1 John 2:1
My 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
(a) My little children. John has been speaking to people who have no fellowship with the Lord (1 John 1:3), and who are living in deception and darkness (1 John 1:6). Now he directs his attention to believers, a.k.a. the children of God (John 1:12) who are born of God because they believe Jesus (1 John 5:1). John refers to believers as the children of God on numerous occasions (1 John 2:12, 13, 18, 28, 3:1–2, 7, 9–10, 18, 4:4, 5:2, 18–19, 21, 2 John 1:1, 4, 13, 3 John 1:4). You are not a servant of God; you are his dearly-loved child.
(b) So that you may not sin. When you know how good God is, you no longer want to sin.
John preaches a message of radical forgiveness (1 John 1:9, 1 John 2:12). Some may worry that his message will stir up sin. “If I have been completely forgiven, why can’t I go on sinning?” Anticipating this, John writes “so that you may not sin.” Practicing sin is not something that God’s children do (1 John 3:6). When you are in fellowship with the Father and the Son (1 John 1:3), you lose the inclination to sin. Sin loses its appeal because you have found Someone who is more appealing by far.
(c) If anyone sins. We all make mistakes from time to time. We all stumble. It’s what you do next that reveals how well you understand grace. Do you look to your sin or the Savior? When you sin it takes no faith to beat yourself up and agree with the Accuser who calls you a sinner. It takes faith to look at the cross and say, “Thank you, Jesus, for carrying all my sin.” It takes faith to praise your Father for his superabounding grace that is greater than your transgression. And it takes faith to agree with the Holy Spirit who says, despite what you did, you are still righteous, acceptable, and pleasing to God.
So what is a proper response to sin? It is not turning toward your sin and saying, “Look what I did.” It is turning to Jesus and thanking him for what he did and what you can now do because of what he did. It is thanking him for his blood that cleanses all sin including the one you just did (1 John 1:7). It is praising him because all your sins have been forgiven on account of his name (1 John 2:12). And it is reckoning yourself dead to sin and alive to Christ so that you may live free from sin (Rom. 6:11).
(d) We have an Advocate. Jesus our High Priest and mediator speaks to God on our behalf (Rom. 8:34).
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who deals gently with his straying sheep (Heb. 5:2). But when those sheep come under accusation, our Lord reveals himself as our Righteous Advocate and defender. Picture a heavenly courtroom where the Accuser is leveling charges against you. “This one has not prayed enough. They haven’t read their Bible in years and they have failed again and again. This morning they lost their temper and yelled at their children.” Then Jesus your Advocate speaks. “Father, this one is mine. I have paid the price and redeemed them with my blood.” And God the judge swings his gavel and says, “Case dismissed.”
An old covenant preacher says, “When you sin, you’d better start talking,” But a new covenant preacher says, “When you sin, Jesus does the talking!”
(e) The Father; see entry for 1 John 3:1.
(f) Jesus Christ the righteous. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s righteousness. Just as Jesus is the Word made flesh, the living Truth, and the personification of the Father’s grace (John 1:14, 14:6), he is the very definition of Righteousness (see also Acts 3:14, 7:52, 22:14, 1 John 2:29, 3:7).
When you sin, Jesus remains righteous. This is significant because it is his righteousness that makes us righteous. In the old covenant, when you sinned you brought a lamb to the temple and the priest inspected the lamb for blemishes. But in the new covenant Jesus is the spotless lamb who became sin so that you might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21).
1 John 2:2
And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
(a) He himself. Christ alone is the remedy for your sins.
(b) The propitiation for our sins. Propitiation means our sins have been taken away (1 John 3:5). In him, you are completely and eternally forgiven of all sin (Eph. 1:7, Heb. 9:12).
Propitiation is the new covenant alternative to old covenant atonement. In the old covenant, sins were atoned for or covered up. They weren’t forgiven or removed because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Heb. 10:4). Those old covenant sacrifices were a shadow of a reality that was fulfilled in Jesus’ matchless sacrifice.
Propitiation literally means appeased or satisfied (see Rom. 3:25). Because of Jesus, the demands of justice have been fully satisfied. Prior to the cross, the world was under the condemnation of sin. But Jesus bore sin’s punishment and the sentence of death has been removed.
Since your sins were carried away at the cross, no further sacrifice is needed (Heb. 10:12). This means there is nothing you can do to add the perfection of Christ’s sacrifice. If God is satisfied with the Son, let us be satisfied too.
(c) Also for those of the whole world. On the cross, the Lamb of God took away the sins of the world (John 1:29, Heb. 7:27). This is why John can say “your sins have been forgiven” (1 John 2:12). Forgiveness is not a reward to strive for, but a gift that has been given and in Christ you have it.
The startling announcement of the gospel is that God holds nothing against you or anyone, and that all may freely come to his throne of grace to receive grace. This is good news for the Jew and Gentile alike. Not everyone is saved, but everyone can be saved because Jesus has broken the prison of sin.
Unconditional love and forgiveness are the two great refrains of the gospel of grace. “God loves you! God holds nothing against you!” This message offends those who think we must do things like confess sins to earn forgiveness. But that’s not faith. Faith is receiving the gift that has been given. Faith is thanking Jesus who carried all our sin.
1 John 2:3
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
(a) By this we know is a phrase that appears several times in John’s epistle. John is saying, “This is how we can tell we are in him (1 John 2:5) or abide in him (1 John 4:13). This is how to discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of error (1 John 4:6).” In other words, here is the evidence that will help us distinguish those who are in in the light from those who remain in darkness.
(b) We have come to know him. Jesus is not merely an historical figure; he is someone we can come to know intimately through the Holy Spirit. He is a living Person who desires to share his divine life with us. Knowing Jesus is the essence of eternal life (1 John 5:20).
(c) If we keep his commandments. Those who know the Lord, trust the Lord, and when you know how good he is, he is easy to trust. John is saying the same thing Jesus said: “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (see John 14:15).
In the new covenant, obedience follows trust, and we trust him because we know him. However, someone with an old covenant mindset reverses the order: “If you wish to know him, you must keep his commandments.” Perversely, this mindset will have the very opposite effect as it will cause you to trust in yourself while alienating you from Christ (Gal. 5:4).
1 John 2:4
The 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;
(a) The one who says one thing but does another is a hypocrite and the truth is not in him. John is not talking about Christians but false prophets and deceivers who do not know the Lord. “I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you” (1 John 2:26). It is not our job to assess where people are in their walk with the Lord, but we would be foolish to listen to teachers and influencers who don’t know Jesus (1 John 3:7). “Beware of the false prophets… You will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15–16).
(b) I have come to know him. Jesus desires to know all of us and he gives us understanding so that we might come to know him (1 John 5:20). But not everyone who claims to know Jesus is known by him (Matt. 7:23). Jesus knows his sheep and his sheep are those who hear his voice and respond in faith.
(c) Does not keep his commandments. The fruit reveal the tree, and those who know him, obey him.
John writes much about the fruit or testimony of our lives. What people say is one thing, but what they do is another. If someone disregards the words of Jesus, makes a habit of sin (1 John 3:4), and hates their brother (1 John 4:20), you can be sure they don’t know the Lord. Conversely, someone who does what Jesus says (1 John 2:3), practices righteousness (1 John 3:7) and loves his brother (1 John 4:21), does know the Lord.
The insecure believer reads these words as a threat. “I had better do what Jesus commands or I’m not really a Christian.” But Christianity is not about impersonating Jesus; Christianity is Christ in us (1 John 1:3) and us in him (1 John 2:15). John is not threatening believers. He is saying “Don’t be fooled by those who are false. If they don’t obey Jesus, it’s probably because they don’t know him and Jesus doesn’t know them.” It’s his version of what Jesus says about false prophets in Matthew 7:16.
(d) Is a liar; see 1 John 4:20.
(e) The truth is not in him. Again, John is not talking about Christians. “The truth abides in us” (2 John 1:2). He is warning us to steer clear of false teachers.
1 John 2:5
but whoever keeps his word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:
(a) To keep his word. Since Jesus is the Word of God (see 1 John 2:14), to keep his word is to keep trusting Jesus (Rev. 3:8).
Keeping his word does not mean obeying all the rules in a legalistic attempt to curry God’s favor. It’s being persuaded that Jesus is who he said he is and refusing to be seduced into dead works. Keeping his word is analogous to keeping his deeds (Rev. 2:26) and continuing in the faith (Col. 1:23) or continuing in the grace of God (Acts 13:43).
(b) Love of God. When we allow the love of God to take root in our heart, we find ourselves empowered to keep his word. Obedience is the fruit that grows from the seed of our Father’s love for us.
(c) Has truly been perfected. “This is how we know God’s love has done its perfect work in us—we keep his word.” This has little to do with the standard of your behavior or how much you love God and everything to do with having confidence in your Father’s love for you. When his love is perfected or made complete in us, we have no trouble trusting him in life’s trials.
(d) By this we know we are in him. The evidence of our fellowship or union with the Lord, is that we are fully persuaded that God truly loves us. It is not about how much you love God, but whether you know how much he loves you. Put it altogether, and John is saying something like this: “When we allow the love of God to take root in our hearts, we find it easy to trust and obey Jesus (verses 3 and 5). As we allow Jesus to express his life through us, we begin to walk and talk like Jesus (verse 6) and we overflow with love for our brothers and sisters (verse 10).
1 John 2:6
The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
(a) Abides in him. To abide in him means to dwell or rest in Jesus. Your eternal rest does not begin the day they put your body in a coffin; it begins the day you decide to trust that Jesus has done it all. Because Jesus makes you holy, righteous, and acceptable to God, you have nothing to prove. Because Jesus has done the work, you can rest in him.
Who abides in Jesus? Everyone who confesses Jesus as the Son of God abides in him (1 John 4:15). Every believer is in union with Christ and nothing can change that. But if you are unsure of your position in Christ, you will be anxious and unsettled. You’ll be tempted to pursue dead works in a futile attempt to improve your situation. But when you know that Jesus holds you securely in his hand (John 10:28), you’ll be able to relax and “live deeply in Christ” (1 John 2:24, Message Bible). See also John 15:4.
(b) Ought to walk in the same manner. The secret to authentic life is allowing Jesus to express his life in you and through you.
A mind not established in grace interprets these words as a threat: “I better do everything Jesus did, otherwise I’m a phony.” But the Christian life is not about pretending to be Jesus; it’s resting in him and allowing him to live his supernatural life through us.
(c) As he walked. Because Jesus walked in the center of his Father’s love, he lived untroubled by life’s cares and worries.
1 John 2:7-8
Beloved, 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. On 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.
(a) Beloved. Your primary identity is not “lover of God” but “beloved of God” (Rom. 1:7). You cannot be the former unless you know you are the latter.
John refers to his Christian readers as beloved ten times in his letters (1 John 2:7, 3:2, 21, 4:1, 7, 11, 3 John 1:1, 2, 5, 11). The original word (agapētos) means dearly loved, esteemed, favorite and is closely related to a verb (agapaō) that means to be well pleased or fond of or contented. This word captures God’s heart for you. Your heavenly Father is fond of you. You are his esteemed favorite and he is well pleased with you. He looks at you with a feeling of deep contentment knowing that you are his dearly loved child. See entry for Matthew 3:17.
(b) From the beginning; see entry for 1 John 1:1.
(c) What is the old commandment that is new? The old commandment to love one another comes straight out of the old covenant law (Lev. 19:18). To this old command, Jesus adds a new twist: “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13:34). We don’t love others because it is required of us; we love others with the love we have received from the Lord. As with everything in the new covenant, Jesus takes the lead and we follow.
(d) The new commandment is sometimes referred to as the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21, Gal. 6:2).
This new commandment is nothing like the old commandment for it empowers you to love even those who persecute you. Jesus said, “Love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44). Under the law, such a command is impossible to keep, because they’re your enemies. But because Jesus loved his enemies, and because he gives us his love, we can do the same. It’s a totally new way to live.
(e) True in him and in you. It is the supernatural love of God that enables us to love the unlovable and forgive the unforgivable. Because it’s true for him, it can be true for you.
(f) The darkness is passing away. The darkness of sin and hatred is diminished whenever the light of Jesus is revealed.
(g) The true light is the revelation of God the Father that shines through the Son (John 1:5). It is the good news that declares, “God is good and he loves you like a father.”
1 John 2:9-10
The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.
(a) The one who says. Again, John is contrasting two groups of people: (1) hypocrites whose walk does not match their talk (1 John 1:8, 2:4) and (2) those who know the Lord (1 John 2:3).
(b) Abides in the light. To abide in the light is to abide in Jesus, the Light of the World (1 John 2:6). It’s the same as walking in the light (1 John 1:7). In essence, it means resting or trusting in Jesus and allowing him to live his bright and glorious life through you.
(c) No cause for stumbling in him. When you abide in Jesus, sin loses its appeal and you lose reasons for stumbling.
Some say the good news of grace encourages people to sin. The opposite is true. The true revelation of grace encourages people to live righteous and holy lives (John 16:1). Those who have fixed their hope on Jesus, purify themselves as he is pure (1 John 3:3).
1 John 2:11
But 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.
Those with legalistic inclinations say John is providing obedience tests for Christians: “You’d better love your brother or you’re not a real Christian.” But John is not talking about Christians at all. He is describing unregenerate sinners whose minds have been darkened with hatred (1 John 2:9). He is talking about those who follow the way of Cain (1 John 3:12).
1 John 2:12
I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.
(a) Little children. John has been talking about haters and hypocrites (verses 9–11). He now turns his attention back to the little children of 1 John 2:1. He could be referring to the church generally (the children of God), but given the context (young men, fathers) he may be referring to young believers particularly (see next verse).
(b) Have been forgiven. All your sins – past, present, and future – were dealt with on the cross (Heb. 9:26). In Christ, you have the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14). In him, you are completely and eternally forgiven according to the riches of his grace (Eph. 1:7).
Before the cross, people brought sacrifices to atone for their sin. But on the cross, the Lamb of God carried the sin of the world and there is nothing left to forgive. Because love keeps no record of wrongs, God does not hold our sins against us (2 Cor. 5:19).
Jesus forgave the paralytic before the man uttered a single word, and he forgave the adulterer who was speechless with sin (Matt. 9:2, John 8:10). One didn’t say anything and the other couldn’t say anything, yet Jesus forgave them both. He did this to demonstrate that he has authority to forgive. Forgiveness is his business, his decision, and his gift to us.
We are not forgiven because we said or did the right thing. We are forgiven because Jesus bore our sins. Your sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). Forgiveness is a gift, not a debt or a debit card, and in Christ you have it.
On the night he rose from the dead, Jesus instructed his disciples to preach the good news of the complete forgiveness or remission of all sins (see entry for Luke 24:47). After the cross, the apostles described forgiveness in the past tense and as a gift to receive (see entry for Acts 13:38).
Further reading: “Is forgiveness like a debit card?”
(c) For his name’s sake. You have not been forgiven on account of anything you have done. It is the blood of Jesus that purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7). It is his sacrifice alone that is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2).
1 John 2:13-14
I 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. I 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.
(a) Fathers are those who have raised up spiritual offspring. Fruitful fathers are fruitful because they “know him who has been from the beginning.” This is such an important point that John says it twice. Fruitful believers are those who have a big picture of a big God.
(b) Young men are strong believers because they have learned how to abide in Jesus. From this posture of rest they resist the temptations of the evil one.
(c) Children may refer to young believers who have a revelation of God their Father (1 John 1:2), but are still learning the basics of grace. They need to be reminded of foundational truths such as the complete forgiveness of sins (1 John 2:12).
(d) The Father. Jesus came to reveal a God who loves us like a Father and the epistle writers echoed this theme. See entry for John 17:23.
(e) From the beginning is a phrase that occurs repeatedly in John’s epistles (1 John 1:1). Normally it means the beginning or start, but here it is referring to the eternal and timeless God who was there at the beginning (John 1:1), and whose existence precedes even the beginning of time.
(f) You are strong because you know the Lord and those who know the Lord do great exploits (Dan.11:32).
(g) The word of God is Jesus. The word of God is the way by which God makes himself and his will known. His word can be conveyed via prophecies (1 Sam. 3:21, 2 Sam. 24:11, 1 Kgs. 14:18), dreams (Num. 12:6), visions (Gen. 15:1), the Law (Num. 36:5, Deu. 5:5, Is. 2:3), and angels (Luke 1:35). However, the primary way God reveals himself is through his Son. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14, Rev. 19:13), and the exact radiance or representation of God the Father (Heb. 1:3). As someone once said, Jesus is God explaining himself to the human race. Jesus is God’s selfie.
(h) The evil one a.k.a. the devil (1 John 3:8) or Satan. John mentions the evil one five times in this epistle (1 John 2:13, 14, 3:12, 5:18, 5:19). We overcome the evil one by abiding in Christ. See also the entry for 1 John 5:4.
1 John 2:15
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
(a) The world (kosmos) in this context refers to that part of humanity that is alienated or shaded from the light of God. It does not refer to people in general, “for God so loved the world” (John 3:16) and Jesus is the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14).
The “world” that is not from God and hates his family (1 John 3:13) is the fallen and self-serving system influenced by Satan and the powers of darkness (1 John 5:19). It is the City of Man, which stands opposed to Zion, the City of God. It’s Babylon the Great, the “dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit” (Rev. 18:2). It is Satan’s home from where he has exported untold misery and pain. Like a sinking ship, the fallen order has no future (1 John 2:17).
(b) Do not love the world. John is not talking about people, for God loves people (John 3:16). He is talking those who align themselves with Satan’s system making themselves enemies of God (Jas. 4:4).
(c) The things in the world refers to the fallen order with its inferior and hollow temptations. It does not refer to people or those things God has created for our enjoyment.
(d) The love of the Father is one of the recurring themes of John’s writing (John 16:27, 1 John 4:19). The unconditional love of God is revealed to us in the Son he sent to save us (1 John 4:9–10). His love is manifested in the way he embraces us as his dearly-loved children (1 John 3:1). God loves you the same way he loves Jesus (see entry for John 17:23).
(e) Not in him. Since the fleeting attractions of this broken world cannot compare to the relentless and everlasting love of the Father, a preference for the former is a sign that one is unacquainted with the latter.
1 John 2:16
For 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.
(a) The lust… Here are the three temptations that undid first Adam (Gen. 3:6), and which Satan tried to employ on last Adam (Matt. 4:1–11): “Wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important” (to quote the Message Bible). If we indulge these lusts, we become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another (Gal. 5:26). See entry for The Flesh.
(b) Not from the Father. God does not tempt us (Jas. 1:13). It’s a mistake to think God puts temptations in your way to test your character. Those who tempt you to sin are doing the work of the Tempter (Matt. 4:3).
(c) From the world. The effect of these temptations is to enmesh us within Satan’s world and draw us away from the Father. We resist these temptations by submitting to the will of God (see next verse).
1 John 2:17
The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
(a) The world. Like the darkness (1 John 2:8), the world or fallen order is passing away. The evil one has no future.
(b) Also its lusts. The hollow attractions of this doomed world are being revealed for what they are. Under the sun, all is vanity and striving after wind (Ecc. 1:14).
(c) The one who does the will of God is the one who believes in Jesus. The will of God is not some vague lifelong assessment that should leave you anxious and uncertain. God’s will is for you to be in fellowship with him and his Son (1 John 1:3). His command is that you believe in his Jesus (1 John 3:23).
(d) Lives forever. One with the Lord, the believer lives and reigns forever (Rev. 22:5).
1 John 2:18
Children, 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.
(a) It is the last hour… we know that it is the last hour. We are living in the final act of history.
Since the last hour phrase appears nowhere else in scripture, it may be analogous to the more commonly used last days (Act 2:17, Heb. 1:2). In scripture, history is divided into the first days (before the cross) and the last days (after the cross). The last hour is John’s way of saying, “We’re in the homeward stretch.” We can say no more than that.
Since John heard Jesus say he did not know the hour of his return (Matt. 24:36), it is inconceivable that John has some specific timeframe in mind. He did not know when Jesus would return; no man does. But he and the other apostles had no doubt that they were living in the final age of human history (Jas. 5:3, 2 Pet. 3:3). They apostles believed this age would end with the glorious return of Jesus and the final judgment (1 John 2:28, 3:2, 4:17).
(b) An antichrist spirit denies that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22) or has come in the flesh (2 John 1:7) or is from God (1 John 4:3). Given the context, John was most likely addressing the demonic spirit behind Gnosticism, a false teaching that infiltrated the first-century church.
The antichrist receives considerable attention in eschatological literature, yet the word antichrist appears only four times in John’s epistles and nowhere else in scripture. The antichrist is not mentioned directly in the book of Revelation, and Jesus and the other apostles never spoke of him.
(c) Even now many antichrists have appeared. Some say, “The antichrist will play a major role in these final days.” But John said the antichrist, or many antichrists, were at work in his generation (1 John 4:3).
Further reading: “Four myths about the antichrist”
1 John 2:19
They 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.
(a) They went out from us. Some go from the church into the world for the sake of the Name (3 John 1:7); others go out because they never belonged. Here John is talking about the latter. He’s talking about false prophets who were never in fellowship with the Lord or the community of the saints (1 John 1:3, 4:1). They left because they preferred the darkness to the light and deception to truth (2 John 1:7).
(b) They were not really of us. They weren’t part of the body of Christ. These false prophets were deceivers (2 John 1:7) with an antichrist spirit (1 John 2:18).
1 John 2:20-21
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I 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.
(a) An anointing refers to the empowerment God gives believers to equip them for supernatural works. It refers to the work and indwelling person of the Holy Spirit. By definition, every Christian has the Holy Spirit within them (1 Cor. 3:16).
(b) You have an anointing. You don’t need to ask God to anoint you because he already has, and his anointing abides in you (1 John 2:27). It doesn’t run out or go away.
(c) From the Holy One. You don’t need some Elijah-type leader to lay hands on you as though you were Elisha, for you have been anointed by Jesus the Holy One.
(d) You all know… You do know it because the Spirit of truth abides in you. John is telling the believers, “You know how to discern truth from error (1 John 4:6). You know how to recognize these false prophets and antichrists I have been speaking about.” Alternatively, John is saying, “The problem is not that you don’t know, but that you have forgotten that you know and you need me to remind you again.”
1 John 2:22
Who 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 Son.
(a) Who is the liar? To reject the One called the Truth is to embrace a lie. See also 1 John 4:20.
(b) The one who denies that Jesus is the Christ. It is one thing to be an honest seeker; it is another to deny the aid of the only One who can save you. Those who are lost may yet be found and those in darkness may yet come to the light. But those who harden their hearts to the good news of Jesus are far from grace.
(c) The antichrist is not some charismatic politician behind a coming one-world government. It is simply any lying spirit that denies Jesus is the Christ or the Son of God the Father (see entry for 1 John 2:18).
(d) The Father; see entry for 1 John 3:1.
(e) The Son. Again and again John refers to Jesus as the Son of God (see entry for 1 John 3:8). Jesus is not primarily identified by his occupation (Savior) or office (Lord), but by his relationship to God (Son). The same holds true for us. We are not defined by what we do, but by our relationship to God. As John says again and again, we are God’s dearly-beloved children (1 John 2:1).
1 John 2:23
Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
(a) Whoever denies the Son. The Father and the Son are a package deal (2 John 1:9). You can’t have one without the other (1 John 2:22). Those who think they can come to God without Jesus are fooling themselves (John 14:6).
(b) The Father; see entry for 1 John 3:1.
(c) The one who confesses the Son. Some worry about how to pray. “Should I pray in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit? Should I be baptized in the name of Jesus?” It’s not that complicated. If you have one, you have the other.
1 John 2:24
As 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.
(a) Abide in you which you heard from the beginning. You began your journey at the feet of Jesus; stay there and let nothing move you.
As brand new Christians, we are experts on grace. We sing, “Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me.” But then we hear messages that distract us from grace. “You need to pray more, give more, work more. You need to produce and perform for Jesus.” Heed these messages and you’ll fall from grace like a Galatian (Gal. 5:4).
It certainly doesn’t help that some hijack John’s words to frighten God’s children. “If you don’t abide, God will kick you out of his family.” Relax. It can’t happen. Since you were not saved by your good works, you cannot be lost through your bad works. But there are still consequences to straying. Get distracted from Jesus and you’ll be tossed and turned by every wind of teaching (Eph. 4:14). You’ll start striving in the flesh, and your conscience will condemn you (1 John 3:20). The remedy is to stick with what you heard in the beginning, namely the unfiltered message of grace. It’s grace from start to finish.
(b) You will abide in the Son. This is John’s version of the abide-in-the-vine speech (John 15:4). If you remain untempted by dead works and religious hokum, and if you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, you will abide in the Son. Your heart will be at rest and your mind will be at peace.
Further reading: “What happens to Christians who stray?”
1 John 2:25
This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.
(a) The promise. John wrote about the promise of eternal life more than anyone else in the Bible. It was a promise he heard straight from the mouth of Jesus. “The promise which he himself made to us.” And what is the promise that Jesus made? “Whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). Because he who made it is Truth personified, the promise of eternal life is a promise you can bank on.
(b) Eternal life; see entry for 1 John 1:2.
1 John 2:26
These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.
These things I have written to you refers to the warnings John has just given regarding the false prophets and antichrists (1 John 2:18–19, 22–23). Like Peter (2 Pet. 2:1) and Paul (2 Cor. 11:13), John felt the need to warn Christians about the dangers of deceivers (false prophets, apostles, and teachers).
1 John 2:27
As 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.
(a) The anointing; see entry for 1 John 2:20.
(b) The anointing which you received from him. When you received Jesus Christ, you received his anointing (Luke 4:18). Indeed, the word Christ literally means “anointed one.”
(c) Because his anointing abides in you, you do not need a fresh anointing or a new anointing. His anointing never runs out or goes away.
(d) You have no need for anyone to teach you. Because you have the anointing of Jesus, you have the mind of Jesus. You are able to discern truth from error (1 John 2:20).
(e) His anointing teaches you about all things. The anointing represents the work and person of the Spirit who Jesus said would teach you all things (John 14:26) and guide you into all truth (John 16:13). John is not diminishing the value of godly teaching as much as he is encouraging believers to lean on the Lord. “Don’t go running after every self-appointed teacher and preacher, but take your questions to the Lord. He will guide you in the way of truth.”
Christian, you have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). You have been anointed by the Holy One (1 John 2:20) and qualified by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:6). Don’t let your inexperience hold you back, but allow the Lord to teach you and guide you. Abide in him, then do what comes naturally.
(f) Abide in him; see entry for 1 John 2:6.
1 John 2:28
Now, 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.
(a) Little children, meaning the children of God or believers; see entry for 1 John 5:2.
(b) To abide in him means resting in Jesus. See entry for 1 John 2:6.
(c) When he appears… at his coming. John personally witnessed the ascension of Jesus, and like the other apostles, he had a confident expectation that one day the Lord would return (1 Thess. 5:23, Rev. 22:7).
(d) We may have confidence. The believer has nothing to fear from the return of the Lord (1 John 4:17). Indeed, boldness is the default setting of the children of God (1 John 3:21). Or it ought to be. Yet many Christians are not confident. They’re anxious and fearful because they’ve swallowed a toxic cocktail of grace plus works. Instead of resting in Christ and his finished work, they’re striving in the flesh with their own dead works. But the one who has made Christ his resting place has confidence.
(e) And not shrink away from him in shame. This is not the shame of rejecting Jesus like an unbeliever, but the shame of wasting our lives or living captive to fear. John is essentially saying, “Abide in Christ so you won’t feel like a fruitless schmuck when he returns.” Imagine the shame some are going to have when Christ returns and their futile attempts to impress him are burned up in the splendor of his glory. All our self-efforts—Woof!—gone in a puff of smoke. How embarrassing to arrive at the wedding feast with the smell of smoke in your hair (1 Cor. 3:15)!
Then there are those insecure believers who think God is angry with them and he is coming back to punish them. When they see Jesus face to face and realize that he bears the scars of any punishment they might deserve, they will feel ashamed for having doubted his goodness.
1 John 2:29
If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of him.
(a) He is righteous. The Old Testament prophets spoke of the coming Righteous One (Is. 24:16) or a Righteous Branch (Jer. 23:5–6, 33:15–16). “Jesus the Righteous” is the promise fulfilled (Act 3:14, 1 John 2:1). It is the gift of his righteousness that is revealed in the gospel (Rom. 1:17).
(b) Everyone also who practices righteousness. If the Vine is righteous, then the branches are righteous too. You are not righteous because you practice righteousness; you practice righteousness because the Righteous One lives in you (1 John 3:7).
(c) Because you have been born of him who is righteous, you can practice righteousness. Your righteousness is not pretend or positional; it is the real righteousness of the Righteous One doing righteous deeds in you and through you.
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- 1 John 2:1
- 1 John 2:2
- 1 John 2:3
- 1 John 2:4
- 1 John 2:5
- 1 John 2:6
- 1 John 2:7-8
- 1 John 2:9-10
- 1 John 2:11
- 1 John 2:12
- 1 John 2:13-14
- 1 John 2:15
- 1 John 2:16
- 1 John 2:17
- 1 John 2:18
- 1 John 2:19
- 1 John 2:20-21
- 1 John 2:22
- 1 John 2:23
- 1 John 2:24
- 1 John 2:25
- 1 John 2:26
- 1 John 2:27
- 1 John 2:28
- 1 John 2:29