II. Obey, Remain, and Love (1 John 2:1-11)


II. Obey, Remain, and Love (2:1-11)

2:1 John’s love for these Christians is clear. He speaks as a father to his little children, as a pastor to his flock. He has just told them (more or less) that they’re crazy if they deny their sin (1:8-10). And in fact, the closer you get to God, the more sinful stains his light will reveal in you. But this doesn’t grant you license to sin! On the contrary, John says, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. John wants his readers to know intimate and joy-filled fellowship with God, which requires confessing sin and turning from it.

The reason why confession and forgiveness are possible is because of the advocacy of Jesus: if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ. The concept here is of a defense attorney in a court of law. If you are a believer, Jesus represents you before the bar of God’s judgment. You were a bankrupt sinner who couldn’t afford a lawyer, but the Father appointed his own Son in your defense. This advocate doesn’t share your sin problem; he’s the only righteous one. He paid your debt on the cross, and his shed blood continues to cleanse you today.

2:2 Not only is Jesus our advocate, but he’s the atoning sacrifice—or the “propitiation”—for our sins. Propitiation is one of those ten-dollar theological words. It means Jesus has appeased God’s just wrath against sin by his sacrificial death for the whole human race (i.e., unlimited atonement). He satisfied (i.e., propitiation) God’s righteous demands so that the Creator is favorably disposed toward those who place faith in him for eternal life. God himself paid the price for a legal relationship and intimate fellowship with you.

2:3-5 How does our fellowship with God grow deeper? This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commands (2:3). Whoever keeps his word, truly in him the love of God is made complete (2:5). Obedience rooted in love is the requirement for ongoing, deepening fellowship with God. To “know him” is a reference to intimate fellowship not justification, since John’s readers are already believers (see 2:1, 28; 4:4; 5:21). We are saved by grace. But grace doesn’t negate the commandments of God. Rather, grace grants you the ability to fulfill them and grow in love. When this happens, you will increase your experiential knowledge of closeness with God.

2:6 The one who says he remains in him should walk just as he walked. The Greek word for “remains” (or “abides”) is a favorite of John (see John 15:4-7). In contemporary, colloquial language it means to “hang out with.” You can’t hang out with Christ without him rubbing off on you.

When it comes to making tea, some people dip their teabags in and out of the hot water. Many Christians approach their relationship with Jesus like this—dipping in and out of church on Sunday mornings, with little change resulting. Other tea drinkers place their teabags in the water and let them remain. In time, the tea seeps into the water and transforms it. For Christ to influence and transform your life, you must remain in him.

2:7-8 A question naturally arises: to grow in intimacy with God, which commandments do I need to keep? John reduces the answer to one. As will be clear in 2:9-11, he’s thinking specifically of the commandment to love one another. It summarizes the others. John says it’s old and yet new. It’s old because it’s found in Leviticus 19:18, but it’s also new because it’s the governing commandment for the Christian life. Jesus said loving God and loving neighbor are the two great commandments (see Matt 22:36-40). If love has a fresh ongoing effect in your life, all the other commandments will fall into place.

2:9-11 Love has become watered down in our world. “I love chocolate cake.” “I love this dress.” “I love that TV show.” For many people, love describes sentimental feelings. But John will tell his readers in 4:8 that “God is love.” It is part of his inexhaustible nature for the good of the beloved and for his own glory.

When you love your brother or sister, you seek to comprehensively and righteously meet his or her need in a way that brings glory to God. It is no mere expression of feelings but an expression of something higher, something eternal. When this happens, you remain in the light and have no cause for stumbling (2:10). Love for God and neighbor allow you to see clearly and avoid falling into sin.

However, the one who hates his brother or sister is in the darkness (2:9, 11) and, thus, out of fellowship with the God of light. Such a person is blinded and doesn’t know where he’s going (2:11). Walking around in darkness never ends well.