Sunday October 25th
1 John 1-2
Now that we have finished our study of John’s gospel, we’re going to take a look at John’s letters. And that made me think of the phrase “A Dear John Letter”. Do you know the kind of letter I’m talking about? He is one example:
I have been unable to sleep since I broke off our engagement. Won't you forgive and forget? Your absence is breaking my heart. I was a fool, nobody can take your place.
All my love,
P.S. Congratulations on winning last week's Powerball lottery.
So let’s start off our study of the real “Dear John” letters. The apostle John starts off his first letter by talking about what was happening “from the beginning”.
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that John starts off talking about the beginning, because his Gospel started off with these words:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2)
The truth is that God had a plan in place from the very beginning of time, and that plan included sending Jesus to save the world, and that plan included saving YOU!
Look at what Ephesians 1:4 tells us:
Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.
When did God choose you? The day that you got saved? No, He chose you in the beginning, even before He laid the foundation for the world!
I think that makes you pretty special!
In verse 1 of this letter, John refers to Jesus as the “Word of Life”, just like he did in his Gospel when he said this in John 1:14
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
How can we be sure of that? Because John says “we have heard (Him), we have seen (Him) with our (own) eyes, we have looked at (Him) and touched (Him) with our (own) hands.”
Peter uses the same argument to make this same point in 2nd Peter 1:16
“For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”
In verse 3 John says that there is another important reason why he is writing this letter:
“What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
So fellowship with God, with Jesus, and with each other is an important goal for John in writing this letter and that shouldn’t surprise us, because it was also important to Jesus. Remember how Jesus prayed to His Father concerning us in John 17:21?
“That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
So John’s goal for believers is the same as Jesus’ goal, fellowship and unity.
Then in verse 4 John adds another goal:
4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
Once again, this isn’t just John’s goal for us, it’s also Jesus’ goal. Look at John 15:11
“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
How are these goals connected? Because true fellowship with God and with each other should be a tremendous source of joy in each of our lives!
Do you see how many of the same themes in John’s letter are also found in his gospel? And this pattern continues in verses 5-7
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Where have we seen this before? Look at John 1:9, which describes Jesus this way:
“There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.”
So just like John’s Gospel, this letter emphasizes the contrast between light and darkness. Jesus is the light that came to shine in the darkness of a world that has rejected God.
John is reminding us that all of us as believers are faced with a choice: either “walk in the light,” by coming to Him and opening their hearts to Him, or “walk in darkness”. And walking in darkness, according to John, isn’t just committing sin, it’s also denying that we sin. Look at verses 8-10:
8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
So the conflict between light and darkness is linked to a conflict between those who “practice the truth” and agree with God that they need salvation, and those who say they don’t need salvation, thereby essentially calling God “a liar.”
The reality is that even believers sometimes still sin. But the good news is that the cure for sin—which is confessing our sins, and being cleansed by the blood of Jesus—is God’s continually available, irrevocable gift to us.
There’s only one simple step that we need to take when we’ve stumbled in our journey along the way. “If we confess our sins.” That’s it. No penance. No retribution.
Think about how wonderful that is! God’s forgiveness is given to us as soon as we admit our need for it, instantly!
It’s not based on anything we have done to earn forgiveness. It’s only because of His grace. And this free gift of forgiveness carries with it a total purification from our unrighteousness. Once we have confessed what we have done wrong, God accepts us and sees as righteous because He imputes to us the righteousness of Christ. That is, the very righteousness of Christ is reckoned to our account.
Because Jesus is righteous, and we are covered by His blood – WE are now righteous!
In chapter 2, John is going to continue emphasizing the role that we as believers are supposed to play by being “in the light”!
He starts out by saying this in verses 1 and 2:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
John wants us to know that the only possible proper response to God’s mercy on us is to live a life of holiness and obedience, not one of sin.
But he also knows that no one is perfect, so he reassures us that when we do occasionally sin, we have an advocate on our side. So what’s an advocate do?
The Greek word for advocate basically means a “helper,” and one form of help would be like an attorney to represent us with a legal matter.
Jesus is our advocate, our lawyer, to plead our case when we mess things up.
John also calls Jesus something else, our “propitiation”. What’s that mean? A propitiation was a sacrifice that was meant to take away the separation brought by sin between God and man. Jesus is our propitiation. His blood has erased the sin that separated us from God.
So how do I know that my sins have been covered by Jesus’ sacrifice? John explains that next:
3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
John says that true followers of Jesus will “walk in the same way in which Jesus walked”, so if we call ourselves His followers, then we should be keeping Jesus’ commandments. If we aren’t keeping His commandments, then calling ourselves His followers is a lie.
And what are Jesus’ commandments?
Well, let’s start with this one from John 13:34
I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another.
That’s crucial for us to understand. Jesus told His followers to love each other. If we aren’t loving each other, then we’re not His followers!
In the next two sections, John is going to emphasize this commandment, saying that it is both old and new:
7 Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. 8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. 9 The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who 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.
Listen to this commentary:
The commandment of Christ is both “old” and “new.” It is old, because believers had this command “from the beginning,” when Jesus began to teach. It is new because it is continually being reapplied in new acts of love, with their source in Him.
John has talked about old and new, light and darkness. Now he uses another contrast, fathers and children:
12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
The “fathers” and “children” that John is speaking to in these verses are actually the same people. On the one hand they are called “children” because they have been made part of the family of God. But they are also called “fathers” because their relationship with Jesus qualifies them to pass this knowledge down to future generations.
John says twice in verses 13 and 14 “you have overcome the evil one”. This is a major theme of this letter that will be picked up again in Chapter 5. The overcoming victory John describes is resisting temptation and keeping faithful to God’s word.
The thing is that, even though the victory has been won, we still have to fight this ongoing battle against the things of the world. So John reminds us in verses 15-17:
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
What John is referring to as the “world” is the spirit of rebellion that rejects God and His rule over our lives.
Those who love this world are self-centered, prideful, and short-sighted. They want their lusts to be satisfied and their pride to be honored now.
And speaking of the world’s system, we now hear mention of the ultimate description of the world’s system – the AntiChrist!
18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.
You might have heard various theories about who the antichrist will be or where he will come from. But don’t strain your eyes too hard looking for the antichrist to arrive, because John wrote almost 2000 years ago that many antichrists had already appeared during his lifetime!
And in verse 19 John seems to indicate that these antichrists were actually part of the church at one point:
19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.
Do you see that? “They went out from us”! These people left the church, which proved that they weren’t true followers of Jesus, or they would’ve stayed in unity.
But does John want his readers to be all worried about these antichrists? No, he goes on to assure us that we are fully capable of discerning the antichrist spirit:
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
The Christians who lived back in John’s day faced opposition from antichrists who denied that Jesus was God’s Son, the Messiah. And so do we still today.
But John’s words should bring us comfort, as he reminds who we are as he closes this chapter:
24 As for you, 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. 25 This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life. 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. 27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
John is reminding us that as believers we have access to direct revelation from God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who illuminates the Word for us and the truth of the gospel.
Can you trust God when He tells you that about yourself – that you can hear His voice through the anointing of the Holy Spirit?
In these two chapters John has given us several powerful keys to what it means to “walk in the Light”