1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence -- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. 9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

12 I write to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
13 I write to you, fathers,
because you have known him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children,
because you have known the Father.
14 I write to you, fathers,
because you have known him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world -- the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does -- comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. New International Version.



  • Forgiveness (v.1) -- this is great news! Not that we should abuse God’s kindness, but in case we do sin (and we all do—let’s be honest), Jesus is right there speaking in our defense, not rationalizing our sin through slick argument, but neutralizing it through his atoning blood. Would that the whole world grasped this and experienced it (2:2)!
  • Verses 3-6 are a clear passage on the commitment the Lord demands.
    • It silences the opposition of those who insist that uncommitted people can be saved.
    • Walking as Jesus did is not walking in sandals or walking on water. As we have seen, the walking of 2:6 is equivalent to the walking of 1:7.
    • There is a tremendous difference between knowing someone and knowing about someone. According to Jesus (Matthew 7:21-23), countless individuals confuse knowing about the Lord with knowing him personally. Obedience is the key. (See also 1 Corinthians 8:3.)
    • There is no contradiction between living as a committed Christian and salvation by grace through the blood of Jesus. In fact, grace is designed to bring us into an obedient relationship with Christ.
  • As in marriage, without commitment (faithfulness) the relationship sours and is eventually destroyed. The command about love (v.7ff) was old (Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:37-40) but also new, because now we can see clearly what we need to do by imitating God in the flesh (John 13:34).
    • The truth of this command is seen “in him and you”: in the life of Christ and in our life as his body, the church of Christ.
    • The command to live as Jesus did is all about love (2:5), because the Christian’s life revolves around people.
    • Those who had left the fellowship didn't love their brothers. It seems John is saying that those who leave the church, who do not keep their commitment of love to God and the family of God, “hate” their spiritual siblings.
  • “Children” (v.12) isn't referring to infants or toddlers. It's those of us who have become children of God through the new birth. “My dear children” is one of John’s favorite descriptions of those who are in Christ.
    • Our sins were forgiven through the name of Jesus, but when? At baptism, as Acts 2:38 and 22:16 make clear.
    • The way to overcome the evil one is to let the word of Christ dwell in you (Colossians 3:16, Psalm 119:9). John assures us that the victory is ours! We need to think of ourselves as overcomers.
  • The warning about loving the world (vv.15-17) reminds us of James 4:4.
    • We are to love nothing in the world because it is not possible to serve more than one master (Luke 16:13).
    • What is “worldliness”? The worldly man thinks about everything in relation to himself; the godly man in relation to God. And the bonus for the man who lives for God: eternal life.
    • Those who had left the church for Docetic theology were, despite their religion, worldly to the core. The false Christians left the fellowship. They stopped going to church—the right church, that is. They started up their own.


  • Some see in verse 2 a promise of ultimate redemption for everybody. This false doctrine is called universalism. And yet 1 John does not teach that everybody will be saved, only that God wants everyone to be saved. And yet the Lord will never force anyone against his or her will.
  • Verses 12-14 are a poem, or song, which became familiar to the first century Christians. The rhyme and rhythm are evident in the Greek original, which is why most translators set it out in verse form.

Thought questions:

  • Am I walking in the light? And is there any area of darkness in my life of which I am aware?
  • Do I love my brothers and sisters? Is there hidden resentment or prideful independence that resists correction? Prejudice or hatred in any other form?
  • Can I say with a clear conscience that the word of God lives in me?
  • Am I worldly? What excites me more: my possessions, experiences, and accomplishments, or my walk with the Lord?

This lesson has been adapted from chapter 19 of James, Peter, John, Jude. For the complete studies, buy/borrow the book!