True Fellowship with God

The True Fellowship with God that Leads to Freedom from Sin – 1 John 2

Jesus is alive. God is real. And we can have real fellowship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3). And such fellowship leads to fullness of joy (1 John 1:4). The epistle of 1 John is about this fellowship with God.

God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).  That means darkness in us poses a problem for fellowshipping with God. As we get further into this epistle we will discover that darkness is sin and in particular lovelessness. In 1 John 1:6 we see that it is possible to “walk in darkness,” which is lying and not practicing or living God’s truth. Truth is simply that which is what it claims to be. Truth is integrity, trustworthiness, and reality. To walk in truth is to walk honestly. You can’t have a relationship without trust.

When we deny the sin that is in us we deceive ourselves. Sin is by nature self-deceiving. That is because Satan is the author of sin; he is the father of lies (John 8:44). And when we sin we are more of the devil than of God (1 John 3:8). Saying we have no sin and being self-deceived hinders our relationship with God, but the worse aspect of such self-delusion is that it in effect calls God a liar (1 John 1:10). When we deny our own sinfulness it puts us at odds with God. That is no way to have a healthy relationship with God.

Sin therefore, is what hinders and keeps us out of a relationship with God. And therefore, freedom from sin is what John moves to now in his letter.

Freedom from Sin

1 John 2 (NKJV)

2 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.

In the first chapter John was likely alluding to unbelieving Gnostics or others who denied their sinfulness. To enter into fellowship with God is to admit your sin and seek forgiveness from God for that sin through faith in Jesus Christ His Son. The more we think of God’s provision for salvation from sin in Jesus the greater our joy will be. But to deny our sin and that we need a Savior is not only a joy killer, it is a fellowship breaker. No one can enter into saving eternal fellowship with God and Jesus without first admitting and confessing their sin to God. God is faithful and just to forgive the sin that has been confessed to Him.

But to deny one’s sinfulness is to deny the need of a Savior. To deny the need of a Savior from sin is to deny Jesus and say forgiveness from God for sin is not necessary. It’s to minimize the necessity for Jesus to go to the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. It is to minimize the glory and grace of God in the redemptive cross work of Jesus His Son. This is extremely offensive to God. This is blasphemous to God.

But John turns to believers in this second chapter. Believers also have issues with sin. That is just the reality of life. John is now going to speak truthfully and tenderly to “My little children.” This is an endearing way to address his readers. “My little children” (Greek Teknia mou) is a phrase depicting a small child. It is a nursery term for a child. Just as a parent or adult would speak to a young child, so John is now going to speak to his readers; tenderly; clearly to be understood; down on their level.

Here is the second reason for John’s letter, “that you may not sin.” “Sin” (Greek verb - hamartete: Aorist/Active/Subjunctive) presents the idea of possibility as in you may not sin, it’s possible not to sin. John didn’t mean in his opening words to communicate that sin was inevitable; it’s not. It is possible to not sin. The Aorist tense of this word communicates a single point of action and therefore it’s as though John is saying, “I write to you dear children so that you may avoid even a single act of sin.”  

And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

In Christ our sins are forgiven and God sees us in light of the righteously imputed sinlessness of Jesus (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). It is through Jesus that we are cleansed from all our sin (1 John 1:9). When we walk with Jesus His blood cleanses us from all our sin (1 John 1:7). But, just as it is possible not to sin, it is also possible to sin, and many people do sin. That is the reality. The reality is that even when we become Christians, even though we are forgiven our sins, there are still times when we sin. And such sin is a hindrance to our fellowship with God and consequently the fullness of our joy.

Therefore, John says, “If anyone sins” (Greek ean tis hamarte) or if anyone sins even once (Greek Aorist/Active/Subjunctive of hamarte). Just as we don’t have to sin even once, it’s possible that we will sin at least once. Even if we sin just once its important to deal with sin. Sin should not be ignored. Every spot of sin in our life should be brought to God in confession, forgiveness and cleansing by the blood of Jesus. If we sin even once, John says there is a Solution God has provided. That Solution is our Savior Jesus.

Even if we sin just once, John then he says, “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” An “Advocate” (Greek noun parakleton from parakletos) is a Helper. This is a gigantically important and blessed way fo looking at Jesus. One commentary states:

This term can be found in classical Greek meaning “one who is called or sent for to assist.” It is related to the verb parakleō (3731) which means “call or send for someone.” In early Greek literature paraklētos is found in legal contexts where it referred to one who was called to assist or defend another who has been accused of something (note that the word meaning “professional attorney” is not paraklētos, but sunēgoros; Liddell-Scott).

The kind of assistance a paraklētos offered in a court of law was not part of the formal jurisprudence but a personal act of friendship. Such acts might include public testimony that emphasized the good qualities of the accused’s character. It was better for others to speak good of the accused than for the accused to solely defend his or her honor. Paraklētos is also used in non-legal contexts in the same manner. For example, one who encouraged soldiers before a battle is called a paraklētos (ibid.). [1]

So this gives us an incredibly valuable way of understanding the purpose of our fellowship with God in Christ. Jesus speaks to the Father who is the Judge at our court hearing to consider our sinfulness. We are without a doubt guilty for sin; guilty as sin. But Jesus steps in on our behalf. He steps up and steps forward before the Judge and simply shows Him the scars in His body that were made in payment for our sin. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin and when we put our faith in Him, His atoning work becomes effective on our behalf. The Father then has a just basis to forgive our sins and pronounce us “Innocent.” That is because our sins have been wiped away by the atoning blood of Jesus. Aren’t you blessed and glad that Jesus steps up and steps forward on our behalf when we sin?! I know I am.

It is “Jesus Christ the righteous” who has the ability to advocate successfully on our behalf. “Righteous” (Greek adjective dikaion from dikaios) means just, righteous, right, upright, impartial. Even in secular use of this term there was an idea of fulfilling a religious obligation. This term describes a person who is “civilized, upright,’ or ‘decent, . . . sensible.” This adjective refers to a man who is “virtuous” and “manly.” It also carries the legal application of someone who is “lawful, just.” [2] Jesus as “the righteous” is the Man who is all He claimed to be and all He needed to be to step up and step forward to be our Substitute when it came to paying our debt of sin.

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

In the original Greek language, the wonder of Who is advocating for us is conveyed through the emphasis “He Himself” (Greek autos - Nominative/Singular/Personal Pronoun). Jesus Himself is our Advocate; no one else. Jesus alone, no one else, is our propitiation.

“Propitiation” (Greek noun hilasmos) means sin offering, propitiation, expiation. The word can be defined as follows:

"Propitiation" (Greek, hilasmos) was used in secular writing for a sacrifice that appeased the wrath of an angered god. Some suggest that the New Testament uses it simply to describe a payment for sin; but the usage seems to include the idea that God is justifiably angry at sin. Christ is the divine sacrifice, provided by God himself, which makes it possible for the Lord to meet man without wrath.[3]

Some have chosen to define hilasmos with the English word “expiation” which simply means remove because they reject the idea of God’s wrath against sinners. However, we should remember that God is Holy and Perfect. Whatever emotion He expresses in His word is holy and completely appropriate. Human wrath is likely unwarranted. But Divine wrath is holy.

Those who elevate themselves over others by way of the “credentials” they have achieved in life, whether it me a “higher” knowledge or “mystery” as the Gnostics claimed, tend to shy away from the idea of things they feel are uncouth or uncivilized. This leads to editing God’s revelation of Himself and His plan of redemption. God being “angry” with sinners and sin, the idea of God being wrathful, or the bloody atoning sacrifice of His Son Jesus, these are all anathema to those who perch themselves above others. They in effect sit themselves as rulers and redactors of God’s inspired revelation. A modern example of this would be The Jesus Seminar and other liberal entities who reject God’s revelation as He delivered it through people in order to cut out the parts they don’t find palatable. This of blasphemous to God who even exalts His word above His own name! (cf. Psalm 138:2).

The concept of God’s wrath is scripturally sound. For instance, Psalm 7:11 states, “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.” Ezra warned against the wrath of God coming on a sinful community (Ezra 10:14; cf. also Psalm 78:31). In the New Testament Jesus spoke of the wrath of God abiding on those who do not believe in Him (John 3:36). Paul wrote of God’s wrath on “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). God’s wrath is on fornication (i.e. sexual activity outside of the marriage), covetousness, idolatry, and inappropriate speaking (Ephesians 5:3-6; cf. also Colossians 3:5-7). In the Book of Revelation of which the Apostle John is the inspired author, God’s wrath is mentioned numerous times as justly coming on a Christ-rejecting world (e.g. Revelation 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1; 19:15). God’s wrath is justly warranted. God’s wrath is holy. God’s wrath is revealed as a reality in His word.

This propitiation of Jesus is made, “for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” Jesus propitiation is not only for John and a select few, but it is available to all. Whole” (Greek adjective holou from holos) means whole, complete, entire, all, every, altogether. The idea is the complete whole in all its parts. This propitiation of Jesus is not for a select elect; it is available to all people. This couldn’t be any clearer. Jesus propitiation for our sins is available to any and all people who will confess their sins to God and trust in Jesus propitiation for their sins on the cross as the just basis for God’s forgiveness of their sins.

The Gnostics claimed that their secret selectively known knowledge was what people should be seeking. Their salvation was more enlightenment than forgiveness for sin through Christ’s propitiation leading to fellowship with God. But their secret Christ denying knowledge only led to more just wrath for God. Their pompous denials of Jesus and His redemptive work was storing up more wrath for them to be received on the day of God’s wrath and judgment (e.g. Romans 2:5).

Historically the Roman Catholic church got away from the Gospel as laid out in scripture. It began to look to and promote alternatives and additions to Jesus’ propitiation such as expiation of sin through self-flagellation in this life, expiation of sins through purgatorial suffering in the next life, acts of penance and even payment to the Roman Catholic church and its priests for indulging sin and then absolution from sin indulged in. In response to this heretical drifting from scripture, certain men of God’s word arose to contend for the Faith as it had been once and for all provided in the scriptures (e.g. Jude 3-4). These Reformers called the Church back to the scripturally based salvation as a gift of God’s grace to be received by faith in Jesus alone. That was a needed reviving of the church to get Her back on course.

But such Reformers eventually went beyond scripture when they began to teach and promote a limited atonement. Limited atonement teaches that the redemptive work of Jesus, including His propitiation, is only efficacious for a select elect, not “for the whole world” as stated here by John. This is therefore, contrary to scripture.

It might be added here that while humanity is sinful and lost in their sin so much so that they are self-deceived and contrary to God’s appraisal of them as sinners, they are still by God’s grace, able to freely exert their God-given will to receive the Gospel of grace through faith in Jesus. This is a gracious work of the Holy Spirit to draw all sinners to salvation in Jesus (e.g. John 16:8-11). Salvation is by grace. The condition God places on forgiveness of sin is that the sinner confess their sin or see it as He sees sin, turn from that sin to God for God’s forgiveness (e.g. 1 John 1:9). God does not impose His salvation on a select few (e.g. Irresistible Grace). Human beings created in the image of God (i.e. Genesis 1:26-27), even though hopelessly infected with a sinful nature through the first act of their first parents, by God’s grace, retain their free will to receive the gift of God by faith. The sinner does not cease to be human (e.g. Total Depravity). They are still culpable for choosing to sin. They are still, by God’s grace, given the capacity to choose as an act of their will, the very real option of salvation through faith in Jesus.

God does not force His salvation on a select elect separate from and against their will (e.g. Unconditional Election); they must freely receive Jesus as their Savior (e.g. John 1:12). For God to provide salvation from sin to only a select few reduces Him to being an unloving Tyrant toward those who are not the select elect to whom His salvation is offered. No amount of defining God as sovereign changes that.

Once Jesus has been received as Savior by the repentant sinner, they are spiritually regenerated, or “born again” (John 3). The Holy Spirit indwells the believer and as we will see later in this epistle the Spirit within the Christian gives us a confident assurance that we have eternal life (1 John 3:24). The Christian can know they have eternal life, they don’t have to persevere in uncertainty until the end (e.g. Perseverance of the Saints). They do not have to depend on their works to secure salvation. To depend on works for one’s assurance of salvation leads to an uncertainty as up and down as the believer’s life can be at times. There is “fruit” connected to the work of the Spirit in the believer (e.g. Galatians 5:22-24). There are works that validate the genuineness of saving faith (cf. James 2). But our assurance of salvation and eternal life is dependent on the completed work of Jesus on our behalf, nothing less, there could be nothing more. The Holy Spirit within the believer is the One who gives us assurance of our second birth and eternal life. Even though the believer does sin after they are saved, they can still have an assurance of their salvation. John alludes to this at the end of his epistle when he refers to sin that doesn’t lead to death (cf. 1 John 5:16-17). Life is messy. There are real struggles against sin and in the skirmishes with sin sometimes we will lose. But this doesn’t mean we lose our salvation. If we sin, we confess our sin to God, receive His forgiveness based on the work of Jesus, and we get up and continue on to His promised eventual victory in that area of our life.

 The teachings alluded to in these paragraphs are those belonging to a Calvinist or Reformed view of salvation. I only briefly refer to them here for the reader to be aware of how the TULIP teachings of Calvinism (Total Depravity; Unconditional Election; Limited Atonement; Irresistible Grace; Perseverance of the Saints) go beyond and even contrary to the statements of scripture. I know a few paragraphs referring to this complex discussion of salvation is totally inadequate to consider the full orb of this area of theology. And I know many will argue in favor of the five points of the Calvinist TULIP. Some will hold to a few of the five points. But I have come to see that scriptural salvation is not well represented by TULIP and its best to stay with scripture as closely as possible.

Suffice it to say at this juncture that at the very least John’s inspired words “for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world,” taken at face value, the plain sense making the most sense, contradicts the idea of the atonement of Jesus being limited in any way. Jesus died for the sins of the world. Each person must decide whether or not they will accept by faith what God offers by grace in Christ. I for one am grateful and eternally thankful that God has made that offer to me and to all.

Freedom from Sin is an Indicator of Whether We Know God

The genuine born again spiritually alive Christian believer in Jesus is someone who is being freed from sin. The Gnostics of John’s day taught that what was done in their material bodies shouldn’t be held against them because it wasn’t their “true” self. They claimed that they should be judged by their immaterial “spiritual” self that was unseen. It was their version of a Theological bait and switch where they presented themselves and their teaching as the key to higher spirituality and eternal life but when people looked closer at what they were selling they found it was a rip off.

John is writing to assert and remind his readers of reality. John is writing to expose the falsehoods of these heretics and he does it with the truth of God’s word and what true fellowship with God is really all about. The light of God’s word is always able to dispel the smoke and mirrors of those seeking to promote self and or fleece the flock of God.

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.

How do we know if we know Him? “Know” (Greek verb gninoskomen – Present/Active/Indicative of gnosko) means know, become aware, perceive, understand, be conscious of. The grammar of the word conveys the idea of keep on knowing, keep on being aware of, keep on perceiving, keep on understanding, keep on being conscious of. The grammar of the second incident of “know” in this sentence speaks of a past experience that has a continued impact and influence on into the future from the initial experience. It speaks of we have known. The idea is John’s is asking “We know we have really known Him in the past,” or have “rightfully known Him in an effectively saving way.” John is anticipating the question of those who are uncertain of their relationship with God in Christ. John is anticipating the question, “How can we know that we have known Him?”

John’s answer to that question is, “if we keep His commandments.” “Keep” (Greek verb teromen: Present/Active/Subjunctive of tereo) in this grammatical form means to keep watching carefully, to keep guarding, to keep keeping, to keep holding in reserve, to keep preserving, to keep observing, keep obeying, keep paying attention to. Now John is not teaching a works righteousness here. He is teaching that when a person knows God and is in a relationship with God, their life evidences it. You can’t really claim to belong to God and disregard His commandments. This is what the Gnostics were doing. They interpreted dualism in a way that excused them from upholding or obeying God’s commandments. They would sin in their body and then say, “Well, the body is sinful because it is immaterial. But I am righteous in my spirit. When I sin in my body it isn’t really me doing it but my material body.” John is speaking against such a convoluted way of thinking.

Later in 1 John we will see the Apostle focusing a great deal on the true meaning of love. This epistle has a wonderful word on God’s love. And love is the prime fruit of the Spirit in the believer. And such love impacts the way we live. When you are loving in the Spirit you aren’t going to be breaking God’s commandments. In fact, that is why Paul was inspired to write, “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). When you love in Christ you fulfill or live our God’s commandments. Your focus is not on keeping commandments of God. But the nature of Spirit generated love in the believer leads to living out God’s commands. John’s statement here on keeping God’s commandments is setting up what will become his inspired glorious, enlightening and empowering teaching on God’s love.

He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

John is calling out those Gnostics and anyone else who would claim to be in saving fellowship with God the Father and His Son Jesus, but who isn’t living out the commandments of God. This should make clear for us even today that if someone claims to be in fellowship with God but who doesn’t worship God exclusively, who makes images/idols of God, who doesn’t revere God and His Holy name, who lives to work and gives no significant time to their relationship with God, who doesn’t honor their parents, who murders, commits adultery, steals, lies about others, or covets what others own, such a person is a liar. And Jesus raised the bar by stating not only the outward actions make one guilty in regard to the law but the inward thinking and attitudes are also areas of accountability (cf. Matthew 5-7).

The person who claims, “I know Him” but doesn’t keep His commandments is a “liar, and the truth is not in him.” John is emphasizing reality; truthfulness; trustworthiness. He is speaking against those whose lives are a walking talking contradiction of what they claim to be. The Gnostics thumbed their noses at others explaining away their contradictory living by saying they were living on a higher more knowledgeable plane that the lowly congregants couldn’t believe. Jim Jones the cultist took such thinking so far as to rationalize his adulteries with some of the ladies in his congregation. He claimed to be on a higher plane. Cult leaders who live in sin often use such rationale to justify their sin. Jones led hundreds of people to commit mass suicide. At some point his followers chose to not believe the reality before them; that Jones was contradicting God’s word. God’s word always has to be the bottom line for accountability. No one is above the word of God. And the bottom line according to God’s word is when you know Jesus and are walking with Him you will live differently than those who don’t know Jesus.

But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.

John now states what the person who is walking with the Lord should be like. I love this verse. John is squashing the idea of an elitist clergy whose standard of accountability is different from others. John says, “But whoever” in order to put everyone in the church on the same level playing field. There is not an elite class in the church that live by a different standard. His readers didn’t need to feel inferior to those Gnostics who were claimed an elite privileged status.

John speaks of the signs of true fellowship with God. What are they?

First, the person in true fellowship with God will continue to keep His word. Keeps” (Greek verb tere: Present/Active/Subjunctive of tereo) here means may continue keeping, may continue watching carefully, may continue guarding, may continue preserving, may continue observing, may continue obeying, may continue paying attention to. And the focus of this keeping is “His word.” Word” (Greek noun logon) means word, subject, statements. It simply refers to the revealed word of God. That is the Bible.

In other words, if you really want to know if someone is genuinely and truly in fellowship with God look at whether or not they are living according to God’s word. Are you keeping God’s word and living it out? Are you continuing watchfully in God’s word to see that you and others are in line with it? Are you guarding God’s word against those that oppose it? Are you preserving God’s word and holding it as something precious? Are you observing, obeying and continuing to pay attention to God’s word? Your answers to these questions will reveal whether or not you are truly in true fellowship with God.

Second, the person in true fellowship with God continues to keep His word and “truly the love of God is perfected in him.” “Perfected” (Greek verb teteleiotai: Perfect/Middle/Indicative of teleioo) means having been made perfect, having been completed, having been matured. John isn’t saying that such a person doesn’t need to continue to grow in their relationship with God. What he means is that the person who keeps God’s word is what they should be. In other words, the person who keeps God’s word is just as righteous as anyone who claims an elite spiritual status like the Gnostics were.  

When a person keeps God’s word “truly” (Greek adjective alēthōs truly, really, certainly, definitely) “the love of God” is “perfected in him.” When we keep God’s word it has a way of working His love into us. This isn’t a worldly sentimental love. It isn’t merely a feeling affection. This is the active, real, holy, God-like love revealed in His word. “Love” (Greek agape) means benevolence, love, love feast. What gives this word its true definition is that it is “the love of God.” This is the love that gave. God gave in love His most precious Only Begotten Son of God Jesus Christ. God sacrificed. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself at the cross (2 Corinthians 5:19). Giving that which is most valuable for the sake of others well-being; that is true love; that is the love of the Father. Are you loving toward others? Are you more concerned with getting than giving? Do you sacrifice for others? Do you sacrifice for others freely or are you looking to leverage or manipulate others with your “loving” acts? God freely gave Jesus and He did this out of pure love.

John then says, “By this we know that we are in Him.” “Know” (Greek verb ginoskomen of ginosko: Present/Active/Indicative) means know and continue to know. We know and continue to know that we are “in Him” or in fellowship or in relationship with Him because we keep on keeping His word and His love is perfected or matured in us.

If you want to know and keep on knowing whether or not a person knows the Lord, look to see that they keep on keeping God’s word in their life and that keeping God’s word is leading to God’s love being matured or perfected in them. God’s word, His love, and growth therein are the two surest indicators of a person who genuinely knows the Lord and is in true fellowship with Him.

He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

There is a simpler way of stating all of this. John frequently uses the word “abides” (Greek verb menein: Present/Active/Infinitive of meno). Jesus spoke of abiding in Him and it appears Jesus’ words particularly stuck in the mind of John (cf. John 15). “Abides” means to abide, to remain, to stay in place, to stand fast, to dwell, to continue, to wait, to last, to endure, to be permanent. John is using “abides” here to refer to the person who claims to have a stable, lasting, permanent relationship with God.

The person who says they abide in Him, “ought” (Greek verb opheilei: Present/Active/Indicative of opheilo) or is indebted to, or owes it to “walk” (Greek verb peripatein: Present/Active/Infinitive of peripateo) or go about, walk around, live, conduct oneself just as He walked.” When person abides or says they abide in a relationship with Jesus, they are obligated walk as He walked. The Apostle Paul was inspired to write God’s plan from the beginning is that those who belong to Him, who are followers of Jesus, are conformed to the likeness of Jesus (e.g. Romans 8:29). The Apostle Peter was inspired to say that we should follow in the steps of Jesus (1 Peter 2:21). Becoming more and more like Jesus is the sign of genuine and true fellowship with Him.

When you spend time with someone you begin to take on their characteristics. It’s interesting that sometimes people who have spent their lives together often begin to look the same or have similar characteristics. Sometimes a pet and their master over time takes on similar characteristics. When you spend time with Jesus, whether or not you truly are “in Him” will be shown in whether or not you are becoming more and more like Him. Are you more like Jesus today than when you first knew Him as your Savior?

The word “ought” carries with it the idea of owing or being indebted to someone. In the book of Romans when Paul completes his incredible inspired teaching on the salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus in Romans 1-11, he then transitions to the practical living section by saying, Í beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). Those last words, “which is your reasonable service” is Paul’s way of saying that in light of all God in Christ has provided for us the only reasonable response on our part is to live our lives as a living sacrifice for Him. A sacrifice is as good as dead. A sacrifice has no rights. We are to live our lives dead to our self and with no thought of our own rights. That is true because of the tremendous cost of our salvation paid by Jesus on the cross. Therefore, as John said, because of this incredible blessing of true fellowship with God in Christ, we should live our lives focused on walking or living our lives the way Jesus lived.

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.

 

Some may have accused John of adding to God’s commandments. But it is in the Old Testament that we are called to “love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). And it is in the Old Testament it states, “love your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:18). So John, when speaking of love, is not introducing something new.

But there is a way in which what John was teaching was new and that was by speaking of God’s love in Christ. Jesus fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17).  It was Jesus who said His disciples would be known by their love for one another (John 13:34-35). It was Jesus who said that the greatest commandments were to love God supremely and to love others sacrificially (e.g. Matthew 22:34-40). Jesus walked and lived a life of love. There greatest expression of that is on the cross (e.g. Romans 5:8). “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). John was simply drawing logical conclusions.

The “darkness is passing away” in that Jesus has come and fulfilled the law. The Holy Spirit working in and through the believer perfecting love in them is fulfilling the law through those expressions of love in Christ. The “true light” that is “already shinning” is the love found in Christ. Therefore, by John instructing people to walk as Jesus walked He was simply

He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.

 

What is “darkness” according to John? Darkness is “hates” (Greek verb mison: Present/Active/Participle of miseo) which means (in participle form) hating, detesting, abhorring. When you hate someone or act in unloving ways, you are walking in darkness.

10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.

 

What is “light” according to John? Light is loving. “Loves” (Greek verb agapon: Present/Active/Participle of agapao) means loving. John says when we love those around us “there is no cause for stumbling in him.” “Stumbling” (Greek noun skandalon) means cause for offense, stumbling block, snare. If you are ever confused about what to do in a situation, just pray and ask God to show you what is the appropriate loving action. Love has a way of removing the snares of the devil. Love has a way of enabling us to walk on solid ground. Love moves stumbling blocks. The stumbling block of sin was removed by God’s loving act of Christ on the cross. Loving acts in God’s love will never offend Him.

 

11 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.

 

On the other hand, when you hate you walk in darkness. When you hate it’s easy to lose your way. When you hate you are shutting the light of God off and will inevitably are headed to bump into obstacles in the dark. When you hate, you lose your direction. When you hate you lose your purpose in life and are off course. Hate is never the answer. Hate is contrary to Gods’ light.

 

True Fellowship with God is Poetic

True fellowship with God has a symmetry to it; it is like a well written poem. It all fits together just right. John now inserts some poetically formed words. There are two triplets in these verses and the emphasis of these words seems to be aimed at affirming believers and how they have grown in their true fellowship with God in Christ.

12   I write to you, little children,

Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.

“Little Children” (Greek Teknion) refers to infants, darlings, toddlers. Peter referred to new believers as “newborn babes” (Greek artigennetos). Your Christian life begins at a second birth or being “born again” (cf. John 3). A person is “born again” and becomes a child of God when “your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.” The sinner comes to God confessing their sins and seeks forgiveness for their sins on the basis of faith in Jesus and His atoning work. God is faithful and just to forgive sins based on the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7 and 9). This begins one’s spiritual life. And like a newborn babe one must learn to turn over, crawl, and then toddle in their walk with the Lord.

 

13   I write to you, fathers,

Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.

“Fathers” (Greek pater) refers to a Christian that has matured to the point where they offspring. A Christian will mature to the point where they share their faith and are used by God to birth others into His Kingdom. Such a spiritual “Father” have known Him who is from the beginning.” They know God in terms of His eternality (“beginning” – Greek arche) and have shared Him with others as such.

I write to you, young men,

Because you have overcome the wicked one.

“Young men” (Greek neaniskos) refers to men aged 25-40. These are those in the Body of Christ who have “overcome” (Greek verb nenikekate: Perfect/Active/Indicative of nikao) or subdued, conquered, prevailed against, gotten the victory over “the wicked one” (Greek adjective poneron from poneros) which is a reference to the devil as one who causes pain, grief, bad, wicked, evil, depraved. These were the young men in the congregation who had grown in their faith, been assaulted by the devil or encountered his opposition in some way and who had gained victory over him.

I write to you, little children,

Because you have known the Father.

John here uses a different word for “little children.” Here he uses a term for a half grown child or an adolescent (Greek paidion) which refers to an infant up to seven years of age child. John is writing to those who know the Father and have found new life in Christ, but who are immature still in their faith. He is writing to those in need of spiritual maturity.

14   I have written to you, fathers,

Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.

John again addresses the “fathers” of the congregation. This is a poetic way of reinforcing their presence and import in the Christian community.

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.

John again addresses the “young men” but this time elaborates a bit on why they have been able to “overcome the wicked one.” It is because “you are strong,” and the reason they are strong in the faith is because “the word of God abides in you.” God’s word makes us spiritual strong!

That John ends this two triplet poetic section with reference to overcoming the wicked one transitions to some other areas for him to reference as hindrances to our true fellowship with God.

Hindrances to True Fellowship with God

 

In the remainder of this chapter John is going to consider some sinful hindrances to true fellowship with God.

15 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. 16 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. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

Love for the thing sof this world and the love of the Father are diametrically opposed to one another. Jesus said you can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13). Loving the thing sof this world is like putting a hole in a radiator that circulates God’s love in our life. Loving the world is like putting a hole in the balloon filled with God’s love. Loving the world is like putting a hole in the cup of God’s love. Love for the world and the thing sof the world will drain out God’s love in you. John is very clear, “If anyone loved the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Can’t get any clearer than that. If you want to truly fellowship with God and truly love like Jesus loved, you’re going to have to put the love of the world and the thing sof the world behind you.

John is going to sum up what the world consists of. He says, “For all that is in the world.” The parts of the world which rob of God’s love are threefold.

First, “the lust of the flesh” will steal God’s love from you. Lust” (Greek noun epithumia) is desire, longing, craving. Flesh” (Greek noun sarkos from sarx) refers to the flesh, human, mortal nature, the sin-nature, the -base-nature, the unsaved-nature. Those things our sinful nature, the nature that rebels against God or minimizes the importance of God and His will, lusts and craves in this world, that will steal our love of the Father. Our lust after those things we think we need to keep up with others, those things we lust after which are wants and not needs, those thing will steal our love. We need to ask ourselves “am I being driven and motivated by the Father’s love in what I am doing, or am I being pushed and pulled by a carnal lust for something in this world?” When we crave the thing so this world and are willing to sacrifice acting in love to get them, that results in stealing our love of the Father form us.

 

Second, “the lust of the eyes” will steal God’s love from you. John speaks about the desires that come from what we see with our physical eyes. If we crave only the things we see in this life and don’t look deeper to the more significant eternal things, it will steal the Father’s love from us. We need to ask, “Am I pursuing things or people on the basis of how they look, or am I looking deeper in love into the heart. Men look on the outward appearance, God looks to the heart (e.g. 1 Samuel 16:7; 2 Corinthians 10:7).

 

Third, “the pride of life” will steal God’s love from you. Pride” (Greek noun alozoneia) refers to vaunting, boasting, arrogance, pride. All those “Christian” professional athletes who think they have to talk smack or belittle their opponents do so at the risk of loving the Father’s love (if the Father’s love is indeed in them). We need to search our heart to see if pride or the lust to be superior to those around us is not our motivation for what we do. Love, God’s love, lives to sacrifice for the benefit of others. There is more to be learned about eternal life from sacrifices in love than there is in any proud act. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5-6). Someone has said, “joy” is attained when we put Jesus first, others second, and ourselves last. If you want the full joy of true fellowship with God, follow that path.

John substantiates his instruction by concluding, “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” The world around us is “Passing away” (Greek paragetai) it is temporary. And the “lust of it” will pass away with it. “But” John says, “he who does the will of God abides forever.” What is the will of God? Simply prayerfully follow His word to discover His will. That will lead you to eternal things of value in this life.

Hindrances to True Fellowship with God that Will Particularly Crop up in the Last Hour

 

The “last hour” began when Jesus entered this world at His incarnation. In this section John is going to speak of opposition to Jesus that can hinder having true fellowship with Him. As we approach the last of the “last hour” we can be sure to see an ever increasing proliferation of deception, false teaching, and a “spirit of antichrist” that will culminate in a single demonically inspired “Antichrist” figure (e.g. Daniel 8, 9 and 12; Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21; 1 Timothy 4; 2 Timothy 3; 1 and 2 Thessalonians; 2 Peter 3; Revelation).

18 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.

Again John refers to his readers as “little children” (Greek paidia) which was a way of communicating that his readers were as yet still immature and needed to grow up spiritually. John refers to the “last hour.” Jesus said that no one knows the timing of His return and the end of the age except for the Father (Matthew 24:36). But Jesus final instruction on the last days was that His followers should always “watch and pray” concerning the end of time (e.g. Matthew 24:36-44; Mark 13:33; Luke 21:36). Therefore, for John to speak of the “last hour” should not surprise us. The other Apostles spoke of the last days as well (e.g. 1 and 2 Thessalonians; 2 Peter 3).

John speaks specifically of “the Antichrist” (Greek antichristos). The Greek preposition anti can mean instead of. It means against or opposite as well. The Antichrist will achieve his “opposite” to God agenda by coming on the scene as one who is filling in or coming instead of Jesus the Christ. He will come and seem very attractive. The Bible speaks of his ability to speak; he will be charismatic. It’s likely he will be saying that he can bring the world peace that has been so unattainable to that point. But the point to be made here, and why John brings up this issue, is that the Antichrist and “antichrists” will all use deception and cunning to present themselves or their teachings as alternatives to Jesus and His Gospel in an effort to delude and distract people from Jesus to themselves and their purposes. When you hear “Antichrist” or “antichrists” think deception and think alternatives to God and alternatives to His truth. John was battling the heretical Gnostics who were deceiving God’s people and it was therefore appropriate for him to speak of them as “antichrists.”

When we look at the passages of scripture which speak of this prophetic diabolical figure of the End Times we see that he is Satan’s version of an incarnation of himself. Satan is a liar and deceiver. He rebelled against God wanting to usurp the throne of God (cf. Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28). God easily thwarted his plans. God is “God” and Satan is not. Satan. Lucifer, the devil, no matter what name you use to refer to him, he is a created being, a fallen angel. But Satan seeks to imitate or counterfeit the incarnation of Jesus Christ by incarnating through possession a man in the End Times who the Bible refers to as the Antichrist. Antichrist is given his power by the devil. He deceives like the devil. And He destroys like the devil. His aim is to rule humanity and gain the worship of humanity that is only due God (cf. Revelation 13). He will be a pretty impressive figure able to do incredible signs that will win the hearts of many but in the end prove his doom and the doom of all who follow him (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2). Given the proliferation of prophetic signs and pieces falling into place in the world, it is very possible that Antichrist is alive today and just waiting for Jesus to remove His Church from the world so that he can forward his diabolical and deadly plans on earth (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5).

John says, “and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming.” All of this will take place in a seven-year period known as the Tribulation. The Tribulation is taken from a prophecy given to Daniel about the final prophetic word concerning Israel (Daniel 9:24-27). Jeremiah spoke of this period as the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble” (Jeremiah 30). Jesus elaborated on the events of this period in His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 and 25; Mark 13; Luke 21). Jesus said these will be unprecedented times of difficulty (Matthew 24:21). Jesus said His followers should always be watching for birth pangs or the beginning signs of this final seven-year period so that we would be ready to be removed from this world to be together with Him (cf. Matthew 24:4-8). John was inspired by Jesus to write an incredible revelation of these final days in the Book of Revelation which goes into great detail about this time.

John continues to write, “even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” Preceding the arrival of Antichrist in history will be the coming of “many antichrists.” There have been many antichrist figures in history. These are historical persons who elevated themselves to godhood in some way. The Caesars were known for this. But also in more contemporary times we have the examples of Hitler and lesser known persons who claim to be “Jesus” or “the Christ” or an Avatar of New Age beliefs. Later John will speak of a “spirit of antichrist” in the world (1 John 4:1-3). We see that on the rise in our day too. Could it be the “last hour?” I think it’s very possible if not probable.

19 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.

What makes these antichrists so insidious is that, according to John, “They went out from us, but they were not of us.” These are enemies of the cross who rise up from within the church and who go out claiming to be sent by the church but in reality are nothing more than spiritual predators who abuse people. One commentary explains:

The antichrists of whom John spoke came from the ranks of the believers. John used a play on words when he pointed out that they went out "from us" (Greek, ex hēmōn) but were not really "of us" (same Greek phrase). The first use refers to their physical location—they had been in the local churches but had left. The second use refers to the source from which they came—their separation showed that they had never really shared in the same spiritual fellowship as the others. John laid down the rule—those who desert show openly that none of them were truly one with the church.[4]

John also may have been alluding to Judas. It’s interesting that the phrase “son of perdition” that is used of Antichrist (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3) is used of only one other figure in the Bible, Judas, and it is used in John’s inspired gospel (John 17:12). Therefore, Judas can be seen as a type of antichrist figure. He went out from the original twelve but was never really of them. He presented himself as concerned for the poor but was really wanting to enrich himself with the monies donated for their assistance (cf. John 12:4-6). He cared little for the true worship offered by the women who washed Jesus’ feet with her tear soaked hair. Judas looked good, being amongst the core of Jesus disciples. But he was merely manipulating his way to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (cf. Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 26:15; 27:3, 9). Judas had a lust for money. He was willing to betray the Lord for money. He represents what Antichrist will be but far more devious and powerful. When you think of Antichrist or the spirit of antichrist, think of Judas or a Judas spirit.

Help to Overcome Hindrances to True Fellowship with God

 

John’s inspired Gospel contains the most in debt and detailed record of Jesus’ teaching on the work of the Holy Spirit (John 14-16). Therefore, it should not surprise us that John includes here a reference to the “anointing” of the Holy Spirit as the prime means to expose falsehood with Spirit provided truth.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 21 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.

 

John now speaks of their protection in God. He says they “have an anointing” (Greek noun chrisma) which means anointing oil, anointing, unction. In the Bible such anointing oil is a symbol of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 61:1; Zechariah 4). John is saying that the Holy Spirit’s anointing is on you. The Holy Spirit enables the believer to discern falsehood as well as stay true and continue in the Body of Christ and its teachings (e.g. 1 Corinthians 2:9-16).

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth (John 16:13). Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as One just like Him (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit will teach us all that we need to know especially those things that are against God’s truth. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13). John said he didn’t write because they didn’t know the truth, but because they knew it. He was simply affirming what they must have been sensing in the Spirit about the heretics that went out from them.

22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

 

Those who deny Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament are liars. Those who try to separate Jesus from the Father in terms of deity deny the Father as well. John portrays Jesu and the Father as distinct but of equal nature here.

Cults and false teachings inevitably attack the deity of Jesus. They try to carve up the Triune nature of God. And that is not possible.

24 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. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.

John instructs his readers to simply rely on what they had been taught in God’s word. Cultists and false teachers tend to come with the promise of a “new word” from the Lord. John says there’s nothing new under the sun. We should stick with what we were taught from the beginning. We shouldn’t drift away with popular trends of the day or popular “new” teachings. It’s best to simply stay with the tried and true Bible truths. And we have God’s steadfast promise of eternal life. What could be better than that?

26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 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.

 

John isn’t denying that teaching in the church is important. What he is saying is that his readers don’t need the teaching of these heretics (e.g. Gnostics) or anyone else that comes denying Jesus and the Gospel. They have the anointing of the Holy Spirit to guide and protect them. They have God’s word in their heart. The Holy Spirit will keep them headed in the right direction right in line with the truth of God’s word.

28 And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.

John says its simple, if you want to stay away from false teaching just abide in Jesus. And it is the Holy Spirit that abides in the believer and enables them to know God’s truth and abide in true fellowship with the Father and Jesus Christ His Son (e.g. John 14:15-18; 15:26; 16:13-14). And then, when He returns, we will have “confidence” (Greek noun parrhesian from parrhesia) which means boldness, outspokenness, frankness, unreservedness in public speaking, openness, courage, assurance, fearlessness. If we want to be fully confident and boldly and courageously courageous when Jesus returns, then we should abide in our true fellowship with God in Christ. If we do that we won’t be “ashamed” (Greek verb aischunthomen: Aorist/Passive/Subjunctive of aischuno) which means to feel shame, be put to shame, be disgraced.

Jon concludes this chapter by saying, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” For John this is just another way of exhorting his readers to walk as Jesu walk. Jesus is “righteous” (Greek adjective dikaios). He is righteous, just, impartial, right in all His ways. Therefore, you should know that everyone who “practices” (Greek verb poion: Present/Active/Participle of poieo) or is making, is doing, is creating, is producing, is working, is accomplishing, is performing and acting or practices “righteousness” (Greek noun dikaisunen righteousness, equity, justice) “is born of Him” (Greek verb gegennetai: Perfect/Middle/Indicative of gennao) or has been born spiritually of Jesus.

The bottom line is that it is possible not to sin. It is also possible to sin. If we do sin, we have Jesus as our Advocate to step up and step in on our behalf to apply the blood of His sacrificial atoning cross to our sin so that God can justly forgive us. If we are genuinely born again of Jesus and truly in a true fellowship with Him then the Holy Spirit is in us to help us obey His commandments, live in love, and walk as Jesus walked and identify and expose with God’s truth the spirit of antichrist and its accompanying deceptions. This is the righteous life of the one who is in true fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. That is the life that will lead to fullness of joy.  

 


[1] Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The - The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Pi-Rho.

[2] Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The - The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Delta-Epsilon.

[3] Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude.

[4] Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude.