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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

1 John 2

Verses 1-6


1:1-2:17 LIVING IN THE LIGHT

Fellowship with God (1:1-2:6)

In the opening few words of his letter, John states clearly certain facts about Jesus Christ that are basic to Christianity. Jesus Christ is the eternal God and he became a real man whom John and his fellow apostles have seen, heard and touched (1:1-2). John’s joy will be complete if he knows that he and his readers share together in the eternal life that comes to them through Jesus Christ. This life unites them to one another as well as to the Father and the Son (3-4).
God is light, meaning that he is holy, true, pure and glorious. As darkness cannot exist with light, so sinful things can have no partnership with God (5). This means that although the life God gives believers is eternal, the fellowship that believers have with him can be broken because of sin. In three short sections John gives different advice to various people, to remind them of what is required if they are to have cleansing from sin and fellowship with God.
First, if people think they can sin as they please and still have fellowship with God, they are mistaken. But if they are careful to live righteously, they will enjoy unbroken fellowship with God and his people. God sees that they are living as he wants them to, and he graciously forgives those sins that they commit unknowingly (6-7).
Second, if people forget that they have a sinful nature and think that everything they do is right, they deceive themselves. But if, after honestly examining themselves, they become aware of their sins, they should confess those sins. God gives his assurance that he will forgive them and cleanse them (8-9).
Third, if people claim they never sin at all, they are really saying that God is a liar, because he has declared all people to be sinful. They must allow the light of God’s truth to shine into their hearts and show them what they really are (10).
John is not saying all this so that people might think that sinning is normal behaviour for Christians, as if it does not matter if they sin. On the contrary he wants them not to sin. But it is inevitable that they will sin sometimes, and he wants them to be assured that when that happens, cleansing is available because of the atoning blood of Christ. On the basis of his death, Christ can ask the Father to forgive the sinner (2:1-2).

Those who know God will obey his Word. These are the true Christians. Their obedience results in assurance of salvation, greater love for God, and lives that become increasingly like the life of Christ (3-6).

Verses 7-17


Christian love in the present world (2:7-17)

The commandment to love one another is old because it is found in the Old Testament and was quoted by Christ (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:43-44; John 13:34). It is new because it belongs to the new age of ‘light’ that began with Christ, in contrast to the present world’s age of ‘darkness’. The work of Christ has given love a new meaning (7-8). The love shown by Christ is the love that Christians must show to others. If love determines their behaviour, they live in God’s light. They see what they are doing and therefore they do right. If hate determines their behaviour, they live in darkness. They are spiritually blind and therefore they do wrong. If people claim to be Christians but hate others, they only deceive themselves (9-11).

John does not want any to doubt their salvation unnecessarily because of what he just said, so he quickly reminds them of the grounds for their assurance. New believers may not yet have learnt a lot, but at least they know that they have a Father in heaven who forgives them. Elderly believers have the assurance that comes through their many years of knowing God. Believers in the energetic years of their Christian lives grow in confidence and strength as they see the power of God at work in defeating Satan (12-14).
Christians must not allow themselves to become affected by the attitudes and behaviour of the unbelievers around them. The ordinary people of the world belong to the age of darkness and make their decisions according to what they want for themselves, whether concerning possessions, activities, achievements, or status. Christians belong to the new age of light, the eternal kingdom where God’s values rule and his will is done. They must make their judgments according to his standards, not the standards of the present ungodly world (15-17).

Verses 18-29


2:18-29 ENEMIES OF CHRIST

Those who claimed to have superior knowledge of Christian truth had left the church and tried to draw others away with them. By denying that Jesus Christ was at the same time fully divine and fully human, they denied a truth that was basic to the Christian faith. Far from being superior Christians, they were enemies of Christ. They showed that within them was the spirit of antichrist (18-19).
In contrast to these rebels, true believers are indwelt by the Spirit of God. This Spirit gives them added confidence that the teaching they originally accepted, which John is now repeating, is indeed the truth (20-21).
The Father and the Son are equally God and are inseparable. Therefore, if people reject Jesus as the Son of God, they also reject the Father. If they accept the Father, they must also accept the Son (22-23). People live in union with the Father through living in union with the Son, and the result of this union is eternal life (24-25).
As the indwelling Spirit confirms the truth of Christ to them, believers will learn to reject the teaching of the deceivers. They know what they have been taught by their teachers from the beginning. They do not need new (false) teachers to come and give them additional (false) teaching (26-27). As believers have a better understanding of God’s character, they will have greater confidence in him and a clearer knowledge of how his children should behave. If they act upon this knowledge, they will have no cause for shame when they meet Christ at his return (28-29).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 John 2". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/1-john-2.html. 2005.