1 John

 
THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN, CALLED
FIRST JOHN
 
 …
 
O U T L I N E
– Life and Communion 1 John 1:1 – 2:2
– Eternal Life Manifested in Christ 1 John 1:1-2
– Fellowship With Divine Persons 1 John 1:3-4
– The Holiness of God, His Children, and their Fellowship 1 John 1:5 – 2:2
– The Characteristics of Eternal Life 1 John 2:3-11
– Obedience to God 1 John 2:3-6
– Love to Our Brethren 1 John 2:7-11
– Growth in Divine Life 1 John 2:12-27
– The Blessing that is True of the Whole Family of God 1 John 2:12 – 1:12
– The Outstanding Characteristics of Fathers, Young Men, and Babes 1 John 2:13
– Added Words for Each Stage 1 John 2:14-27
– Eternal Life Manifest in Believers 1 John 2:28 – 3:23
– The Appearing of Christ Should Govern our Practical Life 1 John 2:28 – 3:3
– Characteristics of the New Life (Contrasted with the Devil’s Children) 1 John 3:4-16
– The Practice of Love and Its Effects 1 John 3:17-23
– Abiding in God and God in Us 1 John 3:24 – 5:5
– (Warning Against False Spirits: Three Tests to Distinguish Truth from Error) 1 John 4:1-6
– The Love of God Toward Us, Settling Every Question of Our Past 1 John 4:7-10
– The Love of God in Us, Governing Our Present Life of Testimony 1 John 4:11-16
– The Love of God With Us, in View of the Future 1 John 4:17-19
– Reality of Love to God Tested; Its Proof and Counterproof 1 John 4:20-21
– Characteristics of God’s Children (Love, Obedience, Faith, Victory) 1 John 5:1-5
– The Witnesses to the Son 1 John 5:6-12
– The Threefold Witness Concerning God’s Son 1 John 5:6-10
– Purpose of the Epistle 1 John 5:11-13
– Practical Section: Confidence in God 1 John 5:14-21
 
Historical Context. John was the last of the New Testament writers, writing around the year A.D. 90. Paul warned of the apostasy of the Christian profession in the latter times, when “depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1). The apostle John began to write when this state of things had come to pass. Now looking back through the lens of Church History we can see that the evil doctrine creeping into the early church was that of Gnosticism. To meet the error that was being brought in by the “deceivers”, “liars”, and “antichrists” John writes this first epistle. 
 
Purpose of the Epistle. The theme of all of John’s writings is eternal life, whether in the gospel as the presentation of the Person who is Eternal Life, or in the epistle the fruits and proofs of eternal life as manifested in believers. We could broadly summarize the epistle by saying that John describes (1) the manifestation of eternal life (the “fruits”) in those who believe on the Son of God, as well as (2) various tests (the “proofs”) that show whether a person is really in possession of eternal life. There are several stated reasons why the epistle was written:
  • Fellowship. That we might be brought into fellowship with the apostles, and therefore with the Father and Son; “we report to you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
  • Joy. That we, as a result of this fellowship, would have fullness of joy; “these things write we to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4).
  • Holiness. That we might not carry on in a path of sin; “these things I write to you in order that ye may not sin” (1 John 2:1).
  • Assurance. That we may know that we have eternal life as a present possession; “these things have I written to you that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
Another reason the epistle was written was to warn the saints of the error of Gnosticism; “These things have I written to you concerning those who lead you astray” (1 John 2:26). John gives a number of tests whereby the claims of professing Christians could be proven to show who really had eternal life, and who was making an empty profession. These tests are often prefaced with “if we say…” or some similar expression.
  • The claim to fellowship with God tested; “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6).
  • The claim to sinlessness tested; “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8).
  • The claim to perfect righteousness tested; “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10).
  • The claim to know God tested; “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:4).
  • The claim to abiding in Christ tested; “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (1 John 2:6).
  • The claim to being in the light tested; “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” (1 John 2:9).
  • The claim to love God tested; “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20).
The Abstract, or Characteristic. John writes in the abstract, i.e. he gives us what is core and characteristic. Not understanding this could lead to a wrong conclusion from some of the things John says, if taken in isolation, or reasoned backward. The truth about eternal life, as we have in 1 John, when presented abstractly causes us to see the real essence of that life. Abstract statements give us the principle characteristic of a thing, rather than a specific case. A few examples of abstract statements would be: ink stains, cork floats, poison kills, fire burns. There may be examples where an external force or circumstance causes these things to behave abnormally, but those behaviors are not characteristic of the substance. John takes of three features of eternal life – light, life, and love – and described them in abstract or characteristic terms. He doesn’t consider the outburst of the flesh in a believer, but what characterizes eternal life in a believer.1 There are certain characteristic features that will always be seen in eternal life, and this is what we mean by “abstract”. As a result of this approach to laying out the truth, John often states things in the absolute; i.e. things are black and white, good or evil, and no middle ground is entertained.2 This causes some to misunderstand the meaning of John’s writings, because they do not understand his style.
 
Gnosticism.

The word Gnostic comes from the Greek word ‘gnosis’, which means knowledge. The word is used by historians to describe a school of thought. Gnosticism arose from a group of evil workers who claimed to have higher light, special spiritual knowledge, or “secret wisdom”. This movement began in the days of the apostles, and continued into the 5th century. Before John died the seeds of Gnosticism had been sown; perhaps even before Paul's death (1 Tim. 6:20). John’s epistles are written to defend against the inroads of Gnosticism (2 John 1:7,9). Peter warns of their false teaching, and Jude warns of its moral effect on the Christian testimony. Gnosticism is responsible for not just one heresy, but seven or eight. What is it? In this mystical system, the spiritual world was good, and material world was evil. They rejected the incarnation, because it connects the human with the divine. The Gnostics would try to separate “Jesus” from “Christ”, by making Christ an emanation (a shining out from a source) from God that never truly became flesh, or else was united to a mere man named Jesus at his baptism, but returned to God before Jesus’ death on the cross. In doing so, this evil system annulled the incarnation, the atonement, and the resurrection. The doctrine of the New Testament anticipates this irreverent and wicked system of doctrine by stating the simple truth of Christ's Person and work. Church fathers who defended against Gnosticism were Ignatius of Antioch ('Seven Epistles'), and Irenaeus of Lyons ('Against Heresies').

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Eternal Life: It’s Manifestation and Fellowship (1:1-4)

CHAPTER 1
1 That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes; that which we contemplated, and our hands handled, concerning the word of life; v.1 The Word of Life. The first word “that” refers to eternal life as manifested in the Person of the Lord Jesus. The word “that” is repeated over several times, each time referring to Eternal Life, and at the same time to the Person of Christ, showing they are one. The apostles were there at “the beginning” of the Lord’s public ministry. They personally experienced fellowship with Him, and through Him, fellowship with the Father. They heard His voice, they saw Him with their eyes, they observed and contemplated Him (to contemplate involves continued observation with reflection; e.g. John 1:36 “And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!”) and they physically handled Him with their hands. It makes it clear that there was a physical body in the case of our Lord, which is a rebuttal of Gnosticism; “handle me and see…” (Luke 24). It was a real Person, both God and man, that the apostles experienced first-hand. The Gnostics were not starting from the correct “beginning”. They were starting from their own human imagination, rather that the reality that the apostles witnessed. The “Word of life” is the Person of the Son of God. The Son is the revealer of the Father, so He is called the Word (John 1:1). The Son is the revealer of God in the aspect of judgment, so He is called the Word of God (Rev. 19:13). Here we find that the Son is also the revealer of Eternal Life, because He is the Eternal Life, so He is called the Word of Life (see notes on the Word and Words of God). If you want to see eternal life manifested or declared perfectly, it must be seen in the Lord Jesus Christ. Believers also manifest eternal life as this epistle explains, although they do so imperfectly. It would be blasphemy for any believer to claim to be “the word of life”.
 
Beginnings.

There are several beginnings in scripture. The beginning in John 1:1 is the beginning of anything that had a beginning; what existed at the furthest point in the past, i.e. from eternity. The beginning in Gen. 1:1 is the beginning of the material creation. The beginning in 1 John 1:1 is the beginning of of the manifestation of eternal life in this world, and it corresponds with John 1:14; "the Word became flesh" (however, in the experience of the apostles it was the beginning of the Lord's public ministry). There is also a fourth beginning, mentioned in Rev. 3:14 and Col. 1:18, referring to the beginning of the New Creation.

 
2 (and the life has been manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and report to you the eternal life, which was with the Father, and has been manifested to us:) v.2 Eternal Life Manifested, Observed, and Reported. 
 
Eternal Life.

The term "eternal life" is commonly translated “everlasting life” or “life eternal”. The term is used in two different ways in scripture. In the Old Testament (e.g. Psa. 133:3; Dan. 12:2), and in the synoptic gospels (e.g. Mark 10:30), eternal life refers to the Millennial kingdom. But in the other New Testament books, and especially John's writings, "eternal life" refers to a life we can possess now. The word “eternal” does not define the duration of the life, but it defines the character of the life; "the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18). It couldn’t be the idea of "living forever" because eternal life pertains to believers, and even the unsaved live forever in eternal fire. What is implied in "eternal life" is a lifestyle characterized by love and light, and by communion with the Father and the Son by the Holy Spirit; "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). Eternal life is the highest character of life that one can ever know, because it is the same life that the Father and Son enjoy together (1 John 1:3), and which had existed from eternity to eternity (John 1:2). In 1 John we find that Christ Himself personally is that eternal life! He is the perfect expression of that life; the Word of Life. In His ineffable grace, God purposed in His eternal counsels that the fellowship of the Father and the Son would be shared with the sons of men! Read John 14:18-20. We are brought into this fellowship through the gift of eternal life. It is the greatest blessing that God can bestow on man, as it is the very same life of Christ! This eternal life, which He shares with others, is "in His Son" (1 John 5:11) meaning you can't have it apart from Him, and that "he that hath the Son hath life" (1 John 5:12).3

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3 that which we have seen and heard we report to you, that “ye” also may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is indeed with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. v.3 The Apostles’ Fellowship. 
 
4 And these things write we to you that your joy may be full. v.4 Joy, the Result of Eternal Life. 
 

Light (1:5 – 2:11)

God’s Nature and Our Fellowship in It (1:5-7)

5 And this is the message which we have heard from him, and declare to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. v.5 The Revelation of God’s Nature. The Gnostics believed that Jehovah (the Demiurge, who created the material universe) was evil. No, John says, God is light, and in Him there is no darkness whatsoever. This has to do with His nature. No shadow of turning… no darkness at all. In v.6 “in the light
 
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not practise the truth. v.6 A test of that fellowship. To walk in darkness is to not walk in the light of God revealed. Our life is a perpetual lie.
 
7 But if we walk in the light as “he” is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. v.7 God is “in the light” in that the Son has revealed Him. It is the light of the revelation of God through the Son that we Christians have fellowship with one another. The blood was applied once and secures us forever. This refers to all true believers, who are “in the light”. Every sin is cleansed.

Restorative Forgiveness (1:8 – 2:2)

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. v.8 Sin and sins.
 
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. v.9 Confession and Forgiveness. John next speaks of the path to restoration after we sin. We must repent of our sins, which will lead to confession of our sins to God, and then God will forgive and cleanse us. It isn’t a matter of our faithfulness or righteousness, but of God’s. “He is faithful and righteous” to the work of Christ, which is the basis of our forgiveness, and the means of our cleansing. We can see that this “forgiveness” is not what we sometimes call “eternal forgiveness” or “judicial forgiveness”. When it comes to the salvation of our soul, we believe the gospel once and thereafter receive once-for-all eternal forgiveness from our sins (Rom. 3:25-26; Acts 13:38-39). Here it is an ongoing thing. Whenever we sin, we are to confess and be forgiven. This is what we call “restorative forgiveness”; i.e. forgiveness that is necessary to restore us to communion after we sin.  To cleanse us from all unrighteousness” goes deeper than the actions, it gets at the root of the sin.
 
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 
 
CHAPTER 2
1 My children, these things I write to you in order that ye may not sin; and if any one sin, we have a patron with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; v.1 An advocate with “the Father” showing that when I fail in no way is the family relationship broken.
“The righteous” and “propitiation” (1 John 2:1, 2) intimate to us the double character of perfectness – actual state, and work – of Christ, as the basis on which advocacy is carried on to restore the soul. If any man sin, there is an unchangeable and accepted righteousness in Christ, and a perfect work which has been presented to God for our sins, and indeed in view of the whole world. So that neither the ground of our acceptance nor the putting away of our sins are in question for our access to God. – J.N. Darby
2 and “he” is the propitiation for our sins; but not for ours alone, but also for the whole world.

Knowing God: Love and Obedience (2:3-11)

3 And hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that says, I 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 verily the love of God is perfected. Hereby we know that we are in him. vv.3-5 Compare commandments with word; a much broader thought than specific instructions, including intelligence of the mind of God. To be “in him” requires first the possession of eternal life, and then the maintenance of communion such that we abide in him (v.6). Obedience to the word manifests that we (A) have life in the Son, and (B) are abiding in communion with the Son! Love perfected in the saints; 1 Jo 2:5, 1 Jo 4:12, 1 Jo 4:17. Obedience and love are two great marks of eternal life, and they are the tests of profession.
 
6 He that says he abides in him ought, even as “he” walked, himself also so to walk. v.6 The standard in Christianity is this: to walk as Christ walked. It is far higher than the standard of the law! It goes beyond obedience to commandments. It is the manifestation of the life of Christ in our lives.
 
7 Beloved, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment, which ye have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye heard. 8 Again, I write a new commandment to you, which thing is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light already shines. vv.7-8 The old commandment is not the law, but rather that which Christ patterned for the disciples; eternal life manifested in the person of the Lord Jesus on earth. This culminated in the “new commandment” to “love one another” (John 13). The new commandment in John 13 had become old! There was no advance upon that life, such that John could say “I write no new commandment to you”. Eternal life is the same. However, there is a sense in which the commandment is new, in that it is that same life manifested in us now, by the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling us. It is old in that it was given before the cross, and new in that it is renewed afterward, when we can carry it out in “life more abundant”. 
 
9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in the darkness until now. 10 He that loves his brother abides in light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him. 11 But he that hates his brother is in the darkness, and walks in the darkness, and knows not where he goes, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Life (2:12 – 4:6)

Spiritual Growth: Children, Fathers, Young Men (2:12-27)

Little Children (v.12)

12 I write to you, children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.

Fathers (v.13a)

13a I write to you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning.

Young Men (v.13b) 

13b I write to you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, because ye have known the Father. 

Fathers (v.14a)1 John 2:14

14a I have written to you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning.

Young Men (vv.14b-17)

14b I have written to you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word [‘logos’] of God abides in you, and ye have overcome the wicked onev.14b The young men have God’s Word [‘logos’] abiding in them in the broadest sense; to be well-acquainted with the whole revelation of God. In Col. 3:16 we are told to have “the word of Christ” abiding in us, which is that part of the written Word that flows to us from an ascended, glorified man; specifically the New Testament epistles (see notes on the Word and Words of God).
 
15 Love not the world, nor the things in the world. If any one love the world, the love of the Father is not in him; 16 because all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and 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, and its lust, but he that does the will of God abides for eternity.

Little Children (vv.18-27)

18 Little children, it is the last hour, and, according as ye have heard that antichrist comes, even now there have come many antichrists, whence we know that it is the last hour. v.18 Antichrist and Many Antichrists. It was already the “last hour”, an expression similar to the “latter times” when enemies creep in (Jude 18) and then individuals fall away (“antichrists”), teaching lies (1 Tim. 4:1-3). This began in the latter days of the apostle Paul (Acts 20:29-30), who could say “the mystery of iniquity doth already work” (2 Thess. 2:7). The final stage of this apostasy will take place under the man of sin, the “Antichrist” (2 Thess. 2:3-12). It may at first seem strange that when John wrote, only a few decades into the Church period, it was already “the last hour”. God has seen fit to extend the period of grace for hundreds of years. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are still in “the last hour”.4 The proof that it is the last hour is that “many antichrists” have come. This is something that the youngest believer knows. It is not beyond them. The spirit or “power of antichrist” is already here, and morally it is just as wicked as when we see the full blown result.
 
19 They went out from among us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have surely remained with us, but that they might be made manifest that none are of us. v.19 The antichrists went out from the fellowship of the apostles. They may have been with the apostles, but they did not embrace the truth the apostles taught.
 
20 And “ye” have the unction from the holy one, and ye know all things. v.20 This word “unction” is the same word as anointing, used in v.27. The anointing gives us power and intelligence; the latter is emphasized here. Because a young believer in Christ has the indwelling Spirit, he has intelligence so as to be able to detect error. Notice that the unction is “from the Holy One”. There may not be sufficient intelligence to lay out doctrine, but at least to detect unholiness in doctrine, especially as regards the Person of Christ. How does this compare with “children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4)? We do need teaching as in Eph. 4, or we will be tossed, etc. But there is no development of the truth of the Person of Christ. 
 

The Anointing (Unction) of the Spirit (1 John 2:20; 27; 2 Cor. 1:21). The anointing or unction of the Spirit is the ability of the Spirit of God in the believer to give power and intelligence. This is necessary for service, for worship, for direction, and for discernment. When the Spirit of God comes to indwell a person, no matter how young or inexperienced they are, they receive Divine help to discern between truth and error; "ye have not need that any one should teach you; but as the same unction teaches you as to all things" (1 John 2:27). This follows what Jesus taught about "the Comforter, the Holy Spirit... he shall teach you all things, and will bring to your remembrance all the things which I have said to you" (John 14:26). It is by one Spirit that we have access to the Father in prayer (Eph. 2:18). Furthermore, the Spirit is like a "fountain of living water" inside a believer, "springing up" in the enjoyment of eternal life (John 4:14), enabling us to worship the Father (Phil. 3:3). The Spirit is also like "rivers of living water" flowing out to this world with the refreshing testimony of Christ (John 7:38). In Romans we read that the believer has deliverance from sin through the power of the indwelling Spirit (Rom. 8:2). We also find that the sons of God "are led by the Spirit of God", who guides and direct our steps (Rom. 8:14). In 1 Corinthians we read that the indwelling Spirit is the power for ministry in every member of the body of Christ, enabling each one to do his or her service for the Lord (1 Cor. 12:7-11). It is the Spirit of God that strengthens us daily in the inner man (Eph. 3:16). We could summarize the anointing of the Spirit as that which enables the believer to live for God.

 
21 I have not written to you because ye do not know the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. v.21 You do not need to know all the errors that are out there, but rather become familiar with the truth. These ones knew the truth as to the Person of Christ. Teaching is important in the family of God, especially for little children in the faith.
 
22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? “He” is the antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. v.22 Jews who reject Jesus as the Messiah and professing Christian who deny the Father and the Son come together in receiving Antichrist. The apostasy is twofold: a Jewish apostasy and an anti-Christian apostasy. 
 
23 Whoever denies the Son has not the Father either; he who confesses the Son has the Father also. v.23 If we deny the eternal Sonship of Christ we deny the eternal Fatherhood of God. The Fatherhood of God is co-relative with the Sonship of Christ, and that co-relativity is eternal! You cannot have a son without a father, nor can you have a father without a son. You lose both if you deny one.
 
24 As for “you” let that which ye have heard from the beginning abide in you: if what ye have heard from the beginning abides in you, “ye” also shall abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise which “he” has promised us, life eternal. vv.24-25 The Truth Abiding, Eternal Life. The fullest revelation of truth that God has given is the Person of the Son declaring the Father, which is the same truth they had heard from the beginning. This truth must abide in us for us to abide in the Son and in the Father. And we must abide in communion with the Son and Father in order to enjoy eternal life.
 
26 These things have I written to you concerning those who lead you astray: 27 and “yourselves”, the unction which ye have received from him abides in you, and ye have not need that any one should teach you; but as the same unction teaches you as to all things, and is true and is not a lie, and even as it has taught you, ye shall abide in him. vv.26-27 

The Whole Family (v.28)

28 And now, children, abide in him, that if he be manifested we may have boldness, and not be put to shame from before him at his coming. v.28 The secret to a fruitful Christian life for the whole family, regardless of the stage of growth, is to abide in communion with Christ. John wanted the saints to do in view of the manifestation of Christ. The expression “if he be manifested” is not putting the appearing in doubt, but rather reasoning from it as a given. The manifestation of Christ refers to the appearing of Christ, when rewards will be displayed. John wanted the saints to abide in Christ so that “we” (the apostle and his fellows) would “have boldness, and not be put to shame from before him at his coming”. When the Lord comes, there may be shame in the sense of disappointment or sorrow at missed opportunities. Responsibility is never connected with the rapture, but it is with the appearing. John speaks in this way as a spiritual father, regarding the behavior of his spiritual children.

Evidence that One is a Child of God (2:29 – 4:6)

Three Assurances of Salvation

  1. John 2:29 – practice righteousness
  2. John 3:14 – love the brethren
  3. John 3:24 – the Spirit indwells

The Children of God Practice Righteousness (2:29 – 3:10)

29 If ye know that he is righteous, know that every one who practises righteousness is begotten of him. v.29 Practicing Righteousness. 
 
CHAPTER 3
1 See what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God. For this reason the world knows us not, because it knew him not. v.1 It is not only that the Father has given us love, but the immensity of that love which would have us to “be called then children of God”. Amazing love!

2
Beloved, now are we children of God, and what we shall be has not yet been manifested; we know that if it is manifested we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
v.2 Although it doesn’t appear so now, we are the children of God. When the Lord appears that will be manifested, and we will be totally like Him. There is a measure of Christ-likeness in us now, but the beauty of it is not apparent. Then the transformation will be complete. Not only physically (Phil. 3:21) but morally!

3
And every one that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as “he” is pure.
v.3 Seeing that we will be like Christ then, we ought to be like Him now!

4
Every one that practises sin practises also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.
v.4 The introduction of the expression “transgression” in some translations gives totally the wrong idea. You don’t need to have a law in order to have sin (Rom. 5:15). Sin is “lawlessness”, or living according to our own will without reference to God or anyone else. Antichrist is the epitome of this; the “man of sin”, the “lawless one” (2 Thess. 2). Christ is the total opposite; “I delight to do thy will O my God” (Psa. 40:7-8), which follows in v.5. “Practice” implies a general course of things, like a doctor practices medicine.

5
And ye know that “he” has been manifested that he might take away our sins; and in him sin is not.
v.5 There are teo
manifestations, the first to take away our sins and the second to display glory. To carry on with sin unrepentant flies in the face of the work of the cross. Peter, Paul, John. “In him” is very deep. I find no fault in him. Have thou nothing to do with this just person. 

6
Whoever abides in him, does not sin: whoever sins, has not seen him or known him.
v.6 How do we not sin? Abide in communion with Him (John 15). This is characteristic; one who shares the life of Christ has a life that does not sin. 
 
7
Children, let no man lead you astray; he that practises righteousness is righteous, even as “he” is righteous. 8 He that practises sin is of the devil; for from the beginning the devil sins. To this end the Son of God has been manifested, that he might undo the works of the devil. 
v.8 “From the beginning” – from the very first time we are introduced to the serpent.
 
9 Whoever has been begotten of God does not practise sin, because his seed abides in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been begotten of God. v.9 same seed → same fruit. See Gen. 1:11.
 
10 In this are manifest the children of God and the children of the devil. Whoever does not practise righteousness is not of God, and he who does not love his brother.

The Children of God Love One Another (3:11-23)

11 For this is the message which ye have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another: 12 not as Cain was of the wicked one, and slew his brother; and on account of what slew he him? because his works were wicked, and those of his brother righteous. 13 Do not wonder, brethren, if the world hate you. 14 “We” know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Every one that hates his brother is a murderer, and ye know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. v.15 Some have tried to take this verse and teach that no one who commits suicide can go to heaven, because suicide is murder, and no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. However, we must understand that John is speaking characteristically. David was a murderer and we will see him in heaven. Also, you can’t take only the last part of the verse alone. If the latter part of v.15 refers to a single act (it doesn’t) then the first half must mean that one single thought of hatred toward other constitutes murder. Then no one would be saved!
 
16 Hereby we have known love, because “he” has laid down his life for us; and “we” ought for the brethren to lay down our lives. 17 But whoso may have the world’s substance, and see his brother having need, and shut up his bowels from him, how abides the love of God in him? vv.16-17 Love is ultimately manifested – even defined – by the self-sacrifice of Christ. The result of the love of Christ in our hearts is that same character of love reflected toward our brethren. To lay down our life literally is the ultimate sacrifice (John 15:13), but as v.17 suggests this is broader than literally laying down your life (Deut. 15:7-9). Aquilla and Priscilla are an example where both are true (Rom. 16:3). The “bowels” are connected with our gut-instinct to care for others. Judas was one without instinct-level care for the Lord Jesus, and when he fell his bowels gushed out. Be ye warmed and filled.
 
18 Children, let us not love with word, nor with tongue, but in deed and in truth. v.18 Not that we shouldn’t ever express our love verbally, but it must be coupled with reality. Love thou didst dearly prove. 
 
19 And hereby we shall know that we are of the truth, and shall persuade our hearts before him — 20 that if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things. vv.19-20 When we love in deed, we are assured that we are of the truth; we have assurance that we are saved. Our heart may condemn us when we fell we have fallen short in showing love in deed and truth. We only know our hearts in part. God is greater in knowledge of our hearts, and we can turn to Him who is the source of Love, and cast ourselves in humility and self-judgment at His feet (John 21:17). It is more the matter of the heart than the conscience. God as Love is able to overcome our lack.
 
21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, we have boldness towards God, 22 and whatsoever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments, and practise the things which are pleasing in his sight. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and that we love one another, even as he has given us commandment. vv.21-23 If we give to our brother who has need, then we have boldness to ask of God, and confidence that He will give to meet our need! God will not do less than us. We cannot out-give Him! The commandments in John are the commandments that the new life loves to obey. Believing on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and loving one another are coupled together. There is an order: believe first, then love one another. But they are presented on the same level!

The Children of God Have the Indwelling Spirit (3:24 – 4:6)

24 And he that keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given to us. 
 
CHAPTER 4
1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, if they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
 
2 Hereby ye know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses Jesus Christ come in flesh is of God; 3 and every spirit which does not confess Jesus Christ come in flesh is not of God: and this is that power of the antichrist, of which ye have heard that it comes, and now it is already in the world. vv.2-3 Why is it emphasized that any spirit of God must confess “Jesus Christ come in flesh”? First, it shows the eternal deity of the Son. He had to exist in order to “come” in flesh. The ordinary human couldn’t say they had come in flesh, because they are flesh. They did not exist before in any other state. Only of the Son could it be said that He “came in flesh”. It isn’t so much the fact that Jesus Christ came into this world that is emphasized here, but the mode of His coming; i.e. in flesh (John 1:14). God who is love manifested Himself in flesh, and it was the only way He could thus be fully manifested to man. There have been many attacks against this truth, such as the assertion that Christ was just an appearance of human flesh, or just a human body indwelt with the Spirit, or even some claimed the man seen here below was a substitute person used by God for a temporal purpose. All of these are false and destructive to the faith. To deny Jesus Christ come in flesh destroys the manifestation of God as love!
 
4 “Ye” are of God, children, and have overcome them, because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. 5 “They” are of the world; for this reason they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. 6 “We” are of God; he that knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
 

Love (4:7 – 5:3)

7 Beloved, let us love one another; because love is of God, and every one that loves has been begotten of God, and knows God. 8 He that loves not has not known God; for God is love. 9 Herein as to us has been manifested the love of God, that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son a propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God has so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time: if we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us. v.12 love manifested in the lives of believers toward one another shows the world what god is like whom they can’t see. John 1:18 – Christ displayed God perfectly on earth.
 
13 Hereby we know that we abide in him and he in us, that he has given to us of his Spirit. 14 And “we” have seen, and testify, that the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world. 15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And “we” have known and have believed the love which God has to us. God is love, and he that abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 17 Herein has love been perfected with us that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, that even as “he” is, “we” also are in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has torment, and he that fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 “We” love because “he” has first loved us. 20 If any one say, I love God, and hate his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? vv.19-20 If we want to measure our love for god (not the point) it is our love for our brethren.
 
21 And this commandment have we from him, That he that loves God love also his brother. 
 
CHAPTER 5
1 Every one that believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God; and every one that loves him that has begotten loves also him that is begotten of him. v.1 love for our brethren has to be universal or it isn’t true love.
 
2 Hereby know we that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. v.2 To express love to a fellow child of God in a way that is disobedient to the commandments of God is not really divine love. We learn in 2 Pet. 1:7 that brotherly love is always governed by divine love. Divine love always has God as its object. 
 
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous. v.3 The exercise of love in practical obedience to god’s will shows us it is real. The commandments are not grievous, because they are in keeping with the desires and capacities of the new nature. The Lord delighted to do the Father’s will (1 John 2:6).
 
A Circle
of Love
Love for
God
 
v.3  
 
  v.1
Keep God’s
Commands
v.2
Love for
Children

 

Characteristics of the Children of God (5:4-21) 

4 For all that has been begotten of God gets the victory over the world; and this is the victory which has gotten the victory over the world, our faith. v.4 Overcoming the World. everyone with eternal life overcomes the world-system. How? by faith which has an object higher than this world.
 
5 Who is he that gets the victory over the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God? v.5 A New Object for Faith The world is really the great obstacle in the Christian’s path which prevents him from obeying the commandments of God (1 John 2:16). But faith, like a grain of mustard seed, can remove such a great mountain and cast it into the sea. How does this work? Our faith has an object which has overcome the world. The Christian believes that Jesus – whom the world has crucified – is the Son of God. In this way our faith has a practical victory over this world.
 
6 This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus the Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that bears witness, for the Spirit is the truth. v.6 Blood, Water & the Spirit’s Witness. We had the new object for faith in v.5 (Jesus, the Son of God), and now we have the work that our object accomplished.

When the spear pierced the side of a dead Christ, both blood and water flowed out. Blood speaks of the judicial cleansing from the guilt of sin. Water speaks of the moral cleansing from the defilement of sin. Not only has the work of Christ justified us (blood) but it has also cleansed us (water) in God’s sight, in the sight of others, and in my own sight. e.g. this is how Peter could say in his Pentecostal sermon, "whom ye (Israel) have denied". Peter was clean in his own sight as well as others. It says that Christ came "by water and by blood", that is for the purpose of effecting moral and judicial cleansing (sanctification and justification).5 The Spirit of God bears witness to that. John emphasizes "not by water only". It was not the Lord's purpose in coming only to cleanse His people from moral defilement, but also to give God a righteous basis to declare us judicially "just" in His sight (Rom. 3:26). One who is only morally cleansed is not a finished product. There are many religions in the world that profess to be able to wash with water; that is, to produce a holy life. These religions are unable to wash with water, but one thing they cannot even attempt to do is wash with blood. They cannot even grasp how the guilt of sin can be put away, and how a sinner can be justified in God’s sight. Christ came, not by water only, but by water and blood. It is a distinctive characteristic of Christianity. In 1 John 5 the water is mentioned before the blood because that is the order in which they are applied to a believer. We must be born again first, then we believe on the only-begotten Son for eternal life. Even in Old Testament typology, the sons of Aaron were washed with water first, then sprinkled with blood (Lev. 8). But in John 19:34 the blood is mentioned before water because that was the order they came out in historically, and the order which has God's interests first, before man's need. The Spirit bears witness (1 John 5:6) and makes both things good to the believing soul, so that all three agree in one!

 
7 For they that bear witness are three: 8 the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and the three agree in one. vv.7-8 The order of the three witnesses is changed because this is the order in which we apprehend it. God’s three witnesses to his gift of eternal life: (1) the Spirit – enables us to appreciate both, (2) water – moral purification and new birth, and (3) blood – expiation for sin. John takes up these three great witnesses in his ministry.
 
9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater. For this is the witness of God which he has witnessed concerning his Son. 10 He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself; he that does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness which God has witnessed concerning his Son. 11 And this is the witness, that God has given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son. 12 He that has the Son has life: he that has not the Son of God has not life. 13 These things have I written to you that ye may know that ye have eternal life who believe on the name of the Son of God. v.13 is the end of the doctrinal part of the epistle.
 
14 And this is the boldness which we have towards him, that if we ask him anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him. 16 If any one see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life, for those that do not sin unto death. There is a sin to death: I do not say of that that he should make a request. v.16 “give him life” – an extension of his natural life, not divine life.
 
17 Every unrighteousness is sin; and there is a sin not to death. 18 We know that every one begotten of God does not sin, but he that has been begotten of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the wicked one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding that we should know him that is true; and we are in him that is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Children, keep yourselves from idols.  
 
  1. The Apostle is like an analytical chemist, but of a spiritual order. He is resolving things into their primitive elements and he is showing us what are the essential properties of those elements. He is not asking us to think of all the combinations and mixtures in which the elements are found in the ordinary way. – Hole, F.B. Overcoming. Scripture Truth Vol. 29, 1937, page 260
  2. Another thing to be remarked is this, that all John’s statements are absolute. He never modifies them by bringing in the difficulties or hindrances that we may have in the body. “He that is born of God,” he says in chapter 3, “does not commit sin.” He is speaking there according to the very essence of the nature. The divine nature cannot sin. It is not a question of progress or degree, but “he cannot sin because he is born of God.” “He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not,” chap. 5. The wicked one touches the Christian often; but he never can touch the divine life: and John always states it in its own proper absoluteness, according to the truth itself. – Darby, J.N. Notes on the First Epistle of John. Collected Writings, vol. 28, p. 214
  3. A deeper blessing it is impossible for God to bestow or for man to receive; for it is exactly what characterised the Lord Himself, Who is the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us. Only Christ could be said to be that life; we as believers are not, but we have it in Him; and as by faith alone it is received, so in faith it is exercised, sustained, and strengthened. - Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
  4. This falling away of individuals later progressed into “the last days”, wherein widespread false profession and blatant denial of the Lordship of Christ came in (2 Tim. 3:1-9; 4:3; 2 Pet. 3:3).
  5. We are cleansed by the water of death (sanctification), and we are also cleansed by blood (justification). - Darby, J.N. Notes on the First Epistle of John.