Although there are of course a few dissenters the vast majority of scholars have attributed the Gospel of John, 1,2, and 3rd John, as well as the book of Revelation to John the apostle, son of Zebedee and brother of James. It is true that only in Revelation does the author mention himself by name and even as such does not describe himself specifically as the ‘apostle’ John. However the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’ of the gospel of John when examined in context most assuredly refers to John the apostle. The close similarity in style and language between the gospel of John and the other letters ascribed to him make it improbable that any one else is their author. “The external evidence for the authorship of 1 John is early and strong. Specifically quoting the Epistle as by John, the author of the Fourth Gospel, are: Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and his pupil, Dionysius.” Believer's Bible Commentary
We would do well to remember what we know of this great apostle. Firstly John is described when Jesus calls him as a brother of James and a son of Zebedee(Mt 4:21). It is proposed by some that these two brothers were first cousins of Jesus being the sons of Salome the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus(cf. Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40; John 19:25). Almost without exception in the gospels John and James are mentioned together. Jesus renamed these two brothers as the ‘sons of thunder’. Perhaps this was an indication of their loud and crashing personalities. James and John were the two who asked to have special seats of honor in Christ’s kingdom, the pair also were anxious to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans who were inhospitable to Christ. John in the synoptic gospels finds himself in the inner circle of apostles closest to Christ and a participant in some of the elect events of the gospels. Only John along with James and Peter are witness to the resurrection of the synagogue official’s daughter. The same trio accompany Christ on the mount of transfiguration and these were the same three that were closest to Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed. In the gospel of John he is the disciple who leans on Christ at the Passover and is the only disciple found at the foot of the cross when all others had fled. When Mary brings news of the empty tomb John beats Peter in a foot race to verify the news. In the book of Acts John plays a prominent role alongside Peter in the healing of the blind man and the subsequent hearings before the Sanhedrin. When the Samaritans first received the gospel it was Peter and John who were sent that they might receive the Holy Spirit. The apostle John outlived all the other apostles and tradition has it that he alone was not martyred in death.
Place of Writing
The early church fathers tell us that the apostle John spent the later part of his life working out of Ephesus ministering to the churches of Asia. For a period of time John was exiled to the Isle of Patmos off the west coast of Asia and that is where he had the vision of the book of Revelation. But both before and after Patmos it is believed that John ministered to the churches of Asia while living in Ephesus.
Date of Writing
The apostle John outlived all the other apostles and wrote his books later in his life. It is believed that all of his works were written late in the 1st Century likely sometime in the middle of the 90’s.
The Setting and Purpose for Writing
“Gnosticism was a problem that threatened the church in Asia Minor during the second century a.d. Gnosticism was a teaching that blended Eastern mysticism with Greek dualism (which claimed that the spirit is completely good, but matter is completely evil). This teaching was present in the church in a seminal form during the latter years of the first century. By the middle of the second century it had become a fully developed theological system, which included Gnostic gospels and epistles. John recognized the danger of Gnosticism and wrote to counteract its influence before it could sweep through the churches of Asia Minor. Based on the concept that matter is evil and spirit is good, some Gnostics concluded that if God was truly good He could not have created the material universe. Therefore, some lesser god had to have created it. According to them, the God of the OT was this lesser god. The dualistic views of Gnosticism were also reflected in the prevalent belief that Jesus did not have a physical body. This teaching, called Docetism, claimed that Jesus only appeared to have a human body and never actually suffered pain and death on the Cross.
Another heresy that John addressed in this letter and personally confronted at Ephesus was Cerinthianism. This heresy taught that Jesus was just a man upon whom the “Christ” descended at His baptism, that the Christ then departed from Jesus just before His crucifixion, and that thus the spiritual Christ did not really suffer and die for humanity’s sins on the Cross, but only appeared to do so.”
John explicitly speaks to why he writes his first epistle. John 1:4; 2:1,12-14,21,26; 5:13. These texts teach us that John wrote to encourage the saints to remain faithful thereby bringing him joy. With respect to the immorality that surrounded the false teaching that was threatening his audience John repeatedly reinforces his desire that his readers might not sin. He writes to encourage all to remain faithful and to remind them that they know the truth. He specifically writes concerning those who would deceive the saints. In conclusion he writes so that his readers might know that they have eternal life.
All quotes are from the NASB unless otherwise stated
1 John 1:1-4 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
- Immediately we are struck with the similarity between this text and the gospel of John. Compare John 1:1-2
- What… what… what… what. Or NIV ‘which’… All these point to the Word of life, Jesus Christ.
- Right off the top John sets in motion what is of first importance… Jesus Christ. Notice what John says about his or their(he and the apostles) experience with this ‘Word of Life’.
- What was from the beginning
o Is this speaking of the beginning as in Gen 1:1 and John 1:1. The beginning, that is before creation. Cf. John 17:5
§ This would be a compliment to Jesus being called ‘the eternal life’ vs 2.
o Or is this a reference to the beginning of Christ’s ministry or incarnation. Cf 2:13
- what we have heard
o At the time John is writing he alone is the last of these we’s. The we would refer to he and the other apostles who walked and talked with Jesus Christ.
o John is reminding his readers that he is indeed an eyewitness to Jesus Christ and as such has the authority to testify as to His nature.
o Let us not forget that the nature of Jesus Christ is at the heart of the heresy of Gnosticism which is threatening the church.
o We were there… we heard him with our own ears.
- what we have seen with our eyes
o We are eyewitnesses of these things
- what we have looked at and touched with our hands
o Not only did we see Jesus, we intimately interacted with Him… he was no spirit being… we touched Him with our hands… he was human flesh.
- concerning the Word of Life
o Concerning Jesus Christ. See John 1:1,4,14
- and the life was manifested
o I think this is a continued reference to the Word of Life of verse 1.
o This life was made know to us… became flesh and dwelt among us John 1:14.
- and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life
o Jesus was made know to us and we proclaim Him to you.
o He is the eternal life. Cf John 11:25
- which was with the Father and was manifested to us
o Jesus the word was with the Father from the beginning but was then made known to those who were eye witnesses and thereby to us.
o Compare John 1:1
- what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also
o John affirms his eye witness credibility.
o He was there and witnessed first hand the life and ministry and death of Jesus Christ.
o We saw Him with our eyes, we touched Him with out hands, we heard Him.
o This is the factual foundation of the Christian faith.
o We didn’t make this stuff up, we were there and witnessed it with our five senses.
§ 2Peter1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
o The nature of Jesus Christ is not some trivial matter.
§ The Gnostic influences of John’s day were denying essential truths concerning Christ. They were denying that Jesus came in the flesh (4:2).
o John has affirmed so far that Jesus is eternal, and was with the Father and has come to us in full human form… we touched him and saw him.
§ These affirmations confirm essential Christian truths and undermine the heresy that was threatening to lead the church of John’s day astray.
- so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
o What John was eye witness to, what he heard and saw and handled in the person of Jesus Christ… this is the message that has been proclaimed… this is the gospel… to the end that you too may have fellowship with us… and the Father… and the Son Jesus Christ.
o When we accept the testimony of John concerning Christ we become part of the fellowship of believers.
o And this fellowship of the believers is indeed composed of those who have fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
o Our fellowship with the Father is not delegated to someplace off in the distant future… It is in the here and now(1John 5:11-13)
- These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
o John writes to secure this fellowship.
o John writes to call people back to the truth about Jesus Christ and about what it means to live Godly in Him.
o In presenting these truths about Jesus Christ and His will for the lives of His people John’s motivation is that he might rejoice in their continued faithfulness.
o I believe this is how John’s joy will be made complete.
1:5 This 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.
- We have been witness to the very Word of life, He was made know to us from the Father.
- Well… what did He say, what did he say?
- “God is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all!”
- What does that mean? God is Light. He’s a really shiny guy? He’s on fire? He’s pure white?
- Up until now the emphasis has been on life(vs 1,2).
- The word light is used in this verse and in verse 7. It is also used in 2:8-10.
- Interestingly life and light are also dominant themes in the opening words of the gospel of John. Cf John 1:1-14.
- John 1:4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
- John 3:19-21 “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
- John 8:12 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
- John 12:46 “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.
- That God is Light is contrasted immediately with darkness. God is pure light without any hint of darkness.
- Light in Johns writings is more than illumination, it is representative of goodness.
- Darkness is consequently representative of evil.
- To say God is Light is to say that God has no character flaws, God has no sin. As such God alone is in position to illuminate the world. The effect of that illumination is twofold. Some scatter to hide in the darkness. Some come to the Light for illumination and salvation.
- The stunning thing, in light of all this is that John has told us that they had fellowship with the Light and through the proclamation of John we can have fellowship with the Light.
1:6-7 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but 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.
- How can we, as sinful human beings actually have fellowship with a perfect and Holy Father and His Son Jesus Christ?
- It is John’s desire that we all have fellowship with the Father and the Son. Some have been deceived into thinking they have this fellowship when in fact they do not. Some say they have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness. This, says John is an impossibility.
- What does it mean to walk in darkness? Any time we sin are we said to be walking in darkness?
- What does it mean to walk in the light? Sinless perfection?
- Walking in the light cannot mean sinless perfection because it is when we are walking in the light that the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
- The force of the text is that as we walk in the light we are cleansed by His blood.
o There is a continual cleansing taking place for those who are walking in the light.
§ Note: The Greek does not emphasise this continual aspect of the cleansing. The present tense can indicate one time action or continuous action. The context here thought indicates that walking in the light is not a one time action so therefore we would conclude that the cleansing is not a one time action either.
o The blood was a part of the incarnation, and this was physical and thus denied by those of the apostasy. The Gnostics, and especially the Docetists, would deny that blood would have anything to do with salvation. F.F. Bruce wrote, “Most serious of all the consequences of their apostasy is this: the blood of Jesus, which is constantly accessible for the cleansing of those who remain within the fellowship, is not available for those who show a persistent preference for ‘walking in darkness.’” The College Press NIV commentary
1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
- If we say that we have not sin…
o Again we are reminded that walking in the light is not somehow walking without sin.
o John is going to keep pounding on this from every angle until we get it… until we understand what walking in the light entails and what it does not entail.
o OK… so far we have this. 1. We must walk in the light in order to have fellowship with God. 2. That does not mean that we must walk sinlessly. 3. On the contrary to claim that we walk sinlessly is self deception.
o John is here attacking one of the central beliefs of the Gnostics: that real Christians do not sin. Bruce wrote, “These new teachers [those who went out from the Christians to whom John refers in 2:19] claimed to have reached such an advanced stage in spiritual experience that they were ‘beyond good and evil.’ They maintained that they had no sin, not in the sense that they had attained moral perfection but in the sense that what might be sin for people at a less mature stage of inner development was no longer sin for the completely ‘spiritual’ man.”12 This becomes a very damnable doctrine, for it led some early Christians to live licentious lives, because they believed they would not be punished for it. The College Press NIV commentary
- the truth is not in us
o Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” John 14:6
1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- John, I believe is expounding on verse 7 here.
- This is part of what we do when we walk in the light… we confess our sins.
- In so doing He continues to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
- Again John, to drive the point home restates it a different way.
- If we say that we’re sinless, we’re calling God a liar because He says otherwise.
- If we go there we know that His word is not in us.
- So then, it’s OK if we just keep on sinning as long as we keep on confessing?
- Just where is the line between walking in darkness and walking in light?
1 John 2:1-2 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; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
- I am writing these things…
o This is the second time John states his purpose for writing.
- so that you may not sin.
o Are we putting this all together?
§ We are supposed to walk in the light.
§ That doesn’t mean sinless perfection.
§ It is critical that we don’t deceive ourselves into thinking we’re sinless.
§ But this in no way gives us license to sin.
§ John’s purpose in writing is not to make us expert confessors of sin. His purpose is to prevent us from sinning.
§ So God does expect us to be perfect then?
§ No not at all…
- if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
o We are not to habitually sin but if someone does…
o This is what gives us hope as Christians… our Advocate, Jesus Christ.
§ Advocate: A person who argues the case of another, such as a lawyer in a court. Wiktionary.
· Synonyms: supporter, backer, promoter, campaigner.
§ 3875. παράκλητος paraklētos; from parav and kalevw ; called to one’s aid:— Advocate(1John 2:1), Helper(John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7).
· This is the word Jesus used to describe who the Holy Spirit will be to the disciples. A helper, an advocate, literally one called along side to help.
§ NIV ‘one who speaks to the Father in our defense’
§ The impression is not that God is the bad guy and wants to punish us and Jesus has to come running to our defense. The Father is the one who because of His great love sent the Son to pay the price for us. The Son intercedes for us by offering His blood in our place.
o When our righteousness fails, Jesus Christ the righteous intercedes on our behalf. Compare Rom 8:34; Heb 7:23-25; 9:24
- He Himself is the propitiation for our sins;
o Propitiation isn’t exactly a word you’re likely to hear over coffee.
§ NAS margin has ‘satisfaction’
§ NIV has ‘atoning sacrifice’
§ RSV has ‘expiation’
§ Propitiate: To appease or conciliate somebody or something. Encarta
§ Propitiate: To make peace with. Webster’s
§ Atone: To make reparation for a sin or a mistake. Encarta
§ Atone: To make amends for. Webster’s
§ Expiate: To make amends, show remorse, or suffer punishment for wrongdoing. Encarta
§ Expiate: To make amends for. Webster’s
§ 2433. ἱλάσκομαι hilaskomai; from the same as 2436; to be propitious, make propitiation for:— make propitiation(Heb 12:17), merciful(Luke 18:13).
§ 2434. ἱλασμός hilasmos; from 2433; propitiation:— propitiation(1John 2:2; 4:10).
§ 2435. ἱλαστήριον hilastērion; from ἱλαστήριος hilastērios; from 2433; propitiatory:— mercy seat(Heb 9:5), propitiation(Rom 3:25).
§ PROPITIATION [pro pish ih AY shun] — the atoning death of Jesus on the cross, through which He paid the penalty demanded by God because of people’s sin, thus setting them free from sin and death. The word means “appeasement.” Thus, propitiation expresses the idea that Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for sin that a holy God demanded. Although Jesus was free of sin, He took all our sins upon Himself and redeemed us from the penalty of death that our sins demanded. As the writer of 1 John declared, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2; atoning sacrifice, NIV, NRSV). Nelson's illustrated Bible dictionary
§ The fullest explanation of the concept of sacrifice is found in the Mosaic Law. In this code sacrifice has three central ideas: consecration, expiation (covering of sin), and propitiation (satisfaction of divine anger). Nelson's illustrated Bible dictionary
§ Propitiation — that by which God is rendered propitious, i.e., by which it becomes consistent with his character and government to pardon and bless the sinner. The propitiation does not procure his love or make him loving; it only renders it consistent for him to exercise his love towards sinners. In Rom. 3:25 and Heb. 9:5 (A.V., “mercy-seat”) the Greek word hilasterion is used. It is the word employed by the LXX. translators in Ex. 25:17 and elsewhere as the equivalent for the Hebrew kapporeth, which means “covering,” and is used of the lid of the ark of the covenant (Ex. 25:21; 30:6). This Greek word (hilasterion) came to denote not only the mercy-seat or lid of the ark, but also propitation or reconciliation by blood. On the great day of atonement the high priest carried the blood of the sacrifice he offered for all the people within the veil and sprinkled with it the “mercy-seat,” and so made propitiation. In 1 John 2:2; 4:10, Christ is called the “propitiation for our sins.” Here a different Greek word is used (hilasmos). Christ is “the propitiation,” because by his becoming our substitute and assuming our obligations he expiated our guilt, covered it, by the vicarious punishment which he endured. (Comp. Heb. 2:17, where the expression “make reconciliation” of the A.V. is more correctly in the R.V. “make propitiation.”) Easton's Bible dictionary
o How can we who are sinners have fellowship with a Holy God in whom is no darkness at all?
§ Because of Jesus who goes to the Father on our behalf and intercedes for us. He is equipped for the job as He Himself has satisfied the justice of our Holy Father in this regard. He has appeased the wrath of God which was directed toward us.
§ Romans 4:25-5:2 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. 1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
- and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
o Jesus sacrifice on that cross is not for only a select few predetermined since before the creation.
o His sacrifice on that cross was designed to benefit the whole of humanity. As many as received Him… (John 1:12). That whosoever believes… (John 3:16).
- This is how it is possible for us to be in fellowship with the Father.
2:3-6 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 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; 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: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
- John shifts gears here a little. We are going to come back to the ‘sinning saint’ conversation in particular in 3:4-10, but now we’re moving into a related discussion about what it means to know Jesus.
- The Gnostic mindset values knowledge above all else. They claimed to have special and secret knowledge of God. These Gnostic’s believed that what was done in the flesh did not have an impact on the spiritual. Consequently they never made it a priority to live lives of holiness. John would say that their deeds testify that they do not know God at all.
- By this we know…
o Are you unsure if you really know Jesus? Do you feel out of touch with Christ? How do you know that you really know Him? How do you know that Jesus is at work in your life?
o If we keep His commandments.
o Cf. John 14:21-24
o It is not that by rigidly following a set of rules that we come to know God. Rather our desire and striving to keep God’s commands in a testimony to our true knowledge of God.
o Our obedience to God’s commands is a testimony to our knowledge of Him.
- is a liar…
o You cannot know Jesus Christ and disregard His commandments.
o It’s an impossibility.
- whoever keeps His word…
o If you keep the words of Jesus, if you keep His commandments, you can be assured that the love of God is at work in you… God’s love has been productive in your life, God’s love has been perfected in your life. God’s love in your life has reached it’s logical end.
- By this we know…
o It’s simple and straightforward.
o There are no tricks or curveballs here.
o If you love Jesus, you will live a life of obedience to Him, you will walk as He walked.
o Cf. Luke 6:46 Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?
o To truly know God is not about acquiring some secret higher knowledge. It is about obeying Jesus’ commands.
- Is knowing Christ identical to walking in the light? Is it another way of describing the same thing?
- In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer penned the words, “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate” (1959:47). Cheap grace means living as though God ignores or condones our sins. But forgiveness means that sin is real, and must be dealt with. We cannot ignore it, because God does not ignore it. The denial of sin is not grace: it is a lie. Cheap grace means living without the demand of obedience upon us. And where there is no call for obedience, then all things are tolerated. “Do your own thing” becomes the motto. And so nothing can be labeled as “sinful.” No act is clearly right or wrong. Thus, there is no need of forgiveness. But because John insists that God calls us to obey the commands that have been given, he also reminds us that when we fall short of keeping them, there is forgiveness in Christ. And, to come at it from the other angle, where there is forgiveness available, it follows that certain actions—whether thoughts, words or deeds—can be dealt with only when one confesses and is forgiven. In short, the call to confession and the offer of forgiveness go hand in hand with the call to obedience. Cheap grace is grace without obedience, and the Elder knows no such grace. It is not the grace given to us in Jesus Christ. The IVP New Testament commentary series (1 Jn 2:3). Downers Grove, Ill., USA: InterVarsity Press.
2:7-11 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. 8 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. 9 The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 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.
- a new commandment
o Cf. John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
o Cf. 2 John 5 Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.
o How is this a new commandment from Jesus perspective? Is this not the same commandment as Lev. 19:18 you shall love your neighbor as yourself?
o Perhaps it is new in that this love is demonstrated by Christ. “even as I have loved you”
o Notice John does not tell us in this text exactly what the commandment is as Jesus does in John 13:34 and John does in 2John 5. Certainly though we can gather what it is by verses 9 and 10.
- an old commandment
o This is part of the teaching that they had from the beginning of their walk with Christ.
o John is not introducing something new to them.
o This is the message that they had previously heard.
- On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you
o How can it be both old and new?
o It is old in the sense that they had heard it already.
o It is new in the sense that it is the cornerstone of the new way.
o It is the commandment of the new covenant of Jesus Christ… the way of the Light(vs 8).
- The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.
o Is John is rephrasing what it means to walk in the light? Cf. 1:7
o What does it mean to walk in the light, or to know Christ(2:3-5), or to abide(2:6,10) in Him?
§ God is Light. 1:5
§ It then must mean something like ‘walking in God’.
§ It doesn’t mean sinless perfection or we would have no need of cleansing. 1:7
§ It is critical that we don’t deceive ourselves into thinking we’re sinless. 1:8
§ But this in no way gives us license to sin. 2:1
§ John’s purpose in writing is not to make us expert confessors of sin. His purpose is to prevent us from sinning. 2:1
§ We must keep His commandments. 2:3
§ We must keep the commandment to love our brother in particular. 2:9
- The one who loves his brother abides in the Light
o John sums up walking in the light as loving ones brother.
o Is that a bit of an overstatement? Certainly we could take this out of context and say that if we truly love our neighbour that nothing else matters. What we believe is of little consequence… only that we love our neighbours. Of course however, that would mutilate the purpose of John in writing this letter.
o It does stress the importance of loving ones brother.
§ If we do everything else but neglect to love our brother we will be walking in darkness, blinded to the truth, and will be outside of the fellowship of God.
- the one who hates his brother is in the darkness
o This is serious business is it not?
o Here’s the real question… what constitutes loving our brother?
§ It just so happens that Jesus spelled that out for us.
§ John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
§ Cf. 1John 5:2
§ He sets the bar fairly high there huh?
o So that’s loving our brother… what constitutes hating our brother?
§ If we don’t measure up to John 13:34 are we still going to squeak by?
- Loving our brother: John 13:12-15; Ro 12:10; 13:8; Gal 5:13-14; 1Peter 1:22,23; 1John 3:23
2:12-14 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 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. 14 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.
- Who are these little children, fathers, and young men?
o It seems to me these are not physical age categories but spiritual age categories.
o Little children: Those who are young in the faith.
§ This is perhaps a bit of a play on this phrase as it is also one of his favorite ways to address the church at large. Cf. 2:1,28; 3:7,18; 4:4; 5:21.
· Note that ‘children’ in verse 13(as well as 18) is the from the word paidivon(paidion) whereas ‘little children’ in verse 12 is from the word teknivon(teknion). The words are pretty much synonyms. teknivon is used only in John’s writings and only in a figurative sense(unless this is the exception). paidivon has a much broader use in the NT.
o Fathers: Those who are mature in the faith.
o Young men: Spiritual young men.
o Something to think about: Is there a general rule about spiritual maturity in terms of physical years?
§ That is does it normally take 20 years or so for a person to reach spiritual maturity?
§ On the other hand if you’ve been a Christian for 20 years does that make you spiritually mature?
- little children
o because your sins have been forgiven you for His names sake
o because you know the Father
o because you know Him who has been from the beginning
o because you know Him who has been from the beginning
- young men
o because you have overcome the evil one
o because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one
- What’s John doing here? I am writing… I have written… and this repeating…???
o Note: the NIV uses ‘I write’ throughout. The Greek has ‘I write’ or ‘I am writing’ for the first triplet and then ‘I wrote’ for the second. It is translated ‘I have written’(NASB) because it is recognized as an epistolary aorist. That is a use of the past tense by a writer where he describes his letter from the time frame of the audience.(pg 242 Wallace The Basics of NT Greek Syntax)
- These are all compliments are they not? I think John would describe all these age groups as walking in the light, would he not?
- But we’re not all in the same place are we?
o The new birth and the accompanying forgiveness is fresh in the mind of the children.
o The fathers thoroughly know Jesus. Their major battles are behind them.
o The young men are in the heat of battle achieving victory through Christ.
- Jerome reports that when in old age John had to be carried to the place of assembly, he always greeted the church with the words, “little children, love one another.” When, perhaps somewhat impatiently, he was asked why he always said the same thing, he responded, “Because this is the Lord’s command, and enough is done when this is done.” The College Press NIV commentary
2:15-17 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. 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. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
- Do not love the world…
o John approaches the same issue from yet another angle.
§ We’ve talked about having fellowship with the Father and the Son.(1:3)
· To have fellowship with God means that we must walk in the light.(1:7)
§ We’ve talked about walking in the light versus walking in darkness.(1:7)
· Walking in light does not mean walking without any sin.(1:7-10)
· Walking in light means that we confess our sins.(1:9)
· Walking in light however, does not mean deliberately sinning either.(2:1)
§ We’ve talked about knowing Christ in terms of keeping His commandments.(2:3)
· Knowing Christ and abiding in Him have been presented as parallels.(2:5-6)
· Abiding in Him involves walking as Jesus walked.
§ We’ve talked about loving ones brother as being a testimony of knowing and abiding in Christ.
§ We’ve learned that to hate ones brother is to walk in darkness.
§ Now we are learning that to love the world is to exclude one from loving God.
· Loving God has been mentioned in connection with keeping His commandments. (2:5)
· Loving the brethren has been mentioned in connection with abiding in the light.(2:10)
- If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
o For John the love of the world and the love of God are mutually exclusive. You cannot have it both ways. You either love God or you love the world.
§ This is reminiscent of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:24.
§ Compare also Rom 12:2; James 1:27; 4:4
o We tend not to really believe such statements. We like to think we can love the world and love God but the scriptures repeatedly tell us otherwise.
o Exactly what does it mean to love the world?
- 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.
o Another way to translate ‘for’ is ‘since’ or ‘because’.
§ In other words I think this phrase describes what is involved with ‘loving the world’.
§ The love of the Father is not in him because all these worldly things are not from God. Consequently to love them is to not love God.
o lust of the flesh
§ Compare Mark 4:19; Rom 13:14; Eph 2:3; Titus 2:12; 1 Pet 2:11
o lust of the eyes
§ Compare Prov 27:20; Ec 4:8; Mt 5:28; 2Pet 2:14
o boastful pride of life
§ Compare Dan 4:30; James 4:16
o You cannot set your heart on these things and on God at the same time. Let’s be very careful not to deceive ourselves in our age of materialism.
- The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
o Everything to do with worldly pleasures is on its way out.
§ The one who loves the world will share the same destiny.
o The one who loves God (does the will of God) on the other hand will not pass away but will live forever.
- To walk in the light, to know Christ, to abide in Christ, to love your brothers, and to love the Father are all describing the same state of being. This state constitutes living in such a way as to have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
- To walk in darkness, to not know Christ, to not abide in Christ, to hate your brothers, and to love the world are all describing the same state of being. This state constitutes living in such a way as to not have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
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.
- it is the last hour
o Just what are we to make of this ‘last hour’ business?
o Is it that John thought that Jesus was going to return soon in His final second coming and based that speculation erroneously on the sign that many antichrists had already appeared?
o Or is our common concept of the last hour too narrow?
o Could the last hour here and in other places(Mt 24:36,44; 25:13; John 5:28; Ro 13:11; Rev 3:3) refer not to the final coming of Jesus Christ but some other ‘hour’ that is in our past and yet was in John’s future?
o This terminology ‘the last hour’ is found only here in the Greek NT.
o Based on John’s view of the antichrist as already having arrived in his lifetime(see notes below) I think it is very likely that John perceived the ‘last hour’ not as the end of time as we often think of it but as some ‘hour’ that the early church was facing as John penned this letter.
- and just as you heard that antichrist is coming…
o 1st and 2nd John contain all the occurrences of the term ‘antichrist’ in the bible. 1John 2:18,22; 4:3; 2John 7.
o These texts tell us that:
§ There is more than one antichrist. More than one antichrist had appeared before the close of the 1st Century. (1John 2:18)
§ The antichrist could be defined as anyone who denied that Jesus came in the flesh. (1John 2:22)
§ The antichrist does not confess Jesus. John’s readers had heard that the antichrist was coming and he arrived before the time of John’s writing. (1John 4:3)
§ The antichrist is a deceiver. The antichrist is already present at the time of John’s writing. (2John 7)
o Is it possible that the antichrist is the spirit that is at work in the heresy which we know as Gnosticism? See Jim McGuiggan’s site on The Man of Sin(1-4) for some interesting insight on this matter as well as his comments on the last hour.
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.
- They went out from us
o Who is they?
§ These antichrists.
§ The antichrist(s) arrives from within the church.
§ Compare Acts 20:28-30
· Remember that Paul is speaking to the Ephesian elders in this text and that is the traditionally accepted place where John wrote this letter.
- but they were not really of us…
o Is the implication that these antichrists were never genuinely Christian?
§ That would seem to be John’s conclusion in this case.
o Are we then to conclude that the truly genuine Christian can never fall away?
§ That would do a disservice to the biblical witness as a whole as well as several specific texts that speak to the contrary. (Gal 5:4; 1Cor 15:2; Heb 6:4ff; 10:38-39)
2:20-21 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. 21 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.
- you have an anointing from the Holy One
o Just what is John talking about here?
o Compare verse 27 as well.
o The anointing comes from the Holy One.
§ Is the Holy One a reference to the Holy Spirit?
o The antichrists apparently did not have this anointing.
o This anointing gives these Christians spiritual insight and knowledge.
o This anointing abides/remains in them.
o This anointing teaches them about all things.
o Does this anointing include what they heard from the beginning(vs24)?
o 5545. χρι̂σμα chrisma; from 5548; an anointing, unction:— anointing(1John 2:20; 27 twice).
o 5547. Χριστός Christos; from 5548; the Anointed One, Messiah, Christ:— Christ(516), Christ’s(11), Messiah(4).
o 5548. χρίω chriō; a prim. word; to anoint:— anointed(Luke 4:18; Acts 4:27; 10:38; 2Cor 1:21; Heb 1:9).
o 2Cor 1:21is the only use of crivw that does not speak of Christ’s anointing.
§ In this text: Now He(God) who establishes us(Paul, Silvanus and Timothy) with you(the Corinthians) in Christ and anointed us(Paul and company along with the Corinthians) is God. He sealed us(Paul and company along with the Corinthians) and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.
§ This is very similar language to Ephesians 1:13-14. Cf. also Acts 2:38
§ Compare Ro 8:9-27
· Vs 9 The Spirit dwells in us. If anyone does not have the Spirit he does not belong to Christ.
· Vs 10-11 The Spirit is at work in us to live for Christ. We will be given life to our mortal bodies through the Spirit.
· Vs 13 We put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit.
· Vs 14 The Spirit leads us.
· Vs 15-17 The Spirit testifies within us that we are children of God.
· Vs 26 The Spirit helps us to pray.
· Vs 27 The Spirit intercedes for us.
o It certainly appears that John is speaking of the anointing with the Holy Spirit.
o His description of this anointing coincides with Paul’s description of how the Spirit works in the believer.
o John 16:13 is also reminiscent of our present text. In John 16:13 the Spirit:
§ Will guide you(the apostles for sure and perhaps all Christians by extension) into all the truth.
§ He will speak for God.
§ He will glorify Christ.
- you all know… you do know
o John is saying that his readers have this anointing and because of this anointing his readers already know the truth.
o The Gnostic influences in their midst would say that they need a higher knowledge. John is saying that they already know. The knowledge they need comes through this anointing.
2:22-23 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. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
- Who is the liar
o The lie that John is concerned with is centered in the perception of Christ.
§ The liar denies that Jesus is the Christ.
- This is the antichrist
o John defines the antichrist as the one who denies the Father and the Son.
§ In the context of this book this would have specific reference, not to their pagan neighbours who deny Christ, but to those of influence within the church who deny Christ.
§ This would have specific reference to the influence of Gnostic thinking among John’s readers.
· The Gnostics denied Christ by saying that He was just a man; that God did not take on human flesh; that the Christ really did not suffer but only appeared to do so.
§ The antichrist then that John spoke of was alive and well in Johns day. There were many antichrists John said. Any one who denied Christ John would term as an antichrist… they embodied the anti-Christ spirit.
- Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father…
o Compare Matthew 10:33
o Compare John 8:19; 14:7, 9; 16:3
o The Father and the Son were a package deal.
§ The Gnostics had trouble with this idea too. See introductory material.
2:24-25 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. 25 This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.
- which you heard from the beginning
o John exhorts his readers to cling to the message that they heard from the beginning and to not be carried away by this new and strange teaching.
o Abide in, or remain in the simple message of Christ that was proclaimed from the beginning by the witnesses of His resurrection.
- If what you heard from the beginning abides in you… eternal life.
o Remaining in that which they had heard from the beginning would ensure that they remained in the Son and in the Father and would be heirs of eternal life.
2:26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.
- John is writing to address a specific problem in a specific point in time.
- Those trying to deceive would contextually be those guided by the influence of the antichrist.
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.
- See comments above on verses 20-21 regarding this anointing.
- John I don’t think is implying that he is wasting his time writing this letter because after all they know the truth(vs21).
- The presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer is not some guarantee that he can never be led astray. If it were John would have no need to write.
- Neither is the Holy Spirit someone within you who beats you over the head when you head off in the wrong direction.
- As Christians we choose whether or not to quench or grieve the Holy Spirit. (Eph 4:30; 1Thess 5:19)
- John, it seems to me, is reminding his readers that really they know these things already. If they stay in tune with the Spirit’s leading He will keep them on course. He is in essence telling them not to quench the Spirit but to be led by the Spirit.
- I don’t think this implies that they had some extent of the Spirit that we do not. The Spirit has always subtly worked in the believer. Certainly there were incredible manifestations of the power of the Spirit at the advent of the church age. But to believe that all Christians in those early days had some miraculous ‘power’ of the Holy Spirit available in their lives that has since vanished in our day I think is to distort both the past and the present work of the Spirit.
- I believe that we have this anointing that abides in us just as surely as in these Christians. We need to be reminded of that fact though from time to time just as they did.
- Believe that the Spirit of Christ is in you and seeks to guide and direct your life. Open your heart to His work in your life. Abide in Him through His Spirit who indwells you.(Ro 8:11)
2:28-29 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. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
- Abide in Christ… and know this… be reminded of this… Jesus is righteous and those who practice righteousness are His.
o We need to be careful to take these types of statements John makes in context:
§ The one who loves his brother abides in the Light.
§ Everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.
· Of course we cannot examine these statements outside of the larger context of the letter.(1John 3:23; 5:13)
- John will not leave this alone. He is determined that we understand just exactly what it means to be in fellowship with God.
o Walk in the light – confess your sins(1:7-10)
o Know God – keep His commandments(2:3-5)
o Abide in Christ – walk as Jesus walked(2:6)
o Abide in the Light – love your brother(2:9-11)
o Love God – do the will of God(2:15-17)
o Abide in what you heard from the beginning – don’t be deceived(2:21-26)
o Abide in the anointing – be taught by God(2:20,27)
o Be born of Him – practice righteousness(2:29)
1 John 3:1 See 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.
- See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us
o Do we really understand how much God loves us?
o The grand testimony of the love of God is found in Jesus Christ.
§ Cf John 3:16 For God so loved the world…
- that we would be called children of God
o God’s ultimate goal in loving us is that we would become His children.
o God set out with that in mind… He desires that we be in fellowship with Him as an earthly father has fellowship with his children.
o Cf John 1:12,13 He gave the right to become children of God…
- and such we are
o We’re not just called the children of God… we are the children of God.
o There are some incredible benefits in this life to being born into the right family. Wealth and stability of relationships are passed on from generation to generation along with a host of other things.
o But to be born of God(John 1:12) becoming a child of God has such astounding consequences that it is hard to put it into words. To have the actual creator and sustainer of the entire universe as your Father leaves one breathless, even when we just get a glimpse of what that means.
- For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
o When God took on human flesh and was rejected by the world He created it said something incredible about the worlds state of mind.
o We would be fools to expect, as the children of God, that the world would open its arms to us… that the world would understand us. After all, the world does not know our Father or His unique Son.
3:2 Beloved, 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.
- We are presently the children of God. That has ramifications for what we will be in the future.
- We don’t have all the answers with respect to what we will be but this we know: When Jesus returns we will be like Him, we will see Him for all that He is. We will be transformed to become like Him somehow.
3:3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
- All of this has powerful moral implications.
- All who have this hope in Christ seek to be as Christ is… pure.
- To have this hope and not seek to be Christ like is a contradiction of terms.
3:4-6 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.
- Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.
o Compare NIV “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.”
o It is interesting what the different translations do with this and the following texts.
o The NASB is quite a literal reading of the Greek. The word translated ‘practices’ has as a basic meaning of ‘to do’ or ‘to make’. Consequently the world is translated many ways depending on the context.
o The NIV chose not to translate the word at all in this context.
o The phrase ‘everyone who practices’ in this text is translated from the exact same Greek phrase in 2:29. “everyone also who practices” NASB
o Is this text saying that by virtue of the fact that everyone sins(1:10) that therefore we all are lawless and in need of the continual grace of God?
o Or is this text saying that if you habitually sin(make it your practice to sin) then you are lawless and stand condemned before God?
o I think in light of the present context that John is saying that those Christians who habitually practice sin are transgressors of the law and that in such a state of rebellion towards God they stand condemned. Of course John would concede that even those who do not habitually practice sin do indeed stumble from time to time and thereby sin. To deny that is to make God a liar. John I think promotes that there is a vast difference between those who strive against sin and those who openly and freely choose to participate in sin. One practices righteousness, the other practices sin.
o If you practice sin, if sin is what you do… know this… you practice lawlessness and stand condemned.
o John is again driving home his point about what it means to walk in fellowship with God.
- You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.
o NIV “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.”
o Jesus coming was all about dealing with the sin issue. He was free from sin and came for the specific purpose of taking away sins.
o For us then to claim to be His and yet not strive with our utmost to cease from sinning is to disregard His whole purpose in coming.
- No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.
o NIV “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.”
o “keeps on” and “continues to” are inserted in the NIV as an interpretive tool.
o If we abide in Jesus we will seek to walk as He walked (2:6).
o To blatantly walk in sin is to testify against your knowledge of Christ.
o We don’t tend to talk like this do we? How many times have you heard the preacher say, “Christians don’t sin.”
o Often we hear, “We are sinners just like the world, the only difference is that we are forgiven.”
o John says, “Christians don’t sin.”
§ We may choose to qualify that a bit but should we not qualify the previous statement as well? There is a vast difference, or at least there ought to be, between the way the world lives and the way the saint lives.
3:7-8 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
- NIV “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”
- Don’t be foolish people; the one who refuses to sin is from God, the one who indulges in sin is from the devil.
- The Son of God appeared to end sins dominion in our lives.
3:9-10 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
- NIV “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”
- No one who is born of God practices sin
o Do you believe that?
o As Christians we need to take attitude toward sin with the utmost of seriousness.
- because His seed abides in him
o What does that mean?
o God has sown His word in our hearts? God has sown eternal life in our hearts? God lives within us?
- and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
o We simply cannot continue in sin if God is in us.
o Either God leaves or we have the proper attitude toward sin.
- By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious…
o John doesn’t leave much room for gray here does he?
o It’s pretty black and white.
o If you don’t practice righteousness you are not from God… period.
o John is not the only writer who promotes these ideas. Scripture gives unanimous testimony to the same truth.
o The complete chapter of Romans 6 is one of Paul’s strongest arguments along the same line. He starts with the famous line, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!”
o Romans 2:6-10 gives a similar message as does Romans 8:12-13.
o Hebrews 10:26-27 speaks boldly on the same topic. “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”
o We cannot continue in sin and be Christian! It is impossible.
- nor the one who does not love his brother.
o John has already addressed this issue in 2:9-11.
o If you don’t love your brother you are not one of God’s.
o If you don’t practice righteousness you are not one of God’s.
o Pound that into your head… it’s true.
3:11-12 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.
- the message which you have heard from the beginning
o This is similar language to 2:7.
o This message or commandment to love one another is a foundational truth of our faith promoted by Christ Himself. John 13:34-35
o John emphasises this command to love one another repeatedly throughout the book.
o In our present text he parallels loving one another with practicing righteousness and not loving one another with practicing sin.
- not as Cain
o To not love our brother is to be as Cain who killed his brother.
o We gain a little insight into the Genesis story with this account. (Genesis 4)
o God wasn’t partial to lamb over grain. He was partial to righteousness over evil.
3:13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.
- The world is simply keeping the tradition of Cain alive… the righteous are hated by the wicked.
3:14-15 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
- We know… because we love the brethren.
o Here’s your sign. Do you want to know if you are on the right track? Do you want some assurance that you indeed are truly Christian and have made the transition into life from death? Then check your attitude towards your brothers.
- Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.
o Cf Matthew 5:21ff
o OK, OK, John I get it… but what is love?
3:16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
- Cf. John 10:11; 15:13
- The definition of love is found in Christ.
- We are called to express that same love toward one another.
- Cf. John 13:34
- Yes John, but we are not called upon every day to lay down our lives for one another.
3:17-18 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
- has the worlds goods… and closes his heart against him
o If you love your brother you open your heart to his needs.
o Heart here is the word splanchnon, hence NIV ‘has no pity on him’.
§ 2. splanchna (σπλάγχνον, 4698), lit., “the bowels,” which were regarded by the Greeks as the seat of the more violent passions, by the Hebrews as the seat of the tender “affections”; hence the word denotes “tender mercies” and is rendered “affections” in 2 Cor. 6:12 (kjv, “bowels”); “inward affection,” 2 Cor. 7:15. See bowels, compassion, heart, mercy. Cf. epithumia, “desire.” 
- in deed and truth
o Love is easy to pay lip service to but love does not consist in words. It consists in deeds.
o And let’s not lie to ourselves here. Love involves sincerity.
3:19-20 We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him 20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.
- NIV 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
- We will know by this
o One of the reasons for the writing of this book is ‘so that you may know that you have eternal life’ 5:13
§ According to this verse one way to be assured of that knowledge is to realize that if you love the brothers that you are of the truth.
§ Cf 2:3,29; 3:13
- in whatever our heart condemns us
o John recognizes that we can be fickle people. Sometimes our hearts condemn us when God does not.
o Peace in our hearts in this matter is found in affirming to our hearts the truth of our love for one another.
- God is greater that our heart
o Teach your heart the truth of this matter.
o Our knowledge that we have eternal life is not something taught to us by our hearts.
o Our knowledge that we have eternal life is to be taught to our hearts not visa versa.
o God is greater than our hearts and His truth will enlighten our hearts.
3:21-22 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
- Beloved if our heart does not condemn us
o Our heart may not be the source of the knowledge of our salvation but that is not to say that the state of our emotions if of no value.
o On the contrary the heart that is persuaded of the love of God and ones salvation in Christ is a heart that gives us the boldness to approach God with confidence.
- whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments
o Teach your heart these truths.
o A well taught heart is confident before God for the right reasons.
o A well taught heart is confident before God because it recognizes that our salvation is secure because we diligently seek to keep His commandments.
o It’s kind of a circular thing. Our keeping of the commandments of God assures our hearts that we can approach God with confidence because our hearts know that it is our persistence pursuit of righteousness that enables us to confidently approach God. (of course consider Heb 10:19ff)
o A confident request of God will be answered not on the basis of confidence only but on the basis of confidence that is confident for the right reasons.
3:23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
- Lest we forget what His commandments are John spells it out for us – believe in Jesus and love one another.
- This doesn’t sound like an awful crushing burden to bear does it!
- John refers to two pre-eminent commandments in this letter. This text contains them both.
- This, brothers and sisters is where we need to keep our focus. It appears to me that one of our enemies greatest ploys against us Christian folks is to have us worry and fret and fuss about everything else religious under the sun and forget about this one thing.
3:24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
- We know by this
o John throughout the book gives us a list of how we can know that we are in proper relationship with God.
o Using the language of ‘knowing’ only we can produce this list:
§ 2:3 ‘By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.’
§ 2:29 ‘you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
§ 3:14 ‘We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brethren.”
§ 3:19 ‘We will know by this(if we love our brethren in deed and in truth vs18) that we are of the truth.’
o In our present text John asserts that a further way we can know that He abides in us is by the Spirit whom He has given us.
§ Was it just a given in John’s day that there was some inner presence of the Holy Spirit that every true believer could tangibly feel and thereby know that he or she was on the right track with God?
o This text introduces us to the material John presents in the next chapter.
1 John 4:1 (NASB95) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
- We’ve just been told that the Spirit of God has been given to us – to Christians.
- First of all then it is a given that even when indwelt with the Spirit of God that we can be confused as to whether a spirit is from God or not. “Do not believe every spirit…”
- So then the fact that God gives us His Spirit(3:24) is not a guarantee that we cannot be led astray. In others words the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Christian is not so overwhelming that we cannot resist His leading. Certainly we can, as this text demonstrates. (See notes on 2:27)
- We have been told that we can know by the fact that God’s Spirit has been given to us that He abides in us.
- But how do we know that God’s Spirit has been given to us? I think the following text can supply us with some answers.
- The purpose of 4:1ff in particular is to give instruction to the Spirit filled community so that they might discern between the Spirit of God and the spirit of the false prophets.
- However the same test being performed on ourselves will determine if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in us.
- There is a subjective way for us to know that the Spirit of God indeed dwells in us.
4:2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;
- Here we are given the tools to discern between the Spirit of God and the spirit that is not from God.
- I don’t think John is envisioning direct conversations in the spiritual realm but this is how we can know which spirit someone else has.
o The one who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is led by the Spirit of God.
o Any spiritual revelation of any kind is to be subject to this criterion. If God’s Spirit is at work then the truth of Jesus Christ will be proclaimed.
- Coincidentally this is also how we can know that Spirit of God has been given to us:
o The Spirit of God will confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.
o Does that mean that we ought to be hearing voices in our heads if God’s Spirit is in us?
o I don’t think the text is implying that we are going to actually hear words from the spiritual realm. I think that the text would imply that if you are led to say(however the Spirit might lead you), if your confession is, that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh then you can rest assured that you are led by the Spirit of God for that is the witness of the God’s Spirit.
§ Your confession then is evidence of the nature of the spirit that lives in you.
4:3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
- If you are led to deny that Jesus has come in the flesh, you are not led by God’s Spirit. That spirit would be the spirit of the antichrist.
- If someone brings a spiritual revelation to you and that revelation does not confess Jesus Christ, you can be assured that this revelation did not come from God’s Spirit.
- This particular confession that Jesus Christ has ‘come in the flesh’ is of course relevant to the present context that John is writing to.
o The Gnostic influence in particular denied that Jesus came in the flesh.
- However in the larger picture there is certainly more truth about Jesus Christ than what is contained in that statement.
- The broader teaching is that the Spirit of God will not contradict Himself.
o For example this text makes no mention of the resurrection. But the witness of the apostles and the Spirit of God is that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Any man who claims to receive spiritual revelation that denies that truth is not receiving that revelation from the Spirit of God but from the spirit of the antichrist.
- and now it is already in the world
o John tells us that at the time of his writing that the spirit of the antichrist was already at work. The notion that the coming of the antichrist is an event in our future is not supported by the scriptures that speak of the antichrist. That is not to say that the spirit of the antichrist cannot be at work in our era or in our future. However once we understand that John’s antichrist figure is not in our future, but in our past, we will have an enlightened perspective with which to view not only the book of 1John but our own future as well. See notes on 2:18ff.
4:4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
- The spirit of the antichrist may seem like a powerful force in this world, but don’t forget who is on our side.
- We have been given the victory in Jesus Christ.
- Never forget that God is much greater than any influence this world can throw at us. And that God dwells in us through the Spirit He has given us. (1Cor 6:19; James 4:5)
4:5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.
- The spirit of the antichrist will have a following in this world for it is from this world.
4:6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
- Cf John 17:4-16; John 10:27
- By this we know…
o The one who does not listen to the witness of the apostles is not from God.
o The one who does not listen to the witness of the church which is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets is not from God.
4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
- John again repeats this strong theme of our love as the witness of our knowledge of God.
- Cf 2:9-11; 3:10-23
- Love says John is the identifying marker of the saints. Cf John 13:35
- God is love.
o Love is the very essence of God. Therefore to miss this is to miss God altogether.
4:9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
- 1 John 4:9 (NIV) This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
- The eternal witness to humanity of the love of God is found in the gift of His Son.
- Cf. John 3:16; 1John 3:16
4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
- God is the initiator of love not us.
- God took the first step towards us, not visa versa.
- Cf. Ro 5:8
o See notes on 2:2
4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
- Our response to the amazing generosity of love is to respond in the same way towards others.
- The love and mercy of God towards all of us is the great equalizer. None of us have any hope without the love of God. We all come to God on the same terms. This makes us a brotherhood wherein no one of us is greater than another, a brotherhood where we show the same generosity towards one another that God has shown towards us. Cf Mt. 18:23ff
4:12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
- We may not see God… but He lives in us!
- His love is perfected in us.
o What does this mean?
o God’s love has reached it’s completion in us when we love one another.
o It’s not that God’s love was somehow imperfect before and we perfected it.
o The word translated ‘perfected’(teleioo) here contains within it the idea of completing or finishing or ending.
o 5048. τελειόω teleioō; from 5046; to bring to an end, to complete, perfect:— accomplish(2), accomplished(1), finish(1), fulfill(1), full number(1), made perfect(4), made...perfect(1), make...perfect(1), make perfect(1), perfect(2), perfected(7), reach...goal(1), spending the full number(1).
o 5046. τέλειος teleios; from 5056; having reached its end, i.e. complete, by ext. perfect:— complete(2), mature(4), more perfect(1), perfect(12).
o Compare 1John 4:12(NIV) No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
4:13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
- This is almost identical to what was said in 3:24.
- How do we know that we have the Spirit of God? If we confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and love one another; this is evidence that the Spirit of God is in us.
- As such we are bearing the fruits of the Spirit in our lives. Cf Gal 5:22-23
- See further notes on 4:1-3
4:14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
- This I believe is the apostolic witness, John referring to ‘we’ as he and the apostles not he and the readers.
o Compare 1:1-5
4:15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
- This is the truth of the apostolic witness, that Jesus is the Son of God.
- One who confesses that truth is proof of God’s abiding in him.
- Compare John 15:1-11. To abide in Jesus is to maintain relationship with the Father.
4:16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
- God’s love for us has been proven abundantly. 1John 3:16; 4:9
- Since God is love, to abide in love is to abide in God.
4:17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
- love is perfected
o This is the language of 4:12. God’s love is perfected or completed or fulfilled in us when we love as God loves.
- confidence in the day of judgement
o This confidence speaks to the overall theme of the book. 5:13‘That you might know that you have eternal life.’
o If we are confident before God at the judgement it is evidence that we know that we have eternal life.
- as He is, so also are we
o As God is love, so also we are love in this world. That is the implication of this text.
o Because we love in this world, we know we abide in God and therefore we have confidence in the day of judgement.
4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
- There is no fear in love
o There is no fear of the judgment of God when we love as God loves.
- perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment
o When we love as God loves(His love perfected or completed in us), the fear of judgment disappears because we know that to love is to abide in God and one who abides in God has no need to fear the judgement of God.
- and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
o If then we fear the day of judgment it is evidence that we do not love as God loved(perfected or completed love), for to love as God loves is to assure us of confidence in the day of judgment.
- Perfect love then is not when we achieve perfection in our ability to love. It is not loving perfectly, loving without ever stumbling. Perfect love here is not meant to describe an achievement of ours wherein we are flawless lovers of others. Perfect love here, describes that love that is the reflection of God in us. It is God’s love that is perfected or completed and manifested in us. Compare 4:12 and notes.
- Therefore it is not our ambition to love to the degree that we will stand flawless before God at the judgment. That would be a vain pursuit. Cf 1John 1:7-10
- Our ambition instead is to seek with all our hearts to love as God loves understanding fully that He does not expect absolute perfection nor does He demand it. When we so set our faces toward God and make it our habit to love and to keep His commandments, forsaking sin and unrighteousness we, John urges us, can be confident in the day of judgement because we know that God abides in us.
- We are to have this confidence and assurance of eternal life despite the fact that we are fully aware, as is God, of our failings.
- What we are not to have, as John repeatedly tells us, is confidence before God of eternal life when we set our face away from God and choose to habitually sin and disregard His commandments, and choose not to love one another.
- In the Greek ‘perfect’ in perfect love in this text is the adjective form(see here) of the verb translated ‘perfected’ (see here)in vs 12, 17, and 18.
4:19 We love, because He first loved us.
- Just in case you haven’t got it yet, this love did not originate with us but with God.
- We love because we have been loved by God. We extend to others what God has extended to us.
4:20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
- In our individualistic society we sometimes sell ourselves on the idea that our personal relationship with our personal Savior contains the whole of our relationship with God.
- The truth of the matter is that if your personal relationship with Jesus does not manifest itself in love towards others then your relationship with Jesus does not exist, period. So says John. Ouch!
4:21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
- In reality there is no ‘should’ about it, if we take ‘should’ to imply that we have an option. ‘Must’ might be a better translation. The Greek literally reads, “And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God (is) to also love his brother.” The verb ‘is’ is not in the text. We are left to supply our own verb.
5:1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.
- is born of God
o This is not the first time we have heard language like this in this book.
§ 2:29 “everyone who practice righteousness is born of Him.
§ 3:9 “No one who is born of God practices sin… he cannot sin because he is born of God”
§ 4:7 “everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
§ And now, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God”
§ This continual reinforcement of the same themes is designed to give us confidence of our relationship with God.
§ Do you want to know if you indeed are born of God? Check out this list.
- whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.
o This is an extension of the thought of 4:21.
5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.
- Are you hesitant to say you love the children of God?
- Are you unsure what that really means?
- This verse is designed to bring us clarity(I think).
- But does it? Isn’t it interesting that just a few verses back we are told that to claim that you love God and yet hate your brother is an impossibility; a lie(4:20).
o Did that mean that proof that you actually love God is demonstrated in your love for your brother? And now this verse says that proof that you love your brother is demonstrated in your love for God? How does that add up? Sounds like circular reasoning doesn’t it?
o I don’t think that loving one another alone is proof that we love God. The truth is that the love we are to have for God is to be a reflection of His love for us. Love is defined by God and demonstrated in the gift of His Son(4:10). To claim that love is to love as God loves. Hence to say that you embrace that love and yet hate those whom God loves is not to embrace that love.
o To embrace the true love of God and to observe His commandments, submitting your heart to Him, of necessity involves loving our brothers.
o The supreme focus here is not on our brother but on God. Love God… truly love Him as He loves you. In doing so you will love your brother.
o Love starts with God, works in our hearts and is reflected back to Him and to all others.
o To love God necessitates loving your brother. To love your brother does not necessitate loving God. There is a difference. The first commandment is to love God, the second is to love your neighbour, not visa versa.
o To not love your brother is proof that you do not love God(4:20), but loving your brother alone is not proof that you love God.
o 2:10; 3:10-23, 7-21 all have this concept as a premise. This is the context of those words.
- In reality you can sincerely and genuinely care about(love) people and yet deny even the existence of God. But you cannot sincerely and genuinely care about(love) God and deny the existence of humanity. This however is not the context John is writing to.
- Surrender your heart fully to God, this will result in loving the children of God.
o Yet surrendering your heart fully to loving your brother does not guarantee love of God.
- Seems to me John wants us to know that we are in relationship with God. You can know that your love for God is genuine if you extend that love to your brothers. You can know that you love your brothers when you love God and keep His commandments. His commandments define what it means to love our brothers.
5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
- Something is awry in our faith when the commandments of God are burdensome.
- Compare Jesus’ words in Mt 11:28-30.
- When we see God’s commandments as some huge burden over our heads, we have the wrong picture of God somehow.
- To love God is to keep His commandments.
- To claim to love God and yet not keep his commandments is a lie. Cf. Jn 14:15
5:4-5 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
- We understand who those are that are ‘born of God’… whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ(5:1,5)
o See complete list of what it means to be born of God under 5:1
- Know this… We are the winners!!!
- Our faith in Jesus Christ gives us victory!
- Cf 1John 4:4
- has overcome the world
o This does not speak to some future event when we finally win.
o As Christians we have overcome the world.
o What does that mean? Is it true?
o In the context of confidence and knowledge of eternal life this plays a huge role.
o When we realize that Christ reigns now our world view changes.
o There is yet to come a final and complete victory wherein every knee will bow(Phil 2:10-11), yet it is crucial to realize that Christ is presently ruling in His kingdom, vanquishing the foe… and we are part of that victorious battle against evil. We cannot loose; Christ won the battle at the cross.
5:6 This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
- Jesus came and not only was baptized(came by water) with the baptism of John in the Jordan River. He also shed His blood(and blood) on the cross.
- What is John doing here? What’s this water and blood and Spirit thing?
- It seems John arranges these words in a specific refutation of the Gnostic influence of his day.
o They denied that Jesus came in the flesh. They believed that Jesus only appeared to die and that He was not truly human. (see intro material)
o To accept the testimony of His blood on the cross is to accept His humanity.
o To accept the testimony of the water of His baptism is to accept the witness born at that time. “You are My beloved Son.” Luke 3:22
- John has told us that the one who believes in Jesus overcomes the world.
- This verse tells us something that is essential to believe about this Jesus… He came by water and blood. He was fully human and fully divine.
- These things were witnessed to by the Spirit of God.
o In Jesus’ baptism we have the Spirit ascending in the form of a dove testifying to John as to who Jesus was. Mt 3:16
o In His crucifixion the abundance of prophetic witness by the Spirit of God is overwhelming.
o The overwhelming outpouring of the Spirit of God on Pentecost was witness to Jesus Christ.
- There are of course varying interpretations with respect to the water and the blood.
o The blood and water which confirmed the death of Christ in John 19:34.
o The water symbolizing the Spirit(John 7:38-39) and the blood His crucifixion.
o The water symbolizes the amniotic fluid of His birth and the blood His death.
o None of these seem to speak as clearly and naturally to the context of the book or the presence of Gnostic influence as does the water of His baptism and the blood of His crucifixion.
5:7-8 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
- Three witnesses provide ample testimony of truth. Deut 19:15
- The Spirit, the water and the blood testify unanimously as to the nature of Jesus Christ and His atonement for our sins.
- Because of this triune witness we are further assured that the victory is ours in Christ(5:4)
5:9-11 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. 10 The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. 11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
- We believe the testimony of men if there are three witnesses.
- If that is sufficient to persuade us of truth, what of the triune witness of God… water, blood and Spirit.
- To accept that witness is to have the testimony in ourselves.
- To reject this witness of God is to be a liar.
o The Gnostic influences would fall into this category.
- To deny that we have eternal life in Jesus Christ is to call God a liar.
- He has born witness that He has given us eternal life in His Son Jesus Christ!
5:12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
- There’s no getting around this… accept the triune witness of God and have life.
- Reject the witness of God and perish.
5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
- John is at the conclusion of his letter. Here comes the first of seven ‘know’ statements. A fitting conclusion to a letter written against those who claim superior knowledge.
- Other statements of purpose have been made throughout the text(John 1:4; 2:1,12-14,21,26) but this one seems to tie everything together.
- This has been the overarching purpose of John’s writing.
- Throughout this book John has been carefully defining to his readers just what it means to be in fellowship with God. He has carefully defined what it is that God expects from us. This I think is the reason he has been pounding these things into our heads. Once we know exactly what God expects from us we can examine our own lives and faith and determine if we are in fellowship with God. If we are we can know that we have eternal life.
- Is this like asking ourselves if we are good enough to earn a spot in heaven? Not at all.
- But if we interpret being saved by grace as to imply that our moral choices have no bearing on our eternal destiny then John would severely criticize us.
- John has defined for us the parameters of what God demands from us as His children in order that we remain in relationship with Him in this covenant of amazing grace.
- The Gnostic(antichrist) influence in the church has promoted that ones moral behaviour does not affect ones spiritual destiny. They had been advocating that true spiritual enlightenment is to be found in their secret higher knowledge. They have insisted that the Christ did not come in the flesh. John opposes and dismantles all of these teachings by defining the true consequences of blatant immorality, by identifying what true spirituality is and by insisting that Christ did indeed come in the flesh.
- John insists that one who truly walks in relationship/ fellowship/ the grace of God will reflect clear moral markers his life.
- To accept and understand the truth of what John has been repeatedly telling us gives us the tools to examine our own lives in the context of what it truly means to walk with God.
- If we believe in Jesus Christ, if we practice righteousness and not sin, if we keep His commandments and love one another, we can know we have eternal life. We know from this book that this does not mean that God expects us to live in absolute sinless perfection. We are talking about a sincere determination to live ones life surrendered to Jesus Christ, embracing all things righteous, and abandoning all things sinful. When we stumble in that quest He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The severe repeated warning of John is that if we abandon the struggle and choose lives of unrighteousness and sinfulness we do not know God, and we do not have eternal life.
5:14-15 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.
- Do you have this confidence?
- Do I have this confidence?
- What confidence? That we can come before God and selfishly ask Him for whatever we want and know that He will give it to us?
- When we understand what the will of God is and we ask God for anything within that realm we can know that He hears us and will certainly answer our prayers.
- In the context of this book we now have the knowledge of what it is that God expects from us. If you are asking for help to understand these things know that God is listening. If you are asking for help in your struggle against sin, know that God hears. If you are asking for help to be all that you can be in His service know that all the power of the universe will be directed to help you achieve that goal.
- Compare James 1:5-8; 4:3
- In our immediate context we are given an example of what we can pray for and confidently expect what we have asked for.
5:16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.
- If we ask God to give life to a brother who has committed a sin not leading to death we can know that God will give him life.
- What is this ‘sin not leading to death’? Literally “If anyone sees a brother sinning a sin not to death…”
o Are we talking about a mortal sin, a sin that brings eternal death?
§ 1John 5:16 (NRSV) If you see your brother or sister committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one—to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that.
§ If so what sin could be described as being mortal or perhaps unforgiveable?
§ Cf. Mark 3:29 Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
§ Some would say that the only sin that is truly unforgiveable is the sin of an unrepentant heart. Perhaps this is related to the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
- If we look at the context of the book has John eluded to anything like this before?
- Has he spoken of different types of sin… some that can be forgiven and some that cannot?
o There are some who confess their sins. 1:9
o There are others who would say that they have no sin. 1:8
§ This is obviously a deception… to claim that we have not sinned is to call God a liar. 1:10
§ Just what are we talking about here?
· Are we talking about some who just do not know what sin is?
· Or are we talking about some who claim not to be accountable for their sins? That wasn’t really me who sinned… that was my evil flesh, not my spirit, therefore I am not guilty of sin. I don’t sin… my body does and that has no effect on my spirituality.
o This sounds like those influenced by Gnostic thinking.
o So we have two types of sinners: those who acknowledge their sinfulness through confession and those who deny their sinfulness.
- We could then go on to describe two types of sin: confessed sin and denied sin.
o Perhaps that is what John has in mind here. The sin that leads to death is that which is committed by those who see themselves as being beyond the effects of the sins they commit.
o The sin that does not lead to death then is that which is committed by one who recognizes sin for what it truly is and confesses it before God in an attitude of repentance.
- We are told then, if this is the correct interpretations, not to pray that God would give life to those who refuse to confess/repent of their sins
5:17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.
- Whether unrighteousness is acknowledged for what it is or not, it is sin, and sin that is confessed does not lead to death.
- So then, to gather the thoughts beginning in verse 13:
o We can know that we have eternal life.
o This knowledge gives us confidence before God that He will answer our prayers asked according to His will.
o One example of that would be the prayers offered for those eager to confess their sins. To that prayer God will answer with life.
o An example of praying not according to the will of God would be praying would grant life to those who refuse to confess their sins.
5:18 We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.
- No one is going to accuse John of being soft on sin.
- We don’t speak like this… why?
- We often hear stuff like, “We’re not sinless, just forgiven.”
o The trouble with that is that even though it is technically true it can lead us to view sin in the wrong way. It can lead us to give up the struggle against sin and just concede that we are going to sin anyway, concluding that the only difference between those who are Christian and those who are not is the fact that the Christian group is forgiven.
o John would have strong words against that philosophy.
o John would say, “We are not like the world… we do not sin… we cannot sin… we are born of God.”
§ We certainly can and must conclude that John is not talking about sinless perfection. 5:16-17 is one reason for such a conclusion. But let us not dare to water down John’s(God’s) strong words about sin and love and righteousness and our need to zealously pursue lives of holiness.
5:19 We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
- Notice again the word ‘know’.
- Here is what you can know church. Those who claim higher knowledge don’t have the true higher knowledge.
- You can know that you have eternal life.
- You can know that He hears us.
- You can know that no one born of God sins and that such have victory over Satan.
- We can know that we are of God.
o The testimony for this knowledge is sown throughout the book.
5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
- Here are our last two ‘knows’.
- Jesus has come and has given us true knowledge of God.
- You don’t need to go shopping for knowledge elsewhere. This is the true knowledge.
- This is the true God and eternal life.
o Does this mean that the Father(He who is true, the one that Christ has given us understanding of) is the true God and eternal life?
§ “οὗτός ἐστιν ...] As far as the grammatical construction of the sentence is concerned the pronoun (οὗτος - this) may refer either to ‘Him that is true’ or to ‘Jesus Christ.’ The most natural reference however is to the subject not locally nearest but dominant in the mind of the apostle (comp. c. 2:22; 2 John 7; Acts 4:11; 7:19). This is obviously ‘He that is true’ further described by the addition of ‘His Son.’ Thus the pronoun gathers up the revelation indicated in the words which precede (comp. John 1:2 note): This Being—this One who is true, who is revealed through and in His Son, with whom we are united by His Son—is the true God and life eternal. In other words the revelation of God as Father in Christ (comp. 2:22 f.) satisfies, and can alone satisfy, the need of man. To know God as Father is eternal life (John 17:3) and so Christ has revealed Him (c. 1:2).”
o Or is this a reference to Jesus Christ being the true God and eternal life?
§ If so this is certainly one of the clearest statements is all of scripture as to Jesus Christ being God.
§ Jesus is indeed the Word that was with God and was God. John 1:1
§ In Him was life. John 1:4
§ Whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life. John 3:15,16,36; 6:40
§ Jesus is the giver of eternal life. John 10:28
§ Jesus is the resurrection and the life. John 11:25
§ Jesus is the way the truth and the life. John 14:6
§ Therefore it would not be out of character for John to say that Jesus is eternal life.
§ The only question is if John intended to say here that Jesus Christ is the true God. That would put this text on par with John 1:1 as boldly calling Jesus God.
· For other bold statements of Jesus as being God see: Titus 1:13; 2Pet 1:1
o Some translations use ‘He’ in this text and some use ‘This’.
§ The word translated ‘this’(NASB) in the Greek carries with it number and gender.
§ In this place it is masculine singular and therefore could be translated ‘this one’ with reference to a previous masculine singular noun.
§ Consequently it is often translated ‘he’ in our English bibles. The ‘He’ in John 1:2 with reference to Jesus is one example of this. The ‘he’ in John 1:7 with reference to John the Baptist is another.
§ The NIV, RSV, HCS, ESV and others translate ‘this’ as ‘He’ in 1John 5:21.
5:21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols.
- Verse 20 speaks of ‘the true God.’
- Idols are not true Gods. The Gnostic presence is set up against the true God and is therefore idolatrous.
- Little children, do not depart from the truths of verse 20.
Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson's new illustrated Bible commentary (1 Jn). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
Vine, W. E., Unger, M. F., & White, W. (1996). Vine's complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words (2:16). Nashville: T. Nelson.
Thomas, R. L. (1998, 1981). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : Updated edition (G5048). Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.
i.e. id est, that is
Thomas, R. L. (1998, 1981). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : Updated edition (G5046). Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.
The Epistles of St. John: The Greek text with notes and essays. 1902 (B. F. Westcott, Ed.) (4th ed.) (196). London; New York: Macmillan.