Some observations from 1 John, chapter 2

1 John 2 1

“From the beginning…”

 

The phrase “from the beginning” which was used in the first verse of the book (1 John 1:1), is used 5 more times in chapter 2. In John 1:1 “that which was from the beginning” was that which they had heard, seen and touched, “the word of life”. This “beginning” refers to Jesus the Messiah and his ministry on earth communicating God’s word, not to the beginning at creation. The occurrences of “from the beginning” in chapter 2 are verses 7, 13, 14, and 24 (two times). It is important to keep in mind that “from/in the beginning” in the Scriptures does not always refer to the Genesis creation.

 

Context must help determine which “beginning” is meant. For instance, in the Gospel of John, the phrase “from the beginning” does not usually refer to the creation, but to Jesus ministry on earth. Note these references:

  • “For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him” (John 6:65)
  • “So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Just what I have been telling you from the beginning’” (John 8:25).
  • “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you” (John 16:24).
  • “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (15:27).

In each case mentioned above, from the beginning means the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

With only two exceptions (John 8:44 and 1 John 3:8 which refer to the devil) “from the beginning” in the Gospel of John and in the Epistles of John (1 John 1:1; 2:7, 13, 14, 24; 3:11 and 2 John 1:5-6) refers to the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. This may help us understand “In the beginning…” of John 1:1. Some One God believers see John 1:1 as a reference to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Similarly, Luke mentioned “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:2). Mark 1:1 mentions “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah.”

 

“My little children”

 

Several times the writer refers to those whom he writes as “my little children” or “children” (2:1, 12, 18, 28). This should not be understood as if the writer is derogatorily chastising his listeners for being immature. Rather, these references should be understood as a terms of endearment and care, just as when he calls his listeners “beloved” (1 John 2:7, 3:2, 21, 4:1, 7, 11). As children of God (3:1-2), those that believe that Jesus is the Christ are a family, brothers and sisters, who must love one another (5:1).

 

An Advocate with the Father

 

The writer explains that we do sin, but there is a path to forgiveness (1 John 1:8-10). He writes to us “so that we may not sin, but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Jesus is our advocate, like a lawyer on our side. This should give us great encouragement. Jesus is the honest, righteous lawyer on our side. He is for us. As an expert lawyer, Jesus knows the rules. He knows how to take our case before the Father. He has access to the Father and successfully intercedes for us (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5 and Hebrews 8:1).

 

We lived in Israel and all our children were born there. Most countries do not grant citizenship to foreign children by virtue of being born in the country. Two of our young adult children applied to become citizens in Israel. They were denied several times over three years. However, not long ago a lawyer, an advocate, took up their case and presto, my children received their citizenship. The lawyer knew the rules, had the connections, authority and knowledge on how to present my children’s case, and succeeded. Jesus is our expert, righteous, successful advocate before the Father.

 

“Do not love the world…”

 

The author’s admonition to “not love the world or things of the world” are perhaps the best known verses of chapter 2 (vs. 15-17). He defines what “loving the world” is: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. It is a love of the way of the world, or of this world’s system. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have an appreciation for the beauty and grandeur of God’s creation, the work of God’s hands, which is “very good” (Gen. 1:31). After all we wait for the regeneration of this world, and indeed the regeneration of this world’s system (Matt. 19:28, Heb. 2:5).

 

“The last hour”  and “anti-christs”

The author says it is the last hour. What a long hour it has been! He knows that it is the last hour since many anti-christs had already come. Specifically, here he says that the anti-Christ (anti-Messiah) is anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah). The text does not say, as many traditional trinitarian Christians say, that the anti-Messiah is anyone who denies that God is the Messiah, or that the Messiah pre-existed as God. Rather, the text says that the anti-Messiah is anyone who denies that Jesus, the man Jesus, is the Messiah. “Christ” (Messiah) is never a title for God himself.

 

Of these anti-christs, the author says: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us…” (1 John 2:19). It is easy to see how a text like this could be mis-interpreted and mis-applied. Especially as centuries passed, anyone could use the text to condemn any kind of a reformer. For instance, Catholics could apply it against Protestants.  Today it is leveled against anyone who denies that Jesus is God. But in its original context it was directed against anyone who denied that the man Jesus is the Christ (Messiah).

 

The promise of God – eternal life

1 John 2:25 says that God has promised us eternal life (immortal life in the age to come). We can take comfort and joy that God is pretty good at keeping His promises.

 

Having confidence, and not shrinking back in shame

 

1 John 2:28 says that if we abide in Jesus, that is, live according to knowledge of who he is, we can have confidence so that when he appears, at his coming, we won’t shrink back in shame. Since we know who Jesus is — the Messiah of God the Father, risen from the dead, exalted to God’s right hand, appointed to rule the world, we can look forward to his return. There is a similar admonition in Hebrews 10:39: “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.”

-Bill Schlegel

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