1 John 2

The Word Made Fresh

1I am writing this so that you, my children, may not sin. But if someone does sin, we have one who will defend us before the Father: Jesus Christ the Righteous. 2He was sacrificed to atone for our sin, and not just for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world.

3If we obey his commandments it means that we know him. 4Anyone who says, “I know him,” but does not obey him, is a liar; the truth doesn’t exist in him. 5But those who obey his word have the love of God perfected in them. We can be sure that we are in him 6if we can say, “I live in him,” and walk as he walked.

7Friends, I’m not writing a new commandment, but an old one that you’ve always had; indeed, the old commandment is the word that you have received. 8But I’m telling you again that what is true in him is true in you because the darkness is giving way to the true light that shines. 9Anyone who says they are in the light while at the same time hating another is still living in the darkness. 10Those who love others live in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11But whoever hates another believer is living in the dark and doesn’t know the way to live because the darkness has blinded them.

12So, I am writing to you, children, because your sins have been forgiven in his name. 13I’m writing to you, parents, because you know the One who is from the beginning. I’m writing to you, young adults, because you have overcome the evil one. 14I’m also writing to you children because you know the Father. And I’m writing to you fathers because you know the one who has been since the beginning; and to you young adults because you are strong, and the word of God is within you, and you have overcome the evil one.

15Don’t be in love with the world or anything in it. The Father’s love is not in anyone who loves the world 16because everything in the world – things desired by the flesh or the eyes, or pride in wealth – come from the world and not from the Father. 17And the world is passing away with its desires, but those who do God’s will live on forever.

18Children, this is the last hour. You’ve heard that the antichrist is coming, and by now many antichrists have come, and that is how we know this is the last hour. 19They came from among us, but really didn’t belong to us. If they had, they would have stayed with us, but by leaving they made it clear that none of them really belonged to us. 20But the Holy One has anointed you and you know all things. 21I’m writing to you, not because you don’t know the truth, but because you do, and you know that lies don’t arise from the truth. 22Who is the liar, if not the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? And the antichrist denies both the Father and the Son. 23No one who denies the Son can have the Father; but everyone who believes in the Son has the Father as well. 24So, let what you learned from the beginning live within you, then you will live in both the Son and the Father, 25and he has promised us eternal life.

26I’m writing to you about the ones trying to deceive you. 27The anointing that you received from Christ lives in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you because his anointing teaches you everything, and it is true. It is not a lie. You live in him just as your anointing has taught you.

28So now, children, live in him and when he is revealed we will be confident and not ashamed of him when he comes. 29If you know that he is righteous, then you know that all who do right have been born of him.


1-2: Tradition has it that John wrote these letters when he was a very old man. The word “children” occurs often in these three short letters. The tenderness with which he addresses them is evident throughout. Whereas Peter seems to focus mainly on wrongdoers and heretics, John focuses mainly on the church (with a side trip to see the antichrist, but only briefly). He urges them not to sin, but if they sin there is no need to despair because “we have have one who will defend us before the Father: Jesus Christ the Righteous.”

3-6: Here’s the test: if you live like Jesus lived, then you know Jesus. If you claim to know him but don’t act like him, you don’t know him.

7-11: The key word is love. You can’t truly know Jesus and hate anybody. Love is light; hate is darkness.

12-14: He addresses children, parents, and youth in a six-stanza poem that builds them up. The word to children is that they are forgiven, and thus know the Father. The message to the parents is simply repeated; he is writing to them because they know Christ. The message to youth at first applauds them for conquering the evil one — a phrase I take to mean “you have renounced sin and accepted Christ” — and then for being strong and having internalized the word of God.

15-17: The “world” for John is primarily a reference to selfish desires. He cautions them not to seek the things of the world. Those things will pass away. Only the love of the Father remains forever.

18-25: Meet the antichrist. Or I should say, meet the antichrists. The antichrist here is not a reference to an individual but to a type. Those whom John labels “antichrists” were once part of the church, but went out of it and began teaching doctrines that were not part of the gospel message. The very fact that the church was being split was for John a sign that the “end” was near and that soon the kingdom of our Lord would be ushered in. Verses 22-23 give us a glimpse into the heresy to which John is alluding: a faction from within the church had begun to teach that Jesus is not the long-expected Messiah, and not the Son of God. He insists that believing in Jesus as the Son of God is the mark of those who have had their sins forgiven and who seek to live as Jesus lived, in love with God and neighbor. The stakes are high: life eternal.

26-27: The word “anointing” here seems to refer to the basic teachings of the faith. If they have received that anointing they should be able to resist the antichrist and abide in Christ — that is, follow the Lord’s commandment to love and live as Jesus lived.

28-29: When the Lord returns he wants them to be able to stand before him unashamed because they have been faithful to the commandment to love. For John, righteousness is love, and Jesus is therefore the spiritual “father” of righteousness.


As then, the primary charge to the followers of Christ today is to love one another. Some of us are harder to love than others, of course. But in spite of that, there is only the one rule: love one another anyway.