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Sunday, June 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
1 John 2

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Verse 1

Some Tests Of Fellowship With God

The Sin Test

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:

My little children: In this phrase we see the tender feelings John has for his readers and the relationship he sustains to them as their spiritual parent. Two Greek words are used by John in his epistle, and both are translated "little children," teknia and paidia. The first word is used here and in 2:12, 28; 3:18; 4:4; 5:21. Jesus used it in John 13:33, and Paul used the term in Galatians 4:19. Vine says,

It is a term of affection by a teacher to his disciples under circumstances requiring a tender appeal, e.g., of Christ to the Twelve just before His death; the Apostle John used it in warning believers against spiritual dangers; Paul, because of the deadly errors of Judaism assailing the Galatian churches (187).

The second word, paidia, is found in verses 13 and 18, where John addresses "the youngest believers in the family of God" (Vine 188). Teknia is used by John to address all of his children in the gospel, regardless of their spiritual age. It is a fitting term, indeed, in this instance because he is about to give some fatherly advice, yea, apostolic commands to these beloved disciples of the Lord.

these things write I unto you: Although John writes with the authority of an apostle, he becomes very personal with his admonition as he changes from the apostolic "we" in chapter one to the personal, yet equally authoritative I. Another reason for writing is suggested. He had warned of the presence of sin in the lives of all Christians in chapter one. He now warns against the practice of sin as he continues the same train of thought in this chapter.

that ye sin not: Is this prohibition inconsistent with John’s declarations in chapter one, verses 8-10, in which he affirms that sin is a reality in the lives of Christian people? Certainly not! In those verses, John talks about an aberration in the life of a child of God. Sin happens in the life of one who walks "in the light," but it is not the usual direction of his life. John, in chapter two, heads off any idea that a Christian should just give in to sin since it is a fact of life. John did not want these Christians to say, "Since everyone is doing it, why refrain from sin? It is just a natural occurrence of life; so if it feels good, do it!" He says to his children in the faith, "Do not sin." A parent may send a child to school with the admonition, "Behave yourself," knowing full well that the child might misbehave. In like manner, John cautions his spiritual children that they should not sin while he knows they probably will. No parent would say to a child, "Misbehave a little," because of the probability of misbehavior; John does not say, "Sin a little," just because he knows of the sinful inclinations in his readers.

And if any man sin: Is this a contradiction of the command he has just given? John says, "Do not sin," and then immediately follows it with, "And if any man sin." It is not a contradiction but a statement of fact. He lets us know that it is wrong to sin yet allows for the fact that we probably will sin. If so, provision has been made for that eventuality. Some scholars say that it should read, "When you sin," instead of "If you sin."

we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: God in His infinite wisdom has provided a means by which our fellowship with Him can remain unbroken through Jesus, our "Advocate." "Advocate" comes from the same Greek word that is translated "Comforter" in John 14:16; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7. The word is parakletos and is one of the titles of the Holy Spirit. It literally means, "one who is called to another’s side to aid him." Jesus is one "Comforter," and the Holy Spirit is "another Comforter" (John 14:16). Coffman very aptly says, "In both cases, the Comforter is for the advantage and encouragement of the Christians, Christ with the Father, the Holy Spirit with the Christians" (368). The Christian has one Comforter Who sits at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3) and "another Comforter" Who indwells his heart (Galatians 4:6). "Advocate" in our text is, as Wuest says, "...in a forensic sense ’one who undertakes and champions your cause’ " (109). John pictures Jesus as our lawyer pleading our case, one who must "defend" us from sin. Sin is presented under various figures in the scriptures: as moral impurity that must be cleansed, as a debt that must be paid, and as a disease that must be cured.

Here John introduces sin under the figure of a crime that has been committed and for which a defender is needed. This "Advocate" is with, or, literally, facing the Father. When the Christian sins, he must face God with his sin in repentance and confession, yet he is not alone; Jesus faces God with the sinning child of God before the bar of justice. What a court scene we have here! The judge is our Father, the lawyer is our Brother, and our only plea is "guilty as charged." It would seem that the court is "stacked" in our favor, and it is. Our attorney advises that we plead guilty and throw ourselves on the mercy of the court. Verse 2 shows that our court-appointed attorney has already paid the fine as our "propitiation." On that basis God can be just in forgiving the sin. This passage proves that Jesus is not One Who did something for us in the past and then left us to our own resources; rather, He is constantly active on our behalf as our Advocate. Woods says,

The verb "have" here is, significantly, in the present tense (echomen), thus literally, "We keep on having" an ever-present remedy for the isolated acts of sin which, through weakness, ignorance, and inadvertence, we commit (222).

What comfort comes to the heart of the Christian when he realizes that his occasional sins do not interrupt his continuous communion with God! John identifies our Advocate as "Jesus Christ, the righteous," or, "the righteous One." Jesus is the only totally righteous One Who is qualified to plead our case before the throne of a holy God.

Verse 2

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

And he is the propitiation for our sins: John now gives the reason for Jesus’ ability to be our defense attorney before heaven’s bar of justice. "Propitiation" (hilasmos) speaks of that which appeases or renders one favorable. When Jesus died on the cross, He appeased the great wrath of God against sinful humanity, making it possible for man to be saved from the consequences of his sins, which angered the Heavenly Father. God hates sin (Hebrews 1:9), and He is angry with the sinner (Psalms 7:11); but Jesus appeased God’s wrath, causing Him to look favorably upon man who was prone to sin. Another definition of hilasmos is "satisfaction" (Wuest, I John 110). Jesus is our satisfaction for sin because His sacrifice satisfied the justice of God. In Old Testament times, the priest offered a sacrifice to atone for sins; but he was not himself the sacrifice. In this highly blessed age, Jesus is both the priest and the sacrifice for our sins; He is the propitiation, the sacrifice that restores a lost relationship. Because of sin, we once were estranged from God; but Jesus stepped in and offered the propitiating sacrifice, making possible the reconciliation of a sinful world to a holy God. Today, we continue to enjoy the effects of that sacrifice through the forgiveness of sins and an unbroken fellowship with God.

and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world: All mankind, from the beginning of time to the end of time, are beneficiaries of "the propitiation." Jesus’ sacrifice, which makes fellowship a continuous privilege for Christians, was offered for "the whole world." Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of every person who has ever lived or ever shall live. If those in the whole world today will accept Christ on His conditions of salvation, they also can enjoy this constant communion with the great God of the universe. The blood of Christ not only cleanses the occasional sins of the "little children" in the family of God but also can cleanse that massive mountain of sin in the world.

Verse 3

The Obedience Test

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

And hereby we do know that we know him: "Hereby" is en toutoi in the Greek, meaning, "in this." This expression is used several times in this epistle. Coffman says it is used to introduce certain "tests" by which the validity of various matters might be ascertained (370). The test introduced here has to do with the legitimacy of one’s knowledge of God. The Gnostics took great pride in their claim to elevated knowledge, which, they said, assured them of their relationship with God and their ultimate salvation. John declares that there is a test by which one can validate his "knowing" God. What does it mean to "know" God? Does it mean that we have certain information about God? The word "know" means much more than simple head knowledge.

Wuest comments: "We do know" is ginosko, ’to know by experience’ as contrasted to oida, ’absolute, immediate knowledge of a fact once for all" (112). Vine says that the word "frequently indicates a relation between the person knowing and the object known..." (298). Intimacy is also involved in this knowledge. This kind of relationship is what fellowship with God is all about. It is to know Him in a very intimate and experiential manner and to enjoy a very close relationship with Him. Intellectual awareness and academic understanding are definitely involved, but this knowledge goes far beyond these feats of the mind. To know the Lord intimately, one must both learn about Him and learn Him. It is a relationship that involves participation in thought and activity. The Gnostics claimed to have this knowledge, but did they really have this close, intimate relationship with the Lord? Their actions proved otherwise. John uses the expression, "we do know that we know him" eight times in this epistle, signifying the certainty we can have in Christ. "I know that I know God" is a strong statement. To know something is one thing, but to know that we know something expresses an assurance unsurpassed. Far too many Christians speak with doubt about their salvation or their relationship to God with such expressions as "I hope I am saved" or "I hope I get to go to heaven." Such is not the tenor of scripture. John says, "I know that I know," showing an assurance of his position before God. Hope is not desire alone; it consists of both desire and expectation. Christians should testify to their fellowship with God with a language of true hope. (Compare 2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:8; 2 Corinthians 5:1.)

if we keep his commandments: John puts their knowledge to the test with a big conditional if. One may claim a knowing and intimate relationship with the Lord, but can he meet the test? One positive test that John sets forth is obedience to the commandments of God. One who does not keep the commandments does not truly know the Lord. "Keep" is tereo and means "to attend to carefully, to guard, observe" (Wuest, I John 112). The word carries a very serious connotation, impressing us with the solemnity of obeying the Lord. Serving God is serious business. The Christian who really knows the Lord shrinks in reverential fear at the prospect of disobeying Him. "Keepeth" is also in the present tense in the Greek and speaks of continuous action in observing God’s rules for living. Wuest translates this phrase, "if we are continually having a solicitous, watchful care in keeping His precepts" (113).

"Commandments" is from entole, "an injunction, charge, precept" (Vine 210). An intimate knowledge of God, which involves a close relationship with Him, demands constant obedience to God’s word.

Verse 4

He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments: It seems to be John’s style of writing to offer the same thought both positively and negatively in order to lend double weight to his words. Positively, in verse 3, he asserts that one who truly knows the Lord continues in ceaseless observance of His precepts. Negatively, in verse 4, he approaches the same premise by declaring that the person who says "I know Him" and refuses to obey the Lord is a proven liar and manifestly ignorant of God’s truth. What an indictment of the proud Gnostics!

is a liar, and the truth is not in him: This direct statement is a grave charge. It does not mean that this person just lies: he is a liar. He is consciously a deliberate liar who habitually engages in falsehood. Further, "the truth," or God’s word (John 17:17), does not reside in him. His actions are not directed by the mandates of the word. Anyone who resists obedience to the commandments of God is indisputably presumptuous to say that he knows the Lord. He is a confirmed liar and devoid of God’s truth.

Verse 5

But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.

But whoso keepeth his word: This phrase is equivalent to "keep the commandments" in verse 3. To keep God’s word is to keep His commandments, for His commandments are in His word. Robert Taylor says, "The one who keeps the word in verse five is the same one who keeps the commandments in verse three. God’s commands are expressed in his words; his words are expressed in his commands" (19). "Whoso" means "whoever." "Keepeth" is in the present tense in the Greek and speaks of perpetual action. The person suggested here is one who continuously exercises solicitous care in obeying the word of God.

in him verily is the love of God perfected: Scholars have had some difficulty in deciding whether "the love of God" refers to man’s love for God or to God’s love for man. Vincent says it "may mean either the love which God shows, or the love of which God is the object, or the love which is characteristic of God whether manifested by Himself or by His obedient child through His Spirit" (327). This is another phrase that must be understood in context. It must mean our love for God in this passage because it is our obedience that shows the proof of our love. (Compare John 14:21; 2 Corinthians 8:24.) In chapter five, verse 3, John declares, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous." The true test of love for God is determined by our willingness to obey His will. Love is never passive; it is always active as it seeks to prove itself.

"Perfected" is teleioo and means "to bring to an end by completing or perfecting" (Vine 174). Moulton says it means "to be fully developed" (401). The goal of every Christian should be to show his love for God, and consistent obedience to God’s word proves that his love for God has come to full development. How can one truly sing with the spirit and the understanding, "O, how I love Jesus," and then show contempt for the word of God by failing to keep His commandments?

hereby know we that we are in him: The word "hereby" (or "in this") appears again as it does in verse 3. Here it introduces another test of validity. "We know" experientially "that we are in him." Again, I should emphasize this point: in these days when people seem to be so unsure of their relationship with God and the certainty of their salvation, the words of the apostle John ring down the corridors of time with great assurance and real hope. We can know that we are in Him. To be "in God" is equivalent to being "in Christ," for "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19). We enter Christ by obedience to His commandments (Acts 10:48; Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:3-4), and our relationship with God in Christ is maintained through continued observance of His commandments. The reoccurring theme of 1 John is fellowship with God. To be "in Christ" is to be in fellowship with God. This fellowship is continued only as long as we walk "in Him" in careful compliance with His will.

The Disciple Test

Verse 6

He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

He that saith he abideth in him: To abide in Him is to dwell in God or Christ continuously. John speaks of this concept of abiding in Christ in his parable of the vine (John 15:1-7). There Jesus impresses on His disciples the importance of abiding or remaining "in the vine" in order to stay alive and produce fruit. Wuest, in discussing the Greek word from which "abideth" comes, asserts, "To abide in the Lord Jesus therefore implies not only position, but relationship. It implies fellowship, friendship, dependence, harmony, communion" (116).

Once again, John speaks about our fellowship with God, a concept couched in the word "abideth." Vincent quotes Bengel: "Bengel notes the gradation in the three phrases to know Him, to be in Him, to abide in Him; knowledge, fellowship, constancy" (329). Actually, each of these three phrases suggest fellowship with God.

ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked: "Ought" is opheilo and implies a debt (Vine 148). If one professes that he lives in fellowship with the Lord, he is duty-bound to live as Jesus lived. He owes it to the Lord to imitate His example. "To walk" is to order one’s behavior or to conduct one’s life. The little word "so" is kathos and means "according as, just as, even as" (117).

We must conduct our lives just as Jesus conducted His life, for in Jesus Christ we have the perfect example (1 Peter 2:21). Our relationship with God obligates us to follow that example with as much exactness as possible. One question every Christian should ask before he says a word, does a deed, enters into a new relationship, engages in a new work, or does anything that affects his life is "What would Jesus do?" What changes would be wrought in our lives if we allowed this question to be the prevailing principle. To abide in the Lord implies a true friendship, as Wuest suggests above. It is an accepted fact that friendship tailors a person’s life. We tend to become like our friends. The more we walk with Christ in daily friendship the more like Him we become.

Verse 7

The New-Old Commandment

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you but an old commandment: Other translations, based on other manuscripts, have "beloved," agapetoi, rather than "brethren," adelphoi. John is writing to his beloved and cherished brethren in Christ. There are two words in the Greek that are translated "new": neos, new in point of time, and kainos, new as pertains to quality (Wuest, I John 118). The word is kainos here, suggesting the commandment or precept John is writing is not new in quality nor is it a rare and unusual thing to them. Rather, it is "an old commandment." It has been around for a long time. John had just instructed them to walk as Jesus walked, a walk totally motivated by love. The new-old commandment deals with love, a fact he confirms in verses 9-11.

which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning: "The beginning" speaks of the beginning of their Christian experience. The commandment to love was nothing new to them because they had known it since they had first obeyed the gospel. Notice that John equates this commandment with the word they had heard. Nothing has changed, John says. The teaching he provides here is in accordance with the original doctrine that was preached when they first came to know the Lord.

Verse 8

Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.

Again, a new commandment I write unto you: The paradoxical language of the apostle is somewhat puzzling. It is not a new commandment, yet it is new. How do we account for the paradox? John begins this verse with "again," meaning in another sense or from another point of view. From one point of view, it is not new; yet, in another sense, it is new. There is a natural connection between this statement and the words of our Lord in John 13:34 where He says, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." The word "new" here is kainos, as in 1 John 2:7; it is not new in time but in quality. It is evident that the newness in the quality of this love is expressed in the little word "as." Old Testament people were commanded to love their neighbors (Leviticus 19:18), but Jesus introduced a quality of love unknown by former generations, a love for the unloving and unlovable. Jesus loved others more than Himself (This great sacrificial love that is self-denying is exemplified beautifully at Calvary.). Under the law, it was "Love your neighbor as yourself"; under Jesus, it is "Love your neighbor beyond yourself." (Compare Philippians 4:1-5.) This is the newness of the commandment: a newness in quality and extent. Taylor is right when he says,

It is old from the standpoint that it had long been taught. It becomes new with every fresh application we make of it. This marks the majesty and plumbs the depths of love. The Mosaic Economy demanded love for neighbor (Deuteronomy 10:19; Leviticus 19:18; Micah 6:8). But a new dimension is added by the Christ when he gave them the new commandment...(19).

Our Lord introduces a whole new meaning to love, and John says that it was preached "from the beginning." Vincent offers another explanation of the old-new commandment, one which may vary somewhat from the above but is still consistent with it:

The commandment of love is both old and new. Old, because John’s readers have had it from the beginning of their Christian experience. New, because in the unfolding of Christian experience, it has developed new power, meaning, and obligation, and closer correspondence "with the facts of Christ’s life, with the crowning mystery of His passion, and with the facts of the Christian life" (330-331).

which thing is true in him and in you: "Which thing" refers to the abstract truth or fact that the old commandment is new in quality and meaning. "True" is from alethes, meaning "primarily, unconcealed, manifest...actual, true to fact" (Vine 158). This fact of a new quality of love becomes real in Christ and in the Christian readers. Alford renders it "...this is true both in (the case of) Him (Christ) and in (the case of) you" (438). The reality of this love was manifested in Jesus and continues to be expressed in the lives of all who imitate His example.

because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth: In chapter one, "darkness" is a symbol for impurity or sin, and "light" denotes purity or holiness. In this section, darkness and light take on another meaning. It is the darkness of hate and the light of love. "Past" and "shineth" are in the present tense, indicating that the darkness is passing and the light is shining. John is not saying that the darkness of hate has completely passed; but in the lives of these Christian people, it is passing as the light of true love continues to shine through their lives. John has just said that this love-commandment is "true in you." It is true because darkness is giving way to light and hate is giving way to love. The "true light" is now shining. "True" is alethinos and means genuine. Love is made real in the lives of Christian people as the light of genuine love shines forth in their lives.

Verse 9

The Love Test

He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.

John now builds on the principle of light and darkness as symbols of love and hate. To be "in the light" is to live in fellowship with God. "God is light" (1 John 1:5); therefore, to be in the light is to be where God is. John says if anyone claims that he is "in the light" or living in fellowship with God while hating his brother, he deceives himself; consequently, he is in fact living in darkness and out of fellowship with God. There actually are only two areas of existence: darkness and light. If being in the light is equivalent to fellowship with God, then being in darkness is to be in fellowship with God’s adversary, the devil. Our attitude toward our fellowman determines the status of our fellowship. God says, "Love me, love my children." The man who walks with God will love God’s people. We cannot claim to be God’s friends while despising those who are closest to Him. While the darkness of hate may be passing away, John says that the Christian who hates other Christians is still in darkness "even unto now" or at this present time. That darkness has not passed for him. John impresses us with the truth that our attitude toward our brothers and sisters in Christ is crucial in determining our relationship to God.

Verse 10

He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.

He that loveth his brother abideth in the light: John makes another contrast to re-emphasize the necessity of love in the Christian’s life. "Loveth" is agapao, which is a love that has its basis in preciousness, "a love called out of one’s heart by the preciousness of the object loved...a love of approbation, of esteem" (Wuest, I John 126). This is the love to which Jesus gave special meaning. It is not a love requiring a desirable object but one that is awakened by a value set by the one loving. It is a self-sacrificing, self-denying, self-forgetting love that was demonstrated by God and Jesus toward a rebellious world (John 3:16; Romans 5:6-10). It is a love that makes it possible for us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). This is distinctively the love of a Christian, produced through the help and aid of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22; Romans 5:5). The one who exhibits this love toward his brethren in Christ is the one who truly "abideth in the light" or who makes fellowship with God his permanent place of residence. Fellowship with God requires love for fellow Christians. We are walking either in darkness or in light; there is no in-between. One test of our position is our attitude toward one another.

and there is none occasion of stumbling in him: "Occasion of stumbling" is skandalon and literally means "the moveable stick or trigger of a trap; a trap or snare; any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall; a stumbling-block" (Wuest, I John 121).

Many differ over whether the stumbling-block is in the way of the one loving or the one loved. The Bible definitely teaches that a Christian is not to put a stumbling block in his brother’s way (Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:9); however, a strong case can be made that in this passage it must refer to one who is walking in the light of love. The fact that he has a settled love dwelling in his heart and apparent in his life makes him less liable to fall into a trap that might result in his spiritual downfall. A lack of love leaves one open to malice, envy, hatred, revenge, pride, intolerance, and other sins of the heart that are snares of the devil, ready to spring to his undoing. He literally "sets a trap" for himself. While love will never put a stumbling block in another’s way to cause him to fall, it also prevents the one who loves from falling into many temptations.

Verse 11

But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

This passage lends credence to the explanation given above concerning "none occasion of stumbling." Why does one fall victim to the traps and snares of a loveless life? It is because he is "in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth." These three phrases describe the plight of the person who hates his Christian brother. First, he is "in darkness." This state is the opposite of being "in the light" or in fellowship with God. He lives apart from that fellowship. Second, he "walks" or orders his life "in darkness." He lives his life away from a holy relationship with God. Third, he "knoweth not whither he goeth." He is lost and is unable to find his way in life. What a price one pays for a lack of love! In considering these three things, Vincent says, "The condition of him who hates is viewed as related to being, action, and tendency." His state of being is "in darkness," his actions are performed "in darkness," and the general tendency of his life is to wander aimlessly. The cause of his plight is explained in the words "because that darkness hath blinded his eyes." Wuest observes, "The penalty of living in the darkness is not merely that one does not see, but that one goes blind. The neglected faculty is atrophied" (122). The handicap is twofold; the darkness of hate blinds, and the blindness keeps one in the dark. The Christian who hates his brother blindly gropes through life mistakenly thinking that he is right with God, not knowing that his fellowship with God has been severed.

Verse 12

I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.

I write unto you, little children: "I write" is from grapho, present tense, meaning "I am writing." John is giving more reasons for his writing to these Christians. He calls this class of readers "little children." This is the same word used in verse 1 where he addresses all Christians as children, his children in the gospel. In this verse, the word is used in contrast with fathers and young men and must be understood in that light. Why does he use teknia here and paidia in verse 13? The first word simply speaks of childhood while the second word denotes infancy. The only logical explanation is that John is emphasizing the tender spiritual ages of certain members of the family of God. They are newborn babes in Christ at varying stages of Christian development. For all practical purposes, he is writing to the same group of people.

because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake: "Are forgiven" is apheontai, meaning "to send from one’s self, to send away, to bid go away or depart" (Wuest, I John 122). The word is in the perfect tense, pointing to past action with existing results. He says in effect, "You have been, and stand now, forgiven of all past sins." God sent their sins away, never to return. Why? "For his name’s sake." They stand forgiven on the basis of the name of Christ, their Advocate. The name of Christ stands for everything He is. Through Him we come to God (John 14:6). His name is the basis of man’s salvation. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). These newly born Christians have the assurance that they stand upon a plane of justification before God with all their sins forgiven.

Verses 12-14

Three Classes of Christians

I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.

This section has caused some distress to interpreters. To give all the explanations of scholars would require more space than we are willing to allow. In my view, however, Guy N. Woods has the most reasonable exposition of these passages. Please read his detailed explanation (Woods 232-235). One’s exegesis of any passage often depends on his approach, a situation that is true here. After some study of various approaches, it seems logical to conclude that John is addressing three classes of people: (1) New Christians, under the heading, "children," (2) Older, mature Christians of long standing, as "fathers," and (3) Young, yet mature, Christians, as "young men." John pauses in his discussion of purity and impurity, love and hate, darkness and light, to encourage his readers concerning his view of their position before God. While he is writing to oppose the doctrines of the Cerinthian Gnostics and warn his brethren, he does not want his Christian readers to think that he holds them in contempt. Rather he honors them with the following statements using children, fathers, and young men to include all of them. We will try to answer the questions that have arisen in trying to understand these passages as we examine each passage.

Verse 13

I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.

I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning: Or, I am writing unto you, fathers, for this reason. "Fathers" suggests another class of Christians to whom John writes. Is "fathers" to be understood literally? Then what about the mothers, and others in that class? John uses this one word to stand for a whole class of older Christians who had been in the church for many years. They are the spiritual adults in the congregation who have progressed to the highest spiritual level. Woods says, "The word ’know,’ as here used, means far more than casual acquaintance. The verb is in the perfect tense (egnokate)--"You came to know, and now know"--and describes the rich and full experience which these fathers had with the Lord" (236). As above, this is experiential knowledge that grows deeper and deeper as the Christian matures. All Christians know the Lord, but that knowledge ripens with the years. These older Christians, like the apostle Paul, knew the Lord and were growing in that knowledge (Philippians 4:8-10). The One "that is from the beginning" is the "Word of Life" that was "made flesh" (John 1:1; John 1:14; 1 John 1:1).

I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one: "Young men" represents that group of strong Christians who have attained greater maturity than the babes in Christ yet less maturity than the "fathers." This group is the in-between group, mature but not the most mature. John states that he is writing unto this group "because ye have overcome the wicked one." John certainly did not look on the devil as some kind of abstract force of evil in the world; he saw him as an evil personality, and he is so depicted throughout the word of God. He is "the accuser of our brethren" (Revelation 12:10), "a liar" (John 8:44), "the prince of this world" (John 12:31), and our "adversary" (1 Peter 5:8). Several other titles describe the evil character of this very real entity. Here he is called "the wicked one." Wuest says there are two words for the idea of wickedness:

kakos, "evil in the abstract," and poneros, "evil in active opposition to the good." The kakos man is content to perish in his own corruption. The poneros man seeks to drag everyone else down with him into his ultimate downfall. Satan is of the latter character, pernicious (124).

These young strong Christians had won the battle over this vicious, malicious, and pernicious person who is dedicated to the destruction of everyone in his path; and now they are enjoying the sweet sense of victory that is possible only in Christ.

I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father: In this instance, "I write" is in the aorist tense and should be translated "I wrote" or "I have written" as it is in verse 14. Why does John change the tense of the verb "write" in this phrase and in the next verse? Some think this phrase and verse 14 refer to John’s writings in his gospel. This is not a feasible explanation since John continues to address the same three classes of Christians. The correct solution to the question is offered by Woods, Wuest, Vincent, and others who suggest that John is using the epistolary aorist here, a tense in which the writer looks at his writing from the viewpoint of the reader when he receives the writing, as a thing done in the past. Vincent says, "The present, I write, refers to the immediate act of writing: the aorist is the epistolary aorist, by which the writer places himself at the reader’s standpoint, regarding the writing as past" (334).

As John writes, he is viewing his work from the perspective of the reader. The "little children" are the same newborn Christians addressed above. He says, "I have written" for this reason, "because ye have known the Father." All Christians, young and old, mature and immature, must know God in this very intimate fashion. These new Christians have come to enjoy the same relationship with the Father as those who are older, but it is a relationship that will grow deeper and sweeter with the years.

Verse 14

I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.

John offers the same encouragement to these older Christians who possess the depth and stability of a rich and long experience with the Lord. He says, "You have had a very deep and abiding knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who has been in existence from all eternity." They have experienced what the Gnostics only claimed to have. John expands on what he has previously said to the "young men," who represent those who are more developed than the newly born ones and who have fought the battles and won. The description of these young disciples is threefold: they are strong, the word of God abides in them, and they have beaten the devil. Strength comes from several sources in the Christian’s life. One source is mentioned here, "the word of God abideth in you." "Abideth" is menei, "to dwell in as a home" (Wuest, I John 125). Paul instructs, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly..." (Colossians 3:16). The indwelling word aids the child of God in refraining from sin (Psalms 119:11). The word is called the "sword of the Spirit," which the Christian uses in waging his warfare with the "wicked one" (Ephesians 6:17). In addition to the word of God, the Christian has strength that comes through the indwelling Spirit of God (Ephesians 3:16). There is strength in prayer (James 5:16). There is strength that comes through fellowship with others of common purpose and kindred faith.

The strength that the Christian has comes as a result of the great power available to him: the power of the word (Romans 1:16; Hebrews 4:12), the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13), the power of prayer (James 5:16), and the power of providence (Romans 8:28). When one avails himself of this power, there is a strength that comes, making it possible to achieve a decisive victory over the wicked one. Wuest says that ancient kings would stand on the necks of those they conquered as a true sign of victory. For this reason, in his translation of this phrase, he pictures the young, vibrant, victorious Christian as "standing on (Satan’s) neck" (124). O’ victory in Jesus!

Verse 15

Love Not The World

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Love not the world: "Love" is agapao, the same kind of love one is to have for God and his brethren. This love of preciousness is not to be lost on the world. One’s sense of values enters the picture as John, in essence, urges, "Do not place an excessive value on the world and worldly things." The kind of love John encourages is a love of the will that requires a purposeful choice on the part of the one loving. John exhorts his beloved brethren to make a wise choice in the things they highly prize. "Love" is present imperative in the Greek, thus suggesting a continuous course of action. To love the world is to pursue a daily course of worldliness in life. "World" is kosmos, which means an ordered system. It is used to refer to the universe (John 1:10), the earth (John 21:25), the human race (John 3:16), life on this earth (1 John 3:17; 1 John 4:17), or simply an ordered system separate from God. "World" is used in the latter sense here. The world-system that is not to be loved by the Christian is a system that is anti-God and anti-godliness. The world here is not to be understood to refer to the material earth and all of its wonder nor to the people of the world but to a secular system of pursuits, practices, pleasures, and places where God is not welcome nor reverenced. In fact, Satan is the leader of this world (John 12:31). Barclay says that kosmos here means "a world apart from God." (66). So, the "world" is an evil system at enmity with God.

neither the things that are in the world: John forbids a course of action for the Christian that sets a high value on the evil world-system in general or on any part of that system specifically. One might reject the world in general but reserve some secret vice or favorite sin. The love of money was the one reservation in the heart of the rich young ruler that robbed him of his relationship with Jesus (Luke 18:18-30). In general, his life was exemplary; notwithstanding, "the things that are in the world" caused him to abort his quest for eternal life. Every wrong linked with the world must be broken in order for our love for the Father to remain pure and untainted.

If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him: Just as sin and God cannot coexist, love of the world and love for God are mutually exclusive. If the world is supreme in one’s mind, he has no room for the love of God. There are two loves that stand at variance with one another: the love of God versus the love of the world. The Christian must choose which he will make sovereign in his life. James warns, "...the friendship of the world is enmity with God... whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4).

Every Christian must make a choice between the love for God and the love of the world. Vincent says the phrase "is not in him" means "more than that he does not love God: rather that the love of God does not dwell in him as the ruling principle of his life" (335). In far too many lives, the ruling principle is love for the things of the world, and God is crowded out. The secret to successful Christian living lies in making the love of God our rule of life.

Verse 16

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

For all that is in the world: John has instructed us not to love the world nor its things. He now delineates what these things are. "All," or everything, that is "in the world" is enumerated. Vincent says, "Not all things severally, but all that is in the world collectively, regarded as a unit" (335). The following three phrases head up all of the essential marks of the worldly life. The prevailing attitudes of the world are clearly expressed in these three propensities.

the lust of the flesh: "Lust" is epithumia, "a craving, a passionate desire" (Wuest, I John 127). It means to have one’s heart set upon something, whether good or bad. Here it suggests evil cravings. "Flesh" does not refer merely to the body of flesh but rather to the lower nature of man that tends to live purely on a human plane. It has to do with the animal nature of man that seems to be the seat of sin (Galatians 5:16-24; 2 Peter 2:18; Ephesians 2:3). Vincent defines this word: "Sensual appetite. The desire which resides in the flesh, not the desire for the flesh" (336). "The lust of the flesh" is simply the pampering of the appetites or the satisfying of animal propensities (Thayer 570). The evil cravings of the flesh lead one to engage in the "works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19-21).

and the lust of the eyes: A very sobering comment is made by Vincent on this phrase: "The desire of the eyes does not involve appropriation. It is satisfied with contemplating. It represents a higher type of desire than the desire of the flesh, in that it seeks mental pleasure where the other seeks physical gratification" (336). Jesus alluded to this very point when he cautioned, "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). Peter speaks of those who have "eyes full of adultery" (2 Peter 2:14). In these days, when people are so caught up in pornographic movies and literature, we should alerted to the fact that these materials appeal to the evil cravings of the eyes. To find mental pleasure in such filth destroys purity of heart and deprives one of fellowship with God. It was the lust of the eyes that contributed to the downfall of Eve in Eden’s Garden (Genesis 3:6), to Achan among the spoils of gold and silver (Joshua 7:21), and to David on a housetop, lustfully looking at a bathing beauty (2 Samuel 11:2). The eyes are the "windows of the soul" that can be used to fill the soul either with beauty and grace or with evil cravings for forbidden pleasures.

and the pride of life: Vincent says, "It means, originally, empty, braggart talk or display; swagger; and thence an insolent and vain assurance in one’s own resources, or in the stability of earthly things, which issues in a contempt of divine laws. The vainglory of life is the vainglory which belongs to the present life" (336). Lenski says that it is "that hollow arrogance which presumes that it can decide and direct the course of life without God, determine what it will do, gain, achieve, enjoy" (426). The person who is controlled by the pride, or vainglory, of life is the egotistical fellow so touted in today’s world for his tremendous achievements in life. He places his trust in external circumstances, whether real or imagined, and glories in his possessions, position, and power. His most often used word is "I," and he stands ready to tell what "I" can accomplish. Whatever he does is the biggest, greatest, and finest possible. The pride of life is a sinister weakness that creeps up on an individual unsuspectingly sometimes and renders him ineffectual in life and Christian service. Paul warns of being "lifted up with pride" and falling "into the condemnation of the devil" (1 Timothy 3:6). For instance, a person’s education, which is a worthy achievement, can cause him to esteem himself more highly than he ought, adversely affecting his relationship with others and destroying his fellowship with God. The same could be said about any of our advantages, talents, positions in the community, wealth, professions, or privileges we highly prize in this life. God forbid that our blessings should become the occasion of empty pride, driving us away from God and disgusting our fellow man.

is not of the Father, but is of the world: This "trinity of evil," which plagued Adam and Eve in the twilight of time (Genesis 3:6) and challenged Jesus shortly after His baptism (Matthew 4:1-11), has its roots in this evil system of things. It does not proceed from the Father in any form or fashion. The little word, "of" is ek, meaning "out of," expressing source. God is not the source of evil desires or vainglory; they spring from "the world." As Lenski says, "The Father is the source of light, life, blessing, holiness, salvation; the world is the source of sin, lust, ruin, death" (427).

Verse 17

And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

And the world passeth away: This evil system of things has no future. With all its pursuits and purposes, which have claimed the adoration of billions, it is only temporary in nature. "Passeth" is in the present middle indicative tense and should be translated "is passing away." This world system, which rebels against the Creator of all mankind, is continually in the process of disintegration. Disappointment and dismay are inscribed on the plans of all those who "love the world."

and the lust thereof: Have you ever noticed that as you grow older the desires for worldly things grow less and less? The world is passing, and the cravings for it are fading.

but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever: The alternative is so appealing. If one places all of his confidence in this world, he aspires for the transient, the ephemeral, the passing; but if he continues in obedience to the will of God, he aspires for the lasting, the infinite, the eternal. "Doeth" is present tense and speaks of the continuous doing of God’s "will" or doing what God wants. Instead of being directed in life by the desires of the flesh, the Christian is motivated by the desires of God. The consequent blessing is to "abide for ever" or to enjoy everlasting life with the Lord and all the redeemed. The pleasures of sin are "for a season" (Hebrews 11:25), whereas obedience to God’s will brings eternal joy.

Verse 18

The Antichrist

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

Little children, it is the last time: "Little children" is used again to speak of all of John’s Christian readers. In this greeting, he repeats the close attachment he feels for them. "Time" is hora, which primarily denotes "any time or period, especially a season...(b) a period more or less extended..." (Vine 235). It refers, therefore, to a fixed date or period. How does John use it elsewhere? Examples are in John 4:21; John 4:23; John 5:25; John 16:2; John 16:4; John 16:25; John 16:32. In all of these passages, "time" or "hour" (hora) is used to designate a time of unusual importance that typically involves great change. The article "the" is not in the Greek; and thus it should be translated, "It is last hour." In other words, John is saying, "This is a last-hour situation."

John notes many such situations that involve great change. This is one. Some say this reference is to the last dispensation in God’s dealings with man, equivalent to "the last days" found in other passages. This explanation might be so, but it seems more reasonable to equate "this" with a definite period that was promised when certain things would occur--that is, the coming of "antichrist." There are those who teach that the "last hour" refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the Jewish state. This position assumes that John wrote before A.D. 70, of which there is much uncertainty. We cannot prove when he wrote with any certainty. After some study, it seems that the obvious definition of the "last hour" is found in this verse itself: the "last hour" is the hour when antichrist arrives. John says, "This is it, the time when antichrist comes." Too often we stray far from a passage to arrive at interpretations foreign to the simple truth of the context.

and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists: These Christians had heard that "antichrist" is coming. They now know that it is the "last hour" because that prophecy has been fulfilled. Who is "antichrist?" Many varying answers have been given by Bible students in every age since John wrote these words. People have called evil men of every generation the "antichrist," and some are still looking for such a person to appear on the scene. Much of this speculation has come as the result of a failure to consider the context. John tells who antichrist is and gives some graphic descriptions of him. Verse 18 indicates that antichrist is already present, just as these readers had "heard." He states that "even now are there many antichrists." Notice John’s description of "antichrist" in verse 22: "Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son." John identifies him as the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ and, in doing so, denies the Father, also. In verse 26, he continues with his identification of antichrist by saying, "These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you." "Antichrist" is "them," or people, who "seduce" and lead people astray with the false doctrine that Jesus is not the Messiah. MacKnight observes: "When the apostle mentions these false teachers collectively, he calls them the antichrist, in the singular number...but when John speaks of these teachers as individuals, he calls them many antichrists in the plural number" (658). John further identifies "antichrist" in chapter four, verses 1-3:

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

Here he calls antichrist "spirits" and "false prophets" who deny that "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh." As John writes, the spirit of antichrist, which characterized these false teachers, is "even now already...in the world." In 2 John 1:7, John confirms who "antichrist" is: "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." From all of the above, it seems reasonable to conclude that "antichrist" is a Cerinthian Gnostic who denies that Jesus has come in the flesh. "Antichrist" simply stands for all these deceivers and false prophets who were leading people away from the truth that Jesus was "God manifest in the flesh." The words of Barclay might be fitting here:

But the fact is that antichrist is not so much a person as a principle, the principle which is hostile to, and actively opposed to, God, a principle which may well be thought of as incarnating itself in men who in every generation have seemed to be the open and blatant and wicked opponents of God (75).

He further states, "When we read what he says, we can see that he did not think of antichrist as one single individual figure. He rather thought of antichrist as a power of falsehood speaking in and through the false teachers" (76). Some equate "antichrist" with the "false Christs" of Matthew 24:24, but these are pseudo-Christs and not necessarily anti-Christs. They are pretending substitutes rather than adversaries. Others believe that the "man of sin" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 is the antichrist, but the features of antichrist that John details are not present in that context. The "man of sin" sets himself up "as God...in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." This reference is unlike the antichrist who overtly denies the incarnation of Christ.

whereby we know that it is the last time: John says that it has been predicted that antichrist will come at the "last time" or "last hour." The fact that false prophets have come and are denying that Christ has come in the flesh is proof positive that the time has arrived. He says, "The antichrist is here!"

Verse 19

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

They went out from us, but they were not of us: The two prepositions "from" and "of" are significant here. John is saying that these antichrists, or false prophets, separated themselves from the true believers, but they were not "of," ek, "out of," us in the first place. Wuest says that "from" is "ablative of separation" while "of" is ablative of source. In other words, these people might have been in the company of the true Christians at one time, but they were not really part of the people of God. They did not have their source among God’s people. Why were they not "of" God’s family? They did not belong to the body of Christ because they denied the basic doctrine of Christ: they denied that Jesus was the Son of God or God in human flesh. They could not enter the church without confessing Jesus as the Son of God (Matthew 10:32-32; Romans 10:9-10; Acts 8:37).

for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: Sometimes this statement is used to prove the impossibility of apostasy, or "once saved, always saved." Those who believe this doctrine say that once a person is saved he is eternally saved; and if he does prove himself to be lost, he was not saved in the first place. The circumstances are quite different here from the case of one who comes to Christ, believing in Him as the Son of God and obeying His word. In this situation, these people denied the very truths that made it possible for them to become Christians. Whatever steps they took did not make them Christians. If they had been "of us," they would have believed the basic truth that Christ came in the flesh to save man; and they would have remained faithful to Christ. Their belief that Jesus was just a man, and not divine, drove them from those who promoted this truth with vigor.

but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us: These false teachers separated themselves from the faithful ones that it might be clearly seen that they really did not belong to Christ. "Not all of us" literally means, "None of them had their source in us." Had they remained among the disciples, they would have communicated a false impression of Christianity to the world. It was good for the church there and those whom the church influences that these Christ-opposers had gone.

Verse 20

But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.

"But ye" introduces a contrast between the false teachers, who were teaching the errors of Gnosticism, and John’s Christian readers. "They," the antichrists, are denying Christ, "but ye have an unction (anointing)...and ye know all things." "Unction" is chrisma and is translated "anointing" by most translators. Woods says that it signifies "an oil or ointment rubbed on the skin, and later, the anointing itself" (245). Lenski says it is "a term expressing result...(it) is not the act of anointing but the anointment received by such an act" (435). It is interesting to note the significance of the words in this context. As Woods says, "If the false teachers were anti-christoi, these to whom John wrote were christoi, anointed ones" (245). Christ, who is The Anointed One, had bestowed an anointment upon these Christians that would guide them in their opposition to the anti-Anointed ones. "The holy one" is, doubtless, Jesus Christ (Acts 3:14; Acts 4:27; Acts 4:30; Revelation 3:7).

In the Old Testament, kings and priests were anointed with oil when they were installed into their offices. The anointing with oil was used for medicinal purposes in healing (Luke 10:34; James 5:16). Jesus anointed a blind man’s eyes with spital when he healed him (John 9:6). Jesus was "anointed" with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38). Christians are "anointed" by God (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). Some suggest that the "anointing" mentioned by John has to be the anointing of the Holy Spirit because of the association of the Holy Spirit in anointing. Some say that it refers to the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit given to Christians during the first century. This position is untenable because John says that this anointing makes it possible for these Christians to "know all things," and only "some" of the early Christians received the spiritual gifts that had to do with knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:4-10; 1 Corinthians 12:28). Others say that the anointing indicates those who received the "gift of the Holy Spirit," which is common to all Christians. Again, this anointing would give every Christian a hotline to revelation. To refer the anointing to the reception of the Holy Spirit, either miraculously or otherwise, seems contrary to the teaching of God’s word.

The answer to our query, "What is the unction, or anointing?" is expressed in the context. Consider the following: (1) Everyone had received the anointing (Verse 20). It was not just for a select few, as in the case of the special gift of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 1 Corinthians 12:28). (2) This anointing gives knowledge. John says, "And ye know all things." Other versions say, "You all know." (3) Look at verse 24: "Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father." What is to abide in these Christians? John says, "that which ye have heard," that is, the message which had been preached from the beginning of their Christian experience.

Now consider verse 27 to find out what abides in these Christians: "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." It is the "anointing" that abides in these Christians that enables them to know. The message of verse 24 is the anointing of verse 27. As Barclay says, "Verses 24 and 27 are almost exactly parallel in expression...That which you have received from the beginning and the anointing are exactly parallel" (83). The word of God, which they had heard, is the "unction from the holy One." (4) The anointing so instructs these Christians that "ye need not that any man teach you." This teaching accords with Hebrews 8:11 where the writer declares that we who live under the new covenant have no need for someone to say, "Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest." Why? Because God said, "I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts." This knowledge comes from the "anointment," the word of God. (5) Further, John says, "the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you...." The anointing cannot refer to the Holy Spirit as the teacher, for He (John 16:13) is not an it. (Compare 2 Timothy 3:17.)

The Gnostics claimed to have an "anointing." Gerald Paden says: "In a document cited by Hippolytus as representing a Gnostic sect known as Naassenes, we read: We alone of all men are Christians who complete the mystery at the third portal and are anointed there with speechless chrism. (Philosophuma, vol. 9, pp. 121-122)" (17). John meets the Gnostics on their own ground with their own terms. The "anointing" did not belong to the Gnostics "alone," as they claimed, but to Christians in general. The anointing is plainly the all sufficient word of God that has been entrusted into the care of every child of God.

Verse 21

I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

John has not written the things in this letter because these people are unaware of God’s truth. They know the truth because they have the anointing of God’s revelation, the word of God. His writing is not to instruct them in a new truth of which they are uninformed but, rather, to substantiate the truth they already understand. "Know" speaks of the absolute and correct knowledge they had received. The "lie" John mentions is the falsehood propounded by the antichrists. No lie ever has the character of truth, and this lie is no different.

Verse 22

Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?: John leaves no doubt about what the lie is in verse 21: it is the denial that Jesus is the Christ. Now John identifies the liar who tells the lie, "he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ." Vincent aptly comments:

By the definite article, the liar, the lie is set forth in its concrete personality: the one who impersonates all that is false, as antichrist represents every form of hostility and opposition to Christ. The denial that Jesus is the Christ is the representative falsehood. He that denies is the representative liar (339).

The Gnostics maintained that the man, Jesus, was not the Christ. They said that Jesus was born as naturally as anyone else and lived a normal existence until His baptism. At that time, Christ came from God and adopted the body of Jesus to accomplish His purposes; however, before His death, Christ left the human Jesus to suffer on Calvary. John’s statement indisputably identifies the doctrine of the antichrists. They denied the deity of Jesus and the humanity of Christ; or, they denied that Jesus is the Christ Who came in the flesh. "Jesus" is from Iesous and literally means "Jehovah saves." The very name, "Jesus," proclaims the deity, humanity, and redeeming sacrifice of this One Who was so named. "Christ" is a transliteration of Christos, meaning "the anointed one" and corresponds to the Hebrew word from which we get "Messiah." It is no wonder that the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ is called "the antichrist."

He is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son: The "liar" is "antichrist," who denies both the Father and the Son. It is impossible to deny one without denying the other. To reject Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah, is to disavow God also. Jesus says, "He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father which hath sent him" (John 5:23). He further says, "whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me" (Luke 9:48). The only way to God is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6); therefore, to repudiate Jesus is to deny the only means for reaching God. To deny that Jesus is the Son of God is to deny that God is the Father of Jesus.

Verse 23

Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: but he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.

Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: The baleful effects of denying that Jesus is the Son of God is set forth in sobering language. In effect, he says, "Deny Christ, and you deprive yourself of the Father, also." A refusal to recognize Jesus for Who he is robs one of any hope of fellowship with God. Fellowship with the Father is the theme of this epistle; to deny Jesus is to deny oneself of that fellowship. The one who loses his grip on Jesus loses all right to God as the Father.

but he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also: The contrasting statements of this verse are meaningful indeed. Deny Jesus and lose God; confess Jesus and acquire the Father. Barclay articulates the thought of this verse so well: "We may say that there are three New Testament confessions of Jesus; there is the confession that Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 16:16; John 9:35-38); there is the confession that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:11); and there is the confession that Jesus is Messiah (1 John 2:22); and the essence of every one of them is the affirmation that Jesus stands in an absolutely unique relationship to God; and to deny that relationship is to deny the certainty that everything that Jesus said about God is true. The whole Christian faith depends on the unique relationship of Jesus to God. John is, therefore, right; the man who denies the Son has lost the Father too" (80-81).

"Acknowledge" is homologeo and means "to declare openly by way of speaking out freely, such confession being the effect of deep conviction of facts" (Vine 224). Vine, in discussing the word "confess" in Matthew 10:32, says that it "conveys the thought of confessing allegiance to Christ as one’s Master and Lord..." (224). To acknowledge Jesus is more than just a verbal assent. Jesus says, "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

Verse 24

Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.

Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning: The American Standard Version renders it, "As for you," showing the contrast between the antichrists who deny Christ and John’s Christian readers. Vincent says, "You is emphatic by way of contrast with the false teachers (verse 22)" (340). The word, "abide," used earlier in the epistle, means to settle down and be at home. The message, which these Christians had heard from the beginning of their relationship with the Lord, is to remain as settled truth in their hearts. The gospel message must always be firmly held. That message has not changed and will not change. The responsibility of the Christian is to allow God’s word to remain unchanged in his heart and to adhere to it in his life.

If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father: "Remain" and "continue" are from the same Greek word as "abide" and mean to settle down and be at home. John prefaces his remark with the conditional "if." If the true doctrine of Christ remains at home in you, you will continue to be at home in Jesus and in the Father. Our word "abide" is a term John uses to suggest fellowship with God. The Christian’s continued fellowship with God depends on his continued retention of the word as an effective resident in his heart. In this statement, John points out that our salvation is at stake. Salvation depends on experiencing an intimate spiritual communion with God, and that communion is dependent on our faithful adherence to God’s truth. (Compare John 15:1-6.) To be "in the Son, and in the Father" is the same as being "in Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:19). To be "in Christ" is to be in the body of Christ, the church (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:22-23). One is baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27). To remain in this relationship, we must allow the word of God to remain in us and fulfill its purposes. Salvation, as well as fellowship, depends on the indwelling word.

Verse 25

And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.

Those who remain faithful to the message of God have fellowship with God and His Son in this life, and in the life to come, "eternal life." To live in a holy union with God is to be assured of everlasting life in the future. Jesus says, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent" (John 17:3). Eternal life is promised to those who "know" the Lord in a very intimate relationship and "abide" in that knowledge. This passage teaches that eternal life is a promise from God, a commitment God has made to all of His people concerning heaven. Christians live "in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began" (Titus 1:2). This promise is sure because God has "confirmed it by an oath," an oath that assures us of the hope we have "as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast" (Hebrews 6:13-20). This promise is not an unconditional promise; it is based upon our faithfulness to the word (John 8:31-32; Matthew 10:22; 2 Peter 1:10-11).

Verse 26

These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.

Again John uses the epistolary aorist where he looks at his writing from the standpoint of his readers when they read it. He continues to consider the actions of the false teachers who would "seduce" or lead these Christians astray. The chief weapon of all false teachers is deception or seduction. The apostle is writing to prevent the deceivers from beguiling his children in the Lord. Once more, let us take note of the plural pronoun, "them." The antichrist is people.

Verse 27

But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you: The American Standard Version introduces this verse in the same manner as verse 24, "And as for you." Vincent says that it is "emphatic, as in verse 24" (340). John continues to juxtapose the Christians with the antichrists. He, in effect, says, "They are trying to deceive you; but they will fail because, as for you, you have the anointing." As noted above, the meaning of this verse is the same as the truth taught in verse 24. The message abiding in them is the "anointing" they have received from Jesus. The word of God is the all-sufficient "anointing" from the Holy One. The Gnostic antichrists claimed to have a special anointing that gave them special knowledge of God. John responds with the fact that every Christian has the anointing given by Jesus, God’s word.

and ye need not that any man teach you: "Teach" is didaske, present subjunctive active, which signifies continuous action. Since these Christians have the anointing of God’s word abiding in their hearts, there is no need for someone to teach them constantly these great principles that are being denied by the false teachers. John is not belittling the work of teachers and preachers, but he is impressing on them the fact that they are not at the mercy of the false teachers or any teachers. Every Christian has the obligation to study for himself and be "fully persuaded in his own mind" (Romans 14:5). Lenski properly says, "With the permanent possession which you have ’you have no need for anyone to be teaching you’ (note the durative present tense)" (442).

but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things: "But" is alla, and means "on the contrary" (Lenski 442). John is saying that there is no need for someone to teach these truths over and over; "on the contrary," the "same anointing" continues to teach you everything you need to know. The word of God, which is this anointing, "hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3). It is "profitable for teaching" (2 Timothy 3:16).

and is truth, and is no lie: This phrase refers to the "anointing"; it is true and is no lie. All of this teaching is true because it comes from the anointment of God, His word. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). His word is truth (John 17:17). The words that come from God’s word are always characterized by truth, an assurance the Gnostics could not claim. Like the Gentiles of old, they had "changed the truth of God into a lie" (Romans 1:25). The big "lie" told by these "liars" is the falsehood that Jesus is not the Christ Who came in the flesh.

and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him: "It," grammatically, must refer to "the anointing." "It" cannot be the Holy Spirit, as some teach, for the Holy Spirit is not an it; He is a He. Jesus repeatedly referred to Him by the personal pronoun "He" (John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:13-14). "Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:13-14). Christians should be careful to refer to the Holy Spirit by those pronouns that express His true character; He is not a glorified it, an indescribable force, or an impersonal principle. He is a person, a divine personality, and a member of the Godhead. The anointing, God’s word, has taught John’s readers something. He says, "Even as" or "just as" the anointment has taught you, continue to remain in Christ as your settled status in life. To put it another way, "Continue to make this area of activity, which is designated as ’in Christ,’ your permanent home just as the anointing of God’s word has instructed you from the beginning of your Christian life."

Verse 28

And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.

And now, little children, abide in him: John addresses them again with his term of endearment, "little children." How touched these Christians must have been to read this lovable appellation from their revered spiritual teacher time and again. John repeats his admonition to "abide" in Christ, to continue in a resolute union with Christ. It is an exhortation to faithfulness to the fellowship they enjoy in Him. "And now" prefaces a further reminder of the need for continued communion with deity in a day-to-day walk.

that, when he shall appear: "Appear" is phaneroo and means "to be made manifest or visible" (Wuest, I John 139). Jesus is now invisible to His people, but there is coming a day, called "the day of the Lord" (2 Peter 3:10), when He shall be made visible in great glory and manifestation. John’s directions to these disciples to "abide in Him" are given in anticipation of the second coming of Christ.

we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming: The "coming of Christ" is equivalent to "when he shall appear." "Coming" is parousia, the word that is used to designate the second coming of our Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; James 5:7-8; 2 Peter 3:4). It is the expression that was used to refer to the visit of a king or emperor in ancient times. The word literally means presence. When this word is used together with "appear" above, it implies that Jesus’ return will consist of the personal presence of One now absent and the visible appearing of One now unseen. There will be two reactions to the visible, personal return of our Lord: confidence on the part of the prepared ones and shame on the part of those who are unprepared. John urges his readers to so "abide" in the fellowship of the Lord that they will face His coming with confidence. "Confidence" is parresia and signifies "freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech, free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance" (Wuest, I John 139). The closeness of the Christian in a daily walk with God fills him with an attitude of courage and confidence as he anticipates the second coming of Christ. Jesus urges, "Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:36). To "stand before" the Lord is to stand approved in His sight. The person who watches and prays and maintains intimate fellowship with God will stand before the Lord at His coming with complete confidence.

On the other hand, look at the other person John describes, the one who will find himself appearing before the great Judge of all the earth at His coming. He is "ashamed." Vincent says, "The expression is peculiar. Literally, ’be ashamed from Him.’ The fundamental thought is that of separation and shrinking from God through the shame of conscious guilt" (342). What a picture of the condemned sinner, shrinking back in shame before the judgment bar! John advises his "little children" to so live that when that time arrives, they will not shrink in fear but stand in confidence before the Lord. He offers a tremendous motivation for living right: Jesus is coming again! Paul says that we should "look for" His coming (Hebrews 9:28) if we want "salvation," and we must "love His appearing" if we want the "crown of righteousness" that He will give "at that day" (2 Timothy 4:8). When the parents are away from home, the children "look" with eagerness to their return if they have been obedient to their parents’ wishes; otherwise, it is not a gladly anticipated event. Christians look forward with great expectation to the promised return of the Lord if they have been faithful to His will. John implores his "children," and us, to be ready, waiting, and looking with confidence to that day.

Verse 29

If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.

The first "know" is oida, to know absolutely; the second "know" is ginosko, to know experientially. John is saying, "If you know absolutely, as a matter of fact, that God is righteous, you also know by practical experience that whoever practices righteousness as a habitual operation of his life is born of the One Who is righteous, that is, God." Although the apostle has been talking about Christ and His coming in verse 28, he now quickly changes to the discussion of God and His righteousness. One writer has remarked that this verse shows the close unity that exists between God and Christ. The apostle can change from the discussion of Christ to the description of God without making a studied attempt to clarify it. We know this verse refers to God because nowhere does scripture refer to our being "born" of Jesus (1 John 3:9; 1 John 3:18; 1 John 4:7). Westcott makes this relevant observation:

When John thinks of God in relation to men, he never thinks of Him apart from Christ (see 1 John v.20); and again, he never thinks of Christ in His human nature without adding the thought of His divine nature. Thus a rapid transition is possible from the one aspect of the Lord’s divine-human person to the other (Vincent 342).

he is righteous: "Righteous" is dikaios and speaks of God as absolutely "just, equitable, fair" (Moulton 102). God is totally righteous and just in all of his dealings with mankind. He always does that which is right, just, moral, ethical, upright, and honest. Justice is an essential part of God’s nature, and He is always consistent with his nature.

ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him: Since it is a fact of absolute knowledge that God is righteous, it should be readily understandable that a person who is born of God will practice righteousness in his life. The child takes on the characteristics of the parent, "like father, like son." And, conversely, it should be easily perceived that the one who "doeth righteousness is born of Him." "Doeth" does not speak of a one-time act; it denotes habitual action, for the Greek term is in the present tense. The person who exhibits righteousness as the general tenor of his life gives evidence that he has been born of God and, hence, is a child of the heavenly Father. Wuest says, "’Born’ is from the perfect participle of gennao. The perfect tense speaks of a past completed action having present results" (140). We know that one must obey certain righteous rules of God in order to be born again (John 3:3-5; Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:27). Thereafter, one must continue in the performance of righteous acts to prove that he has been born again. We prove that we are the children of a righteous Father by obedience to His commandments, "for all (God’s) commandments are righteousness" (Psalms 119:172).

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 John 2". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/1-john-2.html. 1993-2022.
 
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