The three dominant themes in this book are fellowship, truth and love. As John weaves these themes throughout this book he uses them, not only to show us who God is, but to tell us what God expects from us as His children. God expects us to hold to truth, to live in truth and to know the truth. He expects that we will love Him, and that we will love one another, because, as John says, God is love. And God intends for His children to have fellowship, not only with Him but with one another. These are non-negotiable to the followers of Jesus.
So here in chapter two, John continues his teaching on the theme of fellowship. He wants to assure us that the fellowship we have with God is something we can never lose. In fact it is in this great book that we have some of the greatest assurances in all of scripture that we cannot lose our salvation.
It is a miserable thing to think that one could lose their salvation. Those who have been deceived into thinking they can somehow lose their salvation live in constant fear that at any moment they could be cast from the presence of God. To believe this forces one to see God as a capricious being who cannot be satisfied.
Here, in the first six verses of chapter two, John not only assures us that the demand of God's righteousness has been satisfied by the finished work of Jesus, but he also assures us that even when we sin, and we all do, God still loves us and has made provision to restore the fellowship that is hindered by sin.
There are three things I want you to see in these verses. The fist is in verses one and two, the second in verses three and four and the third in verses five and six.
Look at verses 1&2
I. The method of our forgiveness - vv. 1-2
In these two verses John explains three things.
A. The purpose of the letter
He clearly says in verse on that his purpose for writing is so that we will not sin. It is important to understand that he is not saying that we will live in sinless perfection.
There are two things which clearly tell us that John is not talking about sinless perfection.
The first is grammatical. The verb translated, "sin" is in the aorist tense. This tense speaks to a specific point and place in time. It is not ongoing action. The imperfect tense speaks of incomplete or ongoing action, but the aorist tense speaks of a one time event or action.
Let me give you an example. In Hebrews 9:27 the scripture says, "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." The verb translated, "to die" is in the aorist tense. Rather than speaking about an ongoing action, it speaks about a one time event.
Within the context of this passage, John is writing to help us avoid those individual acts of sin which seem to beset us as Christians. He wants us to avoid even the smallest of things which would negatively impact the fellowship we have with God and with one another.
So the grammatical clues clearly show us that he is not espousing a doctrine of sinless perfection, but then there is an instructional insight.
Look at the second part of verse one, "And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
B. The personal advocacy of Christ
John realizes that as Christians there are going to be times when we stumble and fall, when we step back into sin. And when we do, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
This is the personal advocacy of Christ. There are doctrines which teach that we have to go through a priest to have our sins forgiven, or that we have to go through the church. But this is not what scripture teaches.
First Timothy 2:5 says, "For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, a man Jesus Christ, who gave Himself a ransom for all…"
When we sin, and folks we do sin, God has provided a way for us to reconcile that fellowship, it is through Jesus Christ, who is the propitiation for our sins.
Look at verse 2.
C. The propitiation of all our sins
There are two things to consider here, the first speaks to the sources of God's forgiveness, or that Christ is the propitiation for our sins. The second speaks to the scope of God's forgiveness.
This word, "Propitiation" means appeasement or satisfaction. It means the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross satisfied the demands of God's justice. We are probably more familiar with the term "atonement." Basically it means the same thing. Sin cannot go unpunished; on the cross Jesus paid the price for our sins, and if we, by faith, place our trust in what Jesus did on the cross, He will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Remember, John is writing to assure us that we have an advocate with the Father, who is Jesus. Because Jesus was perfect and without sin, He was an acceptable sacrifice for our sins and His sacrifice was sufficient to pay the price, not only for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world.
This is a most interesting passage because it says that Christ died for the sins of the whole world. In order to understand it we must interpret it in light of the rest of scripture, remember each scripture must be interpreted in light of all scripture.
There are those who would like to claim that this verse supports a view which says since Christ died for the sins of the whole world that everyone will eventually be saved. This is called universalism and is not consistent with the rest of scripture.
John 3:17-18 says: "For God did not send the Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned; but anyone who does not believe has been condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the One and only Son of God."
Universalism fails to meet the test of scripture. Not everyone will be saved, throughout scripture we have this testimony that salvation comes only to those who repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.
There are others who claim that John did not really mean to say that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, but meant to say that He died for a select few, or that Jesus died, only for those who were predestined to be saved. These are those who believe in what is called, "Limited Atonement." But this passage tells us that the blood of Christ was sufficient to pay the price for the sins of the whole world.
In the Greek, the word translated "whole," serves as an adjective. It speaks to the scope of our Lord's redemptive work. How anyone can place limitations on the power of the blood of Jesus is beyond me. When Jesus died on the cross, His shed blood was powerful enough, sufficient to pay the price for all the sins of all humans. That does not mean everyone will be saved, it simply means that the blood of Jesus made it possible for anyone to be saved. Since Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Again, and here me say this, not everyone will be saved, but the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross was sufficient to pay for the sins of all men everywhere. The tragic reality is that not all people will accept Christ. Scripture is very clear to tell us that there are those who will reject Jesus. In fact, in his gospel, John tells us that Jesus came to his own and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name.
The gift of salvation is free to whoever will accept. It is true that God draws us to Himself, through His Spirit, by His grace, and that we cannot be saved unless He draws us to Himself. That is why our missionary mandate is so central to what we do. We believe that through the preaching of the gospel, God extends the invitation to all to accept His gift of eternal life.
Not everyone who hears will accept, thus Genesis 6:3 tells us that the Spirit of God will not always strive with men. Romans tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. As we preach the gospel, the Spirit of God draws people to Himself, unfortunately many reject Him. But make no mistake about it, the benefits of the finished work of Christ are available to the entire world.
So now that we know we have an advocate with the Father, one who has paid the price for our sins, how is it that we know we know Him? What is the tell-tale proof in our lives that we know Jesus?
Look at verses 3&4, where we see the measure of our faithfulness.
II. The measure of our faithfulness - vv. 3-4
This is a tremendously important verse. First of all because of the verbs translated know.
Verse three can be translated like this, "By this are we knowing that we have come to know Him."
Classical Greek used two words which are translated into the English word "know." One word, "oida" speaks of knowledge which was gained by abstract learning. The other word, "ginosko" speaks of knowledge attained through personal experience.
In both instances here in verse 3, the word used is "ginosko," knowledge gained through personal experience. But there is a difference in how the words are used.
In the first instance the verb is in the present tense, which speaks to ongoing action. Thus, we are continuing to know, or we are knowing. What are we knowing? That we know Him. This second usage of the word is in the perfect tense which speaks of completed action.
This is of extreme importance. Don't miss what is being said here, "By this are we knowing that we have (completed action) come to know Him." This speaks to the certainty and finality of our salvation experience. We have come to know Him, it is a completed action. It's not going to be undone or redone, it is already done.
So, says John, there is something that shows us or demonstrates for us the reality that we have come to know Him. What is it?
One thing and one thing alone measures our faithfulness: Obedience.
The word translated, "keep," simply means to observe, or in this case, to obey.
How hard is this: If we say we have come to know Him but do not keep His commandments, we are liars and the truth is not in us.
Again, not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he that does the will of the Father.
There were those then, as there are those today, who claimed to be Christians. Loudly and boldly they professed to be Christians; but there was an inconsistency, a discrepancy or a contradiction between what they said and the way they lived.
Listen folks, Jesus said it clearly, by their fruits you shall know them. Simply claiming to be a Christian won't cut it. The measure of our faithfulness is obedience. If we are truly part of the faithful, if we are truly part of the family, if we are truly in fellowship with God, it will be evident in the lives we live. We will walk in obedience to Christ.
What I love about 1st John is that you don't have to be a biblical scholar to get what it is saying. It's so very simple. If you love Jesus you will keep His commandments. If you say you love Him but don't keep His commandments, you are a liar and the truth is not in you.
But, in contrast to the hypocrite who professes one thing and practices another, John goes on to tell us what our lives will look like if we keep the commandments of our Lord.
Look at verses 5&6 where he speaks about the maturity of our fellowship. This is what our lives will look like as we grow mature in Christ.
III. The maturity of our fellowship - vv. 5-6
There are always those who claim to have spiritual maturity, but do not. There will always be those who pretend to be grown up in Christ, but are not. So John says, here are two clear evidences of a mature Christian life.
Two evidences of maturity in our walk with God :
A. Completion of His love
Mature love manifests itself in obedience.
The context of this passage suggests that John is talking about the love we have for God. No doubt John recalled what he recorded Jesus saying in his gospel.
In John 14:15 Jesus says, "If you love Me, you will keep my commandments."
And in John 14:23 Jesus says, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; My father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him."
Love for Jesus means compliance with His will; it means obedience to His commands. John is saying that the person who really knows Him, the person who is really saved loves Jesus and that love has manifested itself, it has become complete in such a way that it translates into every area of that person's life.
What does it mean to love Jesus? I mean, do we love Him simply because He died to save us from our sins? Do we love Him simply because He is God? Or do we love Him because He first loved us and gave Himself for us? Do we love Him for who He is or because of what He has done?
The Greek employs the word "agape" here, which speaks of a selfless, others oriented kind of love. What this text is saying is that the person who loves Jesus like they should is no longer living for themselves, they have abandoned themselves, and they are living for Him and for Him alone.
They are not pursuing the meaningless temporal things which occupy the time of the lost around us. Instead they are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. How can we say we love Jesus and live for ourselves? How can we say that we love Him if we are not allowing Him to live His life through us? How can we claim to love Him with our lips if we demonstrate that we do not love Him with our lives?
Thus John says that if we really know Him, His love has been perfected in us. That is to say, it is lacking nothing, it has come full circle, accomplishing all it intended to accomplish and has changed us to the point that our lives are different than they were before.
And that's what He speaks about in verse 6…
B. Conduct of our life
This is how we know Him. The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked. 1 John 2:6
That is to say, we will live the way He lived, we will bear the mark of Christ in our lives to the degree that others will see our Savior in us. To "Abide in Him" is another way of saying that we have exchanged our life for His, that we have died to self and that He is living His life through us. If that is the case, then our lives will look like His life.
Do you want to be like Jesus today? (Many people claim to want this, but few really do.) Do you want to love the way He loved? To talk like He talked, to walk like He walked, to live like He lived and to give like He gave? Do you really want to be like Jesus?
You see, to be like Jesus means that you'll have to take up your cross and follow Him to lonely Calvary. It means you'll have to deny yourself and do the will of the Father, regardless of the personal price. It means you'll have to say, not my will but thy will Lord. Being like Jesus means you'll have to love your enemies, to forgive those who trespass against you, to return kindness for evil and to pray for those who spitefully use you. It means that you will live with one purpose and one purpose alone: To accomplish God's plan and not your own.
Many people want the glory of heaven but not the burden of obedience here on earth. They want the benefit of what Jesus did without the burden of living like He lived.
John makes it very clear. This is the way that you know that you know Him, if you love Him enough that your life has been changed so that you walk like He walked.
We have an avenue to stay in right fellowship with God.
We must assess the degree to which we are obedient.
This is marked by the love we have for God and others and by our allowing Him to live His life through us.