1 John 2
by Pastor Mark Hudson
First John is an example of great profundity utilizing simple language. One outline (showing the section relating to our passage) is found in Stephen S Smalley’s commentary in the Word series:
I Preface: the Word of Life 1:1-4
II. Live in the Light 1:5-2:29
a. God is Light 1:5-7
b. First condition for living in the light: renounce sin 1:8-2:2
c. Second condition: be obedient 2:3-11
d. Third condition: reject worldliness 2:12-17
e. Fourth condition: keep the faith 2:18-29
Dr. Smalley’s outline attempts to demonstrate that John is writing what a Christian should and should not do or think. The entire section is a call to live in the light. This is not the light we see fading at the end of each day but this is a moral and spiritual light. We were delivered out of darkness so our heavenly father does not want us to back to the bondage and belittling nature of sin or darkness.
The first condition for walking in the light is to renounce sin. We all sin more times than we realize but a believer is also always fighting against sin. For a believer sin does not reign in our bodies and minds yet sin is always crouching at the door. We possess righteousness that Christ granted us but that sanctification is growing. Our standing with Christ is certain but our growth is not consistent. John tells us to run to Christ when we do sin.
The second condition is to be obedient in verses 3-11. This call to obedience appears to be common sense but people have a way of twisting the clear teaching of the Bible to suit their own desires. If we claim to know God, we obey Him. These verses are so clear and simple they almost defy comment. One should be able to tell who a Christian is by their life. Many decades ago, I remember hearing this question, “If you were convicted of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence in your life to convict you?”
The third condition in verse 12-17 is a call to reject worldliness. I take the address to ‘children’ as a referring to all Christians since the author calls believers ‘children’ in other places (I John 2:1, 12, 14,18, 28. 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21). But then young men and fathers are 2 groups considered under the rubric of children. So, the young men and fathers are groups males distinguished by age.
Then in I John 2:15-17, we have a brief passage that seems to throw down the gantlet. We are command to not love the world – not that we cannot enjoy the beauty of creation, the love of family and friends, etc. But we are not to be enticed by the desires of the flesh (think all that Hollywood, social media, etc. prizes. The way some look at this is that we are not to love the world (all thinking in opposition to God and his will) which is called the desires of the flesh. Then under that general description are two similar but distinct aspects of the cravings or desires of the flesh: 1) the desire of the eyes and 2) the pride of life. The word desire (in v. 16, “the desires of the flesh) is used 38 times in the NT and only 3 times is there a positive connotation (Luke 22:15; Phil 1:23; I Thes 2:17) (The Letters of John in the Pillar N.T. Commentary. Kruse, p. 95).
John says “all that is in the world . . . is not from the Father but is from the world” (v. 16). The temptations of the eyes or are some call it, “eye candy” or anything that arouses in terms of sensuality is not from God. Or anything that tempts us to keep us with others in terms of vacations, property, money, wealth is not from God. “The world is passing away along with its desires” (v. 17). This is all temporary. Only God and the one who obey and know God will remain.
In vs. 18-29, we are called to keep the faith. In vs. 12-17, we are to reject worldliness, now the call to persevere. Where the truth of the gospel is found, there will a blitzkrieg of misunderstanding, falsehood, twisting of the truth, and a barrage of attacks against the gospel. So the “many antichrists in v. 18, are all those teach and act in line with and in preparation for the real antichrist. John is saying that the people who follow false teachers demonstrate they were never called by God and never believed. John is saying in v. 27, that genuine believers have the Holy Spirit and are able to discern truth from error. John is not teaching that Christians do not need books, pastors, teachers since John himself is teaching them in this letter. Rather, John is saying, “Keep to the truth that you have been taught and the truth the Spirit is confirming and affirming to you. Don’t be misled.”
The significance of what John is saying is “eternal life” in v. 25. We will see Him when He returns. John wants us to “have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming. We will appear before a holy God someday. We must prepare for that inevitable day. How tragic for so many people but may it not be for you. May you live everyday expecting His return.
Dear God of hope, thank you for this simple writing that is so deep and convicting to us. We see Your mercy and forgiveness whenever we discuss the gospel. Thank You that we abide “in the Son and the Father.” And thank You that the Spirit abides in us and helps us to understand and apply Your Word. How we love You. Yet much more important is Your love to us that is a perfect, eternal, and glorious love. We pray in the name of the One who suffered, died, and was raised from the dead: the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.