1 John 2:1-6
The New Relationship
- The Advocate (1Jn_2:1-6)
- A New Commandment (1Jn_2:7-17)
- Abide in Him (1Jn_2:18-29)
In "My little children," John makes use of a diminutive form of the word teknion, the word for "child" in Greek. The force of the use of the diminutive is represented in the English translation with the insertion of the word "little." John's intent is probably not so much to imply the young age of his audience but rather to express affection; this is the real linguistic purpose of the diminutive in such a context as we have here in 1Jn_2:1. We have the same literary device in English by our addition of "ie" or "y" at the end of nouns. For example dad—daddy and Bill—Billy.
We are able to sense from this greeting something of the warm relationship that exists between the writer and those to whom he sends this letter. At this point in our consideration of 1 John we must ask some questions about the possible recipients of this letter. We assume that 1 John is a general letter designed to be circulated by Christians from church to church. Unlike the letters of Paul and the Book of Revelation, this letter from John does not identify any particular church or city location.
The sense of authority that resides with the author is clear throughout the letter. The author does not identify himself, but he writes this letter with an unmistakable autograph. That autograph is the briefer but obviously similar prologue that opens this letter and unites it with the prologue that opens the Gospel of John. We know from the Gospel of John that the author of that book has consciously chosen to indicate his identity by means of an indirect autograph, namely the several restrained and unusual references to the disciple John, son of Zebedee. In this first letter, our author John the son of Zebedee preserves his original style.
One interesting historical validation of the apostolic authorship of this letter is a psychological-sociological observation. Only a person with immense personal influence within the first-century Christian church would write such a letter as this letter: general, authoritative, and definite, while at the same time fatherly in tone. Such a letter would be unlikely and strained were it the work of a young leader in the church. Only a person of established reputation and stature writes without personal autograph, and only an elder statesman would say "my little children." Very few writers could write such a greeting appropriately. If the apostle John is not the author of this book, then we have the highly improbable fact that there is a towering figure in the early church of which the early church fathers have nothing to say. The evidence strongly points to the disciple John, and he writes to Christians that he knows personally. Church tradition favors the view that John was resident in Ephesus for a long period of his ministry, and there are interesting supporting evidences for that contention which we will note later when we consider the third letter.
John warns against sin. The verb "sin" is the Greek word hamartanō, which throughout the New Testament is the most common word choice for sin. It means to fall short, to do wrong. John counsels strongly against sin; however, he is realistic about the needs of his readers. Therefore he decides to emphasize the source of their common help more than to warn them of their common crisis. He tells them of their Lord; Jesus Christ the righteous one is the advocate. The Greek word that is translated by the word "advocate" is the word paraklētos; this is a very interesting word in the New Testament. It is made up of two elements: para and kaleō. Para as a prefix for various verbs and nouns means "along the side of" or "from." Kaleō is the verb "to call." Therefore the verb parakaleō means to call to one's side, to summon as in Act_28:20 and 2Co_12:8. The noun paraklētos means one who comes alongside, one who appears in another's behalf, a mediator, a helper. Our Lord uses this as His word for the Holy Spirit in Joh_14:16-26; Joh_15:26; Joh_16:7. The RSV translates the word in these passages with the English word "counselor," while the King James Bible made use of the English word "comforter." The literal sense of the word is that of one who comes alongside as our helper.
The word offers us one more important linguistic connection between the first letter of John and the Gospel of John. The word is a roadway word, and by its use John continues the pathway imagery of the first chapter. The advocate who helps us is personal, not ideological, and this is a vitally important point for Christian faith. The Christian hope is not rooted in fate or in ideological affirmation; the Christian hope is rooted in the personal intervention of God's Son—He is the enormous exception.
John continues his sentence with these words: "And He Himself is the propitiation [expiation] for our sins. " The Greek word that John uses in this sentence, which is translated by "propitiation" (KJV), or "expiation" (RSV), is one of a family of words that are used in only a few places in the New Testament. Hilasmos is the word used here and also later in 1Jn_4:10. Other uses of this family of Greek words in the New Testament are in Heb_2:17 where the verb form is used, "… to expiate the sins of the people"; in Luk_18:13 in the parable of Jesus in which the publican cries out, "God be merciful to me a sinner"; and in Heb_8:12 where the sense of the root is also used: "For I will be merciful toward their iniquities." Still other uses of this root word are in Rom_3:25, "… whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood" and also Heb_9:5 in which the writer describes the temple of Israel: "Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat."
This final citation is the most important key to our understanding of the word in its New Testament usage. When the seventy Hebrew scholars translated the Old Testament into Greek at about the year 100 B.C. in the textual version we call the Septuagint, they set the tone for much of the New Testament vocabulary by the word choices that they made to translate Hebrew words into Greek. When they chose a Greek word to translate the Hebrew word kippur, the covering or mercy seat of the Old Testament ark, they made use of this Greek root hilasmos. This is therefore also the root word used to translate the Old Testament "atonement" and "mercy" vocabulary.
Our best understanding of John's intention in his use of this word thus is to recognize its origins in the Old Testament understanding of kippur or covering. The blood of the sacrificed animals was sprinkled upon the mercy seat. Lev_16:15-16 gives to us the worship practice which employs this word: "Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, and bring its blood within the veil, and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat; thus he shall make atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the people of Israel."
As noted, kippur is the Hebrew word for mercy seat and the word for atonement. Within the practice of Leviticus, a substitution is made in behalf of the people, and this word kippur expresses that substitution. The life of an animal is sacrificed in behalf of the people. This substitution is what atonement means. A covering is placed between the people and the righteous Lord which recognizes the sinfulness of the people and also which represents the forgiveness that is God's gift to the people. What John is teaching by his use of the word hilasmos is that Jesus Christ has identified himself with us. The identification is total, costly, and universal; "And not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." The One who has come alongside us on the road has taken our place at a deadly moment.
But Jesus Christ is not like the trapped animals of Leviticus which are sacrificed as victims to satisfy a drama of reconciliation. Jesus fulfills that ancient drama, but His fulfillment is not ceremonial. Rather, it is the real and ultimate battle scene of all time in which Jesus Christ disarms the power of sin and death and the devil once and for all by taking death and sin upon Himself. "I am the good shepherd, I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep … No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (Joh_10:14-18, RSV). Here we have no victim but the Lord, who conquers through the way of brokenness.
There is no other way for such terrible foes as death and sin and cosmic evil to be overcome. This is a key passage in 1 John, and its theological significance is crucial in the development of our whole understanding of the atoning ministry of Jesus Christ. The commentator B. F. Westcott stated the central question clearly and helpfully in his classic work: "The scriptural conception of hilasmos is not that of appeasing one who is angry, with a personal feeling, against the offender; but of altering the character of that which from without occasions a necessary alienation, and interposes an inevitable obstacle to fellowship." It is not that we propitiate God with sacrifices or somehow win His love by the act of the Levitical sacrifice. Our Lord Jesus Christ does not stand alongside us to somehow win for us the love from God as if God were hardened and bitter toward us. "The love of God is the same throughout; but he 'cannot' in virtue of His very nature welcome the impenitent and sinful; and more than this, He 'cannot' treat sin as if it were not sin."
But now in the fulfillment of Jesus Christ's act the sacrifice has been finally made. The one overwhelming difference between Leviticus and 1 John is in the fact that we know the Lord of our atonement, unlike the priests of the ancient rite: "The union between the offerer and the offering was conventional and not real. The victim was irrational, so that there could be no true fellowship between it and the offender." But our kippur is our advocate, the one who comes alongside us. John wants to impress upon his readers this fellowship of the believer with Jesus Christ by his next sentence, "And by this we know that we know him …" (1Jn_1:3). John has good news for his readers. Atonement is not a matter of heavenly bookkeeping in which a mark is placed in the ledger in our behalf. If this were the case, then our main goal in life would be to find the secret of our personal salvation. Our main concern would be to be sure of a ledger entry, or to find the gift of atonement as an end in itself. The giver or provider would be quite secondary, much like the pitiful animals used in temple sacrifice. What are they to me, apart from the drama that is acted out with their blood? It all then becomes so religious and one step removed from where I am really living.
It is my observation that this kind of religious captivity of the atonement event of Christian faith can happen today too when a Christian becomes more interested in the gifts that God gives to us than in the Lord who gives the gifts. When forgiveness is turned into a general truth or religious principle, then we no longer have our eyes upon the One who comes alongside us on the road but instead upon the religious benefits we seek to possess. This also means that atonement is not a status of things that can be administered by the church as if it were a quantity of merit. Atonement is the event that happened once and for all on the road just outside the city wall in Jerusalem by the man Jesus Christ. And this event is to be received and known and lived.
The event of our atonement is so important that nothing can be the same for us again. We must live in daily relationship with our Advocate. We show our love for Him, and our love is itself fulfilled (this is the sense of the word "perfected," 1Jn_1:5) as we obey His self-disclosure. We must walk with Him. John will have very much more to say of this.
"Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as a Christian 'conception' of God… . Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance… . Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate… . Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ" (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, pp. 35-37).
The Life Has Broken In!
The Way of Life
- From The Beginning (1Jn_1:1-4)
- GOD IS LIGHT (1Jn_1:5)
- The Walk In The Light (1Jn_1:6-10)
1 John 1:6-10
To Walk in the Light
- The Language of The Roadway
- The Language of Fellowship
Are Now Drawn Together by John In
- A Few Simple and Direct Sentences.
God's Truth Is Not an
- Abstract Philosophical Ideal to Be Honored
- And Held Up for Respectful Admiration,
- But A RELATIONSHIP TO BE LIVED.
It Immediately Becomes Clear That
- God's Truth Is a Dynamic Roadway Upon Which
- We Are To Walk, And On A Day-To-Day Basis.
We Are to Experience God's Light Upon
- Our Own Existential Pathway,
- And This Makes All the Difference.
For John, Christian Faith Is Not
- A Matter of Spiritual Speculation
- Or The Mastery of Secrets and Code Words.
John Continues to Write With
- The Same Freshness
- And Lack of Pretention That Has Marked His Opening Sentences
- As He Now Sketches in How a Person Can Live In Fellowship With God And With God's People.
We Are To "Walk in The Light," And This Means To Walk In The Way Of DISCLOSURE.
First, We Discover God in The Way of Light (1Jn_1:6);
- We Also Discover Ourselves in The Way of Light (1Jn_1:8).
What Is It That We Discover About God? And What Do We Discover About Ourselves?
Within These Four Verses We Make These Discoveries:
- God Is on The Side Of TRUTH And OPENNESS.
- Therefore, for us human beings to have Common Relationship with God,
- We must stand before God in The Way Of OPENNESS and LIGHT.
- John Shares a Surprise With His Readers.
- We are told an amazing good news at the very moment that we could not dare to expect it.
- THE WAY OF LIGHT is DANGEROUS, and its disclosure is THREATENING to every human being because
-The LIGHT SHOWS UP our own INADEQUACIES
-And, what is worse, LIGHT SHOWS UP our own WICKEDNESS.
We Have Walked The Way Of Harm.
-Now, in the presence of the light,
-that distorted way is in full view.
-We are warned Not To Attempt Any Cover-Up.
But What Is It That Will Happen Now?
- As the way of our lives becomes apparent
- And exposed because of the light of god's justice and truth?
We Have Walked So Much of Our LIVES In
- DARKNESS, More Than We Want To Admit,
- And therefore, john's command to us that we enter upon a totally exposed
- And BRILLIANTLY ILLUMINATED roadway is hardly good news.
In Theory We Respect LIGHT
- but to step out into its sheer spotlight intensity is frightening.
Then The Surprise Comes.
- "Right in the middle of all these things stands up an enormous exception.
- It is quite unlike anything else.
- It is a thing final like The Trumpet Of Doom,
- though it is also a piece of good news;
- or news that seems too good to be true.
- It is nothing less than the loud assertion that This Mysterious Maker Of The World has visited his world IN PERSON" (G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, p. 271).
We Make the Greatest Discovery Of All.
- The Lord who is THE LIGHT for the roadway Is Also OUR COMPANION on the roadway.
- This is the Enormous Exception for which we had no right to expect or hope.
- Jesus Christ is on the road with us AS THE LIGHT who REVEALS Our Sinfulness so that we dare not play games with that fact:
"If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar."
But Jesus Christ Is Also the LORD OF LIFE
- Who enables us to resolve injustice?
- And sin and the tragedies of darkness.
The Resolution of The Human Crisis Is
- a person who comes alongside us in the middle of the road.
John Tells Us That If We Walk In The Light
- The "BLOOD of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanses us from all sin."
The Word "Blood" Is
- CRUDE and definite for A Greek Reader.
- it is Profoundly Rich and Significant for A Jewish Reader
- Or Any Person grounded in the Old Testament.
For Each Reader the Word Implies DEATH,
- But Within the Background Of The Old Testament The Word Also Means LIFE.
It Is THE LIFE Of Jesus Christ That
- Is given by which we are resolved
- And made right for the road of light.
John Makes Use of The Strong Greek Word G2511KATHARIZŌ CLEANSETH To Express the Result of This Encounter.
- The word means to "CLEAN OUT."
- The English word "catharsis" comes to us from this Greek root.
John's Message To Us Is Very Basic.
- We are able to do Only One Thing ourselves and that is to Step Out into The Light.
The Tragic Confusion And Anger And Hurtfulness That
- THE LIGHT REVEALS in our lives is too much for us to HANDLE and to RESOLVE BY OURSELVES.
GOD HIMSELF Who Brings The Light Also Brings The Help;
- That help is the Person Jesus Christ who gives His Own Life in Our Behalf.
Joh 3:16-17 KJV For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (17) For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
At Just The Right Moment,
- We discover The Enormous Exception that God Does Not Destroy THE WANDERERS He finds upon the road.
- Rather He CLEANSES them And QUALIFIES them for THE WAY OF LIGHT.
John Is Insistent with His Readers on One Very Important Point.
To Walk In The Light Does Not Mean That A Human Being Is SINLESS And FLAWLESS;
- Rather To Walk In The Light Means That
-A Human Being As A Sinner Is, In The Light,
-Fully Aware That He Or She Is A Sinner.
That Is The Point!
- The surprise of this passage is that just such A Sinner Is Not A Lost Cause, beyond help,
- But that at Just The Right Moment the COMPANION of our road—
- WHO HIMSELF Is The Source Of The Light which Makes Us Recognize OUR GUILT—
- Now Becomes The Means of OUR HELP which Resolves Our Guilt.
The Answer to The Human Tragedy Therefore Is
- Not A Secret to Be Learned,
- Not An Escape from the road into a more spiritual atmosphere,
- And Not the Denial of the problem,
But The Man Jesus Christ alongside.
John Presents a Classic Summary Sentence In Verse 1Jn_1:9.
- "If we CONFESS our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins …"
- The Greek word that is translated in our text by the word "CONFESS" is the word G3670HOMO-LO-GEŌ.
This word means TO AGREE or TO DECLARE ALIKE. It is made up of Two Greek Words, the prefix HOMO, which means literally "ALIKE," and LOGOS, "WORD, SPEECH."
We Are Told By John That
- Our Responsibility is TO AGREE WITH GOD About The Nature Of Our Crises.
This Openness and Vulnerability on Our Part Is
- What Firmly Plants Our Feet Upon The Pathway Of Light?
- THERE ARE NO:
Special Code Words to learn
Or Special Incense formulas to master,
Or Elaborate Rituals to perform!
How Unlike The Mysticism And Religiosity Of The First Century And Our Own Day Are John's Words?
- They are Simple, Direct, And Real.
- Come Into The Light where Jesus Christ is; here you will meet YOURSELF and here you will meet HIM.
THEN STAND in the open position and
-ADMIT Who You Are,
-AGREE With God
-And RECEIVE Cleansing and Forgiveness.
The Word "Forgive" In Greek Means "To Leave Behind," Literally "To Abandon."
- The promise to us from John is that God Will Forgive,
- will Leave Behind Our Sins.
- He who is righteous will Cleanse Us from our Anti-Righteousness.
We Learn From John By
- His use of ONE SINGLE WORD that forgiveness is a costly gift.
- That one word is the word "BLOOD"
John will have more to say about the meaning of this awesome fact later in his book.
Jesus Christ Has Won for Humankind
- The right to the way of light and life
- Because of the event of his own lifeblood spent on our behalf.
- Forgiveness is not a transaction in a courtroom
- But THE EVENT that happens At A Cross.
JOHN BUNYAN In His Book Pilgrim's Progress
Has caught both the costly intensity and
the wonder of this event.
"Now I saw in my dream that the highway up which Christian was to go was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall is called salvation.
Up this way therefore did burdensome Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back. He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below in the bottom, a sepulcher.
SO I SAW IN MY DREAM, that just as Christian came up with the cross, HIS BURDEN LOOSED from off his shoulders, and FELL FROM OFF HIS BACK, and began to tumble, and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the sepulcher, where it fell in, AND I SAW IT NO MORE."
One Final Part Of John's Affirmation Has To Do With
- THE FELLOWSHIP of those who are on the roadway together with JESUS CHRIST.
JOHN TEACHES THAT
- The openness before God that ENABLES OUR FORGIVENESS
- Also ENABLES OUR FELLOWSHIP.
- Fellowship is NOT FOUNDED UPON DECEPTION and never has been.
It Is The Common Or Shared Crisis That
- The Disciples Experience Together when THE LIGHT of the road first confronts us,
- And That Common Crisis is resolved in THE COMMON FORGIVENESS that comes
- When We Recognize OUR SINFULNESS and OUR NEED for THE SAVIOR.
This Means That
- The kind of fellowship that John is describing in this chapter is The Fellowship of Brokenness.
- The People We Meet on the roadway of 1 John 1 are
- Too wrung out by the experience of GOD'S SHEER HONESTY And LIGHT
- to play games about Moral Superiority or Mystical One-Upmanship.
These Folk Have Met The GOOD LIGHT,
- The enormous exception,
- And the main feelings that they have are GRATITUDE and JOY.
- John had PROMISED IT, and now we are able TO FEEL IT in this great chapter.
There Is No Cause For THE ACCELERATION OF JOY That
- Can match The Shock Of Recognition that "I Am Loved for who I really am."
IT IS NOT A
- Religious Leader
- Or Wealthy Contributor
- Or Revolutionary Zealot Who by Courage And Performance Has Won The Respect Of God.
It Is Instead A Mere Person Who,
- Like all other human beings, Needs God's Life and God's Light.
I CANNOT Make It ALONE Without
- Both The Light of The Creator
- And The Resolution of The Redeemer.
The Fellowship That Emerges Between
- Such persons IS NOT SUPERFICIAL but SUBSTANTIAL.
We Have Discovered:
- The BROKENNESS Of Each Other
And Because Of The Broken Healer We Are Drawn Together Into A Fellowship of Grace.
It Is a Fellowship That Is Created By The Act Of God.
DIETRICH BONHOEFFER DESCRIBES IT WELL:
"CHRISTIAN BROTHERHOOD is not AN IDEAL which we MUST REALIZE; it is rather A REALITY created by God in Christ in which WE MAY PARTICIPATE.
The more clearly we learn to RECOGNIZE that the GROUND and STRENGTH and PROMISE of all OUR FELLOWSHIP is in Jesus Christ ALONE, the more SERENELY shall we think of OUR FELLOWSHIP and PRAY and HOPE FOR IT."