16 Here John gives three examples of the things of the world, the things of darkness, which we must not love. First, the cravings of sinful man. These include all our sinful physical desires, such as unlawful sexual desires and excessive desires for comfort, pleasure, and fine food. Second, the lust of [man’s] eyes. This means man’s greed and covetousness. Third, the boasting of what [man] has and does. This boasting, or pride, means taking pride in one’s accomplishments; it means seeking a good name or high position; it means putting confidence in oneself instead of in God.
17 The world and its desires are passing away. Why put faith in things that pass away?
… but the man who does the will of God lives forever. God’s will is this: that men believe in Christ and obey His commands—especially the two great commandments to love God and neighbor. The man or woman who believes in Christ and obeys His commands will receive eternal life and live forever (Matthew 7:21).
18… this is the last hour; that is, the “last hour” is now. The last hour began when Jesus first came into the world, and it will end when Jesus comes again at the end of the world. The entire history of the world can be divided into two parts: the part that took place before Christ, and the part that has taken place since Christ. Even the calendar used throughout the world is divided into B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (the year of the Lord, meaning, after Christ). This last hour has now lasted almost two thousand years.
Before Christ comes again, the antichrist6 will first come (see 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4,8; 1 John 4:3 and comments). But before the main antichrist comes, many other antichrists will rise up—indeed, many have already risen up (Mark 13:5-6,2113). These are the false teachers. They entice many people to follow after them.
19 Such false teachers, or antichrists, come from within the church. They have gone out from the church. At first they seemed just like other believers, but John says here that they never had true faith; they never truly belonged to the church. These false teachers were never true Christians to begin with.
Many Christians interpret this verse to mean that anyone who falls away or leaves the faith never had true faith to start with. They say that a true believer can never really fall away; a true believer cannot lose his salvation.7
20 True believers have an anointing from the Holy One—that is, from Christ. They are anointed with the Holy Spirit. God anointed Christ with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38). And Christ likewise anoints all believers with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17). Therefore, through the Spirit we know the truth8 (see John 14:26). Therefore, a true believer does not teach falsehood.
21 The readers of this letter know the truth already. John writes to them not because they don’t know the truth, but because they do know it. This letter is written for Christians. But Christians can be deceived by false teachers. Therefore, John writes in order that they might not be deceived. False teachers teach falsehood; such teaching never comes from the truth.
22What is the biggest lie? The biggest lie is to say that Jesus is not the Christ, that He is not the Savior, that He is not God’s Son. To deny Christ is to deny God (Matthew 11:27; John 14:9-10; 2 John 7).
23 … whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also (see 1 John 4:15). Only by knowing Christ can we truly know God (John 1:18). We cannot come to God except through Christ (John 14:6). There are many roads that run in the direction of heaven, but there is only one that reaches there. That one road is Christ. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
24 See that what you have heard from the beginning—that is, God’s word—remains in you. If God’s word does not remain in us, Christ will not remain in us, and we will not remain in Him. We will become like the false teachers mentioned in verses 18-19. We will become like withered branches, fit only to be cut off and thrown away (see John 15:4-7).
But if what we have heard (God’s word) remains in us, we will remain in the Son and in the Father. He who remains in the Son (Christ), will also remain in God the Father. Let us continually exhort one another not to turn away from God’s word, the Gospel, that we have heard.
25 Those who remain in Christ and in whom Christ’s word remains have the promise of eternal life (see John 4:14; 6:40).
26 This verse John has written to us as a warning. Let us not throw away the promise of eternal life! Let us not be led astray by false teachers.
27 The anointing you received is the anointing with the Holy Spirit which believers receive from him—Christ. John tells his readers: This anointing remains in you. Then he says: … and you do not need anyone to teach you. What does John mean? He means that our main teacher is the Holy Spirit. Of course, God uses Spirit-filled teachers to teach us, but these teachers themselves have been taught by the Holy Spirit. Thus all true teaching ultimately is inspired by the Holy Spirit, whether it comes directly to us from the Spirit Himself, or whether it comes through reading the Bible, or through Spirit-filled human teachers.
Jesus said: “The Holy Spirit … will teach you all things” (John 14:26) Therefore, Christians are not dependent on human wisdom. Many Christians say: “I am ignorant; I am not educated; I don’t know anything.” But they never need to say that! Let them read and hear God’s word as much as they are able, and then let them have faith that whatever else they need to know the Holy Spirit will teach them. No believer in Christ is “ignorant” in God’s sight.
Therefore, says John, let God’s word remain in us, let the Holy Spirit’s anointing remain in us, and let us remain in him—IN CHRIST.
28 And now, dear children, continue in him. There is no more important teaching in the Bible than this: Continue (or remain) in Christ. If we do not continue in Him, we shall be ashamed when he appears at His second coming. For He will say to us, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).
But if we continue in Him, we shall be confidentand unashamed when He comes again. If we continue in Him, we shall know with certainty that we are saved. We shall stand before His judgment seat, and He will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21).
If Christ came today, what would He say to us? Would we be able to stand before Him confident and unashamed?
29 How can we recognize a true Christian—that is, one born of God? In this way: A true Christian does9 what is right. God is righteous; therefore, all those who have been born of Him are also righteous. It is equally true to say that all those who do what is right are born of Him. Being born of God and doing what is right cannot be separated.
But what does John mean when he says that true Christians do what is right? What is “right”? To do “right” is to believe in Christ and to obey His commands. When one does this he is declared RIGHTOUS, even as God is righteous (see 1 John 3:7). So then, all who believe in Christ and obey Him are righteous and are born of God.
To be born of God means to be born anew spiritually by the Holy Spirit (see John 3:3,5 and comment). It does not mean that a person tries to make himself “spiritual” by doing good works or by following some religious law or ritual. Man’s nature cannot be made spiritual in this way. Our old sinful self cannot be born of God. In fact, there is only one thing our old sinful self can and must do: it must die. In order for a new spiritual self to be born, the old sinful self must first die (see Romans 6:6). To be born of God, then, means to put off our old sinful life, and receive a new spiritual life. It means to become a new creation (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). The person who is born of God will live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16,25). … those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God (Romans 8:14).