Sunday August 5th
1 John 2
A circus owner happened to be walking down the street in a small town when he saw a crowd of people gathered around a table, watching a show. The show consisted of a metal pot on the table turned upside down, and on top of the pot there was a duck tap dancing.
The circus owner was so impressed by this act that he offered to buy the duck from its owner. After some haggling back and forth the owner finally agreed to sell the duck for $10,000.
A couple of days later the circus owner returned to the owner in a rage. “This duck is a rip-off!” He said angrily. “I put him on top of a pot in front of a big audience and he didn’t dance even one single step!”
“Well,” asked the duck’s former owner, “did you remember to light a candle under the pot?”
No light – no dancing!
In 1st John 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 chapter 2 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 the readers of his letter 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 is parakletos, which 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.
In the Gospel of John that same word is used for the Holy Spirit in John 14:16 where Jesus says,
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever”
And again in John 14: 26 where he tells them,
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”
And again in John 15:26
“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.”
So Jesus is our helper and the Holy Spirit is our helper, and Psalm 54:4 says,
“Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is the sustainer of my soul.”
So we’ve got plenty of helpers to get us through this journey of life! The Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
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.
Under the Old Covenant, bulls, goats, and sheep were the sacrifices of propitiation. For us, as Christians, Jesus is our propitiation. His blood has erased the sin that separated us from God.
John says that Jesus didn’t just pay for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world. His sacrifice was sufficient for all people of all generations. It is a sacrifice so powerful that no additional price is required to be paid.
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.
When John says that true followers of Jesus will “walk in the same way in which Jesus walked”, it first of all shows us that John assumed that the readers of this letter also had knowledge about Jesus’ life and ways from reading John’s Gospel.
And since we know the ways of Jesus, and 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. Love belongs to the realm of light, as compared to darkness, where hatred still has sway. John speaks of love for the “brother,” which Jesus gave as a commandment to His disciples just before His death.
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” “young men” and “children” that John is speaking to in these verses are actually the same group of people, characterized in several different ways. They are called “children” because they have been made part of the family of God. But they are also called “fathers” because their personal knowledge of God and their relationship with Jesus qualifies them to pass this knowledge down to future generations. And they are also called “young men” because their rejection of the devil shows that they are strong and victorious.
In fact, 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 victory John describes is resisting temptation and keeping faithful to God’s word. For John, our victory in the battle against temptation has already been won, since our fellowship with God cannot be broken.
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 system of worldly rebellion that seeks to displace God and His rule. This worldly system is “not from the Father” and has already been marked for judgment and destruction
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. In contrast, those who love the Father have a long-term perspective and wait for God’s reward in His perfect time.
Now, speaking of the world’s system, we hear mention of the ultimate leader 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’ve probably heard that the AntiChrist is coming.
You might have even heard some theories about who he will be or where he will come from. But don’t strain your eyes too hard looking 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 else they would have stayed connected to the church.
Does John want his readers to be all worried about these antichrists? No, he goes on to assure them that they 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.
John also says that the presence of these antichrists, those who deny that Jesus is the Messiah, is proof that “the last hour” is growing closer. Do we have people in our world today who deny that Jesus is the Son of God? I would certainly say so, wouldn’t you?
John characterizes the whole time between the first and the second comings of Christ as “the last hour”.
Some of God’s judgment against these antichrists was fulfilled in 70 AD, when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. Other antichrists will face judgment as well, because as John said in verse 33, “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father.”
The Christians who lived back in John’s day faced opposition from antichrists who denied that Jesus was God’s Son, the Messiah.
We face the same thing in our day, maybe even more so because of the internet, where people seem to take great joy in attacking Christian beliefs. 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.
When John says that “you have no need that anyone should teach you” he isn’t saying that we’re a bunch of know-it-alls. He is simply 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?
John has given us several powerful keys to what it means to “walk in the Light”
Take heart in the promise that were are given by John a few chapters further in this letter, in 1 John 4:4
You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.