1John 2 - Outline of 1John (Book Notes menu page)
In the first chapter of this epistle, John joyfully declared that the Lord Jesus Christ came out of eternity, as the Light of God's holiness, into this sin darkened world, in order to bring us into Fellowship (Communion) with God the Father, with God the Son, and with all who belong to Him. There is no communion, or common ground, between Light and darkness, between God's holy nature and our sinful natures. But the way has been opened for us to walk in the Light with God, because "the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses" believers from "all sin," that is, from our overall condition of sin (1Joh 1:7).
     Also, on the basis of Christ's blood, God is right to forgive and to cleanse us from "all {or, every} unrighteousness," as we confess any incidental defilement of yielding to temptation as we walk through this dark world (1Joh 1:9). Jesus illustrated this secondary cleansing, at His Last Supper, when he took the place of a servant and washed His disciples' feet. Peter protested, but when he heard that he could have no fellowship with Him, unless Jesus did so, he said "Not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." Jesus replied "He that is washed {ie., bathed} needeth not but to wash his feet" (Joh 13:10).
But what if I fail to recognize my sin, and therefore, fail to confess it? (eg., Psa 19:12,13).
The next two verses reveal the Lord's provision.
1. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.
And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
2 And he is the propitiation for our sins:
and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.- This is God's desire for us.
The new nature, which God's children have received from Him, cannot sin, because it is His nature (1Joh 3:9; 2Cor 5:17). God's purpose is that we should be holy as He is holy. But while we are in the flesh, we still have our old sinful nature which cannot please God (Rom 8:5-8). These two natures are in conflict. But God has given us His Holy Spirit, by whom, the sons of God are able to prevail over the sinful nature (Rom 8:9-14).
     If we were to walk in the Light, continually submitting to God's Word, and living in conscious communion with Him (eg., Rev 3:20), we would not yield to temptation. Yet, how easily, we can become pre-occupied with worldly interests, neglectful of God's Word and prayer, and unwatchful against the wiles of the Devil (1Pet 5:8,9).
and if any man sin...- This is not what God wants for His child.
The Greek tense, is literally: "if any man commits a sin at a given point in time..."
This does not allow for the continual or habitual practice of sin.
Rather, this is speaking of a specific transgression (eg., David's adultery with Bathsheba).
...if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father...
Notice that when a child of God falls into such sin, he is still God's little child... and God is still his Father (v.1). The fellowship between them is broken by sin, but the relationship remains unchanged. The Father still loves His child, and desires what is best for him (cp. the father watching for his prodigal son, Luk 15:18-24).
     The believer's 'communion' with God, as friend with friend, is easily broken by unholy thoughts or unchristlike actions. But his 'union' with God is unbreakable, because it depends entirely on the work and strength of Christ (eg., Joh 10:27-30).
...we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous...-
The word for 'advocate' {GK=parakletos, one called to one's side, one who pleads for another} is translated 'comforter' in reference to the Holy Spirit (eg., Joh 14:16-18,26; 15:26; 16:7).
  • After Christ returned to heaven, God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell each of His born again children.
    The Holy Spirit not only 'comes alongside' but lives within every true believer, to guide and teach them the truth, and to keep them from error, as they live in this sin filled world. The Holy Spirit looks after God's concerns regarding His children, on earth.
  • Meanwhile, Christ is in heaven, to look after the believer's interests before the Father.
    As our advocate (lawyer), He defends us against Satan's accusations.
    Satan's name means 'adversary.' He is called 'the accuser of our brethren' (Rev 12:10).
    When a believer stumbles in sin, Satan is quick to prosecute the crime before God.
    If the charge against God's child is accurate, what defense can the Advocate raise?
...we have an advocate, Jesus Christ, the righteous: He is the propitiation for our sins...-
  1. Our Advocate is 'the righteous One.'
    No charge can be brought against Him... and we are in Him. 1Cor 1:30
  2. Our Advocate is the propitiation {ie., satisfaction of debt} for our sins. Rom 3:24-26
    • Because Christ paid our penalty, God can deal with sinners propitiously (favorably, mercifully), rather than with the wrath which we deserve.
      The word 'propitiation' {GK=hilasmos, v.2} is closely related to the word for the Mercy Seat {GK=hilasterion, Heb 9:5; translated 'propitiation' in Rom 3:25}, where God shows favor to the sinner, because his guilt has been removed on the basis of the blood of a substitute.
    • The price that He paid, in His death on the cross, is sufficient to pay "for the sins of the whole world."
      Does this mean that everyone will be saved? No.
      Christ died for all (2Cor 5:14,15), but not everyone has accepted His provision. Propitiation applies only to "as many as received Him" (Joh 1:11-13; Mat 26:28). But since the propitiation by His blood is sufficient to satisfy the guilt of the whole world, its effectiveness and value is more than sufficient to meet my need.
      I hear the accuser roar
      of ills that I have done;
      I know them well, and thousands more.
      Jehovah findeth none.
        [excerpt of poem 'I Hear the Accuser Roar,' by Samuel Whitelock Gandy]
      Though the restless foe accuses --
      Sins recounting like a flood,
      Every charge our God refuses,
      Christ has answered with His blood.
        [excerpt of poem 'Many Sons to Glory Bringing,' by Mary Bowly]
  3. Our Advocate intercedes for His own.
    This is a vital part of His work as our heavenly Advocate, who "ever lives to make intercession" in our behalf (Heb 7:25). His intercession {ie., supplication, prayer, entreaty} is closely related to His defense against our adversary (cp. Rom 8:33,34).
       Note also, that the work, of our Advocate, does not depend upon my recognition or confession of sin. "If any man sin, we have an Advocate..." At the moment that I fail, Satan accuses, and Christ steps forward in my defense. The Lord may need to chastise His child before he or she recognizes their sin and repents. Still, He intercedes (eg., Luk 22:31,32).
II. God is Love (4:8,16), 2:3- 4:21
Therefore, God's children...
A. Love their Brothers (The Old & New Command), 2:3-11
3. And hereby we do know that we know him,
if we keep his commandments.
4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments,
is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected:
hereby know we that we are in him.
6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
...we do know that we know Him... if we keep His commandments.-
This verse is not talking about earning salvation by our good works. Salvation is a gift graciously given by God (Titus 3:5). 'First John' is written to God's little children, who have been born of God's Spirit, by faith in Christ. The passage is dealing with 'assurance of salvation.' That is, how we can "know that we know Him."
he that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar...
(Just as those, who say they are walking in the Light, while living in sin, are liars. 1Joh 1:5,6)
whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected...
In v.4,5, God's 'commandments' and His 'Word' are nearly synonymous. In them, God has shown us what pleases and displeases Him. God's commandments provide specific direction. (For example, in the OT, the Ten Commandments provide a basic standard of righteousness. In the NT, additional commandments inform believers concerning God's will for believers in the Church age. eg., Mat 28:18-20; Joh 13:34,35; 1The 5:16-22) However, the whole Bible (not just the commandments) reveals, to us, the mind and will of God.
     What is the test whereby we will 'know that we know Him'? It is not the rigid legalistic performance of specific commandments, for that would bring us back under the Law. No. The test is not so much 'what' we do, but 'why' we do it.
     Here, the emphasis is upon our motivation for doing what pleases God. God's children obey Him out of love for their Father. cp. Joh 14:23,24; 15:13-15 (The 'friends' of Jesus share His love for the Father's Word and Will.); Mat 12:48-50
     Love motivated Jesus to fulfill the Father's will (Joh 8:29). He was obedient, even unto death, for the love of the Father (Joh 14:31, spoken as He left the upper room for Gethsemane). His love for the Father was 'perfected' {completed, finished} in His complete obedience (cp. v.5; Heb 2:10; 5:8,9).
he that saith he abideth in Him ought... to walk... as He walked.
Christ kept God's Word, because He delighted in God's Will (Psa 40:8).
Love, for the things of God, is not natural to man. If a believer's heart yearns to please the Lord, it is an evidence that he knows God and is in fellowship with Him, and that Christ lives in him, and he in Christ (1Joh 1:7; Gal 2:20; Joh 15:4-6).
     Do you keep God's commandments because you love Him? The next few verses put us to the test.
7. Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you,
but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning.
The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.
8 Again, a new commandment I write unto you,
which thing is true in him and in you:
because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.
9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother,
is in darkness even until now.
10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light,
and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness,
and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth,
because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
What is this commandment that is both old and new?
It is identified in v.10 (also see 1Joh 3:11; 2Joh 1:5).
This command, to love the brethren, is 'old' and 'heard from the beginning' (ie., the beginning of the Gospel), because the Lord Jesus Christ gave this command, during His earthly ministry (Joh 13:34,35; 15:10-14,17).
We are well aware of His command, whether we keep it or not.
...a new commandment... which... is true in him and in you...
The commandment is the same, but it is new because I have been changed.
In my natural state, I could not keep this commandment (Rom 8:7,8).
     From eternity past, Christ's heart has been one with the Father, who loves with an everlasting love. But now, what is true of Christ is becoming true in me, because of the new nature which He placed within me, when I trusted in Him (Rom 8:9-12). The commandment expresses God's will, and now, I am in agreement and eager to obey, out of love for Him (cp. v.5).
...because the darkness is past {lit., is passing}, and the true light now shineth.
Because I am in Christ, the light of His life is within me (2Cor 4:6).
he that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
The phrase 'occasion of stumbling' translates one word {GK=skandalon, offense, stumblingblock}.
Believers, walking in Christ's light and displaying His love for their brothers, will not cause others to stumble. cp. Rom 14:13; 16:17; cp. Joh 13:34,35
he that loveth his brother abideth in the light... but he that hateth... is in darkness...
So, love (or hatred) for other believers indicates whether I am walking in the Light (or, in darkness). 1Joh 1:5-7; Joh 8:12
Lack of love for the brethren could be an indication that I have never come out of the darkness of sin and unbelief, and into the light of fellowship with God and His children. (cp. v.9 'in darkness even until now'; 2Cor 4:3-6; Eph 5:1-2,8)
In this letter, John will frequently remind us of the need for 'Love for God's children.'
II. God is Love (4:8,16), 2:3- 4:21
Therefore, God's Children...
B. Love Not the World (It is incompatible with Love for God), 2:12-17
12. I write unto you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.
13 I write unto you, fathers,
because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning.
I write unto you, young men,
because ye have overcome the wicked one.
I write unto you, little children,
because ye have known the Father.
14 I have written unto you, fathers,
because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning.
I have written unto you, young men,
because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you,
and ye have overcome the wicked one.
Who is John addressing? Why does he change the tense: "I write... I have written..."
Consider these two possibilities (A. and B. below):
  1. John addresses the family of believers, dividing them into three levels of spiritual maturity...
       In the family of God, His children are at differing stages in their walk.
       (These divisions have nothing to do with age or gender.)
    In some MSS, the last section of v.13 reads "I have written unto you little children...", suggesting the following divisions...
    1. "I write unto you..."
      1. Little children {GK=teknion, cherished born ones} - ie., new believers, only recently born again,
        who understand little more than that their sins have been forgiven, through faith in Christ. 1Joh 1:7b,9; Joh 3:3; 1Pet 1:23-25
      2. Fathers - ie., mature believers, who are secure and stable in their walk with God,
        as they maintain continual intimate fellowship with the Father and the Son (1Joh 1:3,4,7). Through long experience, these have learned to love God's Word... to draw near to Him in times of sorrow and of joy... to commune with Him and to seek His mind concerning matters great and small.
           (Note: Spiritual maturity does not necessarily correspond to the number of years a person has been a Christian. Sadly, through neglect of God's Word, laxity in prayer, and disregard for God's Will, many remain babes in their old age. eg., 1Cor 3:1-3; Heb 5:11-14)
      3. Young men - ie., maturing believers, who are aware that Christ has delivered them
        from the domain of the wicked one (ie., Satan), and who are gaining victory over various temptations (Col 1:13,14; Rev 12:11).
    2. "I have written unto you..." (The past tense suggests the passage of time.)
         (The list is repeated, to show that, at whatever stage, they are all growing.)
      1. Little children {GK=paideia, children, youth}... ye have known the Father.-
        This word for children marks substantial growth.
        Unlike new born babies, the youths are able to recognize their Father and to seek His help. As they are learning to walk with Him, they frequently stumble. But they know that He will help, and they know to cry "Abba, Father." Rom 8:15
      2. Fathers - who are in intimate fellowship with the Father and the Son (1Joh 1:3,4,7).
        There is nothing added to mark increasing maturity, for these are settled in their walk. Where they have sorrow, He is their joy. Where they are weak, He is their strength. Where they endure trials, He is their peace. They desire nothing but to know Him (cp. 2Cor 12:9,10; Php 1:21; 3:10-14).
      3. Young men... ye are strong... the word of God abideth in you... ye have overcome...-
        These maturing believers, who were delivered from bondage to Satan by the blood of Christ, have discovered the secret of sustained victory over temptation. They have found their strength, not in themselves, but rather "in the Lord" as they abide in His Word (Rom 6:1-14; Eph 6:10-18; Joh 15:4; 1Joh 5:4,5).
      [While all of the above is true and profitable, this division may miss part of John's message. If John's only intent was to show a progression of maturity, it is strange that these stages are not listed in logical order of progression (ie., children... young men... fathers).]
      The editor prefers the following...
  2. John addresses the family of believers,
       acknowledging their differing levels of spiritual maturity, and
       admonishing the more mature concerning their responsibility.
    In some MSS, v.12,13 are in the present tense, and only v.14 reads "I have written...", favoring the following divisions (which also coincide with the verse divisions)...
    1. "I write unto you..."
      1. Little children {GK=teknion, cherished born ones} (v.12)- Here, John is addressing all of God's born again children, regardless of their level of maturity.
        John frequently applies this term to all believers (eg., v.1, v.28; 1Joh 3:7,18; 5:21).
        (The root of 'teknion' is 'teknon' {'born ones' endowed with the nature of their father. This meaning is clearly shown in 1Joh 3:10, where 'children' is 'teknon'.}. John uses 'teknion' as a term of endearment, in expressing the Father's tender appeal to His children.
        However John recognizes that God's children are at different places in their walk with God (as shown in the following points).
      2. Fathers... ye have known him that is from the beginning. (v.13a)-
        [For characteristics of 'fathers', see the discussions in Section 'A' above, under 'Fathers.']
      3. Young men...ye have overcome the wicked one. (v.13b)-
        [For characteristics of 'young men', see the discussions in Section 'A' above, under 'Young men.']
      4. Youths... ye have known the Father. (v.13c)-
        [For characteristics of 'youth', see the discussion in Section 'A, 2, a' above, under 'Little children {GK=paideia, children, youth}.']
         John is writing to the whole family of God's born-again ones (in point 'a').
         He addresses them in logical order of maturity, beginning with the most mature ('b, c, d').
    2. "I have written unto you..."
         John changes tense (in v.14) to emphasize that his message (in the remainder of the chapter) is primarily intended for the more mature family members, who bear the responsibility of ensuring the well-being of the family of God. The past tense may also suggest that he had previously written to church leaders concerning their responsibilities.
      1. Fathers... ye have known him that is from the beginning. (v.14a)-
        The elders, who know the mind of the Lord, and who are able to discern His will in changing circumstances, have primary responsibility for the care of the church. These are the leaders who guard against error of doctrine and practice, and who exercise discipline when it becomes necessary. cp. 1Pet 5:1-4; Joh 21:15-17; Acts 20:28-32
      2. Young men... (v.14b)- ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.-
        Mature believers, who know the Word, and who find their strength in the Lord, are responsible for discipling those who are not yet strong in the faith, both by teaching and by life example.
...I have written... (see v.14,21,26)- The apostle wrote the mature brethren concerning three matters:
  1. The need to love God, rather than the world (v.15-17).
  2. The need for discernment of truth from apostasy (v.18-23).
  3. The need for the Spirit, the Discerner of truth, who abides in you, and in whom you must abide (v.24-29).
15 Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world.
If any man love 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 pride of life,
is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof:
but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
Love for 'the world' is incompatible with Love for the Father.
What is the world?
In Scripture, 'the world' has at least three distinct meanings...
  1. the world of nature - including mountains, rivers, seas, plants and animals.
    This is the world which God created as habitat for His creatures, including man.
    The Lord has given man dominion over the earth and its resources. Gen 1:26-28
    One of our hymns begins "This is my Father's world..."
    Love for God and for His creation are not necessarily incompatible (unless we assign greater value to creation than to the Creator and His Word, Rom 1:18-25). Today, the Gospel is being proclaimed "in the earth {GK=ge}" (1Joh 5:8).
  2. the world of people - God created mankind.
    But we cut ourselves off from Him, through our sinful rebellion.
       Even so, God loves the world of people so much that He gave His only begotten son, to save men from their sin and its consequences (Joh 3:16,17). Jesus was moved with compassion for lost men (Mat 9:36-38; Luk 19:10).
       The Lord has commanded believers to show His love to unsaved men (Mark 16:15; 2Cor 5:14,15), and to do good to all men (especially to other believers, Gal 6:10).
       Love for mankind is not incompatible with love for God, in fact, God requires His children to love the world of people, for whom Christ died (v.2). Throughout 1John, the word for 'world' is GK=kosmos (meaning: order, arrangement), but in two different senses: (A) the world of people living in the arrangement which God created for them (v.2), or (B) the world system created by men (v.15).
  3. the world system - which is opposed to God and His purposes.
    Fallen men have built their 'world system' {GK=kosmos, order, arrangement}, upon their own values and principles, without regard for God and His Word.
       The world system is not lacking in culture, refinement or technical advancement, but it leaves God out. This has been the situation, from the fall of man onward. After Cain murdered his brother, he "went out from the presence of the Lord" (in rebellion). His descendants built cities and made names for themselves in the arts, sciences, and industry... all without thought of God. Gen 4:16-22
       It is this 'world' which is incompatible with a love for God and His ways.
...for all that is in the world... is not of the Father, but is of the world. - cp. Rom 12:2; 1Pet 4:1-3
Everything that characterizes the world system, flows out from the 'order' preferred by sinful man... not from our Lord. Therefore, man's best arrangement is self-destructive confusion, in the eyes of God.
The characteristics of the world system... (v.16)
  1. the lust of the flesh - ie., self-satisfaction: 'If it feels good, do it.'
    Our flesh wants to satisfy its appetites (for example: for food, comfort, the sex drive...). These physical appetites are not wrong in themselves. We all get hungry and need to eat. We all need to rest. God created us male and female. The problem is that our flesh wants to indulge itself, outside of the will of God... sex outside of marriage, food to excess, personal pampering and luxurious love of self.
      -- Eve "saw that the tree was good for food..." (Gen 3:6).
      -- While Jesus fasted, Satan tempted Him to turn stones into bread (Mat 4:1-4; Luk 4:1-4).
    Eve gave in to Satan's seduction.
    Jesus stood firm against him, because His greatest hunger was to fulfill the Will of the Father, which He had declared in His written Word. cp. Psa 40:7,8; Joh 4:34
  2. the lust of the eyes - ie., self-enrichment: the desire to acquire possessions for oneself. (cp. Ex 20:17)
    Our flesh covets the beautiful things that we see. Yet, God gives us all things richly to enjoy. The problem is that the flesh wants what God has not given us, or more (of what He has given) than what He knows is best for us.
      -- Eve "saw that the tree... was pleasant to the eyes" (Gen 3:6)
      -- Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Someday the kingdoms of the world will be His, but He refused to receive them from anyone but the Father, and in His time. (Mat 4:8-10; Luk 4:5-8)
  3. the pride of life - ie., self-exaltation: the desire to be above others, to achieve recognition for oneself.
    Our flesh wants personal promotion, position, and power. God does elevate one person above another. However, we err in claiming a place that does not belong to us.
      -- Eve "saw that the tree... was to be desired to make one wise." According to Satan, it would cause her and Adam "to be like gods." (Gen 3:5,6)
      -- Satan tempted Jesus to jump off a high point of the Temple, so that He would be acclaimed for landing without injury. Satan deceptively misquoted Scripture to justify this action. But Jesus would do nothing apart from His Father's will. (Mat 4:5-7; Luk 4:9-13)
the world passeth away, and the lusts thereof...- cp. Psa 39:6
This world is temporary. If we build our lives around it, all that we value will soon pass away. The things that felt good will go sour. The things that our eyes desired will rust and crumble. The things that we achieved, the honors, position and power, will all fade and come to nothing. Yet, these are the things we sought, before Christ lifted us out of bondage to this passing world system (Eph 2:1-10).
...but he that doeth the will of God abides forever.
God is eternal. His Word is unfailing. His purposes will be fulfilled.
     Life centered in Him can only increase in value, the longer we walk with Him. When God's children eventually leave this world and enter into His presence, their joy will be immeasurable. All of the world's treasures cannot be compared to living with Him, forever. 2Cor 4:17,18; Col 3:1-4
     Therefore, the 'fathers' and 'young men' in the faith, must be watchful (for themselves and also for those less strong in the faith) lest the lure of the world distract them from walking with the Lord.
II. God is Love (4:8,16), 2:3- 4:21
Therefore, God's Children...
C. Love the Truth (Antichrists deny Jesus is the Christ), 2:18-28
18. Little children, it is the last time:
and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come,
even now are there many antichrists;
whereby we know that it is the last time.
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us;
for if they had been of us, they would [no doubt] have continued with us:
but [they went out], that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
Little children {GK=paideia, youths}...
John may be using this term to address all believers, here. However, the only other occurrence of this word (in 1John) is in v.13c. Elsewhere, whenever John refers to all believers as "little children," he always uses another word {GK=teknion, cherished born ones}. If he intended the previous paragraph for the fathers and young men (v.14-17), then he may be directing this section (v.18-28) primarily to the 'youths,' who were just beginning their walk with the Lord (v.13c).
...it is the last time {GK=eschatos hora, lit., final hour (ie., closing period of time)}...
As used in the NT, this and similar phrases typically refer to the Church Age, often with an emphasis on the closing portion of the age. [See the Book Notes at 1Tim 4:1.]
...ye have heard that the Antichrist shall come... even now there are many antichrists...
The word 'anti-christ' has two senses, because the prefix 'anti-' can mean either 'against-' or 'instead of-' Christ. Actually, both senses will meet in 'the Antichrist' whose coming is foretold in Scripture. In 2The 2:3,4, he is identified as "the man of sin, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God... so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God showing himself that he is God." This man will attempt to crush the proclamation of the true Gospel of the true Christ, while presenting himself as the savior of the world.
     Jesus foretold that Israel and the nations will acclaim this impostor, as their Messiah (Joh 5:43). Jesus also foretold, that prior to the coming of the final Antichrist, many false prophets and false Christs would arise and would deceive many (Mat 24:5,11,24).
...whereby we know that it is the last time.
Just as He said, the period following our Lord Jesus Christ's ascension into heaven has been characterized by many deceiving voices (cp. Jude 1:17,18). The intensity of this deception will increase exponentially, as the end draws near, for Satan will be working overtime to blind men's hearts from receiving the true Christ. The deception will culminate in the "abomination of desolation," when the Antichrist enthrones himself as God, in the temple. Unsaved religious people (including professed Christians and Jews) will worship this deceiver, because they neither hold nor love the Truth. (See Mat 24:15; 2The 2:3-11; Dan 7:7,8; 9:26,27; 11:36-39,45; 12:11; Rev 13:4-8.)
they went out from us... that they might be made manifest that they were not... of us.
Already in John's day, at the end of the apostolic era, "many antichrists" were preaching false gospels and false christs. Their false teaching was causing professed believers to fall into confusion, and deadly error (eg., 2Cor 11:4; Gal 1:6-8; Jude 1:3,4).
     These false teachers had once been in fellowship with God's people. They looked like good Christians. They had been baptized and had participated in the Lord's Supper. Some had been trusted leaders. But they had turned aside from the truth, in pursuit of worldly advancement (eg., v.15-17; Acts 20:28-30). They were like Judas Iscariot, who had been closely involved in Jesus' earthly ministry, and who was considered completely trustworthy (as the treasurer for the twelve disciples). Yet, only Jesus knew the evil hidden in Judas' heart, as they shared a meal on the night in which He was betrayed (Psa 41:9). Having never truly known Jesus, the betrayer turned away from the Savior, to follow Satan's deception and to do the enemy's bidding.
     That thought (that I might appear to be a Christian when I am not) should cause every one of us to "examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith" (2Cor 13:5). In this letter, John makes the way of salvation very clear (eg., 1Joh 1:1-10; 5:9-12). He also provides several tests whereby we can "know that we know Him," and that we have been born of God (eg., 2:3,5,29; 3:14; 4:13).
Little children {GK=paideia, youths}...
How is it possible for these (who are young in the faith, and not yet well versed in the Scriptures) to survive the deceptions of the 'last time'?
     Didn't Jesus say that the deception would be so severe that even 'the elect' would be deceived, if it were possible? (Mat 24:24)
     Therein is the answer. 'The elect' are God's true children, who have been born again of God's Spirit (Joh 3:5-7).
20. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.
21 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth,
but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?
He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father:
[(but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also].
...ye have an unction {ie., an anointing} from the Holy One...
Everyone, who is born of God's Spirit, is indwelt, anointed and sealed by the Holy Spirit (v.27; 1Joh 4:13; Rom 8:9; 2Cor 1:21,22). This anointing and sealing occurrs at the moment when we first believe "the Word of Truth, the Gospel of your salvation" (Eph 1:13,14).
...and ye know all things.-
No believer can say that he knows everything. Those, who possess great knowledge from a lifetime spent in the study of God's Word, are most aware that God's thoughts are far above their own (Rom 11:33).
     The new believer may understand very little about the Truth which he has embraced, and which embraces him. But the indwelling Holy Spirit knows all things.
...I have not written... because ye know not the truth... ye know it... no lie is of the truth.
God has equipped His children with the resources necessary to discern truth from falsehood.
  • God's Word is Truth - Joh 17:17
  • God's Spirit is the Spirit of Truth - Joh 14:17; 15:26; 16:13-15
    The Holy Spirit opens the believer's understanding of God's written Word, and recalls it to his heart, enabling discernment between truth and error (1Cor 2:12-16; Heb 4:12).
       Even trusted spiritual leaders can be deceived and depart from the truth. Therefore, every believer needs to test everything he hears, against the written Word of God, while heeding the still small voice of God's Spirit.
who is a {lit., 'the'} liar...? he is antichrist...
"The liar" is the spirit behind all antichrists (Joh 8:44).
In the course of this letter, John reveals that 'the liar' speaks multiple lies concerning the identity of the true Christ.
The liar denies...
  • that Jesus is the Christ (v.22a)
  • that God the Father and the Son are One in essence (v.22b,23)
  • that Jesus Christ came in the flesh (4:3)
    These lies are very closely related, for all are promoted by "the spirit of antichrist" (4:3).
...he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ...-
The coming of the Christ {ie., the Messiah, the Anointed One} is a major theme of OT prophecy. The Messiah would be born of king David's line, and appointed by God to accomplish His promised purposes to Israel and for all mankind. These purposes include the redemption of sinners by the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Isa 53:6-8; Joh 1:29), and the re-establishment of the Davidic kingdom in which the Messiah will reign over all the earth (Isa 9:6,7; Jer 23:5,6).
     The prophets provided many details, including His birth in Bethlehem... His existence from eternity (Mic 5:2)... His humanity and deity as the unique Son of man and Son of God (Isa 7:14; 9:6)... His suffering and His glory. Because these points often seemed to be in conflict, the prophets struggled to understand, and many Jewish scholars thought there would be two Messiahs (one a suffering servant, and the other a glorious king). cp. 1Pet 1:10,11
     With one voice, the apostles proclaimed that Jesus is the Christ. The same Jesus who suffered, died, arose and ascended, will come again in power and great glory. In Him, all of God's promises will be fulfilled. This was Paul's message, wherever he went (Acts 17:2,3; 2Cor 1:19,20).
     One of the errors which was affecting the church, even in apostolic times, was gnosticism. The gnostics claimed to possess superior knowledge in religious matters. However, the gnostics differed among themselves in applying their theories to Jesus Christ. John addresses one form of their error here (v.22.23), and another in 1Joh 4:3. The gnostics asserted that 'flesh' is inherently corrupt and in conflict with 'spirit' which they regarded as inherently good and divine. Therefore, they denied that the man, Jesus, was the Christ. Rather, they taught that the 'Christ Spirit' rested upon him during his earthly ministry, and departed from him at his death. This error is still present, today, in some of the cults, which teach that the 'Christ Spirit' is presently (or will soon be) manifested upon some man. (Acceptance of this error paves the way for the Antichrist.)
     Of course, this theory is contradicted by Scripture which declares that "this same Jesus" who was born of the virgin Mary, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, was buried, and who was declared to be the son of God by the resurrection from the dead, and ascended into heaven, will return to earth, and establish His unending Kingdom (Luk 1:30-35; Acts 1:9-11; Rom 1:1-4).
...he... that denieth the Father and the Son.-
This is a denial of the deity of Jesus, the Son of the Highest, who is the Christ.
Yet, as we saw above, prophetic Scripture declared that the Messiah would be both son of man and Son of God.
     Jesus claimed to be one with the Father (eg., Joh 5:22,23; 8:19; 10:30; 14:9,10; 15:23,24).
The Father and the Son are inseparable. You cannot know one apart from the other (Luk 10:22; Joh 14:6; 2Joh 1:9-11).
[(but) he that acknowledgeth {ie., confesses} the Son hath the Father also].-
In the KJV, the second half of v.23 is printed in italics [brackets as reproduced here], because the phrase did not appear in many MSS available to the translators, at that time. However, there is substantial MSS evidence for this reading. In any case, this phrase provides the corollary to the first half of the verse, and is supported by other Scriptures (eg., the references in the preceding paragraph; also see Joh 17:3; Rom 10:9; 2Cor 5:18-21).
24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning.
If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you,
ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.
25 And this is the promise that he hath promised us, [even] eternal life.
...that... which ye have heard from the beginning...- (ie., the Truth declared in the Gospel of Christ)
From the beginning of Christ's earthly ministry, He declared who He is and why He came. From the beginning of the Church Age, the apostles declared the Gospel, which is all about the Person and work of Jesus the Christ, who is both Son of man and Son of God. Through faith in this Gospel, these new believers had come into fellowship with the apostles (and all other true believers), and with the Father and the Son. 1Joh 1:1-7; 4:14,15
     If these new believers would 'abide' {GK=meno, remain, continue} in the Truth, they would continue in that fellowship. Those who had departed from the faith to become 'anti-christ,' had failed to 'continue' {GK=meno} in the Truth which they had once professed (v.19; cp. Jude 1:3,4). When 'the Antichrist' comes on the scene, his deceived followers will be those who "received not the love of the truth" (2The 2:8-12).
...continue in the Son, and in the Father.
And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.
Only those, who 'continue' in the Truth, continue in fellowship with the Father and the Son.
Only those, who know the Father and His Son, have eternal life (Joh 17:3).
26 These [things] have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you,
and ye need not that any man teach you:
but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things,
and is truth, and is no lie,
and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
...them that seduce you. - ie., them that seek to lure you away from the Truth.
The apostle warned the spiritually immature believers against the deceptive nature of apostasy.
...but the anointing... abideth in you...-
The apostle also encouraged them concerning God's protective resources (His Word and His Spirit). As God's children, they were indwelt by His Spirit. The Spirit of Truth would teach them to discern Truth from error. eg., v.20,21
...ye need not that any man teach you... the same anointing teacheth you...-
The apostle is not saying that human teachers are unnecessary. He himself was teaching them, in this letter. The Lord has gifted the church with men who teach His Word, to enable believers to mature into what He wants us to be (Eph 4:11-16).
     Also, the apostle is not suggesting that the Spirit teaches apart from the written Word. Jesus said that the Spirit teaches by explaining and applying His Word, as He recalls it to our remembrance (Joh 14:26). However, He cannot call to mind what we have neglected to treasure up in our hearts. We must know the Word of God, if we are to learn of Him (Col 3:16; 2Tim 3:15-17). The assurance of the Holy Spirit's teaching (v.27) is for those in whom the Word of God abides (v.14; Joh 14:23,24; 15:4-8).
     It is Christ, Himself, who applies His Word to the heart of the believer who abides in His Word (eg., Joh 14:23,24; 15:4-8; Eph 4:20,21). His Spirit, indwelling believers, enables them to digest the Word of Truth, and thereby, to discern between truth and falsehood.
     However, without an appetite for the sincere (pure, unadulterated) milk and meat of the Word, you will never digest it (1Pet 2:2,3). Many have departed from the faith, because they allowed a taste for the leaven of this world's thinking (philosophies, music, movies, games, etc.) to corrupt and confuse the clarity of the Word (eg., v.15-17; Mat 13:33).
28. And now, little children {GK=teknion}, abide in him;
that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence,
and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
...now, little children {GK=teknion, cherished born ones}, abide in him...-
Here, John addresses all believers, for it is essential for all, regardless of their level of maturity, to 'remain' in fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
...that when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed...
All through this section, John has been using the second person plural pronoun ('ye') as he warned God's children to stay close to Christ, to avoid Satan's deceptions. Here, he uses the first person plural pronoun ('we'). He may be referring to himself, other apostles, teachers and elders, who bear responsibility for the care of God's children. The under-shepherds of God's flock desire that all of His sheep will be found well and within the fold, when they report to the chief Shepherd at His return. eg., Heb 13:17; 1Pet 5:2-4; 1The 2:19,20
     On the other hand, he may be reminding us that 'we' (each and every believer) must give a personal account to the Lord at His coming (eg., 2Cor 5:10).
29 If ye know that he is righteous,
ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.
Here is another test, by which a man might examine himself, to see if he is truly born again.
This verse introduces the next section.

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