About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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My Commentary On 1 John




This commentary is based on the 1994 and 2011 edition of the New International Version of the Bible.  The chapter titles correspond with that of the NIV to make for easy comparison.


John, one of the original disciples and apostles of Jesus wrote this letter and the two that follow.  He wrote it from Ephesus, where he was an elder, some say a head elder.  This letter was written anywhere from 80 to 95 AD.  John died around 95 to 100 AD.


We should note that John outlived the other original apostles by a few decades, and when he writes these three letters, he is an old man.  It, thus, may be interesting to consider, after all the years of ministry, what John thought to be important. When we are old, we tend to think of the more important issues of life and think not so much of what we think as lesser important issues.  John knew he was old, and so what he says in his letters would be important to his legacy.


It didn’t take long for heresy to set into church life.  Wrong thinking was even around within the first decade of the Christian church. 


During the latter years of John’s life there was a false teacher named Cerinthus.  It is understood that the roots of Gnosticism might have come from this man.  Cerinthus believed that Jesus was not born from a virgin, but actually was the biological son of Joseph.  At Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit came into Him and at that time became God’s Son.  Then the Spirit left Jesus at some point before He died, therefore Jesus was not the Son of God on the cross.  Of course, this teaching denies the most fundamental doctrine of Christianity, and that is the Deity of Christ.  Jesus was God in a human body, from conception to His ascension back to heaven.     


One of the church leaders in the second century was named Polycarp.  He was a student of John.  He is quoted to have said that one time when John went to take a bath in a public bath in Ephesus he saw Cerinthus in the bath.  John refused to get into the bath when Cerinthus was in it.  John said, "Let us flee lest also the baths fall in since Cerinthus is inside, the enemy of the truth." 


Much of John’s letter is directed towards Cerinthus’ thinking and false doctrine, in the same way that many of Paul’s writings were a result of wrong thinking, so is John's, but he also majors on God's love in the lives of the believers that is seen in actions.


One of the important issues that John addresses is the deity of Christ, meaning, Jesus was always God, before His human birth to beyond the ascension, something Cerinthus would not believe.


One thing we can learn from this fight against false teaching is that the original followers of Jesus did not believe in the evolution of doctrinal truth.  If truth was not constant but evolved as time went on, then people like Cerinthus would not be considered in error.    


You might wonder just how John felt after all these years.  He saw Jesus in person.  He was there when the Holy Spirit came into the lives of the believers.  He was there in the early years of the church.  Now he is an old man. 


Hearing the wisdom that comes from age is not as important as it used to be, and I believe we suffer for this.  When someone is old and has little time to live, he or she often speaks about the most important things in life.  What John writes in the three letters that we have would fall into that category.  He is old and he writes about the most important and primary issues of the Christian faith.  



The Word Of Life (ch. 1:1-4)


Unlike Paul who wrote in more of a Roman style, John does not open his letter with a greeting or explanation of who he is.  He just gets right into the subject at hand that builds the foundation for the letter.


John speaks to the controversy over the false teaching of Cerinthus, who among other things did not believe in the Deity of Christ, that is, Jesus is God, not just a man.  After the first generation Christians died off doctrinal issues arose in the church.  This was especially true in the fourth and fifth century when the church struggled over the true nature or essence of Jesus.  John had no struggle with the essence of Jesus and we see this in the first few verses of this letter.        


In verse 1 John says this.  "That which was from the beginning …"  This gets to the point right off the bat.  John is saying that Jesus, the Son of God existed prior to His incarnation into a human form.  The words "from the beginning" refers back to Genesis 1:1 when we also see the words "in the beginning."  John also uses these same words to open his gospel account when he wrote, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God."  See John 1:1.


The Greek verb tense for "that which was" is an imperfect verb.  This means that the action of the sentence has been repeated a number of times or else is a continuous action.  Allow me to suggest that since this is a continuous action verb John is saying that Jesus was continually in existence prior to His incarnation into human form.   


John then says that this life which was from the beginning was heard, seen, looked upon and touched by him and others.  This speaks to the incarnation of Jesus into our time and space as a human being. John says that the eternal Word of God that was present at creation has come to earth, and that many people have heard, seen, looked upon and touched this Eternal Life.  John is testifying to what he knows and believes to be the truth.  He is a living witness to Jesus' earthly existence.  He has not just heard of Jesus, but has actually heard, seen, and touched Him.  For this reason he says "this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life."  The "Word of Life" refers to creation when God, through Jesus created all there is. 


Jesus is the “Word of Life” because in Genesis 1 the Word of God spoke life into a functional existence.  Jesus in fact was that Word according to John’s understanding.  See the first few verses of John’s gospel account and you will see this very clearly.


The verb tenses in the phrases "which we have heard" and "which we have seen" are perfect Greek verbs.  A perfect Greek verb is a completed action with present implications.  The fact that John and others heard and saw Jesus has made such an impact on his and other people's lives that the effect has remained in their lives.  This is important for us.  If we have truly met, that one time completed meeting will affect our lives forever.


The phrases "which we have looked upon" and "which our hands have touched" are aorist Greek verbs.  An aorist verb is a one time or completed action.  It is not as strong of a verb tense as the perfect verb, but there is a definite finality about it.  In no uncertain terms, John and other looked upon and actually touched Jesus, the living Word of God.


John approaches his subject matter from a spiritual aspect.   I'm not saying that John isn't practical, because you will see that he is later in his letter, but, when he speaks of the "Eternal Word," he is speaking in terms that are not earthly.  Being a Christian is being involved in a spiritual world that is nothing like the material world in which we live.


Notice that John "proclaims" what he has seen, heard, and touched, something all Christians should be doing, are not doing. Yes, we must live the life of a Christian, but we also must speak the life of a Christian.       


In verse 2 John says that "the life appeared."  John is saying that Jesus had life prior to being born of Mary.  Jesus existed in what he calls "Word form" prior to His incarnation.  When Mary conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit, that Eternal Life entered a human body, developed in the womb of Mary, culminating in His birth.  This is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity.  If you do not believe this, then you believe in a different Jesus and a different God than what the Bible teaches.  I don't think a different Jesus can save you. 


John goes on to say in verse 2 that "we" (disciples) have seen this life, testify to this life, and proclaim this life that once was with the Father and now has appeared to us.  This is just another way of saying that Jesus pre-existed before He was incarnated into humanity.  Before this incarnation, John says that Jesus actually lived with the Father.  In terms of the Jews, the Father means the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  That's Yahweh, or Elohim.  Thus he is associating Jesus with the God Jews claimed as their own.


The verb tense in verse to for "we have seen" is again a perfect verb than means the seeing has present day implications which according to the verse is John testifying and proclaiming the truth about Jesus.  This again is a major point to consider.  If we as Christians have indeed met the risen Jesus, that meeting will have present day implications that will cause us to speak the truth about Jesus to others.       


In verse 3 John mentions for the third time that he and those with him have seen and heard this eternal life that has come into the world.  This time he mentions it to his readers so they can have fellowship with both God the Father and with Jesus.  This fellowship is based around the very Eternal Life that he has been speaking of.  This means that this fellowship with God can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ.  John says, "our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ."  This may be hard for us to fathom.  Can we distinguish, or even can we distinguish, a difference in fellowship between Jesus and God the Father.    


As Christians we are joined to both the Father and the Son through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  For those of us who have the Holy Spirit, we have fellowship with Jesus and with the Father, and also with each other.  Our relationships to each other should have an added dimension and value because of the Holy Spirit and because of our relationship to the Father and Jesus.  Way too often we do not put much importance on our relationships with those to whom Jesus has joined us in the body of Christ.  We do not often think in terms of the Holy Spirit actually joining us together.  As our blood is the life of our physical bodies, so the Holy Spirit is the life blood of the Body of Christ, the church.  


Verse 4 says that "we write this to make our joy complete."  For John and all the other apostles that he includes by saying the words "we" and "our," the proclaiming of the gospel created great joy within them and those whom the gospel of Jesus was proclaimed.  For them to write things as John is now writing was making the joy they had in Jesus more complete in their lives.  The same would apply to us today.  When we share the truths of Scripture, it should be a joyous event and it should create a joy within us.  It certainly does with me.   


John was saying that he could not have complete joy on his own.  Good fellowship with other believers actually completed the joy he had from Jesus.  This is a Biblical truth that we should all experience.  The relationships we have with those to whom Jesus has placed us alongside in the Body of Christ are very important.  We should take them more seriously than we do.  Good and healthy relationships are a vital part of the Christian experience.




Walking In The Light (ch.1:5-2:14)



Verse 5 says that "this is the message we have heard from him and declare to you."  The word "Him" refers to Jesus whom John has just spoke about in the first four verses.  John opened up his letter by introducing Jesus and now he is going to tell his readers what Jesus has told him and the other disciples.


The message John is declaring is that "God is light and in Him there is no darkness"  The Greek word "aggella" is translated as "message" here while the Greek word "anaggello" is translated "proclaim" in this verse.  These two words are where we derive our English word "evangelical," meaning "to proclaim."  


The term "light" is figurative, but we often have thought that God is literally light, and the light is so bright that humans cannot look upon the light.  The light that John speaks about here is spiritual light opposed to spiritual darkness.  There is nothing dark or sinful in God.  He is totally pure.  There is no hint of any trace of darkness in the essence of who Jesus is.


In verse 6 we see why John has brought the point of God being light forward.  He says that "if we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth."  Many people were claiming, and still do claim to have fellowship with God, but their lives do not match their claim.  So John is simply saying that if you really have fellowship with the God of complete pure light, then you will not walk in sinful darkness.  You will live by the truth of the gospel.  This is similar to what James says in his letter.


In all time periods, there are people within the church who claim to be Christian, but their lives and doctrine do not match this claim.  John is speaking to these people, even those in our day.


John uses strong language.  He says that "if you claim to have fellowship with God yet live in darkness, you lie."  John uses the word "live," as "live in the truth."  By using the word "live" he is speaking of a lifestyle of living according to the truth of God.  Living in the light is not simply a way of thinking, but a way of living one's life.  This does not mean you will not slip up from time to time and sin.  John will address that issue later.  What John does mean is that the foundation of your life is righteous, is light, and should be evident to all.  If it is not evident, then you do not have fellowship with God even though you claim to have this fellowship.  You are in fact a liar.


It is important to understand at this point that John is addressing verse 6 and the couple of verses afterward to non-Christians, not Christians.  This has often been missed over the years and I will speak to this issue in the next few verses. 


In verse 7 John goes on to say that if we really do walk and live in the light then we will have fellowship with one another.  We not only have fellowship with God, but with each other.   The fellowship we have with each other is based on the fellowship we have with God.  This is what unites us as Christian brothers and sisters.  This union is often stronger than blood relatives.  The Holy Spirit in our relationships with other Christians is like the blood line in our family relations.


The same Holy Spirit that comes to live within the individual believer unites us with each other.  It is as if He flows down to us and then through us to each other.  John knew that there were some outside of this circle of fellowship who claimed to be in the circle, but their lives just did not match up.  Those people lie, John said.  They were not Christian.  Once again, the same is seen today.


This fellowship with the Light does something else for us, other than having fellowship with others.  The blood of Jesus "cleanses us from all sin."  This is real blood, not symbolic blood as Cerinthus claimed, since he believed that Jesus was not God when He hung on the cross.  Cerinthus believed in some sort of ethereal or spiritual blood that would forgive our sin but this is not the case.  As in the Old Testament where real lamb’s blood was shed, so real blood was shed in the case of Jesus.


We should note that John does not say that the blood of Jesus "has" cleansed us from sin, as in the past, but it "cleanses" us, or, "is cleansing us" from sin.  Jesus’ one time sacrifice for sin forgave us when we first came to Him, but in many ways we still sin, and it is Jesus’ blood that continually cleanses us from sin.   This means that the cross, the blood, was a one time event that is effective throughout our lives.    


Over the years I have heard people say that we need to plead the blood over every time we sin.  I am not sure that we know every time we sin.  That being said, I believe we are constantly under the blood of Jesus, so to speak, and that blood is cleansing us whether we realize it or not. 


In verse 8 John says that "if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."  The pronoun "we" here is not in reference to Christians who walk in the light.  It is in reference to the "we" who lie by claiming to walk in the light but don't.  John says that those people do not have the truth in them.  They are not Christians.   


There are two ways of looking at verse 9.  One is the more traditional way and the other is a less known way, and it all depends on how you view the pronoun "we".  If you believe that "we" refers to Christians then you will believe that as Christians, when you sin, if you confess your sins, then you are forgiven, but what if you fail to confess your sin.  Does that mean you are not forgiven and if you are not forgiven, does that mean you have lost your salvation?  Most do not know how to answer this question.


The other way to look at verse 9 is to believe the pronoun "we" is in reference to those who lie and do not have the truth in them.  If they confess their sins, they will be forgiven. I now lean towards this way of thinking. 


The only problem with version two above is that the verb tense for "if you confess you sin" is a Greek present subjunctive verb, meaning an action that is continual or repeatable.  This might suggest continual confession after one becomes a Christian.  


At this point I would like to insert an article I wrote to explain version two above.


Confessing Sin
(a second look at 1 John 1:9)


Taking a second and serious look at 1 John 1:9, as I do below, takes much thought.  The verse reads:


"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."


Most of us understand this verse to say that if a Christian sins his sin will be immediately forgiven upon his confession.  I suggest a different view based on church history and a contextual understanding of the pronoun "we" in 1 John 1:9.     


History tells us that some people to whom John was writing were adopting a false teaching stating that Jesus was not God in human flesh and a false teaching of the meaning of sin.  With this in mind, we can determine whom the pronoun "we" in "if we confess our sins" is in reference.  We begin with 1 John 1:1 which reads:  


"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life."


From John's opening sentence we note the pronoun "we" included John, those who were embracing the heresies, and those who had rejected them.  The distinction between the two groups is seen from verse 5 onward.  Verses 5 and 6 say: 


"This is the message we have heard from him [Jesus] and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him [Jesus] and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth."

John said that there is no darkness in Jesus.  He then said that if "we" claim to fellowship with Jesus and live in darkness we lie and do not live out the truth.  The pronoun "we" in verse 6 refers to those believing the heresies.  They lie and do not live the truth they claim to possess.  In contrast John said the following about those who walked in the light and rejected the heresies.  Verse 7 says:

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."


We now proceed to verse 8 where John reverted back to the "we" who had embraced the false Jesus and the false meaning of sin.  He said:


"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."


The heretics represented by the pronoun "we" in verse 8 were deceived and the truth was not in them.  They were not true Christians.  With this in mind we now know to whom the pronoun "we" in "if we confess our sins" in verse 9 is in reference.   Verse 9 reads:


"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."


To be contextually consistent, the "we" in verse 9 must refer back to the "we" in verse 8 who are unbelievers.  If then, the unbelieving "we" in verse 9 confess their sin, their sin will be forgiven upon their confession, at which point they become true believers.  


If we say the "we" who confess sin in verse 9 are Christians, we have questions needing answers.  Upon your initial confession of sin that saved you did Jesus forgive every sin you will ever commit in your life or did He just forgive the sins committed prior to your confession that saved you?  If Jesus has already forgiven your past, present and future sins upon your initial confession as I believe; does He forgive the sin you will commit tomorrow upon your confession a second time?  Does He forgive the same sin twice?  Why would He forgive tomorrow's sin if it has already been stricken from the heavenly record?  If He has not forgiven tomorrow's sin and it remains in the heavenly record until it is confessed, what happens if we fail to confess that sin?  What happens if we die with sin not confessed?  Are we doomed?  Can we ever be assured of our salvation?  These questions are central to our Biblical beliefs.  They require answers.    


Historically and contextually speaking, I believe the "we" in "if we confess our sins" refers to those rejecting the real Jesus.  If they confess their sin, their sin will be forgiven upon their confession and will be saved.  Their sins, like my sins, will be deleted from God's record of sin.  They, like me, will stand before God as being without sin.  Their names, like my name, will be written in the Lamb's Book of Life.  They, like me, will escape the White Throne Judgment that dooms unbelievers for eternity as seen in Revelation 20:11 to 15.     


When as Christians we sin, we confess and repent of that sin knowing it, along with all past, present, and future sins, was erased from the mind of God upon our initial confession of sin.  We move on with life in full assurance of our salvation, and as the rest of verse 9 says; "we will be purified from all unrighteousness." 





However you believe about this, I would suggest that as Christians we confess our known sins to the Lord.  The Greek word "homolego" is made up of two words.  "Homo" means "the same," and, "lego" means "to speak."  In other words when we sin, we agree with God that we are sinning.  We speak the same as God concerning sin.


The next question is this.  How and when does God forgive our sins?  First of all, the Greek word "aphiemi" is translated as "forgive" here.  It means "to cancel."  It is a bookkeeping term, as in, I cancel you debt.  When God forgives, he cancels the debt of sin from His records.  So how does God forgive the Christian of his sin? 


While on the cross, Jesus paid the price for the cancelation of our sins so we could be reconciled to God. When we trust Jesus for that, meaning we have genuine faith, all of our sins are cancelled.  God proclaims us sinless in His presence.  If, then, if we have already been forgiven of our sins, why does John say we need to be forgiven again here in verse 9? 


I believe that once we embrace God's forgiveness by trusting in Jesus all of our sins are forgiven, past sins, present sins, and future sins.  Verse 7 tells us that the blood of Jesus continually cleanses us from the sin.  We are constantly and continually being forgiven because the blood of Jesus covers us every minute of the day.  The confession spoken of here, then, is not asking for forgiveness but agreeing with God we have sinned and thanking Him for His constant forgiveness.                       


At this point we should note the difference between sinning, as in individual sins committed and living a sinful lifestyle.  Everyone commits sins, even Christians, but not everyone lives a lifestyle of sin where the underlying motivation to life is sin.   Many don’t have a clear understanding of this point.  The true believer has been delivered from the lifestyle of sin.  


John doesn’t leave things at the forgiveness stage.  He also says that God "will purify us from all unrighteousness."  This is what we call "sanctification."  Sanctification is the process whereby God purifies us from the sin He forgives.  He sets us apart from sin.  This means that God is more than able to forgive our sins.  He is also able to make us righteous.  Yes, He counts us, or proclaims us, as being righteous because of our faith, as Paul says, but He also wants us to become righteous.  John says that God is able to help us in this.


John then says in verse 10 that if we claim not to have sinned then we are basically calling God a liar, and if that is the case, God’s Word has no place in us.  Once again, John is using the pronoun "we" in reference to those who claim to be Christian but walk in darkness.  They are not Christian and when they claim they are, they not only lie, as John already said, they say that God is a liar.  That tells me that those people who claim to be Christian are not Christian.






In chapter 2 verse 1 John gives us another reason why he is writing this letter.  He says that he is writing these things so his readers won’t sin.  John clearly tells us that Christians can sin, even though I’ve heard some say that they don’t sin.  In the case of those people who claim they don’t sin, are they actually calling God a liar as John says in the last verse?  I don’t think so.  They’re claiming they don’t sin based on a wrong understanding of sin.  Those that John has been talking about claim they don’t sin, meaning, they feel they are perfectly righteous and do good all the time.


We also note that John calls his readers little children.  The reason for this is that John is an old man at this point.  He could possibly be as old as 85 years old.


In the second half of verse 1 John tells us that if we do happen to sin that we have an advocate that stands before the Father in our defense.  This is one main theme of the book of Hebrews.  The writer of Hebrews calls the one who stands before the Father our High Priest.  Of course this High Priest is Jesus.  Jesus always stands before God in our defense, and He always will, throughout all of eternity.  God the Father sees the scars on Jesus and is reminded, if He actually does need reminding, that Jesus’ sacrifice atoned for our sins, past, present and future sins.


In verse 2 John says that Jesus “is the atoning sacrifice for sins”.  A simple definition of “atonement” is the process by which Jesus made it possible to be friends with God through His shed blood.  We can now be God’s friends because that sin the separates us has been removed, even though we still sin.  The is the miracle of it all.  God views us as sinless even though we are still sinful.  This is amazing when we think of the justice of God and how He hates and detests sin so much. 


John goes on to say that this atonement, this new found friendship with God that Jesus brought about does not apply only to believers, but to the whole world.  Jesus died for the world, not only for Jews, and not only for those who would believe. We must note here that this does not mean the whole world has accepted Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. This does not mean that the whole world is saved.  Scripture makes it clear that those who give their lives to Jesus and receive this atoning sacrifice are those who are God’s friends.  If you don’t want to be God’s friend, then you don’t have to be, but you will reap the consequence.


Verse 3 says, “we know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands.”  This sounds very much like the apostle James who states that faith without works is dead.  Our faith, our trust in Jesus is evident in our good works.  Good works don’t save us.  Good works don’t precede salvation, they follow initial faith.  The good works that count in the eyes of God, and that will be rewarded for, are god works that are a product of our faith, or, our trust in Jesus.  Good works that are done in a humanistic since, don't count for anything in the eyes of God. 


In verse 4, and in light of Cerinthus’ false teaching John has to say that not everyone who claims to know God actually does.  The question is then asked, “how can we know those who really belong to God”?  John’s answer is clear and  simple.  If you obey God, you know Him.  The first thing we need to know in obeying God is to obey the words of Jesus and put your trust in Him.  Giving ones life in a trusting relationship to Jesus is the first command we obey as New Testament Christians.


When we say "we must obey God," we must understand what God we are talking about.  We are not talking about a generic god that everyone believes in these days.  We are talking about the God of the Bible.  He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We cannot separate Jesus from God. 


From this point of first believing we need to follow Jesus in other things that He has commanded us.  We don’t believe that New Testament people have no commands to follow.  We obey what Jesus has told us.


John gets right to the point and speaks very bluntly when in verse 4 he says, “the man who claims to know Him but does not do what He commands is a liar and the truth is not in him.”  John is calling Cerinthus a liar and telling him and his followers that there is no shred of truth in them.  The same applies to anyone today, or throughout history.  Those who claim to know God and do not obey the truth of the gospel as seen in Scripture are liars.  They are lying when they say they know God.  This includes all other world and regional religions.  This also includes the non-religious who claim to know God but live a life of sin.  This also includes some post-modern church people who mix Christianity with other religions.    


In verse 5 John tells us that if we obey Him, “God’s love is made complete” in those who obey Him.  It’s not that our love is made complete.  It is God’s love that is made complete in us.  God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to earth, but that love does not find its completion in the person who rejects His love.  It is like the love of God that is left standing out in the cold while the person refuses to let it into his life.  Our own love cannot be made complete.  We are unable to love as we should on our own.


John doesn’t seem to be a complicated person.  He’s not like Paul that goes into great detail about the great doctrines of our faith.  He says things clear and simple.  In verse 6 he says, “whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus walked.”  Our lives must emulate our words.  Our lives must also imitate the life of Jesus. So often our words speak louder than the way we live.  They should go hand in hand.  We need the words, but if our lives don’t match our words, our words have no value.  But with our lives backing up our words, people will know why we live the way we do.  Without the words they will never know.  They will only think that we are nice people.   This is one reason why we should speak the gospel, not only live it.


In verse 7 John uses the words “dear friends”.  Everyone has different character qualities that can be used in both good and bad ways.  Peter was impulsive, maybe not so sensitive. He got things done, thus made for a good leader.  I believe John was quieter than Peter, maybe more sensitive.  You can see his pastoral care for the people of God when he calls them “dear friends”, not just “friends”, but “dear friends”.


John has been speaking about “commands”, as in more than one command.  Now he uses the word “command”, as in one command.  Jesus commanded many things but there is one command that John wants to point out here.  He says that this is not a new command because it’s been around since the beginning.


The command that John is speaking about here is our love that we should have for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.  The command to love has been around for ages, since creation.  It was codified in the first of the Ten Commandments. Then Jesus had brought it into a new light in His teaching. 


John says it’s and old command and then in verse 8 he turns around and tells us that it is a new command.  So what is John getting at?  It is a old command that has been brought into a new light.  The command to “love your neighbour as yourself” has been made new to say, “love your brothers and sisters in Christ”.  This was implied in the prayer of Jesus in John 17. 


You will notice that many of the Old Testament commands have been redefined into New Testament commands.  This is one example.  Another example is that adultery has been redefined as lusting in your heart.  Killing has been redefined as being angry at your brother.


By the end of the first century schisms and factions had entered the church, much like the church of our day.  I am sure that this made John’s heart extremely sad.  He is reminding his Christian readers to look at the old command that he is presenting in a new way. 


In verse 8 John says that the truth of this new command is being seen in Him, meaning Jesus, and his readers.  It is fully realized in Jesus, but not yet fully seen in his readers, thus the need for the admonition.


Why does John say that this truth  of loving one another is being seen?  In verse 8 he tells us that “darkness is passing and the true light is shining”.  In context this means that the darkness of understanding was being replaced by the light of understanding in the Christian readers that John was writing to.


We have just seen John tell us that those who claim to know God yet don’t obey Jesus really don’t know Him and are liars.  Now he says in verse 9 that those who claim that they walk in the light and hate their brother, don’t walk in the light as they claim.  He goes on to say in verse 10 that if you love your brother, you live in the light. How important is this in our day in age of denominational back biting?


Jesus was all about love and justice and so should His followers be all about love and justice.  As Jesus is just so we should be just.  As Jesus was loving, so we should be loving.  The two go hand in hand.  John is speaking about the love here.  Like James, he is saying that if you love your brother, then we will all know you live in the light, because in fact you do. 


John is also speaking of justice in this passage.  The love he is speaking of isn't sloppy love.  It's based on justice.  You don't compromise the truth of the gospel in order to love.  Love has boundaries.  This means that you don't overlook sin in the attempt to love.  You confront the sin when you need to.  That is what John is actually doing here.  He is pointed out sin.  If he did not do that, he would not be loving as defined in Biblical terms.


There is, and has been a lot of dislike between brothers and sisters in Christ in the church.  For those who don’t love their brother in Jesus, John says they are living in darkness.  I'd suggest many people in the church today are living in darkness.


Cerinthus and his followers, or at least some of his followers, were most likely true believers at one time.  Yet they forsook sound teaching and took hold of heresy.  In taking hold of these heretical doctrines they separated  themselves from the church and began to despise those who were once their brothers in Jesus.  John claims that these people are not living in the light of the truth of the gospel.  They are living in darkness, no longer obeying the truth that brings light. 


In verse10 John says that those who really do love their brothers walk in the light of the truth.  They also don’t bring any occasion to cause their brother to stumble and fall away from the faith.  How many times have we seen brothers in Christ act in such a way that it causes a brother to fall away from Jesus.  This is a very bad sin.  That being said, if you confront a sin in a brother that needs to be confronted, and then he falls away, that is a different situation.  


In verse 11 John says that the person living in darkness who hates his brother has been blinded by the darkness.  Usually we think of light blinding a person, but in this context it is the darkness that causes the person not to see.  The darkness is so dark that the person is totally blind.  This blindness is both spiritual and doctrinal. This light of the truth of the gospel is nowhere to be found in these people.


John says here that those who walk in darkness due to not loving their brothers in Christ walk around not knowing where he is going.  This tells me that decisions these people make, both personal and church decisions, are probably wrong decisions.  They can't make the right decisions and choices because they are walking in darkness.  When it comes to the individual life, and the life of the church where leaders are walking in darkness, that means both the individual and the church are not in God's will.  I think many of our churches demonstrate that to be true.    


We need to be people who love our brothers and sisters in Jesus.  Again, this love is not sloppy love.  It is “agape love” – God’s love.  God’s love is built on a clear sense of justice.  We love, we are loyal, but our love and loyalty does not preclude the truth.  We stand on the side of truth, and sometimes the truth separates us.  The truth should be the thing that brings separation, and nothing else. Too often we bring the separation between us and others on ourselves by the sinful way we live.


In the next few verses John tells why and to whom he is writing to.  He directs his letter to, “little children, fathers, and young men”.  In fact he is directing this letter to everyone who has true trust in Jesus. 


In verse 12 he says he is writing because “your sins have been forgiven on the account of His name”.  Even though John is directing this phrase to “little children”, we know that all true believers have their sins forgiven. 


The verb tense in the Greek says that their sins were forgiven when they came to trust Jesus and are still in the process of being forgiven.  No sin has gotten unforgiven.


In verse 13 he writes to fathers because they “have known Him from the beginning”.  There might well have been a few old men and women around, like John himself, who actually was a part of the church since its inception, or maybe even had met Jesus Himself.


Also in verse 13 John writes to young men “because they have overcome the evil one”, meaning the devil.   It is young people who are considered to be strong and vibrant people.  They have physical strength to overcome many things that older people can’t overcome, but John is not speaking of physical strength here.  He is speaking of spiritual strength.  In the same way that these young people who are strong overcome physical obstacles in life, they’ve overcome spiritual temptation set in their way by satan, such temptation that is directed to the young.  For example, young people are tempted sexually in many ways.  John might have had this in mind. 


Also in verse 13 John writes to the children because they have known the Father.  Young children are depended upon knowing their fathers, and mothers as well.  This is imperative  to successful growth, and so in the spiritual sense.  Knowing God the Father through Jesus His Son is imperative  for spiritual growth.


In verse 14 John speaks to the fathers again, in the sense of knowing Him from the beginning.  Once again “from the beginning” is used by John.  The fathers have been around a long time, since the beginning.  They need to be reminded of all the things they’ve believed in over the years and not let them fall by the wayside.


Again in verse 14 John directs his words to the young people because they are strong, the Word of God lives in them and because they’ve overcome the devil.  As before, John mentions and compare  the strength of youth over the length of years, or wisdom of the fathers. 


It is interesting that John feels the need to point out these three classifications of people.  Each age group has their own strength and weaknesses, yet given the chance they  can work together in the church.  The young have the strength to do what the wisdom of the old would like to do but can’t.   Yet way too often there is a great gulf between the young and old in church life which only serves to slow down the pace of growth.  In our own human strength the separation between young and old is natural and will occur, but if the Holy Spirit is allowed to rule in the church, then this separation disappears.  Young and old can work together.  I have seen this to be true in my own personal experience. 


Do Not Love The World (ch. 2:15-17)


In verse 15 John tells his readers not to love the world.  If they do love the world the love of the Father is not in them.  The Greek word “agape” is the word translated for love in this verse.  “Agape” is often seen to be God’s type of love, which is correct, although somewhat simplistic. 


Why did John use “agape” and not “phileo”?   In my thinking John is saying that we should not give ourselves to the things of the world in the same way we give ourselves to the Father and to Jesus.  Giving ourselves to the world with “agape” love would be idolatry in my thinking. 


The simple fact to what John is saying here is that someone who claims to love God, but by their actions you see they really love the things of the world, don't love God.  So, to the degree you don't love the ways of the world is the degree to which you really love God.


In verse 16 John lists 3 worldly sins; the craving of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does.  These are three areas of sin that we often fall prey to.  Craving of sinfulness is basic to man.  Our basic instinct is to sin.  Lust of the eye is more than sexual lust.  It is lusting after material things and many other things.  Boasting of what we have, and what we do, is the pride of life as the KJV says.  It is not living a humble life but living in pride over our own accomplishments.  These things should not be found in the believer, but sad to say they are.  What John describes here is the decedent of our day, both in the world and in the church. We are consumed with consumerism today.  It is our god. 


I believe our churches are structured more after the world's way of doing things than God's way.  In this sense of the word, the church loves the world more than it should, and we reap the consequences.   


In verse 17 John tells us that the “world” and all these things will “pass away” but he that does the will of God will not pass away.  There’s more to life than worldly endeavors.  Following Jesus and doing what He wants is more important than any worldly activity because it leads to eternal treasures.   As Christians we should do all things in light of eternity.  Many things we spend time and effort on have little impact on eternity, and therefore should be rethought.            



Warning Against The Antichrist (ch. 2:18-27) 


In verse 18 John says, “dear children, this is the last hour…”  In the New Testament the words, “last hour, last times, or last days” has 2 meanings.  One is that  the last hour is the exact time right before the return of Jesus.  The other is the whole church age, or age of grace, from Pentecost to Jesus’ return.  So in what sense is John using it here?  Some say that John and Paul, as well as others, believed that Jesus would return very soon, that is in their life time. I’m not convinced that they did believe this, but I can certainly understand why people would think they did.


If they really did believe this, then they were obviously wrong.  Then If they taught that Jesus would come in their life time, then they obviously taught wrong.  If they taught wrong in this case, how could we fully trust them in other things they taught? 


We do know, at least from what is written that they did not date the return of Jesus.  They simply did not know and there is no hint of them suggesting a date, or even a proximity of a date. 


Thus, when John uses the term last hour, it is quite possible that he meant the time from Pentecost to the return of Christ, whenever that was, not just the few short years before Jesus’ return. 


One thing we need to note is that both John and Paul spoke more about end time events than what they wrote. So we don’t have total understanding of these things, or at least as much as the readers did back then.  Some may dispute this, but it is clear that Paul spoke more about these things than he did in writing as can be seen in 2 Thess. 2.  


To further this thought, John tells his readers that they have heard of the “Antichrist” who would come.  Who told them about this Antichrist?  Well, John certainly did.  Paul did.  Peter probably did too, among others.  The churches John was writing to were established by Paul for the most part 30 years earlier.  


John says that the Antichrist is coming.  This clearly means that he has not already come.  The Antichrist is associated with the last few years of the age of grace, just before Jesus comes back. Thus those who believe that there is a literal 7 year tribulation period and that it actually took place in and around 64 to 71 AD would have to suggest that the Antichrist had come at that point.  But when John writes this letter, at least 15 to 25 years later, he says the Antichrist had not yet come.  We should then conclude that the 7 year tribulation period has not yet come either, assuming one believes in a literal 7 year period, which I do believe in.


Until this time comes at the very end when the Antichrist will come, John says that there are many antichrists now.  These antichrists would be like Cerinthus, the false prophet.  They were growing in abundance and this abundance would culminate in the one superior Antichrist at the end of the age.


John then says, “this is how we know it is the last hour.”  So according to John, the more these smaller antichrists increase in number, the closer we get to the end.  I suggest that the anti-Christs that John is speaking about here aren't necessarily men who claim to be Christ, or the Messiah.  These men might claim that they come in the name of Christ and teach false doctrine, teach "another gospel" as Paul puts it.  In this sense of the word, there are many anti-Christs right now in the world.  There are more than ever.  I would go as far to say that the post-modern church as seen in the Emergent movement would be one example of anti-christ.   


In verse 19 John says that these antichrists “came out from us,” meaning, these men were once apart of us and now have left us.  If this is the case with the many antichrists, this may well be the case for the final Antichrist.  Thus we might be able to conclude that the Antichrist will be a religious leader.


I use the words “religious leader” and not Christian leader because John himself says that even though these antichrists came out from us, they weren’t really part of us.   As it now stands, and as Jesus Himself said, the wheat grow with the weeds. So not all that claim to be apart of the church are really Christian.  They may attend meetings, do good service but still not be a true member of the church of Jesus . 


John says that if these antichrists had really been a part of us they would not have left in the first place. This is a verse that some who believe in  predestination use in defense of their teaching.  That is, those who are really saved won’t leave the true church.  Those who do leave, weren't saved in the first place.  I believe there are sufficient Scriptures that prove this idea wrong.


In verse 20 John says that  the true Christian “has an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.“  The Holy One refers to Jesus.  The anointing refers to the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, or whenever the individual reader received the Holy Spirit. The word anointing is similar to the word baptism.  It is the way in which the Holy Spirit is given.  It is like the Holy Spirit is poured out from above onto and into the believer.  The way in which the Holy Spirit is given is  not the important thing.  The actual receiving of the Holy Spirit is the important issue.  Some have over emphasized how we receive the Spirit, when in fact they should emphasize the need to receive the Holy Spirit.  Receiving the Holy Spirit into our lives is more important than how we receive Him. In my thinking the doctrine of the Baptism in the Spirit over emphasizes the “how” and not the fact of the Holy Spirit Himself coming into our lives. 


To the person who has the Holy Spirit, they are those who know and understand the truth.  Cerinthus, and those like him don’t have the Holy Spirit and that is why they have gone so far astray from the truth.


In verse 21 John tells his readers that he is not writing because they don’t know the truth, but that they indeed do know the truth.  Thus to me, part of the reason for this letter is to expose the false teaching, not to teach on the correct teaching.  This also tells me how important it is to teach Biblical truth, something I feel the church is weak on these days.  John had already taught these people these things.  He is now reminding them what he already taught them.  In once sense of the word, he was teaching them again.


John says that the truth does not lie.  That’s an understatement.  Yet then in verse 22 he asks, “who is a liar”?  We’ve seen John use this word “liar” before. John’s answer is that the man “who denies that Jesus is the Christ,” meaning, the Messiah, God’s Son – this man is the liar.  Cerinthus was thus a liar because he did not believe in the Deity of Christ.  He did not believe that Jesus was God in flesh. This is the basic doctrine of Christian thinking.  If this is not true, then all else concerning what we believe cannot be true.  Our whole Christian theology is built on the fact that Jesus is God in human flesh.  In light of these strong words by John, you can look around you and see who is a liar in the eyes of God.


“Such a man is the antichrist,” John says.  So we know that all antichrists and the Antichrist himself does not believe in the Deity of Christ.  He, or they, are not true Christians and never were.  He, and they may well be a part of the church, but not apart of Jesus, and when Jesus meets them on judgment day, He will tell them that He never knew them, even though they did so much in His service.


In verse 23 John says that these antichrists deny the Father.  John has already said that they don’t believe in the Deity of Christ, so they’ve denied the Son.  Well Christian teaching teaches that Jesus is the Son of the Father, and if you deny Jesus, then by virtue of that denial, you also deny the true God, the Father of Jesus. It is only logical that if you deny the existence of a Son in relation to the Father, you’ve changed the definition of who the Father is.  


John then says that if we acknowledge the Son, we have the Father.  The issue here is the relationship between the Father and Son.  Christians believe that the God they serve is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This is not the same God that other religions claim to serve.  Therefore if we acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, then it is only logical to say that we acknowledge the Father.  So as we have Jesus, we also have the Father.


I believe that acknowledging the Father and the Son  is living a life that represents Jesus well, which includes giving more than lip service to our way of life.  We acknowledge to others that we are followers of Jesus by the way we speak and by the way we live. The Proverb says that if we acknowledge the Lord, He will direct our steps.  This is what acknowledge means.


The point to what John is saying in this passage is very important today.  Many, if not most, people and religious leaders, claim to believe in and acknowledge God.  This is the place where Christians are separated from others.  If people claim to believe in God, but do not believe that Jesus is God's son, that is, God in human flesh, then they do not believe in the God of the Bible.  They do not believe in the real God.      


In verse 24 John exhorts his readers to have what they’ve heard from the beginning remain in them.  If they do allow the Word to remain in them, they will remain in the Father and in the Son.  This sounds very  much like what Jesus told the disciples as John recorded  in John 15.  This also suggests to me that it is possible not to remain in what we’ve learned and therefore we depart from Father and Son as a result.  If we depart from God the Father and Jesus, I suggest we clearly lose our salvation.


In verse 25 John reminds his reader that Jesus has promised eternal life.  This eternal life with Jesus is only promised to the who accept who Jesus really is.


In verse 26 John gives another reason why he is writing as he is.  He’s writing so those who are trying to lead  them astray will fail in their attempt.  This would be Cerinthus and men like him. John is simply speaking the truth of the gospel as both a reminder to his readers and a witness to the false teachers.


John is being an apologist in his first letter here.  That means he is defending the true gospel of Jesus.  Thus we see the defense of the gospel as an important part of the Bible.  Paul also was one who defended the gospel.  If the Bible is actually a defense of the gospel of God and Jesus, then we should have no problem today defending the gospel and being apologists as well.  Many church leaders today do not believe in such a ministry today.    


In verse 27 John reminds his readers that the anointing they received remains in them.  That is to say, the Holy Spirit which the readers had received is still in them, and He, the Spirit, will teach them all things.   

Because of the Spirit within, John says that they don’t need anyone to teach them. 


Some Christians have taken this verse the wrong way and out of its context.  John is not saying that we should not listen to God given teachers.  If this was the case, he wouldn’t be writing this letter because it is a form of teaching.  We also know from other Scriptures that teachers in the Body of Christ is a gift of Christ as noted by Paul in Eph. 4:11.  In context John is saying that they don’t need men like Cerinthus teaching them.  They have the Holy Spirit within, and if they listen to the Spirit, then they will know that Cerinthus is in error. 


You see the importance of history in this verse.  Unless you know the historical setting of this letter it is easy to take this sentence out of context.  But we know from studying, that there were false teachers such as Cerinthus in the first century that distorted the gospel and the Holy Spirit should be allowed to speak to us from within and show us the error of false teachers.


In verse 27 John says that this anointing, the Spirit, is real, not counterfeit, as is Cerinthus.  We need to remain in this teaching and not depart from it.  What John is saying is that as individuals, we need the Holy Spirit, we need to listen to Him and be in tune with Him as we read and understand the Word of God.  We need to find our own convictions.  They need to be strong and based on sound doctrine.  We cannot depend solely on what other people say and believe.  It is my thinking that strong conviction in the teaching of Scripture is lacking in the church today.  We’ve given way to the world in the sense of “relativism”.  By this I mean we say to one another, “whatever you believe is fine, and whatever I believe is fine.  Our belief systems are not important anyway.  What is right to you is right for you and the same with me”.   This kind of thinking is not New Testament thinking.  You would not see Paul, Peter or John say such things.  And John is clear on this in his letter.


Next Section - Chapter 2:28 to end of 3

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