In chapter 2 of his epistle, John is giving his first run-through of the tests that reassure Christians (for a reminder of the structure of 1 John see here). The first test is to with obedience (1 John 2:5), and the second is to do with love (1 John 2:10). Before he moves on to the third test, though, he has some clarifications to make. Who is included in this love? – all kinds of people (1 John 2:12-14). What is included in this love? – the will of God, but not the world (1 John 2:15-17). It’s this second clarification that we’re looking at now.
Read 1 John 2:15-17 and have a look at the following questions
If there was one thing in your life you couldn’t do without, what would it be?
John warns us to be careful what we love. If we’re devoted to things of this world, what is the issue? What does that kind of love become?
How does the object of your love determine your future? How does that warn us against our culture’s love of short-term gains and the here-and-now?
The intention of the letter, though, is to reassure Christians. How might these verses send you back to 2:14? Or 1:8-9?
John’s command in verse 15 has a continuous sense (“Do not keep on loving the world…”). How will you guard your heart in the long term?
Pray: that you would be wary of becoming too immersed in your culture, and delight in the Father’s will and the eternal life that he offers.
John’s two tests – the ‘walk’ test and the ‘love’ test – could have left the Ephesian church (and us!) feeling concerned that we’re not Christians at all. So, John reminds the church what is true of them – that they have responded to the truth of 1:1-4 by repenting and confessing their sins (1:5-10), and that they are real Christians.
Read 1 John 2:12-14
What are the key things that happen to a person the moment that they become a Christian?
What are the key things that have happened to the people in this church (list the phrases that begin “you have…”)?
What kind of people are included? Why does John mention a variety of people?
If you were included in this list how would you feel and why?
Why do we need to know that God’s one salvation plan includes all kinds of benefits and involves all kinds of people? How will that build your assurance, whatever stage of the Christian life you are at?
Pray: giving thanks that being saved by the gospel brings forgiveness, a relationship with God, the indwelling word of God, and a huge number of God-given benefits. Pray that you would savour those benefits at every stage of your Christian life.
John, the apostle who heard, saw and touched Jesus the Word of life, is writing to reassure a discouraged church. Specifically, he wants them not only the truth, but to know that they know the truth – to be assured. And to that end, he is explaining the second of three tests that his letter contains – the test of loving relationships within the church family.
Read: 1 John 2:9-11
From chapter 1, what did it mean to live (literally ‘remain’) in the light?
Read John 12:35-46 (written by the same apostle). How might that clarify what John means by being in the light?
How does being in the light affect our relationships with other Christians? Why does it say that “there is nothing to make” such a person “stumble”?
On the other hand, why is a person who hates in darkness (note, as John Stott says, “there is no twilight”)?
What evidence do you have that you (repentantly!) love other Christians? How are Christian relationships unusual, compared with the rest of our culture? How will you let that reassure you today?
Pray: giving thanks to God for bringing you into the light, and asking for distinctive, committed and counter-cultural Christian relationships to deepen in our church family.
The apostle John is writing (maybe to the church in Ephesus as in Revelation 1:11?) to reassure people after some have walked out of their church. In order to do this reassuring, he not only sets out the apostolic gospel (1:1-2:2), but gives the church three tests to show them that they are genuine Christians who are ‘walking in the light’. In fact these three tests come back three times, each time becoming more intertwined, until John’s final command (“Dear children, keep yourself from idols) can function as a summary of all three. That gives a structure like the one here, which mainly follows an analysis of the book by John Stott.
John has already introduced the ‘obedience’ test in 1 John 2:3-5. Now he begins to introduce the ‘love’ test…
Read 1 John 2:7-8
Being honest, do you think there is anything distinctive about Christian relationships compared with other work or family relationships? If so, what makes them different?
John describes the command to love as an ‘old command’. Looking at verses like Leviticus 19:11-18, in what kinds of ways are God’s people to love their neighbour?
The command to love is also a ‘new command’. Looking at John 13:30-38, what makes this command new?
Back in 1 John 2:8, where is the truth of this new command seen, and in what part of Bible history does it belong?
Why, then, is it so appropriate that John begins this section ‘Dear friends’?
Would people know that you were one of Jesus disciples by the love that you show?
Pray: Thanking God that Jesus has demonstrated the ultimate act of love, repenting of any lovelessness, and praying that your love for other Christians would be distinctive.
John’s introduction in chapter 1 has been about real information, real fellowship with God, and real forgiveness – what it means to know God. But in the rest of the letter he concentrates not only on knowing God, but knowing that you know God – in other words, Christian assurance. And to build assurance, he introduces three tests – the moral test, the social test, and the doctrinal test (or the walk test, the love test, and the truth test). All three tests come back a number of times, and gradually merge into one. Here the first of those tests is introduced…
Read: 1 John 2:3-6 and look at the following questions
First, compare John 20:31 with 1 John 5:13. How does the aim of John’s epistle add to the aim of his gospel?
I John 2:3-6 could be used to discourage us, if we know that we’re not perfectly obedient. How does the context show us that this is not what John is talking about?
Can you summarise these three verses in less than 10 words? What is the positive and the negative point that he is making?
What do you think it means that “God’s love is truly made complete in him” (verse 5)?
What evidence do you have that being a Christian has made a difference to the way you act? What motivates that? How will you let the things that you do for God reassure you are the reality of your faith?
Pray: Thanking God for his work in your life, however much you may have come to take that for granted. Pray that you will continue to walk in the same direction that Jesus did.
The introduction is over, and John the apostle sets out into the body of his letter – the three tests that reassure Christians that they really are Christians. We’ll begin by looking at 1 John 2:3-17 tomorrow at church. But in the meantime…
Read I John 2:3-5:21 (the rest of the letter). What do you think are the three main tests John includes to reassure people that they are Christians (hint: he goes through them several times).
Now come back to 2:3-17. What are the two claims that he introduces in verses 4 and 9, and what does he say about them? How do verses 12 to 17 fit into that?
If you were writing the sermon for tomorrow, what would be your main points?
Pray: for Trinity, that as we gather tomorrow afternoon, we would be moved by God to ‘obey his commands’ (verse 3) and ‘do the will of God’ (verse 17).
The apostle John is reaching the end of his introductory chapter (1:1-2:2). It began with certain facts about the incarnation, which when proclaimed, bring people into fellowship with God. Then it continued by proclaiming that God is light, and reassured us that we approach that God by confessing our sins. But in 2:2 it reaches a climax as it talks about the propitiation that Jesus brings about by his death, for the benefit of the whole world.
Read: 1 John 2:2
Do you think it would be better if we didn’t talk about sin as much? Wouldn’t it help visitors to church feel more comfortable?
John, however, does talk about our sins, and Jesus as turning away God’s anger (see footnote in NIV – “he turns aside God’s wrath, taking away our sins”). Why might John treat that as the climax of this passage about what Jesus has done? Why might Paul do the same in Romans 3:21-25?
John starts off his introduction with Jesus’ eternal existence (“From the beginning” 1:1) and finishes with his worldwide impact (“the whole world” 2:2). Why, do you think?
So, if we no longer speak about sin and God’s anger in church, what have we lost? Why might that leave us with a small view of Jesus?
John Stott writes: “Only Christianity takes sin seriously, and deals with sin adequately.” Is that a fair assessment?
Pray: Asking for courage to speak about sin and the enormity of what Jesus has done today. Ask for forgiveness for when we reduce the gospel to far less than it is.