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Bible: What Does 1 John 1-2 Teach Us About the Word of Life, Sin, and the World System?

Updated on September 15, 2016

The Apostle John


John: "God is Light"

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The Meaning of the Word "Confess"

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The Word of Life

The First Epistle of John

The writer does not address any church or individual in particular, nor does his name appear anywhere in this epistle.

The Church recognized the Apostle John—the author of the gospel, two other epistles, and the book of Revelation—as the human composer of this letter.

John begins this first epistle by declaring that he (and other believers included within the designation “we”) not only heard the eternal Word of life (“What was [already in existence] from the beginning”), but also saw and looked upon—“looked upon” must carry more weight than “saw”—, and handled Him (perhaps a reference to feeling His hands and side after the Resurrection) [v. 1].

This Word revealed His life to the apostles, and John asserts that they have seen Him “and bear witness and declare” to his readers “that eternal life” Who had always been with the Father (v. 2).

By proclaiming Jesus to them, the apostle desires that they may be able to have fellowship (koinonia) not only with him, but also most especially with the Father and the Son (v. 3).

John writes to them so that everyone may experience complete joy (v. 4).

The apostle announces the first topic of his message from Jesus: “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (v. 5).

In other words, God is absolutely pure and holy (that is, set apart from all else; wholly other than everything else), and cannot be anything other than holy.

John sets up a series of “If . . . then” statements which center around the terms “fellowship,” “darkness,” “light,” “sin,” “truth,” and “lie” (vv. 6-10).

If individuals claim to have a something in common ("fellowship”) with Christ, but conduct their lives in disobedience as though they do not know God or want anything to do with Him (“walk in darkness”), then they lie and do not live according to the truth (v. 6).

John contrasts the status of those who disobey Christ with the spiritual condition of those who live in obedience to God’s commandments (“walk in the light as He is in the light”); this latter group carries on close relationships with other believers, and the Holy Spirit continually cleanses them from all sin with Christ’s blood (v. 7).

[The Spirit applies one of the primary benefits of Christ’s sacrifice—forgiveness—to the believer.]

Those who deny that they are sinners are practicing self-deception, thereby proving that truth does not dwell within them (v. 8). [John was probably referring to Cerinthus and others who denied their personal sinfulness.]

However, to those who “say the same thing” (homologeo; confess) about their sins as God says about them, He will keep His promise not only to forgive and not punish them for their trespasses (since Christ had already been punished in their stead), but also cleanse them from every unrighteous deed (v. 9).

Those who contend that they have not committed sins make God (Who says that they have sinned) a liar, and the Lord’s word does not have a place in them (v. 10).

Jesus Died for All Kinds of People


Keeping God's Commandments


I John 2

Addressing his readers as “My little children,” John informs them that his purpose in writing them this epistle is to keep them from sinning (v. 1a).

When they do sin—alas, an inevitability— “Jesus Christ the righteous” will come alongside them to testify on their behalf (v. 1b).

As the perfect Sacrifice for the sins of all strata of human beings, Jesus, through His death, satisfied the holy demands of the Father (v. 2).

[Christ’s death is sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of all kinds of people, but it is efficient only for believers.]

John asserts a sure-fire way of knowing that an individual knows Christ personally: such a one keeps His commandments (v. 3).

One who does not prove his verbal profession of faith by obeying Christ’s word is a liar; his behavior shows that he does not know the Lord’s love (v. 4; cf. 1:6).

The one who obeys God’s word demonstrates that the love of Christ is indeed working in and through him (v. 5a).

The way to know that a person is united with Christ is if he “fleshes out” his profession of being in fellowship with the Lord (“abides in Him”) by conducting himself as Jesus did (vv. 5b-6).

[How many professing believers fulfill this latter requirement?]

The apostle remarks to his brethren (“Beloved,” NASB) that he is exhorting them to obey not a new commandment, but an old message (“word”) they have had and have heard “from the beginning” (v. 7).

[Which “old” message is this?

Is it Jesus’ commandment to love one another?]

However, he is also writing a new commandment to them—a commandment that holds true both in Christ and in believers because it finds its basis in the revelation of God in Christ, a revelation which is replacing spiritual ignorance [“darkness”] (v. 8).

The one who professes to have spiritual understanding but who hates others remains in the realm of spiritual ignorance (v. 9).

However, an individual who truly loves others draws upon true spiritual understanding, and possesses no defect that causes others to fall into sin (v. 10).

One who hates others dwells in spiritual ignorance and conducts his life according to that standard; he lacks direction because of this spiritual condition (v. 11).

Jesus Loves All Age Groups


Rely Upon the Spirit's Wisdom

Next, John, addressing three separate groups, twice informs each category of persons why he is writing them (vv. 12-14).

First, he speaks to his “little children”—presumably spiritual babes in Christ—because God has forgiven them in order to accomplish the interests that concern His Son (v. 12).

Second, he turns to “fathers”—possibly spiritually mature believers—because they have known Jesus for a long time (v. 13a).

Third, John talks to “young men”—in other words, strong believers—because God’s word controls their thinking, and they have been victorious over Satan (v. 13b).

[Only by relying on the Spirit’s wisdom in His word can people overcome the devil.]

John returns his attention to his “little children” once more, saying that he is writing to them because they have a personal relationship with God the Father (v. 13c).

To the fathers, the apostle then reiterates why he has written them in the past and is now writing to them: they have known God from the start (v. 14a; cf. 13a).

Because the young men have overcome the devil, he adds another reason he has written to them in the past: because they are strong spiritually, and God’s word remains in them (v. 14b).

[A puzzling section, these short, sometimes repetitive, statements suggest that John has written them and is writing them again, because he wishes to encourage them to continue to fight against Satan and to grow in their relationship with Christ.]

Satan and the Pride of Life


Separate Yourselves from the World System

The apostle now commands his readers not to place their affection upon the world system or dedicate their lives to acquire all that the cosmos offers (v. 15a).

God’s love does not reside in the one who possesses this attitude (v. 15b).

Ruled by Satan, the System promotes the satisfaction of various sinful desires, desires that are quickly passing away, and it also seeks to elevate empty attitudes toward life (v. 16-17a; cf. Eph. 2:2).

[“The lust of the flesh” focuses on satisfying bodily needs, perhaps to an inordinate degree; “the lust of the eyes” suggests the avenue to covetousness; and “the pride of life” points to “vainglory, display, or boasting about one’s possessions” (Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 442).]

The one who obeys God, however, will live forever (v. 17b).



Antichrists and Apostates

Addressing his “little children,” John asserts that “the last hour” has arrived—the time when the Antichrist will appear on the world scene (v. 18a); he then adds that the coming of many antichrists also characterizes this final period (v. 18b).

The particular antichrists to which John refers here are false professors (apostates)—people who once attended the service of the church, but who have abandoned the assembly and returned to the world.

Their apostasy proves that they never became true believers (v. 19).

The anointing of the Holy Spirit, which occurs at salvation, enables true believers to know the difference between truth and error (v. 20; cf. John 16:13).

[We should not understand Jesus’ promise to the apostles in the Upper Room (recorded in John’s gospel) as a blanket statement, granting special knowledge to believers of all time.

This “anointing” is also not the same thing as being filled with the Spirit in a special way.]

John reminds his readers that he has written to them because they belong to God and know the truth (v. 21).

The Incarnation of the Christ


Rest in Jesus as the Messiah

The one who denies that Jesus is the Messiah is not only a liar, but he is an antichrist who accepts neither the Father nor the Son (v. 22).

[Ryrie understands the term “Christ” here to refer to the incarnation.

The title “Christ” first signifies the Messiah (or the anointed one), and then points to His status as the God-man (New Testament Study Bible, 443).]

John contrasts unbelievers and believers by noting that the former do not have a relationship with either the Father or the Son because of their denial of the Lord’s deity, but the latter enjoy both relationships because they acknowledge Jesus is God (vv. 22-23).

The apostle states that those who allow what they heard from the beginning—namely, the gospel truth—to take up its abode in them will find their resting place in the Son and the Father (v. 24).

God has promised believers the gift of eternal life (v. 25).

John has written to inform them about deceivers; however, he relies upon the Spirit’s anointing within them to teach them the truth.

Though the Spirit often uses human teachers to mediate His instruction, believers need no one else but the Spirit to instruct them in the truth (vv. 26-27).

Addressing them once more as little children, John commands them to abide in Christ so that they might stand firm and confident before Him at the Rapture (v. 28).

Acknowledging Christ’s righteousness will enable them to know that people who live righteous lives have experienced the new birth (v. 29).

© 2014 glynch1


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