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Bible Commentaries
1 John 2

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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1 John 2:3-27


Christ Our AdvocateThe Basis of Fellowship with Him(1 John 1:5-2)ObedienceChrist Our HelperTo Walk in the Light(1 John 1:5-28)
First Condition: To Break With Sin(1 John 1:8-3)
1 John 2:1-6The Test of Knowing Him1 John 2:1-21 John 2:1-2Second Condition: To Keep the Commandments, Especially That of Love
1 John 2:3-111 John 2:3-61 John 2:3-61 John 2:3-11
The New Commandment Love for One AnotherThe New Command
1 John 2:7-14 1 John 2:7-111 John 2:7-8
Their Spiritual StateTrue Relationship to God in Christ1 John 2:9-11Third Condition: Detachment from the World
1 John 2:12-141 John 2:12-141 John 2:12-131 John 2:12-17
Do Not Love the WorldTrue Appraisal of the World1 John 2:14
1 John 2:15-171 John 2:15-171 John 2:15-171 John 2:15-17
The AntichristDeceptions of the Last HourLoyalty to the True FaithThe Enemy of ChristFourth Condition: To Be on Guard Against Antichrists
1 John 2:18-251 John 2:18-231 John 2:18-251 John 2:18-191 John 2:18-28
1 John 2:20-21
Let Truth Abide in You 1 John 2:22-23
1 John 2:24-27 1 John 2:24-25
1 John 2:26-27 1 John 2:26-271 John 2:26-27



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. It is very difficult to outline 1 John because of its recurrent themes. However, most commentators agree that chapter 2 continues the themes of chapter 1, which are the characteristics of fellowship with God, both positive and negative.

B. There is a structural parallel between chapters 1 and 2. John presents the message in contrast to the false assertions of the Gnostics.

Chapter 1Chapter 2
1. if we say. . . (1 John 2:6-7)2. if we say. . . (1 John 2:8-9)3. if we say. . . (1 John 2:10) 1. The one saying. . . (1 John 2:4-5)2. The one saying. . . (1 John 2:6)3. The one saying. . . (1 John 2:8-11)

C. This context lists several tests or evidences which reveal a true believer (1 John 2:3-25)

1. Willingness to confess sin (initially and continually) (1 John 1:8)

2. Lifestyle obedience (1 John 2:3-6)

3. Lifestyle love (1 John 2:7-11)

4. Victory over the evil (1 John 2:12-14)

5. Forsaking the world (1 John 2:15-17)

6. Perseverance (1 John 2:19)

7. Correct doctrine (1 John 2:20-24; 1 John 4:1-3)

D. Special Theological Concepts (in 1 John 2:18-19)

1. "the last hour" (1 John 2:18)

a. This phrase and similar phrases, such as "the last days," refer to the period of time from Jesus' birth in Bethlehem to the Second Coming. The kingdom has come, but is not yet fully consummated.

b. The people of Israel during the interbiblical period began to believe in two ages, the current evil age and the age of righteousness ushered in by the Spirit, which was still future. What the OT did not clearly reveal was the two comings of the Messiah, the first as Savior and the second as Consummator. These two ages overlap. See Special Topic at 1 John 2:17.

c. This is the metaphorical use of the term "hour" (kairos) as an unspecified period of time (cf. John 4:21, John 4:23; John 5:25, John 5:28; John 16:2).

2. "the antichrist" (1 John 2:18)

Only John uses the term "antichrist" (cf. 1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7). Notice in 1 John 2:18 it is both plural and singular (cf. 2 John 1:7).

a. There are references to the same end-time person in other biblical writers.

1) Daniel - "Fourth Beast" (cf. 1 John 2:1 John 7:7-8,23-26; 9:24-27

2) Jesus - "Abomination of Desolation" (cf. Mark 13:0; Mark 13:0; Matthew 24:0

3) John - "Beast coming out of the sea" (cf. Revelation 13:0)

4) Paul - "Man of Sin" (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:0)

b. John also makes a distinction between the eschatological person and the recurring spirit or attitude always present in the world (cf. 1 John 2:18; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7; Mark 13:6, Mark 13:22; Matthew 24:5, Matthew 24:24).

c. The preposition anti in Greek can mean (1) against or (2) instead of. This is as significant as the use of both the singular and plural in 1 John 2:18. History is replete with those who have opposed God and His Christ

1) Antiochus IV Epiphanes (little horn of Daniel 8:0; Daniel 11:36-45)

2) Nero and Domitian (claimed deity but not Messiahship)

3) Atheistic Communism

4) Secular Humanism

But also this is matched by those who are not against Christ, but claim to be the Christ (use #2).

1) the false teachers of Mark 13:6, Mark 13:22 and Matthew 24:5, Matthew 24:24

2) modern cult leaders

3) the Antichrist (Daniel 7:8, Daniel 7:23-26; Daniel 9:24-27; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; and Revelation 13:0)

d. Christians in every age will experience both false teachers who deny Christ and false Messiahs who claim to be Christ. However, one day, the last day, one special incarnation of evil (i.e., the Antichrist) will do both!

3. "Abides in You" (1 John 2:19, 1 John 2:24, 1 John 2:27, 1 John 2:28)

a. Most modern evangelicals stress the need for a personal initial decision to trust/faith/believe in Christ, and this is surely true. However, the Bible's emphasis is not on decisions, but on discipleship (cf. Matthew 28:19-20).

b. The doctrine of the Security of the Believer must be inseparably linked to the doctrine of Perseverance. See SPECIAL TOPIC: The Need to Persevere at John 8:31. It is not an either/or option, but a both/and biblical reality. In reality "abiding" is a biblical warning (cf. John 15:0)!

c. Other passages on abiding are Matthew 10:22; Matthew 13:1-9, Matthew 13:18-23; Mark 13:13; John 8:31; John 15:1-27; 1 Corinthians 15:2; Galatians 6:1; Revelation 2:2, Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:26; Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:12, Revelation 3:21; Revelation 21:7. See Special Topic: "Abiding" at 1 John 2:10.



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Describe the false teachers' beliefs.

2. Give the evidence by which we can know that we are truly redeemed.

3. Explain the relationship between habitual sin and isolated acts of sin.

4. Explain the relationship between the perseverance of the saint and the security of the believer.

5. List and define the three enemies of man.

Verses 1-2

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1 John 1:5-2 5This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. 2:1My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

1 John 1:5 "the message we have heard" The pronoun "we" refers to John and the other eyewitness hearers and followers of Jesus during His earthly life. John directly speaks to his readers ("you") in 1 John 2:1, probably referring to the churches of Asia Minor.

The verb "heard" is a perfect active indicative. This reflects the vivid recurrent term relating to the physical senses in 1 John 1:1-4. In a sense this is the Apostle John affirming his personal presence at Jesus' teaching sessions. John is passing on Jesus' revelations, not his own! It is even possible that the Gospels' unique "I Am" statements were John's remembrance of Jesus' private teachings.

"from Him" "From Him" is the only pronoun in the entire section of 1 John 1:5-2 which refers to Jesus. Jesus came to reveal the Father (cf. John 1:18). Theologically speaking, Jesus came for three purposes.

1. to reveal the Father (cf. 1 John 1:5)

2. to give believers an example to follow (cf. 1 John 1:7)

3. to die on sinful mankind's behalf (cf. 1 John 1:7; 1 John 2:2)

"God is Light" There is no article. This is emphasizing the revelatory and ethical aspects of God's nature (cf. Psalms 27:1; Isaiah 60:20; Micah 7:8; 1 Timothy 6:16; James 1:17). The Gnostic false teachers asserted that light referred to knowledge, but John asserts that it refers also to ethical purity. "Light" and "dark" were common terms (an ethical dualism using these terms is also found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and early Gnosticism). It related to the dualism between good and evil (i.e., John 1:5; John 8:12; John 12:46) and possibly the Gnostic dualism of spirit versus matter. This is one of John's simple yet profoundly theological assertions about deity. The others are (1) "God is love" (cf. 1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16) and (2) "God is spirit" (cf. John 4:24). God's family, like Jesus (cf. John 8:12; John 9:5), should reflect His character (cf. Matthew 5:14). This changed and changing life of love, forgiveness, and purity is one of the evidences of a true conversion.

"in Him there is no darkness at all" This is a double negative for emphasis. It is an assertion of the unchanging holy character of God (cf. 1 Timothy 6:16; James 1:17; Psalms 102:27; Malachi 3:6).

1 John 1:6 "If we say" This is the first of several third class conditional sentences which refer to the claims of false teachers (cf. 1 John 1:8, 1 John 1:10; 1 John 2:4, 1 John 2:6, 1 John 2:9). These statements are the only way to identify the assertions of the false teachers. They appear to be early (incipient) Gnostics.

The literary technique of a supposed objector is called diatribe. It was a way of presenting truth in a question/answer format. It can be clearly seen in Malachi (cf. Malachi 1:2, Malachi 1:6, Malachi 1:7, Malachi 1:12; Malachi 2:14, Malachi 2:17; Malachi 3:7, Malachi 3:14) and in Romans (cf. Romans 2:3, Romans 2:17, Romans 2:21-23; Romans 3:1, Romans 3:3, Romans 3:7-8, Romans 3:9, Romans 3:31; Romans 4:1; Romans 6:1; Romans 7:7).

"we have fellowship with Him" The heretics claimed that fellowship was based on knowledge only. This was an aspect of Greek philosophy from Plato. However, John asserts that Christians must live Christlike lives (cf. 1 John 1:7; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:7; Matthew 5:48).

"yet walk in the darkness" "Walk" is a present active subjunctive. This is a biblical metaphor expressing a moral lifestyle (cf. Ephesians 4:1, Ephesians 4:17; Ephesians 5:2, Ephesians 5:15). God is light with no darkness. His children should be like Him (cf. Matthew 5:48).

"we lie and do not practice the truth" These are both present tense verbs. John calls several types of religious people liars (cf. 1 John 1:10; 1 John 2:4, 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:20; Isaiah 29:13). Lifestyle actions truly reveal the heart (cf. Matthew 7:0). See Special Topic: Truth in John's Writings at John 6:55.

1 John 1:7 "but if we walk in the Light" This is another present tense which emphasizes continuing action. "Walk" is a NT metaphor for the Christian life (i.e., Ephesians 4:1, Ephesians 4:17; Ephesians 5:2, Ephesians 5:15).

Notice how often "walk" and present tense verbs are related to the Christian life. Truth is something we live, not just something we know! Truth is a key concept in John. See Special Topics at 1 John 2:5 and 17:3.

"as He Himself is in the light" Believers are to think and live like God (cf. Matthew 5:48). We are to reflect His character to a lost world. Salvation is the restoration of the image of God in mankind (i.e., Genesis 1:26, Genesis 1:27), damaged in the fall of Genesis 3:0.

"we have fellowship with one another" The term "fellowship" is the Greek term koinônia, which means a joint participation between two persons (see Special Topic at 1 John 1:3). Christianity is based on believers sharing Jesus' life. If we accept His life in forgiveness, we must accept His ministry of love (cf. 1 John 3:16). Knowing God is not abstract truth, but initiates fellowship and godly living. The goal of Christianity is not only heaven when we die, but Christlikeness now. The Gnostic heretics had a tendency toward exclusivism. However, when one is rightly related with God, he will be rightly related to his fellow Christian. Lack of love toward other Christians is a glaring sign of a problem with our relationship with God (cf. 1 John 4:20-21 and also Matthew 5:7; Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:21-35)

"the blood of Jesus" This refers to the sacrificial death of Christ (cf. Isaiah 52:13-12; Mark 10:45; 2 Corinthians 5:21). It is very similar to 1 John 2:2, "the atoning sacrifice (propitiation) for our sins." This is the thrust of John the Baptist's "behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (cf. John 1:29). The innocent died on behalf of the guilty!

The early Gnostics denied Jesus' true humanity. John's use of "blood" reinforces Jesus' true humanity.

There is a Greek manuscript variable related to the name.

1. Jesus - NASB, NRSV, NJB, REB, NET

2. Christ - MSS א, B, C

3. Jesus Christ - NKJV

This is one example used by Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, p. 153, to show how ancient scribes tried to make the text more specific to refute the current heretics. Option #3 was an attempt to mediate the MSS variation.

"cleanses us from all sin" This is a present active indicative. The term "sin" is singular with no article. This implies every kind of sin. Notice this verse is not focusing on a one-time cleansing (salvation, 1 John 1:7), but an ongoing cleansing (the Christian life, 1 John 1:9). Both are part of the Christian experience (cf. John 13:10).

1 John 1:8 "If we say that we have no sin" This is another third class conditional sentence. Sin is a spiritual reality in a fallen world, even for believers (cf. Romans 7:0). John's Gospel addresses this issue often (cf. 1 John 2:1 John 9:41; 15:22,24; 19:11). This verse rejects all ancient and modern claims that deny individual moral responsibility.

"we are deceiving ourselves" This Greek phrase refers to personal, willful rejection of truth, not ignorance.

"the truth is not in us" The way to acceptance by a Holy God is not denial, but recognition of our sin and acceptance of His provision in Christ (cf. Romans 3:21-31). "The truth" can refer to the message about Jesus or the person of Jesus (cf. John 14:6). See Special Topics at 1 John 2:5 and 17:3.

1 John 1:8, 1 John 1:9 "If" These are both third class conditional sentences which means potential action.

1 John 1:9 "confess" This is a compound Greek term from "to speak" and "the same." Believers continue to agree with God that they have violated His holiness (cf. Romans 3:23). It is present tense, which implies ongoing action. Confession implies

1. a specific naming of sins (1 John 1:9)

2. a public admitting of sins (cf. Matthew 10:32; James 5:16)

3. a turning from specific sins (cf. Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:5; Acts 19:18; James 5:16)

1 John uses this term quite often (cf. 1 John 1:9; 1 John 4:2, 1 John 4:3, 1 John 4:15; 2 John 1:7). Jesus' death is the means of forgiveness, but sinful mankind must respond and continue to respond in faith to be saved (cf. John 1:12; John 3:16). See Special Topic: Confession at John 9:22-23.

"our sins" Notice the plural. This refers to specific acts of sin.

"He is faithful" This refers to God the Father (cf. Deuteronomy 7:9; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalms 36:5; Psalms 40:10; Psalms 89:1, Psalms 89:2, Psalms 89:5, Psalms 89:8; Psalms 92:2; Psalms 119:90; Isaiah 49:7; Romans 3:3; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Timothy 2:13). God the Father's unchanging, merciful, faithful character is our surest hope! This phrase accentuates God's faithfulness to His Word (cf. Hebrews 10:23; Hebrews 11:11). This may also refer to God's New Covenant promise made in Jeremiah 31:34, which promised the forgiveness of sins.

"and righteous" This term is unusual in a context related to a holy God freely pardoning unholy people. However, this is theologically accurate because God takes our sins seriously, yet He has provided the means for our forgiveness in the substitutionary death of Christ (cf. Romans 3:21-31). See Special Topic at 1 John 2:29.

"forgive . . . cleanse" These are both aorist active subjunctives. These two terms are synonymous in this context; they refer both to the salvation of the lost and to the ongoing cleansing necessary for fellowship with God (cf. Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 38:17; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:22; Psalms 103:3, Psalms 103:11-13; Micah 7:19). The false teachers who denied the gospel, needed salvation. Believers who continue to commit acts of sin need restoration of fellowship. John seems to address the first group implicitly and the second explicitly.

1 John 1:10 "If we say" See note at 1 John 1:6.

"we have not sinned" This is a perfect active indicative which implies that one has never sinned in the past nor in the present. The term "sinned" is singular and refers to sin in general. The Greek term means "to miss the mark." This means that sin is both the commission and the omission of the things revealed in God's Word. The false teachers claimed salvation was related only to knowledge, not to life.

"we make Him a liar" The gospel is based on the sinfulness of all mankind (cf. Romans 3:9-18, Romans 3:23; Romans 5:1; Romans 11:32). Either God (cf. Romans 3:4) or those who claim sinlessness, is lying.

"His word is not in us" This involves the dual aspect of the term "logos," both as a message and a person (cf. 1 John 1:1, 1 John 1:8; John 14:6). John often refers to this as "truth."

1 John 2:1 "My little children" John uses two different diminutive terms for "children" in 1 John.

1. teknion (cf. 1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:12, 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:7, 1 John 3:18; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:21; John 13:33)

2. paidion (cf. 1 John 2:14, 1 John 2:18)

They are synonymous with no intended theological distinctives. These affectionate terms probably come from John's advanced age at the time of the writing.

Jesus used the term "children" to refer to disciples in John 13:33.

"I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin" This is an aorist active subjunctive. John is making a definite distinction between present tense, an ongoing habitual lifestyle of sinning (cf. 1 John 3:6, 1 John 3:9) and individual acts of sin committed by struggling and tempted Christians. He is trying to bring a balance between the two extremes of

1. taking sin too lightly (cf. Romans 6:1; 1 John 1:8-10; 1 John 3:6-9; 1 John 5:16)

2. Christian harshness and brittleness over personal sins

These two extremes probably reflect two different schools of Gnostic teachings. One group felt that salvation was an intellectual matter; it did not matter how one lived because the body was evil. The other group of Gnostics also believed the body was evil and, therefore had to be limited in its desires.

"And if anyone sins" This is a third class conditional sentence which speaks of potential action. Even Christians sin (cf. Romans 7:0).

"we have an Advocate with the Father" This is a present active indicative which refers to Jesus' ongoing intercession as our heavenly Advocate (paraklçtos). This was a legal term for a defense lawyer or "one called alongside to help" (from para, beside and kaleô, to call). It is used in the upper room discourse in the Gospel of John, for the Holy Spirit, our earthly, indwelling advocate (cf. John 14:16, John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7). However, this is the only use of the term for Jesus (although it is implied in John 14:16; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 7:25; Hebrews 9:24). Paul used this same concept for the intercessory work of Christ in Romans 8:34. In this same passage he also speaks of the intercession of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:26. We have an Advocate in heaven (Jesus) and an Advocate within (the Spirit), both of whom the loving Father sent on His behalf.

"Jesus Christ the righteous" This characterization is used of God the Father in 1 John 1:9. New Testament authors use several literary techniques to assert the deity of Jesus.

1. use titles used for God for Jesus

2. assert actions of God done by Jesus

3. use grammatically parallel phrases referring to both (objects of verbs or prepositions)

It speaks of the sinlessness (holiness, God likeness) of Christ (cf. 1 John 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22). He was the Father's means of bringing "righteousness" to a people.

1 John 2:2

NASB, NKJV"He Himself is the propitiation for our sins" NRSV"he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins" TEV"Christ himself is the means by which our sins are forgiven" NJB, RSV"He is the sacrifice to expiate our sins"

The term hilasmos is used in the Septuagint for the lid of the Ark of the Covenant called the mercy seat or place of atonement. Jesus put Himself in our guilty place before God (cf. 1 John 4:10; Romans 3:25).

In the Greco-Roman world this word carried the concept of a restoration of fellowship with an estranged deity by means of a price being paid, but the word is not in this sense in the Septuagint (remember the NT authors [except Luke] were Hebrew thinkers, writing in Koine Greek). It was used in the Septuagint and in Hebrews 9:5 to translate "mercy seat," which was the lid of the Ark of the Covenant located in the Holy of Holies, the place where atonement was procured on behalf of the nation on the Day of Atonement (cf. Leviticus 16:0).

This term must be dealt with in a way that does not lessen God's revulsion to sin, but affirms His positive redemptive attitude toward sinners. A good discussion is found in James Stewart's A Man in Christ, pp. 214-224. One way to accomplish this is to translate the term so that it reflects God's work in Christ: "a propitiatory sacrifice" or "with propitiatory power."

The modern English translations differ on how to understand this sacrificial term. The term "propitiation" implies that Jesus placated the wrath of God (cf. Romans 1:18; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6). God's holiness is offended by mankind's sin. This is dealt with in the ministry of Jesus (cf. Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:17).

Some scholars (i.e., C. H. Dodd) feel that a pagan (Greek) concept (appeasing the anger of a deity) should not be applied to YHWH, therefore, they prefer "expiation" whereby Jesus' ministry dealt with mankind's guilt (cf. John 1:29; John 3:16) before God and not God's anger against sin. However, both are biblically true.

"for our sins; and not ours only, but also for those of the whole world" This refers to the potential of unlimited atonement (cf. 1 John 4:14; John 1:29; John 3:16, John 3:17; John 12:47; Romans 5:18; 1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:11; Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 7:25). Jesus died for the sin and sins of the whole world (cf. Genesis 3:15). The only thing that keeps the whole world from being saved is not sin, but unbelief. However, humans must respond and continue to respond by faith, repentance, obedience, and perseverance!

Verses 3-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1 John 2:3-6 3By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

1 John 2:3 "By this we know that we have come to know Him" Literally this is "we know that we have known Him." This is a present active indicative followed by a perfect active indicative emphasizing that the Christians of these traumatized churches can have the full assurance of their salvation in light of the Gnostic false teachings.

The word "know" is used in its Hebrew sense of personal relationship (cf. Genesis 4:1; Jeremiah 1:5) and its Greek sense of facts about something or someone. The gospel is both a person and a body of truth. The emphases in this phrase are

1. we can know God

2. we can know what He wants for our lives

3. we can know that we know! (cf. 1 John 5:13)

One of the assurances of our relationship with God is revealed by our actions and motives (cf. Matthew 7:0; James, 1 Peter). This is a recurrent theme of 1 John (cf. 1 John 2:3, 1 John 2:5; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:13; 1 John 5:2, 1 John 5:13).

John's writings use two Greek words for "know" (ginôskô and oida) often (27 times in the five chapters of 1 John) and synonymously. There seems to be no discernable semantic distinction between these terms in Koine Greek. The choice is stylistic. It is also interesting that John does not use the intensified term epiginôskô.

John is writing to encourage believers as well as refute heresy. The Gospel of John and 1 John use the terms for "know" more than any other of the books in the NT. 1 John is a book of assurance based on knowledge of the gospel and commensurate lifestyle love and obedience (cf. The book of James).

"if" This is a third class conditional sentence which means potential action.

"we keep His commandments" Notice the conditional element (present active subjunctive). The new covenant is unconditional as to God's offer but conditional as to mankind's repentant faith and obedient response (cf. 1 John 2:3-5; 1 John 3:22, 1 John 3:24; 1 John 5:2, 1 John 5:3; John 8:51-52; John 14:15, John 14:21, John 14:23; John 15:10; Revelation 2:26; Revelation 3:8, Revelation 3:10; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 14:12). One of the evidences for true conversion is obedience to the Light (both Jesus and the gospel, cf. Luke 6:46). Even in the OT obedience was better than sacrificial ritual (cf. 1 Samuel 15:22; Jeremiah 7:22-23). Obedience does not bring or secure salvation, but it does evidence salvation. It is not the basis (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9), but the fruit (cf. Ephesians 2:10).

1 John 2:4 "The one who says" This is the textual marker for John's diatribe format.

"I have come to know Him" This is one of several assertions of the false teachers (cf. 1 John 1:6, 1 John 1:8, 1 John 1:10; 1 John 2:4, 1 John 2:6, 1 John 2:9). This is a diatribe ("the one who says. . .") similar to Malachi, Romans, and James. The false teachers were claiming to know (perfect tense) God, but were trying to separate salvation from godly living. They were separating justification from sanctification. They claimed superior (i.e., secret) knowledge of God, but their lifestyles revealed their true motives.

"and does not keep His commandments" This is present active participle which speaks of habitual lifestyle action. Our lives reveal our spiritual orientation (cf. Matthew 7:0). Verse 1 John 2:4 expresses the truth negatively, while verse 1 John 2:5 expresses the same truth positively.

"is a liar" There is nothing worse than self-willed deception! Obedience is evidence of true conversion. You shall know them by their fruit (cf. Matthew 7:0).

John calls several religious people (teachers, preachers) liars (cf. 1 John 1:6; 1 John 2:4, 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:20). They are religious but not right with God!

1 John 2:5 "but whoever keeps His word" This is present active subjunctive which speaks of habitual lifestyle action. The authors of the UBS' A Handbook on The Letters of John (Haas, Jonge, and Swellengrebel) offer an interesting comment on this Greek construction: "a relative pronoun with the Greek particle, 'an' or 'ean' and the following verb in the subjunctive occurs in 1 John 3:17, 1 John 3:22; 1 John 4:15; 1 John 5:15; 3 John 1:5. It seems to express generally occurring circumstances" (p. 40). Obedience is a crucial aspect of covenant faith. This is the central message of 1 John and James. One cannot say He knows God and yet reject both the living Word and the written Word by lifestyle sin (cf. 1 John 3:6, 1 John 3:9)!

"in him the love of God has truly been perfected" This is a perfect passive indicative which speaks of completed action (cf. 1 John 4:12, 1 John 4:17, 1 John 4:18). It is uncertain, grammatically speaking, whether the genitive is speaking of

1. God's love for us (cf. 1 John 4:12)

2. our love for God (cf. 1 John 5:3)

3. just God's love in general in our hearts

The term "perfect" (telos cf. 1 John 4:12, 1 John 4:17, 1 John 4:18) means mature, complete, or fully equipped for an assigned task (cf. Ephesians 4:12), not without sin (cf. 1 John 1:8, 1 John 1:10).

"By this we know that we are in Him" Here again is the emphasis on believers' ability to have a faith confidence in their relationship with God. The concept of our being in Him (abiding cf. 1 John 2:6) is a recurrent theme of John's writings (cf. John 14:20, John 14:23; John 15:4-10; John 17:21, John 17:23, John 17:26; 1 John 2:24-28; 1 John 3:6, 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:13, 1 John 4:16).

1 John 2:6 "abides" See Special Topic at 1 John 2:10. The NT also asserts that both the Father and the Son abide in us (cf. 1 John 2:3 and 17:21). Notice that even in a clause which emphasizes assurance there is the need for, and implied warning, of "ought" (cf. 1 John 2:6, present infinitive, "abides in Him"). The gospel is a conditional covenant with rights and responsibilities!

"ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked" This is another emphasis on "true faith" as lifestyle faith (cf. James 2:14-26). Faith is not only a decision, but an ongoing personal relationship with Jesus that naturally issues in daily Christlike living. Eternal life has observable characteristics! This is parallel to 1 John 1:7. The goal of Christianity is not just heaven when we die, but Christlikeness now (cf. Romans 8:29-30; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Peter 1:15)! We are saved to serve. We are sent on mission as He was sent on mission. As He laid down His life for others, so we too, must see ourselves as servants (cf. 1 John 3:16).

"He" is literally "that One," which is a common idiom in John's writings for "Jesus" (cf. John 2:21; John 19:35; 1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:3, 1 John 3:5, 1 John 3:7, 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:17). Often it is used in a derogatory way (cf. John 7:11; John 9:12, John 9:28; John 19:21).

If "that One" refers to Jesus, then who does the "in Him" of 6a refer to? John often used a purposeful ambiguity. It could refer to the Father (cf. John 15:1-2, John 15:9-10) or the Son (cf. John 15:4-6). This same ambiguity can be illustrated in "the Holy One" of 1 John 2:20.

Verses 7-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1 John 2:7-11 7Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. 8On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. 9The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

1 John 2:7 "Beloved" John often calls his readers by affectionate terms (cf. 1 John 2:1). This term was used by the Father to refer to Jesus at His baptism (cf. Matthew 3:17) and transfiguration (cf. Matthew 17:5). It is a common designation of the saved in John's letters (cf. 1 John 3:2, 1 John 3:21; 1 John 4:1, 1 John 4:7, 1 John 4:11; and 3 John 1:2, 3 John 1:5, 3 John 1:11).

The Textus Receptus has "brothers" (MSS K, L, NKJV), but 1 John uses this only in 1 John 3:13. "Beloved" is supported by the uncial Greek manuscripts (א, A, B, C, P, and the Vulgate, Peshitta, Coptic, and Armenian versions (see Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary On the Greek New Testament, p. 708).

"I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment" This is characteristic of John's writings (cf. John 13:34; John 15:12, John 15:17). The command was not new in terms of time, but new in terms of quality. Believers are commanded to love one another as Jesus loved them (cf. John 13:34).

The "old commandment" can be understood in two senses.

1. the Law of Moses (i.e., Leviticus 19:18)

2. the teachings of Jesus recorded in John's Gospel (i.e., John 13:34; John 15:12, John 15:17)

"the old commandment" In 1 John 2:3 the word "commandment" is plural, but here it is singular. This seems to imply that love fulfills all other commandments (cf. Galatians 5:22; 1 Corinthians 13:13). Love is the gospel's mandate.

"which you had from the beginning" This is an IMPERFECT ACTIVE INDICATIVE which refers to the hearer's first encounter with the gospel message (cf. 1 John 2:24; 1 John 1:1; 1 John 3:11; 2 John 1:5-6).

"have heard" The Textus Receptus adds the phrase "from the beginning" (used in the earlier part of the verse).

1 John 2:8 "which is true in Him" The gender of this pronoun changes from the feminine in 1 John 2:7, which matches "commandment," to the neuter, which addresses the whole gospel. A similar change in pronoun is found in Ephesians 2:8-9.

"the darkness is passing away" This is present middle indicative (according to A. T. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, p. 212). For those who know God in Christ, the new age has dawned and is continuing to dawn in their hearts and minds (i.e., realized eschatology).

"the true Light is already shining" Jesus is the light of the world (cf. John 1:4-5, John 1:9; John 8:12), which is a biblical metaphor for truth, revelation, and moral purity. See notes at 1 John 2:5 and 1:7. The new age has dawned!

1 John 2:9 "yet hates his brother" This is present active participle which speaks of a settled ongoing attitude. Hate is an evidence of darkness (cf. Matthew 5:21-26).

1 John 2:10 "The one who loves his brother abides in the Light" Present tense verbals dominate this context. Love is an evidence of believer's salvation and personal relationship with and knowledge of truth and light. This is the new, yet old commandment (cf. 1 John 3:11, 1 John 3:23; 1 John 4:7, 1 John 4:11, 1 John 4:21).

SPECIAL TOPIC: "Abiding" in John's Writings

NASB, NKJV "and there is no cause for stumbling in him" NRSV"in such a person there is no cause for stumbling" TEV"there is nothing in us that will cause someone else to sin" NJB"there is in him nothing to make him fall away"

There are two possible translations of this verse.

1. the believer who walks in love will not personally stumble (cf. 1 John 2:11)

2. the believer who walks in love will not cause others to stumble (cf. Matthew 18:6; Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:13)

Both are true! The gospel benefits the believer and others (both other believers and the lost).

In the OT "stumbling" is the opposite of faith (sure-footed, stable stance). God's will and commands were illustrated by a clear path or way. This is how "walk" can be a metaphor for lifestyle.

See Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith, and Faithfulness in the OT at John 1:14.

1 John 2:11 "But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness" There is a present active participle (hates) followed by a present active indicative (walks). Hate is a sign of unbelief (cf. 1 John 3:15; 1 John 4:20). Light and darkness, love and hate cannot exist in the same person. This is typical of John's black or white statements. He expresses the ideal! Often, however, believers struggle with prejudice, unlove, and neglect! The gospel brings both an instantaneous change and a progressive change.

"the darkness has blinded his eyes" This can refer either to believers' remaining sin nature (cf. 2 Peter 1:5-9), or the actions of Satan (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4). There are three enemies of mankind: (1) the fallen world system; (2) a personal angelic tempter, Satan; and (3) our own fallen, Adamic nature (cf. Ephesians 2:2-3, Ephesians 2:16; James 4:0).

Verses 12-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1 John 2:12-14 12I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake. 13I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. 14I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

1 John 2:12-14 All of the verbs in these verses (except "I am writing" [NASB 1970], "I have written" [NASB 1995], UBS4 gives the second option an "A" rating [certain]) are perfect tense, which speak of action in the past resulting in an ongoing state of being. As the previous context addressed the false teachers, this context addresses the believer. There are three different titles given to believers: "little children," "fathers," and "young men." This paragraph does not fit smoothly into the context of lifestyle evidences of assurance. It is possible that we are not dealing with three groups but a literary device describing the settled condition of all Christians.

There are four things listed that believers know.

1. that their sins are forgiven (1 John 2:12)

2. that through Christ they have overcome the devil (1 John 2:13)

3. that they "know" they have fellowship with both the Father (1 John 2:14) and the Son (1 John 2:13-14)

4. that they are strong in the Word of God (1 John 2:14).

This list is expressed grammatically in (1) the phrase "I am writing you" and (2) the six hoti (because ) clauses.

1 John 2:12 "because your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake" Jesus' ministry is mankind's only hope for forgiveness (perfect passive indicative). In Hebrew understanding, the name equals the character and personality (cf. 1 John 3:23; 3 John 1:7; Romans 10:9-13; Philippians 2:6-11).

There is a series of six hoti clauses in 1 John 2:12-14. They may be purpose clauses (NASB, NRSV, NJB, "because") or simply a literary way to introduce statements of fact (NET, "that").

1 John 2:13 "Him who has been from the beginning" The pronouns in 1 John are ambiguous and can refer to God the Father or God the Son. In context this one refers to Jesus. It is a statement of pre-existence and, thereby, His Deity (cf. John 1:1, John 1:15; John 3:13; John 8:48-59; John 17:5, John 17:24; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6-7; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3).

"you have overcome" This is a recurrent promise and warning in 1 John (cf. 1 John 2:14; 1 John 4:4, 5: 1 John 4:4-5, 1 John 4:18-19). This is expressed in a perfect active indicative which speaks of the culmination of a process. Here again, John writes in black and white terms (this realized eschatological victory is so reminiscent of the Gospel of John). Believers are victors, yet because of the "already but not yet" tension of the Kingdom of God, they still struggle with sin, temptation, persecution, and death.

"the evil one" This is a reference to Satan, who is mentioned again in 1 John 2:14. Verses 13 and 14 are parallel. See Special Topic at John 12:31.

"because you know the Father" The biblical concept of "know" involves the Hebrew sense of intimate personal relationship (cf. Genesis 4:1; Jeremiah 1:5) and the Greek concept of "facts about." The gospel is both a person to welcome (Jesus), a message (doctrine) to accept and act on, and a life to live.

SPECIAL TOPIC: KNOW (using mostly Deuteronomy as a paradigm)

1 John 2:14 "you are strong" Notice that their strength is based on the abiding word of God. This is similar to Paul's admonitions in Ephesians 6:10-18. The abiding word is the gospel. It is both conceptual and personal, God initiated and individually received, both a decision and a discipleship, both truth and trustworthiness.

"the word of God abides in you" This personifies the concept of the word of God (the gospel, cf. 1 John 2:24). This is an allusion to John 15:0. It is used in a negative sense in John 5:38 and 8:37.

"you have overcome the evil one" This is an emphasis on the perseverance of true saints. It is found again in 1 John 2:17, 1 John 2:19, 1 John 2:24, 1 John 2:27, 1 John 2:28; 1 John 5:18; and 2 John 1:9. The doctrine of the security of the believer needs to be balanced with the truth that those who are truly redeemed will hold out until the end (cf. Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:26; Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:12, Revelation 3:21). See Special Topic: the Need to Persevere at John 8:31. This does not imply sinlessness now, though that is a theoretical possibility in Christ's finished work (cf. Romans 6:0).

Verses 15-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1 John 2:15-17 15Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

1 John 2:15 "Do not love" This is a Present active imperative with a negative particle, which means to stop an act that is already in progress. The love of the world characterized one group of Gnostic false teachers.

"the world" This term is used in two different senses in the NT: (1) the physical planet and/or the created universe (cf. John 3:16; John 16:33; 1 John 4:14) and (2) human society organized and functioning apart from God (cf. 1 John 2:15-17; 1 John 3:1, 1 John 3:13; 1 John 4:4-5; 1 John 5:4-5, 1 John 5:19). The first refers to initial physical creation (cf. Genesis 1-2) and the second to fallen creation (cf. Genesis 3:0). See Special Topic: Kosmos at John 14:17.


"nor the things in the world" This seems to refer to a love of material objects (cf. 1 John 2:16) or the things the world has to offer: power, prestige, influence, etc. (cf. Romans 12:2; James 1:27). This fallen world system attempts to meet all of mankind's needs apart from God. It structures life in such a way that humans appear to be independent. Institutions that all of us are grateful for can become idolatrous when they allow independence from God. Examples include: (1) human governmental systems; (2) human educational systems; (3) human economic systems; (4) medical systems, etc.

As Augustine said so well, "man has a God-shaped hole" in his life. We try to fill that hole with earthly things, but we can only find peace and fulfilment in Him! Independence is the curse of Eden!

"If" This is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action. What we love is evidence of whose we are. . .God's or Satan's.

1 John 2:16 "the lust of the flesh" This refers to fallen mankind's self-seeking attitude (cf. Galatians 5:16-21; Ephesians 2:3; 1 Peter 2:11). See Special Topic: Flesh (sarx) at John 1:14.

"the lust of the eyes" The Jews recognized that the eyes are the windows of the soul. Sin begins in the thought life and works its way out to action. One's actions develop into lifestyle domination (e.g., Proverbs 23:7).

"and the boastful pride of life" This refers to human pride apart from God (i.e., humans trusting in their own resources). In The Jerome Bible Commentary, vol. II, Raymond Brown, a renowned Catholic Johannine scholar, says of the phrase,

"However, alazoneia, found also in James 4:16, has a more active meaning then mere pride: It denotes arrogance, boastfulness, the conviction of self-sufficiency" (p. 408).

The term life is bios which refers to earthly, physical, temporal life on this planet (what mankind shares with the plants and animals, cf. 1 John 3:17). These characterizations describe both groups of Gnostic false teachers and unregenerate fallen mankind. God help us, they also describe immature Christians!

"is not from the Father, but is from the world" There are two reasons Christians must not love the world.

1. that love is not from the Father (cf. 1 John 2:16)

2. the world is passing away (cf. 1 John 2:17)

1 John 2:17 "The world is passing away" This is a present middle indicative (cf. 1 John 2:8). This relates to the Jewish two ages. The new and consummated age is coming; the old age of sin and rebellion is passing away (cf. Romans 8:18-25).

SPECIAL TOPIC: This Age and the Age to Come

"but the one who does the will of God lives forever" Notice how eternal life (i.e., literally "abides into the age") is connected to a loving lifestyle, not just a past profession of faith (cf. Matthew 25:31-46; James 2:14-26). See Special Topic on the Will of God at John 4:34.

Verses 18-25

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1 John 2:18-25 18Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. 20But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. 21I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Song of Solomon 2:0; Song of Solomon 2:03Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. 24As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.

1 John 2:18 "Children" See note at 1 John 2:1.

"it is the last hour" Literally it is "last hour" with no article (found only here). Like "the last days," this is one of the phrases used in the NT to describe the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (cf. John 6:39-40, John 6:44). This is an important concept in John because in our day so many interpreters have been influenced by C. H. Dodd's "realized eschatology" (a major tenet of amillennialism). It is surely true that John uniquely and forcefully teaches that the Kingdom of God has come in Jesus. However, this text reveals that there is also a future consummation (event or period). Both are true. This is another expression of the NT tension (paradox) between "the already and the not yet" (i.e.; "is coming") of the two Jewish ages, which are now overlapped in time.

"antichrist. . .antichrists" This descriptive phrase is both singular and plural; neither term has the article (following MSS א*, B, C). Only John uses this term in the NT (cf. 1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7). See fuller note in Contextual Insight to 1 John 2:3-27, D.

"is coming" This is a present middle (deponent) indicative. In Koine Greek some forms of the Greek verb fell out of use and other forms took over their function. Deponent verbs are middle or passive voice in form, but are translated as Active voice in meaning. Here the present is used to express the certainty of a future event. The Antichrist, singular, is coming and many false teachers or false messiahs similar to him have already appeared (antichrists).

It is just theologically possible that since Satan does not know the time of Christ's return, he has someone already prepared to step into world leadership at any moment of opportunity.

"have appeared" This is a perfect active indicative. The "anti"-Christ spirit is already present and active in this fallen world (i.e., the false teachers), yet there is still a future manifestation. Some commentators understand this to refer to the Roman Empire of John's day, while others see it as a future world empire of the last day. In many senses, it is both! The last hour was inaugurated at the Incarnation and will last until the consummation (the Second Coming of Christ).

1 John 2:19 "They went out from us, but they were not really of us" This is a perfect example of false teaching and false professions in the visible church (cf. Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 13:1-9, Matthew 13:18-23, Matthew 13:24-30). Their lack of truth, love, and perseverance are evidences that they are not believers. Heresy always comes from within!

The author of 1 John is very careful in his choice of verb tenses. Verse 1 John 2:19 reflects

1. the false teachers have left (aorist)

2. they were never truly a part (imperfect)

3. if they had been a part they would not have left (a second class conditional sentence with a pluperfect verb)

See SPECIAL TOPIC: Apostasy at John 6:64.

"if" This is a second class conditional sentence which is called contrary to fact. It should be translated, "If they had belonged to us, which they did not, then they would have stayed with us, which they did not."

"they would have remained with us" This is a pluperfect active indicative which speaks of completed action in past time. This is one of several references to the doctrine of Perseverance (cf. 1 John 2:24, 1 John 2:27, 1 John 2:28). True faith remains and bears fruit (cf. Matthew 13:1-23). See Special Topic at John 8:31.

1 John 2:20 "you have an anointing from the Holy One" "You" is plural which is emphasized in the Greek text in contradistinction to those who had left the Christian fellowship. It is possible that the Gnostics were influenced by the eastern "mystery" religions and taught a special anointing which brought knowledge and identification with a deity. John asserts that it was believers, not the Gnostics, who had the anointing (special initiation) from deity.


"anointing" See SPECIAL TOPIC: Anointing in the Bible (BDB 603)in the Bible at John 11:2.

NASB"and you all know" NKJV"and you know all things" NRSV"and all of you have knowledge" TEV"and so all of you know the truth" NJB"and have all received knowledge"

This was a significant statement in light of Gnostic false teachers' arrogant assertions about their secret knowledge. John asserts that believers have basic Christian knowledge (1 John 2:27 and John 16:7-14 and Jeremiah 31:34), not exhaustive knowledge either in religion or other realms or knowledge (cf. 1 John 3:2). For John, the truth is both conceptual and personal, as is the anointing which can refer to the gospel or the Spirit.

There is a Greek manuscript variant in this phrase. The NKJV follows the uncial manuscripts A, C, and K, having panta, a neuter plural used as a Direct object, while NASB follows manuscripts א, B, and P, having pantes, a masculine plural, which focuses on the subject "you all." In light of the exclusivistic claims of the false teachers, the last option is best. The UBS4 gives it a "B" rating (almost certain). The anointing and knowledge are given to all believers, not a select, special, intellectual, spiritual few!

1 John 2:21 This is one of many verses which assert that John's readers have faith assurance of redemption and know the truth. In this verse assurance is based on an anointing from the Spirit who has given believers a hunger for and knowledge of the gospel.

1 John 2:22 "Who is the liar" This phrase has the definite article, therefore, John is referring either to

1. a specific false teacher (possibly Cerinthus)

2. the "big lie" and denial of the gospel (cf. 1 John 5:10)

"The liar" is parallel to "antichrist." The spirit of the antichrist is present in every age; a basic definition (the two connotations of the preposition "anti") is "one who denies that Jesus is the Christ" or "one who tries to replace Christ."

"that Jesus is the Christ" The Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 408, makes a good point,

"the author does not mean simply the fulfillment by Jesus of the OT and Jewish expectation of a messiah. 'Christ' here has its full sense as the preferred NT designation of Jesus, whose words and deeds have proclaimed him the divine Savior of mankind (cf. Acts 2:31; Romans 1:4)."

It is possible that this doctrinal affirmation functioned

1. as a polemic against Gnosticism

2. a Palestinian creedal formula that clearly separated the Synagogue from the Church; it may reflect the post-Jamnia (A.D. 70) curse formulas of the rabbis

3. like "Jesus is Lord," it may have been a baptismal affirmation

1 John 2:22-23 "the one who denies the Son" Apparently the Gnostic false teachers claimed to know God, but they denied, decentralized, and depreciated the place of Jesus Christ (cf. 1 John 4:1-6; 1 John 5:11-12; John 5:23).

Based on the writings of the Gnostics from the second century A.D., the comments within the NT, and the early church fathers, the following beliefs emerge.

1. The Gnostics tried to wed Christianity to Greek philosophy (Plato) and the eastern mystery religions.

2. They taught that Jesus was divine but not human because spirit was good, but matter (flesh) was evil. Therefore, there was no possibility of a physical incarnation of deity.

3. They taught two things about salvation

a. one group asserted that a special knowledge of angelic spheres (aeon) brought a salvation of the spirit unrelated to the actions of the body on the physical plain.

b. another group accentuated physical asceticism (cf. Colossians 2:20-23). They asserted that a total denial of bodily wants and needs was crucial to a true salvation.

1 John 2:23 This verse in the Textus Receptus, following the uncial manuscripts K and L, has accidently shortened the original text by omitting the second parallel reference to the Father, which is strongly supported by the Greek uncial manuscripts א, A, B, and C.

"the one who confesses" This is the exact opposite of "whoever denies" in 1 John 2:22 [twice] and 23 [once] and 26 [once]. See Special Topic: Confession at John 9:22-23.

"the Son" Fellowship with God is only available through faith in the Son (cf. 1 John 5:10-12, 1 John 5:13). Faith in Jesus is not an option! He is the only way to the Father (cf. John 5:23; John 14:6; Luke 10:16).

1 John 2:24 "As for you" This shows a very emphatic contrast between John's readers and the false teachers and their followers who left (cf. 1 John 2:27).

"let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning" This is a present active imperative with a grammatical emphasis on "you" (which is at the beginning of Greek phrase) in contradistinction to the false teachers' message. The gospel is personified and described as an indwelling guest. This is the first of two reasons given for the Christians' victory over the false teachers (the liars). The second one is found in 1 John 2:20 and 27, where the anointing of the Spirit is mentioned. Again, the gospel as both message and person are linked by the phrase "from the beginning" (cf. 1 John 2:13, 1 John 2:14, 1 John 2:24 [twice]). God's word is both content and personal, both written and living (cf. 1 John 1:8, 1 John 1:10; 1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:24)! See Special Topic: Abiding at 1 John 2:10.

"If" This is a third class conditional sentence which means potential action. This continues the warning and admonition related to "abiding." The cessation of abiding reveals that they were never a part (cf. 1 John 2:18-19). The lifestyle evidence of "abiding" brings a faith assurance (cf. John 15:0). Abiding is a message heard and received and a fellowship with both the Son and the Father (cf. John 14:23) which is revealed in lifestyle choice, both positively (love) and negatively (rejection of the world).

1 John 2:25 "This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life" Again the pronouns in 1 John 2:25 are very ambiguous and can refer to God the Father or God the Son. Maybe this was purposeful (as in 2 Peter 1:0). Apparently this statement is much like John 3:15-16 and 6:40. The believer's hope rests in the character and promises of God (cf. Isaiah 45:23; Isaiah 55:11). Our intimate fellowship with the Triune God issues in the hope, yea, the promise of eternal life (cf. 1 John 5:13). Eternal life has observable characteristics.

Verses 26-27

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1 John 2:26-27 26These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. 27As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

1 John 2:26 "those who are trying to deceive you" This is a present active participle. There are deceivers in every age (cf. Matthew 7:15; Matthew 24:11, Matthew 24:24; 2 John 1:7). These are often sincere religionists who attend and are active in Christian gatherings.

1 John 2:27 "the anointing" This seems to emphasize the result of the anointing, not the means (the Spirit) or the elements (the gospel truths) involved. Anointing was an OT concept of the special call and equipping of a person for a God-given task. Prophets, priests, and kings were anointed. This term is etymologically related to the term "Messiah." Here it refers to the resulting stability which the Holy Spirit's enlightening of the heart and mind to the gospel brings to believers. See SPECIAL TOPIC: Anointing in the Bible (BDB 603) in the Bible at John 11:2.

The false teachers were claiming a special revelation from God (i.e., special anointing). John asserts that all believers already have the true anointing when they trust the Anointed One, are filled with His Spirit, and abide in God's word.

"which you received" This is an aorist active indicative which points to some completed past act. The "anointing" is parallel to "you have heard" in 1 John 2:24. The gospel must be received (1) individually by faith (cf. John 1:12; John 3:16) and (2) as a body of truth (cf. 2 John 1:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Jude 1:3). Both of these acts are mediated by the Holy Spirit.

"and you have no need for anyone to teach you" Verse 1 John 2:27 is a parallel to 1 John 2:20 (i.e., the New Covenant, cf Jeremiah 31:34). John is using recurrent themes (1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:24, 1 John 2:27). The Holy Spirit, not the Gnostic false teachers, is our ultimate and indispensable teacher (cf. John 14:26). However, this does not mean that the office and gift of teacher is not active in the early church and today (cf. Ephesians 4:11; Acts 13:1; 1 Corinthians 12:28). It simply means that basic things concerning salvation come from the Holy Spirit and the Bible, not from any special, gifted, human teacher, although He often uses them as a means.

"but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie" This refers to spiritual truth. Every Christian has the Holy Spirit guiding his/her conscience. We must be sensitive to the Spirit's gentle leadership in areas of truth and ethics.

"just as it has taught you, you abide in Him" This is a present active imperative. John uses the concept of "abide" extensively in this letter as an element of faith assurance for his readers (cf. John 15:0). Biblical faith is a covenant in which God takes the initiative and sets the agenda, but humans must initially respond and continue (abide)! There is both a divine aspect and a human aspect involved in abiding. See Special Topic: Abiding at 1 John 2:10.

Verses 28-29

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1 John 2:28-3 28Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. 3:1See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

1 John 2:28 There is much discussion among commentators whether a new paragraph should begin in verse 1 John 2:28, 1 John 2:29, or 1 John 3:1. Because of the repetition between 1 John 2:1 John 3:27 and 28, the paragraph division should probably go here.

"little children" See note at 1 John 2:1.

"abide in Him" This is a present active imperative. This is the third present imperative used to promote Christian perseverance (cf. 1 John 3:15, 1 John 3:24). See Special Topics: Need to Persevere at John 8:31 and Abiding at 1 John 2:10.

The pronouns' antecedents are often difficult to identify, but in this paragraph, they are obvious.

1. "in Him," 1 John 2:1 John 3:28a - Jesus

2. "from Him," 1 John 2:1 John 3:28b - Jesus

3. "His," 1 John 2:1 John 3:28b - Jesus

4. "He is righteous," 1 John 2:1 John 3:29 - the Father

5. "born of Him," 1 John 2:1 John 3:29 - the Father (see note)

6. "know Him," 1 John 3:1 - the Father (cf. John 15:21; John 16:2-3)

7. "He appears,"1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:2 - Jesus

8. "like Him," 1 John 3:2 - Jesus

9. "see Him," 1 John 3:2 - Jesus

10. "He is," 1 John 3:2 - Jesus

11. "on Him," 1 John 3:3 - Jesus

12. "as He is pure," 1 John 3:3 - Jesus

Context, context, context!

"when He appears" This is a third class conditional sentence, like 1 John 2:1 John 3:29, and also the "whenever Jesus returns" of 1 John 3:2. This is not meant to convey an uncertain event, but an uncertain time (similar to the NT use of the term "hope," cf. 1 John 3:3).

"we may have confidence" The Greek word for "confidence" (parrhçsia) is from the root "to speak freely." Assurance is a current lifestyle based on the believer's knowledge of and trust in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

See Special Topic: Boldness at John 7:4.

NASB"and not shrink away from Him in shame" NKJV"and not be ashamed before Him" NRSV" and be put to shame before him" TEV"and not hide in shame from him" NJB"and not shrink from him in shame"

This is an aorist passive (deponent) subjunctive which means that it can be understood as

1. the believer himself being ashamed (NASB, TEV, NJB)

2. the believer being made ashamed (NRSV)

Believers are to look for and rejoice in the return of Christ, but those who have lived in selfish, worldly ways will surely be surprised and embarrassed at His appearance! There will be a judgment of believers (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10).

"at His coming" This is a reference to the Second Coming. This word, Parousia, is used only here in all of John's writings and has the connotation of an imminent royal visit.

This is literally "until the Parousia," which means "presence" and was used of a royal visit. The other NT terms used for the Second Coming are

1. epiphaneia, "face to face appearing"

2. apokalupis, "unveiling"

3. "the Day of the Lord" and the variations of this phrase

SPECIAL TOPIC: NT Terms for Christ's Return

1 John 2:29 "If" This is a third class conditional sentence that means potential action. Here it refers to an assumed knowledge that believers share, but false teachers have missed.

"you know" In grammatical form this is either a present active indicative, which states an ongoing knowledge, or a present active imperative which speaks of a believer's necessary knowledge. John's usage of "know" as the possession of all who have the Spirit dictates that it is indicative.

"He" This refers to Jesus (cf. 1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:7. However, the last pronoun "born of Him" seems to refer to God the Father because the phrase "born of God" is used so often (cf. 1 John 3:9; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 5:1, 1 John 5:4, 1 John 5:18; John 1:13).

"righteous. . .righteousness" This is an expected family characteristic!

SPECIAL TOPIC: Righteousness

"born" This is a perfect passive indicative which means a settled condition brought about by an outside agent, God the Father (cf. John 3:3). Notice the use of another familial metaphor (cf. 1 John 3:9) to describe Christianity (it is a family). See note at 1 John 3:0:1d.

1 John 3:1 "See how great a love" The terms for love used here and throughout 1 John are agapaô (Verb) or agapç (Noun, cf. 1 John 2:5, 1 John 2:15; 1 John 3:1, 1 John 3:16, 1 John 3:17; 1 John 4:7, 1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:9, 1 John 4:10, 1 John 4:12, 1 John 4:16, 1 John 4:17, 1 John 4:18; 1 John 5:3). This term was used in Classical Greek, but not often. It seems that the early church redefined it in light of the gospel. It came to represent a deep abiding love. It is unfair to say "a God kind of self-giving love" because in the Gospel of John it is used synonymously with phileô (cf. John 5:20; John 11:3, John 11:36; John 12:25; John 15:19; John 16:27; John 20:2; John 21:15, John 21:16, John 21:17). However, it is interesting that it is always used (in 1 John) in connection with believers loving believers. Faith and fellowship with Jesus changes our relationship with Deity and mankind!

"the Father has bestowed on us" This is a perfect active indicative. The use of this tense connected to God's gift of salvation in Christ is one biblical basis for the doctrine of the security of the believer (cf. John 6:35-40; John 10:1ff; Ephesians 2:5, Ephesians 2:8; Ephesians 5:1). See SPECIAL TOPIC: Christian Assurance at John 6:37.


"that we would be called" This is an aorist passive subjunctive which is used in the sense of an honorific title ("children of God") given by God.

"children of God" This is the focus of 1 John 2:29-10. It confirms God's initiative in our salvation (cf. John 6:44, John 6:65). John uses familial terms to describe the believer's new relationship with deity (cf. 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:1, 1 John 3:2, 1 John 3:9, 1 John 3:10; John 1:12).

It is interesting that John (cf. John 3:3) and Peter (cf. 1 Peter 1:3, 1 Peter 1:23) use the familial metaphor "born again" or "born from above," while Paul uses the familial metaphor of "adoption" (cf. Romans 8:15, Romans 8:23; Romans 9:4; Galatians 4:1-5; Ephesians 1:5) and James uses the familial metaphor of "birth" (cf. James 1:18) or "bringing forth" to describe the believer's new relationship with God through Christ. Christianity is a family.

"and such we are" This is the Present indicative. This phrase is not found in the King James Version of the Bible because it was not included in the later Greek manuscripts (i.e., K and L) on which the KJV is based. However, this phrase does appear in several of the most ancient Greek manuscripts (P47, א, A, B, and C). The UBS4 gives its inclusion an "A" rating (certain). See Appendix Two on Textual Criticism.

"the world does not know us" The term "world" is used in a theologically similar way as 1 John 2:15-17. The world denotes human society organized and functioning apart from God (cf. John 15:18-19; John 17:14-15). Persecution and rejection by the world is another evidence of our position in Christ (cf. Matthew 5:10-16).

"because it did not know Him" This is apparently a reference to God the Father because in the Gospel of John Jesus says again and again that the world does not know Him (cf. John 8:19, John 8:55; John 15:18, John 15:21; John 16:3). The pronouns in 1 John are ambiguous (see note at 1 John 2:28). In this context the grammatical antecedent is the Father, but the theological reference in 1 John 3:2 is the Son. However, in John this may be purposeful ambiguity because to see Jesus is to see the Father (cf. John 12:45; John 14:9).

1 John 3:2 "it has not appeared as yet what we will be" This speaks of John's inability to describe these end-time events (cf. Acts 1:7) or the exact nature of the resurrected body (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:35-49). This also shows that 1 John 2:27 does not mean exhaustive knowledge in every area. Even Jesus' knowledge of this event was limited while He was incarnate (cf. Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:22).

"when He appears" The term "when" introduces a third class conditional sentence. It is used here not to question the Second Coming, but to express its uncertain date. John, although emphasizing a full salvation now, also expects a Second Coming.

"we will be like Him" This involves the consummation of our Christlikeness (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:13; Philippians 3:21; and Colossians 3:4). This is often called "glorification" (cf. Romans 8:28-30). This is the culmination of our salvation! This eschatological transformation is related to the full restoration of God's image in humans created in His likeness (cf. Genesis 1:26; Genesis 5:1, Genesis 5:3; Genesis 9:6). Intimate fellowship with God is again possible!

"because we will see Him just as He is" Job longed to see God (cf. Job 19:25-27). Jesus told us that the pure in heart will see God (cf. Matthew 5:8). To see Him in His fullness means that we will be changed into His likeness (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12). This refers to the glorification of the believer (cf. Romans 8:29) at the Second Coming. If "justification" means freedom from the penalty of sin and "sanctification" means freedom from the power of sin, then "glorification" means freedom from the presence of sin!

1 John 3:3 "everyone" The Greek term pas appears seven times from 1 John 2:29 to 1 John 3:10. There are no exceptions. John presents truth in stark, black-or-white categories. One is either the child of God or the child of Satan (cf. 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:3, 1 John 3:4, 1 John 3:6 [twice],9,10).

"this hope" In Paul this term often refers to Resurrection Day (cf. Acts 23:6; Acts 24:15; Acts 26:6-7; Romans 8:20-25; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:3, 1 Peter 1:21). It expresses the certainty of the event, but with an ambiguous time element.

John does not speak of "the hope" of the Second Coming as frequently as other NT authors. This is the only use of the term in his writings. He focuses on the benefits and obligations of "abiding" in Christ now! However, this is not to imply he did not expect an end-time judgment of evil (cf. 1 John 2:18) and end-time glorification of the believer (cf. 1 John 3:1-3).

"purifies himself, just as He is pure" This is a present active indicative. Purity is important (cf. Matthew 5:8, Matthew 5:48). We must cooperate in the process of sanctification (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:1; James 4:8, 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 3:13, 2 Peter 3:14) just as John 1:12 speaks of our cooperation in the process of justification. This same tension between God's part (sovereignty) in our salvation and our part (human free will) can be clearly seen by comparing 1 John 2:1 with 36:26-27. God always takes the initiative (cf. John 6:44, John 6:65), but He has demanded that covenant people must respond by initial repentance and faith as well as continuing repentance, faith, obedience, service, worship, and perseverance.

This may be an allusion to Jesus' High Priestly prayer of John 17:0, especially 1 John 3:17, 1 John 3:19. He sanctifies Himself, His followers sanctify themselves. It is somewhat surprising that different forms of the same basic root are used.

1 John 2:1. John 17:17,19 - hagiazô (hagios, cf. John 10:36)

2. 1 John 3:3 - hagnizô (hagnos, cf. John 11:55)


A. This passage has been the center of the controversy between Christian perfectionism (cf. Romans 6:0), sometimes called entire sanctification, and the continuing sinning of the Christian (cf. Romans 7:0).

B. We must not allow our theological bias to influence our exegesis of this text. Also, we must not allow other texts to influence this text until our independent study of this text is complete and we have ascertained what John was saying both in chapter 3 and in the entire book of 1 John!

C. This text clearly presents the goal that all believers long for, a total deliverance from sin. This same ideal is presented in Romans 6:0. Through Christ's power we have the potential for sinless living.

D. This passage, however, must fit into the larger context of the entire book of 1 John.

1. To interpret this passage without regard for 1 John 1:8-2 (Christians still sin) would be folly.

2. To interpret this passage in such a manner as to defeat the overall purpose of 1 John, the assurance of salvation against the claims of the false teachers would be folly also.

3. This passage must be related to the false teachers' claims of sinlessness or sin's insignificance. Possibly 1 John 1:8-2 deals with one extreme of the false teachers, while 1 John 3:1-10 deals with another. Remember that interpreting the letters of the NT is like listening to one half of a phone conversation.

E. A paradoxical relationship exists between these two passages. Sin in the Christian's life is a recurrent problem in the NT (cf. Romans 7:0). This forms the same dialectical tension as predestination and free will or security and perseverance. The paradox provides a theological balance and attacks the extreme positions. The false teachers were presenting two errors in the area of sin.

F. This entire theological discussion is based on a misunderstanding of the difference between

1. our position in Christ

2. our striving to fulfill that position experientially in daily life

3. the promise that victory will be ours one day!

We are free from sin's penalty (justification) in Christ, yet we still struggle with its power (progressive sanctification) and one day we will be free of its presence (glorification). This book as a whole teaches the priority of admitting our sin and striving toward sinlessness.

G. Another option comes from John's literary dualism. He wrote in black and white categories (also found in Dead Sea Scrolls). For him one was in Christ and thereby righteous, or in Satan and thereby sinful. There was no third category. This serves as a "wake up call" to peripheral, cultural, part-time, funeral-only, Easter-only Christianity!

H. Some references on this difficult subject:

1. For the seven traditional interpretations of this passage see "The Epistles of John" in The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries by John R. W. Stott, published by Eerdman's (pp. 130-136).

2. For a good treatment on the position of Perfection see Christian Theology, Vol. II, p. 440ff by H. Orlon Willie, published by Beacon Hill Press.

3. For a good treatment on the doctrine of continuing sin in the life of the Christian see "Perfectionism" by B. B. Warfield published by The Presbyterian and Reformed Published Company.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on 1 John 2". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/1-john-2.html. 2021.
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