Fellowship with God is rooted in the true knowledge of God and Satan

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.

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Fellowship with God is rooted in keeping the new commandment

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.

Fellowship with God is rooted in obedience to Jesus’ commandments

1 John 2.3-6 (ESV), And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

By this we know that we have come to know him – “we know” (present tense) “we have come to know” (perfect tense). We know it right now but that’s because we knew in the past and the effects abide with us. We know “him,” that is, Jesus. This is a once-for all obtained and continued in knowledge. There are abiding effects that come with this knowledge.

If we keep his (Jesus’) commandments – God’s commandments are a revelation of light and darkness (v.6, 7). By obeying them, we know God and continue to know Him. You won’t keep them perfectly; you ought to try. Commandment keeping assures of something: we know God. The guy in 1.6 does not know God (thinks God does not care about sin); he’s not keeping the commandments. The one who knows God keeps the commandments of God, i.e. walk in the light (which God has revealed).

“I know him” – should be the same as above: I have come to know him (perfect tense Gk.).

Does not keep his commandments – seems to acknowledge the standard but does not live according to what God has revealed through Christ. We must acknowledge the standard and live accordingly.

[he] is a liar – this is not just a boo-boo; this is serious stuff. And from the “apostle of love”! Is there love in calling someone a liar? There is with God; he knows the reality and gravity of the situation. To call darkness “darkness” is a kind thing to do – like putting a skull-and-cross-bones on a bottle of poison or a lighthouse on the shore, these are acts of love. This is an expression of divine love. Otherwise, we end up with an Isaiah 5.20 situation.

Keeps his (Jesus) word – obedience to the commandments

The love of God is perfected – John will go into deep detail about perfected love (cf. 4.7ff.)  God has a deep, vested love, a cross full of love. We’ll see that. But here, suffice it to say that keeping the commandments of God, the word of God will bring about perfect love in us. That is, it is an accomplished fact, a reality. This is our love for God; knowing God necessitates keeping God’s word (commandments) and keeping His word involves loving Him. Overarching this is being “in him” which is fellowship language – with Him, His Son.

We may know that we are in him – this is fellowship language. By this – what? Keeping his commandments. This confronts and conflicts with antinomianism.

There is obligation that goes along with our profession. You’re in Christ (conversion), how do you remain in Him?

Whoever says he abides in him – here is profession: “I am in Him.” How many people claim this? They claim to be in Christ, in God. John is going to confront those, not only in his day, but even in our day who claim to be something they are not: Christian. For us today, those Christians who profess to follow Christ but live like the world, that kind of conduct is just heretical as any of these first century threats. “There is something frightful in the fact that the most dangerous thing of all, playing at Christianity, is never included in the list of heresies or schisms.” –Soren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher and theologian.

Ought to – here is our obligation. “Ought to”: really feel the weight here; you owe it to God to live like Christ.

walk in the same way in which he (Jesus) walked – How did Jesus walk? Exactly as God commanded, assigned. He walked in love, righteousness, mercy, peace. If would say we abide in him, we have the moral obligation to follow the perfect model of our faith and walk as Jesus walked. Nothing less than perfection should be our aim in living for God.

Fellowship with God is rooted in the advocacy of Jesus

We continue to discuss the fellowship principles which John is communicating to the church. We’ve seen fellowship is rooted in the apostolic witness of Christ’s life and fellowship is rooted in the moral nature of God. In John 2.1-14, we will see four (4) more fellowship principles.

1 John 2.1-2 (ESV), My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

My little children – the aged John affectionately referring to the members of the body, endearment.

These things – v.5-10, concerning who God is (light, absolute moral perfection), the fellowship we have (presently) with God as a result of what Christ has done (His blood shed for our forgiveness), and what we need to do (walk in the light, a condition of forgiveness).

so that (purpose) you may not sin – John will address the practice of sin later in this epistle (3.4, 6, 8-9). Here John is focused on the act (singular) of sin. A walk in the light is not a perfect walk – we do stumble. Here is what John writes to in this verse – not only the habit of sin should be put away but work to put any and every sin. If God is the standard and he calls us to that standard, he wants us to be morally perfect.

“It is clear the author [the apostle John] is not simply exhorting the readers not to be habitual or repetitive sinners, as if to imply that occasional acts of sin would be acceptable. The purpose of the author here is that the readers not sin at all, just as Jesus told the man he healed in John 5.14 – Sin no more!”[1] The grace of God and the blood of Jesus are not reasons for our continued disobedience/rebellion/sin! Rather, if we truly understand Calvary and redemption, these should be deterrents from sin and encourage clean living.

But if anyone (Christian) does sin – and we will. Try as we might to live according to that standard of perfection, practically we fail. What are we to do?

We have an advocate (lawyer, attorney) with the Father (Judge), Jesus Christ the righteous (Or, righteous Jesus Christ) – Jesus is (in this sense) our legal advocate; hence, John is sure to stress that he is righteous and right in his intercession in this regard. He is one we can call alongside us when we do sin and stand before the righteous Judge, the Father.

He (Jesus) is the propitiation for our sins – propitiation is satisfaction of the wrath of God. Christ on the cross is taking the wrath due us in His own body. By His sacrifice, atonement is made and forgiveness available.

The sins of the whole world – everyone who would come to Him by faith can find the wrath of God against satisfied in Christ.


[1]Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2006; 2006).

Fellowship with God is Rooted in the Moral Nature of God

Having seen the tumultuous religious climate into which John is writing this epistle (with all kinds of “-isms”) and that fellowship is rooted in the apostolic witness of Christ’s life (1.1-4), we now turn our attention to the moral nature (perfect) and how we might have fellowship with this perfect God (1.5-10).

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

The message we have heard – their epistemology (source of information) is Jesus; ours is the apostles.

God is light – Not a cosmic luminary (i.e. the sun, stars), not physical; this is a symbol of God’s moral perfection. Further, John establishes the standard by which every issue of morality must be measured.

No darkness at all—again, not physical; this (darkness) is a symbol of moral imperfection. Hence, there is not a hint of darkness whatsoever in God (cf. Habakkuk 1.13; James 1.17).

6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 

If we say… – this is a catch phrase John will use to expose religious and doctrinal error.

We have fellowship with him  (that is, God) while we walk in darkness – John introduces two key concepts here: fellowship and walk.

Walk – this defines a settled practice, a career. It has definite characteristics: direction, progression/continuity, destiny, separation, companionship. To claim fellowship have an improper walk means you lie and do not practice the truth.

7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 

But – here is the contrast to the preceding verse.

If – this is conditional.

We walk in the light – here is the Christian’s career: to live according to the standard. We make it our aim/goal to live for and like God (Jesus Christ). The standard is ever and always before us. Our direction is toward God. Our walk is progressive (cf. Rom 6.19). Our destiny is heaven. We separate from sin more and more. And we have companionship with God, Christ, and one another.

As he is in the light – God is light and is in the light (cf. 1 Timothy 6.16).

We have fellowship with one another – this is the fellowship a Christian with his/her God. Since God is perfect, he cannot fellowship anything less than perfect. Hence, we stand before God, in the presence of God perfect. “We have” it…now!! It is a present reality. How?

The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin – While our aim is perfection, practically we do fail; we sin. Yet, that sin does not break fellowship with God. How? The blood of Jesus continues to cleanse us, keeping sin from ever reaching the record book (cf. Psalm 32.1). Hence, a progressive walk in the light = progressive fellowship with God = progressive cleansing from the blood of Jesus.

All sin – if all sin is taken care of, how much remains? None. If there is even a fraction of percents worth of sin on our record, we cannot have fellowship with God. Every last bit of it must be removed. For the Christian, this is the present reality; all sin is removed making fellowship with a perfect God possible.

Concerns

Perfect walk? If v.7 demands a perfect walk, what is the need for the continued cleansing of the blood of Jesus

License to sin? To begin a practice of sin would be to walk in darkness, away from God. Indeed, John writes this that we sin not (2.1; cf. Rom 6.1). The highest motivation for clean living is what Christ has done for us.

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 

If we say… – again, catch phrase to catch these erroneous teachers.

We have no sin – this is a present tense verb. This is a refutation of those Gnostic teachers and ascetics who were saying that they could live above the world and therefore above sin. Somehow, of their own ability and power, they could be free from sin. This man admits a standard and assumes he is keeping it perfectly; in reality, he does not live by the standard.

But John says if we say that we deceive ourselves (self-deception, you lie to yourself) and the truth is not in us. This person is living by the wrong standard: his own. Every person must acknowledge before the holy God that although we acknowledge the standard and live according to that standard, we will fail to keep that standard perfectly. We have sin; that we must confess.

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we confess our sins – What is confession? Greek – homologeo, homo- (same), -logeo (from logos, word). Hence, confession is “to speak the same word.” If we say the same word about our sins…same word as whom? God. We admit before Almighty God we are sinners, we have sinned, we will sin. We agree with God the Father that there is a mark (standard) and we have missed it. Characteristics of a confessor: admits and acknowledges the standard, admits deviation, pleads for help, and expresses gratitude.

He is faithful and just – that is, God is faithful and just. He is a promise making and promise keeping God. Truth him and he will forgive. But he is also “just” or “righteous.” That’s his nature – 100% light. So it is right for God to forgive this person. Again, two very important conditions: walk in the light, acknowledge sin and be grateful. Based on His faithfulness and his “right-ness” he acts on our behalf.

To forgive us our sins – Indeed, this forgiveness touches not only the guilt of our sins, but also the penalty of them. Christ on the cross receives the full force of the wrath of God poured out on (our) sins and by his blood and death we find forgiveness of our sins.

To cleanse us from all unrighteousness – As seen in v.7, this cleansing is continual (predicated upon our living according to the conditions aforementioned). And the cleansing points us to the blood of Jesus. His blood cleanses us of ALL unrighteousness. Again, if all is removed, how much remains?

Concerns

Every sin? If we must confess every sin, we are in trouble. There is no way (unless we are omniscient) that we can know every sin we have ever committed and tell God about them all. Further, God (who is omniscient) knows our every sin and does not need an update.

No specific sin? There are sins that can plague us (possibly our entire life) which we struggle with. These should be taken to the Father often and we should be seeking His help to rid ourselves of those sins which can wreck our walk.

Arrogant attitude? This would go against everything we have discussed about confession. Sin is serious and we should be mindful of sin around and sins we commit. But to acknowledge God as a faithful forgiver or to express gratitude for His forgiveness is not arrogant.

10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

If we say – catch phrase used to expose some error.

We have not sinned – perfect tense verb. This person says he does not presently nor has he ever sinned! Pretty serious claim. Who is John exposing? Perhaps the antinomian (outlaw attitude) or the Epicurean—both parties were focused on indulgence and sins of the body had no effect upon the soul. Perhaps also the Gnostic – this mindset that Jesus came to save the soul from the body.

We make him (God) a liar – How? God says we have sinned and commit sin. This person says he has not.

His word is not in us – there is no place for it. This communicates a severing of communication.

Ch. 1 has dealt with sin as a moral issue and the only way to have fellowship with God is if we 1) walk in the light and 2) live a life of confession. Ch. 2 will deal with sin from a judicial perspective and the need for a defender.