1 John 2
1My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
2and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
3By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
John now directs his thoughts to the believers. He loves them dearly as is clear by calling them his little children. Perhaps these are people that John was instrumental in bringing to Christ. His purpose in sharing about how true Christians do not continue walking in darkness is so that the believers don’t continue in sin. This is further emphasis that John is not telling us in the first chapter to, as believers, say that we are in sin or have sin. That was for unbelievers. Since he doesn’t want us to sin, why would he then want us to say that we are in sin, unless of course we are? But we ought to not be. If believers are in sin, they need to stop. There is no reward or honor in Christians continuing in sin. Thus, it is not necessarily a sign of humility that a person is always having to confess sin, particularly if it is the same sin over and over again. God calls us to walk worthy (Colossians 1:10), not to practice sin. John proves that here by emphasizing that his intention is that we do not sin. John reminds us, for we do fall at times, that we have an Advocate in Jesus who Himself is righteous and through Whose righteousness we have access to the Father and to eternal life. Jesus is the One who will present us faultless before God. In that sense He is our Advocate, for we could not save ourselves or make ourselves righteous. Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the believers in that He pacified the anger and animosity of God which God has toward sinners (though He loves them and demonstrated such, His justice forces Him to be their enemy).
Note that Jesus satisfied the wrath of God for the sins of all mankind. It makes no sense to say that He didn’t die for the sins of all when it explicitly says that He did (see also John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:4, 6, 2 Peter 3:9). There is an opportunity for all to come to faith because Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for all men to be saved. The ransom was paid for all for God loves all. The issue is that many refuse His grace and do not take the free gift of salvation. Thus, though the opportunity for righteousness is available, they do not take advantage of it, remaining enemies of God. If we keep His commandments and do not walk in darkness, we come to the assurance of the fact that we are indeed born again and in Christ. This is a summary statement of John’s message from the first chapter. True believers can have confidence in their eternal life because of their practical holiness in day to day living. Those who continue in sin are the ones who need to fear and are likely those who are double-minded and unstable (James 1:8).
4The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;
5but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected By this we know that we are in Him:
6the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
Making the point again, John says that the one who claims to be in Christ but who does not walk in His ways and keep His commandments is a liar. These professing Christians are not possessing of true saving faith because of the obvious lack of conformity to righteousness which would be consistent with a person who has truly repented and received Christ as Lord and Savior. It is those who keep His Word, however, who have had the love of God perfected in them. They are not perfect, but God’s love is perfect in that it has truly changed them from the inside out and set them free from their enslavement to sin. The one who says He is a follower of Christ ought to himself continue walking in His ways.
7Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard.
He calls the believers beloved because he deeply cares for their well-being and desperately wants them to be assured of their salvation. He says that what He is telling them about walking in faith and living in holiness is nothing new. Christ’s teachings explained that in order to come to faith, one had to repent and believe. His commands for Christian living were of a very high expectation and standard. That Christians would live in a way consistent with their calling in love and unity and holiness is nothing new. He is merely repeating an old truth which they have heard before. Yet it needs to be repeated because it has not been heeded.
8On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.
On the other hand, he says that he is writing a new commandment to them in light of the fact that some professing believers who are as of yet not truly saved may be hearing these truths for the first time. As such, as the truth goes forward and reveals the darkness, more can come to the Light, which is already shining in some of their hearts. In the hearts of the believers, the Light of Christ through the process of sanctification will push the darkness farther and farther away.
9The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.
10The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.
11But the one who 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.
The professing Christian who hates his brother but says that he is saved is in the darkness until now. The darkness is waning and the Light of Christ is shining brighter and brighter because the unsaved are realizing that they are unsaved, and the saved are becoming more convinced of their salvation. It is impossible for a person to not love other Christians and be a Christians himself. John 13:34-35 makes it clear that disciples of Christ are known by their love. If there is no love, then there is reason to conclude that the person is not a disciple. The one who is actively loving other Christians abides in the Light of Christ, and there is no reason for him to doubt his faith or to continue in sin. Yet those who hate others are in darkness, even if they think they are saved. Such a person is truly lost and dead in their sins, not knowing the Light and being blind so as not to perceive the Light and learn to love. They need to be reborn before they can see and love others. Because of Christ in us, we are able to escape every temptation that comes our way, if we have faith (1 Corinthians 10:13). Thus, there is no need for stumbling in the life of the believer. Yet we do stumble, but it is not because it has to be done or because God makes it that we do so. It is our weakness that leads to our stumbling, and such is evidence that we need to continue to grow and be sanctified into the image and maturity that is in Christ. Yet let us take heart, for God’s strength is perfected in weakness, and His grace is sufficient to sanctify us.
12I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake.
James explains why he is writing to the younger people in his audience. He says that He wants them to know that they have been forgiven for the sake of the name and work of Christ. It is typical for a younger child to question whether or not they are saved. Many who are raised in a Christian family or community make a profession of faith early on. As they grow a bit older, they begin to have doubts as to if they are truly saved. John’s message to them is to rest assured in their salvation because Jesus forgave their sins once and for all. In verse 14, John re-emphasizes the fact that the young children know God, implying that they should rest confidently in their salvation.
13I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.
14I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
John now addresses the older men and the younger men. He explains that he wanted to write to the older men because they have known Christ from the beginning. He says this twice. It seems to carry the idea that he is wishing that they persevere in faith and holiness so that they can live their final days in confidence before the coming of Christ. He wants them to finish strong, not compromising toward the end. To the young men, James says he writes because they are strong, they have overcome the evil one, and the Word of God abides in them. Temptations are numerous as decisions are weighty in the time of young manhood. Yet those John is referring to have made wise decisions and stood strong against temptation, overcoming the devil through faith in Christ. They know the Word of God. James only writes so that they will be sure of their faith and continue in the strength and holiness that they presently demonstrate. He has made it clear to all how they can know if they are not saved. What he seems to be saying is that the true believers that he knows have no reason to doubt their salvation because they are faithful. The dividing line between professing Christians and true Christians is obvious, and that is John’s intention. There is great confidence in knowing one is saved. Christ has transformed our lives and enabled us to walk consistently and persistently in holiness.
15Do not love the world nor the things in the world If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
His call to the believers is that they do not make a sinful choice to love anything that is in the world. In fact, if this is standard procedure for a professing believer in that they love the world, they cannot possibly love the Father also. True Christians are sometimes lured into sin, they sometimes compromise, and they sometimes rebel for a time. Yet the love of the Father is in their hearts. They don’t enjoy sin like the world enjoys it. They make allegiances with the world, but in their deepest heart’s desire, they do not love the world. They are acting as though they do, but it is not who they are. Those who make a practice of loving the world have reason to question their salvation.
18Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.
19They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.
20But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.
John reminds these believers that time is short before Christ will return and carry out His wrath and render justice. As that time nears, more and more antichrists will appear. There will be one final antichrist, but in the meantime there will be many who walk in his ways, denying the faith and living in sin. Even in John’s time, only a few generations after Christ walked the earth, there were many false teachers who loved the world and denied Christ. As these deceptions continue to increase, we can have confidence that Christ’s return grows nearer. Whenever we find ourselves doubting whether Jesus really is going to come, we need only look at the sheer quantity of lies that have been invented. More and more evil continues to be invented, and such is the nature of the last hour. Many had defected from the professing body of believers. Yet this is evidence, says John, that they were never really of the body of Christ. These are not Christians who are carried away and lured into a pattern of sin and deception. These are those who were never really saved. If they had been, says John, they would have stayed with the church. But they went out as a means of demonstrating to all that they were never saved. The expression “went out” carries with it a decisive denunciation and clear separation. These are those who want nothing to do with God because of their love for the world. It is not that they are just rebelling against God for a time, but they are those who truly love the world and its ways. They never truly confessed Jesus as God and Lord. Thus, they easily and quickly make themselves apostates and deny Christ. A Christian who strays from the path usually doesn’t deny Christ; rather, they just deny the fact that they want to obey Him. Such incurs the discipline of God as He draws them back to Himself and to the truth. In this case, these apostates want nothing to do with Christ. It is not that they merely do not want to live in a God honoring way, though they do dishonor God in an ultimate fashion in denying His Son.
The true believers have the Holy Spirit who has given them insight to know that they are truly saved or not. This is not a perceptiveness that allows one to judge another’s heart, but it does allow a person to judge accurately his own heart. The Spirit does help us to discern whether there is reason to question a person’s salvation. However, we can’t judge with certainty, for the role of Judge is God’s alone. John has given us many reasons which should make us question and challenge a person’s commitment to Christ. We do have an obligation before God to remind people that there should be an outward evidence of inward faith.
21I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
22Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.
John does not write because his audience does not know the truth but because they do know it. He is giving them tools to be assured in their faith and to be able to more adequately discern the true antichrists. The antichrist makes it clear that they deny that Jesus is the Christ. They don’t want anything to do with an association that would indicate that they have surrendered their life to Jesus. This is the antichrist, which is typically much different from a believer who strays off course. They usually don’t deny Christ, but they are deceived into inventing a Christ that suits their present tastes. The antichrist denies both the Son and the Father, rejecting God and submission to the truth altogether.
23Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
If a person denies the Son, then they have rejected the Father also. In confessing the Son, they receive the Father also. One cannot reject God and receive Christ. In the same way, one cannot reject Christ but say they love God. God is only confessed, received, and loved through Christ, and salvation through faith in Christ is only meaningful if one also agrees that Christ is God. That Jesus is God is central.
24As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.
The believers on the other hand, in contrast to the antichrists, are to let the truth of God and His Word abide in them. They are to continue in the truth and not walk in darkness. We remain in Christ simply by keeping His commandments. If we continue to walk with God faithfully, we will continue to have confidence that we are indeed those who belong to the Father and who have the Son. Those who do not abide in the truth still may be of the truth, but they will not have any reason to be sure that they are indeed of the truth. Our faithfulness and obedience to the Word of God is evidence that we are indeed children of God.
25This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.
26These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.
27As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
Jesus has promised to give us eternal life. We can be sure of this. John writes these things so that we can discern those who are trying to lead believers away into deception. It seems that some must have been teaching that one can be in Christ and still practice sin at the same time and hate their brother. John says that such teaching is of the antichrist. Things are more black and white than that. Those who truly are not saved will defect and deny Christ. Those who are true believers will abide in Him, albeit imperfectly. Those who are of the antichrist will practice sin, while believers may sometimes stumble into sin.
Believers have the anointing of the presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth. In one sense, believers don’t need teachers of the Word because they have the Holy Spirit of God to teach them the Word and give them understanding as they read, study, and meditate upon it. As the Psalmist says in 119:99, “I have more insight than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation.” In one sense, we do not need a teacher because we have the Holy Spirit who will illumine our minds and hearts to understand the will and ways of God through His Word. Such is the belief that Christians hold that Scripture is something that each person can understand and interpret. That doesn’t mean that there are several interpretations. What it means is that if a multiple persons are all studying the Scripture, the Spirit can lead them all to the same place if they are patient, study in faith, and learn from a pure heart with no selfish agenda. Yet there is a clear ministry of teaching, otherwise God would not gift some to do so. How do these two work together? Even those who teach others require the work of the Holy Spirit in and through them and on the part of the listener to be able to receive and understand the truth. Whether in listening to a sermon or in our own private study, we are all dependent upon the Holy Spirit Who will guide us into all truth. It is His teaching that is ultimately effective and true. It is in this teaching which we must remain.
28Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.
The reason for remaining faithful to the commands of Christ is so that we can be assured of our salvation at the coming of Christ. We know that Christ will judge us for how we have used the gifts and resources with which He has entrusted us, so we, if we have been unfaithful, will shrink away when we see our Master. Like a child who doesn’t do the chores that his parent asked, and then the parent arrives home unexpectedly, he will shrink away in fear because he knows he has disappointed his parent and deserves discipline. This ought to be motivation for us to continue to remain in a condition of practical holiness, keeping the Words of Christ.
29If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
We know that Christ is righteous. If this is true, which it is, then we can also be sure that those who practice righteousness are born again in Christ. Obviously, no one who is outside of Christ can truly love as Christ loved since they are enslaved to sin. Thus, those who do love and who do live in holiness are drastically different from those in the world. The unbeliever may want to do good, but the good he wants to do he doesn’t do for he is not able to do it. More often than not, however, the unbeliever doesn’t even want to do good. Yet the believer desires good and does do it. His faith has works. He is not simply one who claims to have religion or faith. There is a conditional righteousness to prove it. Obedience is the outworking of the true gospel. Back to 1 John Commentary