1 John 2

1 Christians must actively avoid sin. However, our human nature will occasionally bow to the influence of evil in the world and we sin.

Nonetheless, Jesus is our advocate. The word "advocate" is translated from the Greek work parakletos, which means "one who comes along side." When we recognize such mistakes and repent, then Jesus "comes along side us" to help us recognize and overcome it.

2 Jesus is much more than one who helps us overcome sin. He Himself became the payment price for our sins. Even before a Christian recognizes and repents of a sin, he can be assured that the punishment for it has already been "paid in full" by Christ.

God's willingness to forgive sins is not limited to any group, nation, etc. It is freely available to anyone on the planet who believes in the work of Jesus and comes to Him in confession and a willingness to obey Him.

3 The question, "do you really know God?" can come from several directions, even from inside our own mind. Most Christians have never had a "supernatural" revelation or display any unusual abilities (e.g., performing miracles) to evidence their faith in God. In fact, the majority of Christians may appear to be very normal people, save that they are obedient to God. The implication is that it is impossible to obey God if one does not really know Him. A Christian's obedience to God is the evidence that he knows Him.
4 Those who claim to be Christians but sin without repentance are liars. There are a number of examples today of people who claim to be Christians but live flagrantly evil lives. These people open Christianity to the world's mocking. The pretense of Christianity does not help the individual, the Church, or the world. In fact, it can be quite counter-productive in that the individual may be deluding himself, the image of the Church is tarnished, and those who do not know God may become hardened against His message.
5 There is a difference between keeping commandments and keeping the word. The Pharisees kept the Law of Moses to the letter, but Jesus said they were condemned because they neglected the "more important matters" that could not be quantified by the written code (Mat 23:23). For example, one of the Ten Commandments says, "do not commit adultery," but Jesus clarified the meaning by adding that we should not lust in our hearts either (Mat 5:27-28). The Law of Moses was intended to keep the acts of sin in check, but God's desire for us to have a our heart goes well beyond the letter of the law. The Law of Moses does not speak of God's love being perfected in us by our obedience to it. However, when our hearts are made right and we have a good relationship with God, then His love dwells in us as was intended.
6 Sin is the opposition to God's will, while righteousness is obedience to it. Jesus lived a completely sinless life and was always obedient to God's will while on earth (after all, He is God). Since we, as Christians, live through Him, then we are compelled to live like Him. We will not become exactly like Jesus, but when we walk in the same manner as He did, we please God.
7 The idea of walking in the manner of Christ is not intended to be a new idea. It is a concept that was conveyed to believers when they first received the Gospel. Accepting Christ is not merely the forgiveness of our sins. It is the beginning of a transformed life as we develop our relationship with Christ.
8 In contrast to their unsaved way of life, it is a new and radical command. Before, we were living according to the world's standards of laws and judgement - we had to earn our acceptance. Afterwards, we know we have already been forgiven, and our relationship with Christ motivates us to behave in a different manner. Our motivation is to please and love God. As we draw closer to Him, the darkness in our hearts is overcome by the light of truth and love that comes from God. It will show in the way we interact with each other and the world.

The dictionary definition of hate includes phrases like, "to dislike greatly ... to detest ... to have strong ill will for ... to wish to avoid." John uses the contrast between love and hate here, and we can use Paul's description of love (1 Cor 13:1-8) to derive a Christian definition of hate:

Hate is impatient, hate is unkind, it is envious, boastful, and proud. It is rude, selfish, hot-tempered, and holds grudges. Hate encourages evil and lies. It endangers others, is untrustworthy, exudes hopelessness, and gives up. Hate will not produce anything that will last.

Loving others is difficult, especially when we feel they have disagreeable habits, personality, appearance, etc. These are excuses we may use to avoid some Christians. However, it is clear that Christ calls us to love each other unconditionally. Some try to make a loophole by saying something like "I must love others, but I do not have to like them." The Bible makes no such distinction. If people use a definition of "like" that permits them to be unloving, then it is wrong. The only time we are permitted to avoid another Christian is when it is clear that he is behaving unrepentingly contrary to Christ's teachings. Even then, it is to be with the hope of bringing him back into a good relationship with God and other Christians.

The words here are very strong. If one finds that he is avoiding, withholding help from, or seeking to hurt another Christian, he is outside of God's will (i.e., he is in darkness). John makes it clear that such attitudes separate us from our relationship with Jesus. Our primary love relationship is with God, but Jesus made it clear that our relationships with others are inseparable from it (Mat 22:37-39).

10 When we open our eyes, light allows us to see where we are walking. We will not stumble if we are paying attention to where we are going. When we open our hearts and lives to God and others, the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual perception and direction. When our relationship with God is good and our relationships with others are good, then we will not sin as long as we are paying attention to what we are doing.
11 A Christian who harbors ill will towards another not only breaks his relationship with that person, but he also breaks his relationship with God. He has closed his heart not only to others, but also to the work of the Holy Spirit in his life. He has stumbled into sin, even if he is not willing to acknowledge it. If he does not repent, he is likely to deepen his hatred toward the one or break other relationships without considering the damage he does to himself and the Church.
12 John now addresses groups within the body, apparently by spiritual maturity. The "little children" would be new believers. When a person first comes to Christ, all he really knows is that God has forgiven him of sin. God does this for His glory, not the glory of the believer.
13 "Fathers" probably refers to those who have matured in the faith. The term would indicate that these are men who become "fathers" in the sense that the Holy Spirit had used their witness to bring others to Christ (1 Cor 4:15). It might also refer to those who are in leadership, guiding the local church as a father would guide his family. Their primary characteristic is that they know God in an intimate way. They have been with God for a long time, communicated with Him, and been faithfully obedient.

"Young men" probably refers to all those who are in between. Their most important characteristic is that they have, and are continuing, to overcome the devil. More characteristics are given in the next verse.

Now referring to all the children, they have the common characteristic of knowing the Father. There are various degrees of knowledge, and they are in a lifelong process of learning more about Him.

The emphasis of these verses is on the family relationship of Christians with God and each other.

14 The strength of the young men comes from the word of God. This indicates that they read and studied the Scriptures. The Word (which is Christ) "lives" within them, and it is only with this understanding that they can continue to overcome the devil. People are too weak to defeat the devil, but when we have the word of God living in us, the devil is defeated.

In our day, the Bible is abundantly present in many parts of the world. There is no excuse for Christians with such ready access not to read some of it every day. There are many reading plans available that show how to read the entire Bible in a year (some plans go for longer periods). The Bible should be the primary way we learn about God's will for our lives.

15 The "world" refers to such things as materialism and pride. It is true that we all need material things like food, clothing, and shelter. It is also true that we need some sense of worth. It is even true that we are allowed entertainment and "luxuries" that go beyond our basic needs. However, if one "loves" the world, his desire for God is blunted. He will seek the things of the world instead of the things of God.
16 John lumps the symptoms of sin into three large categories. McGee points out how these three things worked together in the temptation of Eve (Gen 3:6).
lust of the flesh
This is the desire to fulfill our sensual needs outside of God's will. We all have needs for food, clothing, shelter, love, etc., but we go beyond the boundaries God has set out for us, we commit sin. Overindulgence in food and drink, excessively lavishing the senses, and sex outside of marriage (including one's thought life) are all examples of how the world deals with the lusts of the flesh.
Lust of the eyes
Christians enjoy the beauty of various people and things as much as anyone else. However, beauty can be deceptive, and we can be tricked into making wrong decisions. In the realm of people, those who are physically attractive are more likely to get attention and respect. Objectively, we know this is true, but sometimes we forget to evaluate the content when we are dazzled by the presentation. In the realm of things, a person may focus a great deal of time surrounding himself with things that are aesthetically pleasing. We can be an example by having a nice and well-kept home, but if we find ourselves spending significant amounts of money surrounding ourselves with things that serve no purpose other than to show off our wealth (either to ourselves or others), then we need to reevaluate our motives. This category is where we see the sins of greed.
Pride of life
Everyone wants to accomplish something in life. Everyone wants to feel that they are important and make a difference. In the worldly system people feel that they accomplish something when they earn large amounts of money, have control over others, or develop any philosophy that "proves" their superiority over others. This includes arrogant independence, self-centeredness, and overdeveloped egos.
Christians, on the other hand, are to do all things in reverence to Christ. We are to trust that God provides exactly what we need when we need it. We are to trust that his boundaries are in our best interest, that there is a greater beauty in the truth of God than in anything the world has to offer, and that any pride we have should be in that Christ died for our sins to make us acceptable to God.
17 Somewhere in the back of their minds, those who gain worldly things know that they will lose them all when they die. Yet, they keep living their lives this way because they refuse to believe there are spiritual consequences for their actions. Since they spent all their time investing in these things, they spent no time investing in God. In other passages, the Bible says that evil people will "live forever," but their eternal life will be completely separated from God. Without love, goodness, peace, etc. the life that those in hell will live are not considered "life" compared to those who will live with God in heaven (Rev 21:8).

Christians are to invest their lives in those things that will last forever: The Word of God, and the souls of men. Our overall objectives are to be His kingdom and righteousness. We must channel our energies on these things, not on our own desires.

18 We are in the final phase of God's redemptive plan. Jesus has already purchased salvation for all who will believe in Him. He is in heaven now, but at the right time, He will return to Judge the earth and reward His faithful followers.

"Antichrist" has two simultaneous meanings. First, it is something that opposes Christ. Secondly, it is something that may try to substitute for Christ (Mat 24:4-5, Rev 13:6,8). Antichrist can embody itself in philosophies and governments, but it also applies to specific people, as John emphasizes here. Many people throughout history have tried to identify "the" antichrist described in 2 Th 2:3-4. However, while there will be a primary antichrist during the end times, we must be aware that there are many "smaller" antichrists living among us today.

19 The Church's worst problems with corrupted doctrine originally came from those within. Some people joined the Church, but were not satisfied with the message they heard there. One group incorrectly felt that people must adopt Judaism before they became Christians. Others left the Church and taught different forms of Christianity, such as Gnosticism. These and others opposed the message and work of Jesus either subtly or overtly while claiming to follow Him. They became antichrists even while they claimed to be Christians. Similar things happen today, often resulting in fragmented, powerless, and deceived church bodies.

In John 10:27-29 Jesus said that those who come to know Him would never fall away. John believed this, so he concluded that those who left the sound teachings of the Church were never really Christians.

20 God's "anointing" is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38). The Spirit helps teach a Christian what is true about God (John 14:16-17). Antichrists neither understand nor follow sound doctrine, but the believer's understanding and actions are made possible by the Spirit. An antichrist is eager to teach his new ideas, but the believer desires to implement the eternal truths that God has given us.
21 John is not accusing the recipients of this letter as being with the antichrists. He is simply reminding them that they know the truth of the Gospel and should be wary of those who deviate from it.
22 The claims of an antichrist include the denial of Jesus as the Christ. This can be a direct denial or an inference. For example, if the antichrist claims to be Christ, then Jesus could not be, since there is only one Messiah.

In John 10:30 Jesus claims to be of the same essence as God. John emphasizes that Jesus is inseparable from the Father. If one were to say he loves God but refuses to believe in Jesus, then he can not be telling the truth.

23 Those who deny Jesus as the Christ will neither believe nor follow Him. Thus, they can not claim to have Him or enjoy the benefits of a relationship with Him. On the other hand, those who acknowledge Jesus as the Christ will live in obedience to Him.
24 The recipients of this message heard the Gospel directly from the apostles. Their words are preserved for us in the pages of the Bible, and we are to abide in them, not ideas that contradict or diminish what has been written. To "abide" means to take up a permanent dwelling. If we live in obedience to God's word, then He will live within us.
25 We can be assured of these two things. First, "eternal" means that life for the believer will not stop. Second, Jesus promised this. We know that God can not lie, and nothing can stop His plan.
26 If someone teaches something different, then they are not abiding the word the God gave the writers of the Bible to preserve.
27 Teachers can be very helpful to Christians. Obviously, without teachers, the Gospel would not spread, and people would not benefit from those who have various experiences in their Christian lives. However, Christians do not need a human mentor around every moment to tell us what is right and wrong. God gave us the ability to reason, but He also gave the Holy Spirit to be with us always. Together, the mind and the Holy Spirit work together to help the Christian live according to God's will. It is difficult to deceive a Christian who is abiding with God.
28 Those who do not know and obey Jesus will be ashamed of themselves when He comes. They had the opportunity to know Him and do what was right, but they chose to disbelieve. Only when it is too late will they realize their mistake.

Those who believe and trust God will live in Him. Thus, when Jesus appears they will have complete confidence because of the relationship they have had up to that time.

29 The ungodly person will occasionally do something "good," but their day-to-day lives prove that they are not faithful to God, even if they claim to be. The true born-again Christian continually does things that please God. This does not mean we are perfect, but the keystone of righteousness is faith in God.