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The First Epistle of John (2)

(Chapter 2:2-17)

In the Authorised Version, verse 1 of chapter 2 reads: 'And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous'.

While the apostle Paul does not refer to Christ as the Advocate, he says the same thing when he refers to the Spirit Who 'intercedes for the saints' (Rom. 8:26,27), and describes the Lord Jesus as One 'Who is at the right hand of God, Who is also interceding for us' (Rom. 8:34). We remember also, that in His earthly life He promised to pray for Peter that his faith might not fail (Luke 22:32); nor does the believer face an unsympathetic Judge, for He Himself is the propitiation for the sins of His people. We must not understand this word to mean that this represents something that must be done to placate an angry God. Rather it means what God has provided by His redeeming grace, so that the sin barrier between men and Himself can be removed righteously and the saved can then come into His holy presence. Again Paul is writing the same thing when he says, '... you who once were far away (because of sins), have been brought near through the blood of Christ' (Eph. 2:13).

John states that Christ, the Righteous One, is 'the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world' (1 John 2:2). On the surface this seems to teach universalism, but the words 'the sins of' are not in the original but are added by the translators. If extra words are necessary for clarity, then it is much safer to refer to the Gospel where John the Baptist refers to the Lord Jesus in a similar way as the Lamb of God 'Who takes away the sin (singular) of the world' (John 1:29). This is not hair splitting, for sin, in the singular, refers to the root that all inherit from fallen Adam. Personal sins are the result or fruit of such a root. No one today is held responsible for Adam's sin, nor for being born into this world, but each one is accountable for personal sins, and nowhere in Scripture is it taught that the transgressions of all the human race have been atoned for by the death of Christ. If this is true, then no one will be lost and there is not much point in preaching the gospel. But Christ taught that there were tares among the true wheat, whose end was to be destroyed (Matt. 13:40-42). 'Every plant, which My heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up' (Matt. 15:13 A.V.), and one does not root up weeds in order to preserve them! What is true is that the propitiation by Christ provides the basis for all who obey the command to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:19-21).

We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, "I know Him," but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did (2:3-6 N.I.V.).

How do we know that our knowledge of God is true? The test for this is simple, for it results in obedience to His commandments (verse 4). The Gnostics boasted of their superior knowledge of Christ, but John challenges this by pointing out the practical actions of true knowledge. To 'know' and not 'do' is a contradiction, and the apostle of love does not hesitate to call all such people liars. Such are destitute of truth, as those in chapter 1:8-10 who declare they have not sinned. The apostle, all through this epistle, is concerned to sift the true from the false, so he frequently says 'hereby we know' or something very similar, and lays down a practical test for this knowledge. (See 2:5; 3:10,16,19,24; 4:2,13; 5:2).

In verse 5 of chapter 2 the 'love of God' can be treated as the objective genitive meaning 'our love for God' which He has planted in our hearts. Just as our knowledge of God is tested by our obedience, so our love is too: 'This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments' (1 John 5:3 A.V.), and this theme is treated more fully in chapter 4:12,17-21.

Again there is a practical test, this time of abiding in Christ. We should conduct ourselves as He did (verse 6), and meno translated 'abide' in the A.V., is one of John's favourite words, for he uses it no less than thirty-seven times in the Gospel and twenty-six times in his Epistles. Salvation has placed us 'in Christ', 'abiding' is staying there in practice, for only then are we safe. Only then can we fully experience the eternal blessings that come from Him of life, light, knowledge and everything that is necessary and related to the new life which is ours through Him. This is wonderfully illustrated by the Lord Himself in the parable of the vine and the branches recorded in John 15:1-17. In this way we shall 'keep His word'. The force of the Greek is 'keep on keeping His Word'; it is not just a spasmodic thing. In the same way we shall 'keep on walking as He walked' It will be a continual experience. The word 'He' here is ekeinos, an emphatic use of this pronoun, referring to Christ as in 3:3,5,7,16; 4:17, and also in John 7:11; 9:12,28; 19:21.

There appears to be no good reason why the N.I.V. should translate 'as Jesus did' for the words 'even as He walked'. These are perfectly clear in the context.

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in Him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining (verses 7,8).

As all the commandments of God are summed up in the word 'love', and this goes back to the Mosaic law, so it was not new. When the Lord Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment of all, He coupled love to God and love to one's neighbour (Mark 12:28-30). Paul did the same thing when he wrote that the whole law was fulfilled in one word, 'love' (Gal. 5:14; Rom. 13:8-10). This the disciples had learned from the beginning of their Christian experience, yet John follows this by saying 'a new commandment I am writing you' (verse 8). This is a seeming paradox, but Christ did the same thing. He said 'A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another' (John 13:34,35).

The Lord here gives it a new depth of meaning, for they were to love as He loved them, and this meant no less than giving the supreme gift of Himself and His life for them (Eph. 5:1,2). Thus, though old, it was new, with the result that darkness of unbelief and death was passing away through the light of eternal truth given by the One Who declared Himself to be 'the light of the world'. Although the conflict is still going on between the light of God and the darkness of Satan, there is no doubt whatsoever of the outcome. For victory is assured by the final establishment of God's kingdom over the whole creation of a new heavens and a new earth, in which complete righteousness (rightness) will dominate and God will be all in all.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him (verses 9-11).

There is a sharp contrast between genuine love described in this context and hating a person, and this is likened to light and darkness. The claim to be in the light is completely nullified by hating a brother. The only way to walk in the light is to walk in love, that is ready to spend and give itself for others. Such a condition avoids becoming a stumbling-block or trap (skandalon). This can mean in the way of others, or in one's own way, and such a person is walking about in darkness. He has become spiritually blind and is dominated by the god of this age who blinds the eyes of the unbelieving, so that the gospel of the glory of Christ may not illuminate them (2 Cor. 4;4).

John has more to say about divine love later on in chapter 3, but here insists that Christian profession must be tested by love in action.

I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him Who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him Who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one (verses 12-14).

The apostle addresses three classes of the redeemed; (1) 'little children' (A.V.); (2) 'fathers'; and (3) 'young men'. Some of his statements concerning them are duplicated for some reason, possibly for emphasis. It is not just difference in age that is stressed, but their spiritual condition and growth in grace and knowledge of the Lord. The younger ones have made a beginning by realizing that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake. They had also come to know the immense privilege of becoming children of God (3:1). The older group, it is stated twice, have come to know 'Him Who is from the beginning', and through long experience of Him, have come to know Him in a deeper fashion.

The spiritual condition of the young men is important, perhaps because upon them rested a great deal of responsibility for Christian witness, when there was so much subtle error being propagated. They had 'overcome the evil one', and had 'proved to be strong'. The reason for this is abundantly clear, for the word of God was abiding in them, and this was the source of their strength and faithful witness. Just as the Lord Jesus overcame the evil one in the wilderness with a threefold quotation from the Word of God, which is the 'sword of the Spirit' (Eph. 6:17), so the young men were wisely using the same mighty sword which infallibly conquers Satan. And its power today is not lessened, for this is the one way we can meet every attack of the deceiver, hence the tremendous importance of knowing God's Word and being able to use it wisely. There is no substitute for this, all else will fail, but this sword always gives victory over the evil one.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world -- the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does -- comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives for ever (verses 15-17).

The word 'world' is used frequently in John's writings and is one of great importance in understanding their message. It has different shades of meaning, but it always relates to the whole of mankind, not a part of it. This epistle teaches that for the time being the world lies in the grip of the deceiver, the evil one (1 John 5:19), and this affects its whole system which is against God. Paul states the same truth in Galatians 1:4, describing the present age as evil, hence the darkness that the apostle John stresses. In Ephesians 2:2 Paul refers to the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. It is from Satan, the arch enemy of God and the believer, but he knows in his cunning, how to make it very attractive, so much so that John has to warn us here against the danger of loving it. He sums it up in three different ways:

  1. The lust of the flesh, the old sinful nature which we all inherit from fallen Adam. The Lord Jesus refers to it in Mark 4:19, and Paul does so in Galatians 5:17-21.
  2. The lust of the eyes. Matthew 5:28 is an example of this.
  3. The pride, pretentiousness, boastfulness of life, generally centred on our possessions, and commonly known as materialism which is certainly one of the great gods or idols of this age.

To be taken up by any or all of these means that 'the love of the Father is not in him', for these two loves are completely contradictory, and cannot exist side by side. Thus we must watch our 'loves' very carefully. The believer of today faces the same deceptive world system that existed in the first century, and he cannot be too watchful. To get fully absorbed into the things of the world with its so called pleasures which are destined to pass away so swiftly, is incredibly foolish, whereas to put Christ in His proper place as first and foremost in our lives guarantees an eternity of joy and satisfaction (Matt. 6:33; Col. 1;18).

At Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Psa. 16:11 A.V.).


Edited on November 18, 1996 / Updated on November 18, 1996
The Alachua Freenet does not endorse or disendorse the content of this document. Everything is the author's private opinion.
Location: http://www.afn.org/~leo/be_1_john_2.html
Contact: Leo Wierzbowski / leo@afn.org

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