the image of his dear Son.  This is the aim of election, the objective of redemption, the trust of calling, the companion of justification, the evidence of adoption, the earnest of glory – that we should be holy even as Christ is holy.  The spirit of God has anointed all the chosen of God who are regenerated, and he dwells with them and in them.  The Spirit cannot produce unholiness.  If, then, the Spirit dwells in us (and if it does not, we are not in Christ), he must work in us to conform us to Christ that we may ‘walk just as he walked.’”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

1 John 2:9-11 ‘fellowship bears certain distinctives – love’: “The third test is love for one’s Christian brother (vv. 9-11).  To claim to be in the light (1:5-7; i.e., in fellowship) while hating one’s brother means that one is still in the darkness.  A genuine believer is right with both God and man.  Positive and negative principles (vv. 10-11) reinforce the illustration.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

1 John 2:13-14 ‘fathers, young men, and children’: “These very clear distinctions identify three stages of spiritual growth in God’s family.  Fathers, the most mature, have a deep knowledge of the eternal God.  The pinnacle of spiritual maturity is to know God in His fullness (cf. Phil. 3:10).  Young men are those who, while not yet having the mature experience of knowing God in the Word and through life, do know sound doctrine.  They are strong against sin and error because they have His Word in them.  Thus, they overcome the wiles of the devil, who makes havoc of children (cf. Eph. 4:14).  Since Satan’s efforts are in falsehood and deception, they have overcome him.  Little children are those who have only the basic awareness of God and need to grow.  All are in God’s family and manifest Christ’s character at different levels.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary

1 John 2:18 ‘the Antichrist’: “This is the first occurrence of the term antichrist.  Its usage is found only in John’s epistles (4:3; 2 John 7).  Here, it is a proper name and refers to the coming final world ruler energized by Satan who will seek to replace and oppose the true Christ (Dan. 8:9-11; 11:31-38; 12:11; Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:1-12 …). …  While the term’s first occurrence refers to a particular person prophesied in Scripture, [the next reference] is plural and refers to many individuals.  John uses the plural to identify and characterize the false teachers who were troubling John’s congregations because their false doctrine distorted the truth and opposed Christ (Matt. 24:24; Mark 13:22; Acts 20:28-30).  The term, therefore, refers to a principle of evil, incarnated in people who are hostile and opposed to God (cf. 2 Cor. 10:4, 5).  John writes to expose the false teachers, the wolves in cheep’s clothing, who purvey damning lies (cf. Eph. 5:11).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary

1 John 2:20-27 ‘anointing’: “1. The blessing wherewith they were enriched: You have an unction.  True Christians are anointed ones, their name intimates as much.  They are anointed by the Spirit of grace.  2. From whom this blessing comes – from the Holy One.  The Lord Christ disposes of the graces of the divine Spirit, and he anoints the disciples to make them like himself.  3. The effect of this unction: ‘And thereby you know all things (v. 20), all these things concerning Christ and his religion.”

  • Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Scripture quotations are not in bold/italics)

1 John 2:28-29 ‘abide in him’: “He would persuade by love, and prevail by endearment as well as reason.  Those that are anointed by the Lord Jesus are highly obliged to abide with him.  This duty of perseverance and constancy is strongly urged…”

  • Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Scripture quotations are not in bold/italics)

My Thoughts

In the first paragraph, John finishes his first three tests of our faith.  1) If we live in sin, the truth is not in us, not sin-free, but unrepentant, unwilling to change, living in sin.  And I do not mean the phrase “living in sin” as stated in my youth (unmarried couple living together).  And John makes that clear in the next test.  2) When we sin, we confess our sin.  We confess our sin to God.  Some Christians confess their sin to a priest, and other Christians feel the need for a public confession, but the key is that we recognize the sin and go to God.  This is a continuous activity for our lives as we are made aware of sin in our lives.  We must not accept Jesus, realize our sins are forgiven and then find no reason to confess our sins.  That brings us to the third test.  3) When we see our lifestyle and do not recognize the sin in our lives, the truth is not in us.  As the Baker commentary said in last’s week’s lesson, that this is the most dangerous condition, to not feel any need to repent or confess, because we have elevated ourselves to be above God, telling God what sin is and what is not sin.

In a way over the next few paragraphs, John is repeating what he has been saying, by using the metaphor of God being Light.  Yet, it is a powerful metaphor.  In the world today, and it may have been true in the time of Jesus and beforehand, we feel that we did no wrong unless we get caught.  We drive well over the speed limit.  (Okay, I try not to do so, but…)  I have heard many people who brag about cheating on their taxes.  I have probably given more than I should to Uncle Sam in taxes, but I do not cut corners or claim something that is false.

The point is that in our homes, there are shadows.  We think we can hide our mistakes in those shadows and not think of them as mistakes.  “No one knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.”  Okay, that might have been the starting line from the old radio show, The Shadow, but we often think that no one knows what lies in the shadows of our lives.  And as for the hearts of men?  Genesis 6:5, just before the Great Flood, says that the human heart only thinks of evil all the time.  Thus, when we see a shadow, we do not take the high road, usually, we figure out how we can get away with it, whatever “it” is.

Yet, God’s Light is different than our light on this earth.  There is no shadow.  Nothing goes without notice, and even beyond, as God knows our thoughts.

And thinking of Moses being placed in the cleft of the rock in order to not die while seeing a portion of God’s radiance, it reminds me of the day I wrote this.  My wife’s dialysis schedule had us driving directly into the sun for a few brief periods.  The sun was below the visor.  I had to hold up one hand to block the sun while steering, flipping turn signals, and such with the other hand.  While this was an irritation, I became mindful that I was in the presence of God.  God has that type of brilliance, as 1 John 2 says that we become blinded.  Full daylight on this earth is darkness compared to the sun, and God created the sun, thus God is even brighter.

As for the poetry in the middle of the chapter, Rev. John MacArthur spells that out quite well.  Some people talk of being satisfied that they made a decision to accept Jesus and they feel they do not need to grow.  Yet, it is the young men, who have grown some, who have the capability to resist the Evil One.  The children are helpless.  And these people who think they are getting into Heaven through the back door, need to take the tests.  Have they grown?  Have they studied God’s Word and found that there are still other areas of their life that need a bit of sanctification, purification, and general house cleaning? 

And as physical adults, we lose sight of what a child does.  A child is a sponge when it comes to learning.  Just say the wrong thing at the wrong time and it will be repeated, and probably repeated with proper context.  Children want to learn, and they are watching and soaking up all they can.  Yet, when we accept Jesus as our Savior as a teen-ager or an adult, we laugh off the “child of God” moniker.  We forget that as a child of God, we should hunger growth just as the infant, the toddler, the child does.  We want to skip that step and spiritually go straight to our physical age, skip the growth process on the spiritual side of things.

The next paragraph is a tough one.  Not loving the world is hard in that we need to interact with the world to survive.  We must make money, even though the Apostle Paul told Timothy that the love of money, or pursuit of money, was the root of all kinds of evils.

My wife and I have the bulk of our lives in our rearview mirror.  We may still be serving others when we can, but we may never go out in an effort to reach for the mythical brass ring.  Those days are behind us, but then, we still want a comfortable retirement that we do not have now.  We want to be near our small grandchildren.  Even in our satisfaction with what God allows us to have, we still have wants.

Yet, I have written this several times, if the gates of Heaven open wide for us, we are running for those gates and not looking back.  If this is the last thing that I post, you will know that the gates were open.

The Apostle John’s point is that when you love the world, you turn back, as did Lot’s wife – even for a last farewell, and you may lose your chance.

And now we get the first look at the Person and persons identified as antichrist.  It is thought that the false teaching that the Apostle John sees as the threat that the churches should be aware of is the early stages of the gnostic movement.  It is also possible that many of the present antichrists that John refers to are among those early movers and shakers of the gnostics.  Only John uses the term antichrist and only in 1 John and 2 John, but scholars draw lines with other End Time prophecies.  John basically defines the term “antichrist” in the second mention of the word, in that anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ is an antichrist.  We could expand that to anyone who denies Jesus is The Christ is an antichrist, which broadens the scope to all who want to place themselves on the throne or at least side-by-side with Jesus.

A final warning is given to the children to stay in the church and not stray toward the fast talking false teachers.  These children of the first century had the Old Testament and a few other writings.  They needed to stay with the young men and fathers to learn so that they would not stray when the false teachers arrived.

With us, we have the full canon of Scripture, but we have false teachers just the same.  Can we study Scriptures and look to the teachers who teach the Truth?  The others have stories that sound good, but in close inspection, their story is too good to be true and they take the focus off Christ and Christ alone.  We have a mountain of research and study, but the average person in church is not well read.  We run the risk of having too many children in our churches and not enough young men and fathers, leaving the children easy prey for false teachers.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. Measure your walk with God last week in terms of a spiritual weather report and the ‘tests’ of faith in 1:6, 2:3, 6 and 10.  What does your report sound like: (a) Dark and stormy night?  (b) Bright and cloudless sky? (c) Partly cloudy? (d) Dull, slate grey overcast day?  Why?  What is one specific way these verses challenge you to improve your relationship with God?  With others?  How will you try to do so this week?
“2. What hope do 1:9 and 2:1-2 give as you face the dark side?  As a result, what counsel would you give to someone who says, ‘It doesn’t matter how I live since God will forgive me anyway’?
“4. In your spiritual life, how are you like a ‘child,’ just beginning to catch on?  A ‘young man’ at the peak of strength?  A ‘father’ or seasoned veteran?
“1. Where does love for the world compete with love for God in your life (money, time, priorities, relationships, ambition)?
“2. How can you tell if a ‘new truth’ will bring insight to living, or will undermine the faith?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

1 John 1 is a short chapter and the main theme is split between chapters 1 and 2.  The Serenity Bible combined all of chapter 1 and half of chapter two in one discussion.  Since two of the questions relate to verses in both chapters 1 and 2, they are in this week’s discussion.

In question 4, think of the question in terms that various aspects of our walk in faith could be childlike, young man or father.  Please do not get hung up on gender.  The point is that some read their Bible a great deal, but their prayer life may have some holes in it.  Another may have difficulty attending church regularly, but they are in two different small group studies and they never miss the mission trip.  But go further in looking for how you relate to God in various situations, when times are busy / slow, stressful / peaceful, etc.

The second question 1 would be answered much differently today than it would have been when the Serendipity Bible first came out in the late 70s.  It should be divided into two parts.  How can you cope in the modern secular world that is quickly becoming anti-Christian and hostile toward believers?  And then, if you have a good response for that, then how do you prioritize such worldly goals as making money, establishing relationships, etc.?

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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