1 John 3.1-10 was an expose on the works of the children of God v. the children of the devil. The child of God is to practice righteousness. John concluded that section with the evidence used to identify the child of God: practice righteousness and love one another. This launches the present conversation on loving the brethren.
11For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
For this is the message—some commentators say that since this is identical to 1.5 that John is starting a new division in his epistle. John’s admonition to his readers in light of the Gnostic teachers is to look to the revealed message which they have heard from the apostles from the beginning, not to the secret enlightenment of the Gnostics.
That you have heard from the beginning—”you have heard” is aorist tense. “From the beginning” harkens back to 2.7; this is the beginning of their career as Christians. And it continues to be in-force. Abide in the teaching which they have heard from the beginning (2.24).
Love one another—here is the aim of the message. This was the message even revealed by Jesus (John 13.34-35). Objectively, the singular desire to see Christ formed in your brother.
12We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.
Like Cain—Cain’s attitude and actions typifies the conduct of the world toward Christians. Cain was under the influence of Satan even as the world lies under the influence of him (5.19). For a Christian to exemplify this kind of behavior would be worldly, wrong, devilish.
Murdered his brother—the word used for murder in contexts such as these points to the violence and mercilessness of the act, hence, the NET “brutally murdered.” Savagery involved. Gk. Sphazo, to slay, slaughter, butcher, by cutting the throat; John graphically describes this.
Why…? His own deeds were evil—his deeds lined up with the evil one. It seems this also points to Cain’s lifestyle (linked to context); he lived a lifestyle of evil deeds. “own” – as compared to the righteous works, done by faith, of Abel. This produced resentment, jealousy, hatred, then murder.
13Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
Do not be surprised…- Present imperative, “stop marveling.” Apparently, the readers were surprised by the treatment they were receiving from the world. Cain (world) still hates Abel
Brothers—before and after, they are “beloved” and “little children” but brothers in this section.
The world hates you—hatred is the lack of the desire to see Christ formed in another person. “You mean the world doesn’t want to help me look like Christ?” Light and darkness are hostile (cf. John 3.19).
14We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
We know that we have passed—”we know” is perf. Tense from oida; certain, absolute knowledge. “We have passed” is perfect tense. We were dead (state of being) and became alive. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt this change happened. How?…
Because we love the brothers—they are obeying the commandment. Those who are obedient to the commandments of God (namely, the commandment of Christ to love one another) is in the light, has light.
Whoever does not love—lit. the one not loving; connect to “the one hating” in v.15.
…abides in death—the person failing to obey the commandment remains in a state of spiritual death, settled into it. In other words, he remains in darkness (2.9; cf. John 12.46). “A Christian can no more live without love that a plant can live without growth.” Pulpit Commentary.
15Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
…is a murderer—a throat cutting brother butcher. You’re a Cain who is serving the evil one. This is the same word that is used of Satan (John 8.44); he was a murderer from the beginning and when you hate you brother (no desire or indifference toward their becoming like Christ), you exhibit devilish behavior.
You know—Gk. Oida, perfect tense. The settled conviction; absolute, certain knowledge.
No murderer has eternal life abiding in him—John is not saying murder is the unpardonable sin (cf. Mark 3.29). Rather, he is showing hate and death go together just as love and life go together. Death and life are mutually exclusive. “Where hate is, there is death; where there is death, there can be no life.” – Woods, pg.280.
16By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
By this we know love—or lit. “we know the love.” “The thing called love” (Smith). “Know” is Gk. Ginosko, to know something through investigation of the facts. They have acquired and possess this knowledge concerning love. How? Looking at Christ’s love. We cannot know agape without a trip to the Calvary/the cross.
He laid down his life for us—”He” is unquestionably Jesus. “laid down” – as one would lay down/aside a garment (see 13.4). He was active in this (John 10.18); no one took it from Him. It was deliberate, voluntary, and even casual. Jesus died on purpose; it was no accident. He died “for us” or “on our behalf.” Cain is the example of hatred (murderer) whereas Christ is the supreme example of love (murdered). Love, then, is wrapped with the blanket of self-sacrifice.
We ought to lay down our lives—”We” is emphatic. We have seen this “ought” before (2.6) concerning the debt we owe to God to live like Christ. We also owe our brethren the debt of love (cf. Rom 13.8). There is an assignment, an obligation (see 2 Cor 5.14-15). While our laying down of our lives has no atoning value, it is a supreme proof of our love for the brethren.
17But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
If anyone has the world’s goods—”anyone” is anyone in the household of faith. “World’s goods” (Gk. Ton bion tou kosmou) is your livelihood. The woman with an issue of blood (Luke 8.43-48) spent all her bios, livelihood, trying to get well. Your possessions, property, what you live on, resources.
Sees his brother in need—not just a passing glance; this person worships with you, is your brother/sister and you see them week-in and week-out (daily in 1st century). You’ve watched their plight and understand their need and lack.
Yet closes his heart against him—”against” is Cainish language, behavior (see Gen 4.8). This can also be translated “turns away from him.” To close the heart is lit. to shut up the bowels, the ancient thought that emotions are from the inward parts (similar to our heart today). Implied is that for a moment, his heart was open to his brother’s plight.
How does God’s love abide in him? – rhetorical question: it doesn’t! The motivation of neglect, then, is hatred. And even passive neglect is itself hatred; it certainly doesn’t represent God’s love.
18Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Let us not love in word or talk—James 2.15-16 is a prime example of someone who loves in word only. John does not condemn affectionate speech; but this only is empty.
But in deed and truth—Back up what you speak/say with action; love is a verb.
19By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;
By this we shall know—”By this” points back to v.18. “It is by doing these deeds that believers assure themselves that they belong to the truth, because the outward action reflects the inward reality of their relationship with God. Put another way, ‘conduct is the clue to paternity.’” (NET notes). ”We will know” future tense; in any future occurrence/emergency we will know…
That we are of the truth—some commentators say “of the truth” can be understood “of God.” It would seem if John wanted to say that, he would have said it. It seems John is rather saying that Christians can know they are listening to the voice of Christ (Jn 18.37).
Reassure our hearts—(an idiom, literally ‘to convince the heart’) to exhibit confidence and assurance in a situation which might otherwise cause dismay or fear—‘to be confident, to be assured’” (Lowe-Nida). What better to silence the voice of the heart (conscience) than the voice of the Lord! The voice of “the truth” speaks a better word, assuring our hearts.
Before him—in the very presence of God, the Judge.
20for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.
Whenever our heart condemns us—our heart (conscience) acts as local peace officer, telling us “good job” or “bad form,” what is right and wrong. Needs divine law—Rom 2.12
God is greater than our heart—God is the Supreme Court; He overrules. Only God can give us a clean conscience by the blood of Jesus: Heb 9.14; 1 Peter 3.21. Cf. Rom 8.1
He knows everything—He knows your lifestyle, career, habitual practice when it comes to listening to the voice of Christ. He understands when we are conscience stricken over sin.
21Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
If our heart does not condemn us—Our heart (conscience) does not convict us of something bad/wrong. If we are free from the internal judgment of conscience…In reality, we need this freedom from condemnation. We need a clear conscience before God. This has implications upon our prayer life.
We have confidence before God—This is present reality. We continue to have confidence/boldness before God Almighty. Lit. confidence is the freedom to speak and coupled with the word “towards” (Gk. Pros) implies a special “face-to-face” communication. Prayer.
22and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
Whatever we ask we receive from him—We can ask with the expectation that we will receive. “We ask” is present tense, i.e. we keep on asking. “The prerequisites for answered prayer are an uncondemning heart, the habitual keeping of God’s commandments, and the habitual doing of those things which please Him.” (Wuest) “We receive” is present tense; keep on receiving. This is the Christian’s habitual experience (see also Matt 7.7a, 8a).
Because (causal hoti) we keep his commandments—present tense, we keep on obeying His commandments (see 5.3b). Walk in the light, walk as Jesus walked, abide in Him; contextually, love one another in deed and truth. “Obedience is the indispensible condition, not the meritorious cause, of answered prayer” (Stott).
And do what pleases him—This is a characteristic of Jesus (John 8.29) and He was heard (John 11.42). God desires it and therefore it is fit, right that we do it. This also touches on motivation – out of our love and gratitude we do these things.
23And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
This is his commandment—singular, what God has ordered of humanity.
We believe in the name of His Son—Belief is personal conviction; how can God demand this? When the evidence is clear, then He can command that people believe. It is evident in what He has made (Rom 1.19-20; Heb 11.1). He demands that we evaluate the evidence and believe. Concerning His Son, the evidence is clear and has been preserved even to today. There is enough evidence to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Aorist tense used points to a decisive moment when you put your faith and trust in “the name” (the whole personality, all that Jesus is) of the Son of God.
Love one another—How can God command this? Because He Himself is love (4.8). To know God, is to demonstrate brotherly love. (See John 13.34; 15.12, 17; 1 Jn 2.7; 3.11; 4.7). Present tense is used pointing to the continuous action of loving the brethren.
24Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
Whoever keeps his commandments—lit. the one keeping His commandments; this is present tense, continued, habitual obedience to the commandments of God; lifestyle. What commandments? V.23
Abides in God and God in him— should read: “abides in Him and He in him.” keeps on abiding in God. Same language as 4.15. Whether “Him” is God or Christ would probably be unimportant to John esp. considering John 14.23; 17.21 where Jesus uses the pronouns “we” and “us” dwelling in/with believers. God lives in us, present reality. Fellowship language.
We know that he abides in us—Gk. Ginosko for “know”; that knowledge which comes through comprehension by seeing, hearing, investigation, experience. We understand God has taken up residence in us (fellowship with God); how?
By the Spirit whom he has given us—”he has given” is clearly past tense (aorist in Gk) but the precise time of this giving is disputed. Some say Pentecost (Pulpit Commentary), although it should be noted that “us” seems to include not only the apostle but his recipients. Others say beginning of Christian life (Stott). But then the question of operation arises. Some say it is fact God has given us the Spirit but that only through the Word does He motivate us to present an abode hospitable for the Father and Son to abide (Woods). Others say the Holy Spirit will enlighten our minds, elevate our affections, quicken us in performance of duty, and imbue us with the temper and spirit of the Lord (Barnes). Still others say this is the “Gift Ordinary” of the Holy Spirit, the earnest of our inheritance: Acts 2.38; Eph 1.14; 2 Cor 1.22; Rom 5.5 (Coffman). “By the Word we were taught that such a life was the right one to lead. By the Spirit we are so inspired that we cannot lead any other.” (Pulpit Commentary 86). If I confess Jesus has come in the flesh, to that degree I apprehend that I am inspired and will live accordingly.
John ventures forth having established our position before God as children of God to explaining that with this position comes a practice God’s children are to follow. The shift is subtle: our positional status prompts and promotes a practical style of living. This practical aspect is captured by John in 1 John 3.4-10.
4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning—Present active participle, lit. the one doing the sin. This is a person whose habitual practice is to sin (miss the mark, veer from the right). This is in contrast to “the one doing right” (2.29).
Also practices lawlessness—lawlessness (Gk. Anomia) is to behave with complete disregard for the laws of society. In this case, there is no regard for the laws (commandments) of the kingdom of God (cf. 2.3).
Sin is lawlessness—veering from what is right is also disregard for the law.
5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.
You know—perfect tense of oida, absolute knowledge.
He appeared to take away sin—these Christians knew absolutely the purpose of Jesus’ coming: to take away, remove, bear/carry sins (ours). What is emphasized here is not the manner of the removal but the removal itself. Sin has been taken away.
In him there is no sin—not a single sin whatsoever. Present reality.
6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
No one who abides in Him—or “Whosoever abideth in him” (KJV). Abiding in Christ means certainly to be in Christ, but it also points to the communion we enjoy with Christ/God and is characterized by our habitual doing of God’s will. If our goal and aim is to do the will of God (do right, 2.29), we would not keep on sinning…
Keeps on sinning—KJV “sinneth not.” (Linear) Present tense verb which is captured in the KJV with the “-eth” suffix attached to the word. This is not occasional sin John is talking about here but habitual sin. And as is characteristic of John’s writing, he presents the two camps as opposite (light and darkness, right and wrong).
This is also a logical deduction from the foregoing discussion: if the nature of the Son of God is sinless perfection and if His purpose in coming was to take away sin, then no one who abides in Him keeps on sinning.
No one who keeps on sinning—and here is the clarification of the practice of sin (linear present tense participle). Lit. this is “the one sinning” and points to a life marked by a habit of sin. It also points a life which is not in Christ and denies Him.
Has either seen him or known him—Woods says this points to the enjoyment one finds in God (sees) and the recognition of God in one’s life (knows). John uses the perfect tense of the verbs: one has not seen nor presently sees Him and has not known nor presently knows Him. Indeed, Sin and Christ are irreconcilable, incompatible and are at enmity.
7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.
Let no one deceive you—Let no one pull you away so as to stray from the truth.
Whoever practices righteousness is righteous—lit. the one doing the right(ness) as opposed to the one sinning (v.6). Compare this with 2.29. The one whose habitual practice (keeps on doing) is to do what is right concerning the will/law/commandments of God is righteous. In other words, you are doing what God desires. God makes us righteous through Christ; we, being righteous, will do what is righteous.
As he is righteous—In other words, your doing exactly what Jesus did while on earth. Character and practice cannot be separated; Jesus’ life shows us this.
8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
Whoever makes a practice of sinning—present tense part. lit. the one doing (the) sin. This is again continuous action, a lifestyle and career of sin. The habit of sin.
Is of the devil—cf. Jn 8.44; When one acts like the devil, they demonstrate they are not children of God but children of the devil. This person belongs to and is aligned with the devil. Important note: John is careful not to say they are “begotten” of the devil. “The devil made no one, he begot no one, he created no one; but whosoever imitates the devil, is, as it were, a child of the devil, through imitating, not through being born of him” (Augustine). “There is the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the evil one, and man cannot find or make a third domain; if he is not in the one he is in the other.” – Pulpit Commentary
For the devil has been sinning from the beginning—this is his character. Hence, when one sins, breaking the law of God, they demonstrate the same character as the devil and their relation to him. “From the beginning” probably points to the devils fall from an angel of God to the demonic evil being he is now. He was the first sinner. But he continues to sin.
The reason the Son of God… – In v.5 we see the work of Jesus to take away sin. Here John adds that Jesus’ work was to destroy the “works” (pl.) of the devil. The word John uses for “destroy” is “loose” picturing, as it were, chains that had bound mankind; he unbinds, dissolves the bonds. So Christ, in removing our sins, looses us from the bonds of sin. He takes away/looses the us from the penalty and punishment of sin.
9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
No one born of God—Perf., pass., part; lit. the one having been born of God. How? John 3.3,5 – baptism. God is incompatible with sin; irreconcilable opposites. Hence…
Makes a practice of sinning—KJV “doth not commit sin” is unfortunate and unbiblical (2.1). John is dealing with the habitual, continual career of sin; walking in darkness.
For God’s seed abides in him—God’s seed has taken up resides and continues to dwell in the begotten of God. But what is that seed? Most commentators point to the parable of the soils where Jesus says the word of God is the seed. That’s fair. In context, that fits (2.24). The apostolic word. But dig a bit deeper: you had Gnostics running around saying they had been reborn and enlightened and as a result they had the divine nature or seed remaining in them. Over against this heresy, John tells Christians who have been born again they have God’s seed (His nature) in them. And what higher motive is there for not sinning?
He cannot keep on sinning—indeed, if he is a partaker in the divine nature, God makes his dwelling in him, then he should be done with sin and be focused on righteousness (2.29; 3.7, 10). Children of God do not act unbecoming of their Father.
Because he has been born of God—perf. Pass., ind. We were begotten and stand begotten of God. We continue to be children of God, bearing the divine nature/image in our being.
10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
By this—preceding or what follows? Either/both for they both are similar
It is evident who are the children of God—the individual who is a child of God is clearly known by what their practice is. Partakers in divine nature. Cf. Matt 7.16
Who are the children of the devil—at the same time, we can clearly know (identify) who the children of the devil, those who are partakers in the nature of Satan (sin).
Whoever does not practice righteousness—Present Active Part., lit. the one not doing righteousness. This is lifestyle, habitual, continual career stuff. What does it mean to “do righteousness”? Obedience to the will and word of God. Do what is right when faced with the commandments of our holy God. Said another way: doing what God desires of us. Ok, what does it mean not to “do right”? Failure to keep the commandments of God, disobedience to the law of God. The person whose life does not match up with God’s revelation is “not of God.”
The one who does not love his brother—Present Active Part., lit. the one not loving his brother. Here John ties in the “new commandment” and places this on par with righteous behavior. The significance of this commandment cannot be over-stressed. This is the springboard into the next portion of John’s letter about sacrificial love. Who is my brother? One commentator says “mankind at large.” Eh…But John specifies in 3.14, 16—”the brothers.” Fellow Christians, fellow children of God.
John has detailed how fellowship with God is rooted in love for God (2.15-17) and apostolic epistemology (2.18-27). Now he broaches the subject of the Christian’s relationship with God as Father and how fellowship is realized and enriched when God’s children understand that status.
1 John 2:28–3:3 (ESV)
28And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
Little children—term of endearment/affection of the aged John to these Christians-2.1,12,18
Abide in him—same exhortation as we have seen in v.27: keep on abiding in Him (only). Him who? God? Christ? In one sense, yes. But specifically (contextually), I lean toward God (v.29). Here is the exhortation from John—in light of His coming, remain in Him.
So that (purpose) when he appears—Not sure when, but He will come, no uncertainty.
We may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame—John commonly juxtaposes counter positions and here is another example: boldness v. shame. The person who abides in Him has confidence (though standing in the intimidating presence of God) and does not need to be ashamed from Him (here is the shrinking back). Fear not, you who abide in Him.
At his coming—Lit. in His presence. Though in the presence of Almighty God, there is no need to be afraid, ashamed if we abide in Him. It would seem that John has the final coming of Jesus in mind.
29If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
If you know that he is righteous—”know” is perfect tense from oida, that knowledge that is absolute. It is absolute knowledge that God (He must be God the Father based on latter part of this verse) is righteous, right, just.
You know the one practicing righteousness—lit. the one doing right(ness). You are doing the same thing God and it is you habitual practice to act like God (walk in the light). Children of God will act like their Father.
Has been born of him—”has been born” is perfect tense passive. We were born (in the past) and stand begotten of God. Further, it is God who made us children of God. This verse speaks not to the means by which one becomes a child of God but rather speaks to the evidence that shows one is a child of God.
1See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
What kind of love the Father has given to us—”what manner of love,” lit. “of what country.” This kind of love is of divine origin; it is out of this world. And God gave it and continues to give it to us.
That we should be called—this is an appeal to the conscious nobility of the readers: you have been given a great title, name, even God’s name.
Children of God—Paul often speaks of Christians as “sons of God” and this points to the adoption aspect of our conversion. Strictly speaking, though, the word used by John speaks to the actual parentage involved. Coupled with “the Father” who has called us and the picture is set.
The world does not know us—present tense, the world could perceive that we are of God if they would but know God first.
It did not know him—aorist tense, seems to point back to Jesus. This is the same point Jesus made while on earth (see John 15.18; cf. 1 Jon 3.13).
We are children of God. Therefore the world does not know us for the world does not know God. God is known/seen by seeing/knowing Christ (John 14.8-9).
2Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
We are God’s children now—in this present age/world, this is the present reality.
What we will be… – though our present state is known, the future state is unknown. It simply has not yet been manifested even as Christ has not yet been manifested (2.28).
We know…we shall be like him—though there is much we do not know, what we do know is that we’ll be like him (Jesus), of the same or similar nature/kind.
We shall see kim as he is—present tense, Christ has exchanged mortality for immortality and is presently with the Father functioning in His salvific roles (1 Tim 2.5; Heb 7.25; et al).
3And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
Everyone who thus hopes—to be like Him, with Him.
Purifies himself—present, keeps on purifying body and spirit (2 Cor 7.1). Christ, the Son is pure; what about the rest of God’s children, us?
In American pop culture there is a lot made of the antichrist. In fact, Tim LaHaye (with Jerry B. Jenkins) has made quite the career out of sensationalizing the person the apostle John was talking about in 1 & 2 John. For many people, Antichrist is a shadowy political figure who rises out of the European Union who will come to power, make a treaty with Israel and the Jews, and then proceed to violate the treaty with war with and slaughter of the Jews. This is nothing short of gross misinterpretation of John and down-right Scrip-torture. It is egregious error. So who did John have in mind when he wrote about “antichrists” (note the plural) who were already in the world of the 1st century? Let’s look at 1 John 2.18-27.
18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.
Children—different word from 2.1 (see also 2.12, 13b). Aged John’s affectionate salutation.
The last hour—actually, no definite article in Greek. Simply “a last hour.” This denotes to me that John is describing some critical period of time, not the “last days” of humanity. This does not refer to the end of the world, but to the time prior to the advancement of the kingdom of Christ which would be a troublesome and perilous time marked by “antichrists.”
Antichrist—means one who stands in place of (substitution) or one who stands against (opposition) Christ. Jesus Himself warned of this thing (see Matt 24.24), imposters and imposers. John says they are coming (lit. “comes,” present tense”).
Now many antichrists have come—Perf. Tense; they have come and remain with us. The present reality in John’s day (1st century) is that antichirsts (pl.) were there and were opposing the faith, the faithful, and the Christ. An antichrist is one who promotes antichristian doctrine.
We know that is a last hour—based on the foregoing fact that many antichrists are present.
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
They went out from us— “They” are the antichrists of v.18. “Us” could mean the apostolic college. However, in context, “us” seems to be the body of believers collectively.
But they were not of us— “from us” and “of us” are identical in the Greek. John is clarifying that although these antichrists may have come from the congregation of believers, they were not of the same spirit or life as believers.
That is might become plain—the antichrist makes it plain he is not of the faith by departing from the faith. It is unmistakable. Their darkness is exposed.
20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.
But you have an anointing—these Christians had an anointing. What is this anointing? See special studies. There is a play on words in the Greek: if the false teachers are anti-christoi, the true believers are christoi, anointed ones who followed Gods anointed.
By the Holy One—who is this? Holy Spirit? No. Jesus? Yes (see Psa 16.10; Isa 12.6; 54.5; Mark 1.12; John 6.69; Acts 3.14. Jesus is the Holy One who anointed these Christians.
You all know or you know all things—there is some debate about this (Gk. Pantes v. panta). The evidence (though not overwhelming) seems to point to the former. And kept in context, John wants these Christians to know they are of God and not of the world/antichrist. Hence, because they all know they have an anointing, they know they are “of us.” Compare the all of v.19 with “you all” is this verse; as if John is trying to assure them. “The meaning cannot be that they knew all things pertaining to history, to science, to literature and to arts.” (Barnes)
21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
I write—lit. I wrote (aorist). Epistolary aorist, “I have written” meaning this epistle.
Not because you do not know the truth—this knowledge came from the anointing they had. Truth had been taught and confirmed by the apostles. By the anointing, the first century church preserved the truth in the local body.
You know it—”know” – perf. Tense; they knew and continue to know the truth. They continue to know and expose error because of the anointing.
No lie is of the truth—they have an absolute and final knowledge of the truth. The lie would be what the antichrist brings in.
22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.
Who is the liar—lies find their origin in the father of lies, Satan (see John 8.44).
He who denies Jesus is the Christ—here is a monstrous lie. The truth is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who came in the flesh. The liar has perverted truth with a lie.
He who denies the Father and the Son—this denial is antichristian in origin. Denial is a refusal to agree with or follow some principle or truth. A refusal to accept Jesus as Christ is a denial of Jesus, but also a denial of the Father who has given his testimony concerning Jesus.
23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.
No one who denies the Son has the Father—the one making it his habitual practice to refuse to acknowledge the Son (Jesus) as the Christ (cf. v.22) has God the Father abiding in them or with them.
Whoever confesses the Son has the Father—the one speaking the same word about the Son (Jesus) as the Christ (cf. Mt. 16.16) has God the Father abiding in and with them.
What grand assurance to these Christians and to us today who make the good confession!
24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.
What you heard from the beginning—You is emphatic in the Greek. This first sentence is imperative. What had they heard? The apostolic doctrine—God is light, eternal life found in Jesus the Christ, Jesus is the Son of God, love one another
If…then you will abide in the Son and the Father—you remain in them, their care, their protection from the evil one (cf. 5.18). Otherwise, you will wander off into error and darkness being deceived by the liar.
25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.
The promise…eternal life—Who made the promise? God? Christ? Yes! Those who abide in the apostolic teaching have eternal life and fellowship with God. The faithfulness of God is the basis of this promise for us; He’s made promises before and kept them (Lk 24.49; Acts 1.4; 2.1)
26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.
I write these things… These Christians have the anointing but are assailed by “every wind of doctrine.” They hear these new teachings and doubts begin to arise, perhaps even some have left the faith. John knows there are deceivers/liars/antichrists who are perverting the doctrine and so he writes what he writes about the anointing and Christ because of these deceivers and to assure these Christians they have everything they need (v.27).
27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.
The anointing…abides in you—they’ve got it. It is present reality that they have the complete teaching of Christ and need no other instruction from these false Christs/antichrists. This is the Holy Spirit in them which teaches them. Hence, by the Spirit they can test the spirits to see if they are from God (1 John 4.1).
You have no need that anyone should teach you—Then why the epistle? V.26, deceivers were afoot. They did not, though, need the Gnostic teachers.
As his anointing teaches you about everything—this anointing keeps on teaching (present tense) all things pertaining to salvation. Again, not the combustion engine here, but salvific matters. It has taught them and continues to teach them what they need for salvation.
It is true, and is no lie—as opposed to the false teachers, the Gnostics running around with their special revelation.
Abide in him—here is the message from the beginning that was taught them by the word of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit on apostles, prophets, teachers, etc.
What do you love? Who do you love? What is interesting about our concept of love is the nebulous nature of love. We throw the word “love” around very loosely – we love everything. I love God. I love my wife. I love college football. I love chocolate cake. Each of those has a different level of meaning. That is to say I don’t love God as much as I love chocolate cake nor do I love college football as much as I love my wife. Of course, my love for my wife is different that my love for God. When it comes to fellowship with God and the Christian’s love for God, John has five reasons why the Christian should not the world and should therefore love God (2.15-17).
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Do not love the world—this is the inordinate desire for the world and the things of the world. It is a mindset set on the earthy and earthly. In a word: worldly. It is not only action but these actions are produced by the attitude. Why not love the world? V.17, its passing away.
The world—ordered system of which Satan is the head (5.19). This is the dominion of Satan.
If anyone loves the world—if your desire is for the world (continued practice, habit, career), God has no part with you (fellowship). See Matt 6.24; Luke 16.13. You cannot sacrifice yourself to the world and then sacrifice yourself to God. We cannot serve two masters.
The love of the Father… – It is impossible for the love of God to coexist with the love of the world. Hence, God’s love is not in us for the love of the world has consumed us.
16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
All that is in the world—everything the world can produce and promise. Promises of sensual, transient gratification; these promises go unfulfilled, just ask Hollywood.
Desire— “lust” (ASV, KJV). This is a longing (passionate), a craving for a particular thing. In Spanish, it is a “grano” (nothing seems to satisfy until you satisfy that appetite); in the South they call it a “hankerin’.”
The desire of the flesh—Those things internal that we do not have (come of which are essential to survival). Those sensual and impure desires which seek gratification in women/men, strong drink, delicious viands, and the like. Combating this: Rom 13.14
The desires of the eyes— Those things which are external that we do not have. Those desires for the finer things such as gaudy dress, splendid houses, superb furniture, expensive equipage, trappings, etc. ex. Matt 4.8; Luke 4.5
Pride in possessions—Concerning things internal that we do have. Not only the desire but also the boasting of what you have be it honors, titles, and pedigrees; boasting in ancestry, family connections, great offices, honorable acquaintances; bragging about control over future events and destiny, and the like. Ex. Dan 4.30
Not from the Father but…the world—these do not have their origin or end in God.
17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
The world is passing away—It is passing away even now. It will cease to exist, end.
Along with its desires—its all fading away: the vain pursuits, worldly pleasures, generations.
Whoever does the will of God—that is you seek the pleasure, honor, and profit from above. Specifically, in the context, this has to do with not loving the world, loving one another, obeying the commands of God, walking in the light.
Abides forever—Why? Because we are in God (v.5b-6) and God is eternal and unchangeable, unfading. The world will end, but God (and we) will go unendingly in eternity. This is a striking contrast between the believer and the world; the world is passing away but the believer remains (keeps on remaining) forever.
Five reasons not to love the world
- Love of the Father (v.15b)
- Command (v.15a) – Do not love the world
- All this world can give us is unfulfilled promises (v.16) – lust and pride
- These things are not from God (v.16b)
- The world is passing away (v.17) – it will not last forever.
Therefore, love God.
Here are several purposes for John’s writing (1 John 2.12-14).
12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
Little children – term of endearment. Some commentators believe these are recent converts. Possibly; maybe. Some new Christians struggling with forgiveness? Maybe. Even some of the older members have trouble with it. Others say this is just aged John’s way of addressing these brothers/sisters in Christ en total.
Your sins are forgiven you – Perf. Pass. Ind. These Christians were forgiven of their sins (past) and continue to enjoy a state for forgiveness in the present; that is the abiding effect of forgiveness. This was something God did (passive) and that in Christ as propitiation and by His blood (1.7). And it is real! “You have been, and consequently stand forgiven of your past, or alien sins” – Guy N. Woods, 1st John commentary, pg.235.
For his name’s sake – or “through His name.” Indeed, Acts 4.12. Also, God the Father forgives us on account of Christ and his advocacy on our behalf.
13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
Fathers – those seasoned veterans of the faith.
You know him who is from the beginning – again, know is Perf. Act. Ind. Thus, you came to know/knew (in the past) and continue to know (present) “Him who is from the beginning.”
Him who is from the beginning – lit. “the one from (the) beginning” and the context would point us toward Christ (v.12). They know and continue to know Christ.
Young men – Those who are mature in the faith and possess great zeal for the Lord and church.
You have overcome the evil one – Again, Per. Act. Ind. They have overcome and continue to overcome the evil one. Not that the war is over, but that Christians wage war against a defeated enemy.
The evil one – Satan
Children – different word from above and it has its subtle nuance of difference. However, just exactly the audience intended with this word is debated by scholars. It would appear that John has the whole church in mind when he uses it. Brother Guy N. Woods explains the difference between the terms (Teknia v. paidia) – Teknia are relatively new Christians who are still in the “childhood” stage of faith in Christ. Paidia are those brand new baby Christians.
You know the Father – yet another perf. Act. Ind. Verb. They came to know (knew) and continue to know him (in context, via obedience to the commandments).
14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
I write – epistolary aorist, referring to this epistle, not some other correspondence.
Fathers – same as previous verse, those saints more mature than others with a long and rich experience. John writes the exact same to the Fathers twice. Why?
Young men – same as previous verse.
Strong – if physical, then they are able bodied and in good health. But probably spiritual strength, endowed to them by God (truly both are from God).
Word of God abides in you – God revelation of Himself is possessed in their hearts and minds.
You have overcome the evil one – same as above (v.13).
In interpreting this section of Scripture, Guy N. Woods offers: Children means recent converts; Young men means those who have reached maturity and possess great spiritual strength in the Lord; Father means those who have been in Christ the longest and attained greatest spiritual growth.
The Pulpit Commentary breaks it down as follows:
“I write this epistle”: To all of you – you have been forgiven; To the old among you – you have knowledge of the Word; To the young among you – you have conquered the evil one.
“I wrote my Gospel”: To all of you (new Christians) – you have knowledge of the Father; To the old among you – you have knowledge of the Word; To the young among you – you have strength, have God’s revelation in your hearts, have conquered evil one.
1 John 2.7, Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard.
From the beginning – When? From of old? Perhaps. From the beginning of their Christian career. It was “the word” they had heard, a message proclaimed that they heard and received. It was “the word” that they had heard, a message proclaimed that they heard and received. So to keep this commandment, we must love one another; actively seek to have Christ formed in your brother/sister. Indeed, this is how one walks as Jesus walked – His entire life was wrapped up in reclaiming that broken image in us.
What is this old commandment which at the same time is new (v.8)? 1 John 3.11, 23; John 13.34 – Love one another. To walk as Jesus walked, you must walk in love.
8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.
New – or fresh. How is the command both old and new at the same time? What is the commandment that is both new and old at the same time? John 13.34, love one another (a common message from John). It is new in kind and new in time. The kind of love is seen in Jesus’ statement to His disciples: “even as I have loved you.” It is new in time in that this is the standard for the new covenant.
Note: Gk. Word is agape – this kind of love 1)always seeks the other persons highest good (not accidental but on a quest), 2)whether they deserve it or not, seek their highest good, 3)whether they ask for it or not (love volunteers), 4)regardless of what it costs me, 5)regardless of the number of times I must do it. This kind of love is objective, i.e. it seeks to see the image of God restored in others; it seeks Christ formed in others.
This is the new command; we love as He loved and this is the kind of love He had for us.
Which is true in him and in you – Jesus demonstrated true love; when we love as he loved (as we ought), the command is true in us also. When we love as we ought, love like Christ, the commandment is true in us also. These Christians were already obeying it and it was finding fulfillment in them.
Darkness…light – lots of light and darkness in John’s writing. These are common themes in both the gospel and his epistles. “Darkness” is moral imperfection, sin (i.e. hatred in context). (true) Light is the opposite of moral imperfection, even Jesus Christ. What does it mean that the “darkness is passing away” and the “true light is already shining”? One possibility is that the darkness is the Gnostic teaching which, when exposed to the true light – Jesus Christ – is receding. Another possibility is that the darkness is hatred which dissipates when the true light of the commandment is shone forth by Christians. Perhaps the latter better fits the context (v.9ff). As these Christians practice this command, hatred is driven out and Jesus Christ is shining forth in their life.
These Christians were already practicing obedience to the new commandment. Hence, darkness was being driven out and Jesus Christ was shining forth in their lives. When we obey the commandment of love (one another), hatred (sin, darkness) is driven out (ceases to exist) in us and instead we have Jesus Christ (true light) shining forth from us.
9-11 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever 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.
Whoever says – variant of the catch phrase used repeatedly in ch. 1. This persons profession does not match his practice.
He is in the light – this person is claiming to obey the command of Christ, love one another.
Hates his brother- more of the need to match talk and walk. Here is direct disobedience to the command which is love your brother. What does it mean to hate your brother? Naturally we’ll ask “Who is my brother?” A fellow Christian. So you hate them; that is, you fail to put their greatest good as priority 1. Their greatest good: to have Christ formed in them. When you hinder that process, you are manifesting hatred for your brother/sister. How does this show up? Certainly there are a number of ways – malicious intent, libel, gossip. Refusal to speak the truth in love; perhaps you see your brother or sister engaged in some sin and you say nothing to them about it. Is this person lost? What does John say? Does darkness characterize a saved person?
If love is the singular desire to see Christ formed in a person, then the opposite of that would be hatred. In other words, you lack the desire to see your brother/sister imitate Christ more fully. This desire drives out the malice, jealousy, gossip and promotes truth speaking.
He “is still in darkness” – fumbling around, stumbling in disobedience, i.e. sin.
Loves his brother- has an overarching desire to see Christ formed in his brother. Here is a man who is obeying the command. Hence, he abides/dwells in the light, in Christ.
Abides in the light – this person is in Christ (the true light).
No cause for stumbling – It is a man’s own salvation that is under consideration here, not necessarily his influence over other.
Notice that v.9 is the thesis, v.10 the antithesis, and v.11 the antithesis of v.10. All this repeats and enlarges the idea of the need to keep the commandment of love one another.
Whoever hates his brother is in darkness – present reality. He is wrapped up in darkness. In other words, he is falling short of the standard and keeps falling short of the standard (the standard of love). He lacks the desire to see Christ formed in his brother. Or this person is indifferent toward his brother, which is just as worse as the absence of the desire.
Walks in darkness– this is his career, his continued practice or habit. His career is wrapped up in indifference or apathy toward his brothers and sisters in Christ. He continues to lack the desire to see Christ formed in his brother. You see the problem: his focus is not God’s focus. God wants your brother to look like Christ; he could care less. This is selfish and self-centered and has no place in the fellowship of God’s people.
He does not know where he is going – interesting that John uses the perfect tense (past completed action, present continue results). But this is wrapped with “because the darkness has blinded his eyes” which “blinded” is in the aorist tense. At some point, sin (darkness, hatred) crept in and blinded him. He began to fumble and stumble in darkness and continues in this present state. Hence, because he was blinded, he did not know and continues to not know where he is going. He is stumbling, fumbling around in the darkness.
Note: It is essential to note that there is no mean or connection between light and darkness, love and hate, life and death, (we’ll see) God and the world. Each of these is meant to stand in striking contrast with the other to drive the point home – Christians live a different life.