Last week, we talked about our relationship we have in Jesus Christ in terms of light and darkness. Our fellowship with the Father requires us to be pure light without any dark spot. And we all too well know that this makes any fellowship with the Father impossible, if this was dependent on who we are. We also talked about the similarity of verse 5 and 6 to the first three chapters of Romans. This would make us all filled with despair except for the fact that God had a solution. Jesus
Christ is worthy as God and perfect man to stand in the presence of the Father. This means that if we are going to be able to come to the Father, we must be in Jesus Christ.
This is just as true after we come to Jesus as it was before. We cannot say that we do not have sine right now. We also are not currently fully free from its effect. We still struggle in Romans chapter 7, wanting to do the right, yet we constantly fail into temptation. The only protection we have as sheep is in the arms of the Great Shepherd. John wants us to know that if we do confess our sin when we do sin, even though we should not, that Jesus is just and faithful to forgive us.
We need to remember who we are without Christ. There is no room for personal boasting or pride. We are only perfect in Christ Jesus. And we are not in Jesus alone. It is the entire church which stands in fellowship with Him as His bride. This means that we have to co-operate with the other members of the body, upholding and lifting each other up. So not only can we only stand before the perfect Father if we are in Christ, we must also stand united with each other in the body, each of us doing our part and in the place we are put.
Exposition of the Text
1 John 2:1: My little children, I am writing you these things for the purpose that you might not sin. But should we sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One.
John just doesn't call the readers here children but "little children." (Τεκνία, tek-knee-ah). This would correspond to a child of 3-4 years of age. This term is one of innocence and humility. It also means we have a lot of growing up to do. Yet, none of us wants to be called this. Yet we know that Jesus said that unless we humble ourselves and come to Him as little children, we cannot come at all. John learned this lesson the hard way. He and his brother James had always wanted to be the most important disciples. This had caused bitterness and strife among the disciples. This is exactly the opposite that Christ wants in His church.
Perhaps those who had left had called themselves the perfect ones and bragged about their spiritual maturity. But as we are going to learn in this epistle that pride separates but love and humility unite.
John writes these words so that the believer might not sin. Sin is never part of God's plan for His people. He has not the one who puts temptation and sin into our lives. These are not used by God as a means of keeping us down or humble. God is not the author or promoter of sin. Sin is contrary to what is normal to the Christian.
Should a person sin, it says WE have an advocate with the Father. Note that the one who sins is singular. But when it says WE have an advocate with the Father does it means that the church intercedes to God with the one who sinned. There is also a sense that sin isn't only a problem with God, it is a problem with the church too, for the church is the body of Christ. If we think of our own body, isn't our entire body affected if we hit our thumb with a hammer. The thumb might hurt more; however, the rest of the body ceases to function correctly until the thumb is treated. You just can't keep working on the building, even though the rest of the body is uninjured. And this is true of building up Christ's Church too.
The way to healing and forgiveness then is that the rest of the Church attend to the would of the one, so that every one can get back to work. Yet how often has it been said that the church is the only army who leaves their wounded on the battlefield?
We should also consider that the sin we commits hurts not only Christ but His body, the church as well. Sin is often an act of selfishness on one's part to gratify one's desire. Children are known to be very selfish and must be taught to share and think of others. Unfortunately, we all need to go back to Kindergarten on occasion.
Jesus is called our "advocate" with the Father. The word here is παράκλητον, parr-ah-klee-ton, which is the word we get Paraclete from. It is interesting that Jesus calls the holy Spirit by the same name. In legal terms, a paraclete is similar to an attorney or someone who assists us in a legal case (think paralegal). If we do sin, we can call on Jesus to stand beside us. And in a sense, the church is called to stand alongside the believer who sinned and intercede also.
I John 2:2: And He himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not ours only, BUT those of the entire world.
The word for "propitiation" is ἱλασμός, hih-lass-moss. It has a meaning of an atoning sacrifice which removes the guilt of our sin. The pronoun αὐτὸς, ahv-toss, is not grammatically necessary but is included for emphasis. the pronoun He is already understood in the verb ἐστιν , ess-tin. By including it, John wants to tell us that Jesus is the only atonement for our sins. There is no other way to the Father but through the Son and the blood He shed as a sacrifice for our sin. There is neither another god or psychology which can make things right --"nothing but the blood of Jesus".
John is also emphatic about this Atonement being for all the sins of the world and not just the believers. We see this in the use of the very strong Greek word for "but" here, ἀλλὰ, all-ah. Some people of the Calvinist persuasion claim that Christ only died for the elect. If so, why did John include this in the strongest possible terms that Jesus was not only the propitiation for the sins of the elect (the church) only, BUT for the sins of the whole world. Jesus died for all, despite what one's views on election might be. And if for all, it needs to be preached to all! This certainly does not mean everyone is saved. But the means of forgiveness is made available to all. However, it is equally true that unless God intervenes that it is impossible for someone to come to faith and be saved.
1 John 1:3 By this we now know that we have known Him, if we keep His commandments.
The word "Gnostic" comes from the Greek word "to know". And those who had left had probably prided themselves on how much knowledge they knew. And for them, salvation had a selfish side. They were not a church of people running the same race together. They were each running the race for their own profit. Whether anyone else was saved was unimportant. In fact, they could be seen as a hindrance.
But here John tells us what the true knowledge is all about. Those who have the true assurance that they know God and have known him all along is that they keep His commandments. We can get much worked up here exactly what keeping His commandments mean. Jesus when He walked with us told us that all of the commandments were summed up in the commands to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and our neighbors as our own self. And judging how John emphasizes the theme of love so strongly in this epistle, I would think that "love" is what keeping the commandments means here. So in a sense we can translate this verse: "By this we know we have been in a right relation with Him if we love God fully, and our brethren, the church."
If we look at it this way, the problem was clear. Those who had left had not cared for the welfare of those they left behind. They had left the fellowship, which if we remember has the meaning of "common." So if they despised the weaker and less "knowledgeable" brethren, they were breaking God's commandment. Therefore, these people who though they knew God did not know God at all.
Here we perceive the difference in the word "knowledge" between the Greek world which saw knowledge and the getting of it an individual quest and the Hebrew understanding of the word which was relational, not simply to know things about a person, but to know that person in a personal and intimate way. And the term John uses for this is "love". To the Greeks it was the love of knowledge, but to the Hebrews, it is to know God's love.
1 John 2:4: The one who says "I have loved Him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
I suppose the force of the Greek perfect ἔγνωκα, egg-know-ka, could best be rendered "The one who claims to be in love with Him". The idea of the Greek perfect is that of an event in the past which has an ongoing effect in the present time or the idea "I fell in love at some time in the past and am still in love now." But as we have seen already, the one who truly loves God keeps his commandments. And these commands are the commands lo love God and neighbor. Therefore if one makes the claim to be in love and does not show it in action is a liar and a hypocrite.
"Truth" and "lie" are opposites which also occur frequently in John. To the Greek, truth had the idea of a fact or idea which could be proven true. A lie was telling a non-truth. To the Hebrew mind, truth had the idea of being "true" to someone with the idea here of "true love". A lie was someone who was claiming to be in love with you but was really seeing someone else.
Note also the switches from the plural "we" to the singular "I". it says he who says "I love Him". This indicates a selfish relationship and one which often leads to spiritual pride. It shows a lack of concern if others love Him or not.
I John 2:5: But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God has been made perfect in Him. By this we know that we are in Him.
It is important to keep His word. Here the word for "word" is "logos" in the Greek. It probably has the idea in this context of keeping His spoken commandments to love. however, Jesus is also referred to as "The Word" of "logos". It would also be a good idea to keep close to Him as well.
The Greek perfect τετελείωται, teh-tell--ee-oh-teh, comes from the root idea of "perfection". It is very similar to the verb and in the same perfect passive as the last word of Jesus on the cross in John 19:30. The only difference between the verbs is that the one here has the idea of "caused to be made perfect" to it. It's being passive shows that we do not come to this perfection by our own means and merits. It is a gift of God. Those who left probably saw perfection as an active verb or perhaps the Greek middle voice which has the idea that they did it themselves or made themselves perfect.
The words "love of God" can mean either "our love for God" or "God's love for us". Here because of the passive verb it is best understood "our love for God". As we will learn later this happens not because we can love God first, but rather "we love Him, because He first loved us."
To truly know God is to truly love God. And it is this love for God that assures us that we are His. The unregenerate person cannot know God. In fact the unsaved person really hates God. This love for God has to be implanted in us. so we can test our relationship with God and whether we are in Him if we can truly say we love Him. If there is fear or hate, then we must question our relationship with God. We certainly cannot say we unconditionally love Him then. And certainly the Love of God has not yet been perfected.
1 John 2:6: And the one who says he remains in Him ought to walk even as He walked.
Again notice the switch from plural to singular. This may be a cue telling us some of the claims made by those who had left. The question then is "who is 'in Him". You will notice the prepositional phrase appears throughout the passage. I think what John is telling us is that who are truly "in Him" are part of God's true church. If one was truly perfect in himselfherself, then that person would be a carbon copy of Jesus because Jesus was perfect. And if that person was truly a carbon copy of Jesus, heshe would love God's people and even the world, and voluntarily lay down his/her life as a sacrifice for the sins of the entire world. This means they would be in fellowship with the church. Were they doing this? Of course not! Jesus is the only Perfect One.
We see here how strongly our relationship is dependent on each other. We are a body. all benefit from the good that is done, and all suffer when one individual sins. We have seen that selfishness is the root of sin. this was the big problem at Corinth, that the body of Christ was not correctly discerned. Paul's answer was the same as John's. For Paul, it was the famous love chapter in I Corinthians 13. For John, it was this epistle. We must learn to put aside our selfishness and properly care for the body of Christ. The worst thing we could possibly do is abandon God's children, because it would really be us who were going to be ultimately abandoned.
There is also the idea of evangelism in this passage. The beginning of the Epistle talks about the passing on of the faith in both testimony and proclamation. Here we are reminded that Jesus died for the sins of the entire world, not just ours. We need to love beyond our own self. And we need to even extend this love beyond out own little fellowship of believers.