A. Fellowship and the problem of sin.
1. (1a) A purpose of John in writing this letter: that you may not sin.
My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.
a. These things I write to you, that you may not sin: 1 John 1:8 makes it clear that sin is a fact (at least an occasional fact) in the life of the Christian. 1 John 1:9 makes it clear that there is always forgiveness for confessed sin. Yet, John wants it also to be clear that the Christian should be concerned about sin. One reason in writing this letter was that you may not sin.
i. John previously rebuked the idea that we can become sinlessly perfect (1 John 1:8). At the same time, he wants to make it clear that we do not have to sin. God does not make the believer sin.
b. That you may not sin: This is God's desire for the believer. If sin is inevitable for us, it is not because God has decreed that we must sin. All the resources for spiritual victory are ours in Jesus Christ and that resource is never withdrawn.
i. John addresses this because of the issue of relationship with God (1 John 1:3), and the fact that sin can break our fellowship with God (1 John 1:6). He wants to make it clear that God has not made a system where we must break fellowship with Him through sin.
ii. The weakness comes in our flesh, which is not consistently willing to rely on Jesus for victory over sin. God promises that one day the flesh will be perfected through resurrection.
2. (1b-2) Help for the sinner and the restoration of fellowship.
And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
a. We have an Advocate: God’s desire is that you may not sin. Yet if we do, there is provision made - an Advocate, a defense lawyer on our side. Our Advocate is Jesus Christ Himself.
i. Lenski on the ancient word for Advocate: “Demosthenes uses it to designate the friends of the accused who voluntarily step in and personally urge the judge to decide in his favor.”
b. We have an Advocate: Jesus is our defender, even when we sin now. God is not shocked by human behavior. He has seen it all in advance. He didn’t forgive you at one time to later say, “Look what they did now! If I would have known they would go and do that, I would have never forgiven them.” His forgiveness is available to us now.
i. It is as if we stand as the accused in the heavenly court, before our righteous Judge, God the Father. Our Advocate stands up to answer the charges: “He is completely guilty your honor. In fact, he has even done worse than what he is accused of, and now makes full and complete confession before You.” The gavel slams, and the Judge asks, “what should his sentence be?” Our Advocate answers, “His sentence shall be death; he deserves the full wrath of this righteous court.” All along, our accuser Satan, is having great fun at all this. We are guilty! We admit our guilt! We see our punishment! But then, our Advocate asks to approach the bench. As he draws close to the Judge, he simply says: “Dad, this one belongs to Me. I paid his price. I took the wrath and punishment from this court that he deserves.” The gavel sounds again, and the Judge cries out, “Guilty as charged! Penalty satisfied!” Our accuser starts going crazy. “Aren’t you even going to put him on probation?” “No!” the Judge shouts. “The penalty has been completely paid by My Son. There is nothing to put him on probation for.” Then the Judge turns to our Advocate, and says, “Son, you said this one belongs to You. I release him into Your care. Case closed!”
c. We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: We may think that our sin sets God against us. But God’s love is so great that in His love, He went to the ultimate measure to make us able to stand in the face of His holy righteousness. Through Jesus, God can be for us even when we are guilty sinners.
i. A human defense lawyer argues for the innocence of his client. But our Advocate, Jesus Christ, admits our guilt - and then enters His plea on our behalf, as the one who has made an atoning sacrifice for our sinful guilt.
ii. Jesus Christ the righteous means that Jesus is fully qualified to serve as our Advocate, because He Himself is sinlessly perfect. He has passed heaven’s bar exam, and is qualified to represent clients in heaven’s court of law.
iii. We need Jesus as our Advocate because Satan accuses us before God (Revelation 12:10). We need to distinguish between the condemning accusation of Satan and the loving conviction of the Holy Spirit.
d. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins: This means that Jesus is the one who atones for and takes away our sins, and not only our sins, but also the sins of the whole world.
i. Propitiation has the idea of presenting a gift to the gods, so as to turn away the displeasure of the gods. The Greeks thought of this in the sense of man essentially bribing the gods into doing favors for man. But in the Christian idea of propitiation, God Himself presents Himself (in Jesus Christ) as that which will turn away His righteous wrath against our sin.
ii. Alford on propitiation: “The word implies that Christ has, as our sin-offering, reconciled God and us by nothing else but by His voluntary death as a sacrifice: has by this averted God’s wrath from us.”
e. And not for ours only but also for the whole world: Though Jesus made His propitiation for the whole world, yet the whole world is not saved and in fellowship with God. This is because atonement does not equal forgiveness. The Old Testament Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:34) demonstrates this, when the sin of all Israel was atoned for every year at the day of Atonement, yet not all of Israel was saved.
i. The words "but also for the whole world" announce to the world that God has taken care of the sin problem by the propitiation of Jesus Christ. Sin need not be a barrier between God and man, if man will receive the propitiation God has provided in Jesus.
ii. "The reason of the insertion of the particular here, is well given by Luther: 'It is a patent fact that thou too are part of the whole world: so that thine heart cannot deceive itself and think, The Lord died for Peter and Paul, but not for me.' " (Alford)
3. (3-6) The fruit of fellowship.
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
a. Now by this we know that we know Him: The evidence of someone knowing God, and fellowship with Him is that they keep His commandments. A simple, loving obedience is a natural result of fellowship with God.
i. We have a gracious Advocate in heaven. We have an open invitation to restoration through confession. Yet these things do not make the converted man careless about the commandments. God changes the heart at conversion and writes His law upon our heart.
ii. “Those men who think that God’s grace, when fully, fairly, and plainly preached, will lead men into sin, know not what
they say, nor whereof they affirm . . . Shall I hate God because he is kind to me? Shall I curse him because he blesses me? I venture to affirm that very few men reason thus.” (Spurgeon)
b. A liar, and the truth is not in him: The truth of this is so certain that if one does not live a life marked by obedience, their claim to fellowship (the experiential knowledge) with God can be fairly challenged.
i. "I know Him": "Do distinguish, however, between knowing about Christ and knowing Christ. We may know very much about many of our great men, though we do not know them. Now, it will never save a soul to know about Christ. The only saving knowledge is to know him, his very self, and to trust him, the living Savior, who is now at the right hand of God." (Spurgeon)
c. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him: John also makes the link between our obedience and our love for God. A perfected (the idea is mature) love for God will show itself in obedience, and the presence of this obedience and love gives us assurance that we are in Jesus (By this we know we are in Him).
i. Mark it, when one becomes a Christian, there is a change in their relationship with sin. Sin is not eliminated in the believer until he comes to glory, but their relationship to sin is changed when they truly become a Christian.
· A Christian no longer loves sin as he once did.
· A Christian no longer brags about their sin as he once did.
· A Christian no longer plans to sin as he once did.
· A Christian no longer fondly remembers his sin as he once did.
· A Christian never fully enjoys his sin as he once did.
· A Christian no longer is comfortable in habitual sin as he once was.
ii. “The Christian no longer loves sin; it is the object of his sternest horror: he no longer regards it as a mere trifle, plays with it, or talks of it with unconcern . . . Sin is dejected in the Christian’s heart, though it is not ejected. Sin may enter the heart, and fight for dominion, but it cannot sit upon the throne.” (Spurgeon)
d. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked: The thought is brought around to a full circle: when we are abiding in Jesus, we will walk just as He walked - live lives of obedience and love. When we want to walk just as He walked, we need to begin by abiding in Him.
i. To walk just as He walked: We aren’t called to imitate the way Jesus walked on water, but His every-day walk with God the Father. The spiritual power evident in the life of Jesus flowed from a faithful, regular, disciplined life of fellowship and obedience.
ii. “The point here is that the one who knows God will increasingly lead a righteous life, for God is righteous. It does not mean that he will be sinless; John has already shown that anyone who claims this is lying. It simply means that he will be moving in a direction marked out by the righteousness of God. If he does not do this, if he is not increasingly dissatisfied with and distressed by sin, he is not God’s child.” (Boice)
4. (7-11) The absolute imperative of love.
Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
a. Brethren, I write no new commandment to you . . . a new commandment I write to you: The commandment John wrote of was at the same time both old (in the sense that it was preached to them their whole Christian lives) and new (in the sense that it was called the new commandment by Jesus in John 13:34).
i. The new commandment to love that Jesus spoke of in John 13:34 was really new for several reasons. One of the most important reasons was that Jesus displayed a kind of love never seen before, a love we were to imitate.
ii. The cross points in four directions to show that the love of Jesus is:
Wide enough to include every human being.
Long enough to last through all eternity.
Deep enough to reach the most guilty sinner.
High enough to take us to heaven.
This is a new love, a love the world had never really seen before the work of Jesus on the cross.
b. Because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining: The new commandment of love is necessary because the darkness that marked humanity, especially the Gentiles. This was before the true light illuminated the finished work of Jesus.
c. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now: Previously in this chapter, John examined us according to the moral measure of our walk with God. Later he will examine us according to doctrine as a measure of our walk with God. Now he examines us according to our love for other Christians as a measure of our walk with God.
i. Just as our relationship to sin and obedience is a measure of our fellowship with God, so also is our love for God’s people. If we say that we are in the light yet hate our brother, then our claim to fellowship with the God who is light (1 John 1:5) is hollow. But the one who does love his brother shows that he abides in the light and is not stumbling.
ii. "It seems plain that the expression here is not the same as 'his neighbor,' seeing that St. John is writing to Christians, and treating of their fellowship with one another." (Alford)
iii. Sometimes it is easy to think, “Following Jesus would be easy if it weren’t for all the Christians.” And many, many Christians live as the walking wounded, crippled by the scars other Christians have inflicted on them. Yet this measure still stands. If we can’t love each other, then we have no way to claim a real love for God. Our relationship with God can be measured by our love for other Christians.
iv. On the one hand, God is merciful in requiring this, because we are measured by how we love other Christians, not those who are not Christians. On the other hand, God gives us a particularly difficult measure, because we often - perhaps rightly - expect much more from our Christian friends and associates.
d. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness: The point is plain. If we lose love then we lose everything. There is nothing left. You can do all the right things, believe all the right truths, but if you do not love other Christians then all is lost. The three tests - moral, doctrinal, and love - all stand together, like the legs on a three-legged stool.
i. It is all too easy for people to place “ministry” or “being right” above love in the body of Christ. We must do ministry, and we must be right, but we must do it all in love - if not in perfect actions, then following with proper repentance.
e. Does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes: Knowing the importance that Jesus placed on our love for each other, John will go so far as to say that if we hate our brother, we are walking in darkness, and are unable to see - we have been blinded.
i. Remember that hatred can also be expressed by indifference; true love will demonstrate itself for one another.
ii. We can be sure that John himself lived this life of love, but he wasn’t always this way. John himself learned love at this point, for early in his life he was known as one of the “sons of thunder.” He once wanted to call down fire from heaven upon those who rejected Jesus (Luke 9:54).
B. John addresses his readers according to the measure of spiritual maturity.
1. (12) Little children, who have their sins forgiven.
I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.
a. I write to you, little children: We each begin the Christian life as little children. When we are in this state spiritually, it is enough for us to know and be amazed at the forgiveness of our sins and all it took for God to forgive us righteously in Jesus Christ.
b. Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake: This is something to rejoice in. If we do not rejoice in this, something is wrong. We probably fail to see the badness of our sin and the greatness of His forgiveness. When we see how great our sin is, and how great the cost was to gain us forgiveness, we are obsessed with gratitude at having been forgiven.
c. Little children: This forgiveness is the special joy of God’s little children, because God’s forgiveness does not come by degrees. Even the youngest Christian is completely forgiven. They will never be “more forgiven.” Forgiveness is God’s gift, not man’s achievement.
i. Note it well: forgiven you for His name’s sake. The reasons for forgiveness are not found in us, but in God.
2. (13a) Fathers, who have an experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ.
I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
a. I write to you, fathers: Just as surely as there are little children, there are also fathers. These are men and women of deep, long spiritual standing. They have the kind of walk with God that doesn’t come overnight. These are like great oak trees in the Lord, that have grown big and strong through the years.
b. You have known Him: This is what spiritual maturity has its roots in; not so much in an intellectual knowledge (though that is a part of it), but more so in the depth of fellowship and relationship we have with Jesus. There is no substitute for years and years of an experiential relationship with Jesus.
3. (13b) Young men, who have known spiritual victory.
I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one.
a. I write to you, young men: As much as there are little children and fathers, so also there are young men. These are men and women who are no longer little children, but still not yet fathers. They are the “front-line” of God’s work among His people.
i. "The proper attribute of youth is, to carry on the active parts of life - if soldiers, to be engaged in all active service." (Alford)
b. Because you have overcome the wicked one: They are engaged in battle with the wicked one. We don’t send our little children out to war, and we don’t send our old men to the front lines. The greatest effort, the greatest cost, and the greatest strength are expected of the young men.
i. For this reason, many have sought to stay in spiritual childhood as long as possible. This is wrong. It is like being a draft-dodger or a vagrant. We expect children to not fight in wars and to be supported by others, but we don’t expect it of adults.
c. Overcome the wicked one: These young men have overcome the spiritual foes that would seek to destroy their spiritual life. They know what it is to battle against Satan and his emissaries as a partner with God.
4. (13c) Little children, who know the Father.
I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father.
a. Because you have known the Father: In this first stage of spiritual growth, we sink our roots deep in the Fatherly love and care of God. We know Him as our caring Father, and see ourselves as His dependent children.
i. “And do you not glory in him? Little children when they begin to talk, and go to school, how proud they are of their father! Their father is the greatest man that ever lived: there never was the like of him. You may talk to them of great statesmen, or great warriors, or great princes, but these are all nobodies: their father fills the whole horizon of their being. Well, so it certainly is with us and our Father God.” (Spurgeon)
b. Little children: John uses different words for little children in verses 12 and 13 (teknia and paidia, respectively). Teknia has more of an emphasis on a child’s relationship of dependence on a parent, while paidia has more of an emphasis on a child’s immaturity and need for instruction.
5. (14a) Fathers, who have an experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ.
I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
a. Because you have known Him who is from the beginning: The repetition of the same idea from 14a shows that it should be emphasized. The relationship with Jesus Christ that people at this stage of spiritual growth have is both true and deep.
b. I have written to you: Sometimes we might think, “Well, isn’t there more? It’s fine for these fathers to know Jesus, but shouldn’t they go beyond?” There is no beyond.
i. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, could say that he counted all his previous spiritual achievements as rubbish, compared to the surpassing greatness of just knowing Jesus. That I may know Him is the powerful way Paul phrased it in Philippians 3:10.
6. (14b) Young men, who are strong and know spiritual victory.
I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.
a. I have written to you, young men: Again, the repetition of the idea indicates emphasis. Not only have the young men . . . overcome the wicked one, but they have done it through the strength that comes to them through the word of God. God’s word is our source of spiritual strength.
i. Do you consider yourself one of the young men spiritually? Then are you strong? Are you putting your strength to some spiritual use? Do you resent that your strength is tested and developed by God?
b. The word of God abides in you: These young men, who had gained some measure of spiritual maturity, were known by the fact that God’s word lived in them. The word of God had made itself at home in their hearts.
C. An attack on our relationship with God: worldliness.
1. (15) The problem of worldliness.
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.
a. Do not love the world: John has told us that if we walk in sin’s darkness and claim to be in fellowship with God, we are lying (1 John 1:6). Now John points out a specific area of sin that especially threatens our fellowship with God: worldliness, to love the world.
b. Do not love the world or the things in the world: The world, in the sense John means it here, is not the global earth. Nor is it the mass of humanity, which God Himself loves (John 3:16). Instead it is the community of sinful humanity that is united in rebellion against God.
i. One of the first examples of this idea of the world in the Bible helps us to understand this point. Genesis 11 speaks of human society’s united rebellion against God at the tower of Babel. At the tower of Babel, there was an anti-God leader of humanity (whose name was Nimrod). There was organized rebellion against God (in disobeying the command to disperse over the whole earth). There was direct distrust of God’s word and promise (in building what was probably a water-safe tower to protect against a future flood from heaven).
ii. The whole story of the tower of Babel also shows us another fundamental fact about the world system. The world’s progress, technology, government, and organization can make man better off, but not better. Because we like being better off, it is easy to fall in love with the world.
iii. Finally, the story of the tower of Babel shows us that the world system - as impressive and winning as it appears to be - will never win out over God. The Lord defeated the rebellion at the tower of Babel easily. The world system will never win out over God.
c. Do not love the world: That is, we are not to love either the world’s system or its way of doing things. There is a secular, anti-God or ignoring-God way of doing things that characterizes human society, and it is easy to love the world in this sense.
i. Notice what the world wants from us: love. This love is expressed in time, attention, and expense. We are encouraged and persuaded to give our time, attention, and money to the things of this world instead of the things of God.
ii. If you love the world, there are rewards to be gained. You may find a place of prestige, of status, of honor, of comfort. The world system knows how to reward its lovers.
iii. At the same time, even at their best the rewards that come from this world last only as long as we live. The problem is that though we gain prestige, status, honor, and comfort of this world, we lose the prestige, status, honor, and comfort of heaven.
d. Or the things in the world: This isn’t so much a warning against a love for the beauty of the world God created (though we must always love the Creator instead of the creation). Instead, it is more of a warning against loving the material things which characterize the world system.
i. The world buys our love with the great things it has to give us. Cars, homes, gadgets, and the status that goes with all of them, can really make our hearts at home in the world.
e. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him: Simply, love for the world is incompatible with love for the Father. Therefore if one claims to love God and yet loves the world, there is something wrong with his claim to love God.
i. Through the centuries, Christians have dealt with the magnetic pull of the world in different ways. At one time it was thought that if you were a really committed Christian and really wanted to love God instead of the world, you would leave human society and live as a monk or a nun out in a desolate monastery.
ii. This approach, and other approaches that seek to take us out of the world, have two problems. The first problem is that we bring the world with us into our monastery. The other problem is that Jesus intended us to be in the world but not of the world. We see this in His prayer for us in John 17:14-18.
2. (16) The character of the world.
For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world.
a. For all that is in the world: The character of the world expresses itself through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. These lusts seek to draw our own flesh away into sin and worldliness.
i. The idea behind the pride of life is someone who lives for superiority over others, mostly by impressing others through outward appearances - even if by deception.
ii. To get an idea of how the world works, think of the advertising commercials you most commonly remember. They probably make a powerful appeal to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or to the pride of life. Many successful ads appeal to all three.
b. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life: In listing these aspects of the world, John may have in mind the first pursuit of worldliness, that of Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6).
i. Of Eve in the Garden of Eden, it is said that she took of the forbidden fruit when she saw that the tree was good for food. She thought about how good the fruit would taste, how it would satisfy her flesh. She went after the lust of the flesh.
ii. Of Eve in the Garden of Eden, it is said that she took of the forbidden fruit when she saw that the fruit was pleasant to the eyes. She saw how pretty and desirable it was, and it pleased her artistic sense. She went after the lust of the eyes.
iii. Of Eve in the Garden of Eden, it is said that she took of the forbidden fruit when she believed that it was desirable to make one wise. How smart the fruit would make her! How her husband would admire her! She went after the pride of life.
c. Is not of the Father but is of the world: This explains why the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are sin even though they feel good and satisfy something in us. God knows we have a fleshly, bodily nature, and physical needs that feel good when satisfied. Yet it is not in God’s nature to influence us through the lust of the flesh.
i. God knows we have eyes, and that appearance means a lot to us. He made a beautiful world to please us! But God always looks beyond the outward appearance, and it is not in God’s nature to influence us through the lust of the eyes.
ii. God knows we have emotional and psychological needs to be wanted and to accomplish things. He made us this way! But it is not in God’s nature to influence us through the pride of life.
d. Not of the Father but is of the world: We often rarely appreciate how much the world dominates our thinking and how often our thoughts are more of the world than of the Father.
i. We usually believe that we think much more Biblically than we really do. We should rigorously measure our habits of thinking and see if they follow more the world or God our Father.
· Think of your standard for success: is it worldly or godly? Would you consider the apostle Paul a failure or a success?
· Think of your standard for what makes a person of the opposite sex appealing. Is it a worldly standard or a godly standard?
· Think of your standard for spirituality: is it worldly or godly? There is a worldly spirituality out there, and many people buy into it.
ii. How great our need to not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind! (Romans 12:2)
3. (17) The folly of worldliness.
And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
a. The world is passing away: This reveals the folly of worldliness. What we invest into the world we invest into what cannot last because the world is passing away. As we saw with the example of the tower of Babel, the world never wins out against God, though by some appearances it does.
i. The world is passing away. It is not a prayer, not a wish, and not a spiritual sounding desire. It is a fact. The world is passing away, and we must live our lives and think our thoughts aware of this fact!
b. The world is passing away: This is powerfully illustrated by the life of Lot in Genesis chapters 13, 14, and 19. Lot attached himself to a true spiritual man, named Abraham. Yet he was selfish and chose for himself what seemed the most lucrative, without considering the spiritual implications of what he was doing. He became financially prosperous, but pitched his tent toward a wicked, worldly city - Sodom. After a while, he was sitting in the gates of the city as one of Sodom’s civic leaders. He had worldly status, influence, wealth, and comfort. Yet, it was all taken away in a moment when the judgment of God came upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot put all his eggs in the wrong basket, and was burned by the fact that the world is passing away.
i. The ancient pharaohs were buried in the pyramids with all sorts of riches, which were though to be of some use to them in the world to come. They were only of use to the grave robbers! The pharaohs could take none of their worldly stuff with them to the world beyond. No one drives through the gates of heaven with a moving van filled with the stuff of this world. The world is passing away!
c. He who does the will of God abides forever: This stands in strong contrast to the passing world. Because some things are forever, it is much wiser to invest our lives into that which cannot be lost: doing the will of God.
i. We are in regular contact with three eternal things: the Holy Spirit of God, the people around you, and the eternal words recorded in the book you hold. Time, attention, and expense put into those things pays eternal rewards.
D. An attack on our relationship with God: false religion.
1. (18-19) The danger of false religion: the spirit of Antichrist.
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 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 they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
a. Little children, it is the last hour: John lived in the constant expectancy of Jesus’ return, regarding his time as the last hour. This is an expectancy that we should also have, knowing that the Lord’s return can come at any time.
i. Seeing the nature of our times and what the Bible says about the end times, we should regard ourselves as being in the last few minutes.
b. The Antichrist is coming: John here refers to an individual who has captured the imagination of many people, including those who don’t even know the Bible. Many are ignorant about this person called the Antichrist, except what they have learned from movies like The Omen.
i. The name Antichrist is important to understand. The prefix anti can mean “the opposite of” or “instead of.” The Antichrist is the “opposite Jesus”; he is the “instead of” Jesus.
ii. Most people have focused on the idea of the “opposite Jesus.” This has made them think that the Antichrist will appear as a supremely evil person. They think that as much as Jesus went around doing good, he will go around doing bad. As much as Jesus’ character and personality was beautiful and attractive, the Antichrist’s character and personality will be ugly and repulsive. As much as Jesus spoke only truth, the Antichrist will speak only lies. This emphasizes the idea of the “opposite Jesus” too much. The Antichrist will instead be more of an “instead of Jesus.” He will look wonderful, be charming and successful. He will be the ultimate winner, and appear as a angel of light.
iii. Some have wondered if this Antichrist will be an individual or a political system. This is really a small distinction, because it will in a sense be both a person and a political system. To a large extent, a man does represent and personify an entire government or system; when we think of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, the figures of Hitler as an individual and Nazi Germany as a state are virtually the same.
c. The Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come: There is a distinction between the Antichrist and many antichrists. There is a “spirit” of antichrist, and this “spirit” of antichrist will one day find its ultimate fulfillment in the Antichrist, who will lead humanity in an end-times rebellion against God.
i. In other words, though the world still waits to see the ultimate revealing of the Antichrist, there are little “previews” of this man and his mission to come. These are the antichrists with a little “a.”
d. By which we know that it is the last hour: This indicates that John expected that the presence of many antichrists - of many people who offer a false, substitute Christ – is evidence of the lateness in the hour before Jesus’ coming. John writes that this was true in his day; we could say it is even truer in our own.
i. “The word ‘antichrist’ occurs in the Bible only in the letters of John and that only five times in four verses (1 John 2:18, 22, 4:3; 2 John 7); but though the word is infrequent the idea of antichrist is frequent and is an important one.” (Boice)
ii. This Antichrist goes by many titles:
· The little horn in Daniel 7:8
· The king of fierce countenance in Daniel 8:23
· The Prince that shall come in Daniel 9:26
· The willful king in Daniel 11:36-45
· The one who comes in his own name in John 5:43
· The son of perdition, the man of sin, and the lawless one in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, and 2:8
iii. Essentially, the Antichrist is a world dictator who leads humanity in what seems to be a golden age, until he shows his true colors - and the judgment of God is poured out on him and his empire immediately before the return of Jesus.
iv. We should take notice, because the world stage is set for a political and economic “superman” to arise, a single political leader to organize a world-dominating confederation of nations. National leaders speak of a new world order, but no one has been able to really define it, much less lead it. Yet this leader is coming.
v. This Antichrist will have surrounding him the kind of personality cult we are conditioned to accept today. Not only in America do we practice a sick worship of celebrities, but around the world, nations of hundreds of millions of people have been induced to worship a person - like Lenin, Stalin, or Mao. This shows us just how strong a personality cult can be when the government gets behind it wholeheartedly. All these developments should make us understand that the Antichrist is ready to be revealed when the moment is right.
e. They went out from us: This shows that many of these many antichrists at one time or another have identified themselves with the body of believers. The fact that they left the body of Christ demonstrated that they were not of us to begin with.
i. John isn’t talking about someone who leaves one church to begin attending another good church. He is talking about those who leave the community of God’s people all together. This reveals that they were never really part of God’s people to begin with.
ii. We can imagine the scene. There is some controversy among people at a church, and someone responds by saying, “I’m so sick of all this. This church and all churches, they’re just a bunch of hypocrites. I don’t need any of this. I can follow God my own way!” They leave; not just a church, but they leave any kind of church. We can fairly say that this person does not appear to be a Christian, and their appearance demonstrates that they never really were a Christian. Only God knows the heart for certain, but the appearance is that they trusted in the church, or trusted in themselves, but they weren’t really trusting in Jesus Christ. If they were, then the common ground of trust in Jesus would be greater than any other difficulty they might be having with other Christians.
iii. One must beware of those folks who are so “spiritual” that they can’t get along in any church. One sees those from time to time; folks so gifted, so prophetic, so spiritual, that they are getting kicked out or leaving in a huff from every church they go to. Finally, they are just left to themselves, and they seem happy enough with that. Fellowship with themselves is at least fellowship with someone as spiritual as they are! Of course, there is something seriously wrong with such so-called “spirituality.”
iv. “Perhaps most visible-church members are also members of the invisible church, the mystical body of Christ, but some are not. They are with us yet do not really belong to us. They share our earthly company but not our heavenly birth.” (Stott)
v. The sobering truth is that many of those who offer a false or opposing Jesus came from the true body of Christians.
e. They went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us: A healthy church can purge itself of poisons; the compromising and false Christian will not feel comfortable setting down roots in a healthy church - he will either get right with God or leave.
2. (20-23) Identifying the spirit of antichrist.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
a. You have an anointing: Here John refers to a common anointing, belonging to all believers. This is an anointing that makes discernment possible for those who seek it in the Lord (and you know all things).
i. When the New Testament speaks of anointing, it speaks of it as the common property of all believers. This is true even though all believers may not be walking in the anointing God has given them. The New Testament does not speak of a “special” anointing given to particular individuals.
ii. Among some Christians today, there is a rather magical or superstitious approach to this idea of anointing. In their mind, the anointing is like a virus or a germ that can be spread by casual contact or infect a whole group. Usually these folks think that when one “catches” the anointing, you can tell because they begin acting strangely. This isn’t the Bible’s idea of anointing.
iii. Anointing has the idea of being filled with, and blessed by, the Holy Spirit. This is something that is the common property of all Christians, but something we can and should become more submitted and responsive to. “As oil was used among the Asiatics for the inauguration of persons in important offices, and this oil was acknowledged to be an emblem of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, without which the duties of those offices could not be discharged; so it is put here for the Spirit himself, who presided in the Church, and from which all gifts and graces flowed.” (Clarke)
iv. This idea of anointing - literally, to be blessed with oil - was the reason behind one of the punishments given to John in persecution. The Roman emperor Domitian cast John in a boiling vat of oil, as if to say, “You have an anointing? Here’s your anointing!” John emerged from the vat of boiling oil unharmed, because he was anointed indeed!
b. And you know all things: Because of the anointing of the Holy Spirit given to all believers, they possess the resources for knowing the truth. This isn’t to say that teachers are unnecessary, because one of the resources for knowing the truth is the reminding given by teachers like John.
i. In verse 20, John used a different word for know than he mostly used before. Previously John used the word meaning knowledge by experience; here he used the word meaning knowledge by intuition. We know some things intuitively by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
c. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? The context makes it clear that to affirm that Jesus is the Christ has to do with more than just saying, “He is the Messiah.” It has to do with understanding the relationship between Jesus and God the Father: He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. In other words, someone could say, “I believe Jesus is the Christ . . . as I define “Christ.” But we must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, as the Bible defines Christ - the Messiah, who is fully God and fully man; who perfectly revealed God the Father to us.
d. He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son: The spirit of antichrist identifies itself by its denial of Jesus, and its denial of the Father; remembering that Jesus and the Father can be denied even by those who seem to speak well of them both.
i. We can deny Jesus while praising Him with our words; we can deny Him by offering a substitute Jesus, or by ministering in a manner that denies the character of Jesus.
e. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father also: John here repeats an idea that Jesus expressed often, as recorded in the Gospel of John. Jesus said, He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. (John 12:44-45) He who receives Me receives Him who sent Me (John 13:20).
i. Often times it is said, “We all worship the same God. You have one name for Him and I have another. But that doesn’t matter. We are just talking about different roads to the same God, because we all have the same God.” Here is the question to ask in response: “Was your God perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ?” If their God was, then you have the same God. If their God wasn’t perfectly revealed in Jesus, then they do not have the same God as the Bible.
ii. There are many people who seem rather spiritual or religious, yet reject Jesus Christ. While their religion or spirituality may do them much good in this life - giving them a basis for morality and good behavior - it does them nothing before God, because in rejecting Jesus they reject God.
E. Abiding: preserving our relationship.
1. (24) Preserving relationship against the threat of the spirit of antichrist: abiding in the true Christian message and abiding in God.
Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.
a. Therefore: In light of the danger of the spirit of antichrist, we protect ourselves against the spirit of antichrist by abiding in the original, core Christian message (that which you heard from the beginning). As we walk in the simplicity and power of that message, we will not be led astray.
i. Humans, by nature, are almost always attracted to something just because it is new. We almost always think of new as better. But when it comes to truth, new is not better. That which you heard from the beginning is better.
ii. The apostle Paul communicated the same idea in Galatians 1:6-9, where he warns against going after a new gospel, and emphasizes the importance of continuing on in the original gospel that Paul taught.
iii. This is difficult because we are tempted to be tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting (Ephesians 4:14). We often itch for something “new” and “exciting” even if it departs from that which you heard from the beginning.
b. Which you heard from the beginning: This does not describe whatever teaching any Christian might receive when they are newly following Jesus. The beginning, for these believers, describes the time when they were under the teaching of the apostles, which is now recorded for us in the New Testament.
i. Simply put, we abide in what is from the beginning when we stay close to our Bibles. If that was your environment when you were a young Christian, wonderful. But if it was not, then put yourself in that environment now.
c. Let that abide in you: This doesn’t mean just knowing it, but living in it. When we are living in the simplicity of the truth of Jesus Christ, then we will abide in the Son and in the Father.
i. Our world is filled with people searching for God, some sincerely and some insincerely. But if someone wants to really live in God, John tells us how: let the message of the apostles (which you heard from the beginning) live in you.
ii. John did not say, “If you know God’s word, you know God,” because someone can have a bare, intellectual knowledge of God’s word. But he did say, “If God’s word lives in you, God lives in you.” We can come to a living, growing, relationship with God through His word.
d. You also will abide in the Son and in the Father: This is absolutely necessary for the Christian life. John will use the word abide six times in these few verses, and the idea is repeated throughout the New Testament.
i. Abiding in Jesus (living in Jesus) is not a passive thing; it is an active thing. We must give ourselves, mentally and spiritually, to living in Jesus. “We abide in him, not by a physical law, as a mass of iron abides on the earth; but by a mental and spiritual law, by which the greatness of divine love and goodness holds us fast to the Lord Jesus.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Yet, not only are we called to abide in Him; but we also know that He abides in us. It is a two-way relationship. “You are to take care that you abide in Christ as much as if all depended upon yourself; and yet you can look to the promise of the covenant, and see that the real reason for your abiding in Christ lies in the operation of his unchanging love and grace.” (Spurgeon)
2. (25) The blessing of abiding in the truth and in God: eternal life.
And this is the promise that He has promised us; eternal life.
a. This is the promise: When His truth (what we heard from the beginning) lives in us, then God lives in us. When God lives in us, we have a promise. In this kind of life, the promise of eternal life is real.
b. Eternal life: This is not mere immortality. Every human being, made in the image of God, is immortal, in the sense that our souls will live forever, either in heaven or hell. So, eternal life doesn’t just mean “a life that lasts for eternity.” It describes the kind of life that God, the Eternal One, has in Himself.
i. Therefore, while the idea of eternal life has reference to the life beyond this present world, it doesn’t begin when we die. If we don’t have eternal life now, we won’t get it when we die.
ii. This is why it is so important to have the promise of eternal life right now. And we have this promise if God’s truth abides in you, and we abide in the Son and in the Father.
iii. So, abiding is our grounds of confidence with God. We have the promise of eternal life as we abide. “You must be in a living, loving, lasting union with the Son of God, or else you are not in a state of salvation.” (Spurgeon)
3. (26-27) Our protection against deception: the anointing.
These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
a. These things I have written: John knew there was deception among these early Christians, and it concerned him. He had a passion to keep them consistent with God’s message of truth.
b. The anointing which you have received abides in you: This abiding and anointing is what enables them to continue in the truth.
i. John first referred to this anointing back in 1 John 2:20. This anointing is not the private property of a few special or spectacular Christians. All Christians have the presence of God’s Spirit within them.
c. You do not need that anyone teach you: Just as he stated in 1 John 2:20 (you know all things), John tells us again that the anointing we receive from God guides us into truth. We are guided into truth on a one-on-one level, God confirming it to our hearts.
i. Again, John’s message is simple. Because of the anointing of the Holy Spirit given to all believers, they possess the resources for knowing the truth. This is not to say that teachers are unnecessary, because one of the resources for knowing the truth is the reminder given by teachers like John.
d. You will abide in Him: This anointing which guides us into truth will also guide us closer to Jesus.
4. (28-29) What it means to live in Jesus.
And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.
a. Abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed: Abiding in Jesus means that we need not be afraid or ashamed when Jesus returns. This is because we have intimately known Him, and therefore we can have confidence at His coming.
i. John brings up a challenging image. When Jesus returns, some people will be afraid, because they never knew Jesus at all. But among those who know Him, some will not be afraid, they will be ashamed before Him at His coming. They will realize that they have been living worldly, unfruitful lives. In one moment, the understanding will overwhelm them that whatever else they accomplished in life, they did not abide in Him as they could have.
ii. Paul the Apostle speaks of those who are “barely saved”: he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:15). There are those who, for at least a moment, the coming of Jesus will be a moment of disappointment rather than glory.
iii. It is important for us to carefully consider these matters, because it is difficult to measure the distance between “barely saved” and “almost saved.” It is dangerous to contemplate questions such as, “how little can I do and still make it to heaven?” or “how far can I stray from the Shepherd and still be part of the flock?” Instead we should be diligent to not be ashamed before Him at His coming.
iv. “What is the way to prepare for Christ’s coming? By the study of the prophecies? Yes, if you are sufficiently instructed to be able to understand them. ‘To be prepared for the Lord’s coming,’ some enthusiasts might say, ‘had I not better spend a month in retirement, and get out of this wicked world?’ You may, if you like; and especially you will do so if you are lazy. But the one Scriptural prescription for preparing for his coming is this, ‘Abide in him.’ If you abide in the faith of him, holding his truth, following his example, and making him your dwelling-place, your Lord may come at any hour, and you will welcome him.” (Spurgeon)
b. When He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed: We never grow beyond our need to abide and find our confidence in abiding in Jesus. Because John used "we" instead of "you," we know that he needed this confidence also.
c. Abide in Him: This is the way to be confident when Jesus comes. When you abide in Him, you are ready for Jesus to come at any time.
i. The idea of living in Jesus is so important in the Bible. Jesus promised in John 14:23: If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
ii. Paul expressed this idea in his prayer for the Ephesians in Ephesians 3:17: that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. There are two Greek words to convey the idea of “to live in”; one has the idea of living in a place as a stranger, and the other has the idea of settling down in a place to make it your permanent home. Dwell in Ephesians 3:17 uses the Greek word for a permanent home; Jesus wants to settle down in your heart, not just visit as a stranger.
iii. Do you abide in Him? Or do you just visit Jesus every once in a while? Abiding in Jesus gives us confidence, because we know we wouldn’t change our lives substantially if we somehow knew Jesus would come back next week. We would already be abiding in Him.
d. Everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him: Abiding in Jesus means that we will practice righteousness in our lives, because we are born of Him. Being born again has changed our lives from a disposition to sin to a disposition to righteousness.
i. This is a test of our abiding in Him, the same kind of test John mentioned in 1 John 1:6, 2:4, and 2:9. There is something wrong if someone claims to be born of Him and they do not practice righteousness.
ii. When someone is born of someone else, there is almost always a family resemblance. You say, “look, she has her mother’s eyes” or “he has his father’s nose.” Well, the children of God have a family resemblance to their Father in heaven. He is righteous, so those who are born of Him also practice righteousness. “God hath no children destitute of his image, or who resemble him not.” (Poole)
iii. We will not perfect righteousness until we are glorified with Jesus; but we can practice righteousness right now, as we are born of Him.
iv. There are three precious claims for each Christian in this chapter. I know Him (1 John 2:4), I abide in Him (1 John 2:6), and I am in the light (1 John 2:9). John wants us to know that if these statements are true it will show in our lives, especially in our love for brothers and sisters in Jesus.
© 2006 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission