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Bible Commentaries
1 John 2

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verses 1-2

Jesus, the Lawyer For the Christian's Defense

Having now proven sin to be a part of everyone's life, John hastened to show that it should not be counted as normal and therefore a thing in which one should indulge. John wrote as an aged man in the faith to those much younger. He used endearing words that a mother might use as she held and caressed one of her own children.

The Christian's goal should ever be sinlessness, that is, not even committing one act of sin. When a Christian does sin, he keeps on having (present tense) an advocate, which Thayer defines as "one who pleads another's cause with one, an intercessor." The Holy Spirit is described by Jesus as "another advocate" ( Joh_14:16 ; see also 14:26; 15:26; 16:7). Satan is the Christian's accuser and Jesus is the defense attorney ( Rev_12:10 ). The case is pled before God's divine bar of justice. Jesus is "with", or by the side of, the Father, thus ever ready to defend His saints (compare Luk_12:8 ; Act_7:56 ).

Woods notes, "There is no article before the word 'righteousness' in the Greek text. The meaning is, Jesus, a Righteous One, pleads the cause of unrighteous ones. Only the pleading of such an Advocate could possibly avail." What good would come from one unrighteous one appealing to God in behalf of another?

Christ is the propitiation, or as Thayer says, "the means of appeasing", for the sins of individual Christians. God's wrath is directed at sin. Christ came to provide the means of the removal of that wrath. John says for "our sin", which includes him in the group needing that great sacrifice. Jesus' gift is available to the whole world if they will but accept it in believing faith ( 1Jn_2:2 ; Joh_3:16-17 ; Rom_3:24-26 ).

Verses 3-8

Feelings Are Not a Valid Test

There are those who answer the question, "Do you know God?", by saying, "Yes, I can feel His presence in my heart." While it may help one to feel he has God's presence with him, it is important to realize feelings are not a good test for religious security. John says a better test is that of obedience ( 1Jn_2:3 ; Tit_1:16 ; Mat_7:21 ; Joh_14:15 ). Woods notes the word "keep" is present subjunctive indicating continuous keeping. The word "know" in scripture often indicates intimate knowledge as it does here ( Gen_4:1 ; Gen_4:25 ). Thus, the close partnership of 1Jn_1:1-10 is dependent upon one's yielding to God's will as set forth in His commandments. Of course, words must be matched by actions, as 1Jn_2:4 clearly shows. The Gnostics believed they had a superior knowledge of God and yet did not display it in godly living. The continual lack of obedience, which is indicated by the present tense in the Greek, makes one a continual liar, and lying becomes a part of his very character.

By daily obedience, one continues to grow up in Christ until his love for God is complete, or full-grown. One who claims to abide in Christ can easily verify it by the way he lives his daily life. Woods writes, "'Ought', from opheilo , to be in debt, denotes the moral obligation here to exhibit the basis of one's profession." Peter calls Christ our example in 1Pe_2:21 and admonishes us to follow His steps ( 1Jn_2:5-6 ).

The old commandment was what John's readers had heard from the beginning of their Christian lives, or the gospel. It is an old commandment in that its basic parts had been repeated through the centuries ( Lev_19:18 ). Yet, it is new in the depth to which the Lord took it when He said, "as I have loved you, that ye also love one another" ( Joh_13:34-35 ). Never before had love like Christ's been displayed to man ( Rom_5:6-8 ; Joh_15:13 ). Also, the command is ever new in that Christians constantly find new ways and opportunities to fulfill it. The light of the gospel dispels the darkness of ignorance and superstition ( 1Jn_2:7-8 ; compare Joh_3:19-21 ; Joh_8:12 ; Eph_4:17-18 ; Rom_13:12 ; 2Co_6:14 ; 1Th_5:5 ).

Verses 9-11

Those In the Light Love the Brethren

The claim to be in the light, therefore in fellowship with God ( 1Jn_1:5-7 ), is easily tested by our attitude toward our brethren. God displayed such love for the lost world that He gave His Son that those who believed Him might have everlasting life ( Joh_3:16 ). The church was purchased by Christ's life and blood ( Eph_5:25 ; Act_20:28 ). One cannot claim to be in partnership with God and hate the ones for whom God gave so much ( 1Jn_2:9 ).

The love we are to have for our brethren is agape love, or the commitment to act for the good of others. One who loves his brother will be careful not to put a pit or snare in his way ( Mat_18:6-7 ; Rom_14:15-21 ; 1Co_8:4-13 ). However, John may here be talking about our putting a snare in our own way. Notice the next verse and consider the possibility that John is saying the lack of proper concern for one's brethren places him in darkness and makes him subject to fall into pits and snares because he cannot see ( 1Jn_2:10 ).

Those who hate their brethren are inwardly darkened, walk in darkness and do not know where they are going. Sadly, they are blinded to their own condition ( 1Jn_2:11 ; Psa_82:5 ; 2Co_4:3-4 ).


John's Purpose InWriting

John states his purpose for writing the book of 1 John in 2:12-14. First, he told his purpose from his own perspective as author. He was writing to young children, or tecknia in the Greek, in the faith because their sins had recently been forgiven through their obedience and because of the authority of Christ ( Act_2:38 ; Act_4:12 ; Act_22:16 ). He was also writing to those mature enough in the faith to be teaching and leading others to greater maturity ( Heb_5:12-14 ).

They had come to have an intimate understanding of the eternal Christ (1:1). He was also writing to those just reaching the age of maturity. They had grown wiser in the faith because they had successfully met and overcome some of the challenges of the devil ( Eph_6:11-12 ; 1Pe_5:8-9 ).

Then, he follows with a second group of sentences which describe the reader's viewpoint of John's purpose in writing. He had written to babes ( Paddy ) in Christ ( 2Pe_2:2 ) because they had come to know God as their Father ( Rom_8:13-16 ; Eph_1:3-6 ). He had written to the most mature Christians who through study had come to fully appreciate their Lord and better understand His eternal nature. He had written to those just maturing in Christian service because they were realizing their strength and best defense against Satan was God's word and had used it to overcome him ( Col_3:16 ; Eph_6:10 ; Heb_4:12 ).

Verses 15-17

"Do Not Love the World"

The "world," which John instructed Christians not to love, is defined by Turner as "the sphere of rebellion, including sensuous desires and interests, false pride and vanity, unholy ambitions, avarice, selfishness and the like" ( Eph_2:1-3 ; Php_3:18-19 ). One cannot love worldly things and God at the same time ( Mat_6:24 ; Rom_8:5 ; Jam_4:4 ). Thayer says the word "love" here is "to take pleasure in the thing, prize it above other things, be unwilling to abandon it or do without it". John tells Christians not to love worldly things in general or any one of them in particular ( 1Jn_2:15 ). A case in point would be the rich young ruler of Mat_19:16-22 .

Worldliness did not originate in the Father but in the world out of which believers come. The lust of the flesh would involve any uncontrolled appetite of the body. Eating, for example, is not wrong unless we allow it to lead to gluttony. The lust of the eyes would be anything excited by sight. The pride, or vain glory, of life is the seeking of worldly rewards and praise of men above that of God. All of these were used by Satan in the Garden of Eden and the temptations of the Lord ( 1Jn_2:16 ; Gen_3:1-24 ; Mat_4:1-3 ).

The things of this life are, at best, temporary ( 2Co_4:18 ). Woods says the verb tense indicates the world is already in the process of passing away. In contrast to the world, the one who does God's will lasts or endures throughout eternity ( 1Jn_2:17 ; Rom_6:23 ). The disciple's prayer should be that God will help him have that lasting quality through the blood of his precious Son!

Verses 18-19

A Troubling Hour

John told his readers he was writing during a last hour, the definite article not appearing in the original ( 1Jn_2:18 ). The word hour, or Greek horae , refers to a fixed period of time ( Joh_5:35 "for a season"; 16:2,4; 2Co_7:8 ; Phm_1:15 ). Jesus spoke of those who would deceive many by saying they were Christ, as well as false prophets who would deceive many ( Mat_24:5 ; Mat_24:11 ). Our Lord gave both of these as signs which would appear before the end of the Jewish order at the destruction of Jerusalem.

If the book of 1 John was written prior to the destruction, John may have been referring to it. If after, Thomas suggests, John refers to the season of anti-Christs, who are spoken of later in the book. Other New Testament verses predicted the coming of an anti-Christ or lawless one ( 2Th_2:3-4 ; 2Th_2:8 ; Rev_13:11 ). John wrote of many who exhibited the spirit that would characterize him. This may well refer to those who denied Christ came in the flesh. Robert Shank well notes concerning 1Jn_2:19 that John is specifically writing of the anti-Christs and not making a general statement about all who have believed or ever will believe.

At the time of their withdrawal, they were not of the same obedient spirit as John and the brethren to whom he wrote. It helped the church when they went out because it was easier to see them as false teachers. Those represented as stony ground believers, as well as Hymenaeus and Alexander, would be examples of those who were once in the fold but went out. To be able to go out, one must first be in, which strongly suggests a change ( Mat_13:20-21 ; 1Ti_1:19-20 ; 2Pe_2:20-22 ).

Verses 20-22

Christians Are Anointed

Those who were to be kings were anointed, thus showing God had elevated them to a higher position ( 1Sa_10:10 ). The Christians to whom John wrote had been similarly elevated by Jesus Christ. The symbol of the sonship relationship to the Father is the Holy Spirit ( Rom_8:13-16 ; Act_2:38 ). All who obey the truth are promised this gift and none can claim to have a greater position in this plan of salvation ( 1Jn_2:20 ).

John wrote to those who knew the truth, which under the new law of Christ would include all who are in the kingdom ( Jer_31:31-34 ). They would recognize anything that was not of the gospel and should know it was a lie. The particular lie John dealt with here was a denial of Jesus as the Christ. Those who would question the truth of God coming in the flesh actually deny Jesus as the Christ, God's Son. In so doing, they deny the Father who testified to his Sonship and was one with Him in purpose ( Mat_17:5 ; Joh_5:23 ; Joh_14:8-11 ). The anti- Christs of whom John wrote taught this lie ( 1Jn_2:21-22 ).

Anyone who refuses to confess Christ as God's Son has burned his bridge to the Father. By denying God's Son, he has destroyed his relationship with both the Son and his Father ( 1Jn_2:23 ; Joh_14:6 ; Mat_10:32-33 ).

Verses 24-26

Possessing Eternal Life

The beginning of the Christian life comes because of the hearing of the gospel. We must give a permanent home to the first principles and build on them if we want to abide in the Son and the Father ( Heb_5:12-14 ; Heb_6:1-3 ; Joh_1:11-13 ; Gal_3:26-27 ). Notice the word "if" which clearly suggests a condition of maintaining a good relationship with the Father and the Son and one's salvation ( 1Jn_2:24 ). Other passages teach us there is no guarantee of eternal life without our meeting God's conditions. ( Joh_15:1-10 ; 2Pe_1:3-11 ).

We possess eternal life in prospect through God's promise ( Mar_10:29-30 ; Tit_1:2 ; Rom_8:24-25 ). It is ours if we hold fast the gospel we heard from the beginning. Joseph understood that God's promise would be accomplished and based his instructions concerning his body upon that confidence ( Gen_50:24-26 ). Similarly, we can fully trust God's promise and should order our lives on that basis. John wrote his book to warn against those false teachers who would lead Christians out of Christ and cost them the wonderful promise of life eternal ( 1Jn_2:25-26 ).

Verses 27-29

Abiding In Christ

When one obeys the gospel, he is anointed and sealed with the Holy Spirit ( 2Co_1:15-22 ). John reassured his readers by telling them that sealing was something truly promised to those who obey God and does not change from day to day or time to time. As long as we seek to do the Father's will, the message of the Holy Spirit remains sure within us and helps us discern between truth and false teaching ( Joh_7:17 ).

The word of God is the word of the Holy Spirit who was to guide the apostles into all truth ( Eph_6:17 ; Joh_14:16 ; Joh_16:13 ). If one possesses the word of the Spirit, he possesses the truth. The ones to whom John wrote had received the gospel and did not need some man to teach them where they were in error ( 1Co_2:11-16 ). Jesus had come in the flesh, as John taught (1:1-3), and they had no need of other teaching in that regard. All the things the false teachers presented had already been answered by the things John's readers had received. The gospel is true, not a lie, and should remain in us so we can remain in Christ ( 1Jn_2:27 ).

So, John pleaded with his children in the faith to remain in Christ and His fellowship so their sins could continue to be removed and they would be prepared for His coming (1:7). If Christ should appear in the season spoken of in verse 18, they could be bold because the Savior's blood was on their side ( 1Jn_2:28 ; Heb_10:19 ).

When John wrote, "If you know that He is righteous," Woods says the Greek word translated "know" ( eidate ) comes from a root word suggesting theoretical knowledge. In contrast, when John says, "you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of him," the word is ginoskete, which comes from a root suggesting practical knowledge. If one recognized theoretically that God is righteous, his practical knowledge would tell him all who practice right living in accord with God's will are born of God (compare Joh_3:5 ; Tit_3:5 ). In other words, those who partake of God's nature are obviously his children ( 1Jn_2:29 ).


God's Love Is Out of This World!

John wanted Christians to stop and closely look to see what type, or sort, of love God had shown them. According to Thayer, some grammarians say the meaning is "from what country, race, or tribe?". In other words, God's love is obviously not of this world. Instead, it is the love of One from a heavenly country. The Father gave us that love by the death of His Son and through the new birth made us His natural offspring. Those of the world would not acknowledge Jesus as God's Son and will not acknowledge us as God's sons ( 1Jn_3:1 ; Joh_15:18-19 ; Joh_16:1-3 ).

Even though the world does not recognize it, Christians are children of God while on this earth, as God Himself will attest. While still living in the flesh, they do not know what they will look like during eternity ( 2 Corinthians 15:35-50 ). However, they can be assured when Jesus returns to this earth, they will be like Him ( 1Jn_3:2 ; Php_3:20-21 ). The Christians' hope is of being like Christ when He appears and John assures all such will be like him. Because of this hope, Christians keep on purifying themselves to be as much like Him as they can be when He comes. This sounds very much like the parable of the ten virgins in Mat_25:1-13 . Adequate preparations must be made to be in a constant state of readiness when the Lord comes ( 1Jn_3:2-3 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 1 John 2". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/1-john-2.html. 2014.
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