We are going to continue our 5-part study series on the first epistle of John. In this study series, we are going to be taking a look at each chapter of John’s first letter. In this study, we are going to see the idea of being in fellowship with Christ continue. Everybody can be in fellowship with Him and we are going to see that right away in this study.
Quick note for before you start this study: Studies are written out to be longer than my sermons and the Sunday School lesson commentaries. I skip a couple of weeks with posting bible studies because not everybody can complete a study in one sitting. Take your time and do not rush through my studies! Take it one day at a time if you need to do so. I will recommend a stopping point below for taking a break. Enjoy this study and share it with others!
The Propitiation for the World’s Sins
This chapter opens with John saying, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin (v.1).” This verse will set the tone for this chapter but, again, it also shows to us the purpose of why John wrote this letter. As I pointed out in the first study, John stated that his purpose of writing this letter, was so “you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13).” In order to have eternal life in the presence of the Lord, we must be without sin.
Living without sin
So, what do we do to not sin? Some may try to live everyday without committing a sin, but, I’m not certain we can go an hour or two without sinning. To be honest, there are sins that we can commit knowingly, but at the same time, there are sins we can commit unknowingly. Here is scripture from Leviticus, part of the Mosaic Law that explains what I mean. This was given to the children of Israel.
“If a person sins, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord, though he does not know it, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity. And he shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish from the flock, with your valuation, as a trespass offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him regarding his ignorance in which he erred and did not know it, and it shall be forgiven him (Lev. 5:17-18).”
We do not live under the Mosaic Law but this truth was true then and it is still true today. Some do try to live solely by the Mosaic Law in order to not sin but we also know from our studies that this does not work. I have taught Sunday School and did a bible study on the Mosaic Law about how impossible it would be for us to live solely by it. (The children of Israel immediately failed the Mosaic Law upon their receiving of it.)
The fact is that we are going to sin no matter how much we try not to sin (Rom. 7:15-20). Some will say their sin is ‘tiny’, but I tell you that there is no such thing -sin is sin Fortunately for us, the Lord has given us the help we need. John says, “if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Advocate: one who pleads the cause of another specifically: one who pleads the cause of another before a tribunal or judicial court.
An advocate for all
How is Jesus our advocate? Jesus is the propitiation of our sins (v.2) This means that Jesus was the offering of appeasement (forgiveness) to God for our sins. Let’s note that John writes that Jesus is the propitiation not for just a few but for the whole world. John wanted his readers to understand that Christ was given not just for the Jews but for the Gentiles (the whole world) as well. Christ is all inclusive which means that anybody can be forgiven of their sins through. Remember, John 3:16 says that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.
In Christ, there is salvation (which is to say deliverance) from our sins. He is our advocate in that one day God will hold everyone accountable for their actions. Remember, scripture declares that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess (Is. 45:23). As I have shared in a study before, the righteous shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10-11) and the wicked shall stand before the great white throne in judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). Those who stand before the judgment seat of Christ will have the Advocate, Christ, who stands on their behalf and reward them with heavenly rewards. Those who stand before the great white throne will have no such advocate to stand on behalf of their sins.
Are You Saved?
Again, all of this circles back around to being in fellowship with Christ. If you are out of fellowship with Christ, then you do not have an advocate in Him; nor will you have an eternal home with Him. However, if you are in fellowship with Him, your faith will be rewarded with His advocacy of your sins. Let’s continue on in this study because John begins to speak more as to who is and who is not saved.
Do you keep His commandments?
John first says, “we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments (v.3).” To know Christ is to be in true fellowship with Him. Immediately most of us will look at that verse and think of the Ten Commandments when we see “His commandments”. (I just taught a Sunday School lesson recently about the Ten Commandments that you should certainly read if you would like to dive a bit deeper into what they mean to followers of Christ in the age of the church.)
Let’s skip down some verses here so that we can know what commandments John was talking about. If we skip to the seventh verse, we will see John write that he is not writing to them a new commandment, but one that was given before. Yet, at the same time, he says this is a new commandment because this time instead of Moses telling the people the command, God manifested Himself in the world to deliver this command to mankind in person in the form of Christ (vss.7-8).
Command to love
John writes, “He who loves his brother abides in the light (Jesus), and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 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 (vss.10-11).” In this passage of scripture, we should understand that the old but new commandment that John spoke of was the command to love.
Jesus taught on several occasions that we should first love the Lord with all our heart and soul, and then we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Luke 10:25-28). As we saw in our last study, if we say that we have fellowship with Christ then we should be in fellowship with each other as well (1 John 1:7). The Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law was given to the children of Israel. When Jesus summed up the Law and the teachings of the prophets, He said that the command to love was what they hung on (Matt. 22:37-40). These two commandments to love are given directly to all of those who wish to follow Christ.
Do you know Him?
As I have said on several occasions, love is integral (essential) to true Christian faith. We cannot say that we have fellowship with Christ if we are not keeping (practicing) the two commands of love.
Now, let’s get back up to the fourth verse of this chapter. John writes, “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (v.4).” So, this is to say that one who does not love God and does not love His neighbor does not know God. This is also a thought that we have been going over in our recent Sunday School lessons. The Pharisees were confronting Jesus and speaking as if they knew God, but Jesus told them plainly that they did not know the Lord (John 8:19).
Why did they not know God? Because they did not know God because they did not know (recognize) Christ. In fact, Jesus pointed out that they did not truly keep the Law as well. They may have taught the law, but they certainly did not live by it in how they treated others as we have seen (Matt. 15:3-6). So, the Pharisees that antagonized Jesus, were not practitioners of the Law, nor did they recognize Christ, and even though they were men that said they knew God, they did not truly know Him – they were liars. This same idea holds true in our world today.
One who does not keep the two commandments of Christ – the commandment to love God and others – are not truly in fellowship with Him. So, even if they say that they know Christ and that He is their Savior, if they are not practitioners of His commandments, then they are not keeping His commandments. If they are not keeping His commandments, then they are not in fellowship with Christ. This, therefore, means that they do not know Him and are lying.
There are many people who claim to know God, but in all honesty, they only know of God – they do not know Him personally. If we had met and known God personally, we would reflect His glory just as Moses did when He was in the Lord’s presence (Ex. 34:29-35). When we know God personally, we cannot help but reflect His glory in the manner in which we live.
Stopping point: you have made it through the first part of this study. Take a break if needed and return back to this point to continue. This is the bookmark point of this study. If you do not feel like pausing, let’s dive deeper into this study!
Do Not Love the World
As we continue on in our study, we are going to see John dig deeper into his thoughts on what love is – this is actually a prominent topic of John’s first epistle. I feel like this next discourse of scripture is some of the toughest for babes in the faith to understand and for us elders of the faith to stick with. I’m going to skip down to the fifteenth verse where John says, “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 (v.15).”
Do not love the world – this needs to be further expanded upon. As I just said, this is one of the major struggles for babes in the faith and even us who have been in the faith a long time. The struggle: giving up the world. What is the world? John says that the world is “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” These lusts, John writes, are not of Christ.
The struggle is that it is hard for many of us to differentiate our desires (or goals/plans) from what can become worldly lust. Paul wrote about the love of the world as works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). He wrote that the works of the flesh are: “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.”
Paul expanded on this thought in his second letter to Timothy when he wrote: “men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away (2 Tim. 3:2-5)!”
When our desires become selfish lusts, we have to be very wary of our way. Again, I want you to understand, what John is saying here is not anything new or something that he is making up himself. No, his teaching and Paul’s teaching came directly from Christ’s teaching. Let’s turnover to the gospels for a brief moment again for a fuller understanding.
You cannot love the world and mammon
Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Matt. 6:24).” Mammon: material wealth or possessions. So, in other words, mammon are essentially the things that make us feel rich – “you cannot serve (love) God and serve (love) mammon (the world).”
I tell you that mammon is not always silver and gold as well. Mammon can be anything from cars to clothes to even people. Mammon is essentially anything of the world. We could equate serving mammon to the worship idols (idolatry) of the Old Testament. So, essentially, Jesus was saying you cannot worship God and worship idols. Yes, this is another law from the Old Testament days which is still very clear and present today. We have to be very careful when it comes to our plans and our desires – they cannot become selfish lusts of the heart.
Jesus’ teaching on our desires
I want to cross reference that scripture with what Jesus shared with His disciples about one denying themselves and taking up their cross to follow Him. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matt. 16:24-25).”
The complaint that many have when it comes to following Christ is that they “cannot ‘live’ for themselves”. Typically I find that this complaint comes from people who simply wish to live their lives ‘free’ in the bondage of sin. There is, however, a misconception that you cannot live out your dreams/plans when you are a follower of Christ. This begins to get into the territory of God’s divine plan (will) for us. (I touched on the Lord’s perfect will in this sermon – Trusting God’s Will Even When Things Go Wrong – which you should read or listen to if you have not done so.)
Yes, there is a divine and perfect will for all of us. The Lord said to Jeremiah, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you; thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11).” God certainly has a plan for us, yet, the Lord permits us to make decisions and plans for our life. You get to decide what you want to do everyday, don’t you? When we pray, I want you to notice that what you ask of God you are asking for Him to permit in His permissive will.
“A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps (Prov. 16:9).” People often misunderstand this proverb. You see, scripture reveals to us time and time again that the Lord grants to us the desires of our heart (Ps. 37:4) Jesus said that we should ask, and if we do ask, it will be given to us (Matt. 7:7). My understanding of that proverb is this: A man’s heart has desires (plans and dreams), yet it is best to allow God to guide us so that we can best reach our desires.
I truly believe that this is the best way to go. Too often, many of us let our dreams turn into covetousness and lusts. Covetousness because we witness what others have and we lust after what it is they have. This is extraordinarily dangerous of us to do and, again, not something that is of God. I believe we can live out our dreams but it is best that we do it through the Lord!
This means that we should trust in God’s direction and go where He points us over trusting in ourselves (Ps. 119:133; Prov. 3:5). The belief that many people have is that they know what is best for them and not anybody else – including God. Our instincts will urge us to go one way while God could be pointing us to go another route. As a child of God, we must deny those urges and allow the Lord to direct our steps. When God directs us, it is of peace and not confusion (1 Cor. 14:33) because, as we saw that He told Jeremiah, His thoughts towards us are of peace. The confusion is our own worldly thinking fighting against God’s will.
A show of trust
In doing this, we show our faith in Him and we show that we love Him as well. I believe this also sets us up best for being able to accomplish our goals. Paul wrote, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).”
When we choose to ignore God’s directions, we are choosing to reject Him and simply love ourselves – this is showing no trust in Him. We would be choosing to walk in darkness instead of following the light which is God. Jesus said, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul (Matt. 16:26)?” Again, how can one be saved and in fellowship with God if they’re choosing to ignore His directions and now follow after Him? Ignoring and rejecting God’s direction, is to sin against Him.
Stopping point: you have made it through the second part of this study. Take a break if needed and return back to this point to continue. This is the bookmark point of this study. If you do not feel like pausing, let’s finish up this study!
The Spirit of Antichrist
This chapter opened with John saying, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.” As we come down to the last of this study, we will see John dive further into full on sin against God. John says, “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 (v.18).” I feel like everything he has said up to this point was leading to this scripture and thought.
It has been the last hour ever since Jesus was risen from the grave. John knew this back in his day and he was getting the followers of Christ ready for the final hour. We live in a world where thoughts of it being the last hour simply gets mocked. Which, to me, is even more scarier because of how much things (signs) seem to be pointing to this age of time drawing closer and closer to an end. This is something everyone needs to start taking more and more seriously – we are certainly living the period of the last days.
We can see in the verses following that John had probably lost some who were following him to the corrupt spirit of antichrist. He said, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us (v.19).” Back in 2018, I actually did an entire study where I focused on “Who is the Antichrist”.
I’m not going to go into as much depth in this study about it, but I do want to touch on antichrist and what it means. ‘Anti’, as a prefix, has a few ways that we define it. Typically we say that when something is “anti” it is something that is in opposition as being hostile. Yet, another definition for “anti” is of the same kind but situated opposite, exerting energy in the opposite direction, or pursuing an opposite policy.
John writes in a few verses down, “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son (v.22).” So, we see one who in John’s writing had become hostile in opposition – anti – towards Christ. This antichrist was denying God the Father and God the Son.
Now, Jesus also spoke of the last hours and said, “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many (Matt. 24:5).” These are people who are claiming to be Christ when they are not Christ and know that they are not Christ – this is also a form of antichrist. In our day, both forms of antichrist are definitely present in the world. There are people who are adamant that Christ is not real and then there are those on the opposite end of the spectrum who believe themselves to be the Messiah – they are liars.
Stay in the truth
This is what John had been working to in this chapter – who can be saved and who is not saved. John did not want to lose anybody to darkness and to sin (v.26). (I feel that should be the same goal for all genuine believers, not just preachers and deacons). I believe that in his day, there were people who adamantly opposed Christ and the teaching of Christ that started out with John. His goal was to limit how many people fell into such sin. In our time, the person Antichrist is not present and will not be present until after the Rapture.
Here is Paul’s writing of the lawless one that is currently being restrained by the Lord until that designated time. You should be able to see references that cross with what John also wrote. “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved (2 Thess. 2:7-10).” (I put in bold, italics, and underlined the parts I want you to pay close attention to in those verses.)
Now, the person Antichrist is not something we need to concern ourselves with because that person will come until after us – after the age of the church. That said, the spirit of antichrist grows increasingly larger in our world and we must not fall into such sin. As John said, we must stay with our anointing (the truth) that God has anointed us with (v.27).
God anoints all of those who come to Him and wishes to be saved. This is that truth: love the Lord with all your heart and all your spirit, and then love your neighbor as you love yourself. In doing this we keep the commandments of Christ and are able to abide by and keep His word. When we do not love the world and choose to love God, that will keep us from falling into that sin and that spirit of anti. All who do this are truly saved and are His.