Thursday 1st December 2022

1 JOHN 2
“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins…” (2:1-2).  John makes it clear that Christians should quickly identify and acknowledge to God any sin that they commit.  Nevertheless, the power of the Spirit in them should actually prevent them from sinning much – if at all – and in the normal course of events, their lives should be largely sin-free.  In John’s view, it should not be necessary for a mature believer to have to keep running to Christ for forgiveness day after day; our aim should be to go for days, weeks, even years, without sinning!

Let us not confuse sinfulness with weakness; they are very different matters that God deals with differently.  Sin is dealt with by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and applied to our individual lives by our faith in him and his intercession for us (Romans 8:33-34).  Weakness is dealt with by our co-operation with the Holy Spirit within us, who also intercedes for us at the throne of God (Romans 8:26).  Only sin is punishable by God (and that punishment is already paid for), whilst weakness is used by God as an opportunity to reinforce us with his strength.  We read in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

9 But [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

We are very unwise to get these two concepts confused!

Back in 1 John, a series of tests then follows to reassure the believer that he/she is truly saved – assuming that he/she passes those tests!  Obedience to Christ’s commands (1 John 2:4-6) and loving your fellow Christians in an active way (i.e., actions, rather than feelings) are the main indications of success.  Christian love is doing what is right for a person, regardless of how you feel about them – just as God has done for us.

John then reinforces his key encouragements to his disciples, in verses 12-14, in the form of a poem or song: “Children” are probably believers young in the faith who need to know that they are forgiven and that they know God as Father.  “Fathers” are mature believers; they have a key responsibility to ‘know God’ – to forge a relationship with him, so that they can disciple those younger in the faith.  It is not enough to know a great deal about God; what attracts others is an intimate knowledge of Him.  “Young men” are those of moderate maturity who are the most vulnerable to temptation from the world; twice John reminds them that they have “Overcome the Evil One” and that “The Word of God lives in you”.  If we recall the temptations of Christ in the wilderness, and how he dealt with them, we immediately see the connection between those two statements.

Warning: “Do not love the world or anything in the world… or the love for the Father is not in them”.  “For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world” (2:15-16).  This use of ‘world’ does not mean the world of people (John 3:16) or the physical creation in general (John 17:24), but the realm of sin, which is controlled by Satan in defiance of God’s will.  Don’t love that!

Interestingly, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are the three temptations found both in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6) and again in the wilderness where Jesus was tempted (Luke 4:3, 5, 10).

“Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come…” (1 John 2:18).  John viewed the whole period between Christ’s first coming and his second coming as the ‘Last Days’ or the ‘Last Hour’.  It carries no indication of when that period will actually end, but there will not be any further theological era of human history before the New Heaven and the New Earth are ushered in.  ‘Antichrist’ means ‘substitute for Christ’ (a counterfeit).  The ‘Antichrist’ referred to here is partly a look forward to the ‘Man of Lawlessness’ of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 who will appear immediately before Christ returns, but it is also made clear that many proto-antichrists will emerge at different times during the gospel age; they will deny the incarnation, deny the Father, and deceive many believers.  John had those Gnostic infiltrators in mind, I’m sure!

“If they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us”.  Beware of itinerant believers who appear so full of the latest knowledge and claim exclusive teaching, but who are unwilling to commit to any particular local church!  These people usually talk a great deal and like being listened to.  They might be the ‘wolves’ that Jesus spoke about – the false prophets – and need to be tested rigorously.  They can destroy a church.  Those Gnostic guys were a typical case in point. But people like them are possibly hovering on the edge of your church today too.

“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth” (v20).  “As you for, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you” (v27).  John is not saying that Christians don’t need teaching, but he does say that the indwelling Holy Spirit is their primary teacher and life coach, confirming the truth that they hear.  Any teaching that occurs within the church must always conform to the God-inspired scriptures and to that gentle voice of the indwelling Spirit of God.

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